Duncan stopped in the doorway of the loft and stared at Methos' back. Methos had paused to see who it was, but now returned to trying to fit two suitcases worth of clothing and books into one backpack and was, amazingly, managing to do so.
"Hey Mac," Methos said over his shoulder.
"Hey. You going somewhere?"
Duncan looked around and noted that all of the vagrant beer bottles that he'd been prodding the old man into tossing had been dutifully tossed, and that not a single book lay open anywhere in the loft. The blankets and pillow that Methos had been using on the couch were folded and stacked on one of the chairs and Methos had his boots on.
"Yeah, I'm off for a while, going to go visit an old friend." Methos hefted his backpack onto his shoulder and turned around to smile at Duncan. "I'll see you in a few days."
"But I'll be in Scotland with Connor for New Year's!" Duncan protested as Methos passed him and raised the gate on the lift.
"I know," Methos told him. He slammed the gate shut and started down. "Like I said, I'm visiting an old friend, I'll see you in a few days!"
Duncan stared at the elevator shaft as he felt Methos' presence fade. When the other man was completely out of range, Duncan grabbed his phone and dialed Connor’s number in Scotland.
"Hello?" Connor sounded like he'd been woken up from a deep sleep. Duncan checked the time - no, it was still early enough there, must have been a nap.
"Connor, sorry if I woke you."
"Duncan!" Connor was instantly awake. "I'm glad you called, lad. I was meaning to check and make sure you were still coming for New Year's."
"I am, and that's actually what I was calling about,” Duncan sighed and sat down.
"No, but would you mind telling me who else is going to be there?" Not that Duncan didn't already know, but knowing what name his kinsman knew Methos by would be helpful.
"Oh, a few local friends and an old friend of mine, I don't know if you know him. Matthew Benson."
"I can't say the name is familiar. What's he look like?" Duncan got up and went over to get himself a beer, then frowned when he found that the old alcohol-guzzling man had cleaned him out.
"Big nose, dark hair, mischievous grin," Connor listed. Duncan's scowl deepened with each feature mentioned. "Good body, though I'd swear the man never works out or trains."
"One of us then."
"I did say he was an old friend."
"Listen, Connor, do you mean old friend like you and I are old friends, or old friend like Amanda and I are?" Duncan waited while Connor muffled a soft laugh.
"Don't tell me you're getting judgmental in your old age, Duncan."
"I was just asking. I'll see you in a few days, my flight gets in at," Duncan got his tickets out of his desk and checked again, "2:38 in the afternoon."
"Either I'll meet you or I'll send someone. Matt and I will try not to offend your delicate sensibilities."
Duncan started to protest then realized that he was speaking to a dial-tone.
When Duncan disembarked and scanned the crowd of people waiting past Customs, he did not see either of the people he had expected to. Then again, Connor was likely busy preparing the house, and Methos hated airports with a passion that he normally reserved for non-alcoholic beers.
Duncan was just heading outside to find a cab when he felt someone approaching. He turned to see both Methos and Connor walking towards him from the other end of the airport.
"Did you know that your flight was listed in two places?" Connor asked when they got close. "Here, and in the other terminal."
"I told you he was coming in at the other end of the airport, but no, you never did listen to me," Methos chided. He smirked and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Good flight?"
"Good enough," Duncan muttered as he picked up his bags and noticed that only Connor moved to take one from him.
"So, Matt tells me that you two are friends. I had no idea," Connor said as they moved through the crowds and headed down the concourse. "If I had, I might have had the two of you fly in together."
Methos snorted and shook his head. "No you wouldn't have. If you had, we wouldn't have had the whole house to ourselves for the past few days."
"True," Connor admitted. He smiled at Methos and Duncan frowned. "And that has been nice. We'll have to behave ourselves with Duncan around."
"Nah, he's not nearly so staid as he wants to appear," Methos told Connor in a stage whisper.
"Oh? What do you know that I don't?" Connor demanded.
