A Candy Christmas Carol (Post-Grad, M/M, Teen) Part 2 - 1/10/18

This is the place to post all your General Roswell fanfiction. Any Canon fics, which pick up directly from any episode of the show and that focus on Max/Liz, Michael/Maria, Isabel/Alex or Isabel/Jesse, Kyle/Tess, or all the couples together! Rule of Thumb: If Max healed Liz in the Crashdown in September 1999, then your fic belongs here. If it picks up from the show in any way, it belongs here.

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KindredKandies
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A Candy Christmas Carol (Post-Grad, M/M, Teen) Part 2 - 1/10/18

Postby KindredKandies » Sun Dec 24, 2017 10:02 am

A Candy Christmas Carol

Author(s): KindredKandies

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

Pairings: Predominantly M&M with bits of M&L and K&I

Rating: Rating: Teen

Category: Post-Graduation

Summary: Christmas is viewed in two very different ways by Michael and Maria.


Part One

Maria’s POV

She flinched when the door slammed behind him. Why did he have to be such a jerk?! All of this over a stupid question. She was exhausted, she was tired and achy from being cooped up in the car for nearly twenty hours practically nonstop, she was angry at being uprooted and moved across the country yet again, and she was hurt over having to leave behind a friend without so much as a goodbye. To put it plain and simple, she was weary of it all.

Yes, she wanted to settle down, to stay in one place long enough to see the seasons change. She wanted to have friends she didn’t expect to leave high and dry without a word. She wanted a house with a little yard and maybe a swing on the front porch. She wanted to get married and have kids. And yes, she wanted a damn dog! And she wanted all of that with Michael. For Pete’s sake, was that really asking so much?

Barely twenty-four hours ago he had come bursting through the back door and upended the life she’d carefully constructed over the past year. Things had gone well for the first few months and they had settled into some semblance of routine. Then November had rolled around and she hadn’t been able to miss the signs of restlessness in him. The company he had been working for offered plenty of overtime as the holidays closed in and he hadn’t once turned the extra shifts down.

It was the first year they were going to actually be stationary for Christmas and she’d welcomed the opportunity to make their home feel warm and festive for the holidays. Her job had allowed her plenty of time to run errands, cook, clean and spend time with her friend Stephanie. The two of them had spent hours shopping and gushing over trees and ornaments, potential gifts and decorating ideas.

His schedule kept him at work most of the time and there were days when it seemed like they only saw each other in passing. He’d be on his way in when she was on her way out to work and other than a quick kiss and instructions on heating the dinner she’d left for him, there wasn’t any time for them as a couple. She’d felt that distance beginning to take a toll on her and she’d dug her heels in, determined to make their home last this time.

She’d lost count of the number of fights they’d had recently, but she knew their frequency was increasing. They were fighting more than they ever had in the past. Her fear was that they were fighting for two very different reasons. She was fighting to hold on and that door she kept closed on her deepest fears where he was concerned had managed to come open and she was having a very hard time convincing herself that she was wrong about him. It didn’t matter how hard she held on or how much she wanted to hold onto him because her doubts had taken over and now she feared he wanted out, wanted to be free from being tied down.

Her footsteps slowed as she made another pass by the window. She could hear the car running, knew he was warming up the engine, and she wondered where he was going. The cabin was miles from the nearest town and every time the wind blew there was a high pitched whistling sound that accompanied the frigid air that forced its way through the fine cracks where the logs no longer quite fit together.

This wasn’t the way she’d imagined this Christmas would be. She’d worked so hard to make the house festive and perfect for the holiday. And it had almost been there. She sighed as she pictured the house she’d made into a home for them. The fireplace spreading comfortable warmth throughout the room, the Christmas tree decorated and lit, the twinkling lights cheerfully blinking softly, a CD of Christmas music playing on the second hand stereo in the corner, and a fresh wreath of fir, cedar and juniper with pine cones interspersed in the greenery gracing their front door.

She turned away from the window and her disgusted gaze rested on the moose head hanging over the fireplace. It wasn’t bad enough that someone had hung the carcass on the wall. No, they had festively strung a strand of white twinkling lights through the wide antlers and perched a moth-eaten Santa hat on its head. She shook her head and shifted to look out the window again when she heard the crunch of packed snow under the tires as the car pulled away.

