BRUNSWICK STREET INTERNATIONAL FOOD MARKETS, SEACOUVER. MARCH 1, 2018
"Baskets. How quaint."
Duncan thrust one into Methos' unopened arms, and took another for himself. "Will you shut up?"
"It's only been five minutes and you want me to shut up? You used to have much better stamina, you know."
"I thought you might like it here. Take you back to the good old days." Duncan already loved this place--the organised chaos, the tinny echoes of thousands of interactions, the bustle of people speaking to people as they stocked their larders. It had been far too long, he realised, since he'd shopped someplace new.
"Well, there's a notable absence of dead dogs and horseshit, and no filthy children begging for scraps. And not enough middens, either."
"Which is a nice improvement, don't you think?"
"No," Methos griped. "Smells give a place character. In a few centuries, they'll call this The Sterile Age."
Duncan didn't know if he was joking or not. Reacting to Methos, in this as in most things, was best not done. He scanned the jumbled aisles of displays for the sea produce stalls.
"If you're looking for fish," Methos said, walking away, "always follow your nose."
"You know, we're not vampires," Methos said, staring at the faraway ceiling. "If we wanted to go to market the really old fashioned way, we could have the sun in our faces, the wind in our hair--"
"The rain in our collars, melting snow in our boots. Don't pretend you wouldn't complain if it was an outdoor market."
"Oh, I never said that."
Duncan sighed. "After five thousand years of life, a man should have more interesting things to talk about than my poor taste in shopping venues."
"Oh, sure." Methos trailed his hand over a cart full of broccoli as he strolled past it, ignoring the storeholder's glare. "How about them Yankees."
Duncan sighed, again. "The Yankees folded three years ago."
"Yeah?" Methos said, eyes wide. "Well! How about that?"
Methos had disappeared without a trace after his divorce in '07, and Duncan had honestly expected him back sooner. He'd expected him to still be quiet, studious Adam, back from a tenure in Alabama or Montreal or some hell-hole university in Tunisia, but expectations, like reactions, were best not had where Methos was concerned. He'd re-emerged as David, Adam's nephew ("it's the nose, yeah, we call it the Pierson curse"), to take over Joe's bar after, well, after January. He'd also taken Joe's place in the band, playing wryly passionate blues with a talent which, in retrospect, shouldn't have surprised Duncan as much as it had.
He was the very picture, today, of a young wannabe, scuffing along in ragged jeans and a tight Guinness T, with his black-dyed hair tousled carelessly--the timeless uniform of lead guitarists everywhere. He looked so young that Duncan felt ancient in comparison; felt staid and plodgy in his thick cashmere and his same old personality and same old name.
"Monsieur," Methos announced, gesturing extravagantly to the baskets of iced fish before them, nose in the air, "ve haf arrifed."
Duncan had high hopes of sea bass, with perhaps some fresh oysters and a New Zealand sauvignon blanc to start off. Methos took one look at a giant whole eel, and asked for it to be wrapped up for them.
"Who did you say was cooking?"
"You are," Methos told him, tossing it into Duncan's basket. "Don't screw it up."
Looking down at the package, which weighed about a ton, Duncan sighed. "How am I supposed to cook that?"
Methos shrugged, looking astonishingly ingenuous and brainless and not at all like a murderous mastermind.
After two endless months of waiting for him to arrive, it was something of an anticlimax to rediscover that Methos was every bit as shallow and obnoxious as Duncan had forgotten. All that longing for comfortable evenings drinking whisky and discussing world events; how had a mere ten years bleached from memory the fact that Methos thought all politicians were small-minded fools and that taking any kind of interest in them - by, say, reading the newspaper, or voting - only reinforced their deluded self-importance. And never mind that Methos drained vintage whisky like it was spring water. If Methos ever drank water at all.
"I had the most divine eel in pre-Renaissance Cyprus," Methos mused, wandering back towards the fresh produce stalls. "Baked in a clay pot with saffron and, was it coconut?"
He's only been back a week, Duncan told himself sternly. Bound to be a few saddle sores while you get used to him again. "I don't have a clay pot," he pointed out, thinking wistfully of his gleaming titanium kitchen.
