In The Course Of A Lifetime (CC, AU, Adult) COMPLETE 3/10/13

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

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Double Trouble
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 925
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 121

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Nov 04, 2012 4:14 am

CandyliciousLovah: She’s still looking pretty clueless but she said go for it, lol.

Natalie36: We’ll see how long that lasts.

Earth2Mama: Lol, not exactly what Max was expecting to hear coming out of his little girl’s mouth. We can just imagine the look on his face too.

mary mary: Oh, they do know, it’s so true. And they really do like to try out their new words at the best moments!

Alien_Friend: It is fun to get them all together.

Lol, not exactly what Uncle Kyle had in mind.

We’ll be seeing more with the kids in this part.

Cardinal: Kids always pick up on the one thing you don’t want them to repeat.

Rodney: Lol, isn’t that the truth?

Very true... difficult force to try to control.

begonia9508: Thanks!

Lol, Kyle definitely had his own tricks at their age.

The poor guy just has no idea what’s waiting for him at home.

keepsmiling7: Lol, Kyle certainly had that one right.

That would probably do it for anyone!



Part 121

“Hey, Evans,” Bradley Simmons called across the park to get Nick’s attention. “Nice game.”

“Thanks, man,” the boy called back and jogged over to join his family. The Sunday afternoon game had been very successful for the home team, so everyone was in a real good mood for the barbeque. “When’re the burgers gonna ready?”

“You’d think we never feed him,” Liz rolled her eyes when she overheard her son’s question and saw the greedy look on his face.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got tons of food and your boy’s really no different than ours,” Rick’s mother, Anna Winter, told her with a wink.

“Do you think their appetites will slow down once they’re all grown up?”

“I hope so because at some point they’ll start to gain weight,” the other woman chuckled.

Liz glanced at her husband, watching him for a moment as he and some of the other dads laughed at something as they stood gathered around the grill. Up until a few months ago they had jogged together regularly and even though he was in great shape and nowhere close to being overweight, she could tell that he had added a couple of pounds.

Justin wandered around the picnic tables, checking out the food everyone had brought. Some of it looked pretty good and some of it… He leaned over the table to look into a large bowl and made a face. Ben’s mom always brought some weird tofu dish that no one but her ate. Lucky wouldn’t even touch the stuff, and if the dog wouldn’t eat it that had to say something. He snorted and moved on.

“What the hell is that?” Andy asked, pointing at the large green bowl.

“Tofu somethin’-or-other. Ben’s mom made it and if I were you I’d steer clear of it. That’s some nasty shit, man.”

Andy frowned and poked the bowl, grossed out when the strange substance jiggled. “Is it supposed to do that?”

“I don’t know.” He glanced over his shoulder, making sure the woman wasn’t nearby. “Last year Ben said she made a turkey outta that stuff for Thanksgiving.”

“Disgusting. You gotta feel bad for the guy if he’s gotta eat that crap. It doesn’t count if it’s not a real turkey.” He moved away from the strange food and spotted Mom’s banana pudding. “Now that’s more like it.”

“Yo, Evans,” another boy called as he joined them from the opposite side of the table.

Andy looked up and nodded at Rick Winter, one of the guys on the football team. “What’s up, Winter?”

Rick nodded at something behind his teammate as he grinned. “What’s up with your mom an’ Mr. G, dude? They’re lookin’ pretty tight.”

Damn it, he thought when Rick pointed out what he had prayed would just kinda go unnoticed. “Don’t know…” he mumbled.

“You don’t know?” Sam asked when she overheard her boyfriend’s comment as she sat down on the opposite of the table with a plate full of salad.

Andy rolled her eyes at her and glanced at Rick, who was now joined by Daniel, one of the basketball players. “My mom and Michael are together,” he finally said out loud since there was no way around it anyway. “And before anyone asks, NO, I didn’t try to use that as an advantage to get on the team.”

Rick snorted. “Nobody said ya did, Evans.”

“Hell, I couldn’t care less as long as you keep playin’ the way you have been,” Daniel agreed with his friend.

Andy looked up to watch his mom and Michael. They were still holding back, trying to not be too obvious about it, but well… everyone could see they were totally flirting. “She could’ve gotten someone worse I guess,” he said with a shrug.

“Mr. G’s pretty cool,” Daniel said and took a step closer. “I’d exchange him for my stepfather at anytime, but don’t tell him that.”

Sam snorted at that, glad that his teammates were obviously okay with the situation because like Andy she had been a bit worried about their reactions too. You never knew about people and their weird way of thinking. “That went over well,” she whispered at him when the guys went on with another conversation.

Andy just looked at her with the slightest nod before he focused his eyes on her plate. “Why’re you eating all that salad crap? This way you won’t be hungry for the meat anymore.”

She just shrugged. “I like salad and you shouldn’t eat too much red meat anyway.”

“Uh-huh, that you talkin’ or the health nazi?” he asked, nodding at Principal Russell where she was standing next to Sam’s dad, talking to another couple.

Sam stuck her tongue out at him. “Totally me. Dad tries to make sure we eat meals that’re nutritionally balanced and when he cooks at least the food doesn’t taste like you’re chewing on an old cardboard box.”

Andy snickered at her description of the principal’s cooking skills. “Well, if I ever get invited over to your house for dinner, do me a favor and make sure your dad does the cooking.” He focused his attention on his girlfriend again. “So, would you be okay with it if they like, I don’t know, moved in together or got married?”

She lifted her head to watch them for a moment before going back to her salad. “Why not? He’s really happy and she’s actually pretty cool. I think everyone’s pretty much gotten over the whole ‘hey, your dad’s dating the principal’ thing so now it’s old news.” She stabbed a piece of lettuce and a cherry tomato, dragging them through the Ranch dressing as she glanced up at him. His chin was resting on his folded arms, his head turned to watch his mom and the guidance counselor. “What about you, Andy?”

“Mom looks happy, doesn’t she?” he mumbled.

“She does,” Sam agreed, “but I didn’t ask about her, did I?”

He turned his head slightly to look at her. “I don’t wanna be in the way. Sometimes it’s still hard to see her with someone other than my dad, but I know she was ready to move on and I don’t want her to hold back because of me…”

“Your mom never wanted to hurt you with it, Andy.”

“I know,” he assured her. “And I’m not holding it against her that she wanted someone new in her life. Telling her it wasn’t okay wouldn’t have made either of us happy.” He looked at Mom when she laughed at something Michael said. And she deserved to be happy, he added in his thoughts.

“So Michael moving in, marriage… maybe a new baby… what would you think about that?”

Andy made a face. “I’d rather think about it when it actually comes up,” he said, knowing that he’d have to deal with it sooner or later and he would try to handle it better than he had handled things after Dad’s accident.

“Well, you have me,” Sam winked, “I’ll keep you in line.”

He snorted. “I’m sure.”

Nick mimicked the sound of a whip cracking and all the guys at the table started laughing. He only laughed harder when his cousin tried to kick him under the table and kicked Justin instead.

“What’s so funny?”

Andy smirked when Sarah came up behind Nick and he started motioning for the guys to play it cool.

“Just givin’ Evans shit for bein’ so whipped,” Rick said as he coated his burger with ketchup.

Sarah rested a hand lightly on her boyfriend’s shoulder and leaned in closer to him. “And why do you think it’s funny that he does things when Sam asks? Or that he listens to what she has to say?”

“Uh…” he tipped his head back to look up at her, grinning at her in the hope that she’d forget all about her questions. “See the game?”

“Don’t try to distract, Nicky,” Sam said, amused.

The boy made a face. “Who said you could call me names?”

“Calling you Nicky isn’t really calling you names,” she denied and jumped up from her seat, when he moved, indicating he planned to go after her. “Leave me alone.”

“Boys,” Rick’s dad shouted from the grill. “Burgers, steaks and dogs are ready.”

“Finally something real to eat,” Andy muttered and got up, taking his plate and then hesitating before leaving. “You want me to get something for you?” he asked his girlfriend.

“Yeah,” Sam sat down again and bit her lip. “I think I’ll take a burger, thanks.”

“Alright,” he nodded and turned to leave, well aware of the glares Jenny and Sarah aimed at the twins since they hadn’t bothered to ask them before taking off. He grinned on his way to the grill – maybe he was a bit whipped, but at least he knew what to do to make his girlfriend happy. And having a happy girlfriend always had its advantages.

*****

Max frowned at the strand of lights when he plugged them in and the bulbs remained dark. Every year this happened, he thought as he started checking the strand one bulb at a time. It never failed. Oh, they could get those newer light strands companies made nowadays. The ones that let you know right away which bulb wasn’t working because it would be the only one on the strand that wasn’t lit up while its companions were all merrily blinking, but no, Liz loved the old strands they’d had for years. It could get aggravating when multiple strands decided to act up but usually Liz was there with him, checking the bulbs and handing them over so he could hang them. She had more patience for that task and he was content to let her have it.

But it was a beautiful day and the weather forecast was calling for an 80% chance of rain for the next couple of days so he didn’t want to wait around. He could feel the change in the weather coming and once it set in they were likely to be seeing the cold for the next few months and he didn’t want to be on a ladder stringing Christmas lights up while it was cold and windy. He twisted a little blue bulb and the strand blinked for a moment before going dark again. “Uh-huh, you’re the culprit, you little bastard,” he muttered under his breath.

“Hey, Dad,” Justin called as feet tramped through the front hall and a moment later the front door slammed shut.

“In the living room,” he hollered back.

The teenager leaned in the doorway, mindlessly bouncing the basketball in his hand against the wood floor.

The sound was annoying. “Justin.”

“Right, sorry. What’re you doin’?”

“Is that a trick question or do you really not know?” He shook his head and dug around in the sack from the hardware store, pulling out one of the little packages of replacement bulbs.

“Well, where’s Mom? You get all pissed when you do the lights.”

“That’s a bad word,” Kara said as she squeezed between her brother and the doorframe to run into the room. She turned to give him a disapproving look. “You’re all icky.”

Max glanced up at his son, taking in the sweat-stained tank top and the damp hair that was standing up in short spikes. Before he could say anything Nick crowded into the doorway and hung over Justin’s right shoulder.

“Hey, Dad, are we outta bologna?”

“Yeah, we haven’t made it to the grocery store yet. Have a ham sandwich.” He rolled his eyes when the boy made a face. He checked his watch. “Go order a pizza.” He chuckled when the boys took off in search of the number for the local pizza place and was tearing the package open when he realized Andy was standing there watching him. “How’s it goin’, Andy?”

“Uncle Max,” he said slowly.

His nephew looked like his own boys, sweaty and rumpled. “You played a great game the other night.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, it was okay.”

“Andy.” He shifted to look at the boy, raising his right leg and bending it at the knee so he could rest his forearm on it. “Your dad wanted you to be happy more than anything. He pushed you to be the best and I know he wasn’t crazy about basketball, but the night before he – “

“I’m gonna go help the guys.”

Max sighed and shook his head, rolling one of the tiny bulbs between his thumb and forefinger as his thoughts took him back to that night.

They had been silent for a while, each lost in his own thoughts in the wake of Andrew’s revelation that he and Maria were considering a trial separation. He had gotten up to stoke the fire and make a pot of coffee. It was mainly something to do to keep him busy because he didn’t know what to say to help his big brother.

“Max, what do you think of basketball?”

He had leaned back on his heels when Andrew’s quiet voice cut through the stillness. “Say what?”

“Basketball, what do you think about it?”

He had stared at his brother uncomprehendingly. “I think it’s a sport I don’t mind playin’ in the driveway or at the park but I’d never be interested in playin’ it for any other reason. Why?”

“I always thought Andy would play football, you know? Be the high school football star like his old man. He’s got the ability and the kid throws a sweet pass but there’s no passion for the sport.” He had shaken his head and uncapped the flask in his hand to take a drink. “He could be better than I ever was if he just applied himself.”

Max had settled back into his spot and stretched his long legs out, crossing his feet at the ankles. “Hell, Drew, Andy’s always had a preference for basketball.”

“Yeah, just thought he’d outgrow that.” He had sighed and run a hand through his hair as he tipped his head back to stare up at the sky. “Maria says I need to accept it and support him.”

“She’s right.”

Andrew had lowered his head slowly and his gaze had leveled on his younger brother. “It feels like he’s slipping away.”

“He’s growin’ up, Drew. We were the same way at his age.”

“Yeah, I guess. You’re lucky, your boys love football.”

Max had chuckled and shrugged. “They do,” he agreed.

“Yeah, I know,” Andrew said with a snort. “They could be into cooking or some shit like that and you’d be proud.”

“Does it really matter as long as they’re happy?” Max had asked.

He sighed. “I wanted to have the kinda relationship with him that I had with Dad, you know?”

“Hell, big brother, aim higher than that. You’ve always had the best relationship with our parents but if you think about it you’ll remember that Dad was most supportive when we were doin’ what he thought was best. Andy loves basketball and you basically hate it, but maybe you should just accept that at least you have a common love of sports. The boy loves you, Drew, he practically worships the ground you walk on, and he’ll do anything he can to please you.” He had stretched his leg out to nudge his brother. “Don’t be like Dad, be better than that.”

Andrew had stared into the fire thoughtfully. He had never understood the point of basketball. Football, hockey, and baseball, those were real sports. Basketball ranked up there with things like golf and tennis, and he didn’t understand the point. He had glanced at his brother and caught Max watching him. “You’re right,” he had admitted finally. “Andy enjoys basketball and it makes him happy, and that’s the most important thing.”


But Andrew had missed the opportunity to share that with his son.

“Daddy?”

Max blinked, bringing his gaze back into focus and he lifted his head to look at Kara. She was leaning against his shoulder, her face close to his as she stared at him.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, baby girl, I’m fine.”

“You look sad.”

“Just old memories.” He shook them off and smiled reassuringly at her. “We’re just about ready to put the lights up,” he said as he threaded the thin wires through the little plastic holder, seating the bulb and then pressing the wires into place. He pressed the holder into place and the strand of lights lit up. He smiled when Kara squealed in delight and clapped her hands.

“They’re pretty!” she exclaimed. “But these are the little ones, Daddy. They don’t go outside.”

“No, but they do go around the windows inside the house so I figured it’d save time to just get them all ready now.”

She walked around him to look at the strands of lights all lying on the floor in neat coils. “Do you gotta put all these up?”

“Yeah, but it won’t be too bad.” He had already been up on the ladder and checked all of the fasteners he had installed the year before. He’d only had to replace a couple and after the hours he’d put in last year he knew hanging the lights would take considerably less time than it normally did.

“I can help you.”

“Pizza’s here!” Nick yelled from the kitchen. “Hey, Dad, where’s the money?”

Max shifted and pulled his wallet out to slide out a few bills and hand them to Kara. “Take this to your brother and then you have something to eat.”

“Can’t I eat with you?”

“Alright, but after lunch I want you to stay with the boys while I put the lights up, okay?”

She sighed. “Okay.”

“Go on now. And tell Justin to come in here for a minute.” He smiled when she scampered off to the kitchen, hollering for her brother before she had even made it out of the room.

“What’s up, Dad?” Justin asked a moment later, the words mumbled around a mouthful of pizza.

“Did you even wait to get in the house with that pizza before you started eating?” He shook his head when his son just shrugged. “After lunch I want you boys to keep an eye on Kara so I don’t have to worry about her being underfoot while I’m up on the roof.”

“But Dad, we were gonna watch the game.” He took another bite of his pizza and nodded when Dad just looked at him. “Okay, we’ll watch her too. When’s Mom gonna be home?”

“Her drama class lets out around 3pm.”

“Cool, so when she gets home we can take off?” Maybe they could go over to Andy’s house and catch the next game without any interruptions.

Max laughed and nodded. “Yeah, as long as Mom doesn’t have anything for you to do you can take off.” He listened to the grumbling as the boy turned to leave but before long Justin was busy discussing which of them had the best jump shot.

*****

Max leaned forward and pressed the cord into the fastener, his left hand gripping the ladder as he stretched out and snapped a few more into place. There had to be an easier way to do this, he thought as he climbed back down. He made the climb once more and repeated the process, cursing under his breath when the wind caught the strand, making it swing back and smack into the ladder.

“Damn it,” he muttered when a green bulb shattered on impact and he pulled it up so he could unscrew what was left of the bulb. He shook his head and snapped the strand into place before climbing down and cleaning up the shards on the ground. He carried it all inside and disposed of it, washing his hands, and then going into the living room to find a box of replacement bulbs. The television was playing loudly and he watched the halftime report for a few minutes before grabbing the bulb he needed and heading back outside.

He could hear the kids out in the backyard as he walked into the kitchen to grab a drink before heading back outside. He was humming under his breath when he stepped out on the front porch and barely missed being knocked over when he crossed the yard and Justin ran past him to catch the ball his cousin had just thrown.

“Did you see that catch, Dad?” the teenager shouted as he held the ball over his head and grinned widely.

“Yeah, I saw it.” He glanced at the other two boys as they came into view and he frowned when he didn’t see his youngest. “Where’s your sister?”

“Uh…” Justin looked at Nick.

“She was with us just a second ago, right?”

“Damn it, I told you to watch her!” Max ran to the corner of the house and his heart stopped in his chest when he saw Kara nearly a quarter of the way up the ladder he had extended to reach the highest point of the roof. He was suddenly staring down at his brother as he slipped from his grasp and his blood roared through his veins, the sound blocking everything else out. He rushed forward, panic making him blind to the fact that screaming her name would startle her. All he saw was her jerking around to look at him, her eyes wide as she made a grab for the rail and missed, upsetting her balance.

His eyes widened as she fell backwards, her little limbs flailing as she tried uselessly to catch herself. He felt her land in his arms, pulled her in tight against his chest, and sank to the ground.

“Dad?” Nick moved closer to Dad, not knowing how to handle the situation. His entire body was shaking uncontrollably and Kara was screaming and crying, trying to get free. “Dad, you gotta let her go,” he said as he tried to pry his sister free from Dad’s iron grip. “Dad, Kara’s scared, let go of her.” He didn’t think she was being hurt, was pretty sure she was just scared by the fall and Dad’s reaction, but he didn’t know what to do when he couldn’t get Dad to respond. “Justin, go call Mom!”

“Maybe I could help get her loose – “

“Go call Mom now!” He crouched down so he could see Kara’s face. “Kara, hey, baby girl, look at me.” He reached out to touch her face and jumped back when Dad struck out, pushing him away.

Justin turned and ran into the house while Andy looked on. “What’s wrong with him?” he asked, uneasy with his uncle’s behavior. Kara was crying harder and his uncle was rocking back and forth, his eyes staring straight ahead but somehow he didn’t think he was seeing Nick. The look in Uncle Max’s eyes was… empty and it terrified him. He had seen that look before and he stood there, rooted to the spot, unable to help his cousins or run away.

“Mom should be here in about five minutes,” Justin said as he ran back outside. “What should we do?”

“I don’t know,” Nick shouted, his fear emerging as anger.
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
Posts: 925
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 122

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Nov 18, 2012 10:13 am

keepsmiling7: It is difficult, but it’s getting a bit easier with time.

Got a feeling Kara knows she wasn’t supposed to be on that ladder, lol.

Liz won’t take long to get home.

This is the break that has needed to happen for a long time.

Earth2Mama: We’ll find out if he’ll respond to Liz in this part.

sarammlover: Yep, he really is. But, it’s what’s needed to happen to force him to deal wtih what happened. Also very important for Andy to witness it.

begonia9508: Lol, yeah, all it takes is a matter of seconds and they can get away from you.

Oh, no, no such thing as the right time for something like this. But they’ll deal with it.

Natalie36: We’ll get the answers to both of those questions in this part.

Alien_Friend: Lol, yeah, saw that one coming, huh? This moment is very important to both Max and Andy. Maybe someday soon Andy will be receptive to knowing that information.

mary mary: Lol, well, we’re guessing that’s probably not the first time Max has had the ladder up and chances are good she’s been told before to stay off the ladder. But this is an important moment for both Max and Andy.



Part 122

“I can’t believe we’re almost ready to open up,” Maria said with a sigh as she dropped down in one of the customer’s chairs and glanced around the shop with a smile on her face. “We got this done in a really short amount of time, didn’t we?”

Happy and Loopy both wiggled their tails and gave a high-pitched yap as if they understood what the woman was talking about.

Tess chuckled and let her gaze wander over the room as well. “Yeah, we’re good. But that was to be expected.”

“Of course we are…” She broke off and grabbed her buzzing cell from the sink in front of her.

“Must be Michael,” her friend mused with a smirk when she saw Maria’s happy face as she read the message on her display.

“What makes you think that?” the other woman asked when she placed the cell aside again, still smiling.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe that big fat grin you’ve had on your face since… oh, like all day since you got back from Santa Fe. You had sex, right? Admit it!”

“What if we did?”

“What if… Hell, I don’t know. It’s the most logical thing to do considering the buildup.”

“Tess!”

“What? You guys waited a long time for it, didn’t you?”

Maria bit her lip, but then had to smile again. “It felt like a long time, yes. But it was necessary to settle things and… it was worth the wait.”

“That’s all that matters,” Tess said, laughing. “Say, how hard is it to be an ideal for your son since you’re acting like a hormone-driven teenager as well now?” she teased her friend.

“I’m not acting like that,” she denied at the same moment the door sprang open and the man in question entered the room.

“Sure,” the other blonde muttered with a roll of her eyes as she watched Maria’s cheeks flush when Michael walked over to kiss her. Definitely like teenagers, she thought, amused.

“Brought you ladies coffee and I’m on my way out again,” he said and placed two mugs-to-go on the counter.

“Isn’t he the best?” Maria asked happily.

“Do I have to answer that?” Tess said and winked at the man.

“Alright, I have to go. Basketball practice,” Michael leaned in to give his girlfriend another brief kiss and then he slipped away again before he could get sidetracked.

“See you at home,” she called after him and went over to get one of the coffees. “You want sugar and cream?”

“Just cream,” Tess shook her head and walked over to get her drink ready as well. “He’s the right man for you.”

“Yes, he is,” Maria answered without a doubt.

“And so they lived happily ever after…”

“You don’t have to pretend to be so unaffected, girl! I know you and my brother are just the same way. Whenever Kyle’s around you don’t listen to anyone else anymore.”

“That’s not true.”

“It is true and I’m not complaining about it, just stating the obvious.”

Tess nodded and sipped on her coffee. “We have gotten pretty close lately,” she admitted. “It just kinda happened with all the drama going on, ya know… Andrew’s death was the beginning and now the miscarriage… it felt good to share all of those feelings with him and it made a change in our relationship.”

Maria nodded. “What’d Linda say?”

“She said I’m fine. There’re no health problems that would indicate problems with another pregnancy.”

“That’s good,” her friend said, though she had already expected it.

“Yeah…” Tess looked at her and smiled wryly. “I wish it’d make my fears disappear as well.”

“Not so easy, huh?” Maria asked. Although she was sure a miscarriage was scary, you couldn’t tell what it really felt like if you hadn’t experienced it. Being pregnant was a pain in the ass sometimes with the morning sickness and then later the big belly, but she would never wanna miss that time; the tiny kicks he had given her, the connection she had felt to him during the whole nine months.

“No, not at all. I feel torn between risking it again or just saving myself another disappointment and hurt. The more I think about it, the more uncertain I am.”

“You probably shouldn’t put too much effort into those thoughts, Tess. Maybe the decision will develop over time.”

“What would you do?”

Maria shook her head. “I don’t know if someone who had no problems with her first pregnancy can really answer that.”

“But can’t you give me some advice?” Tess asked with a pleading look. “Because I don’t believe the problem will ever be solved if I don’t find a straight answer to it.”

“Advice?” That was a tough request. “I’m not sure. I mean, how many people do you know who had a miscarriage? I mean, like every woman ya know… friends, friends of friends, people you only talked to once… it doesn’t matter.”

Tess frowned, but thought about it for a moment. “A few… maybe three? Tracy Walther from high school had one too, didn’t she?”

Maria nodded. “I think so.”

“Okay, so three I guess. Excluding myself.”

“I know of two others as well.”

“So? What you’re saying is…?”

“Okay, now think again. How many of them had children afterwards?”

“Umm,” Tess ran over the families in her head. “All of them I think.”

“Same with the people I know,” Maria said with a nod.

“So, what you’re trying to tell me is I should try to get pregnant again?”

“I can’t and won’t tell you what you should do, girlfriend. I’m just pointing out the facts and hope that helps because it’s all you’ll get from me.”

“Did any of the people you know have doubts as well?”

Maria shrugged. “I’m sure they were all confronted with fears about it, Tess.” She looked up to meet her eyes. “Rita… my grandmother, she’s one of them and – “

“You grandma had a miscarriage?”

“Yeah, I found out while I was visiting her on a summer break during high school. I used to play in her attic and found something there. She told me about it then.”

“Was it before or after she had your mother?”

“Before,” Maria said meaningfully. “I think a few months before she got pregnant with Amy.”

“Wow, so soon. Did she say anything about how she was able to get over her fear?” Tess asked hopefully.

“Not really, but I remember that she told me she believed in some higher meaning. Ya know, like the baby was taken away because something was wrong with him and her. I think she said something like: Mother Nature has her way of selecting the ones who should be born.” Maria made a face. “Sorry, not sure if that helps and well, my grandma was weird about a few things.”

“No, no,” Tess shook her head and thought about what her friend had said, but her thoughts were interrupted when the cell in her pocket started to buzz. “It’s Liz.”

****

Liz didn’t know what was going on at home. All she had been told when her assistant had interrupted her was that her son had called and there was some sort of emergency at home. She had wasted no time handing practice over to her assistant and running from the building. She had tried calling home but no one was answering and that scared her. She called Tess when she didn’t receive an answer at home and her sister-in-law had agreed to meet her at the house.

She turned onto her street and pulled into her driveway, seeing her children standing at the side of the house. She climbed out of the car and hurried to them, shooting a quick glance at her nephew when she noticed him standing apart from the others. Her gaze moved back to her children and she saw Kara wedged tightly between the twins, her hands fisted in Justin’s shirt as she cried. She turned her head to follow the direction of their gazes and her heart thudded painfully when she saw Max sitting on the ground next to the ladder. His knees were pulled up tightly to his body, his forehead resting on them, and his hands clasped tightly around the back of his neck.