Duncan knew what Methos' answer would be. It was predictable and Connor had set him up for it perfectly, but still there was a twinge of irritation that he should know Methos so well and that Connor should still leave him openings like that after however many years they had known each other, after however close they had gotten.
"Lots of things, Connor. I know more than you ever could," Methos grinned and held the door open for both Connor and Duncan. "I am a veritable walking encyclopedia."
"Only if it's centered solely around you," Duncan told him.
Methos did not deny it.
Back at the house, things were in chaos. The decorations from Christmas were still up and Duncan wondered if Connor had thrown a party for that too. His son wasn't home for New Year's, but perhaps Jon had been around earlier. Duncan put his things away in the guest room, and risked a peek into Connor's room on his way back downstairs. Sure enough, Methos' backpack was on a chair near the bed, and there was an empty beer bottle and an open book on the nightstand.
Methos and Connor were bickering in the kitchen in a way that was so easily recognizable that Duncan had to laugh. They sounded like old friends, just as they claimed to be. He pushed open the kitchen door in time to see Connor pinch Methos as he passed. Methos yelped and shoved Connor away and went back to doing whatever it was that he was doing at the sink.
"If you want these sliced, stop distracting me. If you want my fingers sliced, by all means..." Methos said.
"I don't think Duncan wants blood in his dinner, so I'll desist." Connor turned and nodded to Duncan. "Come on, give us a hand here. I am feeding you. The least you can do is help."
"But I'm a guest," Duncan protested with a laugh.
"No, Matt is a guest. You're family."
"You mean I don't have to help? Bugger this then." Methos tossed the carrots he'd been peeling down onto the cutting board and went to get himself a beer. Duncan stepped in to finish with the carrots and Connor dumped everything into a huge pot.
"There. Soup in a few hours with no fuss." Connor sat down at the table next to Methos and stole his beer, earning an indignant look from the old man. Duncan watched them together for a few more moments then left the room. Something about seeing his friend and his kinsman so close was distinctly unsettling. It wasn't the idea of two men together. Duncan had his share of men in his past, and Methos made no attempt to deny that his relationships with several old friends had definitely not been platonic. Connor wasn't precisely a surprise either, it was just that the two of them in particular was not a pairing that Duncan ever would have considered, or wanted to.
"Something wrong?" Connor asked when he joined Duncan in the living room a few minutes later.
"No, nothing. I just wanted to check on the fire." Duncan poked at the fire in the fireplace, shifting a log and causing it to let out a loud pop as a pocket of sap burst.
Connor shrugged and sat down on the couch. "I met Matt when I was in the States, about fifty years ago. He was running a restaurant in California. Now he claims he cooked every meal I ate for two years and it's my turn."
Duncan laughed. It sounded just like Methos to say something like that.
"How'd you meet him? I know he's got a new name, but I can't get used to calling him Adam."
"In Paris. A mutual friend thought he could help me do some research."
"So he was an academic? What does he do these days? He's being very close-mouthed about his life. I told him back then that he needed to do something that would protect him more if he didn't like to fight. He needs to practice more too, but he's as stubborn as he was in California."
Duncan declined to comment on Methos' more recent challenges, or his understandable aversion to them. "He's been teaching, I think. He travels a lot, he'd only been in Seacouver for a few weeks before he came here."
Connor nodded. "Always a traveler. Left California and the next time I saw him was in Florida. I never thought I'd coax him to Scotland."
"He hates the cold," Duncan agreed.
The two Scots laughed and watched the fire. In the kitchen Methos was humming tunelessly and doing something that involved banging pots around.
"He's making dessert. He said he doesn't trust me to do it," Connor confided. "I have missed him, even if he is a great pain in the ass."
Duncan looked towards the kitchen as Methos swore loudly then called out to them.
"I'm fine. Nothing that Immortal healing won't fix in a moment!"
"We weren't worried!" Connor called back.
