The Christmas Eve Kitten
By Rach

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December 24th 1999 - The Glebe

The Glebe was looking especially festive as Amy slowly made her way up the long drive. A few snowflakes were lazily drifting down past the big bay window of the sitting room, illuminated by the coloured lights that were decked around the real pine tree that Methos had insisted upon.

Amy smiled - it hadn't taken a lot of arm twisting to convince her to go for a Christmas with all the trimmings, after all it would be the first family Christmas she had been involved with since she was a child. To that end, Methos' main Christmas present to her was flying her parents over from Seattle to stay with them for the holidays. Cerian, his adoptive daughter, was also staying. So too were Joe and his daughter Amy. When Methos had heard that Joe would be stuck in Paris on his own, he had immediately thrown open the offer, and had refused to take no for an answer.

As Amy got closer to the old Tudor mansion, she could smell the wood smoke that was coming from the open hearth and over that came the faint smell of boiling ham. She smiled - she had to admit she felt like a kid all over again given all the preparations and the anticipation of trying the English customs, all of which were new to her.

As she passed the duck pond, however, something broke across her happy reverie. She paused, and listened again. There it was, just a pitiful, mewling cry. Slowly she turned, listening hard for any signs of where the sound was coming from. As she started to face the duck pond, she spotted the rushes gently shivering in spite of there being no wind to move them. Looking closer, she spotted a tiny, black bundle caught up in them and as she came nearer the bundle resolved itself into a charcoal black kitten.

It let out another mew, and made - Amy assumed - another attempt to get out of the rushes. Unfortunately all it succeeded in doing was slipping further down into the rushes and closer to the icy water of the duck pond. It was the matter of a heartbeat to decide what to do - Amy was not someone who could let an animal struggle, especially not when that struggle appeared to be leading to an inexorable and slow death. Slowly, so as not to alarm the already frightened kitten, she reached in and rescued it from its reed-prison.

She had intended to just set it down on the path and let it find Mamma Cat, but once it was safely in her hands, she realised its whole body was wracked by shivers and its hind quarters were already wet with water from the pond. There was no way that this kitten would survive if she left it. Seeing no alternative, Amy carefully held the kitten and hurried up the remainder of the path.

Someone in the house must have seen her approach, because as she reached the doorstep the door was flung open.

Before Methos could say anything, Amy hurried into the house. "Do you know anything about animals?" she asked.

"How do you mean?" Methos sounded puzzled.

"I found this, almost drowned in the reeds," Amy replied and revealed the tiny kitten in her hands.

Methos cast his eye over the shivering animal. "What do you suppose... Never mind. We need to get him warmed up and get some food into him - he's starving."

It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him how he knew, but as she glanced down, Amy saw what Methos' trained eye had spotted: the kitten's ribs were prominent through its fur. Without protest, Amy followed Methos down into the Glebe's kitchen where Cerian was presiding over the big farmhouse range.

"What's the matter?" she asked. For answer, Amy showed her the kitten. "Poor little mite!"

"Ceri, can you get me an old towel and then can you warm some milk?" Methos asked. Cerian nodded and hurried off to collect the towel.

"What are you going to do?" Amy asked.

"Well, first things first, we need to dry him off," Methos answered. "Then we need to get a little food into him and warm him up."

"How?"

Methos grinned. "You'll see."

At that moment, Cerian returned with the towel, which she handed to Methos, before turning her attention to warming the milk and - to Amy's surprise - rearranging the contents of the range's two ovens.

"Amy?" Amy blinked. "You'll have to hand him over to me," said Methos with a smile. Belatedly, she realised that he was asking her to give him the kitten. Gently, she did so, and then watched as Methos gently but firmly rubbed the hindquarters of the kitten with the towel.

Amy was well aware of how much cats disliked having their bodies dried and she judged it was a mark of how exhausted and weak the kitten was that it didn't so much as protest at the treatment. Once Methos was satisfied, he gently wrapped the kitten in the towel.

"Is the milk ready?" he asked.

"Yes."