Even with the distance between them she could hear him breathing, the sound harsh because he was trying so hard to hold his emotions in. Behind her she heard a car door slam and knew Tess had arrived. She scooped Kara up in her arms and held her little girl’s trembling body close as she hugged the boys. She spoke to them quietly, her eyes tracking her sister-in-law when the other woman went to Andy to make sure he was alright. Once she was able to get the story from them she had a better understanding of what had happened and she had a feeling this was the break that was going to make her husband face the accident that had taken his brother’s life.

“What can I do?” Tess asked.

Liz turned her head to look at her sister-in-law. “Take the kids for me.”

The blonde nodded and immediately took charge of the kids. “Alright, you guys, let’s go get some of your things together and let your mom handle things from here.”

“Go,” Liz said quietly and nodded when the boys looked at her. “Go, your dad will be okay.”

Kara tightened her grip around Mommy when she felt her trying to hand her over to Aunt Tess. She didn’t understand what was wrong with Daddy. He had scared her when he had shouted and then when he had held her so tight, but she didn’t want to leave him either.

“Kara, sweetie, I need you to go with Aunt Tess so I can take care of Daddy. Can you do that for me?” Liz asked, her voice quietly soothing.

The little girl shook her head and leaned back so she could look around. “What’s wrong with Daddy, Mommy?” she whispered. “Why’s he mad?”

“He’s not mad, baby girl.”

Kara’s bottom lip trembled. “He yelled at me.”

“You were up on the ladder and you could’ve been hurt, Kara. He yelled because you scared him and then he hugged you so tight because he was scared to let you go. He was glad you were okay,” she answered, trying to explain in a way that her daughter would understand. “Now I need you to go with Aunt Tess, okay?”

The little girl’s gaze moved back to Daddy once more before she shifted and held her arms out to her aunt. Tess took Kara in her arms and looked at Liz. “I’ll take what they need for an overnight stay. If you get things sorted out and want me to bring them back this evening that’s fine,” she said when Liz started to speak. “But if you need me to keep them overnight then they’ll be prepared.”

Liz nodded. “Thank you, Tess.”

“Call and let me know how he is and if you need anything…”

“I know, I’ll call.” She smiled at her daughter and waved as they walked around the house and disappeared from sight. She slowly moved to kneel in front of Max, reaching out to rest her hands on his forearms. “Max…”

His hands clenched at the back of his neck and his eyes were clenched tightly as he pressed his forehead harder against his knees. “I couldn’t hold him,” he whispered raggedly. “I couldn’t…” he choked. The muffled words suddenly started to pour from his lips, bringing to life a moment that he wished he could erase from the past.

His hands had been locked around Andrew’s wrist, slipping on his sweat-slicked skin and fighting to maintain his grip. His nails were short but he was holding on so tightly he could feel them digging into his brother’s flesh. His heart pounded, sweat erupted from his pores, and he felt fear clawing at him when he couldn’t look away from the gaping expanse of nothing that lay below his brother’s dangling body.

“You’ve got to let me go,” Andrew rasped.

“No!” Max tore his gaze away from the chasm and his eyes locked on Andrew’s. “No,” he denied, “I won’t let you fall.”

“You’ve got to, Max.” He shook his head when he felt his weight pulling his little brother closer to the edge. “If you don’t we’re both dead.”

“Just try again, Drew. Swing your body in so you can grab onto something.” Max made a desperate grab for the strap on his brother’s pack but he couldn’t reach it. His hand returned to its previous position but he still couldn’t get a solid grip. He saw the flash of sunlight glinting against the blade of Andrew’s hunting knife and he nodded. “Good idea, drop the pack, it’ll give us more leverage.”

The heavier equipment was in Max’s pack and they both knew it. The blade had sliced cleanly through the straps but it hadn’t released enough weight to make a difference. “It’s not enough,” he said when the pack fell away and he felt Max being pulled down with him. His eyes locked on his brother’s and he saw the emotions fly across the younger man’s features when he saw the knife coming towards him and he realized what was happening.

The blade had sliced into the back of his wrist and he brought his left hand up, fisted, and knocked the knife from Andrew’s hand before he could strike again. “I’m not gonna do it, Drew. I won’t leave your wife and son without a husband and father.”

“You’d rather leave both of our wives and kids without husbands and fathers?” He shook his head. “I love you, little brother, but you’ve always had too much heart for your own good. You don’t know when to let go so I’m gonna let go for you.”

“Don’t, Drew,” he begged. “Don’t let go.”

“You’re gonna kill yourself if I don’t. You’ve always followed my lead, but this’s one time I can’t let you do it.” His hand had loosened its grip where it was wrapped around Max’s wrist. “Maria’s gotta move on and Andy, make sure my kid knows I love him.”

Max scrabbled to get a better grip but the blood flowing freely over his hand combined with his brother’s full weight when he let go made it impossible and his own scream echoed around him as he watched Andrew’s body fall.


“It’s not your fault, Max,” she whispered, fighting back tears at the pain in his voice. “You fought as hard as you could to hold onto him.”

He slowly lifted his head as he brought his hands down and he held them out so he could stare at them. After a moment he reached over to trace the scar that ran across the back of his right wrist. “I know why he did it and as much as I love him for it…” he swallowed hard, “part of me hates him for it too.”

“He was pulling you down with him, Max, and he knew you wouldn’t, you couldn’t, let go.” She covered his clenched hands with hers. “Andrew took his role as your big brother seriously and he always looked out for you. He knew if he continued to hold on he was gonna take you over that cliff with him.”

He inhaled raggedly. “I couldn’t save him, Liz.” He turned his head back and forth to wipe his eyes on his shirtsleeves. “The one time he needed me and I failed him.”

“The only way you could’ve possibly failed him was if you had gone over that cliff with him.” She scooted closer and reached up to frame his face in her hands. “How long have we known each other?”

“All our lives,” he answered dutifully.

“Then I’d say we’ve seen each other at our best and our worst. We’ve been there for the good and the bad. We know each other’s flaws better than anyone else.” She stared into his haunted eyes. “I know you, Max Evans, and you didn’t fail your brother,” she said fiercely.

*****

Kyle stood in front of the Roswell Sheriff’s Department, leaning back against the brick building as he talked to Maria on the phone. Tess had called him on her way over to Liz’s house and then again to let him know what was going on after picking the kids up. He had agreed to call his sister to see if she could keep the kids for the night since she had more room than they did. It was just a bonus that Michael happened to be over at the house because from the sounds of it his skills could come in very handy.

He disconnected the call and pushed away from the wall when his girlfriend turned the corner and pulled over to the curb. He squeezed into the front seat next to Andy and turned to take stock of the somber expressions on their faces. “You guys okay?” he asked, not singling any of them out.

“Daddy scared me,” Kara said quietly. She was hugging her favorite stuffed toy as she looked up at him with wide eyes.

“He didn’t mean to,” Nick assured her, his eyes following the scenery passing by as Aunt Tess started driving again.

“It’s just ‘cause you almost fell off the ladder, squirt,” Justin said as he stared down at the puppy he was cradling against his chest.

“Yeah, an’ Mom said he’s gonna be okay.” Nick glanced at Justin and shrugged. “And Mom would know, right, Justin?”

“What’d Maria say?” Tess asked quietly as she maneuvered the quiet streets.

“She said yeah. She put me on hold and called Michael; he’s on his way over there too.” He reached around his nephew to rest his hand on her shoulder. “You okay?”

Tess glanced at him quickly and nodded. They would have time to talk later and she really didn’t want to share her thoughts with the kids there, especially not with Kara around.

“How long do we stay wif Aunt Maria?” the little girl asked.

“Just for tonight,” Kyle turned his upper body around and reached behind him to squeeze her leg. “We’re gonna make pizza, what do ya say about that?”

“With cheese?”

He smirked. “Lots of cheese.”

Andy wasn’t really listening to the conservation, staring out the window in front of him. He was still trying to make sense of what had happened and what he had seen. For so long he had blamed Uncle Max for Dad’s accident and he had been so certain that it was his fault Dad was dead now. But the man he held responsible had seemed so broken. He had hung around while Aunt Tess was getting the twins and Kara ready to go, listening as his uncle told his aunt what had happened that day.

Since that day he’d had a clear picture in his mind, had envisioned his uncle as a coward who had been too weak to do what was necessary to save his own brother. But if what Uncle Max had said was true, then everything he had thought and felt was wrong. If it was true he had been punishing his uncle, had hated him, for nothing.

He lifted his head to look out through the windshield when he felt the car slowing down and he felt relief wash through him when they pulled into the driveway of his house. As soon as Uncle Kyle got out he scrambled to free himself from the confines of the car and hurried inside, ducking past the doorway to the kitchen when he heard Mom and Michael talking, and running up the stairs to his room.

Maria came out of the kitchen to look at the stairs, searching for Andy and biting her bottom lip when she heard his door slam shut. Before long the music came on, louder than he’d had it in quite a while, but before she could say anything Kyle came through the front door with the kids in tow and Tess bringing up the rear.

“Just unload everything over there,” she gestured to a still-empty corner in the living room and helped Tess with the kids’ stuff before her gaze went back to the stairs.

“Give him a bit to calm down before you talk to him,” Kyle advised quietly.

She nodded and crouched down in front of Kara. “Michael and I decided to have some pizza, what do you think about that?”

“I like pizza,” the little girl nodded.

Her aunt smiled. “How about you go wash your hand and then you can decide what you want to have on your own little personal pizza, huh?”

“Okay,” she hurried off to the bathroom quickly and Maria straightened up again.

“You okay, boys?” she asked the twins just as Michael entered the living room as well, wiping his hands on a towel and throwing it at the dining table.

Justin shrugged and threw himself down on the couch. “Can we watch TV?”

She nodded. “Yeah, go ahead. Just remember that Kara’s running around here.”

“Okay.” He leaned forward and grabbed the remote, turning the television on and beginning to channel surf.

Michael disappeared into the kitchen for a few moments to grab drinks out of the refrigerator. He carried them back out into the living room and handed them to the boys. He started to say something but Happy chose that moment to run through the room and jump up on the couch and into Justin’s lap. “Either of you wants to talk I’m here.”

Nick nodded and his brother waved one hand in the air to acknowledge his offer but their eyes never strayed from the television.

He moved over to join the others and give the boys some space. “How’s your brother?” he asked, glancing at Tess.

She shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. It seems like he went right back to the day of our brother’s accident when he saw Kara falling from the ladder.”

“Situations like that can take you right back to things that you’ve been pushing away for a long time,” Michael agreed and rubbed her shoulder when she looked so lost.

“Yeah… Max has always avoided the subject. I mean, it’s not like I talk about my dead brother a lot myself, but it always felt like he pushed those thoughts away with force.” She sighed. “He never really dealt with what happened and now it seems it’s found a way to break free.”

“I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but this is the first step to really healing, you know?” He knew he was just a counselor and maybe sounded a lot like a know-it-all, but it was the truth. Dealing with grief had being a part of his studies. Plus there was the fact that he had a lot of own experience with this subject as well.

“Maybe he’s finally realizing he’ll only be able to make peace with it if he starts to talk about it,” Tess considered quietly and glanced at the stairs. “And maybe Andy’s also able to see things from another side.”

Maria followed her gaze but before she could decide what to do she felt someone tugging on her shirt. She looked down and smiled at Kara. “What is it, sweetie?”

“I’m thirsty.”

“I’ve got this one,” Kyle said and scooped her up. “I’ll bet Aunt Maria’s got chocolate milk in the fridge.”

“I like chocolate milk.” Kara rested her head on his shoulder.

“Alright, let’s get somethin’ to drink and then sounds like you’re gonna be busy makin’ pizza.”

“I like lots an’ lots of cheese.”

He laughed and patted her back. “I’ll bet Aunt Maria has lots an’ lots of cheese.”
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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 123

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 02, 2012 11:57 am

CandyliciousLovah: We love Uncle Kyle! He’s a lot of fun, he’s great with the kids, and Kara just adores him.

sarammlover: Aww! Max has been living under a very dark cloud for a long time now but getting that out, painful as it was, is gonna be a good thing for him. It was an important moment for Andy as well. For so long he’s blamed his uncle and now he’s realizing maybe he was wrong. Thanks for the awesome compliment!

Earth2Mama: A big moment for Max, but so necessary for him to be able to finally put the past to rest.

That was scary for Kara but she’ll bounce back.

mary mary: Kara’s definitely old enough to know better and we have a feeling that she’ll think twice before she thinks about climbing another ladder.

We’ll catch up with Max and Liz in this part.

Alien_Friend: Painful as it is, this will allow Max to really let the past rest so that he can find peace and move on.

Andy needed to know what happened that day and witnessing his uncle’s break really brought it home for him.

Thanks, we have more coming!

Natalie36: The two of them really do need to have a serious conversation.

keepsmiling7: This is the break that Max has needed so badly. Andy witnessing it really made him realize that his accusations have been misplaced. The two of them need to have a face to face conversation and really talk about what happened so they can both put the past to rest.

As for Kara, lol, we’re pretty sure you’re right!

begonia9508: That was hard for Max but unfortunately, also necessary. He’s fought the memories of that day for so long, refused to deal with it, and now he has to face it and find a way to deal with it.

Yes, that’s it exactly! What he does now... we’ll find out soon.




Part 123

Michael watched them for a moment as Kyle worked to draw Kara out and he turned to Maria when she tugged on his hand. “You gonna go talk to Andy?” he asked when she couldn’t keep her gaze away from the stairs.

“Yeah, I was just thinking of giving him a bit of time to cool down first.”

“That’s probably a good idea.” Andy was more open to talking lately, although the boy had temper and approaching him while he was still on the edge wasn’t a good idea.

She breathed deeply and forced a small smile. “What a day.”

“It seems a lot worse than it is, I’m sure,” he told her and he believed it. To be honest, from everything he knew about the accident and the way the family had reacted to it, this had been bound to happen and they could be glad that no one had been hurt – at least not physically.

“True. Max and Andy haven’t gotten along very well since the accident and I wondered if they would ever deal with this. It wasn’t like any of us could talk any sense into them.”

“They’ll figure it out on their own,” Tess said as she walked up beside them.

“What about you?” Maria asked, knowing that Tess often hid her own hurt and was overlooked because the focus had always been on Max and her. “You okay?”

“I’m good,” she assured them. “It was hard to see my brother so devastated, but I think Liz can take care of him best and if we all tried to take care of him right now it’d just be too much for him to handle.”

Michael nodded in agreement. “Just based on some of the conversations I’ve had with Andy it sounds like you’re right and your brother will probably deal with this a lot better if he isn’t surrounded by well-meaning family and friends.”

“Max isn’t one of those people whose all closed off emotionally or anything but he has his own way of dealing with things.”

He smiled. “We all do. And while this kinda break can be pretty scary, especially to people who witness it, it can also be a good thing. After holding such powerful emotions inside a release like this just opens the floodgates. For some people it’s the only way they can face what happened.”

“I just hope it allows him to see that he’s not at fault for what happened.”

“Yeah,” Maria agreed with a nod. “I didn’t hold him responsible for the accident and Andy said he did even though he knew it wasn’t true, but Max wasn’t able to believe it. And Andy was probably a big part of the reason why Max hasn’t been able to make peace with it yet.”

Michael gave her shoulder an encouraging squeeze and nodded towards the kitchen. “I’m gonna go and get the pizza ready with the little one.”

“Okay, I’ve gotta go talk to Andy I guess,” she replied just as the doorbell rang and she frowned. “Who could that be now?” Still wondering, she walked over to open it and was surprised to see her son’s girlfriend. “Sam… uh, right now probably isn’t a good time…”

“He sent me a text a while ago,” she blurted out before his mom had the chance to complete her sentence, hoping she wouldn’t just send her away. She didn’t know much about what was going on, she had just gotten a message from Andy that had said his uncle had a breakdown and they were all heading to his home.

Maria studied the girl for a minute before deciding that maybe she was the one Andy needed at the moment. If he had contacted her then at least he was reaching out instead of trying to bottle up what he was feeling and thinking. She nodded and took a step back, motioning for the girl to enter the house. “He’s in his room. You can go up there, but the usual rules apply.”

Sam nodded. Like she cared about the stupid door to his room staying open right now. All she cared about was making sure Andy was okay. She was on her way through the hall when she noticed the twins sitting on the couch in the living room and she ducked in to hug them from behind. “You guys okay?”

“Hey, Sam,” Justin mumbled.

“We’re okay,” Nick assured her.

Justin tipped his head back to give her a small smile. “Go on and check on him.”

“Thanks. I’ll be back.” She released them and hurried up the stairs, pausing when she came face to face with the closed bedroom door and she reached out to touch it, feeling the heavy thrum of music reverberating through the wood.

Despite expectations the door wasn’t locked and she opened it slowly, not sure what was waiting for her on the other side.

From the corner of his eye Andy saw his bedroom door open and he expected either his Mom or Michael to be checking on him. Surprise hit him when he saw his girlfriend in the frame. He had sent her a text about what had happened because she had been planning to come over to the twins’ house as well and he wanted to prevent her from seeing what had happened to Uncle Max, but he hadn’t expected her to come over. Yeah, you should’ve known better, he thought and looked at his cell that showed three missed calls.

“Hey,” she said, her words barely audible over the loud music blaring from the speakers. Sam’s eyes roamed over him where he was sitting on the bed, trying to decipher his mood.

Andy just stared at her, not sure what to say or do. Talking wasn’t really anything he was looking forward to. He hadn’t even decided what exactly he had seen and what it meant. He moved his body a bit further towards the wall and hoped she wouldn’t push him. The last thing he needed or wanted right now was a fight with her to top off his day.

Sam watched him for a moment, studying his body language and his expression in an effort to decide how to handle the situation. This was one way he was so much like Justin, she thought as she moved away from the doorway. She had left the door open, but closer to the frame rather than leaving it wide open. Like his cousin he felt things deeply but he wasn’t comfortable with people knowing it or pointing it out.

She nudged him and he shifted over to make room for her. She sat beside him, wrapping her arms around him and just offering the comfort of her presence while he decided if he wanted to talk. He leaned into her slightly and didn’t protest when she started to rub his arm. Eventually her touch slowed until just the tips of her fingernails were brushing against him from shoulder to forearm and back again, the motion repetitive and soothing. She took it as a good sign when she felt him begin to relax and after a while he reached for the remote lying next to his leg and he lowered the volume on the music blaring through the speakers.

“You didn’t have to come over here,” he mumbled finally.

She rolled her eyes even though he wasn’t looking at her. “When are you gonna learn that I don’t do most stuff ‘cause I have to?”

He shrugged and continued staring at the window across the room. Daylight was slowly slipping away as the sun made its descent to the west and he absently wondered if the Christmas lights would be on at his aunt and uncle’s house. He could hear the racket from downstairs as Mom and Michael worked on making dinner, probably wrangling everyone into helping. He couldn’t tell if Aunt Tess and Uncle Kyle had stayed or if they had gone back home for the night because the voices weren’t clear enough to distinguish their owners.

“Are the twins and Kara stayin’ here for the night?” she asked when he didn’t give her an opening.

“Probably yeah,” he said, his voice indicating he had little effort in talking. “Aunt Liz’s trying to handle my uncle, so it might take some time.”

Sam made a sound of agreement although she didn’t understand a lot of it. What had happened that had to be kept away from the kids?

“I’ve never seen him like that,” Andy suddenly broke the silence after a few minutes. “His whole body was shaking, Sam. Like he was freezing, but he wasn’t freezing… he was totally off… Almost looked like he was scared, ya know?”

“And this happened all of the sudden?” she asked with a frown.

“Well, yes and no. I mean, Kara was climbing up the ladder and he saw it. She fell but he caught her and she didn’t get hurt.”

“So maybe your uncle mixed up her almost falling with your father’s accident?”

Andy looked at her miserably. “Yeah, I think he was right back there at the canyon.”

“Maybe he was. You said he was there when your father fell – “

“He let him fall!” he insisted angrily.

“Did he?” she countered quietly. “What you saw today would kinda negate that, wouldn’t it?”

“I’m not sure what I saw.”

Sam nudged him. “But you suspect he was back in that moment. The way you said he reacted, that doesn’t sound like someone who just let someone he loved fall.”

He turned away from her. “Don’t wanna talk about it anymore.” Not until he could figure out on his own what exactly he had seen in his uncle’s face earlier that day.

“Okay,” she agreed. Maybe it was still too fresh to push him into a realization that he had to make on his own. “I guess I should go home, give you and your family a bit of time to settle. Your house is pretty full.”

“You could stay for dinner,” he said, not wanting her to leave already. As long as she was there he wouldn’t have to talk to Mom about it and he knew that even though she had suggested leaving she’d be hurt if he just let her go without a single attempt to make her stay a bit longer. “Not sure what’s on the menu, but I’m pretty sure they’ll make something unhealthy on a day like this.” A small smirk appeared on his lips when he turned to look at her again. “Plus, you can escape the principal’s healthy crap.”

“Well, it’s not all bad,” she admitted, secretly relieved that he had asked her to stay. “She can actually cook pretty good but not so much when she goes all out with that health food crap.”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I mean, Mom does stuff to cut back on fat or cholesterol or whatever, but at least when she cooks the food still has taste.” He shrugged. “And Michael kinda sneaks stuff in the food when she’s not lookin’ so there’re definitely some good points to havin’ him around.”

She rolled her eyes at him but she was happy to see him smile. Andy couldn’t be pushed into talking; she had learned that quickly enough. Sometimes he could be given a gentle or persistent nudge but if he balked she knew to back off and give him space. Another thing she knew about him was that when he was ready to talk he would let her know. So she was just gonna have to be patient and wait him out.

“Wanna go downstairs an’ see what they got?” he suggested after a while.

“Sure,” she agreed and slipped from the bed, turning to face him when he got up as well.

“What?” he asked puzzled when her look was kinda... expectant.

“Don’t I get a kiss or anything?” she joked, trying to tell him she wouldn’t just hang around all the time like she was waiting for him to open up.

Andy snorted. “Oh, that, guess I could do that.” He leaned in and planted a loud kiss on her lips, grinning when she made a face afterwards. “Not good?”

She wiped her mouth with her hand. “That a real question?”

“Nah, not really,” he said, grinning at her as he moved closer to her, crowding her against the open door.

She smiled up at him. “That’s good to know.”

“Dinner’s just about ready!”

He rolled his eyes when Mom made her announcement from the bottom of the stairs. “Give it much longer and she’ll send Kara up here.” He smirked and then shook his head as he wrapped his right arm around her. “Well… she’ll probably just come up here herself. Doin’ that whole mom thing, ya know?”

“Um-hmm, so maybe you should kiss me before she decides to come up here.”

“Smart woman,” he remarked with a wink and closed the small distance between them to press his lips against hers in a tender manner this time. The day had been eventful and not only in a bad way. She had a weird way of making him somehow forget about it – or at least she always managed to make the bad thoughts fade into the background.

His arms moved further around her, easily wrapping around her slim hips. Her body automatically tightened slightly at his move and he knew it was in response to the full body contact, which showed her all too well how MUCH je enjoyed kissing her.

Sam always felt so many things when she was with him, it was crazy. On the one hand it was exciting to be close like that to him and on the other, she was still asking herself how far she should go with him and how soon.

Andy broke the kiss after several minutes and looked at her, his eyes roaming over her now swollen lips. “Better get downstairs.” He could hear dishes rattling and a lot of voices in the kitchen, so Mom would be calling for them again soon.

*****

Kara leaned forward to look at the pizza she had designed and created all by herself when Michael pulled it out of the oven and slid it onto the cutting board. The cheese was so hot it was bubbling on the surface and her stomach rumbled when she smelled the buttery, cheesy crust and topping combination.

“Mmm, mine’s gonna be the best.”

“You didn’t tell me you knew how to make individual pizzas,” Maria said as she leaned against the counter next to him.

He smirked as he grabbed the pizza cutter and cut the small pizza into four manageable slices. “I have a little sister who was a finicky eater when she was younger and learnin’ how to find ways to get her to eat helped. So did Isabel’s grandma. That woman never cooked a single thing in her life that wasn’t completely homemade.”

“Can I have mine now?” Kara asked impatiently.

Maria leaned over to check the pizza to determine if it was too hot for her niece. “Let’s give it just a couple more minutes, okay? It’s too hot right now.”

“But I’m hungry now.”

Michael chuckled and grabbed a handful of pepperoni, popping one in his mouth and holding another one out to Kara. “How ‘bout a couple of these to snack on?”

The girl scrunched her nose up and shook her head. “Dey are too spicy.”

Maria waved her hand over the pizza, fanning it in an effort to cool it. “Why don’t ya take your drink and go to sit over at the table next to your brothers?” She pointed at the glass on the counter. “I’ll bring your dinner over in a minute.

“Okay,” Kara sighed and did what her aunt had asked her to, almost bumping into Andy when he entered the kitchen with his girlfriend.

“Hey, little furball,” he teased mussing her curly hair and lifting her up in his arms. “You okay?”

She giggled. “I’m not a furball.”

“Is that your pizza?” Andy looked at the food on the counter, his mouth watering.

“MINE,” she stated emphatically.

Michael pulled another baking sheet out of the oven. “No worries, we’ve got enough for everyone.”

“Is it cool if Sam stays for dinner?” Andy asked as he neared the counter where Mom and Michael were working.

“Of course,” Maria said and nodded.

“Cool.”

She watched him, wanting so badly to hug him and tell him everything would be okay but knowing that it would probably only embarrass him in front of everyone.

He caught her gaze and he shrugged one shoulder. “I’m okay, Mom.”

“You know if you wanna talk…”

“I know.” He craned his neck to see what kind of pizza was available. “Got sausage and pepperoni with extra cheese?”

“That’s one right there,” Michael pointed at an extra large pizza loaded with meat and cheese toppings since guys always liked meat and cheese the most. “It has a little bit of Tabasco sauce on it too.”

The boy made a doubtful face. “Really?”

“Try it before you make your decision,” Michael said, amused.

“Well, okay. I am hungry.”

“Yeah, why doesn’t that surprise me?” Sam rolled her eyes. “You, the twins… is there a time when you’re not?”

Andy pretended to really think about it and looked and Justin and Nick. “When we sleep,” one of his cousins answered with a smirk.

Maria glanced at Michael. “I’m not convinced they’re not hungry even then.”

