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Barkeep by Sophie

Author’s note - what if the Musketeers had been Immortal? I fell in love with Alexandre Dumas’ story when I saw the 1973 movie the Three Musketeers, but decided it was a good idea for an xover when I saw the 1993 Disney version. I came to the conclusion that Porthos got most of the best lines and most of them have been used in the (I hope) amusing interlude that follows. The ages of the Musketeers is based on the Disney dating system which decided that the Musketeers were around during Louis XV’s (1717-1774) reign, I apologise to those who know better, but since the rest is based on the plot of the movie, not the book (Disney made it’s usual adaptations), I figured I had to be consistent.


It was a warm, lazy evening in the city - some might call it muggy, close, but Methos was feeling too laid back to be bothered about the weather. Anyway, he’d experienced far worse, Africa during the last war had been stifling; once you’d been stuck out in a desert in a tin box aptly called a tank, the heat thrown up from the sidewalk after a long hot summer day was fairly irrelevant. The ancient’s mind was far from the dark storm clouds which hovered menacingly in the sky, threatening to break the calm that covered the whole block. Even the sound of traffic was somehow muted by the heavy atmosphere, and left the Immortal alone to let his mind wander. It had been meandering over random points in his life for the last few hours, going nowhere in particular, just following any haphazard connection that one memory made with another.

He’d been content, just lying on his sofa, eyes closed, beer on the arm-rest in easy reach; then his thoughts had drifted to Duncan MacLeod. The old man wasn’t sure how his brain had settled on the Highlander, but his thoughts stayed put once they’d focused on the dark figure. It hadn’t taken Methos long to consider the Clansman his friend, there was something about him that made him trustworthy, even for the suspicious ancient. He was a man you could talk to, an intellect as well as a warrior, and Adam found their humours matched rather well. After a few minutes contemplating the memory, the Watcher has decided that he would be better actually seeking out the real person; they hadn’t spoken for sometime, Adam Pierson, Watcher, had been busy stalling his superiors in Paris as they tried to exert a little pressure on their researcher to produce some results on the elusive Methos, and he’d only just arrived in town for some peace and quiet.

So, bottle of cask-strength whiskey in hand, the old-eyed man had begun his gentle stroll across town to the dojo.

The figure who ambled along the dark street seemed casual enough; to look at he was a man whose age could not quite be placed, some would say twenty, others thirty, those who were sensible would not try and guess - dark hair, neatly cut, but a little untidy where the brush had been hastily used, and clothes to match, clean, but the T-shirt he wore had not been ironed and his light, sports jacket had a patch over the elbow. It would have taken real perception to notice the slightly odd hang of his jacket where Immortal protection was carried, or the quick, observant flicks of his deep, mysterious eyes as the slightest movement of a shadow was recorded and stored away. There were tricks to staying alive over five thousand years, and they had become habit even to a relaxed Eternal.

The dojo was lit, but Adam’s senses told him that his quarry was not below, so he headed easily up the fire-escape; he preferred the external access anyway. Supernatural recognised its own before he reached the door, and he grinned to himself, glad that the impromptu visit was paying off. His hand was raised to officially signal his arrival when the door was opened before he made contact with it. The man caught himself as his body lurched forward after the sudden influx of the portal and stopped his fist inches from a face he was not expecting. Richie Ryan looked rather flustered, his cheeks were coloured slightly from some form of exertion and his mouth was open, stalled before any sound came out. Both men stared at each other for a long moment, neither having expected the person whom they greeted. Adam relaxed first, stepping back from the door and reaffirming his grin; this seemed to jog his blond companion into action and the youth finally put words into his mouth.

“Adam, Hi, I thought you were Duncan,” was explained quickly, almost hastily, and Ryan turned back into the apartment, leaving the door open for the new arrival. “Come in.”

“I take it, he isn’t in then?” the other breezed easily, strolling after his more intense associate.

“No,” the young man seemed more than a little distracted as he grabbed a mop that was leaning next to the elevator and moved into the kitchen area. “He’s been away all week, in London, with Amanda.”

“Amanda, mm,” Methos nodded to himself, his smile broadening as he remembered the fiery creature he’d last seen in Paris; she was an intriguing woman, not to be trusted of course, but adorable company.

“They’re due back tonight, or tomorrow,” his hyperactive fellow brought him back from the consideration of the sculpted beauty, “and I have to get this cleaned up before they arrive.”

The elder Immortal leant on the breakfast bar and peered over it, finding himself mildly amused by the frustrated set to Richie’s features. There was a dark stain on the floor, into the removal of which, Ryan was putting all his athletic strength.

“Had an accident?” the researcher enquired lightly, and received a withering look for his trouble.

“Duncan gave me the keys so I could handle a delivery of wine he was waiting for,” the youth huffed. “Only, I dropped one of the bottles, and clearing the glass was the easy part.”

“Put some salt or white wine on the red,” Adam advised, turning away and heading towards the comfortable-looking couch; he was still feeling mellow, and Richie’s exertions just disturbed his mood.

He only grinned widely once more as the younger Eternal shot him an uncertain look, but reluctantly took his advice anyway.

