Old Acquaintances
by Lillian Wolfe

 

The following story is based on the characters created for the Highlander television series and is not intended as a copyright violation. Duncan MacLeod and Methos belong to Davis-Panzer Productions -- all other characters are my own creation. It was meant to celebrate the new century but my muses were off partying so it is arriving a little late. My thanks to Tiffany, Dianne and The Laundress for the speedy beta read on this.

Rated R for sexual situation and innuendo.


With a mixture of anger and worry, Methos stared at the top of the mountain slope where dark clouds were moving in quickly. Most of the skiers had already vacated the slopes, only a few coming down now. The lift was getting ready to close down soon, but no one was looking to go up the mountain anyway... except maybe a five thousand year old man who hated being stuck in snow.

//Damn MacLeod, anyway! Where the hell was he?// Methos' eyes scanned the various surfaces of the four runs that were open looking for the familiar form that was the Highlander. //Not there. Where was that girl he was with... Sophia?// He turned to look at the faces of the skiers that had already come down. Maybe he could spot one of the trio of Italian girls they had been talking with the night before. Possibly they knew where Mac was.

There... that woman looked like Marcella. He pushed his way in that direction and was surprised to see Sophia standing next to her. "Hello, girls. Remember me?" he called as he was almost on them.

Marcella grinned at him, "Of course, we remember, Adam. You didn't join us today."

He looked apologetic. "Other plans. Hey, I'm looking for MacLeod. Have you seen him?"

Sophia nodded. "Yes, we all went up for one last run. But just as we were ready to start down, he suddenly looked around and there was someone he knew. He told us to go ahead and he would be down later. He needed to go see an old acquaintance. Wasn't that how he put it, Marcella?"

"Yes. Just that way. An old 'acquaintance.'"

"So he didn't come down?" Methos was more worried now. An old acquaintance was not necessarily good news.

Both girls shook their heads as Sophia added, "No, he went off, away from the course."

"Thanks," Methos mumbled, then set off to find a ski rental. Within fifteen minutes, he was ready and was busy bribing the lift operator to let him go up before he shut the machine down. As the contraption began making the trip to the summit of this peak, Methos cursed silently and wondered how the heck he'd gotten into this situation.


Paris - Dec. 29th, 1999 - 10:08 a.m.

Frowning, Duncan MacLeod pressed the end button on his phone and leaned back against the outside wall of the barge. From here, he had a much-envied view of Notre Dame de Paris and on this unseasonably fine winter morning, with just a hint of fog from the river, it was an extraordinary sight. Horrible storms had battered the region over the past few days, so the gentleness of the day was a welcome break. He would have been more appreciative if the phone call hadn't been the fourth, "Sorry, no" response he'd gotten to his invitation. He'd pretty much run out of ladies he knew well enough to invite for a weekend of skiing and a millennium celebration. "Damn!" he cursed softly under his breath. Rachel MacLeod had been his original date but a family emergency had led to her canceling no less than two hours earlier. Since then, he'd been on the phone trying to reach someone as a last minute fill-in. Not an easy task the day before New Year's Eve.

He sighed, sifting through all the lovely women in his recent past, trying to think of one who might be free to run away for a holiday in the Swiss Alps. Even Amanda had plans already, not that he'd seen much of the now white blonde thief. She was spending most of her time in North America these days and had barely spoken to MacLeod more than a couple of times in the past few months.

Mac's eyes suddenly shifted to a focused look as he detected another Immortal and he turned to see who was approaching. Instantly, he relaxed. Methos.

For a five-thousand-year-old man, there was definitely still a spring in his step this morning. He waved at Mac and picked up his pace a bit. Looking at the tall, lean man who walked like he just won the lottery, Mac could barely recall the person he'd first met. Adam Pierson had slouched a lot, especially as matters had become more tense and dangerous within the Watchers. Now, Methos acted as if he owned the world - and maybe he did. He certainly knew a lot more about its history than anyone else alive.

"'Morning," Mac called. "Coffee's still fresh."

Methos bounded up the gangplank. "Is it real coffee or one of those flavored concoctions you've been brewing lately?"

"Colombian roast."

"Good. After that peppermint one at Christmas, I was afraid to think what you'd inflict on me next." His voice was light, teasing, and his eyes twinkled as he spoke.

"As I recall, Mr. Picky, you really liked the chocolate macadamia and the hazelnut," Mac retorted, shoving the door open ahead of his guest.

"So, who were you calling?" Methos asked, pointing to the phone as he slipped past him.

"None of your business," Mac replied with an indignant frown. Methos glanced back at him, shrugged it off as not important anyway. "What brings you by?" Mac added.

The old Immortal smiled smugly, "Coffee."

