A/N: This is based loosely on a true story. Any resemblance to actual people and events are extremely exaggerated, but I was there, so I reserve the right to take creative license. Also, this is AU modern day. Merry Christmas, dear readers!
Red and green lights danced on the snow, not from Christmas lights but signal lights from the railroad, where a car on the tracks had become caught between the gates and struck by a commuter train.
Lieutenant Detective Heero Yuy parked his car a few feet away from the accident site. From what he'd heard on the scanner, the scene was already secured, and no injuries had been reported.
A less cynical person might call it a Christmas miracle. Heero cared only about the facts.
He was one of four law enforcement personnel on duty that night, including the dispatcher back at the station, patrolman directing traffic and the officer currently commanding the scene. But with Heero's arrival and the chief off for the holiday, the Lt. Detective now assumed the role of commanding officer.
He greeted the patrolman working detail. It was a small town, but the accident had happened at the height of rush hour, just around 6:30 p.m., so the young officer had his work cut out for him. Heero let him keep at it, and trudged his way through several inches of snow.
"Hey, buddy! Ya made it." Sergeant Duo Maxwell, sporting a ridiculous-looking pair of earmuffs along with his uniform, waved the Lt. Detective over.
Heero inspected the tan sedan, which looked like it had become hooked to the long silver commuter train.
"Poor lady got stuck in the snow trying to gun it before the gates closed. Her car was caught in the crosshairs." Duo rubbed his glove-free hands together. "Lucky for her the train was going all of ten miles an hour when it hit. Sent her spinning around a little. She's a little shaken up but otherwise, no harm done."
Heero looked past Duo's shoulder to see a middle-aged woman, presumably the driver, huddled with EMTs and the fire chief, a flannel blanket slung around her shoulders. He wandered over to have a few words with her and the chief. She would have to fill out an accident report eventually; Heero asked her to pick one up at the station whenever she could.
Then he found the train conductor and had a similar exchange. The passengers were still in their seats, probably lamenting that they were late for their Christmas Eve dinners or church services. They were only a mile or so from the station; once the accident was cleared, the train could proceed. A tow was still on the way. Heero resigned himself to an hour or so of chitchat while they all waited in the cold.
Duo was shivering; he'd been outside longer than his superior. "Wanna go warm up in the car? Blast some tunes?" Heero waved him off.
"It's Christmas Eve. Go home."
"Nah, it's cool. My shift's for another hour yet. And anyway, I don't have anything better to do."
"You have a girlfriend," Heero reminded him. "Go surprise her or something."
"Okay, okay." Duo grinned slyly. "You don't have to tell me twice. You dog." He clapped Heero on the back. "Merry Christmas, bro. Don't work too hard."
Heero just shook his head. "Have a good night."
"You too, man. Got any plans? Maybe with that pretty redheaded bartender?"
"Nope." Heero jammed his hands in his pockets. His friend had pointed the woman out several times at their neighborhood pub, insisting she was into Heero, therefore he should ask her out. Heero couldn't see it. She was pretty, sure, but she wasn't his type. Whatever that was.
"Uh-oh." Duo let out a low whistle beside him. "Here comes trouble."
Heero watched as a small figure several feet away ducked underneath the yellow caution tape roping off the accident scene. It was dark but the street lights and headlights from parked cars illuminated the long, blond hair tumbling out of her knit hat.
Town reporter Relena Darlian made her way over to them, notebook in hand, high-stepping through the almost knee-deep snow. At least it was for her. She had to be about a foot shorter than Heero.
An amused smile twitched at his lips as he watched her stomp up to them. In the past he'd reprimanded her for crossing police barriers, and she'd remind him that's what press passes were for. Now he'd given up asking her for it, and he secretly didn't even care.
It didn't hurt that she was gorgeous.
"Hi, boys!" Her smile was always friendly. "What's new and exciting?" That was her go-to line, even if she could see plain as day what was happening. It was her way of asking for whatever she needed to know, in her source's words, so she could get a quote.
"Oh, just a run of the mill car versus train." Duo shrugged.
"Yeah, no kidding." Relena winced, looking at the still-trapped car, her pen hovering over her notebook. "Who won?"
"Everyone," Heero quipped. "No injuries."
"Wow, that's great!" Relena beamed up at him before jotting in her notebook. Unlike the big city reporters Heero occasionally dealt with, her enthusiasm for the positive outcome seemed genuine. "When did this happen?"
