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Staying Power
I've got fire down below
I'm just a regular dynamo
Want some smooth company
Don't lose control just hang on out with me
Got to get to know each other
But we got plenty of time
Did you hear the last call baby
You and me got staying power yeah

[October 14th, 2000]

It smells like fish.

Not that it’s unexpected, of course, Mac’s new residence being a houseboat and therefore surrounded by fish. But it strikes Methos (which in and of itself strikes him, since he hadn’t realized he had any sort of preconception about the place) that the odor seems almost too prosaic to permeate the noble abode of the virtuous Highlander: that upright dwelling of decency where he lay his principled head down every night after a day of—no doubt—rescuing damsels and routing villains.

He admits to himself he may be somewhat bitter about Mac’s most recent relocation.

I just need a bit of time, Methos, Mac had said, stupidly soulful eyes entreating. Some space. You understand.

Methos realizes he’s muttering the remembered sentences aloud in an overly enunciated Scottish brogue and twists his mouth into a scowl instead. A pedestrian walking toward him on the sidewalk jaywalks to cross the street before reaching him.

You understand. It had been phrased as a statement rather than a question, and Methos wonders when Mac had suddenly decided he was so empathetic.

There’s a crumpled can lying in his path, and he kicks it, taking vicious pleasure in the loud clanging sound it makes as it rolls along the sidewalk.

And Methos had understood. Given the circumstances of Connor’s death, it wasn’t surprising that his younger cousin had needed to take some time to grieve and come to terms with what had happened.

His understanding had begun to wane after six months of silence. He and Mac hadn’t ever reached the point of calling each other up whenever the mood struck or firing off update emails at random, but he still had expected something. A housewarming party perhaps. Mac always seemed inordinately proud of his home decorating skill, and he took any opportunity available to ply his friends and acquaintances with gourmet cooking and perfectly paired wines. But there had been nothing.

The final straw had come in the form of Joe—still in Paris and adjusting to his new leadership position in the Watchers—receiving a phone call in the bar office. Joe hadn’t tried to hide the call exactly, but Methos had seen the overly casual way the Watcher had closed the door, keeping his back turned all the while to prevent lip reading. He needn’t have bothered: given Methos’s skill with a computer and a modem, accessing phone records required much less energy than sneaking around and listening at keyholes.

Methos hadn’t mentioned the phone call that night or the next. But the following day he had boarded a flight to Washington. He gives it another day or so before Joe calls him.

Methos looks up to check the numbers of the houseboats on the dock and realizes that he’s arrived at his destination.

Mac’s new home is somewhat larger than the one he’d owned in Paris: a two-story blocky affair paneled in that new concrete siding that’s made to look like wood. Pots of paint and stacks of drywall make it clear that Mac is performing renovations on the second story, and the windows of the top half—rounded to look like port holes—sit open. The first floor is quietly battened down, shades pulled across the windows and door closed tight. He doesn’t sense Mac’s Presence, but an exquisitely restored classic Mustang is crouched in the slip’s parking space.

The sun had set an hour ago, and Methos assumes that MacLeod is out at dinner somewhere. Most likely with some dainty thing he picked up somewhere cultured. Like the ballet or an art museum. They probably walked arm in arm to enjoy the spring weather. Or perhaps took a tandem bicycle.

He tells himself to stop scowling so ferociously. It wouldn’t do to draw attention with his sword in his luggage and no resident Scotsman to vouch for him.

Methos sidles closer to the houseboat. The smell of plaster and sawdust wafts about in the air competing with the fish. There’s a small deck upon which Mac had placed a small bistro table with two chairs, a collection of herbs and an urn of hydrangeas. More painting supplies—apparently MacLeod has decided to accent something with a rather cheerful shade of yellow—are stacked near the railing.

Methos walks casually onto the boat and picks the lock on the door. He doesn’t look around to make certain no one is watching (a fairly suspicious action in and of itself), but he still catches something out of the corner of his eye before he walks in. He glances down.

