Fathers Christmas by Ithildin
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Author's Notes:
This is something of a sequel to my first ever fic, 'A Ghost of Winter's Past', 2500 years later in fic time, and ten odd years in my time. I hadn't written anything fictional for nearly three years when the muse struck a few days before last Christmas, and this tale was the result.

Many thanks to Tammy and Ninjababe for beta duty, and thanks to all of you for reading.

Crossover with Forever Knight, set in the Star Trek future universe. Suitable for audiences of all ages. Though the kiddies may not approve of the 'mushy stuff' :)


"I want to be a Jedi Knight when I grow up, Papa," the five year old announced solemnly from where she sat on the floor watching "Star Wars". The little girl looked up at her father as he entered the room. "I would have a light saber and protect our planet from all the bad people."

Lucien LaCroix sat in a chair next to the girl, stroking her long red hair affectionately. "Do you think there will be bad people you will need to protect us from then?"

"There are always bad people." She looked at him with an expression that was all her mother's. The one that said, "Even you should realize that!"

"You are your mother's daughter," he murmured before continuing, "Shouldn't you be with your tutor, Lucia? I believe it is Latin this afternoon, isn't it?"

"I went, but he was talking to Methos. So I came back here. I wanted to see the end of the movie."

"As if you haven't seen the end of the movie a dozen times already," he said in amusement mixed with exasperation. He'd forgotten just how single-minded five-year-old girls could be.

But Lucia wasn't interested in the end of the movie anymore. "Why don't Mummy and Methos have light sabers? Wouldn't they work much better than old swords? Auntie Stephnee has one, she showed me." She held up her arms and LaCroix obligingly pulled her into his lap. "What if some bad man had one and Mummy didn't? I don't want her to get hurt," she said on the verge of tears.

He held her tightly and said reassuringly, "No one is going to hurt your mother -- and certainly not with an energy blade. You know I protect her as I keep you safe from harm, do you not?

Looking up at him with startlingly blue eyes, she chewed her lower lip while considering his words. "What about Methos? Will you keep him safe too?"

LaCroix laughed. "Have no worries, my dear Lucia. Methos has been taking care of himself for a very long time. He will be fine." He shifted the little girl in his lap so he could look at her. "But you know it upsets your mother to have you call him by his name." He wondered at this sudden habit of the child's to not call Methos ‘Daddy’, as she has since she could talk. LaCroix knew it bothered Triona, but until now he hadn't had the opportunity to raise it with the girl.

The child gave a little shrug. "He doesn't like it."

"What ever gave you such an idea?" he asked, genuinely baffled at Lucia's response.

"I dunno," she whispered, "he just doesn't. I don't think he likes being my daddy like you do." Lucia plucked at the buttons of her jumper, chewing her lip with even more determination. "So if I were a Jedi Knight and was a hero, then maybe he'd want to be my daddy again," she finished with the unarguable logic of a child.

He heard the almost imperceptible catch of breath behind him, realizing with a sinking heart that Triona must have heard every word. Sending out a warm wave of reassurance to her through their blood bond, LaCroix kept his attention on Lucia, hoping that Triona would let him take care of it. Relieved, he felt her draw back.

Damn it all. Methos had always had reservations about Triona's decision to have a child, no matter how unusual the means had been. But he had taken on the role of being Lucia's daddy, as he had become her papa. It made no sense, that now, five years later; his feelings would have changed.

Had the child overheard something? Or was it more than that? He'd come to suspect his daughter might be something of an empath, but had no real proof, just a feeling. Something she'd inherited from her mother no doubt, Triona having a strong psychic gift that had been wakened by becoming his fledgling. But Lucia was so young, and there was nothing that could have been a catalyst for such a talent. Perhaps Lucia had picked up on Methos’ unease at the impending Christmas visit of Lucia’s biological father, Jean-Luc Picard. They had decided it was time for him to become a part of his daughter’s life, now that she was old enough to understand her origins. Though Methos had agreed, LaCroix wasn’t sure he had totally reconciled himself to the idea.

LaCroix hugged the little girl in his lap. "Lucia, I have always told you the truth, have I not?"

"Uh huh," she nodded solemnly.

