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Chapter 1

“Thank you,” Duncan MacLeod told the hired driver and tipped him generously for getting him from the airport to his home near London with a minimum of fuss, despite the early morning traffic and incessant rain that had plagued the city for days. Since the assassination of the American President and the mysterious death of Prime Minister Harold Saxon, the media was everywhere, making the normally crowded, bustling city even more so.

MacLeod shook his head at the media helicopters and military craft that hovered over the city while the driver removed his luggage from the boot. He had his carry-on, laptop, and sword case with him. His own experiences in political machinations and government overthrows dating back to Culloden told him that the story about Saxon killing the American President then his own wife murdering him had too many holes in it.

He doubted any of them would ever really know what had happened on the Valiant. Even his friend Matthew McCormick- now a liaison with a United Nations organization called UNIT- and Amanda’s husband, Nick Wolfe- who did freelance security for the organization- had more questions than answers about everything that had happened. The mysterious conversations he’d had recently with Cassandra about ‘time not being what it seemed’ and ‘a great evil being released’ had not made him feel any better, especially since Cassandra rarely contacted him these days.

The gulf that had risen between him and the witch in the time since he and Methos had defeated the other Horsemen at Bordeaux had widened due to his clear commitment to the older Immortal and Connor’s disappearance. His cousin had been special to Cassandra, and Duncan did not think she’d ever forgive him for being the one who rumours claimed had wielded the blade that ended his kinsman’s life. That would make two of them; while he’d long accepted the necessity of the deceit, Duncan doubted he’d ever forgive himself for his part in it either. If Cassandra ever learned the truth, he had no doubt she’d go looking for Connor – and that would completely defeat the purpose of faking his death. His cousin wanted out of the Game – permanently. Duncan owed him that small bit of peace and much more.

With this feeling of unease creeping at him even as he worked in Tokyo on the complicated cataloguing of the estate for auction, Mac had done the one thing he’d tended to do in times of trouble for almost fifteen years. He’d called Joe Dawson.

Dawson had retired actively from the Watchers just a few months before Saxon’s assassination. By agreement with the Watcher Council, he still kept Mac and ‘Adam‘s’ chronicles, using a select cadre of field agents if one or the other was on the move. Joe was officially closing Joe’s, his bar in Seacouver, later this month. He’d transferred management of Le Blues Bar, the club in Paris, to his assistant Mike, though he would continue to have a say in operations and to play there periodically.

By this time next month, Joe would settle officially in the renovated caretaker’s cottage behind the London house that Mac and Methos shared. He would keep his eye on the pub he’d started in the city a few years ago, simply called The Blues, and would focus on his first love – music. The Immortals had insisted that after over two decades of chasing Mac around the globe, Joe needed a place to call his own and some sense of stability.

“Plus,” the Old Man had added slyly to the bartender. “Between you and me, with our clearances and our way around clearances, we know everything the Watchers do. Nice to have that under one roof,” he had quipped evilly as Mac glared at him.

Joe liked to pretend he didn’t know what his friends were doing for him. He was getting older and after losing his legs nearly forty years before, his body just had a harder time keeping fit. Methos and MacLeod were providing him assurances that he’d always have a home and someone to watch out for him, even when he couldn’t look after himself. They knew he had not spoken to his sister since James Horton’s final death so many years ago, his niece barely knew him, and his daughter, Amy, had cut all ties after the Morgan Walker incident. Joe had cast his lot with them. They would cast theirs with him for as long as he had in this world.

When Mac had reached the former Watcher in Seacouver, he had sounded tetchy. “Why am I not surprised? The Old Man’s called twice in the past twelve hours,” he had growled, clearly irritated. “I’m busy and I’ve got nothin’. Whatever has your skin crawling is probably something I don’t wanna know about.”

“Adam called you?” Mac tried to be careful not to use Methos’ real name unless they were alone. Only a small circle knew who the ancient really was, but that circle had grown over the past decade, mostly due to Mac’s impulsiveness. He understood the risks the Old Man took to stay with them – and especially with him. He wouldn’t make it harder by being indiscreet. ”Why didn’t he call me?” he had asked, sounding perplexed.

Joe had muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath. “Probably for the same reason you didn’t call him,” he had growled, sounding more like an annoyed father than a man a fraction of Mac’s age does. “You two worry about each other every minute you’re apart, but heaven forbid you admit it to each other.”

“Yeah, well denial’s a happy place,” Duncan had quipped almost nastily. He hated that Joe read him so easily. The Watcher was more than three hundred years younger than he was, but he made him feel like a wayward child. “So, nothing?” he had asked again, moving them back to the topic.

“Other than the normal upheaval associated with two political assassinations broadcasted live across the world, I’ve got nothing. I’d check with your broker, though,” Joe had teased, deliberately provoking righteous indignation in the Highlander and clearly enjoying every moment of it.

“I'll do that,” Mac had retorted, a hard-edged amusement in his voice.

“You know, sales are up at the bar,” Joe had observed almost casually. “Makes me sad I’m closing this place.”

MacLeod’s worried sigh had echoed over the line. “Joe . . .”

“Can it, Mac,” Dawson had snorted in exasperation. “Amanda and Mike tell me sales are up all over. I’m just kidding. The paperwork is all but done. The best of the fixtures are ready to ship to London for the remodel, and the rest goes to auction on Monday. I'll be home two weeks tops.”