Richie’s humour was much improved ten minutes later when the stain was no more. The good whiskey was sat on the table, unopened, it would wait for MacLeod, instead, both men were sat with beers in hand, chatting. Adam leant back into the soft cushion, watching his companion, the conversation being largely irrelevant. He examined the mere child before him, wondering if he had ever been that young, oddly fascinated by the naivete that gave the less experienced Immortal a certain charm. The old man found the company of youth refreshing, although he did not actively seek it out, and despite a disappointment that his plans had changed, he was content to play the grad student while they waited for Duncan. Richie knew that Adam Pierson was older than he looked, but seemed happy enough to accept him on any level he chose to project.

An hour later, however, conversation had all but dried up, and both men had taken to glancing occasionally at their watches. The evening had not started early, and now time was progressing on towards morning. Methos was not surprised when an apologetic sigh came from his companion and he heard, “Look, Adam, I’m sorry, but I think Duncan must have decided to take that later flight he mentioned on the phone.”

“You could be right there, my friend,” the other nodded casually and shifted to stand.

He stretched a little as his limbs told him how lazy he’d been; the tingling that ran through his muscles felt good. He stayed where he was for a few moments, experiencing the feeling and watching as Richie leant across for his own jacket that was thrown over a chair.

“I’ll lock up and we can leave together,” the young man suggested, and Adam had no objections.

Activity put some life back into the conversation, and the pair were chatting amiably once more as the elevator came to a stop in the dojo.

“So Let me guess, it was raining in Paris when you left,” Richie laughed as he bent to raise the wooden barrier between them and the main gym.

The young man’s arm stayed where it was, outstretched above him, hanging on the cord and he gave his companion a wild look. Methos’ eyes showed the same shock as he too felt his world shift with such an immense warning of their own race that it had to be a group of Immortals. Duncan wasn’t one for parties, and the idea of several of his own kind nearby did not please the ancient Immortal, he preferred not at all, or maybe one, or two; his hackles were up and the old man was glad of the heavy weight in his jacket as he turned to stare at the entrance. His young companion was also bristling, and for once, Adam hoped that his mouth wouldn’t fire off before his brain. From easy friendship, the pair went through momentary panic to stern, cold Immortal defensiveness as four figures appeared in the dimly lit doorway.

All four were tall, elegant creatures, who wore long coats, almost like cloaks, and there was no doubt that they were carrying weapons in the voluminous folds. Methos received a reminiscent impression of cavalier days gone by: the first man was blond, sporting a rugged-looking beard and shoulder-length hair - his eyes were ice blue, emphasis on the ice, and his hand ran inside his jacket and onto the hilt of a sword; the second was dark, both his long hair and his eyes and he scanned the room with a sharp intelligence evident in his manner; the third member of the party was younger than his companions - apparently so anyway, looking to have died around the same age as Richie, his face was open and curious rather than hostile and there was a smile in his eyes surrounded by dark blond hair; last, but definitely not least, an impressive, dark figure came up behind his compatriots - he was a large hulk, but powerful rather than fat and as if to prove it, he was carrying a huge box on one shoulder almost casually.

“In, in,” he urged his companions as they paused in sight of the statuesque Immortals waiting for them, pushing past the youngest-looking stranger as he proceeded into the room, unconcerned for the hard stares on him.

It was only as the hefty man stopped in the centre of the dojo and relinquished his load with a satisfied hrmph! that Methos’ brain began to catch up with him. The modern clothing had thrown him for a moment, but as the stout figure righted himself, hands on hips in a very familiar fashion, that time flew back several hundred years.

“Oh no,” he muttered, and then regretted it as he realised it was loud enough for Richie to hear.

Paris during the reign of King Louis XV:

“Barkeep, more wine!” the boom came across the room and Methos wondered at his old friend’s capacity for alcohol.

He grabbed the ready opened bottle that was sat under his counter and wandered over to the corner table where his oldest ally sat in what most thought was an alcoholic haze. Porthos, Musketeer, one of the famous four, Athos, Aramis and D’Artagnan being his loyal compatriots through thick and thin. The old Immortal had known Porthos for a lot longer than his present incarnation, however, they went back a good millennium when Methos had not been quite so reticent about his fame. Only the stout pirate knew his true name, the others were content to accept him as the barkeep this century, it had been Phillipe, a merchant, before that and George the time before - he was sure his name would change a hundred times more. He liked the sometimes mismatched group whose loyalty to each other was surprising considering the solitary nature of most Immortals, and their company in his tavern was worth the occasional broken table.

‘Occasional!’ the man smiled to himself as he slammed the bottle onto his brand new piece of furniture. ‘Every other night!’

“Where are Athos and Aramis?” the innkeeper enquired of the pair who had been at the table a few minutes ago.

“Oh around,” the rotund man responded casually, and his arm waved up to the second floor.

What are you planning, Old Friend?” Methos asked quietly, a feeling of doom beginning to creep up on him. “You break my chandelier again and your head’s mine.”

“Oh, testy,” Porthos made a face, but continued in a whisper, “but if you must know, there’s been a rather unfriendly gang running riot bad-mouthing the King, and we intend to teach them a lesson. In fact, D’Artagnan should be leading them here about,” he raised a hand in the air and both men felt their supernatural signal of an approaching Immortal, “now,” the pirate finished.

“You let that boy off his leash?” the barkeeper groaned; ever since he had discovered his Immortality in an ambush a year ago, the youngest of the four inseparable Musketeers had been more than a little hard to control.