"Then believe me when I tell you that Methos does love you. Yes, before you were born, he worried. But that was only because he was afraid your mother would be hurt. You know that she wasn't able to carry you inside her like the mothers of your friends and that it was a difficult process to bring you into the world." Or that Methos was vehemently opposed because of what it would do to Triona in the end, when she had to watch her child grow old and die. But that was something he couldn't explain to Lucia. "But Methos has loved you from the moment he held you. You don't need to be anything but yourself, ma petite chou, for us to love you."

As LaCroix spoke, he projected as much reassurance as he could. They didn't share a blood bond of course, but if she was manifesting some psychic gift, it should work much the same way. Whether it was that, his words, or his hug, it seemed to work. A smile tugged at her small lips as she leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. "Je t'aime, Papa," she said, throwing her arms around his neck.

"Et je vous aime, ma précieuse," he replied softly, "and I love you." The scent of Triona's perfume wafted around him as she drew further into the room, leaning down to kiss first Lucia then him.

"And I love both of you," she said as she came around the chair to sit on the arm. LaCroix took her hand, brushing his lips across her knuckles. He could feel how tightly she was shielding her emotions.

"Mummy!" Lucia said happily at the sound of her mother's voice. "You came home early!"

Hugging her daughter, she said, "Yes, I did -- and to find your tutor looking for you. We've talked about you missing your classes, Cia. Now, off you go!" she finished firmly.

"Oh, Mummy, do I have to?"

LaCroix interrupted Triona's reply. "Lucia has worked very hard this last month, and it is almost Christmas." Lucia held her breath, looking back and forth between her parents hopefully.

"Christmas? Are you sure?" Triona tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I could have sworn that was next month."

Lucia was barely able to contain herself. "No, Mummy, it's in five days!" She held up her hand, five little fingers extended.

"Well, if you're sure..." she said doubtfully, before tickling her daughter, making her giggle.

"We're quite sure," LaCroix said with a nod, Lucia following suit. "So surely it wouldn't hurt for her to miss her classes this one afternoon before her winter holiday?"

Triona looked at LaCroix with ill-concealed irritation as Lucia squealed in excitement. "And what choice do I have now?"

“Oh, Mummy, pleeeease…." Lucia wheedled, using the pathetic, innocent expression she seemed to have been born with the knack of using effectively

"Very well." Triona relented. "You spoil her terribly, Lucien," she said with mock severity. He just smiled slightly looking totally unrepentant.

Lucia leapt off of LaCroix's lap, ready to race from the room. "Not so fast!" her mother's voice stopping her in mid step. "That doesn't mean I want you holed up in your room watching vids all day either." Lucia began to pout, her plans for the day being effectively quashed. "And no pouting. You could always spend the afternoon with your tutor, you know," she reminded her daughter.

"Yes, Mummy," she said, trying very hard to look contrite. Both her parents swallowed smiles at Lucia's expression.

"That's better. Now, I think of you hurry, you can catch your Auntie Steph and Auntie Lauren before they leave for the Southern Continent. It's time to check the tea plantations." The little girl's eyes grew wide at the mention of the plantations. "You did tell me you were old enough to go, didn't you? Unless you've changed your mind…?"

"No!" Lucia replied with alacrity. "I've been wanting to go since I was little!" She threw her arms around her mother's waist. "Thank you, Mummy!"

"You're welcome, little one. Now, mind your aunts and remember you represent the Family to our citizens that live on the Southern Continent. Be a good girl, okay?" Triona gave her daughter a hug and kiss. "Off you go!"

Lucia hugged her mother once more, then her father, before racing out of the room. Her shout of '"I'll be good" trailing behind her.

"Now who is it that spoils her?" LaCroix asked as he came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

Triona leaned against him as his hands gently stroked her. “It isn't spoiling her to introduce her to her duties," she said archly.

"Mm-hmm…her duties. It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact she's been pestering us for months to be allowed to make the trip, now would it?"