Amy stepped out of the way as Cerian advanced with a cup of warmed milk and a teaspoon, then watched in amazement as Cerian spoon-fed the kitten some of the milk. At first, the kitten barely moved its head but once a few drops of milk had been swallowed, it started to readily lap at the contents of the spoon.

"Well that's a good sign," Methos remarked. "That'll do," he added.

Cerian grinned and nodded. "Certainly don't want to give the poor little soul an upset stomach on top of all his problems."

Methos crossed the kitchen to the range, opened the door, and gently lay the kitten down on the bottom of the oven.

"He'll cook!" Amy objected.

"No he won't," Methos answered. "Time was when every farm you visited had a cat asleep either in the oven or on the top of the stove. Besides, we don't shut the door - he'll come out when he's had a nice sleep and is feeling better. Amy, trust me on this."

"But..."

"Amy," said Cerian gently, "my husband's family used to run a sheep farm in the high Yorkshire dales. Old Mrs. Branksome used to regularly have to treat lambs just like we've had to treat this kitten, and every single one of those lambs survived to be good, healthy beasties."

Amy sighed. "I guess..."

"C'mon," said Methos gently, "you need to get out of your wet things and thaw out yourself. The last thing you want is a cold for Christmas morning."

That was when Amy realised that yes, her clothing was wet, from the snow that had gathered on her as she had walked up the drive and from crawling around beside the duck pond rescuing the kitten. Reluctantly, she did as Methos suggested and went to get changed.

"I'll call you when he wakes up," Cerian promised, and turned back to the stove to continue overseeing dinner.

As Amy headed upstairs, she heard the front door bang, and moments later heard a car engine start up and pull away. As she changed, she wondered just where Methos was going at half past four on Christmas Eve.

As she came back down, she met Joe just coming out of the sitting room. "Where's Adam?" he asked.

Amy shrugged. "Search me."

Joe smiled. "Knowing the old guy he's probably discovered there's not enough beer to go round!"

Amy grinned. "Probably."

She continued on into the sitting room, where her parents and Amy Thomas were seated, involved in a competitive game of Scrabble.

"Going to join in?" asked John Zoll.

"No - think I'll just watch," Amy replied. "You know I can't spell to save my life."

Mai-Lin Zoll and Amy Thomas exchanged looks, smiled and said nothing. Amy stuck her tongue out at her mother and former colleague and settled down in a nearby empty seat.

A few minutes Joe returned and took his place with the Scrabble players. "Not joining in?" he asked.

"I can't spell," Amy repeated. Joe smiled, shrugged and the game continued.

Amy reached across to the nearby bookshelf, selected a random volume and started to read. The beauty of Methos' bookshelves meant that you might be picking up anything from Homer's 'Iliad' in the original Greek to one of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. The particular one she'd selected proved to be one of the latter, but even the twisted humour and logic of Pratchett's Discworld universe was not enough to entirely take her mind off worrying about the kitten.

In due course, Methos returned, although when he put in an appearance in the sitting room, he gave no explanation for where he'd been. Instead, he was promptly embroiled in refereeing the action in the Scrabble game, which had reached the stage of people insisting that 'Zkjrh is definitely a word!'.

About half an hour after Methos' return, Cerian appeared to say that dinner was ready. The Scrabble players gladly left their game; Methos equally gladly also left their game. Amy quite happily set down the book and followed everyone else into the dining room.

While Methos sliced the beef, Cerian served the mashed potato and the vegetables. Everyone helped themselves to gravy as desired and to the basket of fresh bread rolls. All in all, it was a cheering, jovial meal, but Amy couldn't entirely keep her mind from straying to the fate of the kitten.

Mid way through the meal, Cerian slipped away briefly, to return moments later. Amy wondered what it was all about, but before she could ask, Joe involved her in a conversation about Paris' varied cultural attractions, and the moment was lost.

After the meal, Amy Thomas and Mai-Lin, who seemed to becoming fast friends, both offered to help with the clear up - an offer which Cerian gladly accepted - leaving everyone else to return to the sitting room.

