Retrieving some clean leggings & her make-up bag, she made her way to the bedroom with the adjoining bath to
 freshen up a little before venturing off to the house to pick up Murdock and
 then heading into town for the afternoon.
Back at the main house, Hannibal was deep in thought as he teetered in his
 chair, his ever present cigar clamped between his teeth. He turned to look
 as Face opened the door and entered the house. "Face, what on earth is going
 on here between you guys? B.A. tells me that you and Murdock are both vying
 for this young lady's attention. We've been here barely a week and already
 you two are squabbling over some woman. I haven't even had the opportunity
 to meet her yet. Here you are looking as if someone has swiped your favorite
 toy, and Murdock is locked in the bathroom getting all prissy. I just don't
 understand you two sometimes, I tell ya," Hannibal remarked as he took
 another drag on his cigar. Face merely looked at him as he proceeded to
 remove his boots and jacket, then walked over to sit down at the table where
 Hannibal and B.A. were sitting. Half a quart of milk was sitting in front of
 B.A., with no glass in sight. 

 "Relax, Hannibal. It's nothing, really. All I did was try & show some
 concern for her well being and to offer my company for an evening. It turns
 out that she prefers Murdock's company instead. No big deal," Face said
 dryly as he looked around to see if there was a pot of coffee available. He
 got up and made his way to the cupboard to get a mug and poured himself a
 hot cup. "So what's the word back out in L.A.? Has anything changed there
 yet?" he asked as he sat down again.

 "The last time I spoke with Amy at the newspaper, nothing had changed.
 Decker had been at her office a couple of times trying to drill her on our
 whereabouts, but the kid wouldn't budge. Oh, that Decker...what a guy! Leave
 it to him to have to rely on some poor lady reporter to try & find out what
 it is he needs to know," Hannibal said as he blew smoke towards the ceiling.
 "I think we will do just fine right where we are until things cool down a
 bit stateside. What do you guys think?" Before anybody had the chance to
 answer him, they all turned to look at the sound of approaching footsteps
 from the stairs. Murdock had appeared wearing a crisp, clean shirt and new
 jeans which were a change from his normal khaki slacks he was most often
 seen in. Hannibal smiled and nodded his approval. B.A. looked at the
 polished figure and growled. Face only stared.

 "Man, what you wearin' such lavish clothes for, just to ride with that gal
 into town?" B.A. commented. It was so unusual for him to see his friend
 making any kind of a fuss for anybody. It was normally Face's department to
 do the spit and polish routine for the ladies, not Murdock. 

 "B.Aaaaaaa...she's relyin' on me, ya know, to make good and sure she has a
 safe and trouble free trip into town and back. I wanna look my best and make
 a good impression on our, uh, landlady, so to speak," Murdock said to his
 friend. "Besides, she also might want me to take her out to dinner, and
 maybe a movie or something, seein' as how old Faceman here bit the dust
 while trying to work his charms on her," Murdock smirked as he got in that
 last comment. He smiled and winked at Face as all he got in return was one
 of Face's 'yeah, right' glares. Sliding his arms into his infamous aviator
 leather jacket and donning his blue cap, he stole one last glance in a
 mirror as he headed for the door. The sound of the honking horn meant that
 his ride was there to pick him up.


Aislynn drove the truck up to the main house, and after a couple of toots on
 the horn, she managed to swing her legs over the console and slide herself
 into the passenger seat. The snow had stopped falling for the time being but
 the roads were still snow covered and slippery. She thought it would be fun
 to get to play the helpless female for awhile and to let Murdock handle the
 truck for the thirty minute drive into town. She was so looking forward to
 spending the time with him that she didn't even want to put up with the
 distraction of having to do the driving. There would be so much they could
 talk about and they had the rest of the afternoon in which to do it. She
 wouldn't waste a single minute when it came to learning what she wanted to
 know about this mysterious and handsome man.

 She looked towards the house as the door opened and Murdock came out and
 across the verandah. As he started down the steps, he noticed that Aislynn
 was on the passenger side of the truck waving to him, so he made his way
 over to the driver's side. Once inside the vehicle, he couldn't help but to
 remark about what a nice truck it was and that he was flattered that she
 trusted him to be driving it for her.

