Double Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) [COMPLETE]

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Double Trouble
Obsessed Roswellian
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Double Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 41 - 8/6/09

Post by Double Trouble » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:23 pm

destinyc: It’ll be a full house with this next update!

Brooke certainly knows how to motivate, doesn’t she?

We’re thinking you’re right… we’ll find out soon.

Eva: LOL, well, hang onto your seat!

begonia9508: Get ready, ‘cause it’s about to get bumpy!

nibbles2: Yeah, he’s suffering from a serious lack of blood flow above the belt.

The gang will all be together with this next update.

Natalie36: Look out, ‘cause here it comes!

kismet: Brooke knows how to pull the strings, doesn’t she?

Sleeping arrangements, huh? That’s in this next part!

Author’s Note: Remember that Max and Liz scene we told ya might take an entire part? Well, we decided to combine two shorter parts to make one long one, but… that scene’s in this part.

mary mary: Well, he’ll only be sent packing in the metaphorical sense. We’re gonna sort out his issues by the end of the fic.

Alien_Friend: We’re glad you’re enjoying the game. They do work well together… especially considering they have no idea they’re working together, lol!

Well, you’ll have some good stuff waiting for ya when you get back! Have a safe trip!

sarammlover: They are, it’s true. Alex is in the dark for now… as is everyone else. The gang will all be together in this next part.

spacegirl23: LOL… they’re Michael and Maria… what else can we say?

sunrise102: Okay, now that was funny! We’ll see…

Zoi: He’s Michael… he has to get jealous!

We second that!

Part 41 – Hook, Line, and Sinker…

After a day that had been filled with outdoor activities followed by playing several board games and then settling down for a late movie, no one was surprised when Brooke fell asleep on one of the couches in the living room.

“You wanna just let ‘er sleep in here?” Michael asked when his brother stood and stretched.

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea; the kid’s heavier than she looks. We’ll see you guys in the mornin’.” He tugged his sleepy girlfriend to her feet and led her to the second floor.

“I think we’re gonna call it a night, too,” Kyle said as he yawned widely. “All this activity in the mountain air takes it out of ya, y’know?”

Michael rolled his eyes and stretched his legs out in front of him. “You don’t need to make excuses to have sex.”

Kyle kicked Michael as he walked past him. “Cut it out.”

“Don’t worry about it, Kyle,” Tess said as she took his hand. “He’s just cranky because he’s not getting laid.”

Michael shrugged carelessly. “The night’s not over yet.”

“Plannin’ to go out and assault the local wildlife?”

“Oh, yeah, that one hurt.” He glared at her when she left the room ahead of Kyle.

The movie was over and he was half-asleep in one of the armchairs when the jeep’s headlights cut through the darkness and briefly illuminated the room. It was the growling coming from the small dog lying beside him that woke him up; Buffy glanced up at him and jumped down as he stood up. A moment later Spike left Brooke’s side and ran to join Buffy as they rushed the door Michael was reaching out to open.

“Watch it, watch it, watch it,” Max called, doing his level best to avoid stepping on the dogs when they started jumping up and down against his legs.

“I didn’t think you guys were gonna make it,” Michael said as he grabbed Maria’s bag and pulled her into a hug. “You look exhausted.”

“Take me to bed,” she groaned tiredly.

“My four favorite words.” He handed her bag back to her and swung her up in his arms. “Let me get Maria settled an’ then I’ll show you guys where your rooms are.” He left Maria in his room, pointed out the bathroom, and hurried back out to the main room where the others were waiting.

He snapped his fingers to get their attention as he hurried through the main room and down the opposite hall. “C’mon, the rooms are back here; bathroom’s at the end of the hall, room with double beds is on the right, and the room with the single bed is on the left. Any questions?” He glanced back and forth between them. “No? Good.”

He pulled a blanket out of the hall closet and then went back into the living room, shaking it out and covering his sister before scooping the dogs up and placing them next to her. He leaned over to drop a kiss on her head before tucking the blanket in closer to her and turning off all but one of the lamps. He stopped in the bathroom to wash his hands and stripped out of his tee shirt, giving himself the once-over in the mirror before nodding at his reflection and going back to his room.

Michael closed the door behind him and quietly crossed the room, trying to determine if Maria was still awake or not. She had stripped down to her bra and panties and the lamplight bathed her skin in soft light as it played over her prone body. He could see the tension in her tensed muscles and his hands settled on her shoulders as he straddled her waist and leaned forward to rest his hands on her upper back.

“Damn, you weren’t kiddin’ about bein’ tight an’ tense, were you?” She was nearly asleep and she didn’t acknowledge his comment as he unhooked her bra and moved it out of his way. He started with broad, sweeping strokes to urge her muscles to begin to relax and as it started to work he added pressure to the mix and began to focus on different muscle groups as he moved down her body.

“God, Michael, you’ve got the best hands,” Maria groaned as she felt the tension from the long car ride being replaced by a completely different kind of tension.

He smirked when her body became so boneless that she was practically melting into the mattress and his touch switched from therapeutic to teasing. He crouched down over her, his dog tags brushing against her skin as he leaned over to nibble along her shoulder blades. “Have you forgotten all about that long trip yet?” he growled, even though he already knew the answer.

“Huh-uh, but I do feel much better.”

“Hmmm…” He placed a trail of kisses along her spine, shifting enough to hook his thumbs into the waistband of her panties so he could slip them off of her. “Nope, that’s not good enough.” He widened his stance over her and eased her onto her back and despite the arousal in her eyes he could see that she was exhausted.

“What’d you have in mind?” Maria asked drowsily as she brought her hands up to rest on his thighs.

Michael took her hands, holding them together as he brought them up to his lips and pressed a kiss against them. “Tonight’s all for you, baby.” He gently pressed her hands against the pillow on either side of her head while he shifted, stretching out over her and letting her support some of his weight. He released her left hand as he lowered his head to kiss her for the first time that night; he had to rein his own desires in because he wanted tonight to be all about her.

When he broke the kiss he trailed tiny kisses along her cheek, neck, and down her collarbone. He let every sound she made guide him and he felt her shift beneath him until she managed to work her legs out from under him. She sighed contentedly when she brought her legs up to bracket his body, the new position bringing his lower body into perfect alignment with hers.

“What’re you in the mood for tonight, baby?” He chuckled roughly when she used her feet for leverage to lift her pelvis so that she could grind against his jean-clad erection. “Okay, I got it, but if you keep that up you’re gonna end up with the equivalent of rug burn in a very sensitive place and if that happens the rest of the weekend’s gonna suck.” He used his weight to pin her down and stop her restless, seeking movements, enjoying her frustrated groan when she reached up to punch his shoulder.

“Michael…” She hissed when she felt him shift to ease his hand between their bodies and a moment later his middle finger slid between her folds to gently tease her opening. “Yes, that’s what I want… please…”

He had suspected as much and he eased his weight to his left side to give him more room to maneuver as he slid one finger inside. He kissed her to stop the curses falling from her lips when he didn’t immediately add another finger and it didn’t take long before she was focusing on his mouth. He waited until she was least expecting it and he pulled his finger out and took his hand away, leaning back and grinning at her when she nearly screamed in frustration.

“If tonight is mine, why d’you keep teasin’ me?” She fell silent when he ran his fingertip, still wet from teasing her, around her nipple.

He ran his tongue over her nipple and then sucked it into his mouth as he slid two fingers into her, but kept them immobile. “You taste really good, you know that?”

“I know you’re makin’ me crazy,” she rasped, throwing her head back and clenching her fingers in his hair when he gently bit her nipple before leaning back and blowing across the distended tip. “But, you promised to do that, didn’t you?”

“I did.” He flicked his thumb over her clit and slowly withdrew his fingers before sliding them in again, setting up a repetitive motion that had her moaning and thrashing her head back and forth on the pillow. When he felt that she was getting close he leaned up to kiss her deeply. “As much as I would get a kick out of you screamin’ loud enough to wake the entire house, we probably shouldn’t do that.”

Maria met his gaze in the dim light, reading the intent in his dark eyes as he began to move back down her body and she nodded in response. Her hips rose and fell in tandem with his thrusting fingers until Michael shifted his weight to hold her still as he nipped the flesh of her inner thighs. When he reached her center he ran his tongue along her folds before slipping inside and finding her clit with perfect accuracy.

The first orgasm hit her so quickly and unexpectedly that she barely had time to cover her mouth with the corner of his pillow to muffle her scream. She was certain that if they ever went all the way with actual penetrative sex that she would pass out during orgasm; she wasn’t far from it with the things they did together now. He released her clit and tugged the pillow away from her face and out of her hand so he could kiss her.

“Go for it,” he whispered, shifting to give her plenty of room to finish herself off. He used his thumbnail to scrape along her clit as she lifted her hips, taking his fingers all the way in before lowering them once more and then repeating the action. She quickly picked up speed, angling her hips so that his fingers were hitting her G-spot with every thrust. She was an uninhibited lover and he really wanted to know what it was like to bring her to climax while he was fully inside of her. It was only getting harder to be together without taking their sexual relationship to that level, but he was unsure about pushing the issue.

Thankfully, Maria went wild beneath him at that moment, redirecting his thoughts and making him forget all about what could only lead to disaster. He held her until she slowly began to come down from her orgasmic high and he rolled onto his side, taking her with him and holding her close to his body. He didn’t say a word as he felt her getting drowsy, her sleepy body leaning more heavily against him; she was exhausted, and the bed didn’t technically belong to either of them, so he had decided that it would be okay if they spent the night together. Besides, he thought, he wanted her to stay. He would never admit that because it would only cause complications – like it had the other night when she had asked him to stay – but, maybe it would be okay since they were in a neutral place.

“I should go,” she murmured sleepily.

“Nah, it’s cool. We can spend the night together while we’re here.”

God, it was so tempting to just go to sleep wrapped up in his arms, held so securely against his big, warm body… but, she couldn’t. Maria forced herself to wake up enough to sit up and pull her clothes on.

“Seriously, Maria, we can sleep together.”

“No, I know that’s not what you really want – too much emotional involvement and all that, right? So, don’t worry about it, okay? I understand, and I’m fine with it this way.” Liar! her conscience screamed at her. “So, if you could just tell me where my room is…”

“Just follow the hall out to the main living area and you’ll see another hall on the other side; the room you an’ Liz are sharin’ is on the right at the end of that hall.”

Maria nodded and paused at the door. “Thanks for… everything, Michael. I’ll see you in the mornin’.”

He flopped back against his pillows once he had been left alone again, disappointed that she had decided to go to her own room. He had really been hoping… No! Stop it! That nagging little voice in the back of his head stepped to the forefront of his mind, rudely reminding him that he didn’t deserve someone like Maria and that he never would.

He rolled over and punched his pillow in frustration, wishing he knew how to silence that taunting internal voice. He tossed and turned until the first rays of dawn were beginning to creep over the horizon and only then did he fall into a fitful sleep.

*****

Maria awoke early the next morning to the sounds of muffled movement and conversation as the others began to get up and greet each other. She stretched, enjoying the feeling of the soft, Michael-scented tee shirt rubbing against her skin. She had snatched it up on her way out of his room the night before; it was a poor substitute for the man but it had made it easier to pretend he was holding her as she fell asleep.

She had wanted so badly to stay with him, but despite his sudden about-face on them spending the night sleeping together, she knew it would only lead to more complications. The scary thing was that the longer they continued to participate in their sham of a no-strings relationship the more she was realizing that she wanted the complications. She sighed as she pushed herself up into a sitting position and glanced at the second bed in the room.

The bed was empty – and neatly made up – so she knew that Liz was already up and had most likely joined the others to pitch in with breakfast. She heard a quiet knock and she expected to see Michael when the door opened, but instead Tess poked her head inside.

“Hey, girl!” she called before crossing the room to sit beside Maria and give her a big welcoming hug. “I didn’t think you guys were ever gonna get here.”

“Yeah, me either.”

“So, rumor has it that you spent the night with Michael, but evidence would suggest otherwise.” She leaned back and lifted one eyebrow in question. “Tell Tess all about it.”

Maria rolled her eyes and flopped back against her pillows. “We don’t spend the night together, Tess; that’s not part of the deal.”

“Uh-huh, but you want it to be.”

Maria’s eyes widened and her gaze shot to the open door. “Don’t say that so loudly!” she hissed.

“Please, girl! That man hasn’t even stepped foot out of his room yet; the two of you are the only ones who aren’t up yet.”

“Maybe because it’s not actually daytime yet.” She glanced at the windows and shook her head when just the slightest hint of daylight showed through the curtains.

“Michael is a total lazy-ass on vacation,” Brooke added as she came in and jumped on Liz’ bed. “He’d sleep all day if we let him.”

“Yeah, feel free to go wake him up.” Isabel chuckled as she entered the room and Maria glared at her. “Are you denying that you want to?”

Brooke mustered up every ounce of innocence she had as she smiled at Maria. “You should go wake him up… you might actually survive his morning mood. He’s kind of a bear when people don’t let him sleep late on vacation.”

“Uh-huh,” Maria said slowly, “and this information would make me want to go wake him up why?”

“Well, he likes you.” She jumped off of the bed and started to leave the room, but paused at the open doorway. “You’re the first girl he’s ever taken anywhere with his family.” She looked to the side when Liz leaned against the opposite side of the doorframe and announced that breakfast would be ready soon. “Okay, gotta go before Kyle adds jalapenos to everything!”

Liz glanced up when she heard the bathroom door open and her mouth went dry when Max stepped out wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. Her eyes locked on the tiny droplets of water trailing over his chest and abdomen before being absorbed into the towel.

“You weren’t waitin’ to get in there, were you?” he asked, hooking his thumb over his shoulder.

“What?” It took a major effort, but she finally forced her eyes up to meet his. “Oh, no, I was just… um…” Okay, so looking into his eyes wasn’t making conversation any easier. “Thinking about… what… um…” Articulate, Liz!

His lips curved up in a slow smile and he closed the distance between them, bracing one hand on the doorframe above her head. “I’m goin’ down to the lake after breakfast.”

“Huh?” She immediately wished she could just become invisible. He had to think she was an idiot who was incapable of forming complete sentences!

“I was thinkin’ that fresh catfish sounded good for dinner.” His right hand came up to brush her hair back behind her ear. “You ever been fishin’?”

“Oh, um, once… I’m not very good at it though.”

“I’ll bet you’re better than you think,” he said, his tone gruff. “So, after breakfast… go fishin’ with me? I’ll even bait the hook for ya.”

“Um… okay?”

Max grinned at her and took a step back before glancing at the girls staring at him from inside the room. “Mornin’, ladies.”

“Okay, he’s definitely hot,” Tess said as he disappeared into his room and closed the door behind him. “So, you’re goin’ fishin’ with Max Evans, huh?”

“Oh, well, maybe… I mean…”

Tess chuckled and shook her head. “Just go with him. You’re never gonna figure out what you want until you know who you want.”

“I think she knows who she wants,” Isabel said, leaning back against the headboard next to Maria. “She just needs to decide what she’s gonna do about it.”

“So, what were you guys talking about?” Liz asked, hoping they would change the subject.

“Whether or not Maria’s brave enough to go wake Michael up,” Tess answered, surprising everyone when she dropped the subject of Max and Liz.

Maria rolled her eyes and climbed out of bed. “Fine, I’ll go get him up.” She made a quick stop in the bathroom to freshen up and then walked through the main living area on her way to the hall that led to Michael’s room. “Mornin’, boys,” she called, waving at Alex and Kyle as she passed them.

Michael was sound asleep when she stepped into his room and closed the door behind her. She leaned back against it for several minutes as she studied his features in the early morning light. He was completely relaxed, his big body sprawled across the mattress and his mouth hanging open as he snored quietly. She wondered if he was a heavy sleeper as she reached behind her to lock the door and then crept across the floor until she had reached the foot of the bed.

He didn’t even stir as she grabbed a handful of the comforter and pulled it back until she could flip it over to one side of the mattress. Well, maybe not completely relaxed, she amended, smiling when she noticed his morning erection. He was wearing a pair of black boxers and she knew without even touching them that the silky material was expensive. Nothin’ but the best for Mike Jr. She could almost hear his voice in the back of her head as she placed one knee on the bed and crawled up between his wide-spread legs.

His hair was tousled in a way that shouldn’t have been adorable but it was, his sleep-warm body was stretched out in every direction as he did his best to take up every inch of space, and his features had lost their usual intensity as he slept. He was unaware of her presence, completely vulnerable and at her mercy, and that thought was an incredible turn-on.

She ran the side of her nose along his hard length and smiled when he groaned quietly at the contact. She levered herself up over him, careful to keep her weight off of him so he wouldn’t wake, and lowered her mouth so she could tease his nipples. She had been surprised to learn just how sensitive his nipples were and she used that to her advantage as she licked and sucked them.

His hands moved down to settle on her hips, holding her still as he rubbed against her. She knew he was dreaming and she chuckled when she lifted her head to look at him, taking in the frown on his handsome face when he tried to switch their positions and she shifted her weight to prevent him from accomplishing his goal. He growled low in his throat, the sound a mix of annoyance and frustration until she slid back down and took his silk-covered head in her mouth.

He sighed in contentment and she diverted his hands when he reached for her head, forcing them down to tangle in the sheets instead of her hair. It would completely ruin the mood if he grabbed a handful of her hair too roughly because he thought she was a dream. She cradled his balls in her palm, using the silk of his boxers to add a new sensation that he obviously enjoyed. He bucked beneath her and she shifted to free him from his boxers, taking him in her mouth again and giving him enough room to make short thrusts so he wouldn’t choke her.

She used her tongue to pay special attention to the sensitive underside of his dick and he moaned when she started humming as she moved up and down on him. She lifted her gaze when his hands suddenly moved to cradle her face and she realized that he was fully awake as he released her and came up on his elbows to watch her.

His chest was rising and falling rapidly, his breathing harsh as neared the breaking point. He had to grit his teeth together when she started sucking in earnest and pushed him right over the edge. His entire body tensed as he came and he slumped back down against the pillows, gasping for breath while she licked him clean. When she was finished she tucked him away in his boxers and smiled when he pulled her up to lay on top of him.

“Good mornin’,” she whispered.

“It is now,” Michael muttered, tugging her closer so he could kiss her. “I’ve gotta say that’s a first, but I could get used to wakin’ up like that.”

Maria laughed and propped her elbow on his chest, resting her chin in her hand as she reached up to trace the fingertips of her free hand over his stubborn jaw. “It was a first for me too, but Mike Jr. just looked so… neglected and needy.”

Michael linked his hands at the small of her back, frowning as his eyes moved over the tee shirt she was wearing. “Isn’t that mine?”

“It was yours and now it’s mine.”

He shoved away the possessive thoughts that stampeded through his mind, not wanting to think about how much he liked her wearing his shirt.

“Breakfast should be ready by now.” She leaned back and looked down at him, waiting to see what he would do next.

“I am hungry.” His eyes locked with hers. “You wanna check out the hot springs with me today?”

“That sounds like fun.”

“It will be,” he promised, leaning in to kiss her again before dislodging her and rolling out of bed.

*****

Max cast his line out across the water and slouched down in one of the deck chairs, propping his feet up on the railing and letting the early morning breeze wash over him. The sun was barely showing over the horizon and he had opted to wait and let Liz come to him when she was ready. He lazily reeled his line in and flexed his wrist before tipping the pole over his right shoulder, his thumb poised over the trigger and pressing down as he forcefully flicked the pole forward once more. The line sailed out and he grinned as it achieved the expected distance before landing gracefully in the water once more. Ripples fanned out from the point of entry, slowly becoming larger and larger as they expanded until they faded and the surface was calm once more.

“Hey, Max.”

He tipped his head back against the back of the chair and squinted against the first rays of sunlight to look at the man who had spoken. “What’s up, Kyle?”

“Me an’ Alex are takin’ the girls into town; they wanna check out some of the local crafts or some crap like that.”

Max frowned. “All of them?”

Kyle shook his head and grinned. “No, I think Liz told Tess she was spendin’ the day with you.”

“Well, I guess I’ll just kick back and spend the day with a beautiful woman then… without bein’ dragged around the local shops.” Max rolled his eyes when the other man walked away, his deep laugh echoing behind him. He was reeling his line in again when he heard the man’s voice calling out a greeting and he barely controlled the urge to turn around when he heard Liz’ happy response.

“Hey,” he greeted, looking up at her when she came up beside him and placed her hand on the chair next to his shoulder. “I thought maybe you had changed your mind.”

“No, I was just talking to the girls,” she said and nodded at the thermos sitting on the top rail of the deck on his right side. “Coffee?”

“Um-hmm.” Max switched the pole to his left hand and reached for the thermos with his right. “You like it sweet, right?”

She was surprised that he had noticed that. “Yes.” She motioned to the second chair and he nodded. She poured herself a cup of coffee and glanced at the cooler in the corner under his propped up feet. “Have you caught anything yet?”

“Nope, just practicin’ my casting while I was waitin’.”

“Um-hmm.”

He laughed at her skeptical tone. “Seriously.”

“Do you have one of those hooky things tied to the end of your line?” She nodded when he merely raised an eyebrow. “You’re cheating… you started without me.”

“I’m not cheatin’,” he denied.

“Care to bet on it?”

“On whether I’m cheatin’ or not? How’re we gonna – “

“No, on who’s gonna catch the most fish.”

“I don’t know.” He straightened up, intrigued by what she was saying. “What kinda stakes are we talkin’ about?”

“What d’you want?”

Now that was a loaded question if he’d ever heard one, Max thought with an internal grimace. While it had been a long time since he had really spent much time in the company of a woman he was interested in it hadn’t been so long that he’d forgotten what it sounded like when one was flirting with him. “Okay,” he said slowly. “If I win I want you to go to dinner with me at the restaurant of my choice.” He saw her hesitation and knew she was thinking about Sean. “Not right away or anything, just… when you’ve decided what you want.”

Liz nodded, grateful that he had recognized her reticence and decided not to push too hard even though she knew he probably wanted to. “Okay.”

Max propped his left elbow on the arm of his chair and rested his chin in his hand as he watched her. “And you? What do you want if you win?”

“You mean when I win?” she countered.

He absolutely loved it when the feisty part of her personality surfaced and he smiled in response. “Yeah.”

She took a deep breath and forced herself to meet his gaze head-on. “I want you to promise that you’ll continue to be patient and you won’t give up on me.”

He reached for her hand where it was gripping the arm of her chair and he brought it to his lips to press a soft kiss to her knuckles. “Darlin’, I’ll make that promise to you right now,” he murmured quietly. “I have no intention of goin’ anywhere. When the time’s right you’re gonna have to decide whether or not I’m worth riskin’ your heart on but I’ve already made that decision.” Not wanting to pressure her he nodded at the fishing poles propped up in the corner by the cooler. “So, ready to get this bet started?” Max leaned forward and gestured at the poles standing in the corner. “Choose your weapon,” he said, his tone teasing. He eased back in his chair when she studied the poles for several minutes, finally settling on a maroon one near the back and turning to hand it to him.

“I believe you said you’d do this part yourself.” She smiled triumphantly when he took the pole from her and sat forward to pull a tackle box out from under his chair and open it up. She watched him as he selected several different things and proceeded to attach them to the line, fascinated by his careful attention to detail as he explained everything he was doing. She leaned in closer to him when he reached down and pulled the cooler close and opened it, retracting his hand a moment later with an ice-encrusted shrimp. She winced when he tapped the shrimp against the rail to dislodge some of the ice and then blithely yanked the tail off of it and tossed it in the water before expertly threading the poor little creature onto the hook. “That was totally gross.”

Max twisted the pole just enough to send the shrimp swinging in her direction and he laughed when she jumped back and squealed in disgust. He caught the line and held the pole out to her, making sure to hold the hooked shrimp away from her. “You know how to cast?”

Liz rolled her eyes and held her hand out in his direction. “Please,” she muttered, taking the pole from him and studying it before gripping it tightly with both hands. The way she was holding it put the reel on the underside and when she swung it back over her shoulder her fingers brushed against the trigger, releasing the line and hooking a low-hanging branch behind them.

Max struggled to keep a straight face when her shocked gaze swung to him and her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone use that particular technique,” he choked out.

“I certainly hope you intend to fix that; your fishing stuff is obviously defective.”

He bit his bottom lip and shoved himself out of his chair, leaning over to anchor his own pole in the metal holster mounted to the rail before ducking past her to see if he could untangle her line from the tree branch. Once it had been painstakingly removed from the branch and the shrimp that had been sacrificed in Liz’ attack on the tree had been replaced, Max handed the pole over.

“Want me to show you a – “

“No, no, I’ve got it.”

“Okay.” He retrieved his own pole and reeled the line in, checking to make sure the hook was still baited before preparing to cast again. He was conscious of Liz’ gaze following his every move but he was careful to conceal his knowledge of her scrutiny.

Liz watched him draw the pole back and cast; his movements were fluid, effortless, and the line sailed through the air in a smooth arc before landing in the water some distance from the dock.

“I can do that,” she muttered under her breath. She studied the way he was holding the pole, noting that he held it with the reel on top and his thumb rested over the trigger. Well, she thought with a mental eye roll, that makes a lot more sense. She turned her own pole over and mimicked his grip as she tried her hand at casting again. She frowned when the pole snapped forward and she pushed the trigger but instead of flying out across the water like his had done the line wrapped around the end of the pole. She glanced at Max to make sure he wasn’t watching and was relieved to see him concentrating on something out in the water.

She studied the sad little shrimp hanging dejectedly against the tip of the pole. She had to untangle it without drawing Max’ attention but she really didn’t want to touch it. Maybe she could unwind it without touching it, she thought, eyeing it critically. She made a small circular motion with the pole and barely caught herself before she jumped up and down with joy when the line unwound a couple of times. She managed to curb her enthusiasm as she continued and after a couple of minutes the line was straightened out once more. Impressed with her ability to solve the problem on her own Liz reeled the line in and set up to cast. Annoyance crossed her features when the line merely dropped in the water less than six feet from the dock.

Nearly a dozen tries later Max couldn’t take it anymore. He secured his pole and turned around, narrowly missing a severe head wound when her pole whipped past him.

Liz’ eyes widened when he ducked out of the way. “Sorry.”

Max waved her off. “My fault, I walked into the line of fire.”

“Are we already done?”

She sounded disappointed and he smiled as he shook his head. “Not by a long shot; I haven’t won the bet yet.” He reached for her hook and removed what was left of the raggedy little shrimp that had been flung backwards and forwards multiple times. He tossed the tiny carcass into the lake and threaded a new, fat shrimp onto the hook before wiping his hands on his jeans and moving behind her. “What you lack in style you certainly make up for with effort,” he admitted, a smile in his voice.

Liz tensed unintentionally when his arms came around her and she stared at his right hand where it hovered above hers for several long seconds before turning her head to look at him.

“This okay?” he murmured.

She considered his question and studied his sincere expression. She knew if she did nothing more than say no or shake her head he would back off and she suddenly realized that she didn’t want that.

Max released a breath he hadn’t even known he was holding when she nodded and turned back to face the lake. He raised his left arm and crossed it in front of her and his hands settled over hers.

“First thing you’ve gotta do is relax a little bit,” he advised as his left hand pulled hers free of the pole. His fingers slid through hers and he brought his arm down in front of her, loosely wrapping his arm around her waist. His right thumb brushed against her hand as he nudged her thumb up beside the trigger. “Okay, ease up on your grip just a little bit; you need a firm grip but if you hold the pole too tight all you’re gonna end up with is strained muscles.” Using his own body as a guide he flexed his arm back and was careful to keep her thumb away from the trigger as they practiced casting. Flicking their wrists forward and pressing her thumb against the trigger at precisely the right moment released the line and it sailed through the air with precision, dropping in the water a respectable distance from the dock.

“Oh, my God!” she squealed, jumping up and down with excitement. “Do it again, do it again!”

He smiled and held the pole while she reeled the line in and they repeated the process over and over. He couldn’t help the feeling of pure happiness that swept through him each time her excitement was let loose and he didn’t want to let her go but he knew he needed to step back and let her give it a shot on her own.

“Ready to do it on your own?”

“Really?”

Max nodded, reluctantly releasing her as he moved back to his side of the dock and picked his pole up, pausing to watch her as she cast her line like she had been doing it for years instead of less than an hour.

Liz tried to ignore the cool air that brushed against her skin when he moved, focusing instead on what she was doing. It wasn’t until she felt a tug on the line that her concentration fully shifted to fishing. The line became slack after a second so she started to reel it in and the pole suddenly jerked in her hand and she stared at it wordlessly, stunned.

Max was reeling his own line back in when he glanced over at Liz and noticed her line was pulled taut and she was gaping at it in astonishment. “Looks like maybe you’ve got somethin’ there,” he commented quietly. He was afraid that if he spoke too loudly he would startle her and she’d drop the pole.

Liz turned her head to look at him. “What do I do now?” she whispered.

He smiled at her hushed tone and moved up behind her, taking up their former positions. His hands settled over hers and he tugged on the pole gently to see if the fish was really hooked yet. “Okay, he’s got the hook but we wanna make sure he’s good an’ hooked so we wanna let him pull the line out a little,” he said, pressing the trigger and letting the line play out for mere seconds before he turned the reel a couple of times. “Now, when the line goes taut again we’re gonna jerk back on the pole… if he’s swimmin’ off to the right we’re gonna pull to the left and vice versa. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Okay… now!” he shouted, jerking the pole back to the left.

“Did we get him?” Liz asked, too caught up in what they were doing to be startled when his voice raised unexpectedly. The line jerked, answering her question before he could speak.

“We’ve got him; now we wanna make sure we keep him.”

“But he’s hooked, right? So he can’t go anywhere.”

“He’s got some weight behind him though.” He raised his left hand and pointed at the end of her pole. “See how it’s bowin’ under the pressure? That means he’s pushin’ the limits of the line’s weight capabilities so we’re gonna let him run for a bit to tire him out and then we’ll slowly reel him in.”

“But if he’s too heavy for the line how’re we gonna get him outta the water?”

“All we need to do is get him close to the dock and just a couple of feet out of the water and I’ll use the net to grab him.” After several tense minutes they started reeling the fish in, careful to pause every few turns in an effort to keep the line from breaking. Liz started hopping in place and pointing at the water when the fish finally came close enough to the surface to become visible and he did his best to hold onto the pole.

“Look at it, Max! It’s huge!”

“I see it.”

“What’re you doing?” she asked when he took a step back.

“If I don’t get a net under that bad boy we’re gonna lose him. Just hold the pole steady but don’t reel it in anymore, okay?” He grabbed the net from the corner and leaned out over the rail to grasp the line and lift the thrashing fish up, scooping it up as soon as he could reach it. He held the net up and whistled. “I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t base that bet on size.” He nodded at Liz. “Go ahead and put the pole down and hold the net for me so I can get the hook out.”

Liz hurried to put the pole down and take the net from him, bringing it closer so she could watch him lift the fish out. He carefully wrapped one hand around the belly of the fish, keeping his fingers safely away from the fins and studied the hooks’ angle as he debated the best way to pull it out. The net dropped to the ground when he tugged on the hook experimentally and the fish emitted a low croaking sound.

“Oh, my God… he’s in pain! You’re hurting him!”

“Darlin’, he’s dinner,” Max reminded her gently. “He can’t feel – “

“He has a hook in his mouth; of course he can feel it!”

Max released his grip on the hook and pointed at the tough exterior around the mouth of the fish. “See this? It’s tough and there aren’t any nerves so he won’t feel it when I pull the hook out.” The fish made the croaking sound again and he relented when Liz’ eyes filled with tears.

“I know he’s dinner but it’s just mean to pull the hook out like that… can’t you do it some other way?”

Max cleared his throat and considered her question. “There should be a pair of wire cutters in the tackle box; see if you can round ‘em up and I’ll see what I can do.” He accepted the cutters from her when she hurried back to him with them in her hand and after studying the hooks’ angle for a few more seconds he looked at her. “I can’t get a good grip on the hook like this; think you can hold him?”

“Hold him?” Liz stared at him, her expression silently asking him if he had lost his mind. “You want me to touch the slimy fish?”

“Yes, I want you to hold him and no, he’s not slimy.” He held the fish out to her. “Here, touch him.” Amusement sparkled in his eyes when she reached out to poke its belly and pulled back several times without making contact. He waited until her finger pushed against the white belly and she quickly retracted it before tentatively reaching out and touching it again before his arm shot out in her direction and he made a growling sound. He laughed heartily when she jumped back and screamed but before he could so much as blink she walked right up to him and slapped his arm.

“That was not funny.”

“You didn’t see your face, darlin’,” he disagreed, bringing his laughter under control. “Grab my gloves; they’re over on the cooler.”

“Okay, but why?” She retrieved the gloves.

“You’ll need to put ‘em on.” He nodded at the fish he held. “See the fins? The way they’re standin’ straight out from his body? That’s a defense mechanism and they’re sharp enough to slice your hand open if you’re not careful.”

“But you’re not wearing gloves.”

“No, but I’ve been doin’ this since I was a kid and I learned my lesson early on.” He shook his head and smiled. “Trust me, I know how to do this without getting cut up and I don’t want you to get hurt.” He waited until she had put the gloves on to continue. “You wanna hold him just like I’ve got him; keep your fingers spread just like this, okay?”

“Okay.” Her eyebrows lifted when the fish had been successfully transferred into her hands. “Wow, he’s heavy.”

“Yeah,” Max mused as he used the wire cutters to snap the barb off and then carefully pulled the straight end out without further damaging the tissue around the entry wound. “Bet he weighs in around ten, maybe twelve pounds.”

Liz turned the fish around so she could look it in the eye and when her expression sobered he knew what was coming.

“I think we should give him a name.”

“You don’t name things you’re gonna eat, darlin’.”

“I know, but…”

Max nodded and took her elbow to turn her back towards the railing. “Let him go; we can throw some burgers on the grill later.”

“Really? You don’t mind?”

“No, no, turn him loose.” His disappointment at the loss of fresh catfish for dinner was short-lived when she turned back to him after releasing the fish and a genuine smile lit up her face. When she suddenly threw her arms around his neck and hugged him he forgot all about catfish in favor of the woman in his arms.
Last edited by Double Trouble on Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:34 pm, edited 2 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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 42 - 8/9/09

Post by Double Trouble » Sat Aug 08, 2009 11:47 pm

destinyc: You’ll never look at fishing the same way, will you? LOL!

Liz’s major… we actually have just a snippet about that in the next part. We wondered how many readers would question Liz’s behavior with the fish!

They’re still in the one-step-forward-two-steps-back phase, but they will get there.

kismet: Yay! We’re glad you enjoyed that chapter! Max is a patient guy… and it’ll pay off for him.

Yes, but as you said… slowly.

Natalie36: Thanks! Yes, that’s a very good rule to live by! Sorry about the rabbit!

sunrise102: Glad you enjoyed that! Sorry, we’ve only got one Max and it looks like he’s taken.

sarammlover: Nope, Michael wasn’t happy about being turned down.

The decision will be made official very soon! Max may be sitting by, but the man is not sitting by idly!

nibbles2: Thanks, we’re glad you enjoyed it! We actually have a brief moment that touches on this very subject in this next part.

Well, that’s a very good question… and we have a very good answer, but we can’t reveal it just yet.

mary mary: Fishing worms are gross and shrimp works so much better for catfish! Yeah, cleaning the fish is not the best part of fishing at all!

Well, maybe not forever, but we’ve still got a loooooong ways to go!

twilight: LOL, sorry, we’ve only got the one Max and he’s already taken.

Glad you enjoyed the fishing scene!

Eva: There’ll be more – as you said, it’s just the beginning!

Zoi: They are… and that won’t change too soon…

LOL, sorry, we know you hate cute, but on the other hand, we’re glad you enjoyed the “cute” scene.

tequathisy: Seems like we’ve got plenty of readers who would be happy to volunteer for that job!

Thanks, we’re glad you enjoyed that scene! We had a lot of fun writing it!

begonia9508: Nope, you’re right about that!

Maiqu: Thanks for reading!


Part 42 – Growing Confusion

Maria held Michael’s hand for balance as she dismounted from the dirt bike they had decided to take out. Once she was on her own two feet he swung his leg over the seat and glanced around as he moved to join her. He had been surprised when she had enthusiastically agreed to take the bike out instead of the ATV’s but he had just as quickly realized that he should’ve expected it; she was adventurous and she loved a good time as much as he did.

“Looks like none of your friends are here today,” Maria commented as she followed him along a worn path that wound through the woods and then down a small hill.

“Be careful goin’ down,” he warned.

“Michael, you should know by now that I’m always careful when I go down.” She laughed when his head whipped around and he momentarily lost his footing. “Maybe you should take your own advice.” She bit her bottom lip when he glared at her as he quickly caught his footing and then turned his attention back to the path before them.

“Are you implyin’ that I don’t know what I’m doin’ when I go down on you?” he growled. “We both know that’d be a lie.” He reached the bottom of the path and turned, catching her when she jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist as she kissed him.

“No, baby, we both know you know what you’re doin’.” She chuckled when his grin turned smug. “That was evident from the very first moment you got your hand in my panties.”

He nodded, satisfied with her answer. “Yeah, that’s true.” He tipped his head in the direction of the natural pool of water behind him. “Ready to go swimmin’?” His gaze slid over her when she nodded. “You wearin’ a bathin’ suit under your clothes?”

“Um-hmm.” She ran her fingers through his hair when he lowered his head to tug at the neckline of her tank top with his teeth.

He growled. “You gonna let me see it?”

“I guess that depends on whether or not you’re gonna put me down.” She chuckled when he hurried to put her down and take several steps back. “In a hurry?”

“Just wanna see what you’ve got on under there,” he muttered as he jerked his tee shirt over his head and dropped it on a nearby boulder.

Maria watched him, frowning when he reached for the snap on his jeans and instead of undoing them he just hooked his thumb in the waistband and waited. “What’re you waitin’ for?”

