It would be Christmas in a few more days and the carols were on everyone's lips. Not to mention trapped within the brains of everyone over the age of ten. And it was driving the little group of Watcher and Immortals enjoying after-hours at Joe's crazy.
In sheer defiance, Richie and Joe had put a group of CDs on the player, none of which had any references to Christmas or even the slightest oblique reminder of the holiday. Not wanting to be outdone, Amanda had insisted on a No-Christmas-speech rule.
Not that it was really a problem at the moment.
Duncan had just knocked back another drink when the Buzz of an approaching Immortal caused him to choke. The other two Immortals in the room laughed at the indignant expression on the Highlander's face. Richie was far too sloshed to control himself and giggled until another indignant -- albeit drunken -- look shut him up. Amanda, who had the advantage of years, hid her laughter as best she could . . . which wasn't saying a great deal. On the other hand, Joe wasn't even trying to control his hilarity. He just sat on his chair, laughing himself sick, the drink in his hand precariously tilted and shlopping all over the floor.
Such was the scene with which Methos, the World's Oldest Immortal, was greeted. He wasn't alone, either, for snuggled close next to him was a dark-skinned brunette dressed in burgundy and black leather with sorrowful eyes. "Drinking without me," the five-thousand-year-old man exclaimed in mock surprise. The dry merry tone of his voice was borne out by his mood, and if his sweatshirt was any indication -- said apparel bearing the likeness of Mister Spock wearing a Santa hat and beard with text reading 'Christmas is illogical' -- then his mood proved to be a good one. Of course, from the looks he and his date were shooting back and forth at each other were any indication, he would continue to be in a good mood. "Shame, shame," he continued tolerantly, pulling out a chair and dropping his butt firmly into it. The as-yet-unintroduced brunette rolled her eyes and pulled up a chair, sitting closely to him so that their thighs stroked each other.
Duncan eyed the young woman through a haze of equal parts lust and alcohol, while Amanda seethed with jealousy in obvious silence. Unseen by anyone, Joe smirked from behind his now-half-empty glass -- in spite of what he wanted people to think, everyone knew that both Duncan and Amanda really had the hots for Methos while Richie wanted Amanda all to himself.
"A beer for myself and my lovely goddess, Richard."
The red-headed Immortal had lost big time to Methos in the weekly poker game, having bet -- and promptly lost -- more money than he'd had. He'd refused to let any of them cover his losses, and Methos had decided to go easy on the boy. He'd offered to trade for certain services rather than money; he had enough money stashed away, he'd blustered at the time. But to his complete and total humiliation, the Youngest One had forgotten to ask what the Ancient One meant before agreeing to the deal.
His face as red as his hair, Richie hurried to the fridge -- wanting to get this last servant deal, or so he fervently hoped, over with as soon as possible -- and returned with four beers. That way he wouldn't have to make the effort of getting up again. He'd get his own back tomorrow night.
"Who's yer little friend, Methos?" Duncan felt he simply had to ask to make the lass' position clear; after all, everyone knew that Richie had it bad for Methos and that Amanda wanted Joe.
"Ah, of course. Neemi, these are the Boy Scouts I told you about last night." He winked at Joe shamelessly, twisting the cap off the first two bottles. "Neemi is an old friend of mine, we go way back together."
"How far back?" Joe wanted to get his notebook out of his pocket, but the damned thing was stuck. Damn it all, he missed out on all the good stories. Joe groaned in dismay, watching the pair toss their beer caps away in sheer indifference to the fact that neither of them had to clean it up later. Of course, strictly speaking, he didn't either, but it was the principle of the thing.
Amanda frowned. "I didn't feel a Buzz from her. Only yours."
With a laugh like a jasmine breeze, Neemi turned her sparkling dark eyes on those assembled at the table. "When you get to be my age, you learn to control things like that."
"How auld are ye, then?"
"Let me put it this way, MacLeod." Methos leaned forward and took his first swallow of beer. "Who do you think taught me?"
Silence descended on the room like a surprise tax audit.
"In fact, an interesting story occurred in our on-again-off-again relationship -- much later on in the history books, of course -- but it's quite seasonal."
Amanda groaned. It figured that the Really Old Guy was going to wreck her hopes for a Christmas-free evening. "Can you tell it without mentioning that holiday?"
