Gone Again
by Laura Mason

MacLeod had always joked about being able to set his clocks by Methos' periodic re-appearance in his life. Since becoming lovers, he found that the reappearances weren't as regular as the disappearances. Every three months, gone for a week. Sometimes longer, but never less. A brief phone call to say he was okay, the concession hard-won after their first few months together. Then silence until he'd reappear on the barge or at the dojo, bag in hand and grin on his face.

It was getting harder to return the grin.

He thought he understood Methos' need to remain safely out of sight. If he felt wanderlust after a few months living with the oh-so-visible MacLeod, well, fine. But couldn't they go off together? Why did he always vanish, leaving MacLeod alone and wondering where the hell he was?

He tried hinting about being tired of Seacouver, ready for a change of pace. Nothing. He brought home travel brochures, atlases, guidebooks and left them on the desk and table. Two weeks later Methos was gone, a note on the counter saying "Be back soon. Love, M." And he was alone again.

***

"Joe, I'm not asking you to break the rules. You know I'm not hunting him, for heaven's sake!"

"Mac, I can't. Yes, Amy is watching him. But no, she doesn't call me and give me a play-by-play. Her reports go straight to the honchos at Headquarters. Once they figured out Pierson was an immortal, they've been keeping very close tabs on him. I'm out of the loop."

"But even if you knew, you wouldn't tell me." Joe nodded. "This is insane. You know I love him. I just want to make sure he's okay."

"Didn't he call you?"

"Yes."

"Then he's okay. Mac, if you love him, ask him yourself. He knows Amy's there, hell, she told me he honks and waves at her. If I gave you information, he'd never forgive me. But there's none to give."

"Alright, I won't put you in the middle of this. I'm sorry I asked." The wheels were already turning. The Watchers couldn't help, and he didn't want to involve outsiders. This would call for some careful maneuvering.

"Mac, don't you trust him?"

"Of course I do."

"Then why do you need to know?"

"Joe, could you accept someone you love, someone you want to spend your life with just -- vanishing?"

"He always comes back."

"He has so far. But I don't know if he's in danger, in trouble. And..." He fell silent for a moment, struggling for the right words. "I don't know if we're in trouble. Doesn't he trust me? Why doesn't he tell me where he's going, what he's doing?" His big brown eyes were so troubled that Joe put a hand on his arm.

"Talk to him, Mac. He loves you, he trusts you. I've been watching him moon over you since day one. I'd never believe otherwise."

MacLeod silently took up his glass, still unconvinced. Still planning how he could keep tabs on Methos once he returned. He'd have a few months to prepare...

***

Methos returned and the sun was shining again. MacLeod was so wrapped up in his own plans and schemes, so happy to have his lover in his bed and in his life again, that he didn't notice the shadows in Methos' eyes. So he was totally unprepared when just two weeks later, Methos came back to the barge and started packing his duffel.

"Methos?"

"Sorry, Mac. I've got to run but I need a favor from you. It's important, or I wouldn't ask."

"But.. Sure. What do you need?"

"Can you get Amy off my back for tonight? She's across the street in her car. Just keep her occupied until I can get away, okay." He pulled his pack over one shoulder and looked directly in MacLeod's eyes. "It's alright if you want to talk to her after I'm gone."

"What do you mean?" He tried very hard to look innocent while feeling suddenly very guilty and transparent.

"Nothing, Mac. Listen, we'll talk when I get back, okay?" A brief hug and Methos was almost out the door.

"Wait. Let me go first, I'll distract Amy. Give me five minutes." Methos' smile was reward enough, his confused brain decided.

***

"I don't appreciate being kidnaped, Mr. MacLeod. It's been done!" Amy Thomas pulled her arm away from MacLeod and glared at him.

"Joe, would you please help me out here?"

"Mac, I don't know what the hell is going on, either. I think we'd both like some explanation. You call and tell me to come to the barge, and Amy tells me you dragged her out of her car and held her here at swordpoint."

"Hardly at swordpoint."

"You have a sword!" Amy's voice rose again. "Just because you aren't holding it on my neck doesn't mean you aren't threatening me."

"But I'm not. Could you both just sit for a minute and let me explain? Adam tore out of here about an hour ago, said it was important. He asked me to distract you, Amy."

"Well, you've succeeded." Amy crossed her arms and looked stubbornly out the porthole.

"Mac, why am I here? I mean, other than to save my daughter from your threats." Joe's smile relieved any fears about the words.

"Before he left, Adam told me to talk to Amy once he was gone." Amy turned at that, confusion on her face. "You know where he's going."

"No. How would I know? He could be anywhere."

"Is that what he's been doing when he leaves me? Just wandering?"

Amy shook her head and finally met MacLeod's eyes. "I'm starting to understand this finally. Adam's trips every few months -- you don't know where he's been going, do you?"

"No. He never told me. Evidently he's figured out that I want to know, very much. I'm sorry if I frightened you, I was just trying to do what Adam asked. He seemed to need his privacy this trip. Can you tell me where he is, Amy?"

