by Maxine Mayer, 12/7/97
Year 2013, December, New York City
"What's that you've got there, Duncan?" Methos asked his friend and lover, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, reaching to snatch away a larger than average, thick-stocked, cream-colored, gold-edged card held by his partner.
"I believe the phrase is, 'may I see that card?'" Duncan replied, deftly swerving in his seat to hang on to the missive. "It's an invitation to a party."
The two Immortals were at breakfast in their shared New York City condo. MacLeod, having finished his meal, was drinking coffee and reading the posts. Methos, still eating, paused in his chewing to inquire, "From whom? For whom?"
"From Quentin and Lamartin. For both of us. And Amanda. Didn't have an address for her, so they sent it to her here, care of us. Lucky they did, since that's where she is!" The lovely female Immortal was visiting with her friends in their flat at the moment.
"What's the occasion?" Methos asked.
"Doesn't say. It's for New Year's Eve, though, but I imagine the occasion's the two of them getting back together after fifteen years. But you won't want to go, Methos."
"Sure I will!"
"Nope, you won't."
"I'll bite. Why not?" Methos grinned. "Somebody coming I won't want to meet?"
"No. It's formal. White tie, tux, the works. You hate wearing formal clothes - so you'll stay at home," Duncan replied, smirking.
"You'd go without me?"
"Unlike you, I like to wear a tuxedo, occasionally, in a good cause."
"Because you look so good in one! I, on the other hand, look like an undernourished penguin in formal attire," Methos retorted.
Mac laughed. "You look adorable in a tux and you know it! But I'll send your regrets -"
"Yep. She looks super in a tux - like Marlene Dietrich - wonder if I can convince her to wear one!"
"You'll escort her?"
"Of course. She's our guest. She'll go with me in the limo." Mac tilted his head. "Whether she'll come home with me is another question."
"You're thinking of Rasmussen? A perfect chance for them to meet -"
"Methos, it was your idea. But Amanda's been here more than two weeks and you've done nothing about it. All you do is snuggle with her on the sofa watching your favorite old movie videos, or go shopping with her, or take her iceskating. I'm beginning to think you want to keep Amanda all to yourself -"
"Well...." Methos drawled, a wicked grin on his face. "The thought had crossed my mind."
"Calm down, MacLeod! I'm all yours!" Methos grinned. Then, without warning, the Old Immortal slipped into a pensive mood, his voice low when he remarked, "I'd forgotten how lovely she is, Mac. How beautiful, inside and out. Her breasts -" He sighed. "She was right about one thing, back when. I am a breast man."
"Well, it's true!" When his lover didn't reply, Methos added, "I've never been faithful before, Duncan. To anyone. It was never necessary, or important to me. When it mattered to my partners, I simply hid my affairs from them. It worked for over five thousand years -"
"If you want Amanda, take her, Methos - don't hold back on my account. I won't stop you."
"I know you won't, Duncan. I'm stopping me."
MacLeod bit his lip. "Is this gonna work for us - or will you feel tied down again, trapped? I don't want you to run away. Don't do this for me, Methos -"
"I'm doing it for me, Mac. For me."
The younger Immortal sighed. He placed the invitation card on the kitchen table between them and stared at it. "It seemed a good idea at the time - a party, dancing, music, drinks, old friends, a touch of elegance - maybe a bit of matchmaking on the side. Five minutes ago. Now - I hate the thought of it. I won't go either, Methos. We'll do something else that night. The three of us, if Amanda wants to come along. Eat at Brazilio's, go to a movie or a concert. We'll have a good time. We don't need the others. Lamartin and Quentin will understand if we decline their invitation."
"Mac - we're going to their celebratory party! All three of us - skinny penguin, handsome devil, and gorgeous girl! I was teasing. I wouldn't miss this for the world!"
"But you really do hate formal affairs!"
"Ordinarily. But I adore looking at our Kind, Mac. Lamartin, Quen, Ras - who knows what other treats Quentin has in store! He's always thrown a great party! I wouldn't put it past him to drag Frederick the Falcon out of his cloister and fly him in, just to surprise everyone! We're going!"
Mac looked at his lover and breathed deeply, throwing off his suddenly aroused fear - dread - with effort. He smiled. "Methos, I love you. When did you become a bright penny in my life? Instead of my goad to darkness?"
"A bright penny? Hmm - has a nice ring to it, MacLeod. When? Maybe, when I stopped being unfaithful to you."
"Five thousand years old, and you just figured out that monogamy has a greater purpose than being sure who a child's father is?"
"Never too old to learn, Mac."
Duncan leaned across the table and took Methos' hand. "Some day -"
"Some day, what?"
"Some day, I'll have learned all there is to know about you. And I won't make so many mistakes. Won't keep hurting you."
"That day will never come, Mac. When you've learned all there is to know, when we've learned all there is to know, we're dead. So that day will never come. 'Cause we're gonna live forever."
"I stick with the winner, Duncan. How about you?"
"You're a winner, all right, Methos. I'm not going anywhere without you. Including Quentin's party."
"Morning, boys! Any coffee left?" Amanda asked, greeting her friends. She was wearing a beige silk robe tied tightly at the waist, leaving little about her glorious figure to be imagined.
Methos and Mac stared at her without speaking.
"What?" Amanda asked, sensing that something odd was going on. She sauntered over to the sink and poured herself some coffee, then turned and looked at the men. "What?"
MacLeod found his tongue first. "Invitation to a party - from Quentin and Lamartin," he replied, grabbing up the card and waving it at her. "You, too."
"Love parties. In general. Hate Immortal parties. Not going." She joined them at the table and sipped her coffee slowly. "You boys go. You'll enjoy it."
"Why, Amanda? All our friends will be there - and probably some people we've never met. Sounds like the sort of thing you'd love," Mac said.
"Nope. Not me. Too much like a bachelor party, with me bursting out of the cake."
"I don't understand."
"Immortal parties are pretty much all men. Don't get me wrong - I adore men, particularly our Kind. But I don't much care for being the only girl there. Which is what I usually am. Sort of like being tossed into the lions' den, and me the only Christian."
Methos said, "We'll be there to protect you, Amanda. We'll build a wall of fire around you, and only the brightest and best will be permitted to brave it!"
"Nope, not going. I like men, but God only knows how many of Us the Old Bastard will invite, and there won't be any women. Just me. It's too -"
"Yes, Amanda? It's too - what?" Mac asked, a grin slowly suffusing his features.
"Too - frightening."
"Why?" her friends asked simultaneously.
Amanda put her cup down quickly and jumped out of her chair. She stripped off her robe and stood before them naked. "Look at me! Look at me! See - see how you're looking? Rapacious! Ready to take me, with or without my say so! Ready to do anything - lie, cheat, steal, hit me on the head with a club, hold a dagger to my throat - anything at all, just to get at me!" She took a deep breath. "Well, that's how it is at Immortal parties. Ten, twenty of you guys, looking at me like that, certain you could have me, with just a little physical effort to overwhelm me! I don't like it. I'm not going. Enjoy yourselves." She grabbed up her robe and stomped out of the kitchen.
