Author's Notes: Well, this was intended to be both Duncan/Methos and Mac/Vic. But the Duncan/Methos part never really happened. If you guys want a sequel, it'll happen then. The Director made me write this one. I wasn't going to, even with the four guys prodding me to do it, but then Mac and Vic went to The Director and she insisted. -g- I've never written an HL fic before, so forgive me my mistakes. (BTW, I know the story titles sucks. I couldn't think of anything better.)
**Note on Immortality for story purposes** : If you're not a Highlander fan, here's a brief not that you need to read. Duncan and Methos are Immortals, which means they don't age. Only having their heads cut off can kill Immortals. Immortals kill each other to gain power, and can sense each other coming. They can also sense people that aren't Immortals yet (i.e. they haven't died yet and are still aging normally).
"I have a very special assignment for you," The Director told her favorite team. "It's very sensitive, so I want you to do exactly as I tell you."
"Guess we're gonna have to ditch Mac then," Vic snickered.
"At least I have a mind of my own," Mac shot back. Li Ann rolled her eyes.
"Boys, boys, boys," The Director said impatiently. "Pay attention. This," she gestured to the image of a long haired, attractive man on the screen, "is Duncan MacLeod. An...employee of The Agency noticed something very unusual about Mr. MacLeod yesterday." She paused for dramatic effect. "He was shot three times in the chest by a mugger late last night, but an hour later he was back on his feet and cursing the loss of his wallet and his...weapon."
"Weapon?" Mac asked, smirking.
"Really, Mac," The Director said dryly, "you're not doing anything to quell those rumors. Mr. MacLeod was carrying an antique Japanese sword. That and his return from the dead have the Powers That Be very curious."
"Don't you think this is a wild goose chase?" Vic asked, looking skeptical. "I mean, a guy returning from the dead? Maybe the 'employee' was just mistaken."
"Our agents don't make mistakes, Victor," The Director said, ignoring Li Ann's pointed glance at Mac and his defensive shrug. "He checked Mr. MacLeod's pulse. The man was very definitely dead. I want you to run surveillance, and to dig up as much background information as you can. Especially medical records." The three agents nodded briskly and rose to go. "Boys," The Director called out as they reached the door. Mac and Vic turned to look at her. "Do cut the foreplay and get some work done." She turned coolly and began to ascend the stairs at the back of the briefing room.
Mac and Vic blinked and looked at Li Ann, who'd raised an eyebrow. "Just a figure of speech," Vic said quickly. The three of them proceeded down the hall.
"Whatever," Li Ann said. "Vic, you'd better run the background check. Nathan works best with you."
"You trust Mac not to screw up the surveillance?" Vic asked, snorting.
"Hey, man," Mac interjected, "I know when The Director means business. I can control myself."
"Oh, right, there's so much evidence to support that," Vic had to fight down a grin as he remembered some of Mac's more...impulsive adventures. But he soon recalled their assignment and quickly got into his truck, taking off before Mac and Li Ann could even reach their own vehicles.
"He sure took off fast," Mac commented.
"Yeah," Li Ann mused. "Especially since he needs to talk to Nathan, and Nathan is here." The two of them glanced at each other and shrugged. "Come with me to my place. We need to talk strategy." Nodding, Mac climbed into her car with her.
After a few minutes, Li Ann asked the question she'd been wondering about for awhile. "Mac? What's up with you and Vic?"
"What do you mean?" He watched the road intently, although he wasn't driving.
"Well, you tease each other constantly. You never seem to get along. But somehow, at the end of every case, you end up sharing a beer and laughing together."
"Who else am I going to share a beer with? Dobrinski?"
"Answer the question, Mac," Li Ann insisted.
"Ah, hell." Mac shrugged, "I like him."
"You like him?" She glanced incredulously over at her passenger. "Could've fooled me."
"Yeah, well, it's not you I'm trying to fool. After spending all that time being annoyed at him it would just kill me to admit he's my friend." Li Ann glanced over at her partner, but he avoided her gaze by looking out the window and she soon had to return her eyes to the road. She was sure there was more going on than Mac was admitting, but she wasn't going to press the issue. Yet.
Vic got off his cell phone, glad he was able to convince Nathan that, as a member of the high council, he was investigating some very sensitive issues and not to mention their conversation to anyone. Including The Director. He drove for about ten more minutes, eventually pulling up in front of a Hilton Hotel. He glanced around, hoping the circuitous route he'd taken had thrown off any Agency spies.
