posted on 13-Dec-2002 4:15:29 PM
Disclaimer: This fic is based on/inspired by "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

Summary: Michael learns about the true meaning of Christmas.

Author's Notes: This takes place during Christmas 2001 on the show, Season 3. I was feeling not-so-much in the Christmas spirit and figured a good dose of Christmas writing would get me moving. Hope it does the same to you – Happy Holidays!

From "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens…

I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,
C. D.
December, 1843.

Now my turn…

I have endeavored in this Ghostly little fan fic, to borrow (quite heavily) from the Ghost of an Idea originally put forth by Charles Dickens. I do hope that it shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me (especially me since I intend no plagiarism with this story, and hope that it may stand on its own when complete). May it haunt their computers pleasantly, and no one wish to not feedback it.

Their faithful Friend and Fiction-supplier,
December, 2002.

Part 1

"It's crap, Maxwell."

"Michael," Max droned, sighing as he looked across the table at his brother/best friend. "Christmas is not crap."

"It is. Crap. Pure, bullsh!t, crap."

"You better not let Isabel hear you say that," Maria interjected, placing their orders of fries on the table.

"Why not?" Michael huffed. "I'm not afraid of the Christmas Nazi."

"I am then," Kyle gasped, sliding into the booth beside Max and reaching across to grab a handful of Michael's fries.

The quick slap he received to his hand sent him retreating back to Max's side of the booth, and he looked up at the brother of the "girl-most-feared-at-Christmas" pathetically.

"Please sir," he said in his best Oliver Twist voice. "May I have some fries?"

Max laughed as he pushed his fries towards Kyle and Michael settled back into his own seat, content that his fries were safe from the scavengers.

"Nice, Michael," Maria chastised. "Way to be in the Christmas spirit."

"What? Christmas is about giving people food?" he replied snidely. "Christmas is nothing but commercialized bullsh!t intended to make you spend money you don't have on crap no one wants to give to people you don't even like. And all you're left with is a fat VISA bill and a pile of your own crap that everyone else dumped on you."

Maria glared at his obviously convoluted understanding of what Christmas was really about and took a deep breath into her body.

"Michael," she said on the exhale. "First of all you don't even own a VISA, and secondly Christmas is about so much more than giving crap presents. It's about family and love and celebrating the birth of baby Jesus."

Michael sputtered as he took a mouthful of drink. "Jesus!" he exclaimed. "Please, Mary probably whored around so much that she didn't know who the father freakin' was."

"Argh," Maria screamed, throwing her hands over her head in desperation. "I give up, I give up! You'll see Michael. One day someone will make you realize what Christmas really means and you'll be sorry you ever said that."

She walked away, ignoring his mumbled, "Whatever" behind her back. He would see, he would, wouldn't he? Was there a way to show him that love and kindness were the driving factors of this holiday, not greed and… bullsh!t?

Pulling one of her aromatherapy bottles out of her apron she took a quick sniff, murmuring, "Please, someone show him what it really means, for God's sake."

"Done," came the whisper on the wind behind her and she shivered as she felt a cold chill tickle its way down her spine.

"He'll see," whispered the spirit. "Tonight."


Michael collapsed on his bed, exhausted from a day of hauling presents around town for one of Isabel's many "worthy" charities.

"Yeah, worthy," he muttered. "After they skim about 50% off the top they're more than worthy. Worthy my a$$."

He closed his eyes, trying to block out the noise racing through his head. This time of year always left him feeling a bit off somehow, like the world was moving faster and faster around him while he stood still, caught in the swift moving current, being pulled along rather than able to swim himself. The whole Christmas idea was complete idiocy to him; like he'd said that afternoon, it was a crap holiday invented by businesses looking for another excuse to milk their customers for money. And he was an unwitting pawn in their game. Just this afternoon, Isabel had made him throw down a total of $100 on people he had no intention of buying a gift for anyway.

"Crap," he mumbled as he buried his face in his pillow.

"I wouldn't call it that anymore if I were you."

"What the fvck?" Michael exclaimed, sitting up rapidly in his bed. His hand shot a burst of energy towards the ceiling light, sending it exploding into a shower of fragmented glass. "God damn," he swore as he tried again, this time somewhat slower, succeeding in turning on the lamp on his desk.

The faint light did little to penetrate the darkness of his room, but it was enough to see a figure leaning against his closed bedroom door, hands crossed over his chest.

"Who the fvck are you?" he said threateningly.

"Michael, Michael," the stranger intoned slowly. "Such language… and we used to be friends!"

"Friends? What?"

The shadowy form stepped away from the wall and neared the bed. Michael raised his hand to blast a hole the size of Texas in his chest, when the face suddenly came into view and he froze.


"In the flesh," Alex replied, taking a seat on Michael's bed. "Well, the ethereal flesh as it were," he added, laughing at his own joke.

"Okay, I'm dreaming, I'm just dreaming," the stunned boy mumbled, rubbing his hands roughly over his face and then pinching both arms forcefully. Opening his eyes he saw the figure of Alex Whitman still sitting before him and shrunk further back against the wall. "Okay," he said slowly. "I'm not dreaming. You're a… what? Ghost?"

"Well, we prefer the term not-of-this-Earth but yeah, I'm a ghost. Boo!"

"Jesus," Michael swore, staring wide-eyed at the boy before him. "So you're like dead, like right now, you're dead?"

"Michael," he replied slowly, standing up to wave his hand over the glass fragments on the floor. They floated up into the air, reforming into a light bulb in the socket. Light suddenly illuminated the entire room and Alex turned to say, "I've been dead for quite a while now actually."

"And learning stuff!" Michael exclaimed. "So you what, go around haunting people for a living?"

"No, just you actually. Well, and Isabel, but only once… well twice… or maybe…"

"Hold it," Michael stopped him. "Isabel talks to you, like she sees you?"

"No, no, it's not like that. She just had a hard time getting over it, you know?"

"Yeah I know. What about Maria? You ever think about paying her a visit? She still cries for you man."

"I know," Alex said softly, taking a seat at Michael's desk. "But she doesn't need me, Isabel did."

