Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, and I make no money from this work of fiction!

I Saw Mommy ...

"Hey, Mom! Santa Claus just drove up in Claymore's car!" Jonathan yelled from downstairs.

"SANTA CLAUS?" Carolyn got up from her desk and peered out the French doors. Sure enough, Santa Claus was climbing out of Claymore's car, and edging past Scruffy who was barking at the gate. Carolyn hurried down the stairs and out onto the front porch where Jonathan and Candy were talking excitedly with a costumed Claymore. "Well, Santa Claus, where's your reindeer and sleigh?" she asked.

"Very funny, Mrs. Muir. But the costume is a good fit, isn't it? I just had to show it off, you know. I think I'll wear it for the rest of Advent."

"I hope you wash it sometimes," Candy said, practically.

"If I get it dirty, of course. But I don't plan to do that. It's dry clean, you know, and unless it's dirty, there's no need to pay for it to be cleaned, is there?" Claymore giggled nervously.

"WHY are you dressed like Santa Claus?" Carolyn asked.

"Oh, didn't you hear? Ollie wanted a Santa for his store for the season, and I offered to be it. I cut a dashing figure, don't I?"

"Dashing HOW?" came the Captain's dry voice from the doorway. "Dashing through the snow?"

"Ohh, why did you have to pop in? I didn't come to see you!" Claymore edged around to put Carolyn between him and Captain Gregg.

"This is my house," the spirit retorted. "And I prefer to repel unwanted boarders ... such as YOU!"

Claymore jumped a little, and cringed again. "Mrs. Muir, tell him I have a right to be here!" he whined.

Carolyn ignored the arguing. She had heard it all before, anyway. What she HADN'T heard before was Claymore offering to do anything! "You volunteered to play Santa in Ollie's store for all of December?" she asked Claymore incredulously.

"Well, not exactly." Claymore grinned sheepishly at her.

"What exactly, then?" she inquired, having a hard time seeing Claymore in the role of a benevolent, generous saint.

"It's the perfect job for me, Mrs. Muir," Claymore declared. "PERFECT! I'm promising all kinds of presents I don't have to buy, AND, best of all, I get paid to do it!"

It was a JOB! She should have known he wouldn't volunteer for anything that didn't have remuneration of the monetary kind! "Claymore, you can't PROMISE to bring presents! What happens if the children's parents don't get them that? What would that do to the children's faith in Santa?"

"That's hardly my problem, is it?" Claymore shrugged. "They tell Santa what they want. My job is to listen and to tell the little hor... er, dears, I mean, that Santa can perform miracles and bring them the world on his sleigh pulled by the eight tiny reindeer."

"Nine." Jonathan inserted. Everyone stared at him. "Nine," he repeated, "if you count Rudolph. You know! Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid ..."

"Donner and Blitzen," finished Candy with him, laughing.

The two children went back into the house, singing the rest of the song at the top of their lungs. The Captain stood aside and watched them go, then turned back to Claymore with a scowl. Claymore fell back.

"Well, Mrs. Muir, I just thought I'd, you know, show off a bit, but my fan club is probably waiting at Ollie's, not to mention the elves, so I'll be off now. See you around!" and he scurried down the walk and jumped into his car, throwing it into gear the moment it started.

Carolyn shook her head in amazement then smiled at the Captain. "You know, he never ceases to amaze me."

"Is there no one else in town who could play the part? Seeing that parsimonious parasite in such a costume offends my sensibilities," the Captain frowned. "Not to mention hearing the ridiculous ideas he is spouting! Telling children that Santa can perform miracles, indeed!"

"Well, I suspect Santa CAN perform miracles. The REAL Santa, that is. Certainly not Claymore. Not very often, anyway."

"And not if he doesn't gain by it!" growled the Captain darkly.

Carolyn grimaced, then laughed and hurried inside again.

Over the next few days, Martha and Carolyn decorated Gull Cottage, and Martha began the traditional Christmas baking. The second weekend of the month, they all went out to buy a Christmas tree from the Boy Scout's lot. Stopping at Ollie's for a few groceries, they waved at Claymore who was enthroned on Santa's chair with a wriggling three-year-old trying to pull off his beard while a volunteer elf was taking a picture.

"Mom? Can we visit Santa?" Jonathan asked.

"Yeah, I'd like my picture on Santa's knee," Candy grinned.