Methos gestured imperiously. "Well, ask one of these charming little villagers where we can get one."
Having decided to bake the wretched eel in a pyrex dish with East Asian spices, Duncan set about collecting ingredients like a desert graverobber collecting gold, with Methos attacking him on all sides instead of a swarm of hungry flies.
"Bok choy?" he was shouting, outraged. "You can't serve bok choy with eel!"
I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, Duncan chanted to himself. I can battle fierce demons, I can seduce fair maidens, and I can serve bok choy with anything I like. Even whole eel.
It was painful to imagine what Methos must be thinking, though. I am Methos, the oldest immortal. I have slaughtered thousands of innocents, beheaded everybody who pestered me too much, I can read and speak every language that ever existed, and I can make sullen Highlanders cook my eel in a clay pot with saffron and radish and prunes, like they're supposed to.
Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, he repeated. I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.
"Duncan MacLeod," came a voice, mellifluous in a way that could only mean trouble. "Of the Clan MacLeod!" An immortal signature rose up in his veins, and Duncan lifted his head to see a white-haired man at the other end of the faux alley, doffing his hat at him.
"I haven't had the pleasure," Duncan said cautiously, approaching slowly with his hands visible. "You are?"
"Oh? You don't know me?" The man seemed overjoyed. "I'll just be on my way, then." He knocked over a barrel of apples and two old ladies on his way out.
Duncan helped the ladies to their feet and collected their scattered goods for them, then turned to Methos, who was munching on an apple. "Who the hell was that?"
"He probably pissed in your soup in Nazi Germany," Methos said, mouth full. "Good thing you never found out about it, huh?"
Duncan narrowed his eyes and tried to look threating. "Who was that?"
Methos shrugged. "Last time I knew him, he was Lucretius of Laudanum." He patted Duncan's shoulder, still eating his way through the apple, core and all. "You weren't born then." Duncan glowered, and Methos sighed in loud resignation. "Fine. Gimme your handcell."
Methos swallowed the last of his apple and snorted. "I'm a poor musician, MacLeod, starving for my art. I can't carry mine any more." Duncan handed it over. "Latest model, ooh, I'm so impressed." He accessed the Jupiter net and started keying in, not jumpwords, but LRD numbers and decryption codes.
"What are you searching?" Mac asked, trying to peer over Methos' shoulder. Methos kept stepping away, forcing them to go in circles in the space between stalls.
"Just a little infonet I know of?"
"The watchers destroyed the database years ago."
"Oh, come on, MacLeod. You didn't really think the bar was the only thing Joe left to me?"
"Are you out of your mind?" Duncan roared, and tried to grab it back. "People die whenever that thing appears!"
After a few minutes of skipping out of reach, Methos surrendered it, but the addresses were already gone.
"Get rid of it," he ordered, and Methos rolled his eyes at him.
"Information is power," he said airily. "I would have thought you'd realise that, Highlander. Knowing thine enemy has been all the rage for, oh, centuries now."
"Yes it is," Methos said, "extremely dangerous, to everybody who's coming to get me. And encryption has come along nicely since the nineteen-eighties, you know. Here," he threw some potatoes into Duncan's basket. "I want those roasted with sage and honey."
"I can't serve potatoes with Asian vegetables," Duncan said, rubbing his forehead and trying to remember what was so important about having bok choy anyway.
Ooh, this'll be good, Duncan thought gleefully, as a Prada-clad woman approached Methos, eyes glowing. It was difficult to guess a woman's age these days, but she was at least in her late thirties, and right now, Methos was jailbait. She edged right up to Methos and placed a hand on his arm.
Methos turned, face expectant. For a moment, the confusion on it flickered, but not long enough for Duncan to recognise his real reaction. "Uh. Huh?" he said, stupidly enough to set off a cascade of uncharitable thoughts in Duncan's mind about the youth of today.
"Adam?" the woman gasped, English accent. "Oh dear god, is that you?" She looked, Duncan thought wryly, like she was seeing a ghost. A ghost in Dr Scholls sandals and a tight black Guinness t-shirt.
Methos laughed cheerfully, a most un-Methos sound. "You must be mistaking me for my uncle." He held out his hand. "David Pierson."
