A Merry Mt. Rainier Christmas (AU/TEEN) Epilogue - 1/11/15

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Double Trouble
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

A Merry Mt. Rainier Christmas (AU/TEEN) Epilogue - 1/11/15

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 14, 2014 4:39 am

A Merry Mt. Rainier Christmas


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By: Double Trouble

Disclaimer: Characters and plot lines that appeared in the series, the books, and the concept of Roswell are not ours. Belong to Melinda Metz, UPN, etc, etc…

Pairing: M&M, M&L as well as K&T

Rating: Teen

Summary: Just a little Christmas reunion with our gang from Mountains So High

A/N: For those, who haven't read MSH or need a little refreshment, here are the most important facts about the fic summed up:
Maria and her bf Mark, M&L as best friends and K&T as a couple are going on a mountain climbing trip at Mt. Rainier. There they meet their three guides Michael, Tony and Nick. Michael is Maria's ex, but they haven't seen since high school and are both surprised to see each other again. During the fic on the mountain, Maria learns about the true reasons while he broke up with her in the past (her parents), they get back together and she breaks up with her current bf, who doesn't get along with her friends anyway.
After the trip, M&M meet up with her parents and her father is all but happy to see Michael back in the picture. It takes time, but they convince her parents to be right for each other and they get married quickly.
Max has a secret crush on Liz for the past years and during the trip he's finally able to tell her. Liz is hesitant first according to bad experiences and a not so easy childhood. They get together in the end of course.
K&T are the fun couple of the fic, who are already engaged.
With the end of MSH, M&M are getting married while the rest of the gang considers to move to Mt. Rainier as well, so they could all be together.





Part 1

Christmas music played softly in the background, lending a festive quality to the snow piled high on either side of the road. The woman behind the wheel hummed along with the song playing on the stereo, her eyes constantly scanning between the children sleeping in the backseat and the woman dozing in the seat next to her. They had been living in Mt. Rainier for almost three years now and in that time life had taken some interesting turns.

Movement from the backseat pulled her out of her musings and she smiled when her 18-month-old son yawned before giving her an angelic smile. Predictably, her little girl awoke right behind him and she rubbed her eyes before looking around with interest. Jake’s blonde hair stood up in soft spikes where the right side of his head had been pressed against his car seat while he slept. Katy’s curly blonde hair was a mess, one side flattened from sleeping on it and the rest was all over the place.

Twins, she thought with a soft smile. One of those interesting turns their lives had taken. Having children had never been in question but somehow they had just expected it would happen later. Oh, they had done everything right, but they had managed to find themselves in that ridiculously tiny percentage the birth control companies warned consumers about. Of course, when they defied the odds they really went all out.

She chuckled to herself as she remembered her husband’s reaction. He had been settling into the new business, splitting his time between settling into their new home, classes and climbs. It had been so busy and at first she’d just ignored her body’s signals, putting them down to all the stress of adjusting to the changes. When she’d finally made an appointment she’d fully expected the doctor to tell her she needed to get some rest because she was coming down with the flu. A nine-month affliction had been the last thing she’d been prepared for and it had taken her new husband’s feet right out from under him.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a disturbance from the backseat and a quick check of the rearview mirror easily identified the culprit. “Katy.”

Her little girl’s eyes shot up to meet her gaze in the mirror and after a moment the pout came into full force and her lower lip started to tremble. Her husband swore up and down their daughter had gotten that from her. But he couldn’t be more wrong. She never resorted to such tactics. She wasn’t that obvious.

“Mama, toy!”

She reached back between the seats, fumbling around for the toy that was just out of reach. Unfortunately she grabbed the wrong one and as soon as his hands clenched around the stuffed animals’ fur all hell broke loose.

Katy’s eyes widened when her brother’s possession of her toy registered and she leaned over to grab it. “Mine!”

Jake screamed and a battle of tug-o-war began in earnest as they each struggled to take ownership of the toy.

“You two stop it right now!”

The brunette in the passenger’s seat was suddenly wide awake and cursing her boyfriend for suggesting she catch a ride with their friend so he could finish up some last-minute things at the office before shutting down for the holiday weekend.

“Sorry, Liz,” the blonde woman apologized. “When they’re like this they listen so much better to – “

Katy chose that moment to grab a handful of Jake’s hair, pulling as hard as she could. He howled in rage and grabbed her hand, pulling it closer so he could sink his teeth into it. She shrieked and pulled even harder. They pulled apart as the car came to a stop, both too busy screaming and crying to even notice their mother opening her door and getting out.

Liz made her escape and quickly shut her door, hoping to trap the ear-piercing racket inside with them. She rubbed her temples and made her way up to the cabin just as the front door opened and her best friend greeted her with a hug and an offering of aspirin with a bottle of water.

“Oh, my God, you’re the best,” she groaned and wasted no time downing the pills.

Maria laughed and ushered her inside. “Why don’t you have a seat by the fire and keep Mack company?”

“What about – “

“He’s asleep and will be for a while yet.”

“Uh-huh, sure. Turn the Valenti twins loose and that won’t last long.”

“Go on and I’ll give Tess a hand with her little angels.”

Liz snorted and went inside, kicking her shoes off and shedding her winter gear before making her way over to the comfortable furniture situated around the fireplace. Mack, the black Labrador Maria’s husband Michael had given her as a Christmas gift their first year together got up and ran over to join her. “You’re the sweetest boy,” she gushed as she gave him a good rubdown. “And you’re so quiet.”

He pressed his nose against her side and snuffled happily, his tail wagging a mile a minute.

“Seems like you’ve got your hands full,” Maria watched, amused as her other friend tried her best to keep Katy from getting out of the car since she had kicked her shoes off, while she already held a very upset Jake hanging lopsided in her arms.

“I wouldn’t mind some help,” Tess looked up, her face not half as stressed as one would have expected.

The news of twins had shaken the couple pretty hard at first, but it was incredible to see how they had grown with their tasks. Now they seemed like parents who didn’t get worked up no matter how hard the little rioters tried.

“Hey boy, what’s got you so upset, huh?” Maria approached them and held her arms out to the little boy.

Jake’s tears dried immediately and a smile broke loose on his face. Impatiently, he leaned over with his arms outstretched and his mom was all too willing to hand him over so she could find Katy’s other shoe.

“I think we scared Parker for good,” she snorted while she leaned into the car.

Maria chuckled. “Could be. But I don’t think Max will give up on that. He’s too much of a family guy an’ you know she’ll be a good mother one day. She’s still young.”

“Katy!” Tess looked at her daughter encouragingly when she kept kicking her feet. “If you want to get out of this car, then let me put your shoes back on. Daddy told you to be a good girl, didn’t he?” She smirked to herself when the mention of her husband calmed her down and she was able to finish the task. Yeah, she was such a Daddy’s girl!

Pulling her out, she kicked the door of the car close and went to grab her bag while steadying the wobbly movements of her daughter on the ground. “We’re all young, but my family expansion plans are over.”

“Uh-huh.” Somehow Maria doubted the truth behind that statement.

“How are things going with Tobey? You look pretty relaxed.” Tess eyed her friend. For someone who had a two-month-old baby in the house, she looked pretty good. A lot better than she had looked – but then again twins were a totally different challenge.

“Things couldn’t be any better. He’s just perfect. I know every mother says that about her children, but in his case… well, it’s just true.”

Tess snorted with a nod. She knew all about that. She also knew her little angels weren’t as perfect as she’d believed at first. They could be a handful, there was no doubt about that, but she and Kyle handled things pretty well. “Katy, stop jumping around before you end up falling in the snow.”

Katy’s eyes widened and she pulled on her mother’s hand, letting her know that was exactly what she was trying to do.

“Oh, no, no, no. You can make snow angels later when Daddy comes home.” She rolled her eyes at her friend. “I have to remember to thank Vanessa for that.”

Maria chuckled as she led the way into the cabin. “You can’t blame her for that. I happen to know for a fact that you’re the one who showed the twins how to make snow angels.”

“I admit to nothing of the sort.”

“Katy,” she crouched down in front of the little girl, “who showed you how to make those snow angels, hmm?”

“Mommy!” the girl said and grinned widely.

“Remember that when Tobey’s old enough to bust you for things,” Tess said as she helped her daughter out of her coat. She wasn’t quick enough to hide the smile and she just shook her head when Maria caught it.

“Doggy!” Jake ran across the room and threw his arms around Mack’s neck.

Liz winced when the dog was practically smothered by the boy’s enthusiastic hug, but Mack was used to the kids and he tolerated them with patience that would make a saint proud.

“Don’t crush him, Jack,” his mother called after him but her words went unheard.

“Me puppy, Mommy,” Katy said impatiently, trying to get away.

“Hey,” Tess held her still to peel the rest of her outer gear off, “we don’t yell in the house, alright? The baby’s sleeping.”

The little girl’s eyes grew wide and she placed a finger over lips like mommy did when Daddy was sleeping on the couch after getting home from work.

“That’s right. Shhh.”

Liz rolled her eyes and got out of her seat when both kids started to play with Mack and disturbed the silence once more. “Seriously, Valenti, I love your twins, but…” she lowered her voice, “do you ever have a few hours to relax with those two? I think I’d be suffering a major case of burnout right now.”

Tess laughed quietly and got rid of her own coat and shoes. “You won’t look at it that way when they’re your own. And you develop a great deal of patience with time.”

“Uh-huh,” she wasn’t convinced.

Maria looked up when she heard a little beeping sound. “Oh, I need to check the pork.” She went off to the kitchen and looked around for the potholder before opening the oven to check the slow cooking meat. Michael loved a good pulled pork sandwich after days on the mountain. If only it didn’t take forever to prepare the stuff.

“Have you heard from the guys?” Liz and Tess both walked in moments later.

Three years ago, none of them had thought a simple trip on the mountains would bring such a huge change for all of them. Just weeks later, Maria had been married to her old high school love, Max and Liz had started a serious relationship, and along with Kyle and Tess had decided to move to Mt. Rainer for the sake of the group.

It had been a chaotic time organizing college transfers, moving stuff from California and settling in, but somehow they had managed it and their little group had grown even tighter.

Back then Michael and his two mountain guide friends Tony and Nick had only dreamed of owning their own outfit here in Mt. Rainier, but it hadn’t stayed a dream for long. They had started it soon after they had met and while Nick had dropped out for family reasons Kyle had soon joined them as a mountain guide. Max had eventually taken over the outfit’s office, handling the legal and financial aspects of the business.

“Michael radioed a couple hours ago. They reached the camp behind schedule last night but he said they’re still gonna try to make it down before nightfall.”

“They’d better,” Tess said as she opened the refrigerator to get a drink. “The weather forecast is calling for more snow on the mountain by this afternoon.”

Liz sat on one of the barstools at the island in the center of the kitchen. “I’m glad Max decided to stick with law. I love going up on the mountain but I wouldn’t want him up there all the time, guiding and dealing with the weather conditions this time of year especially. I mean, last year they had that big group that went up the week before Thanksgiving and he agreed to go with them because they needed an extra climber since one of their group cancelled at the last minute and what happened?”

A freak storm had blown up out of seemingly nowhere and it had left the entire group stranded on the mountain for several days.

“Yeah, but it’s not always like that,” Maria said as she closed the oven door and tossed the potholder on the counter.

“She’s right,” Tess agreed, taking the stool next to Liz. “Besides, we still had Thanksgiving. It was just a little late.”

The brunette uncapped her bottle of water and took a long drink. “That’s the first time I’ve ever had leftovers for Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Michael’s not gonna miss Tobey’s first Christmas.”

“Yeah, and Kyle has to dress up like Santa for the kids so obviously he can’t miss it either.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe he’s actually gonna put that suit on and pretend to be Santa Claus.”

“The kids get excited about the jolly old elf and I know they’re not really old enough to really have any idea what the fuss is all about it’ll be fun.”

“Um-hmm, I think you just have some sort of perverse attraction to fat men in red suits.”

“If anyone has any pervy inclinations it’s you, Parker.” Tess rolled her eyes and leaned on the counter closer to Maria. “Last time they were visiting her an’ Evans did it in our bathroom. Unbelievable.”

The other blonde giggled.

“Hey,” Liz stuck her tongue out, “at least we still have a pretty active sex life.”

Maria lifted an eyebrow. “What makes you think we don’t?”

“Well, you’re… moms!”

“And?” Tess placed her hands on her hips. “Does this make us less attractive? I got my former size back an’ Maria just gave birth two month ago. She’s in a pretty good shape already after such a short time.”

“Whoa,” the brunette lifted her hands, “I didn’t mean it that way, chicas, so relax, alright? I was just saying you always have to be careful so your kids don’t walk in or disturb playtime.”

“Whatever,” the curly blonde said, “you just have to be a little more creative that’s all. An’ I’m so glad we moved when the twins were born, because we could hear you every night, ya know?”

The twins choose that moment to stumble into the kitchen, automatically putting an end to the conversation.

“What do you have there?” Maria asked when Katy rounded the island, carrying something in her arms. Her eyes widened when she noticed it was Mack’s water bowl. “Sweetie, give me that.” She crouched down in front of the girl to take it from her before she could spill anymore water all over the floor.

“Puppy water!”

“I think Mack’s alright for now.”

Liz’ gaze roamed over the little girl as she reluctantly relinquished possession of Mack’s water bowl. “Cute outfit.”

“Isn’t it?” Tess had to smile victoriously. “I nearly didn’t get my hands on it. I had to… No, sir, that isn’t yours.”

Jake paused, one hand in his mouth and the other reaching for the broom in the corner. He gave her a smile that was all innocence and edged closer to the object of his desire. He stopped when she shook her head and he waited a moment before edging another step towards it. “Mine!”

“No.”

Maria tried her best to hide a smirk when his expression turned stubborn as his gaze bounced back and forth between her and his mom.

“If you want it you have to ask.”

He frowned at Mommy’s words and he reached out, his fingertips brushing against the broom handle as he looked at Maria again. “Mine?”

She laughed and pulled him to her for a hug. “It’s all yours, little man. Go for it.” She released him and pointed at the broom. “Can you bring it to me?”

He gave her a wide smile as he went to get it, dragging it across the room and nearly throwing it at her when he let it go.

“Thank you.” Maria unscrewed the handle Michael had made when he’d noticed the boy’s fascination for the broom. He had cut it in half and fixed it so the top half could be taken off to replace the lower half, making it just the right size for Jake to push around the room and amuse himself with. As soon as she had affixed the shorter handle she held it out to him and off he went, babbling to himself happily as he pushed it around the room.

“There you go,” Liz said with a snort, “now you have your own little cleaning maid.”

“You should see him at home,” Tess said as she kept an eye on the boy to make sure he didn’t knock anything around with the broom. “I wish he was a little more coordinated so I could let him clean the tiles in the kitchen. Kyle has a talent for messing them up while fixing a simple breakfast.”

“Men in the kitchen,” Maria rolled her eyed. “My husband can cook, but he always makes this huge mess and IF he cleans it up, I can’t find anything for days.”