There’s a streak of fresh blood on the boards of the deck just outside the front door, the bright red color obvious on the weathered boards.

Methos stares at it for a moment. A bird nesting on a power line above the dock stirs hopefully and lets out a screech that echoes eerily across the water. Soft waves lap at the base of the boat in a gentle, hushed refrain.

Then Methos takes one of the paint rags and drops it on top of the mark to hide it on his way through the door.

Mac can thank him later.

**

Several hours later, Mac still hasn’t returned and Methos is bored. He’s poked through everything in the houseboat that there is to poke through, liberated the remainder of Mac’s imported beer, and put his feet up on the artistic, driftwood coffee table on sheer principle. Mac still hasn’t realized the value inherent in a television, and the security settings on his laptop don’t present any sort of meaningful challenge (and reveal only personal budgets and stock quotes at any rate).

Sighing with the full load of his ennui, Methos rolls his head across the back of the oversized sofa and lazily rotates to face the antique clock on the bookshelf.

Almost midnight. She must be quite the conversationalist.

Sighing again, he rolls his head in the opposite direction to take stock—once again—of the space. Mac really is sadly predictable. Despite the presence of a second story, the layout of furniture in the houseboat is eerily similar to that of the Parisian barge. The large, low bed dominates the wall off to his left, its no doubt extremely soft cotton sheets neatly tucked in under a tasteful comforter in navy blue.

A solid, glass-topped case, unlocked, tastefully displays several antique weapons, with MacLeod’s family blade—the Claymore—given the place of honor. Methos stares at it for a time and remembers.

**
[February 8th, 1997]

“Going somewhere?” MacLeod’s tone was forcefully nonchalant, but the tension around his eyes betrayed him as he walked—stalked really—up to where Methos was loading his belongings into the Jimmy.

Methos sighed. He knew it was going to go this way. He knew.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

“What are you running from – the question or the answer?” MacLeod was relentless, his mouth tight with hurt.

Methos kept his eyes on the luggage rather than confront the look on his friend’s (was he still his friend?) face.

“There is no answer, MacLeod,” he said. “Let it be.”

But MacLeod could never let go—be it from his past, his friendships, his damnable code of honor—and Methos found himself pressing the best man he knew up against the Jimmy. MacLeod was glaring into his face with an expression that was equal parts pain and recrimination, and he was helpless to do anything at all but allow the ugly truth to spill out of him.

“No, it is not enough. I killed, but I didn't just kill fifty. I didn't kill a hundred. I killed a thousand. I killed ten thousand! And I was good at it. And it wasn't for vengeance. It wasn't for greed. It was because I liked it. Cassandra was nothing. Her village was nothing. Do you know who I was? I was Death.”

It was almost a relief when their positions were reversed and Methos was thrown up against the metal of the vehicle. MacLeod’s face was pulled up in a grimace of rage and disgust, but it obscured the hurt that had been there before, and for that Methos was grateful.

“Death. Death on a horse,” Methos continued, burning MacLeod with his words and his gaze. Refusing to make this easy. Pushing him to safety. Pushing him away.

“When mothers warned their children that the monster would get them, that monster was me. I was the nightmare that kept them awake at night. Is that what you want to hear? The answer…is yes. Oh, yes.”

When MacLeod responded, his voice had been choked: garroted by the truth that Methos had forced upon their friendship.

“We’re through.”

**

Methos comes back to himself abruptly as he forcibly terminates the memory. He doesn’t want to relive what happened at the power plant, though if he were forced to choose the worst moment of that entire shambles, the confrontation in the parking lot would be it.

He whirls away from the case. He’s had enough with waiting. It was a long flight and an even longer day, and since Mac isn’t there to relegate him to the couch, he decides to put the bed’s apparent comfort to the test.

It passes.

A soft creaking wakes him instantly an indeterminable amount of time later. It’s very dark in the houseboat, with only a small glow trickling through the window from the streetlight outside. It’s still enough to see the shape of a figure as it moves stealthily across the landing.

