All jokes about owning stock in them aside, Methos didn't much care for Walmart. It wasn't because of all the consumerist capitalism blah blah mom-and-pop stores corporate greed sweatshop bullshit, but more because he couldn't find anything. He generally prided himself on his ability to locate things using signs and logic, but nothing about Walmart made any sense, and its labyrinthine corridors and high shelves reminded him uneasily of a few funhouses he'd been through over the years. It took a lot to confuse a five-thousand-year-old man who prided himself on his ability to stay technologically current (though not pop-culturally), and Walmart was a canker on his self-image of modern savviness.
On the other hand they were open at two in the morning and they sold ammunition. Ammunition, one might add, that was never difficult to find. You just looked for the antlers and orange camouflage jumpsuits.
The helpful man at the counter told him that the register was down for the night, but he walked him up to the front checkout lanes and assured him that the girl there would take care of him, even though it wasn't customary to purchase ammunition anywhere but the firearm counter. Methos whistled to himself as he perused the candy rack right at checkout: Milky Way, Milky Way, Milky Way, Mars, oh yeah, a—
That old sensation hit him, once more with feeling, and Methos glanced around to see who else could possibly be out and about in the middle of the night at the crap emporium, but no one slid from the end of the aisles to menacingly stare at him and fondle a sword-like object, nodding towards the exit. Obviously he'd either been taking too many challenges in the last few years or he needed these fifteen Twix bars he was about to buy.
He tossed the ammo boxes and candy bars on the conveyor belt and rifled through his pockets for his billfold when the cashier stood up from arranging something under her counter. He glanced at the nametag reading 'Brandi' before gaping at her face.
"Welcome to Wal—" Amanda stopped and blinked at him like a deer caught in the headlights. "Oh shit."
Amanda pulled at her shirt, as if it was too low-cut for her, and Methos sighed. If Mac were here, she'd never think her shirt was too low-cut. She looked different, with her streaked hair and her poly-blend shirt right off the rack from her place of employment, no doubt. He wondered if her jeans were designer, or if she'd gone all out. This had to be a ruse. She was wearing silver glitter eyeshadow, for god's sake.
"So," he began, the first words they'd spoken since they'd agreed in clipped tones to meet at the local diner in an hour to discuss the accidental encounter. Methos didn't have anything better to do, now that he was awake, and the occasional ribbing of Amanda was a skill that he hadn't had opportunity to practice for a few years.
Amanda waited for the blow to fall. He could see it in her eyes. That meant it was too early. "How are you?" he finished.
She gave him a gesture she must have learnt from her teenage co-workers. Or taught to them. It was hard to tell.
"That's lovely nail polish you have there," Methos drawled when Amanda reached for her coffee.
Amanda stared at him in confusion and then blinked at her glittery fingers. "Oh, sonfoa—it's for the job."
Methos just smiled over his glass. Sure.
"Anyway, look, I'm just short on cash and—"
"So you're working at the crap emporium?" he cut in. "Wouldn't it be easier to steal something shiny and get on with it?"
The waitress came and refilled his coffee cup, and he drank half of it in one go. Amanda put her hand over the rim of her mug to stop the woman, and smiled gratefully. "Why yes, Adam, that would be a wonderful idea. What do you suggest I liberate?"
Methos shrugged. "Jewelry? Large wads of untraceable bills?" Amanda raised an eyebrow and he cast about. "Priceless pottery? A cow made from fossilized butter?" Amanda reached forward and took the check when the waitress glided by and slapped it on the table. Methos had expected her to leave it to him, what with her current…vocation and—
"What are you on to?"
Amanda batted her eyelashes. "I'll take care of this."
Methos slapped his hand over hers on the table. "No really, what are you doing?"
Her eyes widened, and she glanced at three truckers eyeing their table from the counter. If she hollered, they would probably come over here and beat the stuffing out of him. Amanda was never anything but trouble.
Still, entertaining trouble. The kind you wanted when you were bored.
He wondered if he'd actually be able to stare it out of her. He used to be intimidating. Methos wasn't one for thinking about the past, but once upon a time he would have had her spilling her guts all over the table, and if she hadn't he would have literally spilled her guts, and well, there was a reason he wasn't doing that anymore.
Amanda sighed then, and her shoulders slumped. "See, ten years ago I'd just managed to nick a large quantity of gems from the Lafayette collection—"
"That was you?" Methos asked, releasing her hand. She shook it, as if he'd stung her.
"Yeah, that was me." She shrugged, tucking one strand of hair behind her ear. "Anyway, my fence fell through and I had some…issues with the police and one thing led to another, and I was forced to, uh, stash them."
Methos sat back. "In the Walmart."
Amanda's face reddened and she glanced out at the sheets of rain. Another car pulled into the deserted diner, but it was no one they knew. "It wasn't a Walmart then, just a construction site."
Oh, that was rich. That was—that—
"Please tell me you hid them in concrete or something," he mumbled, and her face screwed up in frustration. "You—"
"I don't remember where, but I will." She buffed her fuschia nails on her chest. "I will," she repeated firmly, probably to herself
Methos bit his lips to keep himself from laughing. "Does Mac know you're—"
"No, and if you know what's good for you, you'll be quiet about it." She crossed her arms. "The place is open twenty-four hours a day. The only way to case it was to get a job there."
Okay, the plan was looking less and less crazy when she put it that way. "How long have you been…casing the joint?" Oh, he had to bite the inside of his cheek. Their waitress breezed past with a carafe of decaf and he shook his head.
Amanda shrugged. "A week. It's long and boring when you only get fifteen-minute breaks." Then she leant forward just a little, and her top stretched just so. Oh. Methos knew what was coming next, and she was pulling out all the stops, starting with cleavage. "It could be a lot faster if there were two of us."
"How much are we talking about here?" he asked. It was just curiosity. He wasn't hurting for money on his salary these days, though it did cut down on the international travel. And good wine. And he found himself wanting a Winnebago. Wouldn't a Winnebago be a trip?
Amanda wrote a number on the back of the check and slid it over to him. He felt his left eye twitch. His waitress took that as a sign and stopped as she passed their table, refilling his coffee.
"That's a lot of zeroes," he said, mouth dry.
Amanda picked up his coffee cup and sipped from it. "That could be your share."
