Miracle On Hudson Street

Suzanne Herring

Email me!

Disclaimers: Connor MacLeod isn't mine. Neither are the other characters presented in this story (Amanda, Rachel Ellenstein, and the rest). The concept of Immortality and all the characters of Highlander belong to the Highlander Powers That Be (Davis/Panzer, et al). This story was written without thought of profit and without any intent to infringe on anyone's copyrights.

Thanks to Christopher Lambert and to Elizabeth Gracen for their wonderful portrayals of Connor MacLeod and Amanda.

Title is used with apologies to "Miracle on 34th Street."

December 24, 1984

The three young, female employees of Russell Nash Antiques left almost reluctantly for the holiday, calling back over their shoulders in a flurry of cries of "Merry Christmas, Mr. Nash!" and "Happy Hanukkah, Miss Ellenstein!" Rachel waved them a cheery good-bye, turned over the "closed for the holidays sign," locked up behind them, and turned to Connor.

"Well, that's that for another year," she said with a sigh of relief. The store wouldn't open again until the day after New Year's, so their year really was over.

Connor nodded, enviously watching the young women walking away, talking excitedly to each other, giggling and laughing, stopping to give a donation to the Hudson Street Santa. Those young women were off to spend the holidays--whichever ones they celebrated--with families and friends. But he, Connor MacLeod, had no such luxuries. There was Duncan, of course, but he was off in Seacouver with a new love, and Connor would never interfere with that. And there was Rachel--but ...

"Connor!" Rachel said.

"What?" he answered, startled from his thoughts and envy.

She shot him a warning glance. "Don't you dare get broody on me now, Connor MacLeod. We have things to do and places to go. Or at least I have places to go."

Connor rolled his eyes slightly, but Rachel ignored it as she set about tidying up the little space she and the three young women had carved out of Rachel's own office for the little party. Connor watched her for a moment. Rachel was his best friend, confidante, and business manager. Even now, in her late forties, she was still quite attractive--her blue eyes unfaded, her figure slender in a trim cream-colored suit, her blonde hair still untouched by gray. Connor didn't know if Rachel colored her hair--Rachel would never tell him, and he'd never ask. She was still energetic and youthful, though he could see the small beginnings of the ravages of time--the tiny lines around her eyes and mouth, the very slight blueing of the veins in her hands. He constantly urged her to find a husband. "I can take care of myself," he would say. Her unfailing reply was, "I don't need you mothering me."

Just now, she turned to him, her blue eyes flashing, and said, "Are you going to stand there all day or are you going to help?"

He grinned unrepentantly, then helped her clean up the remnants of the annual party. Every year, without fail, and over Connor's objections, Rachel arranged this holiday party/lunch for the ever-changing handful of people who worked in the shop. Rachel insisted that Connor be there, too--for morale, she said. Every year, he grumbled and snorted and said that his presence was more likely to dampen morale than lift it. And every year, he showed up anyway, glad she'd done it and that he had something--no matter how minor--to do over the Christmas holidays besides get depressed and/or drunk. Usually and.

Rachel always left it up to him to distribute the holiday checks with their substantial bonuses. Though Connor would have preferred torture rather than admit it to Rachel, he enjoyed handing out the checks, watching the young women's eyes widen in surprise, and listening to their stuttered, amazed, thank-yous. Whether Connor admitted anything to Rachel or not, however, he had the feeling that she knew exactly what was going on in his mind. Sometimes he thought she understood him better than he did himself.

After everything had been cleaned and tidied, Rachel made a quick phone call. Then she stood up, grabbed the handle of a medium-size suitcase and rolled it along behind her. A small cosmetics case was stashed neatly and bound securely atop the larger suitcase. Connor followed her from her office to the shop-street door and unlocked it. Rachel kissed him gently on the cheek and said, "I'll be off to the airport now. The taxi will be here any minute."

Connor nodded. "Send some sunshine this way."