Mac laughed. It was good to enjoy a little of the old relationship with Methos, to see him relaxed and at ease again. Most especially, it was good to have him "drop" in at the barge. For a while, he'd barely come by at all and then only if Mac had invited him.

As he poured coffee and handed it to Methos, Mac considered his dilemma for a moment. Tentatively, he asked, "Methos, how would you like to spend the weekend in the mountains with me? You know, just take off for a ski weekend at a lodge?"

Methos had just settled on the futon sofa with the coffee mug held in his hands, ready to be sipped. His head jerked up sharply. "What?!" he questioned as if he couldn't believe what he'd just heard.

"I have reservations at a fantastic ski lodge in the Swiss Alps, train tickets bought... the whole weekend's paid. It'd be a great chance to spend some time together."

Methos sipped the coffee, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. "Date stand you up?"

"Family emergency."

Nodding, Methos speculated, "And you can't find another who's free for the weekend?"

Mac lips pressed together puffing his cheeks up as his eyebrows rose into a "that about sums it up look." Methos laughed. "So you want me to be your 'date'?"

"Well, not date," Mac said. "I just figured we could have some fun, do some skiing. There's bound to be some single ladies."

Methos regarded him thoughtfully. "Let me get this straight, MacLeod. Mountains... snow... pieces of fiberglass strapped to my feet as I hurtle down hills? No!"

"C'mon. Methos. There's also a warm lodge, hot buttered rums, fireplace, nice scenery, room service," Mac countered, sounding like he was trying to seduce his guest. "It's the perfect place to celebrate the new millennium."

"Are you kidding? The perfect place is Tahiti or Bora Bora. And the new millennium? Ha! What a bunch of hype! The whole calendar thing is wrong anyway, you know," Methos groused. "No one has really gotten the dates straight. Might as well draw the start date out of bucket!"

"Never mind," Mac interrupted. "We'll celebrate the new century, then. Just come with me."

Methos halted his tirade and peered at MacLeod. "Really can't get a date, huh?"

"Methos--?"

"MacLeod, I'm not crazy about skiing down mountains. Even if one of us breaks a leg, it still hurts until it heals! It's not my idea of fun."

"You don't have to ski. Just come along. I don't want to waste the tickets and the room. Besides, we haven't done anything together in a while. I promise you'll have a good time."

Methos sighed, thought about it. "No skiing?"

Mac shook his head.

"When do we leave?" The resignation in Methos' voice sounded exaggerated.

Mac grinned, pleased with the way this was going. "Tonight, the 8:35 train."

"I've got some things to do, then. I'll meet you at the station." He finished his coffee in one gulp, got to his feet and started for the door.

"Methos?" Mac waited until he turned back. "I'm glad you said yes."


December 30th, 1999 - 12:48 p.m.

Methos gazed silently at the vast expanse of white drifts and mountains that completely surrounded them as the jeep trundled up the hillside from the "quaint" little village to the ski lodge. Why had he ever agreed to this? At least it wasn't snowing at the moment. He glanced at his companion. Mac was like a little kid, a happy grin splitting his face as his eyes scanned the glistening landscape. The corners of his eyes crinkled attractively and Methos, once again, found himself wishing for more in this relationship with the Highlander. On the other hand, he probably had more than he ever expected. He was Mac's "date" for a skiing weekend at New Year's. Warmed by the thought, Methos gazed at the snow with younger eyes than a few moments before and conceded it wasn't so bad, really.

As the jeep pulled up to the lodge, Methos definitely felt more positive about this. It was a modern building with all the charm of the old lodges, but the amenities promised to be outstanding. And he wasn't disappointed. Inside, the central area was a big hall with comfortable couches and chairs surrounding a huge central fireplace. Methos easily imagined himself curled up in one of those chairs with a book and a mug of hot cocoa. For a moment, he tried to picture Mac in the chair beside him, but it was easier to see the Scot on the slopes. The huge floor to ceiling windows that faced the mountain would probably allow him to do just that.

Mac touched his arm, "Come on, let's check out our room."

Nodding, Methos followed him up the stairs and down the right wing. Mac stopped at a door on the mountain-facing side and opened it, stepping in ahead of Methos, then motioning for him to follow. A window view of the slopes greeted him as he walked into the luxury suite. A small leather sofa and dinette for two were the sparse furnishings of this main room. To the right was a separate bedroom, with a king-sized bed, Methos noted with a quick glance. On the left was a screen wall and a peek behind it revealed a cozy-sized Jacuzzi. His eyebrows went up a notch and he turned to Mac, "You were going to bring a girl here?"

"I've known her for a while," Mac said defensively.

"Uhmm, I would guess this shortened your possibles list considerably when she canceled," Methos stated, motioning to the Jacuzzi. "Does the sofa make into a bed?"

