'tis the Season:
Fudge and Mistletoe and Elves, Oh My!

"Hey Liz," Max said as he slipped in beside her in the school halls.

"Hey Max," Liz replied, smiling.

Her smile made Max feel giddy. She was so perfect. He didn't know what he ever did to deserve her.

"When are you leaving?" she asked.

"First thing tomorrow morning," he told her.

"So soon?" Liz asked, surprised. "I didn't realize you were leaving so soon."

"It was the only flight available."

"When will you get back?" Liz asked, shifting her books so that she could carry them more comfortably.

Max swung his backpack onto his other shoulder. "The day before school starts."

Liz stopped in surprised. The person behind her had to move quickly in order to avoid running into her. "You aren't going to be around at all during the holidays?"

"Well, we haven't seen our grandparents for nearly four years, so my parents thought it would be a good idea if we went for a long visit."

The Evanses were going to Buffalo for the Christmas holidays, to visit their family. Phillip Evans had grown up there, moving to New Mexico for College. When he met his future wife, who was from Roswell, and they got married, he stayed there. The rest of his family, however, was still living in New York, so they weren't able to see each other often.

"Which reminds me," Max said, pulling his back off his back and reaching into it. "Well, actually, it doesn't remind me, but I suddenly remembered, so I thought I'd bring it up."

A grin broke out of Liz's face. "Max, you're babbling."

"Yes," Max said, still searching his backpack. "I am, aren't I."

Liz nodded.

"Anyways," continued Max, "I have something for you. I hope you like it."

"Oh, Max, you shouldn't have," Liz said as he finally pulled out a long, thin present out of his bag. It was wrapped in green metallic paper with a perfect looking bow on top.

Liz had a curious expression on her face. Max wondered if it was because she was curious about what the present was, or if she wanted to know how he managed to keep the present looking almost perfect after it had been laying in the bottom of his backpack all day.

Unwrapping the present, Liz gasped when she saw what was inside. It was a delicate sterling silver necklace. "It's beautiful," she breathed, pecking him on the cheek.

She turned her head and dug into her own bag, missing, much to his relief, Max's blush. "I have something for you, too," she said, not looking up.

The bell rang. "I'll give it to you in class," she said. "C'mon."

They ran to class and slipped into their seats just as their teacher started to speak. She glared at them and the rest of the class, who had also arrived after the bell.

"Quiet down, class," she said. "Now, I know it's the last day before Christmas holidays, but, and this may come as a surprise to some of you, it is still a school day. Since it is a school day, we will work today." As one the class groaned. A low mutter was heard around the room.

Ms Hardy glared until they settled down again. "We will be doing a lab today. One person for each group can come up and get the papers. You have a choice, now. You can either make toffee or fudge."

Hearing this the entire class, most of whom had fallen asleep, perked up. Although judging be the murmurs and the surprised expression on everyone's faces, everyone was wondering if they heard wrong, only one person dared to ask, "Excuse me?"

"You heard me," Ms Hardy said, smiling, "Today we are going to make candy."

"Isn't this a biology class?" one of the people in the back row asked. His partner shushed him.

"It's the last day before Christmas holidays. Do you want to be doing real work?"

Most people shook their heads, some said "no" aloud.

"Okay, it's settled then. Come get the sheets and we'll get started."

"What," Isabel said, clearly pronouncing and emphasizing every word, "is that?"

Max and Liz looked down at their . . . masterpiece. "Fudge," Liz chuckled.

Isabel raised an eyebrow at the so-called fudge. "It looks disgusting, " she said. "Isn't fudge supposed to be hard?" The giggling girl nodded. "That looks more like soup than fudge."

"Don't look at me," Max said, containing his mirth only a tiny bit better than his lab partner. "I wanted to make toffee."

Liz stopped laughing and grew deadly serious. "It didn't turn out well," she said, managing to keep a straight face the entire time.

She snuck a look at Max and lost all control. They both burst out in laughter again.

Isabel sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes towards the heavens.

"Fine," she snapped before storming off towards the cafeteria.

Liz immediately sobered up. "she isn't upset, is she?" Liz asked anxiously.

Max smiled indulgently. "No, she's fine. She's just being Isabel. C'mon, let's get rid of this and get to the cafe." He pulled Liz towards the trash can.

Liz jerked her arm away. "We can't just throw this out," she said in mock horror.

Max looked at her, perplexed. "What else will we do with it?"