Mac and Methos kept staring at the place where Amanda'd stood. Finally, they turned and looked at each other.
"Well - she certainly told us, didn't she?" Methos said, finding his tongue first.
"She sure did."
"Don't know about you, but I'm ready to grab a club and hit her over the head!" Methos added, not joking.
"Me, too." Mac's arousal was so strong it was almost painful.
"My God, Mac, I'd almost forgotten how they look - women!"
"Me, too," Mac replied numbly. "Amanda, in particular."
"Her temper - it's extraordinary. Beyond belief. I'm off to a cold shower," Methos said, getting up from his chair.
"Me, too. If she's not using the shower."
"Use one of the others, then. We've got three," Methos retorted. "Never thought we'd need them all."
"Me, neither." Then Duncan started to laugh. "And we still don't."
Mac tilted his head to one side. "Sex is sex. You still look pretty good to me."
"Flat though I am?"
"You're not altogether flat, Methos. You've got something that sticks out -"
"Like a sore thumb, you mean?"
"Serves her right! Driving us into each other's arms!" Methos remarked, closing the distance between him and Duncan. "After that tirade, she certainly doesn't expect either of us to make a move on her. Nobody else left but us lions."
"I don't see anybody else, Methos," MacLeod replied, his arms going around his lover. "Nobody at all."
"Maybe not a shower, then. Maybe just a lie-down. A wee nap," Methos added, winding Duncan's curls around his fingers and pulling the younger man in for a kiss.
"Mmm. You taste good this morning. Must be the apricot jam."
"Something like that," Methos said, slowly drawing the other Immortal towards their bedroom. "I live to serve."
"Do you? To serve who?"
"Whom. Youm, Mac. Youm." And Methos' eyes closed slowly as he was lowered to their bed by a very wild lion.
An hour later, Methos and MacLeod were roused from their nap by the intensifying aura of a relatively Old Immortal's approach. But the buzz held at the same level, just beyond the door of their bedroom.
"Mac," Methos whispered, "get off my arm so I can get my sword."
"I think it's Amanda," Mac replied, "but just in case -" He swiftly moved from the bed to the side of the room where his katana was stashed, while his companion stayed put, arm snaking down to grab the hilt of the sword resting on the floor next to the bed.
They waited. At last, there was a small scratching noise on the door. "Duncan? Methos? It's me. Amanda. May I come in?" Her voice was so low they could hardly hear her.
"Come in," the men said simultaneously, hiding their swords. Mac grabbed his robe and Methos adjusted the sheet over his nude body.
Amanda came into the bedroom, standing just inside the doorway. She was wearing a heavy brown terrycloth robe, than which no outfit could be less attractive or sexy - except that it was both, on her.
"Look, you guys, I'm sorry I lost my temper. It's not your fault. Neither of you ever did anything - ungentlemanly - to me. You didn't deserve what I said. I hope you'll forgive me."
"Nothing to forgive," the men said at the same time, then looked at each other and grinned.
"Amanda," Mac added, "Methos and I were talking about not going to the party, doing something else New Year's Eve - dinner, a movie. Together. The three of us. If you like, that's what we'll do."
"No. You two shouldn't be deprived of a good time because I've got hang-ups. I should overcome them, anyway. Like you said, you'll be there with me. I'll go. If you still want me along."
"My Girl, wouldn't dream of welcoming the New Year without you!" Methos chimed in. "Party, no party. Your call."
"The three of us have been together a long time, Amanda. These last years - I've missed you. Come with us, wherever. Doesn't matter where we go. Just so we're with the people we love." Mac paused, waiting for the female Immortal to reply. "Amanda?"
She'd started to cry. Methos jumped out of bed, heedless of his state of undress, and went to her, clasping her in a tight embrace. "Old Girl? My Lady? Amanda? What is it? Talk to me. It's just me, Brother Michael, you can tell me," he whispered, trying to get a look at her face, which she'd turned away.
"I didn't know how bad it'd be - when you two - when you and Duncan -" She started to cry harder.
"When Duncan and I got together? Manny? Is that what you mean?"
"Yeah." Amanda lifted her tearstained face to Methos'. "Mike, I didn't know what it'd be like, to be alone again. It was so good, being with Duncan, having you for a friend." She spoke to Methos as though they were alone in the room. Mac stood as still as possible, trying not to interrupt their intimacy.
"We're both your friends, love."
"It's not the same. It's not enough, Mike. Damn it all, it's not as if I didn't try!" Amanda pulled away from Methos' embrace, then, and balled her hands into fists. "Antonio - you'd think anybody'd be satisfied with him!" She looked at Duncan. "He's better looking than you. Sweeter. No trouble -" She started to cry again.
"Amanda, we aren't interchangeable. Each of us is unique. Lamartin can't replace Mac, no more than Quentin could replace me. You know that."
"I didn't try to replace you. Just - to get along, for as long as it took. As long as I needed to, until one of you wanted me again -"
"Amanda," MacLeod said, finally daring to enter the conversation, "you're over a thousand years old. Being on your own, without a long-term lover, never bothered you before."
"Who died and left you the interpreter of the universe, Duncan?" Amanda retorted, furious. "How the hell do you know what bothered me before you were born, or after I met you, or ever?"
"I'm sorry, Amanda. You always seemed - happy - going from one man to another. I know you thought you loved me. And Methos. But that didn't keep you from living with Antonio for nearly fifteen years."
"I was fucking paid to live with Antonio, you idiot!" Amanda spat out. "By his former lover, Quentin of York! You think I'd have stayed with him so long otherwise?"
"I know you couldn't be paid enough - even by Quentin - to sleep with a man you didn't want to sleep with, Amanda," Methos replied quietly. "Don't try to tell us you didn't enjoy him."
"Of course I enjoyed him! He's a marvelous lover! He's just not - my - lover!"
"Is anyone?" Mac asked intensely. "Permanently? I don't think so."
"I never was in love before. And then - wham, bam, inside less than a century, I was in love twice! I liked the feeling! I liked caring!"
"And then we took it away from you." Methos nodded in comprehension. "No wonder you're so angry with us, love."
Amanda looked up at Methos. Her face was a study in helpless suffering. "I thought I could wait it out, Mike. I really did. I didn't think it would last." She looked past Methos at MacLeod. "I'm sorry, Duncan, but I've got to say it - you and Methos aren't exactly a match made in heaven, you know. I didn't think it would last fifteen minutes, let alone fifteen years!"
"With a ten year break in the middle," Methos quipped.
"With the two of you chaste as marble, during the 'break!'" Amanda retorted.
Methos and Mac looked at each other, then away. Some truths startle the hearers, even when they've known them all along. But this one was a different sort of truth. They'd both known Mac had been faithful during the ten year hiatus in their relationship, but Duncan hadn't known that Methos had been celibate as well.
"Look, kid," Methos said, angry now, at the cat being let out of the bag, a new 'thing' he and Duncan really didn't need to deal with, "I'm sorry I disappointed you. But it's all water under the bridge, isn't it? There's a New Year's Eve party on the table. Are we all three going or not? Let's focus on that."
"Amanda?" Mac asked. "Are we going?"
