Home for the Holiday
By Leah CWPack

"You could have called ahead," MacLeod grumbled.

"And a Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to you too," Methos returned wryly, handing him a brightly wrapped package. He glanced over MacLeod's shoulder and redirected the wry smile into the loft, where a long-haired woman sat stiffly on the sofa. Her returned stare was colder than the streets outside.

"Methos, if you knew it was my birthday, you also could've guessed that you wouldn't be the only one who would come by and celebrate with me." MacLeod only reluctantly stepped aside enough to let the older Immortal pass into the loft.

"What makes you think I didn't?" Methos pulled off his long overcoat and casually hung it on the rack. "Hello, Cassandra. Got your three holly leaves and red candle ready?"

"I may occasionally have to share this space with you because of our mutual friendship with Duncan. I don't have to pretend to enjoy your company."

Methos sighed. "I suppose it's better than a challenge. Will you share some of that mulled concoction with me?" He addressed the question at MacLeod, who was hovering cautiously close by, perhaps anticipating the need to prevent mayhem.

"I will if you'll play nice," the Scot warned.

"This is the thanks I get for bringing you a present?"

"If I recall, the last present you brought him was Kronos," Cassandra pointed out.

Methos flinched. "You're a beacon of good cheer, this holiday season."

"Sorry. This time of year has some bad associations for me."

The flinch was inward, this time. Methos had forgotten the time of year he had raided Cassandra's village as easily as he'd forgotten his ancient victim, until Bordeaux. "Yes. Well, that's actually part of the reason why I'm here."

Cassandra's eyebrows climbed. MacLeod had an equally quizzical expression as he brought a steaming mug over to the new arrival.

"You see, I did think there was the possibility that you might be here on the Solstice, you having been Duncan's childhood watchdog and all..."

"You meant wolf," MacLeod warned.

Methos shrugged in acceptance. "In any case, I thought it would be a good time for this." He reached into a pocket and drew out a small box.

Cassandra eyed the neatly wrapped offering as if it were a scorpion. "I don't want anything from you," she bit out.

"It isn't from me," Methos said quietly.

The tone of his voice and the intent look in his eye overcame her reluctance. She removed the box from his outstretched hand and held it.

"Unless your special talents include X-ray vision, you'll need to open that," Methos quipped.

After another moment's reluctance and a quick glance at MacLeod, Cassandra defiantly tossed off the wrapping and opened the little box.

She stared inside, silent.

Finally, she put two fingers into the box and lifted out the contents; nothing more than a small quartz stone on a leather string. She held it
for a long time before finally raising her eyes to his. Great emotion clearly showed behind those large green eyes, but she could bring only one word to her lips.

"How?"

"It was never mine to keep. It's time I returned it to you."

Her gaze returned to the object for another long pause. Then she put it back into the box, tucked it into her hand, and rose. "Good night, Duncan. Have a lovely Yule."

The curiosity plain on his handsome face, MacLeod exchanged a kiss with her and watched as she put on her coat and left without another backward glance. When the lift descended, the Highlander turned and glared at his other guest. "What was that?"

Methos sipped at his hot cider and shrugged. "A bit of a miracle, actually. I generally sold anything of value when we returned from one
of our raids," he said apologetically. "But Cassandra's village was poorer than most. When her father told me they had nothing, he wasn't far from the truth."

Methos took the spot on the sofa that Cassandra had just abandoned. As he settled comfortably, he shot another glance at MacLeod and warmed his hands on the mug. Duncan suspected he was also warming another part of himself on the lingering heat of the former occupant.

"I was a land pirate, and an Immortal. If I couldn't sell something right away, I put things in a cache for a better time." Methos shrugged
again. "And like the rest of us, I get the memories of those who lose the challenge...along with where they keep the valuables. You know how it is."

MacLeod's face looked stormy. "I know. I usually find a deserving recipient for personal effects and inheritances."

Methos smiled. "Well, there weren't many boy scouts around, back then. I have quite a few merit badges to earn, yet."

"And the box?"

The older Immortal's gaze turned distant and reflective. "I only kept two things for myself, that day. The Shaman's daughter...and his
talisman." He glanced up. "Worth a merit badge, you think?"

"But you kept it all this time?"

"I keep a lot of things, in a lot of different places. I'm over five thousand years old, Mac. Think of the garage sale I could have, someday."

"And you searched these garages until you found that one little stone?"

"Objects of power were important, back then. For the right collector, a Shaman's talisman would have had some value. I just never got around to disposing of that one. I thought--"

"--of someone else." MacLeod's smile slowly returned. "Worth at least one merit badge." He raised his own mug. "Happy holidays, Methos."

Methos raised an eyebrow in alarm. "I hope in future this doesn't mean I have to help the old lady across the street..."

--------------------------------------

If I cannot bring you comfort,
then at least I bring you home,
For nothing is more precious
than the time we have and so
we all must learn from small misfortune
count the blessings that are here
let the bells ring out for Christmas
at the closing of the year

up on the back of a sergeant major
ride through the woods with the wind in your hair
silver bells on a stolen reindeer
as we race to the castle over there

If I cannot bring you comfort
then at least I bring you home ...

Now all the winter bells are ringing
Hear them echo through the snow
and the children's voices singing
on the streets so far below

This is a time to be together
and the truth is somewhere here
within our love all people
at the closing of the year

We'll walk, innocent
with all of the pain, and all of the patience
all of the way
with all of us right
and all of us sane
love one another
we'll fly in the arms of time
walk in the waves never fall
don't fall
at the closing of the year

If I cannot bring you comfort
then at least I bring you home ...

"The closing of the Year" from the Toys soundtrack

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