A Christmas Story (ITCOAL) (AU,ALL,ADULT) COMPLETE - 1/12/14

Finished stories that feature the characters from the show, but there are no aliens. All fics completed on the main AU without Aliens board will eventually be moved here.

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Double Trouble
Obsessed Roswellian
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A Christmas Story (ITCOAL) (AU,ALL,ADULT) COMPLETE - 1/12/14

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:58 am

In The Course Of a Lifetime: A Christmas Story

Author(s): Double Trouble

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Banner by: Us

Disclaimer: All characters and plot lines that appeared in the series or in the books are not ours. The concept of Roswell does not belong to us either. They all belong to Melinda Metz, UPN, yada, yada, yada…

Pairings: M&M, M&L, K&T, and A/I

Rating: Probably Mature to Adult

Summary: Just a reunion of our beloved characters to see where they are at Christmas about five years or so after ITCOAL left off.

Posting every Wednesday and Sunday!


Merry Christmas, Everyone!


Part 1



THE metallic blue Dodge Ram pulled off of the highway and the driver lifted his foot off of the gas, letting the truck coast to the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. He adjusted the sunglasses that weren’t necessary in December and grinned at his reflection in the rearview mirror as he let off the brake and stepped on the gas. The sun shined year round in southern California and he was so accustomed to the feel of a pair of sunglasses that he just naturally picked them up if he was going out during the day.

He rolled his shoulders as he lowered the window, waving to an elderly couple walking along Main Street. There was a significant difference in temperature too. He shifted and the jacket he didn’t normally wear settled more comfortably. The stores and streets were decorated for Christmas and people smiled and waved as he passed. He smiled when he heard a woman walking out of a store cheerfully holler a “Merry Christmas!” back at the storekeeper. Yeah, he was home. Life in small town America moved at such a different pace than life in the big city, he thought as he parked next to the city park and opened his door.

He dropped to the ground and stretched, his gaze moving over the park that would come alive with Christmas lights as soon as dusk fell. Grandma was one of the organizers and he could see her touch in the design. His whole family would’ve been involved in one way or another, working together to create this work of art. He kinda missed that although he wouldn’t admit it.

He turned his head when flashing lights reflected off of his glasses and he turned to look at the SUV pulling to a stop behind his truck. The emblem of the Sheriff’s Department caught the weak sunlight and he couldn’t stop the grin when he saw the man stepping out of the vehicle. The Sheriff walked around his truck, lowering glasses he hadn’t worn five years ago to look at the license plate attached to his front bumper.

“We’ve got a city ordinance about disturbing the peace, young man.”

“You gonna write me a ticket?”

“Well,” the Sheriff mused as he rubbed his jaw, “I suppose I could let you off with a warning this time. You college boys in California disturb the peace all the time?”

“Not all the time.” Andy Evans grinned and shook the man’s hand, laughing when he was pulled into a bear hug. “How’s it goin’, Grandpa?”

Jim Valenti leaned back, releasing the younger man as he shook his head. “Good, things are goin’ good. Phone started ringin’ off the hook when you blew through town. Your mom probably knows you’re home already.”

“The gossip line in a small town moves faster than anything I’ve ever seen in the big city.”

“She’s real excited about you comin’ home for Christmas this year.”

“I know she was disappointed about last year.”

“Um-hmm, spending Christmas at some ski resort with that young woman you were dating? You’d best be planning to stay through the first of the year after that stunt.”

Andy just laughed. “C’mon, Grandpa, all that matters is I’m home this year.” He sobered and inhaled deeply, drawing in the clean, fresh air. “Hey, everybody come back for the holidays this year?”

Jim leaned back against the truck and reached up to adjust his glasses. “Anyone specific you’re askin’ about?”

“Nah,” he shrugged, “just askin’. I know Justin didn’t make it back last year either.” Of course, his cousin had been going through a divorce and preparing for a custody battle for his six-month-old son at the time too.

“Looks like everyone made it home this year. I think it’s the first year you’ve all been home for Christmas since you went off to college.”

“Yeah. I know Mom was pretty stoked. Michael said Christmas dinner’s gonna be at our place this year ‘cause Thanksgiving was at Aunt Liz an’ Uncle Max’s place.”

“They trade off every holiday.” He chuckled and reached for the radio clipped to his belt when it crackled to life.

Andy listened as his grandfather took the call, assuring the dispatcher he would be back at the office as soon as he’d escorted his grandson home. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Oh, no, you get the full treatment. Flashing lights, the whole deal.” He grinned and slapped the younger man on the back. “Let’s go. Your mom’s holding dinner and you’ll wanna get there before you starve the poor woman.”

“You’re not gonna stay for dinner?”

“Not tonight. Your grandmother’s already made plans with Maria and we’ll be having a family dinner tomorrow evening. They want you to have plenty of time to settle in before bombarding you with a bunch of people.”

“That’s good. 24 hours should do the trick.” He rolled his eyes. “I’ve been craving some home cooking so let’s go.” He’d missed the big family dinners and get-togethers; missed the chaos and craziness that went with having so many people under one roof. It’d be good to see everyone again. He rubbed his eyebrow with his thumb, unconsciously mimicking his stepdad. “So, dinner… everyone gonna be there?”

Jim hid a smile. “Well, I did hear that Sam Whitman was flying in tomorrow evening so her folks won’t be there because they’ll be going out to pick her up at the airport. Other than that I think everyone’s gonna be there.”

Sam was coming home. They hadn’t seen each other since that last night before she had left for college back east. After numerous discussions and arguments about the subject they had finally agreed that a long distance relationship wouldn’t work, especially at their ages. Too much could change while they were away at college at opposite ends of the country. It had hurt but they had known it was the best decision.

They had managed to avoid seeing each other any time they were home at the same time after that. It hadn’t been intentional but somehow their schedules had just never meshed and they’d agreed that calling and staying in contact would make it harder to move on. He’d dated of course, and he’d dated a lot, but he’d never found anyone like her.

“You comin’, boy?”

He shook himself out of his thoughts. “Yeah, let’s go.”

*****

“Max hates asparagus,” Liz said and shook her head, “but we could go with beans and bacon instead as a second dish of veggies.”

“Yeah, sure, why not,” the blonde woman next to her agreed and scribbled something down on the notebook with the increasing list of things to buy. “Michael likes them.”

“I like what?” someone asked as the door swung open and heavy boots could be heard on the floor.

“Ungh, Michael,” she made a face, “I just cleaned up the kitchen, couldn’t you guys have used the front door?”

He looked down at the floor and the puddle that was beginning to seep from under his boots. “Sorry, I’ll clean it up, alright?” He gave her a sheepish smile and took another step inside to kiss her cheek.

“You’d better,” she rolled her eyes but couldn’t be really mad at him. “You got a tree?”

“The PERFECT tree,” he told her. “Max’s unloading it from the truck right now. I came to ask where we stored that stand.”

“Garage,” she mumbled while she went over the list of food and looked at him when he didn’t move. “Well? Was there something else, Mister?”

He hadn’t had the chance to answer when Kara squeezed into the house from behind him along with Theo.

“Kara, I told you to – “ Liz started but Maria waved her off when her shoes as well as the dog’s paws left more dirty tracks on the tile.

“Since Michael offered to clean up, it doesn’t matter now anyway.” She looked at her husband with a wink.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Maria,” the girl next to them apologized anyway and turned to her mother. “Where’s Jenna?”

“Down for her afternoon nap, but we need to wake her up soon or she won’t sleep tonight,” Liz said when she realized how late it had already gotten.

“Want me to?”

“Sure, but take your shoes off first and clean up.”

“Okay,” the almost-nine-year-old said and got rid of them immediately, leaving them right next to the door, before she started to hurry up the stairs.

“And be gentle,” her mother called after her and rolled her eyes when she heard the pounding footsteps. “Our lives are chaos.”

“Chaos is the right word for it,” Maria agreed and then smiled. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“When’s Andy arriving?” Michael asked as he grabbed the leash from the chair next to the door and whistled for Theo.

“He hasn’t called since last night but he said it’d probably be sometime this evening.”

“Good, he can help get that tree up, it’s huge.” He whistled again. “Mojo.”

“You sure he’ll move his lazy ass when it’s all comfy in front of the fireplace?” Maria asked with an eye roll. “That’s one lazy dog.”

“He’ll come,” he said and looked at the swinging door, grinning when the big and unhurried dog walked into the kitchen after almost a whole minute.

Liz shook her head at the dog when he finally reached Michael and sat down in front of him, waiting for the expected rubdown. The man gave in to his wishes and rubbed him for nearly a full minute before the back door opened again and her husband pushed in behind him.

“Hey, I thought you were gonna gimme a hand with this tree you decided on?” He glanced at his wife and grinned. “You only thought you’d found the biggest tree in Roswell.”

“I hope we don’t have to cut a hole in the ceiling to make it fit,” Maria said.

Michael shook his head and decided to let that comment go without a response. He shrugged when Max looked at him. Good grief, he knew how high their ceiling was! “C’mon, I’ll go get what we need outta the garage and then we can haul that monster off the truck.”

“Men,” his wife said when they both left and there were just the puddles from their boots left on the tile to indicate they’d been there.

Liz nodded in agreement. “I’ll help you clean that up.” Chances were good Michael would conveniently forget to mop up the mess they’d made.

“Let’s focus on that list again so I can make it to the store early in the morning. You know how packed places are around the holidays. It’s like everybody thinks there won’t be an after the holidays anymore.”

“Are the guys gonna go with you?” she asked as she made a note on the side of her paper. “You’re gonna have a LOT of groceries once this list is complete.”

“I’ll make them go.”

“And you’re sure you don’t wanna split the list up?”

“Nah, most likely we won’t get it all at one store and what’s the point in both of us running to different places? Tomorrow your house will be full of kids so you’re gonna have your hands full anyway.”

“That’s true.” She smiled. “I can’t believe they’re both gonna be home this year! And you’ll finally get to meet Jeremy.” She still couldn’t believe her youngest son had already made her a grandmother but she had taken to the role with all of her heart.

“Is Justin in a good place right now?” Maria asked. “He seemed to be so out of place the last time he was home.”

“Now that things are finally settled with the custody arrangement he’s doing a lot better.” She didn’t have a lot of good thoughts about her ex-daughter-in-law. The girl hadn’t been interested in being a wife and mother and as soon as playing house had begun to bore her she’d decided she wanted out. The only reason she’d fought him for custody in the first place was because she’d thought she’d get more money out of him.

“That’s good. It’ll be good for him to be around family. So young and alone with a baby isn’t easy, especially not for a boy. You can be so proud of him.”

“We are. He’s been doing so well. I know it’s hard on him and I wish he’d consider transferring closer to home but,” she sighed, “I know that has to be his decision.”

“That’s true, I guess. And if it helps, my son’s not that far away but I hardly ever see him.”

“I know we can’t just keep them with us forever, but do they have to go so far away? I know California’s not that far away compared to the east coast, but still...”

Maria chuckled and closed the cookbook in front of her. “Is Nick coming with Sarah for Christmas dinner?”

“Yeah, and they’re getting into town tomorrow. They’re having dinner with her parents on Christmas Eve and they’ll be with us on Christmas Day.”

“We’ll have to count the chairs so there’ll be enough.”

“I’ll do the final count on my end and let you know. And if you need us to bring some I’ll have Max get them out of the garage.”

“I think we’re good. Not everyone’s bringing as many kids as you,” Maria winked. “And rumor has it my son’s charming the whole campus so I doubt he’ll bring anyone.”

Liz laughed. “The campus Romeo, huh?”

“Apparently,” she smirked. “Well, he has his father’s good looks, so the girls can’t be blamed.”

“Blame it on the gene pool, that’s the way to go.”

Loud clattering could be heard from the front of the house when the front door was pushed open. “I hope they don’t plan to stick that tree in its stand in the living room,” Maria said, horrified at the thought that they’d do the necessary cutting right there in the house. She got up and hurried for the door.

“Mom, I’m home,” Andy called loudly when he dropped his bag on the floor. He grinned widely when his mother burst through the kitchen door.

Maria froze for a moment when her eyes landed on her son and as soon as she had collected herself she ran across the room and threw herself into his arms. “You’re home!” she exclaimed.

Andy chuckled deeply and caught his mother, even lifting her up a few inches. “Hey, Mom.”

“I thought you weren’t planning to be home until later?” She leaned back to look at him, reaching up to frame his face in her hands. “You weren’t speeding, were you?”

“No,” he rolled his eyes slightly. “I just left earlier than expected. Was planning to take a friend halfway with me and take a slight detour to drop him off in his home town, but the dude got a plane ticket from his family at the last minute and cancelled.”

She shook her head at him. “Well, I’m glad he did. Liz and I were working on the list for Christmas dinner but we’re almost finished. And Max is here helping Michael with the tree.” Her eyes moved over him and she sighed with a huge smile she couldn’t suppress or even tone down. “You look so good and I’m so glad you’re home.”

“California, Mom,” he held his arms out at his sides. “It’s like Florida without the stupid hurricanes.”

“Or the humidity,” she said and laughed. There was no denying southern California had near perfect weather. She patted his cheek. “Must be nice to have that perfect tan year-round.”

“It is nice and women love it,” he chuckled and leaned around her to glance at his aunt. “Hey.”

“How are you, Andy?” Liz asked. He did look good. It wasn’t surprising and it was, she mused. They wanted their children to be well and to have a good life, but somehow it always seemed like a small shock when they came home after being away for so long and they looked like they were doing great.

“I’m damn fine,” he told her and glanced at the stairs when Kara appeared, holding a small hand in hers and he could hear his youngest cousin’s babbling even though she was completely hidden by the railing.

Kara looked up just as her cousin hollered up at her and she rolled her eyes at the nickname from so long ago. Short stuff, she thought and shook her head at him. “I’m not that short any more, Andy,” she insisted.

He chuckled and moved forward to meet them at the end of the stairs. “You’re more than two feet shorter than me, that makes you short stuff and her mini stuff.” Andy ruffled her thick hair and leaned in for a hug before he picked Jenna up in his arms.

She hugged him even though he was annoying. She wouldn’t admit it but she still enjoyed the affectionate nicknames her cousin and older brothers had called her since she was little.

“Your brothers here yet?”

“Not yet. Nicky’s supposed to be here tomorrow if there’re no delays with his flight and Justin’s gonna be here tonight if there’s no bad weather.”

“Bet you’re excited to have your brothers around again, huh? And little Jeremy.”

“Yeah, it’ll – “

“The baby’s little,” Jenna said as she looked up at her cousin through her eyelashes.

“Yeah, you’re not the youngest anymore, mini stuff.”

She wrinkled her nose as she thought about that. “He’s too little. He can’t do nothin’ but cry an’ sleep.” She made a face. “That’s not fun.”

Andy chuckled. Justin’s son was about 18 months old now so he was doing a little more than just crying and sleeping. “It’ll get better eventually.” He turned when he heard heavy footsteps at the front door and he grinned when he saw Michael and his uncle. “I’ll be back okay?” he told his little cousin and set her down again before he went to greet the others.

“Hey, Michael,” he greeted the man who had been something between a good friend and a father to him over the past year.

“Andy, you made it just in time,” Michael said as he hugged the younger man. “Got that monster tree your mom wanted and it’s gonna take some work to get it in the stand.”

“Good thing I work out a lot then,” the boy said and fisted his uncle with a grin. “Hey, Uncle Max, you look tired.”

“Wonder why,” he said with a glance at his youngest. A recent bout of nightmares had kept her up and running into her parents’ room almost every night. He refocused on his nephew. “You don’t… wonder why.” He laughed and shook his head. “Keepin’ those girls on the run out in California?”

“Hey, I’m still young.”

“And the implication there would be that you’re not,” Michael said and slapped Max on the shoulder.

“Neither are you.”

“I’m not ready to be put out to pasture just yet.”

Maria rolled her eyes. “Why don’t you all take your shoes off and we’ll have some coffee and tea?”

“As long as mine’s coffee,” Andy said as he leaned over to unlace his boots.

“Look at that, he’s all grown up,” his mother teased and pinched his cheek.

He frowned at her when Kara and Jenna started laughing. “Ungh, Mom, stop that.”

“You’ll always be my little boy,” she whispered to him and then walked back into the kitchen.

He looked at Michael. “She seems a little... I don’t know... off. Everything okay?”

“You know your mom,” he told him. “She gets emotional over the holidays and it’s worse when she’s planning Christmas dinner.”

“Yeah, okay.” His gaze stayed on the door for a moment, wondering if that’s all it was. He looked down at Kara. “You wanna gimme a hand with my stuff?”

She giggled. “Andy, that’s too heavy for me.”

“You sure? ‘Cause I’ve got some presents in the truck and I thought maybe you could carry some of them inside, but if you don’t think so...”

“Presents?” Her attention was all his.

*****

It was almost 10pm when Justin pulled into the driveway of his childhood home. He leaned his head back against the headrest and sighed tiredly. He glanced in the rearview mirror and watched his sleeping son for a few moments. His son, he thought and wondered when that phrase would stop amazing him.

Jeremy was the result of a drunken one-night stand and sometimes when he stood next to his crib and watched him sleep at night he wondered how he’d answer his boy’s questions when he got older and started to become curious about his mother and where she was. He’d been raised to take responsibility for his actions and when Trina had told him she was pregnant he’d immediately proposed.

Looking back now he knew he’d jumped the gun. There were other ways to be responsible and care for your child without marrying someone you didn’t love. And he hadn’t loved her. He’d been so sure that if they got married they’d eventually come to care for each other and then it would grow into love. Boy had he been wrong!

They had fought about everything and before he was 19 he’d already been married, fathered a child, and gotten divorced. And that was all before completing his first year of college. Now he was a single father to an 18-month-old baby boy. Sometimes he wanted to pack Jeremy up and run right back home. He knew Mom would love it and Dad would too, but Dad understood that he had to stand on his own two feet and make things work. He kinda thought Mom understood it too, but not the way Dad did. It was a man thing.

He reached for the keys dangling from the ignition and cut the engine, not surprised when the sudden silence caused Jeremy to stir. The front porch light came on and in spite of the late hour his parents were dressed and before he could open the door and tell them not to come out they were on their way down the driveway.

Justin opened his door carefully and stepped out into the cold night air to greet his parents. “Hi, guys,” his voice was quiet in hopes that Jeremy wouldn’t wake completely. Travelling home had been exhausting for both of them and he really wanted to just sleep right now.

“My boy, you’re home,” Liz said with tears in her eyes as she went to hug him tightly.

He smiled and hugged her back, leaning down while he looked over her shoulder to meet Dad’s eyes. He was standing back slightly to give them a few moments, his eyes soft. “Mom, you’re crushing me,” he teased.

“Sorry,” she laughed. “I’m just so happy you’re home.” Her gaze shifted towards the baby in the backseat and a heartbeat later she was reaching out to open the door to greet her grandchild.

“Let her fuss over him,” Max said and approached his son, pulling him into a bear hug as well. “Good to see you home and in one piece, Son.”

“Yeah, I’m glad to be here, Dad. It’s been a long ride.”

In more ways than one, his father thought. “Let’s get the most important stuff inside and the rest we’ll take care of tomorrow morning.” He went to open the trunk, smirking when it was packed to the top. Traveling with a baby, he knew how that went.

There were no words to describe how proud he was of Justin. No matter what kind of mistake had brought him to the situation he was in now, the boy was dealing with the consequences like a real adult and he didn’t feel sorry for himself.

“The black one has the stuff I’ll need for Jeremy,” Justin explained. “And that’s mine,” he took a large black one out. “I guess the rest can wait.”

Meanwhile Liz had crept further into the car and loosened the seatbelt around the baby’s car seat. She grabbed it carefully and pulled it out. The baby in it moved slightly, but his eyes stayed closed for now. “Isn’t he the cutest thing, Max?” she whispered in amazement when they had closed up the car and were walking back inside.

He chuckled and looked down at Jeremy. “You say that about every baby, but yes, he is. Looks a lot like his father,” he admitted and squeezed Justin’s shoulder with his free hand. God, it seemed like it was only yesterday that they had carried the twins inside the same way and now his boy had a child who wasn’t much younger than his youngest daughter.

He was getting old.

*****

“I can’t believe we’re stuck in freaking Lincoln, Nebraska,” Nick complained as he threw himself down in the chair next to his girlfriend. He glared at the armrest when it shifted with his weight and drooped to one side. “How do you start off on the east coast and end up in the middle of nowhere? I can’t believe they even have a runway big enough to land that plane.”

“If Roswell’s airport can handle planes I’m sure Lincoln has no problem getting them on the ground,” Sarah said as she flipped the page in her magazine. “You’re just cranky because that flight attendant interrupted us before we joined the Mile High Club.”

“That old crab’s probably made it her life’s work to ruin the moment for every couple that’s ever had that intention on one of her flights.”

“Like she’s never done it in the air.” She rolled her eyes. His mood had momentarily improved after they’d landed and he’d spotted the sign for McDonalds, blowing her off when she’d insisted they should check on a car rental first. And had there been a single rental left by the time they’d made it through the line? No. Now he was in a mood and griping about every little thing he could find to complain about.

“Please, they didn’t have planes when she was our age.”

“I’m sure you’re right, Nick.” Agreeing with him was the quickest way to diffuse one of these moods. Disagreeing with him only dragged it out and she wasn’t the slightest bit interested in getting stuck with him in this mood.

“Mom’s gonna be upset if we don’t make it home for Christmas.” He crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes as he dropped his head back against the window behind him. When she didn’t say anything he cracked one eye open to look at her. “Alright, I’m sorry I’m bein’ an ass.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

He snorted. “Yeah, and you didn’t say it very loudly.” He was just closing his eyes when a page came over the PA system and he turned his head to look at Sarah. “Did he just call us?”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Yeah.”

“Wonder why? I mean, I called and talked to Dad, told him we were stuck here until who knows when but I can’t imagine he’d call and have us paged.” He got up when she poked him. “Right.” He grabbed the majority of their luggage, leaving the two smallest for her to carry and they made their way to the location that had been called out. They were probably several dozen yards from their destination when they recognized the girl waving at them from beside the ticket counter. “Sam, what’re you doin’ here?”

“My flight got rerouted to Omaha of all places,” she said as she ran over and hugged them. “I hit the rental counter and then called Dad. He told me you guys had gotten stranded here so I thought I’d see if you wanted to split the drive time with me. I figure we’re about 14 hours from home and if we split it into three shifts we can be home in time for dinner.”

“So you have a car already?” Nick asked.

She rolled her eyes. How did he think she’d gotten from Omaha to Lincoln? “Yup, some kinda SUV since the smaller cars were all gone when I asked.”

“Works in our favor,” Sarah grinned and elbowed her boy. “I think we’re in, aren’t we, Nicky?”

“Hell, yes, I was already seeing us having Christmas dinner at McDonalds this year. There’re no cars left to rent in this hole in the wall city.”

“I see,” Sam chuckled while she tried to get over the shock of just how much of a man Nick had become. He even had a slight five o’clock shadow. She jingled the keys in front of him. “Ready?”

“Definitely,” he agreed and took the keys from her. “I’ll take the first shift.” Maybe he’d take two shifts, that way they’d get home faster – not that he was planning to tell the girls that.

“Sure. You can pack your stuff on that baggage cart,” she gestured to a lone cart waiting nearby.

“So where’s Noah?” Sarah asked and wanted to bite her tongue when she recognized the sad look on the other girl’s face.

“We’re spending Christmas vacation separately,” was the short answer.

Nick and Sarah exchanged quick puzzled looks. “Oh, well, at least you’ll have plenty of family around,” he said. He didn’t want to pry anything out of her if she wasn’t ready to share yet.

“True enough. C’mon, I parked as close as I could but we’re still gonna have to make a run for it because it’s freakin’ cold here!”

“What, 28 degrees too cold for you, Whitman?” Nick teased.

“Yeah, and I make no apologies for it, Evans.” The automatic doors opened and the cold wind hit them like an icy brick wall.

“I hope you’ve got the heat on high,” Sarah said when she saw that the car was running.

“As cold as it is in this frozen state you can’t keep it on anything less.”

Nick unlocked the doors and pointed at them. “You two get inside. I’ll get the luggage put away and be with you in a sec.”

“See why I just love him?” His girlfriend grinned at him as she and Sam dove into the car and slammed the doors shut. Grumpy moods aside, she really did love him.
Last edited by Double Trouble on Sun Jan 12, 2014 7:15 am, edited 11 times in total.
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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A Christmas Story (ITCOAL related)- AU/A/All Pt 2 - 12/11/13

Postby Double Trouble » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:18 pm

sarammlover: We’ve missed them too! It’s good to catch up with them and see how life’s been going for everyone. There have been a lot of changes for our families but you never know what Christmas holds in store. Michael and Maria did get married. As for Isabel and Alex, we’ll be catching up with them in our next part.

Earth2Mama: There have been a lot of things happen over the past five years.

Lol, Max and Liz couldn’t believe it either!

That was kind of surprising, wasn’t it? Stay tuned... ;)

We’ll be catching up with all of them in this update.

Natalie36: Yep, lots of changes for our families.

Eva: Thanks! We’ll get little glimpses that’ll help fill in the blanks.

We’ll keep checking on M&M throughout the fic and see what reveals itself.

Justin definitely threw a curve ball with Jeremy, lol. Max & Liz had a bit of a shock with that news but they’ve finally adjusted.

This’ll be the first time Andy and Sam have seen each other since breaking up. It should be interesting. A lot has changed, but at the same time, a lot of things haven’t. ;)

keepsmiling7: Things have changed for our families and some of those changes were very unexpected, but they’re certainly handling those changes very well.

LovelyPOM83: Lol, timing is everything! Max and Liz have certainly had some changes to deal with but they’ve done so very well. Some teenagers become very good parents.

begonia9508: Looks like our families are still growing!

Lol, it won’t take long to figure out who’s who. ;)

kismet: Thanks, so have we!

You just never know, but we won’t have long to find out what’s going on.

A lot has happened to our families but they’re managing to roll with the changes.


Part 2

“Ladies,” his grin widened when he walked into the bedroom and saw the two most important women in his life tangled in the sheets, their curly blond hair a mess.

One head lifted slowly, eyes squinting against the sunlight tiredly. “Daddy,” the three-year-old girl, who looked just like her mother, complained.

Kyle shook his head, amused. Where other parents were forced out of bed at the crack of dawn with their kids, he mostly had trouble getting them out of bed before ten on their days off. “Wanna help me with breakfast?”

The girl nodded eagerly and crawled out of bed.

“Go get your clothes from your room then. We’ll let Mommy sleep for a little while longer.”

“Mommy’s up,” Tess groaned next to them and opened her eyes as Sophie ran out of the room.

“You sure? It’s only ten,” he teased.

“Funny,” she grumbled and struggled to sit upright. “We both know those times will be over soon.”

“You think?” He chuckled warmly and sat down on the bed next to her, using his hand on her neck to pull her close for a short kiss before it dropped to her swollen belly. “I wouldn’t mind if our boy takes a little bit more after me, sleepyhead.”

She smiled and leaned into him. Kyle loved Sophie unconditionally but when the doctor had told them a few weeks ago that their second child would be a boy, she had seen the incredible happiness in his eyes. Teaching his son things only a father could was something he was looking forward to.

“Only a few more months and we’ll know.”

Tess laughed quietly and burrowed deeper into his embrace. Or at least as much as their son would allow. “Then you’ll be praying for him to sleep that first few months.”

“I hope so,” he grumbled and then grinned. Sophie had been the perfect baby, hardly ever keeping her parents up at all hours. That should’ve been some sort of omen, he thought. His little girl was a little sloth. Of course if he could get her awake and interested in something he had a better chance of getting her up and out of bed.

“Not everyone enjoys rolling outta bed at the crack of dawn.”

“I like getting a jump on the day.” He shrugged and kissed her head.

“Do you have to go in today?” It wasn’t unusual for him to have to run in to the office for a little while even on days when he was off.

“Huh-uh, Craig’s got everything under control and he’ll be handling those new agents that were sent to us.”

She rolled her eyes. “The two you said they sent to your office because no one else seemed to be able to handle them?”

He chuckled. “They’re young and they think they’re gonna save the world. They just have to learn to balance that with the rules and regs.”

“They always send the problem agents to your office.”

“They’re not problem agents when we send ‘em back out though.”

She hugged him tighter and sighed contentedly. “No, I guess not.”

“I’m ready Daddy,” Sophie shouted from the kitchen.

“Please make sure she’s wearing the clothes I laid out for her last night,” Tess said. Sophie was at that stage where she preferred to dress herself and given the opportunity she’d grab whatever she could reach and put it on. She had her father’s sense of fashion and she could only hope she’d grow out of that as she got older.

“Sure,” he kissed her hair and got up. “Take your time getting ready. I’ll handle the kid and breakfast.”

“Not cold cereal, right?”

“No, we’re having pancakes, eggs, bacon, and everything else the pregnant lady loves.”

She sighed happily. “Thank you.” They had slowly been working their way up to real cooking but they’d had to step it up once they’d learned she was pregnant with Sophie.

“You know I’d do anything for you, woman,” he winked at her and left the room to get hold of his daughter before she started to mess with things she shouldn’t be messing with.

*****

Alex walked through the front door, the strap for his laptop case trying to slide off of his shoulder as he juggled his briefcase, a new bag of feed for Oscar, a few groceries he’d been asked to pick up, the flowers he’d picked up for his wife on his way home, and the armful of mail he’d just pulled from the mailbox.

“Honey, I’m home!” He grinned and dropped the feed bag on the kitchen table. He didn’t often have to go out to meet with his clients but there were a few who had difficulties getting to his office for whatever reason and he did make exceptions for them.

“What took you so long?” Isabel asked as she came into the kitchen and started to help him with everything he was carrying.

He rolled his eyes. “I don’t know. Maybe because the list you sent me meant stopping at two different stores?”

“Oh, that’s right, I…” She trailed off when she spotted the mail and she made a grab for it. “Why didn’t you tell me you had the mail?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” he said with an affectionate smile. He watched her as she sorted through the junk mail that always filled their mailbox along with Christmas cards and bills, tossing them into different piles out of habit. He finished unloading everything he was carrying, glancing down when a handful of the mail hit the floor and scattered haphazardly. “Isabel?”

She didn’t reply, her eyes locked on the thin white envelope she held in her hand. “It’s here,” she finally spoke after a minute.

“What’s...” His eyes widened and he nearly dropped his laptop in his haste to put it on the table and move over to her. “IT?” he echoed on a whisper as he stared at the name of the agency stamped at the top. They’d waited so long. His eyes traced over the envelope. It was so thin. What if it wasn’t the news they’d waited so long for?

She finally looked up and shoved it into his hands. “I can’t open it up. Maybe we should wait until after Christmas.”

“We can’t wait. What if we were approved?” But he made no move to open the envelope either.

“But what if we weren`t?” She made a face.

“Okay, there is that.” He cleared his throat and shook his head. “But can we really wait that long? If we’re approved they said the process would move fast.”

“I’m nervous, Alex.”

He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. “I know,” he mumbled into her hair. “So am I. These people have been up in our business, dissecting our lives, and looking under every possible rock looking for anything that might knock us outta the running but so far we’ve held our own pretty good. We’ve worked long and hard to get to this decision and the only way we’re gonna know is to open it up and see what’s inside.”

She sighed. “You are right... as usual.”

He smirked and leaned back to kiss her forehead. “Whatever their final answer is, we can handle it.”

“You have to open it, Alex.”

He nodded. “Alright, let’s open it up and end the suspense.” He took a step back and took a deep breath before ripping the flap open and reaching for the letter inside. He scanned over the formal wording and smiled when he reached the most important part. He held it out to her. “Look.”

“No,” she squeezed her eyes shut, her hands on the counter in front of her, “read it to me.”

“I’ll forego all of the legal jargon,” he said with a smile. “Mr. and Mrs. Whitman, I’d like to offer my congratulations on behalf of the Smithson Adoption Agency. After conducting our investigation into your home, employment, and financial situations we have concluded that you are suitable parent material.” He made a face at that wording. “I will be contacting you shortly as we have a two-year-old boy ready to place with you.”

“A little boy,” she said, her tone somewhere between amazed, shocked, and surprised. “We’re gonna be parents, Alex.”

He could hardly believe it himself. He held the letter up. “We could be able to bring him home for Christmas.”

“Yeah,” her eyes watered at the thought and the tears quickly spilled over.

“I’m home!” was shouted as the front door opened and slammed again. Sam dropped her things on the floor and hurried through the house, drawing up short when she saw her dad and the woman who had become a mother to her. “What’s going on?”

“Sam,” Alex turned around in surprise while Isabel wiped her tears away. “You’re home earlier than expected.”

“Nick drives like the devil’s chasing him,” she said, grinning as she hugged them both. “But what’s going on?”

“We got a letter from the agency,” her father said and held it up.

She took it and quickly scanned over it, her eyes widening as she saw that after so long they’d finally been approved. She snorted internally. It shouldn’t have taken those people so long to know her parents would be perfect to adopt a child. “Congratulations! That’s great news and so perfect for Christmas.”

“It is,” Isabel admitted with a hushed voice and hugged her.

“He’s one lucky little boy and I can’t wait to meet him.”

“We don’t have anything bought yet. How’re we gonna do that?” Both women’s eyes landed on Alex.

He laughed and shook his head. “Ladies, it’s just a matter of shopping and I’ve never known either of you to have any problems in that department. I’ll get to work clearing the spare room out and maybe tomorrow we can hit the stores. We’ve got a couple of days to get everything ready.”

“I hope you have a large line of credit, Dad,” Sam snorted and patted his shoulder.

“I managed to raise you and survived your teenage years, didn’t I?”

“True, but I was a modest kid,” she grinned at him.

“Um-hmm, and somehow I have a feeling you’re about to make up for it.” He just smiled and shrugged. “Just let me have some input on things. It may have been a while, but I do have an idea what little boys like.”

“That’s gonna be interesting, Dad.” She looked over her shoulder towards the oven. “What’s for dinner?”

“I’m making chicken enchiladas,” Isabel said.

