Characters: Methos, Joe,
Duncan, OFC (mortal)
Disclaimer: All rights own by someone else, unfortunately.
Summary: Methos gets suckered into a bet -- or maybe it's Duncan who's getting suckered -- or maybe they both are!
PS: Everyone's over thirty!
By Any Other Name
By Judith Hill
"I never thought I'd see it happen!" Joe chortled gleefully. "This is on the house." He poured the sulky Scot a stiff Scotch and one for himself.
"I must be losing my touch, Joe," Duncan said, resting his chin on his hand and making a face. "I was charming! I'm sure I was charming."
"You win some, you lose some. Hey, even I have my off-days!" Joe chuckled as he clinked glasses with his friend. "She's still there."
"Yeah, well, is she looking this way?"
"Cheers." He lifted his glass and drank the potent liquid down.
" 'I told her that I was a flop with chicks,'" Joe sang under his breath. "'I've been this way since nineteen fifty-six!'" He was enjoying himself immensely.
"Don't rub it in!"
"Got to admit she's a looker. She's been in before. Nice lady." Joe clicked his tongue, a huge grin splitting his face. "You missed out there. Strikes me as the real chooooo-sy type."
"Maybe she's a man-hater. That must be it."
Joe poured him another shot. "That one you're paying for!" he said.
Duncan sighed, shrugged and swallowed. Just as he was contemplating the vagaries of existence, the alarm in his head sounded and he turned toward the door of the bar. When he saw who was walking through it, he turned back to his drink and shrugged again.
"Talk about someone with no touch at all," he muttered to Joe. Joe laughed.
"Hey, guys!" Methos greeted them cheerfully. "What's up?"
"Don't you have anything useful to do?" Mac asked without turning his head.
"Yes, actually, I do," Methos replied happily. "But I need a favour."
"I'm not lending you money."
"Mm, not that kind of favour. How about a beer, Joe?" The question had not left his mouth before a cold, frothy mug was shoved into his hand.
"So, what's the favour?"
"I need a date."
"Not with me, you don't!" said Duncan with mock indignation.
"Oh, dahling, and I was so counting on it! Give it a break, MacLeod. I thought perhaps you'd know someone who was free for a party tonight. They won't let me come alone this time. They say last time I drank all the beer, got moody and sat in the bathtub talking to the coat rack in Latin all night."
"How would I know? I was drunk at the time. Come on, you must know somebody who can put up with me for one night. Long enough to get in the door then she's free to go? Amanda's out of town."
"Get your own date." Duncan was enjoying himself for the first time that day.
Joe nudged Duncan's elbow, a wicked gleam in his eye. He nodded his head slightly in the direction of the single lady listening to the music in the background who had so recently been the object of Duncan's own amorous intent. Duncan began to smile. Hardly able to contain his growing amusement, he turned toward the unsuspecting Methos, who was just licking beer foam off his upper lip.
"What?" said Methos, instantly suspicious.
"There's a lady over there who has been sitting by herself," Duncan said, smirking. "Looks lonely to me."
"Oh, no, MacLeod! I am not chatting up strange women. I just wanted a friendly face to walk three paces behind me and pretend she knows me."
"Sorry. Don't know anyone who likes you enough."
"Fine." Methos set the mug firmly on the counter. "Thanks for the beer, Joe. I thought I had friends here."
Joe grinned. "What's this 'Thanks for the beer, Joe'? You're paying for that, my friend."
"Et tu, Josephe? What's going on here?"
"The beer could be free." Joe put his arms on the counter and leaned forward conspiratorially. "You make a date with that lady, you can consider your bar tab paid off, buddy."
"I paid it off yesterday, Joe, in case you've forgotten. What's this all about? Why are you two so anxious that I ask that woman out? I don't even know her." He looked with growing suspicion at first one grinning face and then the other.
"No, you don't," Duncan said, the grin becoming wider. "And she doesn't know you. That's how dates usually start off."
"I don't need a date that badly."
