As a Christmas gift to all of you… an original, unpublished Darach and Trevor story, looking in on them on the Christmas Eve after their Midsummer meeting.

                Darach is having trouble sitting still. Or sitting at all, really. Somehow he gives the impression of being a prisoner in his unaccustomed clothing, the outfit I’d picked up for him in town. As I watch from the kitchen doorway, he brushes his fingertips over the front of the shirt, tanned skin against white linen, hooks two of them in the collar behind the knot of his tie, just a shade darker than Christmas-green, and tugs.

                Am I supposed to feel as if I am being executed?

                I can’t help laughing. And I can see the change coming over his face at the sound. He keeps telling me how much he loves my laughter, can’t get enough of it. I pause for a kiss, and of course it isn’t a short peck on the cheek, before crossing to the far wall, to bend and flip the switch to turn on the lights on the little tree I’d found and cut.  Tiny lights, a few simple ornaments, and an ornate glass star, the darag’s gift. It had appeared under the oak tree one morning, without explanation from either the tree or my husband.

                Husband.

                “I’m sorry about the tie.” I slip my arms around Darach’s waist, and breathe in his scent, musk and woodsmoke. “I love you so much for being willing to do this for me.”

                I do this for her, even more than I do it for you.

                Sometimes he comes to me here in the cottage, and on some of those nights he wears a silk robe, but he does that mostly because he loves the feel of me removing it, and I love what happens to him when he feels silk against his skin. These clothes are meant to stay on for a while, though. Kind of a pity. But damn, he looks as fine dressed as naked, and I keep surprising myself with how much in love I am. Me. Who would ever have thought?

                 “I still love you for it.” I pull him closer, rocking my hips against his as he leans into me. Just a little, we can’t get too distracted with company coming, but enough to let him know his nearness is having the same effect on me it always does.

                Yet he tenses, a little. I can feel it. And that sensation saddens me, because it’s part of a loss of his innocence. I don’t avoid talking about the outside world with him, but neither do I bring it up any more often than necessary. But as little as we talk about it, he knows that the world he woke up in is almost nothing like the one he lost when the magick went away, and that it’s not a world likely to be kind to a magickal being most of it would refuse to believe in.

                I stroke his hair gently, urging his head down to rest on my shoulder, working my fingers into his unruly hair until I feel him relax against me. “It’s going to be all right.”

                I trust you. The whisper is faint, but resolute. You, and whoever you bring to me.

                Almost as if that were a cue, we hear the sound of a car engine. Darach hears it first, of course, he’s always the first to hear anything. But then I hear it too, an uneven drone that doesn’t sound much healthier than my old keep-the-hell-away-from-the-crazy-American-driver truck. We don’t break apart, though, not right away. The long nights of midwinter are a blessing, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fill those night hours  as full as we can. There’s something about knowing that we can’t touch at all during the daylight that makes the night precious. Not to mention the faint shadow of fear I still see in his dark, green-flecked eyes.

                Finally, though, the car grumbles to a stop next to the cottage, probably next to my truck, and we reluctantly step back from one another. The car door opens, closes. I exchange glances with Darach; while I don’t share his fears, it’s still a strange feeling, having an outsider within our perimeter. We’re isolated out here, him by necessity and me by choice, and I never would have imagined that a guy bred, born and raised in Manhattan would grow as attached to solitude as I have.

                Soft footsteps approach the door, but the knock that follows is firm. Which doesn’t surprise me. I give Darach a quick kiss on the cheek, squeeze his hand, and cross the little room to open the door. It’s never locked, not out here, and I pull it open.

                The woman standing on the flagstone step is bundled in a woolen coat, a little hat perched on top of her gray hair and a basket over her arm, its contents mostly covered with a cloth but flashing a flirtatious hint of shortbread.  And she gives me a kindly and delighted smile that makes me certain of my choice to invite her to share our Christmas Eve. She reaches up to hug me with the arm that isn’t holding the basket, and I return the hug one-armed while reaching to help her with the basket.

                And stop, startled, as Darach steps in and slides the basket down Maggie’s arm. She’s startled too, and turns, and as they each hold on to the almost-forgotten basket with one hand,  for a moment all she can do is stand and stare.

                I don’t blame her, he still has that effect on me at least twice a night. “Maggie, this is my husband, Darach. Darach, this is Maggie.” The lady who saved me from myself and my own stupidity, when I was about to run away from the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. But, then, Darach knows that. I told him about that near-disastrous bus ride to Kyle of Lochalsh, and what Maggie did for me.

                The two of them look at each other, with almost identical studying expressions, and I wonder which will be the first to speak.

                Darach, as usual, surprises me. “I’m pleased tae meet ye at last, Maggie.” He’s been learning English slowly – he prefers his own language of wind and moonlight and whispers. Which is beautiful , but God, when he speaks in that deep voice of his, with the accent he must have picked up from the Scots of two thousand years before, I go weak in the knees. Better not do that now, though.

                Maggie’s eyes go wide at the sound of his voice, and she looks him up and down quickly, taking in the dark wild hair, tanned skin against white linen, tapered torso and lean hips and dark trousers. And bare feet. We’ve never been able to find shoes he can stand for more than a minute.

                Her gaze travels back up to his face, and I can see the pounding of his pulse in his throat. And then she reaches up, and cups his cheek in her hand. “Husband, is it?” Her smile trembles a little.

                “Aye, handfasted at Lammas, we were.”  Darach eyes Maggie uncertainly, but his hand comes up to cover hers.

                She turns to me, and blinks quickly to clear away tears before her smile blossoms.  “I was i’ the right, then, lad, or nearly so? ‘Twasn’t the land calling to ye, but someone very close tae th’ land. Close kin.”  She goes up on her toes a little, to look more closely at Darach.

                And he returns the gaze, steady now, no hint of fear, only a lively curiosity. This one sees, he whispers to me.

                Maggie pats Darach’s cheek, her eyes twinkling. “Each of ye a blessing tae th’ other.”

                My “He is” crosses with Darach’s “That he is.”

                And we all laugh, and walk to the kitchen, to have Maggie’s amazing and sinful shortbread and Drambuie. Darach’s first Christmas, and my merriest.

If you haven’t yet read Darach and Trevor’s story, you can find it here:  http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Oak-Boys-Will-ebook/dp/B00FBF4XIY/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1380206135&sr=1-4&keywords=Heart+of+the+Oak

And, as the Scots would say, Nollaig chridheil! — Merry Christmas!

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