Double Christmas Wish - (Canon/Mature/CC) - 12/28/09 -Part 3

Finished Canon/Conventional Couple Fics. These stories pick up from events in the show. All complete stories from the main Canon/CC board will eventually be moved here.

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Double Trouble
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Double Christmas Wish - (Canon/Mature/CC) - 12/28/09 -Part 3

Post by Double Trouble » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:54 pm

Double Christmas Wish

Author(s): Double Trouble

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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…

Pairing(s): M&L & M&M

Rating: Mature

Summary: (Post-Grad) Several years after the gang left Roswell, Maria and Liz are alone in a strange city, preparing for a lonely Christmas.

Author’s note: This fic was written for Kismet – Happy Birthday, Girl! 8)



Part 1

The icy wind whistled through the openings in the window where the old wooden frame wasn’t sealed properly and the faded curtains fluttered in response. The apartment’s occupants barely noticed the noise, but the cold air eventually penetrated the fog that surrounded them and the blond-haired woman grabbed an old newspaper on her way to the window. She tore several strips off, folding them and wedging them into the spaces to block the wind before tossing the paper on the table next to her. Her green gaze stared down at the street, not seeing the snow that was turning to a dirty slush as daytime traffic melted it down.

The petite brunette sitting on the ratty couch across the room stared at the small television in the corner without seeing it. She was lost in thought as she so often was when she wasn’t otherwise occupied with work. The fingers of her right hand plucked at one of the many loose threads on the ancient piece of furniture and when it pulled loose she dropped it and reached for the next one. Her other hand rested protectively over her protruding belly and her thumb constantly worried the rings on her third finger.

“Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve…”

The two women looked at each other across the ridiculously small space that separated them as if they weren’t sure which of them had dared to say the words aloud.

Four months and three cities had come and gone since their significant others had been captured by the FBI. They had followed the plan they had created after being on the run for almost a year and it wasn’t the first time that they had been separated, but it was the first time that any of them had been caught.

Salina, Kansas wasn’t exactly a booming metropolis, but it had been next on the list of cities they would move to, so when the time had come to pack up and move they had followed the plan. The guys would know where to find them; they just had to be patient and wait for them to show up. Until then they were just doing whatever they needed to do to survive, but it wasn’t easy and every time they had to move it only got harder.

“What ya want to eat for dinner?” Maria asked to change the subject again. It was too painful to think about a Christmas without their men.

Liz sighed, relieved when they swerved away from that particular minefield. If it weren’t for the baby I wouldn’t even bother, she thought. “Doesn’t really matter... there’s not that much to choose from anyway.”

“I can go downstairs and see if Antonio has something for us.” Antonio was the cook at the restaurant on the first floor. Maria and Liz both worked there and earned enough money to survive until it was time to leave for the next town.

“That sounds good. I won’t turn down the opportunity to get out of cooking tonight.” She barely had the energy to shower and change after work most nights.

Maria nodded and grabbed her coat because it was already freezing cold in the hallway outside of their apartment. “Lock the door behind me. I’ll knock four times when I get back.”

Liz waved to let Maria know she had heard her, but her gaze was already locked on the television again. So much time had already passed and they hadn’t heard anything. Max didn’t even know that he was going to be a father... and she didn’t even know if he was still alive. She shook her head stubbornly and reached up to brush her tears away. Stop thinking like that!

A few minutes later Maria was on her way back upstairs, bringing a sack of burgers and fries with her that some customer had ordered but never picked up. She turned around furiously when someone opened the front door of the building behind her and the cold wind blew through her hair for a short moment.

A moment later she relaxed again. It was only the weird guy from the apartment above them. He looked at her skeptically when he hurried upstairs and past her. She stood froze at the bottom of the stairs for a few more seconds, glancing at the now closed door that led to the street. Will he ever come back to me? she wondered and shook her head sadly when everything stayed quiet around her.

With a deep breath she climbed up the rest of the stairs and knocked at the shabby door to her apartment. Four times.

Liz glanced up when the expected knock came, her heart pounding in spite of the knowledge that it was the agreed signal to let her know it was Maria. She grabbed the arm of the couch and pulled herself up, looking down and wondering if she would ever see her feet again.

Before her body had started to change with the pregnancy she had never understood comments she had overheard from pregnant women. Things like never seeing their feet again or feeling as big as a house... well, she sure as hell understood them now! And she hated it... hated everything about it. She and Max were supposed to be together for this, she thought angrily. They were supposed to be together and safe, not separated... not living in some shitty, rundown apartment that was drafty and falling apart while he was someplace with people who only wanted to hurt him.

She brushed her tears away angrily and reached up to unlock the door for Maria, pulling it open and shuffling back out of the way.

The other girl could sense something was wrong the moment Liz opened the door. She dropped the sack of food on the floor next to her and kicked the door shut with her foot before hurrying to get her best friend over to the couch, taking her in her arms and whispering into her hair. “Liz, sweetie,” she started when her friend’s sobbing became stronger. “You have to breathe, okay?” Her hand came up to caress her friend’s back.

Liz tried to fight back the emotions that were suddenly so overwhelming, but it was useless. Everything was wrong. She had never expected to be living her life running from the FBI, but she had accepted it because it meant she had Max in her life. And Maria, too. It had helped so much for them to have each other to help them to adjust to the nomadic way of life they had been forced to undertake in order to keep the men they loved in their lives.

“You’re not alone, Liz. I’ll always be with you, okay?” Maria tried to calm her down. She knew that Liz wasn’t just missing her man, she was also scared about the fact that she was pregnant and in her fifth month, running from the FBI, and the permanent danger they were in didn’t help matters either.

She knew Maria would never leave her alone, but she missed Max horribly and she was scared for him. “What am I gonna do, Maria? I need him... I can’t do this without him.” She clutched at her best friend’s shirt as another bout of tears flooded her eyes.

“Yes, you can,” Maria insisted. “And someday he’ll come back, okay? And as long as he’s away I’m here with you and we’re gonna be just fine. I promise you.”

She hoped she sounded at least a little more convincing than she felt. The truth was, Maria didn’t know how they would manage their lives once the baby was born, but she had to be strong, strong for her best friend who needed her.

Liz reached for a tissue from the box on the coffee table, huffing irritably when it tipped to one side because one of the legs was shorter than the others. “I’m sorry, Maria... I know you’re missing Michael like crazy and you’re worried about him.”

Maria stayed silent. She couldn’t talk about Michael and most of the time she tried to push every thought of him far away and concentrated on helping Liz.

“So, what’d you bring for dinner?” she asked when Maria deliberately ignored the opening. Maria was always quick to console her and help her when she was down, but her friend stubbornly refused to allow her to help her the same way.

“Burgers and fries... again, sorry.”

Liz shrugged. Nothing seemed to have any flavor anyway. “Hey, it’s food, right? That’s really all that matters.”

Maria snorted. “At least I convinced him to make us a good Christmas dinner for tomorrow. I’ll bring it with me when my shift ends.”

“It’s not very festive in here, is it?” she asked as she looked around the dreary little apartment.

Maria made a face. “No, not really.”

“Antonio said we could have that scraggly little tree in the break room.” She finished drying her face and laughed quietly. “Maybe we could get him to bring it up in the morning and I’ll fix it up a little bit before your shift is over.”

“I think he’ll do that, yeah,” Maria said and stood up to get the food.

“Okay.” She felt a little bit better so she decided to eat before the depression came back.

“Oh, and look at that.” Maria grabbed something out of the bag she had carried upstairs and grinned. “I’ve got ice cream for dessert.”

“Vanilla?” She couldn’t help it, vanilla was her favorite flavor.

“Of course,” Maria answered, playfully shocked. “What else d’you think I would bring?”

Liz made a face at her. “Just checkin’.”

Maria walked over to the little kitchen in their apartment and put the food down on the small table that was only big enough for two people to sit together comfortably. “Are ya coming over here, Mommy?”

“My ankles are swelling again... why can’t I be one of those women who just breeze through pregnancy?” She followed Maria over to the table, her movements so slow she felt like was barely moving.

“Well, other women aren’t carrying an alien baby.”

“I suppose not... you’d think alien DNA would make it simpler though,” she grumbled as she tried to find a comfortable position in the chair. She had gotten big enough that she couldn’t sit up close to the table anymore.

Maria watched her best friend and frowned. “You think an alien baby maybe grows faster than a normal human baby?”

“I have no idea. The doctor seems to think everything is normal, so...” She shrugged. She went to the free clinic a few miles away, a place where no questions were asked and services only cost the bare minimum. She knew she couldn’t risk going someplace that would want a lot of personal information, but she also didn’t want to jeopardize her baby’s health.

Maria sighed. “We should probably read some stuff about giving birth at home, huh?”

“God, what a scary thought!” Liz poked at her hamburger, taking the top bun off and reaching for the bottle of hot sauce on the table.

“I know.” Maria sat down on the other side on the table and stared on her food. She didn’t feel like eating anything.

“I don’t even know if I’m having a boy or a girl.” Liz doused a pickle with hot sauce before putting it in her mouth and chewing on it thoughtfully. “Dr. Starnes gave me the sonogram picture when I went last week, but I didn’t look at it.”

“You didn’t? Why?”

Liz fished another pickle off of her burger and repeated the process. “I don’t know... I’m not sure how much more real it can get,” she said, motioning to her stomach, “but... I just... it didn’t feel right to know without Max being there, too.”

Maria placed one hand over Liz’s on the table. “But we can have a look at it together if you want to.”

Liz bit her bottom lip uncertainly. “I know I’m gonna have to eventually. We don’t have a lot of money and we’ll need to know... Max will understand that.”

“Well, if ya wanna wait it’s okay. We can buy yellow and green stuff, those colors work for a girl or a boy.”

Liz nodded, but remained silent. “I appreciate that, but I think I’m gonna wait a little longer, Maria.” She stared at her burger, wishing she had an appetite. “I also think I’m gonna go lay down for a little while after dinner.”

“Yeah, okay, I need to get down and work for another three hours at eight anyway.”

“Ungh, again?” She knew they had to take whatever hours were available, but sometimes it just sucked more than others. “What time do you have to work tomorrow?”

“10am to about 6pm I guess.”

“I can’t believe they’re open on Christmas Eve.”

“Yeah, I know. But I’m gonna get extra cash for workin’ tomorrow, so it’s gonna be fine.”

“I wish I could work more hours to help out, Maria... you do so much...”

The other girl shook her head. “No, you need to rest, Liz. And I’m okay with this.” Honestly, she wanted as much work as she could get because she needed the distraction.