 "Well, of course I trust you to drive. I thought that was why you wanted to
 come along? To help maneuver this thing into town and back for me?" Aislynn
 inquired as she shifted her weight slightly to allow herself to lean a
 little more towards Murdock. 

 "No, that wasn't the ONLY reason I wanted to be here, but we can discuss
 that later," Murdock smiled at her as he put the truck in gear. They looked
 into each other's eyes for a few seconds, then he faced forward, and they
 began their journey into town.


 Once in town they were faced with jam-packed streets and a very crowded
 mall. This seemed like such a busy time of year. To Aislynn, a lot of the
 Christmas spirit was lost in the rush and the crowds pushing and shoving,
 people in search of that last minute bargain. She was always so glad when
 everything was over and done with. It was always a pleasure for her to spend
 a quiet and relaxing Christmas Eve at home with her family. Aislynn asked
 Murdock if he would mind doing a little Christmas shopping with her first,
 then they could pick up a few groceries and head for home. She suggested
 maybe they try checking out the downtown area first as it might not be so
 congested. Murdock complied with her wishes as he drove them to the downtown
 core and found a central location for a parking spot. From there they made
 their way around town on foot.

 As they walked along the snowy sidewalks, Aislynn couldn't help but marvel
 at the old style architecture which seemed to give the town its ambience,
 and she didn't hesitate to tell Murdock a bit about its founding. Originally
 land-marked in 1798 by early American settlers, the town eventually grew to
 its present population of sixteen thousand. After the War of 1812 it was
 notably settled by many English immigrants as well as more wealthy Americans
 who built their fantastic estates here along the north shores of Lake
 Ontario. They continued along the main street, taking in the Old Tyme
 Christmas theme and gazing at the beautifully decorated storefront windows,
 many being adorned with antique toys and decorations. 

 As they walked along side by side, Aislynn noticed that Murdock was
 continually brushing shoulders with her. She found it difficult at times to
 even concentrate on the simple task of simply keeping one foot moving in
 front of the other, so much so that it wasn't long before she slipped on a
 patch of ice that she hadn't seen in front of her. Just in the nick of time
 she felt a strong arm grab her from behind and prevent her from falling down
 completely. Regaining her balance, she looked up into Murdock's face and
 could feel her own face turning beet red. She was glad for the shadowy
 streetlights which shone above them, and the fact that he probably couldn't
 tell how much she was blushing.

 "You know," Murdock said to her, both his hands now resting on her
 shoulders, "I think it would be a good idea if you were to hold onto my hand
 going along here, just to prevent any further mishaps in the future. Don't
 you think so?" he stated as he smiled dazzlingly into her face. He couldn't
 help but notice that her cheeks had become a bit rosier since her near fall
 a couple of minutes ago, and he thought it was rather becoming on her. When
 they had begun to walk again, Murdock had a firm grip on Aislynn's hand as
 they continued to view the many decorated windows. 

 A few hours later, with several parcels and some groceries in tow, they
 headed back out of town and towards the estate. They found it quite easy and
 comfortable to be within each other's company and managed to do a lot of
 talking in between their shopping. Aislynn was soon to learn that Murdock
 didn't have any close family and that the men he was with now was the
 closest he has had to a family since before he even served in the Viet Nam
 war. That is where they had all met, according to Murdock. He hadn't filled
 her in on exactly every aspect of their being in Viet Nam, only the fact
 that they were now inseparable as a team and were dedicating themselves to
 help those who were in need of assistance. Aislynn's curiosity had got the
 best of her & she decided to ask once again what they were doing here in
 Canada for the next several months. Murdock had stuck with the hunting and
 fishing story, for now anyway. 

 Aislynn filled Murdock in briefly on what her plans were for her holidays,
 what type of work it was that she did, and the fact that she had finally
 reached a point in her life where she felt it was time for a change. She
 explained to him that there were several law offices in the vicinity and
 although the pay didn't quite match that of the job in the city, she felt
 she would be most happy back here in her own home community. She also
 mentioned in passing about the recent breakup she had with her ex-boyfriend
 and some of the problems she had been experiencing with him in the city.
 Murdock was a bit concerned that this ex-boyfriend knew of Aislynn's home
 and whereabouts, but she casually brushed it off, thinking that she had seen
 the last of Gary.