Triona shook her head. "Of course not," she said, not really believing her own denial and knowing LaCroix didn't either. She turned in his arms, looking up at him; her eyes suddenly bright with unshed tears. "How could she think Methos doesn't love her? Was I wrong to tell her where she came from? Should I have just let her think she came into the world like every other human child? Two parents, a mother and a father. No genetic miracles, or surrogates or the biological father she doesn't know." She was crying now in earnest, her heart breaking at the thought she'd brought her child pain, no matter how unwitting.

"No. You did the right thing. *We* did the right thing. We have never lied to her about her origins. It was the right decision then, it is the correct one now." He took her shoulders in a strong grip as she shook her head in denial. "Listen to me, Triona. I will not have you second-guessing yourself. What's done is done. We can not change the knowledge our daughter already holds. All we can do is deal with how that knowledge affects her now and in the future." He then went on to explain how he thought Lucia might be manifesting an empathic gift.

Triona sank onto the sofa, her brow creased in thought. "So, you think she picked up on Methos' uncertainty at Jean-Luc’s visit, and took that to mean he didn't love her?"

"That's what I think. I can not imagine Methos doing anything to purposely hurt the child, no matter what his reservations might be. Can you?"

"No. No, of course not. I should speak to him." She started to get up, but was restrained by LaCroix's hand on her shoulder.

"I'll speak to him," he said firmly. "You're far too emotional to discuss this rationally with him at this juncture," he added in response to the look of objection in her eyes.

Taking a deep breath, she nodded. “Perhaps it’s best.”

“All will be well. I promise you.”

~__________________________~


Triona reached up, standing on her tiptoes, trying to hang the last ornament on just the right branch of the Christmas tree that dominated the great room. As she leaned precariously, she felt Methos’ presence and startled, lost her balance, falling towards the heavily decorated tree. Only her husband, pulling her back into his arms, kept her and the tree from ending up together on the floor.

Setting her on her feet, Methos plucked the ornament from her grasp and placed it on the tree. “You might try a ladder next time,” he scolded, a smile on his lips.

“Ladders are for wussies,” she sniffed, an answering smile on her lips.

Methos shook his head in fond amusement. “Of course they are.” He looked at the tree. “It looks wonderful. Lucia will love it.”

“She’ll love the presents underneath the tree much more,” Triona replied dryly. “The little empress that she is.”

“You’re only a child once ­ or so I've been told. It can’t hurt to indulge the little minx every so often.”

“Every so often?” Triona shook her head, laughing softly. “I know, we all spoil her terribly.” She paused, seemingly fascinated by the tree, staring at it intently. “Methos,” she began, only to be forestalled.

“I know, I spoke with Lucien.” He took her shoulders in a gentle grip and turned her to face him. “Yes, I admit that Picard’s impending visit has me somewhat… unsettled. But that’s my problem to deal with, not yours. If I had any idea that Lucia would pick up on my unease, I would have been much more careful around her. I would never do anything to purposely hurt our little girl.”

“I know that, my love.” She leaned against his chest, soaking up the warmth that always seemed to radiate from him. “But when she told Lucien that she thought you didn’t want to be her daddy anymore, it broke my heart.”

He sighed noisily. “It didn’t do a lot for my heart when Lucien told me what she’d said either.”

“I’m sorry, Methos. If I’d known that you had reservations about Jean-Luc coming here, I would put the visit off.”

“No, what I said before is true; this is my problem, not yours, and certainly not Lucia’s. It’s time she got to know him. She deserves that, and so does he. It’s not fair to him to hold him responsible for the problems we’ve had in the past, or to punish Lucia by denying her this meeting.”

“Have I told you lately that I love you?” Triona asked, looking up at him, her eyes full of love.

“You may have mentioned it recently,” Methos replied, in his familiar softly sarcastic way.

“I should mention it more often,” Triona said softly, her expression suddenly serious.

Methos brushed her lips with his. “Even when the words aren’t spoken, I *know*.” Taking her hand, he drew her over to the window seat that was trimmed in holly and lights. Outside, it had begun to snow. “When Lucia gets back from the Southern Continent, I’ll make it right. Cross my heart,” he added, grinning. “Until then,” he looked up, Triona following his gaze to the mistletoe that hung above them, “I think we should get some Christmas practice in.”

“Practice makes perfect,” Triona agreed as their lips met.