“Tell me about it,” the other blonde agreed and focused her attention back on the girls when her son seemed to be out of trouble.

“Hmm, well I guess I’ve got the great exception then, because Max’s a cooking god. He makes more use of the kitchen than I ever will. When his parents came for a visit last month, he made this huge dinner… I have no clue how he did it in our small simply-equipped kitchen.”

“Your man knows how to make the most of the little things, that’s why he works in our office,” Maria winked.

“Speaking of parents,” Tess leaned on the counter with a curious look, “are the DeLuca parents comin’ in for the holidays or what?”

“Yeah,” Maria nodded, “Mom called last night an’ said they’re gonna be here some time tomorrow.”

“She’s probably excited to finally meet her grandchild, huh?”

“No doubt. Mom was devastated when they both came down with the flu when Tobey was born and they had to cancel their planned visit.”

“What about big ol’ grandpa Carson?” Liz asked, remembering the man’s grudge against Michael in the past. He had been anything but happy to see Maria getting back with her old high school love.

Maria grinned happily. “Just wait and see. Grandpa Carson’s gonna be a big ol’ marshmallow when he sees his grandson in person the first time.”

“Please, he'll be like that from now on. I mean, you've seen my parents and Kyle’s parents with our kids.”

“Yeah, but your parents were actually happy the two of you were together. Happy isn't the word for her dad’s reaction to them getting back together.”

“Maybe happy’s not the right word,” she agreed, “but he was over being openly hostile towards Michael by the time they got married. And he has been more civil since then.” She turned her head when the sound of pots and pans clattering to the floor created enough of a racket to wake the infant sleeping in the nursery. She turned to look at her children and shook her head at them.

“And that would be what happens when Michael actually cleans the kitchen and puts the dishes away,” Maria said as she headed out of the room. “Be right back.”

Katy was climbing into the cabinet that was now empty while Jake created more noise as he pushed the pots and pans around with the broom. He paused to pick up a colander and inspected it for a moment before deciding it would make a suitable hat. Once it was in place he went back to his version of cleaning up.

“Nice,” Liz murmured with a teasing grin at Tess. “What do they do for an encore?”

“Have some of your own and find out,” Tess replied coolly and went to collect some of the pans. “Jake, you can’t make so much noise.”

His eyes widened when Mommy started picking up his newfound possessions and he grabbed onto the next one she reached for.

“Yeah, it’s tempting,” the brunette said with a shake of her head. Granted, Tess had twins and that had to be twice as difficult to deal with.

“No,” Tess shook her head when her son put on the pouty face.

Jake studied her expression and he pulled on the pot she held, trying hard to take it back. When she didn’t release it he stuck his bottom lip out and it started to tremble as he pulled so hard he lost his grip and landed on his backside on the floor. His lip started to tremble harder and his eyes began to water as he worked himself up to a fit that would break loose as soon as he decided whether he was hurt or not.

“That what happens when you don’t listen to Mommy,” she said at set him back on his feet, knowing he was just putting on a show and if she fussed over him he’d make it even worse. So instead she set the pans aside and closed the cabinet door again.

“Um, Tess?” Liz pointed at the cabinet door she’d just closed. “You forgot someone.”

“Huh?”

“While the little prince there was busy making enough noise to raise the dead the little princess was climbing inside the cabinet castle.” She raised her eyebrows as she nodded at the cabinet meaningfully.

Tess looked over her shoulder. “Oh.” She crouched down again and opened the cabinet, greeted by a stunned pair of eyes. “Sweetie, what’d I tell you about hiding in dark places?”

Katy launched herself out of the cabinet and into her mom’s arms. “Mommy!”

She chuckled at the girl’s relieved tone and held her against her. “Everything’s okay, baby girl.”

Liz watched them and leaned forward to rest her chin in her hand, her eyes following Jake when he went after the broom again and started shuffling around the kitchen, achieving nothing but making himself happy. Katy was soon soothed and she was off investigating on her own again. “When do you ever sit down for five minutes at a time?”

“During the day? Hardly ever.” She shrugged and joined her friend at the counter again. “The twins keep me busy every second when they’re awake and not in daycare. At least when Kyle’s gone for his trips.”

“And when Kyle’s home, what? You turn the little beasts loose on him?”

“He has great patience with them and he tries to catch up with them for the time he’s been away so that gives me some time to do the things I wanna do.”

Liz nodded. She’d seen Kyle with the twins often enough she knew he was a good father who doted on his kids. And he really did have a lot of patience. He was also very supportive of Tess and he made sure she had time to herself. “We’re all agreed he’s pretty close to being perfect.”

“Who’s perfect?” Maria asked, walking back into the kitchen with Tobey in her arms. The baby was wrapped in a light blue fluffy blanket, hands balled into tiny fists while he looked at them curiously.

“Kyle,” Tess said as she smiled at the baby. “Look at that little man. I swear he gets bigger every time I see him.”

“That’s no wonder. He’s always hungry.”

Liz watched them as they gushed over the baby. She loved the kids but she didn’t know if she was really cut out to be a mom. Her childhood had left scars. Most people probably had them in some form, but hers had left her questioning her ability to be a parent.

“Let me hold him,” Tess said, reaching for him.

Maria chuckled and released her son. “Just remember you have to give him back.”

“As soon as he cries you can have him back.”

Liz snorted at their friend’s response and nodded in agreement. In her case that was pretty much immediately because babies always seemed to sense it if the person holding them was uncomfortable and they started to cry right away.

“When’s Max coming?” Maria asked when she saw the look on her brunette friend’s face.

Not soon enough. “It shouldn’t be much longer.” Her boyfriend was a natural with the kids and he enjoyed spending time with them. “He said he had almost everything done. There were just a few last things he wanted to take care of before shutting down for the holiday.”

“Cool. First he can get the extra mattress from the attic. Otherwise you guys would have to sleep on the couch and that thing’s very comfy for sitting but not so much for sleeping.”

She snickered. “Max just loves being your errand boy.”

“Well, Michael was supposed to do it, but they’re still stuck on the mountain.”

“They’ll be down soon enough.”

“Why don’t we go have a seat in the living room? Everything’s set for a quick dinner tonight and the rest of tomorrow night’s dinner will be done in the morning when Mom gets here.”

“Sounds good to me,” Tess agreed. “Jake, let’s go sweep in the living room. Katy, c’mon, sweetie.”
Last edited by Double Trouble on Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:45 pm, edited 4 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
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 924
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 2

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 21, 2014 4:15 am

Roswelllostcause: Thanks for reading!

L-J-L 76: Thanks! We’ll be catching up with the guys today.

Natalie36: Thanks! Oh, yeah, she will, lol.

Eva: We love catching up with the characters from older stories a few years in the future just to see what they’ve been up to and how they’re doing. We’re glad you’re enjoying the story!

Lol, poor Liz, when you don’t have kids of your own it’s hard to understand how others deal with them on a constant day in and day out basis.

begonia9508: Liz is still hesitant, but we know one of these days she’ll get there.

Earth2Mama: Lol, yes, just... Tobey.

Oh, that’s definitely not a car ride for the faint of heart. Max has a positive outlook and we’ll be checking in on him soon.

Thanks!

CandyliciousLovah: Thanks! Lol, she was ready to make a run for it, wasn’t she?

Alien_Friend: They’ve had a busy couple of years and they’ve really settled into life in Mt. Rainier. Lol, kids keep it real, that’s for sure.

We have a feeling Liz will get there. Max... well... you can see for yourself today how he is with the kids.

sarammlover: Lol, Liz is still working on some past issues, but she’s come a long way. And that is so true! It doesn’t matter how much you love the little guys they can drive you crazy at times.

kismet: We have a feeling you’re right. ;)

SmileeUk: Thanks!

Things have changed and our two moms have a good handle on their situations. Liz will find that switch, we’re sure of it.

The boys will make their appearance today.




Part 2

The wind picked up the newest fallen snow, making it hard to see farther than a few feet ahead. This wasn’t the way he’d planned the descent, Michael mused as he roped down the last bit until his feet came into contact with the ground. The hardest part was done as soon as the rest of his group joined him. After that, there would only be a few more miles to hike through the deep snow and they’d reach base camp.

When they had woken up this morning, the weather report had changed rapidly and it was either stay at their camp and wait the storm out or climb down a different, more challenging route that was better covered from the incoming wind. Since their current climbers were experienced and of course because of the fact that tomorrow was Christmas Eve they had decided to move forward instead of waiting and he was relieved that they were almost there.

He cupped his hands around his mouth and tilted his head back in the direction he had just come from. “Alright, Tony, send ‘em down.” He tugged on the rope in case the wind had carried his words away and it wasn’t long before he saw feet appearing in front of him.

As soon as the first climber was close enough, he reached up and steadied her movements with his hands on her hips to help her down. “Yeah, excellent, just two more feet,” he told her and unhooked her from the rope as soon as she was down.

Jennifer smiled at the guide in front of her. “Wow, that’s thrilling.”

“Glad you’re still positive,” he said, ignoring her attempts at flirting. Their group had been a bunch of girls from Chicago and they hadn’t even been discreet with their attempts at hitting on the guides. If Maria knew she’d go through the roof, he thought and tugged on the rope again. “Next,” he shouted up.

Kyle kept the line taut as the next girl began her descent. Amber. He had no idea how they’d managed to survive this trip with five girls who were intent on having at least one of the guides for a trophy. He just hoped their girls stuck with the plan and waited for them at the cabin. And that Evans kept his mouth shut about their group.

Tony glanced behind him when the rope was tugged again. “Now you, Chrissy.”

She nodded and pushed herself from the wall, a little too close to his body for his comfort. “Wish me luck.”

He forced a smile and nodded. “Good luck.” Damn, if Vanessa heard about this she’d give him hell over it. In their defense though, how were they supposed to know? All of the reservations had been made online, all the correspondence through email, and two of them had been named Chris and Jay... along with three distinctly feminine names they’d just assumed two couples and a fifth wheel. They hadn’t been expecting it when they’d met at the office and found themselves face to face with five female climbers.

“Jay, you’re next,” he called for the tallest dark-haired woman. She could be a model based on her size and body, but she definitely lacked in the personality department.

“Obviously I’m next,” she said and rolled her eyes. Next time they were definitely doing this without guides. They were more than capable of making the climb on their own but Amber and Jennifer had been browsing climbs and they had happened upon the outfitter’s site, and once they’d gotten a look at the guides they’d decided a guided climb was the way to go.

Kyle and Tony exchanged a glance. “Someone’s a bitch,” he muttered under his breath.

“Yeah, well, if you’d just taken her up on her offer she’d probably be a lot friendlier, Carter.”

“Funny, Valenti.” He shook his head and looked at the last climber. Ann. She was short with super long hair. She was the shyest of all of them, but she also seemed to be the smartest and kindest. “What’s up, Annie, ready to go?”

She smiled and nodded. “All ready.” As much as she enjoyed the challenge of the climbs she was ready to get off the mountain. Christmas was just a day away and she did NOT want to be stranded up here with one friend who was pissy and three others who were hornier than hell.

He hooked her in and winked. “Down with you then.”

“Thanks.” She eased over the edge to begin her descent.

Kyle snorted at his buddy. “We’d better get a move on because we just dropped five females on Guerin. He’s seriously outnumbered.”

“I don’t know, man. We should wait a while longer and see if he can hold his own.”

“Okay, but if he finds out he’s outgunned you’re gonna explain it to his wife.”

Tony snorted and nodded at the rope. “Go ahead, I’ll make the last.”

Kyle hooked in and grinned with a salute as he dropped over the side and rappelled down to where Michael was waiting with the girls. They were getting closer to base camp and he was ready for a hot shower and a few days of uninterrupted time with his family and friends.

Michael gripped his pack and hooked it back on his shoulders while they waited for Tony to descend. He was fumbling with the last strap fastener around his waist when Amber – the one who had hit on him mercilessly the last few days – stepped in and brushed his hands off to do it for him.

“Let me help you this one time, big man.”

He backed away from her and shook his head. “I’ve got it, thanks.” Hell, if Maria ever found about this she’d skin him alive!

She made a face and Jay caught it. “What part of WIFE and FATHER didn’t you get?” she hissed with an eye roll.

“You can’t blame a girl for trying,” she muttered back.

“That’s so desperate.”

“I’m sorry, do you see the same thing I do?”

“What would that be, nympho?” Ann asked as she bumped her elbow into her friend’s ribs. “An obviously devoted husband and father?”

“No man’s devoted forever.”

“You are such a negative person.” She tsked and shook her head. “One bad experience and suddenly the only thing a man’s good for is a quick roll in the hay.”

“Alright, ladies, let’s move to base camp,” Tony shouted over the wind and made sure they didn’t forget anything on the ground.

“Head ‘em up and move ‘em out!” Kyle hollered, earning him a glare from Jay.

“We’re not cattle, you know?” She looked down her nose at him as she shouldered her pack and turned on her heel.

Good grief, his kids were less exhausting than this lady.

Tony punched him in the arm. “Little less luck and you could’ve had one like her.” He hit the trail before Valenti could come back with a response.

Michael led the way down the mountain, making sure they kept a fast pace but not too fast for the girls. The radio on his shoulder strap crackled and a moment later he heard the familiar female voice.

“What’s up, Guerin? Are you comin’ in today or ya gonna freeze your ass off on the mountain one more night?” Courtney smirked to herself when she let go of the button, waiting for his response. Things had been really awkward between them for quite a while, but she had realized soon enough that there was no point holding a grudge against him or his wife. They were a steady couple and although she wouldn’t really call them friends, they got alone. Which was good since she worked part-time for them at the base camp to handle coordinating things.

He depressed the button on the side of the radio. “Me an’ my ass are on our way. How’s the weather holdin’ up?”

“Storms comin’ in fast. Where are you?”

“We’re less than an hour out. Snow’s really startin’ to fly out here but we should be able to keep up our current pace.” He glanced up at the sky. “We should beat the storm, but it won’t be by much. We’ll need to move fast when we hit camp.”

“You want me to send a couple of SUV’s in as far as possible to pick you up? Randy and the guys are hangin’ until nightfall.”

“Yeah, you know what, that’s not a half bad idea. They’ll be able to get close enough to shave off a quarter of our time. By the time they reach that point we’ll be there.”

“Alright. Eight in your party, right?” She was already leaning back to open the door to the main room of the cabin to call for the driver. “Yo, Randy, I’ve got a pickup for you.”

He stuck his red head around the doorframe. “Whatcha got?”

She waited until Michael had confirmed the headcount before she spoke to him again. “I need two SUV’s to pick up Guerin and his crew. They’re just coming down the north pass.”

He gave her a thumbs-up. “No problem, we’ve got it covered.”

“Cool.” She turned back to the radio in front of her and pressed the button once more. “Done. He’s heading out to meet you guys.”

“Thanks, Court.” He turned his head as the cutting wind tore around the pass. He could feel the temperature dropping with every new gust of wind. “Tell him not to waste any time.”