"Going to join in?" Methos asked, as he sat down, this time to play Scrabble rather than referee.

For the third time, Amy replied, "I can't spell," then added, "and you know that."

Methos snickered and turned back to the game. Amy returned to her book. A few minutes later and Amy Thomas and Mai-Lin reappeared and also joined the Scrabble game. Moments later, and so did Cerian, leaving Amy feeling a little left out and still deeply anxious about the kitten.

The evening past by in a haze of groans and cheers as the Scrabble players continued their game. In due course, a pack of special playing cards were produced, and Amy Thomas introduced those present to the game of 'Happy Families'. At this point, Amy gave up on her book and joined the circle of players for a few riotous rounds of the children's card game.

Several times during the evening, Cerian or Methos left the room for a few minutes, but both refused to say what they were doing, and Amy continued to worry.

Gradually, the combination of heat from the fire, comfortable surroundings, good food and the lateness of the hour worked its magic and people began to drift off to bed. Joe and Amy's parents were first - the elder Zolls both pleading jetlag as well. Amy Thomas soon followed, as did Cerian.

"I'll be up shortly," Methos promised. "I've just got to make sure everything's OK down here - that all the fires are out and so on."

Reluctantly, Amy agreed and headed to bed herself. In spite of her worry about the kitten, she found herself asleep no sooner had her head hit the pillow.

The following morning, she came awake at the sound of a knock on the bedroom door. Blinking sleepily, Amy sat up and noticed that Methos didn't appear to have come to bed at all.

"Amy?" It was Cerian. Hastily, Amy pulled on her robe and padded across to the door. Before she could say anything, Cerian smiled. "Happy Christmas, Amy," Cerian murmured.

"Happy Christmas," Amy replied, sleepily. "What time is it?"

"A little after seven o'clock - we've got a surprise for you in the kitchen."

At once thoughts of the kitten returned, and Amy wasted little time in following Cerian down into the kitchen, where Methos was waiting.

"What's going on?" Amy asked.

Methos smiled and for an answer, he brought his hands out from behind his back. Sitting in his hands, taking a great deal more notice of its surroundings now was the kitten. It still looked thin and bony, but its eyes were much brighter than they had been the previous afternoon. Methos held his hands out to Amy, and gently, she took the kitten from his grasp.

Almost as if it recognised its saviour, the little cat started a purr that vibrated from whisker to tail-tip.

"I think we can say he'll make a full recovery," said Methos with a smile. "So what are you going to call him?"

"Me?" said Amy blankly, gently tickling the kitten under its chin.

"You," Methos stated. "Your cat - you name him."

"Mine? But I..."

"Found him, rescued him and made sure he was going to see another dawn," said Cerian. "And he definitely seems to like you."

That much was obvious as the kitten had now contended itself to curl up in Amy's hands and doze off.

"Well are you sure it's a he?" Amy asked.

Methos grinned. "Definitely."

"Well...OK..." Amy trailed off thoughtfully. Then said, "Noel." Another thought struck her. "What about..."

But Cerian smiled and gestured to a small stack of tins all marked 'kitten food'. "And there's a litter tray out in the wash room."

"I went to get it last night, when I realised we'd be having an extra Christmas guest," Methos explained, smiling. Then he carefully leaned over and gave Amy a light peck on the cheek. "Happy Christmas, my love."

Authorís Notes: Disclaimer: I don't own Joe, Methos, Amy Zoll or Amy Thomas - they're owned by DPP. Cerian Pierson (Pearson) owns herself and I am very grateful to her allowing me to borrow her. John, Mai-Lin and Noel DO belong to me but you're welcome to borrow them should you want to - although asking me first would be nice.

The majority of this story is based on the real life story of Moses, a kitten found by the Vet James Herriot. The title is based on another James Herriot story about a cat called Boxer who was born a stray but given a home on Christmas Day. Both can be found as illustrated children's books, and as anecdotes in one or more of his adult novels, which are books no animal lover should miss. The wonderful Ekat inspired the rest.

Dedicated to felines around the world - who should all be so lucky as Moses and Boxer.

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