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Fencing

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There was no mistaking it. The Ivanhoe was missing. Which was a gigantic pain in the ass, really, because Methos didn't have much in storage in Seacouver. Paris, yes. London, New York, Bangor. A dozen other cities and he could have easily had another broadsword in his hand - or rather in his coat - in a matter of an hour, at most. But Seacouver? Of course not! Why on Earth would he store a spare sword in a city he spent so much time in? That would just have been total foolishness!

"Idiot," he sighed as he stared at the lost property form he'd been told to fill out.

"Excuse me?" The security guard at the desk had clearly spent too many hours in the airport and not had nearly enough caffeine, if the weary look on his face was any indication.

"Me," Methos clarified. "Definitely me."

Satisfied that Methos wasn't going to make his night more difficult, the guard went back to his monitors. Methos went back to the form, carefully describing the case his sword had been in and all of its identifying marks. Then he described the sword and the various odds and ends that traveled with it. At least he'd had all the right paperwork, though it didn't do much good when the case hadn't even appeared on the claim carousel.

Methos was almost done with the form when he felt someone - MacLeod almost certainly - approaching. He ignored it for the moment since he could see the security monitors covering his back from where he was standing. And sure enough, just as he finished off the last boxes on the form, a familiar figure strode through the camera's view.

"Guess what's lost," Methos told MacLeod without turning around.

"You're joking," Mac said as Methos handed the form over to the guard. "Did you have it insured, at least?"

Methos turned around then, leveling a look at Mac that would have broken a lesser man. But he'd probably used it too often since Mac now seemed to be immune. Methos sighed and pushed away from the counter, forcing Mac to follow him as he headed away from the security desk.

"No," he hissed when they were out of earshot. "It's not precisely a collector's piece, is it? I ding it up whenever I use it. How would I explain that to an appraiser? Oh yes! I'm aware of that new notch near the hilt! I got it using the sword to cut a ham!"

"Just say you're one of those re-enactment types."

"What a hideous idea," Methos noted. "But. Possibly effective. In the future. Doesn't get me a sword now, and I don't expect an insurance settlement would pay out in live steel anyhow. I don't suppose you have a spare? Just for a week, of course."

"Sure, if you don't mind a katana," Mac offered as they headed for his car.

"Whatever you have. I'd take a machete if that's all I could get. I've got a couple of knives and a gun at your place."

Mac froze at his car, keys out and paused halfway to the lock. "Right," he said finally. "Of course you do."

*****



"Huh."

Danny didn't turn around right away and Rusty waited patiently.

"What?" Danny asked when he finally looked over towards Rusty. "Oh. Huh."

"Yeah."

"That's more than one sword, Danny."

Danny did a quick count under his breath, then counted again. "I believe that's more like ten, Rusty."

"And the ones upstairs," Rusty added, gesturing towards the elevator next to the office. "And the one under the desk. And those ones on the wall." Not that they were on the wall anymore. They'd packed those up first.

Rusty considered the cabinet full of very sharp swords.

"Well," Danny said, reaching past Rusty to grab the first two. "Good thing we've got a big trunk."

*****



"You said you had a spare," Methos pointed out as he stared at the empty cabinet in the dojo. The loft above had been cleaned out too. There wasn't a single long blade left in the place. Methos' knives and gun were safe enough, but then he'd left them in a box of Christmas decorations in the basement. Not really a practical space to have hidden swords, even if they'd thought for a moment that someone would ever steal them.

"Amanda?" Mac mused as he went into his office to look under his desk.

"Not really her style," Methos told him. He saw Mac nod before ducking under the desk to look. "Besides, she goes for jewels. Your swords aren't nearly encrusted enough."

The desk must have proven as sword-free as the rest of the building because Mac emerged empty-handed and shaking his head.

"So, another one of us," Methos continued. "Tell me again why you left your katana here?"

"Airport?" Mac reminded him. "I didn't want to invite any trouble. They're far too full of security these days for a challenge and all I was supposed to be doing was picking you up. And you were going to have a sword!"

"Yes, well. That would have been nice, wouldn't it."

They stared at each other for a few minutes. Methos wasn't sure what Mac was thinking but for his own part he was pretty sure he was comfortable with shooting any challengers and running if need be. Mac, on the other hand, was a little more honorable than that. And Methos wasn't about to hand over his gun. A knife, yes. Gun, no.

"Right, let's go see Joe," Methos said after a few minutes. He clapped Mac on the shoulder and started for the door.

"Good idea," Mac said as he followed. "He might have something."