“Sure thing.” She made a few notations in the log. “See ya soon. I’ll put a pot of coffee on.”

“Over and out.” He released the button and turned to motion for Kyle to move up. “Court’s sendin’ Randy and one of the guys up with a couple of SUV’s. They’ll get as close as they can, give us a ride in to base camp.”

“Best news today. It’s getting really nasty out here.” He fell back again and passed the news on to Tony as well.

Hell, yeah, it was! Michael hunched his shoulders against the wind and began the final push. He was sooo ready to get home to his wife and son.

*****

Max stepped out of the Jeep and turned to grab a couple of bags from the passengers’ side before he hurried up to the cabin. The door opened before he could reach it and he rushed inside, pushing it closed behind him. “Whoa, I don’t think my Cali blood’s ever gonna get used to these winters!”

Liz snorted as she helped him out of his winter gear and hung it up for him. “Tell me about it. That wind’s been picking up like crazy for the past hour or so.”

“Damn, it cuts through you like a knife.” He gave her a kiss and reached up to cradle her cheek as he studied her expression. “Long day?” He was aware of her doubts where children and her abilities were concerned and sometimes a full day of dealing with their friends and the kids was a challenge.

“Just worried about you making the drive in this weather, that’s all.”

“Um-hmm.”

“Mas!” The twins yelled their version of his name out and nearly ran each other over getting to him, squeezing between the couple and grabbing onto whatever part of him they could reach to get his attention. They jumped up and down, laughing when he suddenly growled and scooped both of them up in his arms.

“Hey, rowdies,” he walked further into the room with them, “did you give the ladies a stressful afternoon?”

They giggled and shook their heads in denial.

“Hey, Max,” Tess stepped out of the kitchen, “I see you’ve been thrown right into the Valenti chaos.”

“It’s a great place to be,” he said with a grin. “I don’t have to tell you they’re great kids, you already know that.”

“Hi, Max,” Maria joined them in the living room with a freshly diapered and bathed baby in her arms. It wouldn’t be long before Michael arrived so she had changed the little man’s outfit into a sleeper for the night that said: My Dad is the coolest guy on Mt. Rainer.

“Hey, how’s the newest member of the clan?”

“Sated and sluggish.”

“Almost naptime again?”

“Yeah, almost.” He had settled the twins down and reached for Tobey. It still amazed her how good he was with kids. He just knew what to do so naturally. Even Michael had been more awkward at first when it came to holding his son.

“Just look at this little guy.” He held him up to read the front of his little outfit and shook his head. “The coolest guy on the mountain for sure right now,” he said with a laugh as he cradled the baby in his left arm.

“How was the drive? Are the roads still clear of snow?”

“Yeah, the road crews are keepin’ ahead of the storm for now but as fast as it’s comin’ down the roads may be blocked for a while in the mornin’.”

“My parents will just love that.” She went to the window and looked outside. Night would fall soon and she really hoped the rest of the guys would be here soon.

“Oh, nothing’s gonna keep them from seein’ this good lookin’ guy for Christmas.” He rocked the baby and played with the tiny hand that was gripping his forefinger. “No, they’ll be here for Christmas, won’t they?”

Liz watched her boyfriend and felt even more out of place. Gosh, why was everyone such a natural with kids and she seemed to be the only one who couldn’t connect with them?

“Yes, they will.” He shifted when he heard a familiar sound. “You hear that, Tobey? What is it, huh?” He grinned when the little boy gave him a sleepy smile. “I’m gonna take a wild guess and say it’s not Santa Claus.” He kissed the boy’s head. The sound of slamming doors were soon followed by heavy booted footsteps and muttered cursing. “No, Santa doesn’t know any of those bad words, does he?”

The front door flew open and Michael and Kyle walked in, faces red from the extended exposure to the icy wind.

“Thank fuckin’…” the shorter man pushed the door closed and leaned against it, exhausted.

“Kyle!” Tess placed her hands on her hips. “What’d we say about cursing in front of the kids?”

He opened his mouth to answer and it snapped shut again when two little faces looked up at him in anticipation. “That Daddy needs to watch his language when little people are present.” He dropped down to one knee and held his arms out, hugging his kids tightly to him when they ran over to him.

“Daddy!!!” Both of them shouted, giggling and laughing while they climbed all over him.

Katy rubbed her nose against his face. “Cold.”

“I now take second place in the welcome home department,” Tess said to Maria with a roll of her eyes.

“Well, your little ones are quite all-consuming, aren’t they?” Michael shook his head and walked over to his wife, placing a solid kiss on her lips. “Can’t tell you how glad I am to be home,” he muttered and hugged her, lifting her up from the ground for a second.

She rested her forearms on his shoulders and shook her head. “I think I can imagine.” She leaned in for another kiss. “You may have to pry Tobey out of Max’s arms,” she whispered.

He smirked and glanced up at the man holding his son. “Hey, Evans, you mind if I take over?” he asked with a lifted eyebrow.

“Well, I guess if you just have to,” he grumbled good-naturedly.

Michael walked over and took Tobey carefully. “Get your own kid,” he told his friend and shifted his complete focus to his son. “I see Mommy picked out the right outfit,” he said, laughing when he saw it.

“Conceited much, Guerin?” Tess asked with a snort.

“If I remember right you had similar shirts for both of your kids,” he rolled his eyes and sat down on the couch with the infant in his arms. Tobey kicked his legs and his father watched him with amusement. “You’re pretty strong, Tob,” he muttered and poked a finger into the baby’s belly gently. As a result a tiny hand wrapped around it and didn’t let go.

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Yes, but in Kyle’s case they were all true.”

“Are you guys hungry?” Maria asked, giving Liz a gentle squeeze so she would come with her and help with dinner.

“I could eat a horse,” Kyle said with a grin as he fell over on his back, careful to keep his kids from hitting the floor. “Or maybe a couple of little monsters.” He made a growling sound and rolled over, pretending to nibble on their necks and making them squeal with laughter as they squirmed around to get away.

“Alright, guys, you keep the kids busy an’ Liz an’ I will finish putting dinner together.”

“Babe, could I get somethin’ to drink?” Michael asked with a glance up at her.

“Sure, what do you want?”

He grinned. “A beer would hit the spot.”

Maria walked into the kitchen and pulled several bottles out of the refrigerator to bring them back into the living room. She stopped behind the couch and leaned over the backrest to talk to her husband. “Get your son into bed before you get too comfortable.”

“I will,” he promised. “In a few minutes.”

“Okay,” she ran a hand through his hair for a moment. Michael hadn’t seen Tobey for almost a week so it was natural he wanted to have at least a few moments with him. Well, he could always have the nightshift but she had a feeling her husband would be out cold once he hit the bed.

“Thanks.” He slouched down and jiggled the little hand clasped so tightly around his finger. He knew it wouldn’t be long before Tobey was asleep but he still wanted to spend a little time with him. “Hey, how’d his two-month checkup go? Everything okay?” He’d gone with her for the one-month checkup and he’d hurt for his little boy when they’d given him an immunization and he’d cried so hard. He’d wanted to punch the doctor in the mouth and might have if Maria hadn’t been there. In a way he’d been glad to be on the mountain for this one because the second checkup meant two or three shots and he hated to see his boy in any kind of pain.

“Everything’s fine,” she assured him. “Excellent weight, excellent reflexes. Everything’s normal and he’s quite big for a two-month-old, but that’s because of his Dad and the genes.” Tobey already looked a lot like Michael. They had the same eyes as well as the same chin.

“An’ the immunizations?”

“It was drama as expected an’ he was a little cranky the day after. He had a low grade fever but the doc said that was normal.”

“How can anyone do that to the little guy?” he muttered to himself with a shake of his head. Tobey looked up at him tiredly, his eyes closing every now and then and with every passing minute they stayed closed lasted longer.

“Someone has to,” she called and went back into the kitchen where Liz was waiting.

“He’s accepted his role as a father quite well, hasn’t he?” Who would’ve thought the big grumbling guy could have such a soft side?

“Yeah,” Maria smiled, “and he’d better. We talked about kids and he said he was ready so there’s no running away now.”

“True,” Liz sat down on one of the barstools, her gaze distant. “I think Max is more than ready.”

The way her friend said it called for Maria’s attention. She knew her friend still had a hard time figuring out what she wanted. For some reason she couldn’t picture herself as a mom while her boyfriend was eager to start a family. “And you’re not?” She didn’t expect it when she suddenly saw tears in the brunette’s eyes, so she rushed to the door and closed it with a short: “I’m closing the door to keep the smell of food out of the living room.”

“Thanks,” Liz sniffed and wiped her cheeks stubbornly, but she couldn’t stop the little waterfalls.

“What’s going on, Liz?” Maria sat down next to her and placed her hand over her friend’s where it rested on the counter.

“I don’t wanna lose him.”

“Lose who?”

“Max. I can’t lose him, M’ria. Besides you guys, he’s all I have.”

“What makes you think you’d lose him, sweetie?” She leaned forward and grabbed a few tissues from a box. Since Tobey had been born, the little things were spread all over the cabin. “Here.”

Liz nodded and blew her nose quickly. “He talks about having kids more an’ more an’ look at him. He’s so good with them. Every time we’re all together I can see how much he wants it and I’m not sure I can give that to him.”

“We both know there’re no guarantees in life; never have been and never will be, but that’s no reason to just hide behind the what-ifs.”

“They’re some pretty big what-ifs though.” She sighed. “I know we didn’t meet until college so you weren’t there for the nightmare my childhood was. And maybe I should be able to put what happened when I was growing up behind me, but it just left a lot of scars and a lot of doubts.”

“No one can tell you when or even if you can put something traumatic behind you.” Maria shook her head. “I think that’s something only the person who survived it can decide.”

“Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m getting close and then something happens and the doubts start to creep up again.”

“Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Of course. Nothing’s ever been off limits between us.”

“I know, but sometimes when things are too close you don’t really want someone picking at it.” She inhaled slowly when Liz motioned for her to speak up. “What is it about your past that makes you question the kind of mother you’d be?”

Her gaze dropped to the counter and she shredded the corners of the tissue that was scrunched up in her hand. “I don’t connect with kids very easily.”

“You do pretty well with the twins,” Maria said encouragingly.

“Yeah, now that they’re getting bigger and they’re more like little people.” She sighed and threw her hands up in the air. “See? That just sounds terrible.”

The blonde laughed and shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. Lots of people aren’t all that comfortable around little kids for whatever reason. And they can be very intimidating.”

“Yeah, right,” she said with a disbelieving snort. “Maria, I watched you with the twins when they were babies and I’ve watched you with Tobey. You’re very natural with them.”

“That’s only because you weren’t around that first week or so after we brought him home. Oh, everything was great at the hospital, but when they turned us loose with him? Liz, I was so in love with that little boy and so terrified of him at the same time. And the first few days it seemed like I couldn’t do anything right. If I picked him up he cried, if I put him down he cried, it didn’t seem to matter what I did, it was wrong. It was totally intimidating. And handing him off to Michael didn’t help because the poor man didn’t have a clue what to do and he kept running into the same problem. It’s like we were in this nightmare that just wouldn’t end, handing Tobey back and forth and neither of us were doing it right.”

“So what’d you do?”

“Nothing at all,” the blonde woman shrugged. “I’d read so many books, googled every stupid situation, but nothing can you prepare for the real thing. There were nights I called my mom for advice an’ while she was very helpful, none of her tips worked the way I wanted them to.” She laughed quietly at a situation that came to mind although she hadn’t felt like laughing back then. “One evening I sat in the bedroom and cried after Tobey had been upset most of the day. Nothing really unusual had happened, just him complaining and whining all day, but I felt like I couldn’t take care of him properly. I was totally exhausted, my nerves were stretched to an extent I had never experienced before an’ I wanted help so badly.”

“And Michael?”

“He had been out on the mountain all week and had just gotten home. He found me in the bedroom and I thought he’d freak out with me, but he was like the calmest person at that moment. He assured me I was a good mother and I was doing everything right.” Maria smiled at her friend with a shrug. “I believed him and I accepted that he was right. Some days babies cry and others they sleep peacefully for many hours. That’s just the way it is an’ while being a mother can be very intimidating and tiring sometimes it’s also the most completing experience.”

“And that’s why I’m not so sure,” Liz admitted sadly. “Will I really be able to look at my child with this unconditional love? And will I be able to see past all the things like sleepless nights, the huge responsibilities and obligations? I go crazy when Max wakes up at eight on the weekends and wants to get started with breakfast already but with a kid you have to get up at an even earlier hour.”

Maria chuckled. “True. But you get used to it. Besides… and I know it’s totally cliché, but the moment your little baby smiles up at you or does some ridiculously stupid and yet totally neat thing you forget all about the downsides.”

“What if I’m unable to form the mother-child bond? What if I just can’t look at my own child and have it be the way it should be?”

“What makes you think that?”

Liz sighed. “I never really felt connected to my mom, not even before she and my dad divorced. She’s always been… distant – like she just couldn’t love me the way a mother should love her child.”

Maria didn’t really have an answer to that. She knew mothers like that existed, but she really couldn’t pinpoint her friend as such a person. “You don’t have any problem showing your friends that you love them, do you? We’re all here together now an’ you can’t deny there’s a strong bond within our group.” She bumped her with her elbow. “You’re definitely able to connect with people.”

“Yeah, but it’s different with you guys.”

She shook her head. “You’d be surprised at how different and alike it is, Liz. There are some people who should never have kids-“

“Yeah, like my mom.”

“If your mom hadn’t had you we’d have missed out on a pretty great friend.” She smirked. “Not to mention, what would Max do if you weren’t here? I still can’t believe that man was gone on you for forever before you noticed.”

Liz stuck her tongue out at her friend. “Max was the last thing I was looking for when I practically tripped over him.”

“And you guys have done really well together.”

“True. Tess says we’re nauseating.”

“That’s a compliment coming from her, girl.” She leaned to the side to bump her shoulder against the brunette’s. “Remember when we came out here to climb that mountain out there and you finally realized you had this great guy who was completely in love with you? Remember how that felt?”

“That was terrifying,” she said with a chuckle. “A lot scarier than climbing that mountain to be honest.”

“You’ve had your rocky moments, every couple does, but you’ve managed to maintain a good, healthy relationship for the past three years.”

“That’s because Max is perfect. He’s patient, passionate, honest, funny… he’s like every good thing all rolled into one guy.”

“Sounds like the perfect father to a baby,” Maria winked. “No pressure, Liz. You’ve still got plenty of time. There’s no need to decide on this just yet. Max will understand if you need more time to figure it out. He’s not going anywhere.”

“I hope you’re right.” The brunette sighed and slipped from the barstool to open up the refrigerator. “We’d better start with dinner before they get suspicious.”
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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 3

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 28, 2014 5:07 am

Roswelllostcause: She certainly has. Liz will get there, she just has to stop letting those doubts get the best of her. Max will always be there for her, he loves her and he’s very supportive.

CandyliciousLovah: She’ll get there with a little help.

begonia9508: Thanks!