Methos didn't spend much time thinking about ancient myth, unless he was feeling nostalgic and wanted to spend a few weeks tumbling through the memories in his head. At some point all the thinking and reading and just the march of time had scrambled it in his head like an omelet, or a good martini. A dirty martini, olives on the side. Shaken, not stirred. Or something.
He wanted a drink.
One could say that Methos was the fount of all myth in some ways, since he was one, and being a living myth was an honor reserved for him, Nessie and Bigfoot. Possibly Wendingo. Regardless, history never got it right, not when everything was passed down like handing off a baton. If the real myth were the fingerprints of the first person holding it, by the end of the race, not even CSI: Las Vegas would be able to get a good set of imprints.
Then there was the way modernity had ruined everything by co-opting it. For example, Camus had ruined the myth of Sisyphus for him by removing it from the realm of morals and embedding it into the mundanity of daily routine. He was all for practicality, but some things needed a few poetical flourishes to remain mysterious and alluring.
On the other hand, he thought as he finished the tower in front of him, sometimes it was good to compare oneself to a Greek myth. Keep life in perspective. Take, for example, the display he was constructing right now. He'd finish stacking a giant pyramid of them (it didn't matter what they were; it could be a home-colonoscopy kit), and then all he had to do was turn around, and when he turned back, it would be in disarray, as if there were a demon in the store that dismantled neatness in a heartbeat.
Methos deliberately turned away and watched three children climb the shelves in the children's aisle. He should do something about that. Right.
He turned back to the pyramid—still there. Give it more time.
He looked back at the children just in time to see one child fall from the third shelf up, taking about fifteen robot something or others with him. Heh.
He turned back to the pyramid—nothing but a scattered series of boxes. One of them was half-open, as if someone had looked inside and shoved the contents back in haphazardly.
"Break time!" Amanda said, rounding the corner and breezing past, snagging his elbow with her hand. Methos let her tug him towards the back of the store. Break time was when they got the actual work done. The work that yielded results. Well, results that Methos was more interested in, because he'd been at this for a day, and his internal bullshit sensor was telling him that he had about another week left before he went to the ammo department and gave himself an 'employee discount'.
They threaded through the crowds of people in the electronics department, towards the swinging EMPLOYEES ONLY doors. Amanda let go of Methos's arm as soon as they were through them, and they yanked their packs of Marlboros from their pockets and slunk out the loading dock doors.
"My lighter has lint in it," Amanda grumbled. "Give me yours."
Methos took a drag on his cigarette and handed over the plastic lighter that said, "Take me home! West Virginia!" down the side. He didn't even know where he'd gotten it. It might have even been in his vest pocket when they'd issued it. Dear god, he hoped that wasn't a sign of something.
"Okay, so I looked in the west storage section during my lunch, and it's definitely not in that direction," Amanda said quietly. They leant against the outer back wall, eyes scanning the approaches over each other's shoulders without looking like they were scanning. "It's too close to the parking lot anyway. I went towards the back of the building, near the forest."
"You mean that forest?" Methos asked, pointing at the thin strip of trees in the back of the building through which they could glimpse the other end of the circular strip mall.
"That wasn't here ten years ago!" Amanda hissed, taking a nervous drag from her cigarette. It wasn't like Amanda to be nervous about theft. And was it really theft when you'd already stolen it, and you were just picking it up? It wasn't as if they were going to take anything from Walmart. Well, maybe some Twix bars.
He took a fake hit of his cigarette. Half a cigarette was about his max cap, and even though they wouldn't kill him, they made his chest hurt for a little while. Also, his hands smelled. "All right, so it was towards the back. Had they built the actual wall back here?"
"No, they—" Amanda stopped while one of their coworkers trotted up the loading dock from the back parking lot and waved. She answered with a smile, the 'Brandi' smile, and Adam did his best to answer with his 'Clark' smile.
That was the last time he was letting Amanda pick his fake document name.
"They'd poured the foundation, but they hadn't finished the cinderblock walls," she told him when they were alone again. There was a rolling grumble overhead and he glanced at the sky—rain. Shit. Rain made it hard to justify coming out here where there was no shelter.
"Okay," he said. "Let's think this through." He flicked the ash from his cigarette and crossed his arms. "Where would you have put it?" And why wouldn't you make a special note to remember where you stashed a veritable fortune in precious gems?, he didn't ask.
"In one of the bricks already laid," Amanda said. "It has to be here somewhere on the very bottom level."
Methos stubbed his cigarette out against the wall and tossed it in the bin. Amanda speed-smoked hers down to the filter while he waited. "That's a lot of wall to cover."
"I thought I was going to be able to come back in a few days," Amanda said, grinding her cigarette under her heel on the asphalt. Her shoes were ridiculously impractical with their little heels. "It was the middle of winter! How was I to know they did construction in the middle of winter?"
Methos bit back a comment about the brutality of the Seacouver winters and their stinging rains and sixty-degree weather, because he had blueprints for this House of Pain, and they'd go over them tonight. With any luck, Amanda would remember, and then they could hatch part two of their plan.
Whatever that was.
"These don't look like the area behind the store," Amanda mused as she studied the unrolled plans that they'd smoothed out over his table.
Methos sipped his ten-dollar Chardonnay and felt his face muscles fight not to grimace; he'd had wine this bad before, but he had to dredge his memory—not a daunting task for anyone who looked his age, but downright pathetic for his actual age. Still, age had taught him that sometimes when you wanted to get drunk, you just soldiered on, and eventually everything tasted like Chateau Lafite.
"They're the original landscape plans before the property was razed for the LA Fitness," he said. "They should be close to the composition of the land around the time you stashed the gems."
Amanda sipped from her wine and made the face he'd suppressed. "This is their best wine?" she asked him.
Methos gestured. "Maybe. I picked something quickly." He set the bottle on the counter and looked at the label, on which a dancing cupcake was frolicking with what looked like drunk Bambi. "Earl was giving me this crazy look."
Amanda poured her wine down the drain and opened her satchel, pulling out a bottle of Wild Turkey. "Earl is legally blind and has a lazy eye," she told him. "If we're going to drink something bad, let's make sure it's worth it, hey?"
"I knew there was a reason Mac kept you around," Methos said, reaching for some glasses.
"That's not the reason," Amanda whispered in his ear.
Two hours later, they'd circled a bunch of places on the back wall of the store on the blueprints, each circle less steady than the last. Eventually, the chairs had proved too hard to negotiate, and they settled on the floor with the blueprints in front of them. Amanda was still cross-legged in front of the sofa, but Methos stretched out on the floor and stared at the crack in the ceiling. How had that gotten there?
