(A Highlander/Highlander Crossover)
by Meredith Lynne
Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod was deeply concerned about his kinsman. Much more so, actually, than the situation warranted--but then, the Highlander had just finished his fifth scotch, neat, and was more than a little intoxicated.
Both Highlanders were, in truth. But Connor MacLeod -- the *other* one -- was pushing the envelope.
"Connor, tell me you're not going to drink that!" Duncan looked from Connor's drink -- a neon green concoction that gave off wisps of vapor and a faint, sickly glow -- to Joe Dawson, the man who had poured it. Dawson smirked, and looked away.
"I am!" Connor replied with great, albeit slurred, dignity. "Watch me."
Connor MacLeod was an Immortal. A Scotsman. A Highlander.
It was almost, but not quite, enough. His body struck the hardwood with a clatter, the sword he had tucked God-knows-where making a metallic racket against the floor.
Duncan glared at his Watcher. "Thanks, Joe. You've killed my only kin."
Beside Joe, a tall man with dark hair, darker eyes, and a frame inclined to gangle leaned forward and gripped Duncan's arm. "He'll be fine," Methos said by way of comfort. "As long as we keep him away from open flames." The smile he offered was less than reassuring.
Duncan ignored him. Sometimes that was the only thing to do when Methos was speaking. Reaching down, he fisted his hands in Connor's shirt and hauled him back into his chair. The three men watched intently until, a few seconds later, the dead man's eyes popped open and he drew a long, shuddering breath.
"Damn!" he cursed as he exhaled slowly.
"Hurt?" Duncan asked, his smile at odds with the lack of sympathy in his tone.
"No," Connor said, picking up on the sarcasm. "I'm sober."
Methos began to laugh. "That is a truly unique way to avoid a hangover, Connor," he said when he could breathe. "I'll make a note of it."
"Laugh, Old-timer," Connor said, smirking at the pained expression crinkling Methos' eyes. "We'll see how clever you are in the morning."
"Don't worry about me," Methos said, superiority etched in every line of his face. "You don't live--"
"Five thousand years," Duncan interrupted, "without learning a few tricks. We got it. We got it the first time you said it, about an hour ago, wasn't it?"
"Well, you don't," the oldest immortal said, folding his arms across his chest and settling back into his chair for a sulk.
Joe took action. Methos in a snit could depress an entire city block, and the others weren't going to be inclined to talk with five millennia of ill humor glowering at them. It wasn't as if Joe had lured them to his bar with the intention of getting them drunk and picking their brains, he told himself. It was just that a resourceful man knew how to take advantage of an opportunity.
"Methos," the watcher said, a grin playing about the corners of his mouth. "Have you ever happened across Connor's Chronicle?"
Connor MacLeod froze with his drink halfway to his mouth. "Dawson," he growled warningly. "Don't."
Noting the older Highlander's discomfort, Methos became interested in spite of himself. "No," he said. "What have I missed?"
"Only the Gathering," Duncan said, laughing. "You didn't know? Apparently, it took place in New York. Sometime in the late eighties, wasn't it, Connor?"
Methos frowned. "My invitation must have been lost in the mail."
"Duncan, must you tell this story every time I come to town?"
"It's a great story, Connor," Joe said in Duncan's defense. "It has everything. Sex. Deceit. Murder. Truly amazing special effects..."
Connor covered his face with his hands and groaned.
"So who got the prize?" Methos inquired, his voice dry.
"Connor did." Duncan grinned slyly. "Or at least, that's what he wanted his lady-friend to think..."
"Hold, Kinsman!" Connor's voice was loud enough to center attention on himself as he poured himself a double scotch from a bottle he'd found near Joe. His face was resigned as he downed the burning drink.
"If anyone's going to tell this story," he said, "it damn well better be me."
(New York, 1980's)
I'm going to die, Connor said to himself as he felt his sword knocked aside yet again. His opponent was good -- perhaps the best he'd ever seen. Ramirez had described the man as the strongest of all the Immortals, and though his mentor had tended greatly towards exaggeration, in this instance Connor did not feel inclined to argue.