"So would I," observed Martha drily, "but I'm not sure HE would agree!"

A delightful smile spread over Carolyn's face. "I think we ALL should get our picture taken with Santa! We can give the picture to the Captain for Christmas!"

"All right!" Jonathan and Candy joined the short line, Martha and Carolyn at their heels.

When the four of them arrived at Claymore's chair, he eyed them all nervously. "You're not little children." he said. "NONE of you are little!"

"So?" Candy plopped down on his knee, and he groaned. "Santa, I want a new volleyball, a new pair of roller skates, and ..."

"Wait a minute!" Claymore yelped. "Just one present per customer!"

"Gee, and I brought a whole list!" Jonathan sighed, digging into his pocket and letting a streamer unfurl from his hands to the ground. The streamer was covered with very small lettering. "I can't choose just ONE present from this, Santa! How about TWO for me?"

Martha and Carolyn smothered their giggles at the expression on Claymore's face. Candy posed for her picture, and slid down, then Jonathan thumped onto Claymore's knee. The man's groan was even louder.

"Smile, Santa!" the elf grinned, and snapped the picture when Claymore scowled at her.

Martha stepped up, and Claymore's face filled with horror. "WAIT A MINUTE! You're DEFINITELY not a child, Martha!"

"I don't see an age limit on your sign, Santa," she looked at him innocently. "I want my picture taken on Santa's knee. I know just the person I want to give it to!"

"Go sit on HIS knee ..." Claymore began, then he moaned when Martha lowered herself to balance precariously on his quivering legs.

"Smile, Santa!" Martha commanded him, and beamed at the camera. Then she kissed Claymore's cheek. "Thank you. And now, I want you bring me a new water heater for Christmas. I know you have an in with our landlord, and if anyone can convince that old miser to part with some money in the Christmas season, I know it will be you. Oh, and Santa, when you come, I'll have a full Christmas meal for you!"

"A new water heater!" Claymore gulped. He looked around, and saw the grins on everyone's face. "Well, we'll see. Now get off me!"

"No need to be rude, Santa!" Martha took her time standing up. "After all, it takes me longer to move than it used to. The doctor told me to soak for a few hours in a full tub of hot water every day, but, well, we just don't have that amount of water available!"

Carolyn, taking a leaf from Martha's book, smiled disarmingly at Claymore as she put her arm around his neck and snuggled onto his knee.

"Ohhhhh ... I hope ole Spooky isn't around to see this!" Claymore groaned under his breath.

"But that's who I want to give this picture to, Santa," Carolyn simpered at the camera. She could feel Claymore shaking beneath her. She looked back at him after the picture had been taken, and smiled again. "Dear Santa, I need a miracle in my life, too, this Christmas ..."

"Don't we all?" he muttered.

"I would like to have all the stories I've sent in the last month accepted for enough money so that I can take a vacation over the holidays ... and I'd like the rent on Gull Cottage to be lowered for the next year."

"LOWERED?" Claymore almost bellowed. "That's crazy! The rent doesn't pay the taxes as it is! How could I possibly ...?"

"I know you'll do your best to perform this miracle, Santa. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!" and Carolyn pressed her lips to his cheek just above his false beard.

"Hey, Mom!" Jonathan grinned. "We're singing your song in our school concert!"

"My song?" Carolyn looked at them in surprise, still sitting on Claymore's knee.

"Yeah," Candy agreed. "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus!"

"Ohh, if Spookface hears about this, I'm a goner!" muttered Claymore, and he unceremoniously pushed Carolyn to her feet.

"Wait a minute!" she protested, and dropped back on one of his knees. "Come on, everyone, gather around! We ALL have to get in a picture! Martha, you sit on his other knee ..."

"NO!" Claymore stood up abruptly, and Carolyn had to grab his shoulders to prevent herself from falling to the floor.

"Spoilsport," Carolyn muttered, then she took one of Claymore's arms while Martha took the other, and the children posed in front. "Smile, everyone. You, too, Claymore!"

"This should cost extra!" he muttered, but complied when she dug an elbow into his ribs.

Giggling, all four waited for Carolyn to pay for the pictures, which would be delivered in a few days, and walked out of Ollie's store, leaving a very demoralized Santa Claus in their wake.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Just a few nights later, after the children had gone to bed, Carolyn was curled up in the living room by the fireplace reading a book. A knock came at the door, and she heard Martha answer it. Looking up, Carolyn sighed and put her book down when she heard Claymore's voice.