Amanda was clicking through his iPod. "You have a lot of Fountains of Wayne," she told him. "Like, it's all Fountains of…oh, I was stick in the artist section." She took the bottle from the table and swilled from it. "You have every Jimmy Buffet song known to man on here."
Methos waved a hand. "There was a girl."
Amanda glanced about wildly. "Where? Did I miss something?" She gestured with the bottle. "Why didn't you intro—"
"Like three months ago," Methos interrupted, hitting her on the leg and taking the bottle from her. The only downside was that he had to sit up to drink. He was wasted enough that downward drinking would lead to tragedy, but not drunk enough to not know that downward drinking would lead to tragedy.
He was a fucking genius.
"What happened to her?" Amanda asked.
Methos paused. "Uhm. I think she stole my car." He thought about what his car currently looked like. Was it a hybrid? When had he gotten that? Hrm.
Amanda made a sad face and patted his arm, and then they burst out laughing. Amanda was a fun drunk. He'd known this, but somehow he'd forgotten.
It had been a year or two since he'd seen her, or Mac even, though he and Duncan emailed a bit. Joe was still out and about, and they met up for coffee once a month, but he was busy running the bar and the Watchers, and Methos was busy 'writing his memoirs,' which was a project he'd decided to do a few years ago that consisted of scanning in every document he'd ever written and loading them on flash drives. So far he had a hundred-six two-gig drives in a metal fireproof box.
He might also be writing a novel, but no one was going to find out about that. Not yet.
"Wait, wait," Methos said, sobering minutely and waving a finger at her. All six of her. "What's the point in having a blind security guard?"
Amanda didn't say anything for a while, and he waited. Then she shook herself all over and sat back. "Oh! You wanted me to answer! I thought you were telling a joke."
He thought about that for a moment. "When is Earl like a writing desk?" Then he fell back down and handed her the bottle. "Cut me off. Cut me off."
Amanda snorted and took a drink from the bottle, then capped it and slid it under the sofa ruffle. That would be a fun discovery in a few weeks. Methos stared at the crack in the ceiling again. It looked like the upper floor was caving in. Or the house was settling. Or he did that with a sword. Or a pool cue. Or he'd been watching too much Doctor Who. There couldn’t be such a thing as too much Doctor--
"Oh my god I marked it, I marked it," Amanda said, lunging forward and lying perpendicular over his belly to slap her hands on the blueprint. "I remember now. I marked it!"
Methos put up with her jostling across his stomach and groin, and instead tried to focus on her words. "Marked what?"
"The stone. I marked it some way, so I could find it." She lowered her head to peer at the blueprints.
"How?" he asked, closing his eyes and ignoring the fact that Amanda's breasts were mashed against his cock. Oh, man, the one time this happened and he'd had enough whiskey to make himself completely inoperable. Dammit. Every time she moved her shoulders, he could feel her shift.
"I…I used something that wouldn't fade. Or I turned the stone, or I…"
Methos might have drifted off, or he might have just lost track of her voice.
Or, he realized when he opened his eyes and glanced at her, she could have passed out over the papers. Good idea. He started to roll over, then realized that he was pinned there, Amanda sprawled over his torso and legs. He pushed one of her shoulders half-heartedly. She was heavy.
One of her hands flopped up and then fell down onto the papers.
Methos took his time setting the last box at the top of the display. Just the act of watching the box land on top of the one under it made his head scream in anguish. He would never drink again. Until the next time, that was.
Amanda was in just as bad a shape as he was. On the way to work from his house this afternoon, she'd swerved to hit a wild turkey on the side of the road. Methos had just held his head and wondered if he shouldn't kill himself to feel better. But then he'd have to change his clothes and oh, the general mess.
"So, is the sun loud enough for you?" said a voice behind him, and Methos cringed. "That is one hell of a hangover you got, son."
Methos turned to blink at Earl, turning his head from side to side. One eye remained trained on Methos. The other one was…was it looking over his shoulder? Was it just staring into space? What the hell. How could he even see Methos, anyway? Wasn't he legally blind?
"I shouldn't have had that last shot," he mumbled to the man, because he had to say something. His stocking was finished in this aisle, and he was due to go refold the sweaters. He hated refolding the sweaters. And it was only day three. Actually, come to think of it, he hadn't even refolded the sweaters yet, just thought about it.
Earl smiled and clapped him on the back. "What you need is a little hair of the dog," he said in a low voice, and then glanced about shiftily before pulling a small metal flask from his jacket pocket. "Liquid fortitude."
Methos could feel the blood drain from his face. Oh sweet god, please don't let him uncap that. "Ah, I, look, Earl, that's—"
"Quick, before anyone sees," Earl said, and then uncapped the flask and lifted it to Methos's lips. "Drink up, son."
Methos was too shocked to do more than steady Earl's hand when the rim of the flask hit his lips, and what poured into his mouth was a slug of the worst apricot brandy that he had ever tasted in his life. It hit his tongue like a whiplash and dropped into his stomach with all the pendulous weight of a lead-covered biscuit falling into a bucket of chyme. And now that he'd thought about that image, the brandy threatened to exit the way it had arrived.
He capped a hand over his mouth and let his eyes water, then waved his free hand in a scrolling gesture that hopefully conveyed his thanks and was not some gesture that myopic Earl would perceive as offensive. He was sure that earning Earl's trust would be a critical part of their plan to damage a portion of the building when it was heist time. The three brain cells that were working in Methos's head filed away the information about Earl's flask.
Earl's one non-lazy eye fixed on Methos's face hopefully. "Eh?"
"It's," Methos managed to grunt. "It's working." It was true. The taste of the brandy was so bad that it was taking all his attention away from his throbbing skull and to his roiling stomach. If he managed not to sick up on these Tickle-Me doll-things in the next three minutes, it would be a miracle.
Earl slapped his back again and screwed the cap on the flask, shoving it into his pocket. "That'll put you right, son," he said. "Drink some water, though, eh?"