Liz didn’t have the strength to argue with Maria about the situation and there was a part of her that was envious of her friend’s ability to take on the extra hours because she knew it occupied her mind.

*****

Maria opened the door to their apartment quietly and slipped inside. Her shift had taken longer than expected and it was already after midnight. Her feet hurt and she felt exhausted – hopefully she could get at least a few hours of dreamless sleep. She walked around the room in the dark, just the lights from the streets outside offering her some light to guide her way.

“Maria?” Liz asked quietly, once she was sure it was her friend and not some stranger, who had been tracking them.

“Yeah, why are you still awake?” She walked over to sit next to her friend on the edge of the bed.

Liz shook her head and silently cursed the way she was so emotional anymore. It was only getting worse the further she got into the pregnancy. “I can’t get comfortable,” she said as she shifted for the hundredth time since lying down. “My back hurts.” She sighed. “My feet hurt, my ankles are swelling, I feel like I’ve gotta pee every five minutes...”

Maria brushed a strand of her away from Liz’s face. “Let me just have a quick shower and then we’re gonna do the ‘let Maria rub your back until you fall asleep thing’, okay?”

“Okay,” she said tiredly. “How was your shift?”

“Busy. That jerk from last week was back again and tried to flirt with me.”

Liz smirked softly. “I’m sure you put him in his place... again.”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course I did.”

“Uh-huh.” She rested against the pillows and watched Maria as she stood and started gathering what she needed for her shower. “What’d you do?”

“Huh?”

“Last week you dumped his order in his lap... which you ended up havin’ to pay for. Granted, I’d have done the same thing if he had grabbed my ass like that, but that’s not the point.”

Maria shrugged with a saucy grin. “Put some stuff in his drink... tabasco for example.”

Liz giggled, knowing from firsthand experience what it was like to take a big drink of soda and not expecting it to be mixed with hot sauce.

Maria laughed. “He’s definitely no alien.”

“Just a mere human, huh?” It felt good to laugh.

“Yeah, ya should’ve seen his disgusted face.”

“Ungh, I remember the first time that happened to me... tobasco in cherry Coke...” She shuddered at the memory.

“Yeah... it’s not really anything you want to taste.”

“No. Although I have started craving it on my food.”

“But you’ve got a good reason for it. Your baby has alien genes.”

“It has to be the baby,” Liz insisted. “I can’t possibly like that combination.” She made a face. “I had a bowl of ice cream after you went to work and I put tabasco sauce on it!”

“Ewww!” Maria made a face.

“See? The worst thing is I enjoyed it! All I’ve got to say is it had better be the pregnancy.”

“Alright, alien-girl, I’ll be right back.” Maria walked into the tiny bathroom and closed the door. She shivered slightly. The room wasn’t really warm even if it didn’t even have a window. She turned the shower on and started to strip down to nothing, glancing at herself in the mirror in front of her. She looked awful. Her eyes seemed to have lost any life, her skin was pale and she had lost almost ten pounds since the day Michael had been ripped away from her.

She stepped into the shower when the water began to warm up. It would never actually turn really hot, but she had already gotten used to that. As soon as the water hit her body, her thoughts went back to the day almost four month ago. It had been raining heavily when Max, Liz, Michael and she had run through the streets of a small town in the state of New York. They had been discovered by some FBI agents when they had gone out for some stuff they had needed, clothes, food...

After running criss-cross through the town for several hours, they had realized that there was no way to get rid of the agents if they all stayed together. Maria could remember the moment all too well when Michael had grabbed her arm to pull her into a dark alley. “We have to split up,” he had told her, breathing harshly from the running.

She had shaken her head wildly. “No, no, we can’t...”

“Maria, listen to me, we can’t get rid of them this way. I want you to take Liz and you head this way,” he had gestured further into the dark alley. “Max and I are gonna distract them so you can get away safely.”

Maria had held his head in her hands. “But what about you? They’ll get you. I can’t live without you, Michael.”

“You won’t,” he had promised. “Max and I will find you in a few days.” He had glanced around the corner. The agents weren’t far away anymore. “You need to go now. Promise me you’ll follow our plans, Maria. No matter if Max and I are back in time, you go along the plan, do ya hear me?”

Maria’s tears as she recalled that memory mixed with the water running down her body. He had given her one last brief kiss before he had called Max and they had gone in a different direction and she’d had to pull herself together and to be strong for Liz and keep moving.

She had done what he had asked of her, even though every new town meant getting further away from him... wherever he was right now. Maria bit her inner cheek to keep herself from sobbing. She didn’t want Liz to hear her falling apart. She had to be strong for her, give her the feeling that they could survive. The truth was, she was scared like hell and the thought of the fast-approaching time when the baby would finally be born was scaring her even more. Where would they go with a baby? How would they find a way for Liz to give birth to the baby in a safe place?

Maria turned the shower off a few minutes later, after she had washed her hair and calmed down enough to control the tears again. She glanced at the mirror again and shook her head at her reflection. “You’ve gotta pull yourself together,” she told herself and started to dry off.

Liz grabbed the other pillow and tried putting it under her back... which worked for a few minutes. She was so frustrated with the lack of comfort she was experiencing and it was only compounded by her worry. She tried a new position and glanced at the strip of light visible beneath the bathroom door.

Maria thought she kept it hidden so well hidden, and to everyone else she did, but Liz knew how devastated she was over Michael’s capture. There was only one reason to spend so much time on an extra-long shower when the water was barely warm enough that it couldn’t be called cold. It was the only time she let her emotions really take hold and she allowed herself to think about what had happened.

By the time the water was shut off she was certain that the shower had long since turned cold, but she didn’t comment when Maria finally came back into the bedroom.

“I have a feelin’ the damn water gets colder every night,” she muttered as she walked over to the small closet to get a shirt she could wear overnight.

“Yeah, I guess we should be glad there isn’t a window in there... damn shower would probably have icicles hanging off of it from the draft.”

“Yeah.” She walked over to Liz again. “Okay, move.”

“You’re so bossy,” Liz grumbled. She didn’t really care, but she had to keep things on a level that Maria was comfortable with.

“What ya want me to rub first?” She sat down on the bed and stuck her feet under the blanket.

“My back... please.”

“Okay, can you turn to the side?”

Liz snorted and shifted, moving her pillow so she could rest against it. “That’s about as far as I’m gonna make it.”

Maria chuckled and moved further down under the blanket. “Alright, I’ll see what I can do.”
They had slept in the same bed more than once lately. The apartment was a tiny one bedroom efficiency and everything was contained in three small rooms. It was so much nicer to sleep that way, rather than alone. The room was always kind of cold and it felt less lonely with Liz next to her.
Last edited by Double Trouble on Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:15 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Fics: A Xmas Story - A Merry Mt. R. Xmas - Cupid's Revenge - Double Trouble - Double Date - Double Dare - Double Empire - Double Xmas Wish - In The Course Of A Lifetime - Mountains So High - Not A Question At All - Surrender - TIC TAC - Two Double Dates at Xmas

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Double Trouble
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Double Christmas Wish - (Canon/Mature/CC) - 12/24/09 -Part 2

Post by Double Trouble » Wed Dec 23, 2009 9:27 pm

keepsmiling7: Uh-oh, the saddest… really? We’re gonna have to fix that!

Maria and Liz have an awesome friendship.

Thanks!

You’re not alone there!

80s_UnLove_Child: We’ll find out more about the guys in this next part. Kyle and Isabel won’t be in the fic, other than a brief mention.

Earth2Mama: Well, this one’ll be a short one, lol!

Yeah, not an easy time for our girls. We’ll find out more about the guys in this next part. We should be posting the final part for this one the Sunday after Christmas.

mary mary: Wow, thanks! Ah, the catch, lol! Hmm… maybe we should’ve added a “y’all” to the end of our Merry Christmas wish… we intended it for everyone, promise!

kismet: Howdy! Thanks!

Well, when we couldn’t extend any of the scenes, we got to talkin’ and this is what happened, lol! We’re so glad you enjoyed it!

We hope ya had a rockin’ birthday!

The girls’ friendship is something we should all be so lucky to have in our lives! It’s worth more than all the money in the world.

We’ll see!

Kyle and Isabel are separated from the other two couples, but they’re safe.

RhondaAnn: Hopefully they’ll find each other soon.

Natalie36: Thanks! We’re glad you’ve enjoyed it so far!

begonia9508: Isabel and Kyle won’t be in the fic, but they’re safe. Max and Michael, we’ll find out more about them in this next part.

Eva: Thanks!

Keep the hope alive!

futuremrsmcdreamy: Thanks, and Merry Christmas to you, too!

Alien_Friend: Sometimes that’s the easiest way to deal with your own pain, to focus on someone else’s.

We’ll find out more about the guys in this next part.


Part 2

Maria blinked against the light that came into the room through the window. It seemed even brighter because of the reflection off of the snow that seemed to be all over the place these days. She snuggled further down under the blanket to enjoy the warmth surrounding her for a few more moments before she had to get up to get ready for the day.

Liz was finally sleeping peacefully next to her. She had been awake half of the night, complaining about her aching back. It would be so much easier with the guys around, Maria thought sadly. They would have more money to afford a decent apartment with more than just one bedroom and it would be warm and comfortable. Even having Isabel and Kyle around would’ve made things easier, but they had separated from the group over a year before and were no longer in the country.

She refused to think about that any longer and pushed the blanket back to get out of bed, hissing when her bare feet touched the cold ground. “Damn it,” she muttered under her breath, quietly enough that she wouldn’t wake her friend. The more she could sleep, the better it would be for her and the baby.

She went through the room on her tiptoes to find some clothes she could wear under her waitress uniform. The door of the tiny closet made an awful squeaking sound when she opened it. “Shit.” She turned to the bed and saw Liz slightly shifting her feet.

Great, she’ll be awake in no time now, Maria thought and turned to the closet again.

Liz stretched while trying to stay under the covers because she knew how cold it was in the room. She barely opened her eyes enough to see Maria getting dressed. “Is it already time for you to go to work?” she rasped, still half-asleep.

“Almost, I wanted to run out first to get some things from the grocery store. You need anything?”

Liz snuggled back under the covers. “Huh-uh.”

“Guess that means no?”

“Nothin’ you could get at the store,” she said quietly.

Maria felt her heart tighten at her friend’s sad tone. She walked over to sit on the edge of the bed and caressed Liz’s hair. “I’m gonna bring you some cool DVD’s from the video store, okay?”

Liz nodded, blinking back the tears that were trying to escape. “Nothin’ too sappy though, okay?”

“No, I was thinking something like Terminator or Transformers,” she said with a grin.