"You could come to Cancun, too, if you wanted. There's no reason to stay here, all alone in New York, with all this ice and snow." Rachel gestured towards the row of tall shop windows, which gave them a view of dark winter clouds, dirty snow and ice, and pedestrians bundled up and huddling into themselves against the frigid wind. It was snowing and sleeting simultaneously--not for the first time today--and a few people had umbrellas. The Hudson Street Santa stood outside Connor's shop, apparently immune to the weather, stopping people and asking for donations. Connor and Rachel could hear him saying, "Ho, ho, ho! Merrrrrry Christmas!" even over the wind and the street noises.

Connor turned to Rachel and shook his head. "I'm not alone. There are eight million people in New York."

Rachel pursed her lips and then she sighed. It was a sigh Connor knew very well--the 'why do you have to be so stubborn for no good reason, Connor MacLeod?' sigh. But she didn't say it. Instead, she said, "Well, I'm going. You know where the airport is if you change your mind."

"I do," Connor agreed. What he didn't say, and what he'd never say, was that he did have a reason for not going. Rachel Ellenstein needed a life besides Connor MacLeod. He was used to being alone--lonely, to be truthful--but he wanted more than that for Rachel.

The taxi arrived and blew its horn. Connor helped Rachel into her coat, and then he wheeled her luggage out, got her settled in the taxi, and kissed her gently on the cheek. "Have a good time," he said.

"I will," she replied. "And you--will you find someone to celebrate with?"

Connor had no answer for that, and then the taxi drove off, so he didn't have to say anything. He stood for a moment and watched her go.

There was a tap on Connor's elbow, and he turned to find the Santa standing there. Connor was irritated--he'd already made a sizeable donation, and he started to say so.

Before he could speak, two things happened. The wind gusted suddenly, and the Santa softly said something that sounded like "MacLeod, isn't it?"

Connor stared at the man. Connor hadn't put on his own coat, and he was beginning to feel the bitter cold. However, in a tone that was much icier than the falling snow, he asked, "What did you say?"

The Santa smiled pleasantly, leaned forward, and loudly declared, "I said, 'My, the crowds! Dense, isn't it?'" And he gestured to the people hurrying around them, who were indeed packed rather densely.

Connor grunted skeptically and turned to go in.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Nash," Santa said.

Connor grunted again and hurried inside. He carefully locked the door behind him. Santa Claus was waving at him. Connor nodded once. The Santa turned and headed down the street, and Connor stood looking at the man's back for a long moment. Then he dismissed the whole thing--it must have been the wind.

Connor looked around the shop. No doubt there were useful things he could do--go over the accounts, check their orders, answer some letters, make a few calls. Rachel could always find useful things for him to do, on the rare occasions when he was around.

Connor didn't feel like doing anything useful. He did feel hungry, so he walked over to Chumley's, a tiny little restaurant hidden on Bedford Street. Santas guarded every corner, asking for donations. The whole thing annoyed Connor, and he walked on, ignoring them and their cries of "Help the needy" and "Merry Christmas!"

After a dinner of steak and all the trimmings, plus all the free homemade eggnog he could drink, Connor headed to a tiny Greenwich Village movie theater--encountering more Santas along the way--and occupied two brief hours there. When the movie was over, he headed back to Hudson Street, stopping at a bar on the way. But they were closing early for Christmas, so he had one drink and left.

When he stepped outside, there was another damned Santa Claus. Were they following him around the city? It must be nearly midnight by now--way too late for this kind of thing.

The wind whipped up as the Santa Claus spoke. "All alone?" he asked.

Connor gave the man his full attention. "What?"

"I said, 'Ice zone,'" the Santa answered, pointing to the sidewalk in front of Connor. "The snow melted there earlier today, then froze again--it's ice. Watch your step."

"Hmph," Connor replied, then dug out a five-dollar bill and dropped it in the Santa's donation box.

"Thanks, Mister," Santa said, adding, "Merry Christmas to you."

