by Maxine Mayer, 12/6/97
[Beauty is only "skin deep" -
and "transient, so transient"
"such a pity about this poor boy's face...."]
- paraphrase from an exchange
between Michael and Harold
"The Boys in the Band"
by Mart Crowley
Year 2013, Greenwich Village, New York City
"I don't understand what he's doing here, Methos! Quentin of York in Greenwich Village! I thought he never left the chateau!" complained Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod to his sidekick and lover Methos Valerius as they strode through the snow in the road, nimbly skirting the dirtier potholes of muddy ice, moving quickly along Houston Street making their way towards Christopher. He'd raised his hands in exasperation, and for balance, as they journeyed.
"Well, none of us is perfect, Mac. Since Lamartin walked out on him in '97, Quentin's never been the same. When Quen called, he simply told me he'd bought a bar down here and was managing it - pretending to be doing so for his 'father,' who's perpetually away on business."
"So? What's he need to see us for?" Mac demanded.
He'd never really liked or trusted Quentin of York, an Ancient One, Immortal far longer than Methos. Quentin looked like a Bottecelli angel - young, blond and lovely - and talked like the End of Time. He'd always made Mac feel uncomfortably inadequate, mentally, spiritually, intellectually. And always, emotionally. When Quen skewered him with those dark blue eyes, Mac always knew he'd put his foot in it again, where Methos was concerned. And, that Quentin's love and friendship for Methos, spanning millennia, had been offended. Somehow, Mac hated to offend Quentin of York, though the slim "youth" who appeared to be only seventeen years old was probably no match for him with a sword, if Quen's anger ever led to a challenge. Mac was never quite sure how to take Quentin's words of wisdom, delivered in professorial style, from the disconcerting vantage of great Age, with no concession whatever to Mac's feelings or limitations. If Mac never saw Quentin again, he'd be far from unhappy. Delirious with joy, more like.
"Not us, Mac. Me. Quentin asked to see me."
"Whatever. What's he need to see you for, Methos?"
"Come on, Duncan, where's your sense of adventure? Until we sell off the business, we're stuck in New York, pushing our pencils, wearing gray flannel.... I, for one, am happy for any diversion. Even swordplay, should it come to that! How about you?"
MacLeod shook his head, stopping at a corner to check the street sign. "Well, we're here. It must be up the block." He pointed. "There, that must be it. The Leonardo Lounge. God, what a name for a bar!"
"You haven't answered me yet, MacLeod. Are you up for any diversion? Quentin only calls on me when he's in trouble. Never simply to hold his hand. Didn't ring me up when Lamartin left him. I only found out about that through Dawson. Quen's in trouble. Can he count on you? For that matter, can I?"
Roughly, Mac answered, "You know you can." He took a deep breath. "I owe them. Both of them." He meant Lamartin, too. "Whatever they need - if I have it, or can get it, it's theirs."
"That's my boy," Methos replied with a smile, pounding MacLeod heartily on the back. "Duncan to the rescue! That's what I like to hear!"
MacLeod grinned. "It's been a long time, Methos. More than fifteen years since the two of us 'rode' together, to the rescue. Should be fun!"
"The Three Horsemen of the Millennia! Has a nice ring to it!" Methos quipped, his voice singing out in the gray dawn air, loud in the empty streets of early morning.
"Four's better," Mac contradicted.
"Well," Methos drawled, "I kinda hoped we'd fill out the numbers, as time goes by...." He grinned.
"You know where Lamartin is?" Mac asked quickly, already knowing the answer.
"Does he want to come home?"
"Abso-toodle!" Methos' face stretched wide with a grin that threatened to split his cheeks. "It's up to us, Mac, because I know Quentin. He's implacable. Once burned, lesson learned."
Mac's eyes opened wide. "You mean - they've never broken up before? Not in two thousand years?"
Methos shook his head. "Never. Lamartin wouldn't have dared. He knows Quentin. I think the phrase 'unforgiving bastard' was invented with Quen in mind."
"But you think you can do it - get them back together?"
"We can do it, Mac. We. Not me alone."
"I'm game!" MacLeod replied, taking Methos' arm and walking toward the Leonardo Lounge.
"Always the Matchmaker, eh, Duncan?"
"You said it."
Methos stopped their progress up the street. "Mac, first we hear what Quentin wants, handle that. The rest comes afterwards, neatly wedged into the crack we've made in his armor, surrounded by the glow of his gratitude for our help. Comprende?"
Mac chuckled. "Oh, I comprende, all right. Up to your old tricks, Methos?"
"Always, Mac. Always."
The Leonardo Lounge was dark and dank, rank with the stale smells of smoke, beer, urine and vomit, covered with the hideous odor of the disinfectant with which a skinny blonde boy was mopping the floor. The boy turned and straightened as the front doors opened and two tall men came towards him.
"Bar's closed," the youth told the men. "Come back at noon. We open then."
"Quentin of York - a sight for sore eyes, I'm sure - that is, if I could see you in this murk! Turn on the lights, Boy, and greet your saviors!" Methos grinned widely and went over to Quentin, embracing him tightly.