She just snorted. “Safe from sappy with those choices,” she muttered.

“Alright girl, I’ll have to go or I’m gonna be late for work. Let’s see if I can get Antonio to bring you the tree. You should probably get dressed.”

“Yeah, I’m completely irresistible with the beached whale look that I’ve got goin’ on.”

Maria rolled her eyes. “Come on Liz, you’re pretty.”

“Um-hmm... everything on my body’s swollen. Let me tell you how pretty I feel.”

“I promise you, other than your belly, nothing looks swollen, hun.”

“Doesn’t feel that way,” Liz grumbled. “I wish you didn’t have to go to work today.”

“I’ll see if I can get out earlier than planned, okay?”

“Really? That’d be nice.” She hated to sound like a big crybaby, but she didn’t want to be alone on Christmas Eve.

“You won’t be alone, Liz. Even if I can’t get out any earlier, the restaurant is closing at 6pm today, so I’ll be here by 7pm latest.”

“Yeah, I know.” She forced herself to sound more positive because she didn’t want to bring Maria down too. “And I’ll be able to spend some time decorating the tree, so it’ll be okay.”

“I’ll see if I can find some other decorating stuff from the restaurant so you’ll be occupied even longer.”

Liz smiled. “Okay. Can you tell Antonio to wait a little bit before he brings the tree up? I think I’ll take a shower and try to wake up a little more.”

“I will,” Maria agreed and finally started to walk to the door. “I’ll bring the groceries home before I leave for work, so I’ll see you in about an hour or so.”

“Alright, be careful. It looks like it snowed again last night so the sidewalk’s probably gonna be icy.”

“Yes, Mommy,” Maria joked before heading out the door.

Liz rolled her eyes and glared at the cold space between the warm bed and the bathroom. Oh, well, it wasn’t likely to suddenly be nice and toasty in the room so she might as well get up and get the worst of it over with. She forced her mind to stay away from the constant nagging worries that plagued her as she hurried through her morning routine.

She took her time drying her hair, enjoying the warmth from the dryer and waving it over her whole body just to feel the heat. Damn she hated this cold apartment! She finally had to put the hair dryer away and slowly made her way into the kitchen, smiling when she realized that Maria had turned the oven on to help heat the kitchen and living area a little more. She hovered over the open oven door, rubbing her hands together as she debated whether or not she could face another morning of oatmeal for breakfast. Ungh, God, she hated oatmeal! But, it was cheaper than buying things like eggs and bacon and it lasted a lot longer.

She glanced over her shoulder when she heard the knock she had been waiting for and her heart started to pound when she realized it wasn’t Maria. Only three knocks... not four like she and Maria had agreed upon. It was probably only Antonio, she thought, chastising herself for her immediate fear. She shook her head and turned to stare at the door when the knock repeated. Why didn’t he just leave the tree on the floor by the door? Maria would’ve told him to do that, she was sure of it.

Her eyes widened and her panicked gaze dropped to the doorknob when it slowly started to turn. It wasn’t Antonio! He would never just walk into the apartment without an invitation. She looked around, searching for something to use as a weapon and reaching for the frying pan sitting on the stove. She crept along the edge of the wall, heart lodged in her throat as she plastered herself to the wall behind the door. Yeah, she thought, no one will ever see your big body sticking out.

The door eased open slowly and her eyes widened when she saw a hand curl around the edge moments before a tall man took a step into the apartment. He was wearing a thin jacket, too thin to provide any protection from the bitter cold outside, and she could see the tremors shaking his tall, thin frame. For just a moment she felt sympathetic towards him, certain that he was just looking for someplace to get in out of the cold, but then she realized that he had broken into her apartment. He may be cold and hungry, but he could also be dangerous. She knew from the years she and her friends had been running from their enemies that the way a person looked didn’t necessarily reveal the truth about who and what they were. She saw him slowly begin to turn and knew that she would lose the element of surprise the moment he saw her and she took a deep breath before lifting the frying pan over her head with the intention of smashing it down against the back of his head.

As she brought the frying pan down with as much strength as she could muster the man swung around and his right hand shot out, grabbing her hand with enough force to make her drop the pan. He pinned her to the wall as the pan clattered to the floor noisily and the grip on her wrist tightened until it became painful. She gritted her teeth against the pain and her gaze shot up to meet his, intending to scream, but it froze in her throat.

Max Evans had been certain he had chosen the wrong apartment and made a grave error when the woman had tried to attack him. He had reacted without thinking, but it had only taken seconds to realize that his attacker was a pregnant woman. And only seconds more to realize who that woman was.

“Liz,” he whispered roughly, his gaze slowly moving over her.

“Max?” She couldn’t believe that he was standing right in front of her. Maybe she had gone back to sleep after Maria left?

His hand trembled as he reached out to gently place it over her swollen belly. Over the past few months there were times when he had been certain that he would never see her again. “Liz...” he choked out.

Liz followed the movement of his hands with her eyes. She could feel the baby moving the moment he touched her. “I can’t believe it,” she whispered.

Max felt the tiny movement and his eyes darkened with moisture. His throat thickened when the baby kicked again and he slowly raised his head to look into his wife's eyes. “I tried to get to you sooner, but...” He shook his head tiredly.

Liz couldn’t help the giant sob that escaped her lips and she crashed into his arms.

He gathered her close, as close as their baby would allow, and he whispered ragged reassurances as he gently rocked her. He rubbed her back in small circles, trying to soothe her and calm her down. His own tears tracked silently down his cheeks as he thought about what she must’ve been through while he had been gone.

“Tell me this isn’t a dream,” she whispered again and again against his neck. “I’m afraid of waking up at any second.”

“It’s not a dream,” he promised. He leaned back just enough to look down into her face. “God, I’ve missed you,” he said gruffly as he reached up to trace his fingertips over her face. “You’re so beautiful, Liz.” He had been terrified that he was never going to see her again.

She smiled weakly. “I’m fat.”

He chuckled and shook his head. “You’re not fat,” he countered. “You’re carryin’ our baby and as impossible as I thought it was, you’re even more beautiful now.”

Her hands came up to caress his face while she stared up into his dark eyes. “I was so scared. I can’t have a baby on my own.”

“I’m here now, Liz, and you’re not alone.” He glanced around, suddenly realizing that she was alone. “Where’s Maria? Is she with Michael?”

“With Michael?” She frowned. “Isn’t he with you?”

He shook his head. “We got separated during our escape... that was a couple weeks ago, so I just assumed that he had found you guys first.”

She shook her head. “He’s not here.”

“But Maria’s here with you, right?”

“Yeah, she just left to buy some stuff we need.”

“She gonna be back soon?”

“I think so, but just for a short while before her shift starts.”

He glanced around the tiny apartment, hating that the girls had been forced to stay in such bad conditions. “You need to be someplace warmer,” he said, feeling the chill that permeated the room.

“We couldn’t afford anything nicer. I’m not allowed to work much and with only Maria earning extra money from picking up extra hours it just wasn’t possible.”

Max nodded, understanding the reality of the situation and hurting because she had been put in this position because of him. “We’re goin’ to a hotel, Liz. Soon as Maria gets back,” he said.

“I don’t care where we live as long as you’re with me again,” she mumbled and hugged him tighter.

“I’m not goin’ anywhere.” His hand wandered down to her belly again and a slight smile graced his lips when he felt the small kick in response to his touch. “How far along are you?”

“Ouch,” Liz hissed, “the baby seems to know you pretty good. It never moves when Maria puts her hands on my belly. Fifth month according to the doctor.”

Max’ eyes flew to hers. “You’ve been to a doctor?” he asked fearfully. Doctors... men in white lab coats... painful medical tests... He shut his eyes against the horrific memories, too fresh to completely be forgotten.

Liz grabbed his hands when she felt him tense up. “What’s wrong Max? I had to make sure everything is fine with the baby.”

“Alien DNA, Liz... we don’t know how much the baby will have. What if they detect that?” He couldn’t control the fear in his voice and he hated that.

“No, no, Max, calm down. They didn’t take any blood from me or anything, okay? They were just doin’ the ultrasound thing.”

His shoulders slumped in relief. “Sorry, I know you wouldn’t do anything to put yourself or the baby in danger... it’s just...” He shook his head and looked away. “So, you and the baby, you’re both fine?”

“We’re fine,” she said, wanting him to calm down. He was so tensed up, it was scary. “What’d they do to you, Max?” she asked quietly, fearing the answer.

He opened his mouth to answer her, but the words refused to come out. “I can’t...” he shook his head, “I can’t talk about it... not yet.”

“Okay,” she gestured to the couch. “Wanna sit down?”

He nodded and bit back his irritation at the conditions she had been living in.

She led him to the couch and they both sat down. “C’mere,” she said and pulled him closer to her body. Weird, she thought, she had always pictured the moment they met again in the opposite way. She had always thought she would be the one who would need to be cared for in that moment. Right now, she knew that Max was the one who was craving care.

“This isn’t right, Liz. You shouldn’t have had to live like this.”

“It’s okay, Max. That isn’t your fault. We knew that something like this could happen.”

Before he could respond he heard four sharp knocks on the door and he froze for a moment, fearing discovery by their enemies. He looked down when he felt Liz’s hand curl over his arm in a gesture of comfort.

Maria searched for the keys in her bag and turned them into the door to unlock it. She kicked it open with her foot and lifted the second sack from the ground to walk into the little apartment. “God, I hate shopping on Christmas Eve; people are out in the markets as if they’re gonna close and never open up again,” she rambled while balancing the groceries in her arms.

Max remained silent as she went on and on about shopping on the holidays. He didn’t know what to say to her; he had expected Michael to already be there.

“Can you believe that? An old lady dared to push right in front of everyone waiting in line at the register. I told her I needed to hurry ‘cause I had to work, but she didn’t care. Pfff, seriously, this lady probably doesn’t even have a job anymore and all time in the world.” Maria placed the things she’d bought on the little table in the kitchen and finally turned around when she caught movement from the corner of her eyes. “Max,” she breathed and dropped the orange she was still holding in her hand when she recognized him sitting on the couch.

Max swallowed hard as he pushed himself to his feet and crossed the space between them to take Maria’s hand before she fainted. He saw the way her eyes immediately darted around the room, looking for some sign that Michael had returned with him.

“Whereishe?” she blurted out in a rush, scared of his answer.

“I... I don’t know.” He took a deep breath. “I thought he’d get to you guys first... I’m sure he’s just takin’ extra precautions and makin’ sure it’s safe, Maria.”

