The house was perhaps one of the most impressive Duncan had seen in a very long time. Not for the size. Not for the location. Not even for the architecture, though that was impressive in its own right. No. With this house, it was the atmosphere. The aura. Every haunted house ever imagined, all in one. Every witchy glade. It was ... impressive.
Not quite as impressive as the man opening the door, mind.
"You rang?" Except not. More ... "You raaaannnnggg?" A rumble from the depths of hell itself. If hell was oddly cheerful.
A deep, slow nod. Considering. Then ... "Enter." A massive form shifting aside, like a mountain flowing away. Duncan Macleod of the Clan Macleod, one of the most physically fit men in creation, felt a moment of sheer, unadulterated envy for the grace of it. The he remembered himself, and stepped inside.
"Lurch?" Sheer majesty faced him, dark beauty framed by vaulting stairs, eyes glowing with a ghostly light, bewitching smile reaching out to tie his feet to the floor. He stared, as Morticia quirked a questioning eyebrow. "We have a guest?"
"Mmmmm." A rumble of affirmation, as if he had given up on words in the face of her. Duncan couldn't blame him. Give him a minute, and he might remember language, but ...
A clash of blades sliced through the moment, making the point moot as instincts deeper than any word took over, and the katana was in his hand, his feet moving towards the sound, and then, across the upper landing, just visible over the balustrade, sabers ringing in beautiful, deadly song, a dark man laughing, and his opponent ...
A curse from above, a vivid expletive as the world's oldest immortal danced back, blood dripping from one hand for a second before the healing kicked in, and his opponent snapped his blade up into a salute, flicking the crimson from the steel. Duncan was already running towards the stairs.
Only to snap to a stop as a child -a girl- stepped out in front of him. He skidded to a halt, barely getting the katana up out of the way before he decapitated her. She never even blinked.
"You're here for Adam?" she asked, regal and chilly and completely without expression. In her hands, she cradled what looked for all the world like a harp. He stared.
"Adam?" he repeated, blankly, then caught up. "Adam. Yes."
She nodded, serene, and suddenly thrust the harp towards him, hands already letting go so that he had to snap it out of the air as it fell. "Hold this please," she smiled, in the same instant as Methos' gasped "Duncan, no!"
Too late. Even as he grasped it, he felt the flick of a needle, a sting in the pad of his thumb, and the harp tumbled to the floor as he stared at the welling red in his hand, and then ...
The last thing he saw as he crumpled was the expression of fascination on her face
"Wednesday, dear, what have I told you about speaking to strange men?"
Duncan lay very still, listening to a voice of unearthly beauty and malevolence chastising someone over his head.
"Always introduce yourself before poisoning," the daughter replied dutifully, a lesson learned by rote, and what kind of child ...
"You poisoned me," he said, with his second breath of life. Even to his own ears, he sounded more surprised than anything else. Baffled. "You poisoned me."
"Ah, yes." A very familiar voice. "About that, Mac ..."
"Methos ..." he whispered. Growled, really. "You told a child to poison me?"
"I did not!" Pure affront. "I just ... I used be to quite something with poisons, back in the day, and she just wanted some lessons, and besides. I never thought I'd see that harp again, I mean, what are the chances ..."
"It's your own fault, you know." That was the girl, Wednesday, speaking as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "You should have know better than to take the Borgia harp without having paid your respects. Lucrezia would have laughed at you."
"Yes, well." Duncan could hear Methos spreading his hands helplessly. "He's always had this problem with saying no to women. Chivalry, you know."
"Nothing wrong with chivalry." The mother, this time, a wealth of amusement and strange sincerity in her voice. "It can be quite ... charming ... in the right man."
"Querida!" A man's voice. Methos' opponent? Then he hadn't been trying to kill him? What was going on in this house?
"There is such a thing as taking it to excess." Methos again. No-one else could sound so dry. And why was he still on the floor, identifying people by voice? Shaking his head, convinced something in this place was messing with his mind, Duncan pulled himself laboriously to his feet, and took in the tableau before him.
The woman from the stairs was in front of him, currently being assaulted by the swordsman from the upper landing, apparently enjoying every moment of it. Beside them, and pointedly not looking at them, was the girl-child, the harp once more cradled negligently in her hands. Duncan eyed it uneasily, before turning to face the man he'd come here for, crossing his arms and finally letting loose the glare that had been building since he'd walked in the door. No. Before that. This glare had been building since the moment he'd met the man, he was sure of it. He could all but feel the heat of it himself.
Methos, meeting his eyes, grinned irreverently, and tilted his head back to the show with lascivious delight. Duncan growled at him, stepping forward to more viscerally announce his displeasure.
"What was it like?" Wednesday interrupted him for the second time, moving forward, and he took a hasty step backwards away from the instrument of death in her arms. Let it never be said that Duncan Macleod couldn't learn a lesson.
"What was what like?"
"Dying," she breathed, reverent and almost innocently fascinated, so much so that he almost didn't process what she'd actually said. Then it hit him, and he turned to Methos, a snarl bubbling from his throat.