Against her will her thoughts went back to their latest fight and she felt a new wave of despair crash over her, threatening to pull her under and never release her. Maybe this was it. Maybe he’d stuck it out as long as he could and he was ready to move on without her. Maybe he just didn’t know how to tell her he was through. She brushed the tears away angrily as the words thrown back and forth between them replayed in her head.

“Why are we running again? Why now?” She paced furiously, desperately turning over potential reasons and discarding them just as fast, until she came down to one irrefutable conclusion. He’d passed the point where his fear that his alien side might be turned loose, that losing his temper would destroy his control and he’d hurt her, was an issue. Over the years he’d become stronger, more in control of his abilities. He could even drink a beer or two without any issues these days.

It had to be something else and the only thing that she could come up with was her. Being with her was making him feel trapped. What else could it be? Thinking back over the past few months she could see the cracks in their relationship widening to become chasms. She’d seen the little house as a home. She’d lovingly put it together one dishtowel and a pair of curtains at a time. She’d been enjoying the freedom to live, to spread her wings and put down roots at the same time. He’d been working and occasionally stopping off at the pub for a beer while catching a game. He hadn’t really made any friends, had never brought any of the guys home to watch a game or help him work on the car or fix a leak.

She had been thriving and he’d continued to isolate himself. She’d been aware of it, had put it down to his lack of social skills. He wasn’t a wallflower but he wasn’t an extrovert either. She sighed internally as she remembered the one time she could recall him out with a group of guys, openly laughing and goofing off. What she wouldn’t give to see him have that again. She thought about all of the extra shifts he’d taken lately. They were doing okay financially, there was no pressing need for the money, but he’d jumped on every opportunity to work extra hours, hours that had kept him away from home… away from her.

The only thing that made sense was that while she had embraced stability and permanence, craved a semi-normal life with him, those same desires were pushing him away. That’s what it was, she realized, and felt her throat close up. He was running from settling down with her. It wasn’t what he wanted. It had been years since there had been any sign that they were still being pursued but he continued to keep them on the move.

“Why is it that Max and Liz and Kyle and Isabel were able to put down roots and carve out a life for themselves and we can’t? For the past four years Max and Liz have been stable, they’ve had a home in Moose Jaw, they’ve had an opportunity to pursue their education, and even had a child. It’s been more than five years for Kyle and Isabel. They have two kids now, Michael! Two! None of them have had to pick up and run in the middle of the night, leave everything behind. Why is that?”

The only response she got was silence accompanied by his patented stonewall expression. There was no reasoning with him when he was like this and she knew it but she couldn’t let it rest. Not this time.

“You know why,” he bit out finally. “We left because of a threat.”

Her hands clenched into fists and she could feel the heat flood her face as her frustration finally spilled over. Sometimes she wondered why she bothered trying to get anything through his thick skull. “You’re not listening to me, Michael.”

“Well, maybe if you quit ranting about the same subject over and over again you’d have somethin’ to say that I’d wanna listen to.”

She wished she could hate him sometimes because it would be easier than this. “Why couldn’t we have stayed in Winnipeg? Close enough to Kyle and Isabel, closer to Max and Liz if anything happened… close enough just to visit once in a while. It would make sense. It did make sense when it was first discussed and you discounted it out of hand. Why are you uprooting us again?”

She watched him, desperately hoping, needing him to say something that would make sense. She needed something to hold onto, something besides the same old story. And again she was met with silence and the impenetrable wall he surrounded himself with. “I want a dog, Michael. I need to have a dog.” She shifted and crossed her arms in front of her. “A big black dog named Angus.”

“We’re not getting a dog, Maria. What the hell are you thinkin’? We can’t be on the run with a damn dog! Yeah, let’s get somethin’ that makes us easier to identify! Let’s get somethin’ that requires money to maintain!” He started to pace, throwing his hands up in the air. “You know we can’t stay in one place long enough for somethin’ like that to ever be viable!”

She nodded sadly. “I can’t do this anymore.”

Michael turned slowly, narrowing his eyes as he stared at her.

“It hurts too much, Michael. My heart can’t take it.” And she honestly didn’t think it could take much more. “Why is it okay for everyone else to settle down, have a home and a family, and the two of us continue to run? Why can’t you even give in on this one little request and let us have a dog?”


She watched the taillights disappear into the darkness, the pain in her heart growing to encompass every inch of her being. Tears she couldn’t stop formed in her eyes and spilled over in spite of her wishes.