Sam groaned. “That sounds fantastic. I haven’t had a homemade meal in a while.”

“You’re not eating a bunch of junk food are you?” she asked.

“No, just campus food,” she made a face.

“Well, that’s not much better.” Isabel smiled and shook her head. “But we’ll make sure you’re fed very well while you’re home.”

“Cool,” she looked out the window. “Have you heard anything about the others being home?”

“I ran into Max while I was out and he told me Justin got in late last night. He and Liz will be surprised that Nick’s already home.” He watched his daughter as she moved around the kitchen restlessly. “He also said Andy made it into town yesterday.”

Damn it, she thought when her heart did a little flip at the mention of his name. It had been a long time since they had last seen each other, but she had secretly followed him on Facebook and it was impossible to miss the way his looks had improved over the years. “Cool,” she tried to sound casual.

He exchanged a look with his wife. Sam had kept her feelings on the subject close, but he knew she’d never gotten over the boy. “We’ll be having Christmas dinner with them.”

“We are?” She looked at them, surprised.

“Yeah, unless you’d rather not.” Alex smiled at her, letting her know that any decision she made would be alright.

“Oh no, that’s cool,” she assured him. Maybe she should just go and talk to Andy to get the awkwardness over with.

He clapped his hands together. “It looks like we’ve got a lot to do in the next few days.”

Isabel smiled. “Seems like it.”

“Christmas with a little guy underfoot.” He smiled. “It’ll be nice to have a little one around again. I always had to be creative about hiding presents when Sam was a kid. She was better at finding a present than a bloodhound.”

His wife leaned into him. “Yeah. It’s been a long road to get here, but finally, huh?” Learning of her inability to become pregnant had hit both of them hard a few years ago and it had taken a while longer to decide that adoption was right for them. And it had taken forever to go through all of the agencies hoops.

“Finally, yeah.” He looked over at his daughter, easily remembering the first time he’d ever held her. And now she was a grown woman, off at college, and making her own way in the world. “How’s Noah?” He wasn’t terribly fond of the young man she had been dating, but having only met him once he supposed he should give him a chance and not just judge him by first impressions.

“Good... I guess.”

He looked at Isabel and nodded when she gave him a subtle nudge. “That’s good. Look, let me get this stuff put away, I’ll put your bags in your room, and then we’ll have dinner and catch up.”

“Sounds good, Dad.”

“So, how’re things really?” Isabel asked once she heard Alex hauling Sam’s things upstairs. “You were talking about bringing him home with you for Christmas a few weeks ago.”

Sam had to smirk at her motherly tone and the simple fact that she knew something wasn’t right. “We decided to spend Christmas apart. Things have been... not so great lately.”

“He’s done something and now he’s in the doghouse,” she guessed. She studied the younger woman for several seconds. “But it’s not something he’ll make up for easily.”

She looked at Isabel with a sad smile and shook her head. “I need some time to think about it.”

“Well, you’ll have plenty of time for that. Just don’t spend your entire Christmas vacation stuck on it. I’m sure you’ll figure it out and you know your dad and I are both here if you need a sounding board.” She gave the girl another hug. “And in the meantime we have some decorating and shopping to do.”

“Yeah, that’s a damn good distraction.”

“We’re so glad you’re home, Sam.”

“Me too, Isabel. I’ve missed you guys and I missed Roswell and the small town chaos.”

“I know you love New York and I’ve only visited, but I know it has its own kind of chaos. I miss Chicago sometimes but I have to admit there’s something about a small town that I do love.”

“I know what you mean,” Sam grinned. “So can I help you with dinner?” The cell in her jeans buzzed, but she ignored it for now. It was probably just another text from Noah in an attempt to make things less strained between them.

“Yeah, I still have the salad to finish and the table to set.”

“Let’s do that then.”

*****

“Jeremy, don’t…” Everyone’s eyes followed the piece of pancake that had just been on Justin’s plate as it flew through the kitchen and ended up with a wet splat on the tiles right at Max’ feet. “… play with my food,” the twin finished his sentence with a sigh. “Sorry, Dad.”

The older man went to get a napkin from the counter to wipe it up in one smooth move.

“Daddy, you said we’re not allowed to throw food,” Jenna complained and kicked the table.

“Young lady,” Liz gave her a warning look.

“We aren’t allowed,” Max told her when he took his seat, “but Jeremy’s still learning, he’s too little to understand. But you aren’t, are you?” He leaned over to nuzzle her hair for a moment, which made her giggle.

“No, Daddy. I’m a good girl.”

He grinned at his wife and loaded his plate with some pancakes as well. “Did you boys sleep well?” It was the first time in a long time they were all able to sit around one table and he had to admit he missed the chaos of having the entire family under one roof. Liz had even been crying last evening when they had all been sitting around the living room talking, and he knew she missed it too.

“Like a rock,” Nick mumbled with his mouth full.

“Would’ve been better if the little man hadn’t decided to wake up several times,” Justin continued and reached around the baby on his lap to take a bite of his breakfast that was already well on its way to being cold.

“I told you we should’ve gotten the high chair from the attic last night, Max,” Liz said and stood to take her grandchild from her son. “Let me handle him and you eat.”

“Thanks Mom,” he grinned at her and was even more pleased when Jeremy seemed to like it.

“Man, I still need to get used to the sight of my brother being a father,” Nick shook his head.

His twin was about to reply when a knock on the back door disturbed them. “Oh, I forgot to mention that I invited Sam over.” His gaze shifted to Mom and Dad, who seemed to be okay with it so he called louder, “Come in!”

The door was opened and the girl poked her head into the room. “Hey, everyone.”

“Hello, Sam,” Max greeted. “C’mon inside, it’s a miracle, but we still have some chairs and pancakes left.”

She grinned and entered the room, her feet taking her straight to Justin to hug him. “You look a bit tired, Daddy,” she teased and kissed his cheek.

“Funny, Whitman,” he rolled his eyes, but returned the hug tightly. “Good to see you.”

“You too, but I’ve gotta admit I’m still not over the shock of you being a daddy to this cute little guy,” she said as she leaned over to tickle the baby and got a smile out of him.

“Heard that a lot lately,” he mumbled.

“Hey, Sam,” Kara waved at her from the other side of the table. “You look pretty.”

“And so do you.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe how big you’ve gotten!” She hugged the girl. “She’s gonna be a heartbreaker, Mr. Evans.”

“Don’t remind me,” he winced.

She laughed and tugged on Nick’s hair as she passed him. “How long are you gonna let that get before you cut it?” They’d been so bundled up the night before she hadn’t really had much of a chance to notice just how long he’d let it grow out.

“Sarah likes it,” he shrugged, leaving out the detail that she liked it most when they had sex and she could run her hands through it.

“Um-hmm, I’m sure she does.” She rolled her eyes at him and took a seat, not even wanting to know what he wasn’t saying just by the mischievous look in his eyes. “So what’re you guys doing today?”

“Not really any plans yet, but my options are limited,” Justin said and gave his little son a wink when he giggled at something his grandma was doing.

“Nonsense,” Liz negated. “Your dad and I will be more than happy to entertain this young man so you can go out for a while.”

“We could go to the bar on Main Street and shoot some pool,” Nick suggested.

Sam nodded. “That sounds good to me.”

“If you’re sure, Mom,” Justin nodded, “I’m in too.”

Max watched his wife for a moment before glancing at his youngest son. “We’re sure. We don’t get much of a chance to spend with this little guy and now that your mom’s got her hands on him you may not see him much while you’re here,” he chuckled. He turned his head when another knock sounded on the back door and then looked back at his wife. “Were we expecting anyone?”

“Oh, I told Andy to stop by after breakfast so we can have a little football game in the backyard like the good old days,” Nick said.

Liz rolled her eyes at him. “You say that like the good old days were sooo long ago.” She looked up to see her nephew come inside after Max shouted a loud ‘come in!’ and she shook her head when Lucky ran between Andy’s legs and headed straight for the table. The dog was getting old but he defied his age and continued to act like a puppy most of the time. The one concession he made to his years was that now he would run inside and flop down under the table rather than do something really annoying like chase the cat and destroy everything in sight.

I wasn’t prepared for this, Sam thought with panic, her eyes glued to her former boyfriend. She took in his appearance... broader shoulders, messier hair, probably hadn’t shaved in a day or two, and a lot more man than he’d been a couple of years ago. Fuck, and here I am wearing sweats, she realized with some annoyance. She hadn’t known he’d be there, but still.

Andy had just opened his mouth to greet his aunt and uncle when his eyes landed on his high school girlfriend. He’d known he was going to run into her this time, had been trying to prepare himself to see her again, but he’d been so sure he had time to get ready. It wasn’t that things had ended badly between them; they had parted as friends. It had just been easier to build a wall and avoid each other whenever they’d been home. He could see the panic that turned her soft gray eyes into a stormy darker gray and he knew he had to say something to break the ice. But what? Every clever word and phrase he knew suddenly seemed to vanish and he was left just staring at her like a fool.

“So, this’s awkward,” Justin muttered and shook his head at his brother. He couldn’t believe he’d invited the both of them over without a single word of warning. What a moron!

“Lose your voice, boy?” Max teased.

“Uh...” Andy gave himself a mental shake and looked at his uncle. He could still remember how angry he’d been at the man, how much he’d blamed him for his father’s death, but now it was little more than a fleeting memory. He had finally realized the truth and he’d been able to let it go. They had a good relationship now and he was grateful to everyone who had helped and guided him along the way to help him see that truth. “No, just wasn’t...” Just wasn’t what, dumbass? He scrambled for something to say, not wanting to just blurt out the honest truth - that he wasn’t ready to see Sam, wasn’t prepared for the punch in the gut reaction to being close to her again. He nodded at the baby in his aunt’s arms and then looked at Justin. “He must be yours.” He’d known about his cousin becoming a father of course, but he’d only seen pictures of the kid.

“Well done, Sherlock,” the twin chuckled and lifted the boy out of his mother’s arms to walk over to his cousin. “Wanna say hello to Andy, Jeremy?”

“Justin, he’s got...” Liz winced when Jeremy threw the piece of cold, sticky pancake at Andy and it landed on his neck, “...pancake in his hand.”

“Ungh, sorry. He hasn’t learned that we’re not supposed to throw our food yet. We’re working on it.”

“That’s great,” Andy muttered and went to get a napkin, running it under the faucet to wet it before wiping the sticky mess off of his neck. “I see he has your throwing arm.”

Jenna laughed when her cousin made funny sounds and slipped from her chair to run over to Daddy and hug his leg. “Tan we play, Daddy?”

“Are you all finished with your breakfast?” He glanced at her plate and saw that she’d eaten everything she’d been given. He had no idea where she put it. “Yes, you are, aren’t you? Maybe we should clear the table for Mommy first, huh?”

“I can help,” Sam offered since she had no intention of taking part in a football game and Andy hadn’t even really greeted her.

“C’mon, Whitman, since when do you sit out a game?” Nick teased. “Me an’ you against those two? Andy still fumbles the ball because if it’s not round and there’s no hoop to shoot it through he has no idea what to do with it.”

She snorted and ended up laughing. Maybe hiding was the wrong thing to do. They had moved on, so what? Maybe they could still get along.

“Go ahead, Sam,” Liz assured her.

“Well alright, I guess we could kick their asses, Nick.”

Justin whistled under his breath. “Wow, talk about delusional. Yeah, and maybe you should call your girlfriend while you’re at it.”

Andy’s gaze bounced between Justin and Sam. “You have a girlfriend?”

She stared at him for a moment, trying to figure out why that would be so shocking when she realized he was talking to her. “Me? Oh, yeah, no one told you?” She reached over and punched Nick’s arm. “You know all about Anna and me, I thought sure you’d have let the cat outta the bag by now.” He and Sarah attended college not far from her and they’d hung out with her and her roommate Anna before when they’d met up in the city. Did Andy really think she was so distraught over their breakup that she had given up on men for good? What an ass!

“So you’re into women, what’s the big deal?” Nick shrugged, trying not to laugh at his cousin’s face.

“I don’t know.” She smirked to herself as she pulled her phone from the pocket of her sweatpants. “Here, I have a pic.” They had been goofing off at a party and on a dare they’d kissed. Luckily the picture didn’t reveal the fact that they’d been totally plastered at the time.

Andy glanced at it and regretted it immediately when the image sent his blood rushing straight south. “Damn,” he muttered.

“Yeah,” Sam turned the phone back to herself and smiled at the screen, secretly enjoying the expression on his face, “she’s great. She’s spending the holidays with her family in Mexico though so unfortunately we couldn’t spend them together.”

“Too bad,” he ran a hand through his messy hair and looked down at her.

“Yeah, it’s a shame.” Oh, this was too easy and it was gonna make this uncomfortable situation with Andy a little more tolerable! “She would’ve loved to meet you. I’ve told her about you, all of you.” Everything she’d said was the truth with the exception of that one little misleading bit of information meant to make Andy think she and Anna were a couple. “So, guys, let’s clear the table and then play a little ball.”

Oh no, she couldn’t be all into girls, he thought and the plan was set – he would turn Sam Whitman into a hetero again.

Yeah, Sam thought when she looked at Andy and smiled, let’s see what you think about that.
Image


Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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A Christmas Story (ITCOAL related)- AU/A/All Pt 3 - 12/15/13

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:55 pm

LovelyPOM83: We’ll have more interaction between the kids in this part. Looks like our families are still growing.

begonia9508: Lol, Kara totally agrees with you!

Sam’s just kidding but she’s gonna let Andy believe it for a bit.

keepsmiling7: Thanks! There’s lots more family interaction coming!

somewhere87: Lol, he won’t.

Yep, and we’ll see more of them soon.

Earth2Mama: He’s certainly gonna do his best, lol.

Kyle and Tess have come a long way over the past few years.

Alex and Isabel have chosen a path that also has difficulties but it would seem they’ve finally reached a positive conclusion. We’ll be meeting that little guy soon.

Lol, well, Maria hasn’t given us an answer just yet, so stay tuned.

sarammlover: Looks like things are working out for our couples pretty well. As for Sam and Andy, we’ll be catching up with them again today to see how long this game goes on.


Part 3

Michael checked the grill and then ducked back into the house, rubbing his hands together to warm them. Dinner was almost ready and Maria would be home soon. She had called a little while ago to say that a last minute walk-in customer had kept her a little late but that it wouldn’t be much longer. He set the oven to warm and walked into the living room, inhaling the scents of warm apples and cinnamon that emanated from the scented candles she kept all over the house.

The lights on the Christmas tree were blinking, the lights reflecting off of the strategically placed bulbs that dangled from the branches. His gaze dropped to the short barricade that surrounded the lower part of the tree and couldn’t help but chuckle at the memory it evoked. He’d constructed the white picket fence to protect it because their first Christmas together after decorating the tree Mojo had decided to check it out and then proceeded to piss on the trunk and in the process he’d shorted the lights out. He’d been sure Maria would never let the dog back into the house after that but she’d finally forgiven Mojo. She’d just banned him from ever going near the Christmas tree again.

He turned when the front door opened and he saw Andy come inside with a bag dangling from his right hand. “Shopping?” he asked with a smirk.

“Hell no,” the younger man denied. “Not recreationally anyway. I passed the bakery and stopped to get Mom some of those pastries she likes. Didn’t see her car in the driveway, she not home yet?”

“No, she had a last minute customer.”

Andy rolled his eyes. “She always does at the holidays.”

Michael dropped down to sit on the couch and stretched his arm out along the back. “How’s college life, Andy?”

“Do you mean classes or everything else?” the boy asked with a smirk and plopped down in the armchair.

“Any and all,” he said with a shrug.

“Well, classes are okay although a few of the professors suck. Weather’s awesome, basketball team’s great, but there is one asshole that makes it a point to piss in my territory.”

“Always has to be one, doesn’t there?” He slouched down a little further. “Seein’ anyone special?”

Andy snorted with a smirk. “No.”

“Seen anyone special since you’ve been home?”

“If you mean Sam, that’s another no,” he rolled his eyes.

“No, you haven’t seen her or no, she’s not special?”

“I saw her this morning and I’ll see her again after dinner and she’ll always be someone special, but not like that anymore.”

Michael watched him. “You’re sure about that?”

Andy groaned and rested his head against the seat. “What’s with the Q&A?”

“Just the usual. It’s been a while since you’ve been home and I know for a fact you and Sam haven’t seen each other since you broke up before leaving for college.”

“No, we haven’t,” he shrugged and looked at the fireplace. “And we’ve moved on. She’s seeing someone else.” A freaking girl!!!

“Someone else, huh? Nick must know him since he and Sarah are pretty close to her. He say anything about him?”

“No, and it doesn’t really matter, does it? I’ve been with other women as well, it’s okay.”

“I don’t know, does it?”

“It doesn’t,” Andy stood. “I’m gonna change into somethin’ comfortable for dinner.”

“Alright, your mom should be home in the next 20 minutes or so and dinner’ll be ready then.”

“Sure,” he hurried up the stairs to his room and dragged the pullover he was wearing over his head before he had even reached his room. Sam and a girl... something was so wrong about that. She’d never given him the impression that she might like girls, not while she was with him anyway. Maybe some other jerk had done a number on her and she’d given up on guys?

He reached for his cell and checked the time, still over an hour until they were supposed to meet at the bar. His gaze moved to the mirror on the left while he tried to decide if he should shave or not.

*****

Michael pulled the steaks off of the grill and hurried to put them on a plate and get them into the house and in the oven. He wondered if Andy was really over Sam or if he was just blowing it off because it hurt to think about it. He shook his head and finished putting everything together for dinner, glancing down at the dogs lying on the floor across the room. “Yeah, yeah, you’ll get your bones after dinner.” He went to open the door when he heard Maria’s footsteps on the deck.

She looked at him, stunned when he opened the door before she had the chance to. “Everything okay?” she asked with one lifted eyebrow.

“Yeah, why?”

“Just because you were kinda at the door before me as if you were waiting for me?”

He shook his head and took her hand to pull her in out of the cold. “I heard you comin’ and figured I’d beat you to the door.”

“It smells good in here.”

“Made dinner since I didn’t have to work today and you did.”

“Don’t remind me,” she sighed and dropped her coat on the little wardrobe next to the door. “People seem to think that every day it’s fun for me an’ Tess to work extra long right before the holidays.”

“Long day, huh?” He ushered her into the kitchen and pulled one of the barstools away from the island. “C’mon, take a load off. I’ll get you some coffee.”

“No thanks, just some water. I’m really hungry right now.”

“I hope you’re in the mood for steak and baked potatoes,” he said as he filled a glass with ice and water.

“I’m in the mood for pretty much anything right now. I didn’t even get the chance to take a lunch break today.”

“You know you shouldn’t skip meals, baby.” He pulled plates down and lined them up on the counter before filling them with steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and rolls. He slid them on the table just as Andy walked in and he nodded at the refrigerator. “Grab the salad for me, will you?”

The boy stopped and got the green stuff out to carry it over to the table. “Hey, Mom,” he bent down and kissed her cheek. “You look tired.”

“Long day making the women of Roswell beautiful,” she said with a smile.

“Was it your last day or you going in tomorrow too?”

“We were discussing that while we closed up,” she said and stretched in an effort to work the kinks out of her back. “We were thinking maybe we’d just open for half a day tomorrow. Lot of Christmas parties this weekend, which means more last minute customers.”

“I’m goin’ out with the twins and Sam tonight, so you’ve got the house to yourself.”

“Oh? And where’re the four of you going?”

“The bar that opened last year on Main Street.”

She nodded and bit back the impulse to tell him not to stay out too late. “I’m sure you’ll have fun then.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled and they ate in silence for a while.

Out of the corner of her eye, Maria watched Michael while he ate, his gaze focused on the food. She knew all the stress lately had sent her mood into a nosedive and some days she’d taken it out on him. “The steaks are great,” she told him and placed one hand over his.

“Glad you like ‘em,” he said with a smile and turned his hand over, interlocking their fingers.

“Are you guys flirting or something?” Andy made a face although he was happy to see Mom and Michael happy. They had come a long way over the last few years and their lives had taken an unexpected turn but it had been worth it.

“Or something.” Michael grinned at the younger man, enjoying the warmth of her hand in his.

“What about you? Dating anyone?” Maria asked.

Andy just groaned and leaned back.

“What?” she asked.

“We had that conversation earlier,” Michael chuckled.

“Well, I wasn’t here and a mother has a right to know these things. Now,” she looked at her son, “are you?”

“Nope, I’m not dating anyone,” he took another bite of his steak and then grinned. Well, if they really wanted to know. “But I have several women I see.”

Maria made a face at his admission. It was one of those things a mother wanted to know, but at the same time, didn’t want to know. “I hope they’re nothing like that girl you were ‘seeing’ last year at Christmas.”

It didn’t really matter, because they didn’t stick around long enough for him to find out their faults. “They’re hot.”

“Oh, Andy,” she sighed. “There’s no one at all that you’re really interested in?”

“He’s a young man, Maria. He’ll settle down when he meets the right girl.”

“Exactly,” the young man nodded. “There’ll be plenty of time for settling later, Mom.”

“I suppose so. I just hope you’re being careful.” She shook her head when she saw the protest forming. “Don’t give me that look.”

“If you mean do I use condoms, then yes, Mom, I do,” he said and smirked when he saw the slight blush on her face.

Michael squeezed her hand supportively. She struggled with that thin line, knowing Andy was a grown man but still seeing him as her little boy. “I’m sure he’s taking the necessary precautions. Did Liz call you with the final head count?” he asked, steering the conversation in a different direction.

“Yeah. And Isabel called as well. They got an approval from the agency finally.”

“Really? That’s great news! They’ve been waitin’ so long for that. I’ll have to give her a call after dinner.” He took a bite of steak and started chewing. “Oh, Chrissie called. She had some things come up but she expects to be here on Christmas Eve.”

“She’s staying at the house?”

“No, she’s bringing that tree hugger she’s dating so she said they’d rather stay at the hotel. I called over and talked to Mr. Bennett, reserved a suite for them.”

“I think our house’s gonna burst from all the people in it,” she chuckled. “And don’t call that boy a tree hugger just because he has the looks of one.”

“He is one, Maria,” he grumbled. “The guy eats nuts an’ berries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, he’d live outdoors and walk around naked all the time if he could, and if he’s not talkin’ about saving the environment he’s talkin’ about... well, I don’t know. And don’t get me wrong, the environmental thing’s a good thing, but he needs to grow up and get a real job.” He shook his head. “With my luck, this’ll be the one she marries.”

Both Andy and Maria laughed. “I’m glad I can leave now.” Andy shook his head and got up, kissing his mom’s cheek again. “I should go or I’ll be late and end up with Justin as my pool partner. See you later, guys.”

“Have fun,” Maria waved and waited until he had left the kitchen before she got up to sit in her husband’s lap. “Don’t be so hard on your sister. Everyone has to find their perfect match on their own, right?”

“Yeah, but does it have to be that guy? He looks like he was raised in the woods and the last time we saw them he spent more than an hour stressing the importance of some kind of tree grub that’s endangered.”

“It could be worse. He could be a total asshole or some snobbish businessman with no sense of what to say.”

“Well, we won’t have to worry about that. He has plenty to say.” He smirked at her. “I won’t go so far as to say what he says makes much sense though.” His eyes dropped to her lips and his grasp on the conversation started to slip.

“You’d better behave if you want her to keep visiting, Mr, Guerin.”

“Um-hmm, I’ll try, but if I get another lecture on why fiber’s so important I’m gonna let him eat his cranberries and lettuce on the back deck.”

She leaned against him and giggled at the thought. “I love you, Michael.”

He smiled at the sound of her humor, enjoying the way it lightened her features. “I love you too,” he murmured against her lips.

“Why don’t we just go into the living room, you light a fire and we’ll grab a few blankets and just relax in front of it?” Her hand wandered to his collar and she tugged on it lightly for a kiss.

His lips moved over hers, the pressure varying from kisses that were light and teasing to more intense and deep. It went on for several minutes before he pulled back and rested his forehead against hers. “I’ll take care of the fire if you’ll grab the blankets.”

“Wanna glass of wine?” he asked as he helped her up and stood.

“That sounds good, thanks.”

He nodded and gave her a gentle nudge towards the living room. “I’ll get the wine and be right there.”

*****

Justin walked into the bar first, feeling weird about doing something that didn’t include his son. During the last year he had gotten so used to being a father and focusing his life on classes and baby care, that doing something normal for someone his age seemed to be totally out of place.

“Feeling out of place?” Nick asked and grabbed him by the shoulder to drag him further into the bar.

“It’s been a while,” he admitted and they made their way through the place until they reached the very end where the pool tables were set up.

“C’mon, it’s just us,” Sam teased and went to place her jacket aside. She had rummaged around in her bags to find the tightest jeans and a decent black top for their night out, but unfortunately the boy she had ‘dressed up’ for wasn’t here yet. Had he backed out? She wouldn’t ask the twins though.

“So, how was your first meeting with Andy?” Sarah asked and threw a few quarters in the pool table to release the balls.

“How do you know – “ Sam started, but then waved at her. “Nevermind. Nick’s worse than any girl when it comes to gossip. It was a bit awkward and he thinks I’m into girls now.”

“Um, what?”

“Nick made some backhanded comment and it kinda went from there. I didn’t tell him otherwise and it was fun to see the reaction on his face.”

“Well, but you plan to tell him it was a joke, right? I mean, come on, the guy can’t be left to believe you’re into women now. I was hoping for a Sandy reunion.”

“Sandy?” the other girl asked, amused.

“Sam and Andy,” Sarah made a rolling motion with her hand as if it was completely obvious. “Sandy.”

“Who’s playing with who?” Nick asked when the boys joined them at the table with a few drinks in their hands.

“Well, Justin sucks at pool so it’s either one of us takes pity on him or we leave him with you, babe.” She smiled sweetly. “And he IS your brother.”

“I’m standing right here, ya know?” Justin complained.

“We know, sweetie,” Sam said and patted his arm in a consoling manner, “but you have no idea what to do with the balls.”

He snorted. “Neither do you apparently,” he teased and gave her a good-natured shove.

“I used to think otherwise,” someone whispered in her ear from behind. “Hey, guys, found anyone willing to pair up with Justin yet?” Andy asked and was satisfied to leave Sam noticeably flustered. Meeting her that morning was a shock, but tonight he was prepared.

“I’ll pair up with him,” a quiet voice offered from behind them.

Justin turned around and his eyes widened when he saw his high school girlfriend standing there with a cautious smile on her face. She hadn’t been able to go away to college with him like they had planned and she had broken up with him, insisting that she would hold him back if they stayed together. They hadn’t talked for the longest time but then about six months ago she had reached out to him, emailing and testing the water to see if he was open to talking. It had just taken off from there, but this was the first time they had actually seen each other in almost three years. “Hey,” he said and swept her up into a tight hug, “I thought you said you weren’t gonna make it?”

“Surprise,” she smiled slightly and tried to control her heartbeat. It was one thing to talk to him with thousands of miles between them, but actually standing in front of him was nerve wracking.

“Nice surprise.” He smiled and let his gaze wander over her, seeing the changes that email, messenger, and the occasional phone conversation just couldn’t reveal. “You look great.”

“You too.” She reluctantly let go of him to greet the others.

“Hey, Jenny, it’s been a while,” Sam was the next to hug her and she welcomed the distraction from a certain boy who was still standing close to her. He was hard to ignore wearing those washed out blue jeans with a black shirt that hugged his body nicely. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and revealed tanned, muscled forearms.

“It’s been a long time,” Sarah agreed and squeezed her way into the hug.

“Hey, Jen,” Andy greeted her as well.

“The gang’s all here,” she said happily and hugged him too.

“Apparently,” Nick chuckled. “So let’s play pool.”

“Couples or guys against the girls?” Andy asked.

“I vote for couples,” Justin said and winked at Jenny.

She blushed slightly and smiled at him. She had been attending community college in Roswell and had recently been offered an internship with a company not far from where Justin attended college and she was hoping to talk to him about it later. “That has my vote too.”

“It’s couples then,” Sarah decided without waiting for any other votes.

“Guess you’re stuck with me,” Andy said with a wink at Sam. He picked a pool cue and held it out to her. “Wanna hold my stick?” He grinned when she took it with a glare and he leaned over the table to collect the balls and rack them up. He didn’t know what this girlfriend business was about but he fully intended to get to the bottom of it.

“This is gonna be my end,” she muttered, unaware that Sarah had overheard it.

“Good luck resisting him.”

“What’s going on?” Jenny asked Justin when he took the barstool next to her while they waited for the game to start.

He shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Just the old Sandy drama,” he muttered. “Sam, Andy,” he motioned between them when she gave him a confused and questioning look, “Sandy.” He shrugged again. “I don’t know, somethin’ Sarah made up.”

“Are they back together?”

“Not yet.” He nodded at the waitress when she brought over a basket of nachos piled high with toppings. “Give it time though.” He watched his cousin and his best friend for a moment. “And maybe not that much.”

“Where’s Jeremy tonight? With your parents?”

“Um-hmm, I couldn’t have pried him outta Grandma and Grandpa’s hands with a crowbar.”

“Ah, c’mon. A night out will be good for you too,” she bumped him with her shoulder.

“So how do we play pool with three couples?” Sam asked.

“You guys play Nick an’ Sarah and we’ll play the winners,” Justin suggested.

You’ll play the winners,” Andy lifted an eyebrow, amused.

He flipped Andy off and settled back next to Jenny. “You’d think for someone studying engineering I’d be better at pool.”

“There’re more important things, I guess,” she smirked.

“I sure hope so.” His gaze left the others playing pool and focused on her as he shifted to lean his elbow on the edge of the small table. “How’re things goin’?”

“Not bad I guess. Everyone in town’s a bit crazy about Christmas for some reason but other than that not much has changed here.”

“Are you kiddin’? This’s the town where Christmas lives. Nothin’ beats a small town at Christmas. Big cities make a big deal with the decorations and the music, but it’s all so hectic. It’s rare to walk in a store and be greeted by anyone with a smile or a ‘Merry Christmas!’” He shook his head. “They’re all about pushin’ the sales. It’s kinda sad, ya know? They have no idea what Christmas is about.” He grinned sheepishly. “I was glad to be able to come home with Jeremy so he could experience it. I know he won’t remember it, but I will.”

“He can look at the photos later then,” she guessed. “He’s a cute kid from what I’ve seen of the photos. He has his dad’s looks.”

“Yeah, and there’ll be a ton of ‘em. My parents are lovin’ the grandparent thing.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Now that they’ve had plenty of time to get over the shock.”

She laughed. “Yeah, it was probably a big surprise. But your parents have always struck me as people who support their children no matter what.”

“They don’t get any better than Mom an’ Dad,” he agreed. He turned his head to watch the action at the table when Nick sank a shot and Sarah cheered him on as he lined up another one.

Andy stood next to Sam, his weight resting on the cue he held. “So a woman, huh? How’d that happen?”

“Does it matter?” she asked and tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Anna’s a great person and she’s always treated me well.”

“And other men didn’t?” he growled.

She shrugged. “Some did, some didn’t.” And Noah had until recently, she thought but held it back.

“Must’ve been a real jerk to make you play for the other team.” He studied her from the side, making no attempt to hide his gaze on her.

“I love how you just assume that some form of mistreatment by the opposite sex sent me into a relationship with a woman.” She rolled her eyes at him.

“Just tryin’ to understand,” he shrugged one shoulder. “You didn’t seem to have any preference for women when we were together. In fact, I think you liked all my body parts.” He winked and went to the pool table since it was their turn now.

“Well,” she walked up behind him, leaning over his shoulder to breathe into his ear, “I never said I stopped enjoying what a man has to offer.”

And that went straight to my dick, Andy thought and shifted slightly before he hit the white ball a little too hard. “So you play both sides? How about a threesome then? Think Anna will like me?” he teased.

“Probably not. She likes a little Latin flavor in her men. Your tan’s not that good. Threesomes aren’t that big a deal but Ricardo doesn’t like to share outside of that.” Ricardo was Anna’s boyfriend and while he might not mind a threesome Anna would set him straight if he ever suggested it.

She was kidding. She had to be kidding! What was he supposed to do with information like that? All his mind could come up with now was a dirty little fantasy with her lying on the pool table and him in front of her. He shook his head to get rid of it. “So it means you prefer to have all of the focus on you and not share.”

“I don’t see how you came to that conclusion. I said Ricardo doesn’t like to share. If you had the opportunity to take two women to bed wouldn’t you take it?”

“You also said threesomes aren’t that big of a deal, and hell yes to your question.”

“Then apparently I’m capable of sharing.

“Are you guys really discussing threesomes?” Sarah rolled her eyes. This was getting out of hand and she needed to make sure it stopped so Andy would stop thinking with just his dick. “Look... Sam’s not into girls. Never was.”

Sam’s eyes widened when Sarah just outright busted her. Just for that she was gonna let Oscar sleep on that new cashmere sweater she’d bought for her and THEN she’d wrap it and give it to her for Christmas. “Thanks a lot, Sarah. Really appreciate that.”

“So, no girl love?” Andy lifted an eyebrow, amused.

“That’s right, dumbass,” Nick said and shook his head. “She’s into girls like you’re into guys.” He shoved his cousin out of the way as he studied the table to line up his shot.

“You are so bad, Samantha Whitman.” Her ex shook his head at her, but he also felt relief because if she had really been a lesbian now... it would’ve really been a waste.

“You would know, Andrew Evans,” she said and stuck her tongue out at him.

“Would I?” he asked as he placed the cue in her hands since Nick had missed and it was now her turn. “It’s been a while.”

“Maybe,” she said as she bumped him with her hip and stretched out over the table to take her shot. She lined it up and then glanced at him over her shoulder. “But I don’t have any problems with my memory. Do you?” She didn’t wait for an answer, turning her head and taking the shot.

“I think the temperature in this room just went up a few degrees with those two,” Sarah muttered to her boyfriend.

“Yeah, well, as long as they don’t start makin’ out on the pool table and blockin’ my shot, I don’t care.”