“If we’re not hungry, we’re still thinkin’ about what we want to eat for our next meal.” He just laughed when she rolled her eyes at him. He grabbed a piece of pizza and took a big bite, humming in approval when the taste met to his satisfaction. “Now that’s good.”

“I’m sure it is.”

He shifted closer and held the pizza up in front of her. “Try it.”

She wrinkled her nose and shrank back. “I’ll stick with mine, thanks.”

He looked down at the toppings she was putting on the small pizza and shook his head. “No fruit on pizza,” he said when she placed small pieces of pineapple on top of the mountain of cheese she had already spread over it. “Canadian bacon, okay. Any meat topping is okay. Pretty much any cheese and lots of it is okay. But… no fruit.”

“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”

He smirked and offered his slice of pizza once more. “Take a bite or eat those words, baby.”

****

Liz walked back into the living room, carrying two mugs of tea. It had taken a long while before she had been able to convince Max to go back into the house with her. He had stopped speaking after Tess had left with the kids and she feared that he was bottling his feelings up again. He was sitting on the couch stiffly, both feet on the floor and hands in his lap while he stared at the ground.

“I made some tea,” she said softly and placed the mugs on the coffee table before she took the seat next to him, wishing she had some idea of what to say.

Minutes passed without a word – it was driving her insane but she forced herself to be patient. “Max…” Liz placed one hand over his. “Do you remember Thanksgiving two years ago?” she asked gently and decided to just go on when he didn’t look up. “Kara didn’t really remember the holidays before that and she was so excited about having that huge turkey…” She smiled at the memory. “The whole week before she checked on that thing in the refrigerator and she was getting on all our nerves, asking like ten times a day when we’d finally start to prepare it.”

Max could hear his wife talking and the more she did, the more he felt able to follow her words. He was thankful for the slight distraction and let her go on, acknowledging her presence with a slight squeeze of his hand on hers.

“By the time we finally made it to Thursday I was glad because I really was at the end of my rope. The whole morning we spent in the kitchen preparing the turkey the way my mother had always done. I had to hold Kara back or she would’ve tried it raw and then that evening…”

Max chuckled quietly and looked up to meet her eyes. “She took the first bite and a moment later she spit it out on the and right into my lap because she just hated it.”

Liz laughed. “Yeah, and then she started to cry because she was so disappointed that it tasted so horrible.”

“And we were so busy tryin’ to calm her down that we didn’t even notice Lucky sneaking around the table until he jumped up and stole a leg off of the damn turkey.”

“Yeah. And then chaos broke out because everyone was chasing the dog around the house trying to get him outside before he could drop turkey all over the floor.”

“By the time we got everything settled down Kara had discovered the bowl of mashed potatoes and dumped the entire thing on the table right in front of her.” A little bit more of the pain slipped away as he remembered walking into the dining room to find their daughter happily spooning mashed potatoes off of the table.

Liz rolled her eyes. “And then the boys started showing her how to make a snowman out of the mashed potatoes, remember?”

“Carrots for the eyes and a celery stick for the arms and nose.”

“And then they cut the bottom off of one of the rolls to give him a little hat.” She thought a moment. “Didn’t they use asparagus for the broom?”

He made a face. “It’s about the only thing that stuff’s good for. I don’t know why your mom insists on making it every year.”

“It’s not that bad and well, you know she’ll bring it with her again this year, right?”

“And I’ve gotta pretend to like it again, huh?”

“You know it,” Liz laughed and bumped his side before she reached out to get their mugs, handing one to him.

He nodded in thanks and leaned back, enjoying the warmth against his skin. “Kara’s really enriched our family, hasn’t she? I mean, I love the boys as much as I love her, but a girl’s so different.”

“We make a good family,” she agreed and one hand slipped to her belly automatically. “And we’re still growing.”

His eyes wandered down over her. “Guess we are,” Max mumbled. “I wish Drew could be able to get to know him or her as well… God, I wish he would see his OWN son growing up. Andy’s a great boy and he doesn’t deserve to live without a father.”

Liz bit her lip to keep herself from telling him again that it wasn’t his fault. She had tried so often but she knew the realization had to come on its own.

“Can you imagine how hard it has to be for him to see our kids or others with their parents? I mean, it has to hurt him, right?” He looked at her helplessly.

“Maybe, but I don’t think he’s as focused on it as he was a few month ago.”

He nodded. “Yeah, he’s made good progress,” Max agreed, but his expression turned into a grimace. “I wish my nephew could look at me without having to think about how much he hates me because of what happened.”
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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: 925
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 124

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:00 am

Cardinal: It is a start and he’s gonna get there.

Lol, Kara isn’t leaving any room for question.

Andy is the key... and he’s getting close.

Earth2Mama: Max and Andy are getting closer to that day. It’s necessary for them to heal.

mary mary: Lol, certainly a word that Kara has learned the value of with two older brothers.

CandyliciousLovah: Lol, doesn’t take long for them to learn to stand up for themselves... especially when there are brothers involved.

Alien_Friend: These guys have come a long way to finally reach a point where they’re letting the women in their lives comfort them even if they can’t quite talk about the problem yet.

Andy will talk to someone.

We’re so glad you enjoy Kara so much!

Natalie36: Max is getting better. Family get-togethers... gotta love them!

keepsmiling7: Liz did a great job with Max! Her approach is getting him to slowly open up.

begonia9508: Thanks!

Lol, Kara’s hoping for a girl too!

Looks like Liz and Max have finally found their balance again.

sarammlover: Not a fan of fruity pizza, huh? Lol, you’re not alone! Max’s break was something that Andy needed to witness and it’s got him thinking even if he hasn’t embraced those thoughts. Liz is taking it slow and that’s what Max needs right now. You’re right, Andy didn’t seem to be very bothered at all by Michael’s presence.



Part 124

“Andy doesn’t hate you, Max.”

“But he blames me for his dad’s death. I can see it every time I look at him and it makes me doubt… it makes me always wonder how much truth there is to it.”

“There’s no truth to it,” she insisted before she could stop herself.

“I just… I couldn’t get a good enough grip to pull him back up. If he would’ve just held on a little longer I would’ve been able to…” He trailed off and stared down at his hands.

“Max,” Liz took his right hand and turned it over to let her fingertips trace over the scar there, “it’s a miracle you managed to catch him at all. He was so far over the side.”

His eyes followed the movements of her fingers. “I didn’t kill my brother, but I didn’t save him either. In my head I know I did everything I could.” His fingers brushed against hers as he touched the scar. “I held on until he did this and when he did I couldn’t hold on any longer. And in my head I know that, Liz, but… he was my brother…”

“I know it’s not easy to accept,” she nodded. “Andrew wouldn’t have wanted you to think that way though. He wanted you to go on living and be there for your family and for his.”

“If he would only let me,” Max replied, referring to his nephew.

“Do you think it’d be easier for you to accept what happened if Andy stopped blaming you?”

“I don’t know...,” he mumbled, but deep inside he wished it would happen one day. He couldn’t live with being responsible for Drew’s death in Andy’s eyes.

“Maybe we should get a little something to eat and rest for a while,” she suggested. She could see how emotionally worn out he was. It showed clearly in his features and she was sure sleep would do him some good.

“Yeah, okay.” He rolled his head along the back of the couch to look at her. “I’m good right here unless you wanna go upstairs.”

She shook her head and let the backs of her fingers trail over the side of his face. “No, we paid a small fortune to have a couch that was comfortable for any occasion,” she said with a smile. “I’ll just make something quick, okay?”

“I need to go outside and put the ladder away.”

“Take Lucky with you.”

He rolled his eyes and snorted softly. “Yeah, because that fleabag’s gonna do anything useful.”

“That fleabag will set up a ruckus that’ll wake the whole neighborhood if he’s with you and anything happens.” She gave him a look. “Take the dog.”

He caught her hand and pressed a kiss to her palm before he got to his feet. “Takin’ the dog,” he said, giving in to her. He didn’t think he was going to have a problem putting the ladder away; the flashback had been scary and probably more for Kara than for him but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t experience another one. He paused at the doorway and turned to look at her. “Liz?”

“Yeah?”

“Kara’s okay isn’t she?”

“She is,” she said, her words calming him. “I called Maria while I was getting the tea ready. She’s asleep now. They made pizza with lots and lots of cheese.”

He smiled slightly. “She loves cheese.”

“She does,” Liz agreed. “Don’t worry. You scared her in that moment, but our little girl knows you love her unconditionally and we’ll talk to her later to explain it, okay?”

“Yeah…” Max ran his hands through his hair. “I hate that it had to happen with the kids around.”

“I think it had to happen that way, ya know?” She shrugged. “Only a situation like that could bring it up.”

He chuckled gruffly. “Somethin’ more private would’ve been nice.”

“Well, things like this rarely ever happen when you’d like them to.”

“You talked to the boys?”

“Max, the kids are okay. Maria said the boys are camped out in Andy’s room watching movies and she’s keeping an eye on them.”

“She say anything about how Andy’s handling things?”

“Just that Sam was there and she got him out of his room again.” Liz leaned in the doorframe. “He’s probably in a bit of shock, but he’ll be okay too.”

“I wish it could be like it was before Drew’s death. Andy and I got along great and now…” He shook his head and shrugged. “I think I’m go do somethin’ useful, huh?”

“Max…” she said, but didn’t know how to continue. “…Dinner will be ready soon and then we’re gonna relax.”

“Sure,” he gave her a kiss on the cheek and walked past her, calling for the dog to follow him outside.

Liz watched him for a moment and sighed. The main problem was that he didn’t know how to deal with Andy blaming him and he would only heal when the boy finally let that go.

*****

Maria paused in the living room doorway to watch Michael. He had been quiet since the kids had gone to bed, his mood seeming introspective. She had sent him out of the kitchen a while ago so she could finish cleaning up. He had added a couple of logs to the fire and he was slouched down on the couch, long legs stretched out in front of him as he stared at the flames dancing in the fireplace.

“Where’s your mind?” she asked as she crossed the room.

He tipped his head back to look up at her. “You all finished?”

“Yeah, for a few hours anyway. There’s no way to cook for five kids and not make a mess.”

He smiled faintly. “I could usually make a pretty big mess just cookin’ for one.” He took her hand and tugged her around the couch, pulling her down to sit next to him when she was close enough. “You’ve been on your feet all day.”

“They won’t complain if I give ‘em a break.” She shifted and turned to rest her back against one of the throw pillows propped against the arm of the couch when he motioned for her put her feet in his lap. She sighed contentedly when he cradled her right foot and started to rub her instep. “Michael?”

“Hmm?”

“You’ve been somewhere else since we got the kids settled down for the night.”

“Yeah, just been thinkin’ how grateful I am that things with Andy have gone so well. I mean, sure, there’ve been some rocky moments, but overall he’s managed to come through this intact.” He looked at her. “I think if he talks to Max about what he saw today, about what happened the day of the accident, I think he’ll really start to heal.”

She nudged him with the heel of her other foot. “It’s more than that.”

He sighed quietly. “Yeah, it is.”

“Wanna talk about it?” She studied him as he stared at his hands, busy kneading the soles of her feet. “Are you thinking about your parents, Michael?”

He let his head rest against the back of the couch and he reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “No. I had a student when I got my first counseling position… kid was troubled but I knew I could reach him. He’d been through things no one should go through, much less a 16-year-old kid, and he went through a couple of counselors before they handed him off to me. He was angry and combative one minute and so depressed he could hardly speak the next. His doctors had him on so many different medications the poor kid didn’t know which way was up half the time. Medication can be a good thing if it’s used properly but he wasn’t staying on schedule and his parents…” he shook his head and sighed. “They tried for a long time but they washed their hands of him when he didn’t respond to treatment. His father actually blamed him, thought he was just looking for attention.”

“I can imagine they were frustrated,” Maria said as she rubbed his arm. “But that doesn’t excuse them.”

“No, it doesn’t. They pawned him off on an uncle, thinking he’d straighten the kid up but he only got worse. He got passed around to a few relatives but it wasn’t until he ended up with an aunt who owned a place outside of the city that we started to see any positive changes in him. Things started to look up for him. He still had more bad days than good but we were seeing progress. Sometimes you get caught up in the small victories and you lose sight of the bigger picture.” He was quiet for a moment as he lost himself in the memories. “I lost sight,” he admitted.

“Something happened to him?” Maria asked, certain from the sadness in his tone that it was bad.

He nodded. “His aunt found him one night when she got home from work. He’d overdosed on sleeping pills and paramedics weren’t able to revive him. For months I went over my notes from every session I’d had with him but I couldn’t find the moment where I lost him.”

She shook her head and pulled her left leg up under her as she shifted closer to him. She wrapped her arm around his shoulders as she looked at him. “Michael, I’m not an expert on things like this but it sounds like you were in your first counseling job?”

“My first job at a high school, yeah.”

“You were young and he was a very troubled boy, probably more than you were prepared for at that stage of your career.” Her forefinger trailed over his neck. “You blamed yourself.”

“Yeah, for quite a while. Now I know differently, but for a long time I felt like I had failed him… and his family. I know you can’t change the past and I’ve stopped going over all of the what-ifs. There’s no way I’ll ever know if it would’ve changed the outcome if I’d done things differently but I’ve learned to live with it.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small envelope that had been folded in half. “Every year around Thanksgiving a card shows up. It’s from his aunt.”

Maria took it from him when he slid the card out and offered it to her. She glanced up at him after reading the note inside. “She knows you tried to help him,” she said quietly. “Have you ever responded to her?”

“I’ve tried to but everything I say just sounds so… pointless. She’s thanking me and her nephew’s dead.”

“But you didn’t fail him, Michael, and she knows that. Sometimes no matter how hard we try we can’t reach people. And as much as it hurts we can’t make them accept help. We can do our best to make them see the options, to let them know that help is there, but we can’t make them take it.” She shook him gently. “You’ve taught me that. What happened with that boy is tragic, but it wasn’t your fault. There’s always a choice to make and sometimes the path we take leads us someplace we’re not prepared for. You may have been focused on the positive steps he was taking and you may have gotten caught up in that… who wouldn’t? Today you take a different approach; you know to look beyond that. That boy experienced periods where he was happy and where life was worth living and a lot of that was probably because he had you helping him to see the possibilities.” She glanced at the card again. “At least his aunt believes that.”

He placed the card back in the envelope and folded it over before tucking it in his pocket. “It’s bad enough to lose a kid to something like drugs or jail but to lose them like that…” he shook his head. “When I met Andy I knew he was gonna be a tough case to crack. And he was. Still is some days. I watch him now and I can see him slowly putting what happened behind him and I have a feeling with the break Max experienced earlier today he’s gonna be able to make sense of the one thing that still troubles him. It’s still gonna take time, but he’s gonna be able to put it away where the reminder won’t send him into a tailspin. It’ll be a memory that hurts but he’ll finally be able to allow the good memories to overshadow the bad.”

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done for us?”

He smiled and shifted to face her. “I know what you’ve done for me.”

They looked at the doorway when they heard little feet slapping against the hardwood floor and a moment later Kara poked her head around the edge.

“Can’t sleep?” Maria asked, smiling when Theo and Mojo followed her into the room. She glanced down at the tiny Chihuahua standing between the German shepherd and Rottweiler. “Now there’s a sight you won’t see very often.”

“I don’t know,” Michael mused when Kara ran across the room to climb up on the couch between them. “It’s one I wouldn’t mind seein’ again and again.” He smiled at the little girl and tickled her side. “What’s got you awake?”

“I’m not sleepy.” She leaned against him and looked up at her aunt. “Can we call Daddy an’ Mommy?”

“It’s late, sweetie, I think they’re probably sleeping.” Doubtful, but Liz had called earlier to say goodnight to the kids and field a few questions about their dad that had obviously left Kara wanting more.

“I heard you like bedtime stories, Kara,” Michael said.

“Yep, an’ I bringed my Disney stories.” She turned to look at him. “Can we read one?”

He glanced at Maria, waiting for her nod before he agreed. “Sure, why don’t you go get your book and we’ll read one.”

“Okay.” She slipped down off of the couch and was followed by her entourage as she hurried down the hall to retrieve her storybook.

“Thanks for listening,” Michael murmured as he leaned down to kiss her.

“Always. I hope you’re good at princess voices because she really likes it when whoever’s reading does different voices for the characters.”

He snorted. “I raised my sister, remember? I know how to do this.”

Maria just laughed. “I can’t wait to see this.” She leaned against his side, soaking up his warmth and enjoying the peaceful evening. “How would you feel about staying the night?”

He lifted an eyebrow and shot a teasing grin at her. “Are you just tryin’ to get outta makin’ breakfast for the small army?”

She sighed and smiled playfully. “You’ve uncovered my secret.”

“Not all I’m gonna uncover,” he growled, making her laugh.

****

Andy crept down the stairs and glanced around to make sure the way was clear. He had sat at the top of the stairs for a while, listening to Mom and Michael talking. He had leaned back against the wall and let the quiet murmur of their voices relax him. There was something comforting about having a male presence around. He and Mom did okay on their own but having Michael there just kinda made it all… better somehow.

He made a face as he glanced down the hall towards Mom’s bedroom, his mind slamming the door on his thoughts before they could go any further. He and Mom were happy and doing better than they had been in a long time and Michael was a big part of the reason so that was all that mattered. He checked to make sure her door was closed before he continued on his way, slipping out into the garage.

He hopped up to sit on the hood of the car and balanced his laptop on his thighs. While he was waiting for it to boot up he grabbed his cell phone and sent a quick text. He watched the screen come to life and as soon as he received a confirmation text he shoved the phone back in his pocket. He clicked on the messenger and snorted softly when Scrappy sent an invitation for a video call before he could even type in a single word. He accepted and waited for it to connect.

“What’s goin’ on, man?” Scrappy asked as soon as the video call connected and they could see each other.

“Ah, y’know,” Andy said and shrugged one shoulder.

“I know you didn’t wanna messenger at midnight for nothin’.”

He snorted. “No, guess not.”

“So what’s up?”

“You remember tellin’ me about your grandpa? The way he’d like remember bein’ in the war and he’d suddenly be back there? Like it’s all he could see?”

Scrappy pushed his glasses up on his nose and nodded. “Yeah, he had post-traumatic stress disorder and he’d have flashbacks.”

“My uncle had somethin’ like that today. I don’t know, maybe it was the same thing.” He launched into the story and was grateful when his friend listened without interrupting or commenting, letting him get it all out before he spoke. “Ever since that day I’ve blamed him for what happened to my dad… the accident and then him dyin’.”

“So what’re you thinkin’ now?”

He got up and set the laptop on the hood so he could pace. “I don’t… I don’t know, Scrap.”

“Yeah, you do.” He watched Andy move in and out of the camera’s path. “Your uncle feels like he failed and you know what I’m thinkin’? I’m thinkin’ you’re the only one that’s ever gonna be able to help him let that go.”

“Why should I?” Andy snapped.

“Maybe ‘cause you know it’s the right thing to do, dumbass! Your dad made the decision to make a sacrifice – “

“Why was Uncle Max more important than me an’ Mom?”

“Why do you think you’re more important than your uncle, your aunt, or your cousins?” Scrappy countered. “Your dad made the ultimate sacrifice. From what you told me it sounds like if he hadn’t he would’ve taken your uncle over that cliff with him. He made a choice and that choice meant your aunt and cousins had a husband and father. That choice meant you’d be left with a part of your dad. When your dad made that choice – and damn it, Evans, you know it was a choice – he had a short amount of time to sort out his options and he knew taking your uncle over that cliff with him wouldn’t serve a purpose. He left you with someone who could help you if you’d just let him. Funny thing is, I think maybe you’re in the position to be the one who can help him.”

Andy was silent, letting his friend’s words sink in.

“Man, you know if there was any way humanly possible for your uncle to have saved your dad that day he would’ve done it. You said you listened to him talking to your aunt, telling her what happened, right? For Gods’ sake, Evans, your dad cut him ‘cause he wouldn’t let go. He made it impossible for your uncle to hold onto him.”

His thoughts drifted back to that afternoon and the state Uncle Max had been in as he told Aunt Liz about the accident. It had been obvious that he had never talked to anyone about that day, never verbalized what had happened. “He never told anyone what happened. If he’d told me – “

“If he’d told you, what? Man, you blamed him for the accident and when your dad died you told him to his face it was his fault.”

“Yeah, well, it is his fault.”

“Why don’t you grow up and get your head outta your ass?”

“Fuck you. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and that’s his fault.”

“How stupid can you be? He was protecting you. You ever stopped to think what you would’ve seen if he’d let you go to your dad? I met you at the hospital, you remember that? We were standin’ together when the doctor’s took your dad into the operating room.”

Andy frowned. “Yeah, I remember that,” he said slowly.

“Keep remembering, Andy. Your cousins were in the waiting room talkin’ to the cops and you wanted to see your dad but the nurse wouldn’t let you past the doors. We were standin’ there when they forced your uncle back out, remember?”

“I remember… I remember bein’ in the hospital when the doctors brought my dad in through the emergency entrance.” He squeezed his eyes shut as he fought to bring that day into focus. “There were so many of them around him and I couldn’t see him.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and his breathing increased as flashes of that day began to surface.

Scrappy had been there when he and the twins had been herded into the hospital by a couple of police officers. He had been closer than Mom because she had been out of the city on a shopping trip with Sue when they had reached her. He had been relieved when he saw his best friend standing there. He could vaguely remember Scrappy’s parents being there but he had no recollection of them beyond that.

The twins had been in the waiting room, talking to a police officer who was trying to reassure them. He had refused to go into the waiting room as his dad was wheeled in and he could remember fighting off the hands that held him back. His eyes had followed the doctors and his eyes had zeroed in on his uncle’s red shirt, easily distinguishable among the sea of scrubs the doctors wore. He turned to lean against the car as he squeezed his eyes tighter, the sound of his own voice echoing in his ears as he heard himself screaming at the cop holding him back, for his dad, and for his uncle to do something.

Uncle Max had looked at him, his eyes haunted as he disappeared through the doors with the doctors. It had felt like forever before his uncle was escorted back through the doors and Uncle Max had argued fervently with the nurse, insisting that they let him stay with his brother.

“Sir, you’d only be in the way,” the woman said calmly but firmly. “You have to let the doctors do their job.”

“That’s my brother in there. You don’t understand…” He had paled and the nurse had reached out to steady him.

“Sir, you should sit down.” Her eyes had traveled over him and she had reached for his right arm, lifting it up to examine the temporary bandage wrapped around his wrist. “We’ll need to take a look at this.”

“No.” He pulled his hand back and shook his head. “Not until I know how my brother is.”

She had given him a sympathetic look and nodded. “Very well. Have a seat and take it easy. As soon as there’s any word we’ll let you know.”

Andy’s eyes had widened as Uncle Max turned around and tears that would have embarrassed him at any other time had started to fall. He hadn’t been able to get a word out as he stumbled over to his uncle and threw himself in his arms, his hands clenching and unclenching in the material that he absentmindedly noted wasn’t red; it was white with large splotches of dried blood.

“I’m sorry, Andy,” Max whispered gruffly. “I’m so goddamned sorry.”


Uncle Max had held him tightly as he apologized over and over and now he wasn’t sure which of them had been giving comfort and which had been receiving it. It hadn’t been until he had started to calm down that he had pushed his uncle away and hurled the horrible accusations at him. His uncle had just stood there, taking on the weight of his anger and hurt, never saying a word in his defense.

“He never said a word,” he mused quietly. “Why didn’t he try to defend himself?”

“Would it have mattered if he had?” Scrappy asked just as quietly. “Your uncle probably thought you were a kid and you were hurtin’ a lot worse than he was. Before the accident you were close to your uncle, man. You’ve been runnin’ in circles playin’ the blame game for almost two years now and deep down you know your uncle did everything possible to save your dad. And you saw him today; you know what it’s done to him to keep everything about that day bottled up.”

“I guess I just never thought much about it from his perspective.” He turned around to look at his friend. “Thanks, Scrap.”

“Hey, what’re friends for if not to give you a kick in the ass every once in a while?” He grinned and shrugged. “How’re things with Sam?” he asked, knowing Andy needed to change the subject. He knew him well enough to know that he would think about what they had discussed and he would come to a decision he was comfortable with.

Andy grinned as he and Scrappy fell into an easy conversation. Their relationship was easy and for the next hour they talked about girls, movies, games, cars, and Thanksgiving with their families.
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
Posts: 925
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 125

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Dec 30, 2012 10:10 am

begonia9508: Thanks, we are getting to the point where Andy takes a hard look on himself and the situation… and what he had done to his uncle.

Cardinal: You can count on that.

You actually have to wait even longer for it. The Andy / Max scene is not here yet. ;)

Natalie36: That’s true. Friends and family are important!

keepsmiling7: Yep, HUGE steps. :)

Andy can be happy to have Michael and Scrappy in his life for support.

Earth2Mama: Lol true. Everyone should have a Scrappy.

mary mary: It’s true, it has taken quiet a while for Andy to realize what’s going on and for Max to finally explode from all the feeling he had locked up inside. Now it’s almost time for the big talk between them. Almost. ;)

Alien_Friend: Yeah, having a friend who supports you but also is able to make you see the truth is really rare these days.

Thanks! And on with more… ;)

sarammlover: Everyone has their own baggage, huh? Finally Michael was able to talk about it and he won’t regret it.

Scrappy has the ability to bring the truth on Andy without getting murdered, lol.




Part 125

Maria smiled as she opened the front door to let Liz in. The house was quiet for the first time that morning and the brunette glanced around with a raised eyebrow.

“It’s too quiet in here.”

“Michael just left a little while ago to drop the boys off at school for a team meeting.”

“I completely forgot about that,” Liz groaned.

Maria waved her off. “You have enough on your mind. How’s Max this morning?”

“Better. He wanted to go in for a few hours and it’ll probably be good for him to focus on work for a while.” She tipped her head to one side when she heard quiet talking.

“Kara’s in the den having a tea party with the dogs.”

She would be distracted for a while then, Liz thought. “Did Andy go with the boys?”

“No, after breakfast he went back to his room. He’s been pretty quiet since last night. I think he’s trying to make sense of what happened yesterday and what he believed happened the day of the accident.”

“I’d like to talk to him if that’s okay.”