Liz smiled brightly. "Eat it."

"Oh, no." Max backed away, his eyes wide with terror, a horrified look on his face. "There's no way I'm eating that."

"You're right." Max sighed of relief. "It isn't solid enough to eat. We'll have to drink it."

"What?" Max exclaimed.

"C'mon," Liz begged. She raised the dish to her lips and took a sip. "It's good."

Max scrunched his face. "Isabel was right. That's disgusting," he said.

"Actually," Liz corrected. "It's surprisingly good. Very chocolately."

She had backed max up into a wall. There was no where for him to go, and they both knew it.

"Pwetty pwease," Liz asked, her bottom lip thrust out in a pout and her sad eyes looking at Max pitifully.

"Fine," Max sighed, resigned to his fate. He reached for the tray, then snatched it from Liz and threw it into the garbage can.

At least he threw the container into the garbage. The fudge, still being in a liquid stated, didn't stay in the tray.

Liz squealed as some of it landed on her face. The rest found a home all over the hall.

Max and Liz took one look at the mess, then ran as fast as they could.

"Look who's finally decided to join us," Isabel said dryly when Max and Liz arrived breathlessly at their table.

"What happened to you?" Maria asked, staring at the state of her friend in amazement.

"There was a little incident with some fudge."

"I don't want to know," Isabel said. Taking a quick look around to see if anyone was watching, she went up to Liz and cleaned her up.

"Thanks," Liz said smiling.

"So," Alex asked, "Are you guys all going to Tish's party tonight?"

"Mmm hmm," Isabel said, meaning yes.

Everyone else's answers were easier to decipher. Both Liz and Michael said "yes" out loud, and Max and Maria nodded.

Maria looked at her watch. "I have to get going!" she exclaimed.

"Why," Isabel asked, after consulting her own watch, "We've still another fifteen minutes before class starts."

"You'll see," Maria said mysteriously. "C'mon Liz." She pulled her best friend away from the table.

"I'm not finished," Liz protested in vain.

"You can finish later. Come on."

"Okay, that was weird. Do you know what it was about?" Isabel asked Alex.

"I haven't the faintest idea," he answered, shrugging his shoulders.

The four teens finished their lunches in silence. Ten minutes later they gathered their stuff and headed for class.

Mr. Minas, knowing his students, didn't even try to make them work. He had promised his class several weeks ago they could have a party.

He had told them to bring in music, snacks, and whatever else they wanted. The students had free-reign the entire period provided they obeyed all school rules. The only other restriction Mr. Minas had was that they couldn't be too loud. The reasoning behind this was that if another teacher complained about the noise level, the whole deal would be called off. Mr. Minas had informed them the day before he had prepared a lesson plan and a chapter of homework for over the holidays for that eventuality.

Evidently the threat was working, for when Michael, Max, Isabel and Alex entered the room, the music, although loud, could barely be heard out in the halls.

Liz and Maria weren't there yet. Geography was the only class all six of them had together. Isabel immediately separated from the group and went off to join her other friends. The boys stood off to one side talking and enjoying the music. The bell ran. Maria and Liz still weren't in class. Max was starting to get worried. He wondered where they were and what was taking them so long. Or, to be more truthful, Max was wondering about Liz.

It was another fifteen minutes before Alex and Michael also started looking around anxiously. Isabel wandered over. "Where're Liz and Maria?" she asked.

Max shook his head, bewildered. "I don't know."

Before he could add anything else, there was a commotion in the hall. The music was turned off and everyone rushed to the door to see what the matter was.

It was Santa. Well, Mr. Minas dressed up in a Santa suit. Max hadn't even noticed him leave. Mr. Minas wasn't alone. With him was Liz and Maria . . . dressed up in elf costumes. Max stared with his mouth hanging open at Liz, dumbstruck. Liz noticed his stare and blushed.

After making her way up to him, she whispered furiously, still blushing, "Maria made me."

Max grinned at her. "I think you look rather cute."

Actually he thought she looked very hot in it. The outfit was small and tight. It was in a shade of forest green that suited Liz's complexion perfectly, in Max's opinion. But then, he thought everything Liz wore suited her perfectly. Or maybe it was just because she herself was perfect.

Out of the corner of his eye, Max saw Michael staring longingly at Maria, who was wearing an outfit identical to Liz's except it was dark blue instead of green. Max suspected that Michael was seriously rethinking his current relationship status with Maria.