He’d never left before.

He’d never just walked out.


Michael’s POV

The door slammed behind him, the force aided by the high winds and not intent alone. He needed to get away because the walls were closing in and he felt like he was suffocating. She had pushed them into yet another argument. It felt like anymore that was all they did. Argue, fight, disagree, tentative truce, rinse and repeat.

Nine years. They had been on the run for nine years and all of the sudden she wanted a dog? How did she expect them to drag a dog around while moving from place to place? Having an animal would mean an additional responsibility; it would mean having something that would make them more easily identifiable.

A hard shiver raced through his body as the wind whipped around the corner of the cabin, cutting through him like a thousand tiny knives. He jerked his coat tighter around his body, grateful he’d at least remembered to grab it before storming out. Times like these he wondered why they stayed together.

How could she not understand?

He swore out loud when the heel of his boot landed on an icy patch on the walkway – the same walkway Maria had been hounding him about salting from the minute he walked in the door. His feet went out from under him so quickly that he didn’t even have time to control or cushion his fall. He flipped himself over, his temper shifting into overdrive when he felt the pain pulsing from every point of contact. That number increased significantly when he miscalculated as he tried to get to his feet without checking for solid footing and his foot slipped and he slammed his knee against the pavement.

That smarted. Snarling under his breath he shuffled over enough so he could dig his feet into the snow. Finally on his feet again he stomped down to the car, careful to keep off of the icy walkway. His dark mood only worsened as he dug through the trunk, pulling out the necessary items and shoving them into the backseat.

He started to climb inside but his attempt was immediately thwarted because there was no room for his large frame. He swore once again and reached down to jerk on the lever and shoved the seat as far back as he could get it. He threw himself into the seat and slammed the door, shutting off the wind tunnel. He forced the key in the ignition and gave it a vicious turn, holding it in place until the engine finally turned over and rumbled to life. It was a decent vehicle but in moments like these it was nothing more than a piece of crap. He shifted and shoved his hands under his thighs, hoping to keep them from freezing until the engine was warm enough to turn the heater on.

His teeth were on the verge of literally chattering by the time he slapped the control for the heater and adjusted the temperature. He threw the gearshift into drive and pulled out, smart enough not to gun the engine in spite of the desire to throw caution to the wind and do just that. He ignored the movement he caught from the corner of his eye, knowing without looking he wouldn’t see Maria standing at the window. The only evidence she had been there would be the slight sway of the curtain she had just dropped.

“A dog,” he muttered with an aggravated snort. “What the hell does she think we’d do with a dog?”

Technology was changing rapidly, too fast to keep up with, and maybe some people saw those changes as a good thing. Maybe people were blind to the reality that they were giving up any semblance of privacy as technology became so advanced. He’d watched it change over the years, warily observing its evolution, concerned as the advancements made it easier for the government to keep tabs on people.

The threat was real. If everyday people had the capability of getting their hands on such things then the Special Unit was already way ahead of them. He knew being on the run was no life for her but it wasn’t safe for them to stay anywhere for long. He’d pushed it this last time, letting their stay drag out for nearly a year.

He’d found a dependable job that brought in a decent paycheck, she’d had a good gig singing at a local pub, they’d had a house that while small, was nice, and for the first time in a long time she’d had a friend she could spend time with. She’d had the house decorated for Christmas and all the festive crap that had made her so happy had made him feel like he was choking. He’d been happy to accept extra shifts when they came available. And he’d felt a sick sense of relief when he’d spotted a couple of suspicious black SUVs in town because that meant it was time to move again.

He wasn’t indifferent to her needs, but her safety was more important than anything else. He’d had a fight on his hands when he said they had to drop everything and leave. They’d left behind jobs, a home and her friend without so much as a word. He’d pushed hard to get them far enough away that he felt it was safe to stop. Nearly 800 miles between them and the place they’d called home and it felt like every one of those miles stood between him and Maria.

He knew she’d been happier in the past year than she had been in a very long time. The constant running had taken its toll on her, stolen years he could never give back to her, and he couldn’t see an end in sight. He pulled into a lookout that looked down on the cabin, killed the lights and cut the engine. He sighed raggedly and shifted around to grab the sleeping back he’d tossed in before leaving.