“Sure,” Maria agreed. “Let me go up and see if he’s willing.” She knew her son, if he didn’t want to talk, you wouldn’t get anything out of him, and he would hate it if she just sent Liz up to his room without preparing him.

“Alright, I’ll wait here,” the other woman pointed at the couch.

Maria went upstairs and down the hallway to his room and knocked on the door. “Andy?” She could hear music, but it wasn’t that loud.

“Come in,” he called after a moment.

She opened the door and stepped in, surprised to see him working out with his free weights, his upper body bare. Was he trying to look good for his girlfriend? she mused with a slight smile. “Your aunt’s downstairs and wants to talk to you.”

“Which one?” he asked, already knowing the answer. He had heard a car parking on the street in front of the house and watched her walk up to the front porch.

“Liz…”

“About what?” Okay, he was just playing for time and Mom would see right through it. Andy grabbed his tee shirt from the bed and pulled it on.

“I know how difficult this has been for you, Andy, and I know you’ve blamed your uncle for what happened that day.” She swallowed hard. “He wasn’t at fault though.”

Andy shrugged one shoulder and focused on wiping the weights down. “I kinda got that when he was…” Freaking out just sounded wrong after what he had seen the day before, he thought. His uncle had been in real pain; it had been obvious that something was wrong from the moment he had seen Kara climbing that ladder and just lost it.

“I’m sure your aunt wants to talk to you about what you saw yesterday and what it means.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He had gotten so used to blaming Uncle Max for his dad’s death that it felt weird to think of it from a different angle. “What if I don’t wanna talk to her?”

Maria shook her head. “I’m not gonna force you to talk to her, Andy. It’d just be a waste of time and there’s really no point sending her up here if you’re gonna ignore her.”

He sighed and sat down on his bed. “Okay, I’ll talk to her, Mom.”

“Want me to send her up?”

Andy glanced around his room and then decided against it. What if it became too much and he had to somehow escape? “I guess I’ll come downstairs.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Theo needs to be taken out, so maybe you can convince your aunt to take a little walk?” Maria knew her son and he was a lot more comfortable when not everything was focused on the talk. Taking a walk would be good way to keep him relaxed.

“Yeah, why not,” he agreed and got up. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

She nodded and left his room, walking back downstairs. “He’s coming down.”

“Good,” Liz said, relieved.

“I suggested taking the dog out while you guys talk, I hope that’s okay.”

“Sure, a bit of fresh air will be good.”

Andy took his time coming downstairs, not in any rush to talk to his aunt about what he was sure she wanted to talk about. He ducked down the hallway and stuck his head in the den, rolling his eyes when he saw Kara sitting on her knees at the coffee table with the dogs. Mom had found some old clothes for her to play with and his dog was wearing something pink. He snorted sympathetically and snapped his fingers to get the dog’s attention.

“Hey, think I can borrow Theo for a few minutes?”

The dog looked at him, dark eyes begging for a reprieve from the little girl’s tea party.

Kara turned from the waist up to look at him and she smiled as she held one of the cups filled with imaginary tea out to him. “Want some?”

“Uh, no, I’m good, thanks. I was just gonna take Theo for a little walk.” His eyes roamed over Mojo and Loopy, deciding the Chihuahua looked fine playing dress-up. He felt bad for Mojo, but if he tried to take him too Kara would be begging to go along. Sorry, buddy, he apologized silently.

Kara looked at her ‘friends’ and finally nodded. “Okay, but he can come back. I’ll save him some tea and cookies.”

Andy forced his expression to remain serious. “Right, well, I’ll try not to keep him too long then.” He waited until Theo was out of the room before he closed the door and freed his poor pet from the shirt Kara had wrapped around him. “Sorry ‘bout that, my friend.”

Liz chuckled behind him. “She does that a lot and Lucky’s just too lazy to complain, but I’m really surprised she got Theo to dress up.”

“He’s a big teddy bear,” her nephew snorted. “You can do pretty much anything with him as long as it includes a lot of attention, food, and petting.”

“Yeah, I guess.” She had already gotten the leash and tossed it to him.

“Thanks,” Andy nodded and rolled his eyes when Theo started to bark right next to his ear, excited about the fact that he was being taken out. “I think I’m deaf now.”

“You’re on kitchen duty tonight,” Mom called.

“Mom!”

Maria smirked. “Definitely not deaf.”

Andy shook his head. There oughta be a law against moms trying to be comedians, he thought as he hooked the leash to Theo’s collar. He straightened up and studied his feet for a few moments before he cleared his throat and nodded. “Okay, guess we’re ready.”

Liz followed him outside and fell into step beside him as they left the yard and turned to the right. There was a chill in the air and leaves crunched underfoot, making a shuffling sound as they were brushed aside by their feet. “Your dad loved the weather this time of year.”

“Football weather,” Andy said with a small smile. “Never really got like this in Miami.” He shrugged one shoulder. “It’s probably around 80 degrees there right now. He always talked about football weather. The chill in the air, the smell of wood-burning fireplaces, and the leaves crunching underfoot.” He chuckled quietly. “He’d start talkin’ about football; the sound of the gear clashing, the sound of the crowd, playing against the clock, the way the guys on the team had each other’s backs, and then he’d get this look on his face like he was remembering it all.”

“Drew loved football,” she agreed, thinking back to the many high school games they had all gone to. “He and your uncle used to spend so much time playing football. They never got to play on the team together because of the age difference but it was just one more thing they bonded over.”

“Yeah, I guess they were pretty tight.”

Liz nodded. “Max always looked up to him. If ya asked him what he wanted to do after school, he always said he wanted to be just like his brother.”

Andy thought about it for a minute. “They were similar in a lot of ways, but not all.” While his uncle had always been a little bit more easy and relaxed about the things his boys had done, his dad had been very strict at times – especially when it came to school and sports.

“They had their differences,” Liz agreed. “But they stuck together when it counted.” She looked at her nephew. “Max would’ve never loosened his grip around your father’s hand if it had been within his power.” She bit her lip. “I’m glad your dad didn’t let him make that decision because it would’ve meant that neither of them would be with us anymore… I know you’re asking yourself why you… why your father and not Max or someone else...”

“I don’t…”

Liz shook her head. “It’s okay to feel that way, believe me it really is, because life can be so unfair at times.”

Andy nodded. Yeah, he had felt that way a lot after his father’s death, but he had learned now that no one was responsible for it. Sure, he wished that it hadn’t been his father, but what if his uncle had died instead? Then there would be three other children and a wife who had suffered – so could he really be that selfish? “It is, but you can’t blame someone else for bad luck.”

“That’s true,” she agreed, relieved that he wasn’t mad at her for talking to him directly.

“I know my dad’s death isn’t Uncle Max’s fault…” There it was out, he thought and sighed, waiting to see if she would say anything, but she didn’t. His mind went over his conversation with Scrappy the night before. “I blamed him because it was easier to blame someone than to just accept it as a senseless accident.”

“Andy…” she gnawed on her bottom lip for a moment, knowing that what she was about to say could easily send him into an angry rant. Or in true Evans form he could just give her the silent treatment, she thought.

“What?” he asked when she was silent too long.

“You have an advantage over your uncle.”

“I do?”

She nodded. “I know it hasn’t been easy for you but you’ve allowed yourself to open up about what happened to your dad.” She smiled. “I know it wasn’t exactly your idea to be saddled with a counselor when you guys moved here and you started school. But you could’ve easily refused to work with him.”

He snorted. “You obviously don’t know Michael very well. He wasn’t gonna stop talkin’ my ears off until I shared my feelings. I still think that’s a total girl thing.”

“I can respect your feelings on the matter,” she said with a teasing smile. “Max though, he hasn’t been able to talk to anyone about the accident. He’s kept it locked up inside and tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away. That’s something else he and your dad had in common. They always preferred to handle things themselves rather than take it to someone else.”

“Yeah, Mom said something like that too once in a while when Dad refused to talk to her.”

“Keeping things to ourselves is okay, not everyone likes to talk about it, but sometimes it just gets to be too much and at that moment you just… explode.”

Andy nodded. “That’s what happened to Uncle Max yesterday, huh?”

She nodded. “Yeah, he just couldn’t hold it inside anymore and even though it looked like a bad thing at the moment, it really wasn’t. He needed to let some of the weight fall off of his own shoulders and even though it scared our little girl, I’m glad it finally happened.”

“Guess I can understand that,” he said.

They walked a few steps in silence while Liz tried to consider her next words. “I don’t know if it’s too much to ask Andy, but I’d like you to help your uncle deal with it.”

“Help him?” the boy repeated uncertainly.

“Yeah,” his aunt nodded. “Deep inside he knows he’s not responsible for Andrew’s death, but as long as he thinks that you still blame him for it he’ll never completely let go of the idea that he made a mistake that day.”

“So… what do you want from me?”

“Just talk to him, Andy. Talk to him the way you’re talking to me. I know it’s difficult and maybe you’re even a little scared after seeing him the way you saw him yesterday.”

“I’m not scared,” he denied quickly.

She hid a smile. “Perhaps scared was too strong a word.”

“Yeah.” He shrugged one shoulder. “I mean, it was weird seein’ him like that. Like he was reliving that day and it was all he could see.”

“That’s a very accurate description of what your uncle was experiencing, Andy.”

“Well…” Andy didn’t know what to say. He knew what he had seen, but he couldn’t really believe that talking to his uncle would help. Like Aunt Liz had said, he KNEW it wasn’t his fault, right?

“Just talk to your uncle. No matter what you say or how you say it, I’m pretty sure it’ll help Max deal with that day… to make peace with it.”

Her nephew stared down at the ground and walked in silence for a while before he gave a slight nod. “If you think it’ll help him…”

“Thank you,” Liz said, relieved. She had no doubt that this talk would be a very big step in the right direction and she could only hope that Andy would do it soon.

*****

Max was wandering around the guestroom, unconsciously playing with the tape measure in his right hand. He pulled the tape out and pressed the release, causing the tape to snap back into place. He repeated the motion over and over without even realizing it, unaware of the noise he was making. His gaze moved over the windows, studying the sunlight that the open curtains let inside. He was thinking about taking more measurements when someone rang the doorbell and he clipped the tape measure on his front pocket and turned to go downstairs with Lucky right beside him.

The dog hadn’t left his side since Liz had told him to keep watch. Lucky might be a pain at times and he rolled his eyes at the way his wife babied the animal, but the dog did take his job as family protector seriously. He wasn’t sure what exactly Lucky would do if he had another flashback but having him and the dog joined at the hip was the only way she had been comfortable leaving him at home while she went to check on the kids.

He opened the front door and gestured for his unexpected visitor to come inside. “What’s goin’ on, Alex?” He scratched his jaw. “Did we have a meetin’ or somethin’ today?”

“No, just thought I’d come by and see how you’re doin’. Heard yesterday was a bit rough.”

Max shrugged. “Yeah, caught Kara climbin’ up the ladder and then scared her half to death when I flipped out. I’m lucky I was close enough to catch her before she could fall and hurt herself.” He started fidgeting with the tape measure again. “You flyin’ solo today?”

He was already steering the conversation away from the real issue, Alex realized but didn’t push. “Got a couple hours free. Isabel had some things to do at school and Sam went with her so she could catch up with the twins when they get out of the team meeting.” He nodded at the tape measure. “Whatcha workin’ on?”

“Just thinkin’ about the nursery.” He grinned and shrugged. “Think you’ll be leanin’ in that direction any time soon?”

Alex smiled. “Never say never I guess.” A second kid… yeah, he really could imagine it, but maybe he should give his relationship a bit more time first.

Max recognized the slight blush on his friend’s face and chuckled. “Bet Isabel will be a good mom. She’s got a lot of experience with kids. Although she doesn’t strike me as the type to be a stay-at-home mom for very long. Ready to be a stay-at-home dad?”

The other man snorted. “Could be worse, but I guess your shop would be ruined by the time I got back,” he teased.

“Well, we don’t want that.” Max glanced at the room behind him. “A baby means so much work. Isn’t it weird that even with that knowledge you look forward to it?”

“Yeah,” Alex said with a quiet laugh. “It’s funny, I was thinkin’ about that recently. I mean, how many people our age are just thinkin’ about doin’ this for the first time? And here we’ve both got kids that’ll be goin’ off to college pretty soon.” He shrugged one shoulder. “I was scared to death when I found out Kendra was pregnant but I knew the first time I ever held Sam that I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

“Yeah.” He smiled as he thought back. “Me an’ Liz knew we wanted to start our family early. Not quite as early as we did,” he admitted with a chuckle, “but you’re right, I wouldn’t change it either. I had reconciled myself to the reality that we weren’t gonna have any more kids as far as Liz getting pregnant but I’ve gotta admit, it feels pretty damn good.”

“How’re the kids doin’ with it?”

“Good, they’re excited. I have a feelin’ we may be dealing with a little jealousy once the baby’s born and Kara realizes she’s no longer the baby.” He glanced up when the front door opened and his little girl came inside ahead of Liz. “Hey…” he trailed off when Kara gnawed on the ear of the stuffed toy she held, something he hadn’t seen her do in quite a while.

“Daddy…” she said and it almost sounded like a question.

He wiped his hands on his jeans and walked towards his daughter, crouching down in front of her slowly. “Wow, did you grow overnight?” he teased and placed a hand on her head, ruffling her hair gently.

Kara giggled. “No.”

Max smiled gently and brought his hand to her cheek. “Hey, you don’t have to be scared, okay? I was just scared you could hurt yourself yesterday.”

The girl nodded slowly. “Are you mad wif me?”

“No,” he shook his head. “I’m not mad at you. I love you, and I just don’t want you to get hurt. It was wrong to climb the ladder, but you know that already, don’t you?”

She ducked her head to stare at the floor to avoid answering his question.

“Hey,” he reached out to tip her chin up. “How many times have I told you to stay off of the ladder?”

“A lot,” she mumbled finally. “But, Daddy, I wanted to help you ‘cause the boys wouldn’t let me play with them.”

He shook his head. “You know better than to climb the ladder for any reason. It’s dangerous and you could fall and hurt yourself.”

“I won’t do it no more,” she promised and leaned into him to wrap her arms around his neck.

Max hugged her back while he looked at his wife with a soft smile. “Why don’t you go and put your overnight stuff away and then we’ll take Lucky out for a walk? Maybe we can go by the high school and watch a bit of your brothers’ practice.”

Kara nodded excitedly and freed herself from his grip to get going. “I do that, Daddy.”

“Don’t run up the stairs,” Liz called after her when she took off quickly. She shook her head in amusement and nodded at Alex.

“Everything went okay with Maria?” Max asked and got up again. She had been away for a while, so they must’ve been talking for most of that time.

“Everything’s fine,” she assured him and left out the fact that she had talked to Andy. He didn’t need to know that.

“So, when’re your parents coming in?”

She sighed. “They’ll be getting in on Wednesday. They were supposed to be here sooner but there was a problem at the restaurant. Dad said it’s nothing major and there’s no reason to worry, it’s just gonna put them behind a couple of days.”

He made a face. “Sorry. Does that mean your mom won’t have time to make that asparagus dish?”

Liz shook her head at him. “No, that is not what it means.”

He shrugged with a slight grin. “Hey, a guy can dream.”

“Maybe – and I stress the word maybe – I can talk her into making her broccoli cheese rice instead of the asparagus this year.”

“I’d be extremely grateful if you could do that.”

“No guarantee about that though, you know her. She thinks everyone loves it and if you try to talk her out of it then she just thinks you don’t want her to put too much work into cooking.” Liz rolled her eyes and shrugged out of her jacket. “Do you mind if I stay here? I need to go over a few papers for my class and with the whole family around the house later this week I doubt I’ll get anything done.”

Max nodded. “I’ll take Kara out and maybe invite the kids for lunch, so you’ll have the house to yourself for a while.”

“Thanks,” she stood on her tiptoes and kissed his lips briefly. “Bring a salad for me?”

“Salad?” He made a face and rubbed his hand over her belly. “Our baby needs more than that.”

“I think he or she will get plenty over the upcoming holidays. Something light won’t hurt once in a while, ya know.”

“Alright,” Max agreed with a smirk and looked up when Kara came back downstairs. “Ready to go?”

“Ready!” she shouted and hurried to join him.

He helped her into her jacket and crouched down to snap it up, standing once she was ready to go outside. “We’ll be back in a little bit,” he said and kissed her once more.

“Don’t forget my salad.”

He made another face and rolled his eyes. “We won’t forget,” he promised, hooking the lead to Lucky’s collar and leading the way outside.

“Guess your way goes by my house, so I’m gonna join you,” Alex said. “If you don’t mind.”

Max nodded. “Let’s go.”




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

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

Part 126

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:30 am

Natalie36: Happy New Year to you too! Thanks!

Earth2Mama: Chances are good that Andy will take that step. They both need it and they’re getting closer.

Happy New Year!

keepsmiling7: Lol, Kara did good to keep the dogs there.

Yeah, we’d be willing to bet there might just be a little jealousy for a while.

Andy is getting closer to taking that step.

Cardinal: Lol, we are coming closer to the end of our journey in ITCOAL.

mary mary: Relaxing is good... we’ll see if we can stay on that course.

Lol, we believe you! Not all dogs have the patience to sit still for tea and cookies... especially when those cookies aren’t real!

sarammlover: Andy’s making some great strides! Hope your New Year was wonderful! And safe. ;)

Alien_Friend: Andy’s made some great progress and being able to have a real conversation with his aunt where he actually listened to what she had to say – and gave it true consideration – really showed how far he’s come.

Thanks! We’ve had a lot of fun working on ITCOAL and seeing where it has taken us. Time is such an important factor and combined with the willingness to seek help it makes all the difference in the world.

Lol, you know better than that! We never get tired of that! This group of family and friends have come so far since the beginning, developing from a fractured, distant group into a close-knit group that really works together and has each other’s backs.

Happy New Year to you as well!

Hard to imagine, but we hope the same thing!

Eva: Awesome, welcome back!

We’ve definitely seen Michael and Maria making some really good forward movement. Andy is getting closer to talking to his uncle, something which will help both of them. Thanks!




Part 126

“Where’re you goin’?” Kyle glanced up from the couch on Wednesday morning, letting the newspaper sink to his knees.

“I’m gonna meet Maria at the supermarket. She asked for some help because she needs tons of food for tomorrow’s dinner and Michael and Andy are busy with other stuff.”

“Oh,” he tried to keep his expression neutral. “Can you pick up some coffee?”

Tess rolled her eyes. “Since you moved in the coffee seems to have a life of its own. Didn’t I just buy some last week?”

He shrugged with a grin. “I love coffee, babe.”

“Um-hmm. Fine, but next time you’re gonna by it in bulk so we don’t run out of it every damn week.” She grabbed her bag and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “You know what would make me happy?”

“What?”

“If ya had lunch ready when I get home.”

Kyle smirked. “Well, I guess I can do that.”

“And that’s why I love you,” she teased and waved goodbye before she disappeared and walked the short distance to the supermarket where she could already see Maria’s parked car.

Maria was leaning on her shopping cart as she browsed the available selection of lettuce. The store was busy as people rushed in and out picking up last minute items for their Thanksgiving dinners. She wasn’t in a hurry and even though she was going to have a houseful of family and friends over the next day she didn’t feel pressured to make everything perfect.

Having someone there to pitch in and do part of the work made all the difference, she thought with a smile. Michael made the difference. It was easy to get caught up in the details and to get frustrated when you were planning a big holiday get-together and something didn’t quite go the way it was supposed to go. But he noticed right away when she started to feel overwhelmed and he would distract her, making her forget whatever was stressing her before long. And he had been very instrumental in motivating Andy to pitch in and help out while they were getting ready for the big day.

“You can’t possibly find lettuce this interesting,” Tess said as she joined her in the produce aisle.

Maria whirled around when she was pulled out of her thoughts and she smiled sheepishly. “I can actually… but I wasn’t really paying any attention to the lettuce.”

“Um-hmm, what then?”

“Well…” the other woman just answered with a dreamy grin.

“Um-hmm, Michael,” Tess said in amusement and shook her head. “That man has taken possession of your brain lately – but it’s a good thing.” She placed a hand on her friend’s lower arm. “It’s good to see you happy again.”

Maria smiled and placed one hand over hers, squeezing it for a second. “The same goes for you. I’m happy to see you back together with my brother. Who would’ve thought a woman would finally be able to tame him? I’m glad it was you.”

The curly blonde laughed. “Your brother’s far from being tamed, but I think I’ve got it under control.”

If you only knew, Maria thought, but didn’t say anything.

“Should we?” Tess nodded towards the market’s shelved food section.

“Sure,” the other woman waited until she had started to walk off before she turned to grab a little booklet off of a shelf and placed it under some paper towels that she had already thrown in the cart earlier.

“Kyle and I wanted to bring something for Thanksgiving but you know how we are in the kitchen. I mean, it’s our first big holiday with everyone together in such a long time and we’re both still in the frozen dinner stages of cooking.”

“You guys don’t need to bring anything but yourselves.”

“And Loopy too, don’t forget him.”

“Who could forget Loopy?” Maria laughed.

“Kyle would like to.” Tess grinned. “He fell asleep watching the news after the game the other night and when I got outta the shower,” she took her phone out and searched for a pic before handing it to Maria, “that’s what I found.”

She looked at the picture of her brother, stretched out on the couch sleeping with Loopy curled up in the crook of his arm. “Cute. I’m sure he thinks you orchestrated the whole thing just so you could take that pic.”

“Right?” Tess snorted. “Because I have nothing better to do with my time than to come up with ideas for pics that’ll embarrass him if anyone sees them.”

For the next hour they shopped and talked; they talked about Andy and Max, about the men in their lives, about the shop opening soon, and about the upcoming Christmas holiday. They took their time, not rushing as they made their way up one aisle and down the next, filling not one, but two shopping carts before they were finished. Once the groceries were bagged and paid for they pushed the carts towards the automatic doors that opened out into the parking lot. Maria was halfway out through the doors with her cart when someone reached out and placed a restraining hand on Tess’s cart.

She frowned at the hand before lifting her head to meet the man’s unwavering stare. It took a moment for her to notice the uniform shirt, holstered weapon, and the shiny badge pinned to his left shirt pocket. “Can I help you, Officer?”

The man tipped his hat back with his thumb before tapping the badge. “Deputy McCarthy, ma’am.”

“Fine, whatever. Is there something I can do for you?” His gaze lowered to her side and she looked down, trying to figure out what he was looking at. “Well?”

“We take theft very seriously in Roswell, ma’am.”

“Theft?” Tess repeated stupidly. “Who’s stealing anything? If you were better at observing people you’d have seen that we just paid for our purchases. So if you’ll just move – “

“I’m gonna have to ask you to empty out your pockets, ma’am.”

“Empty my pockets?” she repeated dumbly. “Listen, Mister…”

“Tess,” Maria interrupted and glanced at the deputy briefly. “Why don’t you just do what he asked so we can go? We don’t have anything to hide, right?”

“Fine,” the other woman agreed and glared at the man. “But I’m gonna to submit a complaint about you to the sheriff’s office as soon as the holiday’s over.” She ripped her bag from her shoulder and shoved it into his hands.

The deputy didn’t let her words get to him while he continued his work in silence. He opened her bag diligently and rummaged around in it for just a few moments before he nodded to himself and pulled a little booklet out. “Ma’am?”

Tess looked at him and her eyes widened when she read the title of the booklet. “A sex guide? Do I look like I need something like that?” She turned to her friend. “Maria, would you please tell him that I sure as hell didn’t steal anything like that?”

“How’d it get into your bag then?” McCarthy asked doubtfully and shoved the booklet into his pocket.

“I don’t know. Someone in the market probably put it in my bag.”

“Did you leave it somewhere unattended?”

Tess frowned. Had she? She didn’t think so. If it was left in the cart Maria had been right there, right? Yeah. “Well, no…”

“I’m gonna have to take you down to the station.”

“WHAT?” she shrieked and looked at Maria.

“Is that really necessary, Deputy?” the other woman asked the man calmly and placed a reassuring hand on her friend’s shoulder. “She’s not a thief.”

“That has yet to be seen.” He shrugged and turned to look at Tess. “Would you please come with me, Ma’am?”

“Hell, no! I’m calling my man right now and he’s gonna tell you a thing or two. He’s an FBI agent.”

The man chuckled. “The FBI has no authority in this case. You can call him from the station, so if you would please follow me now, or…” His hands moved to the cuffs hanging from his belt.

Maria stood between them and looked at her. “Tess, just go with him for now, okay? Or do you want to be arrested and put in cuffs right here?” She pointed at the parking lot and the few people who had already stopped to watch in interest. “I’m gonna put the groceries away and contact Kyle. We’ll be at the station in no time.”

Tess bit her inner cheek to keep from shouting at the stupid and obviously incapable deputy. “Fine, I’ll go with him. Kyle’s at home, go and get him fast, okay?” she pleaded.

Her friend nodded. “Sure. You can count on me.”

*****

Tess looked up when the door between the front offices and the holding cells opened, looking between the bars and practically flying across the small room. “Kyle! Thank God you’re here! That officer out there accused me of stealing!”

“Yeah, I heard.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and jingled his keys as he watched her pace, the agitation in every step obvious. “So, what’d ya pocket?”

She whirled around to face him and her hands waved furiously as she started to speak again. “It’s absolutely ridiculous! You won’t even believe it!”

“Really?” He did his best to contain his amusement as he watched her work herself up into a good rant.

“It’s just... just...” She couldn’t seem to get the words out. “Kyle, you’re FBI! Can’t you do something?”

He bit the inside of his cheek. “What was it they said you stole?”

“Is that important?” she asked, confused.

“Every detail in a crime is important,” he told her calmly.

“Crime?” she yelled. “It was a sex guide, okay? A SEX GUIDE! Why would I need something like that?”

“Wanted to try out something new? Babe, you should’ve just told me.”

“I can’t believe this,” Tess shook her head. “I’m here in jail and you’re making fun of me? I’m the victim here, Kyle! I didn’t do anything.” Her gaze shot to the door when it opened again and Maria and Michael joined them. “Oh, thank God, Maria, you’re here. Tell him I didn’t do it.”

“Well,” the other woman stepped closer. Man, Tess was really worked up to a point where she was gonna explode soon. “You kinda had it in your bag…”

She must be kidding, Tess thought. “But you know I didn’t steal it. Someone had to put it in my bag.”