When dinner was finished and the dishes left in the sink for the next morning, Methos and Connor sat together on the couch, swapping drinks every other sip and joking about mutual acquaintances and places they had both been. Duncan found himself less and less familiar with what they were speaking of, and more and more determined that he would not go to bed before them.
It was good to see them both in good spirits. Methos claimed to be easily amused, but that amusement was often short-lived. Connor, like Duncan himself, had a tendency to brood on things, and holidays were excellent times to dwell on all of those friends who were no longer there to celebrate with. Which is what Duncan was doing.
Tessa was first and foremost when he went through the list of people he wished he still had at his side, but she was only the latest in a string of loved ones who were now gone. Duncan sipped his scotch and stared into the fire, wondering why he had not thought to invite Amanda along with him. Of course, he hadn't seen Amanda in over a year, and he hadn't really thought of her much in that time. Methos kept him on his toes enough, showing up out of nowhere and taking up residence for a few weeks, or a few days, or a month and a half, then disappearing, only to call from Mexico and tell Duncan that he should come south and learn how to surf.
Duncan chuckled to himself at the idea of Methos surfing. It seemed rather absurd, but he regretted not going now.
"What's so funny? Do I have chocolate on my nose or something?" Methos asked, sounding suspicious. "Did I tell you about when he painted my nose?" he asked Connor.
Connor shook his head and hid a grin. "No, but you'll have to tell me later. I think we're heading up, Duncan. Make sure the fire's out before you go to bed?"
Duncan looked up at them as they stood. "Sure. Sleep well."
"Eventually..." Methos muttered as he started up the stairs.
Even though Duncan waited a full two hours before going upstairs the night before, he had still been able to hear Methos and Connor in the next room. Neither of them seemed to have any fears of being heard, or of what Duncan might think. Or perhaps they were simply past caring. Odd for someone like Methos, who was normally so reserved, but Duncan took it as a sign that the paranoid old man really was comfortable around both himself and his kinsman.
The next morning, Connor had enough grace to look a little ashamed, though Methos wore a smirk that definitely said "I had teeth-rattlingly good sex last night and I don't care who knows it."
The day was filled with house cleaning, cooking, and Duncan avoiding Connor and Methos, who did not seem to be holding back much at all. He supposed that they could have been naked and chasing each other around the house if no one else was there, but the image that idea brought made him flush, and he tucked it away and tried to forget he'd even thought of it.
When the local guests arrived, Connor greeted them warmly and welcomed them in. Methos poured champagne for everyone and Duncan introduced himself. It seemed as though any of the locals had heard Connor speak of his cousin Duncan, and had been dying to meet him. As midnight approached, people moved about the living room and kitchen in waves. Groups would come by where Duncan sat on the couch, then the conversation would carry them past him and on towards Methos or Connor.
Methos seemed to be having a grand time, and had been telling stories which were supposedly about his years at University and all of the unbelievable things that academics and normally straightlaced professors could get up to behind the doors of the classrooms and in the stacks of libraries.
"I'm not sure whether to believe anything he says or not," Connor commented from behind Duncan.
"Yeah, well, he'd laugh at you either way," Duncan replied. He moved over on the couch and sipped his champagne. Connor sat down and continued to watch Methos tell a group of local teens who were going off to University the following year about how three classmates of his back in the States had managed to fabricate an imaginary student and get him almost entirely through a four year degree in mathematics.
"We would have finished the degree too, but he ended up getting shunted into a different course than we wanted, with a professor who actually took the time to get to know his students," Methos told them and shrugged. The teens laughed and Methos wandered away from them towards Connor and Duncan. He leaned down to Connor and kissed him then tugged on his arm.
"Come on, it's almost midnight."
"Oh? What does that mean?" Connor was smirking, but remaining firmly seated. Methos tugged again.
"It means I get to drag you into the middle of the room and horrify all of your guests by doing unspeakably lewd things to you in front of them."
"How about just a kiss?" Connor asked as he finally stood, leaving Duncan on the couch. Duncan glanced at the clock and noted that they had less than three minutes left in the year.