"Whatever," Methos sighed. "If he does, great. I just want a drink."

*****



"Something about this just doesn't feel right."

"What doesn't?"

"This whole thing. Look at these." Danny gestured to the swords that now covered most of the surfaces in Rusty's motel room. "These are antiques. And that place had no security. Not even one of those little keypads."

"Could have been something silent." Rusty put down his bag of chips, wiped his hand and picked up one of the swords to inspect it. Good craftsmanship, obviously cared for, also likely recently used, which was kind of funny.

"Could have," Danny allowed. "Or maybe not."

"Set-up?"

Danny nodded. "Set-up. Let's call Bobby."

*****



Joe laughed at them. He laughed for a whole minute before realizing they weren't joking and ushering them into the back room at the bar.

"All of them? Someone took all of them?"

He looked at Mac. He looked at Methos. When neither of them said anything he shook his head.

"You two are trouble magnets. It's unbelievable." Joe made his way around his desk and took out his keys, unlocking a trunk in the corner of the office. "You know I shouldn't be doing this, right?"

"Hey, all I wanted was a drink," Methos pointed out. "And maybe any surveillance you've got on the dojo and loft."

Joe pulled some things out of the trunk, depositing them on the floor as he rummaged through it. Eventually he held up a machete and a bayonet sword, both of which looked like they'd seen considerably better days, probably some decades prior.

"Take 'em or leave 'em," he said as he set them on his desk. "And as for surveillance, I don't have any. Stopped keeping video tabs on Mac here years ago. Besides, he wasn't even home. I'm not your private security guard."

"You know," Mac said as he grabbed the machete before Methos could. "Usually I'd appreciate that. Today I think I'd appreciate knowing who took my swords."

Methos reluctantly took the bayonet sword and inspected it. It was certainly not his first choice of weapons, but it was sharp at least, so that was something. As for the surveillance, he wasn't sure he believed Joe. The Watchers had been quite pleased when surveillance had gone visual and embraced every technology upgrade they could get their hands on.

"You're sure none of your people have a camera trained on the doors even?" Methos asked, watching for Joe's telltale bluster.

"Yeah I'm sure!" Joe insisted. And no, no bluster at all. Oh well.

Methos slipped the sword into his coat, sighing when it was far too small for the pocket his regular sword normally occupied. Mac was doing the same with the machete and apparently finding that it was wider than the katana by a good deal.

"Swap?" Methos offered, watching Mac try to get the machete settled.

"You wish," Mac muttered. "Let's have that drink."

*****



"So you're sure this guy's legit?"

Rusty watched Danny from the hotel bed, which had just enough non-sword-covered space left on it for one person and a basket of fries from the diner across the street.

"It just seemed a little odd, you know. All these antiques, no security."

The fries were a little soggy, but Rusty was dipping them in the complimentary gravy anyhow, so it didn't matter.

"Yeah, the airport job took a little more work, but it was a simple bribe job in the end. Listen, Bobby, I just want to know if you know anything about this guy."

Rusty licked a little gravy off his fingers. You had to hand it to the Canadians. Poutine was pretty amazing. He glanced at Danny and cocked his head towards the swords on the bed.

Danny nodded. "Both of them, actually. The guy we stole the swords from and the guy paying for them."

A few minutes later he hung up the phone.

"Well, Caldwell says the buyer's a jackass but he's got the money and this MacLeod guy's an antique dealer who seems to have a lot of enemies."

Rusty offered him the fries and gravy.

"Yeah. Doesn't help, does it."

*****



In retrospect, Methos knew it had been a bad idea to leave Joe's after dark that evening. There was a very well-connected Immortal out there, after all. One who had invested no small amount of time and money in disarming both himself and MacLeod. Then again, it was also an Immortal who seemed to have overlooked the wealth of possibilities inherent in guns and knives. Joe too. But then if whoever it was had even known to check up on Joe they might well have dismissed him as just a friendly bartender. So it was someone with money and reach, but very little imagination.

Very little patience too, as it turned out. But that wasn't much of a surprise. After all, if you were going to swipe your opponents' weapons, it was probably a good idea to strike before they managed to get more.

Unfortunately for the idiot who stepped out of the shadows about three blocks from Mac's building, both Mac and Methos now had blades. So they were somewhat shabby as blades went. They were still perfectly serviceable in a fight, as was being demonstrated by Mac while Methos watched.

It wasn't Methos' preferred way of doing things, but he wasn't about to go shooting the asshole in the back during the fight with Mac. Well, not while Mac was winning. Which he was.