He gestured towards her with his free hand. “Ladies first,” he growled.

“I thought you said chivalry was dead.”

“It’s completely selfish on my part… I just wanna see you strip down.” He grinned wolfishly. “The sooner you strip down, the sooner I get you in the water, and the sooner we can get off.”

Maria just rolled her eyes at him and reached for the hem of her tank top, pulling it up and over her head. She feigned interest in her surroundings as she undressed and after several minutes she found herself drawn towards the pool of water.

Michael watched her, his eyes glazing over as she removed the last of her clothes so that she stood there in an emerald green bikini. This was the stuff fantasies were made of, he thought as he fumbled in his pocket for his phone. He was bringing up the photo option when he glanced up and caught her moving towards the edge of the springs. She studied the area for several minutes before stretching one perfect leg out to dip her big toe in the water. He held the phone out in front of him, lining her profile up in the frame and snapping off the picture, quickly putting the phone back in his pocket and shoving his jeans down over his hips. As soon as he could kick them off of his feet he added his clothes to hers but before he could join her she spoke up.

“Michael?”

“Huh?”

“Where’re all the hot chicks from yesterday?” She glanced around, taking everything in once more before focusing on the water once more. “We haven’t seen anyone since we left the cabin.”

“I don’t need any hot chicks from yesterday,” he growled, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her.

Maria leaned back against him, tilting her head to one side to give him better access when he started kissing her neck. Her eyes were sliding shut as her insides started to melt from nothing more than his lips on her skin when he suddenly lifted her up in his arms. “Impatient, huh?” She barely had time to get the words out before he shifted and she screamed in shock when he tossed her into the water.

He jumped in after her, careful to land nearby but not so close that they would collide. He had made a mental note of the spot where she had entered the water and he swam up behind her as she surfaced, wrapping his arms around her once more.

“That’s the second time you’ve thrown me in the water!” she grumbled.

“Uh-huh,” he said against her skin, “and remember what happened that night?”

Maria moaned when he chuckled in her ear, the sound sending shivers down her spine. “Are you suggesting a repeat performance?”

“I haven’t decided yet. First thing I’m gonna suggest is that we swim over to the bank where we can get a better foothold.”

She nodded and they swam to the waters’ edge but when they reached their destination and she tried to turn around to face him he pressed his body flush against hers, trapping her against the bank and preventing her from turning around. The thought of protesting was fleeting because even though she wouldn’t admit it to him, she enjoyed it when he let his controlling nature surface when they were getting off. She bit her bottom lip when he deftly removed her bikini top and tossed it in the direction of their clothes. The warm water felt wonderful against her skin, but it wasn’t as tantalizing as his big, rough hands as they slid around her body to cup her breasts in his palms.

“Um, there’s nothin’ to brace my feet on,” she muttered.

His voice was like gravel when he rasped in her ear, “Guess you’d better keep a good grip on the bank then, huh?” His left hand slid down to tease her belly button while his right hand remained occupied with her breasts, tugging and pulling her nipples as he did his best to drive her crazy.

“Michael, please… touch me…”

He smirked when he heard her begging tone and he gently bit her shoulder before soothing it with his tongue. “I am touchin’ you, baby,” he said, pinching her nipple to prove his point. He knew what she wanted, but he wanted to draw it out. His left hand dipped lower, his fingertips tracing the edge of her bikini bottom as his mind wandered to her date a couple nights earlier. Had that dumbass tool dared to touch her the way he was touching her now? Had she allowed him to touch her like this? He paused for a moment, his hands ceasing their movements. Had she let him go farther? Had she gotten something from Gary that she hadn’t gotten from him? Had she allowed him to fuck her?

“Michael?” Maria frowned when he suddenly stopped moving. His big hands weren’t doing more than just touching her, but there was no intent behind his touch now. “Hey, what’s wrong?” She pushed back and his embrace was just loose enough that she could turn around and look into his face. “Michael?” He was uncharacteristically quiet as she reached up to frame his face in her hands, lifting his gaze to hers. “Talk to me, Michael; tell me what’s wrong.” For just the briefest moment she could’ve sworn she saw hurt and jealousy in his dark eyes, but then he blinked and it was gone.

Michael brought his emotions under control before she could pinpoint them and start questioning him. He might have admitted that there was some emotional involvement on his part, but he wasn’t willing to reveal that bit of information to her or anyone else.

“Michael?”

He forced his gaze to focus on her when she called his name again and he forced his expression to remain neutral. C’mon, Guerin, pull your act together before she starts getting suspicious. You’ve gotta get over this; she’s not your girlfriend, you don’t have sex with her, and you don’t wanna have a real relationship with her, so you’ve got no right to wanna know what she did with Gary. It’s none of your damn business!

Maria was starting to wonder if something was really wrong with him when he lowered one hand from its hold on the bank to slide his arm around her waist and pull her against him. His mouth crashed down over hers and she immediately forgot all about questioning him and lost herself in the rough kiss. She was barely aware of him working her bikini bottoms down over her legs until she felt his calloused hand against her bare skin, urging her to wrap her legs around his waist.

Michael gentled the kiss as he felt her arms and legs come around him and he shied away from the realization that nothing in his life had ever felt as right as it did when he was with her. He groaned into her mouth when she shifted just enough to line his erection up so that every time she rubbed against him she was being stimulated where she wanted it most. She broke the kiss and her lips nibbled a path down along the column of his throat until she reached the sensitive skin where his neck and shoulder met. He groaned and his eyes rolled back in his head when she started to suck on his pulse point, but he broke free of her hold when he felt her tugging on his swimming trunks.

Maria slipped down under the water when he suddenly pulled free and swam a few feet away and she surfaced a moment later, spluttering and glaring at him. “What was that all about?”

Yeah, explain that one, Guerin! his conscience screamed at him. His heart was pounding as he worked to stay afloat and he knew she was confused and maybe even a little bit hurt, but he had to put some distance between them. He knew he wasn’t the only one who wanted to take things further; he wasn’t an idiot, he could read the signals, but he knew what would happen once they had sex. He was incapable of sustaining a relationship, so he knew that once they got down to it and had sex that it was the end of this thing between them.

His eyes moved over her features when she swam closer to him, her green eyes filled with intent. He had to distract her before she touched him again because he was reaching the point of no return; he wanted to be inside of her so badly that he was losing all of his perspective. It wasn’t worth the risk because he knew it would end things between them, but at the same time the need to have her that way was slowly driving him out of his mind.

“Michael, this little game you’re playin’ would be a lot more fun if I wasn’t in desperate need of getting off over here. Now, you wanna tell me what’s goin’ on? Because one minute I’m ridin’ your dick and I’m on the verge of comin’ and the next you take off.”

Oh, if only you were ridin’ my dick, he thought with an internal groan. “I just had somethin’ else in mind to get you off,” he lied.

“Yeah?” Maria smiled. He was creative so she knew whatever he had in mind would be worth the wait.

“Um-hmm, see that spot over there?” he asked, nodding towards a grassy area that was dappled with sunlight. “I wanna see you spread out right there so I can see every inch of you while I’m goin’ down on you.”

“Well, by all means, let’s go.”

He nodded and reached down to give Mike Jr. a warning squeeze before swimming after her and hauling himself up on the bank. He paused as he got to his feet, mesmerized by her as she walked around to the area he had pointed out. She moved around the spot, patting her feet in the soft grass to make sure there were no stickers or rocks that would irritate her skin before sitting down and running her fingers through the soft blades of the rich, green grass.

“It’s so beautiful here,” she murmured, looking around at the tall trees surrounding them in all directions. The sky above them was a clear blue without a single cloud in sight and the sun was far enough back that the sunlight wasn’t direct as it played over her bare skin.

“Yeah, it is,” Michael muttered gruffly, his eyes locked on her. He was sure that her acceptance of her body and the ease she expressed with every movement were both contributing factors to her overall beauty. She was confident and unassuming about her body and that made her sexier than hell in his eyes.

Maria glanced up when Michael moved to stand at her feet, shading her eyes with one hand as her gaze slid up over his body to meet his dark eyes. “Are you gonna take your trunks off?” she asked, stretching one leg out and running her foot up his leg. She grasped the hem of his trunks between her toes and tugged on them, waggling her eyebrows at him playfully when he shook his head. “No? And why not?” She released the material and moved her foot higher, easily locating his erection and sliding the arch of her foot against his hard length.

Michael struggled for control as she teased him, wishing that the promise in her eyes included more than just a handjob or a blowjob. He cradled her foot in the palm of his hand, forcing her to stop the sweet torture as he dropped to his knees before her. “You have no idea what I’d like to do to you,” he whispered raggedly as he crawled up over her.

She reached up to frame his face in her hands, green eyes darkened to jade as she stared into the depths of his dark eyes. “Anything you want,” she whispered as she leaned up to kiss him. Part of her wished that she had the nerve to tell him what she wanted; it wasn’t that she was shy about wanting to feel him inside of her, or that she was embarrassed that she was reaching a point where she needed to feel a deeper connection with him when they got each other off. The truth was that she was afraid that once they took that step his past would dictate his future and it would spell the beginning of the end for them and she wasn’t brave enough to risk her heart in the interest of getting laid… not even for him. And that’s exactly what it would be, she realized. If she connected with him on that level he would own her heart whether she wanted him to or not and she wasn’t ready for that.

Michael swallowed hard, seeing more in her open gaze than he wanted to see. He couldn’t decipher every emotion he was seeing there, but he could interpret enough of them to know that he couldn’t make the type of commitment she was looking for. Anything you want, she’d said. In that moment he knew if he gave the slightest push she would give in, she would let him inside in every conceivable way, and he also knew that there was too much at stake and he couldn’t risk it. Not even for her. Especially not for her, his mind taunted.

Maria wondered at his silence as he turned his attention to running his hands over her body, licking and kissing every inch of skin within his reach. There was something different about his touch, something that she couldn’t quite put her finger on, but if she were to give it a name off the top of her head, she would call it desperation.

“You ever done body shots?” Michael asked, trying to distract himself.

“No. Yeah. Well, not really.”

He frowned at her less than articulate answer and levered himself up on his elbows so he could meet her gaze. “I don’t understand.”

“Well, when you’re doin’ body shots the girl is generally supposed to hold the shot glass between her breasts, right?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“Yeah, well… as I’m sure you’ve noticed I’m not exactly well-endowed in that department.” She shrugged carelessly but it was pretty obvious that someone had hurt her by making a thoughtless comment about her size. “So, not a game I really play.”

Michael moved up over her again, his big hands cupping her breasts as he leaned down to press a gentle kiss to each one. This was the first time that he had ever seen her seem less than confident about her appearance and it bothered him. “Whatever asshole told you that is a fuckin’ moron. Obviously what he lacked in creativity he more than made up for by bein’ a dick.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter,” he argued, “because whoever he is, whatever he said, he fucked with your confidence and I don’t like that.”

“It’s not important, Michael,” she said, gripping his shoulders and tugging him closer so she could kiss him.

He let her redirect his attention, but he vowed to find a way to make her believe that she was as perfect as he thought she was. Michael latched onto her breast as his right hand set up a fast rhythm between her legs, his intent more on making her forget the subject he had brought up by mistake rather than on drawing things out this time.

Maria could feel the pressure building as he touched her with hands and a mouth that were well-acquainted with her body and her needs. For a man who claimed that he wasn’t interested in getting involved he always showed a remarkable interest in drawing the most earth-shattering orgasms from her body. This time was no exception and her fingers clenched in his spiky hair and she pushed up against him when he teased her entrance with his fingers before pushing them inside.

“Just let it go,” he whispered, his own eyes darkening in response to her uninhibited movements when she thrust up to take his fingers in as deeply as possible.

“Michael…”

He loved the way his name sounded on her lips, but when she said his name in that certain way, just kind of panting it out when she was on the brink of coming it drove him crazy. He knew if they ever had sex that would be all it would take to send him over the edge. He shifted his hand, changing his angle so that he was making contact with her G-spot on every stroke and as soon as her fingernails dug into his shoulders he knew she was right there.

He was vaguely aware of birds vacating their perches in the trees overhead when she screamed his name. Her skin was flushed and gleaming with perspiration, her breasts – that were perfect no matter what some moron had told her – were rising and falling rapidly as she tried to bring her ragged breathing under control, and her eyes were such an amazing shade of deep green. God, she was so incredibly beautiful. He had never known any other woman who had held him so enthralled or captured his interest in such an all-consuming way.

As Maria’s breathing finally began to approach something resembling normal she reached out and let her fingertips trail along the waistband of his trunks. She combed her fingers through the trail of hair that arrowed down from below his belly button, pushing his trunks further down with each pass.

“What d’you want this time, Michael?”

He met her playful gaze and he shook his head. “You got somethin’ in mind?”

“Maybe… you feelin’ adventurous today?”

He had a bad feeling that he knew where she was going and he knew he wasn’t ready for that, not with everything that had been hitting him since her arrival the night before. “Guess that depends on what you’ve got in mind.”

“Touch yourself and let me watch you.” She felt his resistance to her request without hearing him utter a single word and she nodded, accepting that he wasn’t comfortable with it. She had been on the other side of that request not so long ago and it wasn’t something she had been ready to do at that moment either. So, while she was disappointed, she wasn’t going to let it ruin their day together.

Michael pulled away when he felt her fingers brush against his erection, and he pretended not to notice her puzzled expression when he suddenly pulled away and got to his feet. He kicked his trunks off and ran towards the springs, diving into the water and wishing that it were cold so that it would kill his aching hard-on.

Okay, what the hell was going on?! Maria stared at Michael in disbelief when he left her to jump in the water. That was the second time in the past hour that he had pulled away from her when she had tried to touch him. She watched him swimming laps around the springs, moving like a man possessed… or maybe a man running from something, she thought. What if she wasn’t the only one who wanted to take things farther? They had both denied any interest in moving into anything resembling relationship territory, and he had made no effort to make her think that he had changed his mind.

Even if it was true, he wasn’t going to admit it, she realized. She rolled her eyes and got up, walking to the edge of the springs and diving in. When she surfaced she looked around and located him on the opposite side, left hand braced on the bank and his right hand below the water line. “Hey, Guerin,” she called as she swam up behind him and wrapped her arms around his chest. She let her right hand slide down his arm, feeling the movements in his tense muscles as he jerked off. “Here, let me give you a hand with that.”

Michael relaxed his grip when he felt her hand grasp his wrist and he exhaled roughly when her hand wrapped around his dick. His fingers clenched tightly in the grass under his left hand and he wondered if she had any idea what she did to him when she touched him. He covered her hand with his, adding more pressure to each stroke and he dropped his head forward to rest on his fisted hand.

He could feel her lips against his skin as she kissed his neck and shoulders, felt her breath gusting against his ear as she whispered words that he was too far gone to decipher. He let his mind wander, imagining her legs wrapped around his waist as he pounded into her willing body, her voice hoarsely screaming his name as he pushed her over the edge multiple times before following her into oblivion.

Maria felt his entire body tense up and his grip tightened on hers as he bucked into her hand and came. She held him as he raised his right arm, bracing his elbow on the bank next to his head and reaching around to rub his neck. She didn’t know what was going on with him, she only had her speculations, but she could feel the difference in him. He must have realized that she knew something was going on with him because he extracted himself from her arms and swam a few feet away.

Michael kept his mind occupied by focusing on swimming, barely noticing when Maria got out of the water and moved to sit on the grassy area. If just imagining being inside her had made him come that hard, how intense would it be if it were to actually happen? It was the first time he had allowed his thoughts to move into that territory when they were getting each other off and he knew he couldn’t let it happen again. He glanced at Maria as he made one final lap around the springs before hauling himself up over the edge and getting to his feet.

The sun had started to climb higher in the sky and was covering more of the open area and she had retrieved a tube of sunscreen from the pocket of her shorts. She was sitting there, naked as the day she was born, rubbing the lotion into her skin. He grabbed his tee shirt and used it to dry off before pulling his jeans on and walking over to join her. “You want some help with that?” he asked, taking the tube from her and sitting down behind her.

She was silent as he warmed the lotion before starting to apply it, and he struggled to find something to talk about because he was feeling weird and she was being unusually quiet. “So, you leavin’ early this week?”

“For what?” Maria asked, relieved that he had broken the heavy silence.

“Thanksgiving… y’know, it’s that stupid holiday where people shove a bunch of stuffing up the turkey’s ass and toss it in the oven? Completely overrated, but the food’s good and there’s always football.”

“Oh, that’s right. I don’t know how I forgot that it was this week.”

“You’ll have to tell your mom Mike Jr. says hi.”

Maria snorted. “I will tell my mother no such thing!”

He laughed at that. “Why not?”

“Uh, why not? Because unfortunately, my mother isn’t as clueless as I would like her to be sometimes…. she figured out that Mike Jr. is the name you gave your dick.”

He shifted uncomfortably. “Okay, so no Southern California greetings from Mike Jr. then.” That was just far too disturbing to think about! His hands swept over her back and shoulders in broad, sweeping strokes as he blocked that thought from his mind.

“Well, no Southern California greetings from anyone,” Maria said quietly.

“Whatcha mean?”

“My mom’s workin’ all week and over the weekend, too so I’m not gonna go home for the holidays.” She shrugged. “I’ll have plenty of time to get ahead with my studies.”

Michael frowned and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back and holding her against his chest. The obvious thing to do after her revelation was to invite her to spend Thanksgiving with his family, but that would just add a whole new level of complications into the mix and neither of them wanted that.

Maria ignored the hurt that pushed to the surface when he didn’t even mention the possibility of her spending the holiday with him and his family. But, an invitation like that would indicate a deeper level of involvement, Maria, her conscience reminded her. And you didn’t want that, remember? “So, will your parents come here for Thanksgiving?” she asked, desperate to change the subject.

“No!” He shook his head. God, they were just jumping from one shitty topic to the next today! “Family holidays suck when they’re around, so it works much better with my parents in a totally different country.”

This conversation was just getting worse with every new thing that either of them brought up for discussion, Maria thought. It was time to put an end to it before they were both so painfully uncomfortable that they just couldn’t look at each other any longer.

“So, are you hungry? Because I don’t know about you, but I could eat somethin’.”

Michael latched onto that with lightning speed. “Yeah, I could definitely go for somethin’ to eat.” He hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “We could head back now if ya want.”

They got dressed in record time, too busy avoiding their feelings to watch each other or come up with excuses to touch bare skin before it was covered up once again.

*****

Max was in the kitchen making sandwiches when the front door opened and Michael and Maria entered the cabin. He snatched up a cucumber slice, dipping it in ranch dressing before popping it in his mouth and chewing it slowly as he watched the two of them. As a rule, they were both loud individuals, but for some reason they were uncharacteristically quiet as they headed towards their own rooms without a word to each other.

He and Liz had gotten back about half an hour earlier and he had offered to make lunch in exchange for getting the shower first. He grabbed another tomato from the refrigerator because he knew without asking that Michael would want a sandwich when he emerged. After washing it, he wiped the excess water off and started slicing it, adding the thin slices to the other stack on the far side of the cutting board.

“Hey, you want a sandwich?” he asked when Michael came back into the room a short while later.

“Sure, why not?” Michael grunted as he stepped around Max, walking through the kitchen to the wet bar at the opposite end. He browsed through the liquor selection before pulling down a bottle of tequila and uncapping it. He tossed back two shots before replacing the bottle and going to the refrigerator to pull a beer out. “Where’s the fish you were braggin’ about catchin’ this mornin’?”

“Well, we hit a slight snag with that.”

“Uh-huh… couldn’t catch anything? Or too busy bangin’ your girl instead?”

“Y’know, there’s no reason for you to talk like that about Liz, and I’m guessin’ you wouldn’t appreciate it if someone made remarks like that about Maria, so back off. I don’t know who fucked up your day, but you can stop pissin’ on mine just because yours sucks.” He slapped the top slice of bread on the sandwich and slid it across the counter. “Enjoy your fuckin’ sandwich,” he snarled.

Michael snatched the sandwich up and took a big bite out of it, chewing thoughtfully as he sat down on one of the barstools and hooked his feet on the bottom rung. “Sorry,” he mumbled finally. He reached for a bag of chips and opened it, dumping some on his plate and pushing them around for several minutes before he attempted to clear the air. Kyle and Max were his two closest friends and other than his family – parents not included, of course – they were the only people he ever really bothered with when it came to maintaining his relationships.

“You ready to talk about whatever crawled up your ass an’ put you in this mood?” Max asked as he dropped two slices of bread in the toaster and switched the setting to light.

Michael shrugged and started rearranging his chips, placing one on top of the other and building a tower of potato chips.

Max rolled his eyes at his friend’s typical avoidance technique; if it hadn’t been potato chips, it would’ve been something else.

“So, why aren’t we havin’ catfish for dinner?”

“Liz wanted to name the fish,” Max admitted after a few moments.

“Girls,” Michael muttered. “She’s majoring in biology though, right? So, at least she wasn’t squeamish about touchin’ the fish or baitin’ the hooks.” He shook his head when Max shrugged and chuckled.

“Not that fond of baitin’ hooks or touchin’ fish, and she’s studyin’ for a degree in marine biology, but the field she wants to go into doesn’t deal with that part of the science.”

Michael just grunted in response, already losing all interest in the conversation.

“Wanna talk about the party I went to on Thursday night?” Max nodded when Michael motioned for him to continue, not surprised when there was little indication that he was actually listening until he mentioned some of the guys from the basketball team being there.

“Wait… the whole team?”

“Nah, just the usual suspects; it was just odd that they showed up for that party since most everyone who was there couldn’t stand half the guys on the team.”

“What about Gary?”

“Lawson?” Max clarified. “Yeah, that dumb-fuck was there.” He shook his head. “Puttin’ the moves on every girl in the room; Mathews tried to rearrange his face when Lawson started pawin’ his girl.”

“Really?” A slow smile emerged at that; Ed Mathews was on the football team and if he had gone after Lawson, chances were good that he had put a real hurt on him. “Tell me he busted somethin’.”

Max chuckled. “Oh, man, you should’ve been there! Lawson literally grabbed Mandy and started doin’ a bump an’ grind right in front of everyone an’ she turned around an’ busted his nuts with two solid kicks. Then Ed saw what was goin’ on and all hell broke loose! Lawson’s layin’ on the ground and you know he had to be hurtin’, but Ed tore his ass up! Dragged him right outta the house and beat his ass on the front lawn.” Max shrugged. “I’d have done the same thing if he’d put his hands on my girl... can’t really blame Ed for that.”

“Fuck no!” Somehow, Michael felt better now that he knew there was no way in hell that Maria had been out with Gary. She hadn’t been out with him and she hadn’t done anything else with him either, he thought smugly.

Max pulled the toast out and started putting the sandwich together, reaching for the mustard instead of the mayonnaise and spreading a layer across one slice of the toasted bread. He piled the rest of the ingredients on and then placed the other slice of toast on top before pressing down on it lightly and reaching for a knife to cut it in half.

“Is that mine?” Liz asked as she joined them.

“All yours, darlin’,” Max answered, glancing up at her. His mouth went dry when he saw that she was wearing a red tank top with a pair of shorts that left a lot of smooth, bare leg visible. He turned around, opening the refrigerator and pulling out a wine cooler and popping the cap off, winking as he set it on the counter in front of her. “Tastes like Sex on the Beach, but it has a lot less alcohol.”

Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink. “Thank you.”

“Maria, glad you could join us!” he said when she entered the room, glancing around as if she were debating the best way to avoid something. Or someone, he thought with a quick look at Michael. “Can I interest you in a sandwich?”

“Sure. What’ve you got?”

“Whatever you want.” His smile was open and friendly.

“I’d just about kill for a BLT,” she said, enjoying the ease of the meaningless conversation. “But I can see that you don’t have any bacon, so…”

“Hell, girl, it only takes a few minutes to cook a few slices of bacon, and let’s face it… if the bacon’s not fresh, it ruins the BLT.”

Michael paused mid-chew and turned his head to glare at Maria when she giggled like some silly schoolgirl.

“Well, if you don’t mind then I’m certainly not gonna argue with you.”

“Y’know what,” Michael growled menacingly, “why don’t you just fix your own damn sandwich and go sit out on the deck with your own girl, Evans.”

“Hey, man, I was just offerin’ to fix – “

Michael got to his feet and leaned over the counter, hands braced on the surface as he stopped with his face mere inches from the other man’s. “Have you gone deaf or am I not speakin’ clearly enough for you?”

Maria really wished she didn’t find it so hot or get so turned on when Michael felt threatened, but when he did he got jealous and territorial, and when that happened her insides melted like hot butter. If they were in a real relationship, having real sex, she would’ve been dragging him away at that very moment.

Liz watched the guys as they faced off across the counter and she reached out to place a hand on Max’ tensed forearm. “You said I could teach you to play chess this afternoon,” she said, hoping to diffuse the tension between him and Michael.

His response was immediate. “Sure, darlin’, let me fix my plate and then we’ll do that.”

“Why don’t I finish your sandwich and you get the board set up?” She smiled appreciatively when he nodded agreeably and went to do that. “I don’t understand why the two of you insist on havin’ these pissing contests,” she muttered, expecting Michael to make some rude remark.

“When he stops flirtin’ with Maria I’ll stop…” Michael shook his head when he realized what he was doing. “It’s none of your business; I don’t need to explain my actions to you or anyone else.”

Liz rolled her eyes and finished putting Max’ sandwich together before trimming the crust off of it and adding chips to his plate. She froze when she caught Michael’s snort and she looked up to see him shaking his head. “What? He told me he doesn’t like the crust.”

“Whatever. It’s great that you wanna cater to him, but if you wanna move it along I’d appreciate it.” He pointed at the sliced cucumbers lined up on the cutting board. “Don’t forget those and take the Ranch dressing with you; his highness enjoys them.”

“It’s not necessary for you to be so rude, y’know,” Maria said when they had been left alone.

“No, what’s not necessary is that bullshit flirtin’ between you an’ Max!”

“Are you kidding?! He was not flirting with me!”

Michael slammed the frying pan down on the burner and turned it on. “I think I know what flirtin’ looks like, Maria!”

“And I think you must be suffering from some sort of oxygen deprivation up here in the mountains because he was not flirting with me!” she shouted as she stalked around the counter and shoved him hard enough to make him take several steps backwards.

“Don’t push me, Maria!”

“Why? What’re you gonna do about it?” She reached out to turn the burner off before giving him another good shove, but he was prepared this time and he didn’t move. “You wanna get pissy with me after that bullshit out at the springs? I don’t know what the fuck that was – “

Michael couldn’t take it anymore and when she started to shove him once more he grabbed her hand and jerked her up against his body. “You know exactly what that was!” His lips crashed into hers, his mouth forcing hers open so that his tongue could invade and conquer, plundering the dark recesses and taking ownership. He refused the weak attempt she made to pull away as he backed her up against the nearest wall and grabbed her thighs to lift her up so that she could wrap her legs around him.

He growled when she shoved the panels of his shirt apart, sliding her arms around him and digging her nails into his flesh when his hips slammed into hers and set up a furious rhythm. Her head slammed back against the wall when he released her mouth and tore her shirt open so that he could latch onto her breast and suck her nipple through the lace of her bra.

Her hips rose and fell in time with the fast pace he had set up, every movement creating havoc with the bundle of nerves between her legs. She felt his rhythm stutter and his movements became jerky as that last thread on his control snapped and his eyes slid shut when he heard her start to pant. She was right there with him and he could hear his own harsh breathing echoing in his ears when he let her nipple slip from his lips.

“Michael… Michael… Michael…”

Fuck, this felt good! he thought, capturing her mouth for another deep, heated kiss. He felt her nails digging into his back and her thighs gripped his hips tighter as she moved in counterpoint to his frantic thrusting.

Maria felt her orgasm rush over her just before his hips slammed into her one last time and she was grateful that they were kissing because she was sure she would’ve blown a few windows out otherwise.

“Oh, fuck,” Michael groaned as he dropped his head down to rest against her shoulder. His lungs slowly started to operate normally and he leaned back to look at Maria, unsure of her response to his animalistic behavior.

“Okay, that was more like it,” she said, slowly running her fingers through his hair, soothing the worry she could read in his dark eyes. “My only complaint is that now I need another shower.” She wrinkled her nose as she leaned in to drop a kiss on the tip of his nose. “And since you’re gonna have a pretty impressive wet spot on the front of your jeans you’ll wanna take another shower too.” She grinned as she lowered her mouth to his and used the wall for leverage to push against him, letting him know that she wanted to be put down.

With her feet on the floor Maria ended the kiss and took a couple of steps back to run the tip of her forefinger along the ridge of his zipper. “I was right,” she whispered, her tone teasing, “that wet spot is impressive.” She winked at him before hurrying back towards the bedroom she was sharing with Liz.

Michael felt much better as he hurried to grab another shower and change clothes so he could get back to the kitchen and fix his girl something to eat. Things felt like they were supposed to; there was none of that nagging confusion that had been hanging over him earlier. He pulled a clean set of clothes out of his bag and carried them into the bathroom, tossing them on the counter and kicking the door shut behind him. He was singing to himself as he started the water and pulled his clothes off.
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 43 - 8/13/09

Post by Double Trouble » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:08 pm

spacegirl23: These two are skating on seriously thin ice and every time they avoid or sidestep their problems they’re only creating more cracks in a foundation that is already very unstable.

destinyc: Michael is torn between what he knows and what he wants. He’s terrified of reaching for more than he thinks he deserves and that holds him back.

nibbles2: We didn’t mean to imply that there would be no involvement with marine life, but there are actually a lot of marine biologist jobs that are not directly linked to hands-on dealings with the fishies. However, Liz is slowly stepping out of her known boundaries and beginning to experience life.

Michael’s behavior is only being compounded by his sexual frustration – not that we’re condoning his behavior. It’s not something he’s going to be able to change overnight, but it’ll happen.

For these two to make this thing between them work they’re gonna have to reach a breaking point first – and it’s coming.

Eva: Oh, you’re right on target! The situation is building and eventually the explosion is going to happen.

We’ll see…

Right again! The question is will he be able to find the courage to take that risk? He’s spent the majority of his life being told that he’s worthless and that no one needs or wants him – that’s difficult to overcome, and one of the biggest steps is going to be opening himself up and risking getting hurt again.

begonia9508: Glad you’re enjoying the weekend so far!

They do fit together!

Natalie36: LOL, we agree with you. And you’re right – there’s gonna be a lotta pissy comin’ up!

mary mary: Well, we suggested profession help and Michael refused to come out and play anymore so we put that suggestion back in the box. No, seriously, professional help probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, but Michael would no doubt refuse such an option. There are so many things in his past that he needs to talk about, but he has to get the nerve up to actually open his mouth and ask for help.

sunrise102: He is an ass at times, but he has his moments. Nope, still only have the one Max, but we’re glad you like him so much!

sarammlover: These two are way more involved and they’re not quite ready to admit it yet. What do you think it’ll take for them to reach that point? LOL, Max and Liz are working on it.

kismet: Yeah, for a while… we’ll see how that goes.

Hmm… we checked with Liz, and, yeah, she said she just couldn’t part with any part of him.

tequathisy: Hold on, we’ll check with them… Yeah, looks like we’re gonna have to get back with you on that.


Part 43 – One Decision Down…

Kyle scrambled to get out of the truck so he could chase after Tess when she ignored him in favor of storming up to the cabin. “Tess, look, I didn’t mean it like that!” he yelled, irritated when he tripped on the top step in his haste to follow her.

“You didn’t mean it like that?” she shouted, suddenly whirling around to face him. Her eyes widened when he took a step back in an effort to keep from running into her and he lost his balance and fell backwards to land on the ground. “Oh, my God! Kyle!” She ran down and dropped to her knees beside him, running her hands over his body to make sure he hadn’t broken anything. “Are you hurt?”

“Am I hurt? Hell, I’ve taken harder falls than that out on the football field,” he grumbled as he pushed himself to his feet. “I thought you were pissed at me?”

“You called me fat,” she stated indignantly.

“I did not call you fat! All I said was that the outfit you tried on at that last place we went to didn’t flatter your figure… that’s all I said!”

Michael had been watching them from his deck chair, and he snorted at Kyle’s pathetic attempt to explain himself. “You called her fat.”

“You’re not helpin’, Guerin,” Kyle growled. He turned back to his girlfriend, imploring her to understand where he was coming from. “Look, would you rather I had lied and told you to go ahead and buy it? You asked if it made your ass look big and, babe, I hate to have to tell you this again, but that pattern wasn’t flattering and it should’ve come with a wide load label stitched in the material because it would make any woman’s ass look big!”

Max leaned forward and moved his knight into the check position and leaned back to wait for Liz to make her move. He shook his head as he glanced at the couple and he chuckled when the furious little blond got to her feet and stormed up the steps. “Just for the record, Valenti, sayin’ that it would make any woman’s ass look big was really the wrong direction to take with that.”

“Would you all stop helpin’ please? Tess, babe, listen to – “

She turned around in the doorway, blue eyes blazing as she glared at him. “Me and my big ass are gonna go take a nap, so you can just stay out here. Do not follow me, Kyle, because you won’t be seeing or touching me or my big ass for the duration of our stay!”

Kyle threw his hands up in the air in a combination of defeat and frustration when she slammed the door in his face. “Out of all the women in the world, how did I end up with the most bull-headed, stubborn-assed one out there?” He moved away from the door when Brooke poked him in the side and nudged him. “Did you think I called her fat?”

“I think…” She winced. “Yeah, there’s really no way around it.”

“I don’t understand,” he complained once she had gone inside. “I did not call her fat!” He glanced at the last couple as they stepped up on the porch. “Alright, how was I supposed to handle that? Help me out here, Alex, because these two assholes don’t have a clue either.”

“Y’know, that’s really somethin’ you guys are gonna have to figure out on your own,” Alex said, following Isabel towards the front door. “I will tell you one thing though; it’s not the clothes that make the woman, it’s the woman that makes the clothes.”

“Well, what the fuck does that mean?” Kyle muttered.

“Ignore him,” Michael advised as he turned his attention back to his guitar. “Alex is talkin’ in riddles so his woman doesn’t kick his ass for sayin’ the wrong thing.” He cast a quick glance back towards the porch swing at the end of the deck where Maria had been sleeping for the past hour and he hid a small smile. Tess’ rant had woken her up and she was looking around, blinking against the late afternoon sunlight as she stretched lazily. He felt his mouth go dry and he was contemplating going over to her when his sister walked past him and thumped her open palm against the back of his head.

She turned around to walk backwards as she stuck her tongue out at him. “Close your mouth, Michael, you’re startin’ to drool.” She screamed and jumped back out of the line of fire when he grabbed a lemon wedge off of the table and threw it at her. She lunged forward and grabbed a handful of the wedges, pelting him with them when he jumped up and moved towards her, his expression full of intent.

Brooke was doing her best to stay out of his reach, dodging around the deck furniture and crowing happily about her success when he suddenly changed direction and caught her. His arms locked around her from behind and they were struggling over the last lemon wedge when her hand curled over it. The pressure from his grip over hers caused the piece of fruit to burst and the juice squirted out between their fingers.

“Ow, ow, ow, that stings!” Brooke howled.

Michael instantly let her go and turned her around, wincing when he saw that she had squeezed her eyes shut and she was rubbing them with her free hand. “Here, don’t do that, you’re just gonna rub it in more.” He pulled her hand away and tipped her head back so he could see if her eyes looked okay. “Damn, I’m sorry, brat,” he muttered, wondering if lemon juice could be damaging to the human eye.

“Me too,” she said, shifting when he tilted her head to the left.

He frowned. “What’re you sorry for?”

“That you’re so gullible!” she shouted gleefully as she snatched up Max’ glass of sweet tea and dumped it down her brother’s back.

Michael roared at the feeling of the ice cold liquid soaking his backside and hitting his skin with no mercy. “Damn it!” he yelled, trying unsuccessfully to pull his shirt away from his body. Not that it mattered, he thought, because he was gonna have to strip down and take another shower now. Four showers in one day… that had to be some kinda record! “You do know that payback’s a bitch, right?”

“I know that you’re not gonna do anything to me,” she said, her tone haughty as she sat on the rail that ran the length of the deck.

“Uh-huh, keep that in mind next time I pick you up from school and you’re moonin’ over that little wanna-be bad boy.”

“Luke is not a wanna-be bad boy,” she denied.

“Y’all talkin’ ‘bout that pup that was chasin’ after Brooke at my last race?” Max asked.

“That’d be the one.” Michael shook his head and rolled his eyes at his sister.

“Do we need to have a talk with that horny little punk?” Kyle sat down at the table across from Max and Liz.

Brooke sighed heavily. “No, the three of you need to stay away from Luke; I think it was enough that you all spent that afternoon glaring at him and making him think you were gonna attack him at any second.”

Max chuckled as he studied the chess board; Liz had taken his knight with her rook and now he had to figure out a new move. “It won’t hurt that young buck to know what his limitations are.”

“His limitations?” Brooke parroted. “No one tells you guys what your limitations are.” Her tone was indignant as she crossed her arms over her chest and glared at them.

“Shows how much you know,” Kyle grumbled. “Women and limitations… the two words are completely interchangeable, remember that.”

“What’d you just say?” Michael asked, certain that he had heard wrong.

“You can’t deny that women call the shots… we’re just here to – “

“I know you know I can hear you, Kyle,” Tess’ voice carried from the open bedroom window near the far end of the deck, “and that line of bullshit isn’t gonna get you back on my good side.”

“Damn it,” he grumbled.

Max and Michael laughed at his disappointed expression and high-fived each other as they waited for Kyle to say something.

“That woman of yours does call the shots, and it looks like you just lost privileges for all naked activities for the rest of the weekend.” Michael snorted and pulled the door open. “I’m gonna hit the shower… again… and then we’ll figure out what we’re doin’ before dinner.”

