Methos was feeling… well, the only word for it was “bitchy.” So when he flung open his apartment door, the look of wrath on his face was considerably more terrifying than the broadsword in his hand.
Most men would have screamed and fled. But there stood Duncan MacLeod on the threshold, grinning like a fool, bearing pizza in one hand and a six-pack in the other. If he’d been a dog – and why did he keep comparing MacLeod to big galumphing animals, anyway? – his tongue would have been lolling out.
Methos let the sword point drop to the floor. “What are you doing here?”
MacLeod seemed unfazed by the lack of welcome. “I brought you a pizza. And beer.”
“I can see that. Why?”
The grin got wider. “Don’t you know what night it is?”
“Yeah, it’s a school night. I have papers to grade.” He started to shut the door.
“It’s the sixth of March. It’s the day we met!”
“Oh, for god’s sake, MacLeod.” A puppy. Definitely a puppy. Jumping up and down and wagging its fucking tail. He knew there was a reason he preferred cats.
Mac was the picture of innocence. “I just thought we should do something to celebrate. And I remembered how I walked in that day and you were sitting there with beer and pizza…”
“I did not have a pizza. French pizza is disgusting.”
“This one’s from Fiorinelli’s. With pesto and artichoke hearts and black olives.”
The pizza did smell really good. Methos’ stomach twinged. He had forgotten to eat supper again, hadn’t he?
“Fine.” He swung the sword up onto his shoulder and stepped back. “Thirty minutes. But then I really do have to get some work done.”
“Thirty minutes,” Mac agreed, moving smoothly past him into the apartment. “Thanks, Methos. I know I should have called first.”
“Just don’t jump on the furniture,” he muttered as he closed the door.
Three hours later…
The six-pack was long gone, as was the pizza. Fortunately, there had been other supplies on hand. Somewhere along the line they had ended up on the living room floor surrounded by beer bottles and midterm examinations, which MacLeod had cheerfully offered to help him grade. FERPA, schmerpa.
Mac was sitting with his back against the couch, his legs splayed out in front of him, and a rather distressed look on his face which Methos found hilarious. It was becoming painfully evident that he had never taught undergraduates before.
Methos, curled up and leaning on one elbow, paused in his ruthless evisceration of a blue-book essay. “What is it this time?”
Mac read aloud from an identical blue booklet. “‘Ancient Roman philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle…’” His voice rose in disbelief.
“Hey, I’ve heard worse. Give her an F, though. Here, try this one. ‘Philosophy, which is the art of philosophizing, was invented by Socrates.’”
They graded in silence for a while. MacLeod finished off his latest bottle of beer and seemed to think better of opening another. The CD player shuffled to a new disc. Methos found an excellent essay and ran out of ink making suggestions for additional reading in the margins. He’d have to nick some more red pens from the department secretary.
MacLeod leaned over to put a blue book on the “finished” pile and remained there idly flipping through the graded exams.
“You know, Methos, you’re being awfully tough on them. Even the good ones. How many As have you given? Two?”
“Three.” He tossed over the latest, which missed the pile and landed in Mac’s lap. “I don’t believe in grade inflation.”
“Guess not.” MacLeod glanced at the essay, covered with spare but genuine praise in Adam Pierson’s neat printing, and dropped it on the pile. “I bet your students are frustrated.”
“They’ll live. And I suppose Herr Professor MacLeod is adored by the masses?”
“Actually, yeah.” Mac looked absurdly pleased.
“But of course.”
“Here, I’ll show you.” MacLeod pulled himself to standing and looked around the room. “Where’s your computer?”
Methos gestured haphazardly with his beer in the direction of the desk.
MacLeod retrieved the laptop and came back, settling in half-lotus on the floor. He made a face as the computer booted up. “Why do you have a Mac?”
“So I can be reminded of you every time I check my e-mail. What d’you mean, why do I have a Mac?”
“Duncan MacLeod.” Methos groaned. “I’m going to remember this conversation the next time you ask my help ridding your PC of viruses.”
MacLeod ignored him and began typing. With a long-suffering sigh, Methos abandoned his spot on the floor and climbed back onto the couch where he could look over Mac’s shoulder.