Briefly, he wondered what "Kurgan" meant in Prussian. Bully? Mannerless Dolt? Really Long-Lived Lunatic?
Considering the nature of naming conventions at the time of the Kurgan's birth, however, Connor thought it quite likely he was about to be slain by a man known, in his native tongue, as "Pig-keeper's Son" or suchlike.
Their swords met and sparked again, and the Kurgan let out a long, low laugh that was both disturbed and disturbing. It set Connor's teeth on edge. Not his alone, either; from somewhere off in the darkness behind him, Connor could hear a frightened whimpering.
The woman, he thought, new energy surging into him along with renewed determination. No way am I going to lose a fight in front of a babe.
"So, you had to win, because the alternative was unthinkable."
"Shut up, Methos."
Connor landed the fatal blow casually, almost negligently. In fact, for just a moment as they looked into each other's eyes, neither Connor nor the Kurgan realized the fight was over.
Then the Kurgan tipped his head back to laugh that grating laugh, and it fell right off of his shoulders.
From the dead Immortal's neck, a pyrotechnic blast of light and sparks spewed forth, along with a crazy, snaking blue glow.
Connor blinked in the sudden brightness, just before everything exploded. Two thoughts battled for supremacy in his mind as the Quickening began to accelerate.
VERY cool, one voice murmured in wonder at the unexpected beauty of the Kurgan's life force.
A more practical voice answered, This is gonna hurt like a sonofabitch.
And the glass rained down.
(Later, in the Scottish Highlands)
"Can you tell me about the prize?" the woman asked softly.
Connor sighed. How had he let himself get in so far over his head? Telling her he was an immortal had done two things: It had gotten him laid, about which he was definitely not complaining--but it had also gotten him a "groupie" he could not get rid of no matter how he tried. Something about being with a man who could stab himself and live seemed to push all the right buttons with this woman. Who knew?
He supposed it was a matter of odds. He'd been using that "and I am Immortal" line for centuries; it was bound to work sooner or later.
He'd just severely underestimated how well it would work when it finally did.
She'd been following him around for days, which of course meant the cops had been following him around, too. Very protective of their own, these New York police. It had been a week since the battle with the Kurgan, and he hadn't felt anonymous enough to carry his sword in all that time. Too much heat, way too close. And so he'd wandered the streets of New York feeling naked, and jumping at shadows, until finally deciding to beat a strategic retreat to the hills of home.
And there she'd been, waiting for him on the plane. Seated right next to him. And she had the damned window seat, too.
Then it came to him. She was turned on by his Immortality -- Fine. His Immortality had to go.
"C'mon, Connor, tell me!" she said, whacking him on the arm and startling him out of his reverie.
"Sorry," he said. "Woolgathering."
"I just need to understand this. You can have kids now, and you're going to grow old and die like everyone else. And that's it? You killed so many people for the privilege of not living forever?" The undercurrents in her tone said very clearly, Just what kind of an idiot are you?
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. It would get her off his back -- and off of hers, incidentally -- and it would render the existence of Immortals once again secret. He'd told her the Kurgan had been the last, that the Gathering was over, that he had won the prize. he thought that if he told her the Prize was Mortality, she might go fixate on somebody else.
No such luck. She was no less vocal or ever-present. She'd just switched from telling him how wonderful and brave and sexy he was, to telling him what an ignorant, hopeless moron he was.
"I can hear the thoughts of everyone on the planet," he said, reaching frantically and at random for something that would make the Prize seem a little more valuable. A little more believable. And who knew? The true nature of the Prize was lost in the mists of time. Maybe omniscience was part of it.
"Yeah," she said. "Right."
"No, really!" he said. "Presidents, scientists, everybody. I can help them to understand each other!" As long as they're men, he added silently. If they're women, all bets are off.
Her eyes narrowed in an extremely unattractive display of cynicism. "Prove it," she said. "What am I thinking?"
