Duncan put shredded cheese into the rolls for supper. He listened to the steady whack, whack, whack that told him Adam was still chopping wood. They had enough wood chopped for this month and next; soon they would have enough for the rest of winter. Then Adam would have to find some other outlet for his energy.
Duncan shrugged and put the rolls aside, covered them and left them to rise. He stepped out on the back porch. The snow had drifted as much as two and three feet deep away from the house. It took constant shoveling to keep the yard clear. From the steps, he could see Adam chopping away. It was quite a sight.
Adam had stripped his heavy coat off and was wearing a flannel shirt and jeans over his longjohns. The area around him was cleared of snow. He was splitting a large round of wood with a maul. He looked scrumptious. Duncan laughed to himself. He wondered why he always thought of Adam in terms of something to eat. "Come in and get warm. I'll make it worth your while."
Adam looked up and smiled at Duncan who was a picture of domesticity; an apron was tied around his waist and his arms to the elbows were flour-smudged. His dark hair was too short, Adam mourned. "What do you have in mind?" He asked as he was putting the tools up and getting his coat.
Adam came up the steps with a wicked smile on his face. As he walked by Duncan, he goosed him. Duncan jumped and then started to laugh. "Get in here and get warm, you fool." Adam went on by Duncan into the house and sat in the rocker by the fire in the kitchen. Duncan served him some hot tea and a slice of bread with butter and jam.
Adam put the food aside for a minute to warm his hands. He leaned toward the fire, his hands stretched out. Duncan looked at him for a long hungry minute. They needed to go somewhere that was more tolerant. Or maybe have two places to live. There was something wrong with everything he considered. But he loved Adam; that came first.
It was two weeks until Christmas. Duncan remembered a time when he would have given Adam a mountain of presents; now he was lucky if he could give just one. He had gotten used to being wealthy, had taken it for granted. He knew that Adam didn't care, that he observed Christmas because the people around him did. Duncan had found some leather saddlebags in a tag sale. They would have to do.
"Maxine is due sometime in the next week or so. She looks big enough to be having a small army." Adam blew on his tea, then ate the crust off his bread. He sat back in the rocker with the mug of tea cradled between his hands.
"Eat your bread; supper won't be ready until six. Did you see her today? I haven't seen her in a couple of days. She's huge, huh?" He sat down within reach of Adam and put his hand on Adam's leg. "Do you want a kitten that looks just like her. I like her face--black with white whiskers."
"I don't know. Maybe. Let's see what comes out." He stretched his spine and worked his shoulders. Duncan watched with appreciation. "I think I'll walk over to the Hurley's farm and check the hams." They were using the Hurley's smokehouse. "I'll be back before six." Adam set the mug and plate on the side table and stood up. Duncan's hand fell away. Adam grabbed his coat and sword and went out the door.
Duncan looked after him with sadness. Adam was restless and unsettled. With a wry smile, Duncan thought Adam would be pouting if he could let himself, but that was Duncan's bailiwick. Adam wanted to be gone somewhere to the south. He knew that they had to wait for Duncan to be through teaching this year, but now that the decision was made, he was increasingly anxious to be away.
Duncan could deal with his moodiness; he was grumpy all the time. Duncan laughed a little. That was the reputation Methos had had for millennia. Sometimes he had to work hard to maintain that acerbic exterior, but there was a sweetness under the prickliness. It just wasn't often that he slipped and let it show.
When Adam came back, he greeted Duncan with a smile. So the temper was over for now. He ushered Josh Hurley in front of him. He looked forward to telling Josh stories about Rome and Athens at dinner. At first he was talking to Duncan about the past--a reward for loving him. Then he noticed how Josh followed the narrative and Adam began to talk to him of history, customs and the general feel of the times. It was a shame that there was no higher education for the children of Shady Grove; Josh would have done very well.
They all washed up and sat around the kitchen table for supper. Duncan said the blessing. Josh was vibrating with his eagerness to start. Duncan dished up the scrambled eggs, and Adam served a portion of grits, then passed the bowl to Duncan. They had learned to give the serving dishes to Josh last so he could eat the rest of whatever was left. There was never enough food for Josh.
Duncan divided half the bacon among the three of them, then got up and got the rolls out of the oven. Josh had already eaten half his eggs and a serving of grits and had gone back to the dish for another. Now he started in on the rolls and bacon. "Josh, slow down. There're just the three of us; you don't have to rush." Duncan said again for the umpteenth time. "You can't wash dishes until Adam and I get through. Talk to us."