Yep, until Liz actually has children of her own she won’t know how it really is to have those little ones running around underfoot.

L-J-L 76: Thanks! Max loves the kids and he is great with them. We don’t think Max would leave Liz over that either. Yeah, she has concerns, but he’s more than willing to take them on. It is good that Liz talked to Maria. Max knows how his girlfriend feels and he does his best to be supportive. Lol, the guys tell the girls about their last trip? We’ll see about that. This group will always be there for each other, no matter what.

Earth2Mama: It is a difficult obstacle to overcome, but she’s got a good shot at doing just that.

Lol, yeah, imagine that!

The in-laws are on their way.

Natalie36: Yes, she will.

sarammlover: Max and the others will all be there to help Liz however they can. She’s got a great support team and we have a feeling she’ll get there.

Lol, they were quite the handful, weren’t they?

SmileeUk: Maria’s pretty good with her advice and it seems it might’ve been a help.

We’ll get to see them today!

Alien-Friend: Yeah, it’s hard when you are stuck in your life and don’t know how to move on while everyone else does. But Liz has a great supporting network of friends and a perfect boyfriend, so we’re sure she’s going to be happy either way. ;)

Some woman are just desperate, lol.

Our boys did grow up, huh?



Part 3

“Good point,” Maria joined her and took the meat out of the oven, releasing the delicious smell into the room. “How’s your man feel about pulled pork?”

Liz snorted. “How does every man feel about pulled pork?”

“Right. So let’s make sandwiches and there’s already a tomato salad as well as potato in the refrigerator.”

“What about onion rings? I’d die for some.”

“The frozen kind or the homemade kind?”

“Definitely homemade. An’ guess what? It’s the only thing I’m good at in the kitchen.”

Maria chuckled. “Well, then, go ahead. I’ll do the sandwiches and you work on your magic onion rings.” The dinner was simple and anything but luxurious, but she knew the men would love it after a week on the mountain.

The door opened and Tess walked in, carrying a blue bag with several items in it. “I brought something for the twins, so you don’t have to worry about their dinner. I just need to heat it.”

“Alright, you can use the microwave or the stove, your choice.”

“I know I should say stove, but I’m going for the easier option tonight because they really need to go to bed soon.”

“For their sake or yours?” Liz teased, feeling a little better now after talking to Maria.

Tess snorted. “Both. If Kyle roughhouses with them much longer they’re gonna be wired for the night and then he’s gonna pass out, which means they’ll be hyper, awake, and on my watch. No ma’am, not after a full day of that.”

“But, they’re your little angels,” the brunette said with a laugh.

“Yeah, most of the time that’s true. However, try getting them to bed when they’re completely wound up and well… their horns start showing.”

“I can’t believe you said that.” Maria shook her head with a grin.

“I know. They’re always sooo perfect.”

Tess shot a look at Liz. “Well, if you and Max don’t mind sitting up with a couple of rowdy toddlers for hours on end. Because let me tell you, they’ll keep you up to all hours and they won’t fall asleep until you’re so exhausted you wanna sit down and cry.”

Ungh, not the way to convince Liz to be a mother, Maria thought. “They can be a lot of work, but in the end you wouldn’t change them for anything in the world.”

“No, absolutely not!” Tess finished heating up the twins’ food and set it out to cool just a bit. “I wouldn’t change them at all and I’d hurt anyone who ever tried. But the truth of the matter is while they can be difficult at times, they’re also worth every minute of it.” Just not while they were busy trying their parents’ patience, she added silently.

“I still remember your face when you found out it was twins,” Liz smirked.

“Do you have any idea what a shock that was?” The curly blonde rolled her eyes. “And if you think my expression was hilarious, you should’ve seen Kyle’s face.”

“Well, you didn’t even plan a pregnancy so it was a double shock.” Maria remembered how she and Liz had dried Tess’ tears for days until she had accepted her new destiny.

“No, we sure hadn’t. We just figured we’d be a little older. Not to mention the wedding was still a couple of months away at that time.”

“Sometimes things don’t work out as planned,” Maria shrugged, taking two forks to pull the meat for the sandwiches.

Liz dipped the onion rings in the batter and dropped them in the waiting grease. “True, but sometimes the best things are the ones you weren’t expecting.”

Tess smirked. “Right.”

Max had probably been the most unexpected and amazing thing to ever happen to her. “Are the guys staying off the mountain until after the first of the year?”

Before anyone could answer the door opened and her man poked his head into the kitchen. “Ladies, can you come out for a moment, I have an announcement to make.”

“Any idea what that’s all about?” Maria asked as she dried her hands on a dish towel.

“No clue,” Tess muttered, carrying the kids meals out into the living room.

Liz pulled the onion rings out and laid them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the grease before joining the others. “What’s going on?”

Max waved them out and waited until they had all taken a seat on the furniture in the living room. “Ladies and gentleman,” he started with a grin, “I’m happy to announce that the outfit is finally operating in the black at the end of 2014.”

“Hey, that’s great news!” Tess said as she set the food on a couple of placemats on the coffee table. She’d always heard it said that it took a couple of years for a business to begin turning a profit and she had really understood what that meant after she and Kyle had bought into the company.

Max nodded. “All in all we’ve got a profit of almost 80 grand this year. We’ve finished paying off the operation’s headquarters cabin as well.”

Michael raised his beer with a tired smile. “To a profitable year.”

“It only can get better from now on,” Kyle nodded, holding his drink up as well.

“You’ve been saying that from the beginning,” Tess said as she motioned for the kids to leave Daddy’s side on the couch.

“An’ I was right,” he shrugged.

“You’re always right, isn’t that what you’re always saying?” Liz asked and shook her head at him.

“Daddy smart,” Jack told her.

Max snorted. “You teach him to say that, Valenti?”

“Nope, he’s my son. He’s smart too.”

Uh-huh, liar, he thought. “We’re going into the new year on a very good note.” It had been an uphill battle for a while, and slowly but surely they had pulled themselves up and out of debt.

Michael looked at Maria and pulled her closer, careful not to upset the baby in his arms. “Comes at the right time.”

“Couldn’t be more perfect,” she agreed.

“Guess that means we can go back to making dinner?” Liz grinned at her man.

He chuckled and nodded. “Go for it, I’m ready to eat.”

“Let’s go, ladies.”

Maria got up from the couch again. “Time for Tobey to go to bed, Michael. It’s late.”

“I’m goin’,” he grumbled even though it was perfectly clear he wasn’t prepared to move at the moment.

She chuckled. “No complaints, Guerin.”

“Mama says it’s time for bed, little guy.” He looked at his son when he didn’t make a single sound of protest. Tobey was already down for the count and sleeping like a baby. He snorted at that thought.

“You’ll have plenty of time with him tomorrow, Michael.”

He looked down into Tobey’s face, his heart doing that weird clenching thing it always did when he looked at his little boy. He could sit and watch his boy sleep for hours – and truth be told, he had. When they’d first brought him home he’d sat next to his little bed while he slept, sitting up through the night and just watching him breathe. At the beginning it had been a mixture of fascination and fear; fascination that he and Maria had created this amazing little person, and fear because he’d heard horror stories about parents waking up to find out their baby had stopped breathing during the night. “Yeah, there’s plenty of time for us to hang out tomorrow.”

Max watched his friend leave, heading for the nursery. He had been happy for them when they had shared the news of Maria’s pregnancy at the beginning of the year, but he couldn’t help but feel that tiny bit of jealousy as well.

Kyle stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankles and keeping an eye on the kids. Unattended they had a tendency to do things like throw food, spill food, or just play with it. “Want one of mine?” he joked when he caught his friend’s expression.

He tried to smirk. “Nope.”

“It’ll happen, man, and probably when you least expect it.”

“Yeah, I know.” Did he? He had tried to talk to Liz about the subject a few times, but she was uncertain about it. A child was the only thing missing in his life and although he knew he was still young, he had always wanted to be a young dad, and their friends had already taken that step. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a kid around the same age so they could all hang out together?

Kyle grunted in response. “Hey, stop playin’ with your food an’ eat it,” he spoke up when Jake started moving his food around with his fingers.

Katy looked up from her plate to watch her brother. When he pushed a piece of chicken nugget once more, she reached over to steal it from his plate.

For a moment there was shocked silence from the little boy but as soon as his sister went to put the nugget in her mouth he screamed in protest. He pushed himself up to his feet, his intent to crawl across the table and take it back clear.

“Jack,” his Daddy warned him.

He frowned and pointed at Katy. “Mine!”

“Katy will give you one back.”

The little girl shook her head stubbornly and made a show of gathering all of her nuggets into a little pile and putting her arms around her plate. “No, Daddy.”

“Katy,” Kyle warned. “Do you remember what I told you about taking things that don’t belong to you the other day?”

Her lower lip started to tremble but as soon as she realized Daddy wasn’t going to change his mind she picked through her nuggets, finding the smallest one and throwing it at her brother.

Kyle caught it before it could land on the floor. “All the rules we have at home count here too, Miss Valenti. Don’t throw your food.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at her food mutinously while Jake accepted the nugget from Daddy and hummed happily while he ate.

“Now eat. The both of you, because it’ll be bedtime soon.”

Max chuckled and picked up his beer. “They’re a handful, aren’t they?”

“No doubt.”

“How was your trip this time out?”

“Okay until the weather started to mess with us.” Not to mention the horny girls.

“Yeah, it’s pretty unpredictable.”

“Yeah, we made it back in time though so s’all good. Wouldn’t have wanted to spend Christmas without my family.”

“That’d suck. It’s always nice to get back down to a hot shower and a warm bed too.”

“No doubt.”

“Any interesting stories?”

“About our trip?”

“Yeah.”

“No, not at all.”

“Nothing at all? That’s funny, I kinda figured there’d at least be one story to tell. I mean, that was a LOT of estrogen in one camp, my friend.”

“You think?” Kyle snorted.

“I really do.” He hadn’t known the entire group was comprised of women, having made the same assumptions the guys had based on names.

“It was.”

He laughed. “Well, at least they were all experienced.”

“Uh-huh. Yeah, they were an’ one of ‘em knew how to do everything better than anyone else the whole damn time.”

“Guess you got that one.” He could just imagine how badly frayed his friend’s nerves would’ve been after dealing with that all week long.

“I did.”

“Some guys have all the luck,” he said with a snort.

Kyle chuckled. Michael and Tony had their hands full too.

“I’ll bet you’ve never been happier to be back down off the mountain.”

“Not since last summer when we had that old man almost die on us.”

“Yeah, that was enough to get your blood pumpin’.”

“Anything new at the office? What’s the next climb we’re booked for?”

“Next up’s a group comprised of three couples, all in their mid-thirties. I’ve taken the liberty of updating our registration applications, made the necessary follow-up calls to fill in the new fields I’ve added, and it’ll help prevent this from happening again. We also had two groups call for information about the guided rafting trips in the summer.”

“Cool. How long are we off?”

“I kept the next two weeks open so you’re not slated to go up again until the eighth.”

“That’s awesome,” Kyle groaned. There hadn’t been any time off lately and he was glad they had a few weeks to recharge now. “Guerin will kiss you when he finds out. He’s been staring at a photo of Tobey all damn week.”

“If Guerin kisses me I’m never bookin’ another excursion that lasts more than a weekend.”

“I’m sure as hell not kissin’ you, Evans,” Michael said when he overheard the last comment.

“That’s good, ‘cause I’d hate to start Christmas givin’ you a black eye.”

The other man snorted. “Yeah, sure.” He picked up two empty bottles of beer and went into the kitchen, his stomach grumbling when the smell of meat hit him.

“You’re supposed to be resting,” Maria chastised when she saw her husband.

“Wasn’t it you who got me up to take our son to bed?” he asked, walking up behind her and nuzzling her neck.

“Um-hmm, I should’ve known you couldn’t just sit still after that.”

“Is that pulled pork?” He reached around her to get a piece of it.

She slapped his hand away, but it was nothing more than a token protest. She knew the meals they ate up on the mountain were nothing like home cooked food.

“Come on, woman, I need some real food.”

“Then go sit down and I’ll bring you a plate.”

He groaned and kissed her briefly. “You said that in my dream last night as well.”

Across the room Tess snorted. “That’s when you know they’ve been at high altitudes too long.”

Michael ignored her in favor of concentrating on his wife. “Did ya miss me?”

“Hmm...” she pretended to think about it for a moment.

He growled and squeezed her hips in warning.

“You ask that every time like you think the answer’s changed,” she said as she turned to face him. She met his gaze directly and a soft smile graced her features as she shook her head. “That’ll never change, Michael.”

His gaze dropped to her lips and he leaned closer so his words wouldn’t carry to anyone else. “An’ I’ll never stop lookin’ at you and feelin’ like the luckiest man in the world.”

Heat shot through her at his look and his words and she gave him a gentle nudge. “It’s been a long week without you.”

He grinned against her neck. “I’ll make up for it tonight.”

“You’ll eat dinner and pass out,” she said with a smirk. “And then you’ll wake me up well before dawn to make up for it.”

“If Tobey doesn’t beat me to it,” he replied in amusement and took a step backwards.

She chuckled and shook her head. “Go in the other room before I forget all about what I’m doing.”

“Alright, I’m outta here.”

“I don’t ever wanna hear anything else about me an’ Kyle,” Tess said and shook her head. “I think you guys are worse than we ever were.”

“Uh no,” Liz shook her head.

She turned her head to look at the brunette. “Excuse me? You have something to add, Miss PDA?”

“PDA? You’re exaggerating.”

She snorted. “Whatever.”

*****

“They shouldn’t live in the middle of nowhere with an infant,” Carson Deluca growled as they drove down the snowy, narrow and hardly plowed road towards their only daughter’s home.

Amy reached over to squeeze her husband’s lower arm. “There are people who live a lot farther from civilization.” His patience had been stretched to its far end during the hours they had spent on several blocked roads because of the heavy snowfall the night before. She was also sure that his first look at his grandson would make him forget all about the circumstances under which they had arrived.

It was the first time they would finally get to see Tobey for real and her excitement was growing as the miles between them faded. She had been devastated when their earlier planned visit had been cancelled because of a nasty flu bug. She had been looking forward to being there for Maria the first weeks after bringing the baby home, but instead they had been fighting their own little battle at home.

“It doesn’t mean they have to push their luck,” he muttered. There were still moments when he questioned his daughter’s decision to live in this area, but he was past trying to convince her differently because he knew she was a happy wife and now also a happy mother. “I hope they got all the grocery shopping done for the next week because it looks like we’re gonna be stuck here for a while.”

“Good thing we packed more than enough then, huh?” Amy teased. Her husband had loaded their car with so many things and she wasn’t sure they even needed half of it. But at least they would be prepared for almost anything – food and diaper shortage included.

Carson turned his head to look at her. One corner of his mouth lifted in a half smirk at her amused tone. “I’d rather be prepared than sorry.”