"Yeah, okay," she replied dully. "We're going."
"Great!" Methos said heartily. "Shall we shop today?"
"Whatever. Today's good," Mac responded. "Amanda? Would you like to buy a new dress for the party?"
"I've got something in the closet. I don't need anything new."
Methos and Mac exchanged alarmed looks. Amanda didn't need a new dress? Oh boy, she was in a bad way.
Duncan spoke first. "Amanda."
"There are other female Immortals, you know."
"I know. So what?"
"Quentin knows everybody."
"What if he asks some others to the party? Grace, for instance. Even, Cassandra. Or Felicia. Gina and Robert are sure to be there."
Methos chimed in, "Some guys might bring dates. Likely to be some pret-ty gorgeous women there, Amanda."
"I think you should have a new dress, sweetheart. What'd you say?" Duncan asked.
"You really think they'll bring dates?" Amanda asked, incredulous.
"But Quentin would never ask Cass or Felicia to a party - would he?"
"Dunno," Methos replied. "He's not as fussy as some of us about people's characters. He goes in more for looks."
"I think I'd like a new dress, Duncan," Amanda said contritely. "But you don't need to pay for it. I've got plenty."
"Our treat. For our special lady. Sky's the limit," Mac said with a smile.
Methos agreed. "Works for me. No shabby Old Lady on our arms. Gotta make a splash!"
"When can we go?" Amanda asked, wiping her tearstained face. "Soon?"
"Noon," Duncan stated authoritatively. "No respectable high-priced store opens much before then."
"High-priced? You mean it?" Amanda queried, her eyes shining.
"As Methos would say, abso-toodle!"
Knowing New Year's Eve would be a high-profile night, Quentin and Lamartin being the filthy rich Immortals they were, Duncan opted for a quiet Christmas Eve. He'd planned a party for just the three of them, in front of the electric fireplace which graced the living room of their condo.
Now that the day'd finally arrived, Methos was at his most morose. He gloomed around, speaking only when spoken to, finally going into the spare room and fetching the gifts he'd purchased. He set them under the tree with a sigh, then stalked back to the couch, grabbed the remote control, and resumed flicking through the TV channels.
On the other hand, Amanda danced around like an elf, trimming the tree, baking cookies, vidphoning the caterers for stuffed goose, the best wines, champagne. She'd been shopping all week for Christmas presents for the boys, as she called them, and wrapped them immediately in her room when she brought them home. Now, she was busy arranging the gifts under the tree.
"Wonder where Duncan is," she murmured to Methos.
"What? I can't hear you," Methos replied, muting the TV. "What did you say?"
"Where'd Duncan go?"
"I dunno. Down to the office? He's a workaholic. A workout at the gym? Perhaps, some last minute Christmas shopping?"
"What was he wearing when he went out?"
"Amanda! Do you think I noticed?"
"Actually, I didn't see him leave. He's been gone quite some time." Methos sat up on the couch. "What time is it?"
"It's nearly seven, Methos. A little late for work, or a workout, don't you think?"
"More presents for us?" Methos asked hopefully.
"I don't think so, Methos. He should be back by now. He knows I've asked the caterer to bring dinner at seven-thirty. He'd want to change before we eat."
"You don't think -"
"Right now, I don't know what to think. Only, if he's got himself into trouble on Christmas Eve - our first Christmas Eve together in years - I'm really gonna be angry. I put a lot of effort into this party."
"True. You did." Methos was on his feet now, his face still, his body tightly braced, his fists clenched. He was sniffing the air, or would have been, were he an animal.
"Methos? What is it? Do you sense him?"
Methos was silent, distant, in another world. Finally, he sighed. "Ah! He's all right. He's on his way up." His body relaxed almost instantaneously, and he collapsed on the sofa with a huge grin on his face.
"You can't have sensed him, Methos - I don't feel a thing," Amanda insisted.
"He's in the lift. Halfway here."
"Wait a minute. Yes, it's him!" Amanda grinned and ran to the door, throwing it open and flinging her arms around Duncan.
"Whoa! What'd I do to deserve this welcome!" he asked, slowly circling in the narrow hallway with Amanda in his arms. "I haven't been gone that long!"
"We were beginning to worry."
"About what?" Mac asked. Amanda gave him an exasperated look, then dragged him by the hand into the living room. "About me?"
"We expected you back earlier. Just generalized worry, is all," Methos commented.
"Sorry to upset the two of you, especially when I've got some more presents for you," Duncan said with a grin, taking off his gloves and reaching into his pockets for two small gifts, already wrapped neatly.
"You're forgiven, Duncan," Amanda said, "if I can open mine now!"
"I'll wait for mine, thank you very much," Methos told his friend. "I've got the patience of the ages."
"Yeah, right." Mac turned to Amanda. "Put these under the tree like a good girl, Amanda. We'll open them at midnight, after dinner and coffee and drinks, as we planned."
"As you planned, you mean," Amanda said, pouting. "I think we should open at least one gift each before dinner. Methos? You agree, don't you?"
"Oh no no no. You're not getting me into this little tiff. I'm going to shower and shave and find a totally ugly sweater to wear with my jeans, so Duncan has something to complain about at dinner. I'll open my presents at midnight. I can wait."
"Well, Duncan, what do you say?" Amanda asked when Methos had left the room. She closed in on MacLeod and put her arms around him. She held him close, inhaling the aroma of his skin where it was exposed at his neck. She licked his face. "Duncan? Just one present, please? Pretty please?"
Mac pushed her away with a grin, his erection evident to them both, and replied, "All right. All right. Just one. But not this one." He went to the tree and reached under it, selecting a large box with a big red bow. "Open this."
"What a huge box, Duncan. Smaller's usually jewelry," Amanda murmured, annoyed.
"It's this one or nothing until midnight!" Duncan insisted.
"All right." She took the big box, dropped into a chair, and began to unwrap it. "Will I like it?"
"Amanda! How should I know? Open it, and we'll find out!"
"Oh my!" The gift was a black sable hat, furs matching exquisitely, incredibly silky and sleek. Amanda ran her hand over the pelts carefully, gently, then twirled the hat in her hands. "Oh my!" she repeated, when she saw the diamond pin fastened at the front, a fretwork platinum oval studded with perfectly matched stones. "Jeepers, Duncan! This is incredible!"
"You like it?" Mac asked, a smile on his face.
"I love it! I adore it! I love you!" she said, jumping up, hat in hand, and wrapping herself around Mac "I adore you! Thank you, baby, you're the best!"
"The diamonds are real, you know," MacLeod said, trying to disengage Amanda's arms from around his neck.
"I didn't think they were paste, Duncan!" Amanda replied with a giggle, holding tighter and seeking Mac's mouth with her own.
"Amanda - please!"
"What - you're so fucking faithful to him you can't even kiss me on Christmas Eve? I don't believe this!" she hissed.
"It's complicated, Amanda," Mac said, an unhappy look on his face. "It has nothing to do with you. It doesn't mean I don't care for you -"
"No, of course you care for me," Amanda retorted, quickly moving away from Mac and going over to the window. She laid the beautiful hat down in a chair as she walked. "How could I doubt that? You bought me a sable hat with a diamond brooch smack in the middle of it! That's proof positive you care for me, isn't it? Lavishing your hard-earned bucks on me - how can I doubt it?"