God only knows, he thought with utter disgust. But then, seeing the speculative look in her eyes, he figured he could hazard a fair guess.
"You're wondering if I'm worth it, now that I'm just like you," he said. "I'm nothing special. I can be killed, I'll get old, die someday..." he lied. A sigh of regret, painfully insincere, topped off the deceit. "You can love a mortal, can't you?" he whined tragically.
"Not bloody likely..."
Her words still rang in his ears when Connor felt a prickle of awareness travel from the base of his spine to the base of his skull. As always, the sensation made him feel slightly nauseated.
Oh, shit, he said silently. What now?
They'd lost Methos somewhere in the middle of the narrative; helpless with laughter, he'd just managed to make his way on unsteady feet to the bar and climb up onto it. Now he lay stretched out on the counter, face up, tears of mirth streaming into his ears.
Duncan had never seen the ancient Immortal so obviously in the throes of genuine emotion. It was as gratifying as it was unsettling. He wished he'd had the foresight to bring a camera. Or maybe even a video camera, he reflected. Something to capture all the grating nuances of a five-thousand-year-old man's idea of a giggle.
Joe wasn't doing so well, either. The mortal man tended to be an emotional drunk; it had taken Duncan ten minutes to assuage Joe's tears when Connor had described the Kurgan's final moments. Dawson had murmured something barely intelligible about the Kurgan's probable relationship with his father, and then surrendered to a rush of alcohol-induced humanistic, liberal angst.
From the bar, Methos' slurred voice said, "Put us out of our misery, Connor...who was it?"
Duncan grinned, remembering, and answered for his kinsman.
"It was me..."
(Scottish Highlands, 1980's)
Duncan felt the presence of another Immortal just before he crested the hill. Though he was fairly sure it was Connor, of whose presence he had heard through various contacts, he nevertheless drew his sword. /You never know,/ he reminded himself.
It had been ages -- literally -- since he'd last seen or heard from his kinsman, so when reports had filtered back that Connor had shown up at an airport near Glenfinnan, Duncan had caught the first plane out of Seacouver.
They met at the top of the hill, swords bared, grinning.
"Duncan!" Connor shouted. "What are you doing here?"
Duncan laughed, thrilled at the sight of his only living kin. "I've come to see if you've been practicing, Connor!" he shouted back over the clash of blade against blade. "Watch your head!"
Metal sang as their swords met again and again, following the steps of the deadly, ancient Dance Connor had shown Duncan long ago. "How long has it been, Duncan?" Connor demanded. "A hundred years? Two hundred?"
"Something like that," the younger MacLeod answered.
His next stroke never touched Connor's blade; he was halted in his tracks by a high-pitched shriek of rage and indignation.
A yellow-clad, sandy-haired harrigan was barreling toward Connor; momentum knocked the man over with the she-demon perched on his chest.
"Eager little thing, isn't she, Connor!" Duncan said, laughing. "Can it not wait til after I have his head, Lass?"
The woman looked up with fury in her eyes and scrambled to her feet. "Get in line," she hissed. Drawing back a foot, she slammed it into the fallen Highlander's ribs twice in rapid succession.
"Global telepathy, huh?" she growled, aiming now for his kneecaps. "Cosmic unity? You lying son of a bitch..."
Though greatly amused and highly intrigued, Duncan could hardly allow the woman to continue abusing his kinsman unchecked. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted, her kicking and screaming useless against his superior strength.
Connor climbed gingerly to his feet.
"You all right?" Duncan inquired, trying not to smile.
"I think she broke a rib," Connor complained.
"Good!" the woman spat. "Let me go!" she howled at Duncan. "I was just getting started!"
"Now look!" Connor shouted, moving close. "Did I ask you to follow me all over New York? Did I ask you to harass me at my office and my home? NO! Those were your choices!"
"You lied to me," she answered, her voice almost breaking as she strove to control her anger. "God, was any of it true? Immortals, the Game, the Gathering? You said you were the last; this oaf here proves that a lie!"