Her eyes watered and she had to sit down on one of the chairs because her knees felt weak. “You don’t know,” she repeated in a whisper, not even paying any attention to what he said after that.

“Maria, listen to me,” he said insistently, “don’t start thinkin’ the worst now...” He crouched down in front of her, wincing as pain exploded in his right leg. He reached up to lift her chin so he could look into her eyes. “Hey, he’ll be here, Maria, you’ve gotta believe that.”

She nodded absent-mindedly and took some deep breaths. Pull yourself together, DeLuca, at least one of them is back and Liz needs Max desperately. “I’m glad you’re back, Max,” she finally said and hugged him.

“I was tellin’ Liz that we should move over to a hotel,” he said as he hugged her back. “You both need to be someplace better.”

But what if he doesn’t find us there, Maria wondered, knowing it was ridiculous because he didn’t know they lived in this apartment either. “I have to be at work in a few minutes.”

Max watched her, wondering if she would refuse to stay in a hotel for fear that Michael would somehow not find her there. “I’d like to get her out of this drafty apartment as soon as possible... what time do you get off? We’ll come back and get you.”

“I don’t know yet, probably around six.”

“Will you go to the hotel, Maria?” He didn’t like the thought of her staying at the apartment alone.

She nodded. “Yeah, I’ll go.”

Max gave her a small smile. “We’ll just take what’s absolutely necessary for the next couple of days, okay? We’ll come back and get the rest after the holidays.”

“Okay. Ya think it’ll be safe to leave him a note? Ya know in case...”

“I think he’ll find you no matter where you are, but if you need to leave a note just put it in a code only the two of you would know.”

She nodded, brushing her tears away as she stood up. “I need to get ready for work.”

Max held tightly to the edge of the table as he pulled himself to his feet. “We’ll see you about seven then, so you’ll have time to pack a few things and leave your note.”

“Okay.” Maria glanced at Liz and tried to force a smile. She WAS glad that Max was back, but she couldn’t help feeling a little jealous.

*****

Liz let herself rest on the comfortable couch in their big warm hotel room and sighed in relief. This was so much better than that shitty apartment she and Maria had lived in the past few weeks. This was comfortable, it was warm, and there were all kinds of little Christmas things around the room. The best part of the decorations was the Christmas tree right next to the fireplace. It almost looked like the ones she used to have in Roswell with her parents.

Her thoughts immediately turned towards home and she found herself wondering if her Mom and Dad were thinking about her right now. A single tear ran down her cheek and she brushed it away, rubbing her belly slightly. For the first time in the last few months she wasn’t afraid of becoming a mother. She knew that she and her baby would be fine as long as Max was in their lives. She missed Roswell and her parents, but she would never give her own family up to go back home. There hadn’t been a single day she had regretted her decision to go with Max and never go back.

Liz reached next to her to get one of the delicious sandwiches that Max had ordered as soon as they had gotten to their room. That’s how food was supposed to taste, she thought and avoided the fact that they couldn’t really afford it. Max had booked the best two-bedroom suite in the hotel for them; he wanted to make them feel a little bit more at home during the holidays. Sometimes it was really practical to have an alien around who could change a ten dollar bill into a hundred dollar bill.

It wasn’t like they did that a lot. Just sometimes… desperate situations called for desperate measures and right now, they really needed something better than what any of them had experienced in the last few months.

She lifted her gaze when Max came out of the bathroom after a long hot shower. “Hey, Daddy,” she said quietly and gave him a soft smile when he came towards her and sat down on the couch as well.

Max settled into the comfortable cushions and carefully lifted his right leg up, propping it on the coffee table in front of them. He didn’t know what all had been given to him in the numerous needles he had been poked with, but one of the cocktails had disrupted his ability to use his healing powers. It was coming back slowly, but it was still taking time for him to recover each time he used that ability.

He pulled her into his arms, holding her close as his fingertips traced over her features yet again. He couldn’t get enough of just being able to touch her and feel her against him. “I’ve missed you so much,” he whispered.

She shook her head. “I can’t even tell you how scared I was that you wouldn’t come back. And the fact that we’re having a baby didn’t make it any easier. Maria was so brave all the time. She tried to convince me that we’d manage it together.”

“I can’t believe we’re gonna have a baby,” he said, shaking his head. “I wasn’t expecting that.”

She glanced at him seriously. “We’re gonna manage this together, right?”

“I couldn’t be happier, Liz. I’ve got you back in my life and you gave me the best Christmas present.” He placed his palm on her belly, smiling at the tiny kick that had quickly become so familiar.

Liz smiled and lifted her shirt up a little so Max could feel her belly skin on skin. She blinked a few times when a tiny glowing handprint suddenly appeared from the inside of her belly, where Max’ hand had been seconds before. “Oh, my God.”

Max’ breath caught in his throat and he grabbed his wife’s hand, placing both of their hands against her belly. “Can you feel the connection?” he asked, his eyes shining with love as he looked at her.

She nodded. “I’ve felt a strong connection to our baby for a while now, I just... I just didn’t know that you would feel it, too.”

“It’s so... God, I don’t even have the words to describe it, Liz! Is it a boy or a girl?”

“I don’t know. But I’ve got the picture from the sonogram. You wanna have a look at it?”

He nodded wordlessly.

“Okay, let me get it.” She pushed herself up from the couch slowly and walked over to the wardrobe next to the front door where she had dropped her bag earlier. After a minute she had found what she was looking for and she started to move back to Max, placing the little envelope in his hands. “I haven’t seen it either.”

He shifted around, ignoring the ache in his leg so he could pull her down to sit between his legs. He tugged her back against his chest and held the envelope out in front of them. His fingers followed the edge of the envelope before unfolding the flap and reaching inside to pull the slick sheet of paper out.

They stared at the photo for several long seconds before Liz started to giggle. “Okay, seriously, I can’t tell anything from this picture.”

Max turned it from one side to the other, laughing softly. “Y’know... if I didn’t know this’s a picture of our baby I’d swear it was a picture of a... I don’t even know... it looks kinda like a lima bean.”

“Okay, I guess we won’t find out if it’s a boy or a girl this way. And don’t you dare call our baby a lima bean again.”

“I’m just sayin’,” he said, his laughter rumbling in his chest. He pointed at something on the picture. “What’s this here? Is that his...?”

Liz took a look at it again. “You think so?”

“I’m not sure...” He held the picture up to the light and turned it over when he realized something had been written on the back. “Guess not,” he said with a grin. “Doc wrote ‘it’s a girl’ on the back.”

“Seriously?” Liz asked and smiled brightly. She plucked the picture out of his hands and read the words for herself. “A baby girl.”

“A little girl that’s gonna look just like her mama,” he whispered against her ear.

“You don’t know that yet,” she denied.

“I do know. You are married to an alien after all,” he said, pushing a hint of self-importance in his tone.

She nodded thoughtfully. “How did ya find us, Max? I mean, we agreed that Maria and I would follow the plan, but this is a big town.”

“It’s not that big, but I could ‘feel’ you and the closer I got the stronger that feelin’ was. It would’ve been a lot stronger if you’d hit me over the head with that fryin’ pan though.”

She laughed and it felt so good to laugh again with him. “I’m sorry.”

He pressed a kiss to her temple as he rubbed her wrist where he had grabbed it earlier. “I shouldn’t have been so rough with you.”

“You didn’t know it was me, Max. I’m okay. My back is hurting much more than my wrist, believe me.”

“Your back? Because of the baby?” he asked, concerned.

“Yeah and maybe because of the shitty bed I’ve slept in lately.”

“Why don’t we go lie down and let’s see what we can do about that.”

“What time is it?”

“A little before 5, so we’ve got some time before we need to go get Maria.”

“Then I’m really curious about what you’re gonna do about my back, Max.”

He smiled and helped her to her feet, leading her over to the bed and sitting on the edge facing her. He held her hands in his as he looked up at her. “Can I see you, Liz?”

“Well, it’s pretty hard to not see me these days, huh?”

He rolled his eyes at her teasing tone. “Can I see ‘all’ of you?”

She smiled. “You know you don’t have to ask about that.”

He stretched his arms out behind him and leaned back on his hands as he nodded at her.

“You know there was time when you helped me with this,” she teased and started to move her shirt out of the way.

“I wanna savor this moment,” he said softly as his eyes followed her hands.

She glanced down at her worn jeans and plucked at the already open zipper. “Can’t get it closed for a while now.”

He chuckled warmly and motioned for her to continue.

She nodded and slowly pushed her jeans down her legs and stepped out of them before she lifted her gaze to Max’ again.

His eyes traveled up over her body, seeing the changes that the pregnancy had caused. He sat up slowly and reached out to let his hands cradle her distended belly.

“Owww,” she complained when the baby directly kicked her belly in response to Max’ touch.

“I’m sorry,” he said, laughing, “that’s just fascinating... I can’t help it.”

“Uh-huh, I can tell you how fascinating it is.”

He leaned forward to press a kiss to her belly. “Does it hurt?” he asked, looking up at her.

“No, it doesn’t hurt, it’s just ya know, like I ate something wrong,” she joked.

His hands stroked her belly gently, his connection allowing him to feel the baby as she settled down to give her mama a break. His eyes moved over her again, taking his time, and he grinned as he met her gaze again. “Your breasts have gotten bigger,” he commented.

She turned to the side and wiggled her eyebrows. “You like?”

He growled low in his throat, taking her hand in his and tugging her close so she was standing between his knees. “You have to ask?”

She smiled down at him and took his face in her hands. “Are you okay, Max?”

He nodded. “I am now.” He leaned against her, resting his forehead on her belly as she carded her fingers through his hair. “There were times when it felt so hopeless,” he murmured.

“I know. I don’t know if I would’ve survived this without Maria.”

He pulled himself together as he leaned back and smiled up at her. “Hey, we’re supposed to be tryin’ to get rid of that backache.”

Liz nodded. “How’re we gonna do that? Ya know, I can’t lie down on my stomach, not possible.”

“You can lie on your side, right? That doesn’t squish the baby or anything?”

“No, side will work fine.”

“Is your right side okay?” he asked, knowing that laying on his right side was next to impossible the way his leg was hurting.

She crawled on the bed next to him. “Right side is fine.”

Max rested his hand against the small of her back. “This is where it hurts the most?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I wish I could’ve been with you through all of this, Liz,” he murmured, his lips brushing against her shoulder as he concentrated on harnessing his healing powers and focused them on her back as he massaged the aching area.

“As long as you’re here now and you’ll still be here when she’s born, everything’s good,” she mumbled.

“I’ll be there.” He closed his eyes as he struggled to force his powers to cooperate. It would drain him but he didn’t care; he wouldn’t let her suffer while it was within his abilities to stop it.