"Oh, it's you," the boy replied flatly. "I wasn't sure who it was, when I sensed your aura. Just seemed Old. But not as Old as you used to feel.... See you dragged the cat in with you."
"Sorry, Quen. Where I go, Mac goes. Package deal, take it or leave it."
Quentin took a deep breath, tossing a lock of white-gold hair back from his forehead with a pale long-fingered hand. "Very well. Whatever works. I need help, Methos." He turned to MacLeod. "Forgive me, Duncan. Ungracious of me. Welcome to my humble stall. Name's Leonardo, at the moment. Of no place in particular." He sighed. "Haven't been myself lately. Might I offer you a drink?"
"Bit early for that, isn't it?" MacLeod replied, putting out his hand to shake the boy's slender one. After a moment, Leonardo shifted the mop from his right hand to his left and shook Mac's bigger, broader hand.
"Is it?" For a moment, Leonardo seemed bewildered. "What time is it?"
Methos replied, falling easily and quickly in with Quentin's cover. "It's morning, Lee. Been up all night?"
"I have. So much work, after the last of my patrons leaves. Cash receipts to night deposit at the bank. Glasses to wash. Floors to mop." He gestured. "As you see."
"Mop your own floors, do you?" Methos commented, squinting, then glancing at Mac. Mac shook his head.
"Why not? What else have I to do? Passes the time."
"Lee, this won't do."
"Why not? You've been a barkeep, Methos. Or should I say, Adam. You know the work's never done."
Mac broke in. "It's done quite efficiently, and quickly, too, if you get someone in!"
"Ah, but then, what am I to do with my time? No, this way's best. A short-order cook for the sandwiches. A couple waiters, for decoration. A pianist and a bass fiddler, for entertainment. A bouncer, for keeping the peace. And me, for sex appeal. Works."
"What sort of bar is this, Leonardo?" Mac asked.
The youth snorted.
Methos answered quickly. "It's a gay bar, Mac. What else?"
"I might have known," the Green Boy replied.
"People in glass houses -" Leonardo retorted.
"Yes, yes. True enough. Play nice, children," Methos told them. "Why've you called on me, Lee? Somebody giving you trouble?"
"They want to buy my 'father' out, Adam. The mob. The Mafiosa. Or, failing that, they want a chunk of my profits." He inhaled. "For their nefarious drug-dealing purposes. To fuel their vicious drug empire. I won't have it. I simply won't have it."
"I take it a simple 'no' didn't suffice?" Methos asked.
Leonardo laughed. "I can't give them an answer. They insist upon meeting my 'father'!"
"And when they've met him, and he's said 'no,' will that suffice?" Mac queried.
"Of course it won't. But there's nothing to be done. I must try the Way of Peace first. Give them an answer. The Way of War is a last resort."
"Lee, you must have connections - you must be able to reach out to someone high, higher than the thugs who've approached you," Methos stated. "Nip this in the bud."
Leonardo shook his head. "Not if I intend to keep my cover here. Not if I want to keep on doing this. If I reach out to my 'friends' in the mob, I might as well sell out to these buggers. I'd have lost my anonymity - without which, as you know, I cannot stay on."
"Why not? What difference does it make if a few people know that Quentin of York owns this bar and works it?" Mac asked. "People know my name, in my business. Hasn't caused me any trouble."
"You don't understand, MacLeod. I'm six thousand years old. I'm a target extraordinaire, in the Game. Isolation - or at least, obscurity - is my only defense. At the chateau, I was safe from challenges. Protected in every way. Secure. Here, I'm open to all comers. Many who are unscrupulous. In numbers. I'm vulnerable. Insecure."
"You can't be afraid, Leonardo!" Mac insisted. "You've survived this long - you must be good!"
"I don't want to fight, MacLeod. Not any more. I'm - too Old to fight. Can't take the Quickenings. Do you follow?"
"No, I don't," Mac replied bluntly. "You fought on the hill for Methos - with me and the others - fifteen years ago. You were great. The Quickenings didn't seem to bother you then."
"You weren't there to pick up the pieces afterwards, when my friend and I got home."
Methos said, "I understand, Lee. I've been there, done that. We'll help you keep your cover. First, the Way of Peace. We'll try it. One of us will be your 'father,' say no to these guys -"
"I don't think so, Methos," Mac interrupted. "Which one of us looks old enough to be his father?"
"I guess, neither of us do." Methos ran a hand through his hair. "Think I'll take you up on that drink now, Lee."
Leonardo walked to the bar, propped the mop up behind it and poured three shots of scotch. "I had an idea about that, Adam. Erasmus Minor is here, in New York. No love lost between Ras and me, of course, but he'd do you a favor. It'd just be a one-shot deal. Then, the - three of us," he continued, glancing at MacLeod and back at Methos, "will do whatever we must, after that Path is closed."
"Good thinking, Lee. Erasmus looks old. Looks at least forty. White hair, lined face. Perfect," Mac said enthusiastically. "And you know, I think he'd love a little 'diversion,' as Adam calls it."