"What have you done to this child, Methos!" He pointed at her, stabbing his finger. Maybe a little dramatic, but visions of Kenny were slipping forward behind his eyes, and he didn't think he cared. "How have you corrupted her?"
Methos froze, expression going blank and cold, and the proud parents ceased their romantic interlude to stare at him, seemingly stunned by the viciousness of his tone. Wednesday looked at them, at the statue that was Methos, and slowly turned to face him, eyes chill for all of a second before filling with something that looked like ... hurt.
"He did nothing to me," she said, with great dignity. "If you don't like me, then it's your fault." And she hugged the poisoned harp to her chest, drawing pride around her like a cloak, and turned to walk away while he stared after her in shock. Then Methos moved.
"My lady!" he called after her, moving fluidly after her. "My lady, wait. Please. Forgive my boorish friend. He doesn't know what he's saying."
She stopped, determinedly not looking back at them, her chin raised and her spine stiff. "He sounded like he knew," she said, childish and cold, save that Duncan could see the tremble in her shoulders. "He seemed very sure."
"I know, my lady." Methos knelt behind her, bowing his head. "But you must understand, my dear one. When one is hurt ... they may say things that they do not really mean."
She turned at that, curious, turning to look into the face of Methos' sincerity, then to Duncan's own baffled features. "Hurt?"
Methos nodded solemnly, and said, with every appearance of seriousness. "Yes, sweet one. You see ... some men do not take rejection well."
Duncan twitched violently, hand searching for his katana.
"Rejection?" Wednesday repeated, dubiously. The girl was not stupid, at least. Insane, very probably, but not stupid. Methos smiled gently.
"My dear Wednesday. You are an Addams woman, are you not?" She nodded, with great pride, and he smiled more deeply as he continued. "And as an Addams woman, you know the effect you have on men, yes? And Duncan here ... well, he is accustomed to women liking him. Caring for him. And when he came in here, entered this house, and saw two such beautiful women before him ... Well. What man would not hope in such circumstances?"
Duncan grit his teeth, determinedly not looking at the child's parents, though he could feel their indulgent amusement from here. He could hardly believe it. How Methos could manage to say that with a straight face ... Wednesday, on the other hand, seemed to be warming up to the explanation. She nodded in regal approval for Methos to continue his farce. The bard gleefully obliged.
"And then, the moment he sees you, my dear, in the moment of his hope as you stand before him ... you hand him the harp with which Lucrezia herself rejected her suitors, dismiss him in an instant, out of hand! What man would not be crushed! Enraged, agonised even! What man could stand against such a blow?" He held out a hand to her, beseeching, in full Shakespearean tragic mode, worse than Fitzcairn at his most florid. Duncan could barely stand it, but Methos showed no sign of caring, kneeling desperately before the ten year old child with an expression of constipated pleading. "Forgive my friend his grievous behaviour, my lady!" he cried, Cyrano pleading for his friend to Roxanne, nose and all. "Can you not see? It is only the pride of a broken man, that seeks to offend you!"
There was a moment of ringing silence in the wake of that last, impassioned declaration, the words seeming to echo through a cavern far vaster than the hall could account for. Duncan, well past the point where he could even consider trying to make sense of things, merely stared at his supposed friend, torn between consuming rage and a strange, distant admiration. Beside him, the Addamses seemed silent out of pure respect.
Then, the moment broke with the sound of applause as the elder Addamses started clapping enthusiastically, the father crying bravo while Duncan drifted on a cloud of surreality, and Wednesday stepped forward, resting a grateful hand on Methos' shoulder as she passed him, leaving him kneeling, head bowed and shoulders shaking, in her wake. Duncan stared at her as she came to a stop before him, regal as any old world empress, dignity incarnate, and held out an imperious hand. Still in shock, Duncan took it.
"I'll forgive you," she said softly, clear as a bell in her ten year old voice. "If you promise not to act like that again."
He blinked at her for a long minute, struggling with the weight in his chest, before finally managing, faintly and distantly, to say ... "I promise, my lady." And then, because it seemed appropriate in the bizarre Carollesque world he'd stepped into, he leaned down to press a gentle kiss to the back of her hand, and bowed for her forgiveness. She smiled at him, impossibly sweet, and patted his cheek gently before she left.
For a long second as she departed the hall, there was silence. Duncan could feel it, like a buzzing in his ears, though that could just have been shock. Then, through the ringing, came a quiet sound, repeating irregularly. It took Duncan a second to recognise it. Then he saw Methos bend forward, arms wrapping around his chest as he touched his forehead gracefully to the floor, shoulders shaking in time to the noise. His desperate giggles filled the hall, washing past Morticia's indulgent smile, Gomez's beamed pride, and the hollow sound of Duncan's grinding teeth.
"Methos always was such a wonderful corrupting influence," Morticia noted, with real pride, and Methos quietly, almost gracefully, fell over. Duncan nodded tightly.
Where had he left his katana, again?