Duncan's cabinets at the loft were pretty bare when Amanda got there. Not that she'd expected any differently, what with Duncan living in Paris at the moment and not due back in Seacouver for two days. Really, it was a wonder he'd left anything in the loft at all. The sum total of his cabinets and fridge were several excellent bottles of wine, a couple of boxes of dried pasta, a bag of frozen peas, a tube of almond paste, three jars of mustard, a can of kidney beans and two cloves of garlic she tossed directly in the trash when she saw the mold on them. She'd made a meal with worse but some cream would have been nice.
Amanda surveyed her findings and sighed. She was going to have to go out. Plain pasta was depressing and she at least wanted new garlic. And cream. And maybe some chicken stock. Or perhaps some asparagus. Fresh peas.
She let herself out, making sure the place was locked up, and headed for the nearest grocery store. And then the next nearest when it turned out the nearest one was a dismal little place that didn't even have asparagus. Not a single stalk. Now, the second market was more promising. They had their own bakery and an aisle full of fresh vegetables. No asparagus, but they did have some lovely looking tomatoes.
Laden with several bags of essentials, Amanda made her way back to the loft. She had been considering her chances on being able to pick the lock without putting any of her bags down, but found she didn't need to. The door was unlocked and people were in the dojo. Of course. It was still a functioning business. She smiled brightly at the handful of men making use of the facility and waggled her fingers at the young man in the office as she strolled through to the lift.
"Don't mind me!" she called out. "I can see myself up."
Now she remembered Duncan mentioning something about hiring someone to take charge of the place while he was away. It seemed he'd actually done it.
Once in the lift she set the bags down and went to pick the lock on the controls, except that was unlocked too. Amanda frowned at that. The loft wasn't terribly secure anyhow, not by anyone's standards and certainly not by hers, but still. The lift did have a lock on it. She was too far down from the upper floor to feel another Immortal, if one was there, but she put her hand on the hilt of her sword anyhow, leaving the groceries on the floor of the lift.
As it turned out, there was no other Immortal. At least, not that she could feel. The lift reached the top floor without so much as a tingle impinging upon her senses. She stopped the lift and peered out into the loft, cursing her own care in turning most of the lights off before she'd left. She couldn't see anyone in the loft, or hear anyone. Until a toilet flushed and Joe Dawson emerged from the bathroom.
"Amanda?" he asked, seeing her in the lift. She sighed and pulled open the gate. Not that Joe was harmless, but she was sure he wasn't about to challenge her to a duel in Duncan's loft.
"Yes, hello Joseph."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Joe asked, settling himself on one of the couches. "Mac's not around, you know. He's off doing some soul searching thing in Scotland."
"I thought he was still in Paris," Amanda said as she set out the groceries. "I was certain he was."
"Yeah, well, he was, until yesterday. Then I get a call from him." Joe fished his phone out of his pocket and played her the voicemail Duncan had left.
"I need a little quiet time. I'm sure you understand. I'm heading to Scotland for a few days. I'll be back in Seacouver on the twentieth. Do me a favor? Go over and make sure the place isn't trashed?"
The message ended and Joe shrugged, tucking his phone away and smiling at Amanda. "And here I am. Now what the hell are you up to?"
Amanda gestured to the groceries. "I had a job nearby. And now it's done and my wallet is full and Duncan's larder was bare."
"And you just wanted to do him the favor of filling it?"
"Give me a little credit, Joe. I'll even share my dinner with you. That's how giving a mood I'm in right now."
Joe shrugged again and leaned back. "Sure. So long as I don't have to open a can of soup back home."
Amanda smiled and got to the work of making something edible.
When everything was put away and dinner was over and Joe off to his own apartment, Amanda drew herself a bath and opened one of the bottles of wine Duncan had foolishly left for later. It wasn't the most expensive, but it was quite nice.
So Duncan wasn't due back until the twentieth. That left her two more days to do something with before he showed up again. She let the bath drain and considered her options. She could find another job, a quick and easy one that would keep her close. She could go elsewhere and return in a couple of days to find Duncan. She could see if Adam was in town and pester him for a bit. It all seemed equally appealing and she fell asleep wondering if she should have bought more food.
The next morning she woke to rain outside and the phone ringing. She let it go to the machine, but picked it up when she heard Joe's voice.
"Hey, you're still there?"
"I am indeed, Joe. Is something wrong?"
"Got another call from Mac. Looks like he's going to be gone a little longer. I told him you're taking care of the place and he said, and I quote: 'Make sure she doesn't steal anything.'"
"Just for that, I'm selling that horrible painting in the living room. The nerve of the man."