"Sorry. I forgot that I wasn't at home. There's so many of us; sometimes I feel like there never will be enough food." He sat back and picked up his mug of milk. He drank it down in one go. Adam and Duncan laughed. Josh blushed as he realized what he had done. He sheepishly said, "Can I have some more milk? I won't gulp it; I promise."
Duncan shook his head but poured another mug full. "Let's talk about something else." He looked at Adam and raised his eyebrow. Adam gave a single nod of his head showing the smallest version of a smile he could manage. "Josh, Adam and I are thinking about moving on. He's going to put the paper up for sale. I'm going to teach until school is out in May. Then we're going to go south. Adam wants a warmer climate."
Josh sat there with his mouth open, absolutely speechless. "Say something, Josh." Adam was laughing at his expression--a mixture of horror and surprise. Josh gulped down the mug of milk and promptly choked. Duncan was up in a moment, trying to get him to breathe. Adam was laughing so hard at them both that it was hard tell who was choking.
"Adam!" Duncan was not sure whether to laugh or cry. He was overjoyed that Adam was laughing. It had been too long. At the same time, Duncan was a little peeved that Adam was laughing at Josh's difficulties, or maybe Adam was laughing with relief. It could be that Adam was glad the move was out in the open, or maybe he didn't think that Duncan would tell Josh.
"You okay now? I'm sorry I laughed at you. I didn't mean anything by it. It's just such a relief to finally be talking about it." Adam sat back in his chair. He looked at Duncan with a rueful smile on his face. That was the first step; he hoped the rest of the steps would go as smoothly.
Duncan sat back down and looked at Adam. "These rolls are especially good. I think I'll make a bacon sandwich for later. What about you, Duncan?" Adam split a roll, and buttered it then filled it with bacon and wrapped it in a napkin. He cocked his head and looked at Duncan.
Duncan said, "Yes, that does sound good. Better make two more; I'll split one with you. Josh, there was no easy way to tell you. I'm sorry. Just saying it seemed the best way." Josh was still a little pale either from the surprise of hearing Duncan's announcement or the shock of seeing three rolls and the rest of the bacon disappearing.
"You're not going to teach next year? But why? Next year is my senior year. You have to stay." As he said this, he was looking with longing as three of the rolls and all of the bacon disappeared into a napkin. It looked as if he was more concerned with his stomach.
"We're going to leave Blossom, the chickens, the goats and the pigs here, of course. Why don't you take the cow as our going away present? You have certainly been closer to her than either of us." Adam was grinning. They had talked about this but had not come to any firm conclusion.
"You mean I can have Blossom? What about the horses? You're going to leave them too." Josh looked hopefully at Adam, then at Duncan. "Why are you laughing?"
"You're just a little greedy; aren't you? We're going to take the horses with us. And sell everything else. We'll have the biggest tag sale this part of Ohio has ever seen just as soon as the winter breaks." Duncan was watching Josh with fondness.
"We'll ask you to leave your cow with us until we go. We'll pay to lease her, of course." Adam was smiling at Josh, his face lit by the same fondness as Duncan. "Let's see. I'd say that two dollars a month would be enough. We'll continue to pay for her keep. What do you say? Your father will have to witness the bill of sale." He reached into his pants and pulled two dollars out of his pocket and laid them on the table.
Josh was dumbstruck, looking from one to the other. He started to cry. He tried to talk, but he couldn't. Then he took the money and bolted out the door. "That went well." Adam was looking a little uncertain.
Duncan smiled. "His feelings have overwhelmed him, and he's embarrassed. He needs to talk to his parents about this. We're part of his life; we weren't supposed to change. Now everything is in turmoil." He stepped over and put his arm around Adam's slender waist. "He'll be back." He put his head on Adam's shoulder for just a minute.
Adam turned to Duncan and hugged him hard for a moment, then walked away. "Old Man Lacey has been nosing around the paper. I think that he wants to buy it. He certainly could afford to pay what it's worth." They never touched when anyone could see them, but it was so hard.
"It never gets any better; does it?" Duncan moved to clear the table; Adam started to pick up the mugs. Duncan leaned in and kissed him. "I want you to pretend this is fifty years ago, and we're in the loft. You used to let me clean up while you sprawled on the couch and made sarcastic comments. I miss all that a great deal." The loft was a burned out hulk and had been for nearly fifty years.
Duncan looked at Adam with such longing. Adam said, "You know Josh is likely to come back with his parents?" He sat again in the rocker and leaned to make up the fire. "I guess it is better to have this out in the open. I was beginning to feel very harried. Where did I put my book?"
