Costume Drama by jtt
Summary: "You are cordially invited to Robert and Gina de Valicourt's costume ball. Formal attire befitting your first century required. Weapons will be checked at the door. Please take all challenges off the grounds." Cameos of as many Immortals from the show I could cram in and loads of Watchers. HL Shortcuts gift to Lferion.
Rating: All Audiences
Categories: Short Stories
Characters: Amanda, Duncan, Joe, Methos, Other canon character(s)
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: Author's Notes: I admit to being a costume freak and cosplayer, so here is my take on the old 'let's get the Immortals to dress in the fashions of their youth' scenario. Other authors who have done this before are as follows: Tazlet wrote a hysterical oneshot that is rated M, I think. The highlander community forum has a Halloween chain story by Islandkat, MathPiglet, Lady Nordré, Saber Dog, Evan Star, Cyrus the Great, Karlin Pierson, moonglum, and Zephyr. I think Ecolea did something similar in a wedding scene. There is one more, but I cannot remember the author now nor find the story. I only remember it had Watchers disguised as servers at a costume party. Please tell me if you know that story!
“What do you mean, you aren't going?” Amanda asked in surprise as she opened a box marked kitchen that instead was full of clothes.
Amanda was moving into her new flat in Paris and she'd wheedled Duncan MacLeod into helping her unpack her belongings. The place was fully furnished and only two flights of stairs to walk for the older building lacked a lift. It didn't stop Mac from grumbling about being her pack horse when he saw it.
“I thought you liked the de Valicourts' parties?” she called out, louder this time.
“I do. It's the dress code I'm not keen on this time,” MacLeod explained as he followed her into the room with yet another heavy box. “I don't want to wear a kilt.”
“You can pick anything from from your first century,” she said as though that was perfectly reasonable. “You could go in the cavalier fashion the noblemen wore then.”
“Even worse,” he scoffed before resorting to a new excuse. “Besides, my hair is too short now and I hate wigs.”
“So is mine and that didn't seem to bother you when wigs were fashionable. How about we go wig shopping together?”
“Shopping? With you?” he asked as he stared at the large collection of clothing she already possessed.
“Oh, don't be a spoil sport. It only says formal, not culturally correct. Instead of Scottish, what about the pastels and lace Italian style you wore when we met?” she suggested and waved a black lace cocktail dress in his direction before hanging it up. The previous flat occupant had converted the second bedroom into a clothes closet after finding the wardrobes too small to hold everything. It was likely the reason Amanda chose the place.
Mac only grunted negatively in reply this time with a look of disgust on his face.
“Is the kilt starting to sound reasonable? Come on, it isn't as though I'll be any better off. The gowns of my youth aren't especially attractive, no cleavage at all. Even the finer clothing style I wore while living with Rebecca will take a hell of a lot of jewels to make it formal by today's standards. Take pity on me. Let's go to the ball.”
“I'll give you my invitation if you want to go so badly,” he said balefully. “I'm sure Robert and Gina would understand.”
She tried a new tactic and asked, “What if Methos attends, too? Would you go then?”
MacLeod laughed long and loud in disbelief. He nearly knocked the clothes hangers off.
“I'm serious,” she said plaintively with her hands on her hips.
“He'd never do it, not in the correct costume anyway. It'd give away his age. How do you know if he's even been invited?”
“I don't, but surely Robert and his wife will invite all their Immortal friends,” she replied instead. “Didn't you say Methos helped you get them back together for their most recent wedding?”
“And gave me nothing but grief over it,” he muttered. “Aye, they are friends.”
“Alright, I was having trouble finding an excuse to get out of it without hurting Gina's feelings anyway,” he admitted as he turned around to fetch more of her belongings. “But Methos had better suffer alongside us in some sort of costume.”
Later that day, Amanda once again had to argue with a man about going to a party. It was enough to make her question the power of her charms.
“Are you going to the ball?”
Methos looked up at the inquiry and asked, “Amanda, what are you talking about?”
“The ball,” she emphasized as if Methos had just inquired what air or water was. “Are you going to the de Valicourts' party, Methos?”
Methos and Joe blinked at her as they lounged comfortably in Joe's Le Blues Bar. It was not yet open so early in the day, but Amanda had known they'd be here now that Methos was in town. The ancient had his feet propped up on a chair and was scribbling something in a notebook, while Joe fiddled with tuning his guitar. It was a familiar scene she'd not had the opportunity to see in awhile, but there was no time for nostalgia now. She had a mission.
“Weren't you invited? I thought you were friends with Robert and Gina?”
“I don't exactly leave forwarding addresses, Amanda. What's so special about it?”
Amanda's excited face fell a bit, so Joe explained, “It's a 'wear clothing styles from your first hundred years,' costume party.”
Methos' feet hit the floor with a bang. “Are you mad?” he asked in alarm to Amanda.
“Wear whatever you please,” she said dismissively with a wave of her perfectly lacquered fingernails. “Most won't know you're dressed in the wrong period costume and those who do are old enough to understand and keep their mouth shut about it.”
Methos was still shaking his head in refusal. “Did you know there is an average of one challenge occurring if two to five Immortals meet together and statistically three challenges for every ten Immortals in the same place. Do you have any idea how many Immortals have lost their heads leaving the de Valicourts' home? This little party will be more dangerous than their wedding receptions.”
“Everyone must leave their sword with their coats and most of of the guests are friends. Besides, you can always refuse a challenger and drive away,” she argued.
“There will be Watchers,” Methos pointed out to her. “Are you sure you want to go?”
“Ew,” she replied before asking Joe, “A bunch of your guys aren't going to be snooping around are you?”
“Not as many as you'd think. No point in making everybody stake out the de Valicourt's front gate in the cold.”
“Great!” she chirped and said to Methos, “Wear a hat to hide your face driving in. Problem solved.”
“I'm more worried about other Immortals. Watchers I can handle,” he declared.
Deciding to reuse the tactic that worked on Mac, she asked, “What if I convince MacLeod to go?”
“Come on! Don't you want to tease MacLeod for showing up in a kilt?”
“And lose my head for it?”
“It would mean the world to Joe,” she pointed out.
“Yes, it would mean the world to Joe,” echoed Joe.
