Tristan pressed his gloved finger against the doorbell and had to fight the urge to run off screaming into the night. "..fuck. I can't do this, Kieran." He was shaking. Even being outside the house was giving him bad memories.

"Shh... of course you can." Kieran gave his other hand a gentle squeeze. "You'll be fine."

Tristan let out a long breath, his shoes crunching the freshly fallen snow. ".. you know, we could probably run."

"We're not running."

"How 'bout a brisk jog?"


Susan Mitchell wiped her hands on a towel and headed to answer the door. "Who could that be?" She opened the door and blinked several times, her eyes widening. "...T...Tristan?!"

His throat tightened, and he forced a smile. "H..hey. Merry Christmas."

"Oh my God!" She hugged him tightly, voice choking. "Y.. you came home to see me....."

He closed his eyes tightly to will himself not to cry and hugged her back. "Yeah.. I.. thought it'd be a halfway decent present.."

"I've missed you horribly... you know how worried I've been?!"

Tristan nodded, sighing. "I.. I know, mom. I.. I'm sorry..I missed you too." He kissed her cheek.

Kieran stood to the side, not wanting to interrupt. A young girl wearing a red and green dress peeked from around her mother's legs and looked at Kieran, waving shyly.

Kieran smiled at the little girl and waved at her. "That sure is a pretty dress you're wearing."

The girl giggled and clung to Susan's leg. Tristan crouched down. "Hey, Mellie.. " He handed her a small wrapped box. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart.."

Her eyes widened and she promptly threw her arms around Tristan's neck, giving him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Susan sniffled and dabbed at her eyes. "Where are my manners? Come in!" Tristan grinned and motioned for Kieran to follow him in.