"An' dinna be makin' it sae complick...complicato . . . aw, hell!"
Grinning identically in a rather irritating way, Neemi and Methos glanced at each other for a few moments, and then he nodded. "It all started so simply, MacLeod. About two thousand years ago --"
"-- Give or take a few centuries."
"-- We were living in Israel, traveling around, doing odd jobs like thatching roofs, building huts, carpentry, stonework, things like that. At the time, I was calling myself 'Jesse' and Neemi was going by the name of 'Magda'. We were pretty happy together."
"Is this on the record?"
Methos chuckled. "Let me finish the story, dear Joseph, then decide whether or not you want to record it. As I was saying, I did some teaching on the side -- teaching was a very respected profession then -- and had gathered quite a distinguished group of students when everything went straight to hell."
"What happened, Old Man?" Richie's voice was slurred, but not too badly. At least they were all listening to this little story rather than watching Dunkie drift off to oblivion for an hour. Watching this interplay, though, was killing him; everyone knew that Amanda had the hots for Duncan but Duncan was in love with Joe.
Neemi sighed, caught her friend's eyes with her own and shared a twinkle. "Later on, after everything had already gone to hell, I was burned at the stake. Terrible way to
die...even if it's not permanent." She paused. "But Methos wasn't so lucky . . . ."
"Wha' the bluidy hell happen'd, ya --"
"Do calm down, MacLeod. We're getting to it." Methos smiled sweetly. Joe sighed. Seeing that smug smile and hearing the sigh from her left, Amanda ground her teeth in frustration; everyone knew that Joe had the hots for Duncan and watching Methos flirt with the Highlander like this wasn't helping. The five-thousand-year-old smartass wanted Duncan, she was sure of it.
Methos took a long swig of his beer before he spoke again. "As for what happened to me, children, I was crucified." Ignoring their shocked stares, he continued blithely. "A highly unpleasant way to die, I definately wouldn't recommend it even if it does fit in nicely between the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall . . . ."
Neemi began to laugh. "Do you remember," she poked the Really Old Guy in the ribs until she heard a muttered 'ouch', "do you remember how I got you out?"
"How could I forget?" He shook his head, a wry smile on his face. "You hung around outside my tomb until I healed up and came to, then we lit out for someplace safer."
"And the looks on your students' faces when they saw us a few days later . . . ."
"At least they got some very well-accepted writings out of it."
"I don't believe this," cried out Joe. "Do you mean to say that you were Jesus Christ?"
"I never said that, Joe." He grinned and took another drink. "After all, I'm just a guy."
"A really old guy."
"I dinna beleeve it, ya Sassanach. Ye're nae Christ the Laird . . . ."
Methos shook his head, sighed, and shared another look with Neemi. "When will you learn, MacLeod, that people will make stories out of perfectly normal things if it suits them to do so? Look at the stories you heard growing up about Connor MacLeod. How is it any different?"
"'Tis plenety different, ye're nae . . . ." At that point, MacLeod spluttered to a stop, picked himself up and staggered out the door. While Methos and Joe sat there wagging their heads back and forth with a mixture of irritation and amused tolerance, Amanda also stood shakily to her feet and shook Richie. When Richie toppled onto the floor and didn't move, Amanda followed after Duncan, hoping to catch him in bed . . . and join him there.
Neither Joe, Methos, or Neemi moved from the table to check on the young Immortal. "I think he's dead, Methos," said Joe with some cheer.
Methos squinted through the slight haze over his vision at the red-headed young man. "I think you're right, Joseph. Alcohol poisoning, no doubt."
"What a shame," grinned the little brunette.
"Isn't it, though," sighed Methos, as he delivered a kiss to his date's cheek. "So," he confided in a soft voice, "I think they bought it."
"Hook, line, and sinker."
"What!" Joe nearly choked on his drink. "Methos, are you or aren't you?"
Methos sighed again. "Joe, didn't you hear my speech to MacLeod? And I worked so hard on it, too." He shook his head, a mournful expression on his face. "I told you I was there and that's what happened to me while I was there. The additions others made on the story is none of my concern -- that's artistic license for you."
Joe opened his mouth to protest but nothing came out.
"Besides, Joe," said the Ancient One, "you know how the story goes, don't you? 'I came not to send peace but a sword' . . . ."