Methos' expression became calculating as he looked from Joe to Amanda. “On one condition,” he said. “Joe gets a photo of himself standing next to MacLeod and Mac had better be wearing the full Highland get up.”
“Consider it done.”
“I'll ring Robert for an invitation then.”
“No need, you can go with me,” Amanda answered in delight and proudly said, “I received an invitation months ago.”
That statement made Joe ask suspiciously, “Since when are you friends with Robert and Gina?”
“Since she finally stopped being jealous over nothing,” replied Amanda hastily. “I was never after Robert, I swear.”
“Just his gold.”
MacLeod picked at the hem of his newly acquired kilt, shipped overnight directly from Scotland no less. One more excuse he couldn't have used to get out of this costume ball. Only the knowledge that many of his fellow Immortals would be just as uncomfortable in their various outfits would help him get through this night.
The return of Amanda from the washroom banished all other thoughts from his mind.
“It's horrible, isn't it?” she asked timidly.
He couldn't disagree more. Though he'd gone shopping with her, she hadn't permitted him to see her dressed in her outfit until now. True, the white linen kirtle and deep burgundy over gown didn't flatter her curves in the slightest. Though it lacked the ribbons and lace he knew most of the women (and many of the men) would be decked out in tonight, she'd more than compensated. A band of floral-patterned, metallic fabric trimmed the hem, cuffs and neckline with a matching length for a belt. Such designs were once embroidered directly into the fabric with real gold and silver thread she'd explained to him while choosing it. Her long brunette wig emphasized her beautiful face and, in the absence of other distractions, she looked very young and innocent. Chivalry made him want to sink to his knees, take her hand delicately and vow to conquer the world for her.
“You are more lovely than the dawn,” he said tenderly to reassure her nerves.
As she murmured her thanks, just a hint of pink rose in her cheeks. Very little caused world-wise Amanda to blush even slightly. Seeing herself as she once was affected her. He felt the same from wearing his family's tartan for the first time in many years. It made them both self-conscious and feel almost like children again. Or as close to childhood as possible with Immortals.
“If you could help me, um... choose,” she stammered as she held out the jewelry in her hands for his inspection.
They were genuine Anglo-Saxon pieces in pristine condition as though they were made yesterday. They consisted of gold bangles inlaid with precious stones and long swags of amber and garnet beads.
“This,” he said softly, singling out the finer wrought set, “to match the sparkle in your eyes.”
Her eyes began to glisten as he called attention to them and he helped her put the jewelry on.
“These were once Rebecca's?” he asked softly.
She nodded and he gently brushed away a stray tear from her cheek. Their sorrowful remembrance of her teacher was interrupted by the arrival of an Immortal. They turned to see Methos, right on time for a change and so thoroughly cloaked from prying eyes he was likely only drawing more attention to himself... and with Joe in tow. MacLeod sighed. He hadn't wanted to deliberately dodge Joe who, as evidenced by his enormous grin, was thrilled to see him dressed as he once did in his youth. But he couldn't bring himself to ask his friend over to see his costume either because well... Joe was still a Watcher.
After seeing the effort Amanda put into looking authentic when they were shopping, MacLeod decided to also take the invitation's specifications to heart. This meant not wearing the modern version of the formal kilt... no jacket, bow tie or hose. Certainly no frills of the sort Kristin once stuffed him in either. However, his boots were from a local shop and though tall and made of leather, bore no other resemblance to his boots four hundred years ago. His old, but polished pin to hold his hired kilt, a leather sporran and plain white shirt wouldn't look fancy next to a tuxedo. It was at least accurately formal for his social status at that time. Even with a few extensions Amanda added for him, his hair was shorter than he'd ever worn it as a young man, but it was enough to pass for a party. He absolutely refused to don another wig.
MacLeod sighed again as he felt the eyes of his friends rake over him. “Would you like me to twirl?” he asked more sardonic than sarcastic.
“Sorry, Mac. This is awesome, better than I ever could have imagined and Amanda,” Joe said with emphasis. “You are the icing on the cake, you are so gorgeous.”
Amanda draped her arms around Joe and lightly kissed him in reply to his praise. Methos said nothing, just continued to look at the three of them from where he was sprawled on the sofa.
MacLeod cleared his throat to forestall Amanda from overdoing her thanks. Though he was always pleased when a woman by his side was admired, he knew Amanda might embarrass Joe by gleefully flirting.
Addressing the silent arrival of the old man seemed the wisest choice. “What costume did you choose, Methos? It looks like you're wearing a tent.”
“Wasn't easy to find something difficult to pin a date to, but still fitting the intent of the party,” he replied and spread his arms draped in beige cloth. “This is it.”
MacLeod and Amanda frowned in disappointment. They weren't the only ones as Joe said, “I dunno, I still say it looks like you bought a cheap Jedi costume.” At the Immortals' blank looks he added, “You know, the Star Wars movies? Never mind.”
MacLeod never received a straight answer from Amanda about how she'd convinced Methos to do this and now it looked like the old man wouldn't be overly bothered by it at all. It wasn't too different from a cassock MacLeod once wore when living with monks, only less fitted and lacking a belt. Like himself, Methos chose modern footwear judging by the tread of the soles the man was resting on the table in front of the sofa. Of course, he hadn't truly expected Methos to show up in something obviously dating from the ancient world and he ought to applaud the man for not just wearing a suit and tie. Or worse, his usual jeans and oversized shirt. But still, it left MacLeod feeling like he'd gotten the bad end of a deal.
“I'm not sure it counts as formal?” Amanda criticized hesitantly.
“Trust me,” said Methos with a pointed look, “wearing clothes at all was formal back then.”
“Okay,” MacLeod said quickly in embarrassment. “We can all take my car if you like,” he offered to the others before saying to Joe, “I'm sorry I didn't think to ask you to come as my guest. The invitation allowed for mortals who know about us, but well...” he nodded the side of his head towards Amanda indicating she was his date. “And we already planned dinner at your place tomorrow...”
“I understand, MacLeod. Just let me get a photo with you and I'll get out of your hair.”
“Oh, no, no...” he quickly protested.
“I promise the Watchers will never see it. It'll go to you when I'm gone. Please?”
