Disclaimer: I do not own the characters and situations of "Space: Above and Beyond". No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Who Stella is? Well, that could be a very long explanation. Suffice it to say, she's one of my own characters, and hopefully you'll get to read her story soon, too.

Winter Wonderland



Stella could tell what Cooper was thinking.

His eyes were positively twinkling as he took in the brilliant, white landscape stretching out around them. Several feet of powdery snow covered the ground in rolling drifts, turning trees and bushes into frosty angels. Suddenly, she had an idea. The marines would never take advantage of the perfect conditions, they were too disciplined. She, on the other hand...

She assessed the situation. They were in the middle of nowhere, on a friendly planet, with no mission and no time-constraints. It was irresistible. She stifled a giggle and let herself fall to the rear of the column, pretending to fiddle with the laces on her boot.

When they were all ahead of her, she discreetly scooped up a handful of snow. The snow was just soft enough, and she expertly molded it into a huge snowball. Vansen noticed the motion. Her eyes widened, but before she could open her mouth Stella hurled the snowball towards Cooper. It hit him right in the head, and icy snow cascaded down the neck of his uniform.

Hawkes howled and whirled around, outrage warring with delight on his face. Stella tried to look innocent and quickly pointed her finger at Shane, who glared at her murderously, and that was that. The quiet march erupted into a free-for-all with snowballs flying like missiles in all directions. Squeals and laughter soon echoed through the valley.

Cooper was a fast learner. Stella took a direct hit and landed on her butt in the snow. She scooped up more ammunition, and hunkered down behind a log, preparing her revenge. Nathan tried to be adult about it, which lasted about five seconds. Vanessa and Paul had teamed up and were pelting him and Shane with a veritable barrage of snowballs. They were soon defending themselves. Insults and epithets flew through the air.

McQueen, wisely, had taken cover. He was yelling at them, but nobody was paying attention, and he soon gave up. He threw his arms up in the air, and kept his distance. Unfortunately, destiny was about to strike. Stella was hit again, and when she threw her next snowball, her aim was off.

Way off.

It hit McQueen smack in the back of his head. Everybody froze. Gasps and muttered curses could be heard all around. Slowly he turned around and leveled a furious glare at her.


She tried to look repentant, but it was impossible. He had snow everywhere. She giggled helplessly. Then she squealed and legged it, as McQueen set off towards her with a mean-looking snowball in his hand. His aim was true, of course. It hit her between her shoulder-blades. The force of the impact knocked all the air out of her lungs with an "Oomph!" and propelled her head first into a huge snowdrift.

She was half-buried, and struggled to get out, but her legs just flopped about in the air. She had a moment of panic, and then a hand like steel came down and grabbed her by the collar. Spitting and hissing she was pulled out and set on her feet. The Wildcards were all in stitches, laughing so hard they could barely breathe. Stella shook the snow off her and peered sheepishly up at McQueen. He looked at her sternly and tried to keep his face straight.

"Well? What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Ummm... Merry Christmas?"

That set them all off again. Stella looked at her friends, and it warmed her heart to see them all so carefree for once. Shane shook her finger at Stella and then helped Cooper brush the snow off his back. For the moment, his face was shining with happiness. Vanessa and Paul were doubled over with laughter, leaning on each other to keep from falling over. Nathan looked more relaxed than she had seen him in ages. He was covered in snow and his ears glowed red.

McQueen had brushed himself off, too, and his eyes were warm and grateful as they met hers.

"Merry Christmas", she repeated quietly.