A Ghost of Christmas Past

DISCLAIMER : Richie Ryan and Connor MacLeod used to belong to Davis-Panzer Productions.   They belong to their fans now.  Fiona MacDonald belongs to me.  All characters are free to return to their original owners, but they refuse to go, so I guess I'm stuck with them for now.  Please do not repost this story without asking me first.  Direct all comments to me.   I want to thank Kristine Larsen for beta-reading this story. A GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST is the fourteenth in the series.

Absolutely no permission is granted to use this story in whole or in part in another piece of writing.

Richie was having trouble sleeping.  It was Christmas Eve and he was convinced he could stay up late enough to see Santa when he came to leave the presents Richie had asked for.   His mother, Emily, had told him that Santa wouldn't be able to get him everything he wanted, but Richie didn't believe her.  Santa could do anything.

Slipping out of the bedroom he shared with his mother, Richie crept down the hallway as quietly as possible.  He'd heard a noise and was certain it was Santa.  He didn't want to interrupt Santa in his work.  After all there were lots of kids waiting for Santa to bring toys for Christmas.  He merely wanted to see Santa.  Richie stopped and held his breath.   He'd heard a man talking to his mom.  He didn't think Santa would actually stop to talk to anyone.  Santa talked funny.  He said things differently than anyone else Richie had ever heard.  He wondered if everyone at the North Pole talked like that or just Santa.

Peeking around the corner, Richie was puzzled.  Instead of a jolly man in a red suit, the man talking to his mom was ordinary.  Santa didn't have a long white beard and didn't look as old as the pictures of Santa Richie had seen.  Richie frowned.  The man had to be Santa.  Richie watched as Santa handed his mom an envelope.  She was shaking her head and trying to hand it back to Santa.  Santa pushed it back into her hand gently.  Richie couldn't understand why she was trying to give back one of Santa's presents.

The tiny tree his mother had bought and decorated was now huge and had more ornaments and lights than Richie had ever seen on a tree outside of a store.  There were lots of presents piled under the tree.  They just had to be what he'd asked for.  Richie wanted to run into the room and tear open all the boxes, but Santa suddenly turned and looked in Richie's direction.  Richie held his breath.  Santa knew he was there!  He didn't want Santa to take the things away because he was bad.

Richie ran back to the bedroom, climbed into his bed and pretended to be asleep.  If Santa came in, he'd think Richie had been in bed asleep the entire time.  In the morning, Richie would be able to open the boxes and play with the toys he wanted so badly.  He'd have to ask his mom why Santa wasn't dressed like in all the pictures and department stores.

His heart pounding, Richie sat up and looked around.  Even in the dark, the blue walls of his room at Fiona's were familiar.  He'd come to her house to spend Christmas with her and the MacLeods.  Richie ran his hand through his hair.  He'd been dreaming about the last Christmas he'd spent with Emily Ryan.  It wasn't until after he'd met Mac and Tessa that he'd learned that Emily Ryan wasn't his real mother, but the truth hadn't dimmed his memory of that last Christmas.  It was the best Christmas he'd had until he met up with Mac and the others.  It was still the only decent Christmas he'd had during his childhood.

Richie settled back into bed.  Staring at the ceiling, Richie thought about that Christmas and the dream he'd just had.

Although she'd helped him write a letter to Santa, Emily Ryan had warned him not to expect very much from Santa that year.  Being very young, Richie had ignored her words.   He had firmly believed Santa would bring him everything he'd asked for.

There'd definitely been a man in their apartment that Christmas Eve.  Richie had heard his voice clearly.  He'd even gotten a pretty good look at the man when the stranger had turned and stared in his direction.  It had seemed to Richie that Santa had been able sense his presence.  The next morning he'd asked his mother why Santa wasn't wearing a red suit and didn't have a beard.  His mother would only say that he must have been dreaming.  Santa had certainly been there, but only after both of them were asleep.  She hadn't spoken to Santa at all.  Santa was too busy to talk to anyone on Christmas Eve.

Richie still remembered the meal they had that Christmas.  The turkey was huge and there were lots of vegetables as well.  There'd been cake, cookies and ice cream for dessert.  It seemed to him they ate the leftovers from that one meal for weeks afterwards.   Emily Ryan also had more money than usual.  He'd seen where she'd hidden the big white envelope that Santa had given her.  When he asked about it, she shushed him or told him it was money she'd saved.

Mostly Richie remembered the presents he'd gotten.  He had no idea what had happened to most of the toys and clothing after Emily Ryan's death and his return to the foster care system, but he'd enjoyed playing with everything Santa had brought him.  He could still remember some of the cars and trucks.  Of course, his prized possessions were a pair of red sneakers and a set of Matchbox cars that included a motorcycle.  He remembered believing that the red sneakers would make him run faster and jump higher than the other kids he knew.   He wasn't sure it was true, but he wore those sneakers until they fell apart.

Although he'd tried to keep some of the things, most had gotten lost in his many moves between homes.  Other children had taken other toys and things from him.  In the end, only the Matchbox motorcycle and his memories of the event remained.

Richie frowned.  His dream had to be one of those odd mergings of past and present influenced by the Christmas he'd just spent with the other Immortals in this house.  He'd never be able to confirm the contents of the dream.  His questions would be met with denials or refusals to answer.  He wished he could simply confront the man and get the answers he needed.

Recounting the events in his dream, Richie sighed.  Although the dream couldn't possibly be right, it made a warped sort of sense, but it didn't seem possible that Connor MacLeod would play Santa.

Author's notes

Richie learns that Emily Ryan was his foster mother in Family Tree (episode).

The other side of this story is Yet To Come.

A Christmas Carol was published by Charles Dickens in 1843.  The title of this story comes from that work.