"Oh, yes, you do. Except that I don't think you can do it. What do you think, Joe?"
"Oh, I don't know, Mac. I think the boy has it in him, deep down there somewhere. I mean, I have it on good authority that he's no virgin, so some lady must have fallen for a line at some time in the past, wouldn't you think?"
Duncan screwed up his face and sized Methos up from head to toe. "Nah, I don't think he can do it. Ten bucks says he wimps out."
"Ten bucks!" Methos repeated in mock horror. "That's an insult."
"He's right, Mac. That is an insult. Fifteen says he walks out of here with her on his arm."
"Oh, no, no, no, no, no," said Methos, raising a hand for silence. "What do I get out of this while you two are having fun?"
"You get a date with a very nice lady," Joe said.
"Or not," said Duncan.
"No dice. All I have to do is walk over there, say, 'Excuse me, ma'am, but would you care to accompany me to a wild party in a roomful of complete strangers', she'll say 'Get lost', Joe gives you fifteen bucks and I am out the door, still without a date. No, thank-you. I am not making an ass of myself without the stakes being a little higher than that."
"But you're in?"
"If the stakes are right."
"What would you consider the 'right' stakes?" Duncan asked, intrigued.
Methos folded his arms and looked squarely at the Scot. "You're going to Italy next month."
"Er -- yeah -- ?"
"The loft for a week. I do anything I want with it."
"What's wrong with that, Mac?" Joe asked, a little surprised. "You'll need someone to look after the place anyway."
"Joe, you have no idea what you're suggesting." Duncan spoke between his teeth, looking extremely pained. "The last time he stayed in the loft for a week, I swore I would never let it happen again. I was ready to take his head!"
"Mm, it's true," said Methos, nodding. "I remember. It was great fun."
"What?" Joe asked, curious.
Duncan scowled. "There were peanut butter and jelly and mashed banana sandwiches under the sofa cushions and empty pizza boxes under the sink."
"Amanda came over unexpectedly. I had to hide them somewhere, then I forgot."
"He ruined my best sheets."
"The sink overflowed."
"And? Tell him!"
"Ah, well, I had the water running and the stopper was in and the phone rang and I got distracted I mopped it up with the first thing that came to hand, which were the sheets, and, I, um, put them in the cupboard to get them out of the way until I did the laundry "
"And I forgot them."
"And they mildewed! Only I didn't find them for three weeks! They stank!"
"Sorry about that but it was time for a new set. I mean, Amanda's seen them all!" He ducked just in time.
"Hey, hey!" Joe hissed at Duncan.
"And when I got home, he was roller-blading in the dojo!"
"Great floor!" Methos said, as he ducked again just in case. "May I ask something?" he said, moving to a more discreet distance. "Just what is the real reason for all this? Joe? There's something you're not telling me!"
"Joe!" Duncan growled a warning.
Joe leaned toward Methos, smirking, and said, "Mac struck out with the lady in question!"
"Aha!" Methos whooped with glee, keeping his voice down only with only the greatest difficulty and grinning from ear to ear. "Oh-ho! This just got much more expensive. The loft for a month!"
"Absolutely not! No way!"
"Suit yourself," Methos said, sweetly. "Thanks for the beer, Joe. Pay you tomorrow!" He swung his jacket over his shoulder as if to go.
"Unless we up the stakes again," Duncan said, sure of himself this time. "You'll never go for this and if you do, I'm going to enjoy every second!"
"What? You want me to do it naked, or something equally silly."
"No. You do it in Shakespearean English!" He was grinning again.
"She'll think I'm an ass!"
"She's going to think you're an ass anyway, Old Man!" Joe remarked.
"A month. Anything you want."
Methos blinked, tilted his head, shuffled his foot, pursed his lips, thought about it and said, "I'll do it."
"Oh, this I have got to see," said Joe, chortling.
"In costume," Duncan added.
"No! I'm outta here!" Methos turned to go, determined this time.
"Six weeks in the loft!"
Methos turned back. "No. Read my lips, MacLeod! No."