"You'd never believe me. But I'll take you there. You too, Joe, if you'd like." Amy's smile was kind. "I'll forgive your little abduction if you promise to behave and listen to me on our trip. No rushing off without me, okay? I think I know why Adam wanted his privacy, and if it's necessary, I intend to give it to him."

"You're the boss, Amy. Whatever you say."

***

The little house was immaculately kept, with a tiny garden that was exquisite. They waited two blocks down until they saw Methos leaving the house and striding toward the greengrocer's in the opposite direction.

"Alright, Mr. MacLeod, this is our chance. Let's go." She led them to the back of the house, to a sun room with a screen door. Inside, they could see a tiny woman with white hair reclining on a loveseat, a drowsy cat in her lap. Amy knocked lightly on the door, then smiled. "Mrs. Evans, it's Amy. May I come in? I've brought you some visitors."

"Come right in, dear. I'm glad to see you again." Mrs. Evans' smile was wonderful. "Please pardon me for not getting up, I haven't been feeling very well this week."

"Oh, please don't worry, Mrs. Evans."

"Well, I wouldn't expect friends of Gerald's to be formal. At least he's tidied up a bit for me. In fact, when he gets back, we're going to have tea. Can you stay?"

"We'll see. Mrs. Evans, I'd like you to meet my father, Joe Dawson. Joe, this is Evelyn Evans." Joe shook her dainty hand politely.

"Please sit down, Mr. Dawson. Make yourself comfortable." Then Mrs. Evans looked at her next guest and broke into a big smile. "Oh, you don't need to introduce him, Amy. This is Gerald's friend, Duncan. I'd know him anywhere." MacLeod took her hand and smiled, hiding his amused confusion. Gerald? Well, he was here to learn about Methos' secret life. As Gerald.

"You're much more handsome in person than in that photo Gerald showed me, Duncan. Do you mind if I call you that? I feel as if I've known you for years now." She patted MacLeod's hand and pulled him to sit next to her. "Amy, this is the best surprise I've had in weeks. Meeting your father and Duncan... Well, I suppose I can be direct. I'm going to die soon. The doctor said so, and I believe him. If it weren't for Gerald's help, I'd be in the hospital. But he knows I'd rather stay here at home." She stroked her tabby's sun-warmed fur. "Much better to be here."

Amy felt compelled to reply. "I'm sure you'll be better soon."

"Nonsense, dear. You've known me for over a year, now. Surely you can see I've declined." Amy started to deny it, then nodded her head in agreement. "Well, I'm ready to go, that's not the point. Gerald will take care of everything, though I thought maybe you'd take Jake for me, Amy. He likes you."

"Mrs. Evans, how long have you known Gerald?" Joe's quiet question made Duncan sigh in relief. If he could just get a few answers.

"Mr. Dawson, that's a very good question. None of your business, really, but still..."

"I don't mean to pry."

"But I do. Mrs. Evans, you know Gerald is my friend." Duncan felt like he had to hear the story. "I just learned he's been coming here, regularly, for years. Of course I'm curious."

"Duncan, I know Gerald is more than your friend. You should ask him. But since you're here, it must be alright for me to tell you. We met in 1939. Since my husband died in 1961, Gerald has been coming here a few times a year. Helping me with the garden, just visiting with me. I have nice neighbors, but so few old friends. Gerald keeps me from getting too lonely and feeling sorry for myself. He brought me Jake." She smiled, touching the cat again. "Does that answer your questions?"

"Yes, thank you. Tell me about your husband, if you don't mind. What was his name?"

"Ned. Edward, really, but he thought Edward and Evelyn Evans was silly, too many e's he said, so we went by Ned and Lyn. He was a wonderful man. There, that's his photo on the windowsill. I like to keep it close."

Joe spoke up. "He's a fine-looking man. How did you meet?"

"Oh, it was the war, my dear. I was volunteering as an ambulance driver. Ned was on the bomb squad in London. Disarming live, unexploded bombs. That kind of thing. He told me it was only right that he do the dangerous work. Of course, he could have been maimed. But not killed."

"Ma'am?" Duncan sat forward, startled. Was she saying her husband was an immortal?

"Yes, Duncan. I saw Mr. Dawson's tattoo, I know he's like Amy here. Only he watches you, not Gerald, isn't that right? Ned was one of you. He told me all about immortals, once we were married. Gerald explained the Watchers when Amy started coming around. This is too quiet of a neighborhood for Amy to lurk in the bushes, after all."

"So Ad-Gerald brought me in to meet Mrs. Evans and visit with her while he's here." Amy smiled.

"And dear Amy is a ray of sunshine. Sometimes it's nice to talk to someone who won't live forever, you know." She smiled at Joe. "Too bad you didn't come along sooner, Mr. Dawson."

"I regret it, Mrs. Evans." Joe's best smile answered her.

MacLeod felt the buzz at the moment he heard the whistling, which abruptly stopped. Then Methos came around the corner, a shopping bag in hand and his face unreadable. "Well, that was fast. I thought it might take you a few days to break old Amy, here. I underestimated the effectiveness of those puppy dog eyes." He grinned and entered, kissing Duncan's forehead. "But I'm glad to see you all. I only wish I'd bought more scones."

