Notes: Sadly, I do not own Mac and Stella. They're probably quite happy about that :P

As it's Christmas I decided, what the heck, I'd post this as a one-shot :) It's dedicated to my friend Blue Shadowdancer, who gave me the prompt of a broken promise. Many thanks to Ballettmaus who checked this over for me and gave me some suggestions. Thanks also to cmaddict who had a read of it, too. Chapter 5 of 'Midsummer' has also been posted today!

A Broken Promise

He looks up as soon as she enters the room, a half-embarrassed smile breaking across his face.

"Hey, she says, her voice soft, her approach cautious. Her footsteps slow further as she comes closer to the bed. She's been assured that his injuries - cracked ribs, strained shoulder and numerous bruises - are not life-threatening, that it's only a matter of time before he will be healed, but she's only able believe that now as she sees him for herself.

Studying him, while he regards her almost sheepishly, she shakes her head. "What happened to the promise that you'd be home before I even missed you?"

"It got broken, along with a couple of ribs..." he says, grimacing as he moves over to make room for her next to him.

Stella frowns and perches herself at the edge of the bed, her gaze assessing him, one hand resting on his thigh. Carefully, noticeably stiff, his hand moves towards hers and she grips it; able to breathe freely for the first time since the phone call a few hours ago from Don, telling her there'd been an accident...

"You could have been killed, Mac," she says in sober tones; voicing what had been her first, horrible thought; that the Christmas they had planned together, promised each other, had been too good to come true. Even with his hand warm within hers now, she recalls those unlived, unfulfilled memories of what will not be.

At home, in their apartment, they had been about to begin preparations for dinner when the call to attend a scene had come through for him, spoiling their plans for preparing dinner together. After a couple of hours and no word from him, she had started without him, planning to surprise him. But as soon as the call had come, telling her what had happened, she had let go of the knife in her hand, letting it clatter to the floor where she had left it...

"I'm sorry you were scared," Mac rasps, licking dry lips.

She pours out a glass full of water and hands it to him. Both of them notice how much her hands tremble. Neither says a word, but their eyes meet and hold as he sips slowly. She drinks in the sight of him, letting the not-to-be memory fade away; he's alive, it's all that matters.

"I'm sorry, Stella," he says again, his voice gentle as he sets down the glass and covers her hand with his.

A weak smile appears on her lips. "It's not your fault, Mac. It was the fault of some idiot driving too fast on an icy street..."

A catch in her voice stops her speaking momentarily. She clears her throat, raises her hand to her cheek and scrapes away a trickle of water which has leaked from her eye. It took so little to leave him in a hospital bed; just a patch of ice, a careless driver, a skidding wheel.

It could have been so much worse...

She presses her hand over her mouth, her eyes tight shut, trying to seal her composure back together. Mac's hand tightens round hers.

"Hey," he murmurs. "I'm okay. I'll be out of here tomorrow."

She manages a stronger smile and swipes at her eyes. "You better be," she sniffs, as he slides his arm round her, drawing her closer to him carefully so she rests against him, mindful of his wounds.

He chuckles, with care. "I've every intention of it. And if they don't listen to me, I'll bring you in to persuade them..."

"Oh really?" She raises her eyebrows at the hint of a smirk in his grey eyes. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

That slow grin she loves so much appears on his lips. "Only that you're very good at persuading people, Stella."

Her eyes narrow, but her touch is tender as she sweeps her fingertips through his hair. "I am, huh? Flatterer." Studying him carefully, her mouth quirks at the corners. "In that case, maybe I can persuade you to be more careful next time you pull a pedestrian out of the path of a car, so you don't get hit by it yourself..." She pauses, feeling another tear wobbling on her eyelashes, blurring her vision. "Mac, if you'd… if you'd been... I don't know what I'd have done..."

Shock and fright catch her out at last, her self-control fracturing, the smallest sob breaking from her as Mac brings her closer to him, strokes the back of her head, hushing her fears. The possibility of losing each other is a lurking dread that never quite goes away, and some days bring it closer than others. But breathing deeply, holding onto him, face buried in his neck, she calms. After exhaling, a long and quivering breath, she gives a self-conscious laugh and wipes a finger beneath her eyes as she sits up.

"It didn't happen though," he says, quietly. "There's no need to even think about it. I'll be fine." His hand runs up and down her arm and he sighs, "I'm just sorry this isn't the Christmas we'd planned."

As he says that, she thinks of what they had planned: how they won't now work side by side in their small kitchen, bumping into one another, laughing; how his arm will not now creep round her waist and kisses won't be given, taken...

With a sigh, she catches sight of her watch and realises that it is Christmas Day already. And glancing up and through the windows, she sees the first lightening of dawn in shades of ice and silver.

For a moment she remembers those they have lost as well as time they have spent apart and thankful then, more than she can say, to have Mac at her side, she leans forward and kisses him.

"I love you," she murmurs to the accompaniment of the faint sound of bells ringing somewhere in the city, the sound a clarion call above the traffic noise. Lost in each other, when she draws back, he stares at her and she smiles, tracing the line of his jaw.

"I know it's not exactly what we had planned for our first Christmas together," she says and he grips her hand tighter, about to speak until she hushes him. "It doesn't matter. We're here, both of us together." Her smile softens as her fingertips smooth away the lines on his face. "We've got each other. What more do we need?"

When he captures her lips in another kiss, they both know they have everything they could ever want.

Thank you for reading; reviews would be very welcome! Happy Christmas :D Lily x