“I haven’t lost my privileges,” Kyle muttered as he went inside to get a beer.

Max glanced up when his roommates returned at the same time and sat down at the table with him and Liz. He paused with his hand hovering over his bishop when Michael cleared his throat and shook his head, and he shifted his hand to his remaining knight, moving it when he got a nod in return.

“You’re cheating,” Liz accused, but she was smiling as she said it.

“I’m not cheatin’,” Max denied, slouching down in his chair as a slow grin slid over his face. “I’m utilizing my resources.”

“Which is a very nice way of sayin’ that you’re cheatin’.” Brooke smiled innocently when he turned and sent her a warning look. She scampered to the end of the deck where Maria was lounging on the swing as she browsed through a magazine and she dropped down beside her. “Whatcha readin’?”

Maria nearly dropped the magazine in her haste to find an article that anyone would believe she was interested in. “Um…”

Brooke snorted and reached out to flip the cover over. “Fishing Monthly? You don’t really seem like the type, Maria. He’s not goin’ anywhere, y’know… you don’t have to sit over here and stare at him.” She grinned when the older girl shot a quick glance at Michael to make sure he hadn’t overheard his sister’s comment.

“I am not starin’ at Michael.” Maria’s eyes scanned over the article on the pages in front of her. “I’m very interested in this article about… ice fishing.”

The teenager chuckled and slipped down to stretch her legs out in front of her. “Whatever. So, how’d you like the springs?”

Maria shifted and shrugged one shoulder. “They were pretty…”

“Hot?” Brooke interjected, deadpan.

She turned the page, refusing to acknowledge the blush she could feel heating her cheeks. “No, that is not the word I was gonna use, but thanks for the help.”

“Really? Because I thought the water was pretty warm… a lot hotter than I was expecting.”

Maria looked at the girl and shook her head. “Subtlety really isn’t your thing, is it?” she muttered. “At least we didn’t run into anyone while we were there.”

“You were expecting to run into someone?”

“Well, Michael was telling me…” Maria trailed off as she turned to look at him and mentally kicked herself. “There were no girls at the springs, were there?”

“What?” Brooke laughed. “No! Did he tell you that?”

Maria groaned. “Your brother is an ass!”

“Yeah, I know.” Her nose wrinkled when she giggled. “But he was just tryin’ to make you jealous.”

“I wish I could say it hadn’t worked.”

“He called you late Thursday evening, huh?”

Maria’s expression turned suspicious. “Why?”

“Because he disappeared for a while right after I told him that Gary Lawson called you while we were workin’ on my lesson and that you guys were talkin’ about goin’ out on a date.” She jumped when Maria whacked her with the magazine. “What?”

“You did not let him think that I had any intention of goin’ out with Gary, Brooke!”

The teenager laughed so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

Michael shifted in his chair so he could look at his sister and his… what was Maria? She wasn’t his girlfriend… his lover maybe? Could they even be considered lovers? He shook those thoughts off and rested his chin in his hand as he watched the two girls laughing and talking about God only knew what. His sister had never liked any of the girls he had been with and he couldn’t really blame her there; he didn’t make it a habit of getting involved with the girls on any level beyond sex and Brooke had never hidden her disapproval of his behavior.

He was surprised that she had connected with Maria and that they seemed to have formed a bond of friendship. Brooke rarely bothered to engage the women in his life in more than a few brief moments of scathing comments as she passed them either coming or going over at his apartment. She hadn’t had that opportunity with very many of his dates because the only time she had encountered them at his place was when they had stopped by uninvited; he made it a point to never bring the girls back to his place because he wasn’t interested in fostering any hope that a few hook-ups meant that he was looking for a relationship.

But Maria seemed to genuinely like the teenager and the fact that Brooke was his little sister didn’t really seem to have any bearing on her feelings for the girl. The younger girl hadn’t made any real friends since moving in with Alex and starting at a new school and he knew she was still testing the water; she was scared that she was going to have to go back to New York and it had made her hesitant about forming any attachments.

“Yo, Valenti!”

They all turned to face the owner of the new voice and Michael raised his eyebrows when he saw the four guys who were walking up the driveway. He didn’t recognize them, but it was obvious by Kyle’s reaction that he knew them. He jumped up and went down to join the guys and they engaged of several minutes of back-slapping and handshakes before they got down to talking. He was grinning when he turned and jogged back up to the deck and he hooked his thumb over his shoulder as he started to speak.

“Hey, they’re lookin’ for a game.”

“Who are they?” Max asked.

“Oh, the taller one, John, his parents own that cabin we passed comin’ in; he’s up here with some guys from college. They saw us drivin’ back earlier and they thought we might wanna get a game goin’.”

“Hell, I’ll play.”

“You should play, Evans,” Michael muttered. “You could use the practice.”

Max wasn’t bothered in the least by his roommate’s taunt. “Whatever.” He stood and leaned over the chess board to give Liz a quick kiss. “We’ll play again, later… maybe next time I’ll win.”

Liz smiled. “Not likely, but you’re welcome to try.”

“Okay, we need Alex, too.”

“You need me for what?” Alex asked as he and Isabel joined them on the deck.

“You up for a game? The neighbors came over and wanted to see if we were interested in – “

“Football?” He nodded enthusiastically. “Hell, yeah!” He turned to look at Isabel. “You don’t mind, do you?”

She shook her head, smiling at how eager he was. “No, of course not.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Well, now that Alex has permission to go out an’ play – “ He ducked to avoid the swat his brother aimed at his head. “What’re you doin’?” he asked when Kyle pulled his shirt over his head and draped it over the railing.

“Shirts an’ skins… d’you really want the other team to be skins?”

Max and Michael exchanged a quick look before pulling their own shirts off; there was no way they were gonna let the girls spend the next hour watching the other guys play without their shirts on.

“I do believe that includes you too, Alex,” Isabel said with a waving motion at his shirt. “Time to lose the shirt.”

“Wanna put some music on first?” He grinned and undid a few buttons at the top before reaching back and grabbing the collar so he could pull it over his head.

“Was that your best stripper move?” Brooke asked, rolling her eyes.

“What d’you know about strippers or stripping?” Alex countered, his expression telling her that the answer had better be completely innocent.

“Not as much as Michael does.”

Alex chuckled. “That’s a good point.”

“Brooke, isn’t there somethin’ you need to be doin’?” Michael growled.

“Nope.”

Maria was watching the way Michael was glaring at his sister and she immediately realized that there was something he didn’t want her to tell. This was obviously worth knowing if Michael wanted it kept unspoken, she thought. “So, Brooke, what does Michael know about strippers?”

“The same thing every guy knows about them,” he said, speaking quickly in hopes of turning the conversation to a different topic.

“Oh, no, Michael knows much more than that…” Brooke started humming an unrecognizable tune. “What’s that song, Michael?”

“No clue what you’re talkin’ about,” he muttered.

“Whatever.” She turned to look at Maria. “He auditioned to be a stripper at one of the local clubs back home.”

Maria’s eyebrows shot up at that revelation and she turned to look at him.

“Okay, fine, if you must know…” He took a deep breath and glared at his sister once more for good measure. “I did audition and I basically sucked because I have no dance rhythm, okay? And just for the record, the only reason I did it was to piss the old man off.”

“Well, you managed to do that,” Alex said, shaking his head.

“Your father found out about it?” Maria asked.

“He found out about it because Michael paid the manager at the club to put his name up on the marquee so Dad would see it…” She laughed. “Yeah, he got a call from some friend of his and asked if the club was promoting his son as the entertainment and Dad drove down there to find out… man, he blew a gasket when he found out.”

Michael smiled to himself. Yeah, that had pissed the old man off real good; the beating he had gotten for that stunt had totally been worth the looks of humiliation on his parents’ faces though. “Let’s play some football, guys.” He turned to Brooke. “Thanks for lettin’ that cat outta the bag, brat.”

“So, Michael…” Maria’s tone was teasing.

“Huh-uh,” he grumbled, “do not even ask.”

“So, you’re not gonna do a strip-tease for me?”

He turned the glare on her. “Y’know what? I’ve got a game to play…” He hurried down the steps and into the yard, intent on ignoring Maria’s teasing look.

“He really doesn’t have any rhythm when it comes to dancin’,” Brooke admitted.

He had rhythm where it counted though, Maria thought.

“Tell me you guys are not out here talkin’ about Michael stripping,” Tess said as she stepped out onto the deck and took one of the chairs at the table with Liz and Isabel.

“Oh, I wish they hadn’t been; that is not an image I need of Alex’ little brother.”
Maria laughed as she and Brooke got up to join the other girls. “So, has Alex ever done a strip-tease for you, Iz?”

Isabel hid a smile behind her glass of lemonade. “Maybe.”

“Oh, he sooo has!” Tess crowed, pointing at her friend. “And I’ve seen you guys dance, so I know the man’s got rhythm.”

“Well, that’s true.” The tall blond followed Alex’ every move as he called the coin toss so the teams could decide who would have possession of the ball first.

The other team won the coin toss and Kyle tossed the football to them as they took their places on the ‘line’. They watched the game for the first few plays, giving it their full attention, amazed at how serious the guys were taking a simple spur-of-the-moment game. Both sides played as if the game counted, as if every play mattered to them personally.

“So, Maria, what’s goin’ on with you an’ Michael?” Tess asked.

Maria’s mind quickly revisited their rather intense make-out session in the kitchen earlier and she felt heat flood her entire being.

“Yeah,” Isabel added, noticing Maria’s distracted expression, “Alex said he’s never stayed with any girl this long.”

“Oh, he hasn’t.” Brooke hooked her heels on the edge of his seat and pulled her knees up against her chest to loop her arms around them. “Michael’s always been reluctant to let any girl hang around more than a couple weeks, and he’s never let any of them spend time with his family like this.”

Tess glanced at her, interested by that bit of information. “Really?” She looked back at Maria. “See, it is serious; now tell us what’s goin’ on with you two.”

“Yeah, and he totally got jealous when I mentioned that you had a date with Gary.” She shrugged when Maria looked at her. “What? It’s a good thing that he was jealous… and you can’t even say that you don’t like that.”

“That is not the point. I still can’t believe that you told him that.”

Brooke rolled her eyes. “Please, like it’s not obvious that he’s totally into you; he just needed a nudge to get over himself.”

“Don’t you have somethin’ better to do?”

“Better than this? No, I don’t think so.”

Maria drummed her fingertips on the table as she tried to come up with something that would run the teenager off.

On the other side of the table Tess was watching their interaction and she suddenly grinned. “So, Maria, tell us how hot the sex is.”

Maria quickly realized what Tess was doing and she smiled. “Oh, girl, let me tell you… we were at the springs earlier and – “

“I can’t hear you,” Brooke interrupted, reaching up to cover her ears. “Lalalalalala!” She glared at them and hurried to stand up. “And on that note I think I’ll just go find a video game to play.”

Maria dropped her head back to rest against the chair and she grinned at Michael’s little sister. “Don’t even lie; you’re gonna go dig up your laptop so you can talk to Luke.”

“There’s no need to announce that to the universe at large… the last thing I need is for Michael or Alex to overhear that and decide they wanna threaten Luke over the Internet.”

Isabel chuckled at that. “Alex isn’t gonna threaten your boyfriend.”

“Uh-huh… Alex may not react like the ol’ bull in the china shop like Michael does, but he’s actually very good at threatening potential boyfriends.” She rolled her eyes and pulled the door open. “And with that said, I think I’ll leave.”

Maria laughed when the teenager made a quick escape and she shifted to watch the guys again.

“Um, I know you don’t think that’s the end of the inquisition,” Tess said, rolling her eyes. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“Look, Tess, it was a great diversionary tactic to get rid of Brooke, but – “

“But, nothing!” Tess shook her head. “You guys still haven’t had sex, have you?”

“Whoa!” Isabel sat up straighter. “Wait, you guys seriously haven’t had sex?” She shook her head. “You guys are so intense; how is that possible?”

“Do we really have to discuss this?”

Tess and Isabel both nodded. “Uh, yeah!”

“If Maria really doesn’t wanna talk about it…” Liz felt them shift their attention to her and she forced her gaze to stay focused on Max in hopes that they would lose interest in her. Too easy, she thought, just knowing they weren’t going to let it go now. She breathed a sigh of relief when Tess suddenly spoke again, the question directed at Maria. Sorry, Maria.

“Anyway… nothing’s changed, has it?” She nodded when Maria pretended to study her fingernails and she turned her gaze to Isabel instead. “No, they haven’t had sex; Maria seems to think if they don’t actually have sex then she won’t fall for him. So, they’re just bein’ very… creative.”

Isabel’s expression was incredulous. “Are you serious? You’re doin’ stuff that requires that much trust, but you haven’t had sex?”

“Alright, look…” She turned her head to glance over her shoulder to make sure that Brooke was out of sight, and even more important, out of hearing range. “Yes, we’ve been getting each other off without actually havin’ sex because I thought it would keep me from getting more involved with him than I wanted to, but…” She shook her head and bit her bottom lip, chewing on it for several long seconds before she took a deep breath. “It didn’t work.” Her gaze shifted to the man in question and she smiled when he plowed into one of the guys on the other team, wrestling the ball out of the guys’ hands and scrambling back up to his feet to hold it in the air.

“You’ve got feelings for him.”

She glanced at Isabel when the younger girl spoke. “If you so much as breathe a word of this to Alex, I will kill you.” She sighed and nodded. “It’s startin’ to get really complicated… I thought we could do this, just get each other off when we felt like it and nothin’ more, but it’s more than that now, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

“Is it more than that for both of you?” Isabel asked, concerned.

“I don’t know…” She sighed in frustration. “Michael isn’t exactly Mr. Expressive when it comes to his feelings, y’know? There are times when I think it’s more for him, too, but I’m not sure enough to risk everything.”

“Have sex with him and see where it leads,” Tess advised. “Look, you guys have pretty much done everything else, right? And sex is always so intense, especially when feelings are involved, so it would give you a better understanding of where he is, y’know… emotionally.”

“If I have sex with him it’ll cement my feelings for him, and if he doesn’t feel the same, what then?”

“Maybe you should talk to him first,” Liz suggested. “You’ve told me that you guys talk, but you’ve never talked about how you really feel about each other.”

“I don’t know, Liz,” Maria said, her tone doubtful. “I mean, it’s good advice, but with a guy like Michael… it might just send him into hiding.” She glanced at Isabel and made a rolling motion with her right hand. “Go ahead and throw your two cents in.”

Isabel shook her head. “You already know what I’m gonna say; just follow your heart.”

“You guys make it sound so easy.” Maria sighed and turned to watch Michael. “It’s all good advice, but I don’t know which way to go; Michael is many things, but unfortunately, easy and uncomplicated are not two of those things.”

“Hell, you wouldn’t be interested in him if he was,” Tess commented.

“No, that’s probably true.”

Tess decided it was time to let Maria off the hook. “Okay, Liz, your turn.”

The deer-in-the-headlights look was immediate. “What?”

“What’s goin’ on with you an’ Max?”

Liz squirmed uncomfortably and cleared her throat. “Oh, um… well…”

“Hey, no one’s judgin’ you, we’re just curious about what’s goin’ on.” Tess suddenly switched tracks, surprising all of them. “Are you still into Sean, or have you decided that he’s not the guy for you?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty obvious that you’re attracted to Max,” Isabel said, leaning back in her chair and waving to Alex when he turned to look at her. “And like Tess said, no judgment; no one thinks you should stay with Sean if you’re not really in love with him.”

Liz worried her bottom lip with her teeth. “How do you know if it’s real love or if it’s just…” She glanced at Maria. “Staying with someone because you’re comfortable with them?”

Maria had already voiced her opinion on the matter so she remained silent, letting their friends have their say.

“There’s no way to mistake bein’ comfortable with a guy and bein’ in love with a guy,” Isabel said after a few moments.

“Yeah, I’m gonna go with Iz on that one,” Tess said, nodding. “Bein’ with a guy who you’re content to hang out with and kiss him goodnight without a single thought about dragging him back into the house…” She shook her head. “You just know, Liz.” She paused, momentarily distracted by Kyle’s antics as he scrambled around, looking for an open man on the field so he could throw the ball before he was tackled. “You’re not stayin’ with Sean because it’s what your parents want, are you? Because if you are…”

Liz felt her lips turn up in a smile when Max grinned at her from across the yard. “My parents aren’t gonna be happy with me, but I know that I can’t let that determine the course of action I decide to take. I don’t wanna hurt Sean, but, I don’t think he’s really invested in the relationship anymore than I am; I think a lot of it’s just because we’re on familiar ground with each other.” She sighed and looked back at her friends again. “I never understood why you all always made such a big deal about the way guys kiss, or why certain things that they do just drive you crazy…” Her cheeks flushed a light pink as she dropped her gaze to her hands. “I think I’ve finally figured it out though.”

“What’ve you figured out?” Maria asked, breaking her silence.

“That I’m engaged to my best friend and I do love him, but I’m not in love with him.”

“So, what’re you gonna do about that?”

Liz glanced at Isabel and took a deep breath. “Talk to him and tell him that it’s over; I think that’s really the only fair thing to do.”

“You gonna tell Max?” Tess asked.

“No, I think I owe it to Sean to settle things with him first; he deserves to know before the other guy knows. I should’ve done it weeks ago, but I’ve been scared of letting go of what I know to reach for something… someone, who may or may not be the right guy.”

Maria was intrigued by Liz’ response and she leaned forward in her chair. “What d’you mean?”

“Well, he’s not exactly a wallflower; he’s well-known on campus and you can’t make it through a single day without hearin’ several girls talkin’ about him… y’all know what I’m talkin’ about… it’s the same with your guys. Well, maybe not Alex, but he apparently hasn’t spent the kind of time Max, Kyle, and Michael have spent pursuing the female population here in Long Beach.”

Isabel was just fine with the fact that Alex wasn’t a big man on campus who chased after a different girl every week. “So, what… you think he might not be interested in somethin’ serious with you?”

“I don’t know. He hasn’t been in a serious relationship since he started here last year, and if he’s been content to keep things short and sweet with the girls he’s been with, why should I think I’m any different?”

“I think the fact that he hasn’t been on a single date since he got back in town and set eyes on you speaks for itself,” Tess offered. “Kyle said he’s never known Max to go so long without a single date.”

“But, what if it’s just about sex for him?”

Tess smiled at their youngest friend. “If it was just about sex, he wouldn’t still be hangin’ around. Guys do not invest this much time just to get laid.”

“Well, what if that’s all he wants?” Liz didn’t think that, but she really didn’t know that much about guys and she had never dated anyone but Sean, so it couldn’t hurt to ask.

“I doubt that’s all he wants,” Isabel said, glancing at the man they were talking about. “He’s a guy, so he’s definitely gonna wanna have sex, but that’s a decision you have to make when the time comes. If you’re not ready, you’ve gotta tell him no.” She shook her head. “Don’t give in and do it just because it’s what he wants.”

“Right,” Tess said, “and if he’s the right guy he’ll respect your decision and wait until you’re ready. If he gets outta line and tries to push the issue, you tell us and we’ll kick his ass.”

Liz was pleasantly shocked. She hadn’t expected Tess to say that; normally the girl was very forward in her opinion about having sex.

“Yeah, Tess and Iz are both right. I don’t really see Max as the type of guy who would push like that, and I think Michael and Kyle would’ve told us if he was, but whether or not you decide to have sex is totally up to you. Don’t ever let a guy convince you to do anything you’re unsure about; if you’re not comfortable with anything they want you to do, don’t do it. And don’t feel bad about saying no, either. Too many girls just give it up because the guy makes them feel guilty, and they end up regretting it afterwards.”

“You have the right to decide when you’re ready and what you’re ready for, Liz,” Tess reminded her as she stood and stretched. “Women really do have the power in a relationship; the question is how you’ll use it. You’ve gotta make sure they know their place.” She grinned and waggled her eyebrows. “And speaking of power, I suppose it’s time to forgive Kyle so he can really give the game his full attention.”
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 44 - 8/16/09

Post by Double Trouble » Sun Aug 16, 2009 1:09 pm

kismet: That would’ve made for an interesting game, huh?

Max is going to be very happy to learn that Sean is no longer in the picture.

Older brothers can be a pain – and Brooke will have to figure out how to deal with them where Luke’s concerned.

begonia9508: Well, as far as Kyle’s concerned, he said nothing wrong. And well, how many guys consult the brain above their belts before opening their mouth and speaking?

tequathisy: Very much a rookie mistake!

Liz is getting there.

mary mary: Nope, chances are good that Brooke won’t be receiving any advice from her mother.

Poor Kyle… and he still has no idea why what he said was just sooo wrong!

Eva: Nope, definitely won’t go easy! We’ll see who takes the first step.

destinyc: The break is coming… and soon.

sarammlover: The girls definitely have each others backs.

Nope, we promise they didn’t engage in sex… although we can see how that scene could be misleading – something that neither of us ever considered until we realized how many readers came to the same conclusion! So, sorry for the confusion, but they didn’t have sex.

keepsmiling7: No way around it… big mistake!

nibbles2: Let’s hope not.

The breaking point… before the weekend is over. The resolution? That’ll take time.

chanks_girl: Welcome back! Hope you had a great vacation!

Well, we’ll see what happens on the Michael and Maria front.

There has been some progression on the Max/Liz front.

As for Isabel… well, we’re gonna find out for sure soon enough!

Glad you’re enjoying Kyle and Tess.


Author’s Note: We will NOT be posting on Thursday due to vacation schedules, so we put together a longer part for this post and next Sunday’s post!


Part 44 – Football and Drinking Games

Kyle called a time-out when Tess waved to get his attention and he jogged to the edge of the area designated as the field to meet her. “Hey, babe,” he greeted with a small smile. She wasn’t acting like she was mad at him, but it was hard to tell with women sometimes.

“Are you gonna be out here much longer, Kyle?” she asked, and she bit back a smile when his eyes automatically lowered to follow her forefinger when she placed it in the center of his chest and slid it downward.

“Uh, did ya have somethin’ in mind?” Her finger traced a teasing path around his belly button and he quickly forced his thoughts to something else.

“You know how much I just love watchin’ you getting all sweaty and dirty while you’re playin’ with the boys…”

“Uh-huh…”

“The only drawback is that I’m over here getting horny as hell and I’m ready to get you naked and in the shower so we can play a different sport... and you’re otherwise occupied.”

“Tess,” he groaned, “stop it or I’m not gonna be able to finish the game.”

“Okay,” she pouted. “I guess I’ll just go inside and take care of it on my own.”

He growled low in his throat and his eyes darkened. “Huh-uh, you stay out here; the game won’t take that much longer.”

“You promise? Because I’m already so wet – “

He cut her off with a quick, hard kiss and she instantly melted against him. He made himself keep it brief because he knew it wouldn’t be long before he was ready to tell the guys to just finish the game without him. “You stay right here.”

“What am I supposed to do down here?”

He held his hands up and grinned as he walked backwards. “Cheer for me, babe.” He winked. “Give me some incentive to get this game over with.”

“If fuckin’ in the shower isn’t enough incentive then you can kiss my ass.”

“Don’t be like that, Tess; y’know I can’t just leave my boys hangin’ in the middle of a game.”

“Knowing it and liking it are two totally different things,” she grumbled.

“I’ll make it worth your while.” He grinned and as soon as he saw the hint of her smile he nodded and turned to jog back out to join the guys.

Michael rolled his eyes as Kyle finally joined them again. “Are you done holdin’ the game up?”

“Get off my ass, Guerin.” He gave his best friend a shove and grinned at his disgruntled expression. “Don’t be jealous… take a make-out break if you need one.”

If I needed one, I’d take one.” He shook his head and shot a quick glance at the deck to see if Maria was watching him and satisfaction swept through him when their gazes collided for just a moment. Yeah, she was watchin’. He turned to glare at his brother when Alex nudged him roughly. “What?”

“You don’t have to keep checkin’ to see if she’s watchin’ you.”

“That may be what the rest of you guys are doin’, but that’s not what I was doin’.”

“Yeah, whatever. Let’s just get back to the game.”

They ran a couple of plays before the girls’ voices caught their attention; Tess and Maria were making up their own cheers as they mimicked some of the moves they had seen the cheerleaders doing at the games.

“Just look at those legs,” Steve, the guy playing the quarterback position for the other side muttered. “That little blond can cheer for me anytime.”

Kyle shook his head and glanced around to make sure Michael wasn’t close by. “I’d keep those thoughts to myself if I were you,” he advised. He knew the guy was referring to Maria because she was wearing shorts and he had already made it clear that Tess was his.

“What’s goin’ on?” Michael asked breathlessly. “We’re callin’ a halftime break, right?”

“Yeah. Ten minute break.” Kyle was hoping Steve would keep his mouth shut.

“Everything cool?” Michael frowned when he noticed where Steve’s eyes were looking. “Hey, you got a problem?”

Kyle groaned when Michael suddenly moved to stand in front of Steve, his stance challenging.

“Nah, man, just imagining those legs wrapped around – “ Steve’s eyes widened as understanding dawned and he took a step back, hands held up in defeat. “Sorry, man, didn’t know she was taken.”

“Now you know,” Michael snarled. “See that you don’t forget it.” He stalked across the yard and climbed the steps to the deck, snatching a bottle of water out of the cooler the girls had brought out for them. He drank half of the water before he lifted the bottle and dumped the rest over his head.

He moved aside when the others gathered around him to reach for their own refreshments and he elbowed his way out of their midst. He sat down on the third step and reached up to wipe the excess water away, tensing when he felt someone sit down behind him.

“Why’re you bein’ so grouchy?” Maria asked as she rubbed a towel over his back.

Michael relaxed when he felt her bare skin touch his as the insides of her legs settled against his sides. “I’m not bein’ grouchy,” he denied.

Maria draped the towel over his head and started rubbing the excess water out of his hair. “Yes, you are.” She rolled her eyes when he remained silent. “Did someone piss you off or is it just because you’re hungry?” She smiled and reached around him to press the granola bar she had grabbed for him into his right hand. “Alex an’ Iz are gonna make dinner after the game winds down.”

He grunted as he tore the wrapper open and took a big bite, chewing slowly and unconsciously leaning into her touch as she continued to run the towel over his upper body.

“You should have sunscreen on if you’re gonna be playing outside much longer.”

Michael felt his irritation slowly slipping away as she teased him and fussed over him, and he sat still while she applied a coat of sunscreen over his exposed skin. He wasn’t used to this kind of treatment or having someone worry about him the way she did and he had to admit that he liked it. He had never given anyone outside of the very few people close to him the opportunity to get close enough to care for him and no one else had ever bothered to keep pushing no matter how many times he shut them out.

“Okay, let’s get this game knocked out,” Kyle said, slapping Michael’s shoulder as he passed him. “I just found out I don’t have to cook dinner tonight, and since Alex has been volunteered, we need to free him up to go slave over a hot stove with his woman.”

Michael glanced back at his brother. “What’s for dinner?”

“Food.”

Maria laughed as she stood up and tugged on Michael’s hand to pull him to his feet. “I heard them talkin’ earlier,” she whispered when he turned to face her. He was standing on the step below her, putting them at almost equal height. “They’re makin’ Italian.”

He felt the oddest sensation in his chest when he met her teasing gaze directly and as much as he tried to fight his automatic response he couldn’t stop the small smile that lifted the corners of his mouth in response to her words. “So, what you’re tellin’ me is I’m gonna have a major hard-on all through dinner.”

She grinned impishly. “Probably… you know how much I love Italian food.” She rested her hands on his shoulders as she leaned in to whisper in his ear, “Don’t worry, my friends are all aware of my obsession with Italian food.”

He laughed aloud at her remark and he pulled her up against his body, wrapping his arms around her as he lowered his mouth to hers. He took his time with the kiss, drawing it out and making it last until they were both in danger of passing out from lack of oxygen. He shook his head as he released her and backed away, careful to avoid tripping over the steps as he blindly made his way down to the ground. “Be back in a few.”

Maria just smiled and sat back down, certain her legs were too unstable to carry her to the table and the much more comfortable chairs.

“You ready to get back in the game?” Max asked as they lined up on their side.

“Yeah, I’m good.”

“Hey, Evans, things are lookin’ pretty friendly between you an’ Liz.”

Max glanced at Kyle. “Yeah, I think things are goin’ pretty well. I hope she figures out that Sean’s not the right guy for her soon though.” He sighed as he looked back at her. “It’s getting harder to keep things from movin’ forward.”

“You like ‘er a lot, huh?” Alex asked.

“Yeah. More than I ever thought possible considerin’ we haven’t even been out on a date.” He cleared his throat. “So, what about you an’ Isabel? Things seem to be goin’ pretty well with you guys, too.”

Alex smiled widely. “Yeah, I don’t think I could ask for much more.”

“I think we’ve all done pretty well in that department this year.” He shoved his elbow into Michael’s ribs. “Even Mr. I-don’t-get-involved Guerin seems to be happy this time around.”

They all laughed when he pushed Kyle away and moved to take his place on the line, but no one missed it when he turned to look at the girl responsible for his recent change in habit when it came to women.

Michael turned to look at Maria, thinking about what the guys had said about their own girls, and he suddenly realized that he hadn’t even been out with another girl since he had started flirting with her the very first time. Whoa! That had to mean something pretty important, he realized. Sure, he loved being with her, making her smile, and he enjoyed everything they did together whether it was sexual or not, but when had she become that important to him? Important enough that he hadn’t stepped out on her to find someone willing to have sex with him? Fuck! When had that happened?

He turned to glare at Kyle when he tossed the football and hit him in the back of the head. “I’m ready,” he grumbled.

“Well, unless you’re playin’ for the other team, you’re facin’ the wrong direction.”

Michael’s mind was turning over the possibilities in his head as they ran a few plays and the ball switched hands. He was playing on auto-pilot, his mind otherwise engaged with thoughts of Maria and things that he had never let himself believe possible for him. Could he take that risk? Tell her what he was feeling and that he thought it was time for them to move forward? Could he tell her that he thought he wanted something more with her? He paused to look at her and he felt that crazy sensation in his chest again when she smiled at him. Confidence washed over him and he grinned at her as he turned and snatched the ball up off of the ground. Yeah, tonight was the night; he’d tell her that he wanted them to move things forward because it wasn’t just about getting off for him anymore, that he wanted more than what they had right now.

“Let’s get this game movin’, guys,” he called, ready for it to be over so he could concentrate on how he was gonna break the news to Maria.

*****

Maria watched the guys as they fought over the football; there was no such thing as a little friendly competition when it came to guys and sports. She got to her feet and frowned when she noticed that Isabel was nowhere in sight. “Where’d Iz go?”

“She went to get somethin’ to drink,” Tess answered.

Liz frowned as she dragged her gaze away from Max. “That was a while ago, wasn’t it?”

“I’ll check on her,” Maria said as she brushed her hand over her shorts. She went inside and after getting a fresh glass of lemonade she wandered into the den where Brooke was in the middle of a conversation with Luke. She asked the teenager if she had seen Isabel and continued her search when she received a negative response in reply.

She climbed the steps to the second floor and winced when she heard the unmistakable sound of someone getting sick. A few moments later the toilet flushed and the faucet over the sink was turned on.

“You okay, Iz?” she called out as she stepped into the bedroom.

“Other than bein’ sick as a dog at the most inconvenient times, yeah,” Isabel mumbled around her toothbrush as she walked out of the bathroom.

“You haven’t been feelin’ good for the past few days.” That had obviously been the wrong thing to say, she thought when she saw the tears well up in the other girl’s eyes. “Iz, what’s wrong?”

Isabel held a hand up and went back into the bathroom to finish brushing her teeth. When she was done she came back into the room and sat on the bed. “I’m late, Maria,” she whispered, and the panic and fear hit her all at once as she spoke the words aloud for the first time. “Oh, my God, what am I gonna do?”

Maria suddenly remembered their conversation a couple of weeks earlier when they had gotten back home from grocery shopping; Isabel’s concern about the date made more sense now and she wondered why she hadn’t picked up on it earlier. “Okay, don’t panic. Maybe it’s just stress or somethin’.”

“No, Maria, I’m never late… like… not ever. I’ve been trying to ignore it, but…”

“Alright, the first thing you need to do is calm down,” Maria said as she sat down beside Isabel and pulled her into a comforting hug. “The next thing is a pregnancy test – you’re gonna have to take one.”

“What if it’s wrong? What if it says I’m not and I really am? Or, even worse, what if it says I am and I tell Alex and scare the hell outta him, and then it turns out that the test was wrong?”

“So, it would be worse if you told him you’re pregnant and then found out you’re not?”

“I’m just sayin’ that it would be cruel, Maria. He’ll graduate next year, but he’s already planning to stay here for Brooke; I don’t want him to feel like he had to give up anything else.”

“Shouldn’t that be his choice?”

“Maria, I already know what he’ll do! He’s good and kind, decent and honorable… I don’t want him to give up everything he’s worked so hard for and he will because that’s just the way he is.”

“You’re not makin’ any sense. What would he be givin’ up, Iz? That man is so in love with you it’s unreal. Does he want to go somewhere else after college? Has he said anything about bein’ held back by his family?”

“No.” Isabel grabbed one of the pillows and laid down, curling up around it as she sighed deeply. “Alex likes it here; he wants his sister and brothers to be close, and he wants Brooke to have stability. What if he doesn’t want a baby? What if he’s not willin’ to – “

“Iz, listen to me,” Maria interrupted, taking the girl’s hand in hers. “You’re panicking about all the what-ifs and you don’t even know for sure that you’ve got a reason to panic.”

“I do know, Maria… I can feel it.” What was she going to tell Alex? What was he gonna think? This was not the kind of thing that was supposed to happen; they had been cautious! Birth control and condoms… they hadn’t slipped one time… not one single time!

“When are you gonna tell Alex?”

“I wanna know for sure before I spring it on him.”

“Okay, here’s what we’ll do; when we get home tomorrow we’ll go to the store and get a couple of those do-it-yourself home pregnancy tests and see what they have to say, and then on Monday we’ll both cut classes and I’ll go with you to the women’s clinic downtown. That way you’ll know without a doubt when you tell him, how’s that sound?”

“Thanks, Maria,” Isabel breathed, throwing herself into Maria’s arms for another hug.

“You’re welcome. You wanna keep this just between us for now?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind. I don’t want a bunch of people to know before him.”

“I think that’s probably a good idea.”

“Hey, are you feelin’ sick again?”

Alex spoke up from behind them and Maria moved so he could take her place. She watched them for several minutes, touched beyond words at how gentle and caring he was. She slipped away, pulling the door closed behind her when she heard the noise below as everyone came inside.

*****

Kyle was slouched down in one of the deck chairs, absently stroking the small dog curled up in his lap as he listened to the lyrics Michael was working on. After the game they had hit the showers and settled on the deck to work on a new song. “Maybe we need to try a faster tempo,” he suggested. “I don’t think it’s workin’ like that.”

Michael nodded and changed the tempo, glancing at Kyle to see if he liked the way it sounded. “More like that?” he asked.

“Yeah… I think it sounds better like that. It suits the lyrics better than the slower tempo.”

“What’re you guys workin’ on?” Max questioned as he scooped Buffy up off of another deck chair and dropped her in his lap as he took her seat.

“It’s a surprise,” Kyle answered, glancing back over his shoulder. “Where’s Tess?”

“Still with the rest of the girls, watchin’ that movie they wanted us to all watch together.”

Michael shuddered at the thought of sitting through some chick flick; as if they weren’t bad enough already, the one they were watching was some sort of opera or something and he had been grateful when Maria hadn’t tried to talk him into watching it.

“How is some creepy guy lurkin’ around an opera house romantic?” Kyle wondered aloud. He shook his head and leaned forward to pick up his beer. “They’ll probably all be bawlin’ by the end of it, too.”

“No clue,” Max muttered, shaking his head. “I know my sister cries every time she watches it and I have no idea what the big deal is. Anyway, about the song…”

“It’s for Tess’ birthday; we’re gonna play it for her Tuesday night at the party.”

“Cool. Hey, you guys wanna play Quarters after dinner? It should get us out of the next epic romance the girls have lined up.”

Michael snorted. “How does anyone think Titanic was romantic? They fuck once, the ship sinks, and the dude dies…” He rolled his eyes and reached out to pick up his pen, scribbling down a few words before going back to picking out the melody. “It was a stupid movie and it’s too long. I’ll play Quarters.”

“Yeah, me too,” Kyle said, nodding. “I can’t sit through another night of Titanic… every time I see it I just wanna knock the captain’s lights out for listenin’ to that little pussy that was pushin’ to get in ahead of schedule. Seriously, what captain would do that and risk the lives of everyone on board just to make headlines?”

“That never made any sense to me either,” Max agreed. “Okay, so we’re playin’ Quarters… you guys wanna ask the girls to play?”

“Well, our girls can hold their liquor, Evans.” Kyle tipped his head to the side to glance at Max. “I kinda got the feelin’ that your girl hasn’t really been properly introduced to alcohol.”

“Yeah, and alcohol isn’t the only thing she hasn’t been properly introduced to,” Michael muttered as his fingers picked out a new rhythm. Like A Virgin resonated clearly in the early evening air and he waited to see how long it took for Max to figure out the song he was picking out on the strings of his guitar.

Max grabbed a cushion out of the chair next to him and threw it at Michael when he recognized the tune. “Stop it!” he growled. “She shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because of a choice she made.”

“A choice that you wanna change.” Michael turned his head to look at Max, daring him to deny the truth.

“You don’t have to make it sound so sordid, Michael.”

“Admit it… admit that you wanna pop that cherry and I’ll back off.” He shook his head when he caught Kyle’s warning glance. “I’m not raggin’ on her for bein’ a virgin, but I don’t for one second believe that you’re not chasin’ after her because you wanna be the first guy to get between her legs.”

“You can be a crude motherfucker when you wanna be, Guerin.” Kyle was watching his friends, wondering if Michael had finally pushed Max too far.