“I don’t have any either,” Andy answered his ex’ question, when she handed the cue back to him. He gave the stick a little jerk before she released it, which brought her close to his body. “Two years is a long time though, I’m sure one or two things have changed.”

“Maybe.” Her eyes moved over him, her breath ghosting over his lips. “But we’re still attending college on two different coasts and that hasn’t changed.”

He was actually glad that she didn’t know how he had spent the last years in college. He had a feeling she wouldn’t have liked him at all. “No, it hasn’t,” he admitted.

“And we did agree that a long distance relationship wouldn’t work. Has that changed?”

“Not at all,” he shook his head slightly, his gaze locked with hers.

She sighed regretfully and shook her head. More than 2,000 miles between them and she didn’t know about him, but she had someone back at college. “Then what’s changed?”

“Us, I guess.”

“Have you changed your mind about long distance relationships?”

He shook his head. She was the only girl who had ever owned his heart and just the thought of spending most of the year away from her, not able to see her and know what she was doing... no, that wouldn’t work.

“Yeah, I didn’t think so. So even if we’ve changed our reality hasn’t.” She smiled sadly. “There’s no point starting something that’s not gonna go anywhere, is there?”

Maybe she hadn’t changed at all, he thought. She was still the rational thinking girl from high school.

She watched him, just waiting for some argument, some attempt to convince her she was wrong.

Why was she watching him like that, he wondered. What was she hoping he’d say? “There’s always one,” he whispered in her ear.

“Then I’ll be waiting for you to tell me what it is.”

“Yo,” Nick called them for the second time. “Can you two lovebirds stop the ogling for a while?”

“You realize you just ruined a moment, right?” Sarah asked and rolled her eyes at him.

Andy was glad he had because he hadn’t known what to say. He was still attracted to her, but she was right. The reason why they had broken up in the first place hadn’t changed.

“Nick has no sense of timing,” Justin said as he thumbed out a text to Mom to check on his son.

“And yet I’m the only one in a functional relationship,” his brother teased back.

“That’s a very good point,” Jenny said. “And also a very scary thought.”

“Nothing’s scary about that,” he denied and smirked when Sam punched the eight ball into the wrong pocket. “You lose, Whitman.”

She just smirked at him. “Not really. Now I can go have a beer while you play against your brother and Jenny.”

“And fortunately, Andy will have nothing to do either,” he muttered for her ears only.

“Then I suppose you’ll have to find something to occupy your time, won’t you?” Sam asked as she handed the pool cue to him.

“Feisty much?” It was so obvious that she was still into his cousin.

She tossed her hair over her shoulder and glared at him. “Stick with things you know, Evans.”

“Come on, Justin. Make yourself ready to lose,” his brother called to him and he grinned when Sarah smacked him upside the head.

Jenny watched him as he got to his feet, smiling as he read the text his mom sent back and he turned the phone towards her so she could see the screen. She had sent a picture of Jeremy sleeping in her husband’s arms. “He’s so sweet, Justin.”

He looked at the picture again before exiting the message and sliding the phone back in his pocket. “I thought maybe you’d like to come over and meet him if you have time.” He took the pool cue from his brother and turned to look at her. “Whatcha think?”

“Sure,” she beamed at him. “I’d love to.”

“Hey, Romeo and Juliet, you two wanna get with the program here?” Nick asked as he poked his brother in the shoulder.

“Sure, Bonnie and Clyde.”

Sarah snorted at Justin’s comment. “That’s appropriate,” she laughed.

“Are you any good at the game?” he hissed towards Jenny.

“I’ve played a few times,” she told him with a smirk.

“Hope you’re better than I am.”

Nick leaned back against the wall and took a drink of his Coke, shaking his head as he watched his brother line the shot up. Justin was all thumbs when it came to pool. He didn’t understand how anyone could be that bad at the game, but he was horrible.

“Heard it doesn’t take much to beat you,” she teased and bumped a hip into his.

“Yeah, it doesn’t,” he said, dropping his head when he scratched on the first shot.

“Don’t worry,” she chuckled, “playing pool isn’t high on my list of things men need to be able to do.”

“That’s good,” Nick said with a laugh, “because I doubt he’s ever gonna get any better.”

Jenny moved around the table when it was her turn and then leaned forward, giving the white ball a gentle nudge until it collided halfway with the solid red ball, making it roll into the pocket. “I can teach him,” she said with a wink.

“Somebody better.”

“Behave yourself.”

He grinned and leaned in to steal a kiss. “I always do.”

Justin made a gagging sound. “Really?”

“Go watch your girl, try to learn something,” his brother said and grabbed his girlfriend for another, more proper kiss. “I’ll show you how good I can behave later.”

He rolled his eyes. He had no idea how Nick had managed to be the one out of their group in a solid relationship. He walked around the table and leaned up against it beside Jenny. “Where’d you learn to play so good?”

“Actually I come here a lot with a few friends from college,” she admitted.

“I know college is college and I’m sure your education here’s as good as it would’ve been back east, but I really wish you’d been able to go.”

“Well...” she paused a moment while she tried to come up with words to say it right. “I’m thinking of transferring.”

His eyebrows nearly shot up off of his forehead. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, I haven’t completely thought it out yet, but it is an option.”

“Things are finally at a place where you’re able to make that move?” He was scared to hope that she would be able to join him back east. He knew it’d take time to get things back on track, but he was willing to try if she was.

“Yeah, my Dad’s out of the worst of it now. He’s gained so much strength back and my parents are pressing me to get on with my life, ya know.”

He nodded. Her dad’s accident had prevented her from leaving with him and he knew it had been a rough recovery for the man and his family. “I’m glad. I think you’d really enjoy Boston. And it has somethin’ that Roswell doesn’t have.” He winked at her. “Me and my kid.”

“Definitely a plus,” she smiled.

“I’d like it if you could do that.” He took her hand and slowly lifted his gaze to hers. “Family’s important to both of us and that’s never gonna change. My life’s not exactly my own with Jeremy in the picture, and while I wasn’t plannin’ on havin’ a kid at my age, I wouldn’t change it.” He shrugged one shoulder. “I would change the girl if it was possible because she was the mistake, not him.”

“And just because you said that, Boston just got even more attractive, Justin Evans.”

He grinned and shoved the pool cue poking him in the back. He was gonna kick Nick’s ass if he kept it up. “Maybe after we’re done here we could go out for a little bit, grab a coffee or somethin’?”

“Sure,” she nodded, trying to not yell it out, because she was so happy in that moment.

“Maybe you two could move an’ quit blockin’ the table,” Nick grumbled. “Hey,” he held his hands up in response to the double glares being shot at him, “I’m all for you guys makin’ up, makin’ out, whatever, but you’re blockin’ my shot.”

“You take these games a little too serious, Nicky,” Sam shook her head and turned to the bar again. “He never was a good sport when it came to ANY sport.”

“Hey, I am too a good sport,” he insisted. “Football’s my game and I’m pretty sure you could ask any of the guys on the team and they’d tell you I’m a good sport.” He looked at his girlfriend. “Tell them.”

“I was talking about you and the opponents. You’ve never behaved well.”

He shrugged carelessly. “Well, giving your opponent shit is perfectly acceptable.”

“Not when it’s your friend.”

Andy snorted. “She’s right ya know. This morning at your house? You kicked a rock at me.”

“I did not!” He glanced at his girlfriend and held his hands up at the look she was giving him. “It was completely accidental!”

“Accidental my ass,” the other boy said and took a sip of his beer before he lifted his shirt slightly to show the bruise he had on his stomach. “See that? Little bastard! If you weren’t my cousin an’ your little sister wasn’t watching...”

“You would’ve what? I can still take you just like I could when we were teenagers,” Nick scoffed.

“Don’t tempt me,” he shook his head and looked at Sam, who was still staring at the spot on his stomach that was fully covered again. “Don’t drool, babe,” he teased.

She shook her head at him and rolled her eyes. “Like I haven’t seen it before.”

“Maybe it’s one of those things that’s changed,” he teased and shifted to get his buzzing cell out. It was a text message from a girl he’d been seeing on occasion back in Cali. Although he’d made it clear that there wasn’t anything serious between them she made an effort to try now and then. Ungh, something Sam would so not tolerate at all.

Sam lifted an eyebrow as she studied his expression. “Some girl who’s not so special?”

He shrugged. “What if I said yes?”

“Then I’d ask why she’s texting you.”

“Then I’d tell you that obviously she didn’t hear me when I made it clear that I’m not looking for a relationship.”

“But you’ve been out with her.” She reached for her glass and took a long drink. You’ve probably slept with her. She thought it but refused to say it.

“We’ve met up at parties if you consider that going out. We’ve never gone out on a date or whatever.”

“That’s ALL?” She could’ve smacked herself for letting the words escape.

“If you’re asking me if we’ve had sex, then yes, Sam, we’ve had sex a few times, but that’s just about all.”

“Um-hmm.” It’s not like she had any reason to be jealous. They weren’t together and hadn’t been for a long time. Hell, she’d been dating Noah for a while now and their relationship had crossed that line months ago. “Do that a lot?”

He shrugged, but didn’t look at her. The truth was he hadn’t really dated anyone after her because he hadn’t liked the feelings he’d felt when they broke up and he wasn’t looking forward to feeling anything like that again. “Now and then.”

She studied his body language for a moment before reaching over to grab his chin and turn his face to hers. “No one special after all this time?”

“I didn’t want that.”

“Why?”

“I just didn’t,” he avoided her question.

She shook her head. “What’s the point of a one-night stand, Andy? Beyond the moment, what do you get out of it?”

“Beyond the moment?” He smiled slightly. “Nothing, that’s the point after all. I didn’t want anyone for anything besides that.”

Sam made a face. “That’s just so... tacky.” She shifted to rest her forearm on the counter. “Not to mention how risky it is.”

“It’s not risky if you use protection.”

“Ever heard of situations where protection failed?” She chewed on a piece of ice, crunching it up until it melted. “You deserve better than that, ya know.”

“Maybe, but it’s what I wanted,” he shrugged.

“Why? I mean, you could have so much more than that.”

“Sam,” he groaned slightly at her pressing. She had always pushed him to get the truth out of him. Another thing to add to the list of things that hadn’t changed. “You wanted the truth and I gave it to you. Sue me. That’s what I did and I knew you wouldn’t like it.”

“Doesn’t answer the question though, does it?”

Fuck! That stubborn girl!!! “I didn’t want to because I didn’t want it with any of those girls.” He took a long drink of his beer, draining the bottle before he stood to head for the men’s room. “None of them could compare to you so why try at all?” With that he left before she could bombard him with more questions.

Sam’s eyes followed his retreating back, her own expression thoughtful. She hadn’t expected that revelation. She still cared about him, she’d known that the moment she laid eyes on him again. And she’d admit that inside she’d hoped that he cared about her too. But when she’d been pushing him she hadn’t had any idea that he’d reveal THAT.
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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A Christmas Story (ITCOAL related)- AU/A/All Pt 4 - 12/18/13

Postby Double Trouble » Thu Dec 19, 2013 12:38 am

keepsmiling7: Lol, there’s no doubt about that!

They’re certain to keep things interesting.

Earth2Mama: If Andy doesn’t know that now, he will soon.

Nah, we don’t think convenience is a factor. It’s more that things are starting to line up for them.

kismet: They really are!

Lol, there’s an image, right?


Part 4

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Sarah said with a frown.

“You ever had one of those moments when someone said the last thing you ever expected to hear from them and it kinda just makes the earth stop spinning for a minute?”

“Okaaayyyy,” her friend stretched. “What’d he say?”

“I was pushing him about all the girls he’s been seeing,” she said, making air quotes with her fingers, “asking him why he hasn’t gotten serious about anyone.”

“And...?”

“And he got pissed. Said none of them could compare to me so why bother trying. And then he just stalked off.”

“What’re you gonna do about it?”

“What can I do about it? Even if we wanted to be together there’s no way to just wish away a 2,000-mile separation, Sarah.”

“Of course you would think so rationally about it,” she rolled her eyes. “You know what 90% of the girls I know would’ve done after his revelation?”

“If you say ‘follow him to the bathroom’, I’m not gonna talk to you the rest of the night.”

“I was gonna say: jump his bones,” the other girl grinned.

“Yeah, same difference,” Sam said with a roll of her eyes. “Look, I’m not gonna just sit here an’ pretend that I’m not attracted to him or that given the chance I might wanna take another shot, but we live on opposite sides of the country. He’s the one who came to me with the distance issue back when we got our acceptance letters and yeah, I agreed, because honestly, that’s too much distance, especially at our age.”

“And neither of you ever considered just following the other?”

“I wanted New York City and he wanted Long Beach. The best studies for the degrees we wanted were at those colleges at the time.” She didn’t mention that she had recently learned that they had changed the curriculum at the college Andy was attending and her program was now offered. “Trying to maintain a relationship wouldn’t have worked. It’s difficult enough when you’re at the same college.”

Sarah made a face. “You two are one tragic love story.”

“What would you do?”

“I don’t know, but if my feelings for a guy, even after two years of absence, hadn’t vanished then I wouldn’t stay away because I thought it was the most rational thing to do.”

She gnawed on her bottom lip. “And if you were kinda with someone?”

“Then I’d ask myself if I could actually feel that for two guys at the same I time.”

Well, that wasn’t a problem. Her feelings for Noah were a jumbled mess right now. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” She glanced over her shoulder at Nick and nodded at him. “You guys seem to be doing really great.”

“He has his moments.” The girl smiled.

“Yeah, well... he’s a guy.” She rolled her eyes. “Don’t they all?”

“Probably, yes.” Sarah glanced at her watch. “Maybe you could ask Andy to walk you home.” She wiggled her eyebrows.

“Um-hmm, because after that pissy revelation he’s gonna wanna do that.” She shook her head. “I’d probably be doing good if he offered to call me a cab.”

“YES, BABY!” Nick shouted when the eight ball rolled into its intended pocket, making everyone turn to look at him.

“He’s so annoying sometimes,” his girlfriend shook her head and went to him before he could do the winning dance and it was perfect timing because Andy was just returning as well.

Sam kept her gaze on Nick, smiling when Sarah hurried to contain his enthusiasm. She had to agree that his little victory dance could be embarrassing. She felt Andy settle on the barstool next to her and she inhaled slowly before turning to look at him. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” He frowned.

“For pushing you. It’s your business why you’ve chosen to,” she wrinkled her nose, “‘date’ multiple women.”

“Not date,” he corrected her. “And I don’t think you’re really sorry, Samantha, because that’s just the way you are. Pushy girl an’ all.” He winked at her.

“Yeah, well, I wanted an answer but I wasn’t trying to piss you off. And you’re awfully forgiving all of the sudden. What’s up with that?”

“I don’t think there’s a reason to be pissed at you, is there? If I was gonna be pissed then it’d be about the fact that you wanted me to believe you were dating a girl.”

“You made the assumption, I just ran with it. Served you right for thinking I had a girlfriend in the first place.” She shifted and stretched. “So a few minutes ago who were you pissed at if you weren’t pissed at me?”

And the inquisition continues, he thought, frustrated. “Why don’t you tell me about you rather than dig into my stuff any deeper for tonight?”

“I’m not sure what there is to tell. I go to classes, work part-time at a pizza place close to campus, and I go out on occasion.” She shrugged. “I play on the softball team in the spring and summer.”

“Seeing anyone?” he asked directly when she was obviously avoiding that subject.

“Yeah. No.” She sighed in frustration. “I don’t know.”

‘“You don’t know?” He lifted one eyebrow.

“I’ve been seeing someone but I’m not really sure where things stand right now.”

“Coke,” Andy told the bartender before focusing on his ex again. “What happened?”

She faced the counter and stared at her drink. It was so humiliating to think about, much less admit out loud. “He screwed around on me. He swears it’s the only time and he keeps calling and texting, asking me to forgive him. He says it’ll never happen again,” she said and shrugged, trying to play it off.

“Fuck, Sam. And you have to think about where you stand? Send that jerk straight to hell.” How could anyone cheat on a girl like her?

“He says he was feeling ignored.” She shrugged. “I have been really busy between work and school lately. Ya know, finals and getting ready to come home for Christmas. Not that I think that’s a valid excuse,” she clarified, “because I don’t. Part of me tries to rationalize it, thinking that everyone makes mistakes, but the other part of me keeps saying to just dump his ass and forget he ever existed.”

“Don’t rationalize it,” he nudged her with his knee. “I’m gonna throw your words right back at ya now... ready?” He looked at her. “You deserve better than that.”

“Yeah, I do.” And she had a feeling he was sitting right beside her. “Too bad you just had to have sun, surf, and sand.” She tried to make a joke of it and she cursed silently when she heard the slight crack in her voice.

“Sam,” he said softly and tugged on her barstool to bring her closer. “Maybe I was a jerk now and then and I still am sometimes, but cheating on you is just low. Move on from that guy and I’m not talking to you as an ex right now, alright?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. It would be so easy, she thought. So easy to turn to him and fall right back into his arms.

“Okay,” he said. “Better hope he never crosses my way.”

That made her laugh. Noah was shorter than Andy but he was rough around the edges and played on the rugby team. If the two of them ever got into a fight it’d be a nail-biting wait to see who came out on top.

He gave her an encouraging smile, hating that fact that some jerk had hurt her and also hating the fact that she’d let someone in her life again, but that was something he wouldn’t admit.

“So, now that we know who the King of Pool is, what’re we doin’?” Nick interrupted them and everyone else joined them at the bar.

“I think I’m gonna head home,” Sam said. She was tired from the shopping marathon with Isabel and the whole situation with Andy and Noah was exhausting as well.

“Already?” Justin frowned.

“I have a feeling you’ll be distracted,” she winked at Jenny. They had been a cute couple in high school and the girl seemed to still be interested no matter what kind of package he came with, so hopefully things would work out for them again.

Justin grinned at the woman next to him and tugged her closer for a moment. “You got a car?”

She shook her head. “No, Dad dropped me off earlier. I’ll just walk, it’s not that far.”

“I’ll walk you home,” Andy said.

“You really don’t have to,” she denied. “It’s just Roswell, not New York City, where by the way, I walk home in the dark a lot.”

He frowned at that information and then shrugged. “Well, you won’t in Roswell, not as long as I have anything to say about it.”

She gave in with a nod. Going back and forth over it would only make it seem so much more important than it really was. It was just a walk, nothing more. “I’ll just grab my coat and then we can go.”

“So what’s goin’ on, Cuz?” Nick asked as he settled on the barstool she’d vacated.

Andy took a drink of his beer before turning his head to look at him. “What?”

“Man, don’t try to play it cool. You an’ Sam, what’s goin’ on?”

He shrugged. “I’m walkin’ her home, what’d it sound like to you?”

“Sounded to me like maybe the past isn’t that far in the past.”

“It’s a walk, Nick. Nothin’ more, nothin’ less.” He didn’t really know what it was to be honest, but he wasn’t about to admit that to his cousin. There were a lot of things that hadn’t changed, his feelings for her being at the top of that list, but she was right about the distance thing. That hadn’t changed either.

“Fine, don’t tell me.” He shifted around to look at the others. “So, what about the rest of you? Anyone up for somethin’ else tonight?” He reached over and patted his brother’s shoulder. “Hey, you don’t wanna deprive Mom an’ Dad of quality grandparent time.”

“Nicky, why don’t we let them decide what they wanna do themselves,” Sarah suggested. “They might not be interested in doing anything else tonight.” She gave him a look that stopped the protest already forming. “And if they don’t I’m sure we can find something to entertain ourselves with.”

“They’re playing a late movie at the theater,” Jenny offered. “I’m not sure what it is, but I think it was a guy movie.”

“Oh, you mean the Transformers re-watch,” Nick said. “Yeah, sounds good. What about you, babe? Justin?”

“Yeah, let’s do that,” they both agreed.

“What’re you guys doing?” Sam asked when she came back with her coat on.

“The movies. Obviously Transformers is playing again,” Sarah said.

“You can join them if you want to,” she told Andy. “I can really – “

“Not interested,” he shook his head. “Got it on blue ray and watched it like ten times now.”

“You mean you watched the scene where Megan Fox bends over the car,” Nick corrected him and was already expecting the slap on the back of his head from his girlfriend.

“You ready to go?” Andy looked at his ex and ignored his cousin.

“Sure,” she zipped the coat up and waved at the others. “Have fun.”

“Are we still going ice skating tomorrow?” Sarah wanted to know.

“Sure. Hey, Jenny, you should come with us. Just us girls.”

The girl chuckled. “Yeah, I’d love to.”

“That means us guys are on our own,” Nick mused. “What about poker? Doesn’t Uncle Kyle having that kickass poker table?”

“Bet Aunt Tess made him store it at the very end of the attic,” Andy snorted. “I’ll talk to him. I was planning to drop in on them tomorrow anyway.” The guys slapped each other on the back before he led Sam out into the cold night air.

“It wasn’t this cold an hour ago,” she muttered when they fell into a step next to each other.

Andy shoved his hands into his pants pockets with a sigh, which made his breath visible in the air for a moment. “See, this’s why Cali’s the perfect place to live.”

“That’s why you’re just wearing a sweater?”

“And a tee shirt underneath,” he corrected her.

“Oh, now, thank God,” her tone was ironic, but her face showed amusement. “That’s what you wear on cold nights in Long Beach.”

“Jealous now? White beaches, nice weather all year long… what’s that compared to New York City?”

“It has beaches as well. And nice weather in the summer. And I went there for college, not the weather.”

“Obviously.” He snorted and wondered how she fit in a big city like New York. “That ass-hat from New York?”

“Noah’s from Atlanta.”

“How’d you two meet?”

She looked at him from the corner of her eye. “Do you really wanna know?”

He shrugged wordlessly.

“I met him half a year ago in Central Park while I was studying there. Turned out he went to the same college but we’d never met before and then we started hanging out.”

“Doesn’t really sound like love at first sight.”

She snorted. “No, it wasn’t. But he really made an effort in getting to know me and then…” she left the rest open.

Until he decided to fuck it up, Andy added in his thoughts, but he supposed there was no need to rub that one in.

They walked for several minutes in comfortable silence, enjoying the unoccupied and quiet streets of their hometown, which was such a contrast to their new lives.

“Mom said she talked to Principal Russell…” he rolled his eyes when she laughed at him. “It’s a habit, okay? I know she and your dad have been married for a while now but it’s still weird to think of her as your stepmom.”

“The guidance counselor’s your stepdad,” she countered.

He chuckled. “Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, before you interrupted I was gonna say Mom said your parents got the green light from the adoption agency.”

“Yeah, they’re pretty excited about it. Over the moon, really. It sounds like the agency already has a little boy picked out for them…”

He looked over at her when she sighed quietly. “What?”

“It’s just weird, ya know? I love my dad and Isabel but I was so ready to get to college in New York. And don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I guess you kinda think life at home doesn’t go on without you.” She shrugged. “Then you come home for the holidays and it smacks you in the face that their lives go on too.”

“Yeah, I guess comin’ home and finding out you’re gonna be getting a little brother soon must be kind of a shock.”

“A little bit. It’s not bad or anything. It’s not like I feel like I’m gonna be forgotten or pushed aside.”

“But they’re gonna be bringing him home, raising him, and you’re across the country missing out on all the family stuff that’ll be going on.”

She hunched her shoulders against the cold wind that picked up for a moment, wishing it wasn’t quite so cold. “Yeah, something like that.”

“Little ones do grow fast,” he nodded and wrapped an arm around her shoulders to bring her closer against his body in attempt to keep her warm. His lower arm hung loosely in front of her body. It was a natural move – something he had always done without thinking about it. “Take Jenna, last time I saw her I think she was at least a foot shorter. At least it feels like it.”

“It’s true. We all change, but the kids change the most after just a few months of being away.” Her gaze wandered to his hand, but she resisted the urge to take it. “What about your mom and Michael? I thought somehow… ya know, that they might want another kid too.” A few years ago, the subject would’ve driven him up the wall, she thought, but now his features were relaxed.

“Yeah, I wondered about that, too.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But maybe Mom just wants to live her life now, ya know? She was a young mother and she was always a stay at home mom, so maybe she’s enjoying her freedom now. Or maybe it just didn’t work out. I know she and my dad tried to have a second child, but it didn’t happen.”

“They never said anything about it?”

“No, not at all.” He thought about it for a moment. “And I guess I didn’t ask.”

“I’m looking forward to meeting my future brother.”

“What nationality is he?” He glanced down at her with a smirk when she shot a look at him. “What? I mean, you can adopt children from all over the world.”

“I think he’s actually from Utah, so not exactly from across the world. If everything goes as planned, we’ll meet him very soon. How long are you gonna stay in town?”

“Not sure yet, maybe the 29th or 30th.”

“You’re not staying for New Years’?” she asked and tried to hide her disappointment. She wasn’t planning to go back to New York until after the first of the year and the way it looked now she wouldn’t get to see Noah for the end of the year either, although he was begging her to come.

“My plan was to take part in the big New Years’ celebration on campus. A few bands are playing and it’s usually pretty wild. I went last year and it was awesome.”

She nodded. “Sounds good.” It wasn’t the way she’d prefer to celebrate it though.

Andy snorted. “You probably wouldn’t like it, would you?”

“Probably not,” she admitted with a laugh and reached up to squeeze his hand briefly. “But you’re a single guy partying through college, so of course you like it.”

“It sounds so accusing, when you say it,” he teased and held her hand in his when she started to drop it again.

“No,” she shook her head, “there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the party scene.” She enjoyed a good party once in a while but she was focused on her studies and between that and her job she’d usually been doing good to carve time out for herself and Noah.

He pretended to gasp in shock. “Samantha Whitman knows how to party?”

She elbowed him and rolled her eyes. “I’ve been to more than one party and you know that. And I know this’ll shock you, but I’ve even enjoyed a few of them.”

Andy laughed and tightened his hold on her for a moment. “I haven’t forgotten but I know how important school is to you so I know you put more focus on that.” He bumped her with his hip. “You even said when you met Asshat that you were in Central Park studying.”

“Yeah, I know.” She sighed and smiled. “But it is important and I don’t want Dad to waste his money on college for me.”

He shook his head at her. “We both know that’ll never happen.” He glanced up when they crossed a street and he recognized her house just a couple of doors down. It was too soon, he thought. He wasn’t ready to just let her go.

“Never say never,” she winked at him.

He laughed and it turned into a snort. “The eternal optimist.”

“Optimist? When I tell you Dad might’ve wasted his money? Is the cold freezing your brain?”

“Like I said, it’ll never happen, Miss Never Say Never.”

She chuckled and ignored it when the cell in her pocket buzzed. It was probably just another attempt by Noah to make her think he was back to being the perfect boyfriend. “If you say so, Mr. Casual Sex.”

“You think less of me because I don’t get involved with the girls I sleep with?”

“I don’t think less of you,” she denied. “I just think you could do better than that.” Yeah, she thought, as if I wanna picture him being serious with anyone else.

“Is that so? You got any suggestions?”

ME! “How could I? I don’t even know the girls in Cali.”

He shrugged and looked up when he caught movement and he saw the smallest of snowflakes beginning to fall. “Who said she had to be in Cali?”

“Well... no one I guess.”

“So what’re you gonna do about that asshat you’ve been dating?” he asked.

“I don’t know, Andy. It’s like I’d like to try because we had a good time together, but whenever I see him I can’t help imagining the way he cheated on me and it seems like I can’t get over it.”

He made a face. “Why should you get over it? If he’s stupid enough to cheat on you he deserves to lose you. A guy like that doesn’t deserve to have a girl like you love him. He sure as hell doesn’t deserve your forgiveness.”

They stopped when they reached her house and she glanced at the door and then back at him, stepping out of his embrace to face him. “You’re probably right. Life’s just not easy like that.”

“I am right.” He looked down at her and reached up to brush a few of the glistening snowflakes from her hair.

“Andy...” she lowered her gaze to the ground and swallowed. It wasn’t supposed to still feel like this two years later, she thought, frustrated.

“What?” He tilted his head in an effort to see her face and when that didn’t work he used his fingertips to tip her chin up. “Sam?”

She shook her head. “Nothin’.” Warming things up between them would just cause more pain as soon as the holidays were over and they went back to their own lives.

He studied her expression, recognizing the look in her eyes that said she had something on her mind that she wasn’t gonna share. He leaned in a little closer, crowding her against the gate.

In spite of her intentions to keep things between them on a friendship level only, she let him maneuver her. Rational thinking – mostly her normal behavior - wasn’t working whenever Andy was around, not back in high school and not now either.

He nudged her nose with his and brushed the gentlest of kisses against her lips. When she didn’t push him away or tell him no he kissed her again, letting it last just a little longer this time.

Still such soft lips, was all she could think and a moment later she made peace with the thought that she would regret this later. Her hands slid up his chest, but not to make him stop, no, she needed to feel him under her skin.

Andy felt her surrender and his arms came around her, pulling her closer and deepening the kiss. Kissing her felt like coming home. For the past two years he had a feeling he’d been searching for something he had no hope of finding because she was the only one who had what he needed. They had been each other’s firsts for so many things and for a long time he’d thought maybe that was why none of those other girls really clicked. But now he knew better.

He still used the same kissing technique, something she had missed because no other guy had been able to kiss her they way Andy had. It was just the way he always altered between soft and firm, slow and fast, gentle and wild. Some days she had wondered if she has overrated it and made it better in her memory because the other guys weren’t as good, but no... her memory hadn’t betrayed her, it was just the way she wanted to be kissed.

“I’ve missed you,” he mumbled against her lips. And seeing her now, touching her, kissing her again, drove it home just how much he had missed her.

Her hand moved further up over his shoulder until it settled against the back of his neck. Heavily breathing, she leaned her forehead against his and closed her eyes.

He caught movement over her shoulder and he saw the curtain over the living room window move slightly as if it was falling back into place. “I know you’ve gotta get inside and it’s freakin’ cold out here but you wanna get together tomorrow?”

Going inside was the last thing she wanted right now. “Yeah, I’ll... call you.”

He could hear the reluctance in her tone and it made him smile. “We could always keep walkin’. I know they still roll the sidewalks up at most places here by 10pm at the latest, but Mom said they opened a new coffee shop off of Main Street.”

“I should go in,” she said reluctantly. Honestly, she wanted to stay with him all night, fall asleep in his arms, wake up in his arms, make out... the list was never ending, but she knew it’d only make her heart break more at the end of the holidays.

He nodded. “Yeah, I should probably be getting back home too.” He didn’t want to but maybe it was for the best for now.

“G’night, Andy.” She slowly retrieved her arms from him, feeling cold immediately when she put distance between them.

“Night, Sam.” He didn’t move from the spot, waiting until she had made it inside before he turned and began the walk home.
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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Part 5

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 22, 2013 9:33 am

Eva: It’s funny, they weren’t actually intended to be a younger version of our Candy couple, but they really did turn out that way, lol. Hmm... you just never know what the Christmas holiday will bring.

begonia9508: Yes, it is.

We’ll find out before long what’s going on with Michael and Maria.

Earth2Mama: Sam and Andy are reconnecting and it’ll bring them both to a place where they have to decide what they want and what they’re willing to risk to have it.

Alien_Friend: It seemed fitting to reconnect with our ITCOAL family for the holidays.

As many changes have occurred, there are still a lot of things that remain the same. And that place in Andy’s heart will always belong to Sam.

We’ll see more of Andy with the little ones.

Justin’s definitely gone through the biggest change of all, but he’s handled things well. Max and Liz make great grandparents, don’t they?

Nick is something else, lol, but Sarah does seem to have a good handle on him. And it looks like Max was a good example for his boys.

Sam definitely found a way to deal with Andy and that entire situation. It certainly took a little of the tension out of her.

Kyle... yeah, we never had any doubt what a great husband and papa he’d be, did we? ;)

We’ll get a chance to meet the new addition to the Whitman family in today’s update.

Today we’ll be in the Guerin kitchen because the ladies are cooking up a storm getting ready for the big day.

Bad Mojo, lol. No Christmas trees for you!

We’ll actually be spending more time with Michael and Maria in the next part.

Sarah wants to see her Sandy friends back together... it’s Christmas, so you just never know.

Justin and Jenny have been working on reconnecting recently and now that they’re getting a chance to spend some time together in person maybe things will move forward. We have a feeling the two of them and Jeremy would all benefit from it.

Sarah must love Nick a lot, lol.

We enjoy writing the friendships and relationships, seeing the ups and downs those journeys take our characters on, and we’re so glad you enjoy them!

Isn’t that the truth? We have a feeling everyone would be happy if Sam broke up with Noah.

That is something that has made being so far away from home difficult for Sam and it’s likely to be even more difficult once she meets her new little brother.

Andy’s come a long way since he and Maria moved to Roswell.

We’re very happy you’re enjoying this return to ITCOAL and we have more to come!



Part 5

Alex could feel the combination of nerves, excitement, and anticipation in every clench of Isabel’s fingers around his. They were standing in the large foyer of the Smithson Adoption Agency in Albuquerque, waiting for the new addition to their family to be brought out. They had taken care of all of the formalities first; filling out more forms than they had known even existed and then going over more of them with Mr. Alan Walters, the man handling their case.

Sam was wandering around, looking at the framed art that decorated the walls. The artwork was pretentious and without a degree in the subject most people probably wouldn’t have any idea what it was supposed to represent. He had wanted to ask her what was going on between her and Andy but his wife had warned him that if he was going to ask, a two-hour drive wasn’t the time to do it because it’d just make Sam feel cornered. He’d seen the two of them outside the house the night before and he wanted to make sure she didn’t get hurt.

The double doors across from them opened and Mr. Walters ushered an older woman ahead of him. Their eyes locked on the little boy, his wide eyes shimmering with tears that were silently spilling over to slip over his chubby cheeks. He had curly dark hair and big brown eyes and he was gnawing on his fist as he looked around at the unfamiliar faces.

“Mr. and Mrs. Whitman, I’d like to introduce you to your new son.” He took the little boy from the woman and carried him over to them.

