Peter was alone.
May had to work Christmas at the hospital, and it was the perfect opportunity for the landlord to finally get the leak in the ceiling repaired, so he had decided to stay at University. He was paying to live in residence anyways, so might as well take full advantage of it. The only problem? He wouldn't be able to see Ned or MJ.
And he had really wanted to see MJ.
They had spent the summer together; one last glorious summer, with him and MJ and Ned, sometimes, when he could get away from his job. It was a summer of bookstores and sunsets and long lazy walks on those summer days that felt like they would never end. Going to the beach, movie marathons and falling asleep on each other.
They spent the last weekend before he left at the beach. They had had unusually good weather; it was sunny the whole time and just a bit windy, which was perfect beach weather in his opinion. That last night, they had taken a walk just as the sun was setting, barefoot and laughing, leaving footprints that were quickly washed away by the surf.
They had talked about everything and nothing at all, and he had been mesmerized by the way the light caught her eyes, the fire of the setting sun captured in the tangled halo of her hair.
She'd caught him staring, and smiled, and laced her fingers through his, and in that one motion, he was gone. He couldn't deny it any longer. He was in love.
The stars had come out, and they had returned to the beach, to sit beside the dying fire. She had shivered, so he pulled a blanket from the car and wrapped it around their shoulders.
Neither of them had talked. The silence should have felt awkward; Peter was sure that with anyone else it would have. But they were content just to sit there, the crackling of the fire mixing with the sounds of the night. It started to get dark, and Peter knew they should go to bed. But he wasn't ready for the night to be over.
MJ had laid her head on his shoulder and fallen asleep there, the warm weight of her anchoring him, filling him with happiness.
Eventually, he had carried her back to her tent and made sure she was wrapped in blankets before getting up to leave. But she had wrapped her hand around his and asked in a small, sleepy voice if he would stay. He probably should have left her there, but she smiled softly and tried to pull him closer and he realized that this was probably one of his last chances to see her like this; unguarded and close. So close.
So he'd pulled off his shoes and slid under the blankets, sinking into the warmth. He hadn't realized he'd been so cold. He had tried not to be too close to MJ, worried that he would wake her up, but she had turned around and snuggled into him. She had pressed her face into his chest and let out a little sigh, and he would be lying if he didn't say that his heart just melted. He wrapped his arms around and buried his face in her hair, smiling into her shoulder.
And the next morning, when they had woken up tangled around each other with the sun streaming through the walls of the tent, they hadn't had time to be awkward. He had university and she had work, and then travel; she was off to see the world.
And so here he was. Sitting in an empty apartment on Christmas Eve.
And then the doorbell rang. He got up to see who it was, wondering who would be there to see him. Then he opened the door, and all the air left his lungs.
MJ was there, on his doorstep, snow caught in her eyelashes and the folds of her coat.
"Hi," she said, sticking her gloved hands into her pockets.
"Hi," he said back, still not really believing she was there. Was this some kind of a dream? With a start, he realized he should let her in, he should do something, at least. Say something?
"How are you here?"
"Can I come in," she asked, and he back up, allowing her access and closing the door behind her.
"I took the bus. It really isn't that long..." she trailed off, fiddling with her gloves. "I came because...because I had to see you."
"Why?" he asked, his lungs not working.
"Because I really, really missed you. And, well, because I wanted to do this."
She leans forward and kisses him, and it feels like seeing for the first time, it feels like words spilling across a page and a lifetimes worth of sunsets and so what if he's being overdramatic. He can't help himself.
Because kissing MJ felt like everything.
She pulled away, settling back onto her heels, and he could see the snowflakes melting in her eyelashes.
"Do you remember," she asked, her breath unsteady, "Last summer, we were picking blackberries, and you asked me 'if you could be anywhere in the world, right now, where would it be?'"
"Sure," he said, remembering the thick smell of blackberries, and the way the juice had stained their hands, and how he couldn't look at her without his breath catching in his throat.
"I didn't answer you. Because the only place I wanted to be - the only place I'd ever wanted to be - was with you."
She took his hands in hers, stepping close enough that he could see multitudes of colours reflected in her pupils.
"I love you," she said. "I think I've loved you for as long as I've known you, actually."
He cupped her face in his hands. "I love you too, so much, I just- I can't believe this is happening."
She wrapped her arms around him and sank into his shoulder, whispering softly into his ear. "Well, you better believe it. Because I'm not going anywhere."
He laughed, holding her closer and marvelling at the way she seemed to fit perfectly in his arms, as if they had been made for each other.
"I'm counting on it."