When put like that, MacLeod found he couldn't keep refusing. He quickly found himself and Amanda on either side of Joe, grinning in spite of himself, while Methos took their picture. Then he even allowed one of himself alone and another with Amanda, having fun posing for the camera.
Of course, it wasn't until he was driving along the streets of Paris that it occurred to MacLeod that the old man managed to avoid being in any of the photos. Typical.
The glitzy entry hall of Chateau de Valicourt was crowded and awash with the 'buzz' of many Immortals as MacLeod handed over his invitation. He was momentarily surprised to see Amanda produce one of her own before he was thoroughly distracted by the lovely Angelina de Valicourt stepping over to greet him on the arm of Robert. She was wearing a pinned back russet gown with a long waist in mid-seventeenth century style and a string of pearls that disappeared under masses of ringlets on either side of her neck. Robert was in an earlier fashion complete with a ruffled lace collar and more embroidery than his wife's dress.
Only Immortals were sent invitations, but most appeared to have a guest and a few looked to have obtained permission to bring their entire adopted mortal family. Others were with a spouse, close mortal friend or their current student. Only a few were alone.
Everyone's apparel was spectacular. Mostly covering the last two thousand years of styles, it was enough to make any fashion designer or textiles historian weep with pleasure. Not everyone was conscientious about complete historical accuracy, though.
A passing guest was explaining the shape of her gown with, “...layers of petticoats sure, but a corset? Never again!”
Likewise, a man dressed in the late Roman Empire's style was defending his long hair to another guest by saying, “I'm not cutting it all off for one party...” He was followed by an elegant mortal woman and her two nearly grown up daughters, judging by their resemblance to her. They looked wide eyed and excited to be here, though their shiny satin and rhinestone encrusted gowns looked very odd next to his pallium.
“Duncan?” called out an oozing voice that made him cringe. It was unpleasantly familiar and he wished he was anywhere else when he turned around to see who it was.
“Carolyn and Terence,” MacLeod said, plastering a polite smile on his face. “I had no idea you were friends with Robert and Gina.”
The infamous romance novelist was decked out in something from the Regency era, probably hired from one of those costume houses that supplied the Jane Austen movies. She did not match her Immortal husband. MacLeod was surprised to see Terence Coventry wearing a floor length mantle that looked like a plainer version of the clothing showcased in Byzantine portraits. He didn't know that Terence was that age. At least the man looked as uncomfortable as MacLeod felt. Though it might have more to do with his wife's behavior than the outfits.
Carolyn toyed with her beautifully arranged coiffure as though hoping he'd compliment it and was getting much too close as she cooed over his kilt. But he had an ally in Terence, who after murmuring meaningless pleasantries, practically dragged his mortal wife away. Not seeing Amanda or Methos anywhere, MacLeod took off alone for the opposite side of the large ballroom.
There was no announcer. Despite that lack of masks, the arrangement of the party was like that of a masquerade. Probably for the best that way. The crowd was a bit small to be properly termed a ball, though that was likely because not everyone invited was able or willing to attend. There were fewer than seventy people, even if you counted the staff and musicians. If he took a guess there were between twenty and thirty Immortals here tonight. Not the largest number of Immortals he'd ever seen in one place. Sean Burns' hospital often treated more Immortals than that at any given time. It was still very unusual for their kind. He didn't recall ever seeing so many Immortals present at the de Valicourts' weddings, but then they made up for it with many mortal friends. Still, so many overlapping Immortal sensations would make it more difficult for some Immortals to pin point who was mortal and who wasn't mixed in the crowd.
To avoid Carolyn Marsh, he found a group of people along the far wall to conceal him from the view of the rest of the room. His new position made it impossible not to overhear the group talking, but he tried not to until he heard the next question.
“Who is the oldest Immortal you've met?” asked a woman behind him.
That snippet of conversation caught MacLeod's full attention and he slowly looked over to see the speaker was a mortal Italian woman, likely between sixty and seventy years old, and dressed in a modern formal gown befitting her age. What astonished MacLeod was that she was standing next to Danny Cimoli who was wearing a tuxedo with a rather silly red-lined cape. After Danny refused his offer to secure a teacher for him, MacLeod didn't expect him to still have his head. Also in the group were three other Immortals. Ceirdwyn hadn't seen him yet and was standing beside one of her former students, Akua. A tall African woman, she generally went by the name Alexandra Racine nowadays and only shared her real name with friends. The other was a man in elaborately layered Chinese robes with his back to him who hadn't spoken yet.
“As in friendly with or fought?” asked Akua in return. She was dressed in a blue and yellow polonaise with many flounces on her silk skirt in the style she grew up wearing. In a nod to her African heritage, she wore a fantastic yellow head wrap that expanded like a rose.
When the mortal woman looked uncertain, Akua elaborated and said, “I took the head of a 2,100 year old shaman from Peru. However, I was friends with Darius, God rest his soul. He was about 1,900 or thereabouts.”
Akua paused and looked over at Ceirdwyn. MacLeod knew Ceirdwyn to be nearly two thousand years old herself and suspected that Akua was waiting to see if Ceirdwyn would reveal her age or not.
“Rebecca was the oldest I knew before she died,” Ceirdwyn offered instead. She looked fierce in her Iceni warrior clothes, furs and gold torc. Most wouldn't know when or even where her costume style originated, however. “She was an ancient, three thousand years at least, but I don't know for sure.”
“Any still living that you've met who are ancient?” the woman asked, making her previous question more specific. Danny shuffled his feet uneasily at her forcefulness, but looked like he wouldn't dream of arguing with her.
No one seemed inclined to reply. Not everyone was comfortable with giving away the ages of their friends to other Immortals they didn't know well.
“Please pardon my mother,” said Danny apologetically. “Neither of us have met many Immortals before tonight and, given that I've not been Immortal long, she is curious about others.”
“The oldest Immortal I know,” said the Chinese man in a deceptively bland tone, “sprawls as though he grew up without chairs and never learned how to properly sit in one. He also drinks all my beer... I've taken to living on holy grounds that do not permit alcohol to limit his visits.”