"Yeah. His wife just died. Well, fifteen years or so ago. He'd be up for it, I'm sure. I'll get him down here. Where's your vid?" Methos asked.
Leonardo pointed towards the end of the bar. "Down there. On the left. I've got it on default to audio only, so press view-mode if you want him to see your face, Adam."
"Got it. Will do."
While Methos put in a vidcall to Erasmus Minor, MacLeod and Leonardo eyed one another across the bar. At last, Lee broke the silence while pouring Mac another drink.
"How's it going between you two, Duncan?" he asked.
"Up and down."
"In and out, I heard. In and out of prison. What a fool you are, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod! Tying the original Wanderer to a desk! I cannot believe your gall."
"I made a mistake. I learned from it."
"You'll never catch up, Duncan MacLeod. You know that, I'm sure," Lee replied. "A match made in hell. He's too Old for you. Too much is written on his page, as Sean always told us. I don't believe in mixed marriages."
Stung, Duncan shot back, "I notice yours isn't working either, even though you two are pretty close in age!"
"Low blow, MacLeod. Lamartin and I - it was time. He needed his freedom. I needed to give it to him." Lee smiled. "Such a pretty face! I'll never find another like, not in a thousand years!" He sighed. "I miss him, but it's over. Beauty's only skin deep."
"And transient, yes, oh so transient," Mac returned the quote.
"Ah, I see you've been with Methos!"
"And you, who've you been with, Leonardo? Find it easy to replace him, your pretty boy? That's all he meant to you, right? A pretty face? Two thousand years of skin deep beauty?"
"There's no one else. Nor will there be. Lamartin of Bordeaux is irreplaceable," Lee stated bluntly. "A heart like that - innocence, sweetness, trust - irreplaceable. I wouldn't try."
Relenting, Mac asked, "But have you tried to find him, asked him to come home? I can't believe he doesn't miss you, after so many years together." With a grin Mac added, "You're no slouch in the skin deep beauty department, either. I don't think he'd find your face easy to replace. In reality, in his bed, or in his dreams. Not his wildest dreams."
"There's nothing left of me, MacLeod. You should understand. You live with Methos. Adam. When he dies, he dies. I'm no different. I've nothing to offer Lamartin but dead meat. Or should I say, a marble statue. He needs life, not art. Heat, not ice. It's over, MacLeod. Don't you and Methos even go there. Nobody's home."
"If you say so."
"I do say so. I said it fifteen years ago, when Lamartin was angry because he thought I'd been unfaithful to him with another Immortal - your friend Richie Ryan. I used his fury to set him free. Insofar as I can suffer, I suffered the loss then. I don't intend to take back my sacrifice. Nor do I plan to re-open my wounds for your entertainment - or Methos'. Lamartin and I are over. Please respect that."
"You're certain Lamartin agrees?" Mac asked in a low voice. "That he's done with the suffering and pain, too? That he doesn't want to come home?"
Leonardo stared at MacLeod. "I tell you, there is no 'home.' That's what I'm saying. Are you deaf? Or merely too stupid to live? Continue on this Path, and I'll attend to that. Trust me. I'll take your head, if you go against me in this."
"Methos' head, as well?"
"If I must. Yes."
MacLeod was silent for some time. Then he answered, "Okay. I respect your wishes. I won't interfere."
"Only because I don't like you - that's the only reason. I don't think Lamartin should have to live with a cold-hearted bastard like you! He deserves better! I hear he's still with Amanda, in Greece. Went from one pretty face to another. And there's nothing Amanda doesn't know about sex!"
Leonardo's bright blue eyes went glacial and dark. "It won't work, MacLeod. You cannot make me jealous. I know about Amanda. I don't care. Lamartin and I are over. I'm happy he's found someone fine. Our Girl is good for him. She appreciates - gardenias." He finished coolly, "And she's in my employ."
"Your employ?" Mac repeated, shocked.
"Of course. You don't believe I'd let the poor fellow wander the earth alone, do you? I've been taking care of Lamartin of Bordeaux for two thousand years. He doesn't know his own name without me to tell it to him, MacLeod. He leaned on me for millennia. He likes to lean." Leonardo raised an eyebrow. "Now he's leaning on Amanda. He's fine. Have a care, MacLeod. Don't interfere."
MacLeod bit his lower lip. "I won't. But Methos -"
"I'll handle Methos. Just you stay out of it."
"Mr. Corelli, this is my father, Edward Rasmussen. He owns Leonardo's Lounge."
"My boy tells me you've got a business offer," Rasmussen said without preamble.
"Yeah. I wanna buy you out."
"Not possible. Lenny needs a place to work. He likes the bar. No dice," Erasmus told the thickset thug.
Corelli's eyes narrowed. "That's it? You tell me no, and that's it? Don' even wanna hear my price?"
"My boy's got problems. He hates school. He hates accounting, which is my business. He likes this bar. I'm not selling it. Why would I want to know your price?"