Ethan Wayne Johnson breathed rapidly, his little chest rising and falling as he worked himself up into another crying fit. He didn’t understand what was happening or where he was going. He had seen the woman that had been carrying him put his things in a bag, shoving his stuffed puppy on top and then closing it. Then she had picked him up and said it was time to go bye-bye. He didn’t know the people in the room and he shrank back when they slowly approached him.

“Alex, he’s so cute,” Isabel squeezed his hand without realizing it, her voice shaky and thick.

“Yeah, he is.”

The little boy peered at her over the hand fisted in the man’s shirt. Big tears spilled over and he drew in a shuddering breath as he waited to see what they were going to do.

“Hello, Ethan,” Alex greeted gently when his wife struggled with tears of her own.

“Is he scared or just shy?” Sam asked as she joined them.

“Probably a little of both,” the man holding him answered. “He’s been juggled around quite a bit the past few months and it’s especially unsettling for a child this young.”

“We’ll take good care of you, sugar,” Isabel whispered and took his little hand gently.

Ethan started to pull his hand back but paused mid-pull to stare at the woman. He studied her for more than a solid minute where no one spoke and he slowly released his grip on the man’s shirt, shifting in his arms and holding his hands out to her.

Her heart did a crazy flip when the boy decided it would be okay for her to hold him, so she reached out in spite of her nervousness and took him. The weight in her arms was the most right thing she had ever felt and it took all her strength not to crush him tightly for a hug.

Alex smiled at the sight of Isabel holding their little boy and he reached out cautiously to rest his hand on Ethan’s back. He took it as encouragement when the little guy didn’t pull away. He watched as the boy settled contentedly into Isabel’s embrace, tucking his arms under his chest and resting his head on her shoulder.

“I think he’ll settle in very well with your family, Mr. Whitman,” Mr. Walters said.

“Yeah,” his eyes were on the boy, “I think you’re right.”

Sam leaned around her dad to get a good look at Ethan and she watched the boy for a few moments, seeing him relax finally. She glanced at Mr. Walters. “Does he talk much?”

“His vocabulary seems to be fairly limited right now, but that could be due to the trauma of being passed around so much recently. It’s quite likely that he knows and understands more words than we’re aware of. As he becomes more comfortable at home with you his grasp of vocabulary will become apparent.”

She wouldn’t be home to see it, she thought. And living on the east coast she didn’t have the chance to come home as often as she’d like to. She smiled and reached out to accept the little boy’s things from the man, wondering if there was any way possible that she could form a bond with Ethan before she had to go back to school.

“Are we good to go?” Alex asked the man. He really hoped there wasn’t one more thing he had to sign.

Mr. Walters smiled and nodded. “You folks have a nice Christmas.”

Isabel sighed deeply, almost not believing that after the long wait and filling out so many forms they were finally bringing a child home. “We’re going home now, Ethan.”

The little boy made a face when he was shifted around so his coat and hat could be put on him and he sighed when he was able to settle back against the woman holding him.

“You guys want me to drive?” Sam asked as they made their way out.

Alex glanced at the sky, judging the weather as he unlocked the car and opened the back door. “Yeah, thanks, sweetie. It’ll give us a chance to get Ethan settled a little bit on the ride home.” The boy seemed quite content in Isabel’s arms but he wasn’t sure how he’d react once they put him in the car seat and he couldn’t be held again until they were home.

“No problem, Dad.” At least this way she’d have a good excuse later why she hadn’t texted Andy back about meeting him. Last night had been so confusing and she didn’t want to go back to New York heartbroken again.

“Alright, let’s get this young man into his car seat and get on the road before that bad weather they’ve been warning about rolls in.” Alex opened the trunk so Sam could put Ethan’s things inside and he turned to help his wife get the boy strapped into the car seat.

“Don’t worry, I’ll sit right next to you,” Isabel told him in a calming voice.

“Looks like we’re off to a good start, huh?” Alex watched her as she soothed Ethan and he kept his movements slow as he worked the straps into place. “Yeah, that’s not so bad, is it?”

“Once we’re home you can have a look at your new room. Sam helped pick out the colors and paintings.” The woman glanced at the front of the car and smiled at the eyes watching her in the rearview mirror.

Ethan looked around as he reached up with both hands to push the hat off of his head. “Boo?”

“Boo? Alex, I think we need to get his stuffed puppy out of the trunk.”

He nodded and got out of car, lifting the lid when Sam released the latch. He unzipped the boy’s bag and found the toy right on top. “Easy fix,” he said to himself. He hurried back around when the wind picked up, climbing into the front seat next to his daughter and reaching between the seats to hand the toy over.

“Boo!” the boy said in relief and reached for it with both hands.

“I guess that’s no worse than the stuffed toy you had when you were his age,” Alex said and winked at Sam.

“Not that I can remember any of that, Dad.” She rolled her eyes and started to move out of the parking lot. Why did it suddenly feel as if her whole life was changing in a heartbeat?

“You might not, but I sure do. We left that thing behind at a hotel one time and you didn’t stop crying until we went back and got it.”

“Now you can live through that all over again,” she turned her head briefly to grin at him.

Alex smiled at her as he turned to check on Isabel and Ethan. “You know, it’s taken so long to get here that it almost feels like a dream.”

“It’s not, Dad.”

He shifted to settle more comfortably in his seat. “Have you decided if you’ll be staying through New Years’?”

“I probably will,” she nodded. Now that the little guy was there she wanted to spend as much time as possible with them and there was nothing really planned in New York anyway. And, well... Andy was planning to leave for California too, so…

“I’m glad. I know you said Times Square was pretty cool last New Years’.”

“It was cool,” she nodded. “But Kelly’s spending New Years’ with her boyfriend in Boston and I wouldn’t go there alone or with people I barely know.”

And for that he was immensely grateful. “It’s nice to have you home, Sam. I know you love New York and you’re thriving at college but I do miss having you here.”

“I miss home as well.” She reached over and squeezed his hand briefly.

“I’ve noticed quite a few familiar faces around town this past week. A lot of your friends have made it home for the holidays this year. There’re a lot of happy parents in town,” he said with a quiet laugh.

“It seems like everyone came home this year,” she agreed with a nod.

“It’s been a while since so many of you have been home at the same time,” Isabel said, glancing at them. Ethan was starting to doze and she had a feeling it wouldn’t be long before he was sound asleep.

“We’re spread all over the country,” Sam shrugged. “Guess it’s just luck that we all made it this year. It’s gonna be a full house tomorrow.” And it was Andy’s house.

“Yeah,” he said and smiled as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “Last year almost all of you were away. Talk about a houseful of mopey mothers.”

Isabel snickered and shook her head. “Yeah, as I recall, the fathers were no better.”

“By the end of tomorrow night Andy’s mom will probably wish there had been a few less people.”

“She and Liz thrive on these big family get-togethers,” Alex said.

“How many people will be there? 20?” It’s gonna be crazy, Sam thought.

“At least.” He smirked as he recalled an earlier conversation between Michael and Isabel. “Michael’s sister’s bringing the guy she’s been dating and he just grates on the poor man’s nerves.”

“She still with that tree hugger?”

Isabel laughed quietly. “Oh, yeah, and she seems very serious about him, which drives Michael crazy.”

“If they get along,” the younger girl shrugged.

“He’d probably get along with the kid better if he had a job,” Alex said, fully agreeing with Michael on that point. “It’s not the fact that he’s an environmental activist that bugs him; it’s the fact that he’s living with Chrissie and letting her pay for everything while he fights for his causes. That’d bother me too.”

It’s gonna be an interesting night, Sam thought and she wasn’t really ready for it because it would mean saying goodbye to Andy all over again.

They fell into a comfortable silence as the miles flew by and it was late afternoon by the time they were pulling off of the highway and taking the exit into town. The weather that had held out for the drive began to reveal itself and a light snow began to fall as their house came into view a few minutes later.

“Hey, sweetie,” Isabel reached over to caress the boy’s cheek when he looked around sleepily. “We’re in Roswell. It’s your new home.”

Ethan scowled and burrowed deeper into the car seat, her arms momentarily tightening around Boo before relaxing again.

“It’s probably already been a long day for him.” Alex loosened his seatbelt when Sam stopped.

“So what’s the plan for tonight? Just us at home?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, we thought since it’s Christmas Eve maybe we’d just stay in, give Ethan some time to adjust before we start introducing him around. Have dinner, maybe open a present or two. And since the big dinner’s tomorrow evening that’ll put him right in the middle of things.” He glanced at his wife and smiled. “That’ll probably be enough of a shock to his system.”

“Sounds good,” she agreed.

“What about you?” Isabel asked, not wanting to assume that Sam wanted to change her own plans. “You had plans to go ice skating with Sarah and Jenny, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but maybe I’ll stay with you guys.”

“We’d like that wouldn’t we, Ethan?” Isabel asked as she lifted him out of the car seat, careful not to drop Boo.

“Yeah, we would,” Alex said and squeezed his daughter’s shoulder.

Sam nodded. “The girls will understand and we can always get together another day. We’re all home for at least another week, so there’s plenty of time.”

*****

“I can’t believe you’re making grasshopper pie for Christmas,” Maria said with a smile as she watched Tess putting the finishing touches on the creation. The three of them had agreed to meet at her house to get the preparations underway for the big dinner the next day.

“What? Kyle loves it.” She shrugged. “And it’s the only one I can make that I know for sure I won’t screw up.”

“Instant pudding, Cool Whip, Oreos, a store bought pie crust, and chocolate; if you screw that up you’d better turn in your cooking license,” Liz teased.

Tess turned to stick her tongue out at the other women. “Just for that you can’t have any of it.”

“Between Kyle and Max there won’t be any left for anyone else anyway. Put anything with chocolate mint flavor in front of him and I swear that man will eat it until he makes himself sick.”

“Then at least my husband and my brother will be happy with my non-traditional pie,” the curly blonde huffed.

Maria laughed and hugged her. “You know we’re just teasing you, Mama.”

“I’ll bet you’re so ready for him to be born,” Liz said as she hugged her from her other side.

“As big as I’ve gotten I’m surprised we’re not having twins.” She held a hand up. “And as much as I love your boys, Liz, I have no interest in having twins.”

“One’s more than enough work to keep you busy.” She looked down when her grandson came into the room, his hand on the wall as he used it to steady himself. “This little man right here keeps everyone busy, don’t you, Jeremy?”

“Cookie!” He pointed at the pantry door, having discovered that was where cookies were kept.

“He looks so much like Justin,” Tess shook her head in amusement and took one of the cookies before she walked over and bent down to him as much as her belly would allow. “Here you go, little man, but don’t tell your daddy.”

He smiled widely and grabbed the cookie. “No Dada,” he said and crammed half of it in his mouth.

“The great thing about grandchildren is you can totally spoil them,” Liz grinned and lifted the boy up in her arms. “Max still pretends to be shocked about being a grandpa but he so loves it.”

Maria laughed and nodded. “Yeah. I was watching him with Jeremy before the guys left. He’s loving every minute of it.”

“Is it weird that your grandson’s only a little younger than your own child?” Tess went back to preparing the food, sighing when her belly was already starting to get in the way and she still had two months to go.

“Well, it was a bit of a shock to learn we were gonna become grandparents when our youngest child was barely two years old,” Liz said with a chuckle. “But once we managed to get over that things went a little more smoothly. And how could we be anything but proud of the way Justin’s handled the entire situation?”

“You can be very proud,” Maria agreed. “He’s taken on a lot of responsibility for his age. Not every young man would do that.”

“That’s so true,” Tess said. She put the finishing touches on her pie and smiled at its perfection. “Kyle saw him walking in the park with his old high school girlfriend last night.” He’d gone out on a mission of mercy to find and return with a nacho cheese chalupa from the Taco Bell that had been built just off the highway at the edge of town.

“Really? Jenny?” Liz asked, surprised.

“Um-hmm.”

“Guess he doesn’t tell me everything,” she chuckled.

“It was pretty late and I’m sure you and Grandpa were probably already in dreamland by then,” she teased.

“Hey,” Liz smacked her sister-in-law’s butt with the spatula in her hand. “We’re not that old,” she placed Jeremy on the counter and held her hands over his ears. “And just for the record, Max and I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and it wasn’t because of the kids.”

“Gross, Liz!” Tess made a face at her. “I do not want to know that my brother’s having,” she glanced at the little boy, “s-e-x.”

Maria laughed so hard she snorted. “Jeez, Tess, they have four kids. They didn’t appear by magic.”

“As far as I’m concerned they came out of the cabbage patch.”

“Yeah, well, they didn’t. It happened the old fashioned way,” Liz assured her. She stuck her tongue out. “And we do it a LOT just to make sure we don’t forget how in our old age.”

Jeremy giggled and reached out with sticky fingers to touch her hair.

“Just be glad you don’t have a clue, short stuff,” Andy said as he came downstairs and grabbed an apple. “Gross,” he shook his head at his aunts and Mom.

“I thought you were going out?” Maria asked.

“I’m taking the dogs out,” he said instead of answering her question and whistled loudly to get their attention.

Theo ran into the kitchen and barked as he jumped around Andy. Mojo grunted and rolled over just enough to look at the owner of the whistle. After a moment he rolled back over and snuffled into his pillow.

“Just you an’ me then, huh, buddy?” Andy took the dog’s big head in his hands.

“Oh, no, lazybones,” Maria said as she went over to Mojo and tugged on his collar. “Let’s go. C’mon, go out with Andy and when you come back I’ll let you have a treat.” She smiled triumphantly when he finally got to his feet. “Go on now.” He gave her a reproachful look over his shoulder before slowly walking over to join Andy and Theo.

“You want me to take Jeremy out for some fresh air as well?”

“Are you going very far?” Liz asked.

“No, just to the park.”

“Yeah, if you’re sure you don’t mind.” She picked her grandson up. “Let me get him into his hat and coat. You’ll just have to watch him because he’ll take the hat off every chance he gets.”

“Hat stays on,” he nodded and went to get the leashes for the dogs.

Jeremy slid his arms into the sleeves when Grandma held the coat out to him but he shook his head when he saw the hat. “No!”

“Yes.”

He squirmed around in an effort to avoid it, screeching in irritation when he felt it come down over his ears.

Andy made a face when he came back into the kitchen, as much from the racket as the hat the poor kid was wearing. “Aunt Liz, really? Didn’t you make Justin wear that same hat when he was little? The kid’s probably just embarrassed.”

“It’s cute.”

“It’s not cute.” He shook his head and reached over to pull it off of Jeremy’s head, leaving his hair standing up in spikes. “It’s got little eyes and ears on it.” He pulled his own hat out of his coat pocket and pulled it over the little guy’s head. He still didn’t look happy about it but he wasn’t making as much of a fuss.

“Now you’re one of the cool kids.” Andy lifted Jeremy’s hand and showed him how to make a fist. When the little boy mimicked his move he bumped their hands together lightly. “Come on now,” he took him from his aunt’s arms.

Liz rolled her eyes. “I suppose I’ll never hear the end of this,” she said as she picked up the hat he’d discarded.

Maria waited until her son, Liz’s grandson, and the dogs were gone before she leaned on the counter and looked at Liz. “So, girl... kinky night?”

“La la la la la,” Tess sang out and covered her ears.

“Drama queen.” The brunette laughed and pulled her sister-in-law’s hands away. “Let’s just say we were feeling adventurous.”

“Come on,” Maria swung the wooden at Tess. “If we don’t share with each other, who else can we share with?”

“Well, since half of her stories involve them breaking the furniture...” Liz teased.

“And we had to listen to all of them.”

“Hey, can I help it if we’re very enthusiastic?” Tess asked.

Maria and Liz exchanged a look and nodded as they spoke at the same time. “Sturdier furniture.”

“As if you guys have never broken anything!”

“Not as often as the two of you,” Liz denied.

“Yeah. What’s with that broken glass coffee table? You wanted it so badly and then it only survived what? Two weeks? “

“Hey, we weren’t directly responsible for that one. It just sort of happened as a result of something else hitting it.”

“Whatever,” Maria rolled her eyes and remembered times she had heard Kyle and Tess when she’d been alone in the shop after closing time. “Bunnies.”

“Like the two of you don’t go at it every chance you get with Michael and Max.” She snorted and shook her head. “I’ve heard my share of your stories too, remember?”

Loud footsteps could be heard outside and a moment later the door swung open and three laughing guys walked in carrying beer and wood. “Hey, baby. We’re back,” Michael greeted.

“And I see that your afternoon out was productive,” Maria said with a smile and a shake of her head. “Did you remember to pick up the eggs and the bag of potatoes?”

“He didn’t but I did,” Max winked at her and placed the items on the counter before going over to his wife and plastering a full hard kiss on her lips.

“If you two start making out I’m leaving,” Tess said, poking her brother with a wooden spoon.

“Just leave that pie,” Max growled without looking away from his wife.

“Why don’t you two get the extra chairs from the attic?” Maria suggested and stopped her husband from stepping in for Liz.

Kyle was just about to stick his finger in the pie his wife had made when he heard Maria speak up. “Um... who?”

“Max and Liz,” she winked at the couple and rushed them off. “And you! Keep your fingers away from the food. That’s for tomorrow.”

“My wife made it,” he grumbled. “And I should be the one to taste it first.”

“You can. Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow.” His gaze followed the other couple as they disappeared. “You know you probably won’t see those chairs right away.”

“Yeah, I already figured that much.”

Michael shook his head and muttered under his breath, “We could’ve gone to get the chairs.”

Meanwhile Max had followed his wife up the staircase to the attic, stopping right behind her when she reached the level. His arms slipped around her with one smooth move to bring her close. Last night was still on his mind and if it was up to him they would just keep going like this.

“Max.” She smiled at the feel of him pressed against her. 25 years, she thought. 25 years and they were still going strong.

“How fast do you think they need those chairs?”

“I really doubt the chairs are that big a concern.”

“Good.”

“Am I to assume you have no interest in the chairs, Mr. Evans?”

“Very right, Mrs. Evans,” he spoke close against her ear and then took her earlobe between his teeth.

Liz shuddered at the sensations that shot through her body at such a simple gesture.

“Where’re Jeremy, Jenna and Kara?” he whispered against her as his hands moved from her hips to her belly.

He would ask questions she had to actually concentrate on to answer. “Jeremy’s with Andy, went for a walk with the dogs. Kara and Jenna are watching Rudolph but it’s nearly over.”

With one smooth move he ran his hand down to her thigh that was covered in tight black leggings, then back up under her long pullover and down again at the inside of her waistband. “Guess we have no time to lose them.”

She groaned quietly. “No,” she said regretfully. It was tempting though.

Max smiled against her neck when her tone was affected. His hand wandered further down to cup her in his palm; the heat between her legs was all he needed to get hard as a rock. “Damn woman, after all these years you still turn me on like we’re in high school.”

She moved against him restlessly, seeking more contact. “Who knew grandparents could still get so horny?”

“We’re not that old,” he grumbled. “We just happened to have kids when we were young, who managed to have kids when they were young.”

“Um-hmm, you’re the one who’s been muttering about being old here lately.” She inhaled sharply when his touch intensified. “Don’t think I haven’t caught you watching Justin with his son with that look on your face.”

“There is no look,” he denied and used his index finger to pull the lace of her panties away to really touch her.

“There is a look,” she insisted. But they could discuss it later because right now neither one of them was feeling old.

“You know which look I like on you?” He pushed one finger inside of her and smirked when her lips parted on a gasp.

His tone was smug, she could hear it when he gruffly whispered a “that one” in her ear, but rather than annoy her it only turned her on even more. “Just remember,” she rasped, fast losing the ability to string two words together, “payback’s a bitch, Max Evans.”

“Can’t wait for that,” he muttered and added another finger.

She mumbled a response but it was unintelligible as the pressure in her body built up and centered on the spot where he was touching her. She felt like she was going to explode and knew it wouldn’t be long.

When he felt her legs trembling, his movements stopped, but before she could complain he turned her head slightly to kiss her hard while his hands grabbed the tight waistband of her leggings and rolled them down to her knees. He let go of her without breaking the kiss to fumble with his own belt.

She hissed loudly when the cool air hit her skin but it quickly turned into a heated moan when she felt him touching her again, guiding his erection and entering her with a hard thrust.

“Keep the noise down, beautiful,” he groaned into her ear and grabbed her hips tightly to guide her.

“You make it hard to do,” she mumbled and then laughed at her choice of words. She pushed back into him, meeting him thrust for thrust. “Oh, God, yes you do.”

“Fuck,” he muttered under his breath at the sensation and he moved her slightly forward until she could hold onto some stacked cartons.

She couldn’t help the chuckle in response to the curse that passed his lips. She was grateful for his thoughtfulness because the last thing she wanted to do was break something in Maria’s attic right after that conversation in the kitchen.

Max’ breath came in pants when he started to move faster. One hand maintained a firm grip on her hip while the other moved forward to stroke her. “How close?”

“Very,” she managed to get out on a raspy breath.

“Alright,” he said breathlessly and rested his forehead against her shoulder while he moved inside of her. Sweat was running down his back, but he ignored it and just a few seconds later he felt her inner walls trembling around him so his grip around her tightened to steady her.

Liz felt the dizzying rush flood her body and her fingers locked tightly onto the containers in an effort to stay upright. She could feel Max’ movements becoming erratic and she released her grip on the containers, reaching up to wrap her right hand around his neck to hold him close as he sought his own release.

As soon as he came one hand shot up to rest on the support beam next to them and it took a lot for him to not groan out loud. He caressed her side gently while his breath evened out again and when he felt steadier on his feet he straightened just enough to drag his shirt off followed by his tee shirt.

“What’re you doin’? It’s cold.”

“Just don’t want it to be obvious to everyone,” he slipped out of her and then cleaned her up with his sweaty tee shirt.

“Max!” She giggled.

He paused when she turned to face him and he brought his free hand up to brush his fingertips against her cheek. “You’ve never been more beautiful,” he murmured as he leaned forward to kiss her. “All these years and…” he shook his head. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” she whispered against his lips. “Now we really should come up with a good explanation for the chairs.”
Image


Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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A Christmas Story (ITCOAL related)- AU/A/All Pt 6 - 12/25/13

Postby Double Trouble » Wed Dec 25, 2013 2:52 pm

Eva: The Whitman family will find their way. And Ethan will soon be introduced to his extended family, but they’ll be sure to try not to overwhelm him.

There’s no telling what wheels are turning in Sam’s head. ;)

Lol, they certainly know how to keep the fire going in their relationship.

Earth2Mama: It looks like the expanding Whitman family has gotten off to a good start.

Only time will tell, but we have a feeling Sam’s rethinking some things.

Andy’s got some thinking to do and he’ll start in this next part.

Lol, they do keep keep it interesting!

keepsmiling7: Ethan’s going to fit in well with his new family and we have a feeling he’s gonna do great with them.

The Evans are enjoying being parents and grandparents... and they seem to do very well at both. The kids will all benefit from that.

LovelyPOM83: Work has a funny way of doing that... just gets in the way of everything fun, lol. We’ll have more time with Andy and Sam today.

We’re so glad you’re enjoying our Dreamer couple. They’ve been through a lot, but come out stronger for it, and we’re really seeing that strength shine through in their interactions with each other and everyone else.

begonia9508: That is difficult, especially for a little guy like Ethan. We’ll definitely get a chance to see him meeting his extended family soon.

xilaj: Lol, catching up? Must be time to post again! It should be interesting reading about this big family five years in the past when you get to ITCOAL. We’re glad you’re enjoying the story. Christmas with a big and complicated family at its heart is Christmas at its best! You are correct about the Whitmans. If it helps, Alex grew up with part of our gang in Roswell. Isabel and Michael were best friends in college and that’s where they met Kyle. But they’re definitely all family. We’ll be catching up with Sam and Andy in this next part... and they do have a bit of sorting to do. Lol, another vote to send Noah packing, huh? You just never know.


Author’s Note: We just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!


Part 6

Michael set a glass of white wine and two beers on the coffee table in the living room before he went to the door to switch the lights off so the room was only illuminated by the fireplace, candlelight, and the lights on the Christmas tree.

“You know, Chrissie’s man is a total weirdo, duh!” Andy leaned forward in the armchair to grab his beer. His legs were swung around and over one of the arms so he was facing the fireplace.

“Tell me about it,” the older man sighed and sat down on the couch. His sister had arrived early that evening, but thank God for a quiet evening because they had left after just a few minutes, announcing she wanted to show the tree hugger around Roswell before they went to their hotel.

“You think he really uses leaves as toilet paper?”

Michael snorted into his own beer and pressed his mouth over the opening when foam appeared on the edge. “I do NOT want to think about that.” He frowned. “And I hope he doesn’t do it in our bathroom.

“Who does what in our bathroom?” Maria asked when she walked in from the kitchen carrying a bowl filled with chocolates and other treats.

“Nothing,” both men said at the same time and smiled innocently.

“Uh-huh,” she shook her head. “If this was another round about Braden, then you two just stop it. We have to accept that Chrissie obviously likes his attitude.”

“There,” her husband said and pulled her on the couch next to him, “guy has an attitude.”

“He doesn’t have to be our favorite person ever, but you have to at least support her.”

“I do support her, but I still think it’s a mistake to be with that guy.”

“It’s not your decision and showing your disapproval all the time will only drive her away.”

“I wasn’t disapproving,” he denied. “I just asked if he intended to get a real job.”

“The look on his face was priceless,” Andy commented and looked at Mom with a shrug. “I’m with Michael. Braden should go back to the wood he came from.”

“See?” Michael motioned to the boy that had become like a son to him. “Andy gets it. I know Chrissie’s a grown woman and she’s plenty old enough to make her own decisions, but the guy’s a loser, Maria! He got pneumonia last year because he handcuffed himself to some damn tree in the middle of winter to protest against the government using the land to build a highway.”

“Seriously?” The younger man laughed hard.

“You seem to be in a good mood now after moping around all afternoon,” Maria said and shoved some chocolate into her mouth.

Andy shrugged. “I wasn’t moping around; I just had some stuff on my mind.”

“Stuff? Or someone?”

“Just stuff. I told you I wasn’t seein’ anyone.” He took a drink of his beer to avoid having to answer further.

“Alright,” she wasn’t convinced, but she let it go because her son didn’t like to be pushed. “How about we open some presents, huh?”

“You know I never turn down an opportunity to open up a gift,” he said and shot a grin at her. He set his beer down and pushed himself to his feet, waving at her to stay seated. “Just point out which ones and I’ll get ‘em.”

“The blue big one’s for you, my dear son.”

“Really?” He couldn’t help it. He might be 21 years old but he still felt like a kid when it came to getting presents. He picked it up and shook it, leaning back to look at it with a frown when it didn’t make a sound. He gave it another good shake but still nothing. “It doesn’t make any noise.”

His mother rolled her eyes with a laugh. “Just open it, Andy.” She turned to Michael. “He always does that, doesn’t he?”

“Every Christmas and birthday,” he answered with a smile. He watched the younger man sit on the floor and tear into the wrapping.

“Fuckin’ awesome!” Andy yelled, making Mojo wince where he was lying in front of the fireplace. He pulled out the little voucher for a sound system for his Ram from a shop in Santa Fe, where he had gone twice with Michael. “Why’d you have to wrap it in such a big box, Mom?” He got up and gave both of them a tight hug, pretty sure the present had been Michael’s idea since he knew he’d stood and stared at the ridiculously expensive thing for hours.

“Because you have a very bad habit of guessing what your gifts are,” she said, enjoying his obvious happiness with the gift.

“I need to get this before I head back to Cali.” He smiled and went to get a small red one for his Mom and the same size in green for Michael. “That’s for you guys.”

Michael shook the box and lifted an eyebrow as he looked at the one Maria held. “Whatcha think?”

“No clue,” she shrugged and started to unwrap it.

He peeled the wrapping back, keeping an eye on the one Maria was working on. When he got down to the box he lifted the lid off of it and looked inside at the set of tickets inside. He picked them up, recognizing the concert stamp for a show in Albuquerque on the top ticket and when he slid it to the side to look at the one on bottom he realized it was a reservation slip for a bed and breakfast inn outside of Albuquerque. A glance over at the box Maria had just opened revealed the same thing.

“I figure if she’s gonna go to the concert and listen to a bunch of old guys tryin’ to rock out without throwin’ out a hip or trippin’ over the wires with their walkers you could spend a weekend at one of those girly bed an’ breakfast places she likes,” Andy said, watching them for their reactions.

“We were just talking last week about maybe taking a trip like this in the spring,” Maria smiled and leaned against Michael’s shoulder for a brief moment before she hugged her son. “Thank you, this’s great, Andy.”

He nodded and grinned. “Glad you like it. I would’ve gotten you tickets to somethin’ really good but I know how devoted you are to Metallica, Michael.” He glanced at Mom. “I’d recommend earplugs.”

“I bet,” she smirked and then went to get a small blue gift from under the tree as well, taking a deep breath before she went back and handed it to Michael. “I know, we said we weren’t gonna buy each other anything and I meant it, so don’t worry.”

Michael stared at it for a moment before clearing his throat. “Yeah, about that...” He nodded at Andy and motioned to a small package wrapped in silver paper and hanging on the tree. “Hand that over, would you?” He shrugged when Maria looked at him. “I know we agreed, but I couldn’t help it.”

“I know you couldn’t,” she shook her head and since he was waiting for her to open it without going to work on his own, she started to unwrap it. A black velvet box appeared and when she opened it, she just stared at it for what seemed like forever. “Where’d you get this?” she breathed and pulled the soft gold necklace out. In the middle of it her name was written and it was exactly the same one she had lost so many years before.

He smiled and shrugged. “I found it when I was cleaning out the attic a couple months back. The clasp was broken so I had it repaired and cleaned.” He took it from her when she held it out to him and he waited while she shifted, lifting her hair up so he could put it on her. He fumbled with the tiny clasp but a moment later it caught and he smoothed it down against her skin. “There.”

“Thanks,” she said, her voice thick with emotion as she touched it. It had been a present from Liz in high school and she had been so sad when it had gotten lost.

“You’re welcome,” he kissed her gently and then turned his attention back to the box in his hand when she tapped one manicured fingernail against it. He slid the ribbon aside and tore the wrapping paper off to reveal a white box. He lifted the lid and frowned as he reached inside to lift the gift up. “I think you got the size wrong, baby...” He trailed off and his eyes widened as they shot from the pair of pastel green booties to meet her shimmering gaze. Was it possible? They’d been together for five years, married for the last one, but so far it hadn’t happened in spite of the doctor’s reassurances that there was no reason for it not to. “Maria?”

She pressed her lips together and nodded. So freaking long. They’d waited so freaking long and then three months ago her period had been unusually late and she’d bought a test, not really believing in it and not even thinking about it anymore. To her shock it had been positive and despite her wish to run to him and tell him she had kept it a secret because the doctor had told her that a loss at her age in the early stages wasn’t uncommon or rare.

“Really?” His gaze swept over her and suddenly every little thing over the past couple of months that’d seemed a little off suddenly made sense. Her slight moodiness that, being a man, he’d put down to PMS, the off the wall food cravings that were now so glaringly obvious, and the more emotional responses to things that to him hadn’t required more than a yes or no answer. “Yes!” he shouted and pulled her into his arms to hug her tightly.

She laughed through her tears and hugged him back. Tightly. It had made her sad to think she wouldn’t be able to make him a real dad although he’d always assured her that in the end all he needed was her.

Andy watched them as they celebrated the life they had created together. Which was kinda gross so he didn’t dwell on that little thought. He was happy for them but he suddenly had an idea what Sam had been trying to convey about life going on while they were away when he’d walked her home the night before. It was different than Kara and Jenna getting bigger while he was away at school. This was a major change in his own home, something that directly affected the family dynamic they had created over time. And he wouldn’t be there to be a part of it. At least he wasn’t 2,000 miles away and he had more of an opportunity to come home, but it wouldn’t be the same.

“Hey, congratulations, you guys,” he said as he got up to carry his bottle into the kitchen. He stopped by the couch to give them another hug. “I’m gonna take Theo out, let him get in another run before bed.” He glanced over at Mojo when the dog opened one eye to look at him. He shook his head. “Just go back to sleep, lazy boy.” He looked back at Mom and Michael. “I’m really happy for you guys.” He smiled. “Don’t wait up for me. We might just walk around town for a while.”

“Wait,” Maria said and got up. She circled the couch and pulled him into a hug. “I love you, Andy,” she whispered. “You know that’ll never change, right?”

“I know, Mom,” he assured her. “You proved that when I put you through hell after Dad died.” He kissed her cheek. “I love you too. Don’t say it much, but I do.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “I just don’t want you to feel... I don’t know. I want you to be happy about the new baby as well because he or she will need her big brother.”

“I’m happy about it, promise. Might take a little getting used to but I know how much you guys wanted this to happen and I’m glad it did.”

“Me too,” she smiled with shimmering eyes and then let go of him. “Alright, you can take off and do whatever you need to do.”

He snorted. “Don’t worry, Mom, someone’s gotta teach this kid about real music because he’ll try to convince them Metallica’s what it’s all about.” He glanced at Michael. “Yeah, that’s just what we need,” he said and rolled his eyes. “My little brother or sister believing that a bunch of geezers with guitars are cool.” He shook his head. “I’ll see you guys in the mornin’.”

“And that’s gonna be me,” Michael grumbled when the boy had left and he pulled his wife down into his lap. “I can’t believe it, baby.”

“I couldn’t believe it either. Not when the test was positive... not when the doctor confirmed it...” she shook her head. “I started to tell you so many times but the first trimester’s the riskiest and I didn’t want you to get your hopes up and then have it not happen.” She pressed her fingertip against his lips when he started to speak. “I wanted it to be a surprise and I wanted it to be a happy one. If you’d known you would’ve been worried. Oh, I know you; you’d try to cover it up but it would’ve been there and I didn’t want that to take the place of your happiness over this moment.”

He kissed her finger and then moved her hand away. “You’re right, but you had to worry all alone.” His gaze dropped to her belly. “How far in are you?”

“The fourth month officially.” She smiled as she looked into his eyes, seeing the happiness there that couldn’t be contained.

He rested his head back against the couch while he let the news sink in. Someone would call him Dad, someone really would! To his horror, his own eyes watered and he closed them until the emotional moment passed.