While Connor teased Methos for getting into the holiday and using perfectly innocent traditions for his own nefarious purposes, Duncan ducked out of the living room and through the back door in the kitchen.
The rear porch was only softly lit by a small bulb by the door, and the woods behind Connor's house were dark and quiet. Duncan looked out at them and listened to the people inside count down and then cheer. Methos and Connor were doubtless locked together in the sort of kiss that would normally lead to other activities had they been alone, and the crisp air outside was full of the sounds of the guests laughing and wishing each other a happy new year. Someone began to sing Auld Lang Syne and abruptly stopped, followed by a fresh bout of laughter. Then everyone started to sing. The guests were loud enough that Duncan didn't hear the door behind him open.
"No singing for you?"
Duncan turned to see Methos leaning against the door. He had two glasses of champagne in his hands and held one out to Duncan.
"Connor would have my head." Duncan took the champagne and sipped as he turned back to look at the woods.
"Mine too. He's heard me sing." Methos stepped forward to lean against the porch railing next to Duncan.
"I thought you were 'on stage with the Rolling Stones' or something like that," Duncan said. He looked at Methos who shrugged.
"I was. That does not mean I was singing at the time. I was a roadie." He grinned and Duncan laughed.
"You were not."
"I was! Great time, really."
Duncan nodded and let it go. Methos was probably telling the truth, and if he wasn't, well, it didn't really harm anything.
"So why aren't you inside accosting my kinsman?"
Methos shrugged and finished his champagne. "We had our New Year's kiss." He paused and seemed to change the subject. "So you're leaving tomorrow evening?"
"Yeah, I was going to wait but I don't want to leave things in Seacouver for too long. Lots to do."
"That's a lousy excuse, Mac."
Now Duncan shrugged. It was a pretty flimsy excuse. He felt like he was intruding on Methos and Connor though. If truth be told, he didn't like seeing them together. Something about it made his gut twist uncomfortably.
When Duncan didn't answer, Methos shook his head and left the porch. When Duncan went back in an hour later most of the guests had left, Connor was saying goodbye to the last few, and Methos was in the kitchen. Duncan went up to bed without bothering to say anything to either of them.
"You're sure you can't stay?" Connor asked Duncan at the airport. Duncan shook his head.
"No, I've got more to do than I want to think about. You know me, always keeping busy." Duncan smiled at Connor and hefted his bag again. "I should go, I've got to get the you-know-what through Customs and I'm already running late."
"Sorry about that. Matt wanted to get into town early to meet that friend of his for the day. I didn't realize it would take so long to drive him in and then come back to get you," Connor said, then chuckled at Duncan's sword in its padlocked case and "Come back to Scotland when you can, Duncan. You know you're always welcome."
"Thanks, maybe later in the year," Duncan told him. He didn't expect Methos to stick around in Scotland for too long, really. For one, it was freezing. But also, Duncan didn't want to consider how long Methos was willing to hang around with an Immortal lover. He might claim to not make commitments to other Immortals, but that only meant he didn't make promises as to how long he'd stay.
Connor's presence faded as Duncan walked away towards Customs, and after the twenty minutes spent explaining the sword, and allowing it to be looked over and inspected, Duncan knew that Connor had gone. With the sword safely entrusted to the Customs officials and hopefully now headed for the cargo hold of the plane that Duncan would be getting on, Duncan rushed off to the gate to catch his plane.
The attendant had already had the first class passengers board and Duncan found himself as one of the last people to board. As he started down the walkway to the plane, he felt another Immortal nearby. Of course, there was always the risk of another Immortal in an airport. Immortals had to travel just like mortals did, and airports were fairly safe. Still, it made Duncan nervous, and he scanned the seats of the plane as soon as he boarded.
No one seemed to respond to his searching look, and Duncan didn't recognize any faces, but he could only see the first class section. He sat down in his seat and made himself comfortable. The seat next to him was unoccupied and Duncan considered putting his bag under the one in front of it to give himself more room, when he noticed that there was already something there. He sighed and made himself comfortable for the trip then leaned against the bulkhead and closed his eyes.