"Rasmussen - Eddie - you don' understan' - this ain't a simple business deal. I'm makin' you an offer you can' refuse."
"Take your offer and get out of my tavern, Corelli," Rasmussen replied in a quiet voice, standing up. "I saw the movie. Let's just say, the godfather's got nothing on me in the 'offers that can't be refused' department. If I were you, I wouldn't come back. Not even for a nightcap."
"You threatenin' me, Rasmussen?" Corelli asked, getting out of his chair, his eyes bright with anger.
"Boys," Corelli said, turning to his bodyguards, "let's go. This man don' know to listen to reason. Too stupid to live." He directed his closing remarks to Rasmussen, pointing his finger at Ras' chest. "You - you gonna learn to negotiate. Shame you won' live long enough to make use of the lessons. Your son, neither. You wanted to take care a him. Now, you got him dead."
The mobster and his bodyguards left quickly, and Ras and Quentin grinned at one another. Mac and Methos, who'd been listening from a spot in the back of the bar, came out of hiding and smiled too.
"So much for the Way of Peace! You're some toughguy, Erasmus," Methos commented with a grin. "Scared the living bejeezus out of me!"
"Lots of practice, with many foes. A technique perfected over the centuries," Rasmussen replied. "But now we've got trouble. Quentin - pardon, Leonardo - I don't think Corelli was scared. He'll be back. Soon. A team effort, I'm sure. What'd you have on tap, now that we've got his attention?"
"I've got Methos and MacLeod, here, for starters -"
"You? Erasmus, you've done your share. Played 'father' to me. I'm grateful and I'll remember. You can leave the rest to us. We'll be fine."
"I'm in." When the others didn't reply, Rasmussen repeated, "I'm in. I didn't like the way he looked at you, Quentin. I think he's got things in mind for you - shall we say, foreplay - before he kills you. Didn't appear to be a scrupulous kinda guy about how he gets hold of you, either. I don't like the way this is shaping up."
"Foreplay?" Mac said, puzzled. "Oh. I see. He thinks Quen's an easy mark. And gay. Yeah, those guys would love to put it to you, Old Man. You're the kind they pick on, when they go to prison. Very macho, as Methos would say."
"Enough!" Methos said. "This is all pointless talk. Nobody's putting anything to anyone, least of all to Leonardo, Son of Rasmussen, Defender of the Realm! You're in, Ras? Good. Four heads are better than one -"
"You should know," joked Mac, with a big grin.
"Indeed, I do know!" Methos replied, "none better! What do you have in mind for this Corelli chap, Lee? Helicopters, tanks? What's the drill?"
"Wait a minute! This isn't some island in the Caribbean, this is New York City - we can't bring tanks and 'copters in here!" MacLeod interjected.
"Only kidding, Mac! What's on tap, Lee?"
"I've got mercenaries on call, if we need them. A crack team. Seven of them. Mortals. They live in the four apartments above the bar."
"Seven guys in only four apartments?" Rasmussen asked.
"Four guys, three girls. One cat. Mix and match. It works," Quentin replied, shrugging.
"That should do it," Methos said.
"Always has, until now, Adam. A few of them were with you and MacLeod when you moved the gold and diamonds for me. You'll remember them. They remember you two."
"I suppose they were good. Never had a chance to work with them, that time around," MacLeod told Quentin. "Aren't they a little old now, Leonardo? Mortals?"
"They're fit. Used them since. Most important, they're loyal. They'll do."
"So - it's the four of us against the mob, is it, Lee?" Methos asked.
"Unless we need the others, yes." Leonardo turned to MacLeod. "That is, if you're game, MacLeod. I'm not in the teaching business. This is for keeps. Mortal though they are, Corelli and whoever he brings with him are dead men, not pupils. This is not a lesson in living, this is black ops."
"They deserve to die," Mac answered without a moment's hesitation.
"Mac - so do we," Methos remarked.
"Them first," Mac retorted grimly. "Devil take the hindmost."
Methos let out a sigh. "You're learning, Duncan. Not quite so fast as I'd like - but learning." He turned to Quentin and joked with a grin, "I do so love running a School for Green Boys! Born to teach, that's me!"
Rasmussen and Quentin laughed, but Mac's face was a study in hurt feelings.
"Oh God - I've wounded him to the quick - again! MacLeod -"
"It's okay, Methos. If I can't take the action, I should stay out of the playground. You need to show off in front of the bigger boys, I understand."
"I'm sorry, Duncan. I shouldn't make fun of you -"
"No. You shouldn't. We'll deal with that later. We've got work to do now. What sort of weapons did you have in mind?" Mac asked, dismissing Methos, turning to Quentin of York, and effortlessly taking charge of the Immortal Foursome's operation with the assurance of nature and upbringing. The others exchanged looks and sighs, then subordinated themselves to MacLeod with good grace, despite their Age. None among them didn't know a Leader when he met one.
The atmosphere in the basement under Leonardo's Lounge was tense. Rasmussen and Quentin were across the street with snipers' rifles, at a window in an abandoned apartment on the second floor. Methos and MacLeod were alone in the basement with the weapons cache. The chill between them hadn't warmed up since the others left. Mac was still hurt, and very angry with Methos.