It was fitting that he should spend the night cold and uncomfortable. Hell, he’d just uprooted her from the only real home she’d had in years, driven her across the country and multiple states without stopping for more than fuel, and then dropped her in a cold, drafty dump of a hunting cabin. There wasn’t an ounce of Christmas cheer in the cabin, which was fine with him, but he knew it only made things more depressing for her.

It didn’t help that Max and Liz had been settled for almost four years and even longer for Kyle and Isabel. They had carved out lives for themselves, real lives with homes, education, good jobs and kids. He knew Maria wanted a home, stability, a sense of permanence, kids… and a dog. He didn’t seem to be able to give her any of that. Hell, he couldn’t even find it in himself to give in and let her have a stupid dog. Maybe he was incapable of settling down. Maybe he should find a way to get her to Max and Liz, give her the opportunity to make a life for herself there.

Canada had proven to be a safe and comfortable place for the others to settle. Moose Jaw wouldn’t be Maria’s first choice, but because Liz was there he knew she could be happy there. Kyle and Isabel had landed in Calgary, a much larger city that they could easily lose themselves in. Seven hours apart, give or take, depending on weather and traffic. They were close enough to see each other on occasion but far enough apart for safety’s sake.

There had been talks about them settling in Winnipeg, which would put Max and Liz central to the rest of them, but he’d balked at the idea. He hadn’t agreed with the others’ decisions to stop running, to settle and put down roots, but his arguments had fallen on deaf ears. Maria had tried to talk him into changing his mind and they had gotten into many fights over it, but he’d refused to be swayed in his belief that their safety depended on their ability to flee at a moments’ notice.

The longer they stayed in one place the harder it would be to leave. He had lost count of the number of times they’d had to pick up and move, but he had a vivid memory of the entire repertoire of disappointed, hurt and angry responses Maria had given at the news that they were leaving whatever place they’d been calling home at the time.

He knew this last one had been the hardest since the six of them had split up. A year had given her time to begin planting roots. A job she loved for once, something better than just waiting tables and putting up with crap from customers, a little house that she’d turned into a home, complete with a small flower garden and new paint in every room, and a friend that she had become very close to.

He stared at the cabin as he pulled the sleeping bag tighter around himself in an effort to stop the cold from seeping into his bones. The light was on in the main room but there was no movement to suggest she was pacing the floor, working out her anger and hurt through constant motion. He wondered if she’d simply gone to bed, too weary of the constant fight to bother waiting for him to come back.

He stared at the roof of the car, not even seeing the torn lining or the spots where soda had splashed all over it when he’d pissed her off and she’d handed him the can after shaking the hell out of it while he wasn’t looking. The damn thing had exploded all over the car and stained the interior. They had laughed about it later and cleaned the mess up but left the stains as a reminder. He shook his head and closed his eyes, hoping to rest them and make sense of what the hell had gotten into Maria to make her think getting a dog would be a good idea.

“I guess that’s better than puttin’ your hand through a window.”

Michael jerked upright so fast he smacked his forehead on the visor he’d dropped to block the moon that was doing its best to blind him. His back hit the door as he turned to look at the guy sitting in the passengers’ seat and he reached up to rub his eyes, certain he was seeing things. Okay, maybe eating that package of cookies on top of a beer was a mistake. He blinked and frowned when the apparition remained sitting there, doing his best to balance a pen on his chin in the upright position.

“I thought we’d agreed that no chick was worth this.”

His eyes traveled over the other guy in disbelief. “What the hell…?” It wasn’t possible. He’d been dead for ten years.

“Yeah, and you’d think I’d have this trick mastered by now,” he muttered when the pen toppled over and he fumbled to catch it.

Michael stared at one of the few people he’d actually considered a friend over the course of his lifetime. This wasn’t real, he reminded himself. He’d held the guy’s lifeless body in his arms after he’d been fatally shot.

Monk straightened the bill of his standard issue security job baseball hat and adjusted his glasses before he turned his head to look at Michael. “Then again, you’d think you’d have gotten better at Madden by now and well, that hasn’t worked out so great for you. Anyway, I’m not here to dis your game, Mike.”

“Uh-huh…” He pinched himself and frowned at the stinging sensation. He couldn’t be asleep so what the hell was going on?

“I can answer that.” He ran his hands over his tie in a gesture that was painfully familiar. “I’m here to tell you that you’ll be getting three visitors beginning – “

Michael snorted and shook his head. “Right. Okay, I saw this movie and it sucked. I can assure you I’m not gonna be hangin’ out with three ghosts at the strike of one, two and three.”