MacLeod was unpleasantly surprised to recognize the voice as that of Kiem Sun, his once friend turned enemy who he vowed to kill if they ever met again. He couldn't have picked a worst time to encounter the man. Gina would be horrified if he took the head of another guest. Since when was Kiem friends with Methos, if that is who he was referring to? Or Robert and Gina for that matter? Or had Kiem arrived as someone's date? MacLeod had never seen Kiem at the de Valicourts' weddings. He was now stuck with a dilemma. Did he keep his word and possibly spoil the party? Or be polite and treat his friends' home with the same respect he accorded holy ground? Even if it meant letting an evil man go for a second time?
Oblivious to their eavesdropper, Ceirdwyn replied, “I know a guy like that. Bit of the nomadic type, I think. Likes to show up unannounced and doesn't mind if the only place to sleep is my sofa.”
“Or hay loft,” Akua added with a smile.
“Yes,” Ceirdwyn laughed at the shared joke between them. “Though I don't why he was as desperate as that. He brings his own beer since I prefer wine.”
“Sounds like that friend of Danny's teacher,” said Danny's mother. “He never calls or writes to let Vrej know he is coming to visit. Somehow I always end up offering him my spare room.”
“It is kind of you to take pity on him,” Danny replied. “Yes, Doc doesn't leave until the beer is gone either.”
MacLeod couldn't hold his peace any longer. He stepped over saying, “I hope you will pardon me, I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. You all know an Immortal that seems familiar to me as well. Hello again, Alexandra and Ceirdwyn. This is your mother I presume, Danny?”
“Yes,” the woman confirmed and introduced herself. “Bianca Cimoli.”
Danny smiled at MacLeod. Though their only meeting was brief, MacLeod had concluded that Danny was the type who grinned through everything. He also wouldn't leave his adopted mother, as MacLeod recalled, and had obviously told her about his immortality.
MacLeod had the pleasure of seeing Kiem look thoroughly startled at his arrival. The Chinese man was quick to conceal it however. Their fierce stare down of each other was interrupted by Ceirdwyn's usual sarcasm as she glanced between the two of them.
“Not hunting are you, Duncan?” she asked.
“Doc is at this party tonight,” he said instead of answering her question. “Has he ever told any of you his age?”
Methos wasn't the type to reveal his age to other Immortals or even to admit to being old, in his experience. However, he also was well aware that Methos hadn't actually introduced himself when they'd first met either. MacLeod sensed a powerful Quickening as he'd approached and took a guess at the ancient's name. Only after that, did Methos confirm he had lived over five thousand years. Not before. It made him wonder what Methos might have told him instead. What did Methos tell these people who hadn't made such a guess?
“Well, no, he never gave me an exact year for his birth,” answered Danny. “But he implied several hundred and I believe him just from the things he and Vrej reminisce about.”
“More like a couple thousand, if he is the same man I know,” quipped Kiem Sun before saying coldly, “What a surprise to see you here, MacLeod.”
“Isn't it?” MacLeod replied tersely. “How do you know Doc is so old, Kiem?”
“Deduction,” was Kiem's answer before turning to the youngest Immortal in the group and explaining, “You'll find, Cimoli, that should you grow powerful enough, whether by virtue of maturity or from taking Quickenings, you will become more discerning. Immortals I know to be old treat your 'Doc' with respect, yet he is not a head hunter. Age is the only explanation left for his power.
“Are you able to determine strength, Miss Racine?” Kiem addressed Akua. Apparently he was not privileged with knowing her real name. It reassured MacLeod that perhaps Kiem didn't know Methos' true name either.
“Lately, Immortals do sometimes feel different,” Akua said thoughtfully.
“Danny, Immortals feel the same to you, correct?” Ceirdwyn inquired.
“Yes, of course. All of you feel the same to me.”
Kiem nodded and said, “Whereas I can sense that the Highlander here is powerful, though I am nearly twice his age. It isn't a definable amount. If he and Doc stood together, I could not detect who was the stronger of the two. Curiously, Ceirdwyn here feels neither powerful nor weak, as though we've become equals since we last met. Been playing the Game more than usual?”
“Haven't we all of late?” was Ceirdwyn's defensive reply. She then diverted the conversation by asking, “Danny, have you ever sensed someone with the potential to become Immortal?”
“Your perception of that too will improve in time.”
MacLeod at last spotted Methos moving by in the crowd with Amanda on his arm. Now that the discussion had turned away from the man's possible age, he felt safe calling out, “Doc! Over here!”
Methos' head turned at once at the title and his face lit up with joy as he recognized the people behind MacLeod. Thinking over what Kiem said, he had to agree that Methos was powerful. MacLeod knew it the day they met, it was why he'd guessed Methos' name. MacLeod hadn't given much thought to this awareness and couldn't even say for sure when it had started, it had come on so gradually in recent decades. It made MacLeod wonder if he'd be mistaken as old himself by other Immortals who didn't know his name and age, but could sense his power. He was certain that the majority of Immortals he met in recent years were weaker than himself. Even when he met Kenny, the Immortal boy felt weaker than himself despite that he was eight hundred years old. It was the reason he'd at first believed Kenny's story about being newly Immortal.
That thought reminded him unpleasantly of his first challenge against Xavier St. Cloud, who initially rejected him as not worth his time. MacLeod was less than a century old when they met, but had not revealed his age. St. Cloud had implied he was a child and even Amanda had called him a green boy upon their first meeting. They were both many centuries old when he met them, old enough to have gained the ability to detect power. MacLeod's lack of it at the time let them guess correctly that he was most likely young and certainly hadn't taken many heads yet.
As MacLeod's thoughts raced, Amanda came to stand beside him. They watched quietly as Methos showed he did indeed know Danny Cimoli.
“Danny! Good to see you, is Vrej also here tonight?”
“He is,” said Danny as he shook Methos' hand. “What's up, Doc?”
“And Bianca, how is your ranch?”
Bianca said, “Very well, you must come visit us in the spring.”
Methos planted a kiss on Bianca's hand. MacLeod rolled his eyes a little at that before staring as Methos proceeded to greet and shake hands with Akua, Ceirdwyn and then Kiem as well. Mercifully, he did not try to kiss their hands.
“How are you?” he addressed Ceirdwyn,
“Good. And you?” she replied with polite formality.
