A Long Christmas

By KTfanfic & Elle Trepverter

Michael looked around at the now dwindling festivities of this year's annual Christmas party. Taking a sip of punch from his glass, he looked up at the amused expression on Bonnie's face. Her eyes twinkled as she laughed aloud with Devon. Michael sighed, tearing his eyes from them. That familiar empty feeling swelled within him.

"Isn't that right, Michael?" Devon asked, unaware that Michael's thoughts were elsewhere.

"Huh?" Michael replied.

"I said, 'I presume you'll be making your yearly pilgrimage to the snow-capped slopes for Christmas,'" repeated Devon.

"Oh yeah, that's right Devon," Michael answered. "How about you?"

"I am returning to England for the holidays, but I will be back after New Years in time for the big meeting on January 3rd. And, I expect you to be there," reminded Devon. "Do not be late!"

Michael nodded and turned to Bonnie, "So, what are you doing for the holidays?"

"I'll be joining my sister and her family this year. This will be the first time in years that my whole family will be there," Bonnie replied enthusiastically. "In fact, we should be leaving now, if I'm gonna catch my 3:30 flight."

"Quite right, Bonnie," Devon agreed. "I am giving Bonnie a lift to the airport," he explained to Michael.

"Have a safe trip," Michael said, leaning forward to give her a quick hug. "I think I'll head out now too," he added, shaking Devon's hand.

------

Michael stepped quickly from the frigid cold air into the waiting black Trans Am. As he slipped into the driver's seat, that aching feeling returned. Another Christmas without family.

"Michael, you're in luck, I found a radio station that is playing Rock and Roll Christmas songs," Kitt commented.

"Thanks, old buddy," Michael answered quietly, "but I'm not in the mood right now."

"Michael, you don't seem to be your usual chipper self. Perhaps you would care to unburden yourself," Kitt suggested.

"Listen Kitt, I appreciate your concern, but I'm afraid nothing I could say would change anything," Michael said.

"I beg to differ, Michael," Kitt argued, "Both Psychiatrists and Psychologists earn a living by counseling people to help them deal with their problems and it helps them."

"Maybe, but I couldn't talk to them," Michael answered.

"No, maybe not, but you CAN talk to me," Kitt replied.

"Kitt, why do you feel the need for me to talk about this?" Michael asked.

"Michael, for the past two Christmases we have driven to the cemetery and watched your mother weep at your grave. You never approach her, yet you continue to return. After both visits you were more distraught when you left than when you arrived. Why must you continue to torture yourself this way?" Kitt questioned.

"My mother? What makes you think that woman is my mother?" Michael asked, evading Kitt's question.

"Michael, we show up each year in the afternoon of Christmas Eve and wait long enough for an older woman to appear at the gravesites marked 'Michael Arthur Long' and 'David Arthur Long'. After visiting briefly she leaves flowers at both gravesites."

"My Dad died on Christmas Eve and every year on the anniversary of his death, my mom took me to his gravesite to leave flowers for him. She would talk to him, as if he could hear her and it would somehow make her feel better. I come here each Christmas Eve just to feel closer to my mom. As I listen to her talk, I know that my mom is managing okay without me. Because of my new life as Michael Knight it is the only way I can see her," Michael explained.

------

Michael eased the black Trans Am into the usual spot nearest the gravesites of the 'Long' family. Glancing over the area, Michael noted that the cemetery was deserted. He took a quick look at his watch. She should be here any minute now! he thought.

Just then a familiar looking white Toyota pulled into the parking lot. A gray-haired woman in her mid-fifties climbed slowly out of the car and walked over to Michael's dad's gravesite. She knelt on the ground placing a bouquet of mixed flowers into the vase.

"Kitt, would you…" Michael began.

"Not a problem," Kitt interrupted, instantly activating his audio-receptors to pick up the woman's voice.

"I brought these lovely flowers for you, David. Do you like them? I hope so. Remember my good friend Abigail Turner? She used to make those delicious apple turnovers for Thanksgiving. She passed away last month from cancer. She was such a good support for me," she sighed, tears welling up in her eyes.