"Duncan, I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry. That crack about a School for Green Boys was unpardonable. Will you forgive me?"
"Must you froth at the mouth all the time, Methos? You don't seem to believe anybody but you has feelings! My God, you'd think you could keep our problems private, if for no other reason than that they're nobody else's business!"
"Mac - it's because they're with us that I said it. I've known them so long. I feel -"
"At ease with them. I guess that's as good a way to put it as any. They're my friends. I've known them forever, it seems. Except for Amanda and Lamartin, they're pretty nearly the only people in the world who know me. It's only with them that I can let down my hair!"
"I haven't known you forever, Methos, but I do know you, too! Sometimes, it seems like forever!"
"Low blow, Mac. Okay, you're right. I was showing off for the bigger boys. I'm sorry," Methos said contritely.
"I don't understand why, Methos. Why do you need to put me down to your friends? Quentin hates me enough as it is, thinks we're wrong for each other. Do you have to give him ammunition?"
"I'm sorry, Mac -"
"Don't keep saying that! I know you're sorry! I want to know why you do it!"
"Because - I'm embarrassed."
Mac squinted. "About what?"
"We Old Ones - we're not supposed to get involved with other Immortals. It's not done."
"It's done. Look at Lamartin and Quentin."
"Not with a Green Boy. It's like - child molesting - to us. It's taboo."
"Taboo? Is there some kind of age limit - some kind of disparity in ages beyond which you're not supposed to stray?"
"Well, it's flexible, but Lamartin with Amanda - that's certainly stretching it. But at least Amanda's not a Green Girl. You and me - we're really out of bounds. More than four thousand years separate us, MacLeod. I'm not supposed to be with you. Pretty face or not."
"So I suppose it follows you're not supposed to be with Mortals, either. Couldn't get a greater disparity in age than that. Who's left for you to love? Quentin? Lamartin? I guess I shouldn't have taken Kronos' head - he was pretty old - a 'suitable' companion for you. But Byron now - wasn't he a little young?"
"Mortals are different," Methos replied, ignoring Mac's tirade. "It's - permitted - for us to love them. Considering the price."
"Their Mortality, Mac. Their certain deaths, and all the suffering we endure when they die. The Mortals. We pay that price, when we love them, then lose them. So, it's permitted."
"No, you don't see, MacLeod! That's my point! That was my point! You don't see, because you're a Green Boy! You and the Mortals - you're the same!"
"No, we're not. I suffer when they die, just like you -"
"Oh no no no! Not like me. Like a Mortal. You're not alone, afterwards. You've got others of our Kind - Green Boys and Girls, other Mortals - to take up life with. You're not left alone."
"And you don't?" Mac asked, trying to understand.
"I don't. We don't. Immortals like Lamartin and Quentin, Ras and me, we're - dead, Mac. Dead. That's why, if we find a Mortal we can love, who revives us somehow, we'd never leave them. They don't understand it, don't believe it. They think, because we stay young in appearance while they grow old and feeble and sick, that's grounds for divorce, so to speak. But to us, the Old Ones, it's not grounds for anything but more love. More and greater love. Until the day our loved ones die. The day we pay the price." Methos rubbed his eyes, trying to ease the splitting headache just behind his brow.
"Then - what about us? How'd you let 'us' happen, Methos? Is there some penalty the other Old Ones mete out, to punish you for getting involved with a Green Boy?"
"I didn't 'let' us happen, Mac. I fell in love. Nobody can help that, or prevent it. Or punish me for it. Life does that, of course. I'll pay another sort of price."
"But you're embarrassed to love me?" When Methos didn't reply, Mac continued, "I'm so proud to love you. I'm very proud of you. You're - so - good. I don't deserve you."
"It's true, Methos. I didn't understand, at first, but now, after these years together, I'm beginning to see, to grasp, who you are. What you've been through. How far you've come. And landed on your feet."
Methos was quiet for a few moments. "I see you're finally catching up, Mac. But you've got it a bit twisted. I didn't land on my feet, I landed on my heart. I'm too lucky to live. I'm terrified of the price, should anything happen to you. I - it's not something I can explain or describe."
"The others - Old Ones like Quentin and Rasmussen - they wouldn't understand because they don't love. Is that what you're saying, Methos? Is that why you're embarrassed?"
"I suppose so. I dunno. I just know I was dead, and now I'm alive, not dead. Because of you. And you're Immortal, so I won't pay the usual price. I guess I'm just waiting to find out what the 'unusual' price will turn out to be."
MacLeod smiled. "Methos, you're not thinking!"
"What'd you mean?"
"You've paid the price already. Many times over. For five thousand years. Now - you're getting what you paid for."
"Happiness," Mac replied simply.
Mac nodded. "I know. Me, too. I'm a lucky bastard, Methos. So are you. Take the money and run."
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, you've never run!"
