WRITTEN: 12/19/98

DISCLAIMER: I did not create these characters; they belong to someone else; Warner Brothers and ABC have their own piece of the action in there as well. I didn't write Emerson, Lake, & Palmer's "I Believe In Father Christmas", either; that was Greg Lake and Pete Sinfield. I borrowed everyone and everything without permission, so I hope no one gets mad. But hey, it *is* Christmas... :-)

Chapel and the Night Visitor

by AnnieM

- They said there'll be snow at Christmas,

They said there'll be peace on Earth;

But instead, it kept on raining,

A veil of tears for the Virgin birth...



I remember one Christmas morning,

A winter's light, and a distant choir;

With the peal of a bell, and that Christmas tree smell;

And their eyes full of tinsel and fire...

_Beloved Wife_

Chapel gently ran the pad of his thumb across the words carved in the smooth marble as he crouched in front of the headstone.

"Whoever it was that said 'time heals all wounds'...well...he lied."

He placed the single red rose he held at the base of the stone. Slipping a hand in his jacket pocket, Chapel pulled out a small gold box embossed GODIVA, and laid it beside the lone flower. Running a hand along his jawline, he sighed heavily, and whispered almost inaudibly...

"Merry Christmas, baby."

Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly as he rose to his feet. He looked around; if the population of the cemetary was any indication, he was the last man on Earth; he saw not one other person.

::"Well, Chapel, what'd you expect?":: he thought to himself. ::"Like this year should be any different; cemetaries aren't exactly a popular Christmas Eve hangout..."::

With one final glance at his wife's headstone, he started up the Charger and drove off.

*********

The sun was setting as Chapel made his way back to the Palladin. Christmas lights began twinkling on in many of the homes that he passed; homes filled with warmth and love, where families gathered and hope-filled children dutifully placed a glass of milk and a plate of cookies on their kitchen table before heading off to experience the only happy type of insomnia there is.

Homes very much like the one he himself had had, just a few million years ago.

As he swung the car into the parking lot, he noticed the CLOSED sign hanging in the window of the Diner. Well, that was to be expected; since his new life began, 'Christmas Eve dinner' had come to mean 'Chinese takeout'. Grabbing the greasy, steaming bag of Kung Pao from the trunk, he locked the Charger and headed toward his basement suite.

*********

Tossing the sack on the coffee table, Chapel draped his coat on a chair, and went over to the kitchenette to retrieve a plate and a beer. Licking his fingers as he proceeded to dump out the contents of the drippy containers before him, he reached for the remote and switched on the TV.

Church services...that movie about the kid who wanted a BB gun for Christmas...choral performances...Beavis and Butthead...a Yule Log burning on some shopping channel...Chapel had just settled for a 'Hogan's Heroes' rerun on TV Land when there was a knock outside. Raising an eyebrow, he pressed the 'mute' button and went to find out who was paying him a visit this evening. A glance through the peephole showed KC standing there, a bulky tote bag slung over her shoulder.

*********

"My goodness...did you and Santa get separated?" Chapel asked as he held the door open for her.

"What? *Oh*..." setting the bag on the coffee table, she dipped her head, grinning sheepishly as she got the joke. "Actually, I have a proposition for you...that is, if you don't already have plans..." She gave the room a quick glance, taking in the extreme *lack* of Christmas-ness therein. She'd expected as much.

"Plans? Well, aside from that plate of overcooked chicken with undercooked rice, and the boys from Stalag 13 over there, I hadn't really thought any farther ahead. Why?"

"Well, it's like this..." KC slowly shifted her weight from one foot to the other as she spoke. She found it difficult to look Chapel in the eye, so she focused on his shoulder.

"My father is off on some sort of 'Christmas in Vegas' thing, so he's not here; the guy I'd been sort-of dating has been dodging me for the past three weeks, presumably to avoid buying me a Christmas gift that he thinks would be interpreted as either 'too serious' or 'not serious enough'; and I don't exactly have what could be called a wellspring of close friends..." her voice trailed off.

"And?"

KC took a deep breath. "...I figured, 'I'm alone, he's probably alone, maybe we could be alone together," she blurted, biting her lip.

Chapel raised an eyebrow. "*Probably* alone?"

"Well, I...never mind." She shook her head, reaching for the tote bag. "I should go. I'm sorry."