“I’d go hide behind your counter,” was all his eldest companion had to say as the door crashed in.

Mourning his furniture, the ancient decided to take the advice.

“Good evening, Sirs,” a cultured British accent boomed into the room, and the old Musketeer grinned. “My companions and I are seeking Duncan MacLeod.”

“Who wants him?” Richie demanded coldly before Adam could stop him.

Porthos’ reaction was good-natured, he pouted, but his fellows moved up behind him at the hostility in the young Immortal’s voice.

“Really, My Boy, no need for that tone,” the portly creature tutted.

Adam cringed as he felt Richie bristle even more at the finger that was wagged at him, and decided it was time to interject.

“Porthos, you old fool!” he greeted, walking forward, arms out, and cutting straight through the atmosphere that was building rapidly.

The ancient stopped a few feet away, giving the other time to recognise his old friend; the gypsy-looking man squinted heavily at the distinctive features, cocking his head, but eventually, he raised one eyebrow and his face broke into a grin. Methos couldn’t quite describe the feelings that were running through him at the sight of his *old* friend; Porthos was trouble, he always was and always had been, wine, women and song being his life’s work, but the ancient Immortal had to admit to himself that he’d never had a dull moment around the stocky figure.

“Barkeep?” he questioned, but it was more a statement, and continued whimsically, “Mon Dieu, what did you do to your hair?”

“I try and blend in with the times, unlike you,” Adam scoffed, preparing himself for the slap his shoulders received from the immense presence.

“Well, well, what are you doing in this place?” Porthos continued, ignoring everyone else, but his old friend.

“Same as you, looking for Duncan, who isn’t here,” the man answered easily, his wily grin well in place.

“And do you know Duncan MacLeod, last time I heard, he was hanging around Paris with a good-looking woman and a scrawny child,” the man scoffed with absolutely no malice intended.

Adam actually felt Richie tense; the young man was stood a few feet back from the reunion, and the elder’s mental image of his reaction to the clangour was correct as he glanced behind. The blond youth was stood, hands on hips, his face dark - Porthos was not endearing himself very well. Yet, the new-comer was the perceptive sort - eventually - and the way he pursed his lips together was apologetic in his own kind of way.

“Ah, from the look I am receiving, I would judge that you are he,” the Musketeer observed, and added, “Not so scrawny now, I see, My Boy.”

The humour in his tone might have placated the pot on the boil, but for the form of address. Richie didn’t say anything, but his eyes flashed once more and his stance was anything but friendly. Adam saw the storm coming, but just watched with quiet amusement - everyone had to meet Porthos on their own level, it had taken him a good few hundred years to become accustomed to the larger-than-life old warrior.

“Have I offended you?” the large form questioned, apparently innocently; the watcher knew better, he’d seen the same vague amusement in teasing the young a good few times before.

“Of course you did,” a young voice cut through the moment and the image of youth behind him grabbed Porthos on the shoulder and there was a wry glint in the bright eyes as he glanced sympathetically at a very similar face. “I’ve seen my first two and a half centuries and he still calls me a boy.”

Methos’ grin became larger, this was an old argument. He was expecting the familiar patter that followed, but it never ceased to make him smile.

The larger Musketeer launched in full flow with, “Well, if you were careless enough to get yourself killed when barely out of puberty instead of having the decency to wait until the prime of your life, then -”

“Prime? - past it is more like it!” D’Artagnan quipped back, poking the portly carriage of his companion.

“I can still take you blindfolded!” the challenge was issued with all the gusto of a performer.

When Adam glanced at Richie he received a ‘these-are-friends-of-yours?’ look. The man just shrugged - he knew better than to involve himself in a Musketeer’s matter of honour - Immortal or not, he disliked bruises. The two men were stood over each other, like fighting-cocks preparing for a scrap, all very dramatic and *very* like the pair. However, it was the poet of the group who decided that a brawl was inappropriate to the occasion; he pushed straight through the stand-off, and his friends stumbled apart.

“Really, Gentlemen,” the clipped statement came through, “remember where you are, what impression do you want to give our new associate.”

Aramis glanced heavily at his previous acquaintance, his dark eyes full of contemplation as he greeted, “Hello again, nameless one, one day you will reveal it to me.”

The intellectual had played that game with the ancient as long as he had known him; the literate was very perceptive, and Porthos’ old comrade had always been more to him than just an old drinking buddy. Methos knew he was right when he said that someday his true name would be made plain to the Musketeer, there weren’t many more titles to go through, and although the infamous identity would be near to last on the list, the churchman was close to making the final connection. Yet, it was not the time to delay on such a matter, the comment was made in passing, and with a swift change of tack, the diversion turned and faced Richie.

“I apologise for my compatriots,” Aramis delivered easily, holding out a hand in greeting, “they can sometimes forget themselves. I am Aramis.”

“Richie Ryan,” the youth returned, shaking the offered palm slowly, not sure of how to take the calm, polite figure before him.

“The noisy one is Porthos,” the poet began, a glint in his eye at his manner of description, “my equally uncouth companion is D’Artagnan and the hostile one is Athos - don't take it personally, they’re always like this.”

Adam was glad when his young friend eventually smiled - one for the Aramis charm. Then he saw the names catch up with the blond Immortal and his eyes flickered simultaneously with both recognition and disbelief. This was going to be interesting.