"It's a king-sized bed, Methos. I think we can share it."

Mac said it so blithely and, of course, he was right. There was plenty of room in the bed and it was only Methos who was thinking of the idea of sharing a bed with the Highlander as being a bit awkward. As Mac began unpacking, Methos followed suit and pulled two sweaters, a pair of nice slacks, four pairs of boxers, socks, and another pair of jeans out of his backpack.

"I thought you'd lost that sweater," Mac commented as Methos pulled out the off-white Aran knit that had been a mainstay of his wardrobe over the past few years.

"My favorite," Methos answered and tucked it into a drawer. "It's perfect for lounging downstairs with a book."

Rolling his eyes as if he considered Methos a hopeless cause, Mac muttered, "I hope you don't plan to spend the whole trip down there."

"Why not?"

"Look around. This is a magnificent place. Incredible scenery, other things to do besides ski--"

"You mean curling?" Methos asked, glancing out the window to a group of boys who were well into a game on a slick ice surface.

"And skating, sleighing and snowboarding."

"Let me make this clear, Mac," Methos interrupted again. "I am not a big fan of snow. Watching all this wonderful, cold activity from the lodge will suit me just fine."


December 30th, 1999 - 9:22 p.m.

Although the lodge was filled for the weekend, the main hall didn't seem too over-packed with bodies as Methos and Mac made their way into the gathered crowd. Many people clustered around the bar area, chatting and drinking. A few were parked right next to the fireplace, seeking its warmth - especially one young woman who was entirely underdressed for a winter lodge.

Methos nudged Mac, "Looks like she wanted to go to Tahiti as well."

Mac frowned disgustedly at his companion. Was he going to harp about the cold all weekend? And to think he'd actually pleaded with the old man to come... At least he'd been right that there would probably be several unattached ladies staying the weekend. Also a few single men, he added as he noted a pair of college student types working their way toward the skimpily clad woman.

"Find us some seats," Mac instructed, nearly having to shout over the noise. A new selection of music started reminding Mac of the disco era. At Methos' look, he asked, "Beer or wine?"

"Wine - white," his friend answered with a nod and plunged into the room.

By the time Mac had made it to the bar and gotten their drinks, Methos had procured a couple of seats at a circular couch that included three attractive young women. He was already engaged in a conversation when Mac arrived. The man could be charming when he tried, Mac admitted. They were, Mac noted, even before Methos noticed him, speaking Italian. Was there any language that Methos didn't speak? His Italian, Mac realized with a touch of jealousy, was fluent and current - no archaic idioms showing.

As he noticed MacLeod's arrival, Methos introduced his companions as Marcella, Sophia and Domina, three friends up from Florence for the celebration and a bit of skiing. In just a few minutes it became apparent that Methos had already made inroads with Domina. She was a computer programmer and they were into technical talk. But Sophia was eyeing the Highlander speculatively and Mac had to admit, she was beautiful. Where Domina had short, efficient, dark hair and almost black eyes, Sophia was fair with light brown, almost blonde hair falling in waves of curls to her shoulders. Marcella, another brunette with almost waist-length hair, also looked interested, although her eyes darted to Methos more frequently than to Mac. That decided it for him and as Mac asked Sophia to dance, her face broke into a radiant smile. Luckily his Italian was as good as Methos' and they conversed easily as they danced to a slow tune.

They returned to the sofa after the second dance to find Methos and Domina had vanished somewhere together and Marcella was chatting, in German, with one of the college boys. Slightly amused with the idea of Methos picking up a girl - it was so unlike him - Mac relaxed and paid his full attention to Sophia. She was an executive secretary, she told him, and a top skier. Between the dancing and the drink, Mac found himself agreeing to join her skiing party the next day.

Upstairs, in Domina's room, Methos grunted slightly, murmuring, "This is awkward, Domina. Opening's too small."

"It's standard size," the Italian woman answered knowledgeably.

Methos straightened from where he was hunching down. "My fingers are too big. I can't fit them in. Do you have a pair of tweezers?" He turned the computer around so that he could look at the diskette opening more easily.

She nodded, reaching for her travel kit. As she handed the requested item to him, she leaned down to watch. Carefully, he inserted the tweezers, caught the diskette, working his way along the edge, squeezing the tweezers gently, then pressed the eject button as he pulled simultaneously. The diskette slipped free, its back metal piece slightly bent.

"I don't think it will work again," he said as he handed the problem diskette to Domina.

"At least it's out of the computer," she answered. "Thank you, Adam. I've never tried that technique for a stuck disk."

"Well, it's pretty unusual for one to stick. You really shouldn't leave it in the computer when you're carrying it."