Maria rubbed his arm where it was wrapped around her, keeping her close. He might be a guidance counselor but even he didn’t want to discuss it or have attention drawn to it when his emotions overwhelmed him. “What would you like more? A boy or a girl?” She knew it didn’t matter but it would help him through this moment to keep the conversation light.

“I don’t care,” he said honestly. In the past he’d always thought about a boy because the thought of teaching him every kind of sport had always been on his mind, but now after a year of hoping it would happen and it not happening, it really didn’t matter. Little girl or boy, as long as the kid was healthy everything would be perfect.

“Me neither,” she leaned forward and grabbed her glass from the table, taking a sip and smiling into it when Michael looked at her with a frown. “Just pineapple juice, buddy. I’ve been doing this for a while now to trick you.”

“You evil woman,” he chuckled and pulled her into his arms, snuggling his head against her neck. “I love you, wife.”

“I love you, husband,” she said back, amused, and ran her hand through his hair before she dropped her lips on it. “Or should I say Daddy?”

His arms around her tightened and he smiled against her. “You have no clue how happy you make me.”

“You sure? Because I’m pretty happy myself. I’ve got a perfect caring man in my life, a son who may still be finding his way but is gonna turn out a great man as well, and I also have a new life growing inside me, which will be another awesome person considering the parents.”

“No doubt,” he nodded and relaxed next to her. His hand wandered down to her belly and sat their protectively.

“We have the house all to ourselves,” Maria murmured with a suggestive smile.

“Funny you should mention that.”

She looked down at his hand and she covered it with her own, still amazed by the feelings that rushed through her at something so simple. “You must’ve noticed it too.”

He shifted to look at her, his eyes taking in every nuance of her features. Earlier he’d thought she looked tired, but now all he could see was how radiant she was. The knowledge that she was carrying their child, his child, was an incredible turn-on and he had an overwhelming desire to be with her.

“I think we should retire for the evening, what about you?”

Michael smiled and got to his feet, slowly drawing her up with him. “I think that’s a very good idea and we shouldn’t waste any time doing that.”

*****

Kyle was slouched down in one corner of the couch with Sophie snuggled up under his free arm as he read her a bedtime story. He paused while she turned the page, smiling at her when she pointed at a word and tried to sound it out. She was curious about everything, inquisitive to the point of exhaustion, but he could watch her for hours as she tried to figure things out.

“When do I learn to read, Daddy?” She gave up on the word and shifted her head back to look at him with her big eyes.

“Soon enough,” he tickled her side, the sound of her laughter music to his ears. She had grown so fast in what felt like only a few months. His gaze shifted to his wife who was sitting in the armchair, feet propped on the couch and a beauty magazine in her hand. And soon it would begin all over again, he thought excitedly.

“But I wanna know how to read. I wanna read books.”

“You have plenty of time to read so many books in your life.” Kyle tugged her closer and pressed a kiss to her hair.

Sophie made a face. Patience was not one of her strengths and both of her parents knew that. “Go and brush your teeth, Sof,” Tess told her, knowing she would once again be the bad parent about it.

“Not yet, Mommy,” the girl whined.

“It’s past eight you know? And Santa Claus won’t come until all good girls are in bed and asleep. You want to keep him waiting?”

Sophie chewed on her bottom lip as she thought about that. She glanced at the Christmas tree that stood in one corner, colored lights blinking merrily, and then at the fireplace and the stockings hanging along the mantle waiting for Santa to come. Her wide blue eyes moved back to the tree and the few presents scattered beneath it. She could just picture the next morning and all the presents that would be there. Presents that Santa would bring. But not until she was in bed asleep.

“Do you think he’ll bring my pony?”

“I think Santa knows we don’t have anywhere to put a pony, munchkin,” Kyle said as he scooped her up in his arms and tickled her. He carried her over to the doorway and set her down again. “Go on now, do what Mommy told you.”

She cupped her hand around her mouth and looked up at him as she whispered loudly, “We can go ride the pony even if I don’t get one, right, Daddy?”

The little negotiator, he thought with a grin. He crouched down in front of her and hugged her. “I think we can work somethin’ out.”

She smiled widely and then turned and scampered off down the hall.

“You just had to take her out to the fair to ride the ponies a few months ago, didn’t you?” Tess asked as she shook her head at him.

“Oh, c’mon, every kid goes through that I-wanna-pony stage.”

“Not me,” she denied. “I was always more a dog girl.” To emphasize, she let her hand drop from the armrest to scratch the heads of Loopy and Happy where they were snuggled up in a comfy blanket on the floor. When Michael had moved in with Maria, the little Chihuahua didn’t fit in between Mojo and Theo anymore, so they had agreed to take the other one in as well, even though Kyle hadn’t been happy about it at first.

“One day, we’ll have a real dog,” he said with a growl at the ankle-biter.

“You promised you wouldn’t be mean to them anymore.”

“Ah,” he plopped down on the couch and flicked all four of the dogs’ ears gently, “it’s not like they understand me.”

“They understand every word. That’s why they always pee in your shoes when they can’t hold it in anymore, never in mine.”

He scrunched up his nose at the thought. “They just do that because their fat asses don’t fit in your tiny shoes.”

“Happy’s put on a few pounds but he’s not fat.”

“He’s not on the thin side either.”

“Kyle…” she was complaining when Sophie ran back into the room, her teeth bared as she showed them off.

“I brushed them all good,” she crowed proudly.

“Are you sure about that?” Kyle caught her under her arms and lifted her up onto his lap so she could lean over to give Mommy a hug.

“Do we put Santa’s cookies out now, Mommy?”

“Yes, they’re in the kitchen. You and Daddy should put them out so you can go to bed.”

“Uncle Mike said Santa likes the ones that don’t got no sugar.” She wrinkled her nose as she tipped her head back against Daddy’s chest to look up at him. “Is that true, Daddy?”

“I think Uncle Mike was mistaken, munchkin.” And since he had to eat the cookies as further proof that Santa had been there he’d be damned if he ate sugar free cookies. Not if they were the last cookies on Earth! “Santa needs the energy.”

*****

“Don’t go too far, buddy,” Andy said as he slumped down on the bench and released Theo from his leash. The dog took off as soon as the clasp made a metallic snapping sound and he couldn’t help but chuckle at the animal’s behavior. “What about you, lazy ass?” His gaze wandered to Mojo who was lying next to his right foot. The dog lifted his head just for a moment to look at him before he placed it back on his paws.

“Yeah, thought so,” Andy snorted and kept his leash loose in his hands, knowing the dog wouldn’t run off whether he was unleashed or not. He had no idea why the dog had decided to come looking for him just before he made it out of the house because he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in doing anything.

He leaned back and slouched down to lay his head on the edge of the backrest, gazing up into the cool clear night. He had sat here almost every night when he was in high school, but now it seemed like that was another life. So much had changed and was still changing. His mom was pregnant, having another child with a different man. A man who would be a great father without a doubt.

Michael had his heart in the right place and seemed to balance well between being a husband and still being a cool guy. Sometimes he wondered if Mom had chosen him because he was so different from her first husband. Dad.

Both were good men, but that was about all they had in common. Where his dad had loved football, hunting, and business, Michael went for basketball, social work, and well… Mom.

Theo barked when he spotted a rabbit near a tree and he took off after it when it hopped towards a line of bushes. Andy watched the dog as he took up the chase, knowing he wasn’t as fast as he had been a few years ago and even if he managed to catch up with the smaller animal he’d never hurt it.

Sam was walking through the park when she heard the dog and it didn’t take long to locate him. She didn’t know what he was chasing but whatever it was probably didn’t deserve the fear the animal was putting into it as it ran for its life. She looked around and found Andy on one of the benches, apparently unconcerned with his dog’s behavior. “Don’t you think you should call him off?”

Andy lifted his head when he heard her voice. “What’re you doin’ here?”

She shrugged. She had gone out for a walk after yet another headache-inducing conversation with Noah. He was impatient for her to make up her mind, not understanding why they couldn’t just move past his little indiscretion since it hadn’t meant anything to him. “Just getting some air and letting the parents have some time alone.” She smiled softly. “Really, they’re spending all of their time in Ethan’s room watching him sleep and that’s about as exciting as watching paint dry so I thought I’d leave them to it. What about you?”

“Just taking the dogs out and giving Mom and Michael some alone time.” He turned his head when she stood next to him but didn’t sit. “There’s a baby on the way, she just told him.”

“Wow. Can you believe how many little kids are in our families now?”

“Good thing we don’t live here, it’s gonna get loud,” he said but took the seriousness out of it with a smirk.

“Yeah.” She sat down at the other end of the bench.

“How’s the little man?” he asked. “Bet it was a pretty exciting day for all of you.”

“Ethan’s really sweet and a little shy. He took to Isabel right off though and I think that took a lot of the pressure off of everyone.”

“How do you feel about it?” He rolled his head along the backrest to look at her.

“It’s a little weird. I had to learn to share my dad with Isabel when he took an interest in her and for the past few years it’s been the two of them, but now I’m kinda back at square one. It’s just gonna take a little time to get used to the idea. I’m happy for them,” she assured him. “It’s a little sad that I’m not gonna be able to see them much once I head back to school.”

“At least this way they’ll be distracted. You can take your time and be a bad girl in New York without them noticing.” He winked at her, knowing she’d never do anything to disappoint her dad. Not intentionally at least.

She snorted at that. “The park looks nice. I’ll have to remember to tell your grandma tomorrow night at dinner.”

“Think she’ll hear you over the crowd of people? I’m still not sure how they’re all gonna fit in our house.” He snorted and used his right hand to scratch Mojo’s head when the dog lifted it and dropped it on his thigh.

“It is gonna be a full house.” She made a face. “Are you other grandparents gonna be there?”

“No, they’re having some friends over for Christmas, but Mom said they’re gonna visit around New Years’.”

“Wonder if they’ve changed any.”

“Doubtful,” he mumbled and whistled for Theo.

“Yeah, even before your dad’s accident they were always kinda uptight.”

“They suck,” he told her matter-of-factly.

She giggled quietly. “I think they mean well, they’re just... misguided.”

“Yeah, whatever,” he shook his head, glad that he’d probably already be gone when they visited.

“Not buying that one, huh?” She rolled her eyes when he just looked at her. “Yeah, I wouldn’t either.”

“But you buy the crap that Noah guy’s telling you?” He suddenly changed the subject and hated that in his ears, he sounded so jealous.

“If I bought it he’d be on a plane to Roswell right now.” She shrugged one shoulder. “I talked to him a while ago. He was pissed because he bought a ticket and I told him not to get on that plane.”

He laughed at that. “Ouch.”

“Well, I don’t have much sympathy for him because I told him before I left that I didn’t wanna see him or talk to him over the holidays.”

Guess you didn’t tell him you kissed your ex either, he thought, but didn’t say it out loud. He wasn’t sure where they stood at the moment but he didn’t want to worry because it probably wouldn’t matter after Christmas when they were both heading home again.

“I’m not sure what there is to talk about anyway. How can I trust him not to cheat on me again? And what’s the point of being with someone if you can’t trust them?” She sighed heavily. “I don’t know. Maybe he wouldn’t, but I think the doubt would always be there.”

“Smart girl,” he fisted his hand and bumped it against her shoulder lightly. That dickhead had messed with her and he didn’t deserve anything more than a kick in the nuts.

“If things had been different you might’ve liked Noah.”

He snorted to suppress the ironic laughter. “Hardly possible, Sam.”

“I don’t see why not.”

“Would you like my girlfriend, even if she was a nice girl like Jenny or Sarah?”

“I guess you have a point.”

“Yeah,” he looked out over the large pond that reflected some of the Christmas lights in town.

“Do you and Scrappy get to spend much time together?” She had heard that his friend had been admitted to Berkeley. “He’s what, about six hours from you?”

“Yeah something like that. We’ve met up a few times, but with classes and practice we don’t get the opportunity very often.”

She nodded. “That’s too bad.”

“That’s life fucking with us,” he told her with a smirk. “Me an’ fate... best buds.”

“Fate hasn’t been completely unkind to you. You’ve got good parents, a little brother or sister on the way, and from everything I’ve heard you’ve been having a pretty decent season.”

He shifted when his cell in his pocket buzzed and he got it out to read the message he’d received before pushing it back inside without replying. “Season’s been going okay, and… What?” he asked when she looked at him with a lifted eyebrow.

“No reply?”

“There wasn’t a question to answer.”

“Um-hmm, so it was some girl in Long Beach.” She hated the feeling of jealousy that was coursing through her veins, but it was there nonetheless.

“Jealous?” he teased.

“Curious,” she countered.

“It was a girl in Long Beach,” he admitted and shifted to look at her more fully. “Someone you’d probably like ‘cause she tells me every day what a pig I am and what I should or shouldn’t do.” He rolled his eyes.

“Does that mean she’s a friend of yours?”

“Yeah. Mel’s a friend.”

“Well, it sounds like she knows what you’re like so she must be brave,” she teased.

“She’s something alright,” he snorted and reached out for Theo when the dog came back.

“How long have you known each other?”

“Pretty much from the moment I got to Long Beach. She hit on me at the first beach party I attended but I turned her down and now she mocks me about every girl I... date.”

There had to be a story there. “Why’d you turn her down?”

“I’d just gotten to college,” he shrugged. “Hell, Sam, we’d only just broken up. I’m not that much of an asshole.”

“I wasn’t suggesting that. But if she’s so great why didn’t you ever ask her out?”

“She’s just a friend and we’re both good with that.”

She shrugged. “Well, it’s good to have friends you can count on.”

“Yeah,” he agreed and snapped the leash back on Theo. He didn’t want to leave, but he had no clue where things were between them. “I should get back home.”

“Me too,” she said reluctantly. “I guess if I stay out much longer Dad’ll start wondering if everything’s alright.”

He snorted and got up. “Yeah, your dad was always worried, especially when he knew you were out with me.”

Sam chuckled. “He’d probably be happy about it right now. He’s never really cared for Noah.”

“That makes two.”

“Two?”

“Me an’ your dad,” he offered and looked around her when Theo chased after a mouse or frog or whatever and twisted the leash around her as she got to her feet.

“You’ve never even met him, Andy.”

He took a step towards her to reach behind her so he could take the leash in the other hand and the dog wouldn’t knock her off of her feet if he decided to take off again. “Don’t need to.”

Her breath stuttered in her throat and her heart rate increased when he moved in closer. “I wish things had worked out differently,” she said and then wished she could call the words back. Not because they weren’t true, but because there was no need to complicate an already complicated situation.

Andy stared down at her and didn’t move. “How?”

“Realistically I know things happened the way they had to. We couldn’t have handled a long distance relationship and settling into college. One’s hard enough without the other. We had to have time to grow, start becoming the people we’re gonna be. Sometimes I just...” she looked away. She had started this so she might as well finish it. “I don’t know, sometimes I miss us.”

“Fuck, Sam,” he ran a hand through his hair and tugged it painfully before it dropped and landed on her hip with a tight, squeezing grip.

“I know we can’t go back and we’re different people than we were before college. Maybe not completely, but things have changed, and we might not even work if it was an option.” She sighed and finally gathered up her courage to look up at him. “I know it’s not, but if it was I’d take the risk.”

The hell with this shit, he thought and moved forward, crowding her until her back collided with the broad tree next to the bench. His hand dropped Theo’s leash and grabbed her other hip instead. “I’m gonna kiss you, Sam.” He gave her an apologetic look for a second. “Again.”

Damn, she’d missed this. She’d missed him. Time and distance hadn’t dulled her feelings for him. In fact they seemed to have heightened her awareness of him. She reached up and cradled his face in her hands. “I think you’d better.”

The corners of his mouth turned up in a smirk for a second before his lips met hers in a hot kiss that became heated after only a second. God, this girl could still get under his skin with nothing more than a look. Kissing her felt good but it was hardly enough.

Her hands slipped down to his shoulders, her fingers digging into the jacket he wore and pulling him impossibly closer. She knew she should feel guilty because she had a boyfriend, but she couldn’t find it in her to find a shred of guilt.

A groan escaped his lips when she brushed against him and he flexed his fingers on her hips before moving upwards under her too thin jacket and the pullover she wore under it. “Too cold in Roswell,” he muttered while kissing her.

“Be glad we’re not in New York right now,” she mumbled against his lips. “You wouldn’t even be able to find me with all the layers of clothes.”

He pulled away from her just enough to breathe and rested his forehead against hers while his grip around her tightened. She was such a beautiful girl and she really had no idea how much she affected him. “Stay with me tonight, Sam,” he half asked, half pleaded.

She stared into his eyes, seeing so many things there. What if she said yes? Would it be a mistake? It couldn’t last beyond the holiday vacation if they took that step. She wanted to say yes, wanted to spend the night with him and forget her problems for a while. But they’ll still be waiting for you afterwards, her mind taunted.

Andy saw the indecision in her eyes and while he couldn’t say he was surprised by it, it still hurt. “I guess I know what you’re about to say,” he rasped and looked anywhere but her eyes.

Her hands settled on his cold cheeks to bring his gaze back to hers and she shook her head. “It won’t change anything, Andy. In a week we’ll both be on our way back to our own lives. And I know it’s gonna hurt just as much to walk away from you this time as it did last time. Maybe even more.” She paused and kissed him gently. “But right now, I don’t care.”

He hesitated for a moment when her words sank in. Had she just agreed?

“We can’t go to my place though. Parents and Ethan,” she said when he just looked at her.

“We can stay at our house,” he told her gently and cradled her face in one of his palms. “My mom and Michael will be cool about it.”

She chewed on her bottom lip. His parents’ house. She knew he had the entire upper level to himself and going to a hotel in a city the size of Roswell was sure to cause the gossips to start chattering. “Okay.”

“You need to stop at your house first?” he asked and ran his hand down her arm to take her small hand in his.

“No.” She’d just send Dad a text and let him know she was safe and staying with a friend. He would know which one and she knew he might not approve but he would respect her decision.

“Okay,” he squeezed her hand and grabbed the dogs’ leashes where they lay on the ground at his feet. “Let’s go.”

She didn’t know if it was right or wrong, but she’d worry about it in the morning, she decided.
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
Obsessed Roswellian
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Part 7

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:33 am

Earth2Mama: Let’s hope they do know and that they can figure things out. The night will bring them to a few realizations, but what they do with them, we’ll have to wait to see.

It’s gonna be a wonderful holiday for our familes.

Thank you for the compliment!

Eva: Lol, it’s been a long time that they’ve waited, hoping to have a baby, and it looks like it’s finally their turn.

Keep the faith... you just never know what the outcome will be. They do belong together and maybe they’ll find a way.

begonia9508: They’ve waited so long!

We’ll catch up with Sam and Andy today. They do have things to figure out, but we have hope that they’ll find their way.

keepsmiling7: Lol, Andy’s certain his musical influence will be so much better.

It’s a possibility... we’ll see what direction they take soon.




Part 7

Liz rolled over in her husband’s arms and reached up to run her thumb over his stubble-roughened jaw. If she looked close she knew she’d see the occasional gray hair mixed in among its much darker companions. His jaw had nearly hit the floor the first day he’d noticed one and it’d taken everything she had not to laugh at him when he’d spent nearly an hour in front of the mirror searching for others. He hadn’t been amused and he hadn’t thought there was anything distinguished about the offensive gray hairs either.

Every once in a while she knew he had those days where he just felt old. Who didn’t? She knew she had those days. Although at the first sign of a gray hair infiltrating her head she’d run straight over to Maria and Tess’ beauty shop and had it taken care of before anyone else knew of its existence. Of course, having their 18-year-old son call to tell them he would be giving them a grandson on top of Max’s discovery had helped slam those thoughts home. They weren’t old though, and they both knew it, sometimes they just needed to give each other a reminder.

“Max…” She pressed a line of kisses along his jaw, urging him to wake up.

“Mmm…” he mumbled and pulled her tighter against him.

“Oh, don’t you dare start something you know we don’t have time to finish,” she groaned when she felt his morning erection begging for attention.

Max rolled them over and pinned her beneath him so he could kiss her properly and conveniently the new position lined their bodies up perfectly. “I can be quick,” he growled.

“Not that quick.” She pushed him over just as their bedroom door opened and Jenna ran into the room, clambering up on the bed.

“Mommy, Daddy, guess what?!”

He rubbed his ear when her voice became shrill with her excitement. “You wanna help your brothers make breakfast and let Mommy and Daddy sleep a few more minutes?” he asked hopefully.

“No! No, Daddy,” she grabbed his hand and pulled on it. “You gotta come see! Santa came an’ he left a thousand presents!”

Justin peered around the edge of the door and laughed when he saw his baby sister bouncing on the bed excitedly. He walked in and greeted his parents as he scooped Jenna up and hung her over his right shoulder. “I’ve gotta feed Jeremy before we attack that mountain of presents under the tree and someone needs to take Lucky out for his morning walk.” He smacked her bottom lightly. “That sounds like a good job for you and Kara.”

“No, Nicky can do it,” she giggled.

“Nicky’s still in bed. But, if you’re really good and you an’ Kara take Lucky out for a few minutes so I can feed Jeremy, when you get back you can go put a handful of snow down Nicky’s shirt to wake him up.”

“Justin, don’t give your sister ideas,” Liz warned, but she couldn’t help but smile. It was so good to have them all back home even though the house was loud and buzzing so early in the morning.

“You do what your brother says,” Max yelled after them and looked back at his wife when the kids walked out laughing and arguing lightly with each other. “Ready to send them all home again?” he teased and leaned in closer to wrestle her down to the mattress with him again.

“Never,” she laughed and smacked his shoulder. “We need to get up, Max.”

“Justin’s gonna take care of everything,” he wiggled his eyebrows and ground himself against her.

“He won’t be able to handle them all,” she denied and reached between them under the blanket to take him in her hand. “Take a cold shower.”

Max made a face. “That’s just cold, woman.”

She grinned. “Well, that’s what a COLD shower should be like.”

“Not sure it’ll help,” he mumbled against her lips and moved his hip once to rub against her hand.

“Ungh, Mom, Dad, seriously?” Nick appeared in the hallway with grumpy hair and an even grumpier face. “Can’t you two at least close the door?” He shook his head and took a step forward to close it. “And hurry up,” he yelled on his way to the bathroom.

“I think your son’s already in a mood.” Liz shook her head at her husband. “And on Christmas morning no less.”

“That’s what happens to guys when they wake up in this state and the only thing waitin’ for them is a cold shower,” he whispered in her ear.

“You’re not getting outta that cold shower, Mister.”

“Let’s split the difference. I’ll hit the shower but we make it a nice quick… hot… shower.”

“We? Propositioning me on Christmas morning, Max?” She grinned at him when he gave her that look that still made her go weak in the knees. “Alright, but we do have to make it quick. Justin’s only gonna be able to keep the little ones away from that tree for so long.”

*****

Isabel shifted in her sleep slightly and frowned when she didn’t have enough room to move like she normally did. Something tugged at her mind, urging her to remember the reason for it… she knew there was a reason. Her eyes snapped open when it hit her and she was suddenly wide awake.

Ethan was lying between her and Alex, snuggled up in the blanket and sleeping peacefully after a not so peaceful night. The boy had cried himself into a real fit when he’d realized he was about to sleep in a strange new room and alone and although they both knew he had to get used to it sooner rather than later, neither of them had been able to deny him the first night with them in their bed.

Carefully, she reached out to caress his unruly hair. “I love you,” she mumbled and then lifted her head slightly to look at her husband on Ethan’s other side.

To her surprise she found him already awake and looking at her with a warm smile. “Hey there,” he greeted her quietly.

“Hey,” she whispered back. “How’d you sleep?”

“Good, just not enough. You?”

“Same,” Isabel glanced down at the boy between them. “He looks so peaceful now.”

“Yeah, it’s still early,” Alex reached over Ethan and took her hand. “We can let him sleep for a while.”

“Is Sam home yet?”

“I haven’t heard her,” he shook his head.

“And even if she managed to get into the house without making a sound, Oscar would’ve been sure to let us know she was home.”

“You know she spent the night with Andy.”

She studied his expression, seeing the concern that he didn’t try to hide. “How many times have you said you wished she was with Andy rather than Noah?”

“I know, I know, but whatever’s going on with her and Noah hasn’t been resolved and this could easily confuse the situation.”

“She’s an adult though and we have to let her make her own decisions.” She reached up to stroke his cheek as she smiled at him. “Even when we may not agree with them.”

“I just don’t want her to get hurt.”

“Me neither, but staying with Andy was her decision and she’ll have to live with it,” she sighed and pulled her hand back. “You know her feelings for him have always been strong so I’m afraid there’s no way around getting hurt no matter what she does.”

“She’s a big girl,” he admitted and then grimaced. “I just hope she can figure out what’s best for her.”

“She will,” Isabel told him with conviction and looked down when the little boy next to her stiffened.

A moment later Ethan brought his hands to his face to rub his eyes. His legs kicked to each side while he did that and a moment later quiet babbling filled the room.

“Good morning,” his new mommy greeted him softly and pulled his hands from his face gently.

The little boy’s eyes widened in surprise and he fumbled around for the raggedy stuffed puppy that always comforted him. His breathing quickened and his face showed the telltale signs of another crying fit when he couldn’t find it. His eyes welled up and his mouth trembled as his little hands frantically searched the covers for the toy.

“I think this’s what you’re lookin’ for, little man,” Alex said as he shifted around and pulled the toy from beneath the edge of his pillow. Ethan had been restless for a while, his little body constantly in motion even in sleep, and after getting smacked in the face a second time by the stuffed puppy he’d gently tucked one end of it under his shoulder to prevent another untimely attack.

“Boo,” he whispered and lunged for it. He wrapped his arms around it and hugged it tightly, resting against the man and relaxing slightly.

“I’d say that’s a little bit of progress right there.”

Isabel smiled at his hopeful tone. Ethan had been distant with Alex, almost wary, and while there had been no mention of anything in his past to indicate a traumatic incident they had made a note to inquire about it. “We’re gonna be fine, Alex. All of us.”

****

Sam woke up when a truck outside passed the house and honked. For a moment she thought she was back in New York with all of its big city traffic, but it only took her seconds to remember exactly where she was.

Turning her head slightly, she found Andy sound asleep next to her, his face almost hidden by the pillow, but his bare chest uncovered to the sexy V-lines of his belly. His looks had definitely improved, she thought as her gaze travelled over him and the memories of last night played in her head all over again.

She turned her gaze away from him and grabbed her cell on the nightstand instead. It was almost nine, so she shouldn’t stay much longer, but she couldn’t bring herself to get up yet. Her gaze landed on a text message she had gotten and right after she had opened it she wished she had saved it for later – it was another one from Noah.

Sam, I’m not sure how much longer I can take this treatment. I know I made a huge mistake and you know I’m sorry. I can’t beg for forgiveness for my whole life, so please… make up your mind and tell me. I love you, Noah.

She swallowed hard and placed the cell back on the nightstand.

Andy knew she was awake, even though he hadn’t opened his eyes yet. The warmth of her body was still close, but not as close as he wanted it to be. His hand reached out for her and he was able to get a hold of her shoulder on the first try. “C’mere.” He tugged on her gently and was relieved when she snuggled up against him.

His arms wrapped around her tightly when she pressed her head against his neck. He ran one hand through her hair and leaned his face towards her. “No regrets, Sam,” he mumbled.

She shook her head and forced back the tears that suddenly felt close to the surface. “No,” she whispered, “not about this.”

His eyes were locked on the ceiling while they lay in his bed, both completely naked, and he wondered if his chest was so tight because of her obviously upset state or because of his own feelings. “Wanna talk to me?” he asked after a long moment of silence and squeezed her hair gently.

“I did exactly what Noah did, and maybe this’s worse because it wasn’t just some random hookup and I don’t feel guilty.”

Ungh, hearing about her boyfriend or whatever that Noah guy was wasn’t something he could take easily, but for her he tried to look at it as neutrally as possible. “Yeah, but the difference is you wouldn’t have done anything if the guy hadn’t messed up before and in my world, hooking up with a random stranger when you’re in a relationship is a lot worse than what you did.”

She shook her head. “But it’s not, Andy. Don’t you see?” She rolled over and raised herself up, putting all of her weight on her forearm as she looked into his eyes. “A random hookup’s bad enough, but there aren’t any real emotions involved.” She reached out to cup his rough cheek in her hand, letting the pads of her fingers play over the stubble there. “And as much as think cheating is wrong for any reason...” she sighed and her gray eyes expressed her inner turmoil. “It would’ve been so hard to be around you and not let my heart take over. In a lot of ways I think emotional cheating is worse.”

What do you say now, dumbass? he thought in frustration because her rational thinking was back and it was hard to argue against it – she always won anyway.

Sam watched him but her thoughts were a million miles away. Well, maybe more like a couple thousand. “I know what I need to do.” She leaned in and kissed him. “Thank you.”

He wasn’t sure what she was thanking him for, but he didn’t ask. Her kiss felt like another goodbye, but he hoped he was wrong. She couldn’t just walk out of his life like that again. Not so soon anyway.

“I need to get home, Andy, but I’ll see you tonight at dinner, okay?”

See him how, he wondered. “Yeah... sure.”

She kissed him again and pulled back slowly. “Merry Christmas, Andy.”

“To you too,” he grunted and instead of letting her go, he grabbed her thigh and pulled her towards him for a more proper kiss.

He was making this hard, she thought and then giggled when she pressed against him more fully.

“Keep doing that and you’re going nowhere anytime soon, Whitman,” he mumbled against her neck.

“As tempting as you are, I really do need to go.” She finally knew what she needed to do. She had the answer she’d been waiting for and she had a call to make.

“Okay.” Reluctantly, he let go of her. “Want me to walk you home?”

She shook her head. “No, I have some things to do and I need to get started on them right away.” All this time she had blamed Noah, and while she suddenly saw things a little clearer, she needed to really talk to him.

“Ah, you don’t have to by me a last minute present,” he teased with a wink and rolled over onto his stomach while he watched her getting dressed.

She snorted at him and glanced around to find her shirt. “What makes you think I’m doing any shopping for you?”

“Because you’re Sam Whitman.”

“And you think you know me so well.”

“I do,” he said confidently and suddenly pushed the blanket away to get up, standing in front her wearing nothing more than the watch on his wrist. “Like I knew you’d still blush when you look at me.”

She rolled her eyes at him and silently cursed that reaction. “Whatever.”

Andy laughed and grabbed his jeans, pulling them on without any underwear before he walked over to snag her shirt from under the bed and held it out to her.

He wasn’t much easier to resist partially clothed, she thought as she accepted the shirt from him.

“When do you guys come over tonight?” He was standing behind her and reached out to pull her hair out of the shirt when she slipped into it. His lips brushed her bare shoulder to kiss the skin briefly before it was covered by the fabric.

“I think Isabel said everyone was converging on your house around 4pm and dinner’s an hour later.”

He looked over her shoulder and out the window to watch some neighbor kids playing with their little rat-sized dog. Would she stay another night with him? he wondered, but he decided to not ask for an answer just yet.

“Can you believe it snowed?” she asked as she turned to follow his gaze. “Not much, but maybe we’ll get a little more before tonight.”

“Yeah, maybe,” his eyes shifted down on her slowly.

She gave him a little shove and rolled her eyes. “Okay, Mr. California, I know you’d be happy if it was sunny and 75 degrees out.”

He shrugged. “I could’ve lived with New York if they had decent classes and sports programs there.”

“Please. Do you think I would’ve gone to New York if their classes sucked?”

“They suck when you’re a guy interested in basketball.”

“Well, alright, as far as basketball teams go you did end up in the best possible place. But you’re wrong about the classes.” She poked him in the shoulder. “And you know that.”

He smirked and grabbed her hand where she was touching him. “Alright. Okay classes, sucky sports teams.”

Gosh, it was so easy to forget everything else when she was with him. “Of course, Cali doesn’t have me,” she said with a wink and slipped out of his grasp. If she didn’t get away from him now she was never going to get what she needed to take care of finished in time.

His eyes followed her when she walked out of his room. “That’s true,” he muttered to himself and followed her downstairs.

Sam hurried down the stairs, hoping to make her escape before she ran into his parents. And she nearly made it, but as she was reaching for the front door it opened and she almost ran right into Michael. “Um, Mr. G... nice morning isn’t it? Merry Christmas!” She could feel the heated blush filling her cheeks as she ducked past him and hurried out of the house.

Michael frowned and looked after her before he glanced back into the house and saw Andy coming down the stairs, his pace less hurried than the girls’. “Uh... Merry Christmas to you too?”

Andy waved a hand dismissively. “She’s got some things to take care of.” He really hoped she wasn’t about to do something totally stupid and forgive that Noah creep.

“And the reason why she’s here at...” he glanced at the clock over the fireplace, “...nine in the morning is?”

He shrugged. “Wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas,” he said with a grin.

The older man lifted one eyebrow. “How?”

“So what’s for breakfast?”

“That’s where you tell me you don’t wanna talk about it,” Michael walked ahead to enter the kitchen and greeted his wife, who was busy with the pancakes. “Did you know Sam spent the night with Andy?”

The younger man rolled his eyes and headed straight for the coffee. “I’m not a teenager anymore, y’know?”

Maria turned to her son. She’d already noticed her shoes in front of his room when she’d taken up some laundry that morning. “Didn’t she want to stay for breakfast?”

“She’s got some stuff to do.” He shrugged one shoulder carelessly. “She’ll be back for dinner.”

She licked some sugar from her finger and exchanged a quick look with her husband. “Are you two back together?”

“What?” He opened the refrigerator and pretended to look around for something, anything. “Are Chrissie and the tree hugger comin’ over for breakfast?”

“No, after lunch,” his mother told him and she knew better than to ask any further about Sam.

*****

Justin gave the swing a gentle push and smiled when Jeremy squealed happily and clapped his little hands in delight at the feel of the wind on his face. He had decided to go for a walk after having a light lunch, as much for the exercise as for the opportunity to sort out his thoughts. He had confided in Mom while he helped her fix plates with sandwiches and chips, telling her about Jenny and the possibility that she might transfer.