“Wait a minute,” Richie took his hand back and waved it at the assembled company, “the Musketeers - they made me read that in high school, are you guys yanking my chain?”

“Where do you think Dumas found his inspiration, Dear Boy?” Porthos seemed to have forgotten the momentary confrontation and joined the conversation at his comrade’s shoulder.

Adam was ready when Ryan shot him another questioning glance, and as the other’s eyes fell on his as well, he raised his hands easily and confirmed, “They’re stranger than fiction.”

“Alexandre was a good friend of mine,” Aramis explained in his usual smooth drool. “He liked D’Artagnan’s story and used it; quite a lot of adapting went in and I believe he was a little harsh on the Cardinal, but then someone had to be the villain.”

“And the rest, as they say, is history,” Porthos announced, gesticulating precociously. “Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I came here to find MacLeod and have a party. If the Highlander isn’t here, then where is he?”

“In London,” Adam informed them and then corrected, “well, on a plane between here and London anyway.”

“That man never was where I wanted him at the right time,” the stout man sighed wistfully, but the smile returned to his face as an idea occurred, “No matter, we can have a party while we wait for him, I’m sure Duncan wouldn’t mind.”

Richie raised an eyebrow and looked to his more enlightened friend; the youth may not have known the old Musketeer longer than a minute, but the watcher could see a perceptive, healthy calculation of what the jovial being’s idea of a party actually was in his gaze. Those who knew the man better kept silent, save for Methos who thought it wise to interject as a mental picture of the apartment after even a ‘quiet’ Porthos party entered his head.

“Alexandre wasn’t exaggerating,” he disclosed succinctly.

“In that case, nice thought, gentlemen,” Richie smiled winningly and raised his hands in the first signs of rejection, “but I like my head just where it is. I let you mess with Duncan’s apartment and I’ll be a foot shorter by morning.”

“Oh come now,” Athos’ rich tones filled all ears and made Adam start, it wasn’t often that the man joined in such repartee; yet there was an ‘evil’ gleam in his eye and the ancient knew that Richie’s cause was sunk. “There’s no need to be like that about it,” he continued, and the youth backed off as the impressive man moved on him. “We only want to wait for Duncan.”

“We’ll be good,” Porthos tried his best innocent grin, but looked more like a stalking tiger to the old Immortal as he joined in making the wall that two Musketeers quickly became.

Adam side-stepped the very efficient herding of the unprepared youth to the open elevator and had to snigger at Aramis and D’Artagnan as they leisurely lifted the heavy box between them and followed after their domineering friends. Saying no to the foursome had never really been possible when any of them decided upon something, and Ryan didn’t stand a chance. He was in the lift before he knew it, and by the time he’d realised there was nowhere else to go, he was backed into the wall stood over by two determined old soldiers. Adam had never considered Richie short, sure he wasn’t Duncan’s height, but his buoyant presence had made up for the few inches he was missing, but as the dark observer took in the scene before him it suddenly occurred that maybe if he’d been taller, the situation wouldn’t have been possible. Then the Immortal thought again and decided that maybe it would have been, he’d seen Porthos surround an entire squad of soldiers all by himself.

Adam just watched, remembering *why* there was never a dull moment with his old buddy around. Richie’s predicament was amusing since he wasn’t even vaguely responsible for the consequences.

“No,” Richie objected as Athos motioned for the keys to the loft access, “he’ll have my head.”

“Oh nothing as drastic as that, Dear Boy,” Porthos returned, victory in his sights as he deftly hooked the key-fob out of the youth’s unsuspecting grasp; then added, much to his victim’s chagrin, “maybe just throw you out a window, or something.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Adam muttered to himself.

The look that passed between Musketeer and ancient Immortal brought back floods of memories and Methos followed an urge to join the company as the guard was pulled down. Richie was giving the cask, of what was revealed to be wine, a look with something near disquiet. However, Porthos was in an unbeatable mood and joked, “And you can’t have any, you’re too young!”, the portly warrior chuckled and slapped his oldest comrade on the back while whispering, “Good wine, good company and we’ll soon have the boy loosened up.”

Porthos was right; two bottles of wine and some more good-humoured banter later and Methos was sat in a comfortable warm glow surveying Richie and his new-found ally, D’Artagnan, throwing quips at the rotund pirate. The old man was content to relax in the comfort of the chair he had requisitioned and just listen to the conversation. There were a good few memories rolling around in his thoughts and he would enjoy some reminiscing, but there was plenty of time for that later. First there was the getting drunk, then there’d be some tales flying.

“So you and Adam are old *old* friends,” Ryan enquired, passing the rather dusty, expensive vintage enthusiastically on to his equally young-faced compatriot lounged next to him on the couch.

“Centuries, My Boy,” the Musketeer still continued to use the mode of address as it was still causing the young Immortal to cringe, but the youth had ceased to complain, it was just not worth the effort.

“So how old *are* you, Adam?” it was the first time Ryan had made the enquiry directly to his friend.

Methos merely shrugged and waved his hands in the air, accompanying the motion with a half-hidden smile. His young familiar seemed to take the hint - MacLeod had taught him enough to know that some Immortals didn’t like revealing their age, it could have serious consequences if situations became hostile. Yet, the turn of the conversation piqued Aramis’ interest, and he leapt in feet first.