Max nodded and stood up. “We’ll settle this later because I’m not gonna get into this with you where she’ll know it was about her; she’s got enough to deal with without addin’ this to it.” He paused in front of Michael and pressed his forefinger to his chest as he leaned in close to him. “I won’t forget about this, and unless you make it right, I’ll kick your ass as soon as I drop her off at home tomorrow evening.”

“If you don’t back away from me I’ll snap that finger in half.”

“Okay, okay, you guys back off,” Kyle insisted, stepping in and insinuating himself between them. “Michael, quit fuckin’ with him; y’know he’s havin’ a hard time with this because it’s screwin’ with his moral code.” He turned to look at Max. “And quit lettin’ him push you just so you can pick a fight with him. I know this isn’t easy for you, but punishin’ yourself for it isn’t gonna make it any better.”

Michael sat up and nodded. “Alright, look, I’m sorry, okay? I just don’t understand why you’ve settled for this one girl who isn’t givin’ it up.”

“Talk about the pot callin’ the kettle black,” Max muttered. “From what I’ve heard you’re not exactly puttin’ any miles on the mattress either.”

“Why Liz?”

“Why Maria?” Max countered.

Michael held his hands up, conceding the argument.

*****

Isabel had insisted on helping with dinner despite Alex’ concerns and in the end he had given in and she had gotten her way. Dinner was laid-back and relaxed as conversation flowed and laughter served as punctuation. As they talked, ate dinner, and cleaned up afterwards, the hours wore on and darkness eventually began to creep in as the sun disappeared over the horizon. The lights were turned on and the group moved into the large living area to settle down on various pieces of furniture or on the floor.

Maria watched the couples as they interacted with each other and everyone else and she had to fight down the feelings of jealousy that would sneak up at the most unexpected moments. They had all paired up and she watched them as they talked and laughed. She glanced up a while later when Michael stood and stretched.

“You guys ready to play Quarters?” he asked, heading to the kitchen to get the shot glasses and drinks.

“I wanna play!” Brooke said as she scrambled to follow him into the kitchen.

“Alex?”

“She can play, but only with wine coolers and no more than two.” He tipped his head back to look at them. “Once you go through those coolers you go to bed, so make ‘em last.”

“Yes, Dad.” Brooke rolled her eyes and helped Michael carry the shot glasses into the living room, setting them down on the large coffee table.

“Alright, who wants beer and who wants liquor?”

“Why don’t we start with beer?” Max suggested. “The game won’t last long if we start with liquor.”

“Um, I don’t think I can do that,” Liz said quietly. “I don’t really drink…”

“You can drink wine coolers.”

“Is that fair?”

Max chuckled and nodded. “It’s fair, darlin’. We’re all used to drinkin’ and you’re not, so a couple shots of straight whiskey probably isn’t the way to start the night.”

“So, beer and wine coolers.” Michael turned to look at his brother and his girlfriend. “What about you guys?”

“I think we’re gonna sit this one out,” Alex answered as he brushed his fingers over Isabel’s forehead. She was lying beside him, her head propped up on his thigh. He wasn’t sure what was wrong with her, but he was concerned about how run-down she had been feeling lately. “You wanna hang out down here for a while?” he asked.

Isabel shifted so that she could look up at him and she reached up to cradle his jaw in her hand; she could see the worry in his eyes as he watched her. “Yeah, for a little while. When they switch over to a different game we’ll call it a night.”

“Okay, how do we play?” Brooke asked eagerly as she squeezed in between Kyle and Max when everyone took their places on the floor around the coffee table.

Michael leaned back to dig around in his pocket for a quarter. “It’s easy enough; we start with one person – Tess, since she’s in the twelve o’clock position – and she’ll bounce the quarter off the table and try to make it land in the center glass. If she makes it, everyone else has to take a drink… if she misses, she takes a drink. Either way, the quarter’s passed on to the person on the left – in this case, Kyle.” He shifted until he was comfortable and demonstrated, expertly bouncing the quarter off of the table and grinning when it landed in the glass.

“Can I try?”

He motioned for her to retrieve the quarter and he watched as she attempted to bounce the quarter into the glass… repeatedly. “And that is why you only get wine coolers; you’d be drunk in no time the way you shoot.”

“So, you only get one try?”

“Well…” He looked around the table. “What d’you guys wanna do?”

“I’m good with three tries,” Kyle said, shrugging. “If they can’t get the quarter in, they’re the ones who’re gonna be takin’ all the shots.”

Everyone murmured their consent and Michael reached out to grab the quarter when Brooke tried to bounce it again and it rolled across the table. He tossed it to Tess and nodded. “Let the games begin.”

For the next couple of hours they played round after round and Michael was surprised when Liz actually mastered the ability to hit the glass after only a few turns. He and Kyle had switched to whiskey halfway through the game and he knew his sister had managed to sneak a couple of his shots when he was otherwise occupied with Maria. Alex and Isabel had escorted a giggling Brooke to bed and made sure she was sound asleep before going upstairs.

“Okay, I’m ready for a new game,” Michael announced as he got to his feet and went into the kitchen.

“My tongue feelth funny,” Liz complained as she tried to make her eyes focus.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have done those last two shots of Jäger,” Maria said as she bit back a smile. Liz had been intrigued when she realized that the drink tasted like black licorice and she had taken the shots despite their warnings.

“Ith my tongue thupothed to feel heavy?”

Tess buried her face against Kyle’s shoulder in an effort to muffle her laughter. Poor Liz, she looked so confused and she was slurring her words left and right!

“It’s supposed to feel that way, Liz,” Maria assured her.

Liz frowned in concentration. “I don’t think I like that.”

“Okay, I think we’ll go take a walk outside,” Max said as he stood up and carefully helped her to her feet. “You think you can make it to the door?”

“Of courth…” The frown appeared again. “Where’th it at?”

“To your right.” Max smiled as he grabbed his jacket, shaking his head when she went to the left. “No, darlin’, that’d be your other right,” he said as he reached out to steer her in the opposite direction.

“Well, why’re there tho many of them?”

“That’s a very good question.” He waved to the others and followed Liz outside, pulling the door closed behind them.

“Your girl’s a lightweight,” Kyle said, laughing.

“Yeah,” Tess agreed, glancing after the younger girl. “He won’t try anything, will he?”

“No, Max is cool. She’s in good hands with him; he’ll take care of her.”

“Alright, let’s get down an’ dirty, people,” Michael said as he placed a cutting board in the center of the table with a pile of lemon and lime wedges, a saltshaker, fresh shot glasses, and a new bottle of tequila. He nodded at Kyle and the two of them lifted the table up and moved it back out of the way.

“Body shots!” Tess squealed, clapping as she hopped up and down.

Kyle grinned at his girlfriend’s enthusiastic response as he uncapped the bottle and filled the shot glasses.

Michael shook his head when he saw Maria’s hesitant expression; he hadn’t forgotten what she had told him earlier, so he knew she had her reservations about this particular game. “Lose the shirt,” he ordered as he pulled his own shirt off and tossed it on the couch.

Maria could feel her heart hammering in her chest as she watched him and she suddenly realized that he wouldn’t do anything to intentionally hurt her. He knew that it wasn’t one of her favorite games and he knew why, so he had to have something in mind since he had suggested it. His dark eyes were burning with intensity as he watched her, waiting to see if she would take her shirt off and play along. He nodded in satisfaction when she unbuttoned her shirt and shrugged out of it, dropping it on top of his.

“You don’t have anything to worry about, y’know,” he growled as he moved to straddle her outstretched legs. He handed her one of the shot glasses, licked a wet path along her neck and shook salt out over it, popped a lime wedge in her mouth and leaned back to grin at her. “You ready?” He nodded when he saw the trust in her eyes and he reached up to cup her breasts, moving them close together. “See? Someplace for that lonely little shot glass to snuggle up.”

Maria lifted the glass and placed it between her breasts and her breathing became shallow when he leaned forward to lick the salt he had placed on her skin. He dipped his head to retrieve the glass and tipped his head back to swallow the shot before dropping the glass into his waiting hand and leaning in to take the lime wedge from between her lips. As soon as he had disposed of the rind he turned his attention to her breasts, licking up the few drops of tequila he had spilled before his mouth crashed into hers for a deep, tangy kiss.

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re less than perfect,” he said gruffly.

“Oh, hey, I’ve got an idea!” Kyle shouted, jumping to his feet and hurrying out of the room. He came back a few moments later, carrying a small box in his right hand. “Trivia, body shot style! We’ll take turns askin’ the questions and the first one who gets the right answer picks who has to do the next body shot.”

“Like, who they wanna do a shot with or who they wanna see do the shot?” Tess asked.

“Winner’s choice.” He pulled a handful of cards out and placed them facedown on the table. “But, I’m not lickin’ anything off of Guerin’s body.”

“That kinda limits the game, don’t you think?” Tess rolled her eyes when he shrugged. “Michael?”

“Huh-uh, I’m not lickin’ anything off of Valenti either. I’m sure as fuck not kissin’ him.”

“Body shots only involve kissing if you decide to kiss; goin’ after the fruit is not a kiss.”

“Close enough.”

“You two are such big babies,” Tess grumbled, grabbing a shot glass and tossing a lemon wedge to Maria. “Watch this.”

Kyle’s mouth was hanging open as he watched his girlfriend lick salt from the inside of Maria’s wrist, taking the shot from her friend’s other hand and tossing it back before going after the lemon. She winked at Maria as she moved back to her own seat, reaching up to discard the used lemon wedge. “See? Not even close to a kiss.”

“How about whoever gets the question right gets to choose what part of their partner’s body gets licked,” Michael interrupted. It might be a friendly game between friends, and he knew he had no reason to be concerned about anyone involved, but he didn’t want anyone else touching Maria like that.

“Hell, if that’s the way you wanna do it, I can just take Kyle to bed now.”

“Michael never has played well with others, babe, and he’s very territorial.” Kyle shook his head. “Don’t worry about him… I’ve got plenty of things you can lick.” He waggled his eyebrows playfully. “Some of ‘em are pretty fun, too.”

“Ungh,” Michael groaned in disgust. “You’d better keep your pants on, Kyle.”

“Don’t worry about that, Guerin; I wouldn’t embarrass you like that in front of your girl.” He slammed a shot back and laughed. “Wouldn’t want you to get a complex or start to feel inadequate or anything.”

Maria snorted into her glass and tequila sloshed over the sides.

“You think that’s funny?” Michael growled.

“Just the thought that you would have any reason to feel inadequate.” She shook her head. “I think we both know better than that.” She laughed outright when his expression turned smug. “C’mon, let’s play a few rounds and see where it goes.”

“Hope you’re ready to get licked all over… I’m very good at trivia.”

Maria grinned. “Yeah, it must suck to be so smart.”

He leaned in to kiss her. “Play your cards right and I’ll suck on your gorgeous body too.”

“Just remember we’re not alone.”

“We’ll make it a quick game,” he promised.

They played for a while before Kyle started to get bored with Michael getting all of the answers correct and then he tossed the cards on the table and threw his hands up in the air. “I don’t wanna play anymore; let’s just do shots.”

Tess was quick to get on-board with her boyfriend’s suggestion and it wasn’t long before they had forgotten that there was anyone else in the room with them.

“Okay, I’m really not interested in watchin’ them make out all night and you’ve had more than your fair share of shots,” Maria said, pulling Michael’s attention back to her. “I want my turn.”

“Tell me what you want.” He held his arms out at his sides. “Whatever you want, it’s yours.”

Maria’s eyes wandered over his body and she motioned for him to move so he was sitting on the couch while she debated her next move. She shifted so that she was kneeling between his knees and she ran her tongue from his belly button up to the center of his chest before shaking salt over his wet skin. She grabbed a lime wedge and ran the tip of it over his lips before pushing it into his mouth and licking the juice from his lips.

She told him to stand up as she reached out to pour a fresh shot and she could feel him watching her as she pulled his waistband out just enough to secure the glass against his body. She stretched up to lick the salt off of his chest and then ran her tongue down to tease his belly button before wrapping her lips around the shot glass and tugging it free of his jeans. She met his dark gaze when she tipped her head back to down the shot and she felt herself respond to the desire that was so easily visible in his expression. She slammed the glass down on the table and surged to her feet so she could retrieve the lime and she ended up falling against him and giggling when he refused to let it go.

Michael grabbed the backs of her thighs and lifted her up so she could wrap her legs around his waist as he finally relinquished the lime wedge. “I think it’s time to take this someplace private,” he growled, kissing her deeply when she dropped the spent wedge into her palm.

“Bring the tequila,” she mumbled against his lips.
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 45 - 8/23/09

Post by Double Trouble » Sun Aug 23, 2009 2:00 am

chanks_girl: Yes, they are whipped.

You’re probably right. Alex wouldn’t leave her for anything!

Brooke does have a very mature way of acting, but believe it or not she will have some adolescent moments.

We enjoyed writing Liz in that scene, lol!

destinyc: Yes, yes, we did.

Hmm… what will Liz do? Well, Max can hold his liquor, so he’s in control of his actions.

It’s looking like you might be right.

begonia9508: LOL, that’s an interesting observation. Think Liz might be a little bit more forward while she’s under the influence?

Yep, Kyle is well and truly wrapped around Tess’ finger.

Nope, Alex would never do anything to let her down.

tequathisy: Good description of Michael. Max would probably have quite a large cheering section if he and Michael were to get in a knock-down-drag-out fight.

Yup, we’ll be seeing Max and Liz again in this next part.

A baby would complication an already complicated situation… but, such is life.

Hmm… well, we’ll see in this next part.

Natalie36: They do say that… and some of those paths may not lead in pretty directions.

kismet: Whatever could the Dreamer couple be up to? Let’s go see…

Probably a smart decision to wait and see.

For Isabel… not too long.

Aww, we’re sorry! Today’s part is extra long… and there’s some Max and Liz… does that help?

sarammlover: **Author’s running for cover, ducking… relieved sigh… coming back out to face the crowd** We’re glad you could wait! Thanks! We’re giving it out best shot! Let’s see if Michael’s plan works…

Alien_Friend: Ah, you’re back! It’s always great when you need a vacation to recover from your vacation, lol!

Part 41 – Max is a sweetheart. And he’s super attentive when it comes to Liz!

Michael can be a big teddy bear when he wants to be, especially when his guard is down. He hides his insecurities so well that his pain and the hurt he’s endured is overlooked most of the time.

Part 42 – He’s got to face his past if he’s ever gonna deal with it and right now he believes that if he buries it and ignores it then he won’t have to deal with it. But, in time, he will realize that he needs to face it… and that he’s not alone.

Part 43 – Go, Tess! She isn’t always the bull in the china shop, lol. We’ll see what happens with both Sean and Max… but, first, Max…

Interesting conclusion.

Part 44 – We’ll be surprised, too.

You got to read quite a few parts together!

Thanks!

Maiqu: LOL, we understand bad Internet! Glad you adore Max! Um… chances are good, yes.


Part 45 – Back To Square One…

Max watched Liz as she leaned on the railing and looked at the full moon. She had been content to remain silent and he hadn’t tried to draw her into a conversation. He was slouched down in one of the deck chairs, his eyes tracing over her moonlit features and it took everything in him to stay where he was. It was getting harder to keep his distance and he had already slipped a few times; he could feel the little devil on his shoulder urging him to make a move despite knowing it was wrong.

She’d had too much to drink and he was pleasantly buzzed, the alcohol coursing through his veins and making him feel more mellow than usual. He wanted her to know she could trust him, that she was safe with him, and that he was worth the risk that came with letting go of Sean and reaching for something that had no guarantee of working out.

“Max?”

“Um-hmm?”

“Have you been with a lot of girls?”

The cool air must be helping, he thought as he realized that her speech wasn’t quite as slurred as it had been earlier. “A few,” he answered with a shrug. He knew he could give her a big number and she’d probably believe it; he had heard the rumors on campus, so he knew his name had been linked to quite a few girls.

“How d’you know if the sex is gonna be good?”

Of all the things she could’ve picked to talk about… Max shifted uncomfortably and scratched his chin. “Uh, well, you don’t really know for sure until you do it.”

“Huh… d’you think I’m gonna be good at sex?”

And there goes any chance of keepin’ that hard-on under control! He sighed in relief when she asked another question, seemingly unaware that he hadn’t answered the first one.

“Were you good at sex?”

“My first time?”

She nodded. “Yeah.”

Max laughed and shook his head. “No, I’m pretty sure my first time wasn’t that great.”

“Well, at least you’re a guy…” She frowned in concentration. “It’s different for girls, y’know.”

He controlled his smile at her serious tone. “I do know that, yes.”

“Yeah, it’s different. Doesn’t seem very fair somehow,” she muttered, talking to herself. “Everyone says it hurts the first time, so why would you wanna do it again?” She looked at him then, studying him. “How many virgins have you slept with?”

Max shook his head; this conversation was surreal! “None.”

“Huh.” Liz leaned back against the railing and crossed her arms over her chest.

Max was trying hard not to laugh, but she was just so cute as she puzzled over the information she was gathering. She shifted suddenly and lost her balance and he shot up out of his chair to grab her when her body started to tip backwards. He latched onto her left arm just as her other hand grabbed onto the support post next to her.

“Ow! I think somethin’ bit me!” She leaned into Max when he slid an arm around her and she held her hand out at his request.

He winced when he saw the thick splinter embedded in the fleshy part of her palm. “C’mon, let’s get that cleaned up and see if we can get that splinter outta your hand, okay?”

“Splinter?” Liz squinted in the near-darkness as she tried to verify his diagnosis. “Are you sure? I really think somethin’ bit me.”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay.” She followed him without question, giving him her full cooperation when he cleared a space on the counter next to the sink in the bathroom so she could sit down on it. “Is this gonna hurt?” she asked, watching him as he pulled a first aid kit out of a cabinet.

“I’ll be gentle,” he promised as he opened the kit up. He dug around until he found the tweezers and poured alcohol over them to sterilize them before cradling her hand in his. He bit his bottom lip when she leaned forward to watch what he was doing and her head completely blocked his view. He gently pushed her back and pulled her hand towards him, lifting it up so he could probe the flesh and see which angle would be best for retrieving the wood shard. “Okay, I think we’ve got it now,” he said after a few minutes.

“Ow,” Liz complained when he gripped the splinter between the tweezers pincers and eased it out of her hand.

“Ah, c’mon, it wasn’t that bad.” He cleaned the tiny wound and coated it with antiseptic before covering it with a little band-aid and lifting her hand to press a soft kiss to her palm. “I think you’re gonna survive, darlin’.”

Liz lifted her left hand to cradle his jaw when he straightened up and his gaze shot to hers when she touched him. “I love it when you call me that… your voice changes every time you say it.”

Max was fighting himself because he wanted her so badly he could hardly see straight; as he stared into her glassy eyes he felt his heart rate shift into overdrive and he found himself rationalizing his actions as he leaned in to brush his lips against hers. It was just a goodnight kiss, he insisted silently. That’s all it is.

“Uh, Liz…”

“Um-hmm?”

“We should stop,” he mumbled against her lips.

“No,” she said, frowning when she felt him start to back away. She felt like she was on fire and it was a completely new and not entirely unpleasant sensation.

All of his good intentions flew right out the window when she settled against him heavily and her arms came around him, and Max groaned when she suddenly shifted to grip his hips with her knees. He knew she was reacting on instinct and his conscience was screaming at him to back away from her and just send her to her room so she could sleep it off, but she felt so right pressed against him.

“Max, touch me…” Even in her inebriated state she knew that she wanted something she didn’t know how to ask for; she had no point of reference and it was frustrating and confusing. All she knew was that he made her feel good and the alcohol was giving her the courage to at least try to verbalize what she wanted.

Max was torn between what he wanted and what he knew he should do; there was right and wrong and he knew that continuing with this was so far from the right thing that it wasn’t even funny. Just let it go a little farther, the little devil urged him on. She wants it, so what’s the harm?

“Is it hot in here?” Liz asked, unknowingly breaking into his thoughts. She moved back and fumbled with the buttons on her shirt for several seconds before they finally gave up the fight.

He hurried to grab the sides of her shirt when he saw that she was about to take it off. His blood pressure skyrocketed when he got his first look at her small breasts contained in a bra that could only be described as ‘cute’. It wasn’t exactly the type of bra that a woman bent on seduction would be wearing, but somehow it was right for her… for this moment, and before he could stop himself he lowered his head to press a kiss to each breast.

Liz moaned when he brushed his chin against her flesh, the soft hair of his goatee gently abrading her skin. Her hands traced over his ears before threading through his hair and holding him in place when he started to move away. “No… more… please.”

He rested his forehead against her chest, right between her breasts, as he tried to bring his breathing under control. He was sooo going to hell for this! Max thought, but his resolve was weak and he didn’t try to pull away from her. Her nipples were distended, pushing against her bra, and he briefly wondered if Sean had ever really touched her in any kind of sexual way.

When his tongue slipped out to tease the hard peaks she shuddered and when he sucked one into his mouth, gently biting down on it through the material of her bra she cried out and her fingers fisted in his hair. God, she was so responsive! She whimpered and shifted against him restlessly when he moved to the other breast, giving it the same attention. Stop, Max! His conscience was getting louder, demanding attention, and he knew he had to stop now or they were going to end up doing something that would only be regretted in the cold light of day.

“Liz…” He shook his head as he pulled away, reaching up to take her hands in his and holding them against his chest. “Darlin’, we’ve gotta stop before we go too far; you’re not in any condition to even decide what you want right now.”

Her expression turned mutinous and a moment later it changed to a pout. “I do, too.”

“No, you don’t.” He smiled affectionately and picked her up, turning to carry her to her room. “And even if you did know, the timing is all wrong.” He set her down beside her bed and pushed the covers out of the way so she could sit on the edge of the mattress.

“Why?”

“Because you’ve had too much to drink, because you’re still engaged, and because I’ve already crossed so many lines that I need to take a step back and figure out what I’m doin’.”

“You’re mad?”

Her tone had gone from happy to hurt in the space of a heartbeat and Max knelt down beside the bed, taking her hands in his as he met her gaze. “Hey, listen to me, okay? I’m not mad; I’ve just got some things that I need to figure out and for some reason, I can’t think clearly when I’m around you.” He helped her to lie down and tucked the covers in around her before leaning in to kiss her forehead. “Get some sleep, darlin’.”

Liz frowned. “What’s wrong, Max?”

He shook his head and smiled sadly. “I just hope you don’t hate me in the mornin’.”

“I could never hate you,” she insisted, wondering why he would think that she was capable of that. The thought was there and gone as she suddenly realized just how tired she was and she rolled over, burrowing under the covers and snuggling into the pillow.

Max backed out of the room and walked into his own room, closing the door and slumping back against it. His right hand came up to rub over his face as he drew in a shaky breath. He had to get control of himself; how was he gonna face her in the morning? What if she was humiliated by her actions… by his actions? Damn it, he had compromised everything he believed in and he had taken advantage of her alcohol-induced flirtations to take liberties that he’d had no right to take.

He shook his head and left his room, heading for the living room and the fully stocked bar. He needed a drink, and he needed it bad.

*****

Kyle stumbled into the bathroom behind Tess and he couldn’t resist running his hands over her jean-clad ass when she bent over to turn the shower on. She was the hottest thing in his world and he wanted her… right now! He chuckled when she swatted his hands away and as soon as she went back to her task he slid his arms around her and pressed up against her body.

Tess squirmed when his sticky chest came into contact with the bare skin of her back and she giggled uncontrollably. “Kyle,” she complained, laughing. “Stop or we’re gonna end up takin’ a cold shower.”

“Nope, no cold showers,” he slurred, pulling her flush against his body so she could feel his erection.

“No, we’re not gonna waste that,” she assured him.

Kyle grunted against her neck as he fumbled with the front clasp on her bra. Why wasn’t the damn thing cooperating? he wondered, annoyed. He was an expert as unhooking bras, so why was this one bein’ so stubborn?

Tess looked down and bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing at his unsuccessful attempts to unhook her bra. “You havin’ trouble with that, babe?”

“Did you get a new bra?” Frustration was starting to color his voice. “What the fuck kinda hook have you got on there?”

“The same kind that’s on all of them.”

“Huh-uh,” he denied. He turned her around and frowned in concentration as he studied the tiny metal clasp that was mocking him.

Tess finally took pity on him and gently pried his hands away from their fumbling so that she could quickly unhook the bra herself. She couldn’t hold the laughter back when he nodded, suitably impressed with her dexterity.

“Now, that’s more like it,” he muttered, his hands coming up to reverently stroke over her newly-exposed flesh. He slid the bra off and tossed it in the corner, glaring at it for several seconds. “I don’t like that one… I don’t think you should wear it anymore.” He suddenly grinned as a thought occurred to him. “Matter of fact, I don’t think you should wear anything anymore…” He grinned stupidly. “You can just walk around naked all the time.”

“Um-hmm, and how long d’you think it’d be before you were getting into fights left and right?”

“Why would I fight?” he asked, turning his attention to the snap on her jeans. “I like you naked.”

“Until other guys saw me naked.”

“Huh? Who saw you naked? Max… Michael… ‘cause I’ll kick their asses!”

He was so adorable when he was drunk, Tess thought, wincing when his coordination issues extended to the snap on her jeans. She had to grab onto his shoulders when he started to shake her as he tried to unfasten her jeans. “Okay, babe, you’re gonna make me dizzy if you keep that up, so why don’t you let me do that.”

He was temporarily mollified as he sat down on the rim of the tub to watch her undress. He sighed happily once she was completely naked and he forgot all about his precarious balance as he leaned back. Gravity was not in his favor and it exerted its force, pulling him backwards into the tub despite his best efforts to fight it.

“Fuck!” he howled when he fell back and hit his head on the wall. He shifted around, waving Tess away when she leaned over him to try and help, and he slouched down in the tub with a pout on his face.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he muttered, glancing down at his lower body. “Hey, look at that… I’ve still got a hard-on.”

He sounded so impressed with himself that Tess couldn’t help but laugh at him. “And you’re soakin’ wet.”

Kyle’s glassy gaze slid over her body and he grinned up at her. “So’re you… let’s play naked shower games.”

“I don’t think you’re in any condition to stand up in the shower.”

He frowned at that, but a moment later he was grinning again. “All the important parts are standin’ up.”

“Yes, they are.”

“So, get in here so we can play.”

“You’ve already tried to knock yourself out once… maybe it’d be safer if we take it to bed.”

“Okay,” he muttered agreeably. “But, we could totally fuck right here… I’m already layin’ down and I wouldn’t have to move… I don’t really feel like movin’.”

Tess stepped into the tub, straddling his body as she knelt down to feel the back of his head. “Are you sure you didn’t hit your head too hard?”

“Huh-uh… just kinda like it right here.” He pointed up at the showerhead above him. “Look, it’s like a waterfall… it’ll be romantic.”

She rolled her eyes. “Let me grab a couple of towels for you to lean your head back against.”

“Uh-huh.” He was dozing when she came back but he had managed to find a niche for his head between the spigot and the hot water faucet.

“Kyle… I really think we should just go to bed.”

“Nope, wanna fuck under the waterfall,” he mumbled, reaching down to wrestle the fastening on his jeans open and free his erection. “See? Too impressive to waste.” He rubbed his head up and down against the faucet, not realizing he was altering the temperature, and a second later the water turned ice cold. He yelped when it struck his dick and caused an immediate case of shriveling, and he scrambled around to get out from under the water.

Tess had the hardest time holding her laughter in, but she knew he wouldn’t appreciate her ability to see the humor in the situation. Instead she leaned in to turn the water off and then helped him out of his cold, wet jeans. He hurried to stumble across the room to crawl in the bed and pull the covers up over his head, not even bothering to towel off. She followed after him, crawling under the covers and wrapping her arms around him.

“Just go to sleep,” she whispered against his ear. “We’ll make up for it in the mornin’.”

He grunted, irritated, frustrated, and now humiliated.

“Oh, c’mon, you know you love a good early mornin’ fuck.”

“You’re not gonna make fun of me, right?” he slurred tiredly.

Tess leaned over him to press a kiss to his cheek. “No, never.”

“Okay.” He shifted around until he was comfortable and let the peaceful oblivion of sleep pull him into its warm embrace.

*****

Michael and patience could rarely be used synonymously, but since he and Maria had hooked up he had discovered an appreciation for taking things slow. Hard and fast definitely had its place but when he took his time and drew it out there was a whole new level of pleasure and satisfaction involved.

He had never been with anyone who had made him feel as comfortable or cared for as Maria did. There was a level of trust that existed between them that no other woman had ever gotten close to reaching with him.

“Want some help with that?”

He glanced up when she spoke, her tone laced with amusement. She was propped up against his pillows, naked from the waist up, her skin glistening in the muted light from the bedside lamp. He was lying between her legs, his right arm pressed against her side so that his fingertips were brushing against the side of her breast. Her right leg was raised, bent at the knee, and his left arm was under her leg, supporting his weight while his hand was curled possessively around her thigh.

“Huh-uh, I got it.” He had already managed to free the button at the top of her jeans and he used his tongue to push the zipper tab into an upright position so he could grab it between his teeth and drag it down. He used his nose and chin to push the sides apart and fold them down before pressing his nose against her skin and snuffling loudly.

Maria giggled and bucked up against him. “That tickles,” she choked out as she shoved his shoulder playfully. She hooked her left leg over his lower back and used her right foot to give her the leverage she needed to reverse their positions. Her eyes gleamed with triumph as she straddled his stomach and watched him, waiting to see what he would do next. He preferred to be on top, preferred the dominant position, and she knew it was only a matter of time before he returned them to their original positions.

She placed one hand flat against his chest as she leaned over him to reach for the bottle of tequila. He took advantage of her position and he shifted up enough to take her left nipple in his mouth. He followed her when she moved to sit back, refusing to release her breast until they were upright.

He grinned. “It’s my turn to take a shot, y’know.”

“I should get another shot.”

“Why?”

“Just because.”

Michael shook his head and rearranged their positions so that she was under him again. “For the record, ‘just because’ isn’t a good argument.” His dark eyes were teasing as he shifted so he could grab the saltshaker and a couple of limes. He dragged the motion out so he could grind his erection against her center for several long, torturous seconds before he settled back into place. “You like that, huh?”

Maria rolled her eyes and wrapped her legs around his back so she could keep rubbing herself against his muscled abdomen. She shifted restlessly, trying to get her loosened jeans to move so the thick inseam would move into a position where it would actually be useful.

“It’s gonna be hard for me to keep the tequila on you if you keep squirmin’ around like that,” Michael muttered as he grinned at her.

“Bastard,” she hissed. That damn inseam just wouldn’t cooperate and she needed more stimulation.

“I’ll shift that inseam into the right place if you’ll let me take my shot.”

“You just think you know everything, don’t you?” Her tone was disgruntled but she forced her body to be still.

“I don’t know about everything, but I know what you need.” He laughed at her annoyed glare, knowing that his know-it-all tone always got a rise out of her. He reached between them and wrapped his hand around the waistband of her jeans, tugging on them until her sharp intake of breath told him that the inseam was in the right place.

“Remember, I get my shot first…” He shook his head and smiled at her as he shifted more of his weight onto his forearms to give her more room. “You’re not gonna stay still long enough for me to take a shot, so go ahead… take the edge off.”

“What about you?” she panted as she rocked against him.

“I’m okay for now.” He sucked on her nipple, getting it wet so he could shake salt around it. “I was hopin’ we could try somethin’ new tonight.”

“Um-hmm… okay.”

Michael grinned and reached for the lime wedges he had placed on the bed next to her. She wasn’t paying any attention to him; she was biting her bottom lip and her eyes were closed so he knew she was on the verge of coming. Her legs tightened around his back and she reached out to grab his dog tags, pulling him closer and kissing him to muffle her scream of release.

“One of these days we’re gonna spend a weekend someplace where we can be as loud as we wanna be without havin’ to worry about who’s in the next room.”

“That’d be nice for a change.” She slumped back against the pillows, relaxed and sated as she watched him. “What’re you doin’?” she asked when he squeezed the limes over her belly button.

Michael looked up at her and his dick got impossibly harder at the lazy expression in her green eyes. “Do you have any idea how sexy you are?”

“Lyin’ in your bed in desperate need of a shower? Yeah, there’s a sexy look.”

He chuckled. “You look like you just came and you smell like sex and tequila… trust me, you’re sexy as hell.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” she said in an attempt to redirect the conversation. It made her nervous when he talked like that because there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that he was being sincere or that he really believed it. But she knew that letting herself be drawn in by his words was just another way of setting herself up to get hurt when things ended between them. He meant what he was saying, but he wasn’t looking for a relationship and she couldn’t let herself fall for him anymore than she already had.

“Tequila fountain,” he answered, drawing her back to the present. He picked up the bottle and held it at an angle, letting a thin stream trickle out to splash between her breasts to follow a downward path. He set the bottle on the nightstand and licked the salt from around her nipple before lapping up every drop of tequila trailing over her skin. When he was satisfied that he had it all he placed his mouth over her belly button and sucked out all of the lime juice he had squeezed there. Once he was finished he came up on all fours, crouching over her as he lowered his head to kiss her.

“I’ve been thinkin’,” he said as he settled down again, his fingers absently tracing over the skin visible where her jeans were still spread open. “We’ve been kinda doin’ this thing for a couple months now, so like I said, I’ve been thinkin’, and…”

Maria shook her head. “Michael… don’t.”

“No, I’m serious, baby, just hear me out.” He ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath; his stomach felt like it was tied up in knots and now that he had brought it up he didn’t know how to proceed. “We’ve done some pretty intense stuff, and…” He shrugged and stared at her chin; it was as close as he could get to meeting her gaze. “Most of the stuff we’ve done together I’ve never done with anyone else, so I was wonderin’ why we can’t just… y’know… do the rest of it.” Fuck, that had sounded so much better in his head!

Maria reached out to gently grasp his chin and tip his head back so she could see his eyes. She was looking for something, anything that would tell her if there was more involved in his request than simple sexual gratification. Was it possible that this thing between them meant more to him, too?

Michael shifted uncomfortably under her scrutinizing gaze. What the hell was she lookin’ for? He was beginning to feel stupid for even trying to voice his feelings and it was only a matter of seconds before his walls went up and he began to retreat. “Forget it,” he muttered, averting his gaze. “It’s not part of the bargain, right?”

“Why now?” she asked, curious.

He felt like he was leaving himself open to ridicule and his defenses quickly slammed into place to protect him and he shrugged carelessly. “Because it’s been months since I’ve done any proper fucking,” he snapped.

The hurt was immediate, but Maria refused to give in to it. She had known that it was only a matter of time before he started to push the boundaries of their ‘relationship’; she had just hoped that it wouldn’t be so soon. “That’s what this was all about?”

“Should it be about somethin’ else?” He pushed himself up, ignoring the little voice inside that was screaming at him to just throw caution to the wind and risk it all. Tell me it’s more than that, he begged silently. Give me somethin’ to let me know that you want the same thing.

“We agreed to no actual sex, Michael.” She was trying to stay calm; it hurt more than she had imagined to turn him down and she studied his features looking for some hint that this wasn’t just about sex like he was leading her to believe. His expression had turned cold and hard and she sighed as she got to her feet and grabbed her shirt off of the bedpost. She was already on the verge of falling in love with him and it wouldn’t take much more before she was all the way there, but he obviously didn’t feel the same way.

“Look, we’ve both agreed that there’re emotions involved in what we do, right? So, what’s it matter if we add fuckin’ into our activities? You like sex, I like sex, and we’ve basically done everything but the actually fuckin’ part, so what difference does it make?”

What difference does it make? she wondered, unable to stop the hurt that welled up inside at his callous words. Obviously if that was the way that he felt, then it wouldn’t make any difference at all.

“So, is that a no?” he asked.

Maria looked up at him, shaking her head at his pissed off tone. How could he go from the way he had acted all day to the way that he was acting right now? “We agreed, Michael… we said no sex.”

He was hurt by her rejection and he struck out the only way he knew how to protect himself from further pain. “Yeah, Maria, I agreed two fuckin’ months ago… d’you honestly think I ever thought we’d last this long without havin’ sex? Because let me assure you that I have never in my life bothered to invest this much time in a sexual relationship that hasn’t paid off in the end.” He regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth and he wished he could take them back, but it was too late. He saw the hurt in her eyes and knew that he had just verified her belief that he was cold, mean, and not interested in her beyond sex.

Maria nodded. “I think I’ll just go now.”

“Fine, go.” He shrugged as if he couldn’t care less whether she left or stayed. Don’t go! He wanted to ask her to stay, wanted to tell her that what he had said and what he meant were not so different, he just hadn’t explained himself very well. His pride and wounded feelings wouldn’t allow it though, and he turned to lean against the footboard as he watched her walk out of his room and close the door behind her.

Emotions that he had never experienced rose to the surface and it took every ounce of control that he had to keep from breaking every piece of furniture in the room.

*****

Maria took a quick shower, wishing that the hurt could be washed away as easily as the remnants of salt and tequila. She hadn’t expected the night to end this way, but she should have known it was only a matter of time before he wanted more from her.

Physically anyway, she thought sadly. Why couldn’t he want more on an emotional level? Yes, she wanted more in the physical and sexual sense, too, but she also wanted more from him emotionally.

“Stop it, Maria!” she ordered her reflection.

Michael had made it clear from day one that he wasn’t interested in a real relationship, so she couldn’t really blame him now, could she? Besides, hadn’t she been the one to set the ground rules? Was it his fault that her feelings and emotions had gotten involved and she had since realized that she wanted more than what they had both agreed to?

How could he be so gentle with me and tell me how sexy I am if he doesn’t have any feelings for me?
she wondered.