"And me? I sure as hell don't need you."

"Oh yes you do," the ghostly boy replied slowly. "More than you think."

Michael stared at him for a long moment, the order to explain unspoken but obvious in the air between them.

"You are about to embark on a journey. Somewhere along the way you sort of fell off your path and certain… beings, are going to put you back on it."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Tomorrow night, at midnight, you'll receive a visitor. It will be followed by another the night after, and another on the third night. Each one has a very specific message to bring, and together they'll tell you the way to find your path again."

"My path? Visitors? What the hell are you talking about man?" Michael asked, standing up to pace across his room.

"That's all I can say. Listen to them Michael, they know what they're talking about."

"This is fvckin' crazy. You come in here and tell me a bunch of sh!t about being a ghost and visiting people that need you, but I never asked for a visit, and I sure as hell don't need one. Then you go off about some visitors, who I can only assume aren't human, and you expect me to just swallow it?"

Michael paused with his back turned to Alex, seething as he struggled with the urge to turn around and punch a ghost. "Fvck it," he mumbled. "Not like it will hurt him."

He whirled around, fist poised to strike, and saw a room full of nothingness before him. "What the hell?" he muttered, turning around again. "Where'd you go?" he called. "Alex?"

Realizing that he was standing in his underwear talking to a person that didn't exist, Michael stopped quickly, running his hands through his hair as his brain processed the information it had just received.

There was no such thing as ghosts, right? It was just his imagination, a dream, sleepwalking, whatever – just not a ghost. There was no such thing as ghosts.

"Yeah buddy", he mumbled as he got back into bed. "And Alex thought there was no such thing as aliens."

[ edited 5 time(s), last at 22-Jan-2003 8:17:18 AM ]
posted on 16-Dec-2002 12:13:17 PM
Part 2

The next day Michael couldn't get the nagging thought out of his brain that he had dreamed about Alex the night before. He couldn't recall the details, but the very real idea that ghosts walked among the living tugged at the corners of his mind.

Thankfully he had to work an extra shift at MetaChem that evening and was excused from playing Santa's Little Helper for Isabel. Something about his dream involved her too, but he couldn't quite place his finger on it. He chalked it up to spending too much time bending to her every whim while Jessie was out of town on business and tried to enjoy the brief respite that work provided him.

When he entered his apartment late that night, he cursed at the blinking light of his answering machine, no doubt Isabel filling up his schedule for the final days leading up to Christmas. He wanted to crawl into his bed and forget the holiday had ever been created and decided he would attempt to do just that.

He tore off his work shirt and flopped onto his bed, still clad in his work pants and heavy boots. Too tired to even imagine removing them, let alone turning off the ceiling light, he reached his hand out to point towards the bulb. The action brought forth a sudden wave of déjà vu and he sat up in bed quickly, the full details of the night before rushing back into his brain. He turned his wrist over sharply to check the time: 11:59:56. He watched, transfixed, as the seconds ticked away to 12:00:00. Glancing around furtively, he exhaled audibly when no sign of a "visitor" appeared. Shaking his head at his gullible belief that Alex had actually been here, let alone spoke the truth to him, he lowered himself back into his pillows.

"Watch it, mister," a small voice exclaimed.

Michael leapt from his bed, whirling around to face the unannounced figure crouched upon his pillow.

"Okay, who the fvck are you?" he commanded slowly.

"Jesus, what did you get, a dose of stupid?" the child asked, standing up to stare defiantly at the taller boy.

"What? How the hell am I supposed to know…" Michael said, his voice trailing off as realization washed over him and he stood dumbly in the center of his room, his mouth hanging open.

"Good job, big man," the child applauded. "Only took you… 10 seconds. Not bad for a face you stare at every day."

Michael grabbed a T-shirt from the floor, pulling it over his head as he threw back, "Yeah, well it's not like I look like that anymore. What were you thinking with that hair?"

"Me?" Michael aged 7 shrieked. "What about you? You know the mullet went out in the 80s man."

"Mullet!?! Come here, I'll…" Michael lunged after the younger version of himself, cursing when his hand passed right through the youngster.

"Can't catch what you can't… feel!" the child taunted, turning around to wiggle his butt at the older boy.

Michael tried to touch the apparition again, his hand making contact with nothing but air when he aimed a smack at the wiggling bottom.

"Ha ha," young Michael laughed, turning to hop up on the desk, bringing himself closer to eye level with the taller version.

"How can you do that?" old Michael asked. "You're nothing."

"Ever see Ghost?"

Michael shot him a look that said he should know the answer to that one.

"Right," the youngster said, nodding. "I just figured that maybe your woman had you whipped. Did you know there are scented candles in your living room? Man, that's just not cool."

"For your information the candles are Max's, says it helps him relax, and my 'woman' never whipped me, and isn't my woman anymore either," human Michael grumbled.

"Whatever," the child replied. "But if you had seen Ghost, you'd know we can touch what we want, and pass through what we want, like this."

The tiny body suddenly dropped through the surface of the desk, landing on the floor without so much as a whisper. "See?"

"Holy fvck," the older boy mumbled, passing his hand in front of his eyes. "I have got to be dreaming this."

"Not a dream big man, not a dream."

"So what are you anyway, I know you're not a ghost."

"I'm an apparition."

"A what?"

"Apparition. I'm not a ghost really, just a representation of someone comforting to you, sent to bring you a message."

"What's the message?"

"You'll see, just hang onto my hand, we've got places to be."

"What are you gonna do? Pull me?" big Michael asked incredulously.

"Something like that," the child replied, yanking hard on Michael's hand as the two of them flew forward, right through the seemingly solid bedroom wall.

"What the… I can't do that!" Michael exclaimed.

"You can when you're with me!" the child yelled in response, their bodies flying quickly over the town of Roswell far below.

"Where…" Michael's voice stopped sharply as they approached a house, and flew right through the upper wall. "Jesus."

"Cool, hey?" mini-Michael asked.

Regular-sized Michael couldn't help the grin that spread across his face. "Yeah, kinda cool."

"Okay, now watch," the boy instructed.