"Amanda - you know I care for you. Don't be like this. Don't spoil our Christmas together. Methos hasn't had a real family to be with at Christmas in God only knows how long. Let him have something - please! Let him have something! Don't ruin this for him!" There were tears in Mac's eyes and his voice cracked at his last words.
Amanda swirled around and stared at Duncan. Her face showed every thought passing through her mind, every feeling in her heart. Hurt and anger, bewilderment, dawning understanding, then peace. Tears brimmed and fell from her eyes as she went to her former lover and took one of his hands. "It's for him - all this, Duncan," she stated, gesturing at the tree and the presents and the electric fire. "Not for you or me or all of us. Just for him. For Methos."
"And it's for him you're carrying fidelity over the edge into absurdity," she added confidently.
"What's happened, Duncan?"
"He's trying for something he's never even considered before. To bridge the distance, make a commitment, without reserve, without an escape hatch. Holding nothing back. I don't want to give him any reason to imagine he's being a fool."
"Oh, there's no reason in the world for him to think that. He couldn't give his heart to anybody less likely to make a fool of him than you, Duncan."
"He's been alone too long, Amanda. It's beyond my grasp - when I try to conceive of it - five thousand years - it just drops away from me, into a void, an impossible void. I can't get my fist around it. I only know, I can't endure even the idea of so much time, so long - and he's endured the reality. Alone. For five thousand years. Fifty centuries. I want to give him so much. But I don't know what. Or how. I'm trying for something really simple. A Christmas tree, you and me, our friendship. Dinner, coffee, presents. Help me, Amanda, please."
Tears streamed down Mac's face as he spoke, and Amanda's face was awash with them. She squeezed Mac's hand, then stepped back. "Anything at all, Duncan. Anything."
"You don't like it," Methos stated authoritatively.
"I do. I love it," Mac replied, smoothing his large hands over the beautiful sweater. "It's a lovely sweater. And it's my favorite color - red," he added with a grin.
"It's gorgeous, Methos. Cashmere - let me feel it, Duncan." She took the offered sweater and squeezed it in her hands. "Hmm, can I borrow it?" she asked with a grin.
"Nope. It's my sweater. Nobody else wears it but me. In fact," MacLeod stated, standing, "I'm going to put it on right now." He pulled off the sweater he was wearing and grabbed Methos' gift from Amanda, donning it quickly and posing in it like a model. "What'd you think, guys?"
"Looks beautiful on you, Duncan, but it would look better on me," Amanda told him.
"It's okay, Mac. It's a sweater. Red's your color." Methos slouched back farther on the couch and looked at the electric fire. "Glad you like it," he mumbled, then sank back into the uncommunicative mood he'd sustained all evening.
"Your turn to open one now, Methos," Mac said. "This one." He placed a big box on Methos' lap.
"I suppose it's from you," Methos replied ungraciously.
"Matter of fact, it is," Mac admitted with a smile. "Go on. Open it."
"All right." The older man tore off the ribbon and wrapping quickly, opened the large box and pulled out the gift. He stared at it for a moment. Then he lifted it from the box. "What is this?"
"It's a tux jacket. The material matches your tux pants perfectly, but the jacket's a little different - more modern. The lapels are cut differently."
"A tux jacket. For the New Year's Eve party at Quentin's."
"I thought you might wear it then, yes. It's not like you go formal every weekend."
"I suppose you want me to try it on," Methos said, sounding annoyed.
"It's an idea. You don't have to." Mac turned to Amanda. "Your turn - that one - yeah - the little silver one."
"Okay," Methos said, "I'll try it on. I'll be back."
"Where you going, Methos? Over the sweater you're wearing is fine. You don't need to go out of the room. Just put it over your sweater -" Mac stopped talking when Methos left the room.
Mac stared at Amanda. "Where's he going? What's wrong with him? Amanda -" Mac took a deep breath.
"He's overwhelmed, Duncan. So many gifts. Dinner, drinks, chestnuts roasting in the fireplace. It's too much. You overdid it."
"Oh God! You're right, Amanda. It is too much!"
"Give him a minute, he'll be all right. He's tougher than he looks. Let him cry, blow his nose. Change into the tuxedo. He'll be fine when he comes back. He's a trouper."
"Like you, Amanda. Thank you for everything. The dinner was perfect. The wines, the chocolates, the imported coffee - thanks." Mac raised her hand to his mouth and kissed it.
"Well - aren't we the formal one! Duncan, it was nothing. Just Christmas dinner with the folks. Don't make such a big deal out of it. You're driving me nuts - I'm about to go into insulin shock. God knows what so much sentiment is doing to Methos!"
MacLeod put his head in his hands, rubbing his temples. "You're right. You're right. I'm an idiot."
"Who's an idiot?" Methos asked, coming back into the living room. "Anybody I know?"
"Methos!" Amanda exclaimed, her voice filled with awe.
"You like?" Methos whirled once in place, then a second time, when Duncan looked up.
"Gracious me, yes!" Amanda said. "You look wonderful!"
"Mac? Perfect fit - what'd you think?" Methos grinned. "I love it."
"It looks good on you, Methos. Especially with the shirt and studs. You look - dashing."
"Dashing! Well - thanks! No ruffles, but dashing! You say there'll be lots of Immortal women at Quentin's party? Perhaps one of them will agree, think I'm dashing!"
"You better be kidding, kiddo," Mac retorted. "Don't get your hopes up. You taught me I should be able to kill a woman, when the need arises. Try taking off with any one of them from the party, blood will run."
Methos plopped onto the sofa and grabbed Mac's hand, pulling the younger man toward him. Then Methos kissed him.
"Whoa!" Amanda said. "This was fine, in theory, but I'd prefer not to watch! Save it for the bedroom, Methos! Unless you want me to leave!"
"It's a first, Amanda. You can tell your students, you saw it here first. A public kiss, between Methos Valerius and Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod! Details at eleven!"
"Not much of a story, Methos, unless I return the kiss."
Mac cupped Methos' face and kissed him full on the mouth. Then he moved away, grinning. "Sorry, Amanda, won't happen again - tonight. Your turn now. The little silver one - open it."
Amanda obliged. "Oh my lord," she squealed. "Oh God!"
"What is it, girl?" Methos asked.
"Look." She handed the box and contents across Mac to Methos.
"Looks antique. A ring. Diamonds. Yellow gold. Setting shaped like a star. Sapphire in the middle. Big sapphire. Whose was it, Mac?" Methos asked appreciatively.
"Catherine the Great's," Mac replied smuggly. "Didn't even need to adjust the size."
"Give it back, Methos, I want to put it on." Amanda was barely breathing.
"Catherine the Great's ring, eh, Mac?" Methos said, turning away from Amanda, holding the box just out of her reach. "It's really beautiful. Such large stones. Such an unusual setting."
"Methos - give me my ring!" Amanda said, her voice dangerously low.