Liz looked at her youngest son, seeing the light in his eyes as he talked about his high school sweetheart. “It sounds like the two of you are thinking about getting back together.”

He shrugged. “I’d be lyin’ if I said I hadn’t been thinkin’ about it for a long time, Mom.” He spread peanut butter on one side of the slice of bread he held and glanced up at her. “I mean, I know it’ll take time. We can’t just pick up where we left off.”

“Sweetie, I know how much you want to have someone special in your life.”

“You don’t think it’s a good idea?” he asked, lining the peanut butter side up with the matching slice that was spread with a thin layer of jelly, just the way Jenna liked it.

“No, I’m not saying that at all. She stayed because her father was hurt in that accident and he’s just recently recovered to the point where he’s getting around on his own again. She took on a lot of responsibility with that decision; rearranged her entire life to stay and help her mother and care for her father.”

He sat on one of the stools at the counter. “I don’t want her to change all of her plans to take care of me an’ Jeremy.”

“I know, I’m just saying to be sure.”

“I didn’t ask her to transfer.” Although, given the opportunity he might have easily done just that. “She’s the one who brought it up.”

“You said a while back that the two of you have been talking.”

He nodded. “Yeah, she contacted me and we just started talkin’. It felt like we’d never been apart in some ways. I know things have changed, we’ve changed, but… ya know, other things haven’t.”

Liz saw the blush he was trying to hide to no avail. “Your hearts haven’t changed.” She smiled at him and reached across the counter to place her hand over his. “I just want you to be happy, Justin.”

“Did you know that Dad knew he was gonna marry you the first time you guys ever went out?”

She chuckled. “Yeah, I know.”

“I had that thought about Jenny, I just knew it. The night we went to our senior prom I looked at her an’ I thought ‘this’s the girl I wanna spend my life with’.” And it hadn’t been a line to get her to say yes later that night either. “We didn’t get that chance at the time. Life kinda got in the way, but we’ve got a second chance.”

She shook her head and patted his cheek. “You are your father’s son,” she said. “Just take it slow, alright? You don’t have to rush into anything. If she decides to move to Boston and the two of you do renew your relationship, just promise me you’ll take your time.”

“I don’t think it’s an if, Mom, I think it’s a matter of when.” He grinned at her. “But I promise you we won’t run off to Atlantic City or the nearest justice of the peace an’ get married. We’ve got things we’ll have to figure out, a lot of things,” he said with a laugh, “but we’ve been talkin’ a lot about what we want and the one thing we know is we wanna see if we can make it.”

“She hasn’t even met Jeremy. You know it’s a fulltime job raising a child, and sometimes it’s even more than that.”

“You an’ Dad did it an’ there were two of us. It can be pretty hectic sometimes and he doesn’t leave a lot of time for much outside of work and classes, but right now it’s just me.”

“That’s my point, sweetie. Your Dad and I were already in a well established relationship by the time the two of you came along. You and Jenny, you’re only 20 years old and you’re still figuring out what you wanna do with your lives. For the past couple of years she’s been shouldering a lot of responsibility and now that she’s out from under that she’s considering moving across the country to be with you.” She held a hand up when he started to protest. “I know it’s not only for you, but getting into a relationship with you now that Jeremy’s in the picture is gonna come with its own set of responsibilities.”


He shook himself out of his thoughts and smiled when his son released that little staccato laugh that indicated he was really enjoying himself. He caught Jeremy’s legs and held him suspended in the air, reveling in the boy’s laughter a moment before releasing him. He gave the swing a little push when the motion brought the boy back towards him.

“You look like a man with a lot on his mind.”

He smiled when he heard Jenny’s voice and he turned his head to look at her. “Hey.”

She watched him as he repeated the process she had seen him do a few minutes earlier, catching the baby’s legs and holding him for a moment before letting him go to swing backwards. “He really likes that.”

“Yeah.”

“So, you wanna introduce us? Or maybe tell me what’s got you thinkin’ so hard?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled and caught the swing, stopping the motion and Jeremy’s laughter. “C’mere, buddy, got somebody I want you to meet.”

“Justin, wait.” She reached out to touch his arm. “What’s the matter?”

“I wanna marry you,” he blurted out. “I mean, not right now of course, I know it’s too soon, but I just thought you should know what my intentions are. Me an’ Jeremy, we’re a package deal an’ I know that’s a lot to handle.”

“You talked to your parents, didn’t you?” she asked with a smile.

He pulled back in surprise. “Yeah, why?”

“Because I’m getting the feeling you got the same talk I got from my parents when I told them I’ve decided to accept the internship at Hamilton & Wade and I also intend to transfer to Boston to finish my degree.” She smoothed her hand down the front of his coat. “You’re a big part of the reason, but you’re not the only reason. I respect our parents’ opinions and their concerns are valid, but we have to make our own decisions. We have a lot to work out and I know we’ll have more things to figure out as we go, but we’ll get there in our own time. You’re a single dad and sure, maybe that complicates things a little, but it’s not like single people with kids never find a way to work out a relationship.”

He gave her a smile so big it felt like his face was gonna split in two.

“And besides that, I knew when I was 15 that I was gonna marry you one day, Justin Evans.”

Justin nodded and lifted Jeremy out of the swing. “Then I guess I’d better introduce you to this little man. Jenny, this’s my boy, Jeremy.” He poked the little boy gently. “Can you say hi to Jenny?”

She laughed and held her hands out when the baby laughed and buried his face against his daddy’s shoulder for a moment before looking at her again. He grabbed onto a handful of Justin’s collar and started to chew on it while watching her. After a few moments he reached out and placed his hand over one of hers, babbling quietly to himself when he discovered her watch. His eyes widened and he leaned forward, arms outstretched for her to take him, and as soon as he was settled in her arms he started trying his best to get the watch off.

“He’s goin’ through this phase where he likes to try to figure things out. It’s amazing to just watch him while he puzzles over somethin’.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Jen, there’s one thing I really wanna just put out there because Mom did make a really good point. Well, she made several, but this one kinda stuck out…” He cleared his throat. “You’ve spent a lot of time takin’ care of your dad, helpin’ your mom handle things, and – “

“And you’re worried that I’m steppin’ out of one situation chock full of responsibilities and right into another one.”

He reached out to rest his hand on his son’s back. “You have to admit it’s a good point. Jeremy can be a handful and he’s a 24-hour-a-day seven-days-a-week fifty-two-weeks-a-year rest-of-my-life responsibility.”

“Justin, we’re gonna take it slow, we’re not gonna rush into anything. We’ll spend time together while you’re home for the holidays and then I’ll come out to see you over spring break. I’ll finish out the year and in the meantime we’ll keep talking and figure out some of the things we need to work out before I make the move. And maybe before you go back after New Years’ you and Jeremy can come by my parents’ place for dinner.”

“We’d love to.” He smiled slowly and leaned in for a quick kiss. “I know you’ve got dinner with your family tonight but I’d like it if you could come by for dinner with my parents one night this week too.”

“Sounds like a date.”

“I’ll check with Mom and find out what night’s good for her. I’d love to stay longer but I should get him back home. You’d be surprised just how easily these little guys can catch a cold, and once they get it you get it, and it just runs in circles.”

Jenny kissed the little boy’s cheek before handing him back over to his daddy. “I’ll see you boys soon.” She grabbed a handful of Justin’s collar and pulled him close again for a short but proper kiss. “Call me.”

He grinned. “Yes, ma’am.” He watched her walk away and then called her name just as she reached the edge of the park.

“Yeah?”

“Merry Christmas, Jenny!”

She smiled and waved. “Merry Christmas, Justin! And you too, Jeremy!”

“You don’t know it now, buddy, but you just met someone who’s very important to our future.”

Jeremy grinned up at him. “Cookie?”

“Yeah,” he laughed, “let’s go home and get a cookie. Daddy may even let you have two of them just because you let Jenny hold you without pitchin’ a fit. We’d better get goin’ or we’re gonna be late for dinner.” He kissed his son’s head and shifted him to a more comfortable position as they left the park, walking in the opposite direction.
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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A Christmas Story (ITCOAL related)- AU/A/All Pt 7 - 12/31/13

Postby Double Trouble » Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:52 pm

Alien_Friend: Lol, nah, that’s not old at all. We have a feeling the two of them will defy old age.

It’s quite possible Ethan’s gonna be his mama’s boy. Sam would probably do anything she could to rearrange her schedule if it’d been different.

Based on what we know of Chrissie’s boyfriend so far it’s easy to understand why Michael isn’t liking him.

And what a Christmas present!

There’s nothing like that little tease of opening up that one gift on Christmas Eve.

Lol, what’s that saying? Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans? Isn’t that the truth?

Sophie’s just a little sweetheart. It’s no wonder she has her daddy wrapped around her little finger.

Well, we certainly couldn’t have Jenna scarred for life... and especially not on Christmas morning, lol. She’d never forget that!

We’ll find out soon what Sam decides to do. There’s definitely no one that could ever fill those shoes for either of them.

Boys do get away with stuff like that so much easier! Imagine if it’d been her house and he’d run into Alex on his way out the door? That would also be another Christmas morning for the books!

We have a feeling Ethan and Alex will end up having a very good, very strong relationship as well.

Justin really does take after his dad. Jenny’s a smart girl and she takes life as it comes. She knows things don’t always go as planned and that life can change at the drop of a hat, so the best thing to do is go with it and face it head on. She and Justin have a good shot at making it.

Christms was wonderful, thank you! We hope yours was as well. That ice storm was something else and we’re glad you didn’t have to go longer without power. Hopefully everyone’s power is back up and running.

Eva: Lol, kids do seem to enjoy those morning wakeup calls.

Sam does have some things to consider but she’ll be making that decision soon.

begonia9508: Thanks! Relationships like that are rare, but possible.

There’s just nothing like a big gathering of family and friends for the holidays. It’s a special thing that should be treasured.

sarammlover: Lol, welcome back! Noah certainly isn’t making any points. Our families and friends are all doing well, but of course you know we still have a few things to sort out before this one reaches its conclusion.

keepsmiling7: It should be an interesting story for the three of them.


Author’s Note: We’d just like to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy New Year and to thank all of you for a great 2013!


Part 8

“If he makes one more comment about how this Christmas tree’s life was cut short for a ritual that could be easily replaced by another, I’m gonna use this on him,” Michael muttered and glanced at the blade and then at the cheese block in front of him.

“Michael,” Maria hissed and grabbed the knife from him.

“What? He should just shut up. If it’s too much for him to look at it, then he’s free to go home.”

“Behave,” she warned him and gave his hip a slight bump with her own. “Go take the dogs out.” She offered him an escape. And a chance to cool down. “I’m sure everyone will come in pretty soon.”

The door from the living room swung open and Max walked in followed by his wife. They were both carrying boxes packed with food. “Hey there,” Liz greeted cheerfully.

“Did you know that your sister’s boyfriend doesn’t appreciate the Christmas tree tradition?” Max looked at Michael with a baffled expression.

The other man groaned. “I do know.” He took the leashes from the chair next to the door. “C’mon, let’s take the dogs out. I’m pretty sure our wives won’t be too happy if we’re occupying their space in the kitchen.”

Max glanced at Liz, who nodded with a smirk and he agreed to go with him. They opened the door to walk outside but stopped, startled when Tess was about to walk in.

“Slow down, boys,” she warned and took a step backwards.

“Don’t worry, little sis,” Max kissed her cheek. “You’re too big to be overlooked.”

She slapped his shoulder hard. “Moron! You wouldn’t have dared to say such a thing to Liz when she was pregnant.”

That was indeed true, he thought. “Where’re your kid and Kyle?”

“They’re picking up Amy and Jim. They should be back soon.” She pushed herself past him and walked into the kitchen where the other women were already opening several boxes of food to rearrange it on plates for appetizers and dessert.

“Hey, sorry I’m late, but it seems like the baby isn’t giving me a bathroom break at all today,” she rolled her eyes.

Liz made a face. “I know that feeling. Only a couple more months though. You’ll get there, but until then,” she grinned and turned to lift a bottle of champagne out of a bag and held it out to Maria. “It’s the most expensive thing I could find in our market and it’s just for the good girls.”

“That really isn’t fair,” Tess crossed her arms over her chest and huffed when her belly was in the way. “You get to drink the good stuff and I have to sip on my water. That’s heartless.”

“Well, actually Liz will have a lot for herself,” Maria said when Liz was about to open the bottle up. She had planned to tell them later, but it seemed like there wasn’t a way to avoid that talk now.

“What do you mean?” the brunette frowned as the bottle popped.

Tess’ gaze bounced from Liz to Maria quickly. “Oh my God, are you…?” she whispered.

Happiness exploded across her face and she couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Yes!”

Andy shook his head when he walked into the kitchen and right into a major laughing, crying, hug-fest as Mom and his aunts celebrated the baby news. He grabbed a handful of drinks and tried to avoid being noticed but he was pulled over to them and into the hug before he could make his escape.

“Aunt Tess,” he grumbled, “cut it out.”

“Aren’t you just so excited?! You get to be a big brother!” she squealed.

“I was excited, but now I’m deaf.”

“Congrats on procreating, Mrs. G,” a new voice spoke up.

Andy snorted at Braden the Boring’s comment and finally wiggled free of the embarrassing chick hug. He was mentally counting down, just waiting for it. Oh, don’t let me down now, he thought as he grabbed another bottle on his way back to the living room.

“You do recycle, don’t you?”

“No worries, dude, we’ve got it covered.” He held his right hand up. “Save the planet, right?” He rolled his eyes and hurried out of the room before dipshit got started on plastic versus glass. He’d gone on about that for like an hour earlier and then launched into his anti-Christmas tree thing which had just about made Michael use him for the tree topper. He snorted when the guy’s next question came out and he would’ve loved to see Mom’s expression but he so wasn’t going back in there.

“So, Mrs. G… you’ll be using cloth diapers, right? Do you have any idea how harmful disposable diapers are to the planet?”

He took a slight detour when someone rang the doorbell and he went to see who it was.

“Merry Christmas,” Alex greeted when the door was opened.

“Merry Christmas to you too, Mr. Whitman,” the boy said. He had no clue what the man was thinking of him right now because he was pretty sure the man knew that his daughter had spent the night with him. He glanced over the man’s shoulder and noticed Isabel with a little boy in her arms who looked less than happy right now. “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Whitman, and I guess this must be Ethan.”

“He’s not very comfortable right now,” she nodded with a small smile. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to bring him around so many people so soon, but they had agreed to Christmas dinner a long time ago when the little guy hadn’t been in the picture.

“It’ll pass,” Andy said and took a step to the side to let them in. He reached out to tug the little man’s foot when Isabel passed. “Hey there, you’ve got some cool shoes. You parents definitely know the good stuff.”

“It was his big sister, right?” Isabel looked down at Ethan, who already looked happier and then back at Andy. “He seems to like you.”

“Want me to hold him while you take your coat off?”

She looked at him in surprise. Normally young men like him would stay away from kids this young, but somehow Andy didn’t seem to have a problem with it. “If you’re sure…” She had no clue how Ethan would react, but she could always take him back right after getting rid of her coat.

“Wouldn’t have offered otherwise,” he placed the drinks he was holding on the table next to the door and then held his arms out. He wondered where Sam was, but didn’t ask.

Ethan watched him cautiously as he went into Andy’s arms and he hugged Boo tightly as he rested his elbow on the man’s shoulder. He heard something moving somewhere close by and his gaze moved around in an effort to locate the source. His eyes widened when he finally found it and he pointed at the dogs standing in the doorway.

“Boo!”

Alex chuckled when the boy held onto Andy with one hand and tried to lean down to touch the dogs. He kept an eye on them even though he knew the dogs were used to being around small children and had a patience he wouldn’t have expected for a German shepherd or a Rottweiler.

“You like dogs, huh?” He glanced at the little boy’s new parents. “Okay to let him down and introduce them?”

Isabel and Alex exchanged a look before nodding and she clung tightly to her husband’s hand as the younger man crouched down. She watched as Ethan was placed on the floor and Andy carefully guided his hand, showing him how to hold it palm side up so that the dogs could sniff it first.

“He likes them,” she murmured.

“Looks like that goes both ways,” he said, smiling when he saw the wide grin that lit the little boy’s features up at the dogs’ easy acceptance of him. “Would you mind keeping an eye on him for a minute while we let your parents know we’re here and see if there’s anything we can do to help?”

“Nah,” Andy waved them off, “go on. Mom’s gonna tell you to go relax because she’s got everything under control, but if Michael’s back inside I’m sure he’ll put you right to work. And if the tree hugger’s still giving Mom the diaper lecture then you may wanna steer clear.” He didn’t know if Michael was officially back or not, but the dogs were there so either it had been a very short walk and he was back, or it had been a very short walk and he’d turned the dogs loose and was hanging around on the deck. Not that he blamed him. Braden would try anyone’s nerves.

“Hey, Cuz, tryin’ it out on your own?” Justin teased when he stepped through the still open door, his son in his arms. He glanced at the little boy who was steadying himself using Andy’s bent legs behind him. “Who’s that?”

“This’s Ethan Whitman.”

“Ah, right,” he crouched down next to him and the boys eyed each other curiously.

Andy chuckled. “There’re a lot people around you still have to meet, micro stuff.”

“Micro stuff?” Justin lifted one eyebrow.

“Well, Kara’s short stuff, Jenna’s mini stuff.”

“What’s Jeremy then?”

“He’s just a baby,” his cousin smirked and reached out to steady Ethan when the dogs walked ahead and almost knocked him off of his little feet. He giggled when he was caught and tickled.

“You’ve made friends with him already?” a new voice asked. Sam looked down at the boys crouched down on the floor and if she hadn’t been convinced that Andy was the best man on earth this little scene would’ve made her fall the rest of the way for him.

Andy smirked up at her and tried not to read too much into the relief he felt when she was finally here and obviously in a good mood. “Are we friends, buddy?” He looked at Ethan, who just gurgled something with a smile. “I think that’s a yes.”

“Good,” she pulled off her coat and threw it on a nearby chair before she crouched down between her friends. “He needs a little time and right now his vocabulary isn’t that great, but we’ll get him there.” She nudged her little brother with a warm smile and then turned to Justin to greet his little son as well.

“Seems like we’re all forgotten with the kids around,” he rolled his eyes at Andy.

Sam snorted. “You’re just not as cute as them, but anyway,” she leaned in and kissed his cheek then turned to Andy and looked at him for a moment before repeating the move with him too. “Hi.”

“Hey,” he said and smiled at her.

“Ungh, okay, time for us to go.” Justin scooped Jeremy up into his arms and he ruffled Ethan’s hair as he stood up again. “No need to subject my kid to the two of you if you’re gonna sit here an’ stare at each other with all those inappropriate thoughts goin’ on.”

Andy punched him in the leg, hard. “Who says they’re inappropriate?”

“Well, they’re certainly not G rated.”

Sam rolled her eyes at him. “It’s not like he’s reading anyone’s thoughts,” she said, not denying Justin’s claim.

“Somehow I feel much better just knowing that.” He shook his head. “Here, why don’t you lemme have this little guy too and I’ll take him in and introduce him around.”

She gnawed on her bottom lip for a moment. “I don’t know, Justin, he’s not used to being around so many people.”

“I have an 18-month-old kid, Sam, I know what to do if he decides to throw a fit.” He shifted Jeremy to his right arm. “Besides, the two of them seemed to be getting along and there’s Jenna an’ before long Sophie will be here too.”

“Better watch out for those older women, guys,” Andy said with a laugh as he imagined the girls taking over.

Isabel appeared next to them again and smiled. “You were right, your mom told us to relax.” She held her arms out to Ethan. “Come on, sweetie. There’re some mommy’s who can’t wait to meet you.”

Justin and Andy both snorted, but let the principal take the boy from them.

“She probably needs some time before she’s able to let him out of her sight for more than a few seconds at a time,” Sam explained and shoved her hands in her pockets.

“It’s understandable. It took a lot of willpower for me to hand Jeremy over to my mom the first time even though I know she’s good with kids… obviously.”

“Daddy,” Sophie yelped when Kyle stepped into the room followed by his dad and Amy. “Lemme down,” she kicked her legs in protest.

“Hey,” he squeezed her legs and looked at her meaningfully. “Behave. I told you I’ll let you down in the house. The last thing Maria needs is little footprints all over the place.” He rolled his eyes and lowered her to the ground, but still held her in his arms until he had managed to pull her shoes off.

“Where’s Mommy?”

“In the kitchen,” Andy pointed a finger at the door and the little girl took off, stopping halfway there when she noticed Jenna on the couch and decided to forget about Mommy for now in favor of saying hello to her cousin and friend.

Kyle stood up and groaned.

“Getting old?” his nephew teased.

“We’ll talk again when you’ve spent the whole day running after a three-year-old.” He looked around the room, realizing that it was occupied by kids only. “Where’re the real men?”

Justin and Andy exchanged a look with an eye roll. “Probably on the back deck.”

He nodded and went straight ahead, greeting the chatting woman in the kitchen, introducing himself to little Ethan, and then making his way to join Michael, Max and Alex. “You sure we’ll all fit into one room?” he asked in place of a greeting and pulled the door closed behind him to drown the female laughter. “This place’s crowded.”

“It is, but Maria wanted it that way,” Michael grinned and held a beer out to him.

“We were just about to chink bottles,” Max said and slapped the other man’s shoulder.

“Yeah?” Kyle asked and popped the drink open. “What about?”

Michael couldn’t hide the goofy happy grin on his face. “Maria’s pregnant.”

“Seriously?” his friend asked, positively surprised. He knew how much they’d wanted to have a child together, Michael had admitted that much to him during nights out at the bar, but it hadn’t really worked out and lately it had seemed like they’d both gotten over trying.

“Yeah, I really wasn’t expecting it.”

Andy snorted from behind them. “You should’ve seen his face when he figured it out.” He ducked when Michael faked a swing in his direction. “Hey, Mom says dinner’s in 15.”

Max smirked at them and waited until his nephew had disappeared back into the house and slid the door shut behind him. “He seems to be okay with it.”

“Yeah, I figured he would be if it ever happened, but it was nice to see that he’s comfortable with it.”

“Bet he’ll love bein’ a big brother,” Kyle agreed. “He seems to be a natural with kids.”

“He’s good with them for sure,” Alex said, thinking of the ease the younger man had handled Ethan with.

“Probably better than me,” Michael chuckled. He had never really even held a baby, not even Jenna or Sophie when they were so little.

“It’s totally different when it’s your own kid.” Alex shook his head. “I kinda always avoided that before Sam was born, but somethin’ happens when you hold that baby in your arms the first time. I don’t know if it’s different if your kid’s a boy or a girl, but she just owned my heart the second I held her.”

“There’s no difference between a girl and a boy in that way,” Max assured them.

“You would know,” Kyle said and couldn’t stop his own goofy grin from erupting. “And soon I’ll know too.”

The men glanced up when the twins stumbled out the door, tossing a football between them. “C’mon, game before dinner.”

“Think you OLD guys still know how to throw a football?” Nick taunted.

Justin laughed and shoved his brother. “These old guys are the REAL men, don’t you know that?”

“Yeah, real old men.” Andy barreled through the door behind them and glanced at the older men as he passed them. “That is what you said, right, Uncle Kyle?”

“I didn’t say anything about the old part,” he grumbled and looked at the rest of the men on the deck. “Wanna show these young guys how it’s done?”

“Definitely,” Michael, Max and Alex agreed.

“We’re a man short,” Nick called out from the yard.

“I’d like to play.” Braden had suddenly appeared on the back deck.

“Oh, look at that,” Michael said, forcing a note of regret into his voice, “the old guys already have a four-man team. Looks like you’ll have to play on the kiddie team.” He turned away and added under his breath, “Damn tree hugger moron.”

“Fuck,” Andy muttered. “Yeah, well, come on Braden. I hope you’re good, because we need to kick old man ass.”

“We can take them with just the three of us,” Nick grumbled. “You know this dude was givin’ me a lecture about deodorant earlier. Seriously, he doesn’t use it.”

“Might work to our advantage then, no one will want to tackle him,” Andy smirked.

“Good point.” Justin made a face and shook his head. “What’s wrong with your sister?” he asked as he passed Michael on his way to take his place with his team.

“If I knew,” he muttered.

That made the younger man grin. “Want me to make him eat dirt? Seein’ how he’s so fond of it an’ all. Be easy enough to accidentally trip him up.”

Michael grinned. “Yeah, and then he can wash off with his bio-shit.”

Max shook his head at his youngest son. “You behave yourself,” he said and then poked Michael, “and you, don’t encourage him.”

They were lining up on the field of battle that the backyard had become when Braden glanced over at Max. “Say, Mr. E, maybe after dinner we could discuss using more Earth friendly materials in your garage. I have this article I think a man in your position would really appreciate.”

Justin just looked at Dad as he faced off against him on the line. “What was that you were sayin’, Dad?”

“He does seem to have an appreciation for Earth... so make him appreciate it up close and personal, that’s what I meant.” He slapped his son on the shoulder. “Read between the lines.”

Chrissie leaned against the counter and waited for Maria to take things out of the oven so she could carry them out to the large tables set up in the dining room. “Michael doesn’t really like Braden, does he?”

“Braden does take some getting used to,” Maria said after a moment. “And you know your brother; he just wants what’s best for you.” She pulled one of the covered dishes out and placed it on the counter to check the contents before sending them out to be set on the table. “The important question is do YOU like him?”

“I do,” she nodded. “We’re just really getting to know each other, but he’s a good man. Weird in some ways, I know, but still a good man.”

“Well, he has a good cause, but maybe if he toned it down a little it’d really help his chances of getting Michael to like him a little more than he does at the moment.”

“I’ll talk to him,” she agreed. “Especially since you guys are expecting and I’m planning a lot of visits.”

Michael will be sooo thrilled, she thought. “So, I know Braden’s very big into the activist thing, but what does he do when he’s not doing that?” At least if the possibility of an actual job was on the horizon her husband might mellow out a little bit about the annoying young man.

“He’s still taking economy and environment college classes and then he wants to go on to complete his studies into building more environmentally-friendly materials.

“Oh, like architecture?”

“More like a way to avoid tons of plastics every year. Did you know that you can already find it in the most secluded places on Earth?”

“So he would be some sort of advisor or something?”

“He wants to work on new materials, alternatives for plastic.”

“That sounds more like he’d be into like research or something,” Tess spoke up, taking a break from picking all of the cherries out of the fruit salad and eating them.

“Yeah, something like that. He’s got so many plans,” Chrissie sighed with a smile.

“Well, if at least one of them means being gainfully employed it’ll ease Michael’s mind.” Isabel waved a hand dismissively when the younger woman looked at her. “Don’t worry about it. He’s a man and he has certain expectations.”

“And it’s good they have them,” Liz pushed past them with the mashed potatoes. “It just means he’s watching out for his family.”

“Braden really likes him.”

“Michael?” Maria asked in surprise. How was that possible?

“Yeah, he thinks he’s one of the most fascinating people he’s ever met and he just doesn’t understand why that feeling isn’t reciprocated.”

“Well, Braden has a special way of telling everyone about his very healthy, very environment-friendly oriented mind,” Tess interjected when the other woman was speechless. “It’s not for everyone and Michael probably only sees that for now. Maybe Braden should show a bit of the other side of his other personality.”

“Yeah, he’s not very good at letting people see beyond that. He had it tough growing up,” Chrissie confided, “and he found his escape in the environment. It’s like he found something that he could make better, even heal in some ways, and he immersed himself in it to get away from his reality. So it’s just hard for him to come out from behind that wall. He isn’t like this all the time but when he’s not completely comfortable it’s what he falls back on and I know that kinda makes him seem super obnoxious, but he’s not.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Maria squeezed her shoulder. “Your brother’s a guidance counselor for a reason. Means he has lots and lots of patience.”

Tess nearly choked on the cherry she’d just swallowed. She’d heard him going off about the guy when Kyle had him on speaker phone the night before. Kyle had been assembling several of Sophie’s Christmas presents and she had been certain that the things coming out of their mouths as Michael vented and Kyle agreed were going to somehow burn the needles right off of their Christmas tree.

“Can I help in here?” Sam poked her head into the kitchen and from behind her the noise created by several of the kids could be heard.

“Yes, thank you, Sam. Would you check the stuffing? Oh, and Chrissie, if you’ll check on that green bean casserole to make sure it tastes the way it should?”

Her eyebrows lifted. “You made it?”

Maria paused. “You did say it was one of Braden’s favorite side dishes for holiday meals, didn’t you?” There were so many favorites she was trying to keep up with.

“Yeah, I just figured you were already so busy...”

“She’s like a queen in the kitchen.” Sam smirked as she did what she was asked. She had spent countless weekends and dinners over at this house back in high school and the woman had always made better food than most restaurants.

“She is,” Chrissie agreed and smiled at Maria, appreciating the effort she’d expended to make Braden feel more welcome. She knew her brother would sooner eat tree bark than even look at green bean casserole and she couldn’t recall ever seeing it at one of their get-togethers, so that just made it all the more special.

“Hey, Tess, in case you’re not too busy eating up the dessert already, would you go an’ call the men in?”

“No problem,” she agreed, cradling the dish in one arm as she waddled over to the back door.

“Alright,” Maria glanced around the kitchen with a satisfied smile. “Let’s get dinner started then.”

“Um, about that...” Isabel pointed at the back door when the guys started filing in. They were all rumpled and dirty but Braden looked like he’d been dragged through a mud puddle.

“I thought you were playing football, not some kind of mud wrestling,” Liz placed her hands on her hips.

“Go wash yourselves up. Braden, I think some of Michael’s clothes will fit you,” Maria said and threw a pointed look at her husband.

“Thanks, Mrs. G,” he said with a big grin on his filthy face. “That last play was a good one, Mr. G. Maybe while we’re here I can give you a hand with that low spot in the yard. There’re several things you can do to stave off erosion. That’s what’s causing that, ya know?”

Michael just shrugged when his wife gave him the look. It wasn’t like he was the one who sent the kid face first down that slight incline in the backyard. “Yeah, sounds great. I’ll go get you somethin’ to change into.”

Liz chuckled when they had left to clean up. “Men.”

Maria sighed and shook her head. “I just hope they didn’t give him too hard a time out there.”

“He was having fun, Maria,” Chrissie assured her. “Whether they intended to or not, they made him feel like he was accepted by letting him play.”

“Yeah,” Andy agreed with a grin. Somehow he had gotten outta the game without kissing the ground once. He hooked one arm around Mom and the other around Chrissie. “We’re one big happy fuckin’ family.”

“You could learn a thing or two from Braden if you’d just give him a chance,” she said and shoved her elbow in his ribs. Over time she and Andy had developed a sort of sibling relationship and even though he could be an ass at times she still loved him.

“Let’s go,” Tess made a waving motion with her hands. “I’m hungry.”

“You always are,” Liz chuckled. “I know how that goes.”
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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Part 9

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:49 am

Earth2Mama: Give them time. They’re usually pretty welcoming once they get over the hurdles.

Alien_Friend: Lol, that wasn’t their intention but that’s exactly what happened. He has a difficult time expressing himself outside of his cause, but we may see a little bit of change.

Gotta love those games the boys play... regardless of age.

Ethan definitely won’t have a shortage of little friends.

Lol, Maria got her point across without a single word. Gotta love that!

Christmas dinner’s just getting started, there’s more to come with our group all together and happy.

Thanks! We love those little moments between the characters.

Maria is surely the calming influence in that household.

We’ll find out today why Sam’s in such a good mood.

keepsmiling7: Thanks!

Ethan’s gonna find his place in the family very soon.

Pregnant woman’s prerogative, right? Lol.

Yeah, Braden’s got his work cut out for him.

begonia9508: Lol, Braden’s just not very good at expressing himself outside of his cause, but maybe we’ll see him relax a bit today. His cause is a noble one, but he’s gotta ease up on the way he’s pushing it on everybody.

LovelyPOM83: Lol, it’s easy enough to get sidetracked, especially during the holidays.

What’s better than those big family get-togethers?

We’ll blame it on Christmas magic that the men got off without getting in trouble.

sarammlover: He just has to find his place. ;) Andy’s definitely grown up since out last visit with this family.



Part 9

The dining room was filled with laughter, chatting and the clinking of dishes when dinner came to an end. The temperature in the room was getting more and more heated considering the amount of people, so a few of them had already removed unnecessary layers of clothes.

“I swear I couldn’t eat one more thing if my life depended on it,” Max leaned back in his chair and rubbed his stomach with a grin.

“Not that you need one more thing after the amount you ate,” his wife teased.

“Hey,” he tugged her against his side and bit her ear softly. “Christmas isn’t for diets.”

“Diets?” she snorted. “I doubt you even know the meaning of the word considering your metabolism all your life.

“Most guys are just so lucky with that,” Tess agreed.

“Ah, come on,” Kyle rubbed her swollen belly with a teasing grin. “You’re normally not that huge either.”

“Thank you very much,” she rolled her eyes and reached out when Sophie dropped her spoonful of ice cream, but it landed on the floor anyway. “Hey, what’d we tell you about playing with your food?”

The little girl looked at her with wide eyes and then at the floor.

“I’ll get something to clean it up,” Michael stood and headed for the kitchen.

Braden surprised everyone when he got up and crouched down next to the little girl. “We all make a mess sometimes, right?”

She lifted her big blue eyes to him and she blinked to try and clear the tears in them. “I din’t mean to.”

“I never mean to either but somehow I always do anyway.” He smiled slowly and pushed his glasses up higher on his nose. He’d had to take his contacts out after the mud bath he’d taken in the backyard and he’d half expected to be teased for wearing the glasses but no one had said anything about them. “I’ll bet you can finish your dessert without it happening again though.”

She smiled shyly and reached out to push his glasses back up when they slipped down on his nose again. “Okay,” she whispered.

Braden slipped back into his own chair, suddenly feeling self-conscious.

“What’s up with that?” Kyle grumbled when he noticed the adoring look on his little girl’s face as she watched the guy.