"Oh, my god, I'm--" Blushing, she stepped back and offered a formal handshake. "Of course, Adam must be nearly sixty. You just looked-- I'm so sorry."
Duncan searched Methos' face for a reaction, but there was none. "Happens all the time," he said lazily. "He knew so many people in Seacouver."
She laughed nervously, still clutching his hand. "I'm new here, actually. I knew Adam when we were at Durham." She gazed on Methos with something resembling longing. "You look exactly how I remember him, goodness it brings back memories. Where is he now?"
"He was head of archaeology at CUNY. Or maybe it was SUNY." Methos grimaced and scratched his head. "I can never remember. But he just went to Greece." His eyes flickered to Duncan. "Somebody found a clay pot he wanted. He was very excited."
"Oh," she said, still breathless. "I'm Narelle, we were close friends, oh, must be thirty years ago, but then he just-- I didn't know where he went. Do you have his address?"
"No, sorry, not on me. If you have a card--"
"Yes, of course." She handed it over, shaking her head in amazement. "I can hardly believe it, your voice is just like his, too. Thank you so much, it was nice meeting you."
Duncan waved politely as she rushed away.
"Damn," Methos said softly, staring at the card. "I was crazy about her." Duncan felt a rush of compassion for him. Methos had taken his divorce hard, unaccustomed to marriages that ended before death. Whatever else he could, and did, say about Methos -- and often had good reason to say, very loudly and with great vigor, he added to himself -- Methos loved painfully and hard.
"She was a lover?" he asked gently.
Methos paused, and then nodded. "She was nineteen when I met her," he said in small voice. "They're like flowers through a train window." He seemed about to say something else, but didn't. His heart aching for lost friends, Duncan didn't press him.
"I'm cooking it with bok choy and red peppers," Duncan repeated, "so I need lemon grass and coriander."
"He's cooking it with radish and prunes," Methos interrupted, "and we need saffron threads and bay leaves and some sage, and curry leaves if you have any."
"I have curry leaves," the storeholder said nervously. Duncan scowled. "And coriander," he added hurriedly, "and lemon grass, and what about ginger? Ginger's good with--"
"It's lousy with eel," Methos said, picking out handfuls of green. "You're looking a little weighed down there, MacLeod. I'll carry these." He held the bouquet up to his chest like a little flower girl, and in spite of the spiked black hair, MacLeod had to admit he looked adorable.
Then he shook his head to clear it. Methos was a ruthless trickster who would obviously stop at absolutely nothing to get what he wanted. "Coriander." Methos had already walked away, so Duncan took what he needed, grumbling.
"Kids!" the shopkeeper whispered sympathetically. "My oldest is exactly the same."
Duncan spluttered helplessly. "He is not my son!"
"Ohhh," the man said, tapping the side of his nose, and Duncan grabbed his coriander and left, feeling like a dirty old pervert.
He was going to have to get a haircut, he realised, if he was to be seen in public with this newer, younger Methos. And probably a new wardrobe. He'd been in Seacouver too long to revise his age down by a decade, so he'd have to attribute his new youthfulness to yoga or echinacea or Tibetan mud masks. It wouldn't convince anybody--he could already imagine the whispers about the revitalising effects of a younger lover--but dammit, even if it was the twenty-first century, he was not going to say he'd had a facelift.
Duncan was trying to explain to Methos, in words of two syllables or less, why he wasn't going to make flatbread by hand, when he felt the prickle of immortal presence on the back of his neck again. It flickered in and out, but he felt it again back at the fish stalls after Methos decided that he did want oysters after all.
Finally, after dragging Methos to a vendor who sold fresh rice noodles, Duncan caught sight of his follower - the same man from earlier. As soon as he saw Duncan catch sight of him, the man vanished, followed soon after by his presence.
Duncan looked at Methos, who was smirking at him. "Fine!" he said, "you win. Look him up in the Watcher database for me."
"Only if you make flatbread," Methos said.
Was there enough room in here, Duncan wondered, to swing a katana?
"Fine. We'll get the hokkien," Methos told the vendor.
"Fine!" Duncan said. "I'll buy some flatbread, okay?"