After inquiring quietly at the front desk, Victor got into the elevator and punched the button for the third floor. Arriving, he made his way quickly to room 315. He sighed as he experienced a familiar but unwelcome sensation. Sure enough, the door opened on Duncan MacLeod, holding a sword with which he looked a little uncomfortable.
"Put the god damned sword down, Duncan," Vic said impatiently. "We need to talk. Now."
"Mac," a voice called from inside the room, "please tell me the Immortal of the week hasn't followed you to Toronto."
"Who's that?" Vic asked, wary.
"A friend," Duncan said, lowering the sword and stepping back to allow Victor into the room. "Come on in, Richard."
"Actually," Vic informed him, "I'm back to Victor. I had a hard time answering to someone else's name. Figured it was easiest to stick to my own." He stepped into the room and saw a lean, dark haired immortal stretched out on one of the two double beds, a beer in one hand. "Victor Mansfield," he introduced himself.
"Adam Pierson," the other immortal answered.
"Now," Duncan said intently, seating himself in one of the two chairs in the room. "What's wrong?"
Vic paced, too agitated to sit. "You've got to get out of here, Mac...Duncan. Some very nasty, very powerful people saw you get shot last night and saw you wake up later. You're not safe here."
"MacLeod is not safe anywhere," Pierson said dryly. "Immortals track him all over the planet. I swear to God, I've taken more heads while in his company than in the last three hundred years."
"You don't understand," Vic said. "These people aren't like the government. They don't have to keep up appearances for the public. If they want you, they take you, anyway they can!"
Duncan turned warm brown eyes on his old friend. "Are you in trouble, Victor?"
"Forget about me, Duncan," Vic said dismissively. "For once, I understand something better than you do. You don't want to mess with these people. Leave Toronto, go back to wherever you're living."
"For once don't interfere in something that'll probably get us both killed," Pierson interjected, rolling his eyes.
"I won't turn my back on a friend in need," Duncan said righteously. "What are you involved in?"
"For God's sake, Duncan!" Vic wailed in frustration. "This is not about me. This is about you! If you stay here you risk exposing Immortals to some people who do not need any more power, okay? Get the picture? Leave!"
"I'm not going anywhere until you explain yourself," Duncan said firmly. "Starting with what you've gotten yourself into, who you're talking about, and why you can't seem to call me Mac even though you refused to use my first name when you were my student."
Vic sighed and collapsed into the second armchair. Adam seemed to sense a long conversation and went to regretfully pull the last three beers from a bucket of ice. He handed one each to MacLeod and Vic and kept the last for himself.
"Here's the short version. Three years ago," Vic began, "I was a cop, newly transferred from Vice to Narcotics. My new squad was dirty and, when they got too nervous about me, they framed me for possession. While I was in prison I was offered a deal. A life in law enforcement, although not as a cop, or jail. It wasn't much of a choice. So I joined The Agency." Deciding to skip the whole business with Li Ann and Mac, he took a swig of his beer and went straight to the heart of it all. "The Agency does, in general, practice law enforcement for the entire pacific rim. However, they have their own agenda, and they employ some very illegal methods to achieve their ends.
"My boss isn't as bad as I gather some of the Directors are, and I like my teammates, but it's a very nervous and...lonely life." Vic sighed. "In any case, this morning we got briefed on our newest case. That would be you. The Director wants us to watch you and investigate you. You're in danger of being exposed, Duncan. And, even more than that, I would rather not see what these people would do with the power of Immortality."
"They already have it," Pierson pointed out, "in you."
"Yeah, but they don't know they have it!" Vic exclaimed. "And I can't risk them finding out about me or Mac." Realizing that that statement might sound a little confusing he explained, "Mac is one of my partners. Mac Ramsey. That's why I've been calling Duncan Duncan."
"Is this Mac an Immortal?" Duncan asked.
"A pre-Immie," Vic confirmed, nodding. "He doesn't know it yet."
"If this Agency is as dangerous as you say it is," Duncan said logically, "we shouldn't leave you or Mac in it."
"Duncan!" Vic said, alarmed, "If you won't leave, for God's sake, don't come after me! I might be able to tangle up the investigation enough to let you guys go, but if you try to break us out of the Agency all four of us are going to be royally screwed."
"I can't promise that, Victor," Duncan said, shaking his head.
"Fine! I have to get out of here. I think I threw my tail, but it's going to look suspicious if I don't get to the archives pretty soon." Vic stood to leave the room.
"Calm down!" Duncan said, grabbing his arm. "Sit down for a minute. It's been nearly a hundred years since I've seen you. Don't just run in, babble a warning and run out. Talk for a minute."
