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Surprise!


The elevator to the loft stopped with a little creaking sound. MacLeod felt the buzz in his head even before he pushed up the lattice door. The quickening had a familiar quality, more correctly, it was the only one he'd ever recognize. The laughter of many people, far away, seemed to vibrate in the mighty roar. Familiar to him like his own since the double quickening in Kronos' base at Bordeaux.

Methos.

"Well, who else could it have been?" With this rhetorical question, MacLeod put his two paper grocery bags down at the kitchen table, just in time to avoid dropping his purchases. He glared at his visitor who had made no move to help him.

The figure sprawled casually over the couch just smiled. "Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. Welcome to my humble little home."

"You've already found the refrigerator, I see." MacLeod nodded pointedly at the bottle of beer in Methos' hand. Methos just grinned and raised the bottle in mock salute. "But what do you mean by 'your humble little home'?"

"Hey, Mac, that's just fair. After all, I gave back my barge."

"Your barge?!"

"Yes, my barge. But who cares. I'm being generous - you can keep the hut. But how about another beer in exchange?"

MacLeod just shook his head, hiding a pleased grin. Methos was again being his annoying self. Perhaps the painful days after the Horsemen were finally really over. He had missed the old man, even the heaps of clothes everywhere, the boots on his coffee table, and the beer caps behind the fridge...

"I'm sorry, but I have to disappoint you - I didn't buy any beer."

Methos had gotten to his feet (leaving scratches on the table, MacLeod was willing to bet) and now pointed accusingly at the full grocery bags. "And what is with all of that?"

"That's the food for the party tonight."

"What party?"

"It's Joe's birthday today. We decided to organize a surprise party. Oh, that reminds me - it's good that you're here. You can help me with the cooking."

"Cooking?! Me?"

***

Amanda looked at Joe with big, imploring eyes. She made a very good picture in her formfitting midnight dress with spaghetti shoulder straps, a dark blazer with pailettes completing the stunning ensemble. She was wearing her hair short and black again, Joe noticed.

"Please, Joe, you've got to help me! Duncan will kill me as soon as he sees what happened to his Thunderbird!"

Joe smiled at her reassuringly and a little bit fatherly (according to Richie, who sat in a booth in close proximity and was trying - still successfully - to stifle a laugh). The watcher patted her hand and shoved a drink over the counter into her direction.

"Amanda, come on - it can't be that bad. Tell me, what does the car look like?"

Amanda tilted her head to the left, pulled up her shoulders a little and smiled remorsefully. "Believe me, Joe, it's a catastrophe! There's practically nothing left to salvage! And I just wanted to buy some food for Duncan, a nice bottle of wine... things like that... and I couldn't find Mac's keys... that idiotic car made a leap forward as I short-circuited the ignition, and suddenly there was this hydrant..." She groaned.

Dawson patted her hand again and she jumped to her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Thank you, Joe! I knew that you'd help me! Now I could really use some moral support..."

Joe sighed and called over to the other barkeeper, Mike, to stand in for him for the next hour or so. He completely missed his partner's conspiratory wink in Amanda's direction as he limped to the door. She took his arm and smiled at him radiantly.

Richie grinned. They'd all known that Amanda would be successful. But still, it was interesting - at least - to watch a first-class actress at her show.

He put the money for his drink onto the table, nodded to Mike and disappeared quickly through the back door of Joe's bar. Outside, he immediately put on his helmet and swung himself onto his machine. After all, it was his job to warn the others in time...

***

The long headlights of the white car went out. Joe Dawson climbed out with a bit of difficulty. Amanda closed the front-seat passenger's door and waited for him in front of the big brick building, a washed-out sign there still announcing 'DeSalvo's Martial Arts Studio'.

The elevator brought them to the first floor.In the loft, it was dark, vacant and quiet.

"Is he really here, Amanda?"

