|For Friendship's Sake
by Lillian Wolfe
This vignette is based on the characters in the Davis-Panzer Production, "Highlander The Series". The characters of Methos, Duncan MacLeod, and Amanda all slipped away to do a little moonlighting and we beg their bosses to be understanding. None of us are profiting from this, but Methos felt inclined to chat about this recent holiday. They are returning to their regular jobs with no permanent damage.
My thanks to Tiffany and Dianne for proofing, critiquing and being great readers/editors. If there are mistakes left, they are entirely my own.
Please do not copy, publish or post on the Internet without permission from the author. I don't want any legal problems.
Time: Christmas Eve, 1996
A soft crunch accompanied each step as Methos' boots touched the frozen grass. A "crisp" day, MacLeod would call it, a day when frost covered everything and gave it a sugar- coated appearance. Bloody cold was how Methos regarded it, with the damp chill of the Paris winter seeping into your bones. Most times, it really didn't bother him much. He would just hunch a little snugger into his coat and continue about his business.
But here, in the solemn quiet of the Paris graveyard, the icy fingers reached further than usual, chilling part of his soul along with the sedentary stones that told their own stories in grim words and numbers on their faces. He gazed at the still new-looking stone that marked Alexa's grave and thought the fir wreath accentuated with red velvet bows did little to alleviate the starkness of the grave. He would have piled flowers on it, but they wouldn't survive even an afternoon at this time of year.
Christmas Eve. A year ago he and Alexa were in the snow of the Adirondacks, enjoying the warmth of a ski lodge and the companionship of several vacationing couples who found the mountains the perfect getaway from New York. For him, anywhere Alexa wanted to be was fine. They'd been going across the United States, seeing and doing anything she wanted and he'd been falling more and more in love with her along the way. He'd almost convinced himself that everything was perfect.
This Christmas, Alexa was in her "perfect" grave in the ground, her bright spirit extinguished by a ruthless disease that took its toll on mortals. And he was unchanged, still young in body if not spirit. Still holding on to life with the same fierce grip that had dominated his long existence. Still trying to fully understand the "game" and its purpose, as unsure now as he was at the beginning of how it was defined.
And still alone as he was at many human celebrations, whether they called it Christmas, Yule, Solstice, or Chanukah. Gods, I'm getting morose, he thought suddenly. He reached out to touch the headstone, letting his fingers trace Alexa's name in the carvings. "Happy Christmas, Alexa," he said softly. "Maybe you're somewhere near and can hear me. I'd like to think so. I wish I could talk to you and know you're happy now. I miss you."
He swallowed the lump trying to form in his throat and turned away to make his way back through the archway to his car. Given what they were and what they did, it was almost amusing that Immortals found sanctuary on holy ground. But even an Immortal needed some form of spirituality in his life. Needed to feel there was a greater purpose to life and an order of some sort in the Universe. Right now, he wasn't in tune to any of it.
Paris was lonely at this time of year--part of it self-imposed, he admitted. A couple of "friends" from the Watchers had invited him to dinner, yet another had asked him to the country with her. He'd declined all invitations. He needed to be with his own kind right now, to be Methos, not Adam Pierson. Unfortunately, none of those invitations had come from one of the three Immortals who knew who he was.
Duncan MacLeod had gathered his "clan" in Seacouver. It was a clan that Methos was not totally a part of, whether that was MacLeod's choice or his own. While he often inserted himself into Mac's life, it wasn't often the Highlander took the initiative and he didn't feel inclined to invite himself this time. So here he was in a self-imposed exile and feeling sorry for himself. "Doddering old fool," he murmured as he pulled the Volvo into traffic.
As he drove toward the central district, he thought about how much had changed in his life since he'd met MacLeod. He'd been content as Adam Pierson. Safe. Then he found himself caught up in events that affected Joe Dawson and MacLeod, that had put his life in jeopardy more than once and, damn, if he hadn't willingly gone along. He'd pretty much left the Watchers, only a formal resignation remained, but he knew he would be tracked by that organization until "Adam Pierson" died..