His dagger (or, rather, Mac’s dagger: an eighteenth century ballock) is retrieved from under the pillow and held threateningly against the throat of the intruder in an instant.

The shape squeaks.

“May I help you?” Methos asks in his silkiest, deadliest tones.

“I don’t-, oh god, please don’t hurt me,” comes the response. The voice is young, female, and terrified. He doesn’t remove the dagger.

“Take a step backwards,” he orders evenly. “We’re going to turn on the light.”

“Okay,” the voice says tremulously, and together they step slowly towards the wall.

As the ceiling light illuminates the scene, Methos sees that his assessment is correct. The girl—and she is a girl: seventeen, eighteen at the most—is pale and trembling, brown eyes opened as wide as they can go and beginning to fill with tears. She’s a bit taller than average and thin, her frame that of a gangly adolescent. Her hair falls to her shoulders in a light brown tangle.

The light seems to drive the reality of the situation home to her, and her trembles become full body shakes. Methos moves the dagger before she accidentally slices her throat, but he keeps it in his hand.

She doesn’t seem to be able to meet his eyes, but that’s most likely due to her keeping her focus on the dagger. Smart girl.

“Now,” Methos tells her calmly, “let’s try this again. May I help you with something? After you broke in here. At,” he glances at the antique clock, “two a.m.”

She quails at his question, eyes still on the blade. She licks her lips nervously. “I’m- I’m looking for Mr. MacLeod. He told me to come here.”

“He’s not here,” Methos says bluntly. She shifts her eyes from the dagger to his face. Her eyes are pleading.

“Do you know where he is?” she whispers. There’s something in the cast of her mouth that speaks of horror and terror. “Have you seen him tonight?”

“No,” Methos answers, and her eyes close in resignation. He feels a quick whisper of intuition and at last lowers the dagger and tucks it into its sheath. The girl looses a relieved breath and sags against the wall, exhaustion obvious in the lines of her face.

“Come on,” Methos says to this unexpected diversion. “I’ll make us some coffee. Of the Irish variety.”

**

The intruder’s name is Amy Darling. Methos would wager that the first name is genuine while the last is not. She knows Mac from his weekly volunteering at the Brighter Days Youth Resource Center, which is without a doubt an act of philanthropy that MacLeod would engage in, and Methos doesn’t question it for a moment. She’s quick to point out that she’s been eighteen for a week, and Methos guesses she’s a former runaway. Either that or she wants to make it abundantly clear that she’s legally entitled to the cigarettes she’s pulled from one of the pockets of her worn cargo pants.

She thinks that Mac has been kidnapped. Methos finds the idea less shocking than she clearly does, gauging by her overly wide eyes as she recounts her story.

“I was at the Center later than usual,” Amy says. Her voice is rather throaty and surprisingly deep when she’s not terrified. It suits her.

“What time exactly?” Methos asks. He had arrived at the houseboat at nine.

“Eight or eight-thirty. Something like that.” She takes a shallow drag of her cigarette. She’s inhaled hardly any of the smoke, and Methos would bet she uses the cigarettes for a prop rather than for enjoyment. “All of the staff was gone for the night.”

“But MacLeod was there?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know that at first.” Amy tosses back her Irish coffee (instant, as MacLeod is more of a tea drinker, though the whiskey is excellent) with no regard for the heat of the liquid, and Methos upgrades his opinion of her ability to handle discomfort. Her trembling has finally abated, but her face still seems a shade or two too pale.

“What happened?”

Her focus is on the lighted end of her cigarette. She hasn’t bothered to use anything as an ashtray, and as she watches, a segment of ash falls onto her thigh. She doesn’t brush it off.

“I was leaving for the night,” she answers after a moment. “Out the side entrance, like I always do, but there were three men there with a van. One of them grabbed me.”

“Did you recognize them?”

“Not really,” she says. “It was dark, and it happened really fast. I don’t think I recognized any of them.” It seems unlikely, given the circumstances of the attempted abduction, but Methos lets it lie for the moment.

“What happened then?” he asks.