Methos felt the familiar sensation of another immortal and glanced at his watch as he waved goodbye to Earl and took several breaths through his nose so that he wouldn't have to open his mouth. If he opened his mouth he might be the cause for a clean-up in aisle five. They weren't due for a break for another hour and a half, so unless there was some--
"Methos?" said the last voice that Methos ever wanted to hear from at this point in time. In fact at this moment, he might have preferred to run into Kronos or Caspian. Yes, yes, Caspian would have been so much better than the man he knew was approaching his exposed back.
"Ah," he said, stalling for time. How was he supposed to play this? Nonchalant? Surprised? Should he pretend that this was totally normal for him? Yeah, he was a seasonal worker. He did it for the discount. He wanted to give back to the community. He needed a job for his US tax forms. He, uh. Methos's mind stopped so that his mouth could run; one thing at a time.
"Duncan MacLeod," he said, furtively tapping his nametag to avoid any more 'Methos' slippages. Duncan's eyes followed Methos's fingers to his plastic pin. "Yes, Clark," he filled in, scrolling a hand.
"Clark," Duncan said with the smoothness of someone with centuries of experience suddenly switching names for people, a skill one built the longer he or she roamed the planet. "This is a bit of a surprise."
"What in god's name are you doing here?" Methos stuttered. Of all the places, this was not where he thought he would see Mac again after a few years' lull. In fact, if he had even thought that it was a possibility, he wouldn't have ever agreed to do this.
The pounding in his head peaked then, and he had to reach out to steady himself on the shelving. Fuck Amanda, on his next break he was going out to the car to put a plastic bag over his head. That is, if he managed to get out of this scenario intact. At least he could tell Mac it was all her fault.
Duncan's eyes were glued to Methos's vest. He gestured with his full hand. "There's a rollback on batteri…really, if you needed money—"
Methos rolled his eyes and turned back to the display he'd created. It was in shambles.
"You've had some really dumb ideas over the course of your life," Duncan said as soon as the waitress left their table.
"And this isn't even close to the worst of them," Amanda said quickly. "Remember when I tried to steal the Methuselah stone?"
"Or the time she broke Kalas out of gaol? That was bullshit," Methos added and clinked mugs with Amanda. They were in it now. Plus he'd had coffee, and coffee cured all manners of ills. It was them versus Duncan. They were even sitting opposite him at the table.
"Any plan to break the law is a bad plan," Duncan said, and even as he said it, Methos could see it register in his own ears. Even Duncan had to agree that was a remarkably narrow-minded statement. "I mean, this can't end well."
"Many things don't end well," Methos said. "As Mencius once said, 'I got a bad feeling about this.'" He stared out the window at the three truckers who stood in the parking lot and smoked cigarettes. He was starting to gain a new suspicion for anyone loitering with a cigarette in his or her lips.
"Then why are you doing this?" Duncan asked, pushing away his half-eaten slice of pie. Methos thought about finishing the pie. It was cherry; why was the best cherry pie always in crap-hole diners on the highway?
"Look, some of us don't always have money in bank accounts all over the globe," Amanda said. "Sometimes we need liquid cash."
Methos stuck his finger in the pie on the plate; it was still slightly warm. Warm cherry pie. "And some of us enjoy a challenge." And a tax-free Winnebago, he didn't add.
"Besides, what about that plan to steal the Stone of Scone?" Amanda said, gesturing with her cup.
"That was for justice," Duncan replied. "That was for years of…" he scowled when Methos turned to Amanda and mimed playing bagpipes. "You're bad for each other, and if you go to jail, I'm not helping you."
Amanda waved a hand in dismissal. "I stole those gems ages ago. The insurance was paid out and everyone's happy, whatever."
Methos didn't want to get into the whole 'everyone is hurt by theft' thing, mostly because in this scenario, he was on the theft side. On the other hand, there was a lot to be said for the wisdom of the ages, and the wisdom of the ages said that he should steal the colored rocks and sell them, and make lots of money, because they were colored rocks and wasn't that funny?
The wisdom of the ages was sometimes distracted by shiny things. Or, he reflected as he picked up his clean fork and cut off a hunk of the piecrust with the side, distracted by desserts.
Duncan sat back and stared at the three truckers outside as if he didn't trust them either.
"Get this," Amanda said, pretending to draw on the formica table. She was really just pushing around a faint smear of coffee on the pale blue surface. "The stash is inside one of the cinderblocks on the lower portion of the building. Somewhere at knee height."
"Are you sure you want to tell him this?" Methos warned, more for the amusement of watching Duncan narrow his eyes in irritation than for actual concern that the man would turn them in. Pissing off Duncan was like riding a bicycle—you never forgot how to do it.
Amanda tapped Methos's shoulder and smiled. "Oh, hush. So I know where they are because I marked it, but I have to find it." She sat back a little and sipped from her coffee. "I think I did something with cement, but that's a huge building to search. And they painted part of it."
Methos had to admire her moxie. She was persistent, and her utter conviction never wavered. If she ever decided to fight for good and not neutrality (and for the liberation of valuables at Tiffany's), the world could truly become a great place. Just as well.
"Once we find the right stone, we have to extract it and get the gems from the hollow part of the cinderblock," Methos added, "and then it's wine and roses." Amanda smiled as he tilted his head. "Or steak and a case of Stella Artois."
"You'd need a jackhammer to loosen that brickwork," Duncan mused.
"I knew he'd be helpful!" Amanda told Methos, and they clinked mugs. Truthfully, Methos had already thought of the jackhammer, and he had a plan, but he wasn't sure the two of them could pull it off. How do you make a hole in the outside of a building that never closed without anyone noticing?
What they needed was a confluence of events.
"Hey, I am not helping you," Duncan exclaimed, then froze when the waitress slapped their check on the table as she breezed by. "Not. Helping."
Methos watched the trucker outside light a match off his face. Wow. He'd always assumed that was a myth. Maybe it was an optical illusion. He thought about going out and asking the guy how he did that. Anything really, to pretend that he hadn't seen the check.
"I got it," Amanda said, picking a pen from her red vest pocket and cupping her hand around what she was writing on the back of the check before flipping it over and sliding it towards Duncan. Methos wondered if he was going to take a pay cut to get Duncan in the game.
"What's this?" Duncan said, picking up the check and turning it over.
"Your compensation for helping."
"This is just a doodle of a heart."
"It's a metaphor for…you know, my gratitude…"
Duncan's mouth quirked in one corner. "Your gratitude."
"For fuck's sake, sex, MacLeod, she wants to bribe you with sex," Methos said loudly, and their waitress glanced up. He pointed at his coffee cup sheepishly and raised his eyebrows. "Warm-up?"