Liz reached into a bright red handbag at her side and pulled out a candy cane. She handed it over to Max. "I'm supposed to be giving these out," she said. "Merry Christmas."

Max took the candy cane. "Thanks," he said.

"I should probably give these out to other people, then" Liz said, shifting her weight to the other foot uncomfortably.

"You probably should," Max agreed.

"Okay, then," Liz said. Then she turned and started to distribute candy canes to the other kids.

Max walked over to Michael, who was still staring at Maria. "Maybe you should go talk to her," he suggested.

Michael started. "What?" he asked. "Talk to who?"

"Maria," Max said.

Michael avoided Max's gaze. "I don't know what you're talking about," he lied.

Max studied hi friend for another minute before dropping the subject. "Okay."

Liz and Maria finished handing out the candy canes. Then Santa and his elves left the classroom. The music was turned on again.

Isabel stared after the retreating group incredulously. "I can't believe they actually went through with that."

Max looked at his sister in shock. "You know about that?" he asked.

Isabel shrugged. "I knew Mr. Minas asked them to do that. I didn't know they'd agreed. Last I heard, Liz was swearing she would never do it. Wonder what made her change her mind."

"She said Maria made her," Max offered.

"That is the kind of thing Maria is into," Alex said.

Isabel just shook her head again. "I still can't believe it. I wouldn't be caught dead going around in an elf costume at school."

Maria and Liz entered the class twenty minutes later in their regular clothes to a round of applause and laughter. They both blushed and rushed over to Max and the others.

"It's the elves," Alex said.

"Shut up, Alex," Liz said. "Maria? You owe me big time."

"C'mon," Maria wheedled, her eyes twinkling. "You had fun."

"Well," Liz hesitated. "Maybe. But I will never do that again."

Maria said nothing, but rolled her eyes. It was obvious she didn't believe Liz's declaration. Neither, apparently did Alex, for he said in a stage whisper to Michael, "Ten bucks says Maria'll convince Liz to dress up again before the year's over."

Liz hit Alex in jest. "Oww," he said, holding his shoulder. "That hurt."

"You deserve it," Liz told him.

The bell rang suddenly and Liz looked up in surprise. "Class is over already?"

"But we missed the party!" Maria whined.

"Yeah," Michael smirked. "But you got to dress up as elves."

Maria ignored him, to the relief of Max. Ever since the party, they had been at each others throats more than usual, if that was possible. Michael, it seemed, had said something very stupid to Maria and hurt her. Max wasn't sure why. He knew Michael cared a great deal about Maria and, based on her reaction, Maria felt the same about him. He didn't know why they were torturing themselves like that.

Everyone grabbed their stuff and started to go. "Oh," Liz cried suddenly. "I forgot to give you your gift!"

"Max," Isabel called from down the hall impatiently, "Hurry up!"

"One sec, Izzy," he called back. "Well," Max said, turning back to Liz, "You're going to be at the party, right? Bring it there. Gotta go." With that he ran to catch up to his sister and they walked off to class together.

"Are you all packed?" Diane Evans poked her head into her son's room and asked.

Max looked up from where he was sitting beside his suitcase. "Almost," he said.

"Well, hurry if you want to go to that party. We leave first thing in the morning."

"I know, mom," Max said, rolling his eyes. He added the last of his clothes to the suitcase and closed it. It shut easily. He even had room to spare.

Meanwhile in the next room Isabel wasn't having as much luck. "Close, you stupid thing," she muttered.

"Need help?" Max asked, leaning against the door frame looking into his sister's room.

Isabel glanced behind her shoulder at him. "Sure," she said, throwing her hands up in the air in frustration. "I can't get this stupid thing closed."

Max walked over and looked into Isabel's suitcase. "You have too much stuff in it. You'll need to take something out."

"But I need everything I have," Isabel protested.

"Why don't you get a second bag, then," Max suggested.

Isabel pointed to spot beside her bag. Max looked and saw another suitcase sitting there. "I already thought of that," she said.

Max rolled his eyes. "You've already filled two bags?" he exclaimed.

"Yes," Isabel said in an all suffering tone. "I've already filled two bags. Now are you going to help me or not?"

"I have some extra room in my suitcase if you'd like," Max offered.

"How'd you manage that?" Isabel asked, mystified.

"I didn't pack my whole room," Max said pointedly.

Isabel ignored him and opened her suitcase up. She took out her makeup case and two sweaters and handed them to her brother. "Here, that should be enough."