Michael looked up to take in the scene before him. A family was crowded around a Christmas tree, a small child excitedly ripping into presents. He watched as the little boy opened one, yelped excitedly, and then turned to look around the room.

"Here Mikey," he called. "You open one."

Michael turned to look at the couch on his left, an exact replica of the tiny apparition beside him sitting there sullenly.

"That's you," he whispered.

"No sh!t man," the boy beside him said loudly. "It's you too."

Michael looked down, panic written all over his face.

"Don't worry, they can't hear you, we're spirits, remember?"

Taking little faith in what his spirit guide said, Michael turned back to watch the painfully familiar scene unfolding before him.

The little boy by the tree stood up and carried a present over to the Michael sitting on the couch. "Mikey," he prompted, pushing the package into inanimate arms. "This one's for you."

Michael snatched the present away from his foster brother, tossing it onto the floor with a growing pile of unwrapped presents.

"Aren't you gonna open 'em?"

"No, I'm gonna burn 'em."

"Mom!" the child called, running back across the living room to his mother. "If Mikey doesn't want his presents, can I have them?"

"No sweetie," the woman said softly, smoothing the boy's hair. "Michael can do whatever he wants with his presents, Santa left them for him."

She looked across the room at the scowling little boy sulking on the couch and smiled gently. Present Michael had to turn away from the scene, the memories it brought back threatening to knock him to the floor.

"They loved you," his guide offered.

"They wanted to adopt. Foster kids were just a means to an end. I wasn't going to be that for anyone."

"I know, but they kept that other little boy too you know. Even after they adopted the baby they wanted."

"I know. I beat him up in Grade 5."

The smaller Michael looked up at his bigger version, wondering how much more knowledge he could milk out of this situation. Seeing that the older boy had closed himself off from the happenings around him, no longer watching what the sullen child on the couch did, he reached up to hold the larger hand.

"Come on, next stop 1996."

Both Michael's flew through the air, landing outside the familiar Evans household. Looking through the window they saw 13-year-old versions of Max and Isabel ripping into a mountain of presents beneath a Christmas tree. Present Michael couldn't help but smile at the joy on their faces as he watched two very loved kids enjoy Christmas morning.

Then he heard a shuffle behind him and knew why the scene felt so familiar. He turned slowly to see a 13-year-old version of himself standing beside him. A crumpled Christmas present was clutched tightly in either hand, and he remembered vividly the care he had taken to make them.

As the young Michael looked through the window at the impressive gifts his two best friends were compiling, he suddenly turned and ran from the house. Old Michael watched, a pained expression on his face, as his younger self stopped at the garbage can on the corner and tossed the presents inside. He had to stop himself from running after the child, knowing he was powerless to make the young boy stop, his pain at being less than Max and Isabel ever deserved as real today as it was 5 years ago.

"Come on," the youngest Michael urged, reaching out to the older's hand.

"No," Michael mumbled lowly. "I know the rest. We're going to Hank's trailer, where Max and Isabel come over with a gift for me and I don't take it because now I've got nothing for them. Right?" he asked, turning to face his younger self. "I'm right, aren't I?"

"Kinda," the 7-year-old said. Chewing his lip lightly, just as his near adult version did, he added, "They loved you too, all of them did. You just never let them."

Michael closed his eyes, breathing in deeply as he mumbled, "I know."

When he opened his eyes a second later, he was in his bed again, lying face first on the pillow as he had just before the specter appeared. He rolled over, staring up at the ceiling as his brain slowly recovered the details of the dream he had just had. He was 7, no 13, and there was a guide, a little boy… him?

He sat up suddenly as the full memory of what happened rushed back and he pieced it together with last night's memory of his visit from Alex.

"Holy sh!t," he muttered, his face paling as he looked down to see a T-shirt on his chest, not there when he had gotten into bed. "Nobody is going to fvckin' believe this."
posted on 18-Dec-2002 11:16:06 AM
Hey thanks! More...

Part 3

Michael spent a sleepless night trying unsuccessfully to put resurfaced memories he had long since repressed back in their hiding place. They hit home just a little too hard though, the combination of both events only now being recognized as significant in his mind.

"So what?" he mumbled, rolling over to punch his pillow for the hundredth time. "So a couple of people tried to give me Christmas presents. Big deal." He had been saying that Christmas was too commercialized for years, this only supported his argument.

He rolled over again, unwillingly following his mind back to his first visitor. Alex had said there would be three of them, one on each of the next three nights. Michael pressed his lips together firmly; if the other two were anything like tonight, he could handle it.

What were a few old memories anyway, right?

As his brain finally submitted to the temptation of sleep, the answer to his question rang clear in his head.



Avoiding Isabel the next day was a full time job in itself, and Michael was glad when his shift at the Crashdown finally started. That was, until Liz asked him to close… with Maria. Just being in her presence was a twisted pleasure that often made him forget he had ever learned the English language.

Tonight was no different. She had been flirting with him pretty much since the minute they broke up. She had him on a string and she knew it. He wanted to give into her temptations, throw caution to the wind and allow himself to be carried away once more by hurricane Deluca. But he wouldn't; his resolve may not have been the strongest, but it was sticking, and he had so far resisted every impulse to fall back into the oh-so-familiar and comfortable pattern with her.

He suffered through the shift, and was standing in the back room, leaning against the door as she changed near her locker. He knew she made no attempt to hide her body from his view and her overt attempt at flirtation was almost effective. Almost… he wasn't going to let her play him like that. She couldn't just break up with him and then decide to get back together, or worse, say that they could sleep together but nothing else. He'd given in to her sex proposition once, he was half-human after all, but since the next morning when he had woken up to find her already gone from his bed, he had vowed that she would have no further effect on him; at least none that she could see anyway.

Pushing himself away from the door, he turned to open it, almost free from her clutches, when he heard her voice.

"You got plans?"

He paused for a second, at first debating if he should say no just to see what she wanted but then realized that yes, actually, he did have plans. Very spiritual plans as a matter of fact.

"Um, yeah, I do," he replied.

"Oh," she said softly, turning away from him. "With who?" she added, a forced cheeriness in her voice.

