chelle

Highlander

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The Cookie Story 8

chelle

Title: The Cookie Story 8

Author: chelle

Author's email: chelle@chelle.slashcity.org

Author's URL: http://chelle.slashcity.org/

Fandom: Highlander

Category: Slash

Pairing: Duncan/Methos

Series: The Cookie Story

Archive: Ask first

Duncan walked around the loft. It was empty now, stripped of everything which had made it his. Usually he just walked away from his residences when it was time to move on, letting someone else handle the arrangements. But it had been the right choice to pack up the loft himself.

Presence washed over him, and a moment later Methos opened the door. "I thought you might like some company."

"Didn't you have class?"

"Office hours. I canceled them."

"I thought your office hours were on Friday."

"Friday and Wednesday."

"You didn't have to cancel. I'm just handing over the keys."

"I know."

Methos stood next to the island separating the kitchen from the rest of the loft, giving Duncan space.

"I'm glad I came back," Duncan said after a few minutes, running his hand over the kitchen counter. "I'm glad we spent some time together here. It helped put some of the ghosts to rest."

"Spent time together? Is that a euphemism for got naked and sweaty?"

Duncan grinned in spite of himself. "We did other things."

"Uh-huh." Methos took a step toward him.

"We ate."

"Uh-huh." Another step.

"We talked."

Methos was standing directly in front of him. "We kissed for an hour and ten minutes."

"You timed us?"

"Not deliberately."

"You didn't time anything else, did you?"

"You kidding? You think I'd want a record of coming that quickly?"

Duncan chuckled and pulled him into an embrace, his body molding easily to Methos'. "Thank you for coming."

Methos pulled back enough to see Duncan's face and grinned.

"You know what I mean."

"It's hard to tell with someone with your fondness for double entendres."

"I say things that are perfectly innocent. You just interpret them that way."

"Right. It's all me," Methos said, bringing his lips slowly toward Duncan's.

The kiss was interrupted by a knock on the door, and Duncan stepped away from him, picking up the keys to the loft as he passed the island.

***

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Methos asked, looking around at the warehouses lining the street.

It had taken some fast talking from Duncan and Christine to convince Methos to leave the car at the park and walk to the restaurant. "Bob's has the best burgers and shakes in Seacouver," Duncan answered.

"I've seen better locations."

"What is with you tonight?"

"Are you two talking about me again?" Christine demanded, turning to glare at the two men whispering behind her.

"No, we're not," Methos answered. "In fact, as shocking as it may be, we hardly ever discuss you."

"Yeah, right."

Duncan fought back a chuckle.

"Be nice," Methos said, "or I won't buy you a shake."

"Would you tell a boy to be nice?"

"I…" Methos paused. "I might."

"Uh-huh."

Duncan bit his lower lip until the urge to laugh passed. "She has a point."

"Thank you, Mr. Chivalry."

Duncan smirked as he pushed open the door to the diner.

***

Methos shook his head. "Sweet potato fries, MacLeod?"

"What's wrong with sweet potato fries?"

"They sound disgusting."

"They're pretty good, actually," Christine said. "Not as good as real fries, but still pretty good."

"You've had them?" Methos asked.

"Not here. But one of the lawyers at my Dad's firm married a Southerner. They like to fry funny-colored vegetables. You should see what they do to green tomatoes."

"Wasn't that the title of a movie?" Duncan said.

"It was a book first, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café. It was pretty good."

"You read it."

"Of course I read it."

"He'll read anything," Christine said.

Duncan winked at her. "Tell me, Adam, did you ever read Nancy Drew?"

"A couple. She's not very likable. A red convertible, a boyfriend who's a quarterback, an indulgent father."

"That makes her unlikable?" Duncan asked.

Methos nodded. "And unbelievable. But there's a pretty good parody." He started to say more, but fell silent after glancing at Christine.

"There is?" she asked. "Can I borrow it?"

"You can. In ten years."

"Adam."

Methos shook his head. "You've learned too much from me as it is. Not to mention what you've conned out of Duncan."

"I didn't get anything from Duncan. He turned purple, remember?"

"I did not turn purple," Duncan protested.

Methos patted his hand. "Of course, you didn't."