“I’d say your daughter’s experiencing her first crush,” Tess said and pointed at something across the table. “Can someone pass the pumpkin pie?” She looked at her husband. “Babe, I think I want the strawberry ice cream.”

His expression turned to disgust. “With pumpkin pie?” He sighed and got up to go and get it. “Alright, just don’t expect me to eat that combination.”

“Don’t worry I wasn’t planning to share.”

Michael returned and crouched down to wipe the ice cream from the floor. “There you go, easy enough to fix,” he ruffled the little girl’s hair.

“Uh-huh,” Maria smirked. “Just remember that.”

“I don’t mind the practice.” He stood and kissed Sophie’s head. “We just don’t have to make it a regular thing.”

As if by command, another spoon dropped and this time it was Ethan’s. Isabel immediately turned red. “Sorry.”

“Looks like there’s gonna be plenty of practice around here tonight,” he said and shook his head with a smile. He moved around the table and leaned over to clean up the mess and was just about to straighten up when something cold and wet landed on top of his head. “Please tell me that isn’t ice cream.”

Ethan laughed and reached down to slap his hand against the white blob of ice cream, mashing it down against the man’s head.

The room was filled with laughter and it grew even louder when Michael stood up with a grimace and the melted bits ran down his face. He stuck his tongue out to lick some of it off. “Yummy,” he said and then broke out into laughter as well.

The little culprit was delighted by everyone’s reactions and he clapped his sticky hands together.

Andy leaned to his left. “You think anyone would go for it if we just shouted out FOOD FIGHT?” he whispered into Sam’s ear.

“I think your mom would kill us.” She made a face. “Or worse, we’d have to clean up afterwards.”

He smirked and placed a hand on her thigh to squeeze it. “Would be fun though.”

Just that small contact brought back memories and feelings from the night before. “Then I think you should go for it. And if she doesn’t kill you in the first ten seconds or so I’ll join you.”

“Yeah, right. I would be so dead,” he snorted and let his hand rest where it lay. They hadn’t really talked about what was going on and he still didn’t have a clue what kinda business she’d had to take care of today, but maybe it had something to do with that asshole. Norman? Or Noah? Who cared what the fucker’s name was?

“That’s true and then I’d never get the chance to give you my Christmas gift.” She shook her head. “Sure would be a shame too.”

His head snapped towards her. “It is something you wear?”

Why was it any time a girl mentioned getting a gift for a guy he automatically assumed it was sexy underwear, she wondered. Scratch that, she knew why. “I’m not sure how I’d wear it.”

He chuckled. “We could sneak off.”

“Yeah, that wouldn’t be obvious or anything.”

“When everyone’s cleaning up then.”

“Okay,” she agreed. She could feel her heart beating faster, partly at the thought of being alone with him and partly because she was nervous about his reaction to her two part gift. She knew he’d like the first part of it, but would he like the second part?

“Okay,” he nodded and slipped his hand from her thigh to her hand to intertwine their fingers.

She glanced down at their joined hands and wondered what it really meant. She didn’t really think he was very happy with his random hookups and he’d told her he’d missed her, but was that enough to even consider building on? It would be a big risk. Kinda like that skydiving trip Anna had talked her into last summer. But she could still feel the rush of the wind in her ears and on her face, feel the adrenaline pumping through her veins, and that heart-stopping breath-stealing moment when she’d pulled the cord and waited for the snap that signaled the parachute opening. She squeezed his hand and placed her other one over it, rubbing his knuckles and thinking how very alike the two things were.

“Mommy, can we play charades?” Kara asked impatiently. Why did adults eat so slow?

Max glanced at Kyle. “You just had to teach her that game, didn’t you?” he muttered.

“Everyone knows it.”

“She didn’t know it.”

“Charades is a great game,” Chrissie said and grinned at her boyfriend. “And Braden’s very good at it.”

“Um-hmm,” Michael mumbled under his breath. “How exactly does someone act out ‘compost pile’?”

“Don’t do that,” Maria warned him. “Let’s play, but first we put the leftovers away.”

“Here, us guys can do that. You girls did all the cookin’ so we’ll put this stuff away.”

“Yep,” Andy agreed and winked at Sam. “Meet me in my room.”

They were gonna be so busted, she thought, but it didn’t stop her from nodding. “See ya soon.”

Max got up and grabbed a few plates. “C’mon, we’d better get this done quickly, guys.”

Braden stood and started collecting some of the dishes. “Would you mind if I loaded the dishwasher, Mrs. G?”

“No, go ahead.”

He nodded and looked down when he realized his shirt was caught on something and he was surprised to see Sophie tugging on the material.

“I help you,” she said and held her glass to her chest and her plate between her hands.

“Okay,” he chuckled. “C’mon, then.”

“When we do the family picture this year, can we have him hugging the tree in the backyard?” Kyle grumbled as he watched his three-year-old daughter leave the room with Braden, chattering a mile a minute.

“We can have you wearing the Santa costume,” Tess suggested.

“You know she usually runs for cover if anyone mentions clearin’ the table or washin’ dishes or any other chore, right? Eco nerd offers to do the dishes and suddenly she’s all about helpin’ out.”

“Then maybe you should get some advice from him.”

“Yeah, I’ve gotten plenty of advice from him. I’ll get rid of all the toilet paper in the house when we get home. He was goin’ on about which leaves would be the most skin friendly, so I’ll get with him on that. I wouldn’t want you to chafe those sensitive areas with unfriendly foliage.” He got up and gathered up their plates and glasses. “How’s that for you?”

She smiled and pulled on his shirt until he bent over. “Shut up. How’s that for you?”

He stared at her for a moment before a grin broke out on his face and he leaned in to kiss her. “I love you.” He winked. “And not just because you made grasshopper pie.”

“Are you gonna stand there all day or are you gonna actually do some cleaning up?” Maria asked him sweetly when every other man had returned from the kitchen twice already.

“I’ve gotta think about that. You didn’t make a grasshopper pie, Sis.”

Andy returned to the room and grabbed more plates, seeing that Sam was making her escape at the same time by excusing herself to go to the restroom. He almost snorted at the lame excuse because it would soon be apparent that she wasn’t there. Not for so long. Well... he hoped it would be long.

Isabel didn’t miss the looks passing between them and a quick glance at her husband told her he hadn’t either. He picked up the large serving tray that had held the main course and nodded when she brushed his arm on his way back out of the room.

“How’re things going with Ethan? Is he settling in good?” Michael asked as the man approached the kitchen.

“Yeah, he’s already in love with Isabel, but who could blame him?” He smiled and shook his head. “I was worried it’d take a while to get used to having another little one in the house, but” he shook his head, “it didn’t.”

“And it’s the perfect timing. Jenna, Sophie and Jeremy will be good company for him.”

“So many little ones around,” Liz said with a smile as she looked down at her grandson where he sat in her lap behaving like the perfect little angel he was. She tightened her arms around him for a moment and then brushed a hand over his hair. “And I’d keep you with me all year if I could.”

“Huh-uh,” Justin lifted an eyebrow. “Dad would have a stroke if you told him you wanted another baby, Mom.”

“Well, we don’t wanna do that to Grandpa, do we?” She looked up at her son. “You could just move back home and then I could see him whenever I wanted to.”

“Not gonna happen.”

She sighed. “It was worth a shot.”

Jeremy leaned his head back to look up at Grandma. “Cookie?” he asked hopefully.

“No little man,” his daddy said.

“Aww,” Liz soothed when Jeremy wiggled around until he was practically lying across her lap so he could bury his face against her arm.

“He’s already gonna be on a sugar high, YOU should know.”

“Yeah, I don’t remember you bein’ that sympathetic when it was one of us,” Nick said as he came back into the room and dropped down in his chair.

“That’s the difference between parents and grandparents,” Amy said with a chuckle. “We always spoiled Andy and we’re looking forward to doing it again.” She hugged her daughter from behind and kissed her cheek.

Maria smiled and reached up to place her hand on her mom’s arm. “Just remember if he or she gets too wired we’ll be happy to leave the baby with you.”

“We’re lookin’ forward to it,” Jim chuckled.

“Havin’ so much family close by is a huge advantage,” Max said as he came back into the room and leaned over to scoop up his grandson. “Daddy said no to that cookie, didn’t he?” He tickled the boy and smiled when it made him laugh. “You know what else is fun? Huh? Let’s go check out some of those new toys you got this mornin’. Santa must’ve cleaned out his toy shop.”

Liz couldn’t help the sigh as she watched her husband carry Jeremy out of the room. “I’m so glad you could come home this year,” she said with a teary smile at her boys.

“No tears, Mom,” both boys groaned and hugged her from each side.

She laughed and hugged them tightly, wishing she could keep them close but knowing she had to savor these moments because they had their own lives to lead.

*****

Andy was pacing the floor while he waited for Sam. Good grief, she should’ve been there before him, he thought and looked at the door when he heard one of the steps creak. Finally! He looked around and hurried to throw himself down on his bed, flopping back against the pillows in an effort to look like he was relaxed and waiting patiently.

“I hope you don’t think that actually fools me,” Sam said as she slipped inside and closed the door behind her.

“What took so long?”

“Jenna needed a hand with somethin’ and if you know anything about little kids you know they’ll be the first ones to rat you out when you’re up to somethin’.”

He rolled his eyes. “So… Christmas present?”

“So… Kiss?”

He grinned and got to his feet in one smooth motion, crossing the room and crowding her back against the door. “I can do that.” He leaned in, his lips hovering over hers for a moment before he closed that last little distance and he made a sound of approval when she sighed and melted into him.

When he’d finally started to move on several months after their breakup he had sworn to himself he’d never get that involved with any other girl. Even though they had broken up on good terms and it had been something they’d both agreed to, it had hurt like hell. He’d made it his mission to just keep it casual and while it’d worked for the moment, afterwards he’d always been left with an empty feeling.

He didn’t have that with Sam. It didn’t matter what they were doing there was something about her that just filled that hollow ache inside of him. Scrappy would say she was the Yin to his Yang. And maybe she was, he didn’t know. All he knew was when they were together it felt right in a way that nothing else ever had.

Sam brought her hands up to his shoulders, moving one up along his neck to tangle in his hair. “I thought you wanted your Christmas present?” she asked breathlessly.

“Thought you wanted a kiss,” he countered, struggling to bring his breathing under control.

“Not complaining.” It felt so right, he could kiss her all night.

“Good,” he muttered and took that as an invitation for more. His body moved further into her as he intensified the kiss, almost crushing her back against the door.

She could easily get swept up and forget why they had come up to his room. Well, one of the reasons they had come up to his room. There was one very insistent reason pressed up against her and that made her giggle just a bit.

“You think that’s funny?” he growled into her ear.

“No,” she said but couldn’t keep the smile off of her face. “I’m just very happy and you’re very hard to resist.”

“I’m very hard, alright,” he snorted against her neck and then bit the sensitive skin there.

She moaned as her head dropped back against the door, giving him more room. It was scary how right it felt being with him. Walking in the park and talking or making out in his room with their families separated from them by a floor, it didn’t matter; it was the most right thing in the world. Her hand slipped down and she dragged her fingernail along the hard bulge behind his zipper. “That’s hard to resist too.”

Fuck, at this pace he was gonna blow before he could get out of his pants, but he pressed into her hand anyway. “Sam,” he growled against her skin, next to her ear, the rush of blood in his own ears drowning out everything else. “I love you.”

Her eyes snapped open and her hands shot up to cradle his face, ignoring his frustrated groan at the loss of contact for a moment and forcing his gaze to hers. He had said it! Yeah, it might’ve been in the heat of the moment, but there was more to it than that. “I broke up with Noah.”

He hadn’t meant to say it, but it had slipped out and he wasn’t going to take it back because it was truth. “Good,” was the only thing he could say in response to her unexpected comment.

It was amazing how much he could reveal with a single word, and even more amazing to her that he most likely was unaware of it. “I love you too, Andy.” She shook her head as she stared into his eyes. “I never stopped, just kinda buried it because I knew we couldn’t be together.”

He silenced her with another kiss, before she could go on with the realization that that problem hadn’t really been solved at all. He kept it gentle this time, letting his mouth wander over her lips without using his tongue.

Sam reveled in his gentleness, loving it just as much as she loved the more unbridled moments. Both had their place, both culminated in the same goal, but the journey she’d learned was just as important as achieving that final conclusion. She had never been the passive type and even in this gentler moment her hands were constantly roaming, moving under his shirt to let her fingertips trace over the landscape of his chest, playing in the dips and hollows and admiring the shape he kept his body in.

His hand wandered up to the collar of her shirt, playing at the edges of it before finally dipping down to open up the first two buttons. He broke the kiss, moving from her mouth and sliding his tongue over the skin he had just exposed.

She slid her palm up over the sculpted muscles of his abdomen to rest against his chest to tease one of his nipples. It was a sensitive area for him and she enjoyed that. She wondered briefly if they’d be missed if they just stayed up here the rest of the night.

It didn’t seem like she wanted to stop, he mused and opened two more buttons on her shirt to reveal the white lacy bra there. “You’re so damn gorgeous,” he muttered and ran his lips along the edges of the lace. The thought that another guy had touched her was totally freaking him out but he couldn’t hold that against her considering he had been with other women too.

He had always made her believe it was true. Never once had she felt like it was a line or just an empty compliment. He didn’t even need the words. All he needed to do was look at her in that way he had that said he thought she was beautiful. She had debated how far to take this, knowing they were expected back downstairs, but the need to be with him was overshadowing everything else at the moment.

Laughter from the charades game downstairs could be heard and he knew they couldn’t hide out here for long. “I changed my mind about New Years’,” he mumbled and focused back on her lips again. “I’m stayin’.”

She smiled so widely she could only imagine she looked like the Joker, but she didn’t care. “Andy, that’s great!” she said and launched herself into his arms for a hug.

He chuckled and lifted her off of her feet. “The things I do for you, Whitman.”

“Oh, yeah, it must’ve been so difficult to turn down the opportunity to get drunk with a bunch of strangers.” She rolled her eyes but couldn’t stop her laughter. “I’m glad you’re stayin’.”

“I’ve got one condition though.”

“Yeah, I think you’re supposed to list conditions before you announce that you’re stayin’.” She leaned back and made a rolling motion with her hand. “Hit me with it.”

“You’re gonna stay with me every night.”

“Andrew Evans, what a scandalous proposition!” She slapped his chest and pretended to be horrified. “What will the gossips say?”

“That you got the hottest man in Roswell back?”

“True as that may be, I doubt that’s what they’ll be sayin’ if they catch wind of it.”

He shrugged and grabbed her, easily lifting her up to place her on his desk in front of him. “I don’t give a fuck what they say.”

“Can’t say I do either, but it wouldn’t just affect us and we don’t live here anymore.” She placed a finger against his lips to silence his protest. “I’m not sayin’ no, just sayin’ we need to be discreet.”

“I can be discreet,” he agreed.

“Then we have an agreement.”

He grinned. “I’m curious how you’re gonna manage discreet tonight.”

“Well, if we’re gonna make discreet happen when it’s time for everyone to go home for the night, we should probably make an appearance before the end of the night don’t you think?”

“I guess,” he shrugged and moved to his nightstand to get something. “Merry Christmas, Sam.” He placed a small package wrapped in gold paper in her hand.

“Andy, I didn’t expect you to…” She held it up, shaking it lightly. “What is it?”

“Open it up,” he told her with a nudge of her leg.

She tore the wrapping off and ran her fingers over the soft velvet that covered the deep red box that was obviously from a jewelry store. “What’d you do?” she asked softly.

He shrugged one shoulder. “Nothin’ big. Braden gave Mom this necklace made of twigs an’ she’ll never wear it so I thought you might like it.”

Sam rolled her eyes at him. “Even you aren’t that bad at picking out gifts.” She paused and glanced up at him through her eyelashes. “It’s not really a twig necklace is it?”

He laughed and nudged her again. “C’mon, open it up before next Christmas gets here.”

She finally gave in and lifted the lid, gasping in surprise at the number 87 suspended from a thin silver chain. “It’s your jersey number.”

“Glad you remember that,” he smirked and took it from her to open the clasp and then close it behind her neck. “Hope no one else at your college wears this number and will be mislead,” he rested his forehead against hers and glanced down where the tiny silver number was now resting against her soft skin right over her breast and that damn sexy bra.

“I’m pretty sure you’re not the only number 87 in the country, but the others don’t matter.” She grabbed the hem of his tee shirt while her lips met his in another hot kiss.

He groaned at the boldness she was kissing him with and replied in like kind. His hands dropped to her thighs and he wrapped his long fingers around her to pull her towards him. After this evening he would keep her by his side for at least the next 24 hours, he decided.

“Andy,” she panted, trying to focus on something other than him. “We need to stop.”

“Says who?” he breathed heavily, but stopped kissing her anyway. “Just cold Whitman, second time you got me hot in less than five minutes and then made me stop again.”

“Thought you wanted your present as well?”

He wanted to tell her that he didn’t care about any present at the moment, but he nodded anyway. “Is it that little bra?” he teased and pulled one side of her shirt away to look at it again.

She shook her head. “Hmm-umm, nope.”

“You’re sure it’s not somethin’ you can wear?” he asked hopefully.

“Positive.”

“Okay, well, I give up, hit me with it.”

She leaned to the side to reach into her back pocket, pulling out the envelope-sized present that was wrapped in blue paper with little snowmen all over it. She shrugged. “They didn’t have any Christmas paper with sunny beaches so you get snowmen.”

He picked at the edges of the tape on one end of the package. “I think Mom had this same kind when I was a kid.”

“You’re stalling.”

He was stalling, he realized. And he didn’t know why. It wasn’t big enough to be anything bad. Right? “Just savoring the moment.”

She snorted and shook her head. “Just open it.” It was taking everything she had to sit still because she was nervous as hell waiting for him to just get to it.

Andy shrugged and pulled the edges apart, tearing the paper off and revealing… What the hell? He held up the tri-fold brochure for California University, his expression one of complete confusion. “I don’t get it.” He opened it up, shook it, turned it over several times, and then looked at her again, baffled by the exasperated expression on her face. “What?”

She smiled nervously. “You really don’t get it?”

“Um...” Well, dumbass? He turned it over again, carefully scanning the printed material and certain he must be missing something. “I mean, it’s my college...” He glanced up at her again. “No, I don’t get it.”

“It is indeed your college,” she admitted and her hands were busy fumbling with his tee shirt, revealing her nervousness. Was it a mistake to spring this on him so soon after they’d started to hook up again? What if this wasn’t what he really wanted? “It isn’t that bad I guess. And the weather’s pretty nice too...”

“No, it’s definitely a great college, weather’s damn near perfect 365 days a year, they...” He stared at her for a moment before suddenly dropping his gaze to the brochure again. He nearly dropped it in his haste to turn it over, quickly scanning over the listing of new courses being offered. He froze when he saw it, suddenly so glaringly obvious he could’ve kicked himself for missing it before. “You’re...” his eyes shot back up to hers. “Really?” His voice sounded hoarse with disbelief even to his own ears.

“It’s an option,” she shrugged one shoulder. “I know we haven’t talked about anything yet, so... Yeah, it’s an option.”

It was an option. He locked on those words as he watched her. He knew she’d do well in California and he had a feeling he’d do even better with her there. He wanted her to be there more than anything, but what it really came down to was what she wanted. He cleared his throat. “What if I tell you I want you to transfer? I mean, realistically you’re the one making all the changes, you’re the one uprooting the life you’ve made for yourself for the past couple of years.” He wanted her to say yes, wanted her to be close, for them to be able to be together, but was it what she really wanted?

“I’d be really happy if ya agreed to it.” She was relieved and rested her arms on his shoulders. “I know I’d be the one making the changes but what other option do we have other than this or nothing?” Her eyes searched his. “I don’t want nothing anymore.”

“Yeah, I’ve kinda had my fill of nothing too.” Somehow he had a feeling it was more than just a few semesters riding on his answer. Something about this felt like it held an importance they probably wouldn’t understand for years to come. He took a deep breath and nodded. “Come to Long Beach, Sam.”

Tears filled her eyes at his sincere tone and she knew it was the right decision. Whether they made it through college together or not, she knew she could be happy in Long Beach either way now that they offered her classes and there was an extra plus to it: it wasn’t as far from home as New York. “I will. Someone has to show those tanned blonde empty-headed Malibu beach Barbies out there where to stick their little manicured hands.”

He snorted and shook his head. “I guess you’d be the one to teach ‘em.” He reached up to cup her cheek in his hand. “Do you have to wait until the end of the year to transfer?” He wasn’t sure he could handle five or six months without her.

“I haven’t figured out that far ahead. Think we can make it work if we have to wait until summer?”

“Spring Break’s in March.” He bit his bottom lip. “Can we spend the week together?” That’d at least help break up the time they’d spend apart.

“You could come and visit me in New York?”

He smiled slowly. “Think New York’s ready for me?”

“I’m sure. And I want you to meet Anna.”

“Your... girlfriend?” he asked with a smirk.

She chuckled. “Yeah, the one and only. And I hope you’re not still expecting a threesome.”

He made a face. “You said she has a boyfriend, so I’m gonna pass on that.”

“Just because she has a boyfriend or because of other reasons too?” she teased.

“Well, it’s prime fantasy material to be with two girls, but I’m not big on sharing anyway. I’ve got a feelin’ it’s one of those things best left to fantasy.”

“I agree,” she leaned against his chest and inhaled his scent. “So I know it’s not like a real present but does it count?”

“What’s a present gotta be to make it real?” He rested his chin on her head. “Nothin’ you could’ve bought in a store could’ve been better than this,” he said as he stared at the brochure he still held.

“I can’t believe it.”

“Me either. Whatcha think your dad’s gonna say?”

She glanced at the door. “Not sure. You wanna find out? Or should we keep it to ourselves for now? “

He chuckled. “If we tell ‘em now they can’t exactly get mad with everyone around, right? But maybe we should wait until we can talk to our parents, just us and them.”

“Yeah. That’d be smart I guess.” She looked up at him. “Ya know, my dad’s been silent so far but he won’t be if I stay another night here with you without an explanation so I’d better go home with them tonight.”

Andy frowned at that. He hadn’t anticipated spending the night apart. “Well, maybe bustin’ the news right now isn’t a completely bad idea.”

Sam smacked his shoulder. “Andy!”

“What? I’m just sayin’ it’s an option!”

“You just don’t wanna sleep alone.”

“Duh,” he said and rolled his eyes.

“We’d better get back downstairs before they send someone after us.”

“Yeah, Mom’s only gonna let our disappearing act go ignored for so long,” he agreed.

“What do we tell them if they ask?”

He thought about that for a moment. “Just grin and ask ‘em if they really wanna know?”

She rolled her eyes but let him drag her from the desk and out of the room. “Wait,” she stopped him in the semi-dark hallway and reached up to button her shirt again.

He waved his hand over her. “Kinda like the other look better.”

“I like you shirtless but that doesn’t mean I’d make you face our families like that.”

He rolled his eyes at her but smiled when his gaze landed on the brochure he still held. He carefully folded it over and tucked it in his back pocket, keeping it close as a reminder.

“Ready,” she grinned at him when she had finished buttoning up again.

“Let’s hit the kitchen first. I’m in the mood for dessert now.”

“Sure.” She hadn’t wanted to use the stairs to the living room anyway.

He laughed. “We’re not walkin’ in to face a firing squad, ya know.”

“Good.” She followed him down to the kitchen and they were surprised to find Maria and Michael there doing the dishes.

“Uh, shouldn’t you guys be in the other room with everyone else?” Andy asked as he started snooping through the desserts lined up on the counter.

The older couple exchanged am amused look and were pretty aware of the blush on Alex’s daughter’s face. “Shouldn’t you be in there too?” Michael countered.
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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Part 10

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Jan 12, 2014 7:12 am

sarammlover: Now we’re getting somewhere! Lol. Yeah, Braden’s actually a decent guy, go figure. Well, Chrissie had to see something in him, right? ;)

Eva: Lol, we’re happy to hear that!

Earth2Mama: They’re making good progress and it sounds like a good plan.

keepsmiling7: Lol, isn’t that the truth!

Alien_Friend: Lol, Kyle had no clue. Braden’s actually a pretty decent guy under all those layers.

Looks like Ethan really enjoyed dunking Uncle Mike.

We’ll get a glimpse into Andy and Sam’s plans today.

begonia9508: Thanks! Andy was pretty sure that California had the best basketball team for him. And there’s the added benefit that he and Sam will be closer to home this way.

Maybe Sophie will follow in her Daddy’s footsteps and try to save the world, just from a different path.

roswellian love: Hey, we’re glad to hear you enjoyed ITCOAL!

Not long to wait at all, but alas, this is the last part of our Christmas installment of ITCOAL.





Part 10

“Charades isn’t my game.” He shrugged and grabbed a small plate. “Besides, Sam’s gift was upstairs and I wanted to give it to her before Christmas was over.”

“Oh,” Maria said, amused. “What’d he get you, Sam?”

Andy watched his girl as she showed the necklace to Mom. His girl, he thought and slid a piece of warm apple pie on the plate. Yeah, his appetite was back with a vengeance.

Maria leaned in and looked at it, trying to hide her surprise at her son’s ability to come up with something so meaningful. “That’s a beautiful necklace,” she said and raised her eyes to Sam’s again.

“Yes, it is,” the girl said softly as she brushed her fingers over the skin-warmed 87.

“Nice job,” Michael said, giving the younger man a nudge.

Andy nodded and smiled to himself as he thought about Sam moving to California. It felt right in a way that nothing had for a long time.

“I’m afraid Ethan made a mess again,” the swinging door was pushed open and Alex walked in, carrying a few napkins. He glanced at his daughter, surprised.

Sam glanced at her dad and smiled.

“Don’t you worry about that,” Maria assured him, giving the kids a chance to go into the other room. “Children make messes, it’s to be expected.”

Andy looked at Sam and nodded at both of their parents with a lifted eyebrow. For a moment she seemed to be hesitant but then she nodded.

“Mom, Michael...” he turned to the other man with a swallow. “Mr. Whitman. Can we talk to you for a moment?” He looked back at his girlfriend and took her hand when she stood next to him.

“Alex, did you...” Isabel trailed off when she stepped into the kitchen with Ethan in her arms and she saw the way everyone was standing there expectantly. “What’s going on?”

“We’re just about to find out,” he said, holding a hand out to her. He looked back at Andy and nodded. He wasn’t sure he was ready to hear what they were about to say.

“Don’t stretch it out,” Michael encouraged the boy with a smile because he really didn’t fear what they were going to say. “Your mom’s pregnant. She can’t have stress.”

“Michael,” she slapped him with the dish towel. “I’m perfectly fine.”

“And we wanna keep it that way, don’t we?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “You’re not gonna start babying me just because I’m pregnant.”

He grinned and draped an arm around her shoulders. “That’s what you think.” He kissed her temple and then made a rolling motion with his hand when he heard Andy huff impatiently. “Let’s have it.”

Sam squeezed her boyfriend’s hand. “Let me.” She looked at Dad and Isabel with a deep breath. “I’m planning to transfer to Long Beach.”

Alex glanced down when he felt Isabel’s hand tighten around his for a moment. He couldn’t say he was shocked by his daughter’s words. She’d been spending a lot of time with the boy since coming home and he could see the difference in her after just a few days. And on the heels of the angry call he’d received from her now ex-boyfriend a few minutes before leaving the house to come here for dinner he was half-expecting it.

Noah had ranted about her breaking up with him and not giving him a chance to make amends for what he felt was a meaningless mistake. After a few minutes Alex of trying to get him off the phone without success he’d done something he rarely ever did to anyone – he’d hung up on him.

“You’ve given this a lot of thought?” he asked finally, breaking the silence that had fallen over the kitchen.

She nodded. “I’ve been aware that they’re offering the classes for my course of study since last semester,” she admitted something she hadn’t even confessed to Andy.

“But that wasn’t the deciding factor.” Alex watched her, knowing his daughter too well to think she’d blindly make a decision of this magnitude. But he also knew if it was just a matter of the courses she would’ve made the decision long before now.

“No,” she admitted with a little smile. “The deciding factor was Andy.”

“Well, that’ll be nice,” Isabel nodded. “You’ll be so much closer to home.” She could see that Alex was still processing the information, but seeing how happy Sam was she knew he wouldn’t try to talk her out of it.

“Well,” Maria said, “I can’t say Andy could’ve found a better girlfriend.”

“You have a plan?” Alex asked. “I’m assuming you’ll be finishing out the year in New York and work on getting everything set up in that time?” It would give them time to be sure this move was what they wanted.

“I was hoping to be able to transfer within the year but I’m not sure if they do that,” she confessed.

“You’ll want to speak to a transfer coordinator if California University has one and somehow, I have a feeling they do,” Isabel said, releasing Ethan when he leaned over to go into Alex’s arms. “And most importantly, you’ll want to make sure your credits will transfer as well.”

“Yeah, there’s a lot to figure out.” Sam sighed, knowing she’d repeat some of her classes if she had to.

“Well, you know if there’s anything we can do we’ll be happy to help.”

Michael nudged Isabel as he winked at Sam. “Bein’ the principal has its advantages, huh? She’s probably got connections, maybe a little pull out there with someone.”

“That’d be nice,” Andy agreed and finally dared to pull his girl further into his arms.

“You two have given this a lot of thought?” Alex asked as he shifted Ethan to a more comfortable position, reaching up to keep a little hand from pulling his glasses off.

“There isn’t really a lot to think about,” Andy answered and looked at Sam. “At least not as far as the question of whether we wanna be together or not.”

“He’s right, Dad. As far as the two of us being together, there really isn’t much to think about. It feels right and it’s what we want. As far as sorting everything else out about college and all that, we’ll work on that as we go.”

Maria looked at the young couple for a moment, knowing they couldn’t change their minds even if they wanted to. “If this’s what you two want, we’ll support you as best as we can.”

“That’s all we want, Mom. And, hey, look at it this way. We’ll have more opportunities to come home and visit.”

“That’ll be nice,” Alex admitted.

Ethan looked at her and smiled widely.

“Look at that, I think your little bro agrees,” Andy said with a grin.

The door flew open again and Kara walked in. “It’s your turn, Aunt M’ria.”

“Guess there’s no escaping the game,” she said, rolling her eyes as she smiled at her niece.

Andy chuckled and pulled Sam towards the living room. “Let’s see how my mom embarrasses herself.”

“It can’t be worse than Aunt Tess,” Kara said and giggled. “She got Godzilla. I think Daddy’s gonna be in trouble for picking that one out.”

The kitchen was filled with laughter as they all left to go back into the living room.

*****

Justin was sitting on the tailgate of Dad’s truck, long legs swinging carelessly as he let the pace of small town life wash over him. He didn’t care that it was cold out. In fact, next to the cold winters in Boston this wasn’t bad at all. He tipped his cowboy hat back and watched a group of teenagers walking along Main Street on their way to the movie theater. Just a few years ago it’d only had two screens but now, after an expansion it boasted four screens and during the renovations the owners had finally invested in decent seating.

“Well, if it isn’t Justin Evans.”

The smiling voice was accompanied by the solid clip-clop sound of horses’ hooves and he turned his head to shoot a grin at the woman. “Mrs. Jacobs,” he greeted and raised his right hand to touch the brim of his hat. She and her husband owned a small ranch just outside of town and he’d worked for them his junior and senior years of high school. The couple had taught him so much about the ups and downs of ranch life and while he didn’t mind the hard work, had even enjoyed it most of the time he’d learned that he wanted something different out of life.

He’d outgrown his ambition of becoming a bull rider, but he still enjoyed watching the sport. Mr. Jacobs had taught him all about cutting horses and he’d considered pursuing it competitively but he’d received his acceptance letter to the college of his choice and he’d put that thought on the backburner. Just a few months later he’d been homesick and thinking about heading home to pursue it when he’d found out he was going to be a father. He’d tabled the rodeo idea for good and buckled down on his course of study, wanting to be able to provide a good life for his unexpected family. Of course, that had blown up in his face. He’d ended up with the best part of the deal though, he’d gotten Jeremy and his ex was out of the picture.

He loved to ride though and he wouldn’t mind owning a few horses one day, but for now he had to settle for the occasional outing when he had the chance to ride for a few hours. He reached out to pat the horse’s neck as he looked up at the woman. “You’re a little far from home,” he observed even though it wasn’t unusual for horse owners close to their little town to ride through on occasion.

“Oh, we’re just out enjoying the weather. We were on our way back home when I saw you, thought I’d stop and say hi. If you get a chance you should come out for a visit and bring that youngster of yours. We’d love to see you both.” She winked as she pulled on the reins, the saddle leather creaking as she leaned forward to tap the brim of his hat. “Maybe even let you take one of the horses out for a bit.”

“And there goes his first love,” a new voice sighed a few moments later.

He turned his head to look at Jenny and he offered her his hand to help her up so she could sit beside him. “I hope you were talkin’ about the horse,” he growled and then laughed when she just rolled her eyes.

“Where’s everyone else at?”

“Taking their sweet time.” He shrugged and looked up at the building he was parked next to. “I got here early though.”

She watched the way his eyes traveled over their hometown. “You miss being home.”

He inhaled deeply. “Yeah. It’s important to get out there, get a taste of other stuff, but one day I’d like to come back to live. Buy a little place outside of town, have a couple horses, be close to the families, and raise Jeremy.” He shifted to look at her and he grinned sheepishly. “Would you like that?”

She reached over to take his hand, sliding her fingers through his as she rested her chin on his strong shoulder. “I would like that.”

“Do we want to know what you’d like?” Sarah asked as she and Sam joined them.

“To come back here to live one day.” Jenny glanced around. “Where’re the boys at?”

“I just talked to Andy,” Sam said as she slid her phone in the pocket of her jeans, “and he said to give them about two minutes and they’d be here.”

Sarah nudged Jenny to get her attention. “You two seriously wanna move back here?”

“One day, yeah. Don’t you?”

“No, no, no. That is something Nicky and I both agree on without question. We’ll probably move closer at some point, but we love the big city too much to just give it up.”