Her reflection held no answers and she reached up to rub her throat, wishing the thickness there would go away. She had hoped that crying in the shower would get the worst of the hurt out, but obviously that hadn’t worked. Now she just felt like shit and her throat hurt. She dressed in a pair of pajama pants and the tee shirt she had stolen from Michael the night before; she didn’t even have the strength to turn away that small comfort.

She left the bathroom and paused at the door to the bedroom as she glanced down the hall. She decided to grab a drink before going to bed since her throat was parched and scratchy from crying. Her footsteps were nearly silent as she walked around the counter and pulled the refrigerator door open to reach inside and grab a bottle of water. She closed the door and turned away, freezing when she came face to face with Michael; he was leaning against the doorframe on the opposite side of the room, staring at her with the coldest expression she had ever seen on his face.

Michael crossed his arms over his chest as he stared her down, regretting the way things had happened and not knowing how to fix it. He could see that she was hurt and the wounded look in her eyes tore at his soul, making him want to gather her up in his arms and never let her go. He had put that look in her eyes and he hated himself for it. On the other hand though, he was hurt too, and knowing that she had the ability to make him feel like this scared him.

He pushed away from the wall, lowering his arms as he approached her, and he saw the questions flare to life in her eyes. He slowed down as he neared her, standing so close that he could feel every breath she took, and he could’ve sworn that his heart shifted its own rhythm to match hers. He shoved the romantic notion away and reached around her to open the cabinet, pulling down a bottle of whiskey and a small glass before backing away and walking out of the room.

Maria watched him as he walked to the doors that led out onto the deck and a moment later she went in the opposite direction. She closed the bedroom door behind her and crept around Liz’ bed so she wouldn’t wake the other girl, pushing the covers back and climbing into her own bed. She had hoped that he would say something to let her know that things were going to be okay between them and she felt the tears start again at the memory of his cold expression. For just the briefest moment she had thought she had seen hurt there as well, but now she was certain that she had been mistaken.

“Maria?”

She turned her head to the side when she heard Liz speak and she reached up to wipe the tears away. “Sorry, Liz, did I wake you?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Just… just Michael… again,” she sniffled.

Liz fought to get free of her blankets and stumbled over to Maria’s bed, crawling under the covers and wrapping her arms around her distraught friend. “It’ll be okay, Maria.”

“I don’t know if that’s even possible.”

“You can tell me what happened.”

“He wanted to have sex and I said no…” She choked as tears clogged her throat again. “I think it’s over between us.”

“No, he likes you a lot, Maria.” Liz stroked one hand over her friend’s hair, trying to soothe her. “I know I don’t know much about guys, but it’s obvious – even to me – that he likes you.”

Maria sighed raggedly and closed her eyes when Liz’ voice started to get softer and before long she was sound asleep, her presence warm and comforting. She knew Michael liked her, that wasn’t the problem; the problem was that she had crossed the line that they had agreed on long before he had. She had set the boundaries, she had made the rules, and he had gone along with them for the most part.

She closed her eyes and did her best to force her mind to go blank. She didn’t want to think about this anymore tonight; she just wanted to go to sleep and wake up to realize it was nothing more than a bad dream. Her eyes flew open when Liz giggled in her sleep and she cursed under her breath. She had started the night half-naked in bed with Michael and she was ending her night in bed with a drunk, passed-out Liz Parker snuggled up against her.
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 46 - 8/30/09

Post by Double Trouble » Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:09 pm

begonia9508: Some guys, but not Max!

Kyle is a man with a one-track mind… regardless of the state of mind he’s in, lol!

Maria and Michael are both responsible for the state of their ‘relationship’. They both want more, but they’re both scared to go after it for their own reasons.

keepsmiling7: No, Max was completely shocked, but he handled it pretty well!

destinyc: What is it going to take… you’ll see…

Liz is going to break up with Sean, very soon. We agree, Max is going through hell playing the waiting game.

Natalie36: Thanks! Hope you’ve got a smile ready!

Eva: Michael is on unfamiliar ground with Maria and he’s never been very good at expressing himself when it comes to his deeper feelings and emotions.

Sometimes it takes the most painful mistakes for one to learn their lessons.

kismet: It was sad, but they’ve reached a point where they have to move forward emotionally and not just physically, and to do that Michael really has to begin dealing with his past.

We don’t think she’ll regret her time with Max.

nibbles2: He’s got to start dealing with the reason for his behavior before he can really move forward with Maria.

Poor Kyle, but he definitely gave it his best shot.

Max is definitely human despite his reputation for being nearly perfect.

mary mary: They’ve reached a point where they both want more and it’s being acknowledged, albeit painfully, and for them to move forward, Michael has to deal with some of his issues. Liz is quite the character after a few drinks, isn’t she? Isabel… well, careful is no guarantee, lol! The good thing is that if that is what’s going on, Alex doesn’t need any help from his parents. We’ll do our best to keep Brooke happy, but she’s gonna have some difficult times ahead, too.

Alien_Friend: That was a difficult and painful scene, but there are some things that need to be dealt with before they can move forward in any capacity. Hank is obviously one of those things.

Kyle is a hilarious drunk, huh?

Max is a gentleman and he tries very hard to do the right thing.

sarammlover: True, but Max would never take advantage of any girl like that. Remain confident, because Michael and Maria will come out of this stronger! You’re right about that.

POM: Hmm… guess that remains to be seen.

Well, then, your Dreamer heart should be happy the closer we get to Thanksgiving in the fic.

tequathisy: Ah, it’ll get better… well, not right away.

We’ll see what the morning brings.

Glad you enjoyed Kyle and Tess!

chanks_girl: Kyle is quite the character after too much to drink, isn’t he?

The morning after would’ve been disastrous if Max had let thing’s go any farther.

Yeah, that’s gonna take some work to fix!


Author’s Note: Okay, so, the vacation schedule didn’t exactly allow for a Thursday update… however, we hope that you will all accept a longer update to make up for it! We’re both back and that means we’re back on schedule now!


Part 46 – Admissions in the Dark

The deck was bathed by the light of the full moon as Michael stepped outside and pushed the sliding door closed, and he immediately noticed that he wasn’t the only one seeking solitude. Max was sitting at the table, pouring what obviously wasn’t his first glass of whiskey, judging by the level of alcohol in the bottle and the slight tremor in his hand. He pulled out the chair across from Max, ignoring the other man’s indignant yelp when his feet fell off of the chair and landed on the deck. Instead, he slammed his own bottle of whiskey down on the table to get Max’ attention in a bid for conversation.

“Shouldn’t you be all over Maria right about now?”

“Shouldn’t you mind your own fuckin’ business?” Michael snarled as she slammed his drink back.

“You guys get into a fight?”

“Looks like I’m not the only genius around here.”

Max’ eyes narrowed at Michael’s surly tone. “We’re gonna end up on the floor if you don’t stop bein’ an asshole, Guerin.”

“Bring it on, Evans.” He poured another drink, staring into it morosely. “Nothin’ you do could possibly hurt me tonight.”

“Hmmm… must be somethin’ serious then.”

“Did I ask for your input?”

“Nope, but I didn’t ask you to join me either, so you can either deal with it or leave.”

Michael debated his options; he could go back inside and risk running into Maria again or he could sit out here and listen to Evans spouting his self-righteous bullshit. Great fuckin’ options. He stayed silent as he emptied his glass and filled it again. Max could be a dick when he wanted to be, he thought irritably. But, on the other hand, they were kinda in the same place… neither of them was getting any. “Why do women have to be so fuckin’ difficult?”

“They probably ask the same thing about us.”

Michael snorted. “What’s so difficult about guys? We want sex we go after it… but, women? Fuck no, they’ve gotta make it all complicated. It has to mean somethin’…” He stared into his glass as if it held all the answers. “Well, what the fuck happens when it means somethin’ and you get shot down?”

Max almost dropped his own glass. “Repeat that, Guerin!”

“Alcohol has obviously affected your hearin’,” Michael grumbled. “This thing with Maria, it’s a lot more fuckin’ complicated that I bargained for… there’s more involved…”

“More? Are you sayin’ that you’ve fallen for her?”

“I don’t know.” He sighed and lifted his glass to his lips. “It’s not just about fuckin’… it’s… there’s more to it, so it’s… yeah, I think maybe I’ve got real feelings for her.”

Max leaned across the table to tap his glass to Michael’s. “I’ll drink to that,” he muttered before slamming his own drink back.

Michael followed suit, enjoying the slow burn of the alcohol as it raced down his throat. “So, what’s up with you an’ Liz? You guys were lookin’ pretty friendly when you left.”

“I could’ve had her tonight if I’d just let it happen.”

Michael’s eyebrows shot up at Max’ admission. “Whoa… your girl was ready to hand in her V card and you what… turned her down?” He poured another glass of whiskey. “That alcohol must be affectin’ more than just your hearin’.”

“Shut up, Michael. She would’ve regretted it tomorrow; she’s still engaged and she hasn’t made her mind up yet.” He sipped his drink, his fingers clenching tightly around his glass. “Maybe you’re fine with hurtin’ women, but I’m not.”

That comment stung and Michael surged to his feet, leaning over so that his face was mere inches from Max’ as he braced his fisted hands on the table and glared at him. “Why d’you just assume that I go around hurtin’ women? D’you really think I’m that much of an ass that I’d hurt someone I cared about without a single ounce of regret?”

“How the hell should I know? As far as I know you’ve never cared about any of the women you’ve been with… well, maybe that’s changed.”

“And maybe I’d rather go back to not carin’ about the women I’m involved with… it’s much easier if it’s just sex.” He threw himself back into his chair and sighed heavily.

“Too late now; you can’t just turn your feelings off. You know that, Michael.”

He thought about that for several long minutes before shaking his head in denial. “Watch me.”

“What exactly happened between you two? You looked pretty close when Liz an’ I left.”

“What happened? I’ll tell you what happened… I wanted sex and she shut me down.”

“Did she say why she doesn’t wanna have sex?”

“Not in so many words, no. Apparently though, I’m the kinda guy she doesn’t wanna get involved with… and as long as we don’t fuck we’re not…” he held his hands up to make air quotes, “involved.”

“Maybe she has feelings for you and she’s just afraid that sex means the end of your arrangement.”

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s what it is, Max,” he scoffed. For a smart guy, Max could be incredibly stupid sometimes. “Why would our arrangement end if we started havin’ sex?”

“’cause you aren’t interested in women once you’ve slept with them.”

“And I’ve never stayed with any other woman for this long, either. That alone should tell her somethin’.”

“Did you tell her?”

“Like she doesn’t know! It’s pretty much common knowledge that I don’t ever get this involved.” He sighed, frustrated beyond words. “I know my family’s told her that I never bring girls around them, so what more does she need to know?”

“Well… y’know, I’m pretty sure that you’ve probably told her at least once that you don’t wanna get involved, right?”

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” Michael snapped angrily. “She told me the same fuckin’ thing! Matter of fact, she’s the one who made the rules!”

“Maybe she thought she wouldn’t get involved if you guys didn’t have sex.”

That was basically what she had said, but that was irrelevant. “I don’t know what the fuck she was thinkin’, but her logic is all fucked up.”

“If you wanna know what’s goin’ on, just ask her. Or, better yet, tell her how you feel.”

“Yeah, great advice comin’ from a guy who’s all torn up over a girl who doesn’t know how he feels about her.”

“I do know how I feel, okay?” Max said loudly, taking another drink.

“Yeah, you know how you feel, but have you told her how you feel?” Michael shook his head. “I don’t see you puttin’ yourself out there either.”

“You can’t compare Liz to Maria; Liz is engaged and that’s a big difference!”

“Oh, yeah… engaged to one guy who does nothin’ for her, and hung up on a guy who won’t do her.” He knew that one would get a rise out of Max and that’s exactly what he wanted; he didn’t want to talk about him and Maria anymore.

“Well, at least she wants me!” Max snapped.

“You think the reason Maria won’t have sex with me is because she doesn’t want me?” He shook his head. “You’re a stupid fuck if you believe that.”

Max looked at Michael for several seconds. He’s really fucked up over her rejection, he thought. Maybe it’d be better to leave that alone. “No, I can see that. Hell, everybody can see that you two are… different when you’re together.”

Michael slammed his glass down on the table, unaware of the amber liquid sloshing over the sides and running over his hand. “So, what’re you tellin’ me?”

“That you shouldn’t let it go just because you had a fight about whether or not to have sex.”

Michael shook his head. “It’s not that simple… havin’ sex or not havin’ sex… I don’t even think that’s the real issue.”

“Okay, so what d’you think the real issue is?” Max couldn’t believe that Michael was actually talking about his feelings, but he was sure that it could be blamed on the alcohol he had consumed.

Michael slouched down in his chair, stretching his legs out and reaching for the bottle to fill his glass yet again. He could feel the alcohol slowly starting to numb the pain and that’s exactly what he needed. “The real issue?” he questioned. “The real issue is that I think I’ve made the mother of all mistakes.”

“Which one would that be?”

He took a drink from his glass and tipped his head back, letting the alcohol crawl down his throat. “I let myself fall for someone who doesn’t feel the same way.” He stared at his glass for several moments before standing and drunkenly swaying over to the railing. “I don’t know why anyone says that getting emotionally involved is such a great thing… it fuckin’ sucks.” Why were they talkin’ about him and Maria again? Every time he tried switching the conversation to Max and Liz, the bastard turned it on him.

“Stop with the self-pity, Michael. You don’t even know how Maria feels yet.”

“You think this’s about self-pity? At least I’ve had sex in some form over the last couple of months… what’ve you had? A few fantasies of virgin-Liz and your right hand?” Yeah, he thought, take that, you prick!

“Well, to be honest…” Max grinned drunkenly. “Yeah.”

“Ungh, I can’t believe you actually admitted that…” He shook his head. Evans had to be drunk to say that much; the guy never bragged about having sex, which was actually kind of annoying.

Max frowned. “Yeah, I can’t believe it either.”

“Alright, Evans, since you’re in a sharin’ mood tonight… how far have you guys gone?”

“Um… kissin’… a little touchin’…”

Michael’s eyebrows shot up. “A little touchin’? How much is a little?” He waited impatiently. “C’mon, Evans, give it up, man. You think girls don’t share this kinda stuff?”

The alcohol had loosened his tongue enough that Max answered without thinking. “We made out, her shirt came off… well, almost… and then I kinda… there was touchin’. But, it didn’t go any farther,” he hurried to add.

Michael rolled his eyes. “Seriously? Wait, here, at the cabin?”

“Yeah, just a little while ago.”

Oh, Evans had to be kickin’ himself over that one; anyone could see that Liz had been drunk when she and Max had left the room earlier. “Looks like you just lost your nomination for sainthood.”

“It took all my strength to get her into bed and not climb in after her.”

“So, you didn’t go any farther?”

Max shook his head.

“But, she wanted to?”

“Yeah. Well, she thought she did anyway.”

“And, now… what?” Michael took in the dejected slump to Max’ shoulders. “What happens next?”

“I don’t know . She’s gotta make her decision first.”

“What’re you gonna do? You’re gonna tell her how you feel, right? You can’t just have an advantage and not use it.”

“Look who’s talkin’,” Max said, grinning at Michael.

“I said advantage, you drunk idiot.” He turned to lean back against the railing, missed it, and landed on his ass on the deck. “I don’t have an advantage… I’m not tryin’ to keep my girl from marryin’ another guy.”

“But you would if there was another guy, right?”

“I could fight another guy… I don’t know how to fight this… whatever it is.”

“I’m sure Liz knows how I feel about her, but with Sean between us… I don’t wanna fall for her when there’s a good chance that she might not leave him.”

I’m sure Liz knows how I feel about her,” Michael mocked, rolling his eyes. “Don’t even give me anymore shit about how I need to share my feelings when you haven’t even told Liz how you feel about her. And, you don’t wanna fall for her? Please!” he snorted, “you’ve already fallen for her. You haven’t so much as looked at another girl since you got back… and I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but that was a couple months ago.”

“Looks like we’ve got somethin’ in common then.”

Ah-ha! He caught the subtle shift this time and he wasn’t fallin’ for it… he wasn’t gonna let Max turn the conversation back to him again. “So, you think there’s any chance that Liz feels the same way about you?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure she does, but I’m not sure she’s gonna be strong enough to let Sean go.”

“Why? What’s he have that you don’t have?” Well, besides Liz, he thought, but wisely decided not to verbalize it.

“Well, he has the advantage of knowin’ her for a lifetime, and we all know that humans tend to be creatures of habit.”

Michael frowned at that. “Well, sure, that’s true, but… it doesn’t mean that we have no choice but to follow our habits.” It didn’t, right? Because if that was true, then there really was no chance for things to work out between him and Maria.

“No, you’re right, but not everyone is strong enough to actually change the direction their lives are takin’.”

“So, just because Sean’s known Liz her whole life you think she’ll choose him over you? She’s gotta be stronger than that if you fell for her, so maybe it’s somethin’ else, huh?” Oh, yeah, he was totally full of wisdom tonight! “Maybe you’re just scared that she’ll choose you over the old, broken-in, comfortable shoe she’s with now.”

“Why would I be scared?” Max snapped.

Michael silently congratulated himself for provoking that response out of Max. “Because if she leaves what she knows – familiarity, stability, and comfort – that puts the pressure on you.” God, he was so smart sometimes! “Suddenly, you’re the guy who’ll be the most important person in her world… if she has a problem, she’ll go to you… if she wants to share somethin’, she’ll go to you… when she’s ready to have sex, she’ll go to you. All the pressure’s on you to have all the answers, to make all the right moves, to introduce her to the wonderful world of sex! You’re gonna have all this power and the whole time that little voice is gonna be right there in the back of your mind remindin’ you that you can’t slip up because she chose you and you can’t let her down… that’s a lot of responsibility, man” He nodded sagely. “Yep, in your shoes, I’d be scared shitless.”

“That’s really not very helpful, Michael! Maybe those are the reasons why you haven’t told Maria how you feel.”

Michael recoiled at Max’ accusation and his temper rose to the surface, pushing past the haze of alcohol-induced relaxation. “Fuck you, Evans! I’m not the one hornin’ in on some other guy’s territory.”

“No, you’re right. Maria isn’t involved with anyone else and it’s obvious that she has feelings for you. So, tell me, Michael, what’s your damn problem?”

“I don’t have a problem! I’m not the one cryin’ in my whiskey!” Michael glared at his friend. “My only problem is that I’m not getting laid.”

“You can’t bullshit me, Guerin. I think your pride’s hurt ‘cause Maria’s the first woman who rejected you.”

Ouch! That actually hurt! His pride wasn’t hurt so much as dented and he knew himself well enough to know that it wouldn’t take long to get over that. It was that other thing that he wasn’t sure he could get over… that thing that made him feel like something inside was being crushed under extreme pressure. Michael slammed the whole glass of whiskey, desperately needing the pain to stop. “It’s not my pride that got hurt,” he mumbled quietly, unaware that he had spoken loud enough for Max to hear him.

“But?”

“But, nothin’,” he muttered, shaking his head. “Y’know what, Evans… I think there must be too much estrogen in the cabin because we’re startin’ to sound like a couple of chicks.”

“No, you’re startin’ to sound like a girl; you’re the one who sounds like he’s in love for the first time.”

An image of Maria’s face flashed into his mind – laughing and teasing him, sated and happy, listening and comforting – and he sighed tiredly. Was he in love? Was that what his problem was? He knew he had never been in love, never been with anyone he was willing to take that kind of risk for, but now, with Maria… “Doesn’t really matter now, does it?”

“It matters, Michael, you know that.”

“Matters to who? ‘cause unless somethin’ drastic happens, I think things are pretty much over between us.”

“You’re not gonna try to talk to her again?”

“Fuck if I know. I don’t know why I should be the one to say anything; she’s the one who put the brakes on.”

Max shrugged half-heartedly and got up to stagger over to the wicker furniture, dropping down onto the chaise lounge and stretching out. Damn the cushions were nice and soft! He was so drunk he couldn’t keep his eyes focused and it wasn’t long before the sound of crickets chirping lulled him to sleep and he started snoring.

The deck shifted beneath his feet when Michael tried to stand up so he settled for crawling over to the closest chaise lounge and fell back down when he tried to pull himself up on it. That was always a sure sign that he’d had too much to drink. He finally settled for dragging the cushions off and curling up on top of them, hugging the nearly empty bottle of whiskey to his chest.

*****

Brooke shuffled into the kitchen the next morning, bleary-eyed and half-asleep. Alex and Isabel were already there, making breakfast and discussing boring things like grocery shopping and dry cleaning that needed to be done when they got home. Kyle was sitting on a barstool, slumped over the counter with his head pillowed on his folded arms while Tess massaged his neck and shoulders.

“G’mornin’.”

“Well, look who finally decided to drag her lazy butt outta bed,” Alex said as he smiled at his sister’s sluggish movements.

“Where’s Michael?” she mumbled.

Alex reached around his girlfriend to snatch a piece of bacon and then he stole a quick kiss when she turned to reprimand him. “I haven’t seen Michael this mornin’.”

“Maybe he just hasn’t made it outta bed yet,” Kyle said, his voice muffled by his arms.

“He’s not in his room.”

Kyle lifted his head and frowned. “Are you sure? ‘cause I can’t imagine that he an’ Maria would’ve gone to her room since Liz would be there.”

“Liz would be where?”

They all turned to look at Liz when she stumbled up to the counter, holding her head in her hands as she tried to climb up on one of the stools. She mustered a weak smile when Alex and Kyle both grabbed her arms and helped her up and then steadied her before letting her go once more.

“Was Michael in your room?” Brooke asked.

“Huh-uh.” Liz crossed her arms on the counter and carefully laid her head on them. “Isabel…” she whined.

“You’re not gonna die from a little hangover, I promise.” Isabel smiled as she got a glass down and filled it with water while Tess shook out a couple of tablets from the bottle that Kyle had been holding.

“What happened last night?”

“Before or after you went outside with Max?” Tess asked. She grinned when Liz’ head shot up so fast that the younger girl had to grab onto the edge of the counter. “Dizzy?”

Liz winced when the movement dragged her sweatshirt against her nipples and she wondered again why they felt so sensitive this morning. “I went somewhere with Max?”

“Oh, my God!” Brooke muttered, leaning against the sliding doors. “I just found Michael and Max!” She tilted her head to one side when a small movement caught her attention. “And it looks like Michael has a little friend.”

Michael was lying on the deck, sprawled out on cushions that he had pulled off of the furniture, snoring loud enough to wake the dead. But apparently not loud enough to disturb the raccoon that was busy drinking the last of the whiskey in the glass that Michael still held in his right hand. The furry creature was standing up on its hind legs, the claws of its tiny front paws curled around the edge of the glass as it stuck its nose as far into the glass as possible.

Not far away Max was lying facedown on a chaise lounge, his face turned to the side, his left arm hanging over the side and the back of his hand lying on the deck.

“Alex, where’s your camera?”

“In my bag in the bedroom.”

“Looks like they had their own party after everyone went to bed,” Tess commented.

“Who did?” Maria asked, bypassing the crowd at the doors to go and get a cup of coffee.

“Michael and Max,” Liz mumbled. She hadn’t joined the others either, choosing to remain still instead. “Did you guys warn me about drinking last night?”

“We did, yes,” Maria said, smiling. “But, when you discovered the Jäger, no one could convince you that you shouldn’t do several shots back to back.”

“The stuff that tasted like black licorice?” She wrinkled her nose. “Remind me to not do that again.”

“Ah, c’mon, you were havin’ the time of your life.”

“Hey, Maria, why don’t you go give Sleeping Beauty out there a kiss and see if you can wake him up?” Tess suggested.

“Sleeping Beauty can kiss my ass.”

That comment raised several eyebrows, but she ignored all of them in favor of drinking her coffee. Brooke came back with the camera and Alex quietly slid the door open so she could snap off several pictures of the guys.

“Shouldn’t we wake them up?” Brooke asked.

The raccoon’s head shot up to stare at them when it heard Brooke’s voice and it quickly scurried away, slinking along the side of the house, down the steps, and then into the woods.

“Sure, why don’t you do that, kid,” Alex suggested. “We’ll go back and get breakfast finished.”

Brooke walked back and forth between Michael and Max several times before she settled for poking Max first. He swatted her hand away and grumbled something mostly unintelligible, but definitely rude, and turned his head to face the other side. Giving up on him she walked over to her brother and nudged him with her bare foot.

“Hey, Michael… Michael, it’s time to get up!”

“Go ‘way,” he mumbled, bringing his arm up to cover his head.

“Breakfast is almost ready… um-hmm… eggs and bacon…” She paused when she saw him grimace at her words. “I could ask Iz to throw some sausage on for you if you’d prefer that… whatcha think? Some nice, greasy, sausage patties?”

Michael groaned when his stomach rolled queasily and he knew he wasn’t going to avoid what had to be the worst part of a hangover in his opinion. “Brooke, I’m only gonna tell you this once… shut up and leave me alone or I swear I’m gonna puke on your feet.”

Brooke frowned at him and rolled her eyes, annoyed by his threat. “Hey, Iz!” she shouted at the top of her lungs as she turned and walked back towards the deck doors. “Michael requested some greasy sausage and he said if you could make fried eggs… the kind that are practically swimmin’ in grease, he really – “ She grinned when he lurched to his feet and lunged for the railing, hanging over it as he threw up. “Well, on second though, maybe that’s not such a good idea.”

Max could feel his own stomach react to the sounds Michael was making and he drew in deep lungfuls of air in an effort to control his own roiling stomach.

“Might as well give it up, Evans,” Michael rasped, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “It’s a losin’ game.”

“No, it’s not,” Max denied, doing his best to hold off the inevitable. “Oh, God,” he moaned as he felt the alcohol from the night before pushing back up his throat, “yes, it is.” He wasn’t even going to make it inside so he could at least have privacy for this humiliation, he thought as he half-crawled, half-walked over to the railing closest to him just in time to empty the contents of his abused stomach.

Neither of them bothered to look when Brooke came out and set two bottles of ice cold water on the table behind them before leaving them alone once more.

“Kid obviously knows nothin’ about hangovers,” Max mumbled.

Michael stumbled over to the table to grab the bottles and tossed one to Max before he unscrewed the cap and took a mouthful of the water, swishing it around before spitting it back out. He leaned over a different section of the railing and poured some of it over his head, trying to ignore the jackhammer pounding in his skull.

He set the bottle on the railing and braced his elbows on either side of it before lowering his head so he could massage his temples.

Max collapsed on the chaise lounge once more, holding the half-empty water bottle against his throbbing head. “What the fuck was I thinkin’ last night?”

“No clue.” Michael slowly raised his head to look at Max and he had a sudden flash of memory of the two of them and a conversation about… love? “Hey, we didn’t talk about anything last night, right?”

“What?” Max frowned. There was something lurking at the edge of his memory. Had they had a conversation about… sex? He shook his head slowly as he looked up to meet the other man’s worried gaze. “No? I mean, no… no, we couldn’t have, and even if we had… it was just drunken rambling and it meant nothin’.”

“Yeah, that’s right. So… there was no… conversation.”

“No, no conversation about anything.”

They were both fuzzy about the details, but they were equally comfortable with denial in relation to any kind of conversation that might have included feelings or anything personal.

“Okay,” Michael mumbled. “I think I’m gonna go try to stay upright long enough to take a shower.” He forced his feet to carry him to the door and he glanced at Max as he pushed it open. “Good luck, Evans; you look worse than I feel.”

Max shot the finger at him and hauled himself to his feet so he could head to his own bathroom for a shower. He wasn’t ready to face Liz just yet and judging by her position at the bar with her head buried in her pillowed arms, she wasn’t looking forward to running into him anytime soon either. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after a shower, he thought.

*****

Kyle was happily making his way through his breakfast, not really paying any attention to the conversation going on around him, when his girlfriend volunteered him for dishwashing duty. He frowned at her as he shoveled a forkful of pancakes in his mouth and chewed slowly. “How come I’ve gotta wash dishes?” he grumbled after washing his food down with a drink of milk.

“Because Alex and Iz made breakfast, Brooke has dogs to walk, Liz is dealin’ with her very first hangover, and based on Maria’s comments where Michael’s concerned, she might use him for target practice when he surfaces, so we want to keep her away from the dishes.”

“I can hear you, y’know,” Maria grumbled from the other side of the table.

Alex finished his breakfast and glanced over at his sister as he pushed back away from the table. “You ready to take the dogs out?” he asked when he saw that she was done eating.

Isabel smiled and nodded at him when he leaned over to kiss her before getting up and following Brooke outside. He picked up on subtle signals so well, she thought, pleased.

Kyle was reaching for another pancake when he felt Tess’ gaze on him and he froze with his fork over the platter. He glanced around and saw that all of the girls were staring at him and he slowly retracted his fork. “I was gonna have more pancakes…” He shook his head when his girlfriend lifted one eyebrow and he scrambled to his feet when he recognized the warning. “Or I could just get started on those dishes?” He snatched up a pancake and wrapped it around a piece of bacon, dragging it through the syrup on his plate as he carried it into the kitchen.

“Thanks, babe.” Tess smiled at him when he started to clear the table, mumbling under his breath. As soon as he was finished and he was safely in the kitchen, buried up to his elbows in soap suds she turned her attention to her best friend. “Okay, what is goin’ on with you and Michael? Last night you guys were all over each other and this mornin’ the two of you can’t stand to be in the same room.”

Maria shook her head and shrugged. “He’s being a dick and I don’t have to put up with it.”

“What’d he do?” Isabel asked, curious about the sudden mood shift between the couple.

He didn’t do anything,” Michael snarled, meeting Maria’s gaze and holding it as he walked through the kitchen to the dining area. He snatched up the chair at the end of the table and flipped it around, straddling it as he continued to glare at her. “If you’re gonna talk shit about me at least have the courtesy to be honest about it.”

“Talkin’ shit?” Maria shook her head. “Oh, no way, buddy, you know what you did last night.”

“Yeah, put it all on me, DeLuca.” He slammed his fist down on the table and he winced in apology when Liz jumped back and grabbed her head.

“Ow,” she whimpered pathetically.

“God, Michael, could you be more inconsiderate?” Maria shouted.

“Yeah, I could yell in my friend’s ear while she’s suffering from her first hangover.”

Maria reached out to rub Liz’ back in a consoling gesture. “Why don’t you go be a prick somewhere else?”

“Why? Because you’ve got more right to sit here an’ be a bitch than I do to sit here an’ be a prick? Huh-uh, you wanna argue about rights, I’ve got them because Kyle is my friend and the cabin belongs to his family. So, deal with it or go sit somewhere else and bitch.”

Tess and Isabel exchanged a look when the couple continued to hurl insults at each other and neither of them showed any signs of letting up. When their words started to take on an edge of hurtfulness Tess stood and asked Maria to help her finish packing since they were leaving in the next couple of hours.

Liz retreated to the den in search of peace and quiet, leaving Isabel alone at the table with Michael. She glanced at him and she could see the misery he was trying so hard to hide from everyone. They had gotten to know each other a little better on those occasions when he had come by the house for dinner or to drop Brooke off after school. He wasn’t impervious to pain and hurt or as careless as he wanted the world at large to think, but he guarded his feelings so well that she knew he sometimes came across as if he didn’t have them.

“Have you taken anything for that headache?” she asked after a few minutes.

Michael was surprised when she spoke to him without a single ounce of hostility in her tone. She was Maria’s friend first so he hadn’t expected her to be civil to him. “No.” He glanced up at her when she stood and patted his shoulder as she walked around him.

“Let me get you some aspirin.” She paused and turned back to look at him. “You think you could eat a couple pieces of dry toast and keep them down?”

“Yeah,” he admitted grudgingly, “I might be able to do that.” He folded his arms on the back of the chair and rested his forehead on them, wishing he understood why his life was so fucked up. Was it so wrong to wanna have sex with the girl he had been with for the past couple of months? He was so confused and the hangover really wasn’t helping to make things any clearer.

*****

Tess pushed Maria down to sit on the bed as soon as they were inside her room and she pushed the door closed so she could lean back against it. “Okay, what’s goin’ on with you an’ Michael?”

“Tess, I really don’t wanna talk about it right now.”

“You were ready to talk about it a little while ago and all we got was that he’s bein’ a dick and you’re not gonna put up with it.” She moved to sit next to her friend. “Would you talk to me, girl? I can see that you’re upset and this weekend has been so great that it should end with everyone in a good mood.”

“I don’t see that happening. Look, Michael and I just had a difference of opinion and chances are good that it’s not gonna be resolved with a session of group therapy or an intervention, so you guys just need to let us work it out.” She sighed. If it could be worked out, she thought. “I appreciate what you’re tryin’ to do, Tess, but you’ve gotta step back on this one. Please.”

“Fine. But, you guys are gonna fix this before my birthday, right?”

Maria wished she could give Tess the assurance she was asking for, but the truth was that she and Michael never did anything the easy way and no matter how much she wanted this fight to be in the past she didn’t expect it to be that smooth.

Tess nodded when she saw the expression on Maria’s face and she hurried to hug her. “It’s okay, Maria; as long as it doesn’t keep you from being there, that’s the most important thing.”

“Like I would miss your birthday party… have I ever missed one of your parties?”

She laughed. “No, but the guys are opening the party and if you an’ Michael still aren’t getting along, then – “

“I know you don’t think I’m gonna let his pissy mood keep me from your party.”

“Is it too much to want everyone to be happy?”

“Look, you obviously had a wild night and you still haven’t come down from the sex high – “

Tess snorted at that. “I spent the night keepin’ an eye on Kyle because he tried to give himself a concussion in the shower.”

The laughter escaped before Maria could stop it. “What?”

“He fell in the shower and then completely killed his hard-on with an accidental blast of ice cold water. My poor baby didn’t have a good night.”

“No, it doesn’t sound like it.” And yet Kyle was in a much better mood than Michael was. “Hey, why don’t you tell me what your boy’s got planned for your birthday,” she suggested, not wanting to think about Michael anymore.

*****

Liz paused in the doorway to the den when she realized that it was already occupied; Max was lying on one of the couches wearing a pair of dark sunglasses and his left arm flung across his forehead. She watched him for several minutes before she finally stepped inside and crept over to the other couch, slumping down into the soft cushions and sighing in relief.

Across the room Max was watching her, wondering how badly she was regretting their actions from the night before. She looked so miserable, he thought, not even realizing that he had spoken aloud until she looked at him and nodded.

“I’m not sure why anyone says they enjoy drinking too much,” she mumbled.

“Because at the time you convince yourself that it’s totally worth the agony you’re gonna go through the next mornin’,” he answered roughly. “But it’s never worth it.”

“No, it’s not.”

Max had no idea that she was talking about getting drunk; his mind automatically leapt to the conclusion that she was referring to their actions. He slowly pushed himself into an upright position and reached up to tug his sunglasses off so he could meet her gaze directly. “Liz, about last night, I should apologize – “

Liz shook her head and held a hand up. “I’m a big girl Max; no one made me drink last night.”

“Well, no, of course not, but…”

“I just hope I didn’t do anything completely embarrassing because I really don’t remember much after that game.” She reached up to rub her temples. “I know if I did that when I feel better my friends will tell me, but…” She looked at him and took a deep breath. “I didn’t do anything that I should be ashamed of, did I?”

Was she on the level? Max wondered. Did she really have no memory of what they had done or was she just hiding behind the convenient excuse of alcohol-induced-amnesia and choosing to pretend that it never happened? He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to know the answer to that question because if it was just an act then it hadn’t meant anything to her and if she was being honest about not remembering… was that really any better?

“Max?”

He forced a smile. “No, Liz, you did nothin’ that you need to be sorry for.” He stood and slowly made his way to the door, pausing when he reached it to turn and look at her. “I am sorry about last night though; I should’ve behaved better.”

Liz watched him go and wondered why he felt the need to apologize when the responsibility rested squarely on her shoulders. She sighed and decided that she would worry about it later when her head felt like it was actually going to stay on her shoulders.

*****

Tess looked up when Kyle stepped into their room, glancing around for company before closing the door and leaning back against it.

“Okay, Michael’s gone back to his room, Alex and Isabel are getting their stuff together, takin’ Brooke and headin’ home, and Max an’ Liz are both quietly nursin’ hangovers. So, what’d you do with Maria?”

“She went back to her room, most likely to contemplate the best way to make Michael suffer for whatever he’s done.”

“Hey, this thing with them… whatever it is… it’s not gonna come between us, right?” He reached up to scratch his cheek. “I mean, she’s your best friend, he’s my best friend, and that kinda situation almost always leads to havin’ to choose sides, an’ I don’t want their problem to cause a problem between us.”

Tess propped herself up on her elbows and looked at him, surprised that he seemed to be genuinely concerned that their relationship could be negatively impacted by their friends’ problems. “Kyle, I know they’re our best friends and neither of us wants to see them get hurt because as much as they irritate us at times we still love them, but if their crazy relationship doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean it’s the end of us. We’ll just have to find ways to deal with them if that happens… although, I think that eventually they’re gonna work it out.” She grinned. “I think they just need some incentive.”

“What’ve you got in mind?” he asked, recognizing the look in her eyes.

“I say we leave them here. Hide Michael’s keys so it takes them a while to find them and just leave them here to work it out. Max an’ Liz are both actin’ a little weird, so you drive him home an’ I’ll drive Liz home – “

“Whoa, babe, you wanna drive my car?”

Tess rolled her eyes. “What is it with guys and their cars?” she asked. “I do own a Mustang as well, or have you forgotten?”

“Well, yeah, but… my car?”

“Babe, I know Liz a lot better than you do, so, chances are much better that I’ll know if she’s about to hurl.”

Kyle made a face. “That’s really not much of an argument.”

“Hey, neither of them is in any condition to drive, so it only makes sense that I would drive Liz home and you’d take Max. I mean, I can take Max, but, y’know… chances are good that Liz is gonna throw up all over your interior because you don’t – “

“No, no, no!” He held his hands up and shook his head, shuddering at the thought of his interior being damaged by projectile vomit. “Okay, fine, you can drive my car.”