And he'd forged a more or less comfortable friendship with MacLeod. Granted, it was a friendship that continually tested the Highlander, forced him to reexamine his thinking about many issues and to constantly look at Methos anew as little facets of his own personality transformed him from Adam to Methos gradually. In some ways, it was like he was rediscovering himself. He'd been Adam so long that he'd lost touch with the core of who he was, the other planes of personality and thought that made up the oldest living Immortal. Although it wasn't the first time he'd experienced this, it was a little disconcerting to rebuild your own personality. And sometimes, it wasn't pleasant.
It was late afternoon when Methos returned to his flat. He'd picked up a few things--a steak and vegetables for dinner, wine, that kind of stuff--and he was fully prepared to settle in for a long read of a recent bestseller. He'd selected three and hadn't decided where to start. Should make for a great Christmas, he thought sourly as he set the food in the kitchen. He wasn't sure why he was so depressed. It wasn't the first Christmas he'd spent alone; there'd been hundreds along the way and some spent in very uncomfortable situations. And for the majority--still--of his life, the damn holiday hadn't even existed. At least he was warm, had decent food and a book to read.
As he returned to his living room, he automatically glanced at the answering machine, unconsciously registered the three blinking lights that indicated messages. Probably someone wanting a donation. Those calls increased this time of year. He ignored the machine, popped on the latest "U2" CD and poured a large scotch onto a single rock. As he flipped through his mail, he noticed a card from Joe Dawson and plucked it out. At least Joe remembered. The thought slipped in unbidden. In annoyance, he gulped down half the drink without a pause. He finished the rest while opening the other few pieces of mail, then refilled the glass--minus the cube this time.
He'd just recapped the bottle when the phone rang. Let the answering machine get it, he thought as he sipped at the scotch. Drunk seemed like a good option but he wanted to work at it slowly and he definitely didn't feel like being nice to anyone right now. His hand froze as a familiar voice came on the machine.
"Methos, where the hell are you? I've been calling all day. Well, I hope you're having a good time wherever you are. Listen, if I don't--"
Methos had practically dived for the phone, snatched it up. "Mac, hello. I just got in. How are things in Seacouver?"
"Fine when I left. How are you doing?"
"When you left?" Methos echoed, confused.
"Yeah. I'm in Paris. Amanda and I decided to spend Christmas here," Mac announced happily. "Richie's off to visit Maria and Joe's with his family, so we decided Paris would be a nice change. We got in this morning."
"I see," Methos said softly. Mac and Amanda--sounded like a nice, intimate holiday for them. "That's great, MacLeod."
"Why don't you meet us in an hour at the Montmarte Station?"
"The Montmarte? What--?"
"There's a nice little restaurant nearby," Mac interrupted. "Nothing fancy, but good food."
"I dunno, Mac. You and Amanda--"
"Want you to join us. Both of us do. Come on. Unless you have other plans?" Mac's voice had that pleading tone he used when he really wanted something.
He could make up an excuse--prior commitment, hot date, three's a crowd. Methos glanced at the stack of books. Plenty of reading to be done here. "Okay. I'll see you there."
He set the phone back in the cradle, reflecting on this sudden change in plans. He wouldn't deny that he was glad the Highlander had returned to Paris, that he'd included him in his holiday plans. He did doubt that Amanda would be that enthused about it, but he could ignore her irritation for an evening in exchange for MacLeod's company. Sipping steadily at his drink, he did pause to wonder why he reacted the way he did to Duncan MacLeod. Why it made him feel so good that MacLeod had chosen to include him in his plans for the evening. He didn't bother to answer. He knew he valued MacLeod's friendship too highly for it to be healthy for him. Sooner or later it would all come crashing down, but for the moment, he didn't care.