Max took them and packed them in his bag. Even with the extra stuff, his suitcase still closed. Isabel sighed and shook her head. She went back to her own room muttering something about boys and the way they packed.

Max also shook his head and had similar thoughts to those of his sister. He didn't understand why girls had to bring so much along with them. His mother was the same way. He suspected that between her and Isabel, they'd pack the entire house if they had the choice. Then Max stood up and brought his suitcase downstairs to the front hall where it joined his parents'. Isabel was bringing her bags down, too.

"Have you wrapped Michael's present yet?" she asked.

Max shook his head sheepishly. "I was kinda hoping you'd do it, since you're so good at wrapping presents and you're such a great person."

Isabel rolled her eyes. "Fine. Where is it?"

"It's up in my room."

"Okay, get the tape and the ribbon. I'll get the wrapping paper. You, my dear brother, get to help."

Max nodded and ran to get everything. He was happy at the way things had gone. He hadn't expected Isabel to refuse to wrap it, she loved wrapping presents, even if she did act like it was a chore. He'd been expecting more of a fuss from her, however.

When he reached his room, Isabel already was in there, searching it thoroughly. "You gift isn't hidden in here," Max joked.

"Ha, ha, very funny," Isabel said darkly. "As if I'd be looking for gift before Christmas."

"Not when I'm here," Max agreed. "At least you haven't been that obvious about it since you were ten."

"I'm hurt," Isabel said, "That you would even suggest that I try to peak at my presents before Christmas."

"I never actually said that."

"You meant it. Now, did you want me to wrap the present? Or are you just going to insult me?"

"Can't I do both?" Max asked.

"Shut up, or you can wrap Michael's gift yourself," Isabel told him.

"I'll shut up," Max quickly said.

"So," Isabel asked, "Where's the gift?"

Max went to his closet and pulled out some of the boxes that were in it. He spread them out and took everything out of the one that had been on the bottom. Finally he pulled out Michael's gift.

Isabel raised her eyebrows, silently asking about the elaborate hiding space. Max chuckled. "You aren't the only one that regularly searches for your Christmas gifts. Oh, and just so you know, I haven't put any of yours in their for three years, and I'm not going to in the future."

"Just give me it," Isabel said, grabbing the gift. She sat down and wrapped it up while Max watched, bored. "Okay," she said when she started to put on the ribbon. "Finger."

Max groaned. "Can't you just . . . " he waved his hand over the bow.

"No," Isabel said firmly. "It has to be done correctly. Finger," she repeated. Max reluctantly put his finger down to hold the ribbon in place.

Isabel finished the bow. "Done," she said sweetly.

Max removed his finger. "Thanks, Izzy," he said.

"Yeah, yeah."

"So what time should we be going to the party?" Max asked.

"Well, it starts at seven, but I told Tish we'd probably be late, so we should probably leave around seven-thirty."

"Okay," Max nodded. That meant he should be ready for quarter to eight at the earliest.

Max and Isabel approached festive house at eight. Max had been too generous in his estimation of how late his sister would be. They could hear Bing Crosby songs from the sidewalk. The party was already in full motion.

No one heard Isabel ring the doorbell, so after a moment she gave up and they went inside. The music was even louder indoors. Isabel immediately spotted Tish and headed towards her. Max followed.

"Mistletoe, mistletoe," the call went up from some of the boys hanging around the doorway. Isabel stopped suddenly, causing Max to almost run into her. She looked up and Max unconsciously followed her gaze. Hanging directly above them was a sprig of mistletoe.

Isabel growled and glared hatefully at the leering boys who had called mistletoe. "Don't even start," she warned.

Then she stalked off while Max looked around. He spotted Liz in the corner, talking to Maria. He smiled and walked over to her.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," Liz said, a smile lighting up her own face.

Maria looked between the two of them. "I'll just go get a drink," she said, her amusement apparent.

"Okay," Liz said absently, not taking her eyes off of Max.

"So," Max started, cursing his inability to think of anything better to say.

"So," Liz answered. She didn't seem to have anything to say either.

Suddenly Liz burst out laughing for no reason Max could see. He frowned, puzzled. Liz saw his confusion and apologized. "I'm sorry," she said between giggles. "It's just - I just thought it was funny. I mean, our conversation. 'So,' 'so,'" she mimicked.

"Yeah," Max agreed. "It was kind of funny. So," he began, grinning with a twinkle in his eye. "You been here long?"