The girls turned to look at Sam, intending to ask what she and Andy had talked about for the future but before either of them could get a word out loud music disrupted the air around them and his Ram came around the corner, windows down and his new sound system turned all the way up.

“Okay, okay, we get it,” Jenny yelled, waving at him to turn it down, “it’s loud!”

“That’s right,” Andy hollered back, cutting the sound and the engine as he shoved the door open and dropped to the ground. “Damn, it sounds great, doesn’t it?”

“You’re gonna be deaf before you’re 25.”

He stuck his tongue out at her. “Thanks, Mom.” He hooked his arm around Sam’s shoulders just as Nick joined them. “Appointment’s at two, right?”

“Yeah, we reserved our slot from two to three,” Nick said as he glanced up at the building. It was another new business that had cropped up in the past couple of years and he had to admit, it was something he not only enjoyed doing, but excelled at. “I hope you guys are gonna make this a challenge.”

Andy rolled his eyes as they followed his cousin into the Laser Tag arena. “Yeah, because you’re what, the reigning world champion?”

“Hey,” Sarah said with a glance at him over her shoulder, “he’s very good.”

Justin and Jenny brought up the rear and he looked around as they made their way to the counter to pay and pick up their gear. “I’ve never played.”

“Stick with me,” she whispered, “I’m very good.”

“I should find something I’m good at,” he muttered to himself when he remembered the pool game. Talk about trying to impress a girl!

“I don’t think that’ll be that much of a problem. I remember a few things you were good at.”

Justin looked at – yeah, what was she really – Jenny, surprised she’d overheard him. “Good! Means I haven’t done it all wrong.”

“Do you guys need a few instructions?” A young man, probably in his mid-twenties approached them, carrying a few of the laser tag weapons. His intense green eyes, which were the perfect match to his black hair, stayed focused more on the girls in the group.

Sarah gave him the once over and threw a meaningful look at Sam. The girl nodded in response, amused.

“You can work up an appetite, but you’re gonna eat at home,” Andy muttered into her ear. “No thanks, we’re good,” he told the other guy dismissively.

“What a shame,” Sarah muttered when the guy left after putting their weapons and vests down.

“What was that?” Nick bumped her from behind.

She turned and grinned at him sweetly. “As if you wouldn’t appreciate the view if he was a she with long legs and big boobs.”

He shrugged and returned the grin. “No point denyin’ the truth, but the fact of the matter is, he wasn’t a she.”

She rolled her eyes at him and pulled her vest on. “Okay, I say since we did couples the other night when we played pool we do guys against the girls today.”

“Really?” Andy snorted at that suggestion. “You really think you girls can capture our flag and make it back to your home base?”

“That is the point of the game,” Sam said, elbowing him since he was standing right behind her as he geared up. She turned to face him. “And what makes you think it’s a sure thing that you guys will win?”

He and Nick exchanged a look and then turned their attention back to the girls. “It’s just not a fair fight. We’re just naturally faster, more agile, better at making tactical decisions.”

“Oh, really?” Sarah just laughed and gave Nick a look. “Which one of us is the reigning champion of Call of Duty?”

“Fine, it’s guys against the girls,” he said, meeting her challenging gaze head-on. He looked at his brother and cousin as they chose their base and made their way towards it. “I just let her win,” he muttered once they were out of earshot of the girls.

Justin snorted, not believing a word of it because he knew tough Sarah all to well. If someone could kick his brother’s ass in Call of Duty it would be his girlfriend!

“You knew you were gonna miss some quality make out time in our hideout the moment you decided for boys against the girls,” Andy muttered into Sam’s ear when he passed her, his hand squeezing her ass.

She stopped him, pulling at the vest he wore to bring him close for a quick but hot kiss. “Says who?”

He lifted one eyebrow, amused. “Gonna defect?”

“No, but isn’t the enemy sometimes the person you want the most?”

Nick groaned. “Think you two can cut it out for an hour or so?”

Andy winked at his girlfriend and then followed the boys into their base to come up with a battle plan. This was going to be an interesting game for sure.

****

Sophie’s bottom lip started to tremble when the cracks and bangs of the fireworks outside sounded over the TV playing in the living room of the Evans family home. “Mommy!”

“Hey,” Max crouched down next to the kids playing on the floor and rubbed her small back. “It’s okay. Those are just the fireworks outside, they won’t hurt you.”

“Daddy will protect us,” Jenna said with confidence and snuggled closer to her friend to hug her.

Kara just rolled her eyes at the babies when she walked into the kitchen. “Sophie’s crying about the rockets outside again.”

Liz glanced up as she wiped her hands on the dishtowel after they had cleaned up everything from dinner. “Aw, the poor girl’s so scared, isn’t she?”

“Yeah,” Tess sighed. “No matter how often we tell her that they’re harmless.”

“Babies,” Kara sighed.

“You were scared of them when you were little as well, sweetie.”

“Me?”

Kyle laughed. “Oh, yeah, I remember you always hid under the table.”

The girl made a face. They had to be wrong – she loved fireworks! They were so beautiful to watch. “Am I allowed to go with you to the park at midnight?”

“Sure, if you don’t fall asleep,” Liz smirked, remembering last New Years’ when she hadn’t made it.

“I’m gonna stay here with Sophie,” Kyle said. “There’s no way we can take her with us.”

“I can do that,” Justin said and he and Jenny came down the stairs after putting Jeremy down. “We were planning to stay here anyway.”

“You sure?” Tess asked with a questioning look at her husband. “Sophie can be really hard to calm down.”

“I’m sure and you guys are only a few minutes away. We’ll call if we need you.”

“You don’t have to decide now,” Liz said and ushered them all into the living room. She knew how it felt to leave a frightened child with someone else, so if Kyle or Tess wanted to stay here it would be okay too.

“Daddy,” Sophie looked up with puffy eyes. “Uncle Max said the fireworks ‘ve to be so loud ‘cause they need to be pushed high up in the air, so ‘ey can’t hurt anyone.”

“That’s true,” he agreed and picked her up in his arms.

“I don’t like them,” she mumbled and pressed her face into the crook of his shoulder.

Kyle rubbed her back in soothing circles. “I know, sweetie, but it’ll only last a few hours and then it’ll be all over for a few months.”

She leaned back to look at him, her fingers playing with his collar. “Then they come back?”

“Sure, they shoot off fireworks for the Fourth of July too.” He poked her tummy and smiled. “But you know what else happens then?”

Sophie shook her head slowly. “What, Daddy?”

“Pony rides.”

Her eyes widened and she reached up to rub the back of her hand across her cheek. “Pony rides,” she whispered. “I love ponies, Daddy.” She looked over at the Christmas tree in the corner by the front window.

“Maybe one day, sweetie.” He kissed her cheek. They just had to convince Mommy it was a good idea and that might take a while.

“Tell you what, Sof, when we move back here one day and get a place you can come out and ride our horses,” Justin said as he flopped down on the couch next to Jenny.

That brought Liz out of the kitchen. “Um… did you say when you move back here?”

He laughed. “I also only said ONE DAY, Mom. Got it?”

Jenny chuckled. “He’s far ahead of everything.”

Justin grinned. “Maybe I am, but I know I’d like to return to Roswell one day. Jeremy would like it too, I’m sure.”

“Don’t get all emotional again, Granny,” Kyle teased and bumped Liz lightly.

“Shut up,” she muttered without the kids hearing it and then went ahead to sit on the couch. “Where’s your brother, Justin?”

“He should be here anytime. They wanted to come over right after dinner at Sarah’s place.”

It was easy to read her sadness, Max mused and took the spot next to his wife. Nick was planning to leave tomorrow and Justin would follow the day after and she refused to accept it. “They’re gonna be back, ya know?”

Liz looked at him and forced a smile. “I know and I’m happy that they’ve settled into their new lives so well, but…” she shrugged one shoulder.

“Mom,” Justin groaned slightly. “You know we’re gonna visit.”

“I know,” she said, trying to maintain her composure. It didn’t matter how many times she let them go, every time was difficult. It was one of those things she didn’t think she was ever going to get used to. But the thought that Justin intended to return home to settle down one day warmed her heart. She had a feeling Nick was going to stick close to a larger city, but maybe he’d eventually settle down in Albuquerque. Well, a mom could hope, she thought with a small smile.

Tess sank into the recliner and reached for the lever to release the footrest, sighing contentedly the moment her feet were elevated. She smiled when Sophie clambered up over the arm of the chair and squeezed in between her and the arm. “Are those old fireworks scaring my little girl?” she asked as she hugged her and kissed the top of her head.

“They’re scary, Mommy,” she said and burrowed against Mommy’s side.

“I know, sweetie. You just stay close and they won’t bother you.”

Kyle crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned in the doorway and watched his girls. Yeah, life was great. This was what it was all about.

Max went to pick Jenna up from the floor, lifting her up in the air a few times until she giggled uncontrollably.

“Daddy, nuh..huhhuh-“

“Max,” his wife warned. “Don’t make her laugh so hard or you know what’ll happen.” She grinned at the memory.

“Right,” he stopped after a moment, making a face when he remembered Jenna peeing her pants from laughing so hard. Which wouldn’t have been that bad… if she hadn’t had been sitting on his shoulders at the time.

“What d’you guys wanna do?” Liz took a seat on the couch and snuggled up to her husband when he sat down next to her, Jenna in his lap.

“Something with as little movement as possible,” Tess sighed.

“Yeah, my old lady’s been tired lately,” Kyle teased, resting his weight on the armrest of her chair lightly to lean in for a kiss.

“I’d like to see you pregnant for nine months. You men wouldn’t even survive two.”

“She’s right,” Liz agreed. “So there’s a little New Years’ show on TV. Wanna watch?”

“Will there be music?” Sophie stretched her neck when the TV was turned on.

“Lots of it,” her mom agreed, knowing she’d forget about the fireworks outside in favor of dancing to whatever music was played.

Max slouched down in his seat and leaned in closer to his wife when Jenna slipped from his lap to join her little friend in front of the TV, both of their little backsides swaying to the beat of a fast rock song. He smiled at the picture and winked at Kyle and Tess.

“They grow up so fast,” Liz sighed, her gaze swapping from Jenna to Kara playing with her Nintendo, to Justin and Jenny and then to Nick and Sarah, who had finally joined them.

“Since when so you guys listen to Volbeat?” Nick asked with a lifted eyebrow and took the second armchair with Sarah in his lap.

“Who?” his dad asked.

The boy groaned. “The band on TV. Whatever, I knew you just hit the right button on the remote accidently.”

Max snorted and looked at his woman with a smirk. “And we’re getting old apparently.”

“Maybe, but we do have the perfect life, ya know?” She kissed his nose and smiled. “I wouldn’t change anything if I had the chance.”

****

“Sorry, things have been a little upside down lately,” Alex grinned and pulled a few stuffed animals and toys from the couch so their guests could have a seat.

Maria chuckled. “No problem. I know how chaotic life with a baby boy can get.”

“And I’m about to find out,” Michael said, wrapping his arms around her from behind and resting one hand protectively over her belly.

She smiled up at him and when Alex had cleared the couch, they got comfortable on it. The invitation over for a little New Years’ celebration had come as a surprise since the couple had wanted to take it slow after Christmas to settle Ethan in first. Andy and Sam though wanted to spend New Years’ together as well as in the company of their families, so Isabel had called yesterday to ask them over.

“Here are your drinks,” Isabel joined them and placed a beer for Michael and an apple juice for Maria on the coffee table. “Can I get you anything else?”

“No Izzy, just sit and relax,” Michael winked. He knew the perfectionist in her wanted to make sure everything was taken care of; that was just Isabel as he’d known her since their college days.

“Yeah, you’ve had some busy days,” Maria agreed.

“Where’re the kids?” Alex settled on the second, smaller couch and waited for his wife to join him.

“We’re in the kitchen, Dad,” Sam called. “Just getting the popcorn ready.”

“Uh-huh,” he rolled his eyes, pretty sure no one was hungry after the dinner they’d only minutes ago.

“It was the truth,” his daughter insisted when she walked in with a bowl in her hands that she placed on the table. She took a seat in the armchair and waited barely a second before Andy pulled her out of it again to sit and pull her into his lap. Acting like a couple was still awkward in front of the parents, but he had convinced her that it wasn’t like they were still in high school and they probably knew they weren’t just holding hands in their time alone.

“Did you get a hold of that person in Long Beach for the transfer?” Isabel asked and grabbed a handful of popcorn, shooting her husband an apologetic grin.

“After about a million phone calls I was finally able to track someone down – “

“Wow,” Andy interrupted, “it’s a good thing you’re not workin’ on a degree that’s in any way related to mathematics.”

Sam shifted to look at him. “I’m sorry, was the question directed at you?”

“By all means…” He gestured for her to continue while shaking his head.

“Anyway, after a LOT,” she shot a look at her boyfriend, “of phone calls I was able to talk to someone who could at least answer some of my questions. She said the transfer coordinator wouldn’t be back until after the first of the week but she was very helpful.”

“Will your credits transfer?” Alex asked.

“Almost all of them. There’s only one class I’ll have to take again but I’m okay with that.”

“Math class?” Andy smirked at her and pinched her side playfully. “’Cause you could really use some help there.”

“Thank God, you just reminded me how annoying you can be.” She rolled her eyes at him and smacked the back of his head.

Maria chuckled. “That’s my son.”

“Mom,” he complained with a groan.

“What? Sam must know what she’s getting herself into.”

“I think she knows without you pointing it out.”

Alex smiled at Isabel as he listened to the banter. He knew it was just teasing, but back when his daughter was in high school a conversation like that would’ve driven him up the wall. Andy was a good boy; he knew that after years of the young man dating his daughter seriously. Sure, they’d had their fights as well, but he could tell that Andy’s feelings for Sam were real and he’d never acted disrespectful around her or his family. To be honest, he had helped out a lot when they had modified the house during their last year of high school and it had been somewhat of a bonding for them in the end. “Have you two thought about the living situation yet?”

“I live in the dorm and Sam’s planning to get a room in one of the buildings on campus as well,” Andy told his girlfriend’s father.

“Yeah,” she agreed, “he’s got some cool roommates – at least that’s what he says – and I’m used to living with others as well, so that’s gonna work for a while. Moving in together could be an option for later, but not immediately.”

Alex nodded, once more proud of the daughter he’d raised and her sense of doing the right thing. “You won’t wait for the end of the semester, will you?”

She smiled with a slight flush on her face. “No, not if there’s the possibility of transferring any sooner. I have to check with the other guy next week, but I emailed a professor back in New York who’s kinda like a guidance counselor there too and he said it should be possible if Long Beach agrees.”

“There’ll be a lot of things to do if it works out,” Alex said. “Your stuff will need to be moved across the country.” It wasn’t like she had tons of things in New York, but she would still have to move clothes, books, and who knew what else across the country.

“Yeah, I know,” she bit her lip. She had thought about that too and hadn’t found a solution yet.

“I suppose I could take off a few days from work to help,” her father mused.

“Thanks, Dad, but you know you should be here with Isabel and Ethan.”

“Well, depending on the timing it’s possible we could all go,” Isabel offered.

Maria snorted softly and shook her head. “Rookie mistake,” she said with a teasing smile. “You’d get a lot of nothing done with a two-year-old underfoot.”

“Oh, no, Ethan’s just the sweetest little boy. He wouldn’t be any trouble.”

Alex chuckled. “I’m gonna have to go with Maria on this one, honey. He is the sweetest, but once he’s settled in and he starts testing his boundaries you’ll have days when you wonder what happened to that sweet little boy.”

Isabel shook her head. “That’s not possible.”

“Okay, just don’t say we didn’t warn you.” Maria had been there. She’d had that perfect little boy who could do no wrong and then something had happened. He’d gone and turned two years old and suddenly he’d been into everything he could reach. And if he couldn’t reach it, he’d found a way to climb up on anything and everything to get what he wanted. She was still pretty sure that she hadn’t slept from the time he’d learned to walk until… well, now that he was at college she was actually sleeping pretty normally.

Sam leaned back slightly and moved on Andy’s lap when her cell in her pants pocket started to buzz. She took it out and read it in silence, smiling to herself. “Mom says hi and she also wants me to tell you guys that she’s really happy for you and Ethan.”

Alex nodded. “I guess that means you’ve talked to her recently?” He knew that Sam was in contact with Kendra now and then and though they didn’t see each other often, they tried to catch up on things. Five years ago he’d had his doubts about that, but now he knew his ex was truly interested in their daughter’s life.

“On the phone,” Sam agreed and punched in a message back to her mother. Her mother, she thought, sometimes it still sounded weird and while she was getting used to calling her Mom when she talked to others, she didn’t call her anything other than Kendra when they met. “She was pretty busy with the move.”

“So she’s finally settled in San Francisco?”

“Yeah, she’s already moved a few times with her new job, but she says she’s hopefully at the end of her moving nightmare now.”

“San Francisco isn’t too far from Long Beach,” Isabel mused. “Maybe you’ll get the chance to meet more often.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, she’s already suggested that as well.”

“The Ram makes it to Frisco in no time,” Andy said and wiggled his eyebrows. “And we have a new sound system in it.”

Michael chuckled. “Told you he’d love it,” he muttered into his wife’s ear and wrapped his arms around her middle protectively.

“He’d love anything from you,” she smiled and snuggled closer. A few years ago, life had been rough on her, but things had gotten better again… a lot better than she had ever expected them to be.

*****

The park at the center of town was alive with activity as the residents left the warmth of their homes to gather together and welcome the New Year. Liz smiled and waved at one of their neighbors as she took her husband’s hand so he could help her down out of the truck. As she had expected Kara had started to doze off by 11pm and all it had taken was another ten minutes and she’d been down for the count.

Justin had assured them that they should go on to the park and leave the kids with him and Jenny. He’d insisted they could see the fireworks display from the picture window in the living room and she’d tried hard not to roll her eyes. She had a feeling the colorful, loud display would be the furthest thing from their minds. It was late, nearly midnight, and the little ones were sound asleep, giving the young couple the opportunity to ring in the New Year in their own way.

Nick and Sarah had made their escape as soon as the truck had come to a stop and they had quickly disappeared. Catching up with friends or just finding a secluded spot where they could enjoy the festivities without being part of the crowd. They were both outgoing and enjoyed being at the center of the action when it suited them, but they had also learned that there were times when just being alone together was important too.

She was proud of her kids and she was especially proud of the way her boys had turned out. They were young men any mother would be proud of and while they didn’t always do things she agreed with, they tried their best to follow their hearts and do the right thing. She smiled at that thought.

“What’s that look for?” Max asked as he raised his free hand to catch Kyle’s attention when he and Tess arrived. They had come in separate cars just in case one of them needed to leave earlier than planned. He hugged her tighter against his side and kissed her temple. “It won’t be that long before we see them again.”

She sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder. “I know. It just feels like so long.”

“Y’know,” he nodded at Rick, one of the mechanics from the shop when he saw him with his wife and kids, “Kara’s spring break is the first week in April.”

“I know, and the boys’ spring break will fall in March.”

“Um-hmm, but no matter how much they love us, they’re not gonna wanna spend spring break here at home anyway.” He glanced over his shoulder and saw Michael and Maria entering the park and he wondered if Alex and Isabel would be joining them. He knew Justin had offered to watch Ethan so they could go out if they wanted to but he knew what it was like to have that little one at home for the first time. “But, you’ll have that same week off as Kara, so if you want we could take the girls and spend your spring break near the boys. I know they’ll have their classes, but it’ll give us a chance to visit and take the girls to see some of the sights.”

“I’d love too,” she agreed, knowing Kara and Jenna would he happy about it as well.

“Hey guys,” Maria greeted them with a happy smile on her face and hugged Liz. “Ready for the show?”

“Rumor has it they spent twice as much for the fireworks than usual,” Max nodded and shook Michael’s hand.

“Where’re your kids and Tess and Kyle?”

“Justin’s home with the little ones as well as Kara. Nick and Sarah are somewhere around here and the other couple – “

“Are right behind you,” Kyle interrupted and gave his sister a hug.

“You know, you won’t be so happy about being pregnant anymore when you need to pee twice an hour,” Tess said with an eye roll, but smirked at her friend and coworker.

“I know it’s nerve-wracking but at least it’s only for a few months.”

“How’re Alex an’ Isabel?” Max rested his chin on his wife’s shoulder and brought her as close as possible.

“Good. They should be here in no time. Ethan woke up and they decided to bring him since he was watching a few rockets his neighbor was shooting up with complete fascination.” Michael stopped a person carrying a tray with hot coffee and chocolate. He gave the guy a few dollar bills and then grabbed some mugs for him and his friends.

“You thought the little man would be scared,” Maria shook her head in amusement, “but it would appear he loves fireworks.”

“Not Sophie,” Tess shook her head. “She’s asleep right now and I hope for Justin’s sake she stays asleep until we get back.”

“Got the cell close by and on vibrate, babe,” Kyle squeezed her shoulder.

“Hey Mom,” Andy showed up with Sam attached to his hand. “We’re gonna get closer to the pond.”

“That’d be a lovely place to watch the fireworks, don’t you think, Michael?”

Her husband smirked when he saw the look of disbelief on the boy’s face. “Probably get a great view for sure.”

“Oh, and the reflection of the fireworks on the water,” Liz chimed in. “That’ll be just beautiful.”

“That’s true. Oh, and they put in those new benches,” Tess said with a deep sigh. “Amy picked out such comfortable benches too.”

Andy’s gaze bounced back and forth between all of them and he shook his head. “You can all just stop now,” he grumbled as he held up his and Sam’s joined hands. “We’re gonna go down by the pond. You guys should just stay back here a little ways… enjoy from a distance.” He raised his free hand to motion to his ears. “Better for the ears when you’re, ya know, older.”

Maria slapped her son’s arm and waved him off. “Better to sneak off and make out. Don’t think you’re doing anything the rest of us haven’t done.”

He made a face. “Ungh, Mom!”

“Don’t make us grandparents yet,” she called after him and everyone but her son and Sam laughed. “No offense,” she winked at Liz.

“Oh, I promise, you’d love bein’ a grandma. You can spoil the kid – that’s what grandparents are for.”

Michael snorted as he sipped his hot coffee. “I’d like to believe I get to be a father before Andy.”

“You will,” Maria assured him and leaned against his side.

“It’s nice to have some little ones around,” Liz smiled at Max and then at both pregnant women. “I couldn’t imagine living without any of them in the house.”

“I guess you don’t have to worry about that anytime soon, darlin’,” her husband chuckled. “Kara’s still far from moving out and Jenna’s not even close to bein’ in school yet.”

They looked up when the first rocket went up into the sky. “They’ve started the countdown,” Alex said as he approached them. Like every year they would send one rocket up each minute the last ten minutes before midnight. The tenth rocket would set off the big show to welcome the New Year and it promised to be an amazing production this year.

“You made it in time,” Max leaned around his wife to have a look at Ethan cradled in Isabel’s arms. “Nope, he really doesn’t look afraid, does he?”

She shook her head, amused. “For some reason he’s not.”

“Sophie was anxious the first time she heard them,” Tess shook her head. “Not a big fan of fireworks. But at least she’s managed to go to sleep and Justin hasn’t called us back yet.” She lifted an eyebrow when Kyle’s cell buzzed just as she spoke.

He pulled his phone out of his jacket and checked the message, grinning at the illuminated screen. “Justin says: Relax, she’s still sleeping peacefully.”

“He’s very good with kids,” Liz assured them again. “You really don’t need to worry and Kyle can get to the house in a minute if he runs.”

“Not sure with all the good food and my desk job lately,” he rubbed his belly.

“Oh, please,” Tess rolled her eyes. “You’re still in good shape. At least one of us is.” The second rocket exploding in the sky swallowed her last words, but he knew what she had said anyway and just shook his head at her.

Everyone laughed when Ethan squealed happily at the sound while others small kids around cried into their parents’ shoulders. “Where’s Sam?” Alex wanted to know.

“Off to the pond with Andy,” Michael pointed behind them.

He nodded, deciding that it was okay for her to celebrate into the New Year with her man. Her man – how weird did that sound in relation to his daughter? His thoughts where interrupted when Ethan’s little hand landed on his arm. He stepped closer to his wife and pulled them both in a hug. “He’s really special.”

“He is,” she agreed and he could see her eyes shimmering in the soft lights of the third rocket.

Alex leaned down to kiss his son’s head before he stepped away enough for him to see the sky again. “I couldn’t be happier.”

“Me neither,” she assured him with a bright smile.

Tess rested her back against Kyle while she looked up into the sky as well. “I can’t remember the last time I had a drink in my hand for New Years’. Either I was pregnant or breastfeeding.”

He chuckled into her hair and held her close, hands resting at her lower swollen belly. “I know I probably have no clue about pregnancy, but I’d go as far and say it was worth the sacrifice.”

“That’s true.” A few years ago they hadn’t been sure if having a baby the normal way would work for them at all. But after her doctor had made sure she was physically okay the only thing she’d had to overcome were her fears of another miscarriage. Kyle had been the best support a woman could wish for and she loved him for that more than he could know. The fourth rocket went off, illuminating the faces of their friends and she smiled at Maria.

The other woman smiled back before she turned to bury her face against her husband’s strong chest. Michael went with it and wrapped his arms around her more fully, lowering his head until his lips were close to her ear. “You cold?”

“No, just wanna snuggle into the New Year. Same time next year, everything will be different.”

“In a good way,” he nudged her with his nose until she titled her head enough for a kiss on the lips. “You make me the happiest man on earth, you know that, woman?” Rocket number five went off, mostly unnoticed by the couple as they kissed again.

Not far away Jim wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulders and his gaze moved over the group of family and friends that had come together for this moment. They were happy and healthy, and that was what every parent wanted for their children. He and Amy had created a wonderful life together and their family was constantly growing and changing.

They had two children who were happily married, one grandson who was doing well in college and now in his personal life as well, one granddaughter who was her parents’ pride and joy that they had the pleasure of spoiling every chance they got, and two more grandchildren on the way. He couldn’t see Andy from where they were standing but he wondered if not too far in the future they might be able to count great-grandchildren among their family members.

“What’re you thinking?” Amy asked as she looked up and caught him watching Maria and Kyle again.

He smiled and shook his head as rocket number six exploded in the sky high above them. “Just that our life together has been an amazing journey.”

“Well, it’s not over yet, Grandpa,” she said and poked him in the ribs.

He chuckled and kissed her temple. “No, not by a long shot.”

Near the fountain at the center of the park Nick yawned and checked his watch. “Y’know, we could’ve just stayed at the house for this.”

Sarah slapped his arm where it rested around her waist. “We could’ve, but we don’t often get the chance to see these things anymore.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “We could’ve just watched it on TV. I mean, every city has some kinda ball drop for New Years’.”

“Keep it up and there’s gonna be a completely different kinda ball drop, Nicky.” She elbowed him and smiled in satisfaction when he grunted. She knew she hadn’t hurt him; he just did it for show. “If we’d stayed home you know very well we wouldn’t have been watching the New Years’ countdown on TV.”

“And how’s that a bad thing?” His eyes followed the next rocket as it shot up into the sky and exploded. “Which one was that?”

“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing, Mister.” She turned in his arms, smiling in response to the teasing grin on his face. Um-hmm, as she suspected he knew exactly which one it was.

“Just sayin’,” he whispered against her ear, “I could’ve made you see a whole different kinda fireworks at midnight.”

“I enjoy fireworks anytime and anywhere.” She turned her head and nipped his lower lip. “And I told my parents I’m staying with you tonight.” She grinned triumphantly and reached up to close his mouth when he just stared at her. Her parents knew they were living together but they liked to pretend it was a roommate situation because Nick hadn’t gotten as far as proposing yet and it allowed them to maintain the illusion that their only daughter was still holding her V-card. They would console themselves with the thought that as a gentleman brought up by decent parents he’d sleep on the couch.

“Finally decided to clue them in that we sleep together and I found the key to your chastity belt a long time ago?”

She laughed at him. “Nicky, if there’d been a key you never would’ve had any luck.” She ran her fingers through his long hair and gave it a tug. “You were all thumbs that night.” She shook her head when he glared at the reminder. “And you have no idea how much more it made me love you.”

He caught a glimpse of the reflection of the fading firework in her eyes as he leaned in to kiss her. He loved to tease her about her parents because he thought it was completely unrealistic of them to make believe that the two of them were living together in a one-bedroom apartment and their relationship was completely platonic. He’d also always been respectful of them and he’d never said anything around them to rub their noses in the truth. It was enough that Sarah was his. One of these days he knew they’d get married and then her folks would no longer have to pretend that their couch was getting so much of his time.

Rocket number eight went slightly off course and exploded closer to the Evans house than expected and managed to wake the two little ones. Jeremy started to cry first and between the racket he was making and the noise outside Sophie woke and started shrieking, the sound terrified as she hollered for her daddy.

“You mind getting him?” Justin asked as he hauled himself off of the couch. “Sophie’s a daddy’s girl so she’ll probably respond better if I get her.” And if she didn’t he’d give Uncle Kyle a call and he’d come running. “Jeremy will calm easily enough and…”

Jenny smiled when she saw the look on his face, seeing the absolute trust in his features. “It’ll be good practice,” she said, finishing the sentence for him. She couldn’t wait to get to Boston and for the three of them to start doing things together and becoming a family.

In her room Kara had gotten up and gone into Mom and Dad’s room, curling up on the padded window seat to watch the fireworks display. It was awesome and she was kicking herself for falling asleep like a baby. She turned her head when she heard the crying coming from down the hall and she rolled her eyes. She could hear Justin hurrying up the stairs and after what felt like forever, but couldn’t have been long at all, the babies started to quiet down and she sighed happily.

She wrapped one of Dad’s flannel shirts around her and yawned widely as she rested her head on a pillow Mom had made, her eyes beginning to drift closed once more. They fluttered open a couple of times and she smiled to herself as rocket number nine went off and she thought briefly about opening the window, sure she’d be able to hear the entire town counting down that last minute before the best of the fireworks were set off to ring in the New Year. Tomorrow she’d be kicking herself again because as the illuminations of number nine began to dissipate in the night sky she lost the battle with sleep.

Max held his cell up, preparing to take a little video of the fireworks, which would start off in less than a minute.

“You got a free and clear view?”

“Perfect,” he told his wife where she stood in his arms and he pulled her back against him. “At least we can show Kara the video this way. You know she’ll be kicking herself for not making it again.”

She snorted softly. “She’ll think she’s back in the baby category when she realizes she slept through them again this year.”

“She’ll always be my baby girl.”

“Please don’t tell her,” Liz rolled her eyes, amused. Not long and Kara would be at that age where life for a girl changed and boys weren’t just seen as friends to play cards with. She could already imagine her husband’s face when she asked him to go out on her first date.

“I’m never gonna stop tellin’ her.” Yeah, God help any teenage boy who thought he was gonna take Kara out on a date, he thought. He looked around and wondered at the way that time changed things. Just a few years ago he’d been in a dark place, the kind of place that could’ve easily taken away everything important to him. But this woman, the amazing, gorgeous woman at his side, had once again amazed him with her strength. He’d never gotten to a place where he’d been comfortable with the thought of seeing a psychiatrist, but as his friendship with Michael had developed he’d found himself more open to talking about what had happened the day of the accident and over time he’d really come to terms with that situation.

Liz squeezed his free hand when the crowd started to count down the last twenty seconds. “Ready for a new year?”

“This one and the next 50.” He smiled and leaned in for a quick kiss, not wanting to miss recording the show that was about to happen.

The fireworks started with an ear-shattering sound and seconds later the dark sky over Roswell was illuminated by red, white and blue lights.

“Happy New Year,” Andy mumbled without taking his lips from his girlfriend’s.

They had sneaked off to the little spot near the pond that was hidden between a few bushes – the perfect place to make out secretly and the one they had discovered during their high school years.

“Um-hmm.” Sam didn’t bother breaking the kiss to look up at the fireworks display. She’d seen it every year for as long as she could remember. This was the first New Years’ in too long that she’d had the opportunity to ring it in with the right guy. And if you were going to be kissing a guy on New Years’ it really should be the right guy, she thought absentmindedly.
“If ya don’t have any intention s of watching the show than turn around,” he grumbled when his neck stated to hurt from the ankle he had held it for minutes now.

She quirked an eyebrow at his tone and pulled back to look at him. “I suppose we could watch the show.”

“We could,” he said but shook his head and instead lifted her from his lap enough so she could turn to face him. A blanket he had already hidden their earlier that day covered the ground and kept them from getting dirty and too cold.

“Uh-huh, that’s what I thought.” She reached up and rested her palm against his cold cheek. “I almost didn’t come home this year.”

“No?” He frowned.

She shook her head. “When I was talkin’ to Dad and Isabel after Thanksgiving and they were giving me the old we-really-want-you-to-come-home-for-Christmas speech I told them I’d think about it but I didn’t think I was gonna do it. Then Justin called and gave me this big speech about how we needed to be there this year and you know how he is when he gets some idea in his head. Of course, I was able to hold out against him too, but then everything else happened and I had to get away.”

“And look what you would’ve missed,” he gave her a small smirk.

She tipped her head back to look up at the sky. “You’re right.”

“I didn’t mean the fireworks.” He straightened his back and took the opportunity to bite into the soft skin of her exposed neck.

She smirked at his slightly annoyed tone and shifted to give him better access. “I’m glad I came home.” She let her hand drift down to his neck. “I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for the world.”

“Smart girl.” His arms around her tightened add he pressed his check against her chest to take a look at the sky as well.

Sam followed his gaze as she played with the top button of his shirt. What if she hadn’t found out the truth about Noah? What if she hadn’t come home for Christmas? She knew the what-ifs didn’t really matter; what mattered was what was. She and Andy had a second chance and they would make the most of it. Maybe there were no guarantees, maybe there was no way to know if they’d even still be together this time next year, but she was a realist with an optimistic streak a mile wide.

Who wanted to know for certain what the future held anyway? The whole point of life was the journey and she had vowed a long time ago to make the most of it. She suddenly smiled and she looked down at Andy. “Y’know, I have a feeling this’s gonna be an awesome year.”


THE END
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas


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