Stella stood in the living room of her apartment, the darkness of the night outside held at bay by only the glow of the candles she had lit and the twinkle of the lights she was stringing on her Christmas tree. One of the local radio stations had taken to playing nothing but holiday music for the last few weeks of the year, and she sang softly along with each song as she worked.

When the lights were strung, she began hanging ornaments, one by one, choosing each branch carefully for each ornament. The music shifted from a peppy, up-beat carol to the slow, sad strains of the Eagles' Please Come Home for Christmas.

Stella frowned. She had never liked that song. Because of her family-less life, she had never had a home to go to at Christmas, and the Eagles reminded her of it every year.

Choirs will be singing Silent Night
Christmas carols by candlelight
Please come home for Christmas
Please come home for Christmas
If not for Christmas, by New Year's night

This year, though, the frown was not because of her lack of a family, it was because of her lack of Mac. He had taken a few of the millions of vacation days he had on the books and headed to Chicago to visit his parents, leaving her in charge of the lab and alone for Christmas.

"He'll be back for New Year's," she said out loud, trying to convince herself that she was okay with the arrangement. "And he hasn't' seen his family in ages…"

Friends and relations send salutations
Sure as the stars shine above
This is Christmas, yeah, Christmas my dear
The time of year to be with the one you love

"The one I love is in Chicago," she grimly explained to the radio.

"No he isn't," a cheerful voice called to her as a parka-clad man walked through the door. "He's right here."

"Mac!" She dropped the ornament she was holding and rushed over to him, throwing her arms around him gleefully. "What are you doing here?"

He smiled and held her tightly against him, despite the parka and the melting snow that covered it. "I missed you," he said simply, closing his eyes as he breathed in the scent of her hair.

"I missed you, too," she said softly. Then she pulled back. "But what about your family? You should be with them for the holidays…"

"I will be," he told her in his usual understated manner. This time, though, there was a twinkle in his eye. "And so will you."

"What?"

"Our flight leaves tomorrow morning."

"What?" she repeated, not following his line of thinking.

He shed his parka and gloves and pulled her close again, running his fingers through her thick curls, taking in every feature of her face with his eyes and every curve of her body with his arms. "You are coming home to Chicago with me for a proper Midwestern Christmas."

Her arms slid around his shoulders and she raised an eyebrow at him. "Who's gonna take care of the lab?"

"The night-shift supervisor," he replied. "His family is all here in New York…plus I bribed him with a couple of extra vacation days over the summer."

She grinned. "So we're going to Chicago…"

"…tomorrow…"

"…together?"

He leaned in, his breath quickening and his heart pounding, his lips curled into a playful grin. "Yes." He kissed her softly, feeling the thrill run through his body as his mouth found hers. "I love you," he whispered.

She smiled brightly. "I love you, too." She leaned up and kissed him again, but when she drew away this time she had a worried look on her face.

"What's wrong?" Mac asked, suddenly wondering if he had overstepped a boundry somewhere along the line.

"It's awfully cold in the Windy City," she told him with a glint in her eyes. "You're gonna have to keep me warm…"

He laughed, leaning down to kiss her again. "With pleasure."

There'll be no more sorrow…no grief and pain
And I'll be happy, happy once again