"About half an hour," Liz told him. "Where've you been?"

"We had to finish packing. And Izzy took a long time getting ready."

"Oh," Liz said. She brought the glass of punch she was holding to her mouth and took a sip.

"Are you doing anything over the holidays?" Max asked.

"Not really," Liz said. "My family is having a Christmas dinner, and Maria and I will probably go down to Albuquerque one day to shop, but other than that, nothing."

"Sounds like fun."

"Not really," Liz admitted. "I mean, it's not like going to New York. That must be fun."

Max shrugged. "I dunno," he said. "I mean, we're staying with my aunt, and we barely know her. It's been six years."

"I thought you were staying with your grandparents," Liz said, confused. "And didn't say you saw them four years ago?"

"I did," Max explained, answering the second question. "My grandparents came out here four years ago. But we haven't been to Buffalo in six. I haven't even met one of my cousins. And I haven't seen the other two since they were babies."

Liz smiled sympathetically and gave his hand a squeeze to comfort him. "It'll be okay. They're your family after all."

"They're my family," Max echoed.

"But why aren't you staying with your grandparents?" Liz asked again after a moment had passed.

"My dad and aunt were close when they were young," Max explained. "So he wants to see her. And," he added, smirking, "My grandparents are on a cruise. We're going to be there before them."

"Oh," Liz exclaimed.

"I know, it's strange considering we're going there to visit them."

"Hey, Max. Hey, Liz."

Max turned around and saw Michael standing behind him, a glass of punch in his hand.

"Hey Michael," Max said, mildly annoyed with his friend for interrupting his conversation with Liz.

"Hi," Liz said, almost shyly. She and Michael still weren't getting along too well. Max wished Michael would make more of an effort.

"Watch'ya talkin' about," Michael asked.

"Nothing, really," Max said. He was reluctant to remind Michael of the fact he and Isabel had family to spend Christmas with while Michael had no one. Max knew how hard the Christmas season was on his friend.

"Just taking about our plans for Christmas," Liz added, unaware of Max's deliberate omission.

Michael stiffened slightly. Max was sure he was the only one who noticed. "I see," he said mildly.

"Which reminds me," Max said, trying to change the subject. "I brought your present, Michael. It's in the jeep."

"Okay," Michael said.

"Want to get it now?" Max asked.

"Sure." Michael finished his drink and set the empty glass on a table.

Max turned to Liz and gave her an apologetic smile. "I won't be long."

"I'll wait here."

After flashing Liz another smile, Max turned and led his best friend out to the jeep. He opened up the car and took Michael's present out. Michael reached out to take it, but before he could grab it, Max pulled it away and looked at Michael sternly.

"Now, you aren't going to open this until Christmas, are you?"

Michael rolled his eyes and reached for it again without saying anything. Max refused to let go.

"No, I'm serious."

Michael sighed. "Fine," he promised, repeating the words impatiently, "I won't open my present until Christmas Day." He was lying through his teeth. Max knew Michael would open it up as soon as he got home.

Max suppressed a sigh and gave him the gift. At least he tried.. Michael held the present up to his ear and shook it, trying to figure out what was inside. Max grinned as he watched his friend act like a child.

"Remember, you can't open it till Christmas."

"God, Max," Michael exclaimed, exasperated. "I'm not going to open it. Now stop bugging me about it and let's get back to the party."

"Okay, then," Max nodded.

As soon as he got into the house, Max hurried back to Liz, Michael following him. They found her where they left her; she was talking with Maria.

"Oh, hi, Max," Maria said. Then she frowned slightly. "Michael."

"Maria," Michael greeted, just as distantly.

Liz caught Max's eyes then rolled her own. Max smiled slightly in response. Michael and Maria had been dancing around each other for weeks.

"I was just leaving," Maria said stiffly.

"You do that," Michael responded.

"No, Maria," Liz protested, grabbing her friend's arm to keep her from leaving.

"What?" Maria asked.


"I don't think that's such a good idea," Maria said, glancing at Michael.

"Oh, don't leave on my account," Michael said, in a mocking tone.

Maria flushed. "I'm not leaving because of you."

"Then why are you leaving?" Michael asked innocently.

"It's none of your business," Maria snapped.

Michael rolled his eyes in an exaggerated motion. Maria flushed even further. "Fine," she said. "Maybe I won't leave."

"Fine, then," Michael answered in an angry voice.