Amy lifts the cigarette to her lips for the second time since she lit it, but she doesn’t smoke it. “I tried to hit him, but I couldn’t think, so I just sort of flailed around some. I screamed, and that’s when Mr. MacLeod came.”

“From where?” Methos asks.

“From inside the Center. From the same door as me.”

“But you didn’t know he was there until that moment?” She emphatically shakes her head.

“What did MacLeod do?” Methos continues.

“He hit the man that was holding me and made him let go. Then he yelled at me to run.”

“And then?”

“I ran.” A ghost of a smile, self-deprecating and humorless, comes to her lips. “I ran for miles and hid for hours. At least, that’s what it felt like. Then I got cold and I came here. Mr. MacLeod had given me his card one time at the Center. He told me I could come to him if I ever needed help.”

“Of course he did,” Methos says. He leans back in his chair and surveys her carefully. She fidgets but meets his stare, not defiantly, exactly, but with a stubbornness that looks well honed.

“You’re certain you don’t know who they were?” he asks her. His tone is casual, but she bristles at the insinuation.

“Yes.” Her voice is resolute. “I had never seen them before.”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

Amy blanches slightly at the question before casting her eyes down to her knees. Her fingers come up to poke at the ash on her leg.

“I know I should have now,” she says, fiddling with the ash. “At the time, it didn’t occur to me. I-, I was so scared. I couldn’t think at all. I just wanted to get away. And then I wanted to get here.”

Assuming the story is true (and Methos is under no delusion that it must be factual simply because it comes from a young, female source), it sounds as though Mac had managed to stumble onto a mortal kidnapping. Given the typical responses of the criminals engaged in such acts, chances are good that Mac will be killed: temporarily, most likely, unless kidnapping rings have suddenly started practicing decapitation as the norm. Chances are very good that the body will be disposed of in some out of the way locale, and the man will make his way home once reviving. Hardly a dire emergency.

Methos is silent as he thinks through the ramifications of the girl’s story, and it takes a minute before he notices that she’s waiting for a response of some sort, head bent low as though waiting for judgment. She looks ashamed. He casts about for something appropriate to say.

“It’s alright to run,” Methos tells her at last. “It doesn’t make you weak. Sometimes it’s the only thing you can do.”

Amy nods uncertainly at this hard-won wisdom, but she doesn’t look as though she feels any better.

“Are you a friend of Mr. MacLeod’s?” she asks him cautiously. It’s the first time she’s thought to question his presence at the houseboat.

“After a fashion,” Methos replies. “We’ve known each other a long time at any rate.”

“I see,” she says, though he can tell from her face that she doesn’t. “What’s your name?”

“Adam Pierson. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” he says, giving her his hand and his soon-to-be-retired current identity. She shakes it perfunctorily before her face is split by a huge yawn. She blushes.

“Is there somewhere I can take you for the rest of the night?” Methos asks her, taking the hint. He’s expecting a potentially very bloody Highlander to walk through the door at some point during the evening, and it would be best if their young guest were elsewhere.

“Shouldn’t we call the police?” The girl looks slightly uncomfortable at the suggestion, despite being the one to make it. Clearly not a fan of law enforcement.

“Let’s give it a few hours,” Methos replies easily. “You don’t know for sure that MacLeod is in trouble.” And if he is, he’s almost certainly able to get himself out of it. “He may be on his way back right now.”

“But what if he’s not?”

“Then we can always call the police in the morning and report him missing. At any rate, the police won’t file a missing person’s report for twenty-four hours.”

“They’d file a kidnapping report,” Amy says, a bit mulishly, though he can see that she’s wavering. She clearly doesn’t have any desire whatsoever to speak to the police.

“Do you have anywhere you can stay tonight? Back to the youth center?” Amy blanches white at the suggestion, and he amends “Is there a friend or a relative you could stay with?”

Amy’s face screws up in thought, and it takes her a moment to answer. “I suppose you could take me to Brant’s,” she replies slowly.

“And who is Brant?”