 Arriving back at the cabin, it took the two of them only a few minutes to
 carry the packages and groceries inside. Murdock was arranging the parcels
 in the living room when he came across some of the extra boxes that Aislynn
 still hadn't unpacked. He reached over and peered inside one of the boxes.
 "Hey! Christmas decorations! Want some help to put some up?" he asked as he
 began unpacking some of the decorative items. 

 Aislynn finished putting away her few items of groceries before she came in
 to see what he had found. "Oh, well, I suppose there are a few things there
 to place about the cabin. My mother thought I might be interested in a few
 decorations and so she added some of the extra things she had no use for,"
 she said as she watched Murdock sorting through the box. She had watched him
 in fascination while they had been shopping as he showed a lot of interest
 in many of the electronics stores, especially the video and computer games.
 Now she was witnessing his almost childlike behavior as he emptied the box
 of decorations.

 "So, do you have a tree yet, or will you be going out and cutting your own?"
 Murdock asked as he brought out the last of the ornaments. "If you want to,
 we can go out tomorrow and possibly choose a little something for the cabin
 here, nothing too big, just enough tree to suit these ornaments and...oh,
 say, what have we here?"

 Looking into the box at what Murdock had just come across, Aislynn felt
 herself begin to blush again. She had forgotten about that mistletoe which
 her mother had included with the decorations. She smiled at Murdock and
 hunched her shoulders, her face growing redder by the minute.

 "It looks like mistletoe to me," Murdock continued. "This has just GOT to go
 up...hmm...let's see...I think the best place, the only place, to put this
 will have to be...in the doorway to your bedroom," he said as he held the
 traditional decoration in the air then started over towards the doorway. The
 bedroom contained the only other doorframe in the cabin with the exception
 of the door that led in and out. The living room and kitchen area were open
 concept. "Would you be so kind as to get me some tacks please?"

 Aislynn went to look through a couple of the kitchen counter drawers until
 she found a hammer and some small nails. These would have to do for now, she
 thought. She went over and handed the items to Murdock as he reached up to
 attach the mistletoe to the doorframe. In a few seconds he had it secure,
 then he reached around Aislynn to set the hammer down on a nearby table. She
 watched as Murdock took her hands in his and drew her towards where he was
 still standing in the doorway. "Mission accomplished. Shall we try it out,
 just to make sure it's going to work?" he inquired as he brought his hands
 up to cup her face. She stood as though her shoes were made of cement. Her
 pulse was racing so rapidly that all she could hear was the pounding of her
 heart in her ears. With her lips slightly ajar, she looked up at Murdock as
 he brought his lips down to meet with hers. Her hands came up and were
 pressing against his chest, slowly making their way up and then around his
 neck. For a few glorious minutes they stood embraced and kissing in the
 doorway, all the while pushing away any other thoughts or cares of the
 moment to be dealt with at a later time. 

 "Mmmm...mmm, oh...mmm...Murdock, I, uh, uhmmmm...I think it's working...mmm,
 wow," was all Aislynn managed to say in between the wet, passionate kisses
 they were still in the midst of sharing. Murdock pulled slightly back as he
 looked down to stare into Aislynn's face. She had her eyes closed for a few
 seconds before looking up and staring back into his eyes. With gentle
 strokes of his long, slender fingers he caressed her face then ran his hands
 back through her long brown hair. Leaning back against the doorframe he drew
 her close once again and continued to kiss her face and her neck. He let his
 hands drop down and put his arms around her waist, one hand caressing her
 back, the other one exploring her buttocks, all the time listening to
 Aislynn murmuring softly against his neck. Reluctantly he tried to stand
 straight up as he looked down at Aislynn and began to speak in a low, sexy
 tone. This interaction was becoming too comfortable, and in his opinion,
 they were just a little too close to her bed. It would no doubt be in their
 best interests if he were to stop this thing before it went any further.

