This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
About the last thing Elisa Maza would have ever expected was finding Lennox Macbeth at her door on Christmas Eve. Definitely the last thing she would have expected was finding Lennox Macbeth at her door on Christmas Eve, bearing a present with her name on it.
"Come in!" she exclaimed, caught slightly off-balance by the Scotsman's unexpected visit. Her apartment was a mess, with unwrapped presents lying on the floor beside tape, bows, ribbons and paper. As much as Elisa loved the Christmas season, her work schedule, combined with a natural reluctance to brave mobs on her off-time, usually resulted in her going on a last-minute buying spree. This year had been no exception. She glanced around the room in despair, then put on a brave face and let Macbeth in. "Sorry for the mess," she said as she shut the door. "You know what it's like."
"Hmmm," he nodded as he looked around. "All too well, I fear. And immortality did nothing to cure me of the bad habit." He smiled and turned to face her. "I'm a bit surprised you're alone tonight, though."
"Oh, yeah," she shrugged. "Goliath, Angela, Brooklyn and Bronx went to Avalon for the holiday, and since I have to work tomorrow night, I figured I'd better stay put this trip." She laughed. "Given that I couldn't guarantee I'd be back any time soon..."
Macbeth chuckled warmly. "I doubt your superiors would take kindly to another 'world tour' so soon after the first. Well," he continued briskly, "I wanted to stop by and give you this before the holiday passed." He offered the large box to her; it was magnificently wrapped in red, green and gold, with a huge red ribbon encircling it and exploding into a bow at the top.
"Me?" she exclaimed. "I mean, not that I appreciate it, but I wasn't...and I..." She smiled weakly at him, palms outstretched in apology.
"Christmas is for giving, not receiving," he declared, "and the minute I saw this, I thought of you." Puzzled, she gave him a sly glance before taking the package and carefully undid the ribbon and wrapping. The lid to the box slipped off effortlessly, and Elisa squealed in sheer delight as she pulled a large stuffed gargoyle seconds later.
"He's wonderful!" she exclaimed, turning him around to view him from all angles. "And so cuddly, too!" she added as she gave the toy a big hug. "Where did you get him?"
Macbeth was watching her carefully, a gentle smile on his face. "Paris," he replied. "I was there on business a month ago, and saw him in a toy shop across from Notre Dame. As I said, I thought of you immediately and purchased him."
Elisa gave the gargoyle another squeeze. "He must have cost a fortune!"
The Scotsman shrugged nonchalantly. "I don't really worry about such things. I thought you'd like him, so I bought him." He coughed a bit self-consciously, then glanced toward the door.
She caught the look. "Oh, don't go so soon!" she protested, moving to block his path. "Let me put some water on to boil--the least I can do is give you a cup of hot chocolate and some cookies!" She didn't mention that the hot chocolate was "Swiss Miss Instant", or that the cookies were leftover Oreos from Goliath's last visit, but she couldn't let him make such a sweet gesture without some measure of thanks.
He smiled and shook his head. "I'm afraid I've been invited to the usual round of Christmas parties--business, you know. So I'll have to decline your offer this time. Give Goliath and the others my regards, would you?" He nimbly sidestepped Elisa and opened the door, but a polite cough made him pause.
She motioned with her eyes to the ceiling, where a piece of mistletoe hung. Goliath had put it up there a few nights ago to surprise her. It had ended up being a night full of surprises, she remembered with a slight blush to her cheeks. "Umm," she said, feeling suddenly shy in his presence. "Gotcha." And before he could react, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips. The embrace ended as quickly as it had started, but there was something in his eyes as he looked at her that made her heart ache for some strange reason. She smiled up at him, feeling a bit embarrassed.
He returned the smile. "I envy that damned gargoyle. You tell him that."
"I will." She stood in the doorway and watched him descend the stairs; he
reached the main door and smiled up at her one more time, then exited. She took
a deep breath and let it out in a slow sigh, then closed the door and returned
to her gift-wrapping. "Now, how the heck do I wrap a loincloth?" she muttered to
herself as she picked up the scissors.
* * * * *
Macbeth stared up at Elisa's window for a long time, then shook his head and headed for his car. As he turned the ignition, he wondered what he ought to do now. Head over to Nightstone and leave the bitch the box of Godiva he'd bought on impulse today? Go to St. John's and light a candle for Gruoch and their son? Or simply call it a night and head back to his estate?
"Damn." He closed his eyes tightly and rested his head against the steering wheel. Lord, but he'd come to hate this holiday with the passing of the years. All around him, everyone was going home, to reunite with families. All he had were memories, more and more each time this damnable time of year came around.
"Enough," he ordered himself. He'd go to Nightstone, then the church, then home. The place would be empty; he'd given his staff generous Christmas stipends and plane tickets to anywhere they'd wished to go. His major domo, Marie, had offered to stay, knowing how hard the holiday was for him, but he'd insisted she and her son go and visit her family in France. Her flight would be leaving in about two hours; he figured that running his errands would take three.