"A… friend," he answered, departing the back room for the clear night air outside.

Maria stared after him forlornly, closing her locker slowly as she followed him outside. She'd made the biggest mistake of her life ending it with him, and now every attempt she'd made at getting him back was pointless. He had a new friend – a new girlfriend no doubt.

"Great," she muttered, getting in her car as he watched her from the end of the alleyway. "Just freakin' great."


Michael watched her drive away and then started the long walk back to his apartment. She had offered him a ride earlier, but he had flatly refused, not wanting to be dependant on her for the slightest thing.

He intended on walking directly to his apartment, but somewhere along the way realized that he had taken a wrong turn, intentionally or not, and ended up in the park. Why was it that whenever he walked to clear his head he ended up here? He sat down on the picnic table where the last bit of happiness in his life had walked out on him just a few short weeks ago, and rested his head in his hands.

He was just losing himself to the river of crowded thoughts rushing through his brain when a sharp cough startled him and he looked up.

"Dude!" the guy in front of him exclaimed. "Why so low, bro?"

"Holy fvck," Michael grumbled, sitting up to stare at the grunge-clothed figure. "Don't tell me…" he stopped, turning his wrist over to look at his watch, 12:00:02, right on time. "What on Earth possessed them to pick you?" he asked.

"Well I s'pose nothing on Earth did dude, but I mean, come on! Who better? We're like twins, mirror images!"

"Oh yeah," Michael said, staring at Rath's mohawk, piercings and tattoos. "Identical."

"Whatever," he tossed back. "Let's get this shindig started," he instructed, reaching out to Michael with his hand.

"No way, I gotta hold your hand?" Michael whined, standing up to face his duplicate at eye level.

"You kiddin'?" the New Yorker exclaimed. "Dude, I'm not gay." Rath reached out and clasped his hand around Michael's forearm, tugging lightly as they took flight and soared through the skies.

Their first stop was only a few houses away, and faster than a dropping human without a parachute, they plummeted from the sky, landing with a thud in the Ramirez living room.

"Christ!" Michael complained, rubbing his a-ss where it had met the carpet forcefully. "You got a license to fly that thing or what?"

"Don't need one," Rath said, standing up without so much as a twinge in his not-actually-there bones. "It's all in the mind, Mikey. All in the mind."

"Whatever," Michael mumbled, struggling to his feet. No one had taught him the finer points of trespassing as a ghost yet, and Rath was by far the most 'to-hell-with-rules' guide he'd had thus far. "What are we doing here?" he hissed, looking around at Isabel and Jesse's living room.

"Watching," his twin replied. "Now shut up and listen."

Just then Isabel entered the room followed by Max. She was carrying two cups of coffee while he followed behind with a pan of ready bake brownies.

"Is, I just don't think it's that big of a deal," Max said as he waved his hand over the cookies.

The rich scent of chocolate penetrated the air as the siblings sat down and Michael could have sworn he heard Rath's stomach growling.

"Max, he is impossible, even more so than last year," Isabel answered. "He always thought it was a stupid tradition, but this year he wouldn't even pick out gifts for everyone, he made me do it."

"That's just cause you're so good at it," Max said, smiling through a mouthful of chocolaty goodness.

"I'm serious," Isabel whined. "He's moping around that apartment all by himself every night, you're never there, and he hasn't even got Maria anymore. And now it's Christmas and he refused my invitation to spend it here. What's he going to do? Cook a Swanson dinner?"

"If that," Max responded, his face falling as he realized the truth of Isabel's observations. "Well what do you want to do? He doesn't want our love Is, he never has. It's there, you know it is, and I think he knows it too, there's just no point in forcing it on him."

Rath turned to Michael, watching closely as his nearly identical, if not as good-looking, twin took in what Max and Isabel said. He waited for a few seconds and when Michael made no comment on what he had heard, the street punk sighed. "You got the message yet, dude? We got another place to get to."

Michael looked over at his guide, wondering if he was still susceptible to being blown up by alien powers. "Yeah, I got it," he grumbled. "Doesn't take a rocket scientist."

"Good, come on." Rath grabbed Michael's arm again, this time pulling him along at ground level so that they passed through every house on the street. "Cool, hey?" he shouted as images of half-naked women and couples having sex flashed by them. "Better than cable!"

"Jesus!" Michael exclaimed, turning his eyes forward to avoid most of the scenery. He had to look at these people on the streets, knowing their favorite sexual positions was not exactly his idea of a good conversation ice-breaker.

They soared upwards when the row of houses ended, flying through the night sky once more until Rath spotted his destination below and swooped down crazily. This time Michael reached out to grab onto the other boy with both hands, and managed to land as soft as a whisper, smiling smugly at his accomplishment.

"You're catching on, dude," Rath commented. "Next thing you know the big man will be recruiting you to do these jobs."

"No freakin' way," Michael mumbled, looking around to see where they had stopped this time. His face paled as he recognized the surroundings and he turned to his partner. "No way, man. Anywhere but here, come on."

"Alex's orders, dude. He's running this show."

"Whitman," Michael seethed. "You aren't too dead for me to kick your a-ss."

He looked around at the familiar sight of Maria's bedroom. So deliciously sweet to the eyes when he remembered the nights, and mornings, he had spent there, and yet so agonizingly tortuous when he remembered that he was no longer permitted free access to this sanctuary.

"Come on," Rath said, prodding Michael in the side with his elbow. "She must be in the bathroom."

"What the…" Michael started, grasping the wayward twin's arm as he turned to leave. "Don't you take one fvckin' step," he threatened.

"All right, all right," the pierced twin answered, holding up his hands in defeat. "But I bet that a-ss is sweet to look at," he teased.

Michael was just preparing to destroy the boy in front of him with sheer force of will, when he heard the door open, and looked up to see Maria enter.

She was wrapped in a thin robe, leaving little to the imagination. Michael observed this and tightened his grip on Rath's arm, pushing him face first against the wall. "Turn around and lose the piercings one by one, and I'll start with the nose."

"Okay, okay," Rath submitted, grumbling as he faced the wall obediently.