Really, it was impressive what MacLeod could do with a crappy old machete when he put his mind to it. The challenger, a man who hadn't even bothered to identify himself, had taken several blows from Mac early on in the fight. Now he was on the defensive, fending off each blow quickly and trying to find better ground instead of following up with any attacks of his own. He'd landed a few glancing blows himself, but Methos was pleased to see that Mac hadn't even flinched.

He must really have been pissed about the katanas.

In the end it just wasn't a fair fight. Mac had the man outclassed at every turn. There were weak parries, feeble attempts at disarms, a few stumbles and finally his own sword, a halfway decent sabre, went flying. Methos grabbed it as it came skidding over.

"A gentleman would let me collect my sword," the man muttered, glancing up at MacLeod and then over at Methos. Methos snickered and tucked the sword away in his coat. It was a perfectly good sabre and he wasn't going to leave it behind.

"Yeah, well, a gentleman wouldn't have hired thieves to steal an opponent's weapons," Mac pointed out. He touched the edge of the machete to the man's neck. "Where are they?"

The man started to laugh. "I don't have them! And you won't be getting them back any time soon! I won't take you down, but someone will!" And he kept laughing. It was a particularly grating laugh too and he clearly didn't plan on stopping any time soon. Fortunately, Mac was short on patience and that was the end of that.

After the light show died down and Methos had grabbed Mac's machete and helped him back to the loft they both had a stiff drink and sat down on the couch, staring at the sabre. As leads went, it wasn't terribly helpful.

*****



"This could put a considerable crimp in our plans," Rusty was saying as Danny got back to the motel room. "If he was going to go and get himself killed he could at least have paid us first. Yeah. Right. I know." He knew. You always had to expect that your buyer could disappear. It wasn't like Danny and Rusty were new to the business.

"Thanks, Bobby. Say hi to your wife for me." Rusty hung up and looked at Danny, who was looking at the swords. There were a lot of swords. Antique swords. Expensive swords. Easily identifiable swords.

"We did not think this through," Danny commented.

"Yes we did. We thought it through and we did the job. All we need now is a fence."

"Yeah? A fence who can move this many swords on short notice without alerting this MacLeod guy, who's a collector and probably looking for them. We need someone sneaky. Someone with lots of connections."

He paused. Rusty didn't answer but he did go and get a bag of salted nuts from the minibar.

"Right. We need someone who owes us."

*****



"You know, it's all well and good that we've got choices now," Methos commented the next morning as he waited for the coffee to brew. The entirety of their current arsenal was now laid out on the kitchen counter. All three blades and Methos' knives and gun. It felt a bit spare.

"But we need more?" Mac finished for him. He leaned over the counter and picked up the sabre. "Well, you could just find yourself a new sword. My katanas, on the other hand..."

"Excuse me?"

"What? You just had that big broadsword, right?"

Methos didn't bother with giving Mac a look. He just shook his head. "It might not be as flashy as yours but it's just as important. So I didn't get it from a wise teacher? That doesn't mean just any old sword can replace it."

Mac was looking at him with something that looked suspiciously like amusement.

"What?"

"I never figured you'd be sentimental about your sword."

"It keeps my head attached to my body. I'd say that's worthy of sentiment, wouldn't you?" Not to mention that he really did like that sword. No, it wasn't the best sword in the world, but it was his and he knew it well. It was such a pain to get used to a new sword. He did it as infrequently as he could, mainly keeping spares stashed for emergencies. And from now on he was definitely keeping one in Seacouver.

"So, what do we do now?" Methos asked after they'd both contemplated their meager options for a few minutes. "File a police report? That is, if you're not wanted by the police for questioning for some reason? No outstanding cases? Trouble with Amanda?"

"No, ever since... wait. Amanda. She must have, you know, connections."

It was a valid point. Amanda did manage to meet people and make friends, but then she also made enemies. Still, Methos reasoned, she might know a name even if she was more on sparring terms than speaking terms.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" he asked Mac. "Let's see if the lady would like a free dinner."

*****



Even though both Danny and Rusty could have been out doing something, they were waiting around the motel room, sword-sitting. They'd run through a number of possible connections, but somehow no one stood out for this particular job. And there was a Hallmark Hall of Fame marathon on one of the few channels that the ancient television in the room could get. Really, it was amazing how time passed when you sat down to watch those things.

When the phone rang it was enough of a surprise that they both stared at it for a few moments before either one shifted to answer it.