He handed the laptop to the girl and settled back on the couch as she put it away. He reached for the glass of wine he'd ordered just before they'd come upstairs to check out the computer problem.

"I'm lucky to have found you," the girl said, settling beside him. "I have a task due on Monday and I needed to use the drive." She leaned over and kissed his cheek. It was, Methos decided, a very brotherly kiss.

Finishing his drink, he excused himself, promising the girl he'd see her the next evening and made his way back down the hall to the suite he was sharing with Mac.

Thankfully, the room was empty. No Mac and whichever girl he'd picked up for the evening. Stripping to his shorts, Methos crawled into the huge bed and closed his eyes. He really was tired and he hadn't slept well on the train.

It was nearly two when the presence of another Immortal pulled Methos out of sleep. Mac, he figured, but reached for the sword beneath the bed, just in case. His hand released it a few moments later as Mac whispered loudly, "Methos? Are you alone?"

"I was," Methos mumbled, pulling the covers over his head as MacLeod turned on the light. He'd drifted back to sleep before Mac slipped into the bed, easing as far to the opposite side as he could without being uncomfortable.




December 31st, 1999 - 09:07 a.m.

Morning had more than made an appearance before Mac shifted, rolling his head to escape the light slipping through the crack in the drawn curtains. As he opened a bleary eye, he became aware of the warm body beside him, curled snugly with his back to him and most of the covers wrapped around him. Methos had moved, Mac thought automatically, then realized it had been he who had shifted across the bed to crowd the older man almost off the bed. Surprised, Mac carefully inched away from Methos, doing his best not to disturb him.

Securely back on his half of the bed, Mac let out his breath. He must have followed the covers as Methos appropriated them, he reasoned, not allowing for a moment that there could be any other explanation. He glanced at the clock, then sat up sharply. After nine?! He was supposed to have met Sophia for breakfast at 08:30. He swung his legs out of the bed and reached for the telephone. That was when he noted the message light on it. Probably his date calling to tell him he was late, he thought sullenly. He hadn't even heard the phone.

As he called the concierge to pick up the message, he began pulling out his ski pants and a heavy sweatshirt. The message brightened his mood as it turned out that the lady had also slept in this morning and would meet him at 09:30 instead, if that would be all right. "Perfect." Mac mumbled into the phone just before he slipped it back into its cradle.

"What's perfect?" Methos muttered, emerging from the cocoon of blankets. He looked blearily at Mac, then squeezed his eyes shut against the morning sunlight as he sat up, rubbing at his hair.

Mac grinned, pulling on his robe. "I have a breakfast date with Sophia then we're going to do the mountain. Want to come along?"

Methos shook his head, "No, you can 'do' the mountain alone. I'm going to order breakfast in, soak in the Jacuzzi and catch up on my reading." He looked at the mess of the bed covers and frowned.

"Suit yourself," Mac answered. "Is the brunette joining you?" He started toward the bathroom.

"No, actually, I think Domina is part of your ski party today."

Mac hesitated at that. Somehow he hadn't considered that the ski group today would include more than Sophia, but he reasoned it must be all three ladies. He turned. "Sure you don't want to join us, Methos? I mean, if Domina is coming--?"

Methos reached for his robe. "It's okay, Mac. There's nothing between us. I'll be fine here. Go have fun."

While he showered, Mac found himself wishing Methos would join him in the skiing. He didn't like leaving him behind when he'd invited him along. Of course, he'd known that Methos didn't want to play in the snow, but he'd hoped he'd change his mind once he got here.

By the time Mac was showered and dressed, Methos had ordered his breakfast and was settled into the sofa with a book. Shaking his head, Mac tried one more time. "You know some fresh air wouldn't hurt you any, Methos. Look, if you don't know how to ski, there are instructors and you can go down one of the smaller slopes."

Methos looked up, annoyed. "I didn't say I couldn't ski. I said I don't like it. Besides the last ski trip I went on ended in disaster."

"Avalanche?" Mac immediately thought of the worst possibility.

"Close to. It was... 1902, I think. Yes, I'm sure. I'd gone to the Rockies with some friends... the weather was terrible. Turned into a blizzard that snowed six of us in for eight days in a small cabin with an inadequate supply of food, frozen pipes and not enough heat. It was not something I'd like to repeat."

"You are hopeless," Mac muttered. "At least get out of the room for a bit." Grabbing his ski jacket, he bounded out the door. Methos barely raised his eyes as the Scot left the room.


December 31st , 1999 - 03:30 p.m.

Methos settled back in the comfortable seat of the lodge's shuttle and closed his eyes. He'd spent several hours in the village of Cigny, but it had been tiring shuffling through the snow. At least MacLeod couldn't complain that he didn't get out into the fresh air. He'd had plenty of it for one day and it was all cold.