"Unh," Connor grunted neutrally, heading for Hudson Street and hoping to encounter no more Santas.

He got home unmolested by any more fat men in red suits and floppy hats. After doffing his coat and carefully placing his sword in the umbrella stand next to the door, Connor poured himself a whisky and sat down on the couch facing the city. As the minutes ticked down to midnight, he sipped the whisky and stared out the windows at the skyscrapers and the bright lights. Yes, indeed, Rachel, he thought. There are eight million souls in this city, and I don't know a single one.

/////

Connor didn't know what time it was when something woke him from a deep sleep. He only knew that it was still night. He sat up on the couch, his neck throbbing from the crooked position in which he'd fallen asleep. He rubbed his neck roughly, coming awake, realizing that the "something" was the distinct sense of another Immortal. Not in here, not in the loft with Connor, but close. Close.

"Merry Christmas, Connor MacLeod," he said softly to himself, his heart beating faster, his body preparing itself instinctively for the coming confrontation. "There can be only one," he added, then smiled grimly, there in the dark.

Quickly, he crossed the large loft and, over the ancient blue sweater and jeans he was wearing, he donned a thickly insulated hip-length brown leather jacket and a pair of fur-lined gloves. Warmth would be crucial in this weather. He couldn't allow himself to get cold. Especially, for a duel, he couldn't allow his fingers to freeze. He grabbed his sword, placing it at rest behind his right arm.

As Connor readied himself--as the blood raced through his veins and the battle lust began to swell--he listened carefully to discover the location of his opponent. Connor could sense the Immortal's presence, but not his position--the Quickenings weren't directional, in any useful sense. Muffled sounds seemed to emanate from the roof--noises like loud footsteps. There was even some kind of tinkling sound. Maybe his opponent was a woman, wearing a lot of jewelry. It didn't matter--whoever it was, he ... or she ... was definitely on the roof.

Connor left the lights off so that his eyes would be adjusted to the dark and the city lights, just as his opponent's would be. He took the stairs to the roof quietly, softly. No treads squeaked to give him away. And when he opened the door to the roof, no hinges squeaked either. Connor maintained his building very well.

Silent as a tiger stalking a gazelle, Connor emerged sword-first onto the roof, a shadow among other shadows. He waited there, in the cover of the little exit onto the roof, looking around. Where was his opponent? And who was it? The sense of the other Immortal's Quickening was very, very strong--one of the most powerful Connor had ever felt. Perhaps the most powerful. A single quiver of fear raced through Connor, and then he took a deep breath and pushed it away. There was no place for fear in The Game. It was all about skill, strategy, and stamina, and Connor was confident that he possessed all three.

Since Connor couldn't see his opponent, that meant the Immortal had to be on the other side of the roof. Quickly, staying in the shadows, Connor slipped around the exit, still leading with his sword.

Connor saw his opponent, and his jaw dropped. Connor MacLeod was not a man who surprised easily, but this ... he simply couldn't believe it.

Santa Claus, complete with sleigh and eight reindeer, was right there on Connor's roof. Here in Manhattan. On Hudson Street. Connor stared at the tableau--there was the red suit, the black belt and boots, the white fur trim, the hat with the white pom-pom. Santa even had a pipe in his mouth, and Connor could smell the tobacco smoke.

Connor closed his mouth while some part of his mind noted that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was absent. That same part of Connor's mind was glad--Connor had always hated that stupid Christmas song. And then Connor shoved those thoughts away, because he needed to stay focused. Even if he'd taken a left turn into some fantasy, Connor MacLeod was going to be sharp. He tightened his grip on his katana and whipped it into the "en garde" position, ready for whatever was to come.

"Merry Christmas, Connor MacLeod," Santa Claus said easily from his perch on the sleigh, eyeing Connor's sword. "You might as well put that down."

Connor laughed, a soft "heh-heh-heh." His sword didn't move a millimeter.

Santa jumped down, right on the roof, and sauntered over to Connor.