"Hey, don't shoot the messenger, okay?" Joe said, and she could hear him laughing as he spoke. "And come by the bar later. We've got a good band coming in tonight. You might like 'em."
Amanda smiled and considered telling Joe that she wasn't sure if she could make it, but really, why? Why not go? Duncan wasn't around and it rather left both of them at loose ends. And shame on Duncan for leaving Joe like that. It wasn't as if the man could go tromping around the hills of Scotland after him. And she certainly wasn't the tromping type.
She did go shopping before she went by the bar, however, picking up some delicacies at a tiny little gourmet deli Joe had recommended the night before. If he hadn't told her where to find it she wasn't sure she'd have ever happened upon it by herself. It was practically invisible. Once she tasted their homemade cervelat she understood how they'd managed to stay in business even if only by word of mouth. She bought far more than she'd intended and dropped them off at the loft before going to Joe's.
The band he had in that night was good after all and Amanda stayed later than she'd intended. She invited Joe around for lunch the next day, waxing rhapsodically (and a little tipsily) about the cervelat and the delicious smoked gruyere.
"You sure you're okay to get back to the loft?" Joe asked when Amanda finally picked up her coat from behind the bar, well after the band had packed up and everyone else had gone home.
Amanda nodded. "Joe, don't forget, I have a very high tolerance."
Joe shrugged and finished wiping down the bar. "I know, I know. Least you're not driving. You're not driving, are you?"
"Of course not. I'll get a cab."
"At this hour?"
Amanda would have protested more, but for the banging on the door of the bar and a sudden ringing sensation deep in her skull. She pulled her sword out from the inside of her coat and motioned for Joe to get out.
"The hell I will," Joe muttered. "I won't get in the way."
"MacLeod!" a muffled voice called through the door. "I know this is your haunt! Come out here and face me!"
"Buying his groceries, taking his challengers, what am I?" Amanda commented to Joe as she headed for the door. "I did not sign on as his personal assistant."
She was six feet from the door when it burst open, kicked in by a bull of a man, broad-shouldered and well-muscled. He looked around the bar, seeing Joe and clearly dismissing him, then settling his gaze on Amanda.
"He sends little girls to do his work for him?"
"Oh buddy," Joe whispered somewhere behind Amanda. "You're gonna be sorry you said that."
Amanda shook her head and raised her sword, hoping Joe at least had the sense to go into the back room.
"We don't need to do this in here, do we?" she asked sweetly. "It'll make such a mess?"
"Then when MacLeod sees it and your headless body maybe he'll stop hiding and face me!"
The man swung his sword at Amanda, who side-stepped out of the way and swung back. It wasn't going to be any good trying to tell the man that Duncan wasn't hiding, he was just traveling. She was well aware of what Duncan was like when he was moping and he hadn't been moping. He'd been fine. She parried a rather sloppy blow from the man and ducked around a table, keeping it between them. Fighting in close quarters was never enjoyable.
It was clear from his style, right at the outset, that her opponent was used to brute strength getting the job done. And it had clearly been working for him, probably for some time. But Amanda was used to people counting on brute strength. And she was used to finding their weaknesses and exploiting them for as much damage as possible.
By the time she'd figured out how she was going to pull off a win, much of the bar was a loss. There were a few tables still intact but many of the chairs were without backs or legs. The stage was okay, but Amanda had spared a slight wince for what a quickening would do to the sound system. And all those bottles behind the bar itself. So in a split second, she decided to direct the fight to the fire exit, kicking her way out with her back to the door. The big man barrelled after her into the alley beside the bar and was caught unawares by Amanda's boot, tripping him as he came through the doorway. As the fire alarm blared into the night Amanda took the man's head. The lightning of the quickening soon silenced the alarm and then lit a fire in the trash cans near the end of the alley.
Amanda slumped against the wall, aware that she'd been wearing one of her favorite sweaters and now it was in tatters. The fire alarm was off, but the bar was still trashed and she could hear sirens in the distance. Joe came through the door and sighed.
"Come on. Let's get you back to Mac's place. I've got my phone. I'll tell them I was driving you home when it happened. Good thing I've got insurance."
As was often the case for Amanda after a successful fight, the next few hours were a bit blurry. She woke in the morning to the sound of someone cooking in the kitchen. When she went to see who it was she found Joe making lunch.
"Hey, I invited you," she pointed out. "I'd have cooked."
"Forget it," Joe told her. He poured her a drink and shooed her to the stool at the other side of the counter. "You bought the food. It's all used up, by the way. Pretty sure he's got less here now than there was when you got here."
"Probably," Amanda agreed. "We'll just have to restock before he arrives."