“Why would anyone put this in a stranger’s bag?” Kyle asked and pretended to read over the file the police officer had filled out earlier.

“Why? I don’t fuckin’ know why!! Maybe it was just some kids pulling a prank.”

He frowned while he pretended to think about it, but then shook his head. “It wasn’t a prank.”

“What makes you so sure about that?” Tess placed her hands on her hips and stared at him angrily. She never would’ve expected that he wouldn’t believe her.

“Because we went to the supermarket to have a look at their security tapes,” he explained, keeping his expression neutral. He pulled the keys out of his pocket to open up the cell.

“Then you should know it wasn’t me,” she went up to him when he opened the door and poked her index finger into his chest, hard. “Did they get the little brat who did it?”

He chuckled. “I think they did.” He nodded his head to the side where the other couple was standing. “My partner in crime,” he whispered meaningfully.

Tess looked between all of them in confusion, trying to make sense to what he was saying. “Okay, I really don’t get it, what – “

Kyle pressed his forefinger to her lips to silence her. “You love original ideas.”

“What – “

“Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I came up with this idea – “

“To get me arrested for stealing a sex guide?! Are you out of your mind?! If I was gonna steal something it’d sure as hell be something better than that!” She started to pace again, shooting the occasional glare at him when he just grinned smugly. “I hope you have something better in mind for an explanation, Kyle.”

“Well...” He rubbed his left ear as he reached into his pocket with his free hand. He waited until she rolled her eyes and when she turned her back to him to make another circuit of the room he opened the small velvet box and dropped to one knee.

Maria bit her lip when she saw her step brother preparing to ask the most important question of his life. She could feel the wetness in her eyes and she looked up when Michael gave her arm a gentle squeeze. She smiled when he winked at her and they both looked back at the other couple.

“I don’t hear you explaining,” Tess grumbled and turned again to face him. “Why did you – “ The words stuck in her throat when she saw him in a posture that couldn’t be mistaken. Well, unless it was another of his bad jokes. No, he wouldn’t do that, right?

Kyle glanced up at her and smirked to cover his nervousness when he finally had her speechless. “Tess Evans,” he started and realized that his voice sounded a lot different than usual. “Will you marry me?”

Her vision blurred when she was finally able to wrap her brain around the whole situation. “I can’t believe you got me arrested for this, Valenti,” she mumbled and practically ran to him. She dropped down on the floor before him and hugged him tightly. “Thought I’d run away if you didn’t lock me up?”

He chuckled and wrapped his arms around her for a moment before he released her again to look at her. “So your answer is…?”

“Sure as hell yes,” she told him and didn’t pay any attention to the tears that were running down her cheeks. Her gaze dropped when he took her hand to slide the tiny ring onto her finger, wondering how he had gotten the perfect size for it. “It’s beautiful.”

“So are you, Mrs. soon-to-be-Valenti,” he whispered and kissed her lips briefly. “Let’s get up from the floor, huh?” he teased and straightened up, taking her with him,

“And you knew about all of this?” Tess glanced around him to look at Maria.

“Well, someone had to get you here.”

She slapped Kyle’s shoulder. “Only you would come up with getting me arrested for stealing a sex guide of all things just to propose!”

“Hey,” he shot a look at her and rubbed the offended area, “I only drafted them to get you here. I’m not the one who came up with a sex guide theft.” He snorted. “Like you need any pointers in that department, babe.”

She smiled brilliantly. That’s what she had been saying all along! “Thank you!” Her expression sobered as she looked at Maria again. “I can’t believe you did that to me! Of all the things for me to have allegedly stolen! A sex guide? Really?”

“Um, I just kept you occupied while your bag was sitting in the cart just a few feet away. I didn’t think you were ever gonna leave it in the cart.” She shrugged and couldn’t stop the smile when Tess’ mouth dropped open and she shifted her gaze to Michael. He was grinning unrepentantly and not showing a single ounce of remorse.

“You should be glad that one of my best friends likes you, because otherwise I’d kill you right now,” she glared at him. “Payback’s a bitch, Guerin! Remember that!”

He snorted, not really impressed or shaking with fear from her threat. “Bring it on, Evans.”

“Did he just challenge me?” Tess asked, amused, as she glanced at Maria.

The other girl held a hand over her boyfriend’s mouth. “Shhh, you don’t know what you’re doin’, Michael.”

“Keep him alive until after our wedding, okay, babe?” Kyle asked and wrapped one arm around her. “I already asked him to be my best man, so I’d like him to be on two legs that day.”

“You asked him to be your best man before you asked me?” She glanced at him with a lifted eyebrow.

He grimaced. “So is this the wrong time to tell you that Isabel insisted on planning the wedding?”

Her mouth dropped open. “Wait, you told Isabel too? I suppose Deputy McCarthy was in on it too?” She nodded when he shrugged sheepishly. “Uh-huh, is there anyone in town who didn’t know I was getting married before I did?”

“Well…” he scratched the back of his neck and looked at the floor for a moment as he thought. “Kara. Yep, definitely didn’t tell her ‘cause she would’ve let the cat outta the bag. She gets all excited, ya know?”

“Really? Everyone else knows?”

He couldn’t hold the grin back any longer and he laughed out loud. “They know,” he motioned to the couple behind them, “because they were part of the scheme to get you here. And yeah, since Michael already knew what I was plannin’ I went ahead and asked him if he’d be my best man. But other than Maria and Michael… well, and Deputy McCarthy, no one knows about it.”

“So the people in the store really think I stole a sex guide?!”

He rolled his eyes. “Okay, two seconds ago you were upset about people knowin’ before you and now you’re upset because the storekeeper wasn’t in on it too?” Well, he had known that something was going on but he hadn’t known why he had been asked to play along with the prank.

“Now people think I really did steal something like that, Kyle!”

“They’ll get over it, and hey, you’ll be married to one of the best looking men around town. That’ll move you back up the scale of ranking people again.”

Tess rolled her eyes. “Back to Isabel. Is she good at doin’ stuff like planning weddings?”

Michael laughed. “She’s probably the best you’ll find in the whole state. The woman does everything to perfection, ya know.”

Kyle nodded. “Yeah, which will drive all of us crazy, but if ya want perfection then Isabel’s your choice.”

“Be my maid of honor?” Tess glanced at the other woman and smiled.

“I’d like nothing more,” Maria said as she gave her brother an unsubtle shove so she could hug her sister-in-law. “I’m so happy for you, Tess. You guys are gonna be so happy together.”

Michael reached over and punched his friend in the arm. “Probably not the proposal I would’ve gone with,” he chuckled, “but she said yes and I guess that’s all that matters.”

“Hey, this’s gonna be a helluva story to tell our grandkids one day.”

Tess rolled her eyes. “I’m already a grandma now,” she muttered.

Maria laughed and shook her head. “You two are gonna be something else.”

“Do you already have a date in mind?” Michael looked at Kyle questioningly.

“Not in winter,” Tess told him immediately. “We need nice weather for a wedding.”

Kyle looked at his friend. “I guess my opinion doesn’t count. So think spring or summer next year would be too soon for Isabel to plan?”

The other man snorted. “I’ll bet two years would be too short in her opinion, but you know she can do it in a few months if she wants to.”

Maria watched as Tess glanced at the ring on her finger with amazement. She was so happy that her brother and one of her best friends had found their way back together during the last few months. They were made for each other and it was so obvious.

“Why don’t we get outta here so Doug can have his holding cell back,” Kyle suggested.

Tess frowned. “Who’s Doug?”

“Deputy McCarthy, ma’am,” the man said as he leaned up against the doorway and thumbed his hat back.

She made a face at his wide grin. “You.”

He chuckled. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“Obviously not.” Her gaze flicked over him before shifting back to Kyle. “Should I?”

“I was about five inches shorter and fifty pounds heavier back in high school.” He nodded when she still wore a blank expression. “I was pretty well known for doing math homework for other kids? Kinda followed you around hoping you’d give me the time of day?”

“Stalker Dougie?” She shook her head as she gave him the once-over again. “No, you’re not…” She paused and her eyes narrowed for a moment. “You wore glasses, right? Broke in the middle and held together with tape, pocket protectors, the whole nine yards. Oh, my God, I do remember you!”

He grinned and shrugged. “Guilty as charged.” He motioned to the cell. “I hope you don’t mind but I couldn’t resist bein’ part of this when Valenti approached me and asked for a favor.”

She made a face. “Guess I deserved my payback.” She hadn’t been very nice to him back in high school and it wasn’t as funny when she looked back.

Doug just shrugged. “Sure was nice to play a little prank on you this time.”

Kyle grinned. “Let’s get outta here. Thought the four of us could have lunch together?” He glanced at the other couple.

“Sure,” Maria nodded. “We need to discuss some details for tomorrow anyway. The house is gonna to be packed and we need you guys to set some stuff up or half the people will be sitting on the floor.”

Michael snorted. “We need to get a few tables and chairs from my house over to hers.”

“How many people will be there tomorrow?” Tess wondered aloud.

“Well, you two, Michael, Andy and me. Then Max and Liz with all three kids, Alex, Isabel, and Sam,” Maria started, counting the people with her fingers. “My mom and Jim, oh, and Liz’ parents as well.”

“17 people, huh? You’re sure as hell gonna need help.” Kyle shook his head.

“It’s all good. Sam and Andy offered help and I accepted before they could think twice,” Maria chuckled.

“Smart move,” Tess said with a laugh.

Michael glanced at Kyle as they followed the women back outside. “So, think you’re up for hauling some tables and chairs over to Maria’s place tomorrow morning?”

He chuckled. “Do you really think I have a choice? Do you hear them up there? Our day’s already bein’ planned out and with it bein’ Thanksgiving and Maria cookin’ up a storm all day I’m sure we’ll be up at the butt crack of dawn.”

“She had me an’ Andy movin’ furniture around all mornin’ to make sure there’s plenty of room and everyone’ll be comfortable.”

“I’m stakin’ a claim on the recliner for the big game tomorrow.”

“The man of the house gets the recliner, Kyle,” Maria called over her shoulder.

“Would that be Michael or Andy?” Tess teased.

She smiled as she glanced at her friend. “Andy’s finally comfortable with Michael being in our lives and he’s okay with him staying over so I think I can safely say that if anyone’s staking a claim on that recliner it’ll be Michael.”

Yep, Tess thought as they shifted right back to the menu, it was so nice to see her family finally happy and getting back on track.
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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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Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 127

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:51 am

Earth2Mama: Lol, it’s not the kinda proposal for everyone.

The good deputy’s recovered from high school.

mary mary: The proposal wasn’t the kind every woman would go for, lol.

killjoy: We’re glad you enjoyed that! It was such a K/T thing to do!

Natalie36: Thanks! Michael’s definitely becoming part of the family.

CandyliciousLovah: Lol, you’d definitely have a fight on your hands if you tried. ;)

keepsmiling7: Oh, you’d absolutely have to!

sarammlover: Thanks, we’re glad you loved it!

Alien_Friend: Lol, well, it’s Kyle and Tess so you know he had to find something original and memorable.

Thanksgiving promises to be memorable. ;)

126 parts... lol, not sure we expected that going in.

begonia9508: Thanks!

Max is dealing with what happened and we’ll see more of that soon.

Lol, no, that wouldn’t be funny and for Tess it certainly wasn’t funny at first either. But since it’s likely the story will get around about how Kyle proposed it won’t be long before Tess has no problem showing her face in that store again.




Part 127

“Why are we eating at the big table tonight, Mommy?” Kara asked when she climbed on one of the barstools next to the counter, watching her parents while they moved around the kitchen to make dinner.

“Because Granny and Grandpa are joining us tonight, sweetie, we already talked about that, remember?”

Max glanced at the clock. “They should’ve been here already.”

“Mom called a while ago to let me know there was some major traffic which put them half an hour behind.”

“How long will they stay?” Kara asked, playing carelessly with a magazine in front of her.

“A few days,” Liz said and walked over to look at her, wiping a hand on the towel. “Why don’t you go upstairs and get your brothers while Daddy and I fix the rest?”

She made a face, but did what her mother had asked for and slipped from the barstool to hurry away.

“Don’t run up the stairs,” Max warned and grinned when her steps immediately slowed. “You’d think she’d remember that one on her own after the many times we’ve told her, but nope… gone!”

Liz laughed and held out a spoon filled with gravy to him. “By the time she remembers you’ll be complaining how fast they grow up.”

He blew on the spoon and then nipped on it, nodding at her in satisfaction. “We’ve got another little one on the way so I guess it’s all starting from the beginning again, huh?”

“Afraid?”

“No, excited,” he said and squeezed her shoulder. “Wanna tell your parents as soon as they get here?”

“Maybe right after dinner,” she nodded. “No need to ruin their appetite.”

“You think it’d ruin their appetite?” Max frowned.

“Well, you know Dad… he’ll be just as worried as you were at first.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “That’s true.” His gaze shifted to her belly. He was still scared about what could happen, but with every day the pregnancy moved forward he was more positive that things would work out differently this time. “So, after dinner.”

They looked at each other when they heard a car pulling into the driveway at the front of the house. “Guess they’ve arrived,” Liz said with a huge smile on her face. It had been a long time since her parents had been able to visit them and she was really looking forward to spending some time with them.

“Grandma an’ Grandpa’s here!” Justin shouted from upstairs.

Feet pounded on the stairs, the front door opened, and within moments the screen door slammed shut as the kids ran out onto the front lawn. Nick set Kara down and she hurried over to be swept up in a big hug by Grandpa. She giggled loudly and wrapped her arms around his neck as the boys were pulled into hugs by Grandma.

“You kids get bigger every time we see you,” Jeff said as he held Kara up, making her laugh.

“We gotta get bigger, Grampa!”

“Yeah, I s’pose you do. Just do me a favor, huh? Don’t do it so fast.” He planted a noisy kiss on her cheek before handing her over to Nancy and exchanging a round of hugs with the boys. “You guys are havin’ a great season,” he said as he stood back to look at them. They looked so much like Max at their age and he could easily remember the many sleepless nights he’d spent worrying about what the boy and his little girl were getting up to. Jeff chuckled and shook the memories off when the screen door snapped closed and his daughter stepped out on the front porch with her husband.

“Liz, honey, you look absolutely beautiful!” he exclaimed as he crossed the lawn to pull her into a hug and swing her around. He set her down after a moment and held her at arms’ length just to look at her. “Have you done something different?”

“Mommy’s – “

Justin grabbed Kara up before she could let the cat out of the bag. “C’mon, squirt, let’s go get the football.”

“But I wanna tell – “

He covered her mouth with one hand and grinned at his grandmother. “We’ll be right back.” He elbowed his brother. “Nick, where’d you leave the football?”

Nancy watched them speculatively for a moment before going to join the other adults when the kids ran back into the house to find the football. She knew it wouldn’t be long before they had talked Jeff and Max into a pickup game and for the next hour or so the front yard would be turned into a football field. Kara would take turns playing for each side before she tired of the game and then she would join her mother and grandmother in the kitchen to help out for a while. And not long after that the guys would pile into the kitchen, ready to eat, only to be run out of the room so they could clean up before sitting down to dinner.

“And the chaos begins,” Liz said with a smirk at her mother and went to give the older woman a tight hug. “I’m so glad you’re finally here, Mom. It’s been so long.”

“I know,” Nancy hugged her daughter back. “Your father and I are looking for people who can take over more responsibility in the restaurant, but good people aren’t easy to find.”

“I guess Max can tell you all about it,” her daughter nodded. “He’s been looking for good staff in his shops half of his life and there’s never a break from it.”

“Why don’t we get all you luggage inside before the kids demand our attention?” Max suggested and squeezed Jeff’s hand, accepting the slap on the shoulder he always got from his father-in-law.

“You two do that and Mom an’ I’ll go into the kitchen,” Liz said and glanced at her mother. “Or do you wanna go upstairs and relax a bit before dinner?”

Nancy waved her off. “I had enough time to relax in the car, sweetie. But your father’s stomach was already starting to grumble so maybe I can give you a hand with dinner?”

“Sure. We don’t need to do much, it’s almost ready.”

“And tomorrow we’ll go to Maria’s?” The women kept talking as they walked into the kitchen, leaving their men alone in the living room.

“Guess the luggage is up to us,” Jeff said in amusement and glanced at his son-in-law. He looked a lot better than he had shortly after the death of his brother and he was glad to see that his daughter’s family seemed to be getting back on track.

“Let’s roll,” the younger man said and clapped his hands. Knowing Liz’ parents over half of the boxes in the car were filled with presents for them and the kids. They would need a bigger car for their visits once they found out about the baby.

*****

Maria looked up when the front door opened and slammed shut within seconds of each other and only caught a blur as her son ran past the kitchen doorway.

“Gonna wash up, be down for dinner in five,” he hollered over his shoulder as he pounded up the stairs.

Michael brushed his hands off as he came into the kitchen from the living room. He had been bringing in more logs for the fire when he heard Andy make his entrance. “He’s in a hurry,” he commented as he leaned in for a kiss before going to wash his hands.

She chuckled. “Well, he’s managed to make sure that pickup game lasted well past the point where he’d be helpful making dinner. Now he has to make it look like he was rushing to get home so he could help out.”

“So that’s how that works,” he teased.

“That’s how it works when you’re 16,” she corrected. “Have you heard from Chrissie? Is she gonna make it back in time for Thanksgiving?” His sister had flown out the week before to take care of a few things and to speak with her advisor at college. She knew he had made sure she had a round trip ticket because he was hoping she’d be able to be with them over the holiday.

“She’s supposed to call by 8pm to let me know if I’m picking her up in the mornin’.” He dried his hands on a towel and tossed it on the counter before grabbing the stack of plates and utensils she had placed on the counter and carrying them over to the table. “So, what’s on the agenda for after dinner?”

“A couple of pies and a little more prep work to cut down on a few things we’ll need to do tomorrow.”

“So, stuff like chopping, slicing, and dicing?”

“Basically.”

“And then the pies. Pumpkin?”

“Um-hmm, you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.” She laughed at the look on his face. His expression clearly stated that any holiday could be had without pumpkin pie. “You’re not a fan,” she guessed.

He shrugged. “I’m more an apple pie with ice cream on top kinda guy.”

“Well, you’re in luck then because there is a homemade apple pie on the menu too.” She turned her head when Andy trampled back down the stairs and came into the kitchen. “Look who’s here right on time!”

“Right on time… for what?” the teenager asked slowly.

Maria laughed and shook her head. “For dinner. You’ve managed to get in late enough that everything else is done.”

“Well, not everything,” Michael grinned. “I’ll bet Andy’s gonna volunteer to clean up after dinner since his game ran late and he knows you’ll be up for a while making pies for tomorrow.”

Andy rolled his eyes. “Okay, but just stickin’ the dishes in the dishwasher and startin’ it, right?”

“You’ll get a pass for that tonight, but you’re gonna stick around tomorrow and help Michael and your uncle with the chairs and tables.”

The teenager shrugged. “Won’t be that bad. It’ll be done in no time.”

“Well, that’s great. I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more things in case you get done early.” She bit her lip when he looked like he was going to explode and was struggling to hold it back.

“Why didn’t you let Aunt Liz do all the dinner stuff? They have enough furniture an’ all.”

“Because it’s our new house and it’s the perfect opportunity to have everyone over,” his mother said and went to get the salad out of the refrigerator. “Could you go and get some fresh drinks? They’re stored in the garage because I couldn’t fit anything else in the refrigerator.”

“Fine,” Andy grumbled and went off.

“He’s so helpful, isn’t he?” Maria laughed when the boy had left.

Michael snorted. “Guess it could be worse. I’ve definitely seen worse.”

“Don’t doubt that,” she mumbled after sticking a bite of the chicken in her mouth to taste it.

“Hot?” he asked, amused when he heard her harsh breathing combined with furiously waving hands in front of her mouth.

“Um-hmm,” she swallowed the food. “Hell, yes.”

He came around the counter and hugged her from behind, placing a kiss on her cheek before he snuggled his face against her neck. Last Thanksgiving he and Chrissie had been sitting alone at the table with a little turkey Isabel had made and this year the holiday would be full of people and family around him. It was still hard to believe how things had suddenly changed for him – in a positive way this time. “I love you,” he mumbled quietly and it came out so naturally that he didn’t even realize immediately that it was the first time he had said it out loud.

Maria’s breath caught in her throat and she slowly turned in his arms to look up at him. She had known the feelings that were building inside of her were teetering on the edge just waiting to fall over and send her headlong into love. Michael had awakened so many feelings that had been dormant and in many ways he had brought her back to life.

“Hey, Mom, what kinda…” Andy trailed off as he looked between his mom and Michael and after a moment he rolled his eyes and went back out in the garage. He was sure glad he didn’t get all goofy like that when he was with Sam, he thought.

She barely registered the momentary interruption, her eyes locked on the man standing before her. He was watching her, his chest hardly moving because his breathing had slowed as he waited for her response. When she had decided to return home she had been thinking that it would be good for her son. At the time she hadn’t been able to really think about herself, only able to see the possibilities for Andy. Finding a way to reach him had been at the top of her list of priorities and just a few months ago she would’ve been satisfied if that was her only achievement upon returning home.

Today though, she knew that coming home had been something she had needed just as much as her son had. The opportunity to be with their family again, to be surrounded by a community of people that had welcomed them back home, and the feeling of being productive again as she and Tess dove into a new business as partners had all worked to help them begin piecing their lives back together.

Her hands slid up over the wall of his chest to settle on his strong shoulders and her eyes glistened as she inhaled deeply.

His eyes searched hers while he waited for an answer although he had no doubts inside of him that she felt the same way. The way she had blushed slightly was just another reason why she had made it into his heart with such ease – and in such a short time.

“I love you, too, Michael,” her voice was hoarse and thick, expressing the deep feelings she held inside. “I’m,” her gaze wandered to the garage door for a short moment, “WE are so happy to have you in our lives now.”

He had never felt totally alone in the last few years, although he had always been looking for someone. Now that he knew what it felt like to actually have someone like her in his life, he realized that he would feel totally alone if she disappeared again. “Think it’s safe to say that I’m the luckier one,” he said with a wink and brought her closer to give her an intimate hug that said more than words could.

Maria enjoyed the moment for a while longer before they slowly parted again, both smiling.

“You can come back in, Andy,” Michael called, smiling when the boy hadn’t come back out of the garage yet.

The door was opened slightly and the boy peeked inside. “Good. Can we have dinner now? I’m starving.”

She chuckled when Michael nodded and Andy hurried over to the table without bothering to hide the disgusted look on his face. When he settled into his chair and started to fill his plate she caught the subtle smile that crossed his features. He had come so far from the angry, sullen teenager she had been dealing with just a few months ago.

She watched as he and Michael fell into an easy conversation about basketball, listening to them as they debated who the best point guard was in the NBA. The conversation was lost on her but she was fine with that. She had everything she needed and wanted right in front of her and she could deal with listening to the two most important men in her life discussing sports rather than engaging in dinner conversation that included her. There was plenty of time for dinner table discussion that she actually understood. Sitting across from the man she loved, the man who had professed his love for her, and having dinner with her son as a family, that was everything to her.

*****

Sam bounded into the kitchen and over to the refrigerator, glancing at Isabel while blindly pulling out a bottle of water. Dad was in his office going over something with a client that just couldn’t wait until after the holiday. She didn’t know why he hadn’t just blown the guy off. She was sure it couldn’t possibly be THAT important.

“What’re you makin’?” she asked as she hopped up to sit on the counter next to where Isabel was working.

“Your dad mentioned that he really likes lemon meringue pie and since no one’s making one for tomorrow I thought I’d make one to take when we go over to Maria’s for dinner.”

“Cool.” Her eyes wandered over the items spread out on the counter. “So you’re like really makin’ it homemade, huh?”

She smiled. “Yeah, it’s my grandma’s recipe.”

“Maybe you could show me how to make it.”

“You wanna help?”

“Sure, I’ve never made a homemade pie before. Not like really homemade. My grandma makes cakes more than pies because she says she just can’t get the crust to cooperate.” She listened as Isabel explained how to mix the ingredients for the filling while she worked on the dough for the crust and by the time they were sliding the pie pan into the oven she realized that it had been more fun than work. They had talked about Andy, school, jobs, Thanksgiving dinner, and what was on their Christmas lists while they worked.

“That was easy enough, right?” Isabel glanced at the girl and she wondered what she was thinking when she didn’t answer. “What’s on your mind?”

She wrinkled her nose as she washed her hands and she turned to lean back against the island as she looked at the woman. “Do you think you an’ Dad are gonna get married? Or like, move in together or somethin’?”

Oh, hell, Isabel thought. Teenagers had a tendency of coming up with uncomfortable questions when you least expected them and this was one of those moments. “Well… I’m hoping that your dad and I will move in together at some point, yes. We haven’t really talked about it yet, but I think it’s something we’re both considering for the future.” She looked at the teenager in front of her. “Would you be okay with that?”

Sam thought about it and then nodded. “I guess it’d be okay. I mean, you’re over here a lot anyway and it’d make sense.”

Isabel laughed – yeah, it would make perfect sense. “So about the marriage thing… I really can’t tell you right now, Sam. We’re still in the getting to know each other phase here. For my part, I wouldn’t exclude it, but we haven’t talked about it and I think that’d be too much for now. We’re just getting started.”

“Right,” the teenager nodded. She had had kind of expected an answer like that and she was satisfied with it. “Guess you two work good together.”

“Thanks, I think we all work good together,” Isabel said, looking at her meaningfully.

Sam smiled. “Yeah, guess that’s true.”

“What’re you girls up to in here?” Alex asked as he joined them. He paused in the doorway to sniff the air and after a moment his eyes widened. “Lemon meringue pie?” He hooked his arm around his daughter’s neck when she laughed at him. “Why don’t you go answer your phone? That thing’s been doin’ a dance across the coffee table for the past five minutes.”

“Oh! I forgot I was supposed to call Sarah back!” she said as she ran out of the room.

He watched Isabel as she opened the oven door to remove the pie and his mouth watered when she placed it on the counter to cool and he got his first look at it. “You’ve been holdin’ out on me.”

She laughed as she closed the oven and turned it off. “Well, it’s too soon to reveal all of my secrets.”

