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.”