He nodded and moved on to Akua. “Still keeping your student busy, I trust?”
“Oh yes,” replied Akua. “Leslie is probably shopping for a new teacher as we speak in the hope of getting some relief.”
“And Kiem,” Methos said. “I heard a rumor that you defeated Ranlu and then let him go?”
“You know how rumors are,” Kiem evaded.
Though they looked pleased to see him, they weren't as enthusiastic as Bianca and Danny. Nor were they inclined to extend 'Doc' an invitation to visit their homes in the near future. MacLeod backed off, leaving Kiem a nasty glare that promised death if the man caused any trouble this evening, but he still felt undecided on what to do about the man. Methos was wrapped up in speaking with Akua and Ceirdwyn. Though he was aware that Methos must have met many Immortals, it still surprised him. He didn't seem the sociable type. Not to mention, it was bizarre that Methos would be well acquainted with other Immortals at this party who weren't aware they all knew the same man.
Amanda was mercifully willing to walk with him. He thought it odd that she'd separated from him before. It wasn't like his date to abandon him the moment they entered a party. Or perhaps she'd also caught sight of Carolyn and bailed. He wouldn't blame her for that.
“Amanda?” he said. “Did you know he had friends here?”
“We all have friends here and probably a few enemies as well,” she answered bemused as she glanced back between Kiem and MacLeod with a knowing look.
“No, I mean... he knows everyone back there well enough that they welcome him into their homes,” he said gesturing towards Methos still in conversation with them.
“So do you, when your friends show up. Nothing wrong with that. It's safer to stay the night with a friend when traveling. No paper trail of records and no hotel staff that might be bribed into answering questions about guests. Difficult to be tracked. I've gratefully crashed at your place for the same reason when hunted by Immortals.”
“Or by police,” MacLeod quipped even as it made him think.
“That, too,” she admitted reluctantly.
He'd always assumed Methos took advantage of his hospitality, not that the man might not always have a choice. That sometimes Methos must rely on the kindness of friends and acquaintances rather than book a hotel. Sure, Methos rented a flat of his own when settling down in a place, but likely only did so when he felt secure. It was a depressing thought, for MacLeod enjoyed staying with friends and not out of necessity for his safety.
“You know how he avoids Immortals,” he said. “It's hard to imagine him depending on many of us. And what about the Watchers? They'd wonder who he was.”
“Maybe he sometimes stays with mortals? He's visiting Joe this week and he's good at slipping by Watchers. Why is this bothering you? He'd have to live in a cave to never see any Immortals his entire life. Even I met him before you did.”
“Wait, you said you and he weren't friends when I introduced you?”
“We weren't. That didn't mean I didn't know him at all,” she explained at his flabbergasted look. “I just didn't know his real name... thank you again telling me that by the way. It explained a lot about him and Rebecca.”
“What about him and Rebecca?”
“I'll tell you later. Dance with me, Mac,” she said quickly as she dragged him out onto the polished floor.
Back to index
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Author's Notes: Yes, I threw in a Bugs Bunny line. I grew up on Looney Tunes. Be glad it wasn't my second favorite, 'meep, meep!'
After putting in a minimal appearance at the chateau, Methos decided to look in on the Watchers. All it took was a swift change in wardrobe. His clothes underneath the ridiculous robes were much like what the Watchers were wearing tonight. Practical for uncertain weather and in dark colors to better blend into the night. Satisfied that his appearance wouldn't instantly give him away as an Immortal, he tucked his bundle of robes under one arm and stepped into the carriage house.
Unbeknownst to the de Valicourts or their other guests, a Watcher party was taking place inside the carriage house. It was a much smaller affair. Unlike most of their Immortal assignments inside the chateau, the Watchers didn't bring along dates or family and a few of the junior Watchers were absent. Someone had to actually watch the chateau's gate, even if they did it in shifts to not entirely miss out on the fun.
The carriage house's purpose for storing transportation related vehicles had fallen into disuse in recent decades. As chauffeurs became less common and the de Valicourts grew to like driving for themselves, they added a garage directly to the chateau rather than trek across the grounds to get a car. Now crates lined the far wall storing who knew what of the de Valicourts' property. An assortment of lawn care equipment sat by one of the original carriage doors. Other than that, the space was relatively empty.
Perfect for a secret party.
The atmosphere was cozy and relaxed. Large space heaters were keeping it warm and colorful streamers hung from the rafters. Food and drinks as good as what could be had in the chateau were on the tables here. Someone's portable music device was playing in a corner and there was plenty of happy chatter. Methos selected some refreshments, weaving around the Watchers as though he belonged there.
Methos intended to enjoy himself. Stroll in and greet Joe and his own Watcher, Joe's daughter Amy. Then watch them scramble to shoo him out without alerting their fellow Watchers around them. Oddly, Joe was nowhere in sight. Amy was over by the music with her back to him, chatting with other Watchers about her age. As neither Joe nor Amy were where they could see him apparently, he abruptly changed his plans. Keeping the crowd between himself and Amy's back, he crossed the room to a short ladder. He climbed it to a loft that afforded a good view of the room and a window overlooking the grounds. Anyone else noticing him would just think he was one of them looking to find a good place to keep an eye out for Immortals. He stowed his bundle of robes, lounged comfortably and proceeded to watch the Watchers unseen.
When Joe did make an appearance, he spotted Methos rather quicker than Methos anticipated given how well the many decorations hanging from the rafters shielded him from sight. Joe looked exasperated, but quickly schooled his face as he approached.
“How did no one see you come in here? How did Amy miss it?” Joe demanded in a hiss as he tried to not to be obvious that he was talking to someone perched above his head.
Methos leaned over the edge, pushing one colorful streamer out of his way as he said, “Just one of my many talents, Joe.”
“Did you wait for me to take a leak so you could sneak in? What are you doing here?”
“Enjoying the party, what's it look like?”
“Don't do this to me, man,” pleaded Joe. “You belong next door.”
“Too many Immortals over there,” Methos said disdainfully. “Let me stay? I promise to be quiet.”
“No,” Joe growled, looking up at him quickly before going back to pretending he wasn't having this conversation. “How did you get past our lookout anyway?”