Connor waited, smiling lethally.

Santa approached to a point just outside of the reach of Connor's sword and stopped. "I'm not here to fight you, Connor MacLeod," he said. "And you can't fight me. So you might as well put Ramirez' katana down."

"How do you know this is Ramirez' sword?" The words leaped from Connor's throat without volition.

Santa smiled. "I'm Santa Claus," he said. "I know everything. I know Rachel Ellenstein is in Cancun. I know how much you donated to charity this year. I even know about that sidewalk Santa you gave $5 to tonight. I know everything about *you*, Connor. And I'm telling you, I'm not here to fight you. So put that Masamune sword down."

The reindeer were shifting about and stamping their feet softly in the snow on the roof, and Connor could hear the bells on their harness tinkling and jingling. That must be the tinkling I heard from inside the loft, Connor thought to himself. And that thought was immediately followed by another: I must be losing my mind. Again, he shoved it all aside. Focus, MacLeod, focus! Out of all of "Santa's" words, one sentence concerned him the most. "How do you know about Rachel Ellenstein?" he asked menacingly.

"I told you," Santa said quietly, gently, soothingly. "I'm Santa Claus. I know everything. And you can't fight me, so put the sword away."

Connor laughed again. "You keep saying that. Why should I believe you?"

"Because I am traveling Holy Ground, Connor. Everywhere I go is protected. No Immortal can fight me, ever. And I can't fight any Immortal, ever. I am not even in The Game. I am unique among all Immortals, through a special dispensation."

"Traveling Holy Ground! You're a commercial invention! Your only purpose is to sell merchandise."

Santa took a deep, calm breath. "I can't help what people have made of my image--anything can be commercialized." He shrugged. "Look at TV ministers and what they've done with religion. But I, myself, am the embodiment of the spirit of giving and generosity. That exists. If you don't believe me, Connor, look into my eyes."

Connor looked. Though it was dark, somehow there was enough light to see that Santa's eyes were a deep, pure blue--the blue of a calm sea ... the very same blue of the cloudless sky on that summer day when he had first met Heather. The weight of years fell from Connor, and with it went his sword, as he involuntarily, almost unconsciously returned the katana to its resting position. "Who are you?" Connor whispered softly.

"I am Santa Claus," came the equally soft reply. "And I am here to give you your heart's desire."

"Forever?" Connor replied dreamily.

"No. I can't do that. But I can give you your present heart's desire. It's up to you how long that lasts. So, Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod--what, on this Christmas night, do you most desire?"

"You said you knew everything. If that's true, then you already know."

"I do," Santa nodded. "But you must say it."

"I want my bonny Heather. I don't want to be alone."

Santa sighed and nodded. "Yes," he said, almost to himself. "That's what I thought you were going to say. You do realize how difficult those are, don't you?"

Connor, recovering his skepticism, laughed his soft heh-heh-heh again. "That's what I thought you'd say," he retorted.

Stung, Santa replied, "I didn't say it was impossible. Just difficult. But that's why I'm here, to grant you your heart's desire. And I do grant it--as much as is possible. Now, I must be off. I have much more work to do this night." Santa climbed into his sleigh, took his seat, and cracked his whip above the reindeer. "Happy Christmas to you!" he called down to Connor, as the reindeer leapt off the half-wall on top of Connor's building, towing the sleigh behind them.

Still sure he was either insane or dreaming, Connor watched as the sleigh, reindeer, and Santa Claus disappeared into the distance. Then Connor headed for the roof-door. He stamped the snow off his feet as he went down the stairs, re-entered the loft, locked the door behind him, took care of various necessities, and crawled into his bed. "I wonder what was in that eggnog," he said to himself as he closed his eyes. He fell asleep instantly.

