Methos had second thoughts almost from the moment he walked on to the barge. When Duncan Macleod had invited him for a Christmas Eve dinner, he had accepted, expecting a quiet meal and some beer with an old friend. He had known there would be a tree, and probably a emotional toast or two, that was only to be expected, given Duncan's romantic nature, but he had really never bargained for this. Not only was there a tree, but there were colored light, stockings, pine boughs and tinsel everywhere. What's more, the quiet meal had turned into more of a family reunion. Joe and Amanda had all arrived before him and were happily catching up on all that was new in their lives. All of this was bad enough, but....


"I can't believe you've invited a kid." Methos complained. "I mean, what am I supposed to do around a kid? He'll probably expect me to talk to him, or something."


"Look" said Duncan, handing Methos a beer. "Danny's folks couldn't get back to town until tomorrow, so I said he could stay with me, so he wouldn't have to be alone on Christmas Eve. One night in the company of a kid isn't going to hurt you too much."


"I think it's nice, having a kid around." Amanda mused. She smiled as she adjusted ornaments to make the tree look just so. "It kind of makes things feel more like Christmas."


Methos looked around the barge. "That's what we need." he said wryly. "To be more Christmasy."


Joe sat down in a chair with a beer of his own. "You really can be an old Scrooge, can't you."


Methos was on the brink of a witty reply when a taxi pulled up, and a ten year old boy stepped out. He looked lost and nervous. Duncan and Amanda quickly went out to meet Danny and welcome him on to the barge. Methos shook his head as he watched them gush over the packages he carried. He turned back and flopped onto the couch opposite Joe and plopped his feet on the table between them.


Joe smiled at the disgruntled immortal. "Cheer up." he said. "Maybe he'll go to bed early."


********************


Methos had to admit that the evening was going surprisingly well. The boy wasn't all that bad to have around. He was quiet and very polite. Methos thought he was kind of serious for a little boy, but it had been a while since he had been around little boys. This could, possibly, be the norm. After dinner, the group sat around, sipping warm cocoa and listening to Joe play Christmas music on his guitar. Methos was relaxed almost to the point of drifting off, when Duncan said, "Danny, I think you should go to bed soon. You can't be awake when Santa comes or he won't stop here."



Danny looked up from the book he had been reading. "Oh, it's ok, Mr. Macleod. I know there isn't really any Santa Claus. That's just for little kids."


Methos opened his eyes and looked at the boy. "You're wrong, you know."


Joe stopped playing and threw the old man a sardonic smile. "Now we're all supposed to believe you know him, right?"


"Well" Methos got up and poured himself a hot cocoa. Somehow a beer just didn't seem to fit the mood. "I did meet him once." He flopped back on a large easy chair and waited for the inevitable prompting.


Duncan laughed, down on the couch, and put his arm around Amanda. "Do tell."


Methos set his cocoa on the coffee table and sat forward, with his arms resting on his knees. "He wasn't actually called Santa when I met him. He was just a guy named Nick."


"Right. Just a guy named Nick, who happened to get around in a sled pulled by eight magic reindeer." Joe put down his guitar and sipped some cocoa of his own.


Methos grinned at Joe. "Actually he had a donkey. And before you ask, he didn't go down chimneys, as far as I could tell. He actually used doors and windows."


"Sounds like someone I could learn to like." Amanda said. Duncan frowned and nodded towards the boy. "Not that I'm implying Santa was a thief or anything."


Methos glanced at Danny. He had his head buried in the book, pretending that he wasn't listening to all this kid's stuff. "No, of course he wasn't a thief. Nick was a toy maker. That year, the harvest had been bad and the town was suffering an economic set back. So no one could afford to buy his toys. But Nick was just a really nice guy. He couldn't stand to see the children go without any presents, so he decided to give the toys away. The people of the town, however, were proud . They wouldn't take the toys if they couldn't pay for them. So Nick decided to just leave them in their houses when everyone was asleep."


"So where do you fit into all this?" asked Duncan. "How did you meet Nick?"


Methos managed to look a little sheepish. He shrugged and answered, "Someone had to open the doors."


Danny closed his book and studied Methos for a few seconds. "Well" he started. He hesitated before he went on. "Just because there was some guy named Nick, who used to hand out free toys, it doesn't mean he was the real Santa Claus and that he's still doing it. Besides, that all had to have happened a really long time ago. You couldn't have really known him, right?" Danny was trying very had to sound like a grown-up, but his eyes held the hope of the young.



Methos gave the young man a very serious look. "I am older than I look. As for Nick being the "real" Santa Claus, I can only tell you this. Last year, around this time, I was out at this big department store in the States, buying socks or something. I walked past the area where they had the Santa all set up for the little kids to get their pictures taken, and I swear the guy on the chair looked just like Nick." Methos drank the last bit of cocoa in his cup and put his feet up on the table. "Maybe it was just a coincidence."


Danny searched Methos' face to see if he was playing some kind of joke. Methos just leaned back, put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. Danny looked at each of the adults in the room, then he looked out the porthole for a few minutes, lost in thought. After a while, he stood and said, "It's getting kind of late. Maybe I should go to bed." As an afterthought, he turned to Methos and asked, "Did he give toys to all the kids?"


Methos opened his eyes and smiled. "Yeah. I think that naughty and nice stuff was made up by parents."


Satisfied, Danny said his goodnights and went to bed.


After he was gone, Amanda sighed, and said, "It's too bad, really."


"What is?" asked Duncan.


"That he will eventually find out that it was all just a nice story."


Methos stood, stretched and put on his coat, preparing to leave. "What makes you think that it's just a story?"


"You're not really expecting us to believe that you really did meet Santa Claus, are you?" Joe asked.


Methos opened the door. Before stepping out into the cold, night air, he turned and asked, "Why would I lie?"