A/N: This is my third attempt at writing these guys, and I discovered that in my hands they are always introspective. Not sure how you folks feel about that, but please feel free to comment/review.

If there ever was a set of angst-prone characters, this whole cast fits the bill. There is definitely a lot of angst to be written. However, this fic is largely an exception to that. :) ...Because?

Merry Christmas!

The music traveled in from the living room: "I'll be home for Christmas... You can plan on me..."

Lisbon hummed along as she opened the plastic packaging and carefully peeled out the chilled cookie dough shapes, placing them on the cookie sheet in two even rows.

She slid the tray into the oven and turned the dial on the countertop timer. Taking a short-stemmed glass from the cupboard, she set it near the stove to remind her. The glass was one of four painted with a holly-and-berry theme. This set was currently the only seasonal dishware she owned.

"...if only in my dreams... " The song ended, Lisbon clapped and giggled in manic anticipation, literally skipping off to her bedroom to change into her Christmas pajamas. In a few minutes, her house would smell like warm, sugary gingerbread.

Lisbon was spending her holidays alone this year, but she wasn't going to fret about it. She had dismissed her team pretty early yesterday, and told them she hoped to not see them again until the 28th. They'd done nothing but catch up on paperwork the last few days, so everyone had left in a grateful hurry, rushing off to be with their family and friends and hoping they wouldn't be called in for a case.

As much as Lisbon enjoyed spending time with her extended family, she felt it was ultimately better for them all if they only saw each other a few times a year. This year her brothers had alternative plans. Tommy was on a manhunt and closing in, and even the teenage Annabelle wouldn't be visiting her Aunt Teresa this year. She had been invited to spend Christmas vacation at a ski lodge in Vail with her new best friend.

One day, Lisbon hoped... one day she wanted to have a family of her own.

Would she ever meet someone?

Maybe. But who knew?

There certainly seemed to be no guarantees in life.

Before she could go all melancholy on herself, she decided, resolutely, not to.

She didn't sit behind the empty bullpen for long. Soon she was walking through her own front door with a bag full of groceries and a variety tray of sushi with plastic chopsticks.

She had planned every detail of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and she made sure to include plenty of things to delight her grown self and her inner child.

Now it was Christmas Eve, and Lisbon had holiday music pouring from her Bose speakers. She sang along to everything, and sometimes danced to the faster songs. Her favorite old holiday movies were stacked on the coffee table, and she was going to choose one to watch when her cookies were finished baking.

She might watch two, if she felt like it. And then she would go to bed and sleep under newly washed sheets...

On Christmas morning, she would get up just a little bit later than she normally would, but savor the whole day. Starting with cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven; soy milk over ice, sprinkled with nutmeg. And of course coffee. Coffee went without saying.

If there were no Christmas movies on TV, she would watch another of the ones she owned. The Hallmark channel was going to be her fallback.

She'd bought a jigsaw puzzle - not one of those kittens-playing-with-a-ball-of-yarn puzzles. A complicated watercolor rendering of the midnight transformation scene from the Nutcracker ballet. She would dump the puzzle pieces onto the table by a bowl of her grandmother's sweet-and-spicy nut mix.

There was a bottle of white wine chilling in the fridge. She would sip on it while she cooked something new for dinner: a Christmas lasagna - Rachel Ray's version with the layers alternating between marinara and pesto sauce. A green salad with gorgonzola, dried cranberries, and pecans. She could freeze the lasagna in single servings so she wouldn't tire of eating the leftovers at work all next week.

After dinner, she would have more cookies with her favorite Christmas cocktail, and angle the TV toward the table. She would start "It's A Wonderful Life" while finishing the Nutcracker puzzle, and then move onto the couch to watch the rest of the classic movie before calling it a night.

Lisbon had it all planned, her perfect holiday. Next year she might have someone to share it with. If not, if she found herself alone again next year, she would carry on some of these same new traditions.

In her bedroom, she slid her arms into the roomy hockey jersey and pulled reindeer socks onto her feet.

She was headed back into the kitchen when the doorbell rang.

She frowned at the clock curiously, and then it hit her: Carolers!

"Coming!" she sang at the door, a big smile on her face. She had not planned this part of the evening, but the cheerful surprise made it even better.