“Are you okay?” she asked when his hand remained on her back without any movement and she heard him gasping for air.

“I’m fine... just takes a little longer these days.” He knew being captured was something that had been out of his control, but he felt like he had failed her by not being there for her and their baby. “There it is,” he whispered, relieved when he felt the familiar tingling sensation that indicated his powers were working.

“You know you don’t have to do this, Max. It’s not that I’m seriously hurt or anything. All pregnant women go through this I guess.”

“Huh-uh,” he grunted. “I’m not worried about what all the other pregnant women go through... if I can keep you from hurtin’ I’m gonna do it.”

“I don’t want you in pain either.”

She turned slightly so that she was lying on her back looking up at him. “I know you’ve been through a lot and I can see you’re not feeling good, so you should save your strength for yourself, Max.”

He shook his head stubbornly. “I’m fine, Liz.”

She took his trembling hand that was resting on her side. “I can see you’re not, Max.”

“I am,” he insisted. “It’s just... I don’t know what they injected us with, but it... it inhibits my healing abilities. Before we escaped they weren’t working at all; that’s one of the reasons it took so long to get to you. My abilities started to come back slowly, but as they’d build back up I’d heal one of the injuries and it would completely drain me and I’d have to wait days to be able to do it again. Now it’s down to being a matter of hours.”

Liz bit the inside of her cheek painfully. “I wish I could’ve been there for you when they put you through so much pain.”

He shook his head. “I wouldn’t have wanted you to be there, Liz... I couldn’t have...” He swallowed hard and reached up to trace her lips with his fingers. “I love you,” he whispered as he leaned down to kiss her, finally feeling like he had come home when her arms came around him and she pulled him even closer.

*****

Antonio Ruiz watched the unusually quiet waitress as she handled the customers with a graveness that he had rarely seen from her. She had something heavy on her mind and he wondered if everything was alright with her roommate.

They kept to themselves most of the time; they worked their shifts, they were friendly, but they hadn’t made any friends and they never went out with any of the other waitresses. He waited until closing time when it was just the two of them in the small restaurant before he said anything.

“Maria, come talk to me, chica.”

“What ya wanna talk about?” She tried to sound surprised.

“Why you have the long face today? Everything is okay with the mamacita?”

“Yeah, she’s is doing great.”

“You are sad today... it is for the holidays, no?”

Maria shrugged. “Probably.”

“You wanna share with Antonio? I listen good,” he promised in his broken English.

Maria glanced up from where she was cleaning the floor. “Do we have some pie left?”

“Of course, chica... pumpkin? Apple?” He smiled and winked at her. “No, no... it is the chocolate, yes?”

“Yeah.” She walked over to the counter and wiped her hands on a towel. A glance at her watch told her that she still had enough time before Max and Liz would come back. Max and Liz, but not Michael.

“Why you’re alone, Maria?”

Damn, the guy just wouldn’t leave her alone. “I don’t have anyone, Antonio.”

He served up a slice of pie and set it on the counter for her. “But you did, eh?” He reached for a fork and set it on the plate. “Is in your eyes, chica, you know what true love is.”

She just nodded quietly and grabbed the fork to put it into the pie.

“He is... gone?” he asked carefully. It was obvious she was in distress and he didn’t want to make it worse.

She placed the fork aside when she realized she couldn’t eat a single bite and hid her face in her hands. “I don’t know where he is,” she mumbled sadly.

“It is not your...” He searched for the word in English, “meaning... to be apart?” He frowned. “You understand my question?”

She smiled sadly and nodded. “I didn’t leave him or anything.”

“He could not have left you, chica... you have much love for him.” He smiled sadly when she just looked at him. “I know love...”

“He didn’t leave me because he wanted to, he left because he had to,” she said and reached up to brush her tears away when they refused to stay inside.

“Do not give up on him, Maria.” He waved a hand around them. “Christmas, it is the time of miracles.”

She chuckled slightly. “I wish you were right, Antonio.”

He gasped slightly and frowned at her. “Senorita, you must believe in the time of miracles.”

She looked at him and didn’t bother to wipe her tears away anymore because it didn’t matter anyway. “I really want to, believe me. But nothin’ good has happened for a while now. Well,” she thought about Max returning earlier that day, “not for me at least.”

“Oh, chica,” he whispered sadly. “You no give up... you believe and the miracle, it will find you.”

“I hope you’re right,” she snuffled and turned away from him to get some of her self-control back.

“I pray for you when I go to the church tonight... you will see.”

“I’d better leave now. We won’t be spending the holidays in the apartment, Antonio, so don’t be surprised when you don’t see us around.”

“No worry tonight, Maria... I pray for you miracle.” He reached out to touch her arm for just a brief moment. “You tell me after Christmas about you miracle.”

“I will,” she said, not believing his words. She hopped up from her chair to leave the restaurant through the back door to walk upstairs to get her few things together before Max and Liz would be there to pick her up.

Antonio watched her walk outside and turn towards the entry that would take her into the building and up to the second floor where her apartment was. He would say an extra special prayer for her tonight, he thought as he lifted the crucifix he wore around his neck and pressed it against his lips for just a moment. She would see... miracles did exist.

Maria glanced around the small apartment when she entered it. There really wasn’t much stuff to pack. A few articles of clothing and the stuff from the bathroom… that was all. They had left all of their personal stuff behind... at the same time that she had lost her man.

She walked to the couch and sat down, lifting her legs up so she could hug them. I don’t even have a picture of him, she thought sadly. Suddenly she knew she couldn’t fight her emotions any longer and her throat tightened painfully as the first loud sob escaped her lips.



Merry Christmas, y’all!
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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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Double Christmas Wish - (Canon/Mature/CC) - 12/28/09 -Part 3

Post by Double Trouble » Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:27 pm

RhondaAnn: It’s gonna happen…

Earth2Mama: She’s reached the breaking point, but she’s gonna be okay.

So does Maria! We think Antonio’s right.

mary mary: Thanks, we’re glad you’re enjoying it! You just never know…

Alien_Friend: We hope so, too! There’s only one part left!

We’re so glad you enjoyed their reunion! He went through a lot to get back to his family, but for him that’s all that matters.

80s_UnLove_Child: Well, we’re sorry that we made you cry, but we do appreciate the compliment!

kismet: Y’know Liz will make sure he understands that he isn’t to blame.

We totally agree… let’s go see if we can find him.

We hope so, too!

begonia9508: Having Max back will take a lot of the pressure off of Liz and Maria too.
Michael won’t stop until he finds her!

L-J-L 76: Oh, my… lots and lots of questions. Okay, let’s see, where to start? Hmm, okay, here we go…

It was a good surprise for Liz, too! And what a relief! Max couldn’t stand for the girls to be in that apartment one moment longer. Maria is sad right now and of course it’s only amplified knowing that Max is back and she’s been denied a reunion with Michael, but hopefully Antonio’s prayers will be answered and Maria will get her Christmas miracle. Max will probably tell Liz in time, perhaps when the painful memories aren’t quite so fresh. Michael is trying to find his way back to Maria. Isabel and Kyle… we may find out more about them. We’ll see what happens when he finds her. We’re pretty sure Michael will be happy for Max and Liz, even if a baby will make things difficult. No worries, we love questions! Although, some of your questions won’t see resolution in the fic since it’s just a three-parter, but if ya want a really looong fic with lots of questions and answers we’ll be happy to shamelessly promote one of our other fics… Double Trouble.

Natalie36: Uh-oh, you’d better do what we did then… both!

keepsmiling7: The baby’s very happy that her daddy’s there!

We’re pretty sure Michael’s on his way.

Thanks for reading!

Eva: One wish down, one to go!

Capture and what followed didn’t go easy for either of them, but you can bet the girls will help them work through that pain.

We’ll see soon!

zaneri1: Thanks! Well, he’ll do his best to show up for Christmas!


Part 3

Max pressed the button for the fifth floor when he and Maria climbed into the elevator at the hotel they had just moved to. His heart had clenched tightly when he had found her in the tiny, cold apartment, crying and freezing, just a few minutes before. He knew it had to be hard for her, knowing that he was back and Michael was still out there somewhere.

Maria had desperately tried to find a way to leave Michael a note to tell him where they had moved to, but she hadn’t been able to figure out any way to describe their destination without revealing too much to their enemies, should they find the note first.

They had promised each other to be careful, whether someone was missing or not. Nobody should know where they had gone or who they really are. Maria knew that it was too dangerous to leave a note for Michael and Max had convinced her that he would find her, no matter where they went.

“Dinner should almost be ready by now,” Max said when the elevator started to move. “But I think you’ve got time to take a hot shower first.”

In spite of her worries and exhaustion, the thought of a hot shower was too good to resist. “That sounds good. Liz needed to get away from that crummy little apartment.” She bit her bottom lip before glancing from the numbers to Max. “What happened to you guys, Max?”

Max shook his head sadly. “They captured us shortly after we sent you and Liz in another direction and they took us to some kinda old factory near Tucson in Arizona.”

“They hurt you.” It was a statement of fact, not a question. She didn’t want to pry, didn’t want to bring up bad memories for him, but she needed to know about Michael.

Max nodded, the motion hardly visible.

“I’ve noticed you’re limping... something they did to you or a result of your escape?”

“We had to jump from a moving truck during our escape, that’s when it happened.”

“You haven’t healed it... why?”

“They did something... I don’t know. Our powers were gone for several weeks. They’re still weak and hard to use, but they’re getting stronger every day.”

“Max... was he hurt when the two of you escaped?”

“We were both hurt, Maria. But not too badly.... nothing life-threatening.”

“Michael doesn’t have the ability to heal the way you do though.” She suddenly turned and grabbed his shirt in her hands, gripping it tightly. “He always hides it when he’s hurt, so how do you know he wasn’t hurt badly?”

Max placed his hands over hers to keep her from ripping his shirt. “We spent several days together before we had to split up again. Believe me, Maria, he was doin’ okay.”

“Why can’t I ‘feel’ him then? You guys shouldn’t have been too far apart, but you’re here and he’s not...” She took a step back, wincing when she realized how that sounded. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean that the way it sounds. I’m just worried about him.”

“I don’t know where he is, Maria,” Max said helplessly. “Maybe he had to take a different way ‘cause the FBI was closin’ in on him again. I don’t know.” He sighed. “He would never come here if he isn’t 100% sure it’s safe for you, you know that.”

“I know. I’m sorry, Max. I am happy you’re back; Liz has needed you so badly. The past few months have been difficult.” She smiled slightly. “So, how’s it feel to know you’re gonna be a daddy?”

