December 15th :

Watching Stella walk out of Mac's office Flack sighed internally. Hell, she was a beautiful woman. He was tired of waiting for Mac to make a move on her. An idea had been germinating in his head and with Christmas coming Flack decided to go for it, boss be damned. He just wished he knew how Stella felt about it. Oh well, he might know soon enough.

"Mac. We need to talk."

Mac looked at the homicide detective and waited, knowing that whatever it was would come out sooner or later.

"When I joined your team I was warned not to ask Stella out because everyone said that it was a matter of time before you two were an item but here it's been years and you are still just looking at her and I'm tired of waiting. I like her and think I could make her happy. So I'm going to ask her out." Flack waited for Mac to toss him out knowing that it was quite likely that he just pissed off his boss.

After several seconds of steely silence Flack went on: "I'll give you a fighting chance. Christmas is in ten days. If you do want her, all you have to do is get her to kiss you before I kiss her. Dead line is the office party on the 23rd. Cuz I'm planning on finding some mistletoe and some New Years Eve plans that night. If she kisses you before she kisses me I'll let you have her, no hard feelings."

Mac was having an interesting time in his head. Part of him wanted to punch the younger man for talking about Stella like she was something to be won. But another part of him liked the idea. He had indeed had feelings for Stella for some time and had been reluctant to act on them. He knew about the office gossip and had just ignored it. Everyone had expected he and Stella to get together after Claire had died. The only thing he did not know was how Stella felt. Suddenly he smiled. He thought this might be fun. Why not? It would give him the push he needed to start something with her. And if not, she still would have a great guy at the end of it all.

"Any other rules I need to know about?", said with the characteristic arch of the eyebrow.

Flack worked hard to conceal his shock that the older man would go for it, but said after thinking: "At least one impartial witness. Preferably more. Witness spills at 10 the night of the party."

"Deal. Now out. I have paperwork."

Flack could not conceal his grin as he walked out of the office. He just needed some help getting his kiss. He knew Angell would be willing to help him with this game.

He found her sitting at his desk. "Um. You belong across the room. At the mess that hides your desk. If you stay here you will corrupt my desk."

The female grinned at him. "You know the first time you find me at my desk you are going to think something is wrong. Admit it, you like it that I'm here."

"Yes, but I also admit that I'd like it more if you were there." He pointed again to the pile of papers and stuff that hid her desk, knowing that she knew he was teasing all along.

"Alright alright alright I'm going." She gave him a fake pout and made to walk off.

"Hang on. You remember the idea I had about asking Stella out?"


"Well, I talked to Mac about it and he went for it. Believe you me, when I tell you I was shocked. Anyway, I need your help." And with that he detailed his plan for getting his kiss. As he expected, she was all for it.

Mac sat in his office enjoying the view. From where he sat he could see Stella's profile as she sat going over evidence. She was as different as any woman could be from Claire. Yet both were beautiful in their way. Stella, tall and willowy had a steely determination about her that hid her vulnerability. Claire had been short and voluptuous with short blond hair that she kept in a paige-boy cut. Some how she had managed to keep from looking "cute" and had always looked beautiful. Both were similar in ways as well; they both loved to shop and knew how to dress. In fact, often the two of them had shopped together coming back to Claire and Mac's after, full of giggles and stories of the men who tried to hit on them as they had shopped. Mac had enjoyed listening to them together.

Stella paused from her work to rub the small of her back, giving Mac an idea. He got up and walked to the lab where she sat.

"Hey." She looked up at him and smiled. Her smile got wider when she saw what he held in his hand. Her weakness was Dark Chocolate Twix and he always shared his with her. What she did not know was that he kept them in his desk so he could share them with her.

"Thought you might like a break." He said.

"Yeh. I'm actually about done here. We closed the case about an hour ago. The death was accidental thankfully. I did not want to have to put that young man in jail. Not at this time of year. Give me a few and I'll meet you in the break room."

"Nah. I'll wait for you."

Stella looked at him curiously. Mac rarely wasted a minute waiting for anyone. If he had 3 minutes free he was in his office going over his unsolved files. "Suit yourself."

Mac enjoyed watching Stella work. She was methodical and worked hard. That she was beautiful did not hurt either. Occasionally as she worked she would steal glances at him as if she were trying to figure something out. Finally she stood up, stretched and announced that she was ready for her chocolate bar. He smiled, said he had something better in mind and indicated that she follow him. As they passed his office he noticed that in the few minutes he had been gone someone had hung mistletoe in his doorway. It happened every year and usually he took it down but this time he thought he might be able to utilize it to his advantage. Pausing in the breakroom long enough only to grab some hot chocolate and candy canes, he lead Stella to the top floor of the building. He knew there was an unused space there that had amazing views of the city. What would happen in there he had no plans, but he thought talking to her was a step in the right direction.

Sure enough, no one was there, though someone had pulled the chairs in from the roof so there were places to sit. Stella though, chose the floor and accepted her sweets. "What's going on Mac. You're acting strange. Is everything ok?"

"Nothing's wrong Stella. I just thought it would be nice to talk. We've not had a real conversation in weeks."