Duncan was spared having to come up with a retort by the arrival of the waitress with their food.

***

"Nice place, MacLeod," Methos said dryly as they started walking back to the car.

"I knew you'd like it."

"The shakes were good," Christine said.

"So were the burgers," Duncan added. "And you liked the sweet potato fries, Adam, admit it."

"They'd be better with gravy."

"So order gravy next time."

Christine slipped her hand into Duncan's. "He's really grumpy tonight."

"I am not."

"Of course not," Duncan said, squeezing Christine's hand. "Adam's always grumpy. It's inevitable, part of his personality."

"Then why do we hang out with him?"

"I thought we'd decided it was because he's cute."

"I am good at cute," Methos said.

Christine slipped her other hand into Methos'. "My hands are cold."

"That's why we're here, to serve as your gloves," Methos answered, catching Duncan's eyes over the top of her head and smiling.

***

It was a clear night, a little warm for late October, and perfect for a walk. They'd fallen silent as they walked through the park, and Methos would tell himself later that he should have been paying closer attention, that he shouldn't have let himself be lulled by the pleasant surroundings, and the presence of those he loved.

But he had, and when it happened he wasn't prepared. When Christine said something about ducks and dashed ahead, Methos didn't stop her. She was looking out at the pond, and she turned toward him. A man stepped up behind her and Duncan began to run toward her, Methos followed an instant later.

"Stop!" The man had a gun to Christine's head. They stopped. "Don't do anything heroic and stupid," the man said, backing away and taking Christine with him.

Methos held up his hands. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Duncan do the same. "Let her go." Methos walked slowly forward, studying the man in front of him. He was slightly shorter than Methos and Duncan, with short light-colored hair and a barrel chest. He was dressed in dark blue work pants and a shirt, and his voice had the unmistakable sound of a Boston accent.

"That's original. In case you didn't notice, I'm the one with the gun, and the kid," he continued his backward journey.

"That's right," Methos said. "She's a kid. You don't want to hurt a kid."

"Kid, adult, it makes no difference to me."

"Then take one of us," Duncan said, advancing slowly.

"You're not his daughter. She is. I think it's time for this conversation to end." He began to back up more quickly. "Remember, nothing heroic or stupid."

Methos reached out, stopping Duncan from following. "Christine, do whatever he says. We'll get you home safe, I promise."

Christine nodded, tears flowing down her cheeks.

They were almost to the street and a parked car. Methos felt his world start to come apart as Christine was shoved into it, and it roared away into the night.

Duncan had begun to run toward the car as soon as Christine was inside it. He turned, and started back toward Methos.

"License plate?"

Duncan shook his head. "Too dark."

"Call the police," Methos said, pulling out his cell phone. "I'll call Andrea and Dan."

***

Methos glanced over at Duncan; from his gestures Methos guessed that he was telling the same story again as well. Methos took a deep breath and answered the detective's question. "We were walking back to the car from the diner. Christine ran ahead, and a man stepped out of the bushes and put a gun to her head."

"Why was the kid with you?"

"I told you. Her parents had a dinner engagement, and with everything that's been happening they didn't want to leave her with a sitter."

"You called the parents?"

"Yes, they should be here any minute."

"So they left her with you and your friend because they thought she'd be safer?"

"Yes."

"Good thought," the detective said. "If you knew she'd been threatened, why did you take her to the docks, and through the park at night?"

"She hadn't been threatened. Her family was being terrorized, but there hadn't been any specific threats against Christine."

"Why the park?"

Methos bit back the urge to scream. In the old days he'd have lobbed the fool's head off and been done with it. "It was a nice night. We decided to leave the car on the far side of the park, and walk through it. Christine wanted to see the migrating ducks."

"You didn't take her to the nicest part of town for dinner."

"Christine's cat was killed a few days ago, and we wanted to do something fun to cheer her up."

"You took her to a diner."

"Mac claims they have the best milkshakes in town, and Christine considers herself a shake expert."

"Okay." The detective scribbled something in his notebook. "Did the man who took her say anything?" 'Gee, I thought you'd never ask.' Methos thought the words, but he didn't say them. "I suggested that he didn't want to hurt a kid, and he said that it made no difference to him. Duncan said he should take one of us instead if it made no difference. He answered that we weren't 'his daughter.'"