“I’m glad you and Sam get along so well.” He wrapped his arms around her as she turned away from the stove. “She can cook if she has to, but as a rule she doesn’t spend much time hangin’ out in the kitchen.”

“She just needs the right motivation.” She winked at him. “Girl talk over a little baking is always a good motivator.”

“Girl talk, huh?” He took his glasses off and folded them, hooking one of the arms in the collar of his tee shirt. “So what were you girls talkin’ about? Or is that kind of a secret since I’m not a girl?”

“I’m glad you’re not a girl,” she said with a teasing smile. “And no, it’s not a secret. She asked if I thought we might move in together at some point.” She wondered if mentioning Sam’s question about marriage was too soon.

“I’m surprised she didn’t ask if we planned to get married.” He quirked an eyebrow at the surprise he could see in her features. “Yeah, she’s asked me too. About us movin’ in together and about getting married. She’ll hold back with the questions for a while but if she wants to know somethin’ bad enough it’s only a matter of time before she’ll bring it up. And it’s a good sign that she’s comfortable enough with you to just put it out there.”

“What’d you say?”

“Huh-uh.” He grinned and shook his head. “What’d you say?”

“You are so not right for that,” she laughed quietly. “I told her that I was hoping moving in together would be an option in our future and she agreed with me that it’d make perfect sense.”

Alex snorted. Yeah, that sounded a lot like his daughter.

“About the marriage thing… well, I told her that that’s something the future will tell and that it’s too early to say, but it’s not ruled out.” She bit her lip.

“Good answer,” he smiled and kissed her cheek, wincing when she smacked his hand before it could reach the fresh pie. “Don’t you dare, buddy. It’s for tomorrow.”

He made a pouting face. “You mean I have to wait 24 hours to try it?”

“That’s what I’m saying,” she nodded with a smirk.

“Mean woman,” Alex teased and went to get something to drink. “I have actually thought about us moving in together…” he started.

“You have?” Her eyebrows quirked up.

“Um-hmm, let’s say we consider it… would you give up your place?”

She thought about that for a minute. She loved her apartment but this was the home Sam had grown up in. They had more of an attachment to their house than she did to her apartment. But she had two troublemaking roommates. “How would you feel about Caesar and Brutus living with us?”

“I have a pig, Isabel. I’m pretty sure a couple of cats would fit in alright.” He shrugged. “I don’t think they’d be much bother to Oscar because believe it or not, pigs and cats generally get along. It’d be an issue if you had a dog,” he said with a laugh. “Dogs and pigs really aren’t a good mix since dogs are predators by nature.”

“Good point. My apartment’s great and I do love it but it’s not like a real home. Apartments are so transient and there’s also Sam to consider. You’ve pretty much lived here her entire life; it’s part of that stability you’ve provided for her and I think she’d be a lot happier if she wasn’t expected to uproot her life for something as simple as where we’d live as a couple.”

“I’m guessing that was a yes,” he teased.

She made a face at him. “It was the longwinded version of a yes,” she agreed. “I know Sam’s a very adaptable kid but I think it’s important to maintain the stability you’ve worked so hard to provide for her.”

He nodded. “My heart belongs to this house as well. So many good memories here… I’ve got a ton of stories for each room, so I’d hate to give it up.”

“You won’t have to,” Isabel assured him and chuckled when his stomach rumbled. “Hungry, maybe?”

“We’re past dinnertime, huh?” He made a face. His client had stayed a lot longer than expected and had totally changed their plans for the night.

“Yeah, but we can fix something really quick.”
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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: 925
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 128

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:16 am

keepsmiling7: Lol, Kara’s having a hard time keeping that cat in the bag.

Thanks, we have a lot of fun with the group/family scenes.

sarammlover: The family’s definitely moving forward. Isabel and Alex... they really are cute, lol.

Earth2Mama: Lol, she’ll be giving that another shot.

We’re glad you’re liking this version of our Candy couple. Andy has come a long way since the beginning of this fic. And accepting Michael as a part of his and his mom’s lives has been an important step for him.

Alien_Friend: Get ready for another pleasant one. ;)

Time is a major factor in healing... and of course in the case of our beloved characters in ITCOAL, they have a great support system of family and friends who have made such a difference for each other.

Chances are good that cat won’t stay in the bag for long.

Sam is really getting the opportunity to have a woman in her life who isn’t her grandmother or a family friend, but someone who can be there in a different capacity.

There may be a bit of chaos coming to the Whitman household, lol.

Thanks! We have so much fun writing together and telling stories through these characters.

begonia9508: Lol, so true! Kara’s just itching to let that cat out of the bag.

Eva: Thanks! It’s taken this group a long time to get here, but they’ve finally reached a point where happiness is in their grasp.

mary mary: Thanks, we have more coming up!




Part 128

“Can you pass the salad please?” Nancy smiled at Max and took the bowl from him when he did what she had asked. “The food’s delicious, Lizzie.”

“It is,” her father agreed. “You got your cooking skills from your mother.”

“Actually a lot of credit for dinner goes to Max,” she said with a smile, happy that everyone was enjoying the time together around the table with good food and light conservation.

Jeff turned to the little girl sitting at the head of the table. “So Kara, do you already have ideas for your wish list for Christmas?”

“Yes,” she nodded enthusiastically and grabbed a little tomato from the table. “I wanna have a sister, Grampa.”

“A sister,” he said in surprise and looked at his daughter, amused.

Max and Liz exchanged a quick look, knowing they couldn’t put the talk about the pregnancy off much longer.

“Um-hmm,” Kara babbled, “Daddy says we’re gonna have a girl.”

Jeff’s fork froze halfway between his plate and his mouth as his granddaughter’s words sank in. He closed his mouth and slowly lowered the fork, carefully resting it against the side of his plate before he reached for his napkin. He took a drink of his coffee, set the cup aside, and wiped his mouth and hands. He was aware of Nancy’s hand on his thigh, the gentle pressure warning him to go easy.

He nodded in response and smiled tightly as he looked at Kara. “Daddy says that, huh?”

The little girl smiled as she became the center of attention. “Uh-huh, ‘cause Mommy’s got a baby growing in her tummy.” She got up on her knees and her gaze bounced between her parents. “Isn’t that right, Daddy?”

The food that had been so wonderful suddenly felt like lead in his stomach as Max forced a smile and nodded at his daughter. He knew Jeff and Nancy would be supportive once they had gotten over the shock. They knew how close they had come to losing Liz when the twins had been born and he just hoped they would see this pregnancy as more than just a reminder of that dark memory.

“You must be so happy,” Nancy said, easily reading her daughter and son-in-law’s features. She knew how crushed Liz had been when Max had refused to ever risk another pregnancy. She had understood his fear though and she had been relieved when Liz had finally agreed that taking the risk was just too dangerous. She could still remember being there with him that night after they had almost lost Liz and the boys. He had been put through the wringer and faced with making a decision she wasn’t sure he would’ve been able to live with. It was obvious that he had made peace with this pregnancy and she was going to do whatever was necessary to support them.

A smile of pure joy broke out over Liz’s face as she nodded enthusiastically. She turned to look at her husband and her hand slipped into his when he held it out to her and smiled so openly. “We are.”

“We were gonna wait and tell you after dinner,” Max added. His thumb stroked over the back of Liz’s hand in a soothing motion.

Kara covered her mouth with both hands as her eyes widened. “Oops,” she mumbled against her palm.

“You and your big mouth,” Nick rolled his eyes at his sister. “We told you to not say anything, remember?”

“It’s okay,” Liz interrupted before things had a chance to end in an argument between the kids.

Justin glanced around the table, noticing the look of shock on his grandpa’s face. Spilling the news over dinner hadn’t been the best thing to happen, he thought and nodded at his brother when he gestured to the stairs. “We’ll go upstairs for a bit. C’mon, Kara.”

“But I want – “

“We’ll be back later for dessert, squirt,” Nick interrupted and took her out of her chair.

Max ruffled his little girl’s hair. “Go with your brother’s for now, baby girl.”

“Otay, Daddy,” she said with a sigh.

Liz waited until the kids were out of sight before she looked at her father expectantly. “Dad?” she asked carefully.

“You’ve wanted this for a long time,” he said slowly. He knew how much she had always wanted a houseful of kids and that desire had only increased when she and Max had gotten together because he had wanted the same thing. She had been devastated when they had been put in a position to make a choice that meant they would have no more children of their own but in time she had learned to accept it. “What’d your doctor say?”

She could hear the fear he tried so hard to hide from her. “Linda’s confident the pregnancy’s progressing well and she doesn’t believe we’re facing the same thing we did with the boys.”

“The medical field has changed a lot since the boys were born, Jeff,” Nancy assured him.

“Max?” He looked at the younger man. “What’re your thoughts?”

“My immediate thought when I found out Liz was pregnant was to end it,” he admitted quietly. “It took a while before I was able to accept it but,” he squeezed his wife’s hand and smiled, “Liz had me talk to Linda and I felt a lot better after that. She’s been handling the pregnancy pretty well and we’re bein’ cautious, but we’re also happy about it.”

“I don’t wanna let my fears run my life anymore, Dad,” Liz tried to explain. “What happened while I was pregnant with the boys was bad, but I’m positive that it’s in the past. There’s no indication that history’s gonna repeat itself and I’m prepared for any extra tests and there’ll be more appointments than usual to make sure everything’s fine.”

Jeff looked at his daughter, noticing the way her eyes glistened with excitement just from talking about the new baby and he knew it was the right thing. With a nod he stood and walked around the table to give his daughter a hug from behind.

Liz glanced at her mom and smiled before she got up to turn and hug him fully.

“I’m really happy for you, Liz,” Jeff whispered quietly. It was still hard to believe that this family was starting all over again with a new little one, but the excitement was growing in him as well with each passing second.

“Thanks, Dad,” she smiled and felt a tear slip from the corner of her eye.

“Daddy, can we come back now?”

Max smiled when his daughter hollered down from the second floor and he mentally started counting, barely making it to two before Liz turned to look at the doorway.

“Kara Renee Evans, do not hang on that railing!”

“Few more minutes?” he asked when she turned her head to look at him.

“Yeah.”

He nodded and got to his feet. “I’ll be right back,” he excused himself.

“Max seems to be pretty settled about the pregnancy,” Jeff said as soon as his son-in-law had left the room and he could hear him talking to the kids.

“He wasn’t when I first told him. He had a difficult time with it.”

Nancy got up and came around the table to hug her daughter. “That man has every right to have a difficult time with it. The last time he was in a position where he had to choose between the woman he loves and the children he had fathered. That’s a hell of a choice for anyone to make.”

“Mom, I couldn’t have let them die if there was any chance of saving them. Not even if it meant…” she was silenced by her mother’s finger being pressed against her lips.

“I know why, sweetie, and as a mother I understand where you’re coming from.” Her eyes watered and she smiled fiercely. “As your mother, I had a difficult time understanding that decision as well at the time.”

“Linda’s sure you’re doin’ okay though,” Jeff said as he watched her.

“We’re doing everything possible to make sure this pregnancy goes smoother than the last one, Dad.” She glanced back at the doorway when her husband’s voice became louder as he walked back to the kitchen. “Max is finally getting comfortable with this pregnancy and he’s handling it without freaking out about it so I need you to please keep any concerns to yourself.” She sighed and shook her head. “I don’t mean you have to just bottle them up, but I don’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on him right now. He knows what we’re dealing with and – “

Jeff chuckled and nodded. “I know what you mean, honey. But just so you know you can expect a lot more calls from us when we go back home.”

She rolled her eyes and hugged him again. “I wouldn’t expect anything less, Dad.”

*****

Tess smiled goofily when Kyle came into the living room, two plates filled with different kinds of pizza balanced in his hands. They had ended up ordering their favorite kinds after half an hour of discussing what to have for dinner without coming to a decision about what they actually wanted to cook.

“We can pretend it’s homemade,” he said with a wink as he took a seat on the couch next to her.

“True, and their pizza’s as good as homemade and you put them on a plate,” she agreed and took one out of his hands. “Smells damn good too.”

“Hungry?” he asked, amused when she didn’t even wait for him to settle down before she bit into her first piece.

“Starving,” she mumbled around a mouthful and grinned with her mouth closed. “Somehow I was distracted this afternoon, ya know?”

“I wonder why,” Kyle chuckled, his gaze dropping to the ring he had put on her finger just a few short hours ago.

“You’re still gonna pay for embarrassing me in front of the whole town. You know that, right?”

“C’mon, babe, you gotta admit it was an original proposal.”

Oh, it had been original alright! Original and totally embarrassing. “That’s a story to tell our children one day,” she said without thinking.

“Y’know,” Kyle mumbled around a mouthful of pizza, “that story’s gonna be legendary around here.” He slouched down and propped his bare feet up on the coffee table.

“Gross,” she said and kicked his lower leg with her right foot.

He just grinned and shrugged, stretching one foot out and sliding a magazine off of the stack and shifting his feet on top of it.

She rolled her eyes at him. “Oh, that’s so much better.” She knew he was trying to play it cool and let her decide if she wanted to discuss the subject of children. “You’re not teaching our kids to lay around the house with their feet up on the furniture.”

He snorted and took another bite of his pizza. “Babe, this’s comfort right here. Stretched out, feet propped up, chowing down on good food… put a game on the TV and we’d have the perfect evening.”

“A game on the TV,” she repeated slowly. “That’s what would make this the perfect evening. Really?” She held her thumb up and her tongue slid up one side and down the other to get rid of the sauce. Well, that was part of the reason, she thought with amusement when his eyes automatically zeroed in on the action.

“Well, not for tonight of course,” he muttered, his pizza momentarily forgotten.

“No?” she asked with a lifted eyebrow. “Got other plans?”

Kyle snorted and put the pizza on the table before he stretched to pull her body towards him. “As if you don’t know.”

“Hey,” she complained, but it was halfhearted. “My pizza! Don’t make me drop it.”

“Nah,” he said and leaned forward, the move indicating he was about to kiss her but shifting directions at the last second and taking a huge bite of her pizza instead.

“Kyle! That’s not fair. You’ve got your own!”

“Tastes a lot better outta your hand.”

“So you’re saying you kinda eat outta the palm of my hand,” she teased, amused.

He frowned and looked up at her. “What? No, that’s not what I meant.”

“Um-hmm,” she mused with a grin and took a bite as well, chewing on it in satisfaction. Oh yeah, he was doing everything she wanted for her and that was just one more reason why she loved him so much.

****

Thanksgiving morning started before dawn. At least it did for Maria. She was up well before the sun had even started to think about rising, leaving Michael sleeping in her bed, hugging her pillow, and snoring softly. He had been roused a couple of hours later as the sun was rising even though the overcast sky had kept it hidden. She had made sure he had a hot breakfast before he left to go pick his sister up from the airport.

Andy had stayed in bed until after nine, dragging himself out of bed only when she sent the dogs upstairs to let him know they needed to be walked. She had hidden a smile when he stumbled past the kitchen doorway mumbling a grumpy ‘good morning’ as he leashed the dogs and left the house. He had been wide awake by the time they returned and as he was sitting down to breakfast Michael had returned with Chrissie.

By ten o’clock Kyle and Tess had arrived and the guys had left to go over to Michael’s house so they could load up the tables and chairs and bring them back to the house. While they were busy getting things set up and rearranging the furniture yet again she, Tess, and Chrissie were elbow deep in dinner preparations.

By noon the rest of the family was starting to trickle in and dinner was well on its way. Her parents had arrived and not far behind them Alex, Isabel, and Sam had come in bringing a pie that Isabel warned Alex to stay away from. The guys had quickly migrated to the living room to settle in and watch one of the Die Hard movies while waiting for dinner and football to start. They were content to leave the women in the kitchen and as much as some women might consider that behavior backwards she actually enjoyed the way things were going.

Maria was pleased with the way everything was going and as the house filled the feeling of being surrounded by the people who meant so much to her filled her heart. The front door opened again and this time it was Liz, Max, and the kids. She smiled when she heard Liz’ parents talking to Andy but before long he and the twins took off for the living room and football. And well away from any work that might need to be done, she added with a quiet smile as Liz and Nancy entered the kitchen. She knew without asking that the men had followed the boys, automatically drawn to the sound of sports and male camaraderie.

“Wow, the house is really full, huh?” Liz said in amusement as she peered through the doorway to glance at the men before they went to join the other woman at the counter. “I love that. Especially when it’s not my house,” she winked at Maria.

The other woman chuckled. “I don’t mind. We’re still settling in so a little more chaos won’t even be noticed in the end. Plus, you guys never all made it to us when we lived in Florida and I always wanted to be responsible for Thanksgiving dinner – now I finally have the chance.”

“You seem to be very happy,” Nancy noticed with a smile. She had seen Maria for family birthdays and other holidays when her husband had still been alive. “That’s good for you… after everything…”

“It’s okay,” Maria squeezed her hand. “You don’t have to feel bad for talking about Andrew and the accident. It’s part of all our lives and he’s missed, but – “

“Life must go on,” Tess finished the sentence.

“Uh-huh,” Liz smirked and walked around to give her a hug. “Heard it went pretty well for you. Rumor has it Kyle got you arrested just so he could ask you to marry him.” She lifted the other woman’s hand and glanced at the ring. “He picked out a good one.”

“He really did,” Tess said as she stared at it.

“When did he have time to pick out a ring?”

Maria stood from checking on the turkey, her face flushed from the heat of the oven. “It had to be when he was in Atlanta. There’s no way he picked that ring up at Martin’s Jewelry down on Main.”

Isabel leaned in closer to examine the ring. “Martin’s does have some nice pieces but nothing like this.”

“Have you guys set a date yet?” Chrissie asked.

“No, not yet, but we do know we want it to be when the weather warms up. Maybe spring or summer.” Tess smiled at the ring again before looking at Isabel. “The guys said maybe you’d be interested in helping plan the wedding.”

“No, babe, what we said was that Isabel would wanna plan the wedding, not help plan the thing,” Kyle said as he came in to dig around in the cabinets. “Maria, where’re the chips an’ dip?”

“How do you go from something romantic like a wedding to asking for chips an’ dip?” Sam made a face and shook her head.

“Yeah, they have these great romantic moments and then they just…” Chrissie rolled her eyes at the girl. “They just go right back to being themselves.”

“Look at our young girls talking,” Maria teased. “It’s obviously not that hard to see right through men.”

“Nothing we can’t say about women,” Michael said when he stuck his head in the kitchen and lifted two fingers up to Kyle, telling him with that simple sign that he should bring two beers as well.

“So, what about the chips,” the man in the kitchen huffed impatiently.

“Upper right cabinet,” Maria told her brother. “But please leave some room for dinner, will ya?” She remembered all too well the times she had cooked Thanksgiving dinner for her little family in Florida and before she was even halfway ready the boys had been full from chips and other little snacks.

Kyle snorted when he gathered everything up in his arms and went back to the guys in the living room.

“Tell Andy he’s supposed to take Theo for a quick walk before dinner,” Maria called after him and chuckled when she heard the big dog bark in confirmation from wherever he was.

“I don’t need to be reminded,” her son said when he walked into the room just a moment later to get the dog’s leash. His gaze landed on his girlfriend and he nodded wordlessly to the door with a questioning look on his face.

“Go on,” Isabel said when Sam shot a questioning look in her direction. “Just remember that dinner’s gonna be ready soon.”

“We won’t be gone long,” the teenager promised with a grin as she and Andy hurried outside.

“Ah, puppy love,” Liz sighed as she settled on one of the barstools. “Can you remember being like that once?”

“Once?” Tess snorted. “You and Max are still like that, girl.”

“You and Kyle are no better,” Maria said and nudged her shoulder.

“Yeah, neither are you and Michael,” Isabel laughed. “I’ve never seen him so happy.”

“Well, you and Alex are the same way.” Liz nodded and smiled. “It’s true,” she said when the tall blonde looked at her. “We’re all very lucky.”

“Who’s getting lucky?” Max asked as he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her.

Liz smacked his hand when he reached around her to snatch something off of one of the trays. “Certainly not you if ya can’t wait for dinner.”

He grumbled something unintelligible and went for the refrigerator to get two more beers before he left again.

Nancy chuckled. “If you ask me I see a bunch of women who are certainly in love – just the way it should be for all of you.”

“It’s been a hard year,” Tess glanced at Maria and Liz especially and smiled, “but things are looking better these days.”

****

“You just had to bring the rats, didn’t you?” Andy grumbled when Happy and Loopy chased around him in the park while Theo ran his energy out a bit farther away.

“They’re not rats,” Sam told him warningly and crouched down to straighten the little coat Loopy was wearing. “Just because they aren’t big doesn’t make them not real dogs.”

He snorted. “They might be dogs, but they’re dogs that look like rats.”

“He’s so mean,” she whispered to the little Chihuahuas like they could really understand what they were saying. “Don’t listen to him, he doesn’t have a clue.”

Happy barked sharply and ran over to latch onto the frayed hem of Andy’s jeans, his little body jerking as he pulled on the material as hard as he could.

“Now see what you did?” Andy growled and tried to gently disengage the annoying little rat. No matter what his girlfriend or any of the other women in his life said they were rats. Did Theo ever chew on his clothes or annoy the crap out of him? No, because he was a man’s dog and he acted like one.

“Quit callin’ him names and maybe he’ll stop trying his best to shred your jeans.”

“I doubt it.” He rolled his eyes when Loopy spotted several loose threads on the cuff of his jeans and he ran over to join in on the fun. “This’s great.” When it became apparent that Sam was going to just stand there while the rats chewed on his jeans he leaned over and scooped them up and pushed them into her arms. “It would’ve been a lot easier if you’d just left them at the house.”

“Easier for what?” Sam asked, her eyes gleaming playfully.

“Easier to actually WALK the dog,” he started, “easier to make out…”

She snorted. “You’re really blaming the dogs for that?” She lifted them up to look at them. “He obviously has no clue how happy girls get with little dogs like you guys.”

Andy rolled his eyes at his girlfriend and used one hand to wrap around her lower arm to bring her closer, taking one of the dogs from her to have more room. “How are they not to blame if they get actually more attention than I do?”

“You’ve gotta be creative, that’s all,” Sam told him, amused.

“Creative my ass,” he muttered and leaned in to kiss her, silencing the chuckle that escaped her lips. Happy started to squirm around between then, so Andy shifted slightly to spread his arm out, holding the little pet away from them and immediately earning a sad wail.

“Aw,” Sam interrupted the kiss. “Don’t be mean to Happy.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“He’s afraid of heights. You can’t hold him so far off the ground like that.”

He snorted. “Of course he’s afraid of heights. He’s like five inches tall.”

“Then don’t hold him out like that.” She smiled at him when he pulled the little dog in and cradled Happy against his chest. She reached up to pet the dog when he snuggled into the crook of Andy’s arm. “See, he likes that, don’t you, sweet boy?”

He rolled his eyes when she resorted to baby talk. “Y’know we’re gonna have to go back home soon, right?” He sighed and shoved his hand in his pocket when his phone started to vibrate. “Wanna bet that’s Mom?”

She laughed when her own phone started buzzing. “Wanna bet that’s my dad?” She opened up the text message and shrugged when he glanced up from reading his own text. “Close enough. It’s Isabel with a dinner reminder.”

“Yeah,” he waved his phone, “same here.”
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

User avatar
Double Trouble
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 925
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:47 am

Part 129

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:09 am

sarammlover: Thanks for the compliment! This group is finally coming together.

Earth2Mama: Lol, well, we all knew that was coming. Jeff and Nancy will be supportive though now that the initial shock’s over. Linda’s confident that everything’s gonna be fine.

keepsmiling7: Lol, maybe it was easier with Kara letting that cat out of the bag. You can bet that Max feeling more settled and comfortable about the pregnancy made them feel better about the situation.

Thanks for that amazing compliment! We love writing our group/family scenes, they’re a lot of fun.

Natalie36: Thanks for reading! Things are looking good for all of them.

Alien_Friend: Nancy and Jeff are so supportive and that’s something that Liz and Max needed. Kara, well, she held it inside just as long as she could.

We’re so happy that this story has captured your vision for it. It’s been an incredible journey and one we’ve really enjoyed. Finding a way back from a tragedy, finding a way to turn it into something positive, that’s the challenge.

Giving up is so much easier than forging through the pain and finding something that might just be better on the other side. No matter what happens though they’ve come through that darkness and they’re stronger for it. Having that love and support will get them through the tough times as long as they remain open to each other and are willing to accept the help waiting for them.

begonia9508: Thanks!

We’ll have more of that family gathering today!

mary mary: Lol, you may wanna grab a snack before reading. ;)





Part 129

The dining room was filled with murmurs, laughter, and the constant clacking of dishes when Maria walked back in again, a freshly filled bowl of homemade cornbread in her hands. She stopped and the swinging door fell closed behind her, giving her a slight smack on the ass when it swung back and forth, but she didn’t even notice it because her focus was on her family gathered around the huge table. In the background the fireplace was flickering peacefully, leaving the room in the comfortable warmth that only a real fire could offer.

They had come a long way and it was almost unreal that things had turned out so good since she and Andy had moved back to her little home town. Of course there were days when she missed Florida, when the loss of Andrew and her first real love still hurt deep inside her heart, but she knew that with Michael she had found a man who could fill out the loneliness she had felt for so long now.

Her gaze shifted to the man in question and she smiled when he dropped some food in his lap right at that moment and tried to hide it from everyone. His eyes moved around the table while he reached down to pick the small piece of turkey up to throw it back on his plate. Maria shook her head with a chuckle at the roguish grin on his face when he thought no one had noticed it.

“Can you gimme the mashed potatoes?” her son asked him from where he was sitting across the table facing Michael.

“Sure.” The man grabbed the bowl and handed it over to Andy, who took out some for him and also for his girlfriend next to him.

Sam was a nice girl and Maria was pretty sure that it wasn’t only Michael but also the teenage girl who deserved so much credit for the changes in her son. They seemed to get along pretty well and she could only hope that things weren’t developing too quickly between them.

“Something wrong?” She hadn’t even noticed that Michael had gotten out of his seat while she had been watching Andy with his girl and she didn’t hide her surprise.

“Yeah, fine, why?”

“You’re standing here lookin’ a little lost…” He shrugged and followed her gaze.

“Just takin’ in everything, you know?”