The outing had been enjoyable enough, even though the snow was nearly knee high in most places. He had enjoyed the quaint look of the town, the centuries past façade that hid the modern stores. Occasionally he'd even stepped into a shop that really was old-fashioned, like the clock shop he'd discovered that featured hand-made wooden clocks, the kind that were getting harder to find. And there was the delightful bakery where he'd had a hot pie for lunch.

He'd also picked up the latest news and weather. The recent storms had dumped nearly ten feet of new snow in the area and there were several areas that could become avalanches. The resort had shut down half of their runs due to dangerous conditions. Worse, the weather predictions were not exactly rosy. More storms could be heading their way before the weekend was over.

As the shuttle crunched along in the snow, his bag shifted against his leg, tipping. Methos leaned forward to adjust it. They were his purchases from the excursion, proof that he hadn't spent the day curled up on a sofa in the lodge. He'd picked up a bottle of Mumm's champagne and some assorted snacks along with a package of the millennium crackers that all the stores were selling for more than they were worth. But they were festive-looking with their silver and gold wrappers and would add a bit to the celebration.

//All a bunch of hype,// Methos thought a bit sourly. //It's not enough to make a big deal of the date change from one year to the next, but people have to go overboard for a calendar event that is essentially inaccurate.// He couldn't even distinguish the change over in the first three millennia he'd experienced and the fourth one was filled with doomsayers who were sure the world was about to end. This one had its share of those types as well and with more fuel to give it credence in the discoveries of the century. Not to mention the addition of television specials trying to scare everyone with the predicted end of the world. In this day and age, any crackpot with a theory could get on the national news.

As Methos glanced ahead, he noted the gathering clouds over the mountain peaks. The sun may be shining on them now, but it didn't look likely to last long. Great, he groused. With his luck, they'd probably get snowed in or buried in an avalanche. At least they had a comfortable room at the lodge, so long as they had hot and cold running water.

The lodge was dead ahead now and within five more minutes, the shuttle was parked at the front. As he got out, Methos spared a glance toward the ski run. It was still busy with at least a hundred skiers on it at any given moment. But the dark clouds were looming over the taller peaks and he predicted that the storm would be here before the new year was. He hadn't noticed Mac on the slopes and he hoped that the Highlander had come to his senses and was in their room or the bar in the lodge.

A quick scan of the lounge and bar told Methos that his friend wasn't there. Their own suite was neatly made up with no indication that anyone had been in it since the maid had left. So, Mac was still on the mountain. Returning downstairs, Methos ordered a hot buttered rum and settled into one of the chairs facing the slopes where he could possibly spot MacLeod.

Time crawled by as he waited but as the day began to fade, Methos' concern grew. Finally, he went back upstairs for his coat and went outside to check the area for Mac. Most of the skiers were down already and there would be no after dark skiing the lift operator informed him when he asked if people were still going up.




December 31st, 1999 - 4:48 p.m.

So, here he was on a lift to the top of the mountain where the only way down would be on skis and it was nearly dark. //MacLeod better be in trouble,// Methos thought angrily.

"You're the last," the resort employee at the top informed him as he climbed awkwardly out of the chair lift, fighting to keep his skis going forward. "You barely have enough light to make the run down. I suggest you take the easy slope. Fewer obstacles on it." He pointed toward the run on the far right.

Methos looked the designated direction, then turned back. "How is that one after dark?"

"None of them are really good unless the lights are on, sir. We have minimal lighting if we're not allowing night runs. But it's unsafe and there's a storm coming. You need to get down."

Nodding, Methos said, "I appreciate that. Unfortunately, I'm looking for someone who hasn't come down yet. So which is the best for after dark?"

"Someone else is up here?" the man questioned. "I haven't seen anyone for a while. What does your friend look like?"

"A little taller than me, dark hair, brown eyes, broad shoulders, movie star looks. He was with several ladies."

"Ah, yes," the operator said, a knowing look on his face. "He had gone down each of the runs at least once today. I saw him with the women, then he left them. I recall him going that way." He pointed toward a group of trees that were nearly buried in the snow. "He went to speak to someone I believe. Now that you mention it, I just assumed he had gone down. Do you think he's in trouble? Should I sound an alarm?"

Methos shook his head. "No, not yet. If I'm not back by morning, then you might start looking for us."

"Morning? That may be too late, sir!" The man almost choked on the words.

"It's okay. I know how to survive and so does my friend. He may just be lost."

