Hi everyone! Thanks for all the wonderful support for HPTP. I've got most of it already planned, it's just a matter of getting it typed. This, however, will not leave my mind. I hope you have your dentist on speed dial. You're going to need him/her. Enjoy!

VVVVV

Mac entered the room quietly and shut the door behind him. Six months ago he would have left it wide open.

But then, six months ago he would have been sleeping alone.

If Stella wanted the door closed while she slept, then closed the door would be. He grinned at that thought and turned toward the bed. Enough light seeped in around the edges of the blinds so that he could make out her slender form in the middle of the bed.

Slightly curled on her side, Stella slept with one hand between her cheek and the pillow, her other arm wrapped around a different pillow--his pillow.

Mac stared a moment longer, content just to watch her sleep. Feisty and passionate when awake, she was equally relaxed and tranquil in slumber. Two vastly different sides of the same remarkable coin. A rare, remarkable coin. So rare in fact, that no others existed.

He sighed and shook his head, silently chiding himself and wondering when he'd started thinking poetically. Oh, right--six months ago.

The Greek goddess--as Mac liked to call her--sighed in her sleep and hugged the pillow tighter.

Her sigh pulled him back into the present, reminding him that as much as he loved watching her sleep, he loved sleeping with her in his arms even more. He made his way across the room to the adjoining bathroom where he quickly got ready for bed.

Minutes later, he padded around to 'his' side of the bed and sat down on the edge of the mattress. He needed his pillow, and he tried to ease it from her grasp without disturbing her.

The movement was enough to wake her, though, and she groaned sleepily. "Mac?"

"Yeah, it's me," he said as she released his pillow. "Sorry to wake you, but you had some grip on my pillow there."

Fully awake--which still amazed Mac that she was able to go from sleep to awake in a matter of moments--she laughed and leaned over to turn on the lamp, then pushed herself into a sitting position. "Your pillow was my Splenda."

"I don't follow," he said as he propped his pillow against the headboard and scooted up in the bed.

"A substitute for the real thing. You know, sugar and Splenda, you and your pillow?"

"Did you just compare me to sugar?'

She grinned. "Yes."

Mac chuckled. "There's one difference."

"Oh yeah?"

"I don't keep you up at night."

Her grin turned into a full-blown laugh, and she tilted her head to the side, dark curls falling across her face. "Yeah, right! That was the basis for my comparison!"

"Hey, you've done your fair share of keeping me up at night, too," he said as he reached up and tucked the errant strands of her curly hair behind her ear, his fingers lightly trailing down her jaw line.

Her eyes drifted shut, and she leaned into his touch. "I'm glad you're home. I don't sleep well when you're not here."

"You could have fooled me," Mac teased as his fingers slid down her neck and across her shoulders.

Stella scooted closer and leaned against him. "Seriously, Mac. I tossed and turned for at least an hour. I guess I've grown accustomed to having you as my pillow."

"But the sugar wasn't here, so you had to go with the Splenda."

"By George, I think he's got it!" Stella laughed.

"My Fair Lady?"

"Good!" she replied, trying to stifle a yawn.

"I wasn't just talking about the musical, you know."

Stella grinned. "Flatterer." Another yawn.

"Why don't you turn off the light, and we'll try to catch a few hours of sleep?"

"Yeah…" Stella agreed.

Mac moved down in the bed and pulled up the covers as Stella leaned over and cut off the lamp. She rolled back over and rested her head on his chest, her arm draped comfortably across him.

"Are you sure you don't want the Splenda?" he whispered.

"Mmm," she moaned, sleep already setting back in. "Why have the substitute when I can have the real thing, sugar?"

VVVVV

Thanks for reading! There's a part near the end that was inspired by a 'Melina Moment.' You'll understand if you've seen the video on YouTube (Thanks for the recommendation, Julia!). And if you haven't seen the video, check it out. It's definitely worth watching. :)