He shifted to stand behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I couldn’t have asked for more than this.”

She turned to look up at him. “Neither could I.”

Their attention was pulled back to the table when Liz called Kara down and Michael smirked when he saw the little girl’s wide-eyed expression as she was caught leaning over the table with her hand buried inside the turkey.

“But, Mommy, I gotta make the wish. Nicky said – “

“Nicholas Evans, did you leave your manners at home?”

“No ma’am,” he mumbled and then ruined it with a grin when Kara jerked the wishbone out and shouted triumphantly.

“Mommy, look, I finded it!”

“God help us all,” Max mumbled and laughed slightly at the expression on his daughter’s face.

Kara glanced around the table when the adult laughed and she wondered what was so funny.

“Come on, sweetie, we’re gonna wash your hands,” Liz said, looking at the sticky little hands as she got up to pick her daughter up.

“But Nicky said I get to wish for something,” she pouted.

“We’ll do that after dinner; first you’re gonna clean your plate.”

“Okay,” she sighed audibly and let her mother take her down to the bathroom.

Michael chuckled into Maria’s ear. “They’re so adorable and clueless at that age.”

“Yeah, and they can drive you up the wall when they have older brothers who think it’s funny to set them up for stupid things and they’re too young to know if it’s a prank or not.”

“True,” he took the bowl from her hands and guided her back to the table, hoping that one day he would witness it with his own child.

They went back to the table, taking their seats, and she rested her hand on his thigh. She knew what he was thinking and she wanted the same thing. It wasn’t that difficult to imagine what their child would look like or what it would be like to have a little one underfoot, getting into things, and creating a whole new chapter in their lives.

Michael glanced at his sister when he caught onto the conversation between her and Jeff. The man had obviously asked her about college and she was going through the different degrees she had considered pursuing seriously. There were quite a few things she was interested in but so far none of them had held her attention for long.

“Honestly, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I enjoy my classes and I love college life but I’m not sure how much good it’s really doing when I don’t have any real goals. I’ve tried so many different jobs and none of them seem to fit me so I end up quitting for one reason or another.”

What she needed was some direction, Michael thought. Something that would really get her attention and hold it for more than a few months, but he didn’t want to throw that out there in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.

“What’re you doing now?” Amy asked, thanking Justin when he passed the rolls so she could hand the basket to Jim. She kept an eye on her husband as he reached for the butter, letting him get away with a little more than she normally would because it was a holiday meal.

“Well, I was working in retail sales but that didn’t fit either so I’m currently unemployed.”

“You go to college in Chicago?” Nancy questioned.

“Yeah, but…” she glanced at her brother, “I’ve been thinking I might wanna transfer to California. Berkley maybe, or San Francisco.”

“I didn’t know you were thinking about that,” Michael said.

She shrugged. “I kinda like this family thing that’s goin’ on, ya know? And I do like Frisco, and it’d be closer to you but still far enough away,” she said with a wink. “Maybe next year.”

“Frisco’s amazing,” Tess enthused.

“Long Beach was much cooler,” Nick said as he finished stripping the meat from a turkey leg and licked his fingers.

“Yeah, hot babes an’ stuff,” his brother agreed.

“Babes?” his grandfather asked, amused, and chuckled when the boy looked at him as if he had just realized that he had heard it as well.

Max ruffled his boy’s hair. “They’re just getting to that age, ya know?”

“Dad,” Justin made a face and pushed his hand away.

Jeff laughed, remembering all too well when Liz had started dating Max when they were teenagers. She had given him heart palpitations on a regular basis but at some point he’d had to accept that she was growing up.

“Your dad was much worse when he was your age,” Kyle told the twins with a wink. “I remember one time on Liz’ birthday when – “

“That’s not a story for Thanksgiving dinner,” Max warned. The last thing he needed was his boys getting a clue what he had been like at their age.

The twins groaned when the story ended before it had even started, but they smirked when their uncle just winked to let them know he would finish it later.

Andy watched his uncle moving around and talking to his cousins while making a few jokes now and then. He had seen some differences in him since the day Kara had fallen from the ladder and now he wondered if his uncle was really behaving differently or if it was his way of looking at him that had changed.

“Are you gonna talk to him?”

He looked at Sam when she asked the question quietly. He had told her about the conversation he’d had with Aunt Liz and even though she thought it was a good idea that he talk to Uncle Max she hadn’t pushed him about it. “I guess,” he said with a shrug. “I told Aunt Liz I would but I don’t really know what to say to him.”

“Just… and don’t roll your eyes at this,” she gave him a look. “Just be honest with him and speak from your heart.”

He made a face and rolled his eyes in spite of her warning. “Can we just not talk about this?” It was bad enough he had to figure out what to say to his uncle. Talking about it was only gonna make it worse. He elbowed her gently to let her know he wasn’t mad or anything and he was relieved when she smiled in understanding.

“Hey, Mom, it’s almost time for kick-off,” Justin said, glancing at her when she came back with Kara.

“And you finished your dinner when?” she asked and smiled at Max when he moved to help her into her chair.

“Well, can’t we just finish in the livin’ room?”

Maria chuckled when she caught her friend’s eye roll. “I think we can serve dessert anywhere,” she said and looked at Michael and her son. “Got some sports fanatics on my side too, so let them have their fun.”

“I knew Aunt Maria’s cool,” the boy said and grinned at his mom.

“You get away with it today,” Liz agreed. “But don’t rush everybody through dinner now just so you can get away. You’re staying until everyone’s finished.”

“Sure,” he mumbled and glanced around, controlling the urge to roll his eyes when his grandfather took another helping of mashed potatoes.

“You gonna eat more, sweetie?” Max leaned over to turn Kara’s plate in front of her.

The girl glanced down at her food and then back at Daddy, nodding her head slightly before she reached for a fork.

Max watched her for a moment, knowing that she would only play with her food. He got the proof when an uncoordinated move flicked a piece of turkey up and it flew through the air to land directly on Isabel’s plate.

For a moment she looked shocked, trying to find out what had just happened, but when she saw the stunned expression on the girl’s face she laughed. “Well, thanks, I wanted more anyway.”

“That’s one way to get seconds,” Kyle said and shook his head as he glanced at the piece of turkey. “And the perfect portion to meet your dietary requirements.”

“You’re a riot, Valenti,” she retorted with an impressive eye roll.

He grinned and reached for the gravy, spooning a generous amount over his mashed potatoes. “It’s a burden I bear with dignity.”

Michael snorted at that. “Give it up, man.”

“Hey,” he leaned back and pointed at his friend, “you’re just jealous because you’re not as funny as I am.” He scooped up a bite of mashed potatoes and brought it to his mouth, frowning when a big blob of the fluffy potatoes covered in brown gravy dropped to land on his white shirt.

“You’re right, Valenti, you are funnier,” Michael said smugly. “And you’re also messier.”

“Great.” Kyle excused himself to go and clean up. He was back a few moments later, leaning around the doorway to call his fiancé.

Tess looked up and her eyes moved over him, taking in the strong arms, shoulders, and chest outlined by the white tank top. “What is it?”

“Can you help me out? I don’t think this stain’s gonna wash out. I’ve got an extra set of clothes in the trunk of the car so if you could grab a shirt for me I’d appreciate it.”

“Look at Untel Tyle’s owie!” Kara exclaimed.

Tess was excusing herself to retrieve a shirt for him just as he turned away and she saw him freeze when Kara made her announcement and pointed at his retreating back. She swallowed hard and waited for the reactions as she scanned the table, watching the expressions as they all took in the scar left by a bullet.

“Kyle,” Amy got up after she had wiped her hands on a napkin and followed him into the other room. “When did that happen?” she demanded to know as soon they were alone. Her eyes were focused on his back when she circled him to have a closer look.

The door swung open again when Jim came in as well, eyeing his son carefully. “So?” was all he said.

“Dad… Mom,” he dragged out and made a face. “Do we really need to discuss this now?”

“When exactly did you intend to discuss it?” Amy asked, placing her hands on her hips, which made him feel like he was back in high school.

“It’s healed,” he shrugged. “An’ it wasn’t a big deal.”

“Not a big deal? I think I have a right to know when my son’s been shot,” Jim told him.

They all turned to the door when it swung in again and Tess walked in with a new shirt for her fiancé. “Did you know?” Amy asked, pointing at the scar.

She shook her head. “Not when it happened, no. I only found out a few months ago and it wasn’t because he told me.” She gave him a look. “And basically I found out a lot like you did.”

Kyle held his hands up. “I’m okay. Look, the family was still reeling from losing Andrew when it happened. The last thing anyone needed was another hospital waiting room or a bedside vigil while I was recovering enough to go home.”

“That was our call to make, Kyle,” Amy insisted, blinking back tears at the thought that they could’ve lost him.

“Could you have kept it from Maria? Because once anyone in this family finds out anything it isn’t long before everyone else knows and you know she couldn’t have handled that right then. Jack was there when it happened and he didn’t like not callin’ you guys but he understood my reasons.” He slid his arms into the sleeves of the shirt when Tess shook it out and held it up for him. “If things hadn’t gone smoothly while the doc was getting the bullet out Jack would’ve called you. And in exchange for his silence I had to agree to stay with him an’ Shayna while I was recuperating.”

Amy and Jim exchanged a look before he gave her a silent nod. “I can understand your reasons, son, but we’d still like to be informed about something like this.” He glanced at Tess with a small smile. “Bet your soon-to-be wife agrees with us on that.” Jim went over to give the woman a hug. “We haven’t had the opportunity yet, so welcome to the family, Tess. You’ve been a part of it long before now, but I’m glad my son finally made it official.”

Tess grinned. “Thanks, I’m glad too.”

They glanced up when the door swung in just long enough for Nick to yell something. “Kick-off, c’mon, guys.”

Amy rolled her eyes when the men started to move immediately. “Guess that’s one thing our families all have in common. The men are complete sports fanatics.”

“No lie,” Tess agreed with a chuckle. “Could be worse though, couldn’t it?”

“Definitely, yes!”

Maria moved in, carrying a few empty plates. “So much for we wait until everyone’s finished,” she said, amused when half the family was crouched down in front of the TV, pieces of their meal in hands or on plates.

“Yeah, I knew the peaceful moments around the table wouldn’t last for long,” Tess agreed and gave her a hand. “They’ll get hungry during the game so the more you let them eat, the less you’ve gotta worry about too many leftovers afterwards.”

“That’s a good point.”

Liz snorted at that. “With two guys in the house I’m not sure there’s any reason to worry about too many leftovers. Between Max and the boys the leftovers never last very long.”

“We never have much in the leftover department since Kyle eats like a horse.” Tess winked at him when he opened his mouth to protest, thought better of it and shrugged, giving her a lopsided grin before zeroing in on the game again. “Of course, we eat a lot of takeout too.”

“You’ll get the hang of cooking,” Maria assured her.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re still learning how to boil water.”

Isabel shook her head. “You can’t be that bad.”

“We are,” Kyle said as he squeezed into the kitchen to pile more turkey and mashed potatoes on his plate. “Well, the real problem is we keep getting distracted and burnin’ the hell outta the pots. Good news is the store where we’ve been buyin’ our replacement pots is gonna have a very good year.” He jerked around when the guys started shouting. “Gotta go!”

Tess rolled her eyes. “Ya know, maybe you can decide what ya want, babe. Running back and forth between the TV and kitchen is getting just a little nerve wracking.”

He made a face at her, but settled back with the guys and decided it wasn’t worth discussing during the game.

“Can I help you in the kitchen?” Sam joined the other women with a few more empty plates and bowls, placing them on the counter carefully.

“We’ll just stick as much into the dishwasher as possible,” Maria nodded. “And the rest will just wait,” she glanced at the other women meaningfully. “And I mean it, we don’t need to spend the holiday washing dishes and cleaning. There’s nothing that won’t be here tomorrow.

Isabel snorted. “Surely not, but it’s a bitch to clean dried gravy off of plates the next day. It’ll be a lot faster to do it now.”

Liz agreed. “Yeah, and shared between all of us, we’ll be done in no time.

“You’d think they love to wash dishes,” Maria glanced at her mother with an eye roll. “Alright, but first we’re gonna have dessert.”

“Guess Dad’s finally gonna get his hands on that pie,” Sam said as she moved over to the counter where all of the desserts were displayed.

“Maria, is it safe to turn them loose in there with dessert?” Nancy asked.

“I think it’ll be fine. Thanksgiving only comes around once a year.” She chuckled. “That’s one of the great things about hardwood floors – they’re easier to clean than carpet. And if they make a mess in there I guess the guys will have some cleaning to do.”

Amy and Nancy exchanged a look before shaking their heads in amusement. The relationship was obviously still new because it didn’t take long before that willingness to just jump in and help clean up wore off in a relationship. Jim and Jeff were well past that stage and did their best to avoid any kind of cleaning whenever possible.

“You’ve got apple,” Chrissie said with an approving nod.

Isabel smirked. “That’s good. Michael hates just about every other kind of pie.”

“He hasn’t had any of mine then,” Maria smirked and looked at Amy. “I’ve got some very good recipes from Mom that no one would ever dislike.”

“Yeah? Can’t wait until you show me then,” someone said and grabbed her from behind unexpectedly. Michael nuzzled her neck and made a snorting sound, laughing when she tried to get away from him.

“They’re like teenagers,” Tess rolled her eyes, but then grinned at the other couple, knowing that she and Kyle weren’t any better and neither were Isabel and Alex. Their relationships were all pretty new, but she had no doubt that they would still be hanging together ten Thanksgivings from now.

“Dessert will be served in the kitchen, so you’d better come and fix yourselves a plate,” Liz yelled through the swinging door, which she was holding open with one hand.

“Aww, Mom,”Justin complained from the couch. “Can’t you fix us something?” He yelped when he earned an elbow and a warning glare from his brother before he remembered something. “Please?”

“You have two legs,” Max reminded his son. “And last time I checked your hands seemed to be working just fine. Your mom’s been working hard and so have the rest of the women in there so if you want dessert get up and go in there and get it.”

“But…” he gestured to the television, “the game’s on.”

“Uh-huh, and if you hurry all you’ll miss is the commercials.”

“Well, aren’t you gonna have pie?”

“You guys are pathetic,” Sam chastised and whacked him across the back of his head with a throw pillow. “You’re missin’ more of the game debating this than you would if you had just gone in the kitchen and grabbed a slice of pie.”

Max smirked when the girl managed to herd all three boys into the kitchen in spite of the argumentative bantering between them. “Probably safer if we just stay outta the way until they’re finished,” he decided as he stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankles and resting his head back against the couch. The game was getting off to a slow start so a little post-turkey nap couldn’t hurt, he thought. He could hear the women talking, the kids arguing, his dad and Jim discussing getting together for a fishing trip one of these days, Kyle grumbling about a fumbled pass, and Michael and Alex trying to get in between the kids to get to the pie before the kind they wanted was gone. This was the way it was supposed to be. The way it should’ve been all along. There was a momentary pang of guilt at that thought but instead of holding onto it he let it pass and dozed off to the sounds of family and friends enjoying a holiday together.
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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 130 - The Final

Postby Double Trouble » Sun Mar 10, 2013 7:16 am

begonia9508: There is something wonderful about those big family gatherings!

sarammlover: Thanks! You’re right – it is how it should be! Those moments stay with you for a lifetime.

Earth2Mama: Lol, understood! We’ll catch up with them in this update.

keepsmiling7: Those big family gatherings produce some wonderful memories.

Lol, of course not, they’re completely innocent.

Oh, you know those stories found their way out.

They’re happy in front of the TV, watching football and being waited on, lol.

Alien_Friend: Thanks! We love to write those big family/friends scenes. You just never know what’s gonna happen, lol.

Max still has some healing to do but he’s embracing life in a way he hasn’t for a while.

Lol, Kyle was not expecting that.

We’ve got a feeling they’ll be pretty good at it.

mary mary: Lol, that’s something that seems to be universal!


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A/N: Wow, it’s finally there – the last part of ITCOAL – in double length! We hope and think that we found a good ending for it and we can’t wait to hear your opinion to it! We started to post in November 2009 and now after more than three years it’s finished! What to do now? Hmm… :)

We’d like to thank everyone, who read and left feedback! We appreciate this so much, so thank you guys!

Special thanks goes to Novy aka Alien_Friend, who bit on us and won us for the Support Stacie Author’s Auction in September 2009. She came up with the awesome idea for this fic! Girl, we hope it was worth the money you paid! ;) Thanks and hugs!

A/N 2: Since this is the last part of ITCOAl, we gonna start to post Double Empire weekly as well, beginning next Sunday!



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Part 130

The house was comfortably warm and now that the game was over the adults had settled around the living room to talk and the kids had ducked into the den to play video games. It was only a little after 8pm but the men kept taking turns disappearing into the kitchen to grab a snack, most of the time running into the boys as they stole their own treat before heading back into the den.

Max was sprawled on one end of the couch with Liz curled up next to him as she laughed and talked to the other women about a baby shower. The men were discussing business and sports and he was holding up his end of the conversation without much of an effort. His eyes moved around the room, pausing on Michael and Maria before moving on to the pictures on the mantle above the fireplace.

There were plenty of pictures there and as always Andrew was in many of them. The difference was that now the majority of them featured his brother and nephew. He did notice that there weren’t as many pictures of just Maria and Andrew as there had been at one time but he supposed that was to be expected. There was no indication that she was putting the photos away to make the new man in her life more comfortable; it was just a natural progression. Maria and Michael were together but he didn’t seem to be threatened by the fact that Andrew’s memory was being kept visible.

He glanced up when Theo came into the room and stopped next to the recliner where the couple were sitting, resting his muzzle on the arm in a bid for attention. When he heard them debating whether or not to call Andy to let the dog out he gently nudged Liz so he could get up. “I’ll let him out,” he offered. “I was gonna get some coffee anyway.”

“Hurry back,” Liz said and gave his shirttail a tug to pull him in for a quick kiss before he could get away. “And maybe bring me another piece of that apple pie.”

He smiled and shook his head at her. “We’re gonna end up rollin’ you home, woman.”

“Maybe so, but I’ll be happy when you do.”

Theo growled impatiently and moved towards the door, finally barking to get the man’s attention.

“Okay, okay, I’m comin’.” Max followed him out of the room and when he pushed the sliding door open he stepped out onto the back porch and moved to sit on the steps. He sighed and leaned back on his elbows to look up at the night sky. The quiet was disturbed a little while later when the blinds moved and he glanced back over his shoulder when he heard someone step outside.

“Hey, Uncle Max,” Andy said as he joined the man. He leaned against the support column and crossed his arms over his chest. “What’re you doin’ out here?”

Max shrugged and glanced up at his nephew. “Just thinkin’, what about you?”

The boy just shrugged without giving an answer and walked down the few steps when Theo ran towards them, ready for some one-on-one attention. Andy glanced around the yard until he noticed one of the larger sticks he used to throw around to keep the dog busy when he wasn’t getting his exercise by walking around town. He went a few steps to pick it up and threw it across the fenced area before the dog could make it to him. “Ever wonder why dogs get so excited about chasing and retrieving sticks?” he asked with a snort when Theo almost did a flip to go after the stick.

Max chuckled quietly. “I don’t know, they just like to play I guess – some more than others.”

“Yeah,” Andy agreed, “you’d think with his size he’d be a lot more intimidating, but nope, he’s just a big baby.”

“Not much different than a Chihuahua, huh?”

The teenager made a face. “At least Theo doesn’t look like a rat.”

“Don’t let my daughter hear you say that,” Max laughed and wondered what was up with his nephew. A few weeks back, Andy would’ve avoided any situation that might’ve left them alone together. “She wouldn’t be happy about that.”

“Those dogs are girl-dogs. They’re not the right fit for men and yet my mom makes me take the little fur ball out for a walk all the time.”

“Guess it could be worse.”

“Yeah?” Andy lifted an eyebrow.

Max nodded. “At least your mom didn’t buy a bunch of embarrassing stuff to dress the little guy up like your aunt did.”

“Right,” the boy agreed with a groan.

The conversation dropped again and left them in an awkward but not totally uncomfortable silence while Andy tried to come up with a good way to say the things he knew his uncle needed to hear. “Uncle Max?” he started after a while and sat down on the steps, leaving a safe distance between them.

Max leaned forward slightly and looked at his nephew with a nod while he waited for him to say what was obviously on his mind.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” he agreed calmly.

“That day,” Andy swallowed and lifted his gaze briefly to look at the other man, “when Kara fell from the ladder… your reaction… it wasn’t really all about her, was it?”

Max cleared his throat. He hadn’t been prepared for that question when his nephew had sat down. “I uh… no, it wasn’t.”

“Were you like, seein’ that day?”

“Yeah,” he said after a moment. What was the point in lying to the boy?

“Why wouldn’t you let me see him?”

He forced his breathing to remain even. “Andy, your dad didn’t want you to see him like that – “

“I had a right to see him!” he insisted. “If I could’ve just talked to him there’s stuff I could’ve told him and I never got the chance to tell him I… that I…”

“He knew, Andy.” He took a deep breath and reached out to place his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He didn’t know if Andy would reject his attempt to comfort him or not, but he couldn’t let him just sit there and hurt without letting him know he wasn’t alone. “He didn’t want you to see him like that. I know that doesn’t help you and knowin’ what I know now maybe I would’ve handled things differently that day. But don’t ever think your dad had a single doubt that you loved him.”

“I didn’t say goodbye to him,” the boy mumbled quietly and stared down at the ground in front of him.

“Maybe not in person, but believe me when I say there’s never an easy way to say goodbye and never a right way to say goodbye that’ll you make feel better. It doesn’t matter if you know it beforehand or if you just get hit by it.” Max ran a hand over his sweaty neck. The memories of that day still put him on edge. “Keep the good times in your memory, not that day – that’s what your father would’ve wanted.”

“That’s not as easy as it sounds,” Andy replied and took the stick from Theo when the dog brought it back to it could be thrown across the yard again.

“No, it’s not,” his uncle agreed, “but I’m trying it myself and with time it’s getting easier not to fall into that big dark hole every time something reminds me of him. We have to learn to remember the good days instead of getting depressed.”

The teenager stayed silent for a while and played with the dog while he tried to let his uncle’s words sink in. “Do you do things different now because of his death?” he finally asked and looked at his uncle. “Ya know, like doing something you didn’t do before because he would’ve done it.”

Max thought about it for a moment and nodded. “I tried to replace him in the business, tried to see and do things his way, but to be honest we were pretty different and in the end it wasn’t really a good idea.”

Andy nodded. “I still doubt he would’ve liked to see me playin’ basketball.”

“He realized long before that you were never gonna share his enthusiasm for football, Andy. We actually talked about it the night before the accident when you guys were sleeping.”

“You did?” he asked in surprise.

“Yeah, and you don’t have to worry about that, boy. He’d accepted your interest in basketball.” Max snorted and gave his nephew a little bump. “Besides that, do you think if your father was still here you’d just do what he had liked better and go out for football?”

Andy shrugged and couldn’t suppress a little smirk. “Probably not.”

“Maybe basketball wasn’t his game and maybe he hoped you’d express an interest in playin’ football, but regardless of all that, your dad was proud of you, Andy.” He sighed and shifted to look up at the sky. “All fathers have expectations, especially where their sons are concerned.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. If Justin or Nick had gone out for a different sport would you have wanted them to go out for football anyway?”

“I don’t know,” Max mused, his tone serious as he contemplated the boy’s question for a few moments. He quirked an eyebrow and looked at Andy. “We’re not talkin’ like ballet or anything are we?”

Andy gaped at the unexpected question. “Ballet?” The mental image that accompanied that single word was just too much and he started laughing. “That’s just wrong, Uncle Max,” he choked out finally.

He chuckled. “Ballet probably wouldn’t be my first choice. Okay, it wouldn’t be anywhere on my list of choices, but I guess if one of the boys had wanted to get into somethin’ like that I would’ve supported them. It might’ve taken some time to get used to the idea but in time I’d have come around. The most important thing is that they’re happy, that’s what it all boils down to.” He smiled. “Your dad was the same way, Andy.”

“Dad was really okay with me likin’ basketball more than football?”

“Yeah. That night he told me that your happiness was the most important thing to him. Knowin’ Drew the way I did, he was more comfortable talkin’ about stuff like that one on one and when he was ready. If he’d had the time he would’ve told you he was proud of you, Andy. He’d have told you that a man has to make his own decisions and even if he didn’t understand it, he respected and supported you.”

“Dad was severe sometimes, but he didn’t push me into decisions,” the boy said with a nod. “Guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have the time to say all the things I meant to tell him, huh?” Andy realized.

Max nodded. “There’s never enough time. Even if you’d had time to think about it for years – later on you’d remember things that you forgot to say.”

His uncle was right – didn’t it always turn out like that? You always thought about things you were gonna say or do when it was too late – that was life. “Yeah…” The only problem was that his dad didn’t have to think about stuff like that anymore, while he had to live with the thought that he hadn’t told him enough how much he had enjoyed spending time with him, how much he loved him. That was something he’d have to live with for the rest of his life.

“The most important thing is that we realize that any day and any moment could be the last,” Max started, but then realized how dark that sounded. “And I don’t mean we should live in fear,” he hurried to say, “but I think if you realize that life can change in a heartbeat you’ll see everything in a different light and you’ll see the important people in your life differently.”

“Do you see your family different now?” Andy frowned.

Max looked at his nephew for a moment. “I loved them before and nothing about that’s changed, but I guess I value my life more than I did before. Happiness isn’t guaranteed.” He paused when he saw the sad look on the boy’s face and he reached out to squeeze his shoulder. “I know you miss your dad and it’s good that you miss him. I do too and I’ll never stop,” he dropped his arm and looked out into the night, “but we’ve gotta look forward and concentrate on the people around us.” He smirked when he heard female laughter inside. “Girls are a good distraction as well.”

Andy snorted. “You’re not gonna give me a lecture about that now, are you? Because Uncle Kyle already did that.”

“I guess I’ll spare you. For now.”

“What do you think about Michael?” the teenager asked suddenly. “I mean, do you have a problem seein’ Mom with him?”