Duncan was offended. He was, he felt, being as charming and personable as he could under the circumstances. He looked up, and at a silent signal from Connor, decided to remain silent.
"All lies," Connor said succinctly. "You were easy."
Even Duncan's strength was sorely tested as the woman renewed her efforts to break free and do Connor serious harm.
"But I saw you die!" she cried in frustration, confused.
"Trick blade," Connor said.
"There was blood everywhere!"
"Fake. It's never exactly the right shade of red."
"And the man in the garage?"
"Oh, somebody toasted him, all right. I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Kurgan! There were lights, and his head flew off..."
"Clever lights and mirrors. We're part of a re-enactment society. My kinsman here is part of it, too. Nobody really died."
The woman sagged in Duncan's arms. "I don't believe any of this."
"It's all true," Duncan said earnestly. "D'you want to see my sword?"
"I want to go home," she said wearily. "Get me the hell off this mountain."
(Present Day, Joe's)
"...and so we put her on a plane and came back to the States," Duncan finished.
Methos, having recovered slightly, was now sitting cross-legged and barefoot on the bar, Joe having warned him of the consequences of scuffing the wood he kept so diligently polished. "She actually bought it?" he said, incredulous. "She thought you were, what, in the SCA or some such?"
Joe managed a laugh. If anyone really belonged in the Society for Creative Anachronisms, it was Methos.
"No idea," Connor said. "Not that it mattered. She didn't have any proof."
Methos tilted his head and looked speculatively at the older Highlander. "And the stabbing thing. That really worked? Do women really respond to that kind of thing?"
Duncan glared at his ancient friend. "Don' t even think about it," he warned.
Methos put on a look that seemed intended to convey innocence. "Who? Me?" He grinned wolfishly. "Perish the thought. What happened to the girl, Connor?"
Joe and Duncan turned to Connor, eyebrows climbing their foreheads, both wearing grins replete with evil glee. Connor sighed.
"She went into show business," he said. "She's a producer now. Writes most of her own stuff."
Horror invaded Methos' eyes. "You're not telling me...that was her?"
Connor nodded glumly. "All three of them."
"But she got it all wrong!" Methos exclaimed. "Breathing underwater, indeed!"
Connor nodded in agreement. "And I'm much better looking than that Lambert guy."
Methos was laughing again. "And the whole bit in the second one...Ramirez alive, for Pete's sake! We saw his head come off. Joe, you're the one who made me watch that drivel, and it almost killed me." He deepened his voice into a passable Sean Connery impression. "If your head comes away from your body...'"
"--it's over!" Duncan, Connor and Joe intoned together. Laughter once again filled the room.
"And then," Joe said, tears of laughter in his eyes, "then there was that whole thing with the distant home of the Immortals, the mysterious Planet Zeist. Where did she get this crap?"
He glanced around the table for support, only to be met with sudden, total silence. None of the Immortals could bring themselves to meet his eyes. Duncan was smiling slightly, very interested in the table. Connor had suddenly become fascinated by a specific spot on the wall across from him.
Methos looked back and forth from Connor to Duncan, lips curved into an unholy smile. "One of you planning to tell him," he said, "or shall I?" He finally met Joe's eyes, still grinning.
Joe set his glass down on the table, eyes widening. "No," he said, shaking his head. "Oh, no. No way." He turned to Duncan and Connor, eyes pleading. "Not funny, guys," he said.
"We're all foundlings, Joe," Connor said.
His wordless appeal to Duncan was met with a shrug, the Immortal's eyes filled with a silent confirmation.
Methos started to laugh in earnest. This time, he looked unlikely to recover.
Connor topped off Joe's drink, his mouth twitching into an expression of barely restrained amusement.
"Dear God in Heaven," Joe murmured weakly, downing the double scotch without thinking. "The Planet Zeist?"
Shaking his head, the Watcher pushed aside his shot glass, and reached for the bottle.