Satisfied that her honor was protected from the big alien, Michael turned around. He knew he shouldn’t be invading her privacy like this, but he had the distinct feeling that if he didn't suck it up and get whatever lesson Alex wanted to teach him, he'd be forced to repeat this night again and again. Once in such close proximity was more than enough.

Maria sat down at her vanity, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She pulled a brush slowly through her wet hair, mumbling incoherently under her breath. "Stupid… doesn't want to try… stubborn a-ss… stupid."

Michael took a step closer to the small girl, standing over her shoulder to hear what she was saying. He almost stepped back in surprise as he looked at her image reflected in the mirror, the space where his own likeness should have been eerily absent. Shaking his nonexistent head, he focused more closely on her pursed lips, straining to catch her murmurings.

"He never let me in, always pushing, pushing," he heard her growling.

The strokes of the brush through her hair picked up their pace, her words following the increase, spilling out of her mouth rapidly. "Stupid jerk, too contrary to get out of his own way for a bit of happiness," she mumbled.

The rapid brushing continued, waters droplets flying from the ends of her hair to spray on Michael's jacket. He looked down at them curiously as he listened to her ranting. She was talking about him, that much was obvious, but the emotion she exhibited was more than surprising. She had dumped him! She made the decision to end it, why on earth was she getting herself all worked up over whether he'd let her in or not.

He glanced in the mirror again, just in time to see her brush scrape sharply across her ear. She released the vicious weapon, sending it clattering to the floor as she clasped her hand to the recent injury. Tears pricked her eyes at the sudden stinging sensation and she blinked rapidly at her teary reflection in the mirror.

"Stupid jerk," she mumbled. Tears dripped down her face as she stared at herself for a long moment. Finally she opened her ruby-tinged lips to whisper, "Why won't you let me love you?"

Michael's mouth fell open as he listened to her confession. 'Let her love him?' He wasn't the one who'd told her to stop loving him. So now their breaking up was his fault too?

"Great Maria," he muttered, not caring enough that she was in obvious pain to ignore the sting her biting words caused him. "Blame me, I'm the reason you aren't in love anymore, yeah sure."

"Wrong lesson," the identical alien against the wall offered dryly.

A 'shut up' formed on his lips, but he swallowed it, pondering what Rath had said. Okay, so if it wasn't his fault, then whose was it?

"Getting colder," Rath intoned.

"Will you…" Michael retorted sharply.

"I'm just saying!" the other boy replied defensively.

Michael sighed, turning to look at Maria again. 'Why won't you let me love you?' That's what she said, right? Why don't I let her love me? Why don't I accept her… he left the thought unfinished as it's relation to the earlier visit with Max and Isabel became clear in his mind. A simple leap and he had connected it to the visits from last night as well.

They were all saying the same thing – he was unloved because he didn't let them love him.

"Bingo," Rath replied, turning around. "Let's go.

He grabbed Michael's arm and pulled him towards the wall. They were just vaporizing through the wallpaper when he whistled. "Woo! Hot lady you got there Guerin."

Michael resolved right then and there that he was one day going to wash his supposed twin's mouth out with soap, while he tied him to a bed and let rabid dogs feed on his more sensitive parts.

Before he had a chance to offer a retort, he opened his eyes to find himself sitting alone in the park again, any sign of his otherworldly visitor gone. He stood up to begin the slow walk towards his apartment, his mind so noisy that he knew he would doubtlessly end up back here in a couple of hours.

"They want to love me but won't cause I won't let them?" he asked no one in particular. "Well that's just stupid," he mumbled, the lesson still too fresh in his mind to give any effective meaning. "I never asked for their love," he added. "Screw them if they won't give it."

From his transparent position by Michael's side, Alex shook his head slowly. The guy almost had it, just wasn't quite ready to accept it yet. He was going to really have to pour it on good tomorrow night. He only hoped the fragile boy could take the potent imagery he had in store.
posted on 19-Dec-2002 3:27:21 PM
Hey, did I snag a dreamer!?! Wow!

Here's the next part...


Part 4

The next morning Michael dragged himself out of bed long enough to make sure Max had left and weld the door shut. Then he proceeded directly back to his bedroom, with one quick stop for snacks and CD's along the way, and buried himself beneath the covers. His weak attempt at smothering the voices in his head with food and Metallica was pointless and hours later he was only steps away from a full mental collapse.

"Ahhh," he screamed, leaping out of bed to pace across his room. "This is so fvcked up! I'm getting all worked up over… what? A ghost?"

He grasped the handle of his bedroom door, nearly pulling it from its hinges as he yanked it open. He stormed into the bathroom, leaning over to splash handfuls of cool water on his face. Dripping wet, he stood up to stare at himself in the mirror. Red circles rimmed the wild look in his eyes and his day of beard growth had left a dark shadow across his face. Running his fingers through his unkempt hair, he muttered to the image, "Jesus man, get a grip."

Taking a long look at the stranger staring back at him from the mirror, he admitted with defeat that he had to at least try and figure out the meaning of Alex's visitors. If he didn't, he would never find the relative peace he had enjoyed only days before.

Staring at his angry image for another moment, he growled and whirled away from the reflection. "Whitman!" he shouted. "Get your invisible butt down here. Now!"

Michael panted slightly as he looked around the room for any sign of his less-than-favorite phantom. "Alex," he called threateningly. "I am deadly serious man. I don't know what the point of this stupid lesson is supposed to be, but I sure as hell can't figure it out, and it's driving me crazy." He paused, listening for the telltale sound of Alex's nervous giggle, realizing immediately that even if he did appear, he probably wouldn't be afraid of big-bad Michael Guerin anymore.

"Alex!" he shouted. "You are not too dead for me to kick your a-ss!"

There was still no appearance of his ghostly friend, and Michael cursed loudly as he flopped down on his couch. If Alex wasn't going to come and give him the answer, he was just going to have to figure it out on his own. He knew that was the only way he would get the damn voices in his head to shut up.