“No, you’re right about that.”

“At least we’re agreed on that point.” He crossed his arms over his chest and shifted around to get comfortable again. This was ridiculous. Obviously the combination of beer and too many cookies had him hallucinating.

“Your first visitor will arrive at one forty-seven and the others will arrive an hour apart after that, an hour to the minute. You’re on the edge of something you don’t even understand right now and they’ll be able to help you find clarity.”

“Okay, sure they will. I’ll be on the lookout for a ghostly apparition haulin’ around a bunch of chains. In the meantime I’m gonna get some sleep.” He pulled the sleeping bag up over his shoulders and closed his eyes.

“It wasn’t your fault, you know?”

“Plenty of things are my fault. Which one are you referring to?”

“The night I got shot. We were both doin’ our job.” He shrugged even though his companion wasn’t looking at him. “There was nothin’ you could’ve done. I just wanted you to know that.”

“Yeah, well…” he peered over the edge of the sleeping bag and froze when the passengers’ seat was empty with no sign that it had been recently occupied. He cursed under his breath and pulled the sleeping bag closer. It was cold up here in the frozen wasteland he’d brought them to and now his eyes and ears were playing tricks on him. That was all he needed. He sat up to take one more look at the cabin below before settling down again.

Maybe if he could get to sleep the night would pass without his head screwing with him again. He closed his eyes and pulled in tighter on himself, his thoughts focusing on Maria and hoping to figure out why she wanted a damn dog of all things this year.
Last edited by KindredKandies on Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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xilaj
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Re: A Candy Christmas Carol (Post-Grad, M/M, Teen) Part 1 - 12/24/17

Postby xilaj » Mon Dec 25, 2017 1:30 am

Just stopped by after a long time away and found this - what a great Christmas present! Thank you! Looking forward to reading more and wondering who was today’s ghost - and who will be the ghost of Christmas Past?? All the best for the holidays to you both!

keepsmiling7
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Re: A Candy Christmas Carol (Post-Grad, M/M, Teen) Part 1 - 12/24/17

Postby keepsmiling7 » Sat Dec 30, 2017 11:42 am

Love this story, can't wait for the next part.
Thanks,
Carolyn

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xmag
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Re: A Candy Christmas Carol (Post-Grad, M/M, Teen) Part 1 - 12/24/17

Postby xmag » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:24 pm

Is it based on an american, or English book or movie, I don't know? Three Christmases visits, past, present and future? It's not much known in my country, more in English speaking countries.

Anyway, it looks like Michael is going to get a visit that will make him change his attitude, right?
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Michael : From day one, I knew you were the girl for me, I never wanted anyone else.

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KindredKandies
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A Candy Christmas Carol (Post-Grad, M/M, Teen) Part 2 - 1/10/18

Postby KindredKandies » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:12 pm

xilaj- Thank you and welcome back! Michael's first visitor was none other than Monk, his buddy from his security job back in Roswell. As for the ghost of Christmas Past, well... we'll be meeting that particular ghost today. Here's hoping your holidays were all you wished for!


keepsmiling7- Thank you! Here's the next part. :)


xmag- Yes, the framework is based on the classic English story by Charles Dickens. The story will feature three ghosts paying our cranky hybrid a nocturnal visit. The idea has been knocking around for a while because Michael's kind of a grinch, lol, and that kinda makes him the perfect scrooge. After nearly a decade of running Christmas is nothing more than another day to survive for him. He's not interested in celebrating anything so we thought he needed a dose of... well... perhaps Christmas spirit would be too much to ask, but at least a bit of understanding.


Part Two

Michael’s POV

The horn blared to the tune of some obnoxious Christmas song and Michael bolted upright for the second time that night. His forehead impacted with the visor and he swore effusively as he reached out blindly for the power button on the stereo. It took a few seconds for his senses to kick in and alert him to the fact that the stereo wasn’t on. The car was off and colder than a meat locker and suddenly he was surrounded by silence.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” he muttered, glancing towards the cabin in the distance and freezing when his eyes locked on the vast emptiness of a snow covered landscape. He fought with the door and nearly fell out of the car when it gave in to brute force. He scrambled to his feet and ran to the edge of the overlook, scanning every inch of the countryside. He turned in a tight circle and panic gripped him when he saw nothing but unbroken white in every direction.