“Ah, My Friend, and therein lies a tale,” he began with another contemplative glance at the ancient. “Adam Pierson is only the last of many names and I have not managed to trace the original in four hundred years of knowing him.”

Maybe it was the excellent wine which took the edge of the normal careful dance he did around this subject, or maybe it was just that he was feeling content among friends old and relatively new, but Methos just grinned smugly and took another swig of the hearty grape. Richie seemed intrigued and thus began another part of the conversation. However, the two eldest Immortals relaxed away from it and finished locking gazes; there was mild amusement in both faces, one that spoke of an age old tolerance with the young - even the intellectual, eldest of the others at seven hundred, was a mere child compared to both of them, and Porthos considered himself a prepubescent when compared with his oldest friend. Aramis’ persistence never ceased to amaze the old man, despite the fact that he now almost expected the educated guessing game that went on every couple of decades or so when their paths crossed. He’d never lost the term of endearment that D’Artagnan had inadvertently given him, and since it appeared that Richie considered it a good nickname, he surmised that it would be sticking around for sometime to come.

A lot could be said through a glance, and the pair had known each other so long that a whole conversation could be inferred from the collection of looks that passed between them in reaction to the enthusiastic discourse which raged on without them.

‘Way off,’ Porthos’ dark gaze disclosed at Aramis’ suggestion of a name that they both dimly remembered from a time when the Roman Empire had been in full bloom.

‘Good try, though,’ Methos returned with a wink as he lifted his glass to disguise his grin.

‘Oh that one’s in orbit!’ the ancient concluded a few minutes later when his fellow collapsed theatrically back into his seat, arms stretched out wide and eyes rolling. It had been a particularly bad outright guess designed to gain a reaction.

“Enough, my nosy nave,” Porthos chose to end the discussion there, “Barkeep and I have had plenty of amusement for one evening, you will all just have to wait another few score years or so before we try this again.”

Aramis accepted a new bottle that the bulk handed over to him in offer of a truce and waved it in salute to the puzzle which was still taxing him.

“Then I shall think on it,” he admitted evenly and then pulled at the cork with his teeth.

“You’re going to drop it, just like that?!” Ryan seemed incredulous at his companion’s platitude.

“Patience is a great virtue, my lad,” Porthos pronounced almost soberly, but then ruined the gospel by adding, “besides, there are plenty of other things to occupy a man’s mind - wenching, for example.”

“Wenching?” the term seemed lost on the modern city kid.

That was it, the looks which passed between the four Musketeers were obvious and displayed the fact that they’d found something into which to put their hooks. The gathered company left it to their grandest member to disclose the details.

“The boy hasn’t heard of the manly art of wenching?” he looked aghast, and then grinning, his tone heavy with innuendo, disclosed, “At last, D’Artagnan, your chance to pass on the noble arts we have taught you. Take this Dear Boy and instruct him in all that is joyous about the fairer sex.”

It wasn’t taking the youth very long to make sense of the intimations, and the conclusions showed in his face. Adam smiled, as the youngest Musketeer took the hint and uncurled himself from the deep sofa. Richie was slower to react, his more contemporary ideas displayed in his manner. There was a grin of disbelief on his features, but his eyes were twinkling at the suggestion.

“You’ll get a slap in the face if you called it wenching in this town,” he advised as he finally rose to his feet when his amiable companion threw his jacket at him.

“Go, Lads, bless a young lady with your charming company and leave your elders and betters to their reminiscing,” Porthos waved the pair towards the door, another dusty bottle in his hand.

As the door closed on the frighteningly similar men, the pirate turned to the remaining company and held out the bottle. Methos groaned as he saw the look on his companion’s face and waited for the following statement.

“Talking of great bodies, did you know this very excellent twenty-four cabinet was recommended to me by the Cardinal himself in the middle of a pursuit?” he informed his friends.

Athos snorted and just carried on drinking, Aramis and Adam knew better than to get into a discussion about any of Porthos’ legendary statements. The old Musketeer was not expecting much reaction now that the young ones he baited with his tall tales were gone; he merely grinned to himself and then launched into something else that had occurred to him.

“You know, Barkeep, that boy has a fire in his belly that MacLeod should be proud of!” came quite a complement from the mouth of the experienced warrior.

“Arrogant, hot-tempered and entirely too bold!” the ancient quoted his comrade as he raised his glass in salute.

“Entirely,” the other sniggered, he was enjoying the vintage.

“One must ask, is the city safe?” Aramis shrugged contemplatively, but with irony, “D’Artagnan *and* Richard, if MacLeod has taught that young one as well as Porthos, here, has skilled our good friend then.....”

“Are you three still treating D’Artagnan like he hasn’t seen twenty, let alone, two hundred years?” Adam scoffed at the attitude he sensed in the gathered company.

“He takes it with good humour,” Athos murmured through the rim of his glass, and there was that same dangerous gleam in his eyes again.

“Yes, only a duel every other day instead of every few hours,” Aramis informed in his usual dry tone.

Methos chuckled, he had not expected a few decades to cool his young - yes he caught himself classifying D’Artagnan in the same way as the others - friend’s temper.

‘After a thousand years or so, one is entitled to consider everyone *young*,’ the old man thought to himself, but it wasn’t something he was going to say aloud, instead he questioned, “After so long, is age really that important anymore.”

