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welcome to joe's

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Seacouver, Washington
November 1995

The night before Thanksgiving always means a crowded house, as people home for the holiday realize that they don’t want to be around their relatives more than necessary. Joe has spent most of the night behind the bar, helping sling drinks while he keeps a weather eye on the shifting patrons. The earlier hours of the evening had seen more turnover, as non-locals checked the place out and realized it wasn’t the hookup buffet they sought. Now, closing in on 9 PM, the crowd has settled as newcomers more comfortable with the relaxed atmosphere merge seamlessly with the regulars. Joe’s is a venue for casual conversation over good drinks while listening to a live jazz duo, not a hyperactive club with canned music and overpriced cocktails.

Joe clocks the four the moment they walk in. Something about the way they move, the fluidity of their steps. He covers his staring with mixing a martini order, and he’s unsurprised when they select a far table next to a wall rather than one of the two empties near the stage, closer to the band.

In this city, in this weather, everyone wears longer coats. That specific check is so ingrained in Joe’s persona as a professional people-watcher that he suppresses a double-take when he doesn’t find the tell-tale signs of long blades hidden within. But at least two of the men are definitely carrying concealed, despite the multiple levels of illegality, and that is perhaps more concerning than the absence of swords.

Joe passes the martini to the waiting server and pauses to consider while he wipes his hands with a bar towel. His brain had pretty quickly pegged the four as Immortals, and he never argued with that particular instinct. Except what four Immortals appear that at ease in each other’s company? What four Immortals travel together with guns rather than swords? What four Immortals travel together, full stop?

But something else about them settles Joe’s nerves rather than heightens them. Because whoever they are, they also look tired, with dark circles under the woman’s eyes and the way the curly-haired man props his head on his hand. Immortal or not, unfamiliar or not, if everyone eventually comes to Joe’s, then Joe will treat them like the weary travelers they are rather than an unknown threat.

Instead of waiting for a server, one of the men leaves the table to approach the bar. If Joe happens to put himself in his path to take their order, well, Candace is busy enough at her end. “Good evening,” Joe says, covering any latent suspicion with a smile. “What can I get you?”

“Good evening. What’s your house white?” the man asks in return.

The way the syllables of his words flow, more familiar in another bar half a world away, prompts Joe to respond in French. “A sauvignon blanc. But I’ve also got half a bottle of Riesling that someone needs to finish if that suits your taste better.

The customer’s eyes brighten at the language, even if his fatigued grin only quirks to one side. “Perfect,” he says. “One glass of the Riesling, one bourbon, one gin and tonic, and one Guinness.” He gives the rest of the order as if by rote, the comfortable patter of a friend who has done the same many times before.

Coming right up,” Joe says. “Want to open a tab?

No, thank you.”

The man leans against the bar while he waits, but his posture is lax and unhurried. Once Joe pushes the G&T across the bar to join the other three finished drinks, he leaves enough cash to include a decent but otherwise unmemorable tip. He collects the four glasses with practiced hands and returns to his companions.

The wine goes to the lone woman in the group, whose eyes light up at whatever the man says when he slides it across the table to her. The G&T goes to the other white man in the group, the Guinness to the man who may or may not be napping with his eyes open, and the Frenchman keeps the bourbon.

As one, the four seem to relax into each other’s presence, yet are utterly indistinguishable from the small groups at the tables around them. Joe has seen this before, in the way Mac will lean into Amanda’s space. Or the way Methos only goes utterly boneless on a couch when his ancient hindbrain recognizes that he is in the safety of MacLeod’s territory.

Fuck. Methos.

These mysterious four don’t appear to be a threat to Joe or the bar patrons, but adding another Immortal to the mix might be like tossing a match into a gasoline can. There’s no specific schedule to when the old man shows up at the bar, but tonight would be a hell of a night for him to choose. He catches Candace’s eye and waves to the back, then retreats to his office once the other bartender indicates she can handle the crowd.

The line picks up on the third ring, and Joe heaves a sigh of relief. “Early happy Thanksgiving, old friend.”

A snort, followed by, “I refuse to recognize a holiday based on the eradication and oppression of an indigenous people.”

“This mean you won’t be there for Mac’s turkey tomorrow night?”

“Well, I never said that. Everything okay?”

Trust Methos to see right through to Joe’s concern, despite the lack of visual cues. “Just hoping you weren’t planning on dropping by tonight.”

Weren’t planning?” Methos asks. “There a reason I shouldn’t?”

And just like a cat, trust Methos to rebel against the insinuation that he not follow a particular action when otherwise inclined. Joe could practically see his raised hackles. “There are four people here,” Joe says. “And I don’t recognize any of them specifically, but they’re giving me a sense that they might be friends of yours.” He rattles off basic descriptions of each one, in the practiced manner all Watchers use to portray those whose hair and garb might change over time, but body type and specific mannerisms do not. The woman’s piercing stare and the way her eyes followed the Frenchman the entire time he was at the bar as if watching his back. How the G&T drinker had thrown an arm over the back of the curly-haired man’s chair, hinting at a possible deeper relationship. No swords but probably still armed to some degree. “I feel like I’d have heard of such a large group traveling together, but no one’s called in to report being in my territory.” Meaning, no Watchers had given the Northwest Regional Director a head’s up that their Immortal was in the city, much less in his damned bar.

Silence on the other end of the line for a few beats. “No, they wouldn’t have,” Methos says, distraction weaving through his words. “Only four of them, you said? No second woman?”

“Not here, at least,” Joe says.

“Damn. I’d hoped—never mind.” Methos cuts himself off, then says, “Thanks for the call, Joe. I think I’ll take that night in. See you at Mac’s tomorrow.”

And he hangs up before Joe can respond. Joe huffs at the handset before replacing it on his desk. Not sure why he ever expects the old man to offer any information unbidden, but Joe’s curiosity insists on clinging to that hope. He snags his cane and levers himself up from his office chair, then returns to the bar.

The mysterious foursome stays for a second round of drinks (and Joe doesn’t bother charging extra for the extra-large pour of wine since it taps out the bottle). The other white man orders this time, but Joe can’t match his Italian accent the way he could the French. This one accepts the offer for a server to bring the drinks over to them and makes his way back to his table. Joe might have missed the man’s aborted reach for his friend’s hair if he hadn’t been looking so closely.

He has no idea who these four are, or even whether they are Immortals (though everything Methos did not say on their short phone call spoke volumes). But they pay for their drinks, keep to themselves. Despite how he’d seemed the most exhausted of the group the entire time, Curly makes a point to toss a few bills into the jazz duo’s hat while his companions wait at the door before they leave.

All of Joe’s patrons should be so pleasant, and well, no matter who they are—everyone is welcome at Joe’s.