"Yes I have. And maybe someday I will again. But not now. I'm happy and I know you are. Do what you do best, Methos Valerius, my love! Live in the moment, not in the past or the future! Enjoy!"
Methos took a deep breath, then his mouth twisted in a wry grin. "You're so young - how'd you get so smart, MacLeod?"
"I attend the School for Green Boys, and I have a very good teacher."
"Hallo! Hallo, down there! Am I in the right place? Is anybody home?"
"Down here, Lamartin!" Methos called out. "In the basement."
"Methos - you didn't! Quentin will see him!"
"No he won't - I instructed Lamartin to come in through the alley."
"I promised Quentin we wouldn't interfere -"
"Mac, you didn't promise for me. When this is over, I'll present Quentin with a fait accompli - Lamartin, on his doorstep, in front of his eyes! I don't think he'll turn him away. Do you?"
"He might very well turn him away, Methos! Quentin's determined not to take up again with Lamartin. You're only starting trouble. It won't work out."
"When we get back home, you must show me your diploma in psychology, Mac."
"I don't need a diploma in psychology to tell you you're making a mistake, Methos. One that'll cost you plenty."
Methos squinted. "We'll talk later. Welcome, Lamartin! Missed you, you old dog! Let me have a look at you!" he cried, after hugging the Latino Immortal fiercely and dragging him directly under the basement light. "My God - Duncan, have a look at this! He's lovelier than ever! I didn't think it was possible! And they say beauty's only skin deep!"
"And transient, Methos - don't forget transient!" Mac replied with a grin. "Good to see you, Antonio! How's Amanda?"
"She is still the most beautiful and most clever lady I have ever met, MacLeod! Healthy, happy, tanned, sweeter than sugar, tarter than - Rebecca! She asked me to bring you her love!"
Methos intervened. "Not her love, Lamartin! I don't share! Her regards, perhaps. You may shake Duncan's hand. Any more than that, you lose your head!"
"Now, for business. You stay out of things, Lamartin. Stay down here. When it's all over, you'll rise from the basement like a nymph from the sea, and Quentin will be so happy to see you, he'll forget his resolve and you'll be together again! Voila!"
"Just like that? You think it'll be that easy, Methos?" Mac asked.
Lamartin said, "Methos, I am afraid. So far, Quentin and I are still friends. If I disobey his wishes, if I push him - the risk! I am very frightened, old friend. My beloved is not a man to be pushed."
"Your beloved is dying, Lamartin. For want of you. Dying alone in a bar in New York. That's what you should be frightened about," Methos answered. "Focus on that."
"He - Amanda told me he divested of his business. Everything. Is it true?"
"I don't know, Lamartin. But I do know one thing - he's mopping floors to pass the time. Perhaps, to do penance. Who knows, with Quen."
"Mopping floors?" Lamartin sounded bewildered.
"Mopping floors," Methos replied solemnly.
"Now, I am no longer frightened," Lamartin said, drawing himself up. "Now, I am beyond frightened. I must save him from himself. It is my duty. No matter the price."
"That's right. You've got it now, Lamartin. Save him." When the Latino Immortal made as if to go to his lover then and there, Methos pulled him back. "Not now. Later. When this is over."
"When what is over?"
"Later," MacLeod chimed in. "Antonio, we're gonna kill some Mafiosa thugs who want to horn in on Quentin's new business - this bar. Quentin is with Erasmus across the street. Later, when it's finished, you can go to him."
"I cannot wait -"
"You must wait, Antonio," Mac retorted. "Or do you prefer to be shot by the mob?"
"It won't kill me -"
"It'll kill Quentin, Lamartin," Methos replied. "Just wait. Shouldn't take long. When we're done, even before the cops get here, you can go to Quen."
The Latino took a deep breath. "Very well, Methos. I will take your advice. You have always been kind to Quentin. Always. I will listen to you." He sat down on a box in the corner of the basement, his black hair loose around his beautiful anxious face, visibly waiting.
"Good, Lamartin. Very good. Sit there for a while. I'll tell you when to get up."
"Methos - must you talk to him as if he was a child?" Mac asked plaintively.
"He is a child, Duncan. An Old Immortal child. A brilliant sensual child. Beautiful, with an 'unnatural, natural beauty.' But a child nonetheless - when it comes to Quentin. Simple words for simple folk, Mac."
"It's - demeaning."
"I hope nobody ever needs to talk to me like that," Mac said fervently.
"Really? I thought Quen spoke to you that way all the time. Sounds like it to me, at any rate."
"I'll shut up, now, Duncan. I know when to back off, for safety's sake! Wouldn't want you taking my head out of sheer pique!"
"Sorry, Mac. Old habits die hard."
"But they don't die completely, Methos. So shut up, please. There's still a little Warrior Immortal left in me, underneath the lover, you know."
"But I prefer the lover, don't you?" He grinned.
"Methos! Enough's enough!"
"Right again, Duncan MacLeod! Enough's enough!"
There was a disturbance above. MacLeod and Methos looked at one another. "Showtime!" Methos said, picking up an uzi and tossing another to Mac. "Take some rounds with you, Duncan, we don't want to have to come back down here to reload."