"Where'd you find it, Mac?" Methos asked, twisting his body, still holding the box out of Amanda's reach.
"Estate sale in Russia, last summer. Remember, in August? When I got that sword?"
"I seem to recall -" Methos was standing now, moving around the room, evading Amanda's lunges for the box containing her ring. "Didn't you get the snuff box then, too?"
Mac's grin was wide as he watched his lover tease Amanda with the ring. "And the Faberge egg. But I think that's a fake. Like the icon."
"Methos, give me the ring. Now." Amanda's voice was a growl. "Now, Methos, or I'll take your head."
"I really like this ring, Mac. You sure you didn't mean to give it to me? It'll fit on my pinky."
"Methos! Duncan - you wouldn't - it's my ring!"
"You like it, Methos? Of course, it's not really a man's ring -"
"Unisex, Mac. It's a unisex ring. I think I've seen similar rings in Cartier's. Intended for a man's pinky finger."
"Methos!" Amanda was livid now, standing in the middle of the living room, turning in place as Methos circled the outer edge of the room.
"You'll need to slip it on my finger, Mac. Otherwise it won't have the romance -"
"Duncan - you wouldn't! You gave it to me!" When neither man replied, Amanda stopped speaking. She took a deep breath, then said with dignity, "All right. He can have it. I don't need it. Enjoy."
"Amanda!" Duncan said, exasperated.
"What? He can have the ring. I don't care."
She went back to her place on the couch without heeding the expressions on Methos' and Mac's faces, or the looks they exchanged. "I think it's your turn, Duncan," Amanda said. "The small green one next. It's from Methos." Tears streamed down her face but she didn't make another move, either to get back the ring or leave the room.
"Methos, do something!" Mac told his lover.
Methos went to the sofa and knelt in front of her, ring box in hand. "Amanda, I was joking. It's your ring. Duncan, here," he said, giving the box to his lover. "Give it to her again. I'm sorry, blossom. I got carried away."
Amanda bit her lip. "Yes. I know you did. So did I." She swallowed. "Carried away is good. Truth is better. I know you, Methos. You like that ring. You want it. It's yours. From me to you, Methos. Because you like it. Give me the box, Duncan." Mac handed her the ring box. Amanda removed the ring from its holder and took Methos left hand. Carefully, she slid the ring onto his pinky. "You were right, perfect fit. Don't say I never gave you anything, Methos. From me, with love." Then she kissed him on both cheeks, European style. "I love you, too, Mike."
"Well, it certainly looks that way to me," Methos joked, almost unable to believe Amanda's incredible gesture.
"Of course, I don't know if you'll be able to wield a sword wearing a pinky ring," Amanda added with a grin.
"I'm right-handed, actually," Methos replied.
"And of course, you'll need to up your theft insurance now."
"Only if I take the ring off my finger. Which I won't. Not even in the shower."
"Methos, stop this. Give the girl her ring," MacLeod said quietly.
"My ring, now," Methos replied, still staring into Amanda's eyes.
"I bought the ring for Amanda, Methos. Give it back to her."
"My ring, now," Methos repeated. "From Amanda, with love."
Amanda said, "Duncan, shut up. We're happy. Shut up."
"Fine. I'll open the little green present. From you, Methos?"
"Yes. From me, Mac."
MacLeod went to the tree and picked up the little green gift box, shook it, then shook his head. He turned and looked at Amanda and Methos. They were still in the same places, Amanda on the couch, Methos at her feet, looking at her. Amanda was stroking Methos' hand lightly.
Suddenly, MacLeod felt dizzy, as if the room was moving. Or maybe it was Methos and Amanda who were moving. Their heads moving closer and closer together, until finally their lips met in a kiss. Methos' hands came up, cupping Amanda's face. Mac could see the ring now, on Methos' pinky, beautiful, as if it had been designed for his fingers, his beautiful long fingers. Mac inhaled, faltered a few steps back, sitting on the windowsill, holding onto the ledge tightly with one big hand, the other hand crushing the green box. He closed his eyes. Opened them again. The vision hadn't changed. They were kissing. Really, truly kissing. Methos and Amanda. In the living room of his condo - his condo! - while he stood aside and watched.
What had Amanda said to him? We're happy, shut up? They're happy, he should shut up and swallow the pain? That's what she meant, wasn't it?
Some Christmas Eve this was turning out to be! A breast man. Methos was a breast man. Like he was.
Mac wanted to scream but he didn't. Not out loud. He had to think. Think what to do.
Only one thing to do.
He replaced the green box he'd been gripping tightly back under the Christmas tree. He'd open it in the morning, along with the other gifts. He left the living room quietly, grabbing a coat from the hall closet as he went, grateful for the warmth of the red cashmere sweater, one of his gifts from Methos. He left the apartment without a sound, and no one called after him to come back.
As he rode down in the elevator MacLeod thought, "I wanted to give him something, something - anything. Now I have." He nodded several times. "Everything. Enjoy, my love. Everything."
MacLeod opened the door of his apartment, careful to make no sound. He tiptoed toward the living room, making for the couch. It was five o'clock in the morning, Christmas day. He hadn't slept at all. He thought he'd just stretch out on the sofa for a couple hours, until the others woke, then make breakfast for the three of them.
He tossed his coat on a chair and walked around the couch, stopping short. He'd almost tripped over Methos' body!
Methos' head rested in Amanda's lap. Her hand was on Methos' cheek. His left hand - still sporting Catherine the Great's ring - was draped over the sofa arm. The two Immortals were fast asleep, Amanda snoring gently, Methos, open-mouthed, hardly breathing.
They hadn't moved during the night, it seemed. They hadn't removed their clothes, either. Maybe, they hadn't fucked.
MacLeod took a deep breath, then went into the bedroom and brought two blankets into the living room. He laid one, still folded, across Amanda's breasts, carefully tucking it around her so it didn't slip and cover Methos' head. The other blanket he unfolded to the half-size. He covered Methos' body with it.
Then he went to the far end of the sofa and sat down, lifting an unfinished snifter of brandy from the end table and downing its contents. He shut his eyes and tried to sleep.
He couldn't fall asleep. He opened his eyes, focusing on the tree, its many-colored lights looking tawdry and childish in daylight. He glanced at his two friends. Methos was staring at him.
"Morning, Mac. Where'd you go last night? We missed you."
"For a walk. Stopped at a bar, had a few drinks. Walked some more."
"Cold, wasn't it, for so much walking?"
"Nah, it was okay. This sweater's really warm."
"Why'd you go, Mac?"
"Two's company, three's a crowd, Methos."
"You are such a pain in the ass, MacLeod. I despair of you."
Mac shifted in his place, turning to face the older Immortal. "You despair of me? Which one of us was kissing Amanda last night?"
"What are you doing, Duncan? Trying to set some sort of record? Most obtuse Immortal over the age of four hundred?"
"I gave you some privacy. Looked like you needed it. Maybe I was wrong. Sue me."
"Maybe? Maybe you were wrong?" Methos shook his head, grabbed the blanket with both hands, and stood. He stretched, wrapped the blanket around his shoulders, then walked out of the room. He was back in a minute with two glasses of orange juice. "Here, have a drink. Prelude to a Mac-cooked breakfast, I hope."