When Connor awoke, the first thing he noticed was the unmistakeable smell of peat smoke. "Christ!" he exclaimed, all-too-aware of the dangers of a fire in his old building. He leaped out of bed, grabbing for his jeans. And then he stood there, eyes wide, staring. He was in the old forge that he and Heather had shared before it had been destroyed in Ramirez' Quickening. He was standing bare-footed on the rushes that Heather used to cover the cold stone--but he could feel the drafts whistling through the walls. Slowly, he turned to look at the walls, and there were some of the old hangings--rags, really--that he and Heather had put up to lessen the draft. It was just as it had been before Ramirez came, before Connor knew what he was. Connor was dismayed to see how poor and wretched it all was--when he and Heather had lived there, it had seemed like a castle, and he had felt like the richest of men.

And then he heard a soft voice behind him from the bed, speaking in Scots Gaelic. "Connor, what's the matter? Come back to bed, husband."

That voice. How many times had he heard that voice in his dreams, his memories? Slowly, apprehensively, he turned around. He inhaled slowly as he stared at the woman in the bed--his bonny Heather, her golden hair curling long and wild all about her, her blue eyes heavy-lidded and sleepy, her smile loving and inviting.

"Come love me, Connor," she said, sitting up, smiling more broadly, and reaching for him now with both arms. The blankets fell away from her when she sat up, and Connor gazed on her naked breasts. He gasped with the yearning, unrequited love of four hundred years of loneliness and grief.

"Och, Heather," he breathed, speaking the same Scots Gaelic as though he had never spoken anything else. "Ye are so bonny, so beautiful ... I've missed ye so ..."

She looked up at him, puzzled. "Ye've missed me? I've been right here ... now, come to bed. Perhaps we can make a child today, on Christmas Day, you and I. Wuid that not be a blessed child?"

"But I--"

"You do nae want to make a child? You do nae want to love me?" Heather seemed more than puzzled now. She seemed incredulous.

"Oh, aye, of course I do," Connor replied, quickly getting back into the warm bed with his Heather, his wife--his life. He shook his head, shushing her, soothing her, kissing her, clasping her to him, wrapping himself around her, skin-to-skin, her curves fitting into him as though she was made for him and he for her. Which, of course, they were.

He was still confused though, even a little dizzy. He'd had a very odd, powerful dream about a strange place--many places. There were swords in the dream, and terrible duels, and someone named Ramirez or Ramoress, or some such nonsense. In the dream, which was fading even now, Heather was gone--long dead--and the two of them had never been able to make the children they both craved. He had been left alone when she died, terribly alone, and he had grown old, but yet somehow he had stayed young. None of it made sense, but the pain and the grief and the aching loneliness were still strong in his mind.

Her firm, soft body--her eager kisses--reassured him that it was nothing but a dream. Could be nothing but a dream. Connor shook his head again, ridding his mind of the last traces of it. It was Christmas Day, in the year of our Lord, 1539, and Heather was with him. She was not dead. He was not alone. He had Heather--the most beautiful woman in the Highlands--and they would soon have a family.

"I thought you wuid want to love me," Heather whispered, laughing, and he laughed with her. Then he kissed her, a gentle kiss that grew passionate and hard. And then he pulled away, just to look at her, to cherish her, to revel in her warmth--in the very reality of her. She pulled him back to kiss him again. His laughter went away, replaced only by the love and the wanting of her. She whispered, "I love you, Connor," and he moaned softly, loving her so much it hurt. His heart would die without Heather. He could never live without her.

"And I love you, my bonny Heather," he whispered back. Then there was no more need nor time for words.

/////

Connor jerked upright on the couch and stared out the full-length windows eastward. It was Christmas morning, 1984. New York City lay before him, brightly lit by the sun that shone almost directly in Connor's face. Yesterday's clouds were gone, although the snow remained, nearly blinding him with its glare. Connor blinked and stared some more, utterly disoriented and confused. He had been with Heather ... back in the Highlands ...