 "Aislynn, honey," he began, "I, uh, I really think that I should be going
 now, uh, just in case I'm needed back up at the house. Are we still on for
 tomorrow? We'll go out and look for that tree together, o.k.?" he managed to
 say as he continued to rub Aislynn's back.

 Aislynn let her hands drop back to his chest once again, caressing its
 expanse and occasionally touching his broad shoulders. She looked back up
 into Murdock's brown eyes as he softly spoke to her, feeling her heart melt
 even more as he stared back smiling at her. "I had a really fantastic time
 in town with you along for company today," she said as she took a step back,
 her hands sliding down his chest for the last time.

 Murdock once again cupped her face with his hands and kissed her on the
 lips. "Me too," was all he said as he pulled back and started for the sofa
 where he had dropped his jacket earlier. He shrugged his arms into the
 sleeves, and as he was fastening the jacket, Aislynn walked over to him and
 put her arms around his neck. Murdock put his hands on her back and drew her
 close against him.

 "I...I hate to see you leave...so soon. Do you really have to get back
 already?" she said as she clung to him.

 "I think it would be best. I'll be by in the morning around ten and we'll go
 cut that tree." This wasn't getting any easier for him. With one last kiss
 he released his grip and headed for the door. Taking one last glance in
 Aislynn's direction, he smiled then was gone, leaving Aislynn standing in
 the middle of the room looking after him.


 Aislynn continued her evening alone. She changed into some warm flannels and
 her favorite robe, and curled herself up in front of the fireplace with a
 book. With a comforter around her shoulders and a cup of hot chocolate at
 her side, she tried as best she could to concentrate on the occurring events
 within the novel she held, but reading the latest release by her favorite
 romance novelist sure wasn't helping with the kind of mood she had been in
 since Murdock had left. The story in her book seemed to fit her to a tea:
 something about a woman whose relationship had recently ended with her
 lover, but then in just a matter of a couple of chapters she had met and
 been in the arms of a new love interest. Aislynn just couldn't get into the
 story. Instead she found herself spending most of her time staring into the
 fire, wondering what Murdock might be doing back up at the main house, or if
 he was even there. With nothing for company but her books and her Cd player,
 she watched the crackling fire as the Carpenters' medley of Christmas carols
 played softly in the background. Aislynn had become so wrapped up in her
 thoughts of Murdock that she never sensed that anyone was outside, standing
 just a short distance from the cabin and staring at her through the window.

 Gary raised the whiskey flask to his lips and took another long draw on the
 neck of the bottle. The straight golden liquid burned all the way down his
 throat and into his stomach as he stood unwary of the cold, and just as
 unsteady on his drunken feet. With his half-ton parked out on the shoulder
 of the highway, he had no problem at all just walking the short distance
 through the trees and up to the cabin where Aislynn's mother said she would
 be. Stupid old lady. She somehow must have thought in the back of her mind
 that he and Aislynn would eventually patch up their differences and become a
 couple once again. He thought he could sort of handle the idea himself. He
 really didn't like the way she had dumped him. Too much of a blow to his
 ego. Once again he tipped the nearly empty bottle in the air and took
 another long drink of the soothing alcohol. Unfortunately though, he didn't
 think it was enough to allot him the courage to go up to the cabin door and
 confront Aislynn. No, maybe sometime in the future. Another drink from the
 flask and the whiskey was gone. Watching just a few minutes more, he soon
 turned on his wobbly legs and made his way back out to the highway. Fumbling
 with his keys for about five minutes, he managed to fit the right one into
 the ignition of his half-ton, and with a spray of snow and gravel from his
 spinning rear wheels he was off and tearing down the highway into the night.