"I'm not sure I really have the whole message, here, Duncan. You left me and Amanda alone - why?" Methos asked, squinting. He went to a chair facing the sofa and sat on its arm, looking at Mac.
MacLeod took a sip of juice. "The usual reasons."
"You know why, Methos. So the two of you could - make love."
"Amanda and me. Make love. You can't be serious, Mac."
"If I was wrong, I'm sorry."
"If you were wrong! Really, MacLeod, you're beginning to piss me off."
"Last night, the two of you were kissing. I know you find her attractive. Very attractive. Why do you think it's so 'obtuse' of me to think you'd want to sleep with her?"
"Really, Mac, this is well beyond ridiculous. Nor is it a question of 'wanting' to sleep with her. I've known Amanda for eight hundred years. We've slept in the same bed, or the same barn, or the same patch of grass, so many times I've lost count. We've never made love. Don't you think there's a reason for that?"
"I don't know. Looked to me, last night, like you were about to change your relationship. From friends to lovers. I thought the least I could do was leave the two of you alone."
"Mac, Amanda's my friend -"
"She thinks she's in love with you."
"She's in love with you, MacLeod, not me."
"That's why she let you have that ring, I suppose? I wish to God I'd never bought it!"
"I think she believed it would please you - to give it to me."
"Now why would she think that?" Mac asked sarcastically. "Why in the world would she think I'd want her to give a $75,000 antique ring that once belonged to Catherine the Great, that I'd given to her, to you?"
"I dunno. Maybe because you've got her believing I'm needy? Maybe because you've got her believing she'd make you happy if she makes me happy? And all she cares about is making you happy? You tell me, Mac."
Mac persisted in silence. Then he said with a stubborn set to his jaw, "You want my blessing? You have it. I'll survive."
"I'm sorry. I must have missed something. Your blessing?"
"To sleep with Amanda. You've got it."
Standing, Methos replied, "I think you need help, Mac. You don't believe what I say. You don't believe the evidence of your own eyes. I'm certain you won't believe what Amanda tells you, when she wakes up. You need help. You're the one who's crazy, not me. You won't convince me otherwise."
"Oh, and here's your ring, Duncan," Methos said, taking it off his finger and putting it on the end table next to MacLeod. "Do with it what you like. My advice is to give it to Amanda - but hey, I'm just a guy! What do I know? Merry Christmas."
MacLeod stood, his heart in his mouth, listening to the noises the older Immortal was making in the bedroom. They didn't sound like packing noises but he couldn't be sure.
Packing noises! He couldn't believe they'd come to a point where he'd wonder whether Methos was going to leave him again! This was unbelievable! Incredible! Not twenty-four hours ago he was imagining he was coming closer to understanding his lover, knowing him, at least a little. Thinking he'd make fewer and fewer mistakes, hurt Methos less and less often, as time went by and they trusted each other more, opened up to each other more. Now, he was swallowing bile, terrified that Methos would walk out on him! Incredible!
He glanced at Amanda. She was still sleeping, or pretending to be. He wondered whether she'd heard Methos' and his conversation. Probably had. Probably agreed with Methos, that he was an idiot!
Well, there was something he could do right! Even if he didn't understand why it was right, or why Methos told him to do it. He grabbed the antique diamond ring and went over to the end of the couch where Amanda slept. He took her left hand and slipped the ring on her middle finger. There! That's where he'd planned to put it, when he'd seen it at the auction and bought it for her. Yes, one thing right! Good!
What was the other thing Methos had said - a Mac-cooked breakfast? Fine. He'd cook breakfast for the three of them. Whoever was still here to eat it, would eat it. That part wasn't up to him. The cooking was.
He was in the kitchen when he felt Methos' approach. He glanced up quickly, scanning to see whether his lover wore a coat, carried a pack. No. No coat. No backpack. A good sign.
MacLeod cleared his throat. "Breakfast is almost ready. Scrambled eggs, bacon, tiny sausages. Your favorites. You eating?"
"I'm hungry as a horse. You'd think, after that dinner we demolished last night, I wouldn't be able to eat for a week, wouldn't you? But - it smells good, Mac. I'm ravenous."
Methos sat at the kitchen table and Mac served him in silence.
"Amanda awake yet?" he asked.
"She passed me in the hall, on her way to the bathroom."
"Good. Then I'll hold off on her portion."
"Sounds like a plan," Methos said, taking a sip of juice but toying with his food.
"What? Why aren't you eating? I thought you were hungry."
"Eyes bigger than my stomach, I guess, Mac. Sorry. Eat my portion before it gets cold," Methos said, pushing his plate across the table to Mac.
"I can't eat, Methos. You know that."
"I'm not walking away, MacLeod. Eat something."
Mac shook his head. "What is it with you? Are you a mind-reader? I asked you that before, when we met. Maybe I shouldn't have believed you when you told me you weren't."
"I'm not reading your mind, MacLeod. Just your face. You look as if you've lost your best friend. Since I'm your best friend, I suppose you think you've lost me. So I'm reassuring you. You haven't lost me. Okay?"
"Methos, I don't know what's wrong. I tried to give you a happy time, a Christmas Eve. A good memory. I wanted you to know you're not alone -"
"Mac, you can't wipe out five thousand years in one day. My aloneness - centuries of it, yes - is part of who I am. I thought you liked who I am -"
"I do. I love who you are!"
"Well, then, why are you trying to change it? Fix it? Why can't you just accept it and go on from here?"
"I don't understand."
"You're doing it again, Mac. What you did from the beginning. God help me, I was as guilty as you, then. But not now."
"What? What am I doing wrong?"
"You're trying to change me into someone whose life, whose past, is palatable to you. Granted, you're not trying to blame me for my life, the way you blamed me for the Horsemen. But you can't stand another part of me, now, Mac. My aloneness. Millennia of it. Because you couldn't survive like that. You do your best to construct a life for yourself that's not like that. You don't want to be alone, without family, without friends, without lovers, without a clan. To you, the fact that I've lived like that for so long is horrible, awful. You can't endure even the thought of it. You want to change it. Retroactively. So you don't ever need to consider it again. Consider that I've lived so, for so long."
"Amanda told you what I said."
"No, she did not. Amanda told me nothing. I know you, Mac. That's who you are. You want me to be happy now. You want me to have been happy for the last five thousand years. It never crosses your mind that what would have driven you mad, made me happy. You just want to change it all. Well, I'm here to tell you, it doesn't work that way."
"Is there anything at all I can do, now, that won't seem to you like I'm not accepting you for who you are? Because it doesn't sound as if there is, Methos."
"Sure. You can make new memories. In the present. Without reference to my past, or the hardships you think I survived. You can wear the red sweater I bought you for Christmas, all day today, and five hundred years from now, the joy that memory brings me will be as vivid in my heart as it is right now, in reality."
"A memory. How can that be as vivid as reality?"
"I don't know how, Mac. I only know it is. For me. That's who I am. I'm not you. We're different. I kinda thought that was the point. Of there being more than one of us, I mean. More than one of us made in the Image of God. So we get to appreciate all His Good Qualities."