With that, Methos adjusted the ski hat over his face and forced the downhill skis to act like cross- country ones as he pushed toward the trees. It took him several minutes to find the tracks of Mac's skis -- or at least what he hoped were Mac's skis. They mingled with another three or four sets in the general area, but then two sets of tracks had moved away from the area, back toward a broad plain of snow before another line of trees and the rise of the mountain to a stark peak. "Just great," Methos mumbled. He had a really bad feeling about this. If Mac had met someone he knew, why had they taken off to a private area? It seemed more likely that they had gone to settle a challenge, looking for a place away from public eyes.

Resigned to an unpleasant trek, Methos followed the tracks. As it grew darker, he pulled out his electric torch and flashed it over the snow, noting the distinct pattern of the skis in the otherwise unblemished surface. With the dense clouds overhead, he had no help from natural lighting, not that the moon would have helped. It had passed full on the winter solstice and was only a slim crescent now. The trail led, of course, directly to the trees and into them. It became harder to follow as they wove through the forest. The heavy snow made movement a struggle and Methos was breathing hard after the mile or so he'd already trekked.

//What are you going to do?// he asked himself for about the fifth time since he'd started on this journey. Logic told him that if Mac had gone off with this person two hours earlier and it was another Immortal, then the confrontation was over. The Highlander was either alive and heading back or dead. If he was alive, then this whole trip was unnecessary and he'd just dragged himself up a mountain and across a snow-covered meadow for nothing. If Mac was dead -- He didn't want to consider the possibility, but he needed to know. It was also possible Mac was lost or in need of help. //One thing is certain,// he thought. //The bloody Scot had better be in some kind of trouble or I am going to be majorly pissed!//


December 31st, 1999 - 6:50 p.m.

Feeling chilled and more anxious than ever, Methos struggled to continue following the trail through the trees. Visions of Mac without a head kept running through his mind and were entirely too vivid. He felt the other Immortal before he spotted the clearing ahead. An A-framed cabin sat in the middle radiating warmth from the glow in the windows to the smoke coming out of the chimney. Methos paused long enough to pull his sword and ease forward toward the structure. He took hope from the calmness of the area and the lack of damage to the trees or the cabin. If there had been a Quickening, it wasn't here. Still, his mouth felt a bit dry as he reached the edge of the clearing.

The cabin door opened and a bundled-up person stepped out. A flash of light from the interior glistened off the metal object in the left hand... a sword. //Not MacLeod,// Methos recognized instantly. //Too small to be the Highlander.//

Moving closer, Methos called out, "I'm looking for Duncan MacLeod."

"Who wants him?" a woman's voice yelled back, her sword coming up as if to challenge.

Before Methos could answer, Mac appeared in the door way behind her. He caught her arm, speaking to her, then he stepped through the door and waved Methos forward.

Relief spread through Methos and he let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. Mac was safe. "I'm gonna kill him," he mumbled as he secured his sword and made his way to the cabin.

Mac waited, grinning broadly. "Adam! What are you doing here?"

"In case you hadn't noticed, it's after dark, Mac. The lifts are closing... I'm down there not knowing what happened to you and I hear you've gone off with someone. What the hell do you think I'm doing here?!" All the anger and worry burst out at once. "I was afraid someone had challenged you. I thought you might be dead."

Mac's face softened. "Aw, you were worried about me."

Irritably, Methos frowned and shot back, "Hell, yes. I don't want to have to pay the lodge bill!"

Laughing, Mac grabbed his arm. "Come on in and get warm. This is an old friend, Inge. Inge, meet Adam."

The woman smiled, offered her hand. "Sorry about the sword. Can't be too careful, you know."

With effort, Methos put on a cordial face and accepted the woman's hospitality and the hot coffee she thrust into his hands. Glancing around the small cabin, he selected a hardwood chair and sat down. The place was little more than a one room retreat with an over-sized single bed, an old-fashioned wood stove that provided heat as well as cooking, a small table and two hardwood chairs. Methos could only assume the bathroom was outside. Charming.

"So how did you two meet?" he asked his hostess. It seemed the polite thing to do although at the moment, he was more interested in getting back down the mountain.

"The First World War," Mac answered as the woman removed her coat and hat and flopped onto the bed. Her long blonde hair cascaded onto her shoulders and she was very pretty.

An old friend, indeed, Methos thought. Mac seemed to have an unlimited number of old friends. But then, he hadn't lost most of his past to other Immortal's swords... yet. He listened patiently as Inge and Mac related their history, then glanced at his watch. "This is all very interesting, Mac, but it's almost eight and we've got a hill to get down. I, for one, am kind of hungry."

"You're welcome to stay the night. I can warm up a stew." Inge offered enthusiastically.

Methos pointedly gazed around the room again. //Floor space in a cold cabin? I think not.// Out loud he said, "A very gracious offer, but there's a comfortable, and expensive, bed and a thick steak waiting for me at the lodge. I can find my way back down if you want to stay, Mac."