He couldn’t hide the smile. “It feels amazing. I really had no clue about it.” He looked at Maria and his face turned more serious. “I’m also really scared though, ‘cause the baby will mean even more responsibility and we’re always gonna live in danger.”

“Maybe it’s time for us to follow Isabel and Kyle’s example and get out of the country... the FBI wouldn’t have jurisdiction on foreign soil. I realize the unit chasing us doesn’t exist in an official capacity, but we might be safer somewhere that they don’t have an active presence.”

The *plong* of the elevator bell announced that they had reached the fifth floor and the door opened automatically. “Yeah, I thought about that, too, especially now. Liz won’t be able to be on a run all time. She needs a lot of rest and it wouldn’t be good for the baby either.”

“I know it wouldn’t necessarily solve all of our problems, but... maybe it would take some of the heat and stress off of us for a while.” She rubbed her temples tiredly. “It might be good to have everyone close by when Liz goes into labor.” She shrugged. “Somethin’ to think about, your highness,” she said, giving him a lightly teasing smile.

Max snorted and started to walk in the direction of their suite. “We took one with two bedrooms,” he told her before he stopped in front of room number 521.

Maria stepped inside when he unlocked the door and held it open for her. The warmth in the room was welcoming and she smiled as she looked around the living area.

“It’s much better than the other apartment,” Max said as he closed the door behind them.

“Not that it would take much to be better,” she said with a quiet chuckle.

“Hey, you two, dinner will be ready in about 20 minutes,” Liz called from the kitchen area.

Maria walked over to her friend, hugging her and placing one hand on her belly. “How’re you two doin’?” she asked, easily reading the happiness in Liz’s features. She could see the lessoning in the stress lines that had become so visible around her eyes.

Liz smiled brightly. “We’re fine. Can you believe this little girl kicks me every time Max touches my belly?”

“So, it’s a girl, huh?” Maria returned her smile. “Bet she’s gonna be a daddy’s girl.”

“Uh-huh, she’d better listen to her mommy, too.”

“Knowing her parents she’ll probably be a very well-behaved kid.” She snorted and shook her head. “Nothin’ like me and Michael’s kids,” she said without thinking.

“Oh, yeah,” Liz said, hoping that this wouldn’t turn into an awkward, sad moment.

Maria shook the thoughts off, knowing that if she got lost in them that it would only ruin the evening and the last thing she wanted to do was mess up her friends’ happiness. “I’m gonna go take a very long hot shower, girl. Don’t hold dinner for me if it’s ready before I’m out. You guys go ahead and eat.”

“Okay, but you have to eat something, Maria.”

“I will,” she promised.

“Okay,” she nodded to a door at the end of the room. “The bathroom’s over there.”

Maria smiled faintly and motioned to the doors on opposite sides of the main room. “And which room did the two of you take?”

“The left one, both rooms are identical.”

“And I’m sure the two of you have already put yours to good use,” Maria said with a grin. She winked and ducked out of the room before Liz had time to think of a comeback or throw something at her.

*****

Maria stared down at her still half-full plate. She couldn’t swallow another bite of it, even if it tasted really great. She wasn’t hungry at all. “Why don’t you guys go over to the TV and I’ll get the dishes done?” she suggested.

Liz gnawed on her bottom lip for a few moments, torn between staying with her friend who was obviously hurting and doing as Maria had suggested and going over to the living area and snuggling with Max.

Max took the decision out of her hands though when he thanked Maria and then escorted his wife out of the kitchen area. He knew she was glad he was back, but he also knew it wasn’t easy for Maria to see him and know that Michael was out there somewhere, possibly hurt, and trying to get back to her.

Maria watched them leave and go into the living area. She felt guilty for feeling jealousy towards Liz. It was so hard to be happy for her best friend right now and that’s why she had made the offer to take care of the dishes. Seeing those two together was like a slap in the face. And she knew Liz could see her hurt, but she wanted her to be happy.

“Let her be, Liz,” Max advised as he settled back into the couch cushions and pulled her back against his chest. “I know you wanna help her and be there for her, but...” He didn’t really know what else to say so he rested his chin on her shoulder and placed his hand on her belly, knowing their daughter would kick and distract Liz for a little while.

“It’s just not fair,” she mumbled and relaxed against him, smirking when the baby moved as soon as she felt Max’ touch.

“No, it’s not, but Michael’s a survivor, Liz. And you know how he is with her... he’ll find his way back to her.”

“I really hope so. We need to be all together.”

His hand moved to cup her chin, tipping her head back against his shoulder so he could kiss her. “We will be,” he whispered against her lips. “I know you have faith, so just hold onto that.”

Maria had taken her time cleaning up the kitchen, but after 45 minutes she was finished with all of it and she glanced at the couple on the couch. It was time to join them. She knew she had to so she started to walk towards them and took a seat in the armchair. “What’s on TV?”

Liz glanced up at Max. She hadn’t been paying any attention to the television.

He shrugged. “Just the same movies they play every year around Christmas.”

Liz shifted and snuggled as close to him as she could get. She really didn’t care about what was on TV.

Maria nodded and stared at the screen. She lifted her feet up from the ground, so she could wrap her arms around her legs.

“We can watch something else if ya want?” Max said, realizing that Maria was uncomfortable.

She shook her head and fidgeted in her seat. “Nah, whatever you’re watching is fine.” She shrugged. “I think I’m gonna head to bed here pretty soon anyway.”

“We can do something else,” Liz offered. “Play a game or something.” She didn’t want her friend to be alone and she knew there was no way Maria would find sleep anytime soon.

“You guys should enjoy your time together, and you should try to enjoy it alone.” Maria shook her head and smiled at the couple. “I know you want to be alone and believe me, I understand it and I promise I don’t hold that against you. It’s just... a little hard to be around right now,” she admitted honestly.

Max nodded. “You just tell us if you need anything, okay?”

“I will. But for now I think I’ll just tell you guys good night.” She pushed herself to her feet and moved towards her room.

“Good night,” Liz whispered and glanced up at Max, a little worried. It was Christmas Eve and nobody was supposed to be alone.

“Give it time,” he whispered.

*****

He walked through the silent streets, forcing his feet to keep moving despite the exhaustion threatening to pull him under. The wind was bitterly cold, blowing so hard that it felt like tiny knives flaying his skin. His head was ducked against the wind and the fat snowflakes that were beginning to fall once again, but he forced himself to continue on his agonizing journey.

Pain still radiated out from his muscles from a combination of questionable injections given to him during his imprisonment and the endless days he had spent on the run. He and Max had been forced to take different paths to throw their captors off and to lessen the threat of leading them back to the girls. They had agreed before their escape that if either of them was unable to shake their pursuers they would take a different path and lead them elsewhere.

He had located the apartment the girls had been staying in, but it had been deserted. He had walked around, touching things in hopes that he would feel something related to Maria, but that ability had been subdued by something in the injections he had been given. He had left the apartment, running into a Hispanic man coming out of a door next to the entrance to the stairs on the ground level.

The man had watched him for several minutes, gauging whether or not he was a threat, and he had suddenly straightened up and asked what he wanted. They had talked for several minutes before he had learned that Maria was still in the town, but the man didn't know where. He hadn’t missed her by much, and he wasn’t convinced that the man would’ve told him where she was if he did know; he seemed to be protective of her. That thought brought a smile to his chapped lips and he ducked his head against the biting wind as he turned another corner.

He had been searching since talking to the man the night before, but he hadn’t yet had any luck. Earlier in the evening he had realized that it was Christmas Day and he had started to search churches in the area, certain that she would be seeking comfort in one. How many times had she dragged him to a church in whatever town they were living in on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? He knew he would find her there if he could just find the right church.

He ignored the cold as he paused a moment, head held high as the bells of a church rang out, the sound seeming almost hushed in the wintry silence that surrounded him. He tried in vain to determine the direction the sound was coming from as the wind picked up again. “C’mon,” he muttered, “gimme a break just this one time... she doesn’t need to be put through this.” Neither did he, but there was no need to beg for himself. For her he would, but, no one else.

He looked around when the wind suddenly died down and the night was so silent he could hear the snow falling. The bell rang out one last time and he realized he hadn’t been listening close enough to determine what time it was. Faint echoes filtered through the air and he walked out to the middle of the deserted street, snow and frozen slush crunching underfoot as he turned in a small circle. The moon overhead cast its white light over the area, illuminating it and glinting off of... He squinted and for just a moment the light glinted off of something in the distance and a small smile graced his features.

It was a church steeple with a bell swaying gently as the wind started to blow again. He glanced up at the sky, eyes settling on the brightest star in the dark canvass. He nodded at the star, a silent thanks to whoever was out there watching over them, and took off in the direction of the church.

He was breathing hard by the time he reached the small church, surprised to find its doors unlocked. It was a sad commentary on the times that even churches locked their doors nowadays, he thought as he pulled it open and stepped inside out of the cold.

He took several steps inside, moving through the foyer and into the main room. His eyes locked on the woman sitting there, alone, her posture expressing a pain that wasn’t physical and his throat locked up as his hands closed over the top of the pew closest to him.

The church was old and small, but Maria wasn’t concerned with aesthetics as she sat in one of the pews, hands folded tightly as her forehead rested against them. She rocked slowly back and forth in her seat, silently praying for a miracle and listening as the bell in the tower above the church rang out the eleven o’clock hour.

It was Christmas night and she had left Max and Liz alone, happy for their reunion, but hurting deeply for the one that she had been denied. She didn’t want to do anything to detract from their happiness so she had decided to take a walk, hoping that by the time she returned they would have retired for the night. She had spent the day with them, having nowhere to go since most everything was closed for the holiday, including the restaurant. Without having work or caring for Liz to distract her it left her mind free to constantly worry over where Michael could be and how badly he might be hurt.

The sound of someone entering the church caught her attention, but at first she ignored it. Most likely someone else searching for a little peace, she mused. But after several minutes she realized that the person hadn’t moved to sit down and she turned slowly, glancing over her shoulder.

Michael held his breath when he saw her turn and look at him, certain that he had never seen a more beautiful sight. He straightened up, denying the aches and pains that were screaming at him, begging him to give in to them. “Maria,” he whispered, his voice strong despite his appearance.

She had to grab the backrest of the wooden bench tightly when she realized who was standing only a few feet away from her. Her heart started to pound wildly against her chest. Was it really him? Or was she finally going crazy in her loneliness? “Michael?” she breathed out, afraid that speaking too loudly would destroy the moment and she would find herself alone in the church again.