"Down this aisle at the special display at the end," Duncan said, pointing and waving with his other hand. Methos watched the woman smile and pat his arm as she toddled away. Duncan was going to get his picture on the Employee of the Month plaque and then their cover would be blown.
"You don't have to be so helpful," he grumbled, reaching out to right a toppling display of Play-Doh uber packs.
"Look, if it needs to be done, then you should do it well," Duncan told him as they headed towards the back. "And also, I sent her to the wrong part of the store."
"You are a bad, bad man," Methos said, handing him a cigarette. He had expected Duncan to argue about the cigarettes, but this aversion to smoking was a new mortal trend (and Methos didn't blame them at the same time the whole thing made him roll his eyes), and hundreds of years of habit were hard to throw off. Besides, they weren't hurting anyone but themselves, sorta, kinda, not really at all.
"What I wouldn't give for a pair of x-ray specs," Amanda said, peering at the wall openly. Methos had been here a week, but she'd been here for almost a month, and her distinct lack of talent in the customer service arena was starting to wear on her. Methos thought he could see her roots. Not that he was going to tell her that. It kind of added to the authenticity of her disguise.
"I have a theory," Methos said, flicking his West Virginia lighter to take him home to Marlboro country. "I think you picked the wrong Walmart."
Amanda paused, holding in her smoke until it curled out her nose. Amanda was good at this. He used to be able to blow smoke rings. An experimental lip-twitch revealed that smoke rings were not like riding a bicycle.
It had been three days since Duncan had joined their merry band of thieves, and Methos suspected that it was partly because he wanted to make sure Amanda and Methos stayed out of trouble. Or he could be bored. Stranger things had indeed happened before. Methos and Duncan had been relegated to the crap jobs or stocking and mopping. Things always needed to be mopped.
"Okay, so we did the left end, and the middle around the dock," Duncan said suddenly, tapping his ash on Methos's boot. "I know you guys did the right side, but maybe we should go over it again."
"Right," Amanda muttered, and they scattered to have a little jaunt about the area. It was pointless, really, trying to be nonchalant, mostly because no one was watching them, really. Methos's eyes scanned the bricks from waist height down, looking for anything: discolorations, stone irregularities, even a haphazard smear of hardened cement.
He found a few stones that deserved another examination, and so he marked the corner of them with a piece of pink chalk before grinding his cigarette out on his heel and sticking the butt in a hole in the mortar that looked like a hole for a bee's nest. When nothing angry swarmed out to attack him, he headed for the loading dock. His break was almost over, and he's wasted most of it swilling bad coffee in the break room and trying to convince the ladies from the perfume counter that he was single but not gay. Not that it mattered, except that they kept trying to fix him up with their nephews.
Amanda was at the steps to the loading dock, doing a little flirt routine with one of the regular drivers. Methos met Duncan at the door to the inside, and Methos pocketed his chalk. "Three. You?"
Duncan waved his stick of green chalk. "One. I marked it with a star."
Amanda pushed Duncan through the back door. "It's freezing out here, inside, inside!" And under her breath, "I got two possibles and an idea about a drill and a laproscopic camera."
Duncan drew a line down Amanda's nose with his chalk, and Methos had to admit, he had added a measure of amusement to what was quickly becoming a dreary job. Sooner or later they would have to actually assault the Walmart.
"Brandi!" called a voice behind them, and Methos cringed. It was the driver. What was his name? Charles? Chuck? Tuck? Fu—no, not that. Chuck. He thought about coasting in and going back to work, but Duncan had stopped, and Methos wasn't going to risk Amanda getting in trouble—
The woman was over a thousand years old, for fuck's sake. If she couldn't fend off the advances of a trucker, then they had bigger problems than that.
Amanda laughed and then pulled something from her pocket and tossing Chuck's zippo lighter back to the man. "Can't blame a girl for trying, eh?"
"Hey, uh," Chuck said, and then his voice dropped to a whisper, and his head ducked low down to Amanda's ear. It would just be fitting for this whole thing if on top of everything, Amanda also managed to get laid.
Amanda patted Chuck on the shoulder, raised herself up on her tippy-toes to say something; Methos held his breath when the man nodded, stepped back and shook Amanda's hand before returning to the loading dock.
"What was that about?"
Amanda waited until they were through the swinging backdoors and then she hooked her arms in either of their elbows and did a little shimmy. "Chuck thinks we use our breaks together to have hot three-way sex." She tugged on Duncan's elbow with hers and shoulder-checked Methos.
Duncan laughed. "Oh, like we would really…." he trailed off and Methos could see the wheels turning in his head. Bless him, those kinky gears had to be rusty.
Methos snorted. "Like we could get anything good done in thirty minutes."
Duncan walked into the Elmo display and sent all the dolls toppling. Methos rolled his eyes.
Amanda's fingers worked their way up the inside of his thighs as she licked the tip of his cock. Her red lipstick-painted lips made the rest of her face ghost-like, her eyes more hooded and black, sinister.
Sexy. Methos liked sexy. He wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth here.
"I know I gave you your share," Amanda said, then licked the underside of his cock with the tip of her tongue. "But I thought you and I would have slept together by now, don't you think?"
Methos reached down with one hand and smoothed her hair, then gasped when her fingers found a bit of sensitive skin. "I tried, but we were drunk, and you fell asleep on my lap," he murmured.
"Hrm." Her lips left a ring of red around his dick. Now that was something he hadn't seen in a while. Was vaguely aware of a rhythmic noise, but sounded like his neighbors were playing blip-hop again.
"Hey," Amanda said, then reached up over his chest and hit him in the shoulder. "Hey, hey, hey—"
"--Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey—" Amanda cut off when he bolted upright, but her hand still gripped his shoulder. "I think I know where we didn't look—"
Methos wondered where his sword was and why he hadn't woken when Amanda had obviously broken into his apartment. Maybe this was part of the dream. On the other hand, if this had been part of the dream, how cruel that it had woken him from a dream inside a dream in which he had been about to get off. Maybe he was punishing himself for agreeing to this.
"What are you doing here?"
Amanda paused and patted his head. "I crashed here, remember?" She yanked at her shirt, one of Methos's t shirts, actually. "The sun was coming up, and we got off work, and Duncan agreed to stay for another shift, so you told me to—"
"I remember what I said," Methos cut in, falling backwards. He didn't actually remember, everything was blending together these days, but he'd probably said it, whatever it was she was about to parrot at him. The sun was at full-tilt-boogie in the window, and the blinds weren't doing much to keep it out.
