A Morning Gift by hafital
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Author's Notes:
This was written as a birthday gift for the beautiful Killa. Happy Birthday, hon. Oh, and as a birthday gift for Duncan, too. :D Thank you to Unovis for betaing!

On a cool morning in late spring, breezy but with hints of the coming warmer days in the brightness of the sunshine, MacLeod sat on the roof of the barge with a thermos of coffee and a newspaper, the taste of Kalas' quickening still in the back of his throat, fading with each passing hour. He'd left Amanda asleep in his bed. The Seine, gray-green and thrashing, tugged at the barge. He could feel its pull, wanting to weigh anchor and float away.

Immortal presence flared and pushed the last bit of Kalas away. Methos walked up the plank, causing the barge to dip when he stepped onto the deck. MacLeod noted the shopping bag Methos carried under his arm as if it held a package. He moved over, silently offering him some of the coffee, trying to hide how thrilled he was that Methos had shown up, but he couldn't keep from smiling. "Good to see you. I thought you might have disappeared."

Methos lifted his eyebrows and MacLeod could see humor and that mocking grin of his. "You seem to have recovered from last night's adventures. Amanda?"

"Below. What did you bring me?" MacLeod ignored the mischievous know-it-all gleam in Methos' eyes and tried to grab the bag. Methos feinted to one side, tsking, but MacLeod only hedged him with both arms. Probably books or some such for Shakespeare and Co., but MacLeod was curious by nature, and also quick: he snatched the bag and held Methos arm's length away. "You shouldn't have."

Methos didn't put up much of a fight. MacLeod narrowed his eyes, suddenly really curious about the contents of the bag. He pulled out a gift-wrapped package, Happy Birthday written all over it, decorated with circus animals enthusiastically having a party and eating cake. "Whose birthday is it?" He wondered who it could be. A Watcher, maybe, with children. A girlfriend's kid. He knew nothing about Methos.

Methos shook his head, taking a long time to answer, so long that MacLeod looked at him and handed the box back, afraid that maybe he had offended him somehow. Methos waved his hand and didn't take the box. "It's for you."

"For me? Methos, it's not my birthday."

"It was the only wrapping paper I had." Methos sounded abashed and defensive at the same time, making MacLeod want to laugh but he only ended up looking at Methos oddly. "Just open it," said Methos, more than a bit exasperated.

MacLeod held the box and shook it gently, hearing the rattling noise of things knocking against wood. "A pony?"

Methos glared. "Oh my God, give it back already." Methos reached for the package but MacLeod fended him away, blocking with his body.

"Oh no. It's my gift," said like a greedy child. He tore the paper away, revealing a simple wooden box. The top slid into grooves. He pushed the lid open and found a chess set, carved out of ivory, of the Ramayana. He'd seen other Ramayana chess sets before, but this one looked very old. He picked up the figure of Rama, seeing how most of the facial features had worn away.

He knew his face betrayed his shock when he looked up at Methos and saw how he watched closely, a guarded yet amused expression on his face. "I lost the table for it some time ago. I thought you might like it. It's only collecting dust with me."

MacLeod had to swallow to make his throat work. "They're beautiful."

Methos shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee, clearly not wanting anything big to be made of the gesture. MacLeod looked stupidly at the box in his hand. He could hear Amanda opening the door and coming on deck, calling out his name. Methos moved to greet her, but MacLeod stopped him. He pulled Methos into a hug, with one arm because he still held the box, and he didn't let go even though Methos tried to pull away.

"Thank you," he said, quietly into his ear.

Methos relaxed and rested his head on MacLeod's shoulder, before finally escaping. MacLeod couldn't say what expression Methos had or what Amanda might have thought, but he took the box below deck and set it up for a game.

Thus saying, Rama vibrating with joy, clasped Hanuman in his arms who, master of himself, his mission fulfilled, had returned.

-- Ramayana, Valmiki