“You know about ‘Rate My Professors?’” he asked in surprise as the Web site came up.
“Yeah, Shandra told me about it. It’s a pretty neat idea.”
“Yeah, your one-stop shop for poorly-spelled libel. How ever did academe get this far without it?”
“Cynic.” Mac typed his name and “University of Seacouver” into the search field. “It helps students be well-informed about which classes to take.”
The search results had come up. MacLeod’s name headed a page of short paragraphs dotted liberally with smiley faces and red pepper icons.
“Oh, you’ve scored well in ‘hotness,’ I see.” Methos smirked and read aloud from the screen. “‘Mr. MacLeod was an engaging and affable instructor who brought the material to life. He frequently brought examples of swords and armor to show the class – ’ Oh, I see, you’re bribing them with shiny props.”
“It’s an art history class, Methos. It helps make it more real; it keeps their attention.”
“Yeah, well, in the good old days students paid attention because they actually wanted to learn something. The lecturers at the University of Paris used to go on for hours…”
“Yeah, and their students rioted and sacked the Latin Quarter.”
“That wasn’t because of the lectures. And don’t make fun. They wrecked a whole cellarful of Darius’ best mead.”
“You would be most concerned about that. What’s it say about you in here, anyhow?” Mac started to type in a new search.
“I’ll do that.” Methos snatched the laptop away and sprawled back against the end of the couch. He was, after all, an expert in searching for himself. “Here we are.” He skimmed the first entry and smirked fiendishly, then read aloud in his best imitation of a nineteen-year-old girl.
“‘Professor Pierson is a smokin’ hottie. I loooove his accent!’” He giggled for verisimilitude. “‘However, the assignments in his class are way too hard.’ – That’s ‘to’ spelled T-O, by the way. ‘He is a really hard grader, and when I asked him to change my grade he was totally unfair and mean.’”
MacLeod was grinning. “I can’t imagine.”
“And she’s rated me below average in clarity and helpfulness, the little Philistine.”
“Far be it from anyone to besmirch your clarity.”
“Damn straight.” He reached one long arm off the side of the couch and groped around like an octopus in search of something shiny until Mac put a fresh beer in his hand.
“That’s the last one.”
Thus warned, he set out to savor it and didn’t protest when MacLeod reclaimed the computer. The keyboard clicked quietly while Bruce Springsteen sang about a freight train running through his head. He could feel heaviness seeping into his muscles via that strange osmotic power of couches.
“I wish they had a ‘Rate Your Students’ dot com.” Methos said dreamily.
Mac glanced up from the computer. “Wouldn’t that be a little unethical?”
“How about ‘Rate Your Immortal Students?’ Grade them on their common sense, swordsmanship, likelihood of coming after your head one day – and hotness.”
“I would not rate my students on ‘hotness.’”
“Oh, I would.” He could recall a few who’d been very hot indeed. Johanna, Byron, that little what’s-her-name, the one from Phrygia…
“You’re falling asleep.”
He slitted his eyes open to see MacLeod leaning over him.
“Yes, and you’re interrupting.” It came out as an indistinct mumble. Strike ten points for clarity.
MacLeod smiled. “Why don’t you go to bed? I’ll pick up in here.”
“Here’s good.” He stretched his legs with a loud cracking sound and snuggled back into the couch.
Mac chuckled softly. “Okay.”
There was a soft clinking of glass as Mac moved around the room picking up empty bottles by their necks. He was probably putting them in a separate trash bag; never mind that Methos didn’t recycle. He watched through half-closed eyes as Mac gathered up all the blue books from the floor to be stacked neatly on the desk.
High marks in helpfulness, that one. Tragic lack of sense, but the hotness made up for it. Mostly.
The stereo was turned off in mid-song. It suddenly felt very, very late, or very early. Mac reappeared and draped a blanket over him.
“I’m heading out. Your sword’s next to the couch.”
“Mmmm. A-plus, MacLeod.”
“Ha.” Mac shook his head in that way he had that so perfectly combined endearment and exasperation. “G’night, Methos.” He touched his shoulder in farewell, and a few moments later the apartment door clicked shut behind him.
Methos smiled and went to sleep.