"His meaning the kidnapper's or his meaning Mr. Boyle's?"

"I assumed he meant Dan. If he meant himself he'd have said 'my.'"

"Does Mr. Boyle have any enemies that you're aware of?"

"No, but he's a lawyer. Haven't you people been investigating the other incidents?"

"Different department."

A car pulled up and parked close to where the kidnapper's had been. Andrea and Dan got out. Methos felt equal mixtures of relief and dread. Relief that they were safe, and dread because he didn't want to face them.

***

Neither of them said a word the entire drive home. The air was thick with self-accusation. Duncan knew from experience it was a wasted emotion. "Any ideas?" he asked as they entered the living room.

Methos shook his head.

"I wish we knew what the detectives Dan hired have found out. I can't understand why anyone would want to get at him by taking Christine."

"Dan is a lawyer."

"He does tax law."

"He used to do criminal law."

"Years ago, in another state." Duncan paced about the living room while Methos collapsed into a chair. "We should call Joe, find out who's in the area, just in case."

"We should also talk to Jane and Kevin," Methos said absently.

"Jane and Kevin?"

"Our young Watcher friends."

"I know who you meant. Why would they know anything? Aren't they off chasing after phantom Immortals?"

"They've been watching me for about a week."

"What? Why didn't you tell me?"

Methos shrugged. "Nothing to tell. They don't know anything. If they did, they'd have talked to their bosses by now and I'd have a much more skilled Watcher."

"You know what'll happen if word gets out that you're more than a myth."

"I'll deal with it."

"You'll deal with it," Duncan repeated. "I'm sure you will. When were you going to tell me, Methos? Before you packed your suitcase, or after?"

Methos raised his chin defiantly, looking his lover directly in the eye. "It's my life, MacLeod."

"Stupid me. I thought it was our life." Duncan spun on his heel and walked out the door. He could feel Methos' eyes on him, but the other man said nothing, unable or unwilling to find the words that would stop him.

***

Duncan stopped just outside the front door. They needed to resolve this, but not now. They'd have a nice big fight later, when Christine was safe. He'd yell, Methos would yell back, and maybe by the end he would have some idea of why Methos didn't trust him, why he needed to keep secrets.

Duncan let his anger at Methos drain away. It was of no use to him at the moment. The anger at Christine's kidnapper he held onto. He might need it.

He looked behind him at the door. He couldn't go back in there, not yet. He rose. Now was as good a time as any to talk to Joe.

***

Methos exhaled slowly as he felt Duncan's presence move away. He'd think about Duncan later. Right now he couldn't think, couldn't get the image of Christine with a gun to her head out of his mind.

And when part of him suggested that perhaps there was some poetic justice in this,. considering the number of parents he had left childless, he couldn't disagree.

Leaning his head against the back of the chair he let himself simply be. Bereft, angry, and more afraid than he'd been in a long time. He didn't fight the emotions, he made himself feel them, and then, one by one, he shut them away.

Inhaling, he stood. He had a couple of Watchers to find.

***

Rolling over, Joe pushed his head deeper into his pillow, but the noise didn't stop. Reluctantly, he let himself think about the sound. Someone was pounding on his door and yelling his name. It took him only an instant to identify the voice, and as soon as he did he was pushing the covers aside and maneuvering himself into his chair.

"I'm coming, Mac," he yelled as he rolled toward the door. Mac must have heard him because the pounding and yelling stopped. Joe pulled open the door. Mac was standing on the other side, shoulders slumped. His characteristic frown was missing, and that was more disturbing than anything else. When Mac was worried frown lines formed between his brows, but for Mac to be this agitated and the lines not to be there, it had to be bad.

"I need your help. I need to know who's in the area," Mac said, stepping inside.

Joe forced down his own sudden panic. "What happened? Is Methos?"

"He's okay. It's Christine. She was kidnapped."

"How? When?"

"A few hours ago. In the park. We've been at the police station, giving statements, looking at mug shots."

Joe rolled his chair backwards, making room for Duncan to enter. He continued down the hall toward the living room that doubled as an office. "You think it was one of you?"