“You mean the kid smoking outside the kitchen door? Smelled him long before he'd ever see me.”
As Joe groaned over that, Methos felt the sensation of an Immortal approaching. Not expecting it, Methos hastily glanced out the window and just caught sight of MacLeod turning the corner of the carriage house... where the side door was. “Oh, no,” he said in warning to Joe. “The Highlander is about to make an entrance.”
“What here?” Joe asked in alarm. “Why?”
“I don't know. But now that he's sensed me, you know he'll investigate.”
Joe was going to catch all kinds of hell from his superiors at Watcher headquarters for this. No way would they believe it wasn't his fault.
There was no time for Joe or Methos to reach the small side door or even open a window to tell MacLeod to turn back. The windows faced the park and gravel drive. MacLeod walked along the other side where all the windows were above everyone's heads. None of the Watchers within the building saw his approach, hence the lookout who was supposed to be posted near the chateau's terrace, not the servants' kitchen door. A lookout who'd find himself re-shelving chronicles for Research after failing to see two Immortals go by.
The door opened quietly enough, but there was nothing inconspicuous about Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod's arrival in their midst dressed like a warrior of old. Of course, MacLeod was imposing even on a normal day when he wasn't wearing a kilt. Joe fully expected the Watcher gossips to swoon and sigh for at least a week recounting this night to others until all description of it went completely outside of reality like one of Carolyn Marsh's romance novels. It was a good thing Joe was the one writing the man's chronicles and not them.
There was a particular expression MacLeod wore on his face when he was preparing for battle and he had that look now. Well, right up until he realized he'd walked into a room full of mortals, none of which were in costume. Mortals who froze in surprise and stared. Joe could see it on his face when MacLeod deduced they were all Watchers. Then MacLeod just looked irritated. Joe could sympathize, he felt the same.
Trying and failing to act like they weren't there, MacLeod strode through the crowd of nearly twenty people. The Watchers skittered out of his way. He stopped just short of reaching Joe as he recognized a face.
“Hello again, Mr. MacLeod,” said Barbara Waverly, politely. Though he'd only seen her for a few days and years ago at that, it was rather unforgettable. Her rotten husband attempted to blackmail MacLeod into murdering her.
“Joe recruited you for the Watchers?” he asked, shocked. He threw Joe an accusatory look.
She grinned, pride evident in her eyes at becoming a Watcher. This was a happier, more self-assured woman than the one who desperately tried to defend herself from her now dead husband's machinations.
“Mac,” Joe called out, breaking him out of his astonishment.
“Didn't mean to drop in like this,” MacLeod murmured to Joe. “Amanda seemed to think there wouldn't be many Watchers around.”
“Yeah, we need to invest in a 'do not disturb' sign,” replied Joe glancing up at Methos as he spoke.
MacLeod looked up at where Methos was leaning over the edge. Apparently, he'd realized it was useless to try to remain hidden from the rest of the Watchers now that MacLeod had disrupted the party.
“Could you distract Robert and Gina for me while I get my sword?” MacLeod quietly asked Methos. “I don't want them to think I'm leaving the party early.”
“Couldn't Amanda or one of your other friends do just as well or fetch your sword for you?” Methos inquired.
“Amanda said no and when I saw you outside, I thought you'd help,” MacLeod grumbled. “Wish I hadn't tried now.”
“Who challenged you?” Joe asked.
MacLeod squared his shoulders as though bracing himself and answered, “Kiem Sun.”
“Going to whack another of my friends, MacLeod? Can't you leave him be for tonight?” Methos drawled irritably.
“He is threatening me in the park with a sword and I am unarmed,” MacLeod insisted as though that was reason enough.
“Of course, you cannot walk away from that. He ignored the de Valicourts' wishes. Shame on him.”
Evidently insulted by Methos' disgust, MacLeod began to turn away only to pause when Methos said, “Fortunately for you, I am not weaponless.”
From the crumpled pile of robes on the floor next to him, Methos removed a sword and offered the blade down to MacLeod hilt first. MacLeod stared at it for all of two seconds before accepting it with a quick murmur of thanks. Joe considered it a mercy that Mac hadn't complained that Methos also ignored the de Valicourts' request that weapons not be carried about in their home. There was a time Mac would have taken offense. Joe was left wondering why the old man had gone from trying to dissuade MacLeod to arming him.
MacLeod passed the silent Watchers with as much dignity as possible given the situation. Even knowing that all of them were likely to scramble for the best viewing locations to watch him and Kiem Sun fight for their lives wasn't enough to deter him from going into battle.
Joe's phone rang loudly in the silence after MacLeod's exit. “Yeah,” he answered it and then rolled his eyes as he heard the voice of the lookout who finally noticed an Immortal roaming about on the grounds. “Thanks, John. We're already aware of it. Try a little more watching and a little less flirting with the kitchen staff, will you?”
The other Watchers were huddled around the windows set into the large carriage doors, the shorter women standing on chairs to see. Someone hit the off button on the stereo and another turned out the lights as everyone began to pull out their night vision scopes. The fight out on the green space between the chateau and its outer wall began in the shadows, as though the combatants had no desire to step into the pools of light shining from the chateau. Joe watched MacLeod and Kiem Sun duel feverishly for nearly a minute in silence before it occurred to him that he ought to be polite and let Methos have a look, too... only to glance up to see the old man standing at the loft window avidly watching with a scope that looked exactly like his.
Joe's daughter Amy, who had joined him at the carriage door window, noticed what Methos had as well and began to ask, “Are those ours...” before Joe stealthily motioned her to be quiet. He didn't think this was a good time to object that Methos hadn't turned in his standard Watcher issued equipment when he quit.
Then Methos shifted, revealing a handgun with silencer already in his other hand. Still looking through his scope, Methos said, “Eleven o'clock, to the left of the twin trees. That's not a Watcher, is it?”
As Methos smashed a small pane of glass in the window and took aim, Joe saw the barest outline of a person crouched behind some shrubs near the chateau's old outer wall. If Methos was looking to take down the guy at that distance, he'd need a lot of luck and skill.
