AN: I have absolutely nothing to gain from publishing this story, in that I cannot claim ownership of either the Highlander concept or its characters. I did make up a character or two of my own, but no one's going to pay me anything for them, so that was a waste.
"Merry Christmas, Methos," Joe beamed, handing the old immortal his eggnog.
"May it end bloody soon," responded the old man, glowering.
Duncan shook his head, smiling slightly. This was at least Methos' fifth helping of eggnog, and Joe – knowing the old man's Scrooge-like attitude – bade him excessively warm wishes with each new glass.
The Highlander himself drank with less haste, savoring Joe's delicious if rather potent holiday brew. So potent, in fact, that he nearly ignored the feeling he'd never expected to get tonight: the sensation of another immortal – other than his intoxicated friend – nearby.
He rose from his chair as Joe sat down at the table with them. The Watcher looked quizzical before noticing Methos' reaction. He knew that look too well. "C'mon, it's Christmas Eve," he said.
"Don't worry, I have nothing but goodwill," Duncan smiled. "I just need to see who's around."
"Sit down, you bloody Scot," slurred Methos. "If you get yourself beheaded, Joe won't make any more of this lovely potion."
"I'll be right back." Duncan walked out onto the street.
The buzzing sensation was stronger now, so Duncan knew the immortal was not far away. He turned and walked a few steps along the deserted sidewalk. It was much too late for shoppers, and most of the holiday revelry had ended.
The sound of someone running alerted him to turn around, sword in hand. He was surprised at the immortal's extraordinary size, but he'd defeated bigger opponents. He just didn't want to fight on Christmas Eve.
"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he told the man, who gazed confusedly with unreasonable fear in his eyes over his unruly beard. "I'm not your enemy. We don't have to do this." Duncan wondered how many times he'd delivered that speech. Maybe he should just have cards printed up.
He noted the splotches of black dirt on the man's face and beard, and on the trembling hands gripping the sword he held over his right shoulder. A mentally ill immortal, perhaps? Homeless and wandering?
"Come on, friend," Duncan coaxed. "I don't want to fight you. Let's go inside and get warm. It's Christmas Eve, after all."
The other man, who had seemed to be calmed by Duncan's words, became livid at the mention of the holiday, slashing at Duncan with unexpectedly lethal skill. The battle was brief, but took real effort. Duncan was truly sorry when the other man's head rolled down the sidewalk.
Methos came out just as the Quickening began, and sighed. He leaned against the outside of the bar with his eyes closed against the dizzying show and waited.
He was roused by Duncan's anguished cry. Lurching over to where the Scot knelt beside his latest conquest, Methos took in the situation immediately despite his inebriated condition.
The worn and sooty trench coat had fallen open to reveal a red and white fur suit with black buttons and belt. A bell ringer, perhaps, Methos thought, though that beard was undeniably authentic… Duncan's eyes, looking up at him, were filled with horror.
"Well, paint you green and call you the Grinch," Methos said with drunken awe.
Joe stared at the carelessly parked sleigh in the alley. The eight reindeer were clearly upset at the strange surroundings and lack of supervision.
"I can't believe Santa Claus is dead in my bar." He winced at Duncan's stricken look. The poor guy was taking this awfully hard.
"Well, let's have a look at the booty, shall we?" Methos alone seemed unfazed by the tragedy, clambering unsteadily onto the sleigh with the anticipation of... well, of a kid at Christmas. He paused as he looked inside, shouting over his shoulder, "Come see this!" Joe and Duncan hurried over.
A small elfin man lay on the floor of the sleigh, bound tightly with colored ribbon and with a large red bow plastered over his mouth. He struggled and made pleading sounds when he saw them. Duncan and Joe pulled him out and freed the little man.
"You've got to help me find Santa!" he said frantically as soon as the bow was removed. "We had no idea he'd gone off his meds. We just thought the Christmas stress was making him edgy. Now he's wandering the streets and…" He trailed off when he saw Duncan's and Joe's expressions. "What happened?" he asked with trepidation.
Duncan could not speak. Methos was doing a poor job of suppressing giggles. Joe told the elf, "You'd better come inside."
