Author's Note: Written for frith_in_thorns for Fandom Stocking 2012.


The e-mail had been short and enigmatic. "Meet me at the park near the lab Monday after your shift." It came from an unfamiliar e-mail account, and was devoid of any sort of identifying characteristics - it was from a public computer registered to a hotel in Brooklyn. Any number of people could have used the computer, including the person who, in fact, did.

But it came to his personal account; it was the one that he only gave out to people he knew well. And other than the occasional picture of Lucy, or an invite to a party at Flack's, it remained mostly unused.

Snow lightly fell outside as he walked to the park; a nearby church had a choir singing a Christmas hymn loud enough for him to hear - "sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation." Of course, the person had to choose Christmas Eve for their mysterious rendezvous. It beat going home to his apartment - alone, with the tiny tree standing in the corner being the only indication that Christmas would come that year.

"They really are good, aren't they?" a voice said from the darkness.

He would know the voice anywhere. He'd heard the voice every day for so many years, and never thought he would ever hear it again. "Stella."

"Mac," she echoed his name, in turning to face him and moving toward him. "It's been a long time, hasn't it?"

"Too long." He stared at her in the light of the street lamp; her hair was still as curly as it had ever been, just a little shorter, a little more even. "What are you -"

"Doing here?" And she could even still finish his thoughts, almost as though she had never left in the first place. "I always loved winter in New York. It actually feels like winter, as opposed to the mildness of a Louisiana winter -"

"I didn't mean here in New York. I meant, what are we doing here?"

"I miss you. I miss us. New Orleans is great, but it's no New York. And there's no Mac Taylors down there."

"Not a single one?"

"No. Not that I've looked particularly hard, considering I know where to find the only one that matters." Snowflakes were caught in her hair and eyelashes, and the clear crystals complemented the blue scarf she had wrapped around her neck. She looked utterly warm and inviting. "I miss you," she repeated, "and I didn't want to create chaos by showing up at work, and I wanted to surprise you."

"Color me surprised, then. I wasn't sure if you were a serial killer who happened to find out my personal e-mail account."

"No, not a serial killer," she said, shaking her head; snowflakes fall from the top of her head and rain down below. "It's me, Mac. I'm really here, and I'm using all the vacation time I've accrued since moving to New Orleans. If I go back, we still have a few weeks."

"If?" He dared not hope otherwise.

"It's never really felt like home down there. Not like New York does." She shook her head, hundreds of small icy crystals shaking loose and spiraling around her face. "So, you know, if, say, I had a reason to stay, I -" she paused to lick nervously at her lips, "I just might."

He had never been one that would force her to do anything she didn't want to do. Her moving in the first place had been her decision and hers alone, no matter how much he didn't want her to leave. So many people left, and so few people stayed. Those were things he had learned during his lifetime, and held close to his heart as life lessons.

But sometimes, they came back.

He slipped his hand inside her grasp and tipped his head at her in a nod. "Let's go," he said.

"Yeah," she said, gasping out a small breath that was suspended and visible in the nighttime air. "Forgot how cold it can be."

"I'll help you remember," he said, squeezing her hand.

As they walked off together, hand-in-hand and smiling up at each other, the snow continued to fall around them. The choir in the distance continued to sing, their notes floating into the air and surrounding them, and Stella looked at Mac and whispered, just loud enough for him to hear, "thank you."

"For what?" And he knew there was no answer to the question, not yet, anyway. For now, the answer simply is as it was. Thank you. The answers would come later, when the snow stopped falling and the hard questions would be asked. For now, it was just her, and him, and a cold, snowy Christmas Eve in New York City.

For now, that's all he wanted.