"All right," he muttered. "Little 'me' showed me at Christmas, not accepting other people's gifts, I got that much. Then Rath," Michael frowned as he remembered the promise he'd made to torture a certain alien in the near future. "Definite soap torture," he added. "Okay, Rath, showed me Max and Is flippin' out, as usual, because I wouldn’t spend Christmas with them. I told her it's just because Christmas is a stupid holiday – I don't want to celebrate it anywhere, has nothing to do with them."

"And then Maria…" his voice trailed off as he remembered the sadness in her eyes last night. It had touched him while at the same time repelling him away from her. She thought that their being apart was his fault, and he was supposed to feel bad for that?

"Jesus, this is too hard!" he shouted at nobody. "Can we just do the next one now? I don't get it yet, tell me what it's all supposed to mean!"

"Good Lord boy, you don't have to shout."

Michael looked up with wide eyes at the apparition suddenly standing before him. "Where did you come from?" he asked.

"You actually," the man smirked, tugging at the edge of his eyebrow restlessly. "This place gives me the creeps, what a friggin' dive."

"Um, excuse me," Michael interrupted. "I sorta live here."

"Uh, yeah," the man replied sarcastically. "I sorta used to live here too."

The younger boy stared at the familiar face standing in front of him. The eyes were the same, just with tiny lines surrounding them, and the mouth, the mouth hadn't changed at all. The hair was different, cut tight against the back of his head while longer strands brushed his eyes lightly.

"Still to lazy to cut it yourself?" Michael asked.

"We never were good with the glamour stuff."

Michael nodded and stared thoughtfully at the older version of himself. He had to be in his 40s but was still in good shape…

"39, actually."

"Cool," the younger version said. "So, what do we do now? Are we rich?"

Older Michael sighed and shook his head at the expected questions. "Come here, I'll show you," he said.

"Aren't you a little early?" Michael asked as he rose from the couch and walked towards him, grasping the offered hand.

"We work flex hours," he explained as they walked towards the bedroom together. Just as they reached the door he added, "And yes, by the way, we're loaded."

The bedroom door swung open to reveal the interior of a spacious loft inside. Michael's mouth dropped open in awe as he stepped into the mahogany tinged room.

"This is mine?" he asked breathlessly.

"Yep, designed it myself."

"Very cool," he murmured softly, running his hands along the stainless steel counter top in the kitchen. Everywhere the mahogany wood was accented by silver – stainless steel in the kitchen and on the doors, silver fixtures peeking out from within the bathroom. As he walked into the living room he looked up at the 2 story ceiling and bedroom above. "Holy mother of…"

The loft occupied the top corner section of its building and the entire outside surface – two walls and ceiling – were tinted glass. Light drifts of snow cornered the panes that enclosed the luxurious abode and Michael turned around slowly, stretching his arms out as he let himself fall back into a soft, black leather couch.

"I've got it made."

"Um," his guide for the evening interjected. "Not exactly, watch."

Michael looked up as an identical version of the ghostly man sitting beside him descended the spiral staircase. He walked into the kitchen, pouring himself a cup of the freshly brewed coffee simmering there. Grabbing a newspaper, he walked back into the living room and grabbed a remote from the coffee table beneath Michael's feet.

Michael flinched out of the way, but quickly remembered that he was unseen and sat back to enjoy the couch a little longer. The fact that he was here to get a lesson escaped him and he simply watched with interest as the man pointed the remote at one of the solid walls.

He gasped as the rich brown panels receded upon themselves to reveal a panel of television screens behind. Each one was broadcasting a different station, none of them recognizable by Michael as his favorite ESPN. He stood up and walked towards the media display slowly, his face dropping as he began to recognize the stations for what they were – financial reports.

"What did you do to me?" he asked sharply, turning around to stare at his guide.

"Hey man, it wasn't me. This path was set in motion a long time ago."

"But I paint," Michael replied. "And I'm pretty good. This… this brain-sucking career is not what I did with my life!"

"I'm afraid it is. You sold out a long time ago, kid."

"Holy sh!t," Michael mumbled, turning to look back at the TVs again. "I really do this? Money stuff?"

"You'd do just about anything to make a deal."


"You don't like people," the man replied simply. "Money is impersonal, just numbers, or so you say. It just makes it easier to justify screwing someone over when you buy out their business rather than physically walking up and sticking the knife in their back."

"I can't believe I do that for a living."

"Hmph," the man muttered, "Wait 'til you see your love life."

Michael turned just then to see the most voluptuous woman he had ever laid eyes on, well except for in a magazine, walk slowly down the stairs. She ignored the current version of himself staring at the electronic displays and walked towards the kitchen.

"You don't mind if I grab a coffee, do you?" she called sweetly. When there was no answer, she mumbled underneath her breath, "Of course you don't, jerk."

Michael was right behind her as she poured, watching as she laid the coffee aside for a minute to scribble a note on a scrap of paper.

"You know, it's Christmas Day and all. You wanna get together later. I make a mean turkey. The breast is especially luscious," she said seductively, sauntering back into the living room.

"Yeah sure," the Michael absorbed in the televisions mumbled. "Leave your number."

She frowned as she tossed the paper she was holding on the counter and headed for the door. "A-sshole," she muttered. Turning at the last second, she grabbed her coffee and made her escape, not caring that she had just stolen a $50 coffee mug.

Michael picked up the paper and read its message, Candy – 555-3825.

"Sweet," he said under his breath, shoving the paper in his pocket.

"Hold up there kid," his guide interrupted, snatching the paper away from him. "She's not even born yet, you best leave her to me."

Laying the paper back on the counter, they both watched as the present Michael walked into the kitchen. Seeing the piece of paper on the otherwise spotless counter, he tossed it in the garbage without reading it. "Dames," he said under his breath as he refilled his coffee. "A dime a dozen."

"He's not going to call her again?" Michael asked. "Jeez, he must have a hot selection."

"You have no one," older Michael said sharply.

"What? But what about that Candy girl? She's obviously wants me."

"You don't get it do you? You could care less if a girl wants you or not. You haven't had a relationship last longer than 3 weeks since high school. Every time someone gets close, you move on to the next one. They're practically lining up outside your door and you take full advantage."

"Well at least I'm not lonely," Michael tried to defend himself.