“Another Center employee. He’s in charge of the teen programs. He said his door was always open if we needed it.”

“Do you happen to know where his door is?” Methos asks.

“Yes,” she answers immediately. “But it’s across town.”

Methos dons Mac’s expensive leather jacket and snags a spare set of car keys from the hook in the kitchen, shaking them meaningfully. “That won’t be a problem.”

**

Brant Mercer’s townhouse is in an older brownstone in a quiet neighborhood that’s just beginning to edge into seediness. There’s an old Volkswagen parked out front and a dying crepe myrtle bush up against the stairs.

Brant himself answers the door only a minute after Amy rings the bell, pulling down a threadbare sweatshirt while simultaneously rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

He’s a tall man—perhaps an inch or two taller than Methos—and thin, but wiry strength is obvious in the ropey, well-defined muscles of his forearms as he pushes his hands through thick brown hair. His fingers are long and well-shaped, and his nose has just the very slightest bend to the left.

Methos likes it.

“Amy?” Brant asks after a moment, blinking confusedly at the teenager through a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. “What are you doing here? Is everything alright?”

Amy isn’t given a chance to answer before Brant shifts his attention to Methos, standing just behind her.

“Who are you?” His eyes, like his hair, are a deep chocolate.

“A friend,” Methos responds smoothly, giving the other man his best harmless Adam Pierson smile.

“A friend?” Brant parrots dubiously. He doesn’t seem to be entirely awake, but he’s alert enough to be skeptical. “Of Amy’s?”

“No, of Duncan MacLeod’s actually. I believe you know him from the Youth Center?”

“Well, yes.” Brant looks confused. “But he-, why are you at my apartment?”

“Mr. MacLeod was kidnapped!” Amy interjects. “From the Center. I went to his house to see if he’d gotten away only he wasn’t there and Adam was, and now I need somewhere to sleep and I didn’t know where else to go.” Her voice trails off uncertainly at the end of her (rather impressive) ramble and her lip trembles. It is clear that Brant possesses a fair amount of empathy—or is at least capable of looking like he does—as his eyes soften immediately.

“Come inside,” Brant says, stepping to the side and opening the door invitingly. “We’ll get this sorted out, but the stoop is no place for any of us at this hour.”

Amy moves immediately to enter the townhouse but stops just short of the door. “Can Adam come too?” she asks, voice small as she looks back at Methos hopefully. He groans inwardly. She’d better not have imprinted on him.

“Of course he can.” Brant’s voice is just as warm as when he’d addressed Amy, but his eyes on Methos are assessing.

It’s the gaze that decides him. As much as he’d like to tell himself that he wants to remain on hand to direct any conversation about MacLeod in an appropriate (and safely vague) direction, the truth of the matter is that waiting at the houseboat for a likely disgruntled Scotsman is much less appealing than the inviting light spilling out of the townhouse’s door. Or the bright eyes of an increasingly awake social worker.

Methos saunters through the doorway to cover the shiver his spine wants to make at the surprisingly intense eye contact. “Many thanks,” he tells his host as he passes.

Brant smells like very good coffee, and it makes his stomach want to rumble.

**

Brant’s tangible coffee is just as delicious as the scent it left on him, and Methos inhales deeply in appreciation. He became adept at long nights so many years ago that he rarely feels the need for stimulation to stay focused. But it really is very good coffee.

Amy has hot chocolate, but Methos sees her eyeing the Bailey’s in the fridge with a rather wistful expression. He wouldn’t mind some himself. Perhaps the opportunity will present itself to sneak some while Brant’s back is turned. It’s worth watching for at any rate.

Unfortunately Brant doesn’t appear inclined to turn his back anytime soon. It isn’t clear if it’s Amy or Methos that he feels bears such scrutiny, but his eyes—slightly bloodshot from the hour but clear and focused otherwise—hardly waver as Amy recounts her story for the second time that night.

Brant frowns when she ends her story with finding Methos on the houseboat. She doesn’t mention being threatened with an antique dagger, which Methos appreciates. Perhaps he can maneuver Brant out of the room long enough to grab the Bailey’s as a reward.