"I'm ready," Mac replied grimly. "Let's go."
Methos turned to Lamartin. "You wait here."
"As you say, Methos. I will wait. I trust you."
"You do that," Methos said, following MacLeod up the stairs into the bar.
Six gunmen were circling the room in deadly silence, looking for targets. Mac picked off two from around the edge of a wall blocking the corridor which led to the bathrooms. The other four came after him.
Methos circled the room in a crouch, moving quickly towards the piano in the far corner. He picked off two more, then scurried out of sight under the piano.
The remaining two thugs rained shots around the bar without targeting, slowly pressing towards the back of the room, to where the Immortals were hidden.
Mac picked off another one. Methos killed the last of the six.
There was no time to congratulate themselves. The Immortals heard several others burst into the bar, machine guns blasting at everything in sight.
Methos sighed. "Major refit definitely required, after this," he muttered to himself. "Thank God, Quentin's got more money than he needs!"
Mac trained his weapon on the incoming gangsters and systematically fired at them, aiming from left to right.
Methos emerged shooting, from underneath the grand piano, drilling holes in those who remained standing.
Silence for a moment. The Immortals waited.
"Think there're more of them, Methos?" Mac whispered across the bar.
"We'll see, won't we?"
What they saw was Rasmussen and Quentin coming through the smashed doors of the tavern, weapons at the ready, looking deadly.
"Don't shoot! It's just us good guys left!" Methos called out.
"Nobody alive outside, either, Methos," Rasmussen replied. "I think we got 'em all, including Corelli himself."
"Good," MacLeod said with conviction. "Assuming their friends don't decide to go for a vendetta, you can probably re-open in a month, after you redecorate in here, Quentin." He gestured at the broken glass, shattered mirrors, splintered walls, pockmarked floors.
"Yes, MacLeod, nothing like a good gunfight to destroy a room," Quentin said with a nod. "Thank you all. I think we've done the trick. Corelli's connected, but not really bigtime. He's got no real family, only business associates. Nobody cares enough about him to come after me for revenge."
"And nobody cares enough about your little bar to come after you for business reasons," Mac added.
Quentin sighed. "That's true. Nobody cares about me. But your help is appreciated, Duncan, Methos, Erasmus. What you've done, for old times' sake, I'll remember. If there's a bottle still unshattered in here, I offer you all a drink."
He went behind the bar, bent down, reached beneath the sink and found a bottle of brandy. "Ah, a survivor!" he cried. "Fitting!" He set up four glasses, poured the liquor and raised his glass in a toast. The other Immortals joined him at the bar.
"To Survival!" Quentin toasted and drank.
"To Justice!" Rasmussen toasted and drank.
"To Time!" Methos toasted and drank.
"To Friendship!" Duncan toasted and drank.
"To Love!" came the softly accented voice of Lamartin, as he entered the bar from the basement. "Is there another glass left, Quentin? Not broken? Or must I drink from the bottle?"
"Lamartin!" Quentin whispered, his pale face draining of what little color he had.
"Might I have a drink, too, beloved?" Lamartin asked gently, taking a few steps towards the others. There was no reply. "Quentin? A drink? Please?"
The Oldest Immortal, Quentin of York, was very strong, very powerful, for all his youthful appearance. The vigor of a seventeen year old body stood him in good stead, as always. He was the greatest survivor of them all. He spoke easily, his voice controlled and cultivated, after mere moments of shock. "You look well, Lamartin. Beautiful. I've missed you."
Lamartin drew in a breath, his nostrils flairing. "I have missed you, my love. Very much."
Quentin nodded. "Indeed."
"Your friends - Methos - told me you need me."
"Did they? They believe I need you, do they?"
"Do I look as if I need you?"
"No," Lamartin admitted. "You look well. Fit. I should go -"
"That's right, Lamartin, you should go."
"Quen - don't do this!" Methos said urgently. "Think of the child! Maybe you don't need him, but he needs you!"
"Silence, Methos! Don't interfere further!"
"I will interfere further, Quentin!" Methos retorted, stepping nearer to his friend. "That is, if you're too much of a fool to do what's right, I will, absolutely!"
Quentin turned, tearing his eyes from Lamartin's face to look at Methos. "Methos - you've taken your last risk, you meddling sonuvabitch!"
"No!" Mac shouted, coming between Methos and Quentin. "Don't go there, Quentin! Don't say the words, don't challenge him! Please! For my sake! Don't do this!"
Quentin's lips tightened in a straight line, his brow furrowed in a frown. He didn't speak for a moment.
Duncan repeated his plea, "Quentin - for my sake, don't challenge Methos!"
"I will not have him doing this sort of thing again, MacLeod. And he will, if I don't finish him off now!"
"Methos won't need to interfere again, Quentin, not if you take Lamartin back!" Mac insisted.
"Take him back? You're mad, MacLeod! It's over! Two thousand years was enough! It's over now!"