He whirled around, intending to get in the car and drive back to the cabin, and he took an involuntary step back when the car and any tracks indicating it was ever there were all gone. He had to get to Maria. That was the only thing that mattered. But when he turned around the overlook was gone and there was nothing to tell him if he was even facing the right direction.

“Scary prospect, isn’t it?”

Another voice from the past. Another voice that he couldn’t possibly be hearing. He was dreaming, that’s all it was.

“More like a nightmare if you ask me.”

He slowly turned his head to look at the other guy, taking in the loose-limbed stance, hands casually tucked in the front pockets of his jeans, the oversized gray sweatshirt and the mildly amused expression. No, he wasn’t gonna stand here and have a conversation with another dead person. It wasn’t like he and Alex had been that close.

“Way to make a guy feel good.”

“You’re not here anyway.”

“Maybe I need to take another swing at you to get your attention.”

Michael ignored him. Focus on Maria and the damn dog situation. Just stay on target and things will go back to normal. After a few minutes he opened his eyes and nodded to himself when he was once more sitting in the car. He sat up and looked over the steering wheel, relieved when the cabin with its lighted window came into view. Okay, that was better.

“People associate dogs with permanence.”

His head jerked to the side and he stared at Alex. This night was not getting any better.

“What the hell are you goin’ on about?” he growled.

“You’re tryin’ to understand Maria’s sudden desire for a dog, right?” He shrugged and abruptly changed topics. “You do know people freeze to death in cars up here, don’t you?”

“People drown in their bathtubs too, what’s your point?”

“It’s freezing out here.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sure it’s not gonna bother you.”

“No, but then again I wasn’t thinkin’ about myself.”

“What do you know about cold anyway? You were raised in the damn desert.”

“Sweden’s cold.”

“Yeah, well, you were never in Sweden, were you?” This was stupid. He was really sitting here talking to a ghost. No. No, he wasn’t. It was a dream.

“No, but it’s funny what you can believe and think you know when your brain’s been infiltrated by an evil alien force. I wasn’t there, but I can still feel the cold.” He shook himself. “Anyway, we’re not here to discuss me. Maria and permanence, that’s what we’re here to discuss.” He reached over and put a hand on Michael’s shoulder. “Remember this?”

Michael stared at the hand on his shoulder. He could feel it. Alex was a ghost. And he could feel his hand. “What?” he asked, his tone distracted. He turned when Alex gestured to something behind him.

Maria sat on the porch steps of the house she had grown up in. Seven years old, face streaming with tears and revealing the kind of heartache and abandonment only a child could ever truly understand. The Dalmatian pressed as tight as it could to her side, mindless of the small arms threatening to cut off its air supply, its only concern to ease her suffering.

“Already seen this,” he muttered and looked away. Her pain was open and so raw it cut him to the quick.

“The dog is a symbol of stability, safety, comfort and permanence. Dogs represent what home is.”

“It’s somethin’ that’d only bog us down, make us easily identifiable.”

Alex smiled mysteriously. “One thing at a time, Michael.” He nodded at the child clutching the dog like a lifeline. “You never had a dog, you don’t understand the connection, but it’s an important part of life. Maria’s at a place where the need for that connection is more than the simple desire for companionship.”

Michael looked at him sharply. “What’re you sayin’?”

He just smiled enigmatically. “C’mon, it’s time for us to move on.”

Before he could question Alex further the snow swirled in a sudden blinding whiteout and just as quickly calmed, leaving them on a quiet city street that he didn’t recognize. It was a picturesque scene, serene in a way only felt when standing outside surrounded by the unbroken silence of snowfall. Years ago he wouldn’t have understood that silence but they’d spent more than one winter in cities and towns with weather of this nature and over time he’d grown to appreciate it if not exactly love it.

The first time Maria had stood with him in this kind of silence she’d told him to listen to the snow fall. He’d thought she was crazy. How could you hear something so inconsequential? As soon as he’d opened his big mouth she’d been off and running, going on about how enough of those inconsequential snowflakes could collapse a roof or bury a house. He’d been sorry he’d ever opened his mouth… but it had also given him something to think about. Not that he’d ever admit that out loud.

“Listen… can you hear it?”

Michael narrowed his eyes as he looked at Alex. “If you start talkin’ about listening to snowflakes fall you’re gonna be askin’ for more than just your two front teeth for Christmas.”