Both of them seemed angry, but it was obvious they were secretly pleased. Obvious, that was, to everyone except Michael and Maria.

Meanwhile Liz had moved closer to Max. "Why don't they just admit they like each other?" she asked softly and frustrated.

"I don't know," Max said, also speaking quietly.

"I wish they would just admit it and get it over with. I'm sick of them fighting."

"Knowing Michael, we're in for a lot more of this. He's not going to admit anything any time soon."

"Neither will Maria. At least, not after what happened."

"Not after what happened?" Michael asked suspiciously. They had finished arguing while Max and Liz were talking and apparently overheard the end of the conversation.

Liz was startled. "We, uh, we," she stuttered, panicked.

"We were wondering if you two were going to stop fighting," Max answered smoothly and truthfully. He decided that Liz wasn't any good at lying and decided to make a mental note of that for future reference.

"We're done now. That is," Michael glared at Maria, "unless she decided to start it again."

"What! Me? I start nothing," Maria protested. "You, on the other hand . . . " she trailed off suggestively.

Liz cut of Michael's retort. "Enough!" she said firmly. "It's Christmas time. You guys should be having fun, not fighting. 'tis the season, after all."

It was the wrong thing to say. Although Maria looked a little ashamed, Michael just scowled. "Don't give me that crap," he said.

"Michael," Max warned.

"No, Max, don't 'Michael' me," Michael said angrily. "I'm sick of all the Christmas cheer and good will towards men. I'm outta here." Having said this, he stalked off.

Both Liz and Maria looked crushed. Maria ran after him and blocked his way when he tried to get through the door.

"Wait, Michael," she started.

Michael said nothing but tried to get by her. She grabbed him to keep him from passing her.

"Let go," he growled.

"No, Michael, I won't let go," Maria said angrily. "I don't care if you want to be Scrooge, but you hurt Liz's feelings."


"So?" Maria exploded. "So you don't have to go all bah humbug on my friends!"

"Bah humbug?" Michael repeated, not sure what she meant by that.

"Just because you've decided the season sucks doesn't mean you have to ruin it for everyone else."

Finding nothing to say to that, Michael said again, "Get out of my way."

He tried to push her aside, but for the third time Maria stopped him. They were now under the mistletoe. Everyone around them, who had basically been ignoring the couple up until this point, started staring at them.

"What?" Maria asked, annoyed. She hadn't noticed what was hanging overhead.

"You're standing under the mistletoe," Liz told her.

Together, Michael and Maria jerked their heads upwards and stared at the mistletoe.

"Na-ah," Maria said. "No way. I'm not kissing him."

"I thought you were the one who was so into Christmas just a second ago?" Michael mocked.

"That was before I got stuck under the mistletoe with you," Maria said, meanly.

"You can't change your mind," Liz said. "You have to kiss him. It's tradition."

If looks could kill, Liz would be dead right then. Maria was glaring at her with murder in her eyes. Liz ignored this. She seemed to think this was the perfect time for Michael and Maria to get back together.

"Well," Maria said, hesitantly, "If it's tradition."

Max had the feeling that she wasn't all that upset about kissing Michael, even if she was mad at him. In fact, she seemed kind of eager. She leaned in closed to Michael.

The kiss started out passionate and only grew more intense. They unconsciously moved in closer and Michael's hands found their way around Maria's body. The kiss deepened even more and was becoming embarrassingly long. The two love birds didn't even seem to remember they had an audience.

Only after the applause began did Michael and Maria break apart. Michael looked vaguely embarrassed and Maria was blushing furiously. Then Maria pointed out, "We're still under the mistletoe."

Michael smiled broadly and leaned in for another kiss.

Max laughed and shook his head at Liz, who was beaming. "I'm glad they finally made up," she said.

"Me too." Max watched as the make out session because hotter. "But I do wish they'd get a room."

Isabel, meanwhile, had wandered over. "They made up, I'm taking it," she commented.

Liz nodded.

"About time," Isabel said. "Those two were becoming unbearable."

"I know," said Liz. "Maria was really mad at him."

"Well, of course she was. Did you give Michael the present?" she asked Max, abruptly changing the topic.

"Yeah," Max nodded.

"Did he like it?" Isabel asked.

"I don't know," Max told her. "He isn't opening it until Christmas."

Isabel laughed. "Oh, come on." She raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "Do you seriously believe that?"