“Liz asked me somethin’ similar not too long ago. It took a little getting used to. Your parents had been together since your Aunt Liz and I were in high school so you can imagine how long ago that was.” He chuckled when Andy snorted and nodded. “Your dad would’ve wanted her to find a way to move on and be happy again even though that meant she’d be with someone else. But you and your mom deserve to be happy and I think Michael’s a good fit for both of you.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty cool.” He leaned back on his hands and rolled his eyes. “I mean, they make out an’ stuff an’ that’s still a little weird.” He shrugged. “She is happy though. Sometimes I catch her singin’ while she’s doin’ stuff and she hasn’t done that in a long time.”

“Are you okay with your mom and Michael bein’ together?”

“I wasn’t at first but it’s nice to see her so… I don’t know, alive.” He rested the side of his head against the support post and stroked Theo’s head when the dog stretched out beside him and rested his head in his lap. “Can I tell you somethin’? Y’know, just between me an’ you?”

“Yeah, anything.”

“Mom an’ Dad, they weren’t in sync anymore. I think they still like, loved each other, but they weren’t the way they used to be. They weren’t all embarrassing like you an’ Aunt Liz or Uncle Kyle an’ Aunt Tess.” He stared down at his dog. “Like Mom an’ Michael are sometimes.”

“Does that bother you?”

“Guess it’s not that important anymore,” the teenager said after a moment of thinking. “But I wonder if things would’ve gone differently if he had lived and they were still together now.”

Max had known that Andrew and Maria had a few problems; his brother had told him about their difficulties, but he hadn’t known that it had been obvious to their son too. “Sometimes people don’t fit together anymore after a long time and sometimes they work their way back together. Neither Drew nor your mom would’ve taken the easy way out. I’m pretty sure they would’ve tried to work through their problems before throwing in the towel.”

“Yeah,” Andy agreed, but he wasn’t sure if he would’ve been enough for them to spend their whole lives together. And what if they had just stayed together because of him? “I guess there’s one good thing that came outta all this shit.”

His uncle rolled his eyes at his words, trying to hide his amusement. “Yeah? What’s that?”

“Well, it brought me an’ Mom back to Roswell,” the boy said. “I know I hated it here at first, but it actually isn’t that bad and we never got the time to spend holidays with you guys at all when we were in Florida. Of course the beach and stuff are pretty cool there an’,” he glanced at the door before he continued in a hushed voice, “the beach girls are great to watch as well.”

Max chuckled. “Great to watch maybe…”

“…but nothing to hang out with at all,” the boy finished. “Yeah, they’re not the brightest crayons in the box.”

“We don’t have any beaches around here but it looks like you’ve found yourself a girl worth hangin’ out with,” he teased gently.

Andy rolled his eyes and then grinned. “Yeah, Sam’s pretty cool. She’s not like other girls, ya know? She says what she thinks and she tells me to my face when I’m not actin’ right.” He shrugged. “But she listens and she tries to help me work through stuff.”

“The good ones do,” Max said with an agreeable nod.

“Hey, Dad, are you out here?” Nick bellowed just before he barreled through the back door and the dogs ran past them and out into the yard.

“Yeah, what’s up, Nicky?”

“Well, Sarah texted me ‘cause…” he trailed off when he noticed his cousin. “Oh, hey, Andy.”

“Does your girlfriend want you to come over so you can make out?” Andy wanted to know.

“No,” the boy denied. “Not tonight anyway.” He grinned when Dad cleared his throat. “No, um, her family’s gonna be back tomorrow afternoon and she wanted to know if we could go to the tree lighting ceremony at the park together. You know, tomorrow night – “

“Nick, they’ve been doin’ the tree lighting ceremony the night after Thanksgiving since before I was born,” Max interrupted.

“Oh, didn’t know it was that old,” he snickered and then ducked out of the way when Dad made a grab for him. “Anyway, you think instead of goin’ with the family I could just, ya know, leave early an’ go with Sarah?”

“I think you can ask your mom.”

“Aw, Dad, you know she’s gonna say no.”

“And why’s that?”

“Well, ‘cause it’s a family thing…” He sighed and nodded. “What if Sarah came with us? You think that’d be okay?”

Max smirked when Nick found another way to get what he wanted. “Sure, if her parents are okay with it.”

The boy just barely stopped himself from telling his dad that he was sure her parents weren’t as old fashioned, but thought better of it at the last second and decided to keep that thought to himself. “Alright, cool,” he said and left them alone again.

Andy snorted. “Guess the whole town’s gonna be there.”

“If the weather’s right,” Max agreed. “The people in Roswell love their traditions.”

“Yeah, and they like to come up with stories about little green aliens,” the boy said and rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe people still come here for the UFO mythology.”

His uncle chuckled. “We should be glad they do – it gives our town enough customers so the shops around here can survive. And honestly, what would Roswell be without the alien myths?”

“Guess that’s true,” Andy agreed and threw the stick for Theo.

They were interrupted again when Tess stuck her head outside. “Boys, where are you? We want…” she fell silent when she realized that she might be disturbing an important moment.

“We want to what?” Max asked, amused.

“Um, we wanted to take the family picture.”

“Alright,” he dusted off his pants when he got up, ready to go back inside for the traditional picture his sister had mentioned.

“Um, Uncle Max,” Andy said as he got up too. There was still something he needed to tell him – it was the reason he had come outside in the first place and he knew if he didn’t say it now he’d probably never get the nerve to try and say it again.

The man turned to look at his nephew and noticed the serious look on his face as well as the slightly nervous gesture when he rubbed his palms together. “We’ll be there in a minute,” he told Tess and waited until she had gone back inside before he gave Andy his full attention again.

“That day in the woods when you wouldn’t let me see Dad…” he swallowed hard. “What I said to you…”

He didn’t need to repeat the words. The words, angry and cutting, designed to hurt as much as possible, had been imprinted on both of their minds since the moment they had been spoken.

“This’s your fault… he better not die ‘cause I’ll never forgive you for lettin’ this happen.”

He had to look away as he thought about the way he had blamed his uncle for letting his dad die. Never allowing himself to see what that day had cost the man, never allowing himself to see the pain Uncle Max lived with every day. “Then later at the hospital when I accused you – “

He shook his head. “It’s alright, Andy.”

“But it’s not, Uncle Max,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I just… I needed someone to blame and…” he squeezed his eyes shut as his mind took him back to the woods and he could hear his dad’s pain-filled screams echoing in his ears. “All my life Dad was indestructible but that day…” He shook his head and used his sleeve to wipe his eyes as he cleared his throat. “I’d never heard anything like that and I knew he had to be in so much pain but at the same time I couldn’t believe it could be my dad.” He choked. “I didn’t want it to be him ‘cause I knew if it was it meant he was dy…”

Max quickly crossed the porch and pulled the boy into a bear hug. “That day and what came after wasn’t easy for either of us,” he said, his voice unsteady and husky from the emotions that racked his body. He hated to see his nephew in so much pain over the loss of his father, but at the same time he felt the enormous weight on his shoulders finally falling off at Andy’s words.

“No, it wasn’t, but I made it worse for you with what I said,” the boy mumbled as he returned the hug and fought his tears back. “He wasn’t just my Dad, he was you brother an’ I know you would’ve saved him if there had been a chance.”

“Yeah, if there had been a way…” the man agreed quietly and gave both of them a few seconds to get their feelings under control before he squeezed Andy’s shoulders. “People deal differently with the loss of someone close.”

“Probably.” It felt good to finally get it out and come clean with his uncle; it was the last thing missing before he could finally close that dark chapter in his life. “Anyway,” he continued and straightened up to prepare to meet the whole family again. He didn’t want them to realize he had been almost crying. “I want you to know I’m sorry about the things I said. What happened wasn’t your fault.”

Max looked at him and nodded. “Thanks.” He was pretty sure his tone expressed his relief. “It means a lot to me to hear you say that.”

They looked up when the door swung open slowly and Maria stepped out on the porch, suspecting what had been going on outside. “You boys okay?” she asked softly. It was obvious that whatever they had been doing or talking about a few moments ago, it had rattled both of them deeply.

“We’re good,” Max told her with a nod and took a deep breath before he was able to give her a convincing smile. “Guess I’d better get my family together for that photo, huh?” he said and gave his nephew’s shoulder another squeeze before he slipped inside the house, determined to reach the bathroom for a quick recovery before he had to face anyone else.

Andy looked at his mom after his uncle had gone and just knew from the way she was looking back at him that she KNEW what had been going on. With an eye roll he turned away from her slightly and stared out into the yard. “I talked to him,” he said after a while.

“I know,” she said and took a step forward to place her hand over one of his on the railing. “I’m very proud of you, Andy.” Maria swallowed hard and squeezed his hand slightly. “And your dad would be too.”

“You think so?”

Maria shook her head. “No, I know so.”

He gave her a small smile and shrugged. “Guess I should go get ready for the pic.” He walked over to the door and stood there with his hand on it for a moment before he turned his head to look at her. “Hey, Mom?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m glad we’re here. And, ya know, that things have worked out the way they have.”

She smiled and nodded. “Me too. Now go get ready because I’m feeling the urge to hug you and I know you’ve just about reached your quota for the day.”

He rolled his eyes and grinned at her before ducking inside the house. “Thanks for the warning,” he called over his shoulder.

Maria shook her head and smiled at the conversation. Things were on the right track and they were all finally moving forward. She was turning to go back inside when the screen door was pushed open and Kara smiled up at her. “We gotta do the pitcher now, Auntie M’ria.” She looked around the yard and pointed when she spotted Theo. “Daddy said the doggies can be in the pitcher too.”

Maria smiled and called the dog. She had a feeling Max had probably just said yes so he could get away to get himself together for the picture.

“Did they talk?” Liz whispered when she came back into the kitchen, her eyes following Andy.

“Yeah, they did.”

“Oh, good,” the brunette sighed. “Think it went well?”

“Pretty well, yes.” Maria smiled at the other woman. “I think they were able to destroy that wall that’s been between them since the accident. They looked a bit shaken up, but in a good way in my opinion.”

“I’m glad,” Liz said with relief and smiled back. “Max wouldn’t quite admit it, but I knew there were things he needed to hear from Andy.”

“Seems like the holiday’s turning out even better than expected, huh?”

“Definitely one of the best ever.”

“Can we take the stupid pic now?” Nick looked into the kitchen from the living room with an eye roll. Every freaking holiday they wanted to take a family picture and although it seemed like it would be a happy one for the first time in a long time, he hated the process because it took forever.

“Why don’t you just straighten your hair and clothes first?” Liz told him, mimicking his eye roll.

“Hey, you don’t think this’s gonna be another one where the adults end up cryin’ ‘cause Uncle Andrew’s not here, do you?” Justin muttered when he showed up next to his brother who was running his hands through his hair in front of the mirror.

“There’s no use doin’ that,” Sam teased as she watched them with a grin. “It won’t get any better, Nicky.”

“As if your boyfriend looks any better,” he rolled his eyes at his cousin when he joined them.

“His hair’s supposed to look messy, yours isn’t,” she defended him and wrapped an arm around Andy. She could still see the slight strain in his features and she had seen him talking to his uncle out back a few minutes ago, but she decided to talk to him about it later. “Ready for the picture?”

He smirked and wrapped one arm around her loosely. “Yeah, sure as hell look better than them.” He nodded at his cousins and bent down to kiss her briefly. It felt good to finally have all that out – so good that he didn’t even care about the long production of picture taking when it came to his family.

Max was sitting on the couch unpacking the camera from its case when Kara came in with the dogs and settled on the floor nearby. The talk with Andy had helped ease the feelings of guilt that he had been carrying around since the day of the accident. They weren’t completely gone and he didn’t know if they ever would be, but for now he had decided to let it go and see what happened. He pulled the cleaning cloth out to polish the lens, glancing up when his little girl called him.

“What’s up, baby girl?”

“All the puppies can be in the pitcher, right?”

“Sure,” he agreed.

She turned and stuck her tongue out at Justin. “See? I told you Daddy said they could be in the pitcher.”

“We’ll just take a couple different shots, one with the dogs and one without,” Max went on.

“’Cause they’re all so pretty.” She lifted Mojo’s head and carefully ran the brush in her hand over his ears. “And so soft,” she murmured.

Liz and Maria came into the living room, pausing to scan the room.

“You know he paid more for that camera than we paid for our first car,” Liz said, shaking her head as she watched Max getting it ready for the family photograph.

Maria laughed. “They always spend a fortune for their toys.”

“Well, that’s true enough I suppose.” She shook her head. “But send him to the store for something important like toilet paper and he grabs the cheapest thing on the shelf.” Her eyes widened when she saw the brush her daughter was holding. “Kara, where did you get that brush?”

“It’s Auntie Tess’s,” she said and grinned widely as she turned to run the brush in question over Theo’s thick coat. “Isn’t he pretty, Mommy?”

“Max!” she hissed.

“Huh?” His tone was absent, a perfect indicator that he wasn’t really paying any attention to her because he was otherwise occupied.

“Max!”

He finished setting up the tripod and glanced up at his wife. “What’s…” he trailed off when she motioned furiously to their daughter and he shook his head and shrugged his shoulders in confusion as he looked back at her. “What?”

“That’s your sister’s hairbrush!”

He leaned over and retrieved the brush, rubbing the bristles over the calf of his jeans a few times and then glancing at it. “Looks fine,” he said and tossed it to his sister. He bit back the grin that wanted to burst free because he knew she would never use it again. “Good as new.” He went back to getting the camera ready while he waited for her reaction.

Tess caught it with a grimace on her face and looked at it skeptically. “Hey, sweetie, were you done styling the dogs?”

“No,” Kara shook her head and tossed a spiteful little glare at Daddy.

“Well, why don’t you just go on then? I think I’ve got another brush at home, so we’ll make this the new one for the dogs, huh?”

“A doggie brush,” the girl shouted excitedly and went to get it from her aunt before going back to Theo with it. Maria could almost hear the dog’s sigh, but he stood still and let the little girl handle him.

“You take the photo thing seriously, huh?” Michael said, amused as he watched the family, pretty sure it was a kind of ritual they had on holidays.

“Not seriously,” Maria denied and leaned against him when she felt his chest at her back, “but you’ll see that it’s always nice to remember it later.”

“Yeah, an’ we try to make them more fun,” Liz agreed.

“Like what?” he wanted to know.

“One year Max had us all jump up in the air while taking the pic,” Kyle rolled his eyes at the memory. “By the end of the day we’d all had a pretty nice workout because it took him a good half hour to get the perfect shot.”

“Hey, it turned out to be a cool pic,” the man defended himself.

“It did, but the fact that you accidently deleted it before we got the chance to save it on the computer wasn’t so cool,” his wife reminded him.

Max shrugged. “It was still a good pic.” He checked the lens. “This baby was worth every penny we paid for it.”

His wife rolled her eyes. “We didn’t buy that camera,” she whispered to Maria.

“A camera’s a camera,” Kyle said as he stretched his arms over his head and yawned. “One’s pretty much as good as the next. Even disposable cameras take pretty good pics these days.”

Jeff opened one eye to glance between the two men and he smirked when his son-in-law stopped messing with the camera to look up in disbelief.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Liz muttered. If Max managed to get a word or protest out they could easily tack on another hour before they even thought about getting around to the family photograph. “Max, honey, what’d you have in mind for the pic?”

“Think we could use the stairs for a good pic since we’re late an’ it’s already dark outside.”

“The stairs?” Kyle asked, tipping his head back to look at them. He made a face. “Isn’t that gonna kinda look like somethin’ outta The Brady Bunch?”

“Not in my shot,” Max glared at him.

He held his hands up. “Okay, just sayin’.”

Liz made a face at Kyle and gave a sharp shake of her head. If he kept going he was gonna have Max expounding on his picture-taking skills and his expensive toy and they would never get around to taking the picture.

“Does it always take this long?” Michael whispered in Maria’s ear and closed his arms around her tightly. He had never been a big fan of family photos, but that was related to his own past. Maybe it was gonna change, he mused as he glanced over the crazy bunch spread around the room.

“You have no idea,” his girlfriend sighed with a smile.

“Oh, we’re just getting started,” Liz murmured when she overheard them. “There’s no such thing as getting everyone lined up and just snapping off a picture. He’ll make a big production of it.”

“Mom, do we really have to take a pic this year?” Nick complained as the kids passed them. “It’s gonna take forever.”

“Yes, we have to take the pic this year.” She shook her head at him. “I thought you were gonna comb your hair?”

“I combed it!”

“Um-hmm, comb it again.”

“Mom,” he complained and went off. It was combed and he was old enough to decide how his hair was supposed to look.

“Nick, do what Mom said,” Max said as he set the camera up on the tripod and worked to center the staircase before he started actually getting everyone in place.

“Wait until she comes to comb yours,” the boy grumbled.

He just looked up at his son and smiled to himself when the boy left the room to go make a half-hearted attempt to please his mom. He was the one who fussed over the pictures and Liz was the one who fussed over the kids, making sure they were presentable when he finally got around to snapping the picture.

“Ya know, there’s still time for a quickie with my brother taking the picture,” Tess whispered into her fiancé’s ear, smirking when his body tensed up.

Kyle glanced around the room. “Wouldn’t be that hard to disappear for a bit.” Although at this rate they’d have plenty of time.

“Let’s go,” she grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the room.

“Ya know what they’re gonna do now, right?” Michael said when he watched the other couple leaving the room.

“I’m sure I could guess pretty accurately.” She smiled. “And I think they’ve got the right idea. We could be standing here a while waiting for Max to get the logistics of this shot figured out.”

“Yeah, but they’re gonna do it in our bathroom,” he shuddered at the thought.

She smiled at his use of the word ‘our’. It had such a nice ring to it. “Well, a little creativity could successfully derail their plans.”

“Like?”

“Hey, Max,” Maria said, “you wanted to start with Kyle an’ Tess, didn’t you?”

Max glanced up and caught a flash of red as his sister and Kyle hurried out of the room. He smirked and nodded. “Yep, that’s where we’re gonna start.”

“Did you hear that, Kyle?” Maria leaned to the side to push the swinging door open.

“We could ignore them,” Kyle whispered as he looked at Tess.

“But you know they wouldn’t give up,” she made a face and stopped, looking at him when Max called them again. “See? Guess this has to wait, fiancé.”

He growled. “Remind me to return the favor.”

“No problem,” she kissed him briefly before they went back to the living room.

“Somethin’ we can help you with, Max?” he asked.

“You won the lottery so you’re the first to be placed in the picture this year,” the man said with a faked cheerful grin and pointed at the stairs. “You’re both short so I want you higher up.”

“I do carry a gun ya know,” he muttered as they passed his future brother-in-law to head for the staircase.

Max snorted. “Doesn’t make you any taller.” He turned and watched the couple, waving them a few more steps up when they stopped about halfway up. With his arm he reached out and gave the railing a good push, making sure it was sturdy. “Alright, Tess, turn your body toward the railing and lean your upper body over it, placing your lower arms on it.”

She rolled her eyes. “Picture nazi,” she muttered under her breath. The pictures always turned out great and she knew in the end it’d be worth all the hassle, but at the time it never felt like it.

He ignored the comment and nodded to himself when her position turned out right. “Kyle, step up behind her and place your hands on the railing on either side of her.”

“Not exactly the pose I had in mind but it works,” Kyle rasped in her ear as he took up the position Max wanted.

“It’s not too uncomfortable considering that we’ll probably be standing here for a while until he has everyone in place,” she agreed and let her gaze wander over the people down in the room that was filled with murmurs and laughter. A few months ago she had been alone in LA, with friends around, but still kind of alone. The idea of going back home to find out what she wanted had turned out pretty good and surprisingly, there wasn’t any place in the world she’d rather be right now.

When she was younger Roswell had seemed so small, too small for a person like her with too few possibilities to develop. She had always wanted to live in a huge city, get a cool job, and have a good looking and successful man.

Well, I got the good looking, successful man, she mused and turned her head slightly to look at her fiancé’s handsome face. The rest had turned out to be just a false idea of what she thought she wanted, something she had tried out and tested and then decided wasn’t right. With the right partner at her side as well as her family, Roswell didn’t seem as overbearing as it had as a teenager. And now, working with one of her best friends in a small shop that they could call their own was so much better than the anonymity LA had to offer most days.

There were still a few things to sort out, but she was positive that her family would help her with it and she wasn’t going to run from them again.

Alex watched the chaos around them and his gaze rested briefly on his daughter and her boyfriend as they talked quietly about something. So many changes had happened in their lives over the past few months and they had all worked together to bring them to this point. He had grown up with most of these people, been friends with Max and Liz for so many years, but with Isabel in the picture now the boundaries of his world were expanding.

Sam was growing up faster with every passing day and before long she would be leaving home, going off to college, and starting her own life. He couldn’t be prouder of his little girl. A few months back he had wondered if he would ever be interested in having more kids now that Sam was nearly grown and it would mean starting all over again, but yeah, he could definitely see it. He supposed it was one advantage of having had his daughter when he was so young. Too young, he admitted as he looked at her and Andy again. But he knew he wouldn’t ever wish to change that.

His attention was drawn to Isabel when she laughed at something Kyle did that had Max straightening up and griping at him before going back to his camera. He hadn’t expected her to come into his life. Oh, he had wanted a good woman to love, a woman who would love him and his daughter – and deal with Oscar, he thought with a smile, but it seemed like most of the women he’d met were more interested in having children of their own rather than raising someone else’s child.

Isabel wasn’t like that. She understood the situation and she could relate to Sam in a way that had allowed a bond to begin forming between them. He could see a realistic future with Isabel and he was looking forward to exploring everything this new direction in his life had to offer.

“Okay, looks good,” Max muttered when he looked over the people he had already placed on the steps. “Move just a little bit closer to Jim,” he told Amy and then nodded, satisfied when Liz and Maria’s parents together made up their own little group. The Oldies, Max thought secretly and had to grin. He walked over to test the balusters, satisfied when they could be removed easily.

“What’re you doin’, Max?” Maria asked. “Don’t take my house apart.”

“Relax, I won’t,” he told her and removed a few of the balusters before he told Andy and Sam to go up and sit in the opening, legs hanging down.

“That’s my uncle,” the boy rolled his eyes and took her hand to guide her up, waiting until she sat before he took his own seat, pulling her legs slightly over his since the space wasn’t that big.

“I like that,” Max agreed and then glanced at Alex. “Would you stand up right behind them? Isabel, one step higher than Alex and I want you to look at each other.”

Maria leaned back against Michael’s chest and let him support most of her weight while she watched the scene. It was the first holiday since Andrew’s death that had turned out to be a happy one. Although her husband’s presence was still kinda there, it wasn’t like this dark cloud was hanging over them anymore. The family was in a good mood – Andy was in a good mood.

Her eyes landed on him and she smiled when she saw him wrapped up in a tickling match with his girlfriend. Back in Florida her biggest wish had been that she could watch him live his life happily and without the feeling of being left alone again. Andy was finally dealing with the new situation in their lives and she knew that a lot of the credit for that went to Sam and to the man holding her.

She tipped her head back to look up at him and smiled when Michael glanced down at her with his deep brown eyes. “Thank you.”

He frowned. “For what?”

“Just… everything,” she shrugged and wasn’t able to say more because Max called out for them to take their position for the picture.

Max finished arranging everyone to his satisfaction and he stood there for a moment, just looking at all of them. His life was full, he realized. He was a lucky man and he had been blessed with the opportunity to really see the gift he had been given. His life had revolved around the tragic loss of his brother for so long but he was slowly stepping back from that. Rationally he knew he had done everything possible to save his brother, but the heart didn’t always listen to what the brain knew to be rational and logical. The talk with Andy earlier had helped and he knew as much as he had shouldered the guilt in an attempt to shield his nephew from his own pain, he had needed to know that the boy didn’t blame him.

That day on the cliff as Andrew hung suspended from the edge, his hold on his brother the only tether to solid ground, he had done what he had always done. He had weighed the options and he had gone with the one that he believed would do the least amount of damage. He had sacrificed himself, knowing that if he didn’t their family would suffer two losses rather than one.

“Don’t ever let go. Hold our family together, Max.”

The words were suddenly so startlingly clear. He had never been able to recall what his brother had said to him just before Andrew had let go. He could remember the agonizing seconds leading up to that moment; the brief exchange of words as he begged him to hold on, the horrifying realization of intent when he had seen the knife, the burning pain as the gleaming blade cut into his flesh, and the terror as his brother released his grip and his body hurtled through empty space to the unforgiving ground so far below them. He had heard the words thousands of times in his nightmares but his guilt had always transformed them into hateful accusations.

Andrew had entrusted their family to his care, expecting him to pick up the pieces and to somehow, some way, find a way to keep them from falling apart. Maybe it had been an unrealistic expectation… or maybe it had been about realizing that it wasn’t something he could do alone, that he needed to lean on them and allow them to lean on him for all of them to survive their loss.

“Max?”

His gaze focused on his wife and he nodded to let her know he was alright. Getting to this moment had been painful at times, heartbreaking at others, but in the end, this was what made getting out of bed every morning worth it. These moments of absolute belonging, the chaos and insanity of family and friends, and the knowledge that no matter what happened they would be there for you, watching your back and just being there when you needed them whether you realized it or not.

His gaze moved over them. The adults all standing, the kids sitting on the steps, legs dangling over the edge, the dogs here and there next to them, and in that moment he felt peace wash over him. He leaned down to make sure the shot was lined up once more before setting the timer and hurrying to take his place next to his wife, sliding his arms around her waist. Yeah, he had been given a gift and he made a silent vow to try and never take it for granted.

“Daddy, we gotta say cheese!” Kara said.

“Nah, I think we’re all smiling for one reason or another,” he said, mentally counting down until the picture would be taken. They were almost there, just another few seconds.

“But we gotta say somethin’,” she insisted.

“Just let her say cheese, Dad,” Justin suggested.

“Go ahead, baby girl,” Max agreed.

“Do I gotta say cheese? Can I say somethin’ else?”

“Whatever you wanna say, just make it quick.” Less than ten seconds. If they could just hold position for that long they would have the perfect family holiday picture for once.

“Everyone be HAAAAPPPYYY!” Kara shouted and the little dog in her lap barked when his name was called out, squirming around until she lost her hold on him. “No, stay here,” she said and started to go after him.

“Kara, no…” Max started and reached out to grab her while all of the adults leaned over the railing and the kids leaned forward and turned their heads to look and see what was going on.

*FLASH*




THE END… is just the beginning
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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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