Mac cast a quick look at Inge, then got to his feet. "No, Adam, you're right. We have plans for the evening... a big party, Inge. Say, why don't you come down with us? It'll be fun and we have plenty of room in our suite."

Methos shot a sharp look his way. //He's offering our bed? Oh, great, I'll end up on the sofa! It was a sure bet the woman wouldn't!//

"No, thanks, Duncan, but no. I am still the hermit, you know. I prefer to spend the New Year's here in the cabin... away from all the craziness. It was good to see you again. And to meet you, Adam."

Methos breathed a sigh of relief and zipped his jacket up again, ready to head back. Mac motioned for him to go on. "I'll be out in a minute, Adam."

Methos nodded, thanked Inge for the coffee and stepped back out into the winter night. It would be a little more difficult getting back. The air seemed a bit warmer to him, which was not necessarily a good sign. Warming up to snow. He'd heard it before and it did seem to be true. The heavy clouds held heat in, warming the valley. He was anxious to get back before the snow started.

True to his word, Mac joined him a few minutes later and buckled his skies back on. He let Methos take the lead, but followed closely behind.


December 31st, 1999 - 09:21 p.m.

The two men had finally made it through the trees and were almost across the broad meadow before the snow started. Methos had been keeping a lead of about five yards, but now he halted, waiting for Mac to catch up. He motioned to the run on the far right, a barely visible slope at the moment.

"That one's the easiest way down," he told Mac.

Mac pointed to the nearest one of the left, "But this one is quicker."

"Fine. You would know best, wouldn't you? Just so long as we get down in one piece." Methos' voice carried the annoyance he'd felt for the past few hours.

"We'll be fine," Mac said mildly. "What's bothering you?"

"What do you think? In spite of what I wanted, I ended up on New Year's Eve traipsing across a mountain after you!"

"I didn't ask you to come after me," Mac protested.

"No. Maybe I'm angry with myself for being stupid enough to do this."

Surprised, Mac peered at him. "Methos, I'm glad to know you'd still come if I were in trouble. Thank you."

"Save your thanks, MacLeod. Let's just go. I don't want to be caught in a full storm up here." He worked his way to the slope and gazed down at the barely visible lights of the lodge.

Mac edged past him, then plunged down the slope. Reluctant to let the Scot out of his sight, Methos shoved off behind him. The snow was coming down harder, making it difficult to see. Cursing Methos, struggled to stay upright and follow Mac. Abruptly, the red of Mac's jacket dipped and went into the snow. Barely managing to stop, he backtracked to the last place he saw Mac.

"MacLeod? You all right? Mac?"

"Over here," Mac's voice came from a little behind him.

Relieved, Methos made his way over to him and began helping him get back to his feet. "Hit a bump and lost it," Mac added. "Think I lost a ski."

They spent the next few minutes looking for the ski, finally found it and Mac got it back on his boot. As they started down again, they took it slower, just concentrating on getting to the bottom with no more mishaps.


December 31st, 1999 - 10:18 p.m.

Bursting through the door of the lodge, Methos and MacLeod looked like a pair of snowmen. Most of the already partying crowd paused and gawked curiously at them, but resumed their festivities, taking the late-arriving pair in stride. Sophia broke away from the party and caught up with them at the staircase.

"Duncan, are you all right? What happened?" She move to hug him, but stopped as she realized he was completely soaked under the snow cover.

"We had a... little...tr-trouble," Mac answered through chattering teeth. "Ga-go back ...to the p-party. I'll be de-down before mu-midnight."

Methos tugged at his arm. The old man was equally as chilled as Mac, his blue jeans dripping wet, and he just wanted to get warm. Mac nodded and followed him upstairs.

As soon as Methos made it through the door, he headed for the shower, turning it on and savoring the warmth of the room. Mac slammed the door behind him and staggered toward the bedroom. Turning, Methos caught Mac's puppy-dog look. He looked like he was a touch blue from the cold.

"Get in the shower, Mac," Methos ordered, as he began tugging at the Scot's wet clothes. Mac held his arms out, letting Methos remove his jacket and sweat shirt. Gratefully, he divested himself of the rest of his clothes in the bathroom and stepped into the hot water.

While MacLeod showered, Methos stripped off his own wet clothing, pulling on a heavy robe. He reached for the phone and ordered food, not the steak he'd hoped for, but the sandwiches the lodge offered late night, a bottle of wine and a pot of coffee. "Make sure it's hot," Methos added as he hung up and contemplated the Jacuzzi. By the time Mac emerged from the bathroom, he had almost ceased to shiver. But he hurried into the shower himself, anxious for warmth.