"You're worse than lonely, you're ice! She was the only one who ever tamed your flames and when you let her go, it was like hell itself froze over."

"She who?" Michael asked slowly, already knowing the answer.

"She Maria," his guide replied flatly. "She loved you, and all she wanted was a little love in return, but no… that was too much for the big scary alien to give wasn't it? Instead you had to push her away, just like you've pushed away every person who's even approached your walls since, and live in here like a recluse. If it wasn't for the maid and the whores, I'd say you haven't had a genuine conversation with anyone in years."

"You know for someone who's supposed to be comforting to me, you're doing a hell of a job," Michael threw back angrily.

"I'm not here to coddle you. You turned into one arrogant son of a bitch, boy. You don't even care about yourself, let alone anyone else."

"Hey," Michael said loudly, obviously pissed at the direct tone of his spirit guide. "That is not true, I care about people."

"Yeah, who?"

"Well…" he stumbled, flustered by being put on the spot so suddenly. "Well, Max… and… and Isabel. And Maria…" he finished in a mumble.

"Ever told them?"

"I…" Michael started, his face flushing with embarrassment.

"You are ruining everything," future Michael said sadly.

"What the hell do you expect me to do?" Michael shouted. "I'm only 17 years old, you expect me to change the entire world?"

The older man reached out to grab the boy's arms forcefully. "No Michael. Not the entire world, just YOUR world."

"How am I supposed to do that?" he mumbled, wriggling to free himself of the tight hold.

"Have you been paying attention at all?" his guide shouted, raising his voice for the first time. "We've been showing you the answer every night, you've just got to put it together."

"But I don't know how," Michael whined.


"But, I…" he stumbled over his words. "But I look happy, right? I mean, look at all those TVs!"

"Idiot," the older man exclaimed. "It's Christmas Day and every person you ever dared to call a friend has either forgotten about you or is too tired of receiving your brush offs to even make an attempt at calling you. You're a workaholic, alone, and you'll be in the ground before you're 60."

"Well… well, that's still like 20 years, right?" Michael mumbled, dumbfounded by the dramatic statements being directed towards him.


"But I thought you said…"

"Look, when you hit 40 you start lying about it, okay?" Older Michael turned away from the very confused younger man and ran his hands through his hair quickly.

He added softly, "Look, I can't tell you what the lesson is. You have to figure it out. Think about it!"

Michael knew the answer, the lesson. He'd known it since the first night, he'd just been too embarrassed to admit it to himself. "I think… I think it's because they all try to love me and I won't let them? Maybe?"

The smile stretching across the man's face was brighter than any star on a Christmas tree could have been and he nodded his head slowly. "Finally," he said slowly. Walking towards Michael, he reached out to pat him on the shoulder lightly. "You know kid," he said. "You've got a lot of fire in there. Don't hide it away from everyone, use it. Throw it out there, so what if you get burned a little? It's called living. You do that, and I think you just might turn out all right after all."

Michael allowed himself a nervous smile as the loft around him slowly shrunk back to the size of his present bedroom. He glanced around wildly for any lingering signs of the expensive toys he had amassed. "Damn," he muttered, seeing only his second hand CD player.

Casting aside the thoughts of the luxurious life he could have led for the moment, he grabbed his jacket and keys. Looking at his watch, he noted that it was 5:00 PM, Christmas Eve. Only 1 shopping hour left before Christmas – he didn't have any time to waste.
posted on 20-Dec-2002 3:51:13 PM
Part 5

Michael knocked lightly on the Ramirez door. Isabel had invited everyone to exchange presents at her apartment on Christmas Eve weeks ago. He had quickly turned down the invitation, of course, and now he hoped that they were all still there as planned. He shuffled from one foot to the other as he waited for the door to open. He heard someone hurrying towards the door and planted a painful grin on his face as he waited for it to open.

It swung back and his grin disappeared, replaced instead with a full-fledged, honest-to-God, happy smile.

Maria stood with her hand on the doorknob, looking radiant in a royal blue, knee length skirt accompanied by a sparkling, silver, sleeveless top.

"Hi," she said tentatively, unsure of why he was standing there.

"Hey," he said softly. Shaking his head slightly he continued, "You look…" He glanced up to meet her eyes, faltering as the last word left his lips in a whisper, "…breathtaking."

A fast flush spread across her cheeks and she stepped aside to let him in, diverting her eyes from his. He did not actually just say that to her… did he? Her smile matched his watt for watt as she turned to lay down her drink, stammering, "Um... can I have… can I take your shirt… uh, coat?"

Her cheeks flushed even brighter and he let a brief laugh pass his quivering lips. "No, I'll keep it," he answered.

"Okay," she said, gesturing towards the living room. "Everyone's in there."

She followed behind him, taking the time to stop and glance at her reflection in the hall mirror. No amount of cover up would mask the redness on her face and she pressed her glass to her cheek in a desperate attempt to at least slow the spreading.

"Michael," Isabel exclaimed as he entered the living room.

"Hey," he said forcefully, his heart racing at just seeing all of them together. The last few days had been more than an adventure, they had been a journey of self-discovery, one that included intimate glimpses into some of their lives as well. He was more than a little uncomfortable with having witnessed what should have been private conversations, but he had come to the conclusion that if Max and Isabel knew how he felt right now, they'd gladly tell him the conversation themselves.

Maria, now that was a different story. He had no plans on telling any of them that Alex had visited him, who would believe him anyway? But he also didn't want to reveal that he had invaded their privacy, especially hers. He wasn't sure how she really felt about him, he thought he had a good idea, but still, acting on it and worrying about getting his heart stomped on wasn't exactly reassuring.

He swallowed thickly as he ran over the words he had composed to say to her. They seemed to assemble themselves a little differently every time and he wasn't sure he was going to be able to get them out at all, let alone make her understand that he sincerely meant them.

"So you um… you want something to drink, or…" Isabel fumbled. To say she was shocked at his appearance here this evening was the understatement of the year, if not the century, and she knew that one wrong word would send him bolting for the door. Besides, there'd be plenty of time to tease him about actually celebrating the 'crap' holiday tomorrow.