"Oh, David," she continued, "It gets more difficult each year without you. And even more so, now that Michael isn't here. He's been gone now 3 years and it doesn't get any easier. My only comfort is that he is with you. I am so lonely now; it is almost unbearable to go on. The house is so empty and I see you and Michael everywhere I look. I was looking through our old photograph albums and came across a picture of the three of us in front of the Christmas tree. Remember that picture? It was the first time we used flashing lights on the tree. You said it gave you a headache, but Michael was enthralled with it. We kept the tree up through Valentines Day that year because we didn't have the heart to take it down."

She was quiet for a few moments, visibly struggling to maintain control, before letting loose her sobs and heartfelt tears.

It was heart-wrenching for Michael to watch. He quietly brushed away the tears that were forming in his eyes. Oh how he wished to run to her side and comfort her!

Suddenly, Michael's mother gasped. With a long moan, she collapsed to the ground.

Without a second thought, Michael leapt from the car and ran to her side, yelling, "Kitt get her vitals!"

------

Michael nervously paced the floor in the hospital waiting room. Thank God I was there! She would have died! She can't die! She just can't die!

Michael wrung his hands as he walked up to the nurse at the reception desk. "Any word on Rachel Long yet?" he asked worriedly.

"I'm sorry, no word yet," the nurse replied. "I'm sure it won't be much longer."

"Thank you," Michael said, turning back to the waiting room.

Just then one of the emergency room doctors entered the room. "Is the gentleman that came in with Rachel Long still here?" he asked the receptionist.

"I'm here, sir," Michael interrupted. "Please, tell me, is she going to be okay?" he asked with concern.

"It's too soon, to tell," the doctor replied, "We are waiting for some test results, and we'll know more then. We will be watching her closely until we get more information."

"Can I see her?" Michael asked hopefully.

"Yes, I think that would be a good idea. It is always comforting for a loved one to be nearby in these types of situations," the doctor agreed.

The doctor led Michael to a small room in the emergency treatment area. After taking a quick survey of the monitors, the doctor left the room without a word.

Michael was shocked to see his mom. Dressed in a hospital gown, she looked very pale. It was disturbing to see her in this condition. There were so many wires glued to her body that connected her to several assorted monitors. He was thankful that she appeared to be asleep.

Michael moved a chair closer to the hospital bed. Sinking into the chair he carefully grabbed a hold of her hand. He held it tenderly, resting his forehead against her hand. Lost in his sorrow, he could not bear to look upon her. "Mom, I'm so sorry this happened to you. If I had known this would happen I would never have accepted the Foundation's offer."

------

Rachel laid back on the hospital bed. The chest pain and pressure had finally subsided. The dizziness seemed to make her more nauseous, so she closed her eyes. Trying to remain calm she decided to turn her thoughts away from her condition. What was that Michael used to say? Oh yes, 'don't let fear conquer you, instead you conquer fear'.

Calmer now, her thoughts drifted back to cemetery. Everything happened so quickly. One minute I was alone, talking to David and the next I was being lifted into a car. She struggled to remember what happened next, but all she could remember was that familiar sounding voice of a young man comforting her. He sounded so much like my Michael. What did he say? Did he actually say 'don't let fear conquer you, instead you conquer fear'?

As she heard footsteps approaching, she opened her eyes to see who was coming. Suddenly a wave of dizziness washed over her causing her to feel nauseous again. She quickly shut her eyes and listened. After a few moments, she heard footsteps leaving.

She tried to relax when she heard the scraping sound of a metal chair being dragged closer to her bed. She felt someone tenderly lift her hand and something gently press against it. A familiar voice startled her. She recognized it was the voice of the man who had rescued her.

"Mom, I'm so sorry this happened to you. If I had known this would happen I would never have accepted the Foundation's offer."Mom? Did he say Mom? She HAD to look!She opened her eyes to see a head of curly brown hair resting against her hand. The gentleman was clearly distraught. The hair and the voice reminded her of Michael. I must be dreaming. My Michael is here? That can't be possible! Who is this man?

"I miss you so much, I can't stand it. Please forgive me for not telling you the truth, but I couldn't bear for your life to be in danger because of me. I've tried to bury myself in my work and forget my former life and all those I love. I thought it was the price I had to pay to save others. I should have found another way. How could I have thought that losing a son wouldn't hurt you?"