“Shouldn't be a Watcher, but I don't know. Could be one of Kiem Sun's guards that were hanging out by his car earlier,” Joe speculated. “He's never asked a guard to interfere after he issues a challenge. Prevent one or protect him from attacks, sure, but not when it was his idea to fight.”
Amy whispered to Joe, “Is he going to shoot that bloke over there?”
Before Joe could reply a muffled shot rang out... not from Methos, but from the man in the shrubbery. They watched MacLeod go down jerkily. There was a pop from Methos' firearm, courtesy of the silencer and Kiem Sun likewise collapsed to the grass. It made sense now that Joe thought of it, to take out the Immortal who was closer and the greater danger, than the distant mortal who apparently was a guard after all.
From the trees emerged a second mortal and the pair of them rushed forward to their boss. Methos kept his weapon trained on them, ready to shoot again if they went for the swords. But the guards either had more sense or didn't know about Immortals, for they dragged Kiem Sun's body rapidly across the grounds towards where the cars were parked. Methos and the Watchers waited patiently as MacLeod revived, picked up both swords and stormed angrily around towards the front of the chateau. Only then did Methos stow away his gun.
As the lights were turned back on, Joe asked Methos dryly, “Carrying an arsenal tonight?”
Methos looked down with half a smile. “Yes, hence the earlier tent-wear to conceal it. I wasn't going walk into a ballroom full of Immortals unarmed, no matter what the hosts wanted.”
Deciding there was no reason to linger with his hiding place ruined, Methos climbed down the ladder, his robes a slightly smaller bundle under his arm with a sword-less scabbard. He dismissed trying to open the large carriage doors nearby as impractical. Instead, he chose to walk through the gauntlet of Watchers to reach the door on the other side of the room and did so with more ease than MacLeod had. Methos knew who most of these Watchers were, though only a few had actually met him when he was a Watcher and probably didn't remember him very well. But thanks to MacLeod's nonsense, they wouldn't forget him after tonight. No help for that now.
Might as well make the best of it and have a bit of fun.
“Joe, Amy, see you later. A late congratulations on your first field assignment, Ms. Waverly. Coventry won't disappoint. Good evening, Vicky. I hope you enjoyed playing hostess again so soon.
“Anton, aren't you lucky? Working as a teaching assistant in Milos' department must be a breeze. And Julia, do you find Claudia entertaining? Is Graham still attending all her concerts, Elena? I heard Robinson is coaching Little League in Trinidad. I suppose you are only watching Derek Worth now that he's finished training, Reverend Thomas?
“Ms. Chow, I don't believe we've met. Aren't you Kiem Sun's Watcher? Pity you'll be flying back to California so soon; no doubt he'll leave Paris tonight. Dr. Fallon, nice to see you again. Working with Grace on that new vaccine must be fascinating.
“Rollo, I'm surprised to see you here. Is Vrej also doing an Elvis impersonation tour in Paris or just here for the party? I noticed he is still attempting to teach Danny. I suppose Martinez stayed behind since they were traveling together. I don't see Debra here either; has she retired and handed Ceirdwyn over to a new graduate then? And Mrs. Krause, you watch Alexandra Racine and her student, Leslie Moens, I believe?”
As he addressed each Watcher on his journey toward the door, he didn't really expect them to answer his small talk. They eyed him warily as he flaunted his knowledge of their names and that they were assigned to Terence Coventry, Robert and Gina de Valicourt, Milos Arczynski, Claudia Jardine, Walter Graham, Derek Worth, Grace Chandel, Vrej Ratavoussian and Danny Cimoli. No one spoke up to say they watched Carl Robinson or Ceirdwyn. Janie Chow and Sylvia Krause blinked at him as he made his guesses. They didn't correct him, so he must have gotten it right.
He scanned the less familiar faces in the crowd and said, “Those of you watching Seraphina, Keiko Watendabe, Amanda, Kwame Nyerere, Vahid Razi, Alicia Mackenzie, Sanjiv Gupta and Athanasius... I wish you good evening.”
Just as he was at the door, one of the Watchers Methos didn't know asked the question he was hoping for.
“Who are you?”
Now there were any number of replies Methos could give that he'd already thought of and rejected. 'An Immortal, you idiot' wouldn't do and he couldn't say 'Amy's assignment,' because that would mortify Amy and Joe. Not that the others weren't already guessing he was an Immortal at this point; it just wasn't nice to say it like that in front of Joe. Likewise 'former Watcher' would only rub salt into the wound and he was sure someone in this little group would inform the rest of that without his help. 'Not supposed to be here' was childish, but accurate. Supplying an old alias would be boring. Instead, he settled on the most thoroughly distracting response.
Knowing it would take the cleverest of the Watchers who didn't know him at least a minute to digest that bit of information, Methos ducked out the door and into the night.
MacLeod made his apologies to the de Valicourts, fetched his katana from inside and dumped Kiem Sun's sword with everyone's coats. He was pacing outside the front door waiting for the valet to return with his car when what he could only presume was Kiem Sun's vehicle sped down the lane, the tires trying to go much too fast on gravel. Good riddance. He saw Methos walking swiftly across the grounds before he sensed him approach. The old man looked as ready to leave the party as he was.
The only thing missing was Amanda.
“She's angry,” MacLeod explained as he returned Methos' sword. “I can't find her anywhere in the house. I think she's hiding from me.”
“That or she took a cab.”
“I'm not leaving her here until I'm sure.”
Methos sighed and asked, “Have you tried her mobile?”
That stymied MacLeod for a moment. He couldn't exactly call her. “I didn't bring my cell phone,” he explained.
“You should have. Useful things,” Methos chastised lightly as he fished out his own phone and held it out to him. “Ring her.”
“She might have left hers in her coat,” MacLeod replied, but he put her number into Methos' phone anyway. He was very relieved when Amanda answered. He hadn't entirely ruled out the possibility that she was in danger when he initially couldn't find her. He just hadn't wanted to sound paranoid in front of Methos.
“It's over. Let's just go home,” MacLeod said into the phone.
“Maybe I don't want to leave yet. Perhaps I'm enjoying the party,” she sniped at him on the other end.
“You didn't listen when I said 'please' earlier,” she retorted. “You ran off to fight for no good reason.”