“Kyle?”

His head shot up the moment her voice turned sultry and the sound went straight to his dick.

“We don’t have to leave right away, do we?”

His eyebrows lifted in interest. “You got somethin’ more interestin’ than drivin’ our hungover friends back home in mind?”

She smiled and sat up to pull her shirt over her head and toss it at him. “A couple things, actually.”

“Oh, fuck yeah,” he said, grinning and jerking his own shirt off so he could hop over the footboard and crouch over her. “Y’know, you’re just full of great ideas.” He wrapped his arms around her and rolled over, quickly divesting her of her bra and pulling her down against his body. He groaned when her breasts pressed against his chest and he completely lost himself in the kiss, forgetting about everything else as her hands roamed over every inch of flesh that she could reach.
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 47 - 9/3/09

Post by Double Trouble » Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:39 am

mary mary: LOL, sorry to hear that! Funny how that works, isn’t it? It seems like you always remember when you wish you could forget!

Alien_Friend: It’s great to be back! Vacation rocked, thanks!

We’ll be going back to regular length on the parts now that we’ll be updating twice a week again. Acknowledging is going to be the big thing for Michael. Both guys have their own dilemmas with their girls, but they’re gonna work it out. Poor guys… the pain of that morning after just isn’t worth the brief lack of pain the night before!

We’re not sure Tess’ plan should be put into action so soon, but she’s gonna do it anyway.

POM: It’s quite possible that she’ll remember at some point. Time-wise (in the fic), Thanksgiving isn’t far away, but we have a lot of territory to cover before we get there. But, there will be some Max and Liz scenes mixed in.

Eva: Right now, there isn’t much getting through to Michael’s thick skull.

No, Michael honestly doesn’t see it. Ah, but he’s gonna get past that in time.

You liked that idea, huh? Well…

begonia9508: Sex and alcohol… a combination that can either go very well or very wrong! There just doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

nibbles2: So, ya think they’re gonna talk, huh?

LOL, yeah, the guys’ recall wasn’t very good, but the conclusions they both came to were very telling, weren’t they?

destinyc: Well, they’ve come up with a plan… whether it goes according to plan or not is a different story altogether.

You never know, they might remember…

kismet: It was pretty telling, wasn’t it?

Ah, it won’t be too long before they talk. However, that hangover’s gotta go first! Matter of fact, we think Sean has to go, too!

sarammlover: Sorry. Yeah, the boys’ talk may have been the result of too much whiskey, but they both needed it. Sean is going to get the boot.

tequathisy: Well, there will be suffering. Um… rational, reasonable conversation… um-hmm, that could happen…

Well, we certainly can’t have her running the other way!

RiceKrispy: Wow, that’s a lot of reading!

Unfortunately, the boys don’t have a quick sober-up time.

Sure, they go to class… we just don’t really put much focus on that, lol.

Nope, neither of us go to CSULB, lol.


Part 47 – The Long Ride Home

Michael was lying down in his room when he heard Kyle and Tess laughing and talking outside, the sound muffled by the wall separating them. He was carefully turning onto his side when the sound of car doors slamming and engines starting caught his attention and he ignored his hangover as he scrambled to his feet and ran out of his room.

He nearly collided with Maria when they met up in the living room at the same time and for a moment they just stared at each other. The sound of gravel shifting under tires had them turning and running for the front door and when they wasted precious seconds fighting over who was going to open the door before they managed to get it open.

Birds flew from the trees above when Michael turned the air blue with loud expletives and he stomped back and forth on the deck, staring after the disappearing taillights.

“Well, there ya go,” he snarled. “You happy now?”

“Oh, so this’s my fault?”

“You’re the one who had to bring our problem to everybody’s attention.”

“I did not bring it to everyone’s attention, you asshole! My friends noticed that I was upset and had the common decency to ask if I needed to talk.”

The sun chose that moment to break through the trees and Michael winced as he pushed past her and stalked inside. He had not intended to drive back to Long Beach with her in the passengers’ seat or in any other kind of close proximity. The plan had been to dump her off on one of their friends and take off on his own; not spend an excruciating three hours locked up in his car with her. They would either spend the entire time arguing or it would be a long, cold, icy silence, and he wasn’t looking forward to either of them.

He fought down a wave of nausea as he stepped back into the house and he walked over to the counter where he had left his keys, intending to throw his stuff in the car, demand that she do the same, and then leave. But he quickly realized that his plan wasn’t going to work quite the way that he had intended because his keys weren’t there. They weren’t on the counter or any other surface that he could see and his temper only grew the longer he looked for them without finding them.

“Lose somethin’?” Maria taunted from the doorway. She was leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over her chest as she watched him.

“No,” he snapped, “I didn’t lose anything. Someone moved my keys.”

She snorted and rolled her eyes. “Who would bother movin’ your keys? And better yet, why would they even bother?”

“Let’s think about that for all of two seconds, hmm?” He whirled around to face her and instantly regretted the quick movement. He put his hand out and braced it against the couch as he carefully eased down into a sitting position.

“Are you insinuating that my friends did somethin’ with your keys?” she demanded. Part of her felt bad for his obviously weakened state, but the other part was responding to his irritating behavior and at that moment it was winning out. “I ask again, why?”

“Because Tess is a demented, vindictive little bitch, and she probably thinks this’s the funniest fuckin’ thing she’s participated in all year.”

“You don’t have any right to call her that… if anyone’s gonna be sayin’ somethin’ like that about her, it’ll be me.” She glanced around on all of the surfaces that Michael had already checked, desperately looking for his keys and hoping he had just overlooked them. Tess wouldn’t have just left her here with him, would she? Yeah, she would’ve… bitch! She could deal with that when she got home; for now, she had to find his stupid keys so they could go home. “Did you check your pockets? Your room?”

“Do I look that stupid to you?” he barked out.

“You really want me to answer that question?” she asked sweetly.

“Why don’t you just look for the fuckin’ keys?” He rubbed his forehead and leaned back against the cushions.

Maria started looking all over for the keys, not because he had suggested it, but because she was ready to get out of there and go home. Her temper that was already simmering began to boil with each passing minute as he continuously tossed out places to look and waited expectantly for her to do his bidding. She finally hit pay dirt when she climbed up on the couch against one of the walls to feel around the deer’s head mounted there. “Okay, that is gross, and there should totally be some law against hangin’ dead animal heads on the wall as decoration or anything else.” She wiped her hand on her shorts as she climbed back down and caught her foot in one of the cushions as she stepped down to the floor. She fell on the floor in an undignified heap and hurried to scramble up to a sitting position, glaring at him when he started laughing uncontrollably.

Michael saw the intent in her angry green eyes and his hand shot up to catch the keys that she threw at him. He was glad that he had quick reflexes because if he hadn’t intercepted them, the keys would have impacted with his head.

“Give me those keys,” she demanded as she stood up.

“Get your own fuckin’ keys,” he threw back. “Oh, wait, that’s right… you don’t have a car.”

“You are such a prick!” She shrieked in frustration and pounced on him, making a grab for the keys.

They wrestled over the keys for several long, agonizing minutes; under other circumstances Michael would’ve been enjoying the full-body contact of the impromptu wrestling match, but his stomach was doing somersaults and threatening to erupt at any moment. He felt the telltale sensation in his throat that let him know he wasn’t going to be able to avoid it and he flipped her onto the couch, dropped the keys in his haste to move, slapped his hand over his mouth, and ran through the cabin to get to the bathroom.

Maria shoved down the sympathetic feelings that arose when she saw the greenish tint to his features as he ran from the room. She snatched the keys up off of the couch and hummed to herself as she walked back towards her room to get her things together. When she was finished loading her things into the car she went back to his room to grab his bag and heard him brushing his teeth. She thought about beating on the bathroom door and yelling at him to hurry up, but then decided that the last thing she wanted to do was sit in a confined space sharing the same air if he wasn’t allowed to thoroughly brush his teeth and rinse with a nice, minty mouthwash.

Nope, on second thought, let’s just leave that one alone, she thought as she carried his bag out and tossed it in the trunk.

When he was finished in the bathroom, Michael walked back into his room to put his things away, frowning when he didn’t find his bag where he had left it. Before he had the time to finish his next thought he heard the familiar roar of his engine as the car was started and a moment later it settled down into the finely-tuned purr that he loved.

“Oh, no, you are not drivin’ my car,” he snarled, checking to make sure he had everything before sliding his sunglasses on and stepping outside. Even with the dark sunglasses he had to squint against the brightness of the early afternoon sun and he locked the door and quietly pulled it closed behind him.

Maria barely spared him a glance when he jerked the passengers’ side door open and leaned down to glare at her. At least she assumed he was glaring at her; it was hard to tell since he was wearing sunglasses, but the way his forehead was wrinkled up led her to believe that the glare was in full force.

“You’re not drivin’ my fuckin’ car,” he growled menacingly.

On another man his tone probably would’ve instilled fear in her, but no matter how pissed off they were at each other, she knew he would never react violently towards her. “You’re not in any condition to drive right now, Michael, and I’m not gonna argue with you about it.”

In his present condition he knew there wasn’t really anything that he could do about it, so he clenched his teeth together for several long seconds as he debated his limited options. “Pop the trunk,” he muttered. Michael moved to the back of the car and put his toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash away before slamming the trunk and easing into the seat and buckling up. “Let’s go before I change my mind.”

Maria rolled her expressive eyes and just out of spite she made it a point to grind the gears.

He jerked his glasses off and his right hand shot up to brace against the roof as the car bucked and jumped. “I knew you couldn’t drive!” he shouted. “Stop before you strip my fuckin’ gears!” His stomach was reminding him of how unhappy it already was with the abuse he had heaped on it the night before and he really didn’t want to throw up again. He relaxed slightly when she smoothly changed gears and followed the long driveway out to the old highway that would eventually lead to the interstate.

After nearly half an hour of angry silence Maria sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “Look, Michael, we’re stuck in this car for another couple of hours at least, so can we please talk about what happened?”

He would’ve rolled his eyes if his head wasn’t hurting so bad, but instead he settled for shrugging his left shoulder. “You can talk… I’m not the one who fucked everything up.”

“I didn’t fuck everything up!”

“You think you could lower your voice?” he snapped. Damn, every fuckin’ dog in the county had probably heard her!

“Yeah, maybe when you stop blamin’ me for everything that went wrong!”

“Uh, I’m sorry… which one of us threw on the brakes last night?!” Her silence only pissed him off even more. “Oh, now you don’t have anything to say?”

“I only threw the brakes on ‘cause we agreed that we wouldn’t actually have sex.”

“Why?! Why does it matter if we actually have sex or not?” He rubbed his temples and reached up to lower the visor in an effort to block the sun out. “We’ve practically done every-damn-thing else!”

“Yeah, I just don’t wanna end this,” she murmured and wondered if he had heard her.

“You don’t wanna end this?” Had they had this conversation the night before he might have felt differently but he was in one hell of a mood now. “This?! What exactly do you not want to end?”

No way, she wasn’t admitting her feelings to this asshole, she thought. He would be reacting differently if he really had any feelings, right? He would’ve known that ‘I don’t wanna end this’ would mean that there were feelings involved. “Y’know what, I just don’t fuck assholes, that’s all I meant.”

Michael snorted. “Not what I heard.”

Her mind flashed back to Billy – yeah, okay, that was a big lie. “What d’you mean, what you’ve heard?”

“You admitted as much the first night we hooked up… or have you conveniently forgotten that?” he sneered.

“Okay, let me correct that statement then: I don’t sleep with assholes anymore!”

“Fine, Maria, why don’t you do yourself a big favor then and just go fuck Brendan when we get back.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t be able to stand the thought of me fuckin’ your brother!”

“You think I give a damn who you fuck?” He regretted that as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Another guy would be bad enough, but his brother? The guy who looked identical to him? He was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to handle that.

“Well, you certainly called pretty quickly after your sister told you I was goin’ out with Gary.”

Michael swore silently and made a mental note to kill his sister at the first opportunity that presented itself. “Hey, like I said, I don’t give a damn who you fuck. But, the way I look at it, I’ve already invested a couple of months in you without any kind of return on that investment, so if you’re puttin’ out for that dumbass, the least you could do is give me the same courtesy.” Inside he was seething at the thought that Gary could have put his hands on her. He knew she hadn’t screwed the basketball player, but the fact that she was taunting him with it was pissing him off. He couldn’t help the next words that came out and he wished he didn’t need an answer so badly. “Have you fucked other guys while we’ve been doin’ our thing?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“None of my…” His temper spiked at her remark. How was it none of his business?!
She couldn’t admit that there wasn’t another single guy; it would just give him the proof he wanted.


“How can you say it’s none of my business? I’ve got a right to know if you were fuckin’ around.” Silence again. “Were there other guys?” Damn it, why couldn’t he control his mouth?

“Were there other women? Tell me if there were and I’ll tell you if there were any other guys.”

Michael couldn’t believe how she had just turned the conversation around and put it right back in his lap. How could he answer her without letting on that he had never once stepped out on her? If she knew she’d either laugh at him or she’d think that he was really that pathetic. “What if there were?” He could feel sweat breaking out on his back. Would she care if he had been screwin’ other women? What if she didn’t care? What if it didn’t mean anything to her?

“That’s not an answer, Michael, but if there were, then I don’t understand why you’d complain about investing so much time and all that shit, ‘cause obviously you were getting your rocks off with other women.”

“Y’know what? This has nothin’ to do with me havin’ sex with other women or you havin’ sex with other guys. The only thing here that needs to be dealt with is why we’re not havin’ sex! We’ve managed to get each other off in various ways all without havin’ sex because that was your fuckin’ rule all the way back when we started this! And I’ve played by that stupid rule because you didn’t wanna develop feelings for me… because I’m not the kinda guy you wanna get involved with. Well, guess what? I’ve got a news alert for you, baby, we’ve been havin’ sex for two whole months… even I’m not so stupid that I think what we’ve been doin’ doesn’t qualify as sex!”

Maria took a few deep breaths. She had to get control of this situation; he was too close to discovering the truth about her feelings. She had to find a way to switch the conversation back in his direction. “Interesting. So, you won’t answer the question. And it’s such a simple question, too… have you or have you not had sex with other women since we hooked up?”

“Y’know what? I don’t see you jumpin’ to the front of the line to answer that question either.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I told you it’s none of your business, but apparently you think it is and I don’t know why.”

How was he supposed to admit that he hadn’t had sex with anyone else? Hell, he hadn’t even bothered to do much more than glance at a few girls since he and Maria had hooked up. Yeah, after last night that was the last thing he was admittin’. “If it’s none of my business, then why is who I’ve slept with any of your damn business?”

“Apparently it’s not, but if you want an answer from me, you’re gonna have to give me an answer first. Otherwise, we just drop it here and now.”

“Fine. Drop it,” he muttered carelessly.

“Fine!” she shouted. Damn it, she really wanted to know!

Damn it, he needed to know!
“I don’t care anyway.” Could that lie hurt any worse? he wondered.

Maybe she should just admit the truth… would it even make a difference now? Maria’s mind was racing with the possibilities, but she wasn’t sure if she could get the words out.

All he wanted to know was that no other guy had touched her or made her feel the way he did… was that so much to ask? The weird thing was that it wasn’t even about his ego. This went deeper and the fact that she wouldn’t answer led him to believe that there had been someone else… and that hurt like a sonofabitch. It never even occurred to him that her reasons for not answering and his were similar; the only thing he knew was that he had asked the question and she had refused to answer it.

Would he tell her the truth if she told him that there hadn’t been any other guys?

He rested the side of his head against the window, letting the cool glass soothe his aching head. What would happen if he just put it out there? What if he just opened his mouth and said, ‘No, Maria, there hasn’t been anyone else.’

“I don’t believe you,” she said finally. “If you really don’t care, you wouldn’t have asked.” Please, just tell me there haven’t been any other women. She didn’t want to know if there were others, she just wanted to know that there weren’t.

“I think you’ve completely overlooked somethin’ important, Maria; I never said I didn’t care about you.” His eyes widened at what he had just revealed. He hadn’t intended to add that ‘about you’ on the end of that statement. Fuckin’ hangover, he thought irritably. She didn’t hear it, she didn’t hear it, she didn’t hear it, his mind chanted over and over again in the hopes that if he said it enough it would be true.

Maria’s heart started to pound when she heard his words. He cared about her? What did he mean exactly? “What d’you mean by that? You said you care about me.”

Damn it! “I’m just sayin’ that I’d hate for you to end up with some guy who’d get you pregnant or give you an STD or somethin’.” Oh, yeah, that’d piss her off and get her off of his accidental admission. Michael’s heart thumped painfully in his chest and his throat felt thick as he waited for the fallout. Why couldn’t he just put himself out there and take that risk? Fool! his mind screamed at him. Why would you even let yourself think that you could ever be worthy of someone like her? You know you’re not good enough to deserve being loved! You should know that by now!

She slammed her foot down on the brake and jerked the steering wheel to pull the car off on the side of the road. The driver of the car behind them honked his horn and shot an annoyed look at them as he sped past.

His right hand shot out and he grabbed onto the dashboard when she suddenly slammed on the brakes. “What the fuck’re you doin’? Tryin’ to kill me?”

She wanted to yell at him but she couldn’t find the right words and she was scared that if she opened her mouth she was only going to end up crying. She shoved the door open and climbed out, needing to get away from him so she could calm down.

Michael unbuckled his seatbelt, fighting with it to free himself from the restraint when it wouldn’t cooperate. He grabbed the door handle and jerked it, shoving the door open and nearly falling out before he got his feet under him. Now what? He looked around for Maria and just barely controlled the urge to scream multiple obscenities into the air when he didn’t see her. Just his luck she’d wander off, fall over a cliff, and break her fool neck. And wouldn’t that just be the perfect end to what had been a perfectly lovely day so far, he thought sarcastically.

Maria walked through the trees that stood near the roadside and found a nice wide one to lean back against.

Well, what the fuck was he supposed to do now? His stomach churned unpleasantly and he shook his head, refusing to give in. No, he was not gonna do that!

She shut her eyes and tried to focus on the wind that was brushing lightly against her face. How had things gone so wrong? Things had been so good between them the day before.

“Maria!” He stalked along the edge of the road, wondering how she had gotten so far out of sight so quickly. 24 hours ago he had been at the hot springs with this woman; naked, happy… and where was he now? Walking around in the woods in the middle of nowhere, looking for that same woman, only now neither of them was naked or happy.

Oh, wow, he was comin’ after her really quickly!
Only moments before she had been worried that he was just going to climb into the drivers seat and leave her out in the middle of nowhere.

Michael shook his head and immediately wished he hadn’t done that as he was hit with a wave of dizziness. He reached out to brace his hand against a tree trunk and leaned over, drawing in deep breaths. He was not gonna puke again!

Maria glanced around and saw Michael leaning against a tree nearby. The poor guy looked like he was about to toss his cookies again. If she hadn’t been so mad at him she would’ve felt sorry for him.

Once he felt that he had himself under control again he straightened up and looked around. “Maria! Damn it, would you get your ass back to the car so we can go?” He frowned when several more minutes passed and he didn’t so much as hear a single sound other than the cars passing by on the highway. Time to employ some scare tactics, he thought. “Maria, you do know there are wild animals out there, right? Bears, wildcats… various other small, furry creatures…” He rolled his eyes when that didn’t get a response. “You’re out there in some pretty tall, thick grass… that means really big field spiders!”

Spiders? Was he serious? She hated spiders!

Michael shuddered. There wasn’t much that bothered him, but he absolutely hated spiders! “You ever seen a wolf spider? Big as my hand, furry… and they jump.” He felt something brush against his hand and he jumped back away from the tree. Damn it, he thought when he realized it was just a leaf, now he was just spooking himself!

Maria tensed up when she felt something crawling up her bare leg and she glanced down to see a fat spider sitting there. God, why’d he have to be right? Okay, it wasn’t exactly a huge spider or anything, but it was big enough. “Oh, my God, Michael, come here!” she shrieked.

His blood ran cold at her terrified scream and he ran in the direction of her voice, heedless of where he was stepping. He nearly passed her before he noticed her leaning against a tree, staring down at something.

She looked up at him desperately. “Get rid of it!”

“What? What is it?” he yelled, not seeing what was wrong and trying to control his pounding heart.

“There’s a spider on my leg! Can’t you see it?!”

His eyes followed her bare leg all the way down, cursing his body’s involuntary reaction because this was not the time or place and neither of them was in the right mood. He took a step back when he saw the hideous black spider just sitting on her leg like it had any right to be there. Ungh, gross! The damn thing was the size of a half dollar and he glanced around for something to brush it away with.

“Oh, my God, it’s movin’! Michael, do something! Now!”

He winced when it moved, slowly creeping up her leg. “Did it jump or crawl?”

“Jump or crawl? Are you kidding me? Just get rid of it! I want it gone, now!”

Michael rolled his eyes. His girl was in hysterics over… okay, it was admittedly one of Satan’s minions, but still… “I just wanna know if it’s gonna jump when I try to brush it off,” he growled as he finally found a stick that was long enough to reach the spider without putting him in its path if it jumped.

“It’s just crawling, okay? And if you don’t hurry up it’s gonna crawl into territory where no spider should ever go!”

Michael frowned at that… no, no, no, it had to go now! Okay, he thought as he moved closer and stretched his right arm out, moving the stick out towards her, he could do this. It couldn’t be that hard to knock a stupid creature from the depths of Hell off of her leg, right? “Don’t move,” he warned as he let the tip of the stick rest against her upper leg. He slid the stick downward towards the spider and he wasn’t prepared when it touched one spindly leg and the demon spawn jumped onto the stick. He stared at it, frozen for a moment when it began to crawl towards him, seeming to grow in size with each step it took, and a moment later he threw the stick as far out into the field as he could get it. “Are you done pissin’ off the local insect population?” he snarled, glaring at her.

“Do other guys know that you’re afraid of spiders?” she asked, amused.

“Do other guys know what you look like naked?” he demanded, completely ruining what might have been the turning point in their conversation.

“Some guys do.”

His blood began to boil in his veins at her confirmation that other guys had seen her naked. “In the last two months?” he challenged, hoping that she would be so pissed off that she would give him the answer she had been withholding so far.

“Ha! I’m not fallin’ for that, Michael!”

His hands clenched into fists at his sides and he turned to stalk back to the car. He was not getting into this back and forth bullshit game again. It was a simple enough question… had she been with any other guys in the past two months? How hard was that to answer? Better yet, why wouldn’t she give him an answer?

Maria sighed. They didn’t seem to be able to have a quiet and calm conversation – and of course, that was his fault.

Michael jerked the passengers’ side door open and froze when he leaned in to take his seat; the keys were dangling from the ignition. A blatant invitation to any bumbling thief who happened to stumble upon the car sitting on the side of the road, he thought. He slammed the door and walked around the car, sliding in behind the wheel and feeling the leather seat hug him. He sighed and settled back, the familiarity of it making him relax slightly. He was back in control and that made him feel so much better now.

“You’re not gonna drive!”

Michael ignored her angry screech and leaned forward to turn the key in the ignition, gunning the engine to drown out her indignant response.

Maria stepped back, arms crossed over her chest. She was not sitting in the passengers’ seat.

“Don’t think I won’t leave your ass standin’ right there.” He glanced around and rolled his eyes when he saw her stubborn pose. “Would you get in the damn car?”

“No! You’re still drunk and I’m not drivin’ with someone who’s drunk.” Memories of Anna flashed through her mind and she took another step back.

“What the fuck is your problem now?” he shouted. “I’m not drunk!”

“You’re not completely sober either.”

Michael sighed and debated internally about what he should do now. He wasn’t oblivious to the fact that she was probably thinking about her friend who had died because she had made the mistake of getting into a car with a drunk driver behind the wheel, but he wasn’t drunk. Still a little hungover and his head hurt like crazy, but not drunk… there was a difference.

Yeah, there was a difference, but she wasn’t gonna see it with the incident in her past. And he was pissed at her, but he wasn’t trying to be a prick and hurt her intentionally. He hesitated for a brief moment with his hand over the key before he cut the engine and pulled the key from the ignition. He climbed out of the car and faced her over the roof, glaring at her for several seconds before he walked around the car and threw the keys in her direction. He heard the metallic clinking as they landed somewhere in the tall grass and he didn’t even look at her as he opened the door on the other side and threw himself into the passengers’ seat.

“Jerk,” Maria muttered while she was looking for the keys. She hadn’t thought he would give in and let her drive again.

Michael didn’t bother trying to hide his amused smirk while watching her pick through the grass, trying to find the elusive key ring. He could hear her cursing under her breath, though he couldn’t actually distinguish any of her words, and he was pretty sure that she was calling him all sorts of unflattering things.

Maria got in the car after finally finding the keys and she slammed the door. She could see him wince from the loud sound and she decided that he hadn’t suffered enough.

His smile was quickly replaced by a grimace when she slammed the door much harder than necessary. She was probably enjoying every moment of his suffering. Yeah, she was, he decided when she started the car and pulled back out onto the highway with what he was certain was an intentional jerky motion. “You wanna quit with the shitty drivin’? You’re not helpin’ the hangover and if you keep that up I’m gonna throw up again.”

“Since this is your car, I don’t care. Stop bein’ an asshole and then maybe I’ll quit with the shitty drivin’.”

“Fine, but I won’t be throwin’ up on my interior or hangin’ my head out the window like a damn dog.” He glared at her as he mentally ordered his stomach to settle down. “That leaves your lap, so keep it up.”

“Would you just shut up? I need a break!”

She needed a break? She needed a break?! “Are you kiddin’ me? I’ve got the hangover from hell and you need a break?”

“Yeah, I’m tired of your pissy mood.”

My pissy mood? Uh, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re the one who stopped in the middle of the woods to go for a stroll.”

“You told me that you care about me because you don’t want me to end up pregnant or with an STD… I’m not a fuckin’ whore, Michael.”

Michael pulled back in shock. “I never called you a whore! Where the fuck d’you come up with this shit, Maria?! All I said was that…” He trailed off as he realized that he might just as well have called her a whore and he reached up to rub his yes tiredly. “You’re right, that is how it sounded, but that’s not what I meant. I would never call you a whore.”

“Then what’d you mean?”

Well, fuck! He had just backed himself into a corner. “Alright, look, neither of us wants to get involved, right?”

“And?”

“And…” And what, you idiot? his mind taunted. “And, we’d have to care about each other to some degree after the past couple of months… but, we both agreed that we didn’t wanna get involved, that we weren’t lookin’ for a relationship, right?” Say no, he begged silently. Tell me you’ve changed your mind because I’m too much of a fuckin’ coward to be the one to take that first step.

“Yeah, we agreed to that.” I’m not sayin’ that’s still the way I want it, but I guess he’s not gonna notice anyway.

“Right, and nothing’s changed… that’s still the way we want it.”

Yeah, maybe that’s the way you still want it, jerk.

“Right? Maria?” Hope sparked deep inside when she didn’t answer right away. But, as her silence drew out he felt that tiny flicker and die. You didn’t honestly think she was gonna say she wanted something real, did you? that mean little voice inside his head shouted.

“Well, I’m…” Maria trailed off when his cell phone started ringing.

“Y’know what? It doesn’t matter.” He shifted to pull his cell phone out of his pocket, thankful for the interruption.

Great, Maria thought, just when I was about to tell him that things might have changed.

Michael answered the phone and pretended that he was actually glad to hear from one of the other guys on the team. He carried on a short conversation, reluctant to let it end because he wasn’t looking forward to continuing the conversation with Maria.

Okay, I’ve gotta change the subject, Maria thought as he ended the call. “Who was that?”

“Just one of the guys on the team.”

Damn it, she didn’t know any of the guys besides him, Kyle, and Max, so this wasn’t gonna lead to another subject they could discuss. Maybe she should just be quiet and not say anything else. A nice drive in silence would be better than the awkward back and forth questions.

Michael slouched down in his seat and leaned his head back against the headrest. Maybe they could just spend the next hour in silence and not fight anymore. He was tired of fighting with her.
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 48 - 9/6/09

Post by Double Trouble » Sun Sep 06, 2009 6:29 am

begonia9508: They definitely have some issues that need to be worked out.

Alien_Friend: Possibly one of the most difficult things about passionate people is that they pour that passion into everything they do, good or bad. They are making things difficult, but when they get past this stage things will begin to settle down a bit. We’re thinking they could use a little combination of hug/knocking their heads together.

tequathisy: Well, you could… but, at this point we’re not sure it would help. Although it might make you feel better, lol!

No, we promise, they won’t be anywhere near sixty. Will it help if we tell you that the Thanksgiving weekend is the turning point for them?

Eva: Oh, my, the violence is escalating with each new review…

kismet: Within the next few parts… and yes, Liz will be free next time they meet.

Yeah, it was a bad situation that only got worse.

mary mary: Um, no… we’d have to agree that sticking them together like that didn’t work very well at all.

sarammlover: LOL, sorry. Maria asked Tess to leave it alone for that very reason. She and Michael weren’t ready to be left alone together, they needed time to cool down before dealing with each other again.

nibbles2: No, no, don’t give up!

Keep hanging on… it’s gonna happen. C’mon, you’ve already made it this far…

destinyc: Well, it would be exhausting for us.

Angel eyes: Bright, huh? Must be all the fire being aimed at our uncooperative Candy couple, lol! We’re glad you like Max and Liz, and Sean’s about to get the boot. Michael and Maria are gonna get this thing between them figured out… in time. Thanks for stepping out of the shadows for a few moments!

chanks_girl: Wonder if we could get them added into the thesaurus under ‘frustrating’?


Part 48 – The Cat’s Outta the Bag

Sean was hunched over his laptop, pounding away on the keyboard when the doorbell rang. He glanced at the clock as he stood up and crossed the room to pull the door open, wondering who was stopping by on a Sunday afternoon. He nodded when he saw Brendan’s brother, sister, and Isabel standing on the other side. “Oh, hey, I forgot you guys were comin’ by today,” he said as he stepped back and motioned for them to step inside. “Can I get you somethin’ to drink?”

“Where’s Bren?” Brooke asked before anyone could accept or decline his offer. Her brother had offered to give her a hand with a presentation she had to make for her Speech class, but he hadn’t expected them to arrive this early.

“He just ran out for lunch; he should be back pretty soon,” he answered, watching as the teenager leaned over to unhook the leashes on the two Chihuahuas that went everywhere with her. He pointed to the dining room table. “I was workin’ on a paper, so I hope you don’t mind if I get back to work?”

“Not at all,” Alex said, taking a seat on the couch. He watched his girlfriend as she moved around the apartment restlessly and he bit his bottom lip as he considered bringing up her recent bouts of sickness again.

Isabel paced back and forth for several minutes. “How’re classes going, Sean?”

“Hmm?” He looked up from the screen and shrugged one shoulder. “Oh, y’know, they’re okay.”

She nodded. “How about everything else?”

“You mean with Liz,” he guessed.

“She had a great time this weekend,” Alex said, oblivious to the warning looks he was receiving from his girlfriend and his sister.

Sean frowned. “Uh, this weekend?”

“Um-hmm, she and Maria came up on Friday afternoon.” He picked up a magazine off of the coffee table and sat back on the couch, flipping through it for a matter of seconds before putting it down and reaching for another one. Who knew there was actually a magazine about statistics? He opened up the next one up and scanned the first few pages… Conservation… had to be Brendan’s; he knew his brother was interested in the subject, but his studies kept him too busy to get very involved.

“I thought Tess went up there the day before?”

“She did, they just caught a ride with Max.”

Isabel winced when she saw the angry look on Sean’s face. What was going on with Alex? she wondered. He was normally so good about picking up on her signals, but he had been distracted during the drive home. He was concerned about her health and he had been nagging her to go to the doctor, but she had been putting it off. He knew she was planning to spend the night at home for the first time in weeks and she wondered if that was part of the reason. Maybe he thought she had decided to stay at home because she needed a break from his constant nagging, but that wasn’t it; she just needed to get some answers so that she could face him knowing more than she did at the moment.

“So, you guys were all at the cabin over the weekend,” Sean said slowly. “And Max was there?”

Isabel and Brooke exchanged a look, but before either of them could say a word Alex bumbled into the question. “Yeah, everyone had a good time.” He glanced up over the top of the magazine. “You an’ Brendan really should’ve come along.”

“Nah, I had too much studyin’ to do an’ Brendan wasn’t really interested in spendin’ time with Michael. Since he stabbed him in the back and ruined his relationship; you don’t honestly think he wanted to spend the weekend watchin’ them hump each other do you?”

“Sean, cut it out,” Brendan muttered, shaking his head as he entered the apartment in time to overhear his friend’s comment. He shut the door with his elbow and dropped his keys on the small table under the coat rack. “I appreciate your defense of me, but I don’t have any ill feelings towards Michael, so you shouldn’t either.”

“Fine, Brendan, act like it didn’t happen,” Sean grumbled as he packed up his laptop, grabbed his keys and left the apartment.

“Ignore him,” Brendan advised as he set his takeout sack on the counter. “He’s been in a bad mood because he’s waitin’ for Liz to break up with him.” He crouched down to pet the dogs when they ran around him, barking excitedly in hopes of being noticed and getting attention.

“Oh,” Alex winced. “Crap. I didn’t help things with my rambling then.” He tossed the magazine on the table and leaned forward to brace his elbows on his knees.

“You were talkin’ about Liz?”

“I guess I was just thinkin’ they had already broken up.” He knew he hadn’t mistaken the way she and Max had been flirting all weekend. “I told him that she had a really good time and that Max was there.” Damn, Max had mentioned that she hadn’t decided about Sean while they had been playing football.

“Great.” Brendan made a face. “He thought she was at home studyin’ all weekend.” He grabbed one of the tiny yellow tennis balls off of a nearby shelf and bounced it across the floor so the dogs could chase it. “So, you ready to get that presentation finished, kid?”

“Yeah, I had some great ideas for the graphics and Alex helped me design them, so if we can put them on the computer… you can help me do that, right?”

“Sure, no problem.” He glanced at his oldest brother. “What time should I have her home?”

“By six.”

“Okay, that’ll work. Hey, d’you need me to bring anything on Thursday?”

Alex looked at his girlfriend. “We’ve got everything covered for Thanksgiving dinner, right?”

“Um-hmm.” She looked over at Brendan. “You just need to bring yourself and your appetite.” She ruffled his hair as she walked past him when Alex stood and pulled his keys out of his pocket. “I’ll put you to work when you get there.”

He smiled. “Okay.”

“Hey, Bren, why’ve you got so much food in here?” Brooke asked after the couple had left.

He looked up at his sister when she came to stand next to him so she could poke through the bag containing his lunch. “Half of it’s Sean’s; it was my turn to grab lunch.”

“Which one’s yours?”

“Why? So, you can get started on it?”

Brooke rolled her eyes and pulled the plastic-covered platters out of the large sack and set them on the counter, studying them for several seconds. “Okay, I know this one’s the fried catfish platter, but what’s the other one?”

“Grilled sea bass with wild rice.”

She wrinkled her nose up at that. “You do know that if I didn’t know you’re straight, I’d totally think you an’ Sean are a couple, right?”

“Huh?”

“You guys are like an old married couple, Bren.”

“What? No, we’re not.”

“No, you totally are.” She giggled and motioned around their apartment. “Your apartment is always so neat and clean, your fridge has real food in it, and you pick stuff up for each other all the time.”

“So? That’s just common courtesy, and who wants to live in a pigsty?”

Brooke let it go at that point because she knew Brendan really didn’t understand why his roommate situation was so unusual for straight guys. “Okay, so about that presentation…”

*****

Brooke was lying on the couch watching a movie after dinner when she heard the dishwasher start and a few minutes later the light in the other room was switched off. She looked up when Alex stepped out of the kitchen, watching him as he moved around restlessly. It was like he had gotten so used to Isabel being there that he didn’t know how to act when she wasn’t around.

Or, maybe it was something else, she thought when he stopped at one of the glass walls that overlooked the ocean. There was something going on between them but neither of them had discussed it in her presence. Whatever it was probably had something to do with why Isabel had gone back to the apartment instead of coming back home tonight. It was actually kind of strange for them to be home without Isabel being somewhere in the house either reminding Alex to take breaks from work or homework so he didn’t develop a migraine or telling her to help with dinner or read a book instead of watching so much TV.

“Hey, Alex?”

“What’s up, kid?”

“Can we go to Surf’s Up for ice cream?”

Alex glanced at his watch even though he knew it wasn’t more than a few minutes past seven. He quickly ran over the list of junk food she’d consumed over the weekend and realized it had been minimal. The advantage of havin’ women put the menu together, he thought. How the girls had convinced Kyle and Michael to let them do the shopping for the trip was beyond him, but they had made it through the weekend without a junk food binge. He shook his head when Brooke called him again.

“Yeah, why don’t you get the dogs’ leashes and we’ll walk; you shouldn’t eat junk food and then laze around the house.” Surf’s Up was only a few blocks away and even though it would’ve been easier and faster to just drive over and back, he knew this would be better.

Brooke stood up and whistled for the dogs who were napping in their basket near the fireplace. “That sounds like Isabel’s influence,” she teased.

He laughed and nodded, not even bothering to deny it. “C’mon, let’s get goin’; it’s a school night, so you’ll wanna get to bed early and you’re supposed to show me how your presentation turned out.” She had been excited about the finished project when Brendan had dropped her off before dinner and he had promised to take a look at it afterwards.

“Okay.” Brooke hurried to grab the leashes and hook them to the dog’s collars and their shrill barking filled the air as they ran around in excited circles.

Alex took Spike’s leash when his sister handed it to him and they walked out into the comfortably warm evening air.

*****

Maria stared at the backed up traffic on the freeway as she slouched down behind the steering wheel and turned her head to glare at Michael. “Well, I hope you’re happy ‘cause now we’re gonna be stuck together even longer,” she grumbled.