"Yes." Amanda nodded miserably. "I can feel his presence." She crossed her arms in front of her chest and kept herself behind Dawson. "Joe... go first, okay? Please!"

Dawson shook his head in amusement and stepped a few paces forward. Suddenly, the lights went on.

"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Joe, happy birthday to you..."

After a shock second: "Damn, you crackpots, did you want to kill me?!" Joe exclaimed, partly angry, partly pleased, and looked from one laughing face to the next. MacLeod, who clapped his shoulder, Methos, who stood smiling in front of the table, a glass in his hand, Amanda and Richie, who smiled at each other conspiratorially, thrilled by their success...

Also with a champagne glass in his hand, Joe found himself seated on the couch, directly in front of the birthday cake ("With strawberries", Amanda murmured into his ear, "one of the few things I can actually make.")

The others also gathered around the table.

Duncan tapped on his glass and looked meaningfully at the assembled group, "Well, Joe, as you see, we didn't forget your birthday. We all want to wish you the very best and celebrate a little. We're glad to have you here..."

Yes, glad indeed, Duncan mused. His friendship to Joe was even older than his one to Methos, and had - impossible as that seemed - suffered even more since the first time he had met a certain watcher in a deserted street in Paris. But somehow, despite all their problems, despite all the real and imagined betrayals, their friendship had survived. The hunters, the return of Xavier St. Cloud, Andrew Cord's murder of Charlie deSalvo, the Watcher Tribunal... They had dealt with it all. Perhaps apart from Amanda, Joe was the person on Earth - mortal or immortal - who knew him best... He had never told him how much that friendship meant to him, but since his friend was mortal and might die any day...

Even though his voice sounded a little bit choked when he continued, at least no-one seemed to notice: "You are the best friend one could wish for. But now - enough of praise. Cheers!"

They all clinked glasses and drank in silence for a moment. Amanda smiled sweetly and stepped purposefully onto Duncan's foot. The wordless demand was unmistakable.

"Oh, yes, the cake is from Amanda..." Amanda curtsied with a smile. "Richie has organized the drinks and the food is a joint effort between Methos and me..."

"Hear! Hear!"

"What - he claims to be able to cook? Help!" Dawson grinned at Pierson who rolled his eyes in mock despair. "And I already thought... oh, who cares. All the time, I've been waiting for one of you to come to the bar and to wish me the best to my birthday... How could I know that Amanda's little story about your Thunderbird, Mac,..."

Amanda shook her head wildly and tried to give Joe signs behind MacLeod's back. Too late.

"What? The Thunderbird - what have you done, Amanda? Amanda!"

"Duncan! No! Hey, it had to look authentic, hadn't it? MacLeod!"

"My classic car?!"

The only ones who found the resulting hunt through the loft funny were Joe, Methos and Richie. In their laughter, they almost fell under the table.


"Highlander" - The Series ficlet by allaire mikháil, 1.318 words, gen, humor, 3rd person POV, rated G

Highlander, together with Star Trek - TOS, shares the questionable honor of having been the first slash fandom I ever fell for, and Methos is definitely the first character me and my friends would have fought over if he'd ever stood on our doorstep. Back in 1997, I was searching for some good-quality Methos pictures to print out and decorate one of said friends' birthday cards with when I stumbled across the There Can Only Be Two slash archive that's long since disappeared from the 'net, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Contrary to what one might believe, though, this story isn't slash, and is truly absolutely harmless. No wonder that it closely resembles a virtual birthday cake -- in its German version, it used to be an actual birthday present and has been rescued from oblivion by being posted here. It is is set somewhere after the episode "The modern Prometheus" and assumes that MacLeod and Methos already got over their differences.

Anyway, I don't own the characters (wish I did, though) or the concept of Immortality and don't get any money off this, either. The respective rights belong to Panzer, Davis, Rysher Entertainment, and Gaumont Television, while the rights to this story belong to me.
Many thanks to Jess for a wonderful beta job.


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