First Christmas Alone
By Iris Rose
It was Christmas Eve. He could hear the sounds of church bells in the near distance, ringing out rivers of joy and peace, celebration and salvation, flowing over the city like a gentle tide. Happy families, happy, cheerful children. Love and peace abounded.
But here, inside his studio apartment, a year after Tessa's death, he felt no peace, no joy, no happiness. His only comfort was in the bottle of good Scottish whiskey he was drinking, hiding this night in oblivion.
He thought of the past year, of the time he had exiled himself from everyone and everything he cared about that reminded him of the lost love he'd had to bear.
There had been many things in 400 years that had caused him pain, broke his heart, but never his spirit. He had loved and lost countless times. He had been abandoned by his father, his clan, because they didn't understand him, believed him to be a devil arising from the dead. In that time he had lost, for more time then he could remember, his whole existence, his whole self. Until Connor came and saved him, made him understand what he was, who he was. And, yet, being immortal had never stopped him from being Duncan MacLeod, of the Clan MacLeod. For, until his time of ending, he would always be that man, that person. He would always be the chieftain's son.
He had seen men and women die. He had killed his share. He had been forced to kill not only enemies, but sometimes friends. Immorality came with a price. Some immortals just couldn't handle the power, the timelessness. Some were good, turned evil. Some had been just evil. He had cried when he had needed to kill those he loved, called friends. He was man enough to cry when the tears threatened. Strong enough to kill even when the killing took something from inside his soul.
And Tessa had been there for him. For over 12 years she had been his strength, his warmth, his barrier against the part of his world few mortals knew about. He had loved her, he had been going to marry her, had asked her, she had accepted. She had been killed...shot by some thug's greedy need for drug money.
And now it was his first Christmas without her. As the whiskey took affect, he thought he could see her as she trimmed the tree, hear he laughter, see the light in her eyes as she floated around the apartment, decorating, teasing him about what he had for her gifts this year, teasing him because what do you get a 400 year old immortal? Teasing, laughing...
"Duncan? Wake up Duncan. It's Christmas eve, you sleepy head." The voice was heavily accented, defiantly female.
"Tessa?" His voice held both surprise and hope, mixed with confusion.
"Yes, who else do you think would be waking you up on Christmas eve? Not some other woman from your 400 years I hope."
Duncan was awake now, fully and completely. His heart beat to a new rhythm, hope filled him. It had been a dream? She wasn't dead? He dared not hope too much until he was sure.
"Tessa, is it really you?" he asked, his eyes starting to tear, filling with hope as they rested on her beloved face, her blond curly hair, her eyes. "Oh my god," he whispered, grabbing her down to him and holding her as close as he could manage. "Oh my god, Tessa, you're not dead. You're alive."
"Well, of course I'm alive, Duncan. Why wouldn't I be alive?" She was defiantly confused. "As Connor once told you, in this time and this place, we are alive to enjoy what we have."
"In this time and this place?" He asked. "What does that mean?"
"I don't know, silly. I guess you'll have to ask him what it meant. He's the one who said it."
He looked at her for hidden meaning and found none. She seemed as honest and pure as when he had first met her. His Tessa, his love. Again he held her close, so close their heartbeats became almost one. He trembled from his relief, his fear still too tangible.
Tessa could feel his body tremble as she held him close to her. She wrapped her arms around him, molded her soft body to the hard contours of his, kissed his brow, his eyes, his tears, his lips. She wanted to take into herself his fear and pain, giving him her love, tenderness, and strength in return.
"Tessa," he whispered. "God, I dreamed you died, that you were shot. I saved you from one evil for another to take it's place. I was able to save you from a crazy immortal, just for a mortal druggie to kill you for a few dollars to satisfy his habit."
"But I am here, now, Duncan," she whispered. "I am here for you this Christmas, for you to love, to fill your loneliness."
He smiled, a cautious smile. "Yes, you're here. Warm, vibrant, lovely as ever. How much I love you, Tessa. You can never know."
She smiled, then lifted herself so that she was looking down at him, "Well, shall we exchange our Christmas gifts then?"
A wicked smile crossed his lips, his eyes filled with remembered devilment, his body harden with sudden desire,
"Well, I have a Christmas present for you, my love. All you have to do is unwrap it to get at it."
"Duncan!" she pretended astonishment.
"Yes?" He was all innocence.
She laughed. "Well, first, you open mine." When his fingers went to her shirt buttons, she stopped them and said with a smile,
"That's your second gift, Duncan. I have another for you as well." She got up and went to the tree and pulled a softly wrapped package out from under, bringing it to him to unwrap.
He was never one for careful openings. He pulled the paper away like a child. He uncovered an oblong glass case maybe a foot long. Inside the case was a golden rose, sparkling, reflecting the twinkling lights of the tree.
"Oh my, Tessa," he said, taking it from it's case "this is exquisite. Where did you find such a treasure?"
"I had it made for you," she answered. "What do you get someone who has everything? I was pretty sure you hadn't one of these."
No, I didn't, until now," he smiled. Then reaching for her, he drew her to him,
"Thank you, Tessa. Now, what about your other promised present?"
She smiled. "Don't I get anything for Christmas?" When she saw his eyes light up with devilment, she laughed.
"Not that present, Duncan. I thought I saw a present under the tree for me, too."
Duncan got up and went to the tree. Sure enough, there was a present there with Tessa's name on it. He didn't remember getting it or wrapping it. He didn't remember a lot of things tonight. But things were alright now, and that's all he needed to know. She was here.
He reached down and brought the present out and handed it to her. He wondered if he had indeed gotten her the present he had considered only a few months ago...
Meanwhile, Tessa was opening the small gift with the same childlike excitement Duncan had shown. She gasped when she undid the black box she uncovered. Inside was a sapphire and diamond necklace and earring set. Small, beautiful, delicate like her.
"Oh, Duncan," she said. "It's beautiful."
"Not nearly as beautiful as you are," he said. It wasn't a lie, he meant it. She sat there with the lights of the tree surrounding her, making a halo around her blond curls. She smiled up at him, her love almost a tangible thing between them. Without a word he reached for her and she came into his arms like a breeze, effortless, warm, soothing.
They made love slowly, tenderly, intensely, there on the couch. Then they went to the bed and did it again. Twice. It was almost dawn when they fell asleep, her last words to him being,
"Duncan, you must not live in the past so much. Take what you are and live on in your life. Remember that I will always love you..."
Duncan woke to the sun shining weakly through the window of his apartment. He reached for Tessa, but she wasn't there. He turned and fell onto the floor, the couch too narrow to keep his body safe.
He sat up and looked around through bleary eyes, seeing again the apartment he had lived in for the past year. The studio apartment. She wasn't there, she hadn't been all night. He had dreamed it all.
He felt the tears start, hot and streaming. He bowed his head where he sat on the floor, his shoulders heaving with his cries, his soul in distress. How could a good God allow someone like her to die? That was the question he has asked himself over and over again. He had no answers.
When his sobs had subsided, he lifted his head and caught a glint of sunshine bouncing off something shiny on the coffee table, behind the toppled empty whiskey bottle. With trembling fingers he reached out his hand and picked it up.
It was a golden rose