As the water poured over him, Methos felt life return to his nearly frozen body and leaned against the wall to let the heat soak in. Mac had said "thanks" he realized, thinking about it in wonder. After all this time, the Highlander actually acknowledged that he'd done something that deserved the statement. Maybe there was some truth to the end of the world rumors as well.

When Methos emerged from the bathroom, still wrapped in the heavy robe, he found MacLeod already dressed in a pair of off-white slacks and a dark blue shirt. Even better, the food had arrived. Mac poured a coffee for Methos and they sat to enjoy the sandwiches. Though they said little as they ate, there was a warm camaraderie between them.


Dec. 31st, 1999 - 11:07 p.m.

Feeling toasty warm and content, Duncan lounged on the bed and idly gazed through the bathroom door as Methos finished getting ready for the party. As the older Immortal shaved, covering his face in a white beard of foam, MacLeod tried to envision what it would look like in the same dark brown shade as Methos' hair. Would it add an illusion of age to Methos' young face, even hint that he was something more than a mid-twenties kid?

Leaning forward, Methos splashed water on his face, droplets of it clinging to his eyelashes like tiny beads of dew. For a moment, Mac imagined him waking in a green meadow on a fall morning with dew lightly coating his face and hair. Methos reached for his shirt, a dark green silk, and pulled it on, carefully tucking it into the black slacks he wore. His body was nicely balanced, slender and, he had to admit, sexy. At least, girls would think so. Why didn't Methos date more? He hadn't really thought about it until then, but it seemed like Methos didn't often go out. Of course, when he fell for a woman the way he did for Alexa, then maybe it was better he didn't get too involved with the ladies.

"I'd like to undress you," Mac said suddenly, the thought coming from nowhere.

Surprised, Methos turned to face him. "What?"

"You heard me."

"Yes, I heard. I just don't quite believe what I heard. Are you serious?" Methos stepped into the doorway between the bath and the bedroom. With the back lighting, he was outlined in a soft glow that made him incredibly attractive.

Mac wet his lips, suddenly filled with a desire to touch the other man, to feel that ancient skin pressed close to his. "Yes, I'm serious. Is it a displeasing thought?"

Methos moved closer, stopping just before the end of the bed. "Not displeasing. Unexpected."

Mac reached for him, sitting up to take Methos' hand and pull him closer. The older man didn't resist, letting Mac reel him in, a slight smile tugging at his lips. //Inviting lips,// Mac thought, really seeing them for the first time. //Finely shaped and just right to kiss.//

He caught Methos' belt, sliding his fingers behind it and pulled him sharply to him, bringing his body in so he could bury his face against Methos' midriff. He undid the button at his friend's stomach, revealing pale flesh beneath. Shoving the material aside with his tongue, he planted his mouth on the warm flesh. His hand slipped to the belt buckle, working it loose, then he pulled the green shirt free of the slacks and slid his hands up underneath the shirt to roam up the firmly muscled torso.

Mac felt the stomach muscles tense and release under his fingers. Flesh as silky as the shirt. He looked up to see Methos' face. The old Immortal's eyes were closed, dark lashes fluttering lightly against his lower lids and mouth parted so slightly, as if in invitation. Slipping his hands back down to the waistband, Mac caught the belt loops and pulled Methos forward and down, forcing him to bend toward him. As he came within an inch, Mac cupped his hand along the long jaw line, guiding Methos' mouth to his.

The kiss was sweet, more luscious than he could have thought possible. Catching his breath, he urged Methos down beside him as he released the top two buttons and kissed him again. He slid Methos' shirt over his head, letting it drop to the floor. Easing Methos down on the bed next to him, he danced his fingers lightly up his chest, teasing him with little butterfly touches that tickled slightly. Methos sighed under his touch and Mac breathed a little harder, amazed by all the desire he felt...

"Mac?" Methos' voice was sharp, not the sultry sound it had been. "You awake?"

MacLeod opened his eyes to see Methos standing next to the bed, looking sharp in the dark slacks and silk shirt with a gray v-necked sweater pulled over it.

"What?" Mac asked in surprise, disoriented by the transition. What had just happened?

"Looked like you were dozing. Wine got to you, huh?" Methos said with a grin. "C'mon. We've got less than ten minutes until midnight."

Mac sat up, his head clearing as he realized he'd been dreaming... about Methos... about wanting Methos. Where had that come from? He grabbed his sweater as he rolled off the bed and caught up with Methos at the door.

As they started out, Mac cupped a hand to his friend's shoulder... "Methos, before we go down... happy New Year, my friend."

Methos glanced back at him, an engaging smile on his face. "Same to you, Duncan."

With that, they started downstairs, together, to celebrate the first hour of the new century.

 


 

Finis