“I’m just glad you left your hunting gear at home for once,” she rolled her eyes and sat up when she finally saw the cabin at the end of the driveway. It was decorated nicely with a Christmas tree as well as several items outside. Maria definitely got that touch from her.

“Uh-huh,” he nodded. These young boys around here had no interest in hunting and going alone in a territory he didn’t know very well was just no fun at all.

“You can quit being a grumpy Gus, Grandpa. In a few more minutes you’ll finally get to see your daughter and hold your grandson and you’ll see that everything’s just fine.”

“Men don’t get much out of infants, darling,” he said, although he was looking forward to seeing Tobey as well. “We don’t fuss over them like women do. Next year, that’s a different story. The kid will be walking around and he’ll look like a real human.”

“You’re such a liar,” she laughed and shook her head. “I seem to recall you holding Maria for the first time and I didn’t imagine your reaction.”

“That’s different. She was MY daughter and so little. I also remember I let you hold her most of the time during her first year.”

Amy snorted. “You LET me? Carson, please, you have such an interesting and distorted view of things sometimes.”

“Is this where you tell me the story of our daughter and her high school romance again?”

“Do I need to go over that one again?” She shook her head when the car came to a stop and the front door opened. “I don’t think we need to do that.”

Maria walked out on the porch as soon as she heard a car approaching. It was already halfway through the afternoon by the time her parents finally arrived. “Thank God, you guys are finally here. I was starting to worry,” she called when her mom stepped out first.

“Oh, no, there was no reason to worry. Mr. Cautious was behind the wheel and he’s packed in enough supplies to get you through the winter.”

She laughed and went to the car to give her mother a long, tight hug. “I missed you. Have you made up your mind about how long you guys are gonna stay?”

“Your father’s convinced we’ll be snowed in for the winter,” Amy laughed. “However, we have a week free and we’ll stay for a few days.” She lowered her voice. “Or until your husband and father have had enough of each other.”

“Uh-huh, that could be tonight,” she joked and let go of her to go around the car. “Hey, Dad, it’s good to see you.”

Carson shook his head at both of them as he pulled his daughter into his arms for a bear hug. “Don’t think I don’t know what the two of you were whispering about over there.”

Maria grinned. “We weren’t really trying to hide it, Dad. And I hope you an’ Michael will get along, because ya know... it’s Christmas.”

“I don’t foresee any issues.” He leaned back to really look at her. “You look good.”

“I don’t,” she laughed. “I haven’t properly slept in weeks an’ I’m still a few pounds over my normal weight, but thanks for saying that, Dad.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong, sweetie. However, it’s cold out here and you should be inside, so why don’t you take your mom in the house and send that husband of yours out here to give me a hand with the bags?”

“Well, Michael’s busy putting a new diaper on Tobey, so I’ll send Kyle and Max.” She walked off with her mother in tow and gave instructions to the boys as soon as she entered the cabin.
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
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 4

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Jan 04, 2015 4:33 am

Roswelllostcause: Thanks! Oh, yeah, he has! And they will. ;)

begonia9508: Lol, we’ll catch up with that meeting today.

Yeah, Tess is in full agreement with you. Of course, it is Christmas Eve, so we’ll see how that goes.

Natalie36: Can’t have a fic without them!

keepsmiling7: Yes, he did. That was big news!

Michael’s really embraced his role as a daddy.

CandyliciousLovah: Well, lol, as you said... he is Michael.

Earth2Mama: No, it’s most likely he won’t.

Yeah, that wouldn’t be good. But we have a feeling both men are above that.

Ah, Liz hasn’t completely nixed the idea. She just has to find her way to wanting it.

L-J-L 76: We’ll get to their talk next week. ;)

Eva: Oh, we’re pretty sure Tobey will have Grandpa eating out of his hand in no time.

sarammlover: Max will make a great dad for sure. He and Liz will have a talk in our next update. Lol, Carson is a fun character. Thanks, and Happy New Year to you too!


HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

P.S.: You can find the banner to our new fic in our Author's Thread (link in the sig). We'll start to post very soon!




Part 4

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Max called over his shoulder as he grabbed his coat and tossed Kyle’s at him as he made his way outside.

“Hey, what you got for us, Mr. Deluca?” Kyle tried to be nice although the old man had shown his disapproval of them more than once since they had known Maria. It had gotten a little bit better over the years though.

Carson lifted the tailgate up and motioned to the interior that was packed top to bottom and side to side.

“Plannin’ for an invasion, Mr. D?” Max asked with a smirk. The man had packed in enough supplies to feed an army.

“I saw you eat at my daughter’s wedding and the amount was just ridiculous,” he countered.

“It was the meds,” he defended himself.

Carson ignored the boys and handed each of them a huge bag as well as a smaller one, then grabbed the rest himself.

Max and Kyle exchanged a look and then went back inside, leading the way and unloading as soon as they could.

“You weren’t kidding about bringing a lot,” Maria remarked when she saw what the guys had carried in. “We might need to extend the house.” She grinned at her parents. “Would you guys like to have a coffee before the invasion starts? Tess, Liz and the twins are outside with a sled, but they’ll probably be back soon.”

“Only if it includes seeing my grandson,” Amy said, trying to hide her impatience.

“I bet he’ll be out in a few minutes,” she smiled. Michael was getting the little boy ready after his afternoon nap to see his grandparents.

“Coffee sounds good,” Carson said, rubbing his hands together to warm them up.

“Good, I’ll get you one. Why don’t you have a seat?”

“How are things going with the business?” He sat on one of the couches and shifted around to get comfortable. “Everything’s going well?”

“Carson,” Amy warned. The business was a delicate theme to begin with.

“Things are goin’ great,” Kyle enthused as he threw himself down on the couch facing the older couple. “An’ Maria’s been workin’ with that geology crew that’s been doin’ studies on the mountain, but I guess you already know that.”

The older man nodded. “What do your future plans look like? Have you set a year where you plan to be out of debt?”

“We’re officially operating in the black, Mr. Deluca. Max finished up the final reports yesterday.”

“You are?” He lifted an eyebrow in true surprise.

“We’ve been bustin’ our asses these last couple years and we’ve put in a lot of hours workin’, but we’re finally there.”

Michael overheard the last bit of the conversation while he walked down the hallway with his son in his arms. The infant was wearing grey sweatpants and socks that looked like sneakers, but the white long-sleeve tee shirt with the print ‘Guerin product’ on it was definitely the best part of the outfit. “Your grandpa’s already investigating,” he whispered in amusement and kissed the little raised fist before he stepped into the living room.

Amy caught movement from the corner of her eye and her eyes widened when she saw her son-in-law and the infant in his arms. “Oh, my God, Carson,” she whispered, “look at him.”

“Has my appearance changed since the last time we met?” Michael teased her with a grin.

She chuckled. “Your sense of humor hasn’t changed.” Although it had loosened up around others since he and Maria had gotten back together.

“What ya say, Tob, wanna say hello to Grandma?” He looked down at his boy and then went over to the couch to hand the baby to Amy, hugging the woman briefly afterwards. “Hope you guys didn’t have too much trouble getting here.”

“No, no trouble at all,” she assured him as she stared at her grandson. “I can definitely see you in your son.”

“Your daughter’s already complained about that.”

“Um-hmm.” Somehow she had her doubts that Maria had done any such thing. “Just look at this handsome young man, Carson.”

He did look – and to his horror he was having a hard time keeping his emotions in check. The little human in his wife’s arms was staring at her with wide brown eyes and kicking his legs back and forth.

“Look at him, he’s so perfect.” The baby smiled and his little fists jerked as he looked around. “You can see Maria in him too, can’t you?” She glanced at her husband and nodded at their grandson, silently asking if he wanted to hold him.

Despite his earlier announcement, he nodded and got more comfortable on the couch when she placed Tobey in his arms. Michael watched them, knowing he had nothing to fear while his son was with his grandparents but it was always odd to see him with anyone other than Maria.

Amy shifted to face him and rested her hand on his shoulder, rubbing it soothingly. He’d never admit it, but looking into his grandson’s face, holding him, it was drawing his emotions to the surface.

Maria approached the living room with two mugs, stopping when she saw her son with her father and the expression on his face.

“That right there’s worth the price of the airfare,” Michael said as he turned to take the mugs from her.

“True,” she leaned her head against his shoulder with a smile.

They had come a long way over the past few years. When he and Maria had gotten back together he’d never imagined the day would come when he and Carson could be in the same room and have a civil conversation. They weren’t exactly best friends or anything, but they could keep their behavior civil, and the old man had at least accepted him in his daughter’s life.

“He’s even more beautiful than in the pictures, Maria.” Amy got up and hugged her daughter again, wiping her tears away.

“He’s pretty amazing,” Michael said as he carried the mugs over and set them on the coffee table.

“He can also be really annoying in the evenings when he can’t decide what he wants,” Maria smiled and sat down on the armrest on the couch next to her father. “Then we run in circles to feed him, change him, carry him around and nothing seems to help.”

Carson chuckled. “Sounds a lot like a little lady 25 years ago.”

“I knew he must’ve gotten that from you,” Michael winked. To be honest, he had no idea what kind of an infant he’d been since he’d never had a mother around to ask. “Besides, it’s gotten better recently.”

“That’ll change like every other month or so,” Kyle said when he plopped down in one of the armchairs.

Amy looked at the man, amused. “It’s true and it must be even worse with twins. I bet you and your wife have your hands full.”

“On a constant basis,” he agreed with a shrug, “but they’re the best things in my life besides Tess.”

“That’s very nice to say.” The older woman touched her heart. They had all grown up so quickly and had become young adults and responsible parents. There was no way not to be proud of her daughter, Michael or their friends.

Carson looked at Tobey and remembered the last time he had carried such a young human being. It had been his daughter back then and he had been terrified he might break her. But Michael – and he had to give him credit for this – seemed to be much more comfortable with his son. “Have you kept up with all his immunizations?”

“Of course, Dad.” Maria rolled her eyes slightly but smirked. “Although we had to leave Daddy at home because he was a chicken shit, right, Tob?”

Michael just shrugged. “Call it what ya want, babe.”

She shot a teasing glance at him over her shoulder before sticking her tongue out at him. She grinned when he growled quietly enough no one else could hear him and turned her attention back to her parents.

“No, no, no, come back here!”

Kyle smirked when his wife’s voice easily carried through the front door right on the heels of small feet pounding across the porch. “Excuse me, folks. That’s my cue.”

Max mimicked the sound of a whip cracking and snickered when Kyle shot the finger at him. “Bite me, Evans.”

“Not my type, Valenti.”

“You’re a sick man.”

“I’ve been called worse.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.”

He pulled his coat on and stepped out on the porch in his sock-covered feet, catching Jake as he hopped across the porch to clear the snow from his boots. “Okay, okay, that’s enough of that racket, boy.”

“Kyle Valenti, you are not out here in your sock feet!”

He winced at his wife’s accusing tone, but quickly covered his expression. “Relax, babe. It was either that or waste minutes getting into those boots.”

Liz snorted when she passed him. “Even I know you shouldn’t do stuff in front of your kids that you don’t want them to do.” Being out with the twins had been exhausting but she had to admit they were a lot more fun when they had room to run around and touch things. In their winter gear they looked like little marshmallows and it was adorable to watch them crawling through the snow like dorky little penguins.

“Hold him up but get in the house,” Tess ordered her husband with a wave of her hand. “An’ could you keep an eye on Katy until we’re done with Jake, Liz?”

The brunette eyed the little girl. She was leaning down to pick up some of the snow, still fascinated by the way it stuck together when she pressed it. “Yeah, sure.” She crouched down in front of her and made a snowball of her own. “You ever built a snowman, Katy?”

As soon as Jake overheard that he kicked his daddy. “Down.”

Tess looked at her daughter and knew there was just no way to hold the boy inside if he knew his sister was playing in the snow. “Aunt Liz, I think you just booked in for trouble because now you have to build that snowman with both of them.”

“Maybe after…” She looked down at Katy when the little girl latched onto her hand, tugging on it insistently. “You’re not gonna wait until after I’ve had enormous amounts of coffee, are you?”

The little girl grinned and shook her head. “Snow!”

“Alright, alright, but just a small one and then we’re all going inside for hot chocolate.”

Jake ran across the yard as well as he could, succeeding in tripping and falling down before he’d taken more than half a dozen steps. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and looked around for a moment before his face scrunched up and he started to cry.

Tess reached out and pressed her palm against Kyle’s chest when he started to shove his feet in his boots.

“What’re you – “

“Just wait a sec,” she said quietly. Liz wasn’t as bad with kids as she thought she was. She did fine when she just reacted and didn’t stop to analyze her every move or stop to obsess over every possible way the kids might react to something she did.

He looked at her skeptically but nodded and leaned back against the door to watch.

Liz looked up when she heard the little boy’s first attempts at crying. She couldn’t see any indication that he was hurt and his fall hadn’t been too hard. Considering the deep snow it probably wasn’t even worth worrying about. She lifted Katy up and walked over to him, crouching down and setting his sister at his side. “You know what the cool thing about snow is, J?” she asked, not letting his upset mood affect her because there was no way he had really hurt himself.

The boy’s sobs slowed when he looked at her with a shake of his head.

“That it doesn’t hurt to fall in it.” Winking, she let herself fall backwards to land on her back.

The twins watched her curiously and yelped before mimicking her move.

Jake giggled when he saw Aunt Liz leaning over him seconds later.

“See? There’s no need to cry, right?”

“No cry,” Katy babbled, moving her legs and arms on the ground to make a snow angel.

“You remember how to make the snow angels, J?”

He giggled and threw himself into her arms, his exuberance giving him just enough momentum to push her over. He rolled off into the snow and started working on his own snow angel. After a few seconds of furiously waving his arms and legs he scrambled to get on his feet so he could look at his creation. He looked at Aunt Liz and pointed at it.

“That’s really good!” She turned to look at Katy’s work of art and smiled. “You guys are a couple of little artists, aren’t you? I’ve never seen better snow angels.”

Katy scooped up a handful of snow and held it out to her, a curious expression on her face.

“Snowman time? Okay,” she pulled the little girl closer and reached for a handful of snow, packing and shaping it until it was round. She got up on her knees and smiled when the kids emulated her every move. “Okay, now we just set it down and start rolling it, like this.” She demonstrated the process and once it was suitably sized for a dwarf snowman she motioned for Katy to come closer. “Bring your snowball, that’s right.” She patted the one she had just completed. “We’re gonna put it up on top of this one.”

Katy leaned over and wrapped her arms around her snowball and struggled to pick it up, due to her precarious balance in her snowsuit rather than the size or weight of the snowball.

Liz watched as Jake stepped up next to his sister and helped her to pick it up. Her heart warmed when the twins smiled at each other as they lifted it together.

“You’re a good team,” she reached out and helped them to place it over the bigger one she had made. “Now we need one more that’s just a little smaller. Can you do that for me?”

Jake waddled over to the one he had been working on and Katy rushed over to help him. They carried it over to her and he grinned proudly at the oval-shaped snowball.