This IS Michael! My Michael! "My sweet Michael!" she exclaimed.

Straining to keep her eyes open, she watched the man's head spring up. She gasped at the unfamiliar face, pulling her hand away in shock.

------

Michael is shocked. Staring into his mother's face, he realizes she is awake and has heard everything he said. Forgetting his changed appearance, he smiled and hugged her gently.

"You're okay!" he exclaimed joyfully.

"You're not my Michael," she gasped.

Michael quickly touched his face and was reminded of his changed appearance.

They both sat speechless, staring at each other.

Panicking at the idea of losing his mom again, Michael insisted, "Mom, it's me, Michael!" Determined to convince his mom, he adds, "I know it doesn't look like me, Mom, but you have to believe me. It's me! Please! Let me explain!

She remained quiet.

Michael knew if he stopped to think about it, he might not have the courage to continue. "About three years ago, while I was working on a case with Muntzy. when the criminals tried to escape, some gunfire was exchanged and I took a bullet to my face. The steel plate in my head prevented the bullet from entering my brain and saved my life. Although my face got pretty torn up, the plastic surgeon was able to repair the damage and create a new face for me. I began working undercover with a new identity to capture the criminals I had been after on the day of my accident. I've been employed in this new position in a type of witness protection program that prevented me from contacting you."

"You're talking about my son. I buried him three years ago. And now you're telling me that he never died. That, not only is he alive, but he is you. If what you say is true, you should be able to prove it. Only my Michael would know the answer to this question, 'Who was Michael's childhood hero?" she challenged.

Without hesitation, Michael smiled confidently and replied, "Swamp Fox, the greatest tracker of all time!" he exclaimed.

Her eyes immediately glossed over with tears that raced down her face, "Michael, it IS you!"

Michael grinned and leaned down to her, wrapping his long arms around her. It feels so good to be with Mom again.

"You saved my life didn't you?" she asked once he released her.

"Yes, Mom. I love you so much," he answered with relief.

Just then, the doctor walked in. He smiled at them and said, "I have the test results. There is no evidence of damage to the heart caused by a stroke or heart attack. However, we often see this in patients complaining of chest pain. We believe you may have suffered an episode mimicking a heart attack possibly brought on by chronic stress. This type of stress can put pressure on the body weakening the different systems. If this stress continues, she will be in danger of actually having a heart attack or other serious conditions. We can admit her and keep her through the night; however, some patients in her condition prefer to recover at home and do better in their own surroundings. She needs to take it easy this week and should have a follow-up visit with her doctor to discuss the necessary changes she may need to make in her life. Any questions?" he asked, scribbling notes on her file.

"I think I would like to go home now," Rachel said.

"That would be fine, as long as you have someone on hand to keep an eye on you for the next few days," the doctor answered.

"No problem," Michael responded, "I'll be there for her."

------

"Oh Michael, you still have the same black Trans Am," Rachel said, her face lighting up.

"Well, not exactly, Mom," Michael replied, smiling. "This one has a mind of its own."

Michael helped his mom into the passenger seat of the car, closed the door and slipped around to the other side.

"Michael, this car looks like some kind of alien space craft! Does it fly?" Rachel exclaimed, as Michael settled comfortably into the driver's seat.

"I beg your pardon madam, but I am not of alien origin," Kitt interjected. "What is it with your family's fixation on aliens? You think I'm Darth Vader's bathroom and your mom thinks I'm a flying saucer!"

"Mom, this is Kitt," Michael said by way of introduction, "Kitt this is my mom, Rachel Long."

"It speaks!" Rachel said, in astonishment.

"Sometimes too much," Michael added.

"I am the much underappreciated Knight Industries Two Thousand, you can call me Kitt," Kitt replied.

"My, my and I thought a car phone was the latest thing," Rachel commented.

"Oh, did you wish to make a phone call? That is only one of my many functions available for use," Kitt offered.

"Uh, no thank you, Kitt. I don't feel the need to call anyone right now," Rachel answered, taking in all the assorted lights and buttons.