"Look at him, Quentin!" Mac said, grabbing the older Immortal's arm and turning him around to face Lamartin. "Tell me you don't love him!"
"Of course I love him! That's why I made him go!"
"You'll never see his face again, Quentin," Methos said, "if you make him leave now! I know Lamartin! He loves you, but he's too proud to beg! Is that what you want? Never to see this face again! Never to look at him again? All beauty drained from your life? Quentin? Is that what you want?"
The Oldest Immortal was silent. Methos pressed his advantage. "Quentin of York, mopping floors is no answer. I know, I've mopped my share."
Still, Quentin was silent. Methos made another try, "Quentin, nobody lives forever."
"Nobody lives forever...." the Old One echoed.
"My beloved, please - I need you!" Lamartin pleaded. "I am lost! I cannot find pleasure in anything, without you! You are my soul, Quentin! I cannot -" His voice broke and tears streamed down his face. Rasmussen went over to the Latino Immortal and grabbed him to keep him from falling.
"Quentin, don't be a fool," Ras told his friend. "Don't be more of a fool than you need to be. For God's sake, man, wake up!"
"Yes, Quen, wake up and smell the gardenias!" Methos added.
"I cannot believe you all. All of you. Sentimental stupid fools!"
"I'm no sentimental stupid fool, Quentin," MacLeod declared. "I'm just a Green Boy, but even I know the truth. Beauty's only skin deep. And transient. It's true. Nobody lives forever, Quentin of York! Take the money and run!"
Quentin darted a glance at MacLeod, then nodded to Methos. "You've taught him well, Old Man." He studied his shoes for a moment, then raised his head proudly, tossing his white-gold hair off his forehead. "Very well, I concede. Nobody lives forever. Therefore, I am well-advised to take the money and run. Who can stand against such logic?" he added, his voice dripping sarcasm.
"Quentin? Cher? You forgive me?" Lamartin asked softly. "Do you?"
"Nothing to forgive, child. Come to me."
"I do so love a happy ending, Mac, don't you?" Methos said to his companion later that night, when they were back in their apartment, lounging in their bed.
"Touch and go, Methos. I can't believe Quentin gave in. He's so - implacable."
"He's in love, MacLeod."
Mac chuckled. "I remember when you told me you'd never been with an Immortal -"
"Never married one, was what I said -"
"Okay, never married an Immortal, because you couldn't imagine loving anyone enough to spend three hundred years with them."
"Two thousand years, Methos! Quentin and Lamartin have been together for twenty centuries! And they're still in love! It boggles the mind!"
"It hasn't been all gardenias for them, Mac. Not by a long shot."
"But they love one another. Need one another. Protect each other. It's - wonderful!" MacLeod replied.
"Yeah, I guess it is," Methos said with a grin. "And of course, Lamartin has a good disposition. Gentle. Amenable to reason. He's a softy, compared to some."
"Compared to me, I suppose you mean?"
"If the shoe fits -"
"Methos, you shouldn't compare yourself to Quentin."
"No. You're a lot softer than he is. Easier to get along with."
"You're joking. I'm the original prickly pear!" Methos replied with a chuckle.
"No, you're not. You're a softy. Easy. Gentle. Amenable to reason. No trouble at all," MacLeod insisted, his arms tightening around Methos' body. "That's what I love about you."
"I don't follow. Exactly what is it you love about me?"
"So - I take it you disagree with Cassandra's assessment."
"What'd you mean?" Mac asked.
"You told me that Cass thought I was the head, Kronos, the heart - of our Merry Foursome."
"That's right. I remember now. Yes, I disagree with Cassandra's assessment. You're definitely the heart. Without your heart being in it, Kronos didn't have a chance. Between the two of you, there was altogether too much heart, and not enough head, to rule the world."
"Hmhmm." Mac smiled. "I feel bad for Erasmus, though. Quentin and Lamartin have each other. You and I have each other. He's still alone."
"Not for long," Methos said, a twinkle in his eye.
Mac turned and faced the older Immortal. "What have you done, Methos?" he asked in a serious tone, trying not to grin.
"Nothing you wouldn't do, Mac, if you'd thought of it first."
"You're matchmaking! Who?"
"Amanda! You're crazy! Rasmussen's not her type!"
"He's a man. He's her type," Methos said with a grin.
"You've got a point there. How do you plan to bring them together?"
"Oh, I dunno. We'll figure that out when she gets here."
"She's coming to New York?" MacLeod asked. "When?"
"What is it, December 6th? Should be here in -" The doorbell chimed. "Now!"
[[[ With thanks from the bottom of my heart to the skin-deep transient beauties whose identities, charm, sex appeal, stamina, and incredible good looks I've borrowed for my story: Antonio Banderas (Lamartin of Bordeaux/Antonio); Leonardo Di Caprio (Quentin of York/Leonardo); Lance Henriksen (Erasmus Minor/Edward Rasmussen); Peter Wingfield (Methos Valerius/Adam Pierson); and of course, Adrian Paul (Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod). At the moment, I have no plans to return them to themselves - I need them again, for another tale. ]]]
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