"You liked being alone for five thousand years?"
"Mac, I wasn't alone the whole time. Just some of it. I imagine I've got a greater tolerance for aloneness than you. But that's scarcely relevant. Yes, I liked it. I liked my life. The good and the bad. I can't help it - I don't judge it. I never did, until you came along. Then, I took a good look, and by and large, it seemed pretty good to me. Yeah, I've got regrets. Who hasn't? But it's been pretty good, so far. I'm up for more." Methos grinned. "I must say, though, I really hadn't expected this last bit."
"You mean - us?"
"That's right. Us. I really, really, got knocked off my stride, when I met you."
MacLeod stared at Methos for a moment. "Care to explain?"
Methos smiled. Then he looked down at his plate. "This is terrible. Embarrassing."
Methos ran his fingers through his hair. "This is embarrassing."
"Well. You know, I'm pretty much a loner."
"So you say."
"Mac, the last time I was in love - before you, that is - was in the year 20."
"What do you mean, 'the year 20'? 1920?"
"Not 1920. Not 1820. Not 1720. Not Byron. Not Darius. Just 20. The Year of Our Lord, 20."
"Nope. Cross my heart."
"You weren't in love with Byron or Darius."
"Nope. Oh, I adored Darius. And Byron really turned me on. But love? Nah."
"So, who was the lucky - person - in the Year of Our Lord, 20?"
"Lamartin of Bordeaux. Not his name, back then, of course. But yes, Lamartin."
"No. Quentin was my student. You know that. Students are taboo."
"You've got some big thing about taboos? When did that start?"
"I dunno. Always, far back as I remember. It's what my first teachers taught me. I believed them. I still do."
"Which is why you never want to teach anybody anything?"
"And before Lamartin, Kronos?"
"I'm susceptible but I'm not crazy. The sort I am - it's better this way. How long do you think I'd have survived if I'd thrown myself in front of every truck that went by, to save the number of people you've been in love with, for instance? Because that's what I'd have done. Better this way."
"Methos, you know I love you. I mean, you believe it?"
"I'm sure. Never a doubt in my mind. Ever. Only doubted that you wanted to love me. Which is why I left, in '97. To protect you. As you said."
"From what? From the truth?"
"You weren't ready to accept that you loved me."
"You are so wrong. I knew it so early. I just didn't think you felt the same way, Methos."
"You knew it when I left with Alexa. But you weren't ready to accept it until you found me five years ago."
They were quiet for a time, just thinking. Preparing themselves for the future. Preparing themselves for the present. Considering the past. Just sitting at the kitchen table quietly, when Amanda came in, wearing Catherine the Great's ring on her finger, ready for a Mac-cooked breakfast.
"What's taking him so long, Duncan? How long can it take to put on a shirt, pants and a tux? I'm a woman, and I'm ready."
"He'll be out in a minute, Amanda. I think he's nervous. You know he hates formal parties. He's only going for our sakes."
"Why do you think that, Mac?" Methos asked, coming into the living room and swirling in place. "I'm going for my sake, too. I told you, I love to see our Kind, especially when we check our swords at the door."
"You look great, Methos," Amanda said, going over to the old Immortal and straightening his collar. "Splendid. Dashing. Beautiful." She kissed him lightly on the mouth. "Good thing you're so faithful, otherwise Duncan would have a hard time holding on to you tonight."
"Oh, I dunno. I think I'll be the one struggling to come between him and the ladies - and gentlemen - this time around. You look good, Duncan. Fit. Handsome."
"Thank you. You, too." MacLeod blushed. It was true. Methos looked good enough to eat in his tux. Talk about embarrassing.
"Shall we go, children?" Methos asked, taking the others by the arm.
"I think we ought to wear coats, Methos. It's really cold out."
Methos sighed. "Not that old black cashmere thing again!"
"I think so," Mac said, trying to keep a straight face.
The three Immortals arrived at Quentin and Lamartin's suite at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel a little before eleven. Already, the three rooms were crowded with Immortals. The buzz-level was incredible and the noise level - between the music and the talk - was almost as bad.
"I don't know if I can do it, Mac," Methos said to his lover as they stood in the doorway. "I'm really sensitive to buzz, and noise is not my best thing, either."
"You're the one who likes hard rock, Methos. Come on, we'll get used to it, after a while."
"Duncan - who's that?" Amanda asked, pointing across the room.
"There, that one! The guy with the white hair and the chopped up face. Is he one of Us? Or somebody's date?"
Methos and MacLeod looked at each other and grinned. "Bingo!" they said simultaneously.
"What? What'd I say?" Amanda glanced from one to the other. When they didn't answer, she asked again, "Well? Who is he?"
"That's Erasmus Minor, Amanda. He calls himself Edward Rasmussen at the moment. And yes, he's one of Us. Pretty old. Twenty-five hundred, at least."
"He's a Good One, right?"
"Absolutely. The best. Old friend," Methos added. "Single, as of three weeks ago."
"You don't mind -"
"Go on, blossom, we're fine."
"Good. I'll come by again in a little while." And she was gone.
"A high-five would be appropriate, I guess, but I don't want to shock the Old People," Methos quipped.
"That it is," Methos replied. "At least thirty male Immortals in this room alone, to choose from. She zeroes in on the best of them all, before we've even had a drink."
"You can't know that - that Rasmussen's the best of them all."
"I do know it, Mac. He's as noble as they come, barring none. I'll be happy if you're as good as Rasmussen, when you hit twenty-five hundred. It's nothing short of miraculous."
"As noble as they come? Including me?"
"Including you. Not that you don't come in a really close second, considering you're still a Green Boy. But Rasmussen - he's a Warrior Prince, through and through."
"And I'm not?" MacLeod was amused by this new assessment Methos was making of him.
"You should be. Matter of fact, you should see whether Ras would be willing to take you on."
"What are you talking about? Challenge me?"
"No, take you as a student."
"You're saying he's a better swordsman than I am?"
"I'm saying he's a better man than you are. You could learn from him. Your vision is muddy. He's a lot older. His is clearer."
"I don't believe this."
"Believe, Mac. He's a lot like Case. Without the fanaticism."
"I know. I know. You took Case's head. It was a mistake. Mistakes happen. That's not the point."
"Then, what is the point?"
"Erasmus Minor never took a head in anger. Or without reason. You remember his toast? To Justice? He stands for Justice."
"What do you think I stand for?"
"You stand for the underdog. Right or wrong. That's not Justice. That's Love."
"I'm not saying you should change. Only that you could learn from Ras. Justice is pretty much a lost concept nowadays. It's the kind of thing the Watchers try to preserve, when they write our Chronicles. Perfect pitch for something like Justice. All I'm saying is, you could learn from Rasmussen. No need to be jealous. I'm only thinking of your welfare. You certainly won't learn about Justice from me."
"What will I learn from you, Methos?"
"I thought that was fairly obvious. You'll learn about Survival."
"Anybody else here you think I should enroll with?"
"Let's see." Methos made a show of scanning the room. "Nope. Unless, of course, you want to study Passion under Lamartin," he said, his mouth twisting in a grin.