------

The sight of Michael's childhood home brought back a flood of memories and warm feelings. He remembered wrestling with his boyhood chums on the front lawn, climbing the trees in the yard and playing 'hoops' with his dad in the driveway.

Michael helped his mom up the front steps and into the house. The first thing he noticed was that the living room was all decorated, except for the artificial Christmas tree, which remained bare. Just like Mom, we never did decorate the tree until after dinner on Christmas Eve.

"I'm so glad your home again, Michael. As much as I really want to stay up and talk with you, I am so exhausted I can barely keep my eyes open," she said, looking very tired and worn out.

"Can I help you with anything?" Michael offered with concern.

Rachel shook her head, "No thanks Michael, I think I can manage. Just make yourself at home and I'll see you in the morning."

As Rachel disappeared behind her bedroom door, Michael took great pleasure in looking around. He walked from room to room, pleasure building within, as he took in the familiarity of the surroundings.

When he came to his old bedroom, he felt as if he had stepped into the past. His room was exactly as he had left it. The trophies, books, board games, pictures and assorted Swamp Fox memorabilia remained where they had always been. He laid down upon his old bed and sighed as he enjoyed the comfort of being home again.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed something out of place. Curious, he climbed out of bed to get a closer look. Upon his desk lay several spiral-bound notebooks. Written in his mother's handwriting, on the cover of each notebook was Michael's name. Without thinking, he opened the first one and began reading the first page.

Dear Michael,

Abigail suggested I write you to help deal with the great grief I am going through over your death. It is difficult enough to suffer through the loss of a spouse, parent or friend, but intolerable to endure the loss of one's child. A parent's life shouldn't surpass the life of their child. I don't know how anyone does it, as it rips my heart out every time I think of you. I am leaving things in your room just as you left them so I can come feel the closeness of you. I know it was in your heart to serve and I am proud you gave your life honorably. I just wish our time together could have been longer.

Love,

Mom

Michael noticed many tear stains on the page. It appeared that her tears had smeared the ink in several places.

Overcome by a sudden bout of sadness, he looked away from the notebook. His gaze fell upon his own reflection in the mirror across the room. He was abruptly reminded that he was no longer Michael Long.

------

Devon is awakened by a ringing phone beside his bed at the Foundation. Who would be calling now since no one is supposed to be here?

"Hello?" Devon said as he lifted the phone.

"This is Mitch Buchannon calling from the White Bird Ski Lodge. I'm looking for Michael Knight please," said the voice on the phone.

"I'm sorry Mr. Buchannon; Michael has left for the holidays. Did you say the White Bird Ski Lodge?" Devon asked.

"Yes. I was expecting him to check in last night and he hasn't arrived. Does he wish me to hold his reservation?" Mitch replied.

"You say he hasn't arrived? How peculiar," Devon responded. "He left yesterday afternoon to go there. If you want to leave your number, I'll try to reach him and get back to you."

"Thank you," Mitch answered, "The number is 555-WHT-BIRD."

As Devon hung up, he thought Michael didn't make it to the Lodge? Where can he be?

------

Rachel awoke to the sounds of light raindrops tapping on her window. She eased herself off the bed, stepping into her slippers and donning her robe.

Walking past the living room the fully decorated Christmas Tree caught her eye. She didn't remember decorating the tree; and or leaving the lights flashing. As she stepped closer to the tree, she noticed that there was someone laying asleep on her couch.

The previous day's events came rushing back to her. She stepped closer to Michael and looked intently at his face. My sweet Michael, it is you, isn't it? You look so different, yet so much the same. She grabbed an afghan off the rocking chair nearby and carefully covered Michael with it.

Settling comfortably into the rocking chair she sighed peacefully as she watched Michael sleep.

------

Michael opened his eyes to find his mom watching him from across the room. "Merry Christmas, Mom! How are you feeling?" he asked, sitting up. "Want me to whip-up some breakfast for you?"

Rachel smiled, "Oh no, Michael, I can do it. I'm feeling fine. I see you put the Christmas decorations up; they look lovely. Thank you, Michael."

Michael stood up and gave his mom a big hug.

