SECRET SANTA: Cheesecake-and-pengins

PROMPT: "a Stuart centric fic where he turns up for an xmas party/night out/drinks after his apparent unexplained absence or a crack!fic about Hurricane Bawbag" so I went for the first one with a slight hint/mention of the hurricane. I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and an awesome New Year.

DISCLAIMER: I only own the OC's.

[Coming Home for Christmas]

Wrapping his trench coat tighter around his thin frame, the blonde haired man cursed the aptly named "hurricane bawbag" for having not settled down so that he could make this short walk from his car to the Old Whistle and wrapped his scarf further around his mouth so that he couldn't choke on the excess air before trudging on with his mission. The nerves were causing him to second guess his decision to come to the party after all. He hadn't even technically been invited because no one knew where he was but the party was on the same night at the Old Whistle every year so he'd decided that he'd just go and see if he'd be welcomed back.

He could see the sign swinging in the blustering winds, his teeth started to torture his bottom lip as he thought about turning back but he could hear Ewan's voice in his mind telling him to keep going. He missed his friends and this time of year, Christmas, was most definitely the most perfect time to come back but it just wasn't that easy. He hadn't seen any of them in over two years now and due to the suspicious circumstances surrounding his disappearance – they had to leave to save Ewan – he wouldn't be surprised if they'd all signed him off as dead now because he'd gone incommunicado with them all.

Closing his eyes, he couldn't help but remember the last time they'd all celebrated Christmas here. It was the first time they'd been there as more than a four, a small team, and they were all there finally with family and as a family. The new M.E had finally broken his way into Burke's trust so he was there with his girlfriend, the police station's psychiatrist, and she'd been joined by her mother and also her little girl. Leigh, her young daughter, had only been a few years younger than Ronan but because of Ronan's mental age, they'd fit perfectly and had immediately become inseperable. Jamie had come over from Canada and was spending Christmas with Robbie and his new wife, Jackie, a shock to the whole team as well as the young teenage boy when that had come out. It most definitely been a long time coming. The adults had drank slowly, not wanting to get wasted while surrounded by the three children, and it wasn't long until they were all singing Christmas songs at the top of their voices with Ronan sat on Stuart's knee while Leigh had firmly attached herself to Ewan so that she could remain close to Ronan. It had been the kind of Christmas you saw on old black and white movies. A family sat together, singing along with the karaoke box and munching on all the treats that they'd snuck in but no one behind the bar cared as they were joining in with the mini festivities.

He smiled at the happy memory as he found himself standing outside the window, his arms wrapped around himself now as he noticed that not even the smokers were braving this weather tonight because the door was closed and there weren't any cigarette butts decorating the pavement. His eyes were closed as he tried to steel himself into opening them and looking at the scene in front of him. He knew they were in there because he could hear Robbie's warm chuckle alongside Jackie's hearty laugh and the loud laugh of Burke's that rarely came out but was most definitely genuine when he did release it. Counting to ten mentally, he opened his eyes and found himself smiling at what he saw.

The team were sat at their usual table, far enough away from the door so that they weren't hit by the draught and not too close to the bar so they were constantly being knocked by drunks, and there were three empty jugs resting against the table showing that they were all on beer tonight before the shorts would start coming out. Burke was standing at the bar, talking to the young ginger barmaid that ran the place alongside her grandmother, and he couldn't help but smile at that. Everyone knew Burke was into the grandmother – who would mention frequently that she was made a grandmother well before her time as she was only in her late fifties – but hadn't worked up the courage to speak to her yet. He only ever had the courage to talk to the grandaughter about her. Robbie and Jackie were sat at the table, facing each other as they spoke softly about something as their hands held onto each other and the love that they shared was obvious to anyone around. Even when someone else spoke to them, they'd turn to be polite but they'd always have subtle touching such as a hand to the small of the back, a little brush of hands against the table or even just a little squeeze to the back of the neck. Anyone would think they were just falling in love rather than being married and nearly celebrating their third year of marriage. When Burke moved away from the bar, Jamie moved straight to the empty spot and Stuart couldn't help but marvel at how much like his father he was. The woman, despite being several years older than him, was smiling and giggling along to whatever he said while working around the other patrons propping up the bar. Duncan and Jenny were standing up beside the table, his arms around her waist as they danced slowly to whatever music was coming out of the jukebox while Leigh sat at the table and scribbled in an old notepad.

