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The Nutcracker

Part 1


Scene 1

ORLY AIRPORT IN PARIS

Duncan checked his watch for the fifth time in as many minutes and fiddled with the single long-stemmed rose he held. Anne's flight should have cleared customs an hour ago; time was becoming very tight if the evening's events were to take place as he'd planned. Next to him stood a man holding a large bouquet of flowers. He noticed Duncan's fidgeting and asked him if he was waiting for his fiancee. With an odd feeling of deja vu, Duncan replied, "Something like that," but immediately forgot the man as the doors to the flight gate opened and passengers from Anne's flight poured into the terminal.

As expected, Duncan felt the presence of another immortal and a moment later Richie Ryan came into view with two carry-on bags slung over one shoulder and little Mary in his arms. Anne Lindsey followed, accompanied by Richie's immortal girlfriend Altea. Duncan smiled at the group but spoke directly to Anne.

"I'm so glad you came."

"Well, Richie insisted it was 'a matter of great importance', but refused to give me any details." Anne shot a stern glance at Richie, but followed it with a smile. "So, Duncan, what could possibly be so urgent as to require my immediate presence halfway around the globe?"

Duncan colored slightly and glanced at his shoes. He suddenly remembered the rose he carried and handed it to Anne.

"Let's discuss that over dinner. We have reservations at 'Chez Bernard' and tickets to 'The Nutcracker', at the Paris Ballet."

"But Mary can't. . ."

"No problem," Richie interrupted with a wide grin. "Uncle Richie would be honored to spend the evening with such a beautiful young lady."

"But . ." started Anne, turning to Richie.

"It's all settled," said Duncan, putting his arm around Anne's shoulders and turning her toward the exit. " Now let's get moving-- we've got a busy evening ahead."

"Bye bye!" said Mary cheerfully as she tugged Richie toward a display of colorful balloons.

Anne opened her mouth to protest again, but instead smiled, shook her head, and gave Mary a quick kiss. "You be good for Uncle Richie," she admonished.

"Balloon!!" said Mary.


Scene 2

THE PARIS BALLET THEATER

Duncan was delighted with their seats. They were in the front row of the first balcony and afforded them excellent views of the stage and orchestra pit. He was astonished to feel Anne shudder as they sat down.

"Anne?" he began.

She held up a hand to stop him and looked down to compose herself. When she looked up again there were tears in her eyes but her voice was steady.

"The last time we were in a theater together was that night with Kalas. It all came rushing back, and for a moment I was there again."

"Flashback," said Duncan, understanding completely. He slipped an arm around Anne's shoulders as the house lights went down and the orchestra began to tune. For just a moment he thought he felt the presence of another immortal, but the touch was so brief and faint that he dismissed it as part of his own flashback recollection.


Scene 3

RICHIE'S APARTMENT IN PARIS

Richie had expected to tuck Mary into bed and spend a quiet evening with Altea, but as it happened it was Altea who fell into bed exhausted at eight o'clock, while Mary remained wide awake and full of energy. Richie and Mary were completing their fifth or sixth tour of the apartment playing "horsie" when Richie spotted a pile of children's books in the toybag Anne had provided.

"Hey Mary," he panted, "This horsie needs some time in the barn! You want Uncle Richie to read you a story?"

"Read?" asked Mary brightly, and slid off Richie's back with a thud. She tore over to the bag and returned with several books. Richie straightened, stifling a groan and giving silent thanks for the immortal healing powers which were already starting to alleviate the ache in his back and knees. He led Mary to the couch and snuggled her in the crook of his arm.

"What books have you got here, sweetie?" he asked, accepting the pile she handed him. The first two were picture books about farm animals; each featured a horse prominently on the cover. Given the activities of the last fifteen minutes, those books deifinitely did not appeal! He set them aside and picked up a third book. It was a beautifully illustrated copy of "The Nutcracker".

"Hey!" Richie exclaimed, "This is the story your Mommy and Uncle Duncan are going to see tonight. Would you like me to read you the same story?" Mary was already opening the book. "Once upon a time there was a little girl named Clara," Richie began.

"Tree!" exclaimed Mary, pointing to the large Christmas tree pictured.

"Yes, Christmas tree," Richie agreed, and returned to the printed text. "Every year Clara's family gave a lavish holiday party, to which they invited. . . "

"Moon!" cried Mary, then turned the page. "More moon!" Richie smiled and tried to turn the page back.

"Wait Mary, there's still more of the story on that page."

"No!" cried Mary, quickly becoming distressed. She turned ahead yet another page, and pointed out a bearded gentleman leaning on a cane, his other arm loaded with presents. "Uncle Joe!" she declared. Richie laughed.

"No, Mary, that's actually. . ." Something Methos had once said about choosing one's battles wisely flashed through Richie's mind and he sighed. But he brightened as a new idea came to mind. "Yes Mary," he said, "that's Uncle Joe. And do you know who the little girl is?" Mary waited with rapt attention. "It's you, Mary! Uncle Joe has come to bring Mary a present!" Mary beamed at Richie and turned the page.

"Presen' ! Big presen'!" she exclaimed, pointing to a huge box pictured standing next to the tree.

"Yes, and what do you think it is, Mary? What do you want it to be?"

"Horse!" she replied instantly. Richie groaned inwardly and felt the ghost of rugburn on his knees.

"Nope, not a horse." He turned the page. "It's a giant Nutcracker in the shape of a toy soldier. " Mary looked baffled.

"Policeman?" she ventured.

"Something like that."


Scene 4

THE PARIS BALLET THEATER

The tumultuous applause finally faded after the curtain dropped for the last time, and Anne looked at Duncan with shining eyes.

"That was wonderful, magical!" she exclaimed. "When the snow began to fall at the end during the Snow Queen's big solo I was just. . ." She paused, searching for the right word.

"Enchanted?" suggested Duncan, smiling.

"I felt as though I'd been carried up to the stage to become part of the story. Thank you so much for bringing me here tonight." Duncan smiled again; such outbursts were rare from Anne.

"Well, this is only the beginning of our evening. How would you like to meet some of the dancers in person?" he asked. Anne answered with a brilliant smile, and they rose to leave the theater.


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