 About three inches of fresh fluffy snow had fallen during the night. Aislynn
 had arisen early although still tired from lack of sleep the night before.
 She had made up the couch to sleep on in front of the fireplace, but found
 that she spent most of the night tossing and turning, with most of her
 thoughts having revolved around Murdock. She had enjoyed the time she had
 spent with him in town the day before, just with talking and getting to know
 each other a bit better. With Christmas only a couple of days away, she was
 now a bit anxious as well to maybe head for town and pick up just a little
 something special for Murdock. As she slid her leg warmers on over her
 jeans, she wondered if maybe he might be just a little interested in her
 too, or if what had happened between them yesterday afternoon when they
 arrived back at the cabin had meant nothing to him. She couldn't help but
 wonder at this last thought as he hadn't wanted to stay and spend the
 evening with her at the cabin. Standing up and tossing her hair back,
 Aislynn checked her light application of makeup one more time before she
 reached for her jacket to go outside and look in the utility shed for the
 axe. She pulled up her zipper and opened the door, only to be met
 face-to-face by Murdock. Aislynn jumped back with a small gasp, then let out
 a laugh as she greeted him. 

 "Oh! Good morning! I don't mind saying that you startled me a bit. I was
 just on my way out to the shed to look for the axe," she stated as she
 stared up into the sparkling brown eyes that hung on her every word.

 "Hi! And you're too late. I've already got it," exclaimed Murdock as he held
 up the tool. Aislynn noticed that he was also warmly dressed in his jeans,
 with a bulky heavy sweater on over his plaid shirt, and of course his ever
 present leather jacket and cap. He stood back as Aislynn pulled the door to
 and they began their trek behind the cabin to the hill that overlooked the
 property, and to where it would be best to cut a tree. 

 The day had begun to clear & they were actually met with some sunshine. As
 they were shuffling their way through the snow, Aislynn couldn't help but
 stare at Murdock each time they had become involved in some conversation.
 She just couldn't get over how incredibly handsome he appeared to be with
 his dark tinted shades on, not to mention that hypnotizing, dazzling smile
 that just wouldn't quit. Once they had come to a steeper part of climbing
 the hill, Murdock had reached his hand out to help her along a little
 easier. Within about twenty minutes they had come across some attractive
 three-four foot trees that just might do the trick back at the cabin.
 Aislynn had said that she didn't want a really big tree - even a tabletop
 one would suit her just fine. They decided on a nice small tree, and after
 giving it a few shakes to knock some snow off, Murdock had it free with
 several whacks of the axe. Years ago there had been several thousand
 evergreen trees planted on the property, so Aislynn felt that one missing
 wouldn't be all that noticeable. 

 Heading back to the cabin, Murdock managed to carry the tree with one hand
 and still hold tightly to Aislynn's hand. She in turn had offered to carry
 the axe. Part way down the hill they came to a clearing that overlooked the
 snow covered property, and Murdock paused for a minute as he laid the tree
 down on the ground and released Aislynn's hand. "Hey, watch this!" he said
 as he took a couple of steps backwards away from Aislynn.

 Aislynn watched with amusement as Murdock found an untouched area of snow
 covered ground and let himself drop backwards down into the white fluff. She
 let out a laugh and in seconds had dropped the axe and managed to find a
 spot on the ground beside Murdock as she, too, let herself fall back into
 the sparkling fresh blanket of snow. Lying on their backs and staring up at
 the blue winter's sky, they outstretched their arms towards one another and
 said in unison, "Snow Angels!" Followed by more laughter and giggles, they
 proceeded to create their works of art in the snow.

 Aislynn turned her face back into the bright sunshine, and although she was
 wearing her sunglasses, found that she had to close her eyes to the
 brightness of the sun. All of a sudden she felt a hand near her face as her
 sunglasses were being removed. She managed to open her eyes slightly, and as
 she squinted at the shadowy figure above her she felt her heartbeat begin to
 race and, for sure, her temperature begin to rise. Murdock had rolled
 himself over towards her and, after having removed his sunglasses and hers,
 he lay on top of her and covered her mouth with his. Aislynn let out a groan
 and wrapped her arms around his neck, wanton in her need to return the
 affection. They continued to kiss and hug for several minutes before Murdock
 decided to speak. Aislynn felt too much in a trance to be able to begin
 talking enough to make any sense. With her arms still around Murdock's neck,
 she could only smile and stare deep into his eyes.