And so they sat. For an hour the world continued below as they talked. What they talked about neither could tell. It was just companionship conversation. Stella was eating the last of her chocolate bar when Mac's phone went off. They were being looked for. Walking back to the elevator Stella looked at Mac to thank him but before she could say anything his finger was on her mouth. "You've got chocolate…" he wiped it off and with a wink stuck his finger in his own mouth. "Thanks. I think. And thank you for the talk Mac. I had forgotten how human you can be. Lately it's been all business." Stella gave him a cheeky grin. Mac rolled his eyes and got in the elevator. "Coming?"


December 17th :

"Hey Stell." Flacks voice came through her brain. She was thinking about Mac again. He had been in such a strange mood since that day on the top floor. There was nothing she could put her finger on, it was just a string of little things; a lingering look, a slight pressure on the hand. Things appearing in her work space. She knew the gifts were from him; no one else knew how much she loved unusual glass ware, yet a beautiful martini glass set had been sitting on her desk that morning. In the bottom of each of the glasses was a little glass olive. It had the pimento in it and everything. When she thanked him he blushed and said he had seen them in a shop near a crime scene and that it was nothing. It was as if he were trying to flirt with her or something. But not Mac. He was not the type. Besides, she had given up on that long ago. Maybe it was just the time of year getting to him. And why had he left the mistletoe up in his office door? Usually it lasted all of thirty seconds before he took it down grumbling about excessiveness.

"Hey Flack. How's it going?"

"Not bad. Do you have dinner plans? I was on my way out and saw you standing here…" He looked a little self-conscious.

"I don't as a matter of fact. Are you purposing to change that?"

"Yeh. I was just gonna grab a beer and some grub. You are welcome to come."

Mac saw them leave and happened to catch Flack's eye. Flack just gave him a wink and put his arm around Stella's shoulders. Mac was surprised to realize how much that gesture affected him. Stella was his. Flack be damned. He was not going to lose Stella. He would abide by the rules of the game but was determined to win.

December 20th :

Stella wondered what was going on. Mac had happened upon herself and Flack in the breakroom earlier that day. She had been getting out of her chair when it seemed to get a life of its own and tipped her into Flack just as Mac had walked in. The look he had cast at Flack had been enough to stop any laughter at her clumsiness. The strangest part of it all was that Flack just looked at his boss with a very mysterious twinkle in his eye. Flack had held her a little longer than necessary and not until Mac had left, positively steaming, did he release her. Flack was always a flirt but again, lately, he too had seemed more so, especially when Mac was around. Stella would be glad when the holidays were over. She had no idea what was going on with the two men and would be glad when it was over. She was not a fan of drama. And what was going on with Mac was causing drama in her head. She was beginning to wonder if she should allow herself to feel what she had locked away long ago.

Once she had disengaged herself from Flack she had gone looking for her friend. She wanted to ask him what was going on but he had not been in his office. Oh well. She knew she'd find him later. If nothing else she knew she'd talk to him in a few days at the party. And the mistletoe was still there.

Mac was getting frustrated. He had not had any chances to talk to her again. Sure he had made some physical gestures but nothing like he wanted. He had left the damned plant in his office door hoping to catch her as he held the door for her on her way in or out of his office but there had been no opportunity.

Meanwhile Flack had reported to Angell that his plan was working and he suspected he was going to get his kiss the night of the party after all. Angell had just laughed at him and said she'd believe it when she saw it.

December 23rd:

Mac's brain reeled when he saw her. She was wearing the dress he had seen her in the night she had taken his tie off before his date. Her legs went on for years in that dress. He was also annoyed because she was dancing with Flack and he could tell Flack was maneuvering her to get under the mistletoe that was hung in the centre of the room. He could have kissed Angell when she broke in, claiming Flack for the remainder of the dance. Stella came up to him smiling. "Mac. You look like the Grinch. Lighten up! C'm on. Dance with me." She pulled him to the floor and he went willingly.

"Mac, what's been going on lately? You've been so strange."

"No I haven't."

"Yes!" There was laughter in her eyes. "You have! There are too many little things to mention but what was with the martini glasses? I love them but why? And every time I'm with Flack you look like you'd love to strangle him. And you left the mistletoe above your door. You never leave mistletoe above your door!"

"Well…" he looked into her green eyes. He decided to go for it. "I care for you Stella, I have for some time. Seeing you with Flack made me jealous. And the mistletoe was to create an opportunity that never did happen."

The sparkle in her eyes had changed to a glow as he spoke and when he finished she raised her hands to his face and said "What about now?" just before bringing his lips to hers. They were interrupted by a loud shout coming from Flack who looked like he had just won the lottery. "I win!" He shouted and pulled Angell into a kiss.

Mac was shocked. "Hold on!! What is this? Flack, what about asking Stella out yourself?"

"It was never the plan. The real wager was between me and Angell. I was tired of seeing you stare after Stella and so made a bet with Jen. If you two got together she'd let me kiss her finally. We've been dating for a month. I had till midnight tonight. Sorry I pushed your chair over the other day Stella. I saw Mac headed our way and took my chance."

"Mac?" Stella was looking at him expectantly. He decided to come clean. As he told her about Flack's "game" her mouth dropped. When he was done she was silent. Finally she turned from him and walked over to Flack who was standing with his arm around Jen. She went up to him and kissed his cheek, thanking him with just a gesture. Then she returned to Mac.

"So you're not mad at me? You don't feel used?" He asked.

"I'm furious." She said, pulling him down for another kiss.