"About a half-hour ago." Heero and Duo took turns filling in the blanks for her while she scribbled notes.
"And the driver?"
"Over there." Heero jerked his head. "So's the conductor. But good luck getting either one of them to go on-record; they still need to fill out accident reports."
Relena stuck her pen behind her ear and gave him another little smile. "We'll see. Thanks!" She ambled her way toward the small crowd that had gathered nearby.
Next to him Duo whistled again. "Dude."
Heero shot him a glare. "She's getting married. Remember?"
His partner chuckled. "She's not married yet. Just because there's a goalie doesn't mean you can't score…"
Heero glared at Duo. "Weren't you leaving?"
"Yup. But I'm telling you man, she likes you."
"You say that about everyone."
"Yeah, but she really likes you. Maybe if you acted like less of an asshat you'd actually get a phone number once and a while."
"I already have her phone number."
"Yeah? And you use it for other than work purposes?"
Heero glowered at his partner.
"Dare ya to send her a dick pic."
"Funny, coming from a cop."
"I dunno man, could be a big front-page spread." Duo threw his head back and guffawed.
"If she hears you," Heero seethed, "you're fired."
"Hey, whoa man! I'm just kidding around." Duo held up his hands. "What happened to all that holly jolly Christmas spirit from a few minutes ago? Eh?"
"I'm losing my patience," Heero mumbled.
"Okay man, but you really do need to get laid. Think about it."
Like he hadn't.
Duo finally turned to leave, but not before wagging his finger and tossing out a, "You have a very merry Christmas," along with a saucy wink.
Relena wandered back over a few minutes later, taking pictures of the train and car on her phone.
"Are you tweeting this?" It was Heero's attempt at teasing her.
"Sure am!" She grinned. "I'm just glad we have a happy story for Christmas. I mean, who would have thought?"
"Happy stories don't usually sell papers."
Relena pulled her phone away from her face and shot him another dazzling smile. "They do at Christmas." As she slipped her phone and reporter's notebook into her work bag, Heero couldn't help but notice.
Her left ring finger was bare.
"Did you lose your ring?" he asked automatically. It was a knee-jerk police officer's reaction. He was about to pull out of his flashlight to scan the snow around them.
"Um, no," Relena answered quietly, dragging the zipper across the top of her bag. "The wedding's off."
"Oh." Heero felt heat creep up his neck, despite the cold. He jammed his hands in his coat pockets. "I… I'm sorry." Now he really felt like an "asshat" for pointing it out.
"It's fine." Relena waved her hand dismissively.
"That's rough, right before Christmas." Heero didn't know what else to say. He looked down at his snow-covered boots.
"Oh, it happened about a month ago. Turkey dump," Relena joked brightly.
"Turkey dump?" Heero arched an eyebrow.
"Yeah, it's when you break up with someone at Thanksgiving. You know, before the rest of the holidays get underway. Makes it less awkward. So you're not stuck having to exchange gifts and…" Relena pulled a face as her voice trailed off.
She'd been engaged almost as long as he'd known her, over two years. Duo and some of the other guys on the force had a pool going for whether or not she'd actually go through with it, partially because they all wanted to date her, and partially because it was a small town and they were bored as hell. Everyone knew the pretty town reporter, enough to try to get in her business, the way she so enchantingly managed to get into theirs.
Heero hadn't bothered to ask about her personal life before. Once he'd seen that rock she used to wear, he'd treated it the way civilians were supposed to treat caution tape.
But now the biggest barrier between them was gone. Or was it? Was it too soon to even entertain the idea?
She had been joking about her "turkey dump," so maybe she wasn't all that sad about the breakup. Only one way to find out.
"So, if you don't mind my asking…" He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Who did the dumping?"
"I broke it off." Relena tucked a long strand of hair behind her ear. "I couldn't spend another year just going through the motions. It wouldn't have been right. Besides…" Maybe it was the traffic lights, but he swore he saw her cheeks turn scarlet. "I'm in love with someone else." She glanced up at him shyly.
"Ah." Heero had trouble managing additional syllables in order to form words. He tried not to keep staring at her face, but it was hard to tear his eyes away. He worried she might think him stupid. He couldn't just assume she was referring to him. Could he?