“Perhaps I could convince her?” Methos offered in a mild tone.
Exasperated and wanting this argument resolved quickly, MacLeod looked balefully at the phone and gave it back to Methos. “Be my guest.”
Methos took it and said into the phone, “Amanda, if you ever want to see me naked in your bed, you had better meet us outside the front door. Now.”
MacLeod sputtered in shock, unable to understand what just happened. Before he could think of what to say, the valet arrived with his car.
As Methos put away his phone saying calmly, “It isn't as though the two of you are exclusive.”
“You said you didn't get romantically involved with our kind,” answered MacLeod and frowned at the cloudy night sky rather than look at Methos.
“No, I believe I indicated that matrimony with one of us would be too much of a commitment. That doesn't seem to bother Amanda.”
“I didn't know you were interested enough to proposition her.”
“I haven't, MacLeod,” he deadpanned.
MacLeod froze in the act of getting behind the steering wheel of his car and asked, “You mean she...?”
“A few years after I met you, oh, 1997 I think, she showed up at my place uninvited after midnight. She climbed into my bed and argued when I firmly — repetitively - said no. I don't think Amanda is used to being turned down, but turn her down I did. She's never brought it up again and I concluded she gave up. Then yesterday she asked me to be her date to this party. What am I supposed to think?”
As Methos climbed into the passenger seat of the car, MacLeod gaped at him. The memory of Amanda producing an invitation earlier played again in his mind. Until then, he'd assumed she was his date and the idea that she might be going with Methos never crossed his mind. He didn't recall seeing Methos holding an invitation, but then perhaps he missed it. It wouldn't be the first time the old man tried pulling his leg. Yet, it did explain how she convinced Methos to attend this party. He believed most men would be flattered to be invited by her. He recalled the time Methos had joked saying 'if you die, Amanda will be free to date.' At the time, he was sure Methos wasn't serious... now, however, that thought was highly disturbing.
They both sensed another Immortal approaching, however Methos wasn't done arguing about the situation.
“Why are you surprised, MacLeod? Is it so unimaginable that Amanda could be attracted to an older man?”
The valet opened the rear door then and Amanda slid gracefully into the car. She poked Methos' shoulder with one sharp fingernail declaring, “That was cruel.”
Methos gave her an unapologetic shrug as he said, “I know.”
MacLeod's brain was still racing too much to do more than stare blankly ahead and he couldn't drive until he sorted this mess out. It was hardly the first time that Amanda left him for another Immortal; the worst was Cory Raines. Somehow he couldn't stand the idea that it was Methos this time and he couldn't explain why. The idea was so impossible. Yet, he couldn't exactly stop them either.
“Treasure her... and yew have mine blessing,” MacLeod's accent slipped as he spoke, pain in every word.
Methos' face was completely unreadable as he nodded and said, “Thank you for being so understanding, MacLeod. I didn't know if I could refuse her again before... well, a woman scorned is nothing to trifle with.”
“What are you two talking about?” Amanda asked.
Methos turned around in his seat to announce, “MacLeod gave me permission to date you.”
“Oh, did he now?” she asked. She kicked the back of MacLeod's seat as she demanded, “Since when do you get to choose who I date? And what possessed you to pick him of all people?”
“I wasn't... that's not,” he sputtered. “Did you ask Methos to accompany you tonight?”
“Yes,” she answered automatically. “It was easier since he didn't have an invitation. Ask Joe if you don't believe me.” She caught the 'kicked puppy' look on his face in the rear view mirror and completely misinterpreted it. “Drive, MacLeod and don't pout,” she ordered him.
MacLeod put the car in gear at last and there was an uncomfortable silence for the rest of the journey across Paris. Or at least, it was miserable for MacLeod. Amanda spent the ride apparently practicing her poker face while Methos looked like he was about to nod off.
Methos couldn't resist waving as the pair left him on the curb in front of Joe's home where Joe himself was waiting for him on the doorstep. Once again, MacLeod's tendency to drive like a constipated tortoise allowed his Watcher to beat him to his destination.
Methos received neither a greeting nor a scolding for his earlier behavior around the Watchers. Instead, Joe asked, “What's this I hear about you dating Amanda?”
“Exactly what I said in the carriage house. I came to the party as her guest. End of story.”
“I mean the argument you had with Mac while waiting at the car.”
That made Methos stop and think for a moment. “The valet was listening, wasn't he? I thought I'd spotted all the Watchers tonight.”
“You should have noticed the valet was one of us first. After all, it's the easiest way to know when Immortals are leaving the party. Stop beating around the bush.”
“I'm not,” he protested.
“Does Mac know your midnight rendezvous with Amanda was entirely devoted to preventing him from fighting Steven Keane?”
Methos smirked at him, neither confirming nor denying it.
“You gonna clue them in any time soon?” Joe persisted.
“What for?” Methos replied. “Besides, if Mac infuriates her enough, Amanda might consider going on a proper date with me, not merely being her 'plus one' at a social function. That will get his attention.”
“Most guys ask the girl out.”
“Where's the fun in that?”
“Let me guess, you plan to turn her down if she does.”
“Would you?” Methos asked looking at Joe askance. “I expect an evening with her would be delightful and will open all sorts of new avenues for teasing MacLeod.”
Joe rolled his eyes. “You aren't interested in Amanda and I don't think she's into you either.”
“MacLeod doesn't know that,” he replied saucily, before suddenly sighing. He put his hands in his pockets affecting a woebegone look. “Are you kicking me out?”
Joe was instantly contrite and said, “No, of course not.” He opened the door and ushered Methos inside.
“Why did you go to the party? Was it just to torment Mac? To punish Amanda for convincing you to go? Or the opportunity to pick on Watchers?” Joe asked. “Why take the risk, Methos?”
“For you, Joe.”
“What? That's it?”
“Yeah. You asked to see MacLeod in a kilt. Amanda indicated that my attendance at the party would be necessary to bring that about.”
“You've had no trouble saying 'no' to me before. What's different this time?”
“You let me stay in your home.”
“On my lumpy sofa. You could book a nicer room anywhere in Paris.”
“Sure,” Methos admitted, “but tonight, in a city full of Immortals, not even holy ground is safer than your lumpy sofa.”
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