"Think about it. Stupid puffy shorts, tights, a doublet, a silly ruff and a damned codpiece!"
"It's the codpiece, isn't it?" Duncan sat back and folded his arms.
"You bet your boots it's the codpiece! I'd rather do it naked. Two hundred years of wearing a codpiece, MacLeod! That did it!"
"Six weeks in the loft, a stocked fridge, all the beer you can drink and I rent you a Mercedes of your choice plus gas money. Last offer. Raise me or call."
Methos let his head drop forward. "Oh, fuck! Damn! Shit! I'll do it." Then he perked up. "You couldn't possibly have an Elizabethan costume in your back pocket."
"No, but there's one in the car that I fetched from the cleaners for a friend who's doing Hamlet on Saturday! And he's just your size. We all have our price!"
"I don't believe this! You set me up!"
"Not exactly, but I like the way it came out. I'll just be out in the car for a few moments." He waggled his eyebrows and got up, heading for the door.
Joe could hardly keep from roaring with laughter. "The look on your face!" he spluttered. "I will never forget this, Old Man!"
Twenty minutes later, in the cramped confines of Joe's office, Methos was pronounced magnificent and ready for his performance. The lady was still there, still by herself. Duncan had tried to help him tie on the various bits and pieces of the garments but Methos had shooed him away and insisted on doing it himself on the grounds that he had on more than one occasion done it in a hurry and in the dark upon the unexpected return of a cuckolded husband.
"No iambic pentameter. I am not doing iambic pentameter."
"Fine. I didn't say you had to stick to Shakespeare, just the English."
"And I can use quotes, if I can remember any?"
"I'm fine with it. Nice legs!"
"Shut up!" Methos blew out a sharp breath.
"Okay, give me a minute to get to my seat and Joe can get the band to take a break. You should have quite the audience. I'll probably need to take a bulldozer to the building by the time I get back from Italy but it's going to be worth every minute."
Methos peered around the door. The 'target' was still there. He hadn't actually taken a good look before now. She was pretty, though not what one could call stunning, probably mid-thirties, old enough to have been around a bit. That was good. She was less likely to take offence and more likely to find the little charade amusing. At worst, she could laugh in his face or knock him sprawling. He didn't even feel all that uncomfortable in the clothes, with their vaguely familiar feel. They had been lovingly and accurately made, down to the detail of the blackwork embroidery on the doublet. The softness of the machine-made fabrics made them a lot more comfortable than he remembered.
All in all, he reminded himself, in the sixteenth century, he had cut a rather dashing figure, being then much taller than the average, with no marks from small pox on his face and sporting a neat, black beard. He'd worn an earring back then, too, although the hole immediately closed over and had to be re-pierced every time he took it out and he had eventually given it up. He also made a regular habit of bathing, which was unusual at the time. His reputation among the women had been the envy of every bachelor and the terror of every husband. He had always looked back on that time as his 'romantic' period and the memory gave him that little extra that he needed to step through the doorway and make a total fool of himself. It might even be fun. He took a deep breath and did it.
As he walked as nonchalantly as possible toward the lady's table, he was painfully aware of the hush that was falling on the room. Joe and MacLeod were in their first class seats at the bar waiting for the performance to begin. People stopped talking as they noticed him, as who could not, and chairs were moved back to let him pass. It was obvious within seconds where he was headed and the 'lady in question', whose name he had forgotten to ask MacLeod for, took on an air of mixed puzzlement and surprise. He advanced steadily, trying to concentrate on the role at hand. Prospective lover. Piece of cake. Eat shit, MacLeod!
He reached the table and bowed gracefully.
"Lady," he began, "think me not mad, I do humbly beseech thee, that I come thus attired to seek thy peerless favour." Out of the corner of his eye, he could just catch a look of surprised approval from the two conspirators at the bar.
"What is this?" the 'lady' asked, nonplussed. "What's going on?"
"Could I but know thy name, lady, 'twere simpler in the business."
"Favour mine ears, I pray, with the sound of thy name."
