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"You promised to have this ready for us, and it isn't," Methos accused as he stood in front of the store's customer assistance desk. "This is— " he gestured to the shopping cart piled high with boxes ''isn't what we told you on the phone."

"I'm sorry, sir, but this is what you ordered," the harried salesclerk said impatiently, clearly struggling to maintain a professional facade and failing in the face of Methos's annoyance. She tapped the handwritten Post-It note and said firmly, "See, it says, 'Twelve cases of Paddingtons for Amanda Adams.'"

Methos looked at the note and wondered how anyone could mangle written English to the point where it looked like hieroglyphics. "Trust me," Methos drawled, his voice dripping sarcasm, "if we wanted this, we would've found a better way of getting it. If you can't get this right, we're not coming back here anymore. Besides, how the hell can you understand what's written on that note?"

"I read Candy's handwriting all the time," the clerk said, an exasperated edge in her voice. "She is my manager, you know."

"Please understand this isn't what we meant when we placed this order," Amanda chimed in from her place to Methos's left. She gave the clerk a compassionate smile, though both of her companions knew she was feeling far from sympathetic. "Is there any way you can check with Candy and just make sure you're reading her note correctly?"

The clerk's expression softened at Amanda's charm. "Sure," the clerk said, picking up the phone to page Candy to the service desk.

The third member of the shopping trio observed the proceedings with an amused expression on his face. He was fighting hard to keep from laughing; he'd never known anyone who took something like this so *seriously*. He wondered where Amanda's usual sense of humor had gone to, and glanced at Methos.

Oh yeah, Nick remembered, Amanda owes him, big time. If he hadn't shown up when she'd gone to steal that Renoir, she would be in jail right now. This was supposed to be payment for that. She hates getting ripped off worse than anything, and this has not been her week.

Even knowing that, however, Nick couldn't help but think that perhaps Methos had taken advantage of the situation. Twelve cases seemed like a lot, especially now. He chuckled, and was rewarded with a glare from Methos.

Nick returned the look blandly. He knew he was playing with fire, but he had the advantage today: he was the designated driver, since he had happened to be the one with the nearest sport utility vehicle. There was no way they were going back to The Sanctuary with all this merchandise in a taxi, and he sincerely doubted either of his fellow Immortals would go through the trouble of finding other means of transportation over something like this.

Thinking about that possibility, Nick snickered as the image formed in his head.

Amanda heard him and glowered at him. He returned the look with the same bland stare he'd given Methos.

"I don't see what your problem is," Nick observed, folding his arms and leaning against the return counter. "You have to admit, they are rather cute."

In reply, Methos reached into the shopping cart, which was piled high with boxes, and tossed the offending item at him.

Easily, he caught it, the small, soft, brown, furry form causing no injury to his hand.

"Hey, I'm not the one with a beer craving," Nick protested.

This time, he was hit by two of the stuffed animals, directed at him by each of the older Immortals.

*** Finis ***

Okay, so maybe a belated apology is in order here. This song was way too dark and depressing for me, so I decided to lighten things up. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the first set of lyrics that Jason sent me caused me to have a really, really, really bad reaction... In any case, the lines I used were "Please understand this isn't what we meant" and " We're not coming back anymore". Hope you liked it! BTW, the beer is Boddington's... the clerk was an idiot, and read "twelve cases of Paddingtons... as in Paddington Bears."

"This Isn't What We Meant"
Words by Jon Oliva
Performed by Savatage

We dared to ask for more
But that was long before
The nights began to burn
You would have thought we'd learn
You can't make promises
All based upon tomorrow
Happiness, security are words we only borrow

— — — — — — — — — — — — — -
For is this the answer to our prayers?
Is this what God has sent?
Please understand this isn't what we meant.

The future's couldn't last
We nailed it to the past
With every word a trap
That no one can take back
From all the architects who find their towers leaning
And every prayer we pray at night has somehow lost its meaning

A long time ago when the world was pretty
Standing right here in a different city
We're not coming back anymore
We're not coming back anymore