But then he thought back to that ride-along two summers ago, when he allowed her to accompany him on a stakeout that he knew wasn't actually dangerous. But she didn't know that, and she was bored and looking for something to write about. And then a nearby car backfired and she mistook the sound for gunshots and screamed and the next thing he knew, she was in his arms. Giving him that look she was giving him now.
Like she needed him.
Their eyes connected briefly, but she quickly tore hers away. "Anyway. I guess I've got the whole story, right? I should get going…" She moved to step around him.
He caught her coat by the sleeve.
She stood perfectly still but didn't look up at him. "Yes?" she answered softly.
His heart beat wildly. He wanted to grab her and kiss her right then and there, but he didn't dare with all these people around. Although it would probably be worth the write-up he'd get from the chief later, he couldn't afford a suspension or any serious form of reprimand.
"What are you doing later?" His words tumbled out.
"You mean after I go home and file this story?"
"Going to bed, because it will be late." He thought he detected teasing in her tone.
"Oh," was all he said as he dropped her arm. Duo was right; he sucked at this.
"But I was thinking of relaxing with a bottle of wine first…" Her voice went up at the end of the sentence, like she was nervous. He sure as hell was.
"That's a lot of wine for one person." He tipped his head down toward her.
Relena's eyes flitted up to his. "Are you judging me?"
"Not at all."
"Well, then. It sounds like maybe you're inviting yourself over."
"I-" he stammered.
"Come on by." She shot him that knee-buckling smile again. "My address is 132 Oak-"
"I know where you live."
"Oh, really?" She arched a delicate brow.
"I mean, I know where everyone in town lives. Not that-"
"I know." She touched his arm, giving him that lit-from-within smile again. "I was kidding."
"Right," he grumbled, unnerved by the way this woman seemed to reduce him to a bumbling idiot.
"Okay, stalker." Relena rolled her eyes playfully. "I expect to see you later."
"I'll be there," Heero promised. "I get off in a few hours."
"Well, that's confident." She giggled.
Heero had always thought of Relena as self-assured, but he had never experienced her flirtatious side. Not that he minded, now.
"See you later, then." The petite blonde brushed past him and floated back toward her car, looking every bit the snow angel in her white winter coat.
"Good luck with the story," he called after her.
She turned on her heel and gave him a little wave. "Oh, it's quite a story, all right." She grinned before spinning back around and practically sprinting toward her silver SUV.
"Hey, she looks happy."
Heero whipped his head around at the sound of Duo's voice. "What are you doing here? I thought you left."
"Yeah, I started to but thought I dropped something..." He shrugged.
"What?" Heero glowered. He was in no mood for Duo's shenanigans.
"Hilde's Christmas present." Duo pulled a small black box from his coat. "But nope, it was in my pocket all that time! How 'bout that?"
Heero nearly rolled his eyes but realized it would be rude, and Duo was his friend, after all. "Congratulations."
"Don't congratulate me yet. She could say no. She'll probably say no." Duo didn't look worried in the slightest, though.
"Yeah, right," Heero humored him. "Go home and give Hilde her present already. That's an order."
"All right, buddy boy, I'm going. Sheesh." Duo grinned. "But hey, it looks like I'm not the only one who will be getting laid tonight…"
Heero's mouth creased. "Duo…"
"Ladies and gentlemen, it's a Christmas miracle!" Duo shouted, holding out both arms and doing a spin in the snow.
A few onlookers, including the train conductor and fire chief, shot puzzled looks their way. Duo laughed even harder.
"I can't afford to have anyone think I allow drinking on the job, Sarge," Heero growled. "Now scram."
"Bah-humbug," Duo grumbled. "I hope you're at least a little nicer to Relena."
"Duo…" Heero issued a final warning.
"Okay, see you later!" Duo squealed in a feminine voice. "Don't forget the wine!"
Heero frowned. "How much did you hear?"
"Enough," Duo cackled. "I want details after. All the horny details."
"Goodnight, Duo." Heero waited until he was really gone before allowing himself to crack a smile. Whatever might happen tonight, he didn't care. It beat spending another Christmas Eve alone with a beer and takeout, wondering if this coming year would be the year she'd end up getting married, and he'd have to say goodbye.
He still couldn't quite trust his ears. That she'd chosen him.
Heero turned his eyes up to the night sky, where a few stars sparkled in defiance against the light pollution from the town. A shooting star darted across the darkness, and despite the cold air stinging his face, he couldn't suppress a smile.
Perhaps miracles existed, after all.