Cheap apartment blinds.
"So what were you saying?"
"In the bathroom," Amanda said fervently. "The restrooms in the break area are parallel with the back wall."
Methos blinked at her, and then tried to remember the toilet in the break room. The men's room was just a toilet and a wall sink. The ladies' was probably a Shangri-La with a sofa and potpourri. "So, you're thinking that you—"
"What if the back wall wasn't finished when I hid the goods?" Amanda curled one leg under herself as she bounced on the edge of his bed. If she said something like 'the goods' one more time he was going to have to give her a cigar and make her do an Edward G Robinson impression.
"Then we'd be looking in the wrong spot," Methos answered, rolling over and mashing his face into the pillow. "Good to know that every caper we have leads to the toilets." If he said 'caper' one more time he was going to give himself a cigar.
Amanda smacked his back. "Oh ha ha."
"Hit me again and I'm going to quit and report you to the police or something," he mumbled.
Amanda said nothing, but he felt the bed jostling and then the solid weight of her straddling his waist. The her hands touched down on his shoulders and began to knead.
Oh, yes please.
"Now listen, if I'm right, we'll be ready in no time, and then it's Havana and caviar."
"Have you been to Havana lately?" Methos mumbled skeptically.
One of the hands poised on his shoulder stopped, as if she had though about giving him a slap and then reconsidered it. Who said Amanda was untrainable? Though this level of playful slapping meant that he'd been relegated to the harmless 'brother box' in her mind, so any hope he'd ever have of getting 'in there' was pretty much dead.
"When we do this," he said into his pillow, "can we rob the store, too?"
Amanda's thumbs pressed into his shoulders and he felt her lean down, her lips close to his ear. "That's just mean, Methos." He didn't say anything, and she pressed harder. "Methos?"
He wasn't asleep. He just didn't feel like replying.
Back to Greek myth, then, actually, Methos thought as he wheeled the cart full of Elmo dolls into the kid's section and started to assemble the base for the aisle cap display. If the Greek gods were alive today, or, you know, real at all, they might have enjoyed the sense of apt retribution Methos was suffering. He picked up one of the dolls and blinked at it in its half box. The button on the hand said, 'Press Me'!
Pandora pressed the button.
Yes, some sort of divine punishment. The only thing that made it worthwhile was the certainty that after it was all over, he was going to be considerably wealthier, and with money, came Kobe beef. For some reason, beef was on his mind.
"Hey," said a voice in his ear. Ah, speaking of beefcake.
"When'd you get here?" Methos set the first Elmo on the display shelf and wondered how creative he was allowed to get. He knew a few tricks from his time with Euclid that would allow him to make some symmetrical designs—
No, they just wanted a pyramid. Oh hell, it worked for the Egyptians for thousands of years, it was good enough for Walmart.
"About fifteen minutes ago," Duncan said, pulling on his red vest and adjusting his nametag, which read, 'Brian'. Try as he might, Methos couldn't get himself to think of Duncan as a Brian. Chet, maybe. Clint, most assuredly. Perhaps even Mike. But Brian? That was iffy. No one named Brian ever decapitated people. If he dug hard enough he could get proof.
"I have the equipment in the truck," Duncan told him. "This is going to be painless."
Methos wondered what Duncan considered painless, but he was inclined to agree. The brick was in the men's bathroom, almost at floor level, the third row of bricks up, a cinderblock all but identical to the rest, except for a dab of cement in the corner, and the initials 'A.M.' Once their fellow employees were out of the way, they were going to close the store, work on the stone with a jack hammer, and excise the thing. Duncan had argued that they should replace the stone, but Methos and Amanda had nixed the suggestion. If Duncan wanted to hang about and apply mortar and such to the wall, he was more than free to. Methos planned to be home watching curling on the telly.
Methos added another row to the dolls and pretended like he was having a hearty chat with an off-duty co-worker while still being productive. Three aisles over, Earl saluted them. There was no way he knew who they were, unless he could see the red of Methos's vest. Methos suspected that was the reason Earl was remotely useful here; he knew not to tackle employees.
Amanda was still up in the cashier's lane. They weren't actually going to do anything until the evening people went home and it was the night shift. Most people with sense were not at Walmart at three in the morning on a Thursday. Methos couldn't help but register his current vocation.
"You rented a truck?" he asked Duncan.
Duncan helped him stack a few dolls, and it dawned on Methos that the other man hadn't answered. Hadn't answered.
"So, you didn't rent a truck," he said. "You stole a truck?"
Duncan gave him a stern look.
"Right, right, of course you didn't. Then where…?"
"Red is definitely not your color, buddy," said a new voice, and Methos's hands clenched around the Elmo doll.
Hey, that tickles! Hee hee hee ha ha ha ha--
"Kill it," Methos mumbled, thrusting the doll at Duncan. "Kill it or yourself I don't care which."
Duncan was far from contrite. He held the doll in the crook of his arm and shrugged. "We needed a truck. Unless we could fit everything in your deathtrap Saturn Ion." He blinked. "Could we have fit everything in your—"
"No, dammit," Methos sniped, still not looking at the third member of their party. Maybe if he didn't look over there then it wouldn't be real. That was what you did in horror movies, right? He needed to watch more horror movies.
He closed his eyes and thought about how to count to ten. "If this operation gets any bigger, there's not going to be enough for—"
"Relax, princess, I'm just in it for fun," Joe said, setting the Elmo doll in his hand back on a shelf. The wrong shelf. Methos's eyes narrowed. He wasn't even looking. Was Joe aware that there were people who worked hard to make sure everything was in order so that people like him could find it, and the least he could do was reshelf things in the proper—
Good lord, they had to do this tonight. He was starting to go insane.
"So then I says to her, 'Lady, I know my way around a pregnant lady, and if that isn't a watermelon up yer dress, then I'm a monkey's uncle!'" Earl waved the flask and slapped the display of canners and chuckled.
Joe drank from his own flask and snorted. "So? Was it a watermelon?"
Earl took a long slug and grimaced. Methos had watched the scene unfold from his perch on the stocking ladder, well out of sight of everyone (because no one ever looked up, and the cameras were trained on the ground, not on the top shelf).