"Ah, I get it. Is someone going to jump out and tell me I'm on Candid Camera?"
Pulling out a chair, he tried again. "Nay, lady, but say thy name to me and I will hold it precious."
"My name. Oh, right, it's Rose."
Oh, that was too tempting. "A rose, by any other name " Mistake.
"Would smell as sweet. Yeah, I've heard that line before." She sounded bored!
"I beg thy forgiveness an' I am too forward, lovely Rose." Get with the program here, damn it!
"This is getting a little screwy." She laughed nervously. "What's going on?"
"But naught withal, fair lady Rose, I do protest," Methos said, trying to sound apologetic. The silence around him was deafening. "I wish only to know you," he continued, as plainly as he could, hoping it sounded Elizabethan enough for his more critical listeners and realizing that the implications of the word 'know' were 'in the biblical sense'. The waters were more treacherous than he had counted on. "To make thine acquaintance," he corrected himself.
"Well, it's a novel approach," Rose replied, relaxing a little, obviously embarrassed by being the object of attention of everyone in the room. Methos was encouraged and pressed on. She hadn't actually told him to get lost yet, at least.
"Might I but sit with thee a while, 'twill soon be plain," he tried.
"By all means," she said, smiling.
Methos sat down and raised an arm to signal the waitress. Might as well do it right. When Gracie arrived, smirking, he asked for 'a flagon of Rhenish' with a flourish of his hand. Gracie looked puzzled and Methos solved the problem by pointing toward Joe, who was nearly doubled over in the effort to keep something close to a straight face. MacLeod was grinning wide enough to break his jaw. To Methos' great relief, Rose giggled.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Why, lady, 'tis Adam, plain and simple. Simple enough, yet plain truth, I vow. I venture to say thou hast not seen the like before."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Adam, I think." She was smiling broadly. "Weren't you with that man at the bar?"
"Ah, by the gods, betrayed! Aye, lady, 'tis true. Thou hast seen with thine own eyes that which I can not now in all honesty deny. They are my companions, both." Now that he was sitting down and less visible, interest from the other customers in what was happening seemed to have waned, which was a relief. He wished fervently that Gracie would show up with the wine.
"Does this have to do with him?" No fool she.
"I press my own suit," he said, rolling his eyes at the inevitable misunderstanding of that phrase.
"This was a bet, wasn't it? You're doing this on a bet!"
"The truth will out! Aye, 'twas a wager, ignobly made and I a scoundrel who fulfils it."
"You don't have to keep it up, you know."
He laughed. What was Elizabethan for 'good sport'? "Was that not merriment I did hear in thy sweet voice, lady? Yet would I press this suit, lest ye doubt my purposes herein. Though first 'twas wrought in jest, 'tis true, th'intent of it was harmless. Wouldst thou make a game of it?" He smiled what he hoped was a mischievous smile. "Wouldst mischief make on them?"
He raised his eyebrows and smiled. Gracie arrived with red wine in two goblets Joe had dug out of God knew what forgotten box of junk. She giggled as she placed the goblets on the table. She leaned over to whisper in Methos' ear, "Duncan says you're doing fine." Then she added aloud, "Nice legs, cutie!"
Methos took it as a cue to cross his legs with an elaborate obviousness, which earned him at least one whistle of approval from somewhere in the room. Rose laughed. She was being very gracious, even fun, and Methos promised himself that he would repay her in some way once this game was over. In fact, perhaps he really would turn this into a genuine offer of a date. He leaned forward a little and took her hand in his.
"Thou art exceeding fair, oh gentle mistress." He kissed her hand and she placed her other hand on her chest and batted her eyelashes in an exaggerated gesture, complete with girlish giggle.
"Kind sir," she said, a little self-consciously, "I am most flattered. This game doth please me well. Pray continue." Then in a whisper, "How was I?"
Methos winked encouragement. "Let me but take thee from this rowdiness, this den of doomed souls, which indeed becomes you not, that I might tell thee of thy womanly endowments that have so won my heart that its beating doth stop up my ears with its thundering."