Connor sat there, feeling every moment of his nearly 500 years. He was alone. Heather was dead these past four centuries, buried near the ruined forge, his old sword the only marker for her grave. The sense of loss was so fresh, so immediate, that it hurt to breathe. He dropped his head into his hands--the hands that had been holding her just moments ago. It had been a dream, just a dream. But so real ... he could still feel the warmth of her, the taste of her. Connor had wept when Heather died, and now he wanted to weep again. But it had been a long time since he had cried--after enough years, it seemed that he had no more tears left. And none would come now.

Connor stayed on the couch in front of the window for a long time, gazing out unseeingly, remembering his dream. How little he had known then, in the Highlands of Scotland! How happy he had been, how sweet his life with Heather was. To have had it back for even one night was both blessing and curse. The blessing was the time together, of course. The curse was that he had to awaken and return to the dreary, silent, isolated life he lived now.

He thought about that other dream he'd had, where Santa Claus had promised Connor his heart's desire. And in a way, Connor had to admit, he'd gotten part of it. He had gotten Heather back, even if that was only in a dream, too. But now he was alone again. So much for his heart's desire.

Connor took a deep breath. He had to get hold of himself. He would get showered and dressed, find a good restaurant, treat himself well today. What he would not do, he promised himself, was get drunk and depressed. Heather would have wanted him to be happy. He wouldn't quite be able to manage that. But at least he would not let himself sink into misery. Heather would hate that. And he would honor her wishes, no matter how hard it was to do it.

The spider's touch of another Immortal's Quickening crept down Connor's back, and he stood up, glancing immediately around for his sword. It was still in the umbrella stand by the door, where he'd placed it last night.

The Immortal was nearby. Connor was sure of that, although as usual he couldn't tell which direction the sense of the Quickening was coming from. Silently, he crossed the room and took up his sword.

Before he had time to get his jacket and gloves, though, someone pounded on his door. He heard a familiar, feminine voice call out, "MacLeod, open up! I come bearing gifts."

Connor raised his eyebrows. He doubted that the owner of that voice was interested in taking his head, but she was still trouble. Sword in hand, he opened the door.

"You took your time," Amanda complained, sweeping through the door like a queen. Her short dark hair gleamed, and she was just as lovely as ever. She was wearing an ankle-length red coat, and she was carrying several bags with her. Ignoring his sword, she thrust a couple of bags at him. "Well, are you just going to stand there?" she demanded.

Connor awkwardly took the bags and dumped them onto his kitchen counter.

With a sigh of relief, Amanda dumped the rest of her bags there, too. She turned to him and smiled her most dazzling, seductive smile. "Merry Christmas, MacLeod," she said.

Connor sighed. "What kind of trouble is it this time, Amanda? And why not Duncan? He's a lot more ... understanding ... than I am."

Amanda's smile changed to a pout. "That's all you ever think--that I only come to see you when I'm in trouble." She waited, but Connor said nothing. "As it happens," she continued in her most innocent voice, "I'm not in trouble at all. I came to New York to do some shopping. Then I realized today was Christmas, and I decided to spend it with you." Her eyes glinted with promise and mischief. "If you're nice enough, maybe I'll spend the whole twelve days."

"Uh-huh," Connor said, putting his sword away, then straightening up to look at her. "Maybe I have plans."

"Oh, come off it, MacLeod," she said, exasperated now. "I've known you too long. You're always miserable at Christmas. I decided to cheer you up--and you're being rude. And ungracious."

Connor smiled. "Just part of my charm."

Amanda sniffed. She was wandering around the loft now, looking at his furniture and paintings. She stopped in front of one, a small watercolor of the French countryside by Vincent Van Gogh. "I haven't seen this one before," she said.

"No, you haven't," he retorted, moving to stand beside her. "It's extremely valuable--from very early in his career."

Amanda's eyes widened and she leaned forward intently. "It's so--"

"Portable?" Connor filled in for her, then chuckled at the ingenuous look she gave him.

"I was thinking that it's very lovely," she said, sounding hurt.