"Hell no, man, she was pregnant with twins!" He laughed so hard that he degenerated into coughs, and Joe slapped his back. "I shoulda married that girl."
Joe cut a wide-eyed glance at Methos's hiding place and hid his horror behind his metal flask. "That's messed up, man," he said, and Methos cringed. He wasn't going to see this plan fail because Joe couldn't keep himself from offering his unvarnished opinion. There was a shuffle from the next aisle and Methos knew that Duncan was ready to knock Earl out if the drugs in the flask didn't work soon. They had a window, and Earl's super-liver was throwing them off.
"I think you drugged my flask, man," Earl said, capping the flask and looking at the front. "This isn't even mine. Mine has initials on it." He ran this thumb over a spot on the metal. "Not there." Then he staggered, which was impressive because he hadn't started to walk. He was standing still.
"Sorry about that, man," Joe said, waving the flask. "If it's any consolation, you got the better booze in the trade."
Methos could vouch for that; Joe was drinking whatever Earl had in his flask, probably apricot brandy/paint thinner, and Earl was drinking the leftover Wild Turkey Methos had excavated from under the sofa, along with a Phenobarbital mixer, and a splash of peach schnapps.
"Just make sure that we all look like we fought back," Earl groaned. Methos blinked and started down the ladder. Earl was smarter than they'd wagered.
Earl reached out with one hand to steady himself, but he overshot and his fist smacked a display of Snuggies, sending it toppling. Methos could feel his eyes narrow. So that was how it happened.
Duncan caught Earl, and Amanda waved him down the aisle towards the back room. "Come on, he's the last one."
Methos hooked Earl's ankles in his hands and picked the lower half of the man up. Earl was heavy, heavier than he expected for someone so thin. Then again, he had expected Earl to go down much quicker than he had. His liver must have been made of titanium or something.
Duncan helped him set Earl in the security room with the only other non-involved person, the assistant manager, who normally worked weekends, but was trying to pick up some extra hours. He wore a bow tie, and that alone made Methos not trust him. No one that young wore a bow tie unless they liked Doctor Who or were trying to be ironic in the hipster way. God, he hated hipsters. They made him grumpy.
Actually, this week had taught him that he pretty much disliked everyone, across the board.
"Well," he said, making a show of wiping his hands on a rag and then wiping his prints from the room. He'd never been in here before, and he didn't want to leave behind any sign that he had been. He and Amanda had already gone on break and knocked out the assistant manager while Joe had gotten Earl plastered. Even now, Methos heard Amanda on the loudspeaker, warning the customers (there were three) that the store was experiencing power problems and had to close. To illustrate her point, the lights were flickering
"Speak for yourself," Joe said mournfully. "I can't show my face here again."
Methos slapped the tape over Earl's mouth and shook his head. "Earl's blind as a bat. He probably thought you were Kenny Rogers."
"That's cold, man. Cold."
Methos shrugged. "He wrote 'The Gambler'."
Joe thought about it as they left the security monitor and followed the sound of Amanda and Duncan squabbling. "You got a point there. That's okay, then."
"Oh calm down, Duncan," Amanda said, locking the sliding entrance doors and putting the "Closed for Emergency" sign in the window.
"Cameras," Duncan replied, and Methos took a moment to savour the moment of rightness before he told Duncan that the cameras were connected to nothing and they weren't recording anything right now. It was one of the greatest assets to a place like this. They recorded about twelve hours before they auto-looped, and they were so easy to hack, Methos could have probably done it with one of the Leap Pads from the early learning section.
Joe handed Duncan Earl's flask. "Get that back to the man, and please, find something around here to pump my stomach." Methos knew just how he felt, but right now, he was too busy going into Mission: Impossible mode with Amanda.
He'd been here a week and a half. A week and a half of rolling boulders uphill and watching them roll back down. A week of reaching for fruit and having it pull away from him. Tantalus, Sisyphus and Methos, all three in the same boat.
God, he thought as he unrolled the extension cord, he hated boats.
Amanda pulled the safety goggles over her face and handed a pair to Duncan. "Who gets the honors?" she asked.
Methos picked up the handles of the miniature jackhammer and kicked the tip up with the toe of his boot. "Oh, this is so mine," he shouted, then rammed the machine home and flipped the power on.
The vibration was like being buried in Tickle-Me Elmos.
It didn't take too long to clear the mortar—it was weaker than cement, after all, and the cinderblock was somewhat porous. He wasn't sure if it was possible to damage the stones Amanda had buried, and he didn't want to run the risk After all, the Lafayette gems were many and varied, and he didn't remember the exact list of the ones Amanda had made off with (and then buried in concrete, what a blessing and curse that was). But there he was, on his knees next to the men's john (and wasn't that something worth forgetting right there), wedging a crowbar into a cement block.
Duncan took over the levering, and Methos checked on Joe with the walkie-talkie they'd 'liberated' from the children's department. "All clear?"
"There was a woman with three little kids pounding on the door," Joe said. "It was hysterical. She just flipped me the bird."
Methos smiled and watched Duncan lever the stone out, and the block landed on the concrete floor with a thud. "We're almost done here."
"Good, because I'm having trouble looking apologetic when she's cussing at me through the door."
Methos slipped the walkie-talkie into his pocket. Amanda was digging about in the dirt packing inside the cinderblock. When she pulled her hand out, it held a large cloth bag. A huge bag, considering what was inside. He couldn't even help himself; he bit his lip when she opened the clasp and let the gems spill out into her lap.
"I'm so getting a Winnebago," he said under his breath as Amanda turned the rubies over in her hands.
"Nothing. Nothing at all."
After Joe was firmly ensconced back at the bar, and the truck was clean, and the jackhammer had been returned to the construction site from which it had been 'borrowed', Methos, Duncan and Amanda converged at her flat with a sack full of groceries and several bottles of wine. With any luck, the wine was not from Walmart.
"Did we just pull off a theft where no one was arrested or killed?" Duncan mused. "It doesn't seem right unless someone is arrested."
Methos raised his hands in a surrender gesture. "Hey, I offered to kill both of you several times."
"Hush," Amanda replied, coming from behind him to ruffle his hair, and reach over his shoulder to hand him a glass of something. He didn't even need to smell it or taste it to know that it was wine, and good wine. No, not just good wine, great wine. Expensive wine. Fantastic wine. Just the swirl of it in the glass said, 'I am the fruits of all your labours.'
