An Immortal Gift
Paris Present Day
The chateau was just as he remembered it, only the rose colored stone walls were now mellowed with age. He shifted the gaily wrapped package into his other hand and knocked on the door. It was opened by a uniformed butler. A cold blast of air burst into the hallway, carrying with it little drifts of swirling snow.
"Yes?" the butler asked cautiously.
"I'm here to see Madame Shartay. She's expecting me."
"But, of course, sir. Do come in. And may I tell her who is here to see her?"
"Duncan, Duncan MacLeod."
"Excellent! Now, let me take your coat and then follow me into the parlor. Madame Shartay should be with you momentarily."
Duncan MacLeod shrugged out of the heavy black overcoat he wore and handed it over to the butler, who then turned and started down the long hallway. Stopping at a small door on the left, he opened it and directed Duncan inside and left to inform Madame Shartay she had company.
A soft white leather sofa and several chairs sat in front of a rock faced fireplace in the parlor. A nice fire warmed the room and Duncan as he sat down on the sofa, sighing as he sank into the rich luxury of the cushions. He removed the gloves he wore and held his hands out to the fire to warm his cold fingers. As he looked into the fire, he saw one orange flame licking greedily around the logs. He watched the flame as it moved, his mind wandering to another time...
It was a cold and rainy day, the wind blustery in its strength. Even so, the crowd at the outdoor market was as busy as ever. The crush of humanity almost rolled over the small boy as he darted behind a food cart. Along with the smells of overblown perfume and slightly unwashed bodies, the child's stomach tightened at the smell of freshly baked bread. The aroma wafted to him from inside the cart and it was more than he could stand. Beyond caring, he ran around the cart and snatched up a piece of the soft bread.
"Hey, what are you doing, you dirty, little thief?" the market woman screamed as the boy started to run away with his pilfered treat. "Oh, no, you don't," she cried as she snatched him up, holding him by his ragged jacket. "You're not going anywhere without paying for that, young man."
"But, but, I have no money, ma'am, and I'm oh so hungry." His huge blue eyes stared out of his small, dirt streaked face, begging for mercy.
"That's just too bad now, isn't it? We'll see what the constable has to say about this."
"If I may, my dear, sweet lady," the gentleman, dressed in dark silk finery, his long dark hair softly waving to his broad shoulders, interrupted. "I'd like to pay for that. This was all a misunderstanding, I'm sure." He withdrew a coin from his purse, more than enough to cover the cost of the bread, and took the small child by the hand, leaving the marketplace behind.
With a smile on his handsome face, Duncan MacLeod watched the boy as he ate the food placed in front of him. Duncan had brought him home and placed a dinner fit for a king before him. After a moment of silence, the boy had dove into the food, too happy to ask questions.
"So, what are you called?" Duncan asked when he saw the child come up for a breath of air.
"Johnny Malone, sir. My name is Johnny."
"Johnny, if I may ask, what were you doing wandering the streets alone?"
Johnny placed his fork down on his plate and quietly replied, "I don't have anyone. Me mum and dad went to heaven. No brothers, no sisters, and now no mum and dad." He bowed his dark head and tears started falling down his cheeks.
"That's okay, little one. You've got me now and I know someone who doesn't have a family either. She needs someone, too."
Paris Present Day
A loud pop brought Duncan back to the present, the crackling of the fire interrupting his thoughts. He could hear voices drifting down the hallway as someone neared the parlor. Standing up, he smiled as two women entered the room. The taller of the two was black haired and brown eyed and she carried herself with an elegant grace. The younger woman was blonde and petite and pretty in a delicate way.
"Duncan! How nice of you to come. What would Christmas be without you?" The dark haired woman came forward and gathered him into a warm hug.
"Ah, Dominique, you know I wouldn't miss an invitation of yours. And I brought you a present as well." He held out the gift he had brought to her.
"Duncan, you have already given me a present beyond compare," Dominique Shartay replied and motioned the other woman forward. "May I introduce my grand daughter, Gabrielle Malone."
The young woman walked up to him and smiled. And as she neared, he looked into her huge blue eyes. Eyes that were so familiar. The same beautiful eyes of a little urchin boy from so long ago. Yes, Johnny had found a home and a family. And Dominique now had her 'grand daughter' and the family she thought never to have in her Immortal life.
Dominique took his hand and directed him back to the sofa. And as they all sat down, she smiled at him, silently thanking him for that special gift so long ago.