“You were expectin’ another alien-human hybrid to track you down in a church on Christmas night?” he asked, trying to make a joke and hating it when his voice cracked.

She just stared at him, hearing that he had said something, but not really understanding the words. “Michael...” she said again, as if saying his name would finally make her believe he was there.

His hand tightened around the bench for a moment before he took another couple of steps towards her. “It’s really me, Maria.”

Her eyes filled with tears as the realization that he was standing right in front of her hit her. “You’re here.”

“I’m here,” he said, unable to hold back the smile.

She suddenly jumped up from the bench and ran the short distance towards him, crashing into his arms as she cried in relief.

Michael barely managed to brace his feet in preparation for the impact of her body as she threw herself into his arms. His arms came around her, crushing her to his chest as he lowered his head and kissed her. “God, I missed you so much,” he whispered in between kisses. “I came back soon as I could, Maria.”

“I was so scared that something had happened to you,” she admitted.

He raised his head and met her watery gaze. “You knew I wouldn’t stay away any longer than necessary though...” He let the words trail off, waiting for the reassurance he needed from her.

She wiped her tears away and nodded. “Yeah, I know, Michael. It was just so hard to see Max and Liz back together.”

“He made it back then,” he said, relieved. “I wasn’t sure after we...” He cleared his throat. “The escape didn’t exactly go smoothly and we were forced to go in separate directions.”

She pushed his open jacket aside to press her cheek against his strong chest and she inhaled his scent. “He came back yesterday.”

“I found the apartment and ran into some guy from the restaurant below... he didn’t know where you had gone. Said you’d be back, but I couldn’t wait for that.” His hands shook from the cold as he shifted to slide them under her coat. “Don’t worry,” he said, chuckling quietly when he felt her shiver, “I know they’re as cold as ice right now.”

“We should go to the hotel,” she suggested. “You’re soooo cold.” Her hands roamed over his upper body. “Are you okay? Any serious injuries?”

“Nothin’ that serious,” he denied. It wasn’t exactly a lie, he thought. The pain was much more manageable than it had been when they had been held captive and it was lessening with every passing day.

She checked his eyes, deciding that he wasn’t telling the whole truth. She took his face in both hands, letting her thumbs trail over his cold cheeks. “I love you.”

He sighed tiredly as he reveled in her tender, caring touch. “That brought me home,” he said gruffly. “I love you.”

“The hotel we’re staying at isn’t far from here,” she said and lowered her hands again.

“Just can’t wait to get me into bed can you?” he teased, taking her hand and allowing her to lead him back outside.

She leaned against his side. “I’m so glad you’re here now.”

He just nodded when she didn’t respond in the same manner. It was probably too soon for her to be able to joke around just yet. “I don’t even know how long I’ve been runnin’; the days started to run together. I didn’t even realize it was Christmas until earlier tonight.” He shuddered as the wind gusted and it felt like ice hitting his skin. “Did we know it got this cold here when we put Kansas on the list?”

She chuckled. “Well, we wanted snow for Christmas, remember?”

He snorted at that. “No problem, looks like we’ve got snow.”

The walk to the hotel didn’t take long and before he knew it they were stepping into the lobby for one of the nicer hotels in the city. He was silent as they rode up to the fifth floor, leaning back against the wall and listening as the bell chimed with each floor they passed. The heat from the building was seeping into his body, chasing the cold away.

He looked around the hotel room, barely noticing when she closed the door behind them. The living area was silent and the lights on the Christmas tree in the corner provided the only light. He didn’t see the others so he assumed they had already turned in for the night. He was glad though because while he wanted to see Max for himself to make sure he was alright, he needed to be with Maria more right now.

“Here, take your jacket off,” she said gently and helped him with it. “You want something warm to drink?”

“Huh-uh.” Michael shook his head at her offer and carefully pulled his right arm free of his jacket. Damn, that hurt! “I saw the apartment you guys have been livin’ in...”

“You did, huh?” She glanced at the ground. “It wasn’t as bad as it looked.”

“No, I’m sure it wasn’t,” he murmured, knowing she was lying. He recognized the avoidance tactic when she dropped her gaze and he reached out to catch her chin and lift her gaze back to his. “We’ll try to do better than that from now on.”

“We definitely should,” she said. “There’s something I have to tell you, Michael.”

He quirked an eyebrow at her tone. “What’s up?”

“Liz... she’s pregnant...”

He took a couple of steps and dropped down to sit on the couch. “Pregnant?” he repeated incredulously.

“Yeah.” Maria sat down in front of him on the coffee table.

“No, no, no, no, no,” he muttered. “That’s not good, Maria. Bein’ on the run’s difficult enough, but... a baby?” He scrubbed a hand through his hair as he considered this news. “Max was probably pretty happy about that, huh?”

“He was,” she nodded. “It’s been a difficult time for Liz the last couple of months.”

He growled under his breath at the newest complication. “Alright,” he said finally, “we’ll work somethin’ out. It’s good news for Max and it’ll give him somethin’ to focus on instead of...” He shook his head. “Anyway, we’ll worry about it later.”

She frowned. “Instead of what?”

He reached out to take her hands in his. “Nothin’ worth talkin’ about.”

She shook her head. “No, seriously, Michael. What’d they do to you?”

He pulled his hands back and tried to control his expression when he got to his feet too fast and every muscle in his body protested. “It’s over, Maria, there’s no need to talk about it.”

“You’re in pain, Michael,” she stated and got up as well.

He backed away from her, keeping distance between them when she started to approach him. “It’ll pass.”

“Don’t turn away from me,” she begged.

He stopped in his tracks, unable to deny her request. His dark eyes followed her as she took several more steps in his direction.

“I’ve missed you so much, Michael, I’m just worried.”

“I’m here now and I’m fine... or at least, I will be.” He reached up to scratch his eyebrow. “They didn’t do anything that I won’t recover from.”

“Okay.” She knew that anymore pushing wouldn’t make him to talk.

“Maria... I know how you feel about talkin’ this stuff out, and maybe later, but for now...” He shook his head. “It’s just too soon, okay?” He reached out to cup her cheek. “Right now I just wanna hold you and know that we’re both safe and we’re together.”

“C’mere.” Her arms came around his hips and she pulled him closer. “We’re together and safe...” she sighed, “at least for now.”

“For now,” he repeated as his eyes traced over her features.

Maria wondered if they would ever be safe for more than just ‘for now’.

“You’ve been okay while I’ve been gone?” he asked after a few minutes.

She smiled softly. “As ok as I could be without you.” She knew she had lost some weight during the last weeks, but it would be fine now that he was back.

“You haven’t been eatin’ right,” he said. “No appetite or no food?”

She shrugged. “More the first I guess.”

“We’re gonna have to do somethin’ about that.” He pulled her closer against his body and kissed her.

“I like that,” she mumbled against his lips and stood on her tiptoes.

He ignored the pain in his muscles as he shifted just enough to catch the backs of her thighs and lift her up. “Which room?” he rasped.

“The right,” she said, surprised by his sudden move.

He nodded, trying to control his breathing as he carried her into the bedroom and nudged the door closed with his elbow. He still got winded easily, but he refused to miss out on being with his girl. He placed her carefully on the bed and knelt down in front of her.

She let her hands trail over his face. “I really love you.”

“Uh-huh, I’m hearin’ a ‘but’ comin’,” he said slowly. He had a feeling he hadn’t hidden anything from her.

“You’re too exhausted for this, Michael. I can see it in your eyes and I can see it in the way you move.”

He groaned when she easily picked up on his fatigue. “Sometimes you’re just too smart, girl.”

She grinned. “That’s why you only want me.”

“Nah, that’s just one of many reasons why I want you.” He chuckled as he leaned in to kiss her again. “So, shove over and let me lay down since you’re not gonna let me do anything else.”

She laughed. “Okay,” she crawled up on the bed, “lose your clothes and c’mere.” She got rid of her shirt and jeans and slipped under the blanket.

He got to his feet, his legs feeling shaky after being bent for several long minutes. “You sure about this?” he asked, worried about her reaction to seeing the fresh scars on his chest and upper arms. “Some of the stuff they did... it wasn’t as bad as I’m sure it could’ve been, but... Max only had enough strength to heal the worst of it.”

“I’m sure, Michael.”

“Stubborn woman,” he muttered affectionately. He grabbed the neck of his shirt and pulled it up over his head, dropping it on the floor before kicking his shoes and socks off. His eyes locked on his hands as he unfastened his jeans and shoved them down over his hips and stepped out of them. He bit his bottom lip before forcing his gaze up to meet Maria’s, worried about what he would see there.

She lifted the blanket and motioned for him to join her.

He sighed in relief as he slid under the covers, feeling the warmth of her body as she moved closer to him. It wasn’t her reaction to the damage that he was worried about because he knew she wouldn’t be repulsed; it was the hurt she would feel when she looked at him and saw the wounds, knowing he had been in pain and she had been powerless to stop it.

“You’re gonna be okay,” Maria whispered as she wrapped her arms around him. “I’m sorry that you had to suffer all alone for so long.”

“I’ve got you in my arms, Maria. I’m already okay an’ believe me, I’m not in any pain right now.”

*****

Michael woke up abruptly, gasping for air. It took him several seconds to remember that he had just gotten back to his woman last night. “Fuck,” he hissed slightly. When would these damn nightmares disappear again? He glanced at Maria, who was still sleeping peacefully next to him.

It was only 6am but he knew that there was no way he would go back to sleep anytime soon, so he placed a tender kiss on her temple and stood up from the bed. His muscles hurt badly so he decided that a shower might help them to loosen up a bit. He collected his stuff from the floor and quietly crept out of the room to cross the living area to the bathroom. Just as he was about to pull the door open, someone spoke up from behind him.

Max stood in the doorframe of his bedroom, staring at the man in front of him and wondering if this was just a dream. The nightmares had driven him from his bed yet again. It had become a common occurrence and he knew from experience that it would be a while before he was able to sleep through the night again without the cruel reminder of his captivity. He had been on his way out to the main room so he could pace without disturbing Liz, but he had frozen in place when he had noticed the man silently crossing the space between Maria’s room and the bathroom.

“Uh... Michael?” It was stupid. He knew it was stupid. He could see Michael there, but he didn’t believe what he was seeing.

Michael froze. He knew Max’ voice, would know it anywhere, and had even known that he was there in the hotel suite, but it took a moment for his heart to stop pounding so hard in response to another voice breaking the silence. He turned his head to look at the man he hadn’t been certain he would ever see again. Max looked as bad as he felt, but there was something... peace... acceptance, maybe, in the eyes staring at him.