"Michael?" called Kitt's voice from Michael's watch.

Startled, Rachel jumped.

Michael raised his wrist to respond to Kitt. "What do you got, Kitt?" he said automatically.

"Devon is calling. Shall I put him through the telephone there or would you care to step outside?" Kitt asked.

Michael glanced at his mom's puzzled expression. "It's my boss, Mom. I better take it here."

She nodded reluctantly.

"Please tap him through here, Kitt," Michael answered.

Just then, the phone rang and Michael snatched it off the hook. "Yeah Devon, what's up?" he asked.

"Michael, where are you?" Devon demanded.

"Devon, where are you?" Michael answered back.

"Never mind that! The ski lodge called and they are looking for you. Where are you?"

"Devon, it's a long story. I'm not going to the ski lodge," Michael answered.

"Excuse me, Michael, while I go make us some breakfast," Rachel said leaving the room.

Michael nodded, smiling.

"Michael, who is that woman you are having breakfast with?" Devon questioned suspiciously.

Michael sighed, "I'm with my mom, Devon."

"What?!" Devon exclaimed. "How did that happen? Does she know who you are?"

"She knows."

"We need to talk about this, Michael."

------

Devon hung up the phone with a heavy sigh, shaking his head.

"Devon?" Bonnie said, poking her head into the room. "Everything okay?"

Devon shook his head again, "Bonnie, sometimes I don't think I'll ever understand what goes through Michael's head. Do you know where Michael is right now?"

"Isn't he swishing down the snowy mountains?" Bonnie said.

"No. He is sitting down to breakfast at his mother's house," Devon replied.

"How nice!" Bonnie responded.

"No, Bonnie, I mean Michael is at Mrs. Long's house. The woman who believed her son was dead; although, thanks to Michael, that is not true anymore." Devon sighed. "I am afraid we are going to lose Michael."

"What do you mean? Lose Michael?" Bonnie asked.

"Apparently some emergency came up with Mrs. Long and Michael was nearby when it happened. He rushed her to the hospital and somehow it came out that he was her son. He feels she needs him now and refuses to leave her side until she is better. He is not sure where that puts him with the Foundation, but for now his mom has to be his first priority," Devon explained.

"Do you realize that Michael is the only one who cannot visit his family?" Bonnie pointed out. "I never thought about it. I mean, we all come and go visiting our families for holidays, but Michael gave all that up when he came to work for us. And now, the only living relative he has left is his mom. No wonder he can't give that up again, especially if she is not well. He has proven his faithfulness and dedication to the cause time and time again; why can't we allow him this?"

Devon considered what she said. "There is much wisdom in what you say. Perhaps now is the time for us to be supportive to Michael for all he has done."

"Why don't we give Michael a call and see if there isn't anything we can do to help?" Bonnie suggested.

------

"Hello? Merry Christmas," Rachel sang into the phone, stirring the batter of pancake mix.

"Merry Christmas Mrs. Long, this is Devon Miles. May I please speak with Michael?" he asked politely.

"Oh, hello Mr. Miles. I'm sorry, Michael is unavailable at the moment. May I take a message?" Rachel asked.

"I am sorry to hear you haven't been feeling well. Bonnie Barstow and I are friends of Michael's and would like to offer our assistance. We'd like to help in any way we can."

"Oh how kind of you," Rachel replied. "Thank you so much for thinking of us. Could you possibly make it for Christmas dinner? I can't think of anything I'd love more than to have you both join us. That is, if you don't already have plans."

After a brief pause, Devon answered, "We would be honored to join you. What time should we be there?"

"If you could arrive at 2:00 this afternoon, that would be perfect," she replied.

Michael walked into the kitchen just as she hung up the phone. He snitched a piece of bacon off the serving plate on the table.

"Michael Arthur Long! What do you think you're doing! Can't you wait just a few more minutes? Honestly, one would think you were raised by cannibals!" she exclaimed.

They both burst out laughing at the realization of how naturally they had slipped back into their old ways.

"Who were you talking to on the phone?" Michael asked, curiously.

"Oh, just some of your friends. They're coming over to have Christmas dinner with us," she answered nonchalantly, as she poured another batch of pancakes onto the griddle.