"Santa's here to visit, Mrs. Muir," Martha announced. "But he's not bearing gifts."

"It's not Christmas yet!" Claymore said crossly, stalking into the living room, dressed, as he had been for the last two weeks, in his Santa costume.

Carolyn found herself wondering if he slept in it, as it was beginning to look rather rumpled. "What can I do for you, Santa?" she asked, getting to her feet.

Waiting until Martha rolled her eyes and departed back to the kitchen, Claymore said in an undertone to Carolyn, "Mrs. Muir, is HE here?"

"The real Santa?" she asked innocently.

"YOU know who, Mrs. Muir!" Claymore looked around but didn't detect any sign of the Captain. He edged closer to Carolyn who sighed.

"No, Claymore. He's not here."

"Well, just so you know, Martha was wrong. I AM bearing gifts! I brought your pictures up."

"Why, Claymore, thank you!" Carolyn took the envelope he handed her, and looked through them. "They're terrific!"

"Yes, I DO look good!" Claymore preened.

"I was actually referring to US, but yes, even you are smiling!" Carolyn agreed. "Would you like something to drink, Claymore? I think we have some eggnog left."

"Well, a Christmas drink WOULD be nice. But I'm not crazy about spiced rum and eggnog. You know I don't like rum. Scotch, perhaps?" he accepted eagerly.

"I'm afraid we don't have spiced rum, OR Scotch. I don't suppose I could tempt you with water, could I?" Carolyn asked guilelessly.

"Mrs. Muir!"

She laughed. "All right, Claymore. We can probably find something. I'll go ask Martha."

"Oh, I'll come, too ... never know WHO might be just, you know, hanging around here, and I should protect you. Wouldn't want you to, you know, be alone." Claymore was right on her heels as she exited the living room.

Carolyn stopped in the hallway and shook her head in amazement at his cowardice. "Claymore, you really should try to get along with the Captain."

"It's no use, Mrs. Muir, he just won't accept that I'm his only living relative!" Claymore sulked, rolling his eyes. Then he brightened suddenly, cleared his throat and looked up above her head. Carolyn's eyes followed his, and widened at the sight of the mistletoe kissing ball that Martha had hung on the chandelier.

"After all, Mrs. Muir, it IS the kissing season, and, you know, tradition and all that ..." Claymore spoke quickly and jerkily even as he grabbed her shoulders and pulled her closer.

As his mouth closed over hers, Carolyn shuddered with distaste and tried to push away, but her efforts were futile. For once, Claymore's arms were like steel. Then a sharp crack of thunder sounded in Carolyn's ears, and for a brief moment she wondered why she wasn't being released if the Captain had arrived to 'defend her honour'. In an instant, however, the kiss changed. To her horror, she found her eyes drifting closed as something inside her welled up in passionate response to his touch. The kiss deepened, and her hands slid up under his beard, then around his shoulders.

When at last his lips left hers and pressed kisses on her cheeks, she opened her eyes dazedly. "S-Santa?"

The blue eyes looking lovingly into hers were not Claymore's. Captain Gregg's voice came out of Claymore's mouth and he murmured as he nuzzled her hair by her ear, "Santa's miracle of miracles!"

"Are ... are you REAL?" Carolyn whispered as her arms tightened about his neck.

"As I'll ever be, my dear ..." and again his lips were on hers.

Carolyn closed her eyes and kissed him back, trying not to think about Claymore ... but it was no use. She was kissing CLAYMORE, however much she wanted him to be the Captain! Captain Gregg seemed to sense her withdrawal, and with a sigh he loosened his hold on her slim body. Then another crash of thunder came, and Claymore's body slid bonelessly to the floor.

Martha hurried out of the kitchen. "What in the world?" She looked at Carolyn, then down at the unconscious Claymore, then threw up her hands and stalked back into the kitchen for a pitcher of water which she proceeded to pour over Claymore's head. Through his sputtering, she said to Carolyn, "At least when he comes to visit and the Captain scares him, we get clean floors out of the deal!"

Carolyn couldn't respond. She was still too shaken from the entire encounter. Leaving Martha to send Claymore off, Carolyn hurried up the stairs, never noticing the children's door closing quickly as she went past it. When she finally gained her room, she shut the door and leaned against it, breathing hard. Then she scrubbed at her mouth with her hand. She had just kissed CLAYMORE! Granted, the Captain had taken over his body, and somehow she had known the difference immediately, but facts were facts. The lips on hers were Claymore's lips. Claymore's arms had been around her. It was Claymore who ... Carolyn wondered if she was going to be sick for a moment.