“Have you called the police?” Brant asks Methos, and it’s clear he must realize that Amy wouldn’t have contacted law enforcement unprompted. Methos doubts Brant will be put off with a promise to call in the morning the way that Amy was, and so long as they send the officer to Brant’s townhouse rather than the boat, it shouldn’t present a problem. MacLeod can cancel the report as soon as he returns.

“Not yet,” Methos answers the social worker. “Amy was concerned that the men may come by MacLeod’s boat looking for her, so she wanted to relocate first.” The lie makes Amy blink into her hot chocolate, but it’s her only reaction.

“I see,” Brant replies, watching Methos steadily. “Well now that you’re here and safe, we should make a police report immediately.” He stands and disappears down a small hallway off the kitchen.

While he’s gone, Methos snags the Bailey’s from the fridge and drops a bit into their mugs. Amy looks at him gratefully.

Brant returns with an older cordless phone in his hand and remains standing by the kitchen table staring down at it.

“Are you alright with me calling them?” he’s speaking down at his hand, and Methos realizes after a beat that he’s addressing Amy, implying that she is the one with the power to make the decision to involve the police. It’s masterfully done, and Methos gives a mental nod to Brant’s counseling abilities. The girl hesitates but responds firmly.

“Well, no, but if it’ll help Mr. MacLeod then we need to do it.”

Brant nods at her gently and paces while he dials the local police department. Amy’s expression is unhappy and rife with indecision at the coming police presence, and Methos knows this is the moment when a responsible, empathetic adult would pat her on the shoulder or offer sage words of reassurance.

He pours coffee into her mug over the hot chocolate. She’ll want to be alert for the inevitable questioning, and her eyes are beginning to droop.

Then he leans back in the creaky, wooden chair and waits.

**

The police officers who arrive to take Amy’s statement—Mullins and Mulligan, in a vaguely amusing Irish-themed coincidence—are openly skeptical of the story she tells, and it’s only Methos’s confirmation that MacLeod does indeed appear to be missing that prompt them to take a statement at all. But it doesn’t motivate them to be gentle in their questioning.

Amy’s absolutely certain that she doesn’t know the men who allegedly took Mr. MacLeod? And what exactly is her relationship with the missing Mr. MacLeod? It’s very “interesting” that she is so familiar with the home address of one of the Youth Center’s volunteers. Why was she at the Youth Center after hours anyway? She is aware that that area of town is well known for drug transactions, correct?

Amy looks close to tears where she sits in Brant’s small living room with the officers hovering over her, and Brant shoots a glare at the scene as he sits back down with Methos at the kitchen table.

“I knew this would happen,” Brant says gloomily. “I think very highly of law enforcement, and I know we have an excellent department, but every officer I’ve met needs some intensive training in social work concepts. They’re terrifying her.”

“It’s their job to be suspicious,” Methos points out. His stomach is beginning to clench angrily with too much caffeine and no food.

“And my job to be sympathetic. Yeah, I know,” Brant says ruefully. “It’s just frustrating. You work so hard to get these kids to trust someone, and then they have a run-in like this, and before you know it you’re back where you started.”

“Amy said you’re in charge of the teen program at the Youth Center,” Methos says, making it a question.

“I coordinate the daytime programs,” Brant answers. “Classes and outings and things like that. I also help out on the residential side of things, though there’s another employee in charge of that program. We’re actually in the process of building a new facility downtown. It should add another thirty beds for at risk youth with no place left to go.” He sounds as though he’s quoting from a fundraising pamphlet.

“It sounds like a wonderful program,” Methos says. It sounds exactly like the sort of thing Mac would be involved in. Boy Scout. “What did MacLeod do there?”

Brant’s eyes narrow in sudden suspicion. “I thought you were a friend of his.”

“I am,” Methos replies easily, “but we haven’t seen each other in several months, and I’m not sure what he’s up to these days.” Brant relaxes at once and gives Methos an apologetic smile.