It was almost as if nothing had changed and he couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness hit him at the fact that they'd just continued living despite his "disappearance". After years of building a relationship between Ewan and the police force, it had eventually been on of Ewan's own enemies that had drove them out of town. They'd done everything to mask their departure as suspicious and he'd been too afraid of ever telling his team, his family, anything. Ewan had messed around with the wrong people, made the wrong enemies and Stuart was afraid that someone would try to hurt them to find out the truth. Sighing, he ran his hands up his arms and decided that maybe walking back into the bar after all this time was a bad idea. They'd moved on and maybe that was the key to this situation he'd chose to be in.

Suddenly the laughter stopped and Stuart was pulled out of his reverie as he looked into the bar, saw them all standing up around the table in a neat circle with their drinks in the air – even little Leigh with her glass of orange juice. Jackie was holding onto Robbie's hand as they all stared at Burke. "It's been another year," he said quietly but due to the silence in the bar, Stuart could hear it word for word, "and another year has closed in the fruitless search to find our friends, the missing parts to our family," he looked down at his glass and smiled, "and I'm sure that next year," there was a pause as if Burke was trying to stop himself from crying, "next year will be the year when we bring them home because I'm sure none of us believe that he's..." the sentence ended as his eyes fell on Leigh. "To family," he said and was followed by a chorus of the statement before everyone took a drink.

"I knew you'd chicken out," a voice said behind him and he turned to see Ewan standing there, holding onto Ronan's hand as they both smiled over at him, "so we thought we'd come back to," he said with a smile and Stuart couldn't help but shake his head.

"I don't know if I can..." the door opened causing his sentence to end as he turned to see Jamie coming out with his mobile in his hand. It was obvious that he'd thought he could step outside to make a phonecall but the rush of the wind certainly put a stop to that. Instead, he froze when he saw the trio standing before him.

"Holy shit," he said before dropping his mobile, cursing slightly before running towards them and smiling. "You're alive, you're actually alive..." He pointed out quietly before turning to look at the window and could see that Stuart had been watching them. "Were you going to run away again?" He asked quietly, his hand tightening on his mobile as if fearing that the answer was yes.

"Of course not," Ewan said stepping forward and shaking Jamie's hand, "I wouldn't have brought this big sack of presents if we were planning on turning around and running away," Ewan joked lightly and Stuart noticed, for the first time, the big red sack resting at his feet before smiling. Of course, Ewan had obviously planned this. He was going to allow Stuart the first few minutes alone, work up his courage or decide to run away and then would intervene. "However, I think seeing Stuart's face will be the best present, don't you agree?" He asked the younger man causing Jamie to nod in agreement before he ran inside, shouting to the rest of the family that he had a surprise for them. Reaching out, Stuart took hold of Ewan's hand and squeezed it as he mouthed a thank you before taking a deep breathe. He could do this.

Stepping inside of the bar, he moved his coat so that it was no longer shielding his face and smiled softly as everyone rose from the table slowly. "Merry Christmas," he said quietly, trying to muster cheer into his voice, as he felt Ronan slip her hand into his so that she could give him an encouraging squeeze before breaking free and jumping into Robbie's arms, her arms wrapping around his neck as she gave him a big hug. As if Ronan's movement broke the tension between them all, everyone erupted into cheers and loud discussion before moving forward to shake or hug both Ewan and Stuart.

Once they'd all settled down, Burke called for the barmaid to fill up their drinks while Stuart settled down between Jackie and Jenny as they talked over him and he couldn't help but laugh. It was almost as if nothing had changed, he'd come back after two years of being missing and instead of being pissed at him, they simply accepted him back into the circle and continued with their life. He couldn't help but smile over at Ewan, who had found a spot across from him, and saw the look on Ewan's face. Stuart was aware that Ewan felt guilty towards having forced Stuart to chose between Ronan and himself or the team. It had been Ewan's decision, a sort of Christmas present, to make this leap into coming back but instead of being forward with his suggestion, he'd been subtly hinting so that Stuart would make the decision to go so that he wouldn't feel like he was betraying Ewan.

The jukebox started up with another Christmas song and it wasn't long before they were all standing, arms crossed around each other's back and singing along loudly to the music.