~__________________________~


Three days later, on Christmas Eve, when the shuttle carrying Lucia and her aunts landed, Methos was there to meet it. Lucia was so excited from her trip, she practically rolled down the ramp. He scooped her into his arms, swinging her around. "So, did you bring me a present?" he asked the hyper little girl, kissing the tip of her nose. Lauren and Stephanie, following their niece out of the shuttle at a more sedate pace, chuckled at Methos' question.

"You're so silly, Daddy! You're sposed to give me a present!"

"No, no, I'm sure the present is from the person who went away," he replied, settling her in his arms as they walked down from the shuttle pad. "Those are the rules, just ask anyone." Lucia rolled her eyes in a near perfect imitation of her mother. "Fine then. If you reach into my coat pocket you might find something there that could possibly be for you, poppet."

Lucia wasted no time looking for her present. "Maple sugar candy!" she exclaimed. "It's my most favourite!" She threw her arms around her father's neck, kissing him. "Thank you, Daddy."

"You're welcome, sweetling. A shipment just arrived from Earth, so I made sure to keep some for you."

Lucia snuggled against his chest. "I'll get you a present next time, Daddy. I promise."

Methos chuckled. "Deal."

As hyper as she'd been before, now, she was almost asleep in his arms. The rest of the walk to the house was made in near silence, Lauren and Stephanie having transported up to the Moria moon at the shuttle pad. Finally they reached the house, Triona meeting them in the entry.

"Is she asleep?" she asked softly.

"I think so," he whispered back.

"Not ‘sleep," Lucia mumbled sleepily.

Triona kissed her on the cheek, ruffling her hair. "Maybe not, but you should be. How about a nap, then you can tell us all about your trip at supper?"

"And after supper, how would you like to help me with a very special project?" Methos asked.

The question perked her up. "Really? Oh yes, Daddy!"

"After supper then. Now, let's go take that nap."


~__________________________~


Lucia's nap had brought her back up to full power, and she was bursting with news of her trip. Her mother had to keep reminding her to eat, not just talk.

"And Uncle Robert and Auntie Gina taught me how to waltz! Uncle Robert said all young ladies should know how. And Auntie Gina gave me a green velvet dress with puffy sleeves! Can I wear it on Christmas?" Without pausing for an answer to her question, she kept right on with her story, "And then Uncle Robert took me sailing and let me turn the wheel!" Robert and Gina de Valicourt had an estate on the Southern Continent, and they split their time between Imladris and their home in France. Lucia was very fond of them, and the feeling was mutual. "And Auntie Gina took me riding too. Mummy, can I have a pony? I promise I'd take care of it. It could live in my closet!" Triona, Methos, and LaCroix all did their best not to laugh. "And I could read it bedtime stories so it wouldn't be scared of the dark."

"I'm sure you'd take very good care of it, dear. But ponies get lonely if they aren't in the stables with other horses," Triona explained. Lucia nodded, seeming satisfied with that explanation. "We'll talk about you having a pony next year, when you're a bit older."

Lucia sighed dramatically. "Why does everything have to be when I'm older?"

Triona gave Methos and LaCroix a *look*. "Believe me, you aren't the first person to ask that question." Methos snickered.

"Lucia, sometimes you have to accept that those older and wiser than yourself know what is best," LaCroix replied, raising one expressive brow, returning Triona's look.

"It's not fair," Lucia protested.

Triona chucked her under the chin. "Nope, it isn't. But it's one of those things we all have to put up with at some point in our lives. If it makes you feel better, one day, your children will ask you the same question, and you can explain it to them." That idea seemed to hold some merit for Lucia as she nodded thoughtfully and went back to eating her cherry pie.

"Nice one, Mummy," Methos whispered in her ear.

"Why thank you, oh ancient and wise one," she grumbled good-naturedly.

"You're welcome," he said softly, leaning in to kiss her. They both started to laugh silently, overhearing Lucia's muttered, "Ewww, mushy stuff."

"Indeed, Lucia. 'Mushy stuff' is yet another subject that will be explained in more depth when you're older."

Hearing LaCroix utter the words 'mushy stuff' sent Methos and Triona into fits of laughter. Lucia just shook her head at her parents' antics and LaCroix looked long suffering.