“Of course, of course, Barkeep, how else would I rile the boy so much?!” Porthos waved his arms wildly; red wine shot out of the bottle and over the pristine carpet with his momentum - he glanced down, made a face and muttered, “oops.”

Now, the party was on its way.

“...and I told the Marquessa, a princess is no different from a barmaid in the dark, though less practised in the arts of massage,” the old pirate slurred, almost choking on another swig of alcohol as he giggled at the anecdote that was almost as old as he was.

“One day you might just tire of telling that particular tale,” Aramis interjected with familiar irony.

Methos was barely listening, more intent on the bottom of his glass - which he swiftly decided should not be visible. The arm with which he stuck out the empty vessel did not move with the grace, or even the control it had done a hour or so ago and the glass wobbled as Porthos attempted to contact the neck of the wine bottle with its rim in order to steady his own merry hand. The old man was feeling a little morose - the glow of the wine was becoming heavy and he found his thoughts targeting memories to match. Alexa wasn’t a bad recollection, but her passing was, and despite his companion’s raucous tales, he kept drifting around those terrible few weeks when his world had fallen apart. Aramis and Porthos seemed engrossed in some play of words, but the ancient didn’t take much notice; his gaze fell on the fourth member of their select gathering. Athos was sat in much the same position as his old comrade, silent, still, contemplating his drink. There was only one reason the sometimes cold Musketeer drank, and that was the same reason as Adam - women. Well, one woman in particular. The pain in his soul that would never disperse was making the watcher feel a little cruel, he wanted to really know someone else had the same type of exquisite hurt in his heart.

“So, Athos,” the dark figure began loudly, and was rewarded by the icy gaze, “how *is* Sabine?”

The Immortal regretted his streak of self-pity as he saw the flash of almost despair in the other’s eyes; he knew better than to address this subject. Sabine Gallee, better known to Dumas’ readers as M’lady de Winter, was also Immortal and the affair between her and her first love had been going on for far longer than the confrontation in the pages of the book. She was everything the book had made her out to be, an assassin, a spy, a black widow whose taste in lovers was for young Immortals and they tended to end up headless, but that had never stood in the way of a love that spanned the centuries; as much as it caused both of them pain, Sabine and Athos were drawn to each other every few years just to rekindle the agony of their union.

“Last I saw her, she was preparing to marry an Arab,” the blond statue informed his companion in such a way which told him that murder was an equal substitute for wedded bliss.

The other conversation had died as soon as the sweet poison’s name had been mentioned and there was a silence that leant itself to the lock of glares between the two Immortals. Being the youngest in the room, did not stop Athos from having enough age in him to haunt the ancient. His relationship with M’lady had always given the rugged creature an extra dimension to his character, the part which added the danger to his stare, that mostly drowned a keen sense of humour, that told those who were looking that this was an Immortal. Adam was glad of the warm tones which eventually interrupted his thoughts.

“And you, Barkeep,” Porthos boomed while Aramis handed his long-time ally another bottle, “we haven’t heard about your last fifty years.”

“Bit of this, bit of that, bit of the other,” Methos smiled sadly to himself as he returned his gaze to the deep burgundy fluid he held.

“And how did you meet MacLeod?” his age-old comrade recognised the melancholy and was not about to let him dwell on it.

“Oh, he found me,” Adam used the voluminous pirate’s humour to steady his own and grinned as he lifted his eyes once more. “He never mentioned any of you, though.”

“Insult!” the dramatic Musketeer gasped, “then again, who would admit to knowing our pack of reprobates? I remember the first time we met The Highlander and that English eccentric, what was his name?”

“Fitz,” Aramis interjected helpfully.

“Oh yes......”

.....Methos closed his eyes and let the wine send him somersaulting; Porthos could spin a good tale and that was one he hadn’t heard before, which considering how long he’d known Porthos, was unusual. He thought on how strange it was that you could know someone for more than a millennium and still not know everything about them - yet, he’d had at least three and a half thousand years of life before meeting Porthos, and if he couldn’t remember all of that, what hope had he of knowing someone else?

‘Oh God, philosophy,” the old man thought to himself - he really had drunk too much.

Adam drifted a little longer, content in the heady movement in his body that was the alcohol, but then he started. He had heard correctly hadn’t he - he had his old friend’s deep tones, and they had said the forbidden word - Methos. The ancient’s stare narrowed on his comrade, and it took a few moments for the impact of his slip to reach the inebriated being. Then his face fell and there was nothing but apology in his silent manner. If Adam had hoped that wine had made his other compatriots deaf to the implication of the admission, then he was sorely disappointed. Even Athos, who was still trying to drink himself into a stupor, quite a feet for an Immortal metabolism, caught the famous name. Aramis’ visage broke into a wide ‘gotcha’ smile.

“Well done, Porthos,” the literate commended, patting his fellow’s knee, “I knew you’d do it one day.”

The watcher wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed, or just glad that the guessing game was over. Maybe it was the wine, maybe the length of time he’d known the men, but he decided that anger was not really appropriate. He shook his head at the bumble, but smiled ironically and murmured, “I suppose one and half millennia is a good record for keeping your mouth shut, Porthos.”

“So you are he,” Aramis continued with a confirmational nod, “I had wondered if we would go back that far. Let me see, at our present rate, that would have been another several hundred years before I would have reached the same conclusion. Thank you for the fast forward, Porthos.”