"The person who took her wasn't, but he could have been hired by one of us."

"She was with you?" Joe had reached his desk and the laptop sitting on it. He turned it on.

Duncan nodded, watching over Joe's shoulder as he logged into the Watcher database.

***

Jane and Kevin were distressingly easy to find. Watchers always stayed at the Clarion, and they hadn't even bothered with fake names. He'd expected more.

He knocked softly on the door to Kevin's room. No answer. He tried the door. It was locked. For the first time, he was grateful for the afternoon he'd spent making Amanda teach him how to pick locks. At the time it had merely been a way to pass a few hours, to keep them both occupied while Duncan was off on another of his misadventures.

The lock gave easily, and he slipped inside. He went straight to the door connecting Kevin's room to Jane's and listened. Nothing. It appeared they were both out.

Going into Jane's room, he set about opening drawers.

He finished with both rooms quickly. There was nothing of value to be found. Not that he'd expected there to be anything. They couldn't have been that badly trained.

Dropping into the chair on the far side of Kevin's room, he settled in to wait.

***

Kevin and Jane said nothing as they parted in the hallway, each to their own rooms. There wasn't anything left to say, at least for the moment. They'd lost whomever it was who had seized the girl, rendering the entire argument beside the point.

Kevin fumbled for the light switch and then took a shocked step back. "What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you."

Kevin glanced at the door to Jane's room.

"Kevin." Adam Pierson was looking at him with an earnest expression. "I need your help."

"Christine." Kevin sank onto the bed.

Adam nodded. "I know you've been watching MacLeod. Did you see anything tonight?" he asked intently.

MacLeod? Pierson thought they were watching MacLeod? He filed that away. "Nothing useful."

"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?"

Kevin wondered why Pierson would consider himself a better judge of what constituted information than Jane or Kevin were, but he didn't say anything to Pierson. "We saw the guy shove her into the car. We followed. We lost them."

"License plate?"

"Stolen. Not the car, just the plate."

"I want a detailed account of everything you saw."

Kevin rose. "Let me get Jane."

"No, just you, then Jane."

"All right." Kevin sat back down on the edge of the bed.

***

Methos fought back the combination of hopelessness and panic that was trying to rise within him. Jane and Kevin had seen the kidnapping. That was something. But they'd lost them. Lost them. What the hell were they teaching Watchers these days anyway?

Kevin was pacing, again, and Methos didn't bother to hide his annoyance. "Okay, let's go talk to your partner."

Kevin stopped and looked at him for a long moment before nodding. He went to the door separating his room from Jane's and knocked lightly. He stepped inside, and Methos followed.

Jane was sitting in the center of the bed with a laptop open in front of her. She looked up, her gaze sliding quickly past Kevin to settle on Methos. "Pierson."

"Jane."

"We lost them."

"Kevin told me."

"You knew we were watching?"

Methos nodded.

"You want help finding Christine?"

"Yes."

"I want information. How about we trade?"

Typical Watcher, Methos thought. He didn't try to keep his anger from his voice. "What do you want to know?"

"The truth. Who you are, what happened in Bordeaux, who and what the Horsemen were."

Methos swallowed. She might as well have asked for his soul. But he needed her and she knew it. The Watchers had access to criminal files, travel records, even IRS records. They were part of every major computer network in the country. "Joe—"

"Is watched," Jane interrupted. "His relationship with MacLeod makes people nervous, and his repeated willingness to use our resources to help your friend got him restricted access. You know that. I have no such problem."

'I'm sure you don't', Methos thought. Aloud, he said, "Fine."

"You'll tell me everything?"

"I'll tell you who the Horsemen were and what happened in Bordeaux."

"I know who the Horsemen were. What I don't know is how they came together, or how long they were together, or what they did, beyond killing people."

Methos went cold. "What makes you think I can tell you that?"

"You were one of them."

Methos considered arguing with her, but she'd figured out the truth, and while he might be able to make her doubt her conclusions, it wouldn't help him find Christine. In fact, it'd just make working with Jane harder. "As I said, I'll tell you. After we find Christine."

"Why should you tell me anything once she's safe?"

"Why should you help me if I tell you?"