He took an experimental sip, and it didn't recede when he brought the glass to his lips. In fact, it was better than he remembered.
Take that, Greek myth.
"So, what are you going to do with your portion of the amazingly lucrative heist we just pulled off?" Amanda asked, flopping in the round mod chair in the corner and crossing her legs.
Methos drained his glass and reached for the bottle. "I'm sure I have a few ideas," he said. He wasn't about to tell either of them what he was going to do with his huge share, partly because they'd laugh, and partly because he wasn't sure what he was going to spend it all on. Perhaps that stock in Walmart he always joked about owning.
Then again, there was this sort of ennui at the bottom of the glass. Here they were at Amanda's flat, drinking good wine and celebrating what was going to be thousands upon thousands of dollars to launder, and then they would all slip away again, out of each other's lives.
Which was, actually the point of being friends with immortals; they came and went with all the unpredictable reliability of snow—you knew to expect it, but not when.
Duncan bit into a fig, and Methos watched him chew. He had nice lips. It wasn't the first time he'd thought that about Duncan. It was, however, the first time he thought about kissing him and was on the cusp of doing something about it.
Breaking the law made him giddy. Well, that and not getting laid for a while. Oh, and that whole two glass of wine thing. Wine made him a slut, which why he didn't drink it often in the company of others. It also explained a great deal of his time in Rome. And Greece. And his understanding of mythology, probably.
"I think I might be a little disappointed," said aloud, but didn't explain, because it wasn't right to say that he missed them, not when they were right there. Not when he was Methos and he didn't need anybody. Not when he'd made fun of Duncan in the past for being friends with other immortals.
"Yeah, sometimes things are kind of anticlimactic, you know?" Amanda said. "Not all thieving is interesting."
Methos saluted her with his glass.
"Well, I thought we'd all be arrested," Duncan decided aloud. "That it was so easy was rather embarrassing, don't you think?"
Amanda shrugged. "We have thousands of years of experience?" she replied.
"We didn't really steal anything from them," Methos argued. "Though I guess while we were in there we could have cleaned them out."
"I should have taken that Snuggie," Duncan mused. "I might buy one."
Amanda threw a date at him and squealed when he returned in kind. Methos sat back and watched the two of them squabble, tossing food and unfelt insults until both of them were out of their chairs, on the bearskin rug and doing their pre-round heavy breathing. That was his cue. He'd seen it before.
"I'll be on my way," he said, draining his glass again and standing. "Amanda, if you skip town without delivering my share, I will hunt you down and—"
There was a tug on his red vest (he'd got so used to wearing it that it just now occurred to him that he hadn't taken it off) and he staggered backwards a bit. Amanda's hands grabbed his belt loops and pulled until he'd fallen in between the two of them on the floor in an ungraceful heap.
"You know," he said, winding up for a scathing riposte, "There are a lot of ways I'd like to—"
Duncan's hand went over his mouth, and Amanda's fingers undid his flies and belt. Methos froze, wondering what the hell had happened to his platonic friends (and occasional sex fantasies, but they were dreams and not real people) and partners in crime.
"Mmmrpffghggnrf," he insisted, but Amanda had found his boxers, and Duncan 's mouth had found his ear.
"Oh, you've never been part of the post-theft ritual," he said to Methos, and then glanced at Amanda. "He's no Rebecca."
Amanda grasped Methos's cock through the opening in the front of his shorts. "I'll say." She lowered her mouth and darted the tip of her tongue in the opening, barely grazing his skin, and Methos found himself humping air. "Does it matter to you?"
Duncan took his hand from Methos mouth and replaced it with his mouth, his pretty lips parting so that he could delve into Methos mouth with his tongue, his teeth biting in little nips. Methos tried to make his hands work, but one was still holding himself up, and the other was kneading the fur rug under it in shock.
"I don't think I get to be in the middle this time," Duncan said when he came up for air.
Amanda freed Methos's cock from his boxers and took it in her mouth suddenly, giving it one long lick on the underside with her tongue before sliding her mouth off in a long move. Methos could see the ring of red her lipstick left on it, and for a second he wondered if he was still dreaming. Had they even done the heist yet?
And then Duncan peeled his vest back and lifted his shirt, murmuring, "Rollback in aisle three-way," and Methos realized that he had to be awake, because he couldn't make this shit up.
Amanda's rug was nice for the occasional lying about, but not for post-coital sweaty lounging. Methos had toppled onto the sofa and let the ceiling fan wash him with a drying breeze, and Amanda pulled a cigarette from her purse. She flicked her lighter a few times and then cursed.
"Dammit, there's lint in my lighter again. Do you still have yours?"
Methos gestured with a scrolling hand and Duncan dug his vest out of the pile of discarded clothes. He fished out the lighter and read the writing on the side. "West Virginia?"
"Take me home," Methos muttered in response. He was too tired to explain that he had no explanation. But already the thought had come to him that he wanted to see West Virginia. He hadn't been in those mountains since…well a very very long time. There were probably considerably better roads and less bears.
"Tomorrow I am spending the day at the spa," Amanda said, lighting her cigarette and tossing the lighter on the Van der Mies coffee table. "Mani-pedi, hair, mud bath, the works."
"I'm going to lie on this sofa for the next fifteen hours and sleep and then I might stack some things and knock them over for a while," Methos mused. "Then I might get a pizza. A steak pizza."
"Well, now that you're both gone, they're short staffed…" Duncan said, raising an eyebrow. "I was thinking that I'd go in and help out until—"
Methos raised his head to get a better look. Duncan wasn't kidding. Amanda shook her head, but didn't say anything. There was no point in talking him out of it. Duncan was who he was, and it made him happy. Eternity was a long time to go not being happy, and every little bit helped. Every little bit, like the occasional low-tech crime with old friends. The occasional three-way with old friends.
Like the occasional trip across the country with a Winnebago and a dog. He needed a dog.
"I want a dog," he said out loud before he could stop himself.
Amanda flicked ask into the fireplace. "I could see you with a Rottweiler, or maybe some mutt from the pound."
"A mutt with a brain and a heart of gold," he said solemnly. In his head, he could already see it. He'd be a shaggy thing, with a notch in his ear and a snaggletooth. The mind of a sheepdog but the disposition of a Lab. A dog named Hercules.
Take that, Greek myth.