"Yeah?" Danny said after grabbing it before Rusty, who went back to watching an incredibly touching tale about the holiday spirit in all of us.

"Oh, hey, Roman. How the hell'd you get... Never mind. What's up?"

The movie went to commercial and Rusty got up to finish off a container of lo mein from lunch while Danny kept talking to Roman. Of all people. Last Rusty had heard Roman was holed up somewhere in England being his usual inscrutable self.

"Oh yeah? Really. Well, as a matter of fact, we do happen to currently have a good line on a wide selection of antique swords."

Rusty glanced at Danny and cocked his head slightly, forkful of noodles paused just over the container. Danny nodded back.

"Listen, Roman, not that I'd ever try to snipe a sale out from under you or anything, but do you mind if I ask who your buyer is? It's just, you know, these things can be sensitive." Danny waited, then grinned. "Well, in that case, tell her we'd love to meet her for dinner to discuss the usual."

*****



The restaurant chosen for the meeting wasn't the most upscale in Seacouver, but it was most assuredly on the higher end. There was a good wine selection and the woman seated at the corner table Danny and Rusty were led to already had a glass of something expensive. She smiled at them as they took their seats.

"Well, my good friend, Roman, told me you were two dashing young men. Isn't it nice to meet someone honest every once in a while? I'm Amanda, and you must be Danny and Rusty." She offered Danny her hand first, then Rusty. What she did not offer was a last name. Then she double checked the rings she had on by picking up her glass.

Smooth.

"How long have you known Roman?" Danny asked as Rusty motioned to the waiter and asked for the rest of the bottle that the woman had started.

"Oh, we go a long ways back." Her voice smirked and Rusty had to stop himself from checking his pockets. That was the voice of a woman who'd rob you blind without getting within reach. "He said you had some unique items that I might be interested in."

"Personal collector?" Rusty asked as he looked over the menu.

"You could say that. Though I've been known to fence as well."

They all sat in silence for a few minutes, Rusty deciding on what to order while Amanda and Danny sized each other up.

"Listen," Danny said finally, waving off the waiter for a few more moments. "Let's cut to the chase. We've got a number of items, ready to go. I'm sure Roman gave you the specs. We can dance around it for a while or we can decide on a price and then have a very nice dinner without business in the way."

"But I do love dancing," Amanda sighed. "Fine. But before you boys go asking for a credit card number how about I make you a proposal? A trade, if you will."

Danny sat back. Rusty folded his napkin in his lap. Amanda smiled.

"What do you two know about Incan matrimonial headmasks?"

*****



"I hate to ask," Mac said as he handed Amanda a glass of wine, "but how much do we owe you for getting them back?"

"We?" Methos protested from the couch. "I just had the one. You had what, fifty?"

"And if you hadn't insisted on a ride from the airport I would have been home and they wouldn't have gotten in to grab any of them," Mac argued. "And I do not own fifty swords."

"Okay, forty-nine," Methos allowed. "And they would have found time. You're no shut-in, Mac, and you know it. It's not my fault."

Amanda sipped her wine, apparently content to let them bicker for a while. Eventually, however, she cleared her throat. When that didn't get their attention she rolled her eyes a little and snapped her fingers.

"Boys? Over here? We were talking about payment, I believe."

Mac glared at Methos, who glared right back. The glaring might have continued if Amanda hadn't set down her glass and gotten up to move between them.

"Fine, right, what do I owe you?" Mac asked her.

Satisfied that he'd be able to pay off his own debt to her later, or point out that he'd gotten involved in several MacLeod-based incidents at Amanda's request and she'd never paid him back for those, Methos sat back and put his feet up on the coffee table.

"Well, actually," Amanda told him, running one finger down his arm, "not much. I didn't even have to dip into my savings for it." She looked back over her shoulder at Methos, grinning at him. "So you're off the hook too. Mostly."

There was no way it was going to be that simple. Amanda never just let something like this go. A favor was a favor, even if it didn't involve money, jewels or comparable material compensation.

"Why?" Mac asked, clearly as suspicious as Methos was.

"Well," she said, turning from Mac to pick up her wine again. "Let's just say I had fun with it. And they won't be bothering you again any time soon. I sent them off to find me some Incan matrimonial headmasks."

"Incan matrimonial headmasks."

Amanda nodded. "You know some people say they don't actually exist? So, that should keep them busy. I do hope they don't try to fence them themselves. They could get in quite a bit of trouble with the law."

"And if they try to implicate you?"

Amanda grinned at them. "And what would I want with Incan matrimonial headmasks? I'm far more interested in swords."