"Okay, I'm sorry," Vic said, sitting and making an effort to breathe. "I'm just worried, that's all. And paranoid."
"You're among friends," MacLeod reassured him. "You can relax. So. What have you been doing lately? I mean, before all this business with the Agency."
"Well, I've been in Europe, mostly. That's why I'm here, now. I died in the middle of a concert in Paris and had to leave the continent. Damn modern news service got my death on TV. " He sighed. "I tried living in the States, but apparently I bear an unusual resemblance to a guy wanted by the FBI, and I decided I could do without the attention."
"I noticed you don't carry a sword," Adam said leadingly.
"I can't," Vic explained. "The Agency would notice, and they'd ask questions. I hid it just before I went to jail and haven't been able to lay my hands on it since. I've got to tell you, it's nerve wracking. Thank God there don't seem to be any Immortals in the area."
"That might change, with Duncan here," Pierson commented.
"That's the second or third time he's made a comment like that," Victor said to Duncan. "What's he talking about? You told me a long time ago that you didn't take that many heads."
"That's seems to have changed," Duncan admitted. "I've become a prime target for hunters. The more heads I take, the more Immortals want me. It's a vicious cycle that I can't seem to break. I've taken probably more than a hundred and fifty heads in the last five years."
Vic whistled. "That's gotta play hell with your love life," he commented, grinning a little. An icy silence descended. "What, did I hit a nerve?" he asked, concerned.
When Duncan said nothing, Adam answered for him. "MacLeod's luck with the fairer race has been pretty bad lately. The last serious one couldn't handle the Game."
"What about you?" Duncan asked to direct the conversation away from himself. "Have you given up yet?"
"Given up?" Adam asked, irritated by the subtext he was missing.
"When I saw him last," Duncan explained, "Victor had decided that having mortal lovers was too hard. He resolved to wait for an Immortal he could be with for the rest of his life."
Feeling compelled to defend himself, Vic spoke up. "I came close, Duncan. I was engaged to my other partner, Li Ann. For awhile there, I thought I was wrong. But then...then she broke it off, and I knew I was right. Half of them don't want a permanent relationship. They think that life's too short, that they haven't got the time to give to just one person. So you have to go through the pain of losing them. The other half...you lose them anyway. When they die. It would be so much better, to love an Immortal." He bit off any words that might follow, afraid his voice would break.
"Victor?" Duncan asked, concerned. "Is everything okay?"
"Stupid question, in the circumstances," Vic said.
"I meant with you," the older Immortal said, sighing.
"Yeah, sure, fine." Vic sighed.
"No, there's something wrong."
"Are you blind, Highlander?" Adam said from his place on the bed. "Consider your recent topic of discussion. The boy has obviously found himself an Immortal to love, but it's not working out how he'd like."
Duncan looked to Vic for confirmation. Shrugging in surrender, Vic nodded. "It's your partner, isn't it?" Duncan prodded gently. "Mac."
"Yeah, much to my surprise," Vic muttered. "Listen, I didn't come here to babble about my love life. I came to warn you. I've done that, and I shouldn't have stayed. Please heed my warning, Mac, and leave." With that, the agent stood, finished his beer and went to the door without even a goodbye.
Duncan looked after his friend for a long moment before turning his eyes to Adam, who caught his gaze and immediately understood it. "Oh, no," he said. "No. I'm not doing it, and neither are you."
"No! You'll get me killed!"
"He needs our help," Duncan said stubbornly.
"He doesn't want our help!" Methos insisted, knowing he was getting into a very familiar argument.
Maybe this time he would win.
Victor was called from the archives to report to The Director at noon the next day. He arrived in the briefing room, legitimate research in hand, and found Mac and Li Ann already waiting. "Mac, Li Ann," The Director said as he sat down. "Please fill us in."
"Nothing much to tell," Li Ann commented, shrugging. "He's staying at a Hilton with a friend, one Adam Pierson. They've been out for lunch and dinner and spent most of yesterday and this morning at an antique show. They seemed to be pricing some pieces, including but not limited to swords."
"Hmm. The Director directed her gaze at Victor, who began to feel decidedly uncomfortable. "Victor? Care to fill in the gaps?"
"Right," Vic said, opening the file he's brought. "Mr. MacLeod is an antiques dealer operating our of Seacouver, Washington. He's here for business purposes with his friend, Adam Pierson, a graduate student. They've been here for three days and are scheduled to leave tomorrow evening. Mr. MacLeod has a birth certificate, but, other than that, no medical records of any kind."