"No," Max admitted. "But it's better to at least pretend he's going to get some gifts on Christmas day."

Liz looked faintly disturbed. "Michael isn't getting anything for Christmas?" she asked.

Isabel and Max exchanged a look. "Hank's not really all that big on Christmas," Max explained hesitantly.

"Michael usually doesn't get anything other than what we give him," Isabel said, more bluntly.

"That's horrible," Liz exclaimed softly. "I'll have to stop by on Christmas, then, and give him something."

"Will you really do that?" Isabel asked, surprised.

"Of course."

"Thanks," Isabel said gently. "It'll mean a lot to him."

"And to us," Max added.

"It's nothing," Liz insisted. "He's my friend too, you know."

Max smiled brightly at her. "We know."

Isabel looked at Michael and Maria in disgust. "Are they ever going to stop?" she complained.

"Doesn't look like it," Liz chuckled.

After taking one last look at the couple making out under the mistletoe, Isabel said, "That's it. I can't take it anymore. I'm leaving." She tossed her head impatiently and left.

Michael and Maria finally stopped kissing and, both of them grinning foolishly, slipped off to places unknown.

Max and Liz began to talk. They talked about the weather, about what they wanted and what they were getting for Christmas. They talked about school and grades and work. They talked about practically everything, simply enjoying each other's company. Before Max knew it, it was time to go.

"I'd better go find Isabel," Max said.

"Do you really have to go so soon?" Liz asked wistfully. "I mean, it's still pretty early"

"I know," Max said, "But my parents wanted us to get home early tonight because we have to leave the house very early tomorrow morning."

"Oh." Liz looked downcast for a moment, then her expression suddenly turned into one of alarm. "Oh," she repeated, almost yelling the second time. "I haven't given you your gift! I completely forgot about it!"

"Why don't you go get it while I find Izzy," Max suggested.

"Okay," Liz agreed. Then she hurried off.

Max found Isabel quickly. She was talking with Alex. "Come on," Max said. "It's time to go."

Alex looked as if he could kill Max at that moment. Max wasn't surprised; Alex had a major crush on Isabel and had it for almost as long as Max had one on Liz.

"Okay," Isabel said, seemingly oblivious to Alex's feelings. She said goodbye to all her friends and went to put on her stuff. When she was ready, she turned to Max expectantly.

"I have to wait for Liz," he explained.

Isabel made an exasperated sound. "I'll go wait in the jeep," she said in an all suffering tone.

Liz came back a minute later. She gave him a small present wrapped in green metallic paper. "I guess we were thinking on the same wavelength," she said. "Using the same wrapping paper, I mean."

"I guess," Max said, taking the present. "Do you want me to open it now or later?"

"Now," Liz said. She shifted nervously. "I hope you like it. It isn't much, but - "

Max cut her off with a reassuring smile. "I'm sure I'll like it," he said. He would like anything given to him by her, but he didn't say this out loud.

Max carefully unwrapped the present.

"It's a picture of us," Liz explained. "I didn't know what to get you." She smiled slightly. "Maria thought I should get you a telescope, but I thought it would be too cliché."

"It's perfect," Max said, still staring at his gift. It was, as Liz had said, a picture of the two of them staring meaningfully at each other. Max wondered who had taken the picture and when. He couldn't think of when it had been taken.

It was in a sterling silver frame that had a space theme. Shooting stars, rockets and moons were imprinted into it. Although Liz had said she didn't want to get him something cliché, it seemed like she could resist on getting him something alien themed.

"Thanks, Liz," he said.

"You're welcome," Liz said, blushing slightly. Then she added, shyly, "Know what I just realized?"

Max shook his head. "No, what?" he asked.

"We're under the mistletoe."

Max looked up. "You're right, we are."

"It's tradition, you know," Liz reminded. "And we did make Michael and Maria."

"Well," Max said, his breath catching in his throat, "If it's tradition . . . "

Liz nodded. After hesitating several times, as one they began to lean in closer. Max was so close he could feel the heat from Liz's body. His heart was racing. Slowly he brought his lips to touch Liz's. He was in heaven. He could feel Liz Parker's body against his. He could sense her heart rate racing just as fast as his was. He could taste her. At last he unwillingly pulled away.

"Merry Christmas, Max," Liz murmured.

Max gazed into her eyes and his look told Liz without saying a word of his everlasting and undying love for her.

"Merry Christmas," he said.

The End

On to "Babysitting in Buffalo"