Alex chuckled at the empty threat and shook his head. “Just listen.”

Silence followed them as they walked and several minutes passed before he heard the sound of a dog whining. He turned to look at the dog. Small, white, dark eyes peering up at them from behind a fringe of hair that flopped over its face, it was a mix of some kind. It was alone, probably lost because it looked well cared for, curiosity and fear warring with its innate need to be with its human. It shivered as the wind gusted, blinking against the snow that blew into its face.

“Poor guy,” Alex said sympathetically. “It’s cold out.”

“So?” He wasn’t cold and heartless but he also wasn’t interested in getting involved. What was he even talking about? It was a dream!

“He looks lost, don’t you think? Alone, scared, out in a world that doesn’t seem the least bit welcoming.”

“Why’re we out in the cold again?” He turned to start walking again, ignoring the dog when it began to follow them.

“Gabriel! Gabriel, where are you?” An elderly woman’s frantic voice cut through the silence and a moment later she appeared before them, her hasty gait impeded by the cane that was obviously needed to aid in her ability to walk. “Oh, there you are!”

Michael didn’t have time to move out of her way but it didn’t seem to matter as she walked right through him. Well, that was a bit disconcerting.

“I thought I’d lost you!” Relief colored her voice as she carefully bent over to pick the animal up. She continued to speak to the dog that was happy to see her judging by the tail-wagging, body-wriggling, tongue-licking that accompanied its raspy bark. After a few minutes she pulled her shawl around the dog, protecting him from the wind and snow and continued on her way.

“There, happy now? It’s got a place to go.”

“Yeah,” he nodded at the building the woman was now paused in front of. She reached up to wipe her eyes and bestowed a shaky kiss to the dog’s head before she stepped into the entryway.

Michael followed his gaze, surprised to see the name of the business over the door. “Okay, so it’s an animal shelter. So what?”

“Just sayin’ it’s not a real home.”

“Stop right there, Whitman.” He wasn’t comfortable with the path Alex was taking. “She’s givin’ the dog up for whatever reason. At least she’s not kickin’ it out in the street. It’s got a shot this way. It’ll be fed and its needs will be seen to and eventually someone will adopt it.”

“Yeah, probably. That doesn’t make it a real home though, does it?” He gathered up his wallet chain and shoved his hands in his pockets as he looked around. “Our time is almost up and we’ve got one stop left.”

Once again the snow swirled around them in a blinding whiteout and in the blink of an eye he found himself someplace he never wanted to be again. The dingy trailer he’d grown up in materialized around him and a shudder racked his tall frame as he was assaulted by memories. Something was off though. He realized it immediately and he frowned as he tried to pinpoint the difference.

It only took a few moments. This wasn’t the way the trailer had looked the last year he’d lived there. There was a raggedy Christmas tree in one corner, something that had only graced the dump once in all of his years with Hank. “Why’re we here?”

“You want to know why she wants a dog, Michael? She wants permanence, craves it the way you once did.”

Why couldn’t he wake up? He didn’t want to remember his introduction to Christmas. He hadn’t understood how he was different. He’d only known that he wasn’t the same as other kids. But when he’d been turned over to Hank he’d thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. The man was rough and he didn’t say things so much as yell at him, but he gave him food and clothes.

He swallowed hard when a light came on in the hall and a moment later Hank shuffled out into the living room. He was younger, his hair wasn’t quite as thin, but his face was still drawn and lined by more bad years than good, and his eyes were still sunken and lifeless. He watched the man move into the kitchen, open up the cabinet above the sink and pull out several packages wrapped in holiday paper. He stuck them under the pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree and then got a beer from the refrigerator. He took a long drink, set it on the counter and grabbed a long metal spoon. His lips thinned into a grin as he picked up a pot and beat the spoon against it.

“Up an’ at ‘em, boy!” He dropped the pot and spoon on the counter, mindless of the racket it made. He moved to the tree to plug in the single strand of lights, backtracked to retrieve his beer and relocated to the living room where he dropped down in his recliner.

Seven-year-old Michael came stumbling out of his room, rubbing his eyes, and trying to adjust to the abrupt wakeup call. His sleepy eyes widened in amazement when the twinkling lights drew his gaze and he ran over to the tree. He gnawed on his bottom lip as he stared at the packages wrapped in brightly colored paper and he reached out a tentative hand to touch the one closest to him.