"That's a little odd," The Director commented, her gaze not leaving Victor.
"Well, if death can't keep you down..." Mac said, trailing off as he picked up the tension in the room. "Tell me, Vic," The Director went on. "What's the Game? Why have you got a sword hidden somewhere? And how old are you?" With each question, her voice grew harder, until Vic had to fight not to flinch.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Vic said, as calmly as possible.
"Allow me to refresh your memory," The Director said. She pulled out a tape deck and a small surveillance tape and set them on the table. She popped the tape into the deck and pressed play. Adam's voice, then Vic's issued from the device.
//I noticed you don't carry a sword.//
//I can't. The Agency would notice, and they'd ask questions. I hid it just before I went to jail and haven't been able to lay my hands on it since. I've got to tell you, it's nerve wracking. Thank God there don't seem to be any Immortals in the area.//
Vic swallowed nervously and met the confused glances of his partners. Then he leaped out of his seat and made a dash for the door. Dobrinski caught him there, hauled him back to the chair and sat him down. "Care to explain, Victor?" The Director asked, her voice taking on a threatening edge.
"No," Vic said shortly.
"I like you, Vic," The Director said, rising. She walked around behind the ex-cop and rested a long-nailed hand on his shoulder. "I wouldn't want to hurt you." She squeezed, and leaned down so that her lips were next to his ear. "But I will find out what I want to know."
"Not from me, you won't," Vic said stubbornly.
"No?" The Director asked. She held her hand out and Dobrinski placed the ivory hilt of a beautiful Japanese sword in it. "We took this off of the mugger," she said, placing the cold metal against Vic's neck. "Now, even if you are like Mr. MacLeod, I doubt you'll survive losing your head, so to speak."
After a long, fear filled moment, Vic spoke. "This is more important than me," he said slowly. "You take my head, if you have to."
"Vic!" Mac protested, "What the hell do you think you're doing? She'll kill you! She's not bluffing, believe me."
"I know she's not," Vic said sadly. "I'm not either. I'm sorry Mac. There were things I wanted to tell you..." he shrugged and closed his eyes.
Just then, the sound of a commotion and gunshots rang out. The cold metal disappeared from Vic's neck, and he opened his eyes. Following The Director's gaze over his shoulder, Vic saw Duncan MacLeod standing in the doorway. "Come on, Victor," he said, "let's get you and Mac out of here."
Vic grabbed Mac by the arm and hauled him in Duncan's direction. "Can we get out of here?" he asked.
"Adam is holding the entrance," Duncan said, smiling.
"I beg to differ," a new voice came. Duncan turned and found two cadaverous looking men leading Methos into the room at gunpoint.
"Murphy and Camier," Vic sighed in resignation. "Christ Almighty, Duncan. I told you not to come. Now she's got all f-three of us."
"If I hadn't come, you'd have lost your head by now!" Duncan exclaimed.
"It would've been worth it to keep our secret!" Victor retorted.
"My God, MacLeod," Methos exclaimed, "he's actually as stupidly noble as you are."
"Would someone please tell me what's going on?" Mac asked, his arm still in Vic's grip.
"No," Vic, Duncan and Methos chorused.
"On the contrary," The Director said. "You will explain or you can do your little reviving act for the cameras." When no one said anything, she went on. "All I want is information. I don't like secrets. If you explain, I'll let you go...secret intact. I promise!" she finished, wide eyed with mock innocence.
The three Immortals exchanged a long considering glance before Vic sighed deeply and began to explain. "We are Immortal. You can only kill us by taking out heads. When we die, we release energy known as our Quickening, which is then transferred to the Immortal that killed us. This energy makes that Immortal more powerful. For this reason, some Immortals hunt others. This is the Game. We can sense each other coming, so that we know who to fight. Our only refuge is on holy ground. That pretty much sums it up."
"Not quite," The Director said. "How old are you? All of you."
"One hundred and ninety-eight," Vic said flatly.
"Four hundred and six," Duncan admitted, sighing.
The Director turned her gaze to Methos. "A hell of a lot older than them," Methos said challengingly.
She decided to let it lie. "One last question. Why did you want to take Mac with you?"
"I've been wondering about that myself," Mac said, recovering from his shock at Vic's revelations.
Vic let out yet another sigh. "Mac is a pre-Immortal," he explained. "Immortals age and live normally until their First Death. When they die for the first time, they are frozen at that age and their healing abilities awake. That's why Duncan has no medical records. He doesn't get sick, and neither do the rest of us."