In the bar, Willem, the elf, stared morosely at the decapitated, red-suited figure. "If only he could've held out three more months," he said, shaking his head. "We have a replacement in training, and he'd have been ready by then. He fell ill at the last minute, or he would be here now. I'll bet Santa drugged his eggnog."
"Fiendish!" exclaimed Methos, cupping his own nog protectively.
"Well," Willem said briskly, "we'd better get going." He looked at Duncan expectantly.
"Well, I can't finish the toy delivery all by myself, and you did kill Santa…"
"Go on, MacLeod," Methos smirked. "Matter of honor, you know."
Joe yanked the eggnog out of his hands. "He'll need some help. And the bar's closed."
The rest of the night was a series of nightmarish vignettes:
Driving the sleigh
"Must this contraption lurch and list quite so much, MacLeod?" demanded Methos, fervently wishing he'd consumed at least two fewer eggnogs.
"If you think you can do better, take the reins," Duncan retorted tensely. He hadn't driven a team of ANYTHING in years, and eight flying reindeer skittish over an unfamiliar driver were proving difficult to control.
"You're doing just fine," soothed Willem, knuckles white on the edge of the sleigh.
"Shut up!" chorused the immortals. Methos leaned way over the side and divested himself of at least two cups of eggnog.
"Good to see you're finally spreading some Christmas cheer," Duncan chuckled nastily.
Landing the sleigh
"Easy now," Willem tried to sound patient, "one more pass, remember to tug the reins gently as – "
"As the third pair comes over the edge of the roof, I know!" Duncan waited until the pair was in position and yanked too hard – again – on the reins. The reindeer all bolted in different directions, and one rail of the sleigh dug a hole into the roof of the house. The sudden stop threw Methos out of the sleigh, and he promptly rolled off the roof.
The lights in the house came on, and Duncan and Willem heard a woman say, "What was that?" A man's voice answered, "Get my shotgun." Hurriedly, Willem tossed two pre-printed notes down the chimney: one said, "Sorry we missed you;" the other was a sizeable gift certificate to Toys R Us. Duncan retrieved the temporarily dead Methos, and the sleigh fled the home.
Descending a chimney
"Come on," Willem hissed, "it's not that difficult."
"Maybe if I were the human equivalent of a Shetland pony, I'd feel the same way," growled Methos, legs kicking futilely over the fireplace.
Impatiently, Duncan tugged, and Methos landed noisily. A cloud of soot enveloped them, prompting a flurry of sneezing and coughing.
"Shhh! Help me with the toys!" Both immortals ignored the increasingly domineering Willem, wiping their faces clean of soot with handkerchiefs.
"What the hell...?" Startled, they all gaped at the teenager standing barefoot in the living room. "I'm callin' the cops," she said flatly.
"No, please don't," Duncan implored. "We're Santa Claus!"
"Yeah, right," the girl, about sixteen, snorted.
"Let 'er call," Methos said, sprawling against the wall. "Jail would be a welcome respite from the Christmas Commandant, here."
Her interest piqued by his bad-boy bearing, the girl sidled up to Methos. "Nice accent," she said, tossing her hair. "Maybe you could teach me to talk like that." Methos grinned roguishly, turning toward her, his shoulder pressed against the wall...
Willem tossed toys haphazardly around the tree as Duncan put Methos in a headlock and stuffed him up the chimney.
Back at Joe's, Willem lectured the bedraggled pair. "More property damage in one night than in centuries put together! I'm gonna have to call in the Pet Psychic for the traumatized reindeer. We got lost six times, even with a bird's eye view of the continents! And don't get me started on that pedophilia incident..."
Joe looked instinctively at Methos. "Pedophilia?"
"She looked every bit of eighteen in that nightshirt," the old man drawled.
"Willem," Duncan said, desperate for absolution, "I'm really sorry. For everything. If there's anything I can do – "
"Hah! You've done enough already." Willem headed toward the alley, where the body of Santa had been loaded onto the sleigh. "And if you're ever at the North Pole, don't look us up."
"Willem," called Joe. "What was wrong with Santa, anyway? You said something about medication?"
"Lithium," Willem yelled as he left. "He was bi-polar."
The three men exchanged a look.
Putting fresh eggnog in front of each of his friends, Joe said compassionately, "Merry Christmas, guys."
"Bite me," replied Duncan and Methos in unison.