Macbeth glanced up one last time at Elisa's window, then put the car in drive
and pulled out into the street.
* * * * *
Elisa sipped at her hot chocolate and stared at the toy gargoyle, whom she'd named "Manny" in honor of the island where she worked. It had been so sweet of Macbeth to give him to her; she was still a bit shocked that he'd do something like that. After all, she didn't know him all that well, and a few of their encounters had found them on opposing sides. Still, she and Goliath had saved him from Demona and Thailog in Paris, and even when she'd fought him, she couldn't help but be impressed by the regal way he carried himself. Not to mention those tight pants he wore. Yum.
She still felt bad that she'd offered him so little in return. Biting her lip, she glanced over at Manny again and decided to leave a message at his estate to thank him again. Elisa headed over to her Rolodex and thumbed through it until she found Macbeth's phone number. The phone rang three times.
"Hello?" came a feminine voice with a soft French accent. "M'sieur Macduff's residence, this is Marie speaking."
"Hi, Marie," Elisa replied. "It's Elisa Maza. How are you?"
"Ah, Detective! Merry Christmas to you. I'm well--Jean-Claude and I were just heading out the door for the airport."
Elisa blinked. "Airport?"
"Oui. We're visiting relatives overseas this year. M'sieur insisted. He always sends the staff away this time of year."
"Oh. Well, it's no big deal. He stopped by a little while ago with a present, and I wanted to thank him again. Could you leave him a note to call me when he gets back from his parties?"
"Parties?" Marie sounded puzzled.
A warning buzzed in the back of Elisa's head. "Yes. He told me he had to make the usual round of parties' tonight--business things."
There was a long pause. "I...probably should not be telling you this, Detective, but M'sieur had no plans for the night. Certainly no parties. He...does not care for this time of the year, overmuch."
"Oh." Elisa bit her lip, then sighed. "Okay, then. You've got a plane to catch, no doubt, and I'll probably run into him eventually. Go on and have a good time, Marie, and Merry Christmas to you."
"Merry Christmas to you, Detective. Good night." The line went dead; Elisa hung up the phone and went over to where her cup was waiting. She stared at her tiny Christmas tree for a long time, then at Manny. "So, big guy, you got any ideas why he'd lie to me?" she asked. The gargoyle was silent, which was a good sign; she admired the ability to keep a secret. Most times, anyway.
Sighing, she sat back down on the floor and went back to work on the
* * * * *
Elisa sat bolt upright in her bed, wide awake. She glanced over at her alarm clock; the LED flashed 12:15 a.m. Manny lay beside her pillow, keeping vigilant watch over his charge. She smiled and patted the gargoyle affectionately, then got out of bed, shucked off her nightgown, and got dressed. There was something she had to do; something very important. She had to hurry.
She paused in the living room and picked up a few vital items to her plan,
then slipped into her jacket and hurried out the door. The air was crisp and
biting, but she paid it no mind as she climbed into her car and started it up. A
part of her mind wondered why she was doing this, but nonetheless, she pulled
out of her space and headed for the highway. It shouldn't take too long to get
there, she figured. Of course, what she was going to do when she got there
wasn't quite clear, but she'd think of something.
* * * * *
Macbeth took a sip of his cocoa--the real thing, not prepackaged--and pushed deeper into his oversized chair as he stared into the fireplace. Through the flames he could see the faces of his wives, his children, his lovers, flicker and flash past his eyes. Nearby the huge Christmas tree he, Marie and Jean-Claude had cut down glittered in the darkness of his study. He had no use for the damned things himself, but his household staff had insisted on it--even took the time and trouble to decorate it for him, too. He smiled tiredly and shook his head, wishing he could sleep but knowing he probably wouldn't tonight.
He never felt so lonely as on Christmas Eve.
For many years, he'd spent this night drinking himself into oblivion to escape the loneliness, but eventually he'd given it up. Immortality was no defense against a roaring hangover, and after a decade, it just seemed so damned silly and pointless. So he'd chosen instead to play the generous benefactor, giving the people who worked for him ample rewards and endowing the less-fortunate charities with enough anonymous donations to help them make their goal and then some. It helped somewhat. Not nearly enough, but somewhat.
Tomorrow the worst would be over. He would fix himself a late breakfast and read the papers over it. He'd make a few requisite phone calls, make sure Marie had arrived safely. He might call Demona-- Dominique, he corrected himself ruefully--and pester her a bit, hell, maybe even take her to brunch. Christmas had always been a day of truce between them. Even the oldest hatreds had to take a break every so often, and, he had to admit, she was truly the only other soul on this planet who understood. That had to count for something.
He glanced over at his nearby desk, where a first edition printing of "Macbeth" sat. The receptionist at Nightstone had given it to him as she'd accepted his present for Miss Destine. This made...how many? Twenty? How did she manage to dig them up? No doubt the thought of him bristling over that damned fool's lies and exaggerations had been sufficient motivation for her.