"You're telling me," The Director said, "that Mr. Ramsey, here, is Immortal? That if he were to die, he would come back to life and never age from that point on?"
"Yes," Vic confirmed.
"Let's test this theory," The Director said coldly. Taking a gun from Murphy, she pointed it at Mac and pulled the trigger, ignoring Li Ann's horrified cry. The bullet took Mac right in the chest and his body trembled with shock. He began to crumple, and Vic rushed forward and caught him before he hit the floor, but was pulled down with Mac's limp weight.
The younger man was not yet dead as Vic held him in his lap. "I'm sorry, Mac," Vic said, gently brushing his fingers across his partner's forehead. "But you're not going to die. Not permanently. I promise."
"Hey Vic," Mac said weakening, terror and pain in his eyes.
"Yeah?" Vic asked gently.
"Just in case," Mac gasped in pain, then forced himself to continue. "I wanted to tell you...I love you. Always will." Vic caught his breath at the words, but Mac slipped away before he could answer. Clutching his partner's body close, Vic couldn't suppress his grin. Mac's words had made a horrible moment somehow wonderful.
Li Ann didn't seem to understand. "For God' sake, Vic!" She exclaimed, horrified. "He's dead! Mac just died, and you're sitting there grinning! What's wrong with you!" She finished in a half scream, and broke down sobbing.
"Li Ann," Vic said hurriedly, "Li Ann, he'll be okay. I swear to God, Mac's not dead. Not for long."
It was a long, nervous hour for Vic, sitting and holding Mac, waiting for him to wake up. Despite his certainly that Mac was a pre-Immortal, he knew he wouldn't be able to relax until the man he loved came awake in his arms.
Finally, finally, they occupants of the room were startled by a loud, gasping breath clear even above Li Ann's sobbing. Vic sighed in relief, looking tenderly down at Mac as he sat up slowly, touching his bloodied shirt in wonder. "Hey Mac," he said quietly. Mac looked at him and abruptly flushed and looked away as he remembered his dying words. "Mac, it's okay," Vic said, smiling. "I love you, too."
Mac opened his mouth to reply, and then was hit by a strange sensation. He bent his head, pressing his palms to his temples. "What...?" he asked Vic helplessly.
"It's okay," Vic soothed, feeling Mac's new presence wash through him, "you're just sensing Duncan, Adam and I. Relax, and it won't feel so strange."
"Well," The Director said calmly. "I'll take that as proof."
"Now you have to let us go," Duncan said, meeting her gaze steadily.
"Why would I do that?" she drawled.
"Because you promised you would," Duncan answered. He cocked his head. "And I believe you're a woman of your word."
"Oh, sure, ruin my image," she pouted. "You can go. On one condition."
"Which is?" Methos prompted.
"Mac and Vic have to agree to stay with the Agency," The Director said coolly. "I don't want them dying temporarily but publicly and then taking off. The Agency can use...qualities like theirs. If I can't get it from them, I'll get it from you."
"And if we refuse?" Mac stood and pulled Vic to his feet beside him.
"If you refuse, the Agency will shortly become the only place safe for Immortals."
Vic abruptly became aware of a change in the mood of the room. His brow wrinkling, he looked around just in time to see Murphy let go of Adam's arm in response to nothing more than a glance. There was something different about the grad student. Something hard. Victor was struck with the impression that, when he's said "a hell of a lot older", he'd meant it.
"I don't take very well to being threatened," Methos said, his tone almost conversational. He advanced on The Director, ignoring MacLeod's light restraining touch on his arm. He met her gaze and something there made The Director flinch back.
"Let's see what Mac and Vic have to say," she said, not breaking eye contact.
Vic sighed and looked over at Mac. "I can't be responsible for the discovery of Immortals," he told him regretfully. "And there aren't too many places that are safe for me to be right now anyway."
"I'm with you," Mac said firmly, reaching out to take Vic's hand in his own. Li Ann smiled, somewhat sadly, at the gesture. It seemed like the three of them had come full circle.
"Well, now that that's settled, you gentlemen can go," The Director nodded at Duncan and Methos, "and we can get back to work."
"Hold on a second," Vic protested. "I haven't picked up a sword in nearly three years and Mac's never used one. Unless you want us to be picked off by the first hunters that come looking for a new Immortal we're both going to need training."
The Director must have seen the logic of the statement, for all she said was, "Then go! But be back in two weeks." Duncan looked like he was going to object to the time allowed, but Vic shook his head and left the room, motioning for the other immortals to follow.
"We're lucky we got that much time," he said outside. "Now we have to get busy. There's a lot for Mac to learn."