"Because it's the right thing to do," Kevin said quietly but firmly.

Both Jane and Methos turned to look at him.

"We'll help because it's the right thing to do," he repeated. "And you'll tell us the truth because we'll have earned it."

Jane and Methos locked gazes for a moment. "Agreed," Methos said. "Fine," Jane muttered.

"What do you know about the kidnappers?" Jane asked, looking, once again, at her computer.

She didn't rub her hands together, but Methos sensed it was a near thing. This was a game to her, a challenge, but then she didn't care for Christine like he did. In her place, after years of beating her head against the mystery of the Horsemen, well, he'd probably feel the same. "They weren't Immortals, although it's possible they were working for one."

"Someone after MacLeod or…?"

You. Methos heard the word she didn't say. "I don't think so. Someone's been harassing the Boyles for weeks, and the kidnapper mentioned Dan. I think we should look at his old cases, from when he was a prosecutor."

Jane had already started typing. "Was it here?"

"No. Somewhere back East. New York, I think."

She nodded absently, and Methos heard the distinctive buzz of a modem connecting. "Also, Dan's firm has some private investigators working on the harassment. You should get their records if you can."

"What agency?"

"Hunter North Associates."

"What did the police say?" Kevin asked.

"Not much. Mac and I have to go back in the morning to meet with a sketch artist."

"Anything else?" Jane asked.

"Yeah, the guy who took her had a Boston accent."

***

Joe shifted his weight slightly, trying to get more comfortable as he watched the computer scanning rapidly through the Watcher database, searching for anyone who might have come to the west coast of the US or Canada recently. He and MacLeod had decided to make the search as broad as possible. They didn't want to overlook anything, not with Christine in danger. "You still haven't told me why Methos isn't with you."

Mac was sitting on the couch, legs apart, elbows resting on his knees, staring at his clasped hands. "We had a fight."

"About what?"

"Jane and Kevin, those two young Watchers. They've been watching Methos."

"What?" Joe exclaimed. Someone was watching Methos and no one had told him, not Methos and not the Watchers.

"That's what I said. He didn't tell me. If they find out who he is, if they tell, he'll have to go into hiding, deep into hiding. You know it, and I know it, and he knows it. And he didn't tell me."

"Did you ask him why?"

"No," Mac admitted, getting up and walking to the window.

"So ask him, and while you're at it, ask him why he didn't tell me."

Duncan didn't answer.

Joe eased his chair back from his desk, and rolled a couple of feet toward his friend. "Mac, I'll be the first to admit that this thing between you two threw me at first, but once I thought about it, it made a whole lot of sense." He rolled a little bit closer. "The one thing I know for certain about the two of you is that when the chips are down, you two are there for each other."

"What if being there gets him killed, Joe?" Mac turned his head, meeting Joe's gaze. "What then?"

Unfortunately, Joe didn't have an answer.

***

Methos turned off the car and leaned back in his seat. Duncan's T-bird was in the drive and the kitchen light was on. He inhaled deeply. It was time to face the music.

He used the main entrance, moving quietly through the foyer to the entrance to the kitchen. Duncan was standing in front of the stove. The cover was off of the tea kettle and he was staring intently into it.

"It boils faster if you don't watch."

"I know," Duncan answered without looking up.

"I'm sorry," Methos offered.

"I am too." Duncan looked up and Methos was caught by the obvious fear in his eyes.

Walking to him, Methos wrapped his arms around Duncan's waist and rested his head against the space between Duncan's shoulders. "Everything was so perfect, I didn't want to spoil it by worrying you."

Duncan brought his arms up to rest on Methos'. "That isn't the only reason."

"No," Methos agreed.

"You have to learn to confide in me. It really helps with that whole building a life together thing."

Methos chuckled at the uncharacteristic phrasing. "You've been watching too much Buffy with—" He choked.

Duncan turned around, wrapping his arms around Methos' shoulders. "We'll find her."

"I know, but what if—" He couldn't finish the sentence.

"Alive. We will find her alive."

Methos nodded, knowing Duncan's words were meaningless and knowing Duncan knew it too. He let Duncan hold him, drawing little comfort from the embrace himself, but going through the motions of mutual comfort for his lovers' sake.