Duncan MacLeod winked at Amanda as he set the phone down. "He'll meet us there."
The dark-haired beauty grinned back. "Great. This will be so much fun, Duncan. And it will be good for Methos."
Duncan shook his head uncertainly. "I don't know Amanda. He might not find this such a great plan."
She slinked next to him, sat down on the back of the sofa and wrapped her arms affectionately around his neck. "Don't be such a worrier. You said you wanted to do something special this Christmas--something that included Methos. Well, this is something he would never expect."
"That's for sure," Mac muttered.
Methos was running late. He'd planned to drive his car down, but the suddenly cantankerous vehicle wouldn't start and he'd ended up taking the Metro instead. As he bounded up the stairs, he spotted MacLeod immediately; the tall Scot stood out like a beacon in the dark mass of people milling around. Add the luminescent beauty of Amanda next to him and you couldn't miss them if you tried. A genuine smile appeared on his face as he came up to them. He felt ridiculously happy.
"Sorry," he blurted out by way of greeting. "I had car problems."
Unexpectedly, Amanda hugged him, planting a sisterly kiss on his cheek. "It's okay. We have someone we want you to meet."
As Amanda turned her head, he noticed the small brunette woman who was standing next to MacLeod. She was about five-four and looked like an athlete, filled out in that lean, yet muscular way. She was pretty although not spectacular, but there was a healthy glow to her complexion. "Adam, this is Angelique Modene," Amanda said. "She's a friend of mine who is in Paris for the week. This is my only chance to see her, so I hope you don't mind that we invited her to join us?"
Methos shook his head. "No, not at all." He offered his hand and a warm smile although he really would have preferred to not have a mortal along this evening. This meant being Adam, not Methos. He could have done that with people he already knew. In his gut, Methos was uncertain about this arrangement. A blind date? What the hell were MacLeod and Amanda thinking? This was not how he wanted to spend Christmas Eve.
Mac sidled close to him as they walked to the "quaint" Italian restaurant the Highlander had chosen and touched his arm lightly. "Relax, old man. Try to enjoy yourself for once."
Methos frowned. What did he mean "for once?" He often enjoyed himself--usually at Mac's expense. A sudden thought occurred. That's what this was all about--Mac was getting even. On Christmas Eve? That wasn't very considerate. But if it was a game His spirits started rising with the challenge. All right. So he was on a date with a mortal. At least the girl was cute and he was with MacLeod and Amanda.
Over a salad accompanied by a rich Bordeaux wine Mac had ordered, Methos discovered that the girl could also carry on a decent conversation, so long as they stuck to French. And she also had the good sense to keep her mouth shut when he and Mac got into a "discussion" of seventeenth century armour, European versus Asian. Amanda, however, looked bored mid-way through and gave him a "who the hell cares" look which he ignored for another ten minutes.
That was when she popped in with, "You know, Angelique is a champion figure skater. She's won several medals." She dug her fork into the plate of lasagna that had just arrived.
Methos stared at her as if she'd suddenly started speaking Swahili and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. Across from him, Mac took the pause to order another bottle of wine, then smiled ingratiatingly. "I believe Amanda is trying to tell us something."
"Okay. Figure skating--that's a nice art form. But it involves frozen water."
Angelique cast an indulgent smile his way. "You're not a fan, I can tell."
"Actually, I don't know much about it."
"It uses blades, Adam," Amanda supplied, her tone of voice like that of a mother explaining a basic fact to a child. "Maybe you should learn more." At Angelique's puzzled look, she added, "Adam is fond of swords and other blades. He should consider the merits of ice skates."
His eyes narrowed at her and he began to feel very uneasy about this whole situation. "I suppose they could hold a pretty sharp edge."
"Oh, yes," Angelique agreed, happy to have something in the conversation she could speak knowledgeably about. "The edges can be ground quite sharp. Most skating is done on an edge, so you want it to cut the ice and hold."