"Why sir, thy honeyed words do touch me deeply and my own heart doth flutter like the wings of a bird. Come, let us drink this wine in friendship." She was definitely warming to the part and doing very well, Methos thought.
They each picked up a goblet, leaned toward each other, locked eyes and drank deeply. She laughed when a little wine dribbled from one corner of her mouth.. "Tell me more, Adam plain and simple, for this talk pleaseth me much."
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? My mind's eye doth see the sun caress thy face, which makes the rose that hides beneath to bloom its freshness there. The blue of thine eyes doth put the summer sky to shame. Birds flock to hear the sweetness of thy voice that they might be instructed in their song. Thy lips, ah, what treasure lies there pricks my soul to wantonness, lady. But I admit no shame, for who could not but dream of the sweetness of thy kiss. Not to be struck thus would be insult to such perfection, though struck dumb, too, lest to speak of it offend thine ear. My fingers long to touch the whiteness of thy visage, skin like freshest cream, from which the light seemeth to glow e'en from within, I know not how, full magical, that sets my heart aflame." Taking a quick glance toward the bar, he saw MacLeod pantomime clapping his hands.
"Such pretty speech, sir, doth touch me pleasingly," Rose said sweetly, a coy slant to her head. Methos realized she was now having fun. This was going to work! He could say all sorts of things that would have got his face slapped under ordinary circumstances. This was definitely going to backfire on MacLeod. Six weeks of fun, with some seriously hot wheels. Go for broke!
On impulse, Methos went down on one knee. "Ah, Mistress Rose, I must now bare my soul. Think of me what thou willst, an' it be ill I am content, for most willfully did I this venture undertake. Be it on mine own head, therefore, shouldst thou choose to heap contempt 'pon my desires."
"Speak, good sir," Rose replied graciously, "for I would feign know plainly what is in thy heart. Thou speakest of desires; thou'rt not alone in this for I find thy visage comely and thy manner pleasing."
"By the terms of the wager, most precipitously entered into, to my eternal shame, I do swear, the bargain was struck that thou shouldst accompany me this very evening to a gathering of merry friends, a bargain struck without thine own consent. That consent I do now humbly beseech of thee, fair lady."
Rose leaned forward so that the onlookers at the bar could not hear, and, incidentally revealing a stunning decolletage that made Methos' eyes pop. "You're asking me to a party with you, right?"
"I' faith, that was the bargain, madam," he said, finding it impossible to tear his eyes away.
"I'll go," she said sweetly, to Methos' immense surprise. "But there are conditions." Conditions! Everybody had conditions!
Methos sighed. "But name them, lady!" She was going for it. MacLeod, eat your heart out!
"That you keep up the sweet talk and you keep the costume on!" Methos' face fell. "You owe me," the lady added, leaning closer. "I could have kicked your ass but I like the idea of rubbing your friend's nose in it. What do you say?"
"Aye, lady, 'tis well met! You have my word."
"Besides," she said, leaning close enough to whisper in Methos' ear. "I suspect you have on one of those really sexy shirts under that fancy doublet and I want the chance to undo all those little leather tie-ups and see what falls out!" From three inches away, she observed the stunned expression on her erstwhile suitor's face.
Speechless, Methos looked toward the bar, all the wind taken completely out of his sails. He'd been had, not by Joe, not by MacLeod, but by the lady herself! How the world was changing! Still, he recognized a proposition when he heard one, although it was the last thing he had expected. There was only one thing left to do to save face. He grabbed the lady's head, drew her mouth down firmly onto his own and gave it all he had. It was returned with equal fervour. "Your place or mine?" she gasped when they came up for air.
After retrieving his clothes, his jacket and his car keys, Methos, the prize on his arm, sauntered over to where Joe and MacLeod stood with mouths open.
"I'll return the duds in the morning, MacLeod. No, make that afternoon. And Joe, have that disco ball that's been collecting dust in the basement sent over to the loft, would you? I have plans!"