“He’s one of the organization’s major donors, and he also volunteers twice a week with the teen education program. He’s a good man.”

“He certainly works hard to be one. Can you think of any reason he’d be at the Center after closing?” Methos asks.

“No,” Brant says, face blank with confusion. “His class is held in the afternoons, and as far as I know, he wasn’t there at all yesterday. Maybe he’d forgotten something from the day before? Or wanted to get something set up for his class tomorrow. Today, rather,” he amends, glancing at the clock. “Oh god, I have work today. I need to get some sleep.”

On cue, the police officers step back into the kitchen. Amy stays huddled on the couch in the living room, arms curled tightly around her midsection.

“I think we’ve got all we need,” one of them says. Methos thinks it’s Mullins, though he didn’t pay very close attention when they first introduced themselves. “We’ll put out a BOLO on Mr. MacLeod and the description of the dark van we got from Ms. Darling.” His inflection doesn’t change, but from his dour expression it’s clear he’s itching to put air quotes around both “dark van” and “Ms. Darling.” Given the hour, Methos doesn’t begrudge him his grim demeanor.

“Let us know if Mr. MacLeod makes contact, Mr. Pierson,” the other—taller and slimmer than the first and just as stone-faced—orders, handing Methos his card. “Where can we reach you if we have any follow-up questions?”

“At Mr. MacLeod’s houseboat,” Methos answers, rattling off the address and phone number.

“We’ll call you if we find out anything about your friend,” Mullins says, placing his verbal air quotes this time around “friend.” Methos gives him a bright smile.

“Thank you, Constable,” Methos says, emphasizing the incorrect title and playing up his accent. “I appreciate your assistance.”

The man just grunts, and as a pair the officers head for the door. Brant sees them out.

After he relocks the front door, the social worker sits next to Amy on the couch and takes her hand.

“I’m sorry. I know that was hard. But you did the right thing,” he says softly. She doesn’t answer beyond gently reclaiming her hand. Brant lets it go.

“I have a spare room that you’re more than welcome to,” he tells her. “You must be exhausted. Try to get some sleep. Things will look better in the morning.”

Without a word, Amy gets to her feet and climbs the stairs to the bedrooms, feet plodding heavily on the Berber carpet.

“Second on the right,” Brant calls after her. “There are towels in the bathroom across the hall.” The only response is the sound of a door closing emphatically.

The two men sit in silence for a minute, and then Methos pulls himself to his feet and pushes his hands into his pockets. “I’d better get back to the boat,” he says. “Mac may end showing up at some point.”

“Yeah,” Brant agrees absently, apparently lost in thought. His eyes are trained on the floor, and there’s a small furrow in his forehead as his eyebrows knit together. He shakes himself out of it and walks Methos to the door politely.

When Methos is standing on the stoop, Brant abruptly reaches out to touch his shoulder. His hand is warm through Methos’s borrowed leather jacket.

“If-, Well, I mean, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of staying there alone, you can stay here.” Brant’s eyes are shadowed as the light from a streetlamp falls across his face and highlights his cheekbones attractively. He’s blushing, but he doesn’t drop his eyes from where they hold Methos’s gaze.

Methos lets the hand stay on his shoulder for a moment, enjoying the warmth, before he steps away. “I should really be there in case Mac shows up,” he says with genuine regret.

“Perhaps another time then,” Brant says, giving him a small smile. “Stay safe.”

“I’m very good at that,” Methos replies, and Brant laughs softly, though he couldn’t be aware of the subtext.

They wish each other a good night—what’s left of it anyway—before Methos drives back to the houseboat. There’s no Presence to greet him.

At four a.m., he’s lying alone in a large bed that smells like MacLeod and staring up at the dark ceiling. Then he realizes that he’s brooding and that if it keeps up, he’ll reach a point where he’ll be required to make fun of himself.

So he sleeps instead, more than half-expecting to be awoken at any moment by the approach of another Immortal.

But Mac doesn’t return.