"You know what I think?" Amanda said with contrived spontaneity.
Here it comes, Methos noted.
"I think we should all go ice skating. Wouldn't that be fun, Duncan?" Her eyes sparkled as she gazed at the tall Scot. "The Palais de Glace is only a few blocks from here and it would really make this whole night feel Christmasy. "
Before Mac could answer, Methos interjected. "You can count me out. I am definitely not getting on slippery ice on a narrow piece of metal."
"Oh, Adam, please," Amanda whined--yes, that was an actual whine--at him. Mac raised an eyebrow as if asking him to reconsider.
"No. I like my bones in one piece," he objected.
"Come on, Adam," Mac intervened. "A little healthy exercise wouldn't hurt you. Besides, Angelique teaches skating so she can give you a hand." There was an amused smile across the Highlander's face.
He was enjoying this a little too much, Methos thought with annoyance. He watched as MacLeod refilled his wine glass. "Won't work, MacLeod. You're not going to get me drunk enough to go along with this crazy plan. I--I have weak ankles."
Angelique shook her head at that objection. "There's no such thing as weak ankles, Adam. I'll make sure your boots are laced properly. They will give you enough support. Come on. It will be fun. Please?" She cast wide pleading eyes at him.
I am not giving in to an entreating look from a female, he decided and sipped at the wine. He glanced back at Amanda who wore a similar look. Shit! Even MacLeod had that puppy expression on his face. He concentrated on his wine glass and repeated firmly, "No. N. O. I am not ice skating."
Mac sighed and leaned back, defeat written all over his slouch. "I told you, Amanda. He hasn't got the nerve to even try it. In fact I would bet you he couldn't even make it around the rink, on his own, once in the whole evening without falling."
"I guess we won't find out," Amanda replied.
On one level he knew what they were doing, but somehow his mouth didn't seem to be connected to his brain. Mac's challenge had gotten to him. Once around the rink indeed. He could do that. "What are you willing to bet, MacLeod?"
The Scot held his smile in check, not allowing it to alter his poker face as only a twinge tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Let's make it interesting--say a coveted bottle of Napoleon brandy--the real stuff. And if you lose, you carve the turkey tomorrow--with a penknife. "
"Deal," Methos replied, not realizing until after that Mac had just invited him for Christmas dinner. He brought his eyes up to meet the Highlander's as it dawned on him and he saw the smile spreading across his face. Amanda's grin was even bigger. "You could have just asked instead of going through this charade."
"Oh, no. The bet is real." MacLeod replied as he emptied the rest of the bottle of Bordeaux into his friend's glass. "I wouldn't miss this for anything."
Methos definitely wished he'd missed this particular bit of recreation. His feet felt like they were crammed into the boots and the laces nearly cut the circulation off at his ankles. He leaned against the barrier around the Olympic-sized patch of ice, watching even two-year-olds managing to maneuver their way over the slick surface. It was a short fall for those little legs, he reasoned. A lot further down for his long limbs. So far, he's managed to make it about twenty feet around and that only by clinging to the barrier and taking very cautious steps.
He must have been temporarily insane to agree to this--Napoleon brandy or no. He glanced across the rink where MacLeod and Amanda were gliding smoothly along. Damn the Scot and his easy athletic ability. Even Amanda was enjoying it. Angelique was showing off in the center of the ice with a spin.
All you have to do to end this torture is get off the ice and take the skates off, a small part of his mind told him logically. And it was tempting--but the greater part of him, the survivor, said, No! I'm not going to carve a turkey with a pen knife! Besides, I want the brandy... and I want that smug smirk off MacLeod's face! Sheer determination could carry a man a long way. For Methos, it was another ten feet without touching the barrier before his legs got ahead of his torso and he landed hard--and painfully--on his bum.
Within moments, Angelique crossed the ice and stopped beside him, offering a hand up. Pride hurting more than anything else, Methos reluctantly took the extended hand and struggled to his feet. How much did he want that brandy? Angelique's arm slid around his waist to help support him as he edged back towards the barrier, but she wouldn't let him off the hook that easily.
