In the Bleak Mid-Winter
By Palladia

During the days of long shadows, Methos had taken to walking the streets of Paris, crossing and re-crossing the Seine, standing in the middle of the bridges, staring sightlessly into the river. It was cold enough that wraiths of mist rose from the river, dancing.

When he had first seen this river, the little Celtic village had been Lutetia, on what was now the Ile de la Cite'. He'd been passing as a Roman, then, a surgeon with the troops, and they'd celebrated Saturnalia, while the locals lit bonfires to get rid of the results of the fall slaughtering.

He'd been a surgeon for Alexander, too, and watched the celebrations for Zoroaster, high in the Hindu Kush, always an observer, never really a celebrant, even when he seemed to be: a part of him stood aside and watched.

Methos found himself wondering just how much Earth's tilt on its axis contributed to the religions of its people. If there were no seasons, would the death-and-rebirth stories have arisen?

Other people's celebrations, other people's creeds, he smiled to himself, never his. By this time, he was walking the narrow avenues of the Pere LaChaise cemetery, thinking idly that if he were going to be wool-gathering, perhaps he should do it on holy ground.

The feeling was so faint, just a murmur, and he almost shrugged it off, but his caution never really slept: alertness washed away his reverie. It was near dusk, and he'd have to leave before the gates were closed, but there was something in division 7, Methos thought, turning his head like a deer trying to localize a sound.

A little bundle lay at the tomb of Heloise and Abelard, wrapped in a blanket, tied with a red ribbon, with a sprig of mistletoe at the knot.

They leave gifts for the dead, he thought, Jim Morrison's tomb is awash in them.

Then the bundle moved a little, and he knew. Gathering it up, tucking it inside his coat, he headed straight for the gates.

"Just for a couple of days, Duncan, I want to show her Paris. We'll be very quiet."

Duncan looked at Fitzcairn and his lady friend, wondering when ever Fitz had been quiet. But it was nearly Christmas, and how bad could it be?

The friend's name was Adelie, Fitz told him later in private. He would surely recognise her stage name, so just let's leave it at that, all right, laddie? She needed a rest: eight performances a week were very wearing. If she stayed in London, she'd feel guilty, so he'd sort of dragged her off.

It had been a good meal, Fitz had stoked up his pipe, and they were sprawled near the fireplace, with only its glow lighting their faces, cutting hard shadows on the men's profiles. Adelie had fallen asleep, her head in Fitz's lap, when the door opened to let in a cold snap of winter air.

"Duncan, I hate to bother you, but I have a problem." Methos unbuttoned his overcoat, brought out the bundle, and knelt by the fire to show the face, very pink from the chill. Fitz looked at him with a wry grin.

"You don't have a problem: you have a solution. You just didn't know it. Here. . ." Fitz reached up, carefully took the bundle from the other man and tucked it in beside the sleeping woman. In her sleep, whatever she was dreaming curled her around it, and a log in the fire broke, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney.

The only religion I've ever really held, Methos smiled at the new-made madonna, Life is worth living, and worth sustaining.

The quiet could not last with a new baby, all three men knew. Still, there would be a little more joy in the world that this one foundling was, in fact, found.

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