"Oh, it is," he agreed. "As usual, you have impeccable taste, Amanda. This little piece has been in my possession since the day I bought it from Van Gogh." He took her hand and gazed directly into her dark eyes. "And I'm very fond of it. Very, very. Fond."

Amanda sighed. "Well, good for you," she retorted. She pulled her hand from him and walked across to the kitchen counter. "Would you like champagne?" she said, pulling a bottle of Moet et Chandon from one of the bags.

Connor got a couple of champagne flutes, opened the bottle, and poured for them. "What are we toasting?" he asked.

"Christmas, of course!" she said.

Connor drank a sip, then put the glass down. "Amanda, why are you here? And the truth this time."

"I told you the truth. It's Christmas. I was in New York, and you live in New York. So I decided to spend it with you."

Connor waited.

Finally, Amanda stamped her foot and snapped, "It *is* the truth, damn you, MacLeod. It's Christmas. And I was in New York, and I realized that I ... I didn't have anyone to be with." She paused and turned to look out his windows at the city, glorious in the winter sunshine. She turned back and glared at him for just a moment, then her expression softened. "I didn't want to be alone--not on Christmas. Or for New Year's, either. And I thought you might ... want some company, too."

Connor looked into Amanda's dark eyes and saw that she was telling the truth. She was probably still planning something criminal--perhaps even against him--but he saw his own loneliness reflected there. He could send her away, and then they'd both be alone. Or he could welcome her, and they could have a merry Christmas together. Among Amanda's many skills, making merry was one of her best.

Connor thought about his dream of Heather, his happiness with her. Heather was a generous, gentle soul. She would want him to be happy, especially for Christmas.

Connor picked up the champagne glass and tilted it towards Amanda. "To you, Amanda, and to us. Let's celebrate Christmas in style." They each drank, watching each other over the glasses.

Amanda smiled, the same slow, seductive smile she'd given him when she'd first entered his apartment. "That's more like it, MacLeod," she purred. "And I brought you some presents." She reached into one of the bags and brought out a tin of caviar.

"So I see," Connor said, grinning. "I'll get the plates. But first--can I take your coat?"

"Of course," she replied.

When the coat came off, all Amanda was wearing beneath it was a red teddy. Connor's grin broadened and his eyes wandered over her body, as she posed for him. "I think I'm going to enjoy unwrapping my present," he said. And, not much later, he did.

/////

It was mid-afternoon by the time Connor managed to get back up to his roof. He simply had to go back. There was a perfectly good explanation for everything that had happened to him--he'd often dreamed of Heather, after all, and Amanda was a law unto herself. But still ...

Connor kicked around in the snow on the roof, not sure what he was looking for and feeling like a fool. When he found no wisps of red cloth, no bells, no shreds of leather, he felt even more like a fool. "What are you looking for, MacLeod? A bag of toys? An elf?"

Finally, he walked over to the half-wall that kept people from walking off the roof--the same half-wall from which the reindeer had leapt into the air--and stared in disbelief at what he saw. Indented into the snow on top of the half-wall was a perfect, reindeer-sized hoofprint.

He looked at it for several minutes, thinking carefully of everything that had happened to him since Rachel had left yesterday afternoon. At last, he shook his head. Connor didn't know what to believe, but he was sure that he wasn't going to tell this tale to anyone--not even to Duncan. Not even when he was drunk.

Briskly, Connor turned to face north. He raised his hand and said, "Merry Christmas. And ... thank you."

Immediately the reply came, so softly that he wasn't sure at first he'd really heard it: "Merry Christmas, Connor MacLeod." But then Connor turned to look at the hoofprint again. No, he'd heard it all right. He hadn't imagined anything.

With a final nod to the north, Connor turned and went back into his apartment, carefully closing and locking the roof door behind him. Amanda was waiting downstairs to warm him up. For the first time in centuries, he had gotten exactly what he wanted for Christmas. He wasn't alone. And he wasn't lonely. As he zipped down the stairs, he began to whistle "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

End

To the Authors' pages.