"No, no, Adam. You're fighting the ice."
"Yeah, we're long-time adversaries," he muttered. He'd never found any particular pleasure in dealing with frozen water except as ice cubes in drinks. Most of his encounters had been cold and hostile.
The girl turned neatly around to face him, skating backwards now, caught his hands in hers and steadied him. "You're too tense. Try to relax a little and lean into the movement. Look--I will teach you 'fishes.'"
Obediently, he watched her wiggle her feet in and out to create "fish" shapes on the ice and he tried to duplicate the movement. "Push with your thighs," she said and ran a hand against his right inside thigh to enforce the instruction. "Have you ever skied, Adam?"
He nodded. "A long time ago." No need to tell her it was long before even her grandparents were born and it was a matter of survival.
"Then it's similar. You have edges on skis and you have edges on skates." As they made their slow progress around the rink she explained how skating on the edges produced the side to side glide and made it easier to maintain balance. Gradually, he began to get the hang of it, matching his slow strokes to hers as she continued to skate backward. At the corner, she guided him around it in an easy curve.
He was beginning to think this wasn't so bad, when MacLeod and Amanda skated past. "Remember, you have to do it without help," Mac teased. "One time around--no grabbing the railing, no supporting hands."
The distraction as Methos sent him a piercing glare proved disastrous as Methos crashed into Angelique, sending them both sprawling to the ice in a tangle of arms and legs. Chagrined, Methos sat up slowly and managed the Adam Pierson apologetic look for the figure skater, who was untangling herself from his legs. "Sorry. Are you okay?"
She took one look at that contrite expression and found a wry grin for him. "I'm fine. Are you all right?"
"Yeah," he said slowly, feeling the wet ice through the back of his jeans and his sweater. "Just wet." As Angelique started giggling, he, too, realized the silliness of the situation and found himself chuckling as well. The girl regained her feet and once again helped the old Immortal up. Suddenly it didn't matter any more whether the little kids could outskate him. As absurd as it seemed, Methos was having fun.
From the other side of the rink, MacLeod had watched Methos crash into his teacher and had winced when they both hit the ice. As he watched the two of them get back up, laughing as they did so, he relaxed. "I think this may be working, Amanda."
She shifted her gaze to look at the Scot and smiled. "I told you it would, o ye of little faith."
"Okay. I admit it. I doubted we would even get him on skates." In fact, the plan had seem preposterous when Amanda had suggested it. His own thought had been to simply get Methos drunk--a difficult and lengthy process--to get the old guy's mind off Alexa. When Joe had discovered Methos was isolating himself for Christmas, it didn't take an MIT grad to figure out what would be occupying the old Immortal's holiday. Even if he had to sacrifice a bottle of the brandy, it was worth it to see his friend laughing.
"Well, I confess that was the tricky part. I wasn't sure we could get him to accept the challenge. But Angelique can be persuasive, too," Amanda added, as she interpreted the look on MacLeod's face. "You're a good friend, Duncan."
"So's he," the Scot answered softly. "A very good friend." A little over two years ago, he didn't even know Methos as anything more than an old story told among Immortals, like the stories of ancient gods and mythical dragons. Now, there was a very real person who went with that name--someone who'd come to mean quite a bit to him. Every now and then, he wondered if the old man was really as old as he claimed, but it didn't really matter. He was his trusted friend and that was all that was important.
Then he smiled and caught Amanda's arm to spin her around on the ice. "And you are a very special lady. Thank you. I owe you."
"And I will collect," she assured him. But her eyes were filled with merriment.
Within another half hour, Methos pretty well had the hang of skating. He was relaxed and easily gliding along with Angelique. "You are a natural," the girl assured him. "You just needed to understand the nature of the ice and how to make it work with your blades."