Macbeth thought of the other present he'd given, and the person he'd given it to. He closed his eyes and tried to banish her from his thoughts, but her gentle smile, framed so perfectly by her dark eyes, black hair and skin the color of milk chocolate continued to haunt him. He tried not to think about that week in Paris, the time he'd played the perfect host for her and her companions. He'd taken her shopping, to lunch, seen to it that she wanted for nothing. He'd provided them with huge meals, made discreet inquiries about Nightstone and its mysterious owners for them.
He remembered one particular moment on one particular afternoon. They were standing atop the Eiffel Tower. Her long black hair danced in the breeze, and she laughed, feeling 'so damned touristy', as she called it. And he remembered looking at her, and realizing at that instant that his isolation would never again be quite so comfortable, so reassuring.
It was a terrible thing to want another man's woman.
He sighed again and sipped at his cocoa, then glanced at the clock. One-fifteen. Over the halfway point. From here it would all be...
The doorbell rang. Macbeth stiffened in his chair.
A minute later, it rang again.
Immortality did not make one automatically foolhardy. Macbeth reached down into the chair and retrieved his taser, then quietly rose from his seat and walked carefully out of the study. The hallway was dark with occasional breaks of moonlight coming from the windows. The doorbell rang yet again. He continued to take his time, consulting his handheld security scanner to make sure there weren't any would-be ambushers lurking on the grounds.
The damned doorbell rang again just as he reached the door. Slowly, deliberately, he switched on the monitor...and blinked in surprise. "What the blazes are you doing here?" he demanded seconds later as Elisa Maza strolled through the open door.
"Freezing my butt off," she replied with a grin. "Took your time getting to the door, Macbeth."
"I wasn't expecting anyone."
"So I see," she replied, glancing around at the darkened house. He took her jacket and hung it up in the closet, then ushered her down the hall to his study. "Can I make you some cocoa?" he offered. "Genuine stuff. Old secret recipe."
"Cocoa would be nice." She looked around the room absently, her eyes focusing longest on the tree in the corner. There was something distant about her, as though she was there and yet not there. Macbeth excused himself and left for the kitchen, hoping that there was enough hot water in the kettle for another cup. Naturally, there wasn't, so he had to content himself with glaring balefully at it as it took its sweet time heating up.
Eventually he returned to the study. "I must admit I'm a bit surprised at your showing up," he commented as he walked through the doorway. "What brings you here so...late..." His eyes widened and his mouth hung open as he took in the sight lying just in front of the fireplace.
Her eyes burned with obsidian passion. Her lips were red as blood, her teeth bone white. The flames danced along every inch of her dark skin. Bright red ribbons encircled her breasts and hips, with bows strategically placed for greatest effect.
Macbeth had seen many beautiful women in his long lifetime. He just couldn't think of any that compared to this dusky beauty lying naked before him with an inviting smile on her face.
"Merry Christmas," she said huskily.
Macbeth tried to speak, but couldn't.
She tossed her hair back casually. "You're not an easy man to buy presents for, you know," she commented as she toyed with the upper ribbon. "I mean, what do you get the man who has everything?"
With two quick motions, the ribbons fell away. "Why, the present that unwraps itself," she answered softly.
A thousand replies raced through his head, a million reasons why he shouldn't give in, but all that came out was a hoarse "Elisa...."
"Come here and make love to me," she commanded.
And Macbeth obeyed.
* * * * *
Some time later, she awoke but did not move, content to keep her head lying against his broad chest. His heartbeat, strong and steady, pounded reassuringly in her ear. His breathing was slow and steady, and every so often a snore slipped through his mouth.
Slowly, moving carefully so as to not wake him, she rose up and propped herself on one elbow to watch him sleep. A smile of eternal tenderness graced her lips as she drank in every facet of his features. It had been such a long time since she'd been able to do this, to find someone he cared for and who cared for him as well. He'd walled himself off from love for far too many years.
She was admittedly surprised at how willing the girl had been to her gentle prodding, how receptive she'd been to the whole idea. But somehow it had worked, and her willingness had somehow made the lovemaking far more wonderful than it had ever been before. A pity she'd chosen the gargoyle as her mate, even if she wasn't fully aware that she'd made the choice. There was something deep inside the girl's soul that hinted she could be just as happy with this grumpy old Scotsman--perhaps as happy as they had been, so very long ago.
Gruoch smiled, and Elisa smiled as well. She gently ordered the girl to go back to sleep, and she obeyed with a contented sigh, leaving the spirit free to return home. But before she left, she looked down upon her true love one last time and prayed that somehow, someday, he'd find peace--be it on earth or in heaven.
"Merry Christmas, husband," she whispered, then soared through the roof and vanished into the first rays of Christmas morning.