The man still looked slightly abashed, but Adam’s reaction seemed to be easing his guilt. As his gaze finally settled on his oldest comrade, the pirate could not hold back his humour any longer and his eyes twinkled as he grinned.

“I can understand why you wish to keep your identity a secret,” Athos’ cold observation cut through conversation - it was pay back time for the Sabine enquiry.

For one moment, Adam *was* anxious, he didn’t like the undertones in the statement, but as he met his companion’s stare once more, he knew that he need not have worried. The fierce man was trustworthy, the steady, ice glare told him that even if four hundred years of acquaintance had momentarily failed him. Athos’ grin could be very maniacal when he wanted it to be, and it broke out across his face as he turned to his fighting comrade. Methos found himself visibly wincing, even before Porthos leant towards the beckon which was given him. In four hundred years, the old pirate had never learnt that his good friend was always gunning for him when he was drunk and his face was open and questioning in the way only an inebriate’s could be.

“You mean to tell us, you knew he was Methos all this time, and you never told us?” the blond creature slurred, wagging his finger in the other’s face.

“Uh huh,” the stout gentleman returned, a smug grin on his face as he failed to notice the hook in front of his face.

The finger became a fist, and was planted on the other’s jaw with practised efficiency. Porthos was sat on the edge of his chair, and his balance wouldn’t have been good even if he had been sober, so it was no surprise that he went reeling. Aramis’ reactions were admirable for a man who had been lying comfortably on the floor in a semi-haze; he rolled his feet out of the way as the large bulk lurched forward into the coffee table, a disdainful look directed at both his comrades. The table didn’t stand a chance, there was a disastrous sound of splintering wood and Adam put a hand to his head - oh well, it had to have happened sooner or later, Porthos had a unique relationship with furniture. Porthos lounged on the floor, grinning and testing his jaw, “This table can do a trick, unfortunately it can only do it once.”

Athos just sat there laughing, absolutely no sanity in his tone.

Dawn would soon be on its way, but the drinking and conversation was still in full swing. Methos marvelled at his companion’s stamina, there was one bottle of wine left in the case, the other dark glass containers being strewn around the floor; he had been savouring the same glass of wine for a good hour, finding he preferred to have at least some senses. Yet, the Musketeers were downing their drinks with as much gusto as when they had begun. Only Porthos seemed vaguely drunk, and Adam suspected that much of that was just his large personality playing. Absently, the watcher wondered what Duncan would make of the state of his apartment when he arrived home in the dawn hours; at least they didn’t break everything. Methos smiled to himself as he found his old Barkeep instincts coming out around his one time customers. It had been a diversion that he’d toyed with for a couple of decades, enjoying the company and the gossip that flowed through his tavern, but he had realised a long time ago that he didn’t really miss it - far too public and too much like hard work.

Only the more alert researcher noticed the whining of the lift motors as it brought someone to the loft, but there was a lull in the conversation as the company felt their souls tell them of their own kind. Athos went quickly back to his glass as the guard was thrown up D’Artagnan as he chatted to his companion. Adam recognised a lot of Porthos’ influence on the Musketeer and mused over the same thought mirrored for Richie, tutors always left their mark on their pupils.

“..the Cardinal said, ‘You object to losing your head?’ and I answered him plainly, ‘Yes, I like it very much where it is,’,” the young face told the anecdote with glee.

Ryan laughed, slapping his friend on the shoulder, his actions affected by the good time that the pair had obviously been having. The oldest soldier laughed at his protege, a large guwaff, Adam merely grinned silently as he took in the state of the two returned wanders, Aramis raised an eyebrow. D’Artagnan had been wearing a loose, *white* cotton shirt under a waistcoat, it was now torn, or rather sliced in places and stained red and earth brown - Richie’s T-shirt was in an equal state of dismemberment.

“Been having a good time, kiddies?” Porthos teased, amused by the pieces of plant-life in both dark blond heads of hair.

“We did a bit of -”D’Artagnan began and then looked to his companion for completion of the sentence as words failed his addled brain.

“Swt, swt, swt,” Richie finished with a tipsy impression of a man with a sword.

“He’s good,” the elder observed, slapping his companion on the back and sending him stumbling at the sofa.

“So’s he,” Ryan coughed as he slammed into the furniture and landed half over it.

However, Adam saw his face go from the easy grin to wide eyed shock in a few seconds as he sobered very quickly. The youth’s head came up survey the vaguely amused gathering and his eyes fell on the pile of firewood that had been Duncan’s coffee table.

“What did you do to the table?” he demanded, disbelief in his manner as he stood straight. “It was an antique!”

“So is the klutz who landed on it,” Methos returned, indicating lazily across to his companion.

He grinned at Porthos as the man made a face over his snitch.

“Mac’ll kill me,” Richie groaned, putting a hand to his head.

“Probably,” Athos made his usual unhelpful comment and chuckled wildly to himself.

The watcher shrunk a little in his seat as his young companion took the bait and stalked hostily over to the partly-intoxicated warrior. Aramis shot the ancient a wry stare, but he just shrugged in response - he wasn’t going to warn Richie about the serious drinker, he was still merry and feeling impish enough to just enjoy the fireworks.

“It isn’t funny,” the young Immortal complained, very quickly incensed by the other’s attitude.

