Notes: I'm so sorry for the delay in posting this. I've started a new job recently, so it's been very busy. But I apologise for keeping you waiting!
Many thanks to suallenparker, and Ballettmaus - you've been a huge help!
Please enjoy this final chapter of the story :)
Stella woke with a start, alert immediately. The room was dim and still, but she could just make out that Mac was asleep beside her. At that, she relaxed. If there was anything to worry about, he would have woken and a smile curved her lips as she gazed at the shadowy sight of him. The comforter (which he'd managed to steal most of her share of) only covered him up to his midriff and her gaze dawdled over his bare chest as he breathed. The sight tempted her to trail her fingers down his skin, but not wanting to wake him, she contented herself with a touch of his hair.
Wide awake herself, Stella slipped out of bed. Shivering, she grabbed her favourite t-shirt of Mac's which lay discarded on the floor, pulled it on over her bare skin and then reached for her dressing gown. Wrapping the gown around her as she went, she headed first for her daughter's room.
As she'd half-suspected, Holly's small bed was empty – the bedclothes lay in a heap on the floor and both Holly and her favourite bear were nowhere in sight. Stella grinned, shaking her head slightly: following the story she'd been told of the wish on the Christmas tree star on Christmas Eve, it was no surprise she wasn't asleep. A glance at the clock on the wall, showing five minutes to midnight, strengthened Stella's conviction. She knew where her daughter was. Maybe showing her the position of the clock's hands when it was midnight had been a mistake...
She left the room and trod softly towards the living room. In the doorway she stopped and a smile spread over her face. Holly sat cross-legged in front of the Christmas tree, her bear clutched to her, head tilted back as she gazed up at the gold star on top of the tree and the two dolls just beneath it.
Leaning side-on against the door frame, her arms folded, Stella watched, a smile soft on her lips, before a touch on her shoulder made her start. She spun round to see Mac grinning behind her, now dressed in pyjama pants and a t-shirt. His hands slid round her waist and Stella placed a finger against his lips, nodding into the room. Together, they stood and watched their daughter as she sat in front of the Christmas tree and spoke to the two tiny dolls.
'Mommy says you got to wish, too, dollies,' they heard Holly instruct the fairy and the soldier, before she turned to her bear. 'An' you got to wish as well, Bear. All of us together, 'kay?'
A soft chuckle came from Mac at the three year old's bossy tones. 'Remind you of anyone?' He tugged gently at one of her curls and she gave him a wide-eyed look.
'No one I can think of,' she murmured before leaning closer to whisper in his ear, 'But it's almost time to make your wish, too.' His eyes glinted and as she leant back in his hold, she remembered the wish she'd had over thirty years ago, in the cold dining room of her foster home – for a family of her very own, to love and love her.
Mac smiled and moved forward, his lips brushing against hers.
'I don't need to,' he whispered. 'I got what I wished for, and more, four years ago.'
'Me too,' she whispered. 'Me too...' Their gazes met and held, remembering that Christmas four years ago, when their life together, and Holly's life, had nearly ended when it had barely begun, and when they had been given their miracle. And with their little miracle now sitting in front of the Christmas tree, Stella caught hold of Mac's fingers, remembering the moment on Christmas Day after she had woken, when he had taken a crumpled sonogram picture from his jacket and placed it in her hands, told her about their baby.
The shock and the swiftly following delight and excitement she'd felt was still a vivid memory. Even though she had been monitored closely, after being allowed home following two long weeks in the hospital, she had made a full recovery, sailed through the rest of her pregnancy and Holly's birth on a beautiful June day had been free from complications. Their little girl was healthy, happy and full of mischief despite a pair of deceptively innocent blue eyes; the same colour blue as Mac's.
Whose eyes held hers now, holding love for her as she wrapped her arms round his neck, caressing the short strands of hair at the back of his skull. Foreheads leaning against each other, lips almost touching as they breathed. Her head tucked into the dip of his neck, Stella breathed in his scent, mingled with the aroma of the Christmas tree and the spices of the baking he had done earlier with Holly. Her eyes fluttered closed and she sighed in contentment, utter contentment as the chimes of midnight reverberated through the night.
'Merry Christmas, Mac,' she murmured.
He kissed the top of her head. 'Merry Christmas to you, too.'
They stayed holding each other, breathing together. Until Stella roused herself and looked into the living room. A soft rumbling chuckle came from Mac as they saw their daughter curled up fast asleep under the tree, her bear clutched to her.
'I guess wishing at midnight wore her out.' Stella grinned.
'Not as much as baking cookies for Santa with her wore her daddy out,' Mac mumbled and Stella grinned even more.
'Let's get our little sleepy-head to bed,' she said in a low voice, drawing Mac by the hand into the room. 'Then we can go back to bed, too. We're going to need as much sleep as we can get seeing as someone is still going to be awake very early tomorrow...'
Even when Mac bent down to scoop Holly carefully up into his arms, she didn't stir. With her curly dark head resting on his shoulder and her cheeks flushed berry red, she looked angelic, which made a wry smirk cross Stella's lips, knowing that the reality was anything but.
Holding back, indicating to Mac that she would follow shortly, she bent down to retrieve Bear who had fallen into the heap of cookies. An impulse, stirred by memory made her pause by the tree and study the two tiny dolls sitting in pride of place near the top. Despite their best efforts the little girl who had given them to Mac that Christmas Eve had never been traced: Stella suspected that she never would be. Some things, she'd decided, would always hold their secrets. Like the two dolls.
Two dolls whose eyes twinkled and gleamed in the light, winking even, as if sharing a secret joke with each other. Stella stared suspiciously at them, head cocked on one side.
But it was probably just the lights from the tree, catching the glass of their eyes. Nothing more. Stella smiled to herself, shaking her head at her imaginings, before she picked up Bear, brushed the cookie crumbs off him and left the room. In the hallway though, she stopped, spun on her heel and darted back to the door of the living room.
A delighted grin spread over her face as she peeped into the room - the two dolls were hand in hand, smiling at each other.
'Merry Christmas and thank you, to you and Santa when you see him,' she whispered and tiptoed away to bed.
Thank you for reading! Please do let me know what you think - I love to know! Love, Lily x