Duncanís Birthday
By Gemma MacWench

December 20, 2001

A thick white blanket of snow covered the mountainous landscape as far as the eye could see in all directions. Lonely snow covered peaks and evergreens seemed like towering hibernating giants on the horizon. A single curl of smoke spiraled to the sky in a small isolated valley that dipped between the lowest mountain crests and a cabin was the only hint of life at the moment as the light of day was beginning to fade.

A light burned inside the cabin and a lone figure steadily made a way through the snow towards the cabin door carrying a bundle of wood. The figure, wrapped from head to toe pushed through the snow covered entry and laid the wood by the already blazing fire in the hearth. Layer after layer of clothing were removed with fingers cold and stiff from the deep chill, until Duncan was free of his mid-winter fetters and could sink into a nearby sofa.

The last year had been one of isolation and mourning. Dawson was the only person he couldn't seem to shake but doubted that even he was anywhere nearby at this time of year. It had been two months since he had contact with Dawson who had checked in with Mac to catch him up on the life he had left behind. He knew he had done the right thing. In a world where you're challenged to a fight to the death simply because you might be the best or to get even for some past indiscretion, your friends are not safe around you. The thought of another loss ravaged his sleep and waking hours. There had been many midnight katas to weary his body to restless sleep.

Oddly enough, this was one of those rare nights when the sofa was soft and warm and sleep came suddenly and deeply.

"More coffee, Duncan." No, I don't think I'm in the mood for more coffee at the moment", he said as he pulled Tessa close to him, wrapped her in his arms and gently found the floor in front of the fireplace.

The wind outside the cabin rocked him into a deeper sleep.

"Mac, can I take the car", asked Richie? "I met this girl and she really likes the batmobile thing. I think she's really hot for me. Could be a nice Christmas if I don't run into any bad guys with swords of course."

The fire crackled and danced and the cabin felt safe.

"Duncan, I don't care if it's the cheapest champagne in the world as long as it's French and I can drink it with you", said Amanda, laying her Christmas packages and bundles all over the loft. She crinkled her nose at him and the little diamond stud caught the sun coming through the window. Why didn't she ever get to him the way he thought she would.

Good dreams are the reward of a good man and a smile crossed Duncan's lips as he slept.

"MacLeod, you analyze things to much. Make the best decision, carry through and the hell with the consequences. I didn't last this long worrying about what I can't change. Now let's get on with it, I could use a cold one about now." Methos had made his decision a long time ago to go with the winner. Duncan always wondered what he had done to deserve such a guardian.

Snow continued to wrap the cabin in a cocoon of the fluffy white stuff.

"Okay, so you can't sing Mac but I appreciate you're trying out for the band. Maybe you can try again in another century. Hey, I've got tickets to the Nicks game to make you feel better. How about it. Joe always knew how to tell Duncan the truth.

December 21, 2001

Duncan squinted, opened one eye and saw the sun coming up over the ridge. What a night of memories. It was the hardest he'd slept in ages. The sun was out today and things looked a little brighter. After eating, he layered and bundled up and went out to his daily chores. He had traps to check and miles to hike. He lived off the land these days as much as he could and brought supplies up from a nearby town. The hard life had taken his mind off things. Maybe in the spring he would try moving to some small obscure town.

It was getting on towards sunset when Duncan came in site of the cabin. Home again he thought, and a twinge of emptiness tugged at his soul. He pushed open the door as he had done so many times before but noticed the snow had not accumulated and it opened without much effort. As he walked into the cabin, he could smell cinnamon and there were candles lighted all over the room. He removed his heavy layers of outer clothing and laid them by the door. There was a small tree on the table near the window, decorated with candy canes, red roses and white ribbon.

"Dawson?", thought Duncan. He always thought that St. Nick would make a cool bluesman. His smile broadened as he tried to picture Joe Dawson in a Santa suit.

Food. He could smell food. This was really getting weird. "Joe? You here", asked Duncan. There was no answer. He went over to the kitchen table to see the spread. There among the delicacies, were champagne, caviar......and......a birthday cake. "Amanda?" He could smell her perfume....but it couldn't be. Dawson knew better. He had been warned that no one was to know where he was.

"Since when have I ever done what I'm supposed to when it comes to a friend, Mac?", said Joe.

Duncan whirled around toward the bedroom door to see Methos, Joe and Amanda standing there looking just a little worried and smiling sheepishly.

Duncan starred in disbelief, frowned and helplessly breathed a deep sigh.

"We thought, you'd spent enough time alone. Whatever happens, happens, Mac. We're all big boys and girls and we know how the game goes." added Methos.

"Duncan, we can't avoid our lives but I'm not going to waste centuries, days or even minutes not living it to the fullest with the people I love the most." Amanda starred hard at Duncan, totally and uncharacteristically serious and Duncan knew that tone all to well.

He was helpless. Tragic events and months of isolation had given him a perspective he hadn't had before. He needed them, all of them. They were the only family he had now. Maybe there was a way and it was time to rejoin the living, he thought.

It seemed like they stood there for ages, faced off with Duncan, like cowboys in a western movie, determined to get their way or else. Duncan was still a little frozen to his spot and the emotions swirled around like heavy drifts of snow in his weary, lonely heart. Finally, his shoulders relaxed, his face softened and a tear welled up in one eye. This was happiness and he wouldn't let the joy of the moment pass.......They awaited his answer.

"Okay, but I get the drumstick", he said at last with a twinkle and a big smile.

Amanda ran into Duncan's outstretched arms and Joe and Methos, gave each other a high-five over their coup. Night had fallen again and the temperature dropped but this night was going to be the warmest in a very long time.

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