Michael opened the refrigerator and grabbed the orange juice container. He filled the glasses on the table.

"It's so nice to have you home again," Rachel commented as she patted Michael on the head and placed a serving dish filled with pancakes on the table.

"Mom, we need to talk," Michael said in a more serious voice.

"Now, Michael, I know what you are going to say; you're worried about taking care of me, aren't you? But there is no need to worry. I am fine. Especially now that I know you are alive. Things will be so different now that I can see you," Rachel replied.

"No, Mom, listen," he began, pulling her hand and guiding her into the seat next to him. "Mom, again, I am worried about you. You were hooked up to monitors in the hospital yesterday. No one knew what was going on, I was afraid I would lose you. But the thing is, I want you to know I am here for you. I am not going anywhere. I'll take a local job and see that everything is taken care of for you."

"Michael, that is very sweet and thoughtful, but totally unnecessary," Rachel protested. "I refuse to be a burden; I want the best for you. The best isn't staying here cooped-up with me. You have a heart to help others. I could never take that which you were destined for away from you. All I ask is that I be a part of your life. It makes me happy to see you happy. Please don't take that from me."

"Mom, I'm worried about you. I'm your family. I want to be there for you and I need to be there for you. Please don't take that away from me," he pleaded.

Rachel was silent for a few moments and she thought to herself. "I'll tell you what Michael. Stay the week with me. It will do us both a world of good. But I want you to do what you have to do. If that means working for the Foundation, then so be it. We'll take it one day at a time. Deal?" she said offering him the serving plate of pancakes.

Michael smiled, "Deal!"

------

The doorbell rang precisely at 2:00 pm. Punctual as usual, Devon. Michael quickly opened the door greeted Devon and Bonnie. As he took their coats and escorted them into the living room, Rachel appeared in the doorway.

"Mom, I'd like you to meet Devon Miles and Bonnie Barstow," Michael began, "Devon, Bonnie, this is my mom, Rachel Long."

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance," Devon replied.

"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Long," Bonnie greeted.

"Thank you, and do call me Rachel. Mrs. Long sounds so stuffy," Rachel said in an inviting tone. "Why don't you make yourself comfortable, dinner will be ready soon."

"Is there something I can do to help?" Bonnie offered.

"Thank you Bonnie, actually I could use some help putting the food on the table, if you don't mind," Rachel said thankfully.

As Rachel and Bonnie left the room, Michael lead Devon to the couch. "I'm glad you could make it. What ever happened with your trip to England?" Michael asked.

"Well, Michael, we missed our flights because of a major accident on the highway. Unfortunately, there were no seats available on any other flights," Devon explained. "How is your mother doing, Michael?"

"She is doing better, but has to take is slow," Michael replied. "I'm just glad it wasn't a stroke or heart attack."

"She looks well," Devon commented. He reached into his pocket and retrieved a small envelope. He handed it Michael, "I want you to know, you have the full support of the Foundation behind you, whatever you choose to do. Take all the time you need to spend with your mom."

Michael took the envelope and quickly glanced up at Devon's face before opening it. Inside the envelope was a check made out to Michael Knight in the amount of $10,000. Michael was speechless.

"I want you to know we really appreciate everything you have done for the Foundation. You've proven just what Wilton Knight had proposed, 'One man can make a difference'. What we've learned since then, is that he need not be alone to do it," Devon said gently.

"Thank you Devon," Michael replied, slipping the check into his back pocket, "I really appreciate the sentiments."

------

Michael glanced around the food laden table, Christmas music playing softly in the background. Taking a sip from his glass, he looked up at the amused expression on his mom's face. Her eyes twinkled as she laughed aloud with Devon. Michael smiled; a warm contented feeling arose from within.

Suddenly, the radio turned on and "Rock and Roll to the 12 Days of Christmas" blared aloud.

"KITT!!!!!" yelled Michael, laughing.

"Merry Christmas, Michael," Kitt called from Michael's wrist watch.

"Yes, Kitt it is a VERY Merry Christmas, indeed!" Michael said, smiling broadly. Finally, Christmas with my family, both new and old.

The End