Catching his breath, Methos asked, "So, poppet, are you ready for our special project?"

Pie forgotten, Lucia exploded out her chair. "Yes!"

"Whoa! Slow down, you'll give yourself a tummy ache!" Triona scolded gently.

Lucia sat down again. "Sorry."

Triona ruffled her long red hair affectionately. "You are so much like your Auntie Stephanie was at your age. Right down to the sugar addiction. Now, you go with your daddy, and I'll see you later, okay?"

"Kay, Mummy." Lucia got up from the table, a little more sedately this time. She gave her mother a kiss, then went around the table to hug her papa.

"Ready to go, poppet?" Methos asked, holding out his hand. Nodding, she took his hand, waving at her parents happily as she walked out of the dining room.

~__________________________~


Methos picked Lucia up and placed her on a stool so she could reach the counter. “Now, this is a very special project,” he told her seriously. “We are going to bake some very special magical cookies for Santa.”

“Magic?” she repeated, eyes wide.

“Magic.”

“The cookies are going to have these,” he held up a bag of candy canes, “in them. And they’re not ordinary candy canes, they’re straight from the North Pole on Earth, made by Santa’s elves.”

“Really?” She looked up at him in awe.

“Mmm-hmm, really,” he replied. “And with them in the cookies, it will allow us to see Santa when he comes down the chimney tonight.”

“But Daddy, you can’t cook. Mummy always says so.”

Lifting her up he sat her on the edge of the counter. “What your mother doesn’t understand is that there’s boring old food, like turnips and cauliflower, and liver.”

“Yuck!” Lucia scrunched up her face.

“Exactly, yuck!” He looked around, then said to her conspiratorially, “And then there’s exciting food, like cookies, candy….”

“And cake!” she interjected excitedly.

“And cake,” he agreed. “Man, and little girl, can not live by chicken and potatoes alone,” he intoned, making Lucia giggle. Methos started mixing the ingredients that Mrs. Baker had set out earlier. Triona was right, cooking was not his gift, but Lucia would never know that. He placed her back on the stool. “Now, you take these candy canes and smash them with this,” he handed her a mallet, “until they’re in little tiny pieces.”

Lucia took to her task with delighted intensity. It wasn’t often she had permission to smash things up. After she was done, Methos took the pieces of candy and mixed them into half the cookie dough. To the other half, he added red food dye, Lucia following every step with rapt attention.

“Now, you take the red dough, and this spoon,” he instructed, “and scoop out the dough by the spoonful and roll it into little balls. Can you do that?” She nodded vigorously. Methos finished his dough up first, and started to help Lucia with her portion. “When we’re done, we’re going to make each ball into a long strip, then twist the white and red dough together to make candy canes,“ he explained.

“Can I have some? Or do we have to keep them all for Santa?”

“A good chef always tastes her creations,” he said, dropping a kiss onto the top of her head. Lucia happily kept making little red balls of dough. After a few minutes passed in silence, Methos said quietly, “Poppet, you do know I love you very much, don’t you?”

She stopped rolling her dough and looked up at him gravely. “I know you do, Daddy.” She dropped her eyes, and shifted a little.

“But I confuse you sometimes, don’t I?” he asked gently.

“Uh huh.”

He put his arm around her shoulder. “I know you think your parents know everything and nothing ever confuses us. But sometimes we can be very mixed up, and it can be hard for little girls to understand. I’m very sorry if I’ve ever done anything to make you think I didn’t love you, or didn’t want to be your daddy.”

“I want you to be my daddy always,” she whispered.

“And I will be, Lucia. Nothing will ever change that. And if you are ever confused by something adults say or do, I want you to promise you’ll come to me so I can explain.”

She looked up at him, eyes full of trust. “Okay, Daddy, I promise.”

“All of us love you very much. Me, your papa, Mummy, your aunts and uncles, T’rayla. You’re surrounded by those who love you so much.”

She tilted her head to the side, pondering his words. “Even Uncle Jack?” she asked.

“Yes,” he crinkled his eyes a little at the unexpectedness of her question, “even your Uncle Jack.”

“I’m glad,” she sighed happily. ‘’’Cus I’m going to marry him when I grow up!”