Chapel gently grabbed her arm.

"No, KC, I was just kidding. Take off your coat, sit. Stay awhile. It'll be...nice to have holiday company for a change."

Giving Chapel a slightly questioning glance, KC handed him her coat, which he draped over his on the chair. Coming back over to sit next to her on the couch, he pointed at the tote.

"So...what's in the bag?"

KC's eyes brightened a little at his question. "I thought I'd come prepared..."

She pulled two large bags of Hershey Kisses from the tote, and set them down in front of Chapel. "I wasn't sure if you preferred plain or with almonds, so I got both..." She tilted her head, and went back to rummaging. "Oh, and I got videos." She handed him a Blockbuster bag she'd just dug out.

Peering into the bag, Chapel scratched his head, clearly puzzled with KC's rental choices.

"_Reservoir Dogs_" and "_Species_?"

She gave him a smirk. "Well...I wasn't sure what your tolerance level was for so much seasonal 'happy-happy-joy-joy', so I figured I'd better not push it."

He chuckled slightly at that one, giving her a grin. She didn't see it, however, as her attentions were on the tote bag once more.

"Ah-HAH. There you are!" She dug down to the bottom, and came up with three cello-wrapped tri-fold packages marked "Act II". These, too, she set in front of Chapel.

He nodded. "Budget corn." Clearly, he was pleased.

KC breathed a small sigh of relief; she'd done the right thing. ::"It's now or never,":: she thought to herself as she removed the final item, a small box of green with a silver bow which she handed to Chapel.

"What's this?"

"It's for you- Merry Christmas." she blurted, taking another deep breath.

Chapel opened the package, finding inside a silvery object with a ring attatched. The face of a bearded man was embossed on one side.

"It's a keychain-"

"I see that- thank you." he interrupted, nodding.

KC continued. "It's St Jude...the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. People turn to him when they've lost all hope...I figured the two of you have a lot in common."

Not looking up from the medallion in his hand, Chapel smiled a little.

"This was very thoughtful of you, KC...thank you." She responded with a tiny 'you're welcome' shrug. Chapel rose from the couch, waving a hand in KC's direction.

"Wait right here."

KC pressed her lips together, wondering what Chapel had up his sleeve. He returned to the room with a small velvet box, handing it to KC as he sat back down.

"Open it."

Taken slightly aback by this turn of events, KC did as she was told. She hadn't expected Chapel to have gotten her a gift; but, then again, did Chapel *ever* act in an 'expected' manner?

She opened the box, and extracted a long, delicate silver chain which had a small rectangular medal attached. Her initials, 'KC' were engraved into one side; on the reverse was an unusual symbol she did not recognize...it looked to her like either a stick man with his arms raised in the air, or a bird's foot; she wasn't sure which. Chapel could see the puzzlement flashing in her eyes, and decided to explain.

"It's called 'Eohl'; in Norse mythology, it's a symbol for friendship and warding off evil...basically, it's a protection rune. I figured with your newfound profession..." He waved a hand.

KC nodded, breaking into a big grin as she slipped the necklace over her head, admiring the medal once again.

"It's lovely. Thank you." This time, KC met his gaze directly, giving him the warmest smile she could muster. In spite of his imposing nature, she really, genuinely liked this man, and was glad that she'd forced her way back into his crusade. She was proud of him, and proud of *herself*, too, for all of the people they'd come to help. She nodded a little, glancing at him and their holiday spread on the coffee table.

"What?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Still nodding, KC began, "This is...all of it...it's *nice*, y'know?" giving him a matter-of-fact expression.

Chapel ran a hand along his jawline, thinking that perhaps this year was the one to rejoin the land of the living as far as the holidays were concerned...

"...Yeah...it is. KC-?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks."

She smiled, tossing him a bag of the Hershey Kisses. "My pleasure."



- I wish you a hopeful Christmas,

I wish you a brave New Year;

All anguish, pain, and sadness

Leave your heart and let your road be clear...



They said there'll be snow at Christmas,

They said there'll be peace on Earth;

Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or Hell,

The Christmas we get, we deserve...

~Fin

Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays! :-)

AnnieM

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Everybody goes inside when it rains. I guess that's why I like to go out."

-- Michael Madsen

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