“Oops,” Porthos muttered, his eyes twinkling as everyone else just watched the Musketeer climb smoothly to his feet.

“Richie,” D’Artagnan’s warning came at just the wrong moment; the young man glanced across to heed the Musketeer and a fist flew at his face.

Adam cringed for his young friend as he heard the crunch and watched the young man fly backward across the room. The battered form crumpled into a heap at the bottom of Duncan’s bed, half on, half off, very stunned. Athos stalked over to his victim, chuckling once more, the youth just groaned, shifting a little. If Adam hadn’t known Duncan so well, he might have missed the significance of how the supposedly dazed Immortal moved. Instead, he saw the poise return with frightening speed; he grabbed the final, precious bottle of wine out of danger’s way and let out a loud laugh as not fist, but boot contacted solidly with the blond Musketeer’s jaw. The researcher was surprised at how fast he could still move, as the tall figure staggered rapidly backwards and he moved well out of the way. Aramis was not so lucky, still lounged on the floor and taken completely by surprise, his legs tangled with Athos’ feet and there was a Musketeer pile up.

Adam positioned himself behind the breakfast bar and took in the frown on Richie’s face as he stood, hands on hips, glowering at the bundle of soldiers trying to right themselves. He couldn’t see the expressions on his other comrade’s faces, but he could guess at the grin that would be on Athos’ and the deceptively calm visage of the darker Musketeer.

“I object to being used as a cushion,” Aramis interjected smoothly, no hint of anything in his voice, “but that was an interesting move, Richard.”

The two old fighting companions glanced at each other, and even from just a half view Aramis’ look, Adam knew the form of what was coming next.

“How many can you take at once?” Athos’ enquiry was far from innocent.

“I prefer none,” Ryan responded, but there was the glint of the warrior in his expression as well - it appeared that Athos brought out the ‘worst’ in him.

“All for one,” the churchman’s grin made him seem more devil than angel as he nodded to his compatriot.

“And one for all!” Athos finished with a laugh.

As one, the men threw themselves forward, more directly at Richie. Methos raised an eyebrow as he was vaguely impressed by Ryan’s training; the youth managed to deflect Athos and stay standing - however, Aramis was another matter. The bed made an appropriate mat as the pair landed in a tussle. The instigator of the whole proceedings began to scrabble to his feet.

“Two against one is hardly fair,” D’Artagnan’s sharp, amused tones cut through the grunts that were coming from the fighters.

Porthos and the ancient just grinned at each other as the ‘young pup’ went to his new friend’s aid. Adam decided it was time to duck behind his defences as the bookcase succumbed to the brawl. The old man released the cork from the final vintage and listened to the sound of the Highlander’s apartment being trashed: crash - one of Duncan’s very expensive Ming vases; ugh! - Aramis being shoved against a wall; crunch - the bedside table suffering; bravo! - Porthos commending a particularly well-presented move; thank you, Sir! argh! - D’Artagnan accepting the compliment and losing his concentration; thump! Do you mind? - the pirate finding himself more involved in the proceedings than before; Well, if you’re going to be like that! Crunch, tinkle! - one of the glasses contacting with a skull.

The watcher laughed and risked a brief reckie. Richie was staggering away from Porthos, dazed, while the inebriated pirate swung at where he had been, the space of which had just been taken up by Aramis. The youth avoided the tussle which began there, but stumbled straight into the wrestling match which was going on between the other two Musketeers. Adam winced, feeling a little sorry for the young Immortal; Maybe he should have warned him, but it was all far too late now, so he merely ducked down once more - he was far too old to be involving himself in the vigorous amusements that his old friends found strangely compelling.

Methos was on his second glass of wine, and the empty bottles were being used as missiles when he felt his body shift anew. The scraping in his skull was magnified by the beginning of a headache and he put a hand to his head as he glanced across at the figures who appeared at the elevator.

“Mac!” Richie’s alarm was evident in his tone.

Adam scrambled up and glanced over the breakfast bar as the youth gave a grunt; he was in time to see the young man take a right hook from Porthos and crumple for good. Any tussles stopped and the deliverer of the blow glanced down at the fallen and then across at the Highlander’s face. The best way the watcher could describe the visage was as stunned disbelief.

“Duncan,” the large man launched straight into a greeting, his arms out.

“Porthos,” the Clansman managed, his voice worryingly quiet.

However, if the Highlander had been about to explode, the figure behind him damped the fuse.

“Porthos, Darling!” an ultimately feminine drool exclaimed, and Adam watched the portly gentleman’s face go from bright to illuminated.

“My little Queen of Thieves!” the old warrior returned and swept the slender definition of sex appeal into a bear hug.

Adam felt Duncan’s heavy gaze on him as the female Immortal took charge of the Musketeers. It appeared that since he was the only one who looked even remotely presentable that he was going to get the interrogation. He stalled a moment by gazing at the amazing way that Aramis recovered his smooth charm and bent gallantly to kiss Amanda’s hand, but he was quickly reminded of his friend’s mood. A hand grabbed him by the shirt an hauled him closer to the large Scotsman. Duncan’s face was black, he didn’t like the state of his loft.

“What has been going on?” the Clansman demanded.

“Don't look at me,” Methos couldn’t help a grin, “I’m only the barkeep.”

The End