"Mrs. Muir? Are you all right?" The Captain was beside her, looking at her with deep concern on his face.

Bleakly she stared back at him. "No, I'm not. Captain, that was CLAYMORE I was kissing!"

He reacted violently. "It was NOT that mindless ingrate! It was I who ..."

"Captain ... I know you ... well ... yes, you kissed me, but you're an illusion! I kissed CLAYMORE!" She shuddered.

"Only because he kissed you first, and I couldn't resist! I should have annihilated him for daring to touch you, but instead, I took his place ..." Seeing she was too upset to even look fully at him, the Captain decided that a little discussion might help her to realize the miracle they had experienced that evening. At least, he preferred to think of it as a miracle, and hoped that she would agree, once her shock had worn off! "You know, of course, about the Scandinavian mistletoe legend? It's slightly different from the usual one. Balder, the god of peace, was slain by an arrow fashioned of mistletoe. The other gods and goddesses loved him so much, they begged that his life be restored and mistletoe be endowed with special meaning -- that one who passes beneath the mistletoe must be kissed thoroughly. Balder was restored to life, and care of the mistletoe was bequeathed to the goddess of love. Each time a kiss is given beneath mistletoe, love and peace gain a stronger foothold in the world of mortals. So you see, my dear, the more I kiss you, the more good I'm doing the world. One might say I'm helping all people everywhere, doing my duty, so to speak. That miserable wart you say you were kissing doesn't know the meaning of helpfulness! It was I who kissed you the only way possible to me now, save in a dream. Because of MY kiss under the mistletoe, you should feel a stronger sense of love and peace. "

Carolyn smiled reluctantly, her eyes meeting his. "I got the love from your kiss, Captain ... but I'm not sure about peace! I must say, it IS good of you to ... put duty before your own wants in such a manner."

"I try my best, Mrs. Muir." he said, solemnly, his eyes dancing.

Now Carolyn's smile covered her face. "Oh, Captain, REALLY!" she scoffed.

"Am I forgiven?" he wheedled.

"Are you sorry?" she asked lightly, walking across to her desk.

"Not a bit," he said promptly.

"Then, yes. I forgive you." Again her eyes met his. "But please, Captain ... I REALLY don't want to kiss Claymore ever again, no matter the provocation, no matter what costume he is wearing!"

"I shall make sure it never happens again, my dear!" he vowed.

"Thank you."

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The next evening was the school concert. Martha and Carolyn took the excited children in to the school gymnasium and found seats near the front. The Shoemakers sat next to them, and smiled politely before looking away. The buzz of conversation died, and the school children stood up to sing. Carolyn listened in private dismay as they sang the Christmas song 'I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus'.

Watching Jonathan and Candy closely when she realized they were almost grinning through their singing and staring knowingly at her, Carolyn frowned. Surely they HADN'T seen Claymore's kiss last night ... had they? In a moment she had her answer as the two blithely changed the words of the ending, although no other child did, thereby making it clear they had seen the kiss and wondered if the Captain had as well!

"Mrs. Muir, did Jonathan and Candy sing what I THOUGHT they sang just then?" Martha turned in surprise to her employer.

Carolyn, her cheeks scarlet, nodded distractedly.

"They saw Santa Claymore KISSING you last night?" was Martha's next hoarse whisper. When Carolyn didn't answer, but her cheeks reddened further, Martha muttered, "No wonder I heard thunder and Claymore was out cold ... the Captain DID see him too!"

"Martha!" Carolyn nudged her. "Pay attention!"

"I was ... that's how I find out the most SCANDALOUS things going on, as Claymore says, behind my back, underneath my nose!" Martha chuckled. "That mistletoe came in handy! But really, Mrs. Muir ... CLAYMORE? Even if he WAS dressed as Santa? Tell me, what was it like?"

Carolyn scowled, and Martha went into a fit of silent giggling that had her shaking in her chair so much that the Shoemakers were frowning. The children's next song had poor Martha laughing even harder as they began singing, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, ..."

"Troubles out of sight, indeed, Mrs. Muir!" Martha gasped at last. Carolyn just rolled her eyes.