"Would you mind closing the window, Mac?" a familiar voice asked. The seat next to Duncan shifted as someone sat down and Duncan sat up and opened his eyes. "Of course, you could just lean against it and block out the light, but it seems a bit mroe trouble than I think is worth it when you could just lower the blind."
Duncan looked at Methos, who was managing to sprawl in his seat even with a bag under the seat in front of him and the arm rests down.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Sure, it wasn't the most clever thing to say, but given that Duncan had thought that Methos was spending at least another month in Scotland, if not longer, it was the best he could do.
"I'm waiting for the plane to take off and fly over quite a bit of ocean, then quite a bit of land," Methos' tone did not invite further questions as he tightened his seatbelt and the plane begin to back away from the gate. Duncan did not reply until they were airborne a short time later.
"I thought you were staying with Connor."
"Nah," Methos shrugged and pulled the in-flight magazine out of the pocket in the seatback in front of him. He flipped through it, looking utterly absorbed in an article about collectible silverware from different countries of Europe.
"You're going to just sit there and be smug the whole way back to Seacouver, aren't you?"
Methos continued to read, but his grin was answer enough. "How do you know I'm not getting off in Cincinnati?"
"Because this flight doesn't have any stops," Duncan smirked, having finally scored a point on Methos.
Methos swore. "Really? How the hell am I supposed to get to Ohio then?"
"Beats the hell out of me," Duncan chuckled and took the magazine from Methos. "But why would you want to go to Ohio?"
"Good chili in Cincinnati." Methos snatched the magazine back.
"I'll make chili for you."
"It wouldn't be the same," Methos said with a sigh. "Too bad. I was looking forward to a stop in Cincinnati. I should have paid more attention when I bought my ticket."
"Why did you?" Duncan asked, but any response Methos might have tried to avoid giving was forestalled by the arrival of the flight attendants and the drink cart.
"Connor told me to." Methos sipped his water and pulled out a pen to finish the half-done crossword puzzle in the back fo the magazine. Duncan stared at him, dumbfounded.
"Nope." Methos crossed out a few letters and wrote in his own answer while he muttered under his breath about the stupidity of the person who had started the puzzle.
"Connor said 'Go home, and why don't you get on Duncan's flight.' and you just DID?"
"Yup." Methos chewed on the end of his pen, then scribbled an answer in and looked over at Duncan. "He thinks he's older than me. It's amusing, really. He told me to stop being a prat and go home with you since you're obviously brooding about something, and I'm obviously smitten with you. Smitten! He actually used that word!" He tossed his pen down onto the magazine and shook his head.
Duncan couldn't help it. He laughed, and then when Methos scowled at him, he laughed some more. One of the passengers seated across from them glanced over and glared, and Duncan tried to get control over himself.
"So are you?"
"Am I what?"
Methos sighed and tucked the magazine away. Then he looked at Duncan and nodded slowly. "Your kinsman is an insufferable bastard, which is likely why we can only stand each other for short periods of time. He's too smart for his own good, and he knows you far too well."
Duncan absorbed this and managed not to laugh again while Methos looked so thoroughly set-upon. "So does he know what I was brooding about, since he knows me so well?"
"He claims that you were jealous."
Duncan thought about Methos and Connor walking together in the airport, cooking together in the kitchen, sleeping together in the bedroom, then about Connor talking to him in the living room, and Methos following him outside. He nodded. "He's right."
"I thought so. Bloody know-it-all. Some day I'll tell him how old I am, see how much he thinks he knows then. He doesn't know that I knew Ramirez, and I tell you, the stories I've heard..." Methos trailed off and looked at Duncan.
"You'll have to tell me all about it so we can torment him next time we come to Scotland."
"Yes." Duncan nodded. "And next time, I fully intend for you to be sleeping in the guest room with me."