He’d seen some of the kids in his class exchange gifts, tearing into them with joy and abandon, and he’d been jealous. He’d found Max and Isabel fairly soon after being placed with Hank because they were in the same class at school and the three of them had known immediately that they were supposed to be together. It had been instinctual and none of them had ever thought to question it. Max had shrugged when he asked about the gifts but Isabel had given him a very thorough explanation. Gifts like toys meant your parents loved you. Gifts like socks and underwear meant your parents cared. He still wasn’t too sure about that last one, because who wanted gifts like that? But Isabel was the one who knew stuff like that so he’d figured she was probably right.

He hadn’t expected to get anything though. Isabel had given him a puzzle book and Max had given him a little toy car. He’d felt bad when he hadn’t had anything to give them and he’d tried to give their gifts back to them but they wouldn’t take them. He was okay with not getting anything from Hank. The man let him live in his trailer and gave him food and clothes. He didn’t feel right asking for anything. That didn’t mean he didn’t want anything.

“Go on, boy, open ‘em up.”

The weight of the boxes never registered as he grabbed the first one and tore into it the way he’d seen the kids at school open them. Confusion had wrinkled his young features when the wrapping paper was torn away and the lid of the box flung aside to reveal nothing but emptiness within the confines of the box.

“Better try again.”

Four times he went through the process only to be disappointed when each box was empty. The fifth time there was no enthusiasm as he peeled the paper back and lifted the lid to reveal yet another empty box. He didn’t understand but he didn’t know how to voice his confusion.

Michael watched the scene unfolding and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get rid of the lump in his throat. He knew what was coming, could feel the maelstrom of emotions crashing against the fragile walls of his younger self as he sat surrounded by torn Christmas paper and empty boxes, but no matter how much he wanted to he couldn’t look away.

“Guess next year you’ll know better than to hope for anything more than what you got, won’t you?”

The sneer in Hank’s voice made the little boy look up. Even at seven years old he knew Hank wasn’t a nice man, but he hadn’t known just how mean he could be until that morning next to the Christmas tree. He forced the tears down and started collecting the shredded paper and boxes to haul to the trash.

“You know why you’re here, Mickey?” He took a drink of his beer and frowned when he realized it was empty. “See, the state gives me a check every month to keep you around. That’s right,” he nodded when the boy looked at him, “I get paid to keep you because no one else wants you.”

He didn’t know why Hank refused to call him by his name but the pain and anger burning inside of him gave him the courage to let his defiance loose. He stood up and faced Hank, opening his mouth to speak, but he never got a word out. It was the first time Hank had ever hit him but it wasn’t the last.

He had learned a painful lesson that day – several lessons in fact. If you didn’t have expectations you couldn’t be disappointed. If you didn’t open yourself up you couldn’t be hurt. If you didn’t rely on others, didn’t trust them, you wouldn’t leave yourself open to betrayal. He had learned to live with that reality. He’d made the rare exception to his rules, especially where Maria was concerned, but even with her he knew he was holding back.

“It’s not just Maria you have to trust, Michael.” Alex looked at him as the scene faded away, leaving them once again sitting in the car. “You have to trust yourself. You’re stronger than you think you are.” The stereo came to life and music started blaring through the speakers. “Well, that’s my cue. Hug my girls for me and remember what I said.” He looked up and nodded. “Time for me to go. Your next visitor will be arriving soon.”

And he was gone.

Michael looked around and scratched his head. What the hell was going on? He rubbed his arms as the chill from the cold car reminded him that he was basically sitting in the middle of a giant ice block. He was tempted to turn the car on just to have some heat for a few minutes but then decided the threat of falling asleep and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning wasn’t worth it. Not that freezing was a better option as far as options went.

He pulled the sleeping bag tighter around himself and closed his eyes. He didn’t know what had caused these weird dreams, maybe it was the beer and cookie combination. Whatever it was he hoped it had settled down because he was over it.
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xmag
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Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2001 6:24 am

Re: A Candy Christmas Carol (Post-Grad, M/M, Teen) Part 2 - 1/10/18

Postby xmag » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:50 pm

Well, that was a sad part, between little Maria and her dog, after her father left and little Michael with Hank and the gift from hell, or rather no gift. Talk about being cruel. Some people just are mean by pleasure, it's awful.
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Michael : From day one, I knew you were the girl for me, I never wanted anyone else.


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