“Lord, child, don’t give you father a heart attack!” Lucia giggled as Methos put his hand to his chest in mock distress. “You won’t be talking to boys till you’re at least thirty, maybe forty,” he pronounced.

“But I’ll be old then!” she protested, pouting.

“Exactly!” He tweaked her nose. “Now, let’s get these cookies finished.”


~__________________________~



A few hours later, the cookies were done, and Lucia had gone to her room to change into her nightie and robe, with instructions to meet her father in the great room.

“There you are, slow poke!” Methos said as Lucia entered the room, her eyes like saucers at the sight of the Christmas tree her mother had decorated a few days before, and all the lights and ornaments that covered every other empty space in the room. He had changed into pajama bottoms and a robe while Lucia had been in her room.

“Oh, Daddy, it’s byootiful,” she exclaimed.

“Make sure you tell your mummy that in the morning, She worked very hard on the tree for you.”

“I will,” she nodded solemnly.

“Now, take these cookies,” he handed her the container,” and put some on the plate that’s on the table next to the fireplace.” Lucia went over the fireplace and did as she was instructed. Methos followed, holding a glass of milk, which he placed next to the cookies.

“Now what, Daddy?”

“Go take a look behind the tree.” Mystified, Lucia did as she was told and discovered that behind the tree, out of sight from the rest of the room, were blankets and pillows. “We are going to camp out here, and wait for Santa.”

“But Santa will know! And then he won’t come and I won’t get any presents,” she protested.

“Ahhhh!” Methos waggled a finger at her. “You’re forgetting about the magic cookies, my lovely daughter.” He set her down amongst the quilts, explaining, “The candy cane pieces in the cookies, since they were made by Santa’s elves, will keep him from noticing us here behind the tree.”

Lucia looked doubtful. “Are you sure, Daddy?”

“Cross my heart.”

~__________________________~


A little past midnight, Triona crept softly into the room, looking down fondly at Lucia sleeping peacefully against her father’s side, nestled in a nest of quilts and pillows. Methos stirred, holding out his free arm. She lay down beside him as he pulled a blanket over her. “As soon as I know she’s sound asleep, I’ll put out her presents,” he whispered.

Triona took his hand, raising it to her lips. “She has the best daddy in the galaxy.”

“And Daddy needs to have a serious talk with you about our daughter. Do you know what she told me tonight?” he asked, whispering into her ear. “She told me she was going to marry her Uncle Jack when she grew up!”

Triona choked back laughter, her eyes dancing. “Who better to have her first crush on?”

“But he’s a pirate!” Methos protested.

“Was a pirate,” Triona corrected. “And besides, I had a crush on him when I was a little girl too, and I hadn’t even met him. He’s quite dashing, not to mention gorgeous. You can’t blame the girl for having excellent taste.” She giggled at the appalled look on her husband’s face.

“We’ll talk about that ‘gorgeous’ comment later,” he promised with a glint in his eye. “But back to the subject at hand; she’s five!”

Triona shook her head. “When I was six, I had a terrible crush on a friend of my uncle’s. He was twenty-five, with blonde hair and green eyes, and he drove a motorcycle. I was devastated when he got married a few years later.” She rubbed his chest comfortingly. “It’s perfectly normal. So get out your shotgun, pa, ‘cus your little gal is going to leave a trail of smitten men behind her when she gets older.”

“Fine. That doesn’t mean I have to like it though,” he grumped.

“Poor Lucia. Between you and Lucien, we may as well put her in a convent and call it a day.”

“You say that like it’s bad thing,” he replied sardonically.

Triona didn’t reply, just squeezed his arm affectionately, yawning. It had been a very long day.

“Get some sleep, love,” he instructed, brushing a stray strand of hair from her face. Triona murmured something unintelligible and was soon as fast asleep as her daughter.



~__________________________~


“Daddy, Mummy, we fell asleep and I didn’t get to see Santa!” Lucia shook Methos’ shoulder, trying to wake him.

“Santa?” Methos mumbled sleepily, then suddenly remembering, sat bolt upright. “Santa!”

Next to him, Triona stirred. “Is it morning?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.