"Yeah, Coke," he mumbled, taking a seat next to Max and Liz on the couch.

Maria had just sat down next to Kyle across from him, and jumped up again suddenly. "I'll get it," she said a bit too loudly, anxious to give her cheeks more time to cool themselves. She hurried into the kitchen, the conversation rising once more to fill the space she had vacated.

Michael cleared his throat and looked after her longingly. Standing up, he mumbled, "Actually I want Pepsi," and took off after Maria.

Isabel followed the pair with her eyes, turning back to cast a knowing glance at the others seated in the room. They all suppressed a giggle at the obvious chemistry/tension between the pair. So right for each other and yet so perfectly wrong; a match no one, except maybe the two of them, could deny.

Michael entered the kitchen, glancing around at the empty room in confusion. He was about to turn around and see if she had slipped back into the living room when he felt a cool breeze pass his face and looked up to see the back door ajar. Walking across the room, he opened it slightly to peer outside. She was standing on the back porch, her bare arms wrapped tightly around her tiny frame, her entire body shivering slightly in the crisp air. He shrugged out of his jacket soundlessly, stepping forward to slip it onto her shoulders.

She jumped, recovering quickly to pull the warmth around her tightly, not turning her head as she replied, "Thanks."

He placed his hands on her shoulders, rubbing the jacket to generate further heat for her chilled skin, the words he had to tell her spinning recklessly around his brain. He was just opening his mouth to attempt some order to the madness when she spoke.

"What's this?"

He glanced over her shoulder to see her hold the jacket open slightly, the red-wrapped corner if a package peeking out from his inside pocket. "Oh," he replied softly. "Presents."

She turned her head to glance back at him, the questioning look in her eyes powerful enough to not require an actual question from her mouth.

"I just figured it would be nice," he mumbled.

"Which one's mine?" she asked lightly, struggling to push a cheeriness into her voice that she did not feel in the awkward situation.



"No, it's not like that," he said quickly, his hands stopping their motion to sit idle on her shoulders. "I got you something, I just couldn’t wrap it."

"Oh, I see," she said, not seeing at all.

"It's um… it's sort of like… well I wanted to… Jesus!" He stepped away from her, running his hands through his hair as he shook his head in frustration. What was wrong with his tongue? It was connected to his brain this morning just fine, but now? He turned to look at her, tugging at his eyebrow forcefully as he fought to regain control of his wildly spinning thoughts.

Tilting her head to the side slightly, Maria turned to face him and walked a few steps closed the gap that had opened between them. Gently, she reached out to lay her hand on his arm, his nervousness vanishing almost instantly into her touch. "What is it?" she asked softly, not knowing herself where her calm in the storm of emotions swirling inside of her came from.

"I, uh…" he struggled. Taking a deep breath, he dropped his hand to his side, her hand falling to rest against his fingers lightly. "I, um… I want to give you… um, an apology."

"For what?" she asked, completely taken by surprise that these were the words he struggled with.

"For, uh… for just being, you know… a jerk. For, um… for not trying. For not letting you try."

Her brow furrowed at him just a little, and his heart raced at an impossible speed as he tried to find additional words to explain what he meant.

"I just… well, you were trying, all the time, to just… to just love… and I… I didn't let you do that. And I should have. I, uh… I think I would have liked that, if I had just…" his voice trailed off, his brain unable to offer any more words. He'd said it to her, he'd told her what he'd come here to say, now the only question was did she understand. Well that and had he actually spoken the words in English?

"You," she whispered delicately, her voice quivering faintly. "You would have liked it if I loved you?" she asked.

"No," he responded quickly, the desperation in his voice unmasked as he hurried to make her understand his true intent. "No, you did love me, I knew that, I just didn't let it in, and for that I'm sorry. I think we could have been really good."

The look on her face didn't waver and he was sure his breathing ground to a halt as he waited for her to do something, say anything, curse, swear, anything but the deafening silence.

"We still can?" she said softly, her voice barely audible as it both made a statement and asked a question.

His breath suddenly returned, rushing into his lungs rapidly as his face cracked, matching the shaking in his voice. "We… we can?"

"Yes!" she gasped, flinging herself upwards to wrap her arms around his neck tightly.

"Oh God, I missed you," he murmured against her neck, his face buried in her hair. He pulled back just slightly, lowering her as he sought out her lips. They were red tonight, and shiny. He pulled them gently between his own and smiled, they tasted like cherries, he loved it the most when they tasted like cherries.

"What are you two…"

Isabel's voice pierced the night air as she flung the door open to look for them. They separated their faces, but not their embrace, both stupidly grinning as they watched her face go through a range of emotions from shock, to disbelief, to understanding, and then elation.

"Ahh," she screamed, turning her head back towards the living room. "Liz, Max, come here, it's a real Christmas miracle!"

"Isabel," Maria teased, allowing herself to be placed firmly back on the ground as Michael gently pushed her inside the apartment. "I don't think this really classifies as miracle status."

"Oh yes it does," Max chimed in, following Liz, Kyle, and Jesse as they all piled into the kitchen. "Michael Guerin celebrates Christmas and gets the girl – classic holiday miracle."

"Jeez," Michael grumbled, suddenly embarrassed again by the unwanted attention directed at him. "You think a guy never celebrated Christmas before."

"Well you haven't," Isabel replied.

Michael nodded slowly, chewing his lip as he looked back down at Maria for a moment. "No, I haven't, not really. Here," he said quickly, reaching inside the jacket that now rested around her shoulders to retrieve his gifts. Passing them out to once again shocked faces, he smiled as he watched them each tear into the wrapping.

Maria leaned against him, looking up into his face so happy to be celebrating the holiday for a change. "It's maybe a little miracle?" she suggested lightly.

Michael leaned down to meet her lips with his once more, smiling to himself as he thought, 'Maybe just a little.'

Somewhere high above the heartwarming scene taking place in the tiny town of Roswell, New Mexico, a harp played softly as a disembodied spirit stepped forward to receive his own very special Christmas gift – Alexander Charles Whitman had just received his wings.

The End – Merry Christmas!!!