 Murdock stared back at Aislynn and smiled, trying to speak what he had to
 say in between kisses. "You know...mmm...," he began, "whaddya say...we go
 back...to your place and...mmm, oh that's nice...mmm... and mix up a
 couple...of hot drinks...then maybe...juuusst maybe...get this little tree
 decorated...and THEN... well, who knows?" he grinned slyly as he began to
 nuzzle at Aislynn's neck. "Ya know," he continued, pushing up on his
 forearms but still keeping eye contact, "so far, I have had an inCREDible
 two days of enjoying your company. We are planning on staying the winter
 here, and I really do hope that things will only continue to get better
 between us. I never really meant to invade Faceman's territory here by
 making a move on his intentions, but when I saw you...well, let's just say
 that I've never felt quite like this before."

 Aislynn brought her hand around and caressed Murdock's cheek. For a few
 seconds she was beyond words and was just wanting to share the moment.
 Eventually she did manage to get a few words out. "I'm really enjoying every
 moment I get to spend with you, too, Murdock. I've been crazy about you
 since the first time I laid eyes on you. There was just...something...about
 you. I can't really describe it. And you can believe me when I say that
 having a relationship with ANYone once I came home for the holidays was the
 farthest thing from my mind. Things have, well, everything has happened so
 quickly." With that said, Aislynn continued to stroke Murdock's cheek, then
 she put her arms around his neck once again as she drew him down close to
 her lips. 

 Within an hour they were back at the cabin with the tree. Murdock was the
 first to notice that something was amiss. As Aislynn was opening the door,
 he stood and surveyed the ground around the cabin, noticing that there were
 now several tracks that appeared to lead all around the perimeter of the
 building. He already knew that neither he nor Aislynn had walked all around
 the cabin in that manner before they left. It couldn't have been any of the
 team, because they knew that he was to be out with Aislynn this morning to
 retrieve a tree. They would have either left a note on the door or would
 have come looking for him had it been an urgent matter to decide. No,
 something was definitely not looking right about the tracks he found in the
 area. At least the door was still locked. Aislynn was now standing in the
 doorway waiting for him to bring the tree inside.

 "What is it, Murdock? Is something wrong?" she asked as she kicked off her
 boots and started to take off her jacket. 

 "Oh, probably nothing too serious. I, um, I've just noticed some different
 tracks around the cabin since we've been gone, is all. It's nothing to worry
 about, I'm sure," he reassured her as he removed his boots & jacket.
 Glancing around the cabin, everything still appeared to be in order. He
 decided to just let things be for now.

 Aislynn had retreated to the kitchen area to fix a couple of hot chocolates
 while Murdock began rummaging through the boxes of decorations. When the
 drinks were ready, Aislynn brought them into the room & walked past Murdock
 to place them on the end table. When she had her back to him, he put his
 arms around her from behind and lifted her off her feet, carrying her over
 to the door frame where he had hung the mistletoe from the day before.
 Aislynn had begun laughing and trying to wriggle free of his grip when he
 let her slide down and onto her feet again. She turned to face him and he
 placed an arm on the side of the door on either side of her so that she was
 trapped. "We haven't even tried this out yet today to see if it still
 works," he said devilishly as he pressed his body against hers. Aislynn slid
 her arms around his waist as they spent the next five minutes kissing and
 cuddling in the doorway. 

 The late afternoon was bringing the day's last twilight outside. Gary stood
 and continued to watch the couple inside with feigning interest as they
 played their little charades, then sorted through the decorations and
 dressed up the pathetic little tree they had returned with. He tipped the
 bottle up to his mouth, closing his eyes momentarily as the liquid burned
 all the way down to his stomach. He thought he had had about enough of
 observing their ridiculous behavior and decided to hit the road. He had
 nearly been caught as he had arrived only moments before they arrived back
 from their outing. He noticed this guy that Aislynn was with had seen his
 tracks in the snow, but from where he had been standing behind the tree he
 had managed to stay out of sight. There was nothing more to see here. He
 would, however, keep watch of the place and would be most certain to catch
 Aislynn at a time when she was alone. Now was not the time. He replaced the
 bottle back in his pocket and made his way out to his half-ton. Another
 day...another time...


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