"Let me think about it."
Exasperated, Duncan proffered his handcell. "Come on, I'm bribing you to prove yourself right, what more do you want?"
Methos brightened. "When you put it that way."
After he'd fetched the flatbread, Methos showed him the picture and bio on the screen. "Damien Lippingwell, Master Tailor of Cornwall."
Duncan gasped, in recognition of the clothes if not the man. "He killed the Duchess of Lansbury!"
"MacLeod, leave it alone," Methos said, sounding tired.
"No, you don't understand. I tried to save her but I was too late. I swore to her husband I'd avenge her death."
Methos looked at him like he was uncouth. "MacLeod, it was two hundred years ago. Her husband's dust."
"She did nothing wrong!"
"Well, why did he kill her then?"
"That's what I intend to find out."
Jaw set, Methos delved further into the database. "There. She ripped him off in some kind of trading venture."
"That's no reason to take her head!"
Methos tossed the handcell back at him. "Get it through your head, MacLeod: I'm not letting you start anything. I'm back in Seacouver. It's the first day of Spring. Try a new beginning for once in your bloody life."
"I'm only going to talk to him." Duncan turned around to follow the man, but felt a knife pricking into the side of neck.
"I've decided," Methos whispered in his ear, voice rich and dark and smooth like molten chocolate, "that I want a nice imported beer to drink with my eel. Let's go get me some."
The wine vendors had the entire eastern wall, and Methos was soon deep into conversation with a grizzly old woman who'd run a vineyard in California for twenty years. She didn't seem to notice that she kept topping up his glass, and Methos didn't seem inclined to stop her.
"We'll take two of what he's drinking," Duncan said, trying to get him away before she noticed he'd sampled most of the bottle.
"What did you do that for?" Methos demanded as Duncan dragged him off. "That stuff was horse piss."
"You were drinking it."
"I was thirsty."
"And one day you'll be thirsty again. Get your beer."
As Methos pondered his choices, Duncan leaned back on a barrel and watched him. It was written across his face: beer beer beer beerbeerbeerbeer! The familiarity was comforting, and Duncan realised that while he was waiting for Methos to arrive in Seacouver, he'd been looking forward to the wrong thing. His nights could now be spent drinking beer and listening to Methos ridicule everything from space travel to earthworm farms; his days, spent much like this one.
"You know," he said, when Methos came away with two sixpacks into his basket, "you're not that different."
"I'm not that different from what?"
"I'm never much different, from one life to another. I'll let you in on a secret, MacLeod, although what the hell you'd do with it I don't know. Do you have any that's riper?" he asked a storeholder, seizing some asparagus and waving it.
"Not yet," the man said. "This is all up from the California farms."
"It'll do," Methos said. He pulled a spear out of the bundle and munched on it as they moved along. "This isn't too bad, you know. Although grubs do give it that extra tang, one eventually develops a taste for pesticide."
"Well, what is it, then?"
"The secret," Duncan snapped, certain Methos just wanted to make him ask for it.
"Oh, it's no secret. Just that it doesn't take much to make people think you're a different person. Blah, blah, blah, family resemblence, blah, blah, new look, a few handy reasons why I can read ancient greek,"--which was that both his parents were classical scholars--"and voila! Everything old is new again." As if to illustrate how new he was, Methos ran and slid along the wooden floors, ending in a graceful turn and a bow.
"Some people must catch on," Duncan scoffed, but Methos shook his head.
"Fewer than you'd think, and only if they have a reason to suspect."
Duncan caught the string of garlic Methos threw in his direction, and put it in the basket even though he had plenty at home. Some things just weren't arguing over. "Why do you do vanish on people, then?"
Methos paused in his dancing, looked up with a quiet burn of golden eyes. "You know why."
"Yeah," Duncan admitted, staring at the fresh-faced stranger as he started to move again, plucking a sprig of parsley out of their basket, tossing it up and catching it between his teeth with a smug grin. "I suppose I do."
"What are you making me for dessert?" Methos demanded, just when Duncan was ready to leave.