“Oh, so this’s my fault?” he argued.

“Which one of us was it that insisted on takin’ this freeway? I was plannin’ to take the old highway and cut through the city, but, no, you said to take the freeway because it would cut off at least 45 minutes. Well, congratulations on bein’ wrong again, jackass.”

Michael shook his head and rolled the window down so he could drum his fingertips on the door frame. “It’s not my fuckin’ fault that they’ve shut all but one lane down because of a fuel spill, so why don’t you get off my back?”

“Don’t worry, Michael, I’m just about out of things to say to you.”

“Oh, well, someone had better warn the devil that his realm’s about to freeze over,” he muttered.

“Why d’you have to be such a dick?”

“Why d’you have to be such a bitch?”

“Everything has to be about you, doesn’t it? You’re completely selfish and you never think of anyone but yourself!”

Did she really think that about him? Yeah, he could be an ass when it suited him, but he didn’t think that her accusation really described him. “I’m selfish? What d’you call this thing we’ve been doin’ for the past couple months? I don’t recall bein’ the one who – “

“I’m not getting into that with you again. You knew what you were getting when we hooked up, so I’m not gonna apologize for it.”

“Fine.”

“Fine!”

They ignored each other for the next couple of hours as they crept across lanes and inched along the freeway and by the time they reached her apartment they were both ready to scream. They climbed out at the same time and he slid in behind the steering wheel as she reached into the backseat to grab her bag and then slam the door shut. They glared at each other as she stepped back and he threw the car into gear and peeled out of the parking lot.

Go to hell! she thought as she turned and headed for the stairs. Maybe it would’ve been better if I had just stayed at home this weekend. Would they ever talk again? Argue again? Kiss again? Right now she would gladly push the button to launch him into outer space, but was she willing to let him go for good? She knocked on the door, hoping one of her roommates were home because she didn’t feel like digging around for her keys.

Tess pulled the door open and hurried to grab her arm and pull her inside. “What took you so long?”

“What took so long?” Maria tapped her chin thoughtfully, drawing the moment out for a moment before pushing past Tess and heading down the hall towards her little corner of the world. “I don’t know, Tess. Maybe the fact that you took off and left me with Satan’s spawn has somethin’ to do with the length of time it took to get back home.” She turned to glare at her best friend. “Ya think?” She threw her bag down on the floor and didn’t bother waiting for a response before she walked right back out of the room, intending to grab a beer and go back into hiding.

“I take it that means you guys are still at war?” Tess followed Maria into the kitchen.

“Oh, so now you’re psychic, too!” She snatched a beer out of the refrigerator and felt her temper reach the boiling point when she couldn’t find the bottle opener.

Tess opened the drawer next to her and handed her friend the opener. “Look, Maria, we just wanted you guys to figure things out, and, okay, obviously it didn’t work out – “

Maria glared at the other girl when she pulled the opener out of a drawer she had already looked in. “Oh, no, it worked great! We did figure some things out!” She took a long drink from the bottle in her right hand. “I figured out that Michael is even more of an arrogant ass than I thought he was.” She held the cold bottle against her temple and sighed raggedly. Michael wasn’t the only ass involved in this mess, she thought sadly. She had been a total bitch to him and it wasn’t like she could just take the words back.

“Okay.” Tess grabbed Maria’s fisted hand and dragged her into the living room, pushing her to sit down on the couch. “Tell me what happened. I mean… yesterday you were both totally close and then this mornin’ you acted like you wanted to kill each other. That makes no sense to me.”

Pain welled up inside of Maria and she felt like she couldn’t breathe. “I wish it made sense to me,” she whispered finally.

Tess could feel the wave of sadness as it crashed over her friend and she took the beer from her, placing it on the table and taking Maria’s hands in hers. “What’d he say or do to hurt you?”

“God, I can’t even blame it all on him, Tess!” She bit her bottom lip and the guilt pushed past the anger and hurt. “I told you that we haven’t had sex… and last night… he…” She choked back a sob.

“He wanted to have sex,” Tess finished the sentence quietly.

Maria nodded, unable to verbalize her answer. “You saw him all day yesterday, and then all evening… he was perfect, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from him, but… when we were alone last night… he told me he wanted to have sex. And, I wanted to… God, I wanted to!”

“But you said no?” Tess still didn’t understand what the real problem was. Wasn’t it totally normal that at some point they would wanna have sex? But, she stayed silent. Her friend was hurt enough and she didn’t want to put any undue pressure on her.

“Not at first… no. I was ready to say yes, but I wanted to know what had changed… why last night was different, and then out of nowhere he just got pissy and told me that he wanted to have sex because he hadn’t… what the hell did he say? Because he hadn’t done any proper fuckin’ in the last couple of months!” She shook her head. “What kinda shit is that?” Maria froze as she suddenly realized what he had revealed with that statement.

Tess sighed. So, Michael had totally fucked it up; she should’ve known. The guy was not exactly articulate at times. “Well, you might not believe this, but my guess is that in his own weird way he was tryin’ to tell you that he’s gotten involved.”

Maria slowly raised her eyes to meet Tess’ intense blue gaze. “What?”

“I think when he asked the question he wanted to show you that he’s developed feelings for you, sweetie. But, I’m guessing by that point you were askin’ for an explanation and he couldn’t actually say it.”

Somehow, that weird, distorted logic actually explained Michael’s behavior in a way that made sense. Of course it did, she realized. Michael wasn’t the kind of guy that just started spouting flowery declarations and announcing his feelings out loud… he expressed his feelings… She winced. He had been expressing his feelings all along. Sure, he was gruff, rude at times, and the man could argue at the slightest thing, but he was also caring, attentive, and he could be incredibly thoughtful at times. And even though they had never had sex – a rule that she had put out there and he had never tried to change her mind about – he had always been an amazing lover.

“Look, I saw the way he was lookin’ at you yesterday afternoon when the guys were playin’ football; it was like somethin’ in him was changin’. And I saw the way he treated you last night when we were doin’ body shots. He was always makin’ sure that neither of you drank too much, as if he was plannin’ somethin’, y’know? And even if he was tryin’ to keep his voice low when he was tellin’ you that you’re perfect an’ all… I heard every word, Maria. That’s not the kinda thing guys say if they don’t care.”

Maria knew she had royally fucked up and she had no idea how to fix it. Michael wasn’t gonna just accept an apology… hell, she’d be lucky if he said a single word to her after today.

“Just calm down a little; you both need some time and space. Maybe you’ll get the chance to talk to him on Tuesday.”

“Why Tuesday? Why not tomorrow?”

“Um, hello, ‘cause Tuesday’s my birthday… you didn’t forget, did you?”

“Shit!” Maria hurried to backpedal. “No, no, of course not!” She hadn’t forgotten Tess’ birthday… today had just rattled her and she wasn’t thinking clearly.

“You guys will work things out, Maria.”

“So, you don’t think I should try to talk to Michael tomorrow?”

“Knowin’ his temper, it might be best to let him calm down first.”

Maria nodded. Yeah, she knew his temper. “There haven’t been any other girls while we’ve been together, have there?”

“I don’t think so, but I can ask Kyle; he’d know more about it.”

Maria slumped back against the cushions and sighed tiredly. She was exhausted after the day she’d had and she just wanted to sleep.

“Okay, sweetie, I’m gonna go now. Kyle’s waitin’ for me. Oh, hey, Isabel’s at home; she’s been a little weird all day. Did somethin’ happen between her an’ Alex?”

Damn it! Maria thought, suddenly remembering that she and Isabel had made plans. “She’s just been feelin’ a little bit under the weather. I’m sure that’s why she stayed home tonight instead of over at Alex’ place. Hey, speakin’ of people actin’ weird… what about Liz? You rode home with her… is everything okay with her and Max?”

“She didn’t say a single word during the drive home, and then she went to her room and never came out again. I checked on her a few hours ago, but she was sleepin’.”

“Hmm… so, I guess you’ll get the scoop on Max from Kyle?”

“Yeah, I’ll see what I can do. It’s weird that we’re all involved with them, y’know? Isabel and Alex, Liz and Max, you and Michael, and me and Kyle.”

“Small world, huh?” She smiled slightly. She didn’t know if she and Michael were really involved now.

“Yeah.” Tess smiled back at her and didn’t miss the doubtful expression in Maria’s eyes when her mind obviously drifted to Michael.

*****

Alex wandered through the dark house as the grandfather clock in the hall chimed eleven times and he eventually found himself at the glass wall again. His thoughts were preoccupied as he stared out into the distance and after a few minutes he went to get a cup of coffee before sliding the patio door open. He looked down when the dogs jumped up against his legs, their tiny nails digging into his foot each time they slid back down. He slid the screen door aside and watched them run out into the big backyard; it wasn’t long before they found a small branch that had blown into the yard and a game of tug-o-war started. He pushed the screen door back into place and leaned on the railing as his gaze settled on the lighthouse in the distance.

Normally he was in bed at this hour, but he hadn’t been able to sleep; he had gotten used to falling asleep with Isabel in his arms, but he knew it was more than that because they had spent nights apart since they had gotten together. He hadn’t bought her reason for going back to the apartment when they had gotten back to the city, but she had a lot on her mind so he hadn’t wanted to upset her any further.

He couldn’t ignore the fact that she had been sick quite a bit recently and he had been paying attention so he knew it wasn’t a stomach virus, the flu, or food poisoning. That only left a couple of options and while both were terrifying, one was scary enough to make him hope and pray that it was the other. Men were often described as being idiots when it came to things that women went through, and maybe he didn’t pick up on every clue, but some clues were just too big to miss. So, either she had developed some life-threatening illness or she was pregnant, and given those options, he was praying hard it was the latter.

He whistled for the dogs and as soon as they had run back inside he closed and locked the doors before moving through the house to methodically check the rest of the doors to make sure they were locked up and secure. When he was finished he walked down the hall to Brooke’s room, stepping inside and moving to her bedside to make sure she was sleeping soundly. The light from the hall provided enough illumination for him to navigate a path around and between shoes, her backpack, various dog toys, and a video game controller that was stretched out across the floor.

The kid was as much of a slob as Michael was, he thought as he pulled her blanket up and tucked it in around her. He leaned down to press a kiss to her dark head before patting the dogs on the head and carefully making his way back out of her room. He pulled the door until only a thin wedge of light fell across her floor and he walked down the hall without turning the light off. He had discovered that leaving it on so that a small amount of light could be seen in her room helped keep Brooke’s nightmares at bay.

She and Michael both had them and neither of them would talk about what they felt or saw; they both denied any recollection afterwards and in her case they weren’t frequent enough that he felt it was necessary to push her for more information. She was stubborn though, and wouldn’t admit to needing a nightlight, but she didn’t argue when he claimed that he forgot to turn the hall light off every night.

He paused when he reached the door to the room he used as an office and he flipped the light switch as he stepped inside and looked around. It was a little bit smaller than Brooke’s room, but there was a lot of natural light, the windows provided a great view of the backyard and ocean, and it was right across from the master bedroom. It could easily be converted into something else, he thought as he dropped down to sit in the desk chair. He took a drink of his coffee and made a face when he realized that it was almost cold, setting the mug down on the polished surface and leaning back.

Was he ready to be a father? he wondered. In some aspects he supposed the decision might be easier for him than other guys because he was settled; he wasn’t a party animal, he already had one kid that he was raising, and if Isabel was pregnant, she was gonna be an amazing mother. He had seen her fuss over his brothers, Brooke, their friends, and even him when she felt he wasn’t taking good enough care of himself. She had the maternal instinct deeply ingrained and he could just imagine what she would be like with their child.

They had talked about the future of course, but he hadn’t expected the future to be quite so close and he was certain she hadn’t either. They had been talking about a few years down the road, when they were both out of school, when Brooke was in college… He smiled as he realized that he already sounded like an old married man.

Sure, a baby at their ages would present plenty of challenges, but they were both intelligent adults… young, but they could handle a baby. It would just be happening a lot sooner than either of them had anticipated. But, what about Isabel? he wondered. Was she ready for this? If his speculations were correct, what would she want to do? He wanted so badly for her to talk to him, to trust him to be able to handle whatever she had to tell him. He leaned forward and braced his elbows on the desk so he could drop his head in his hands. He needed her to talk to him no matter what it was, pregnancy or an illness. He would gladly take pregnancy over an illness, but how were they supposed to make any kind of decisions if she didn’t talk to him?

He had been doing everything he could think of to be patient and not push her for answers, but not knowing was making him crazy. He could only imagine how scared she must be, no matter which of the options were true. He pulled his phone out of the clip on his belt and considered calling her because the longer the waiting went on the more his nerves were getting a workout. He sighed heavily and set it down on the desk, loathe to call and wake her just in case she had fallen asleep; she hadn’t been sleeping well and he was sure that a lot of that was due to the constant worry that had to be weighing on her.

They had to talk, he decided, and if she didn’t talk to him tomorrow then he was bringing the subject up because they couldn’t keep going on like this. They had to settle this thing before one or both of them stroked out from all the stress. He wasn’t gonna lose the woman he loved because they couldn’t talk about something like this. He pushed his phone and coffee mug back so he could cross his arms on the desk; he rested his head on his right forearm and closed his eyes, sighing as his mind focused on Isabel and how much she had come to mean to him.

*****

Tess knocked on the front door of her boyfriend’s apartment, secretly praying that Michael wouldn’t be the one to answer the door. After the conversation with Maria a little while ago, she could only imagine how pissed he probably was.

“Hey, babe,” Kyle greeted with a smile. He was glad to see her again, even though it had only been a few hours since they had parted.

“Oh, good, you survived the arrival of the beast.”

“Huh?” Kyle looked at her, puzzled. What the hell was she going on about?

Tess stripped off her jacket and tossed it into the closet next to the door. “Michael,” she said with a quick gesture.

“Oh, he’s not home yet,” he answered, still wondering what this was all about.

“Really? That’s weird, ‘cause Maria got home more than an hour ago.”

Kyle shrugged his shoulders. “It’s none of my business, so…” He waggled his eyebrows and grabbed her around the waist so he could carry her to his room. He gently tossed her on the bed and crawled over her, his lips roaming over the bare skin at her neck. For some reason he just couldn’t get enough of this girl.

“Michael won’t do somethin’ stupid, will he?” Tess asked, still thinking about the situation between their friends.

Kyle’s head snapped up and he studied her face. “Why’re you sayin’ all this weird stuff about Michael?”

Tess sighed. “Look, I’m sorry, but…”

He sensed that she was serious and that she wasn’t going to be giving in to anything of a sexual nature as long as thoughts of their friends were on her mind, so he rolled off of her onto one side and propped his weight on his elbow as he listened to what she had to say.

“Maria came home upset. I mean, not the normal upset thing when Michael and her have gotten into one of their fights and he’s pissed her off. She was really hurt this time, Kyle.”

“So, our plan didn’t work, huh?”

“No, I think it just made everything worse.”

“What happened between them anyway?”

“I’m not sure Maria would really appreciate me tellin’ you this.”

“Hey, you brought it up, and if you want me to give you my opinion, I need to know the whole story.”

“Right, well, to make a long story short, Michael asked Maria to sleep with him and even though she wanted to say yes, she said no, ‘cause it never really occurred to her that maybe it was just his weird way of tellin’ her that he has feelings for her. At least, I think that’s what it was. From that point on they weren’t able to have a normal conversation without sayin’ things to hurt each other even more. Of course, Michael got defensive when she asked about his reasons for actually wanting to have sex. And, of course, she thought that he really just wanted to get laid and it was nothin’ more than that.”

“You’ve given this a lot of thought, huh?” Kyle asked with a soft smirk.

Tess rolled her eyes at her boyfriend. “Can we just be serious here for a second, babe? What d’you think? Could my theory about him be right?”

Kyle thought about it for a few seconds and then shrugged his shoulder. “Hard to say; I don’t need to tell you that Guerin never talks about stuff like this. But, he’s changed over the last few weeks, that’s for sure.”

“Has he dated any other girls in that time?”

“Not that I’m aware of. I mean, I’m not around him 24/7, but he’s never mentioned anyone else and I haven’t seen him with anyone else at parties or after band practice.”

“Okay.”

Kyle tucked a few strands of hair out of Tess’ face. She was really cute when she was concerned, he thought. “Can we concentrate on us now?” he asked, ignoring the fact that his tone held just a hint of begging in it.

“Just one more question, okay? What happened between Liz and Max? D’you know? Liz didn’t tell me anything.”

“Oh, man, my friends keep the whole world busy, don’t they? Well, he wasn’t really talkative on the drive back. Anything that came out of his mouth, well, it was mostly, um… of a liquid consistency, if you get my meanin’.”

“Ungh! Thank you, that’s not what I wanted to know.” She slapped his arm playfully.

He laughed. “Alright, he did mention somethin’ about almost doin’ somethin’ that they both would’ve regretted, but I couldn’t get more than that out of him.”

“Hmmm… interesting.” Tess’ mind was busy imagining the many scenarios that could’ve played out, but she quickly set them aside. “Alright, Buddha boy, what’re we gonna do now?” she asked with a cheeky grin as she settled over him.

“Oh, I don’t know… wanna watch a movie?” he asked with a smirk. Watching a movie was the last thing on the list of things to do that night.

“Try again,” she teased, rubbing her lower body against his erection. She didn’t wait for him to answer again, crashing her lips onto his instead. She pulled back when she heard a car pulling up outside and she recognized the music that was abruptly silenced when the engine was turned off. “He’s home,” she announced.

“Yeah,” Kyle said, not willing to interrupt their make-out session again.

“Maybe you should go talk to him.”

“What? No way!”

“Stop being so insensitive, Kyle. He might really need a friend right now.”

“He doesn’t, believe me.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Tess, babe, when I said he never talks about his feelings, I meant never, ever, okay? There are reasons why we got such a large apartment and no one ever crosses the line outside of his bedroom door; nobody wants to deal with him when he’s in a bad mood. He’ll just yell and tell me to go to hell.” He leaned back and grinned. “Hey, that rhymes!”

“Please, Kyle? Just check on him. I promise, I’ll be a good girl when you get back.” She waggled her eyes playfully.

“Fine, but if he kills me, it’s all your fault. Remember that!”

*****

Kyle waited for his roommate in the kitchen, pretending to search for something in the refrigerator when Michael finally walked through the front door. Damn, he looked awful! “Hey, man, you’re late.”

Michael tossed his bag on the floor next to the door and glared at Kyle. “And whose fault is that?”

“Yeah, okay, we left you there… but, Tess said Maria’s been home for a while now,” he muttered, preparing for the angry outburst that was sure to follow.

Michael ran his hands over his face and wished that this day would end. His head was aching, he still felt dizzy and his stomach churned with every quick movement… but that wasn’t even the worst of it. He couldn’t describe it, but there was this weird feeling in his chest that only seemed to get worse with every breath he took. “I just needed some air,” he growled in his friend’s direction as he headed for his own room. All he wanted right now was a dark room and his bed.

“Are you okay?” Kyle asked, startled. What had happened to his friend? Where was the yelling? The destruction of furniture?

“No,” Michael replied without looking back.

Kyle looked at the bedroom door as it closed quietly. Now, that was weird!
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 49 - 9/10/09

Post by Double Trouble » Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:56 pm

chanks_girl: Alex is a very smart man and he knows what he wants out of life. Isabel knows that he would support her, but there’s the worry that it’s too soon, that this has the potential of tying him down and limiting his options.

Poor Brendan really has no clue, lol! Brooke’s pointing out the obvious and he’s totally blind to it.

Well, he isn’t doing anything stupid yet.

Eva: Aww, we’re sorry!

Poor Michael, he’s not dealing with this too well. Don’t worry, they’re gonna come out of this and they’ll be stronger than ever.

nibbles2: Um, well… they’re not gonna make any major leaps forward in the immediate future. They’ve both said things that have to be dealt with.

Kyle’s not the one who’s gonna give Michael the advice he needs.

Alex rocks, there’s just no way around it.

begonia9508: He’s in a situation he’s never had to deal with before and he’s still learning. Painfully, but he’s learning.

mary mary: The nightmares will be brought up and they will provide some definitive insight.

Alien_Friend: They are going to get past this.

You’re right about Alex!

destinyc: Thanksgiving will be a turning point for many reasons and for more than one couple.

Those heart-to-hearts are coming and soon… well, at least for two of the couples. Brooke’s theory… and poor Brendan just had no clue, lol!

kismet: You just never know…

Alex may be the oldest, but he’s mature beyond his years, that’s for sure!

You just hit the nail on the head! These two have reached a point where they’ve got to hit bottom before they can begin to realize what they could have if they would both just grow up and honestly talk to each other.

Coming soon… first, we must deal with Sean.

April: Very cool… took a little bit of time, didn’t it? LOL. Hope that paper turned out well!

LOL, yeah… there’s already a pretty long line that’s formed, so you’re gonna have to take a number. As an author who leans toward that same type of frustration… y’know how it the characters follow their own path once you get going!

sarammlover: It is sad. But, unfortunately, also necessary. Brendan’s still completely in love with Karen, a girl in his past, and we’ll be exploring that storyline in the future.


Part 49 – And the Answer Is…

Maria shook herself out of her musings. She needed to go talk to Isabel before the girl thought she had just abandoned her. She waited until Tess left and then sat there for several more minutes before getting up and going down the hall to Isabel’s room. The door was closed so she knocked and then leaned against the doorframe while she was waiting for the door to open.

“Yeah?” Isabel called out.

“You gonna invite me in, Whitman?”

Isabel rolled her eyes. The girls ran in and out of her room everyday without permission and suddenly they needed an invitation. “C’mon in, Maria.”

Maria pushed the door open and walked in, crossing the room and shoving Isabel’s legs out of the way so she could flop back on the bed. “Thanks, I feel so much more welcome now.”

“Is everything okay?” Isabel asked carefully, seeing the look on Maria’s face. Had she been crying?

“Just your typical guy drama,” Maria muttered. Yeah, like there was anything typical about Michael or the drama they had going on.

“So, Michael wasn’t very companionable, huh?”

“He was until the word no came into play.” Maria shook her head. That wasn’t fair. “To be honest, neither of us was very… companionable after the word no came out.”

“No to what?”

“He wanted to have sex last night and I told him no.” She held a hand up before Isabel could speak. “And before you ask… I wanted to say yes. Ungh, let’s move on,” she said, not interested in going over the last 24 hours again.

“Okay, but you know you can talk to me about it if you want to, right?”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just… too fresh right now, y’know?”

“Okay.” Isabel stayed silent because she knew what was coming up next and she was scared.

“You haven’t talked to Alex yet?”

She shook her head.

“Why’s he think you stayed home tonight?”

“I told him that we’d planned a girl’s night.” It wasn’t a total lie, she thought.

“Well, peeing on a stick isn’t exactly what I’d call a girl’s night, but, okay… Did you already pick up a test?”

“Yeah, I picked up 10 of them. That should be enough, right?”

“10?! Okay, Iz, that might be overkill, sweetie.” She bit back a smile, knowing that this wasn’t something that her friend was ready to joke about just yet. “You do realize these are use once and throw away, right?”

“Well, maybe one of you guys will need one of them one day.”

“Let’s hope not.” Maria chuckled. “C’mon, the longer you put it off, the more stressed out you’re gonna get.”

“Okay. Maria?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really scared.” Her voice trembled.

Maria sat up and hugged her friend. She could see the fear in her expression and she didn’t envy her at all in this moment. The results of this test would be life-altering if they were positive and she could only imagine how terrified Isabel must be.

“Okay,” Isabel took a deep breath and pushed herself up, “let’s do it.”

“Iz, I know you’re scared, but it’s gonna be okay. If it’s positive it’s gonna mean a lot of things might change, but at the very least you’ve got a guy who won’t walk away and leave you to deal with it alone.”

“Right.” At least, she hoped Maria was right. Well, she knew she was right about Alex, but were they ready for all the changes that this would bring?

Maria tipped her head to the side when she heard the doubt in the other girl’s voice. “Alright, where’s the test at?”

“In the bathroom.”

“Then I guess that’s where you need to be… they’re not gonna show results just sittin’ there in the box.”

“Oh, you’re so smart today, aren’t you?” Isabel asked, but a small smile graced her features.

Maria walked in ahead of her and raised an eyebrow when she saw the shopping bag on the counter. She hadn’t been kidding when she had asked if 10 were too many, she realized. “That’s right… and don’t you forget it. Okay, so… d’you really wanna take all 10 tests?”

“Um… I guess three would be enough for now?”

“Good call,” Maria said with a smile. She started pulling the boxes out and lining them up on the counter, shaking her head when she noticed that they were all different. “Any preference?”

“No, I guess not.” She pointed at a light blue box. “Well, maybe this one; it says it’s more accurate than others.”

She nodded even though all of the boxes claimed 99.9% accuracy. There was no reason to upset Isabel anymore than she already was.

“So, I just have to pee and wait, or is there anything else?”

“Nope, that’s all the magic involved. Pee on the special stick, wait like two minutes, and your future will be revealed.” She winced when she saw Isabel’s crestfallen expression. “Oh, shit, Iz, I didn’t mean it like that!”

“Yeah, I know. Let’s just get this over with.”

“Alright, we’ll use these three,” she said, sliding three of them towards Isabel, “and the rest we’ll put back in the bag and put them in my room so you won’t have to look at them.”

“Okay, um… I guess you don’t wanna hang around for this part, so… wait in my room?”

Maria nodded and picked up one of the boxes to read the instructions on the back. “Okay, yeah, like I said… pee on the stick and then we wait two minutes.” She picked the bag up. “I’ll just put these away while you take care of your part.”

“Right.” Isabel reached for the first box. Her entire life could change in the next few minutes.

Maria paced in her room for several long seconds after shoving the bag under her bed. Okay, time to get back to Isabel; she’d had long enough to take the tests. Isabel was sitting on the bathroom floor when she stepped inside again so she sat down beside her, glancing up when she noticed that Isabel was staring at the three tests lined up on the counter, perfectly centered on their little boxes.

“D’you think it’s ready yet?”

“Has it been two minutes since you took the test?”

“I don’t know.”

Maria took her watch off and pressed the button on the side, switching the digital readout over to the stopwatch feature. “We’re gonna start the two minutes from right now, okay?” She pushed the button in and she felt Isabel jump next to her when the watch made a small beeping sound.

“Okay, this’s gonna be the longest two minutes in my life.”

“It won’t be that bad,” Maria assured her. “Tell me somethin’ about Alex.”

“What d’you wanna know?”

“Tell me why you fell in love with him.”

A soft smile appeared on Isabel’s lips. “It happened before I even realized it, y’know? I just feel different when I’m with him and he makes me feel so special… I can’t really explain it.”

Well, that took care of about 10 seconds. “Can you see yourself with him for the rest of your life?”

“Yeah… it’s weird, huh? I’ve only been with him for like two and a half months, but that’s the one thing I am sure about.”

“He is a nice guy, Iz.”

“Yeah, but still, I never thought I’d fall in love so quickly after Logan. Of course, I never really thought about marriage, kids, or spending our whole lives together when I was with Logan, either.”

Maria glanced at the watch… one minute, fifteen seconds to go. “Have you guys talked about that stuff?”

“Well, yeah, we’ve talked about it… like what could happen in the future.” She sighed. “Just not like, let’s do it now, damn it! I don’t even know how this happened.”

Maria smirked. “You don’t know how it happened?”

Isabel rolled her eyes but she smiled. “You know what I mean.”

She laughed quietly. “I guess you’ve already started thinkin’ about what you’re gonna tell Alex?”

“Yeah, it’s practically all I’ve thought about besides the obvious the past few days.”

Maria rolled her eyes. “And?” She checked her watch again… 45 more seconds. “C’mon, Iz, give me somethin’ to work with here.”

“I guess I’ll just say it, y’know? It’s not like the way I say it’s gonna make a difference.”

The seconds were ticking by slowly. “So, if you are… d’you think you’d keep the baby?” She couldn’t imagine Isabel ever making any other decision where a baby was concerned.

“Oh, my God, I could never have an abortion!”

Maria nodded. She had already known that; it was a choice that really wasn’t a choice for her friend.

“What if it was you? Would you keep it?”

“Yeah.” Maria really didn’t have to think about that question either. “I couldn’t… no, I’d keep it.”

“Well, be glad that it’s not somethin’ you have to worry about right now.”

Yeah, Maria thought, pregnancy was the one thing she didn’t have to worry about right now. Easy enough to do when you weren’t having sex!

“Sorry, did I say somethin’ wrong?” Isabel asked, noticing Maria’s sad expression.

“No,” she smiled, “it’s nothin’ you said, Iz.” One more glance at the watch and she took a deep breath. “Okay, are you ready?”

“Not really…”

“You want me to look?”

“Yeah.”

Maria stood up and dusted the seat of her shorts off as she took the two steps that would bring her up to the sink. She could tell Isabel was holding her breath as she waited for the verdict. She looked at each of them in turn before moving back to look at her friend.

“They’re positive,” Isabel guessed.

“You’re battin’ a thousand, Iz… every one of them’s positive.”

“I knew it.” Isabel’s voice trembled in spite of her efforts to control it. “How am I gonna do this, Maria? How can I have a baby and go to college?”

“Hey,” Maria rushed to sit next to the other girl and pulled her shaking body into a hug. “It’s gonna be okay. You want me to call my mom?” Amy had dealt with a pregnancy at a young age, so surely she would know what to say?

“No, I don’t want anyone else to know before I tell Alex.”

“Okay, okay, calm down… alright…” Oh, geez, what was she supposed to say now? “When’re you gonna talk to him?”

“Tomorrow. It’s already late and Brooke’s got school tomorrow, so he’ll be home by himself.”

“You still wanna go to the clinic first?”

“Um, no… three out of three’s probably pretty accurate, right?” God, I’m really pregnant, she thought. How had that happened?

“Yeah, I’d think so.”

Isabel nodded. That’s what she’d thought too. “I guess I’ll talk to Alex first, and then maybe he’ll go with me to the clinic.”

Yeah, Maria was sure he’d do that. “D’you think he suspects that you’re pregnant?”

“He hasn’t said anything, but he’s an intelligent man, so I’m sure he’s considered the possibility.”

“Well, if he does suspect… he isn’t acting any different, right?”

“No.” Isabel pushed herself up from the floor. “I guess I’m gonna be a mommy soon, huh?” she asked with a tired smile.

“Yeah.” Maria stood up and leaned against the wall. “How d’you feel about that?”

“Scared, weird, awkward… but, I guess that’s normal, huh?”

“Yeah, I imagine it is.”

“If I wasn’t pregnant, I would say I need a drink right now.”

“How ‘bout a glass of milk? I’ll even have one with you.”

Isabel smiled, glad that Maria was there with her. “Okay, let’s just hope I can keep it down.”

“Yeah, let’s both hope for that,” Maria said, making a face. “Hey, you had plenty of company there today.”

“Yeah, guess none of them are pregnant though.”

Maria laughed. “No. Hell, could you imagine if they were?”

“That’d be really weird, huh?”

“Yeah.” She shook her head. “That’d be too weird!”

“Okay, let’s go get some milk.”

Maria nodded and followed Isabel into the kitchen.

*****

Sean leaned against the doorframe on Monday morning after knocking on the door to the girls’ apartment. He had put this off as long as possible, but he couldn’t stand being in limbo and not knowing what was going on. He took a step back when the door was pulled open and he could see from Liz’ expression that she hadn’t been prepared to face him.

“Sean?”

His gaze raked over her, taking in the light green dress and her bare feet. He couldn’t definitively pinpoint what it was, but there was something different about her. “Expectin’ someone? Evans maybe?”

“No, I wasn’t expecting anyone!” Great, he was already in a pissy mood.

He shook his head, knowing that she hadn’t been waiting for him to show up. She didn’t have classes on Monday mornings, but he did, and he had cut them to be here. “You sure about that? Because you’re dressed like you are.”

“I was just getting ready to go to the library before my classes start after lunch, okay?”

He stepped past her and entered the apartment without waiting for an invitation that clearly wasn’t coming and turned to face her. “How was your weekend? Get much studyin’ done? That is what you said you were doin’, right?”

“No, I didn’t do much studying,” she answered. What was this all about?

“No?” His eyes narrowed as he watched her, looking for some sign of guilt.

“Why’re you here and what’re you so pissed about?” She wasn’t playing along with him.

So, they were gonna play it like that, huh? “I’m here and pissed because my fiancé apparently spent the weekend with another man,” he spat out. Sean just shook his head in disgust and sat down on the couch. “Tell me it isn’t true, Liz.”

“What?”

“Well, you’re not jumpin’ to defend your actions, so maybe I heard wrong and you didn’t spend the weekend with Max Evans.”

She should have known that he would already know about it. “I didn’t spend the weekend with Max Evans, okay? I spent the weekend with friends at a cabin, and yes, Max was there, too.”

“Um-hmm… so, the two of you didn’t go off on your own… at all?” He was bluffing on this one; Alex hadn’t said anything about her and Max actually being alone together.

Liz sighed. What should she say? He was right, they had gone off on their own. She didn’t want to hurt Sean, but she didn’t want to lie to him either. “We did, yes.”

Sean drew back, unsure how to react to that information; she had just admitted that she and Max had been together. His eyes wandered over her again and he couldn’t shake the feeling that she had changed while he had been looking and he had missed it. “You were with him… alone?” He could feel his throat closing up. “Why? What were you doin’ with him?” He had seen the way that Evans looked at her and he knew the guy’s reputation with women.

Liz’ throat felt as dry as the desert she had grown up in. She had planned to tell Sean everything, but now he was here and she didn’t know how to start. “I… I can’t really say why. It just happened, y’know?” She prepared herself for what she had to say next by taking a deep breath. “I like him, Sean.”

“You like him,” he repeated slowly. “Like him, how?”

“I don’t know, yet. It’s still somethin’ new for me, too.”

“You don’t know how… are you sayin’ you have feelings for him, you wanna be his friend, or you wanna fuck him… it’s not a difficult question, Liz!”

Her hands began to shake when Sean started to yell at her, but she knew there was no way around this now. She had to tell him the truth. “I have feelings for him.”

“What about me? How do I fit in with your new…” He snorted derisively. “Feelings?”

“Don’t yell at me, Sean,” she hissed. “It’s not like I planned for this to happen, okay? I didn’t go out to find someone else, it just happened and I don’t know how to deal with it either!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Liz… you’re right… I’m bein’ inconsiderate. You’re only my fiancé… what right do I have to be upset and yell?” he muttered sarcastically. “Tell ya what, I’ll just go on over to Evans’ apartment and congratulate him for makin’ a move on MY fiancé because now she apparently has feelings for him.”

“I’m not your fiancé anymore,” she said, and even though she knew they needed to be said it hurt when they came out of her mouth.

Whoa! Shock left Sean speechless and his mouth dropped open as he stared at her. “You’re not my… What?!”

“I’m not…” Liz fought back the tears. “You’re not my fiancé anymore, Sean. I wanna break up.”

No, this was not happening! They had an agreement… their parents had expectations… “No, Liz, look, I know the past couple of months have been difficult; it takes time to get adjusted to college life and I know it’s a lot different than it was back home, but freakin’ out like this isn’t the answer…” That’s all it was, he assured himself. She was just havin’ a hard time adjustin’ to college life. They didn’t know any other people their age who were engaged or this involved, so… that had to be it. It had to be. “Look, we’re flyin’ back home day after tomorrow… let’s just go home and enjoy the holidays with our families, and forget this nonsense, okay? You’ll feel better once you’ve had some time around things that’re familiar. Okay?”

“No, Sean.” The tears were running down her cheeks when she looked into his desperate face. “This has nothing to do with adjusting to college life. I know now that I don’t love you the way you should love someone you intend to marry and you don’t love me that way either, and it’s not fair to either of us. We just did what our parents wanted, what everyone expected, but that has nothin’ to do with real love.”

No, no, no, she was wrong! “Liz… please! Don’t break up with me like this. Let’s just take the holiday weekend and – “ He froze when she shook her head in denial and he could feel the panic building up inside of him. “We can’t spring this on our parents on Thanksgiving, Liz!” That would make her see reason; she would never do anything to disappoint her parents.

“Yeah, I know.” That would kill them.

“Okay, so, you’re not breakin’ up with me… we’re gonna work this out while we’re at home – “

“No, Sean!” He refused to let it go, Liz realized. “We’re going home, we’re spending the holidays with our parents, but we’re not working things out.”

If he could just get her to agree to spend the weekend together back home he could convince her that they belonged together. “But, you just said… you just said that you know we can’t spring this on our families on a holiday!”

“If you don’t want our parents to know over Thanksgiving, then that’s fine by me, we don’t need to tell them,” she said, secretly hoping that he would play along.

“So, you’re breakin’ up with me and I’m supposed to go home with you an’ act like everything’s normal?”

“Like you said, we can’t tell them on a holiday, and it’s not like it’ll be that hard to pretend; we’ve never really kissed or touched in front of them, so all we have to do is sit in the same room and eat. But, if you can’t do that, I’m just gonna call my mom.” Please say no.

Sean shook his head and stared at her in disbelief. “Are you serious?” His eyes narrowed. There had to be more to it than what she was telling. “You kissed him,” he accused suddenly.

She winced at the look of hurt in his eyes. “Yeah.”

Okay, that hurt. “Is that all you did with him?” He watched her; he’d know if she was lying to him.

“That’s all we did.”

“So, based on a kiss – or was it more than one?”

“No, there were a couple.”

He sighed. “Based on that you’re breakin’ up with me?”

“No, that’s just one of many things, Sean. I can’t really explain it, but I’ve never felt with you what I feel with him. It’s just… different.”

It would’ve hurt a lot less if she’d just backed her car over him. “Then how d’you explain what we’ve had together?” He could feel it… he just knew what was coming next.