“Max... Maria said you were here.” He took a couple of halting steps in the other man’s direction. “You made it.”

“Yeah,” Max muttered, still confused, but he forced himself to move towards the other man as well. “You’re here now, too.” He felt stupid for pointing out the obvious, but he didn’t know what to say either.

“Yeah, last night... y’know how important the Christmas thing is to Maria.” In the past he would’ve reached out and thumped Max on the shoulder, but after their captivity he knew how well he would react to that action so he left it alone. “Made it a little more difficult when you moved the girls before I could get to her.” He shook his head to let Max know he was only teasing.

“You saw that shitty place, huh?”

“Yeah, not good. I’m surprised they haven’t caught pneumonia.” He smirked. “Heard your girl caught a case of pregnancy though.”

“Yeah,” Max smiled a little. “She’s already pretty huge.”

“Gonna make life on the run a little more... challenging,” he said carefully.

Max let his hand run through his hair. “I know it’s gonna be difficult, Michael.”

He shrugged. “So, congratulations.” He made a face. “We don’t have to hug or anything, do we?”

“No, we don’t have to do that. So, everything okay with you?”

Michael relaxed. Max was more tactile than he was, and under normal circumstances he would’ve given him a ‘guy hug’, but right now the only touch he was comfortable with was Maria’s. “As okay as it can be right now. We’re not pincushions for a bunch of mad scientists, so, it’s all good.”

Max nodded. “I was about to make some coffee. Want one?”

“Yeah, why not?” He hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “I’m gonna grab a quick shower.”

“Alright, coffee should be ready then.” Max watched his friend disappear into the bathroom and felt a little bit of peace settle over him. He knew that things were already getting better, now that they were all together again.

“Is Maria already awake?” Liz asked tiredly, as she stumbled out of the bedroom.

Max pushed the button on the side of the coffee maker to get it started and turned around to look at his wife. She was tired, disheveled, barely awake... and he had never seen anyone more beautiful, he thought, smiling when her right hand automatically moved to rub her belly.

“Haven’t seen her emerge yet.” He bit back the smile when her inquisitive gaze moved to the bathroom door at the sound of the shower.

“Well, if she’s not up yet, then who’s...” Her head turned to the side and she stared at him, suddenly wide awake. “Michael?”

He saw the happiness in her eyes as she realized that Michael had made it back and she hurried to Maria’s room. It was kinda like watching a little penguin in fast forward, he mused fondly. But, maybe he wouldn’t share that particular observation with the love of his life. Somehow, he had a feeling she wouldn’t think it was as cute as he did.

Liz burst into the second bedroom... or at least tried to... and she waddled over to the bed where Maria was quite contentedly sleeping, curled around one of the pillows. She hated to wake her, but she was so happy for her friend. She sat on the edge of the bed and bit her bottom lip. Maybe she would just nudge her and see if she was close to waking up. “Maria?” she tried, whispering.

“Huh?” Maria mumbled still half asleep.

“Maria,” she hissed, a little louder this time. She started to bounce on the edge of the mattress without even realizing it. She couldn’t take it anymore and she reached out to poke her best friend. “Maria!”

“Liz,” Maria complained and tried to open her eyes. What the hell did she want? Was something wrong? Suddenly she jumped in the bed. “Everything okay?”

Liz knew she was grinning like a fool, but she didn’t care. “There’s an alien in the bathroom and he doesn’t belong to me.”

Maria relaxed again and slapped Liz’ shoulder playfully. “God, I thought something had happened.”

“Uh, hello! Something obviously happened and you’re not sharing!”

“Well, in case you hadn’t noticed it before, I was still sleeping,” she answered with a grin.

“When did he get here?” she asked, ignoring Maria’s comment.

Maria rubbed her eyes and let herself fall down on the bed again. “Last night. I was in this little church near the hotel and suddenly... he was there.”

“A Christmas miracle,” Liz whispered. “How did he find you there?”

“I don’t know. Guess he knew I would go to a church around Christmas and he couldn’t find me in our old apartment.”

Liz smiled. “Can you believe they’re both back?”

“No, it’s just like a dream right now. But it’s not… right?”

“No, it’s definitely real.”

Maria smiled brightly and threw herself into Liz’ arms, carefully because of the baby. “I can’t believe it,” she whispered, not even realizing that tears were running down her cheeks.

Liz hugged her friend back. “I know, it’s too good to be true.”

“Your Daddy’s back and your uncle, too... well kinda your uncle,” Maria said to the baby as she rubbed her friend’s belly tenderly. “Oh. Did ya feel that, Liz? She kicked me.”

“No,” Liz complained, “she kicked me. Seems like I’ve got a very active girl since her Daddy’s back.”

Maria laughed and glanced up at her friend again. “We’re gonna be alright.”

Liz nodded. “I know.” And for the first time in the last four months she also meant it. “So, I know it’s early, but since we’re all up, what about breakfast? Maybe we can have room service.” She wiggled her eyebrows.

Maria’s stomach growled in response to that. “I feel like I could eat whole pig right now.”

Liz snorted. “I doubt that. But it’s good that you’re hungry again.” She turned slightly in her seat and started to get up from the bed.

Maria watched her friend for several seconds before she burst out into laugher as she saw how Liz was trying to get up from the mattress but her belly wasn’t letting her. “Seems like that baby girl is holding you down, huh?”

Liz stuck out her tongue. “Ha ha, funny girl. Don’t just sit there uselessly. Get up and help me.”

Maria shook her head in amusement and climbed out of bed to help Liz up and once that goal was achieved she started to search around for her clothes.

Liz walked back into the main room and found Max in the kitchen. “What’re ya doin’ in here?” she asked, surprised when she saw all the delicious food on the dining table.

“I’m making breakfast, what’s it look like?” He walked around the table to give her a quick kiss. “Good morning, by the way.”

She smiled. “Good morning. Where’d you get all this food from?”

“I brought it in yesterday before I went to get Maria from the other apartment. You didn’t even realize, huh?” He pulled one of the chairs back and gestured for her to sit down.

“That looks really delicious, Max.”

“Only the best for my two favorite girls,” he said smiling.

“And I guess you didn’t mean me by that,” Maria said as she joined them at the table.

“Mornin’,” Max greeted her.

“Where’s Michael?”

“Still in the bathroom, but he should be out soon,” Max said and got the coffee from the kitchen to serve it to Maria. “I made some tea for you,” he said to Liz, “and it’s almost ready.”

“Thanks.” She relaxed in her chair and glanced at her husband, wondering how she had managed to survive the last few months without him.

“Damn, Liz, what’d you guys eat while we were gone? You’re huge,” someone spoke from behind and they could hear the funny teasing tone in his voice.

Liz turned in her seat as much as her belly would allow and shot an evil look at Michael before her features relaxed again. “Good to see you too, Michael.”

He smirked and joined them at the table as well, squeezing the shoulder of the pregnant woman slightly as he sat down.

Liz smiled at his simple gesture, knowing that it was his way of saying that he was okay with the baby and that they would all find a way to go on with their lives.

“Did ya sleep well?” Michael asked his girlfriend and leaned to the side so he could steal a kiss from her lips. Her hand came up and grabbed his collar when he was about to pull away too quickly. She held him close as she deepened the kiss, not caring about the others right at that moment.

“Um,” Max coughed slightly, “ya know, this hotel room has two separate bedrooms for those activities…”

Maria smirked and finally let go of Michael. “Well, I think I’m way too hungry right now to go anywhere.”

****

After breakfast the girls were sitting on the couch, watching Home Alone for what had to be the thousandth time in their lives while the boys were busy with cleaning up the kitchen.

“Where do we go from here, Max?” Michael asked when he was sure the girls were occupied. “I mean, we can’t go with the original plan for long anymore. Your wife isn’t gonna be able to move around so much and it won’t be any easier once the baby gets here.”

“I know,” Max sighed, “I’ve been thinking about it the whole time. We have to find a safer place, Michael. Somewhere we can stay at least for a whole year or two.”

The other man nodded. He was sick of moving around too. They all needed a place to settle down for a while. “Think we should leave the States?”

Max shrugged. “Probably. We should start to do some research as soon as the holidays are over. The sooner we find a new place, the better.”

“Sounds like a plan. A place where we could find some peace after all the crap would be nice.”

Max nodded silently. Yeah, he thought, more than nice.

“Hey you two, whatever you’re talking about, you can do it right over here as well,” Maria said, tapping the armchair next to her.

Michael smirked at her and threw the dish towel on the table to join her. He lifted her legs up from the seat and sat down on the armchair next to her, pulling her close and placing her legs over his again.

A sudden knock on the door had everyone exchanging looks of surprise and fear. They weren’t expecting anyone and nobody knew they were there. Max walked to the front door quietly, gesturing to Michael to let him know to take the girls out of sight, before he opened the door.

The other man nodded. “Is there any other way out of this room?” He was already kicking himself for not checking that out as soon as he got here.

“There’s a fire escape in the bedrooms, but I’m not sure if I can make it,” Liz said.

“Alright, behind the front door then,” he said and they moved quickly but quietly. Michael placed himself in front of the girls and nodded at his friend.

Max nodded as well and pressed his back against the wall next to the front door as he placed his hand on the doorknob. He knew better than to ask who was there. If it was the FBI it wouldn’t help anyway and they had more of a chance to take them out if they had the benefit of a moment of surprise on their side. With one quick move, he turned the doorknob and let the door fly open wildly.

Everything stayed silent for several moments and they all held their breaths, waiting for someone to step in with a gun or some other weapon in his hand.

“Uh… hello?” someone, a man, suddenly said from out in the hallway. “Maybe this’s the wrong hotel room?” the person hissed. Obviously he wasn’t alone.

“No, they said room number 521,” a female voice answered.

Max and Michael exchanged a glance, their eyes widened in shock as they recognized that voice. They would always recognize HER voice. Max stepped in front of the door first, looking at the two people in the hallway.

“Isabel... Kyle… what…?”

“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” Isabel squealed and threw herself into her brother’s arms.

The others came out of their hiding place as well, still surprised of the sudden turn of events. “I missed you so much,” Iz said with tears in her eyes. She walked over to the others, stopping when she realized Liz’ condition. “Oh, my God, I’m gonna be an aunt.”

Liz smiled and nodded before she was pulled into a hug.

“Hey, man,” Kyle greeted Michael, “that woman was so excited to get here. She’s talked my ear off the last few hours.”

“How’d you guys find us here?” Maria asked curiously and hugged Isabel as well.

The other girl smiled at her mysteriously. “Must be a Christmas miracle!”

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

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