Should he mention the madeira cake, Duncan wondered, so that Methos could make loud gagging noises and insist on something else? Or would Methos prefer to call him an ill-bred buffoon for not planning anything? Sadists were so difficult to please. He shifted his basket to his sword arm, which was better able to hold the now-tremendous weight in it. "I think there's a packet of Oreos in the cupboard."
"Yum," Methos said. "Haven't had Oreos in years."
Duncan waited for the punchline, but none came, and Methos' eyes were twinkling.
"How about some fruit and cheese to go with them?" he suggested, finally, and Methos nodded sagely.
"A fine idea, MacLeod. You've always been an excellent host."
Duncan still found it strange, seeing fruits out of hothouses; apples alongside strawberries and oranges and mangoes and grapes, until it seemed like all the seasons were jumbled up before his eyes. Methos leapt into it with relish, reminiscing about waiting all year for orchards to bloom; vines to ripen.
Duncan watched Methos taste a peach slice with eyes closed in ecstasy, and his throat tightened at Joe's last gift to him. Joe, beautiful Joe, who had known as well as Duncan that Methos had carefully drifted away from them, known it would take even more than his death to bring Methos back to Seacouver. Joe, who had made damn sure that when death came for him, and after Amanda had been drawn back to her new calling, Duncan wouldn't be alone.
"Go on, try it," Methos said, holding out another slice, and MacLeod wanted to hug him. Hug him, and thank Joe for him, because in January Duncan couldn't have imagined himself tasting peaches right now. The sliver he took was sweet and creamy, practically melting in his mouth to leave an aftertaste of summer and tingling memories of lying on his back in an orchard, so long ago now that his carefree bliss felt like it had been a dream. He took a dozen, and put them into Methos' basket, then added cherries and gooseberries and apricots and apples and grapes and Edam and Jarlsberg and Camembert, until Methos' basket was nearly as full as his own.
"Are we done now?" he asked Methos.
Methos shrugged. "I don't know. You're the one cooking."
Slowly, Duncan smiled. It was all coming back to him now--that he didn't understand Methos; that by the end, he'd never expected to. That Methos shifted like the seasons, into passions and out of despair, through storms and late snowfalls and indian summers, as endlessly and as unpredictably as the earth itself.
"I don't think we got enough salami," Duncan said, just to feel the world turn.
"Oh, come on," Methos snapped, pulling him towards the paystations, crowded with Saturday morning shoppers. Duncan followed contentedly, letting Methos choose the line, and stood patiently behind him.
"You do realise that there's enough eel for two meals?" Methos drawled into the silence.
Duncan hadn't. "Of course I did," he said.
"So we'll cook it my way first, and if you don't like it, we can do it your way on Sunday night."
It was on the tip of his tongue to say, we'll get Joe to judge whose way is best. The words stuck in his throat like cement. Suddenly his basket was too heavy to hold for a minute longer, and Duncan dropped it, awkwardly, to the floor. Methos looked at him sharply. "Sunday sounds fine," Duncan said, breathing through the sudden seizing of his heart. Methos rubbed his arm gently and then scooped up the basket like it weighed nothing. When their turn came he stepped up to the waiting clerk, carefully unloading everything and then packing it himself into bags of Saturday and Sunday.
"Hundred and fifty-one fifty," the clerk said to Methos, who jerked his head at Duncan.
"You invite yourself over for dinner; you decide what we're eating." Duncan reached for his wallet. "You'll sit around, drink beer and complain while I cook it, so why should I have to pay for it?" He swiped the card and pressed his thumb to the ID screen.
"Because I'm broke," Methos said happily.
Duncan sputtered. "You own half a Manhattan apartment building!"
Methos smirked. "No I don't, Adam does. And besides, everyone at the bar thinks I'm your new toyboy. Might as well keep up the pretense."
"Yeah, might as well, except that you're not."
"I'm thinking of changing that," Methos said, hefting one of the paper bags.
"What did you say?" Duncan lifted up the other one, and followed as Methos strolled out onto the street. The sun shone down into his black hair, and it gleamed in a hundred different directions. The people bustling past were holding their heavy jackets over their arms, smiling and laughing. The air was moist with the gentle electricity of spring, and Methos was staring upwards, into the bright blue openings in winter's gray skies.