"I can run back and get more if you're serious, Adam." Amy stood. "Joe, want to come along?" Joe's face lit up.

"Sure, Amy. You don't mind taking it slow for these old bones?"

"I'll manage just fine. Mrs. Evans, you did invite us for tea, right?"

"Yes Amy, you're all invited back. Get some lemon curd, too. Gerald always forgets that."

Amy and Joe were gone, Methos was in the kitchen filling the kettle and puttering with sandwiches. MacLeod sat with Mrs. Evans, enjoying the warm sunshine. Without him noticing, Jake had climbed into his lap and was purring.

'Duncan, I did want to ask a favor of you." Mrs. Evans' voice was sleepy and happy.

"Yes?"

"Please take good care of Gerald once I'm gone, won't you? I know you two don't always see eye to eye, but he really does care for you very much."

"I promise, Evelyn. I'll take care of him, even when he doesn't want to let me."

"Yes. He's good at pretending he doesn't want that. But he always does."

"You know him very well."

"Oh, Duncan, I don't know him at all. He's lived too long for me to comprehend. But I know he's a good friend, keeping his promise to Ned. That's all I really care about."

"I know Gerald wants to stay with you, and I want to give you time together. I'll leave tonight, after tea. It's been a pleasure meeting you, Lyn." They sat quietly, listening to the sounds inside and out.

***

Two weeks later, Methos was back at the barge. MacLeod held him close for a minute, then offered to unpack his bag while he showered.

"Thanks, Mac. Do you mind if we just stay in tonight? I'm tired." He drifted off and MacLeod began emptying the satchel. Near the top was a black and white photo of Methos and a young couple, evidently near Piccadilly Circus, if his memory of wartime England was correct. Lyn was beautiful, even in her uniform. Ned and Methos were on either side of her, both with wide, silly smiles. He smiled and wondered if Methos' date was behind the camera.

By mutual agreement, he and Joe had gone through the chronicles as soon as they'd returned to Paris, looking for Ned Evans. There wasn't much. Ned was so low profile that the Watchers hadn't identified him as an immortal until his death. His killer's Watcher recorded his name, and a few months later there was a closing report on her subject as well. It seemed he'd been killed by an unknown immortal who claimed to be Ned's teacher.

Well, who else but Methos could teach a young immortal to stay out of the Game and out of the way of the Watchers? Joe and Mac agreed that if they'd been around, they probably could have identified Ned's avenger.

Methos called after Lyn's death, just to tell Mac he'd be another week or so taking care of her house, her cat, and the funeral. Now he was home and MacLeod wanted to hear the rest of the story for both Lyn and Ned. Just how old was Ned? How did the two of them meet Lyn? What was Methos doing during the war?

He thought his first question to Methos would be, "why didn't you tell me." But the longer he thought about it, the more he understood Amy was right. Even if Methos had told him, he wouldn't have believed it. During those absences he'd pictured Methos on a warm beach, alone or with some sexy partner. He'd imagined him hiking in the mountains, seeking wisdom, or drinking with old friends in a pub somewhere. Hell, he'd even wondered if Methos spent time plotting thefts with Amanda, who'd never told him exactly how or where they first met.

But he'd never imagined Methos visiting a student's widow, helping to dig a tiny garden. Then again, until three years ago he'd never pictured him as Death on horseback, slaughtering whole villages. He wondered if he'd ever really know his lover.

When Methos came out, wrapped in his robe and drying his hair, MacLeod smiled at him. "Dinner?"

"Not right now, thanks." He sat down. "Stop looking at me like that, Mac. It was an obligation. Ned was a good friend, a good person."

"He asked you to look after her?"

"Actually, he told her to find me if he didn't come home. She did, and she brought a sealed letter he'd written me. Opened, of course." He laughed. "She proceeded to tell me she didn't need a bloody babysitter and I could just forget everything he'd asked. Instead, she wanted me to find his killer."

"She sent you after him?"

"Dear Lyn. I'm afraid by the time you met her, she wasn't quite as feisty as she'd been. Her illness took a lot out of her."

"Didn't stop her from telling Joe to mind his own business. Or telling me what was what."

"What does a guy need to do to get a beer around here?" Mac moved to the kitchen. "I'm so damn tired. It's good to be home."

MacLeod almost dropped the beer he was retrieving. "What did you say?"

"I'm glad to be back?"

"No, you said 'home.' Do you mean it?"

"Mac, I'm tired. Let's not play games tonight."

"Methos." He moved to loom over him, growling "If you want this beer, you'd better answer me."

"Oh, well, threats. We all know how well I respond to those." Methos tipped his head up and looked into MacLeod's eyes. His challenging smirk faded and his face went very still. "Wherever you are is home, Mac."

MacLeod closed his eyes with a pleased sigh, then bent to kiss him. But Methos had slipped off the sofa to walk toward their bed.

"Now where's my beer?"

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