“Fear of the unknown and hiding behind familiarity is how I explain it. We’ve been foolin’ ourselves into thinkin’ that what we have is a romantic relationship, but we’re not in love, Sean.” She shook her head. “We never were. We’re the same thing we’ve always been… and what I hope we still can be after this… best friends.”

Yes! his conscience screamed. There it was, the final nail in his coffin! “Friends,” he muttered. “You’re ready to go off and have sex with Evans after two kisses and I get the ‘let’s be friends’ line. That’s just great.”

She wanted to slap Sean right across the face for that remark, but she knew that would only make things worse. “You should leave.”

He laughed and even he could hear the cruel edge to it. “I notice you’re not denyin’ it.”

“What’s the point? You’ve already made up your mind so it doesn’t matter what I say now, you’re gonna believe what you wanna believe.”

“Why wouldn’t I believe you, Liz? I mean, after all, we’re friends,” he sneered.

Liz walked to the door and jerked it open. He was being an asshole right now and she couldn’t stand it any longer. “Leave now!” she nearly screamed at him.

“Yeah, I’m leavin’, Liz.” He stalked past her and stepped out on the doorstep. “Why don’t you go ahead and call your mother… tell her that she won’t need to set a place for me or my parents this year.”

She didn’t answer as she slammed the door shut.

Sean stared at the door, more surprised than angry. Liz Parker never lost her temper like that; she didn’t yell, kick people out, or slam doors in their faces.

Liz leaned back against the closed front door. She couldn’t believe what had just happened.

What the hell was he gonna do now? He sure didn’t wanna spend the holiday weekend trying to explain this mess to their families. And it didn’t matter what threats he made about not spending the holidays with her family – their families had spent the holidays together since before either of them were born. So, now what? He wasn’t feeling generous enough to make the offer to let the truth slide over the weekend; he was too pissed for that. But, he also knew they couldn’t let the cat outta the bag either.

Should she really call her mother to drop the bomb? Liz wondered. Maybe Sean would change his mind when he calmed down a little.

He could just imagine the interrogation they’d be put through if their parents found out that Liz had called it quits between them. Hell, what if she did call her mom? He reached up and knocked on the door before he had time to change his mind. “C’mon, Liz,” he muttered.

“What?” she asked, knowing it was Sean without opening the door.

“Don’t call your mom… I’m not happy about this bullshit, but I’m not flyin’ home for a five-day weekend just so I can dodge questions about what I did wrong and how I managed to ruin the relationship.” He sighed. “We let it play out over the weekend and we’ll just deal with the rest when we get back on Sunday night, okay?”

Liz opened the door and looked right into his hurt face. “Okay,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”

Sean met her watery gaze, seeing the hurt there and wishing he knew how to feel about it. On the one hand he was pissed and hurt, but somewhere deep inside there was a hint of… relief that she wanted out. He shoved that feeling back down because it was something that he had been fighting for longer than he cared to think about. His parents would never understand. He sighed. Maybe the weekend back home would be what Liz needed to see that Max wasn’t the kinda guy that would stick around for the long haul. She wanted stability in her life; she liked things organized and orderly, she liked routine, and Evans would turn all of that upside down. It was just a passing thing, it had to be, he thought desperately.

Sean nodded as he backed away, biting back any further comments. There was no need for more hurt on either side. They had both said enough for one day.

*****

Alex pulled up in the driveway and cut the engine, glancing at Isabel as he got out and walked around the front of the truck to open the door for her. She took his hand as she stepped down and even gave him a small smile of thanks, but it was easy to see that she had something on her mind. She had been uncharacteristically quiet when he had picked her up and even though the drive from her apartment to his house was less than 15 minutes, it had felt much longer due to the silence. They walked up to the front door and the tranquility of the beautiful morning was lost on him as he worried over the possible reasons behind her silence.

He followed her inside, closing and locking the door behind him, and he watched her as she moved down the hall, pausing after a few steps as if she didn't know which way to go. She finally turned towards the living room and he took a deep breath before going after her.

“Hey, Iz, you want somethin’ to drink?” He didn’t bother offering anything to eat because she didn’t look like food was anywhere close to being in her thoughts at that moment.

You may need a Scotch soon, Isabel thought. “No, thanks.”

He nodded and stepped further into the room. She had taken a seat on the couch, which was a good sign, but he didn’t want to crowd her so he wandered around the room for several seconds before he settled for standing next to the fireplace with one hand braced on the mantle. He could see that she was upset, on edge, and she obviously wanted to talk, but maybe she just didn’t know how to get started.

“It’s killin’ me to see you like this, Iz. I know you’ve got somethin’ on your mind and until you tell me what’s wrong...” He shrugged helplessly. “There’s nothin’ I can do to help.”

Isabel sighed. She couldn’t hide anything from him. It was scary sometimes. Alex just had to look into her eyes and he could tell without a second thought that something was wrong. “You’re right,” she said quietly, “there is something I need to tell you.” She stood up from the couch, unable to just sit still any longer and walked over to the big window to look out at the ocean. She wrapped her arms around herself. If she could only find the right words to tell him what she needed to tell him.

The slight tremble in her voice had him forgetting his resolve to give her some space, but before he could move she stood and walked over to stand in front of one of the large windows. He quickly crossed the distance between them, standing close enough to pull her into his arms at the slightest hint that she was ready to be touched.

“This have somethin’ to do with you not feelin’ well recently?”

“Uh-huh.” She turned around to look into her boyfriend’s eyes. He will understand, she told herself over and over again.

Alex took her hands in his as his heart started pounding. “Y’know you can tell me anything, right? I love you and nothing’s gonna change that, honey.”

Isabel nodded, she knew that. Damn, she had lain awake all night thinking about how to tell him and now she couldn´t say it. “I.... um.... I...”

He studied her expression for a solid minute, seeing so many different emotions chasing across her features... hope, fear, indecision, love... and he drew on all of his strength as he used his fingertips to nudge her chin up so they were eye to eye. “The past few weeks... the nausea, tiring so easily... you’re pregnant, aren’t you?”

His breath caught in his throat when she didn’t answer immediately. God, what if he was wrong and it was something health-related? What if she was really sick? “Iz, honey, it’s not somethin’ life-threatening, is it?”

Finally, Isabel found her strength again. She had to say something, or else Alex was going to have a heart attack. “No, no. It’s not. I’m just gonna get really fat soon.” She tried to smile a little, but she could imagine that it more looked like a grimace right now. “You were right, I’m pregnant,” she sobbed and tears ran down her cheeks.

Alex tried to hide his smile, but he was relieved and overwhelmed and he couldn’t stop the goofy reaction. “So, you’re already blamin’ my baby for makin’ you fat?” he asked, his tone teasing as he pulled her into his arms and wrapped them tightly around her.

Isabel held onto him tightly and more sobs were shaking her body, but now she was crying from relief that he knew. And he was even able to make a little joke, so he couldn’t be really mad at her, right?

“Hey,” he shook her lightly, “this isn’t bad news, Iz. I’m relieved actually; I was hopin’ that you were gonna say you were pregnant and not sick with some life-threatening illness.” He smiled reassuringly. “Compared to that possibility, I really do prefer this one.” He ran his right hand over her back, making small, soothing circles in an effort to calm her down. She was crying so hard she was shaking and he was sure that couldn’t be good for her or the baby. “C’mon, let’s go sit down and talk about this, okay?”

“Okay,” Isabel whispered and didn’t let go of him while they were walking to the couch. “Aren’t you scared or anything?” she asked, confused. They made themselves comfortable on the couch and she looked up at him. She hadn’t expected that Alex’ reaction would be so positive from the first second.

Alex sat down, holding her close, and he took a deep breath as he tried to figure out how to bring up what was probably the most important question at the moment. “Am I scared? Yeah, terrified, to be honest; raising a teenager’s a lot different than startin’ all the way at the beginnin’.” He tugged her closer and pressed a kiss to her temple. “I was up most of the night thinkin’ about the possibilities and this was one that I had spent quite a bit of time on. So, that’s really why I’m not reactin’ like some crazy man who just got shocking news. Like I said, this news is a lot more preferable than learning that I could lose you, so...” He shrugged one shoulder. “I guess the next thing would be to ask you what you want in this situation...”

“I want to keep it, Alex. I could never live with any other decision.”

Alex released a breath he hadn’t even realized he had been holding. “I hope you weren’t expectin’ me to disagree with you,” he said, unable to hold the smile in. He was more terrified than he had been in his entire life, but at the same time, he knew they could do this. They would be good parents and their kid would be loved and wanted; he or she would never have to wonder about that.

“No, I was really hoping that you’d say that we’ll cope with this situation together, which you did, but to be honest I’m scared like hell right now.”

“You’re not alone there, honey, but we can do this.” He took a deep breath as he started to wind up for what he had to say. “I know it’s gonna be tough on you with classes, but it’s gonna be summer when the baby’s born and by that time I’m gonna be finished with school. I’ve already been assured that my degree will push me up in the company that I’m with and I’ve got two others that are interested in me. You’ll be able to take classes when the fall semester starts up; we can figure out how to juggle our schedules durin’ the day and at night when you’ve got homework I can watch the baby.” He grinned at her. “Not to mention the fact that we’ve got half a dozen babysitters between my sister, brothers, and your friends.”

Isabel laughed a little. “Well, I don’t know if I want to hand my baby over to Tess and Kyle or Maria and Michael, when they’re together.” She was beginning to relax a little. Alex wanted their baby, that was all that mattered and they would figure things out.

Alex laughed. “It’ll be interesting to see them with a baby.”

“Yeah, maybe they’d actually talk and not yell at each other with a baby in the same room. Oh, I should tell you, Maria already knows.”

“Good. I’m glad you were able to talk to her; I guess she gave you a hand with the test?”

“Yeah, we had already talked at the cabin ‘cause she knew I was sick and she offered to help me with the test. That was the real reason for sleeping at the apartment last night. Maria came home late ‘cause Kyle and Tess came up with this plan to leave her and Michael alone at the cabin.”

“I can imagine how well that went over.” He shook his head. “So, you just took a home pregnancy test? You haven’t been to your doctor or anything?”

“Actually, I took three home pregnancy tests and they were all positive. And, no, I haven’t seen my doctor yet; I was hoping we can do that together.”

“Yeah, I’d like that. Have you already made the appointment or are you gonna do that today?”

“I’m gonna do that now, I guess.”

“You want some privacy to make the call or are you okay with me hangin’ around?”

“Of course you can stay, hun.”

Alex smiled and nodded, happy to see that she was more relaxed than she had been when they had arrived at the house. “This’s gonna be okay, Iz.”

She smiled up at him then hugged him tightly. “Yeah, I know that now.”

“You think your doctor will be able to get you in this week since Thanksgiving’s in a couple of days?”

“Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Good. Tomorrow’s the last day of classes before the holiday... are you gonna feel up to everyone comin’ over for Thanksgiving?”

“Of course. I just can’t guarantee that I’ll make it through the meal without fighting that mornin’ sickness – and just for the record, that is a stupid name for it. But, Brooke is sooo looking forward to spending the holiday with all of her brothers.”

Alex nodded. “I’ve gotta admit, she’s not the only one lookin’ forward to it.”

“I hope the twins will behave themselves. And I really hope Maria and Michael won’t argue the entire day.”

“The boys will behave themselves and if Michael and Maria do anything to upset you or our baby they’re gonna have to deal with me.”

Isabel laughed. “Don’t put yourself in the line of fire.”

“It’s my house; I’ll be the one doin’ the firing.”

“Okay, let’s hope that Thanksgiving will be a quiet and peaceful day.”

“I just don’t want anything to upset you, Iz. The holidays are stressful enough without adding any extra pressure to them.”

Isabel leaned in to kiss him and shifted to settle back in his arms as she pulled his phone off of the clip on his belt. She punched in a series of numbers and letters and tipped her head back against his chest to look up at him. “My doctor’s number,” she said as she brought it up to her ear.

Alex cupped her chin and leaned down to kiss her again, chuckling when she squirmed around because the call had been answered. He listened to her as she talked to the nurse on the other end of the call and he nodded when she asked if an appointment for the next afternoon was alright with his schedule. He was so relieved that they were dealing with a pregnancy he didn’t care what he had to rearrange the next day and he wasn’t even going to think about it right now.
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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 Trouble (CC, AU, Adult) - Part 50 - 9/13/09

Post by Double Trouble » Sat Sep 12, 2009 7:53 pm

begonia9508: Yeah, that’ll definitely come in handy!

Sean will get over it.

NotYourChick: She’ll be moving on soon…

Alien_Friend: They’re gonna be great! Maria did pretty well, huh? We were proud of her!

We’ll see what happens with the Thanksgiving plan. She and Max will be seeing each other soon.

mary mary: No promises about Liz and Sean’s parents… they’ve got a very definite plan in regards to their children and they’ve been very instrumental in guiding things on the path that they wanted followed.

keepsmiling7: Out the door… hmm, suppose that means it’s time to open another door!

Eva: No, and it’s time for them to move on to people who they have can be happy with.

They are in a good, stable relationship!

sarammlover: Alex rocks! They’re gonna make awesome parents.

nibbles2: Sean’s behavior has put him in an unflattering light and it’s doubtful that anyone will have much sympathy for him. We’ll see how Liz holds out against her family.

They’re the only couple who were in any way ready to handle it.

Not holding your breath is a good idea… rumor has it you start to turn blue after a while.

kismet: Max is absolutely, positively, NOT a passing thing, lol!

We’ll have a Liz and Max scene in Thursday’s update.

Isabel and Alex are well on their way.

destinyc: Yup, Alex is a sweetie!

You’re right about Liz… we’ll see if she’s strong enough to do it.


Part 50 – Desperately Seeking Answers

Michael pulled into the parking lot in front of Brooke’s high school on Monday afternoon. She wasn’t out yet, but a glance on his watch told him that he was five minutes early, so he turned off the engine and slouched down in his seat to get more comfortable. His head was still a little achy and the sunlight was hurting in his eyes, so he had worn his sunglasses all day. He hadn’t been in classes that morning and had hidden in his room until Max and Kyle had left the apartment. He wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone and he had even called Alex to pick Brooke up, but of course, his brother hadn’t answered the phone.

He cursed his stupidity for mixing his alcohol over the weekend and he had known better than to drink more the night before but it hadn’t stopped him from doing it. He barely glanced up when the passengers’ side door opened and his sister tossed her backpack inside, careless of it sliding off of the seat to land on the floorboard. He leaned his head back, propping it against the headrest when he realized she was just standing there talking to someone.

After nearly five full minutes of listening to the inane teenage conversation Michael was starting to get impatient and before he realized it his fingers were drumming out an irritated rhythm on the steering wheel. “Brooke, can’t you do this on the phone?” he grumbled.

“What?” Brooke turned her head in her brother’s direction and ducked down to look at him.

He adjusted his sunglasses as he turned his head to look at her; he would’ve glared but it would’ve required movement of his facial muscles and that was just more effort than he was ready to expend at the moment. “This conversation... can’t you have it over the phone?”

Brooke just rolled her eyes and turned back to the boy she was talking to – Luke. “Alright, I have to leave; my brother’s in a pissy mood again. See you soon, Luke.” She climbed into the passengers’ seat and closed the door a little too loudly. “Happy now?”

“Damn it, Brooke, cut it out!” Shit, he wished he had brought the aspirin with him - his head was pounding even worse now.

“God, Michael! How much did you drink at the cabin that you’re still suffering from it?”

“This is not just from the cabin,” he muttered, checking his mirrors before pulling away from the curb.

“What’s that supposed to mean? You got drunk again last night?”

“No, I didn’t get drunk again last night... I just drank a little more.”

“Why?”

Michael was not prepared to discuss that subject... especially not while he was feeling like this! “Why’re you talkin’ to that little bastard again?”

“Don’t call him names and don’t try to change the subject, Michael! Why were you drinkin’ again last night?”

“That topic is not open for discussion, Brooke.”

“Well, I already know it’s about you an’ Maria, I was just hoping you would finally admit it.”

“What it is, is none of your business,” he snapped.

“Fine. Then it’s also none of your business who I’m talking to.”

“Only one of us is a minor, Brooke, which means only one of us is accountable to the other when it comes to who they’re talkin’ to.”

“If you say so.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked out the window

The frayed edges of Michael’s temper came apart at her taunting tone. “You're 16 years old... you don’t know anything about what I’m dealin’ with.”

“Oh please, Michael. 16-year-old’s do know a few things about being lovesick.”

Michael snorted at her terminology. “You need to stop readin’ those damn romance novels.”

“And you need to stop being an asshole to all of your friends and anyone else who runs across your path these days.”

This was the one serious drawback when it came to bein’ close to your younger sister, he thought morosely. They seemed to think it gave them the right to run your life. “Y’know what? It’s great that you’ve gotten all buddy-buddy with Maria, but maybe you should try bein’ loyal to me. In case it has escaped your notice, I’m the injured party here.”

So he felt injured, Brooke noticed, but she didn’t know the whole story. What had happened between them at the cabin? “How am I supposed to be loyal when you won’t even tell me what happened?”

“Because I’m your brother! I shouldn’t be required to give you a reason to be loyal.”

“Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but for the last few years you are the one who’s been usin’ woman for fun.”

How had the conversation just turned around on him? “So, that means I get no loyalty from you? You’re just automatically gonna take Maria’s side when you don’t even know enough about the situation to decide who was right or wrong?”

“I’m not takin’ anyone’s side. You’re both too stubborn to admit that you want each other.”

“You need to get your facts straight, little girl.” He rubbed his left temple before taking the wheel so he could change gears.

“You gonna talk to her?”

“I’m all talked out. I’ve pretty much said all I need to say.” He ignored the little voice that immediately called him a liar, unwilling to let his thoughts go in that direction.

“So you told her you have feelings for her?”

He cleared his throat, adjusted his sunglasses again, and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Not in so many words.”

“What did you actually say?”

“This is stupid!” he exploded. “I don’t need to say anything; it should be perfectly obvious.” He winced. Okay, that might be a bit too much to expect, he thought.

“Michael, all she knows is that you were a womanizer on campus until you started to see her and you made it clear that you don’t want a relationship. Don’t you think that makes her wonder?” Brooke tried to stay calm even if she wanted to shake her brother badly.

“Y’know what? I keep catchin’ hell for this and I’m not the one who made the rules that we’ve been followin’.”

“Should I talk to her?”

“What?” Michael was horrified at that prospect... his little sister trying to smooth things over for him? Huh-uh. A guy had to be able to look at himself in the mirror and to do that he needed self-respect and dignity. In some form at least. “No! Leave it alone, Brooke.”

“Fine. Then promise me you’ll try to talk to her on your own.”

Michael remained stubbornly silent. He wasn’t going to be badgered into dealing with Maria just because his little sister thought that was the way things needed to be handled.

“Michael?”

“What?” he grunted.

“Promise”

“No.” Why was she bein’ so adamant about this? “I have never made you a promise if I wasn’t sure I could deliver on it and I’m not about to start now.”

Damn it, why couldn’t they just be happy together? “I just want you to be happy, Michael!”

“Then don’t ask me to promise you somethin’ I can’t guarantee.”

“Fine, I’m not askin’ anymore,” Brooke grumbled, disappointed.

Michael was relieved that she was dropping the subject.

“Oh, hey, you can drop me off at Maria’s place? I’ve gotta study for a test and – ”

“Brooke, would you quit trying to fix things between us? Match-makin’ isn’t gonna magically make things all better between me an’ Maria!”

“So, because you and her aren’t getting along I can’t hang around with her anymore?”

Michael sighed as the pain exploded in his head again. He didn’t want Brooke to get hurt over his problems with Maria, but she had to understand that whatever happened between them needed to involve the two of them and no one else. “Look, brat, I’m not tellin’ you that you can’t be friends or hang out with Maria, but right now...” He shook his head. “Right now we need some space and you instigatin’ shit an’ tryin’ to fix it because you don’t wanna see either of us hurt isn’t gonna help, okay?”

“We were just gonna study, Michael!”

He rolled his eyes. “Uh-huh,” he mumbled, not buying it for a single second, “then Alex can drive you over there.”

“Great.”

Michael sighed. “Brooke...”

“Stop the car and let me out here, I’m gonna walk the rest of the way.”

“What, the next two blocks? No.”

“We live in a perfectly safe neighborhood and it’s not even dark outside; I’m a big girl, Michael.”

“Fine.” He pulled over and shifted into neutral. “Go ahead and walk the rest of the way.”

Brooke climbed out of the car and took her bag. “Have a nice day, Michael,” she hissed at him and slammed the door shut.

Michael sat there and watched her stalk down the sidewalk, and he couldn’t help the smirk that surfaced at her display of temper. He knew she would eventually get over being pissed at him but if it kept her occupied and out of his business then it would be worth a couple of days of being ignored. He just barely let up on the gas and let the car creep along behind her, easily reading the irritation in her stiff posture. She flung a final annoyed glare in his direction when she finally reached the front door and he waved before driving off. He needed to find a place where he could try to get his thoughts together because everything was so jumbled up right now that he felt like he had completely lost control of the situation.

*****

Michael walked through the park as he thought about what had happened between him and Maria. He didn’t understand why they had gone from getting along so well on Saturday to being incapable of holding a civil conversation that night. He had been willing to try to understand things from her point of view but how was he supposed to do that when she wouldn’t even talk to him?

“You look like a man with a lot on his mind.”

He looked up when he heard the concerned voice of his elderly friend, Ms. Judy, and he realized that his feet had carried him to her table without conscious thought. He felt no compulsion to act like things were fine or that he didn’t know what she was talking about.

Michael shrugged and dropped down to sit on the bench across from her. “How ya doin’?” he asked.

“Better than you judging by that long face. What’s wrong with you, boy?”

He traced his fingertips over the graffiti etched into the surface of the picnic table. He shook his head and motioned to her laptop. “Any good requests for advice today?”

“Why don’t you tell me,” she suggested, watching him. He wasn’t the type to share his emotions easily and she had a feeling that whatever was bothering him was directly related to the little blond that had stopped by to see him at the park a few days before.

“I just don’t understand why things have to be so complicated with women,” he muttered finally.

“With all women or the one from the other day?”

“That one specifically, I guess.”

She waited patiently while he reached over and turned her laptop so he could read her column for the next day. She knew that rushing him or pushing for information would result in him shutting down so she contented herself with watching him as he read the advice requests.

He laughed unexpectedly and tapped the screen. “You should answer this one.”

She leaned forward to see which email he was referring to and she smiled when she recognized it. “What advice would you give her?”

Michael snorted as he read over the email again. The woman who had written it was in her mid-twenties, dating a guy that was a couple of years younger, and after several months of waiting the couple had decided it was time to consummate the relationship. The boyfriend had been the one holding out and with good reason, he thought. The guy only had one testicle and he had been too embarrassed to tell her so she had been surprised to say the least. Her attempts to reassure him had left him angry, humiliated, and unable to perform.

“Well, the guy really should’ve told her he only has half of his equipment; he had to know she was gonna notice it.” He shook his head. “As for her, I’d suggest lookin’ for a new boyfriend. She tried to reassure him by tellin’ him he was unique and it was cute… seriously, if he didn’t have inadequacy issues before, he’s sure as hell got them now. He’ll probably never be able to get it up again after that.”

“She sounds like she really cares about him even if she didn’t do a very good job of reassuring him.”

“What makes you think she cares about him?”

Ms. Judy heard the genuine tone in his voice and she countered his question with one of her own. “What makes you think she doesn’t?”

“He was already insecure an’ she did and said stuff that made him doubt himself,” he said, sounding angry now. “If she cares about him why would she do that?”

She could tell that they weren’t talking about the couple from the column any longer and she wondered if he had realized it yet. “D’you think she hurt him intentionally?”

“No.” Michael ran his hands through his hair and sighed tiredly. “Just doesn’t make it hurt any less.” He finally looked at her. “Do women have any idea how cruel they can be?”

“Oh, honey, that question applies equally to men and women. We’ve all been hurt by the opposite sex even though there was no intent to harm. I don’t think that any of us are free of guilt; we’ve all hurt someone that we really, truly care for because of something we’ve said or done without thinking.”

“I don’t know… I guess you’re right.” He nodded at the laptop. “So, what’re you gonna tell her?”

“I’m not sure yet. It won’t be a published response though; I’ll just email her.”

Michael nodded in approval. “That’s good. No need to further emasculate the poor bastard.” He looked down at the table. “What would you tell a guy who’s been seein’ a girl… they’re not datin’ like officially or anything, they’ve never agreed to be exclusive so it’s possible that at least one of them is hookin’ up with other people, and they’re getting it on pretty regular but they’ve never actually gone all the way? What would you tell him?”

“Well, I’d hope that he would include a little bit more information about this girl and their relationship.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one thing there’s the suggestion that… your friend?” she asked, continuing when he nodded. “The way you phrased it suggests that even though she’s made no demand for commitment from him that he’s not the one who might be seeing other people on the side. Is he the type of guy who would normally stay with one girl for any significant length of time?”

“Huh-uh, week or two tops.”

“And how long’s he been seeing this girl?”

“A couple months.”

“Um-hmm, and he hasn’t been with anyone else in that time?”

“Nope.”

“Is it purely sexual or are there other aspects to their relationship?”

He thought back over the time he and Maria had spent together. “No, it kinda started out that way, but I think it’s a lot more than that now.”

“Has he introduced this girl to his family?”

“Yeah, and she gets along great with them.”

“Well, okay, my first assessment would be that he’s not as afraid of commitment as his track record would suggest that he is.”

Michael tried hard to hide his interest in her opinion. “You don’t think so?”

“No, not at all. You said they haven’t had sex and he’s never been with any one girl for this long… his past relationships were for sex only?”

“Yeah.”

Ms. Judy watched him. “You said they’re sexually involved, but haven’t had sex, correct?”

“Is that as stupid as it sounds?”

“Well, it’s certainly a different approach. What is their reasoning for this method of… involvement?”

“It’s all about avoiding involvement,” he admitted.

She stared at him in disbelief. What had this boy gotten himself into? “So, they’re sexually satisfying each other with the belief that if they don’t actually have sex they won’t develop feelings for each other?”

“It’s stupid, right?”

“I’ll be damned if that isn’t the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” She rolled her eyes. “They’re both that afraid of falling in love with someone else?” She shook her head and her heart went out to him when she saw his miserable expression. “Let me guess, one or both of them have realized that they’ve developed feelings for the other one?”

He nodded silently.

“Has something happened between them recently?”

“He kinda realized that maybe he wants more and he tried to tell her but he fucked it up.”

“Why?” Ms. Judy reached out to cover his fisted hand and she met his gaze when he looked up at her.

Michael dropped the pretense; she knew that he was talking about himself. “I just wanted to be close to her, y’know? So, I told her I thought we should go ahead and have sex, and she wanted to know why.”

“And you started feeling like an idiot so you got defensive, right?”

Michael winced. “Yeah. We’ve been at war since Saturday night… I don’t know if we can even get around some of the stuff we said.”

“Do you want to?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know what she wants.”

“I didn’t ask what she wanted,” she reminded him gently.

“I don’t wanna fight with her anymore.” He sighed. “Not like this, anyway.”

“You two need to sit down and talk, Michael.” She paused for a minute as she thought over everything they had talked about. “Did she make the rules you guys have been applying to your relationship?”

“Yeah. The last guy she was with was a…” He rolled his eyes and made air quotes with his fingers. “He was a bad boy and she said she falls for that type too easily, so since I fall into the same category she said she wouldn’t risk getting emotionally involved because she doesn’t wanna fall for another guy like that.”

“That’s an interesting plan.”

He snorted. “Y’think that’s interestin’? When she first got here she was datin’ Brendan.”

“And how did she end up with you?”

“I wouldn’t leave ‘er alone. Brendan’s still in love with Karen anyway, so it’s not like him an’ Maria were gonna go anywhere.”

“Michael,” she chastised, her tone full of disappointment.

“I didn’t do it to hurt him, Ms. Judy. I’ve never done anything like that before, but there’s just somethin’ about her…”

“The guy she was with before… did he hurt her?”

“I think he did a real number on her but she’s never really talked about him.”

“You care about her a lot,” she said observantly.

He nodded and looked at something on the other side of the park.

“Talk to her, Michael; it really sounds like the two of you are suffering from a serious case of miscommunication and a lot of misunderstanding.”

“Yeah… maybe.” He stood and stretched. “I’ve gotta get goin’, Ms. Judy; I’ve gotta do some studyin’ for a test tomorrow.” He leaned down to kiss her cheek before turning to go back to his car.

“Michael?”

“Yeah?”

“You seem to be unsettled by the distance between the two of you.” She nodded when he avoided her gaze. “All I’m saying is make sure you talk to her before that distance becomes too large and you miss your opportunity to fix things.”

Michael thought about what she had said as he walked back up to the parking area. Maybe she had a point; he hadn’t felt right since he and Maria had gone their separate ways the night before. Hadn’t really felt right since they had started fighting and he didn’t understand it.

*****

Maria squinted against the bright lights of an oncoming car as she tried to see the addresses of the houses on the street. The car drove past her, teenage boys hanging out through every window as they shouted loudly to be heard over the car stereo that was turned up loud enough that she could feel the bass thrumming through Tess' car. She was definitely heading in the right direction, she thought.

Brooke had called her a little while ago and it had taken less than a full sentence for her to realize that the girl was drunk. She had begged Maria to come and get her, but only after making her promise that she wouldn’t call any of her brothers. She already knew how much trouble she would be in if they caught her in this condition and even with her brain working sluggishly due to too much alcohol, she had known that there would be no getting away from it.

As she reached the end of the street she noticed the strobe light flashing through the windows of a house around the corner. She turned to the left when she saw the teenagers hanging out on the front lawn and she wondered why no one on the block had called the police yet. Back home they never would've gotten this out of hand with a party at 16 years old! That was obviously a big difference between the small town she had grown up in and a large city like this.

She parked and climbed out of the car, glancing around for Brooke and the young man who had taken the phone and assured her that he would wait with her when the girl's drunken ramblings had become too slurred to understand.

“M’ria, you came!” Brooke shouted loudly.

Maria's head turned to follow the girl's slurred voice, trying to track it above the music playing loudly from the large speakers that had been dragged out on the front porch. She shook her head when she caught sight of the drunken teenager, giggling and clinging to Luke as he desperately tried to keep her upright. They were making their way through the crowd and she could tell that the girl had had way too much to drink. She knew there was no way to avoid a call to either Michael or Alex, but maybe she could sober Brooke up just a little bit before that call was made.

“Hey, drunk girl!” Maria greeted her when they finally made their way out of the crowd. “Thanks for takin’ care of her,” she tossed in the young man’s direction. “The car’s over here; you think you can you help me get her in?”

Luke nodded, relieved that none of Brooke’s brothers or their friends had showed up to pick her up.

“You think she’s gonna puke? Because this isn’t my car and Tess would kill me.”

“Oh, I don’t know... but, she’s had a lot to drink.” He shrugged as he carefully helped Brooke into the front seat. “My older brother says the best thing to do is put the top down.” He shrugged again. “I’m not exactly sure what that’s got to do with anything, but that’s what he said to do.”

“Uh-huh, well I don’t know how to get the top down so an open window’s gonna have to be enough.”

Luke nodded. “Well, maybe havin’ the window down will do it. You don’t have to go very far, right?”

“No, just a few blocks. I’m gonna take her to my place before I call her brothers.”

He took an involuntary step back, as if the mere mention of the Guerin boys could conjure up their presence.

“Don’t worry, I won’t mention you name.”

“Right... well, could you tell her to call me tomorrow? Just to let me know how she’s doin’?”

“Well, I’ll tell her, but I doubt she remembers it by tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” He smiled sheepishly and ran one hand through his hair. “Maybe I’ll just give her a call.” His smile turned nervous at the thought of one of her brothers answering the phone, thinking he had something to do with their little sister getting drunk, and he hoped she couldn’t tell.

He leaned in to pull the seatbelt over Brooke’s body and lock it into place before rolling down the window and closing the door. An affectionate smile broke out over his face when she slumped against the door and leaned the side of her head against the frame as she moaned softly. “Hey,” he whispered as he bent over to press a gentle kiss against her temple, “I hope you feel better soon, Brooke.”

“Okay, Luke, get back to the party. I’ll take things from here.” She watched the boy as he slowly walked away and then got into the car. “Alright, Brooke, try to not to puke in Tess’ car, okay, sweetie?” God, Tess would kill her for that!

Brooke watched him walk away, her eyes unfocused and bleary and it took everything she had to turn her head to acknowledge that Maria had spoken to her. “I think I’m dyin’,” she mumbled, pressing her head against the doorframe again. The metal frame felt blessedly cool against her heated skin and she sighed raggedly.

“Trust me, you’re not gonna die. You’re just gonna feel really bad for the next 24 hours or so.”

Maria was obviously mistaken, Brooke thought. This was so much worse than when she had her appendix out a couple of years ago. She closed her eyes when the car picked up speed and everything passed by in one big nauseating blur.

A few minutes later Maria pulled back into the driveway to the apartment complex and drove around to her building. “Okay, we’re here. Let’s get you outta the car.”

“I don’t...” She looked at the steps that led up to the second floor. “I can’t... M’ria...” She knew she sounded pathetic but she didn’t even care right now.

“Oh, you can, Brooke, and you will ‘cause otherwise I’m gonna have to call your brothers right now.”

“You’re mean,” Brooke complained, her tone childish. But, the threat of having her brothers called was enough incentive to nearly crawl out of the car.

“Okay, just lean against the wall,” Maria said when they finally reached the second level and she propped Brooke by the doorframe so she could pull her keys out of her purse.

“Um-hmm...” She leaned back against the wall as instructed and she closed her eyes when everything in her vision seemed to swim around crazily.

She opened the door quietly, because it was already late and anyone who was home would be sleeping. “C’mon, but try to be quiet.”

“Where we goin’?” she slurred, leaning into Maria when the older girl helped her inside the apartment.

“Just a few more steps to the couch, girl.” How could this tiny girl be so heavy?

“Are you sure? We’ve been walkin’ for hours,” she complained.

“Okay, lay down here, Brooke.”

“How come you an’ Michael are mad?"”

“What? No, we’re not discussin’ that right now.”

“Why not?”

Yeah, why not? Brooke was really close to Michael and she wouldn’t remember if she asked her a few questions about him, right?

Brooke grabbed one of the small decorative pillows and started to pet it. Why wouldn’t anyone tell her what was going on? She was smart... she could tell them how to fix whatever they had broken. She giggled at her internal ramblings and hugged the pillow.

“Did Michael tell you anything?” Maria asked while getting a glass of water for her.

The pillow was so nice and soft. Huh? What was Maria saying? “My brother...” She had to pause when the hiccups started. “My brother has been moodier than normal. We were in his car today an’ he wasn’t listenin’ to Metallica...” She hiccupped again. “He was listenin’ to somethin’ else and he never listens to anything else in the car... like, never.”

“So, he was upset about somethin’?” She gave Brooke the water. “Here, you should drink this.”

She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Michael was very upset... and he’s mad too...” She leaned up on one elbow so she could take a drink of the cool, refreshing water. “I’m not sure who he’s madder at... you or him.”

“Him?” Maria felt guilty about asking a drunken teenage girl these questions but she couldn’t help it.

Brooke giggled and shrugged. “Dunno... just know he’s mad... hurt... “ She hiccupped. “Are you gonna talk to him?”

“You think he’s hurt?” Maria ignored the last question; maybe Brooke wouldn’t notice it.

Brooke snorted and for some reason that sound was just hilarious. “No... I know he’s hurt.” She rolled her eyes at the question. “I don’t un’erstand how come you guys are both so smart an’ so stupid at the same time. Is he hurt...” She shook her head as she repeated the words. “Michael is like a... a... a stonewall, an’ he never lets anyone get past it ‘cause he could get hurt.” She shook her head and looked at Maria, trying to make her face shift into an expression of disapproval. “You hurt him... I dunno what you said... but... yep... he’s hurt. An’ he’s mad ‘cause now he thinks he made a mistake lettin’ you in like that...” She sighed tiredly and rubbed her eyes. “An’ now he’s mad at me too ‘cause I pretty much blamed him for you guys fightin’.” She hugged the pillow tighter. “So, now... he thinks I’m not loyal to him... so, I hurt him too.” She wasn’t even aware of the tears slipping from the corners of her eyes as she pressed her face into the soft pillow.

“I told him he’s selfish and doesn’t care about anyone but himself,” Maria admitted, and her heart hurt as she saw tears in Brooke’s eyes

“No,” Brooke denied, sniffling, “y’know he’s not like that... you wouldn’t say that to him.”

“Sorry, but I really did,” Maria said, her own eyes filled with tears now.

“How could you say that to him, M’ria? He’s let you see what he’s never showed to anybody else... you know how much trust he has to have in you to let you in like that? How real his feelings have to be?”

Maria was shocked by Brooke’s last sentences. Was she right? Had he really opened up for her? She felt like a horrible person right now.

Brooke swallowed hard when that unpleasant, queasy feeling pushed up into her chest. “M’ria?” she groaned. “I think I’m gonna be sick...”

“Uh, okay wait...” Maria looked around for something to give Brooke and the only thing she could think off was the empty popcorn bowl sitting on the counter. “Here, take that.”

Brooke just barely made it into an upright position before the alcohol she had consumed on an empty stomach made its reappearance. “Oh, God... I really am gonna die...”

Maria held Brooke’s hair back and rubbed her back; she knew the girl was probably going to be feeling sick for most of the next day, but compared to how miserable she herself felt right now, she would have gladly traded places with her.

“I want Michael,” Brooke whined. She was miserable and she just wanted the one person who had always made her feel better no matter what was wrong.

“Okay, I’m gonna call him.” She wondered if he would pick up the phone when he saw her number. Maria stood up and walked to the kitchen to get her cell phone out of her bag. “Okay,” Maria sighed, her heart pounding while she listened and waited for Michael to answer the call.
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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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