“Call us with the flight information,” Mac had instructed, sounding happy and pleased at Dawson calling London ‘home’.

Joe had snorted derisively. “I'll call you. When has the Old Man ever gotten a flight number or time right since you’ve known him?”

“Good point,” Mac had smiled. “He’s brilliant but he’s hopeless.”

“Saying goodbye now, Mac,” Joe had growled impatiently, clearly not wanting to have to listen to the Highlander wax poetic about his partner.
“Goodbye, Joseph. Watch yourself,” Duncan had replied before ending the call.

After the call with Joe, Mac had decided to leave Tokyo early and come home to surprise Methos. He’d only been gone a few weeks to appraise the contents of an estate he was auctioning, but it seemed more like a year. He missed his lover rather desperately. They’d been apart longer than this in their relationship, but it didn’t feel that way.

After O’Rourke, MacLeod had planned to leave Paris and his friends behind. Methos had found him and given him a place to go – a refuge on holy ground in South America. Lonely after six months, Mac had called the Old Man, who’d shown up with beer, single malt, and a willing body. They’d become lovers again for the first time since Bordeaux.

For some time, they’d maintained a status quo – being there for each other without strings or entanglements – until MacLeod had gone to Methos for help to find Connor and Methos had aided Joe in rescuing Mac from the Sanctuary. The look in the Old Man’s eyes when he left Mac to face the situation alone at the Highlander’s request had been almost too much for Duncan to bear.

Following Connor’s decision to fake his death and vanish from the Game permanently, MacLeod had spent almost two years in Scotland and New York. He’d had Connor’s ‘estate’ to settle and had needed to make sure that Alex MacLeod, his ‘widow’, and his adopted son, John, were taken care of. The two had mourned Connor when he had initially vanished years before and had gotten on with their lives. Neither had borne any ill will towards Duncan for his part in helping Connor disappear for good, which made the situation that much harder for the younger Highlander.

In that two-year span, he’d only seen Methos twice. He’d gone to him in London to explain everything before taking Connor’s ‘body’ back to Scotland. He’d even told him about his brief and foolish encounter with his former wife, Kate. Though they had not been exclusive or even close to it at the time, but he felt he owed it to the ancient. That really should have been his first clue that they were more than friends with benefits. He’d tried to pretend that they were like him and Amanda, and they never were. Methos had listened, accepted what he was told, and then let know MacLeod that when he had taken care of what he needed to, Methos would be there.

The second time he saw the Old Man changed everything. MacLeod been caught in New York by the 2001 terrorist attacks and had been unable to reach Methos, Amanda, Joe, or any of his friends. He really shouldn’t have been surprised when the older immortal had shown up in Manhattan looking for him, but it felt really nice to know that he cared that much.

“You are going to be the death of me,” Methos had growled when he arrived at Mac’s Fifth Avenue apartment and dumped his bag on the floor. “Do you have any idea how hard it was to get a sword through security this week, even with papers? I had to check it, Mac. I spent the entire flight from Glasgow to Gander twitching. My only consolation was even one of us wouldn’t be stupid enough to try a Quickening on a plane – at least I hoped not.”

“What the hell were you doing in Glasgow?” Mac had demanded, taking in Methos’ rough, unkempt appearance. “I thought you were in London.”

Methos had rolled his eyes and headed for the fridge. “In case it’s escaped your notice, no one is flying direct from the UK to the States at the moment.” He had poked around until finally finding a beer, which he had downed as if he hadn’t had a drink in weeks. “I conned my way onto an Air Canada flight to Gander, managed to buy a used car, and drove the rest of the way.”

MacLeod had gaped at the extents the older man had gone to in order to reach New York. “What the hell for? I would have gotten in touch eventually.”

“God, Mac,” Methos had muttered, glaring at him. “Eventually wasn’t near good enough. We need to talk, Highlander. If you think I’d just sit by not knowing what had happened to you, then I really have not made myself clear. I happen to be in love with you, and I’ve heard that makes people do foolish things.”

“Apparently,” Mac had managed to reply through a throat that was suddenly tight with emotion. “I suppose this is where I say ‘I love you, too’.”

“Only if you want to and you mean it,” Methos had retorted, trying to look nonchalant and only managing to look hopeful.

“I do,” Mac had confessed, pulling Methos to him and kissing him with all the emotion and passion that he could manage.

They had talked for hours that first night about the world, the past, the future, and themselves. Methos had confessed to loving the Highlander since meeting him, and told him he’d waited for it to be reciprocated or just tried to be content with what they had, but it hadn’t been enough.

Mac had shocked himself by making his own admission. They just fit like he had never fit with anyone – not Amanda, not Anne, not Little Dear, and not even his beloved Tessa. They had all only known parts of him. Methos knew and loved the whole package. He hadn’t actually realized it was true until it was in front of him. It had been at that moment that Mac knew nothing short of one of them losing their head would keep them apart for long.

September 11 had marked the first time Mac, Methos, Matthew McCormick, Steven Keane, Ceirdwyn, Cassandra, and a group of other powerful, well-known Immortals had taken a stand as a united front. Using the Watcher network and their own contacts, they had let their brethren know that any Immortal caught taking advantage of the mortal community during the upheaval following the attacks would face a challenge from one of the best in the Game. Several had attempted to oppose the edict and had died, more than a few by MacLeod’s blade.

Next Part

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November 2010

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