“Yes, Mummy,” Lucia replied in a tone that suggested she thought her parents were just a bit slow. “I’m going to see what Santa brought me!” Before Methos could stop her, she was half way across the room.

“Just perfect,” Methos said, scrubbing at his face in frustration. At Triona’s look of confusion, he explained, “Guess who fell asleep and didn’t put presents out?”

She bit her bottom lip in consternation. “Uh, oops.”

“No bloody kidding.” He sighed. “Well, nothing for it.” Standing, he reached down and helped Triona to her feet. Lucia, having reached the fireplace, was silent -- not a good sign.

“We’ll come up with something,” Triona whispered, trying to comfort him as they walked towards their daughter. Methos just shook his head, disgusted with himself.

But instead of tears on Lucia’s face, they discovered a look of wide-eyed awe. In her hands was a note, a photo, a book, and small blue leather bridle. “Santa brought me a pony!” she shouted gleefully.

Her parents looked at each other and shrugged, each mouthing, “It wasn’t me.”

Lucia, jumping up and down thrust the photo and note into her mother’s hands. “Mummy, please, please read my letter from Santa!”

Triona looked at the photo. It was a pony, and across the photo was written, ‘Lucia’s Pony. Love from Santa’. She handed the photo to Methos and scanned the letter before reading it aloud. “Dear Lucia, it is my hope that you can aid me this Christmas. This pony has been very lonely at the North Pole since there are no other horses and no little girls to keep him company. I hope you will let him live with you so he will have a special friend. His name is Comet,” Methos smiled, looking a little wistful at that, “and he likes to be read to, especially stories from this book.”

Methos took the book from Lucia’s hands, reading the title, “Classic Myths to Read Aloud: Great Stories of Roman Mythology.” He and Triona looked at each other and started to laugh. “Who knew Santa was such a fan of Ancient Rome?”

Triona turned her attention back to ‘Santa’s’ letter. “I know you will take good care of Comet, and that he will never lack for companionship again. Love, Santa Claus.” She handed the letter back to Lucia.

“Santa thinks I’m old enough to have a pony! And I’m helping him too!” she added, in case there was any doubt in her mother’s mind that she should get to keep Comet.

“I guess Santa knows best,” she admitted ruefully, shrugging at Methos.

“And I am sure Santa will be very happy to hear that, my dear” a voice said from behind her.

Turning, she smiled at the ancient Roman vampire. “Are you?”

“Oh yes. Quite sure.” He reached out and stroked Triona’s cheek with one finger.

“Papa!” Lucia flung herself at LaCroix, who was looking very pleased with himself. “Santa brought me a pony!”

LaCroix picked her up. “So I gather. Santa must think very highly of you.”

“Santa was very busy last night,” Methos observed, a twinkle in his eye.

“Indeed?”

“Mmm. And you know, come to think of it, I knew a little boy once who had a horse named Comet. Isn’t that an odd coincidence?” The Immortal’s wide grin nearly split his face.

LaCroix just gave Methos a ‘look’, but otherwise ignored his teasing. “I think you will find the rest of your presents from Santa at the stable with your pony,” he told the little girl in his arms. “Santa told me that he thought Comet would like to open your presents with you.”

Lucia’s mouth dropped open in shock. “You talked to Santa? Really?”

“I did indeed. Right on this very spot.”

Lucia sighed. “We all fell asleep.”

“That’s what happens when you eat too many magic cookies,” he pointed out, tapping her lightly on the tip of her nose.

“Or have too much nog in your egg nog,” Triona said sotto voce, snickering at the glare Methos gave her.

“Quite true,” LaCroix agreed.

“I am never going to live this down,” Methos said mostly to himself.

“That’s okay, Daddy. I’d rather bake cookies with you than talk to Santa,” Lucia told him, looking at him adoringly.

Eyes suspiciously bright, Methos took her little hand in his. “So would I, poppet, so would I,” he told her, leaning over to kiss her cheek.

Triona wrapped her arms around his waist, “I think it’s time we welcomed Comet to the family, don’t you?”

“Yes! And Comet’s going to love it here, Mummy,” she held her arms out as wide as they would go, “‘cus I have the best family in the whole galaxy!”

End

Merry Christmas!