He wasn't too sure about that, but it had become much easier. He glanced across at MacLeod, who was spinning slowly. "Can you show me how to do that?"
"Spin? Are you sure?"
He nodded. She shrugged and explained the dynamics of a spin to him, showing him how to start the rotation and how to stop it. "The tighter you can pull your body in, the faster you spin. But be careful. You will get dizzy."
Determined, he practiced the two foot spin, learning the feel of the rocker and adapting to the slight dizziness. Gradually, he added speed, pulling his arms toward his chest to increase the rotations. As he pulled out of his best spin so far, he found MacLeod watching from a few feet away. Mac grinned, a twinkle in his eyes. "Nice. But you still have to get around the rink on your own."
With a smirk that set his eyes dancing, Methos retorted, "When I'm ready, MacLeod. You just make sure you have that brandy."
"I'll have the penknife sharpened," he answered and glided off to join Amanda again.
Methos was actually debating whether to go through with the bet or not. He realized Mac and Amanda had gone to a bit of trouble to set this up and he was enjoying himself more than ever thought he would. But the idea of taking a small knife to a hot, large bird didn't appeal to him and if he backed out, Mac would make sure he had to carry though on his part. Nope, he'd have to do it.
But he waited until practically the last minute. He hadn't really gone around even half the rink on his own. He'd spent most of the time hanging around a corner with Angelique learning to spin and stop. It was a scant ten minutes before closing time when he skated over to the Highlander. "All right, MacLeod. This is it. If I make it around the rink one time without falling, I win, right?"
No one said how fast he had to go or what style he had to use. Methos took his time, used fishtails to get started, switched to slow, steady strokes and used a glide around the curves. As careful as he was, there were still a few uncertain moments when he wasn't sure if he was going to lose his balance or not. As he came out of the last curve, he gained a little more speed and snowplowed directly into MacLeod to stop.
The Highlander hadn't expected that, had thought Methos was going to pass him, and was caught off guard--and off balance. He went down, taking Amanda with him and Methos, somewhat deliberately, landed on top of them. He felt enormously pleased to see Mac sprawled on the ice. Mac sat up, sputtering incoherently as Methos offered Amanda a hand untangling her legs from his.
"Hey! I made it around," Methos stated emphatically. "You didn't say anything about stopping."
"That was a fall at the end!" Mac countered.
"But I'd already gone past my starting point. I win, fair and square."
"He's right, Duncan," Amanda interjected, before Mac blurted the name out. "He made it all the way around without falling."
Mac glared for a moment, then a broad smile split his face. He grabbed Methos in an affectionate embrace and dumped a handful of ice shavings down the back of his sweater. As Methos caught his breath in a sharp reaction to the icy cold melting its way down his back, MacLeod got to his feet, pulled Amanda up, then hesitantly offered a hand to his friend.
An hour later, Methos sprawled happily on the sofa at Mac's barge and sipped at a glass of his brandy. He'd shared the bottle with Mac and Amanda. Outside the streets of Paris were chilly and a fog had settled on the river area. Angelique had gone on to her own plans after the skating and it was just the three of them now. Amanda snuggled on Mac's lap and he was beginning to feel a bit like the odd man out again.
He finished the drink and got to his feet. "I'd better get going. I'll see you two tomorrow."
"Hold up!" Mac said, lifting his wrist to see his watch. "It's only five minutes to Christmas. Pour another round and we'll toast the holiday."
Methos sighed. "Mac, I've got to get a cab--"
"No, you don't. You can sleep here tonight. It won't be the first night you've spent on the sofa. Now, come on. Share a little more of that bottle."
Methos hesitated. "You're sure?"
"Positive," he replied, and held out his glass for a refill.
"Thank you," Methos said softly. "For the whole evening."
At midnight, MacLeod offered the toast. "A very Merry Christmas to all and especially to my special lady and my good friend. Slainté." Three glasses clinked in a merry tingle of union.