“That’ll make a good head,” Liz agreed and set it on top. “Now we need a few stones for the eyes, mouth and I think maybe your mom can give us a carrot for his nose, huh?”

Katy pointed at the house and as soon as she received a nod in return she began the short trek to the porch.

Tess had watched the scenery from the window, smiling to herself at how well Parker had managed to watch the kids outside. “She’s not as awkward with them as she thinks she is,” she muttered.

“Yeah, I know. Tried to make her believe it,” Max agreed from where he stood next to her and they went to get the door when the little girl approached them.

“Carrot,” she shouted as soon as the door was opened and she held out her hand.

“I think you wanted to add something, right?” Her mom looked at her expectantly.

“Please?” she whispered more like a question.

“That’s right.” She went to get one from the kitchen while Max stepped outside to help his girlfriend with the kids. Not that she really needed help, but he wanted to be a part of it too.

Max caught Jake under the arms and swung him up in the air, making him laugh. “Hey, you guys are havin’ way too much fun out here and no one invited Uncle Max. What’s up with that?”

The boy just giggled until he was set down on the ground again. “Snowman, Untel Mas. Look.”

“That’s a pretty impressive snowman.” He tipped his head to the side as he studied the poor thing’s head. It was a little disproportioned, but that wasn’t what mattered. “Looks like you’re still needin’ some eyes for this fella. Let’s see if we can find some small rocks around here, whatcha say, Jake?”

“Okay,” he agreed and took off quickly – not without falling down in the snow a few times of course.

“It’s a wonder these small people can walk in their outfits at all,” Liz chuckled.

“Yeah, but they’re pretty damn cute, aren’t they?” He watched her collect a couple of fallen branches, snapping them off in several places to make them look like outstretched fingers. “You look like you’re havin’ a good time out here,” he said as she poked the branches into the snowman’s sides and giving him arms. She was great with the kids and she always had fun with them. Yeah, like with any kids, they could test anyone’s patience from time to time, but she was good with them.

“They’re mostly cute unless they’re crying about bedtime or throwing food.”

He chuckled and shrugged. “Hell, they’re no worse than adults when they’re pissy about somethin’. Instead of stormin’ off and slammin’ doors they just throw themselves down on the floor and throw a fit.”

She knew what he wanted to hear but she wasn’t ready for it. Having kids was a HUGE responsibility and she couldn’t just decide she was ready for it because he was.

He turned his head to check on Jake and shifted his attention back to her when he was sure the boy was alright. “Hey, you do know there’s no pressure, right?”

“Isn’t there?” she asked quietly. “I mean, I know you aren’t trying to push me into it, but I can see how much you want it and that alone’s enough for me to be under some kinda pressure, Max. Especially now since Maria had Tobey.”

“What?” He bit back a laugh at her leap in logic. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

She frowned. “Well, everyone but us has kids now.”

“So? I’m pretty sure it’s not a race.”

“I know it’s not, but yet it’s.... I don’t know what it is, but it’s not nothing.”

“No, it’s not nothin’, but at the same time it’s not the end of the world either. Yeah, I’m ready for kids and I think we’d make damn good parents, but...” He paused a moment. “You remember when we came here the first time to climb that mountain? I knew I was ready for us to be together and you weren’t sure.” He shrugged. “You’ll be ready when the time’s right.”

“Okay,” she agreed, not wanting to get into it any further because she knew it was her battle to fight and he couldn’t help her.

Katy approached them again, poking her with the carrot. “Nose?”

He nodded and went after Jake, giving him a hand locating the rocks they needed. He knew Liz had her doubts but he didn’t. He was sure it was just a matter of time. Sometimes she just needed time and space so he nudged on occasion, did his best to reassure her, but ultimately he knew it was up to her.

*****

Michael walked into the kitchen and carried a few empty glasses over to the sink where his wife was loading the dishwasher. It had been a long day and he felt the exhaustion in his body, but it was nothing but a positive feeling.

Christmas dinner had gone well even if it had been a little wild with the kids around and although their cabin wasn’t made for so many people, everyone had found a comfortable place afterwards to hang out and relax.

It had taken forever to get the twins into bed. Tess and Kyle had talked to them one after the other, again and again, trying to convince them that Santa would come, no matter if the adults stayed up a little longer.

“How, Mommy?” Jake had stood in the center of the room, arms crossed over his chest with a stubborn look on his face.

“It’s Santa,” she had answered, “he can do anything.”

Of course, that hadn’t convinced the boy and it wasn’t until Carson Deluca – yes, the grumpy old man himself – had stepped in and whispered something into Jake’s ear. The boy had looked at him with wide eyes, but then he had nodded and willingly gone to bed.

“Who would’ve thought your father would still be smiling and laughing even though he has to sleep on the couch tonight.” Michael chuckled and leaned against the counter next to his wife. They were pretty much snowed in and no one wanted to risk a drive back to town under these conditions. Max and Liz had agreed to sleep on a couple of mattresses on the living room floor so the grandparents could have the couch while Tess and Kyle shared the guestroom with the twins.

Maria wiped her hands on a towel and stepped in front of him, taking his invitation when one hand settled on her hip, and snuggled against his chest. “He turned into a big mushy bear as soon as his eyes settled on Tob this afternoon.”

“True,” he chuckled, nuzzling her hair. “Who would’ve thought your father had such a side to him, huh?” He remembered all too well the conflicts they’d had back in their hometown as well as the moment they had met again here in Mt. Rainier and it amazed him to see such a change in the man.

“Yeah,” she tilted her head back to look up to him and smiled, “guess my mom was right when she said Dad has a softer side as well. Took him long enough to show it.”

He smirked and leaned down to kiss her briefly. “It shouldn’t surprise you. He was a stubborn ass at times, but he was a good father to you, wasn’t he?”

“No doubt, it just took him a lot of time to accept that I was making my own decisions when I grew up.”

“You remind me of that if I get too rigorous with Tobey in the future, alright? I hope we can give him the feeling that he can always come to talk to us about things that bother him.”

“You’ll be a good dad. You ARE a good dad, Michael. And our son will know that even if it’s doubtful he’ll always talk to us. Some things they just need to figure out on their own – like we did.”

His arms around her tightened and he kissed her again, short but more proper and with heat. “Well, as for choosing who I want to be with, I don’t think I needed any help to figure that out. I always knew I wanted you and only you.”

Maria nodded against his chest. “That really was easy. Makes me wonder if that saying is true. Ya know: Every Jack has his Jill. We were lucky to meet each other before either of us settled for something less perfect.” A grin spread across her lips at a thought. “And I’m glad I infiltrated your mind before you came here and had all those crazy ladies hitting on you on the mountain. How was that last trip by the way?” She pinched his side.

Michael groaned. “Evans can’t keep his trap shut.”

She laughed. “Wasn’t his fault. I went to the office while you were up on the mountain to send some paperwork to the university about my latest research and stumbled over the list of people you were guiding.”

He frowned and leaned back to look at her. “And what made you think it was a bunch of girls? Because two of those names could’ve been guys as well. That’s what I expected.”

“Oh please, it was obvious. And when I asked Max he didn’t want to lie.”

“Does Tess know? An’ Liz?”

“Sure.”

“An’ not one of you said a word?” He lifted one eyebrow.

“Don’t know if they said anything. As for me, I trust you, Michael. Not once in my life did I ever fear you’d set your eyes on another woman while you were with me and especially not now that we’re married and have a child.”

He nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, wife.”

“I know,” she stood on her tiptoes and brushed his lips with hers, moving with him when he widened his stance so she could step up even closer to him.

Michael dipped his head further down, capturing her mouth with his and deepening the kiss. He never got tired of doing this and after all these years it still felt special whenever they shared one of these intimate kisses.

“You two need to get a room,” Tess interrupted loudly after what seemed like seconds but considering the fact that she and Liz were standing in the doorway with shit-eating grins told them that they’d been absent for quite a while.

“We were wondering if we could help, but it seems like you two have everything under control,” Liz mocked.

“Excellent observation, Parker,” Michael muttered with a roll of his eyes before shooting a smirk at Tess. “And just for the record, we do have a room and it’s not bein’ shared by a couple of toddlers.”

Maria smacked the back of her hand against his chest. “It’s rude to rub it in,” she chastised but couldn’t stop the grin that broke free.

He pinned her hand to his chest. “Just statin’ a fact.”

“No matter,” Tess said breezily, “Liz and Max have no problem making use of anyone’s bathroom.”

“Oh no, they won’t!” The blonde shot a look at her brunette friend. “Not with my parents in the house! My father would have a heart attack.”

“Relax,” Liz rolled her eyes. “You have nothing to worry about at this time of the month if you know what I mean.”

Michael made a face. “That’s my cue to leave.”

“Ah, c’mon, Guerin,” Tess poked him when he passed her with a grin, “nothin’ you wouldn’t know about.”

“True, but nothin’ I need to hear about nonetheless.” He winked at his wife, ready to get back to the living room. “Want me to check on Tob?”

Her eyes went over to the baby monitor sitting on the counter. “He’s fine. But take it with you to the living room.” She picked it up and tossed it carefully across the room, where he caught it deftly.

Kyle glanced up when his friend joined them. “Hey, where’s the beer, man? You said you’d bring some.”

“Forgot it the moment the women started talkin’ about their periods,” he muttered and dropped down to the fluffy carpet next to him where he’d been sitting before.

“So?” he looked at him expectantly.

“What?”

“Are you gonna get ‘em?”

“Nope, but feel free to do it yourself.”

“Why don’t you guys stay where you are and let me handle it?” Amy got up out of her seat.

“Amy, you don’t-” Michael tried, but the woman shook her head.

“No back talking, son-in-law. I insist on helping since you banned me from the kitchen earlier.”

“That’s because you’re here on vacation an’ not to work,” he told her.

“We’re here to spend the holidays with family. And bringing presents isn’t the only task of a grandmother, ya know? So sit back and let me help. It won’t kill you an’ it sure as hell won’t kill me.”

Carson looked at his son-in-law in amusement while he held the glass of whisky in his hand. “And yet she always says Maria got that stubborn streak from me.”

“I’d say your daughter came by that stubborn streak honestly,” Michael said, yawning and not bothering to try and hide it.

“And I’d say don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology.” Carson chuckled and shifted, settling more comfortably in his chair.

That drew a snort from his son-in-law.

Amy returned with the drinks and handed them out before once again waving off Michael’s protests and rejoining the estrogen brigade in the kitchen.

“Be glad you have a mother-in-law that knows what the hell to do in the kitchen,” Kyle said with a shake of his head. ”Tess’ mom has been taking cooking classes and it’s not helping.”

“Still pissed because she nearly gutted your kitchen with her last attempt?” Max asked with a laugh.

“I know she means well, but some people should just stick to what they know. Don’t even consider branching out and trying new things.”

“Well, yeah, but wasn’t she on your side about the hockey thing?”

“That didn’t exactly swing the wife’s vote in my favor.” He rolled his eyes. ”I know the kids are too young for anything serious where sports are concerned, but what could it hurt to start taking them out on the ice?”

“They can hardly walk an’ you’re already trying to put them on skates.” Tess stuck her head out of the kitchen, enjoying the caught look on her husband’s face when he realized he was busted. “Go check on the twins.”

“They’re sleeping,” he protested, but was already on his way up.

“Yeah, and I’d be happy if it stayed that way.” They had separate beds at home but the lack of space had called for improvisation, so they had transformed their old playpen into a huge bed. Katy liked to steal Jake’s blanket in her sleep though and she really wanted to avoid another fit tonight.

“They’re a handful, aren’t they?” Carson chuckled when the woman once again disappeared.

“Full of energy,” Kyle agreed, “and it’s been havoc since they learned to walk on their own.”

The older man chuckled. “I was talking about women.”

Kyle, Max and Michael looked at each other, flummoxed by Cason’s joke but after a moment they all burst out with laughter.
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 Merry Mt. Rainier Christmas (AU/TEEN) Epilogue - 1/11/15

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:44 pm

Alien_Friend: Amy really knows how to handle Carson and keep things from getting out of hand.

The guys make great dads and they’re so fun to write with kids.

Lol, yeah, he really surprised us with his sense of humor. He’s kept it well hidden. Carson’s really a softie underneath that gruff exterior.

That was the tentative plan originally, but the characthers kinda took us in a different direction. It’s funny how that happens. You just never know what’s gonna happen with this crew.

We’ll be posting the new fic very soon!

Roswelllostcause: Yep, if Liz can just let herself relax she’ll realize that she’s much better with them than she realizes.

L-J-L 76: We’ll get to look in on that conversation today. Chances are good they’ll get there and when they do they’re gonna be happy.

begonia9508: Thanks!

Letting herself go with the twins and just being herself will go a long way towards helping her see she’s better than she thinks she is.

Earth2Mama: Admittedly, we were surprised when Carson revealed he has a sense of humor. Lol, someone in the group probably did have a camera, they just didn’t share that information.

Christmas is the time of miracles!

keepsmiling7: Lol, yes, it was!

They’re gonna get there.

CandyliciousLovah: They are... and we can imagine how that might be increased if they had M&M’s genes.

sarammlover: Carson does seem to have toned it down a bit over the past few years. Amy loves her role in the family and she handles them all very well.

Liz and Max are good at communicating and he knows when to give her space to figure things out in her own head. No one can fight that fear for her and he understands that and she has his support. Thanks!


Epilogue

The door to the guestroom squeaked when it was opened carefully the night of Christmas Eve. Tess winced, begging that the twins slept deeply enough to not be disturbed by the annoying sound.

“Relax, babe,” Kyle whispered behind her and pushed past her into the room. “They’re out cold after a busy day like today.”

“I wouldn’t count on that,” she muttered and went to the converted playpen to check on them. As expected, Katy had stolen most of Jake’s blanket once again, but instead of returning it to him she picked up another one, lying to the side, to cover his little body. When she was satisfied both were sound asleep, she turned and looked at her husband, taking in the muscles on his neck when he had his back to her, undressing.

Constant trips up the mountain had built his already nice body even nicer. Muscles stuck out in places where she hadn’t even known muscles existed. Yep, she had a fine kind of a man. Beautiful inside and out.

“Hungry?” he teased when he turned and saw her staring.

She snorted, but walked over to him anyway and ran a hand over the hard pecs on his front. His nipples hardened in response to her touch, which made a grin spread across her face. “Don’t even think about it, Kyle. Not with two toddlers in the room.”

He chuckled and leaned in to nip at her earlobe while one large hand squeezed her ass. “Yeah, you’re not known for bein’ quiet in bed.” His lips wandered down her shoulder to her collarbone, where he used his teeth to bite her teasingly. “Next year, we’re inviting them over. Our place has a lot more space.”

“It’s comfy here.”

“It is,” he agreed, “but a little crowded.” Kyle lifted his gaze to hers and winked with a boyish smirk before kissing his wife briefly but passionately.

“Well, my parents are coming down the day after tomorrow. I’m sure they can be convinced to watch the twins for one night.”

“Got plans for me?”