"Oh, now I don't know about Passion?"
"You know a little about everything, MacLeod. That's why you've gotta be the One in the End. But the others are stronger in one thing or another. You could get a clearer vision if you hear what they've got to say."
"Can we change the subject, Methos? It's New Year's Eve. Let's have a couple drinks, talk to a couple people, and try harder not to piss each other off. Whaddaya say?"
"I'm sorry, MacLeod. I didn't mean to piss you off."
"Maybe not, but you succeeded. So, how about you shut up and work the room."
"How'll I work the room, if I'm not supposed to talk?" Methos asked with a grin.
"Creep!" Mac poked Methos in the back. "Go! Work the room! Try not to piss anybody else off! Try not to fall in love with anybody! Go!"
"What are you gonna do, Mac?"
"I'm gonna say hello to our hosts, flirt with some beautiful women, arrange for lessons with the Masters, and then find you again, drag your ass back home, and kick it!"
"Works for me!" Methos retorted, turning on his heel and losing himself in the crowd.
"Erasmus, good evening. Amanda."
"Hello, MacLeod. How've you been?"
"Pretty well. Christmas was difficult, a difficult time, as usual. But otherwise, I've been fine."
"Me, too. I went home for the holidays. To Sweden. Visited Magda's grave. Just overnight. Flew in, flew out. I finally spoke to my lawyer about selling the house."
"You boys want fresh drinks?" Amanda asked.
"Thank you, Amanda. That would be great. We'll wait here." Mac smiled at the beautiful Immortal and she blew him a kiss as she wandered off.
"She's yours, MacLeod? That's right, isn't it?"
"Not at all. She's free."
"You're certain?" Rasmussen asked seriously. "I've taken a fancy to her. My fancies are apt to last a long long time. And I don't share."
"I'm sure. But don't expect much in the way of a longterm relationship from Amanda. That's not her style."
"I understand. I'm speaking from my point of view, not hers. I don't share. And she won't need to share me with anyone. But what she does is her business."
"Amanda's a good friend. That's all."
The Older Immortal looked around the room for a moment. Then he said, "I really don't like these kinds of gatherings. So many people. So much noise. But I didn't want to refuse Quentin and Lamartin. I'll probably leave right after midnight."
MacLeod made up his mind, finally, and spoke, while he had the chance. "Mr. Rasmussen, I know this might not be the best time to ask, but someone suggested -"
"What is it, Mac? Trouble?"
"No, no. Nothing like that. A friend suggested you might consider, might accept me - as a student."
"A student? You? MacLeod, you're the finest swordsman in the world! Everyone knows that! I've nothing to teach you!"
"Not swords - though I'm sure I could learn a lot from you. Different styles. Techniques. Strategies. But that's not what I meant."
Rasmussen stared at MacLeod. Almost stared through him. "What did you mean, then?"
"Just. I don't know. An hour here and there. A few evenings a month, maybe. Talking. Reminiscing. I was advised that your - vision - in certain things, was pure. They're not things you could teach me with lectures. Only if I spend time with you, would I begin to understand, to learn. It's not easy to explain."
"Who told you to come to me, Boy? To ask me to teach you?"
MacLeod bit his lip. "Methos."
"Methos!" Rasmussen's eyebrows went up. "You've got the greatest teacher in the world, living right in your home! He sent you to me?"
"Not sent. Advised. Said your vision was clear -"
Rasmussen drew himself up. "I'd be happy to have a drink with you, anytime you call, MacLeod. If you want to listen to my stories, you're welcome to them. I'm not a busy man. I'm never too busy to speak with a friend. I'd be proud to know you better." He offered his hand and Mac clasped it firmly. "I'm in the book."
"So, Mac, was it worth it?" Methos asked, as the lovers undressed and got ready for bed. It was after four in the morning. They'd left the party around two, then made the rounds of a few bars. They were both pretty tired.
"Was what worth it?"
"Was the party worth putting on these monkey suits for?" Methos replied.
"I think so. I had a good time. How about you?"
"It was okay. Gina and Robert made such a fuss over me, it was embarrassing."
"I saw you dancing - you and Gina - you looked good together."
"So did you. I mean, when you danced with Gina."
"Amanda and Rasmussen seem to have hit it off. They left the party together, around one," MacLeod said.
"What were you talking to him about, for so long, early on?"
"This and that. He's gonna sell his house in Sweden. He visited Magda's grave over the holidays. I guess that made him sad. Oh, and he asked my permission to court Amanda."
"I do not."
"Just like him, I guess. Old World to the core," Methos quipped. "And the other thing?"
"What other thing?" MacLeod asked, plastering an innocent expression on his face.
"Yes. Yes. I asked him to take me as a student. He accepted me. I'll call him in the morning. God - the things I do to please you!"
"Well - you have. Pleased me. See how easy it is?" Methos said with a grin.
"Sure. All I need to do is everything you tell me to do, at every moment of the day and night, and I please you!"
"He said some nice things about you, Methos. Rasmussen did."
"Like what?" the older Immortal asked, getting under the covers.
MacLeod got into bed and drew Methos into his arms, holding him tightly, lips brushing Methos' hair. "That I've got the best teacher in the world living in my home."
"He doesn't understand."
"What doesn't he understand?"
"That there's no such thing. That everyone's got something we can learn from them, if we just look for it."
"Even the bad guys."
"You said it."
"Methos, what about me?"
"What could somebody learn from you, you mean?"
"God, I love you! It's such a pleasure, never having to explain anything!"
"There you go again! Flattery will get you everywhere with me, Mac!"
"You haven't answered my question, Old Timer."
"You're pissing me off!"
"Okay, what could somebody learn from you? That's a tough one."
"Well, the thing is, it's not something a person can learn.... "
"What do you mean?"
"What you've got to offer can't be taught, Mac. Grace can't be taught. It's a gift."
"So it's of no use to anybody but me?" Mac asked with a frown.
"You're crazy! Of course it's 'of use!' It's the most valuable thing in the world!"
"How? If I can't teach it, and nobody can learn it -"
"It inspires, MacLeod! It lifts us up - up high! Inspires us to want the best! To want to do right, be the best we can be! It's the greatest gift of all, Grace! Sure, it can't be taught, or learned. But it can be given away. You give it away, Mac, all the time! To everyone. The smart ones among us recognize it, and are grateful. The others, well -"
"The others, Methos?"
"The others try to take your head."
MacLeod was speechless for a long time. Then he asked, "Why?"
Methos sighed. "I don't know, Mac. Probably, because they can't love. There is such a thing as Evil, you know."
"Thought you didn't believe in Evil."
"Yes, I don't believe in Evil. Yes, I do believe in Evil."
MacLeod sat up in bed, holding onto Methos' arms, and stared at him. Then he kissed him full on the mouth.
"What was that for?" Methos asked, when he was permitted to come up for air.
"Now I know why God invented kisses."
"It's the only way to shut you up! And He must have known I'd need one!"
With that, Mac kissed Methos again, and again, and again, until the older Immortal said nothing at all when he was permitted to come up for air.
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