“Definitely,” she nodded, letting him help her with her shirt and jeans.

“Do they include your naked body?”

“Yep.”

“What else?”

“I haven’t figured that one out yet. But we’ve always been creative.”

He chuckled, feeling his body reacting to the thought. “Well, ya know, the local water park works with our outfit on occasion an’ Bill Anderson owes me a favor. They have a hot tub on the deck outside… I’m sure he can be convinced to leave the key to me for one night when they’re closed.”

“Perfect,” she smiled and slipped under the sheets after pulling one of his old college jerseys over her head. He got rid of his jeans as well and mimicked her move. “Switch the light off.”

He nodded and leaned out of bed to reach for the switch, frowning when he heard one of the kids rustling around. A moment later, soft mumbles and groaning could be heard. “Daddy?” A very sleepy voice came from the playpen and Kyle looked over his shoulder at his wife.

Tess smiled at him with a shake of her head and a nod towards the playpen. “Out cold, huh?”

Kyle sighed, but didn’t mind getting up. Maybe if he reacted quickly, he could prevent a full waking fit. “Hey,” he whispered to Jake, who was sitting in his bed, hair unruly and his eyes small from sleep. “What’s the matter, huh?” The boy looked at his daddy and held his arms up.

“Santa?”

He chuckled softly. “Not yet, son.” Picking him up, he cradled him in his arm gently and walked over to bed with him, slipping under the covers once more.

Tess watched them and smiled when Jake nestled against his father’s side, already on his way back to sleep. She knew it would only take a few minutes before Katy realized – even in her sleep – that her brother wasn’t next to her. Just as she finished that thought a small sound came from the playpen and she chuckled. “I’ll get her.”

Kyle nodded and watched his wife when she picked Katy up the same way he had done with their son moments before. Their baby girl wasn’t really awake, but close to it. The girls joined him in bed and Tess snuggled closer to him while Katy rested peacefully against her side.

Yeah, this was his life now. Busy as hell and lacking in sex. But it was perfect.

“Love you.” He leaned in and kissed his wife’s cheek, smiling at her tired features before reaching out and turning the lights off.

*****

Max stepped out onto the back deck of the cabin, his eyes scanning the property for his girlfriend and Mack. She had offered to take the dog out for his last walk of the night but that had been nearly half an hour ago. He knew she was probably just taking her time, giving her thoughts free rein while she wandered around with the dog. Mack was very protective, especially where the women and children in their little group were concerned, so he wasn’t too worried by her lengthy stay outdoors.

About an hour ago he’d come in from grabbing another armload of firewood just in time to hear Maria ask Liz if she could get Tobey. The woman of the house had been busy with something or other, Michael had already been passed out, Mr. and Mrs. Deluca were in the kitchen with their daughter, and Kyle and Tess had already called it a night. He had seen her hesitate before calling back to let Maria know she’d go and get him.

He knew the baby intimidated the hell out of her and it didn’t help that any time the little guy got passed to her he started to cry. Tobey had no idea how big a complex he was giving his Aunt Liz, he’d thought as he stacked the armload of firewood and shrugged out of his coat. He’d given it a couple of minutes before heading down the hallway to the nursery, pausing at the door that was cracked open to listen to her as she attempted to negotiate a truce of silence.

He had no idea what happened to cause the sudden silence but as he’d poked his head around the door to peer into the room he hadn’t been able to stop the smile. Tobey had been cradled in his aunt’s arms and the two had been staring at each other. He wasn’t sure if it was shock or something altogether different, but as he’d watched he’d seen her begin to visibly relax and she’d even gotten a sleepy smile out of the baby before he’d dozed off again.

He’d backed away before she could become aware of his presence, knowing she’d feel self-conscious if she realized he’d been observing her in that moment. She had been quiet when she’d come into the living room a while later, her mood contemplative, and he’d left her to her thoughts, familiar with her need to sort her thoughts out before discussing them. As always, he knew she’d let him know when she was ready to talk and this was one time he had decided even a gentle nudge would be too much.

He shoved his hands into his pockets and carefully navigated the three steps down to the ground before taking off to follow the two distinct sets of footprints. The snow was already a good two feet deep and it was still coming down. If they were still in California he’d be hanging out on the beach in shorts and enjoying the year-round sunshine and comfortable temperatures. There was no way he’d be caught dead in a pair of shorts in Mt. Rainier in December.

He could hear the water rushing past as he neared the river that ran behind the cabin and he stopped when he spotted Liz and Mack standing near the riverbank in companionable silence. As he watched the Labrador took the cuff of Liz’s coat sleeve between his teeth and gave it a gentle tug to get her attention. She slowly glanced at the dog before turning her head to find him and he nodded when she motioned for him to join them.

When he finally came to stand next to her he followed her pointing finger, squinting to locate a pair of elk drinking from the river a few hundred yards away. After drinking their fill the elk slowly backed away from the river and disappeared into the woods. It still amazed him how quiet they could be for animals their size. Granted, part of that was due to the fact that the noise generated by the river provided cover for their movements, but even when they weren’t near the river they didn’t seem to make that much noise.

“You’ve been out here for a while,” he said after a few minutes.

“I didn’t mean to be gone so long. I just needed some air and we were enjoying the wildlife show.”

“Well, at least the elk don’t jump up out of the brush and scare the hell out of you,” he said, hoping to lighten the mood.

She giggled and leaned into his side when his arm came around her shoulders. They’d all gone camping the summer after Tess found out she was pregnant and the guys had set Max up yet again. They’d sent him foraging for wood for the campfire, pretending to be busy with other tasks, and just waiting for him to reach a certain spot. Her poor boyfriend had nearly come unglued when he’d upset a nest of pacific jumping mice. She’d read about them but she’d never actually seen one until that day. Of course, there had been more than one, and they really did jump about three feet in the air and make high-pitched squealing noises when they felt threatened. Luckily they’d continued jumping away from Max because otherwise he might’ve hurt himself trying to get away from them.

“You remember when we got in that car accident after our climb and my mom came here for a few days?”

He nodded. Her mother had made an effort, but it was too little too late. She had been trying to make amends for a while at that point and it had been clear to him that she didn’t want her only daughter moving to the wilds of Washington. For a few days she’d tried to make a connection, not seeming to understand that it was something that couldn’t be forced or created in such a short time. She’d gone back home after a while and the miles between them had given her more of an excuse to let the distance between them become insurmountable.

“Why did she even bother?”

Max pulled her into his arms and rested his chin on her head. She rarely ever talked about the situation with her mother but he knew how deeply it cut that the woman had basically walked away and never looked back. “I don’t know how she could do what she did, before that or after.” In his opinion it would’ve been kinder if she’d never bothered to show up that day in the hospital and given her daughter that small glimmer of hope.

“I could never do that,” she whispered against his chest.

“No, you couldn’t. You wouldn’t,” he reiterated. “You know what it feels like to be abandoned; the hurt, the fear, the questions you don’t have answers for. You’re not her, Liz. We’ve had our rough patches the past few years and you’ve never once turned tail and run. You stay, you fight for what you want, and you don’t just give up because things aren’t easy. You took the biggest leap of faith you’ve ever taken right up there on that mountain and neither of us has ever had reason to regret it.”

“Not even when I kicked you out last year?”

He shrugged with a grin. “Not even then.” It had been a stupid fight and he hadn’t even been out of the apartment for a full day before she had come looking for him.

“Babies intimidate the hell outta me,” she admitted quietly. “There are just so many things you can do wrong and they can’t tell you why they’re crying.”

“No, that’s true, but if you decide one of these days you wanna take that leap, you won’t be alone.”

“But you want it so badly, Max. I watch you with the kids and you’re so amazing with them, and I can see how much you want that same thing. Sometimes I think about it and I can picture you with a couple of kids around the house, and I don’t have a single doubt you’d be a great dad. You had such great role models.”

“So did you.” He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear when she looked up at him. “Mom an’ Dad were there for you too. They practically raised you, and I’m biased but you couldn’t ask for better role models. You worry about bein’ able to connect with any kids we might have,” he shook his head, “and I think that’d be the least of our worries. There’re all those other fun things to think about like sleepless nights, less sex, and college tuition.”

She thumped her fist against his shoulder. “You make it sound like an endurance test.”

He laughed. “Hell, it has to be. Imagine havin’ these little bitty humans underfoot who keep doin’ their best to thwart your every attempt to have sex. The trick is to outsmart them.”

“I think you’re crazy.”

“Crazy about you,” he countered. “Just like I always have been and always will be.”

“And what if I can’t get past my hang-ups about havin’ kids, Max? You deserve to have someone in your life who can give that to you. Sometimes I think I wanna give it a shot, but until I can really settle these feelings I don’t wanna bring a baby into the mix.”

“What I deserve is to have the woman I love in my life and don’t you ever doubt that. Do I want kids? Yeah, there’s no getting around that. Am I gonna walk away from you if it doesn’t happen for us? No.”

She sighed and rested the side of her head against his chest again. “How can you know that?”

“We both know that nothin’ in life comes with a guarantee, but we’re both fighters and we don’t just give in easily. You remember what I told you when we were talkin’ about marriage?”

She thought about that for a few moments. That conversation had happened a long time ago. Max was a big believer in the institution of marriage and he’d sworn he wouldn’t even propose marriage until he was absolutely sure because he didn’t believe in divorce. He thought most people just gave up too easily and she had to agree with him on that one. She didn’t believe there was a guarantee against divorce, but she did believe if people were open to working on their relationship and if they were committed to working things out it could be averted more often. “Yeah.”

He took a step back and dropped down to one knee in front of her as he held his right hand up. The light from the moon caught the diamond set in the white gold band and he heard her breath catch in her throat. “Marry me, Liz.”

“Max…”

“I know your hang-ups, you know mine, and I believe we’ll work through them and continue to get stronger with every passing year. You asked how I know I won’t walk away from you.” He nodded at the ring. “I’ve been carryin’ this thing around for the past couple of months, waitin’ for the right moment.” He grinned at her. “I kinda had someplace warmer in mind, maybe in front of the fireplace with a bottle of chilled wine, but I guess a moonlight proposal’s pretty romantic too.” He reached up and took her hand. “I don’t have any doubts, Liz. Marry me and let me prove it.”

She dropped to her knees in front of him, her hands resting on his shoulders. “Max, you’ve been proving that since the beginning.” She bit her lip as she stared at the ring, knowing what it meant for him to offer the proposal. “You know if I say yes you’re never getting rid of me.”

He chuckled and nodded. “That’s what I’m countin’ on, darlin’.”

Her palms rested against his cold cheeks as she met his gaze and a slow smile graced her features. “I love you, Max.” Three words that at one time she’d been so certain she’d never be able to say. Three words that he’d been just as certain she’d say when she was ready. And he’d been right. “I love you so much,” she whispered against his lips.

He waited for her to verbalize her answer, enjoying the long slow kiss until she pulled back to meet his gaze once more. He could see the answer in her eyes but he waited, unmoving, as her fingertips ghosted over the ring.

“Yes, Max. Yes, I’ll marry you.”

*****

Maria stirred when sounds of little feet on parquet interrupted her sleep. She opened her eyes slowly, blinking a few times against the sunlight until her blurry vision focused and she found herself facing the closed door of her bedroom. It took her brain another few moments before it caught up with the current situation.

It was Christmas morning and they had a houseful of family and friends. A faint smile appeared on her lips and she forced her body to roll onto her back, fighting the sleepiness.

“Morning, beautiful,” came from beside her.

She tipped her head up in surprise, finding her husband leaning against the headboard of the bed with their son in the crook of his arm. In his hand, he held a feeding bottle and Tobey sucked on it peacefully while holding onto Michael’s outstretched little finger. “You two are up already? What time is it?” She yawned and snuggled closer, liking the picture of her two favorite guys next to her.

“Just a little before seven. Tob woke up half an hour ago so I figured I could feed him before the Christmas morning madness breaks loose.”

“You could’ve woke me up. You haven’t had much sleep all week.”

“Nah,” he shook his head, looking down at his little boy, “I’m good.” He hardly got the chance to enjoy a quiet morning in bed with his family, so he took every opportunity that presented itself to have it. And if it meant getting up early and preparing a bottle for his son? Well, then he was one of the luckiest men on earth.

Kid’s laughter and more little ‘tip-tips’ on the wooden floor outside could be heard and Maria smiled. “Seems like the twins are up.”

“Yeah, for about ten minutes or so.”

She nodded and forced herself into a sitting position. “I should start breakfast then.”

“No, stay with us for a few more minutes,” he grabbed her hand and pulled her back against him again. “Your mom’s already up doing that. I offered to help but she rushed me out of the kitchen and said she had everything under control. I hardly managed to get my hands on Tob before she could take feeding him from me as well.”

Maria chuckled. Yep, that sounded like her mother. Relaxing against the length of his body, she drew small patterns on his belly and inhaled his scent. “She probably didn’t sleep well on the couch anyway.”

“Good, that means they didn’t get up to any geriatric antics.”

“Ungh, gross, Michael.” She made a face at him. “That is not an image I ever want rolling around in my head.”

“Probably not somethin’ Evans an’ Parker would’ve wanted to wake up to either.”

“Okay, this’s just getting worse and worse. Shut up or change the subject.”

He waggled his eyebrows playfully. “Or you’ll what?”

“I’ll take your Christmas present back.”

“Ah, that’s not a threat at all,” he shrugged carelessly. “I’ve got you,” his eyes shifted to the little baby boy in his arms, “an’ I’ve got him, what else do I need?”

She smiled, caressing his cheek. “A razor I’d say.”

He placed the feeding bottle on the nightstand when Tobey made it known he preferred to go back to sleep instead of eating, and then caught her hand, holding it against the side of his face. “Seriously, Mrs. Guerin, a few years ago I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to be a husband and father. And I didn’t dare to hope it would happen with you. I’m happy and as long as you an’ Tob are at my side, there’s no reason that’s gonna change.”

“Ditto,” she whispered and stretched up to kiss his lips sweetly.

He leaned forward to extend the kiss while he shifted the baby in his arms and reached under the bed to pull a small gold colored package out. “Merry Christmas, wife.”

“Michael,” she accepted the gift and ran her fingertips over the ribbon, “it’s beautiful.”

“It’s okay.” He smiled when she lifted her gaze to his. The wrapping job was good but it was nothing compared to the beauty of the woman beside him.

She slid one fingernail along the edge teasingly as she looked at him from beneath her eyelashes. “Should I guess first?” she asked as she shook it lightly.

“Totally up to you but you won’t guess what it is,” he said smugly.

“Is that so? Well, maybe I’ll just surprise you.”

“You do that on a constant basis, but not where this gift’s concerned.”

She contemplated that for a moment but before she could tease him any further the sound of little feet got closer and when the doorknob didn’t give way to little hands they started to knock on the door.

“Santa came!” they chanted over and over until their mother could be heard hurrying down the hallway and collecting them, her voice a loud hiss as she sent them back to the living room.

Tess tapped her fingertip against the door, knowing there was no way the kids hadn’t woken the couple. “Sorry,” she muttered quietly before going in search of her husband because she knew he was the one behind their morning wakeup call.

Maria chuckled and started to open up the gift her husband had presented her with. They didn’t have much time left, soon the whole house would be buzzing with energy and it would affect the baby sleeping in his arms. When she opened the lid of the box in her hands, a delicate white-gold bracelet came into view. “Michael…” she breathed as she picked it up and placed the wrapping aside to have a better look at it.

Four little pendants hung from it, three of them in the same white-gold metal forming letters – T & M & M. Her fingertips grazed over them before it stopped on the fourth – a little stone plate with a date engraved. The numbers were tiny but she knew it was the date of their first summit day on Mt. Rainier.

She blinked when tears forced their way out of her eyes. “This’s…” Words really couldn’t say how much it meant to her.

He tightened his arm around her and dropped a kiss to her forehead. “I picked up a small stone when we were up there a few years ago, knowing that one day I’d want to give it to you as a symbol that we’d made it in more than one way. I didn’t know how back then and later when I had the idea we didn’t have the money, so it took a while.”

“It’s perfect. Thank you.” She tipped her head back and kissed his jaw.

“There’re still a few empty places around it,” he mused quietly, helping her to put it on.

Maria smiled. “Think we’ll fill them over the years?”

“I wouldn’t mind one or two more.”

Tobey must have heard him because his eyes fluttered open again and he gave them a tired smile before his tiny fists rubbed over his face.

There was a knock on the door again and a moment later Amy’s voice could be heard. “Maria? Are you up?”

“Come in, Mom,” her daughter called and she opened the door slowly, a little embarrassed at intruding on their privacy. But when she saw the little family all snuggled up in bed together she couldn’t help the smile. “The coffee pot’s empty. Do you have more?”

Michael sat up and carefully handed his son over to his wife, kissing the tiny cute nose before slipping out of bed. “Will you let me help you now, Amy?”

The older woman chuckled with a nod. “Fine.”

He grinned and put a shirt on when Maria’s mom left again. “Why don’t ya get Tob and yourself ready and take all the time in the world and I’ll help your mother feed the little rioters?”

She smiled and nodded. “I don’t know about taking all that time though. There’re two little people out there who’re gonna be yelling the walls down to get to their Christmas presents before too long.”

He shrugged, knowing she’d never keep the twins from their gifts for long. “They’ll wait until after breakfast if nothin’ else.” He finished getting dressed and left their room after one more look at his family. Yep, this was what it was all about, he thought, taking his time as he walked down the hallway to the kitchen.

He was content with his life. He had everything a man could ask for. A successful business that was thriving and promised a solid financial future, a home they owned free and clear, the ability to provide, and most importantly a wife and son that made each day better than the one before. They had good friends and a family that could be trying at times, but that was just part of the whole package.

Life was good.

“Finally decide to crawl outta bed?”

He shot the finger at Valenti and moved to the cabinet to pull the coffee down and set about making a fresh pot. “Where’s the ball an’ chain?”

“She’s rattling around behind you, Guerin,” Tess said with a roll of her eyes.

He chuckled and dumped the grounds out of the filter and rinsed it out before adding fresh ones. “Still tryin’ to figure out why she’s with me?”

“That’s a miracle none of us will ever understand,” she told him with wink.

“Hey,” Liz entered the kitchen with a sleep-deprived look on her face. Sleeping on an air mattress in the living room in a crowded house with Maria’s parents in the same room was anything but relaxing. “You guys forget that it could’ve been worse.” She turned to Kyle and Tess. “Mork the Dork?”

Michael chuckled, although in the past he hadn’t been happy to see his wife with another man – even if they hadn’t been together at the time. Thank God, that guy had never been real competition.

“Damn, darlin’,” Max bumped into her from behind. “We agreed to never mention his name again.”

“I’m all for it,” Kyle agreed and picked Katy up when she ran past him. “Hey! What’d Daddy tell you about runnin’ in the kitchen?”

The little girl bit her lip and then grinned at him saucily. “Santa?” She kicked her legs impatiently.

Tess sighed. “I doubt we can keep them from their gifts much longer.”

“I’d say that’s a good guess,” Michael said when he caught movement from the corner of his eye and he leaned back to glance out into the living room. “You’ve already got one of ‘em shakin’ everything within reach.”

Tess’ eyes widened as she whirled around to find her son buried beneath the Christmas tree, his little body contorted as he reached for a wrapped gift near the back. “Jacob Valenti!”

“Why don’t you just have a cup of coffee and relax, Mom,” Max said with a snicker as he rested his hands on her shoulders and turned her back towards Michael. “I’ll go get the little scavenger and see if I can con him into breakfast before presents.”

“I think that young man knows exactly what he wants and he has no intention of letting anything get in his way,” Carson said as he joined them and made his way to the coffee pot that wasn’t yet half full.

“Sounds a lot like someone else we know,” Amy murmured with a teasing smile at her husband when he shifted beside her to see what she was cooking.

“You’re making bacon?” He lifted an eyebrow. “You’re always tellin’ me to watch my cholesterol.”

The older woman chuckled. “Christmastime is the only time I’ll allow you to eat it when I’m cooking. Now give me room to work.” She elbowed him out of her way.

Screams came from the living room when Max reached Jake and was trying to distract him from the presents long enough for his girlfriend to put them back under the tree. “Noooo!”

Liz winced at the ear-piercing sound. Wow, how could such little lungs pull in so much air for a fit like that?

“Ah, c’mon, buddy. You promised Santa you’d be good, right? Only good boys get the presents they put on their wish list.” Max lifted the boy up and looked at him, amused. “Are you a good boy?”

Jake’s big eyes shimmered with tears, but his lips were already forming a smile again when he nodded.

“Me too,” Katy insisted, tugging on Max’ jeans like crazy. “I better,” she pointed at her brother.

“Hmm, well… if we’ve got two of you here and you’ve both been so good…” He trailed off, drawing it out when they both stared at him expectantly.

“Bullshit,” Michael coughed into his hand, the word mumbled enough the kids would never make it out. The twins were good most of the time but they could be a handful and he wouldn’t go overboard with agreeing that they’d been ‘so’ good.

“Sounds like Uncle Mike’s a little grumpy his mornin’. Maybe we should – “

“Evans, if you even think about finishing that sentence you’re gonna find out what it’s like to be the angel on top of the tree.” He gave Mack a rubdown when the Labrador shuffled over and rested his head on his thigh, his dark eyes shifting to the empty cushion on the couch beside him. “And don’t you come over here looking at me like you think I’m lettin’ you get up here. You are not a lapdog.”

“Oh, Michael, it’s Christmas morning,” Maria said as she joined them, a wide awake Tobey in her arms. She just rolled her eyes and handed the baby over to his daddy. “Mack, come with Mama and let’s go get you a treat.”

Tail snapping back and forth happily the dog jumped to his feet and hurried after her. “Jake, Katy, breakfast should be ready soon. No presents until we eat. And I know how much you two love pancakes so let’s move it.”

The dog, the kids, and even Max, all of them fell in line, following her into the kitchen without a single sound of protest.

“How does she do that?” Liz asked, shaking her head.

“I know, right?” Tess shook her head as everyone converged on the dining room. “She’s like the über mother and she just had Tob. Even the twins listen to her.”

The brunette snorted and glanced down when someone tugged on her sleeve to get her attention. “What’s up, Katy? You hungry?”

The girl nodded with a wide smile. “Snowman pancake?” she asked, pointing at the window. “Eat too.”

“Hmm, why don’t we eat first an’ see what’s left of breakfast, huh? And after we’ve unwrapped those gifts we’ll ask him what he’d like to eat?”

Kyle and Tess grinned at each other when Liz just went with the conversation, taking her seat at the table that was already set and pulling Katy into her lap. “You were right,” he muttered as he watched their friend. “She’s a natural with kids when she’s not paying attention to it.”

Max glanced over at his girlfriend as he took his seat next to her and he picked Jake up when the kid eyed his sister with an envious look. “What’s up buddy? How many pancakes are you able to eat?” He tickled the boy’s belly.

Jake giggled and tried to brush his hand off. “Uncle Mas!” he screeched as he held up all five fingers of one hand.

“Huh-uh,” his mom said as she and Kyle took their places at Maria’s insistence. “You sure you can handle them? They tend to make a mess.”

“We’re good,” Liz assured her, holding Katy’s little hands when she was eager to reach for everything on the table.

The conversation flowed easily, interspersed by toddler commentary and the occasional battle over one thing or another as the twins competed to be the center of attention. The closer the meal came to ending the more impatient they were to escape the table and get their hands on the pile of colorful packages beneath the tree.

“You do know they’ll tear into those packages, pull the toys out, and then play with the box, right?” Carson asked, smiling as he recalled his daughter doing that very thing.

“What?” Kyle snorted. “No way, not our kids.”

The girls exchanged a look as they finished clearing the table. It was the final task to be completed before they moved into the living room and turned the twins loose. They carried the last of the dishes into the kitchen and made quick work of loading the dishwasher.

“I hope your husband won’t be too disappointed when your children find the boxes more fascinating than their contents,” Amy said with a smile.

Tess shook her head, unconcerned. “Nah, not Kyle. He’ll see it as their creative little minds going to work. He encourages activities that have them using their imagination.”

Maria turned around, leaning back against the counter as she looked through the doorway to watch her husband for a moment. He was slouched down in his chair holding Tobey while he laughed out loud at something that had just been said. She could just picture how things would be as their son grew up, learning everything that his dad was just bursting at the seams to teach him.

“Okay, girls, I think we’ve held them off as long as we can,” Liz said as she came into the kitchen for a coffee refill. She pawed through a bowl of chocolates and sighed happily as she picked a couple of them out. “Max brought these, didn’t he?”

“Yes, Mr. Perfect said you shouldn’t be deprived.” Tess rolled her eyes at her friend and then hugged her as she led the way out of the room. “Who wants to open presents?” she called out.

Amy chuckled when ear piercing yelps from the twins filled the living room as an answer to their mother’s question. “Give it two more years and you’ll have to teach Tobey some patience as well.” She nudged her daughter with her elbow.

“I know. Michael’s waiting impatiently for that. He’s good with his son as a baby, but I know he wants him to walk already, to understand his words an’ all that.”

“Men are like that,” her mother agreed as they entered the living room and watched Michael and Carson wrapped up in a conversation – both wearing smiles on their faces.

“Odd picture, huh?” Maria teased. Not in two million years would she have believed that her father and her husband would ever reach a point where they could be in the same room for longer than an hour and now look at them! Here they were, having a friendly conversation after spending almost a full day together already.

Loud childlike laughter redirected everyone’s attention. Jake was lying under the Christmas tree, only his kicking feet visible, while he tried to crawl into the now empty box of his new bobby car.

Katy watched her brother and before long, she abandoned the princess doll in her hands. It hit the floor carelessly when she crawled across the fluffy carpet to her brother so she could pull at his feet in an attempt to get him out.

“And there you have it,” Carson said and gestured at the twins. “The most expensive cardboard boxes you’ll ever buy are the ones your kids play with while their toys go ignored on Christmas morning.” His eyes rested on his daughter for a moment and he smiled as he shook his head. He couldn’t wait for his grandson to do the same thing.

“They’re nuts,” Liz snorted and snuggled into Max’ lap, who was sitting in the armchair watching the kids.

“They are,” he agreed, “but they’re fun to watch.”

“If I’d known I’d have just bought them an empty box to play with.”

Maria’s dad shook his head. “That’s not the way it works. Just an empty box isn’t the same.”

Tess looked up at her husband when he came up behind her and slung his arms around. “Our kids tend to draw quite the attention, huh?”

“I’d say they come by it naturally and they’re just getting started.”

“You two planning more kids?” Amy chuckled.

“Considering what it takes to get a few minutes alone we’d have to plan it,” Kyle joked.

Maria and Liz both snorted at his answer. “As if you guys don’t have a bunch of babysitters at hand.”

“Don’t encourage him,” Tess said and laughed. “I’m just getting used to sleeping partly through the night again.”

“Yeah, the circles under your eyes seem to be getting better,” Liz stuck her tongue out at her friend.

“Just wait, your turn’s coming. So make sure you remember all the jokes.” The curly blonde couldn’t wait to repay her.

Liz looked at Max as they both grinned. “Yeah,” she said, “maybe. But for now we’re gonna plan a different kinda adventure.”

He smirked, his gaze dropping to her hand where the engagement ring caught the light and glistened around her ring finger.

“No way!” Maria shot to her side and grabbed Liz’ hand, pulling it towards her. “Why the.... Why does everyone get engaged secretly around here?”

“I can’t help it if you’re so sleep deprived you’ve lost the ability to be observant.” Liz looked at Max and smiled softly. “He asked last night, down by the river.”

“And you said yes,” Tess pointed out. “Obviously.”

Her husband and Michael exchanged a glance and rolled their eyes. “What else was she gonna say?”

“Yeah,” Max looked at them with a lifted eyebrow.

“We’re ignoring you,” Tess said in a sing-song voice.

“And besides,” Maria said and shot a teasing grin at her husband, “SHE didn’t ask HIM.”

He rolled his eyes when she referred to their past. “You know when I said ‘not yet’ it wasn’t a rejection. When men say things, they mean what they say. We don’t work like you when you say something an’ mean the complete opposite.”

“Oh, you wanna go there this morning?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

He shrugged one shoulder. “You started it, babe.”

“Yes, what part of we’re ignoring them did you miss?” Tess asked with a snort.

The conversation in the room silenced when Kyle shot a step forward, calling his son’s name in alarm. “Jake!”

Maria frowned when she realized the boy’s movement had caused the wire for the Christmas tree lights to wrap around his little ankle.

The boy smiled when Daddy called him and started to run towards him.

Tess intention to turn the conversation in the obvious direction – wedding plans – was interrupted by her husband’s shout and her heart stopped in her throat as she watched the drama unfolding in slow motion. Her son’s little foot was caught in the wire and he ran ahead carelessly, unknowingly upsetting the balance on the tree.

Michael handed his son off to his father-in-law and sprinted across the room, making a grab for the thick branch at the center of the tree and upsetting ornaments left and right. Katy started to screech as everything happened around her too fast for her to process and she got up and ran straight to Mommy, mindless of the broken ornaments she missed as she was grabbed up into her mother’s arms.

“Well,” Maria said dryly after making sure no one was hurt and the kids were in the arms of their parents. Ornaments rolled across the floor, the lights flickered, and her husband was kneeling on the ground, the top of the fallen tree in his hands. “Merry Christmas, everyone.”

Mack got up from his pillow and came across the room, gently picking up one of the bulbs and carrying it to his mistress, his tail wagging proudly as he offered it to her.

Max stared at the dog in disbelief, the situation way too silly to not be funny. He snorted but ended up laughing and after the shock passed, everyone joined him.


THE END

We'll be back with TIC TAC on Sunday!
Last edited by Double Trouble on Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:51 am, edited 1 time 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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