"It's on the end table." Duncan took the kettle off the fire. He heard Adam sigh and smiled to himself. The book would hold his attention while Duncan cleaned up and just looked at him every once in awhile. Like now. He was so beautiful just as he was.
The light from the fire lent a flickering glow to his skin. He had his long legs crossed at the ankle--his boots stretched dangerously close to the fire. Adam was leaning on one arm with his book open in his lap. He turned his head a little and the light of the oil lamp caught on the lens of his glasses. Glancing up at Duncan, Adam gave one of his patented smirks. The glasses didn't make him look any older; in fact, the grinning imp in front of Duncan looked twenty-five.
Just then, they heard the noises from outside. Duncan was at the door with his katana in his hand while Adam had his Ivanhoe and was getting in position to back Duncan up. Then they heard voices from the darkness. Duncan gave his sword to Adam who went to put them up. The entire Hurley clan had come en masse. Duncan opened the door. "Come in out of the cold. Tom. Serena. How are you?"
Adam came back in the kitchen, dumped the tea into the teapot and then poured the water. "Josh, get the milk out of the keeper." Josh hurried to get the milk, already a little proprietary. He brought it over to Adam and grinned at him slightly. "Pour some of your milk for your brothers and sister. Duncan can see to the tea for the rest of us."
"Sit down, Serena. I'd invite you into the parlor, but the kitchen is the only room with a fire right now." He shook hands with Tom. "I guess you want to know if it's true?" He served the tea to the adults and moved to lean against the door frame.
"I was just floored. Do you really mean to go? Adam owns the newspaper; what will we do without him? And you, Duncan; aren't you going to teach school anymore? And Maxie is due at anytime, Adam. Don't you want a kitten? I so wanted you to have one. Why?" For Serena it was a short speech.
Adam stood across the kitchen. "It's true. We plan to leave after school is out in the spring. I plan to sell the newspaper; I already have one prospect. We hope that Tom will take the rest of the stock off our hands. Then we'll have the mother of all tag sales and get rid of the rest of it." Tom was nodding his agreement.
"I guess you've thought about it, haven't you? We'll be glad to take the stock. Won't we Tom? And a tag sale sounds like a good idea. But what about the kitten?" Serena was truly upset but kept her eye on her main concern.
"I still want a kitten. I just will take him or her with me. I'll be careful with her; I do know how to take care of cats. They're my favorite animal." Adam was always gentle with Serena, but he was being especially careful tonight. "I promise I'll take proper care of the kitten. I thought I'd buy a gig; with two buggies we should be able to take quite a bit of luggage. We're still discussing where we're going. I favor New Orleans. Duncan says that he has heard that the city has fallen on hard times, that it's just a dump for the flotsam of society." Adam shrugged and looked at Duncan. He was saying more than they had planned.
Duncan had agreed that it was time to tell Josh and his family, but he was a little ambivalent about going at all. He had truly loved teaching. And despite the enforced separation their situation demanded, he had come to enjoy the people and the life they lived in Shady Grove.
Still, ten years was a long time for them to remain in one place. It wouldn't be long until someone noticed that they hadn't aged at all. He had felt something right itself with the long years of peace. After so many years of turmoil, the chance of a peaceful life had caused him to bloom. Duncan looked up and realized that everyone was staring at him. "I'm really sorry we're leaving. I've felt like we had a real home here. And I have truly loved teaching. I'm going to miss my students. But I'm going where Adam wants to go." He shut up, having said one sentence too many.
"I'll help you anyway I can. We'd best get on home. There's school tomorrow." Tom started to herd his brood out the door. "We'll work something out on the rest of the stock. Thank you for Blossom; she's a prize. Good night." He got everyone going in the appropriate direction. Good nights came from the rest of them as they started for home.
Duncan turned to Adam as soon as they got back in the house. "I'm sorry. That was more than I should have said." He reached out and put his hand on Adam's chest. Duncan looked with such longing at him. This was why he would gladly go, the wild desire that overwhelmed him whenever he touched Adam. After fifty years it was still the same.
"I know. But I thank you for it. Let's get this cleaned up and go downstairs." He turned around and started to gather up the mugs. "I'll go and start the heater and light the lamps."
Duncan put more water on to boil and began to empty the mugs into the pail for the pig. He straightened up the last of the clutter, then turned to do the dishes. As he stepped to the sink and got ready to do the dishes, Adam came back upstairs and wrapped his arms around Duncan from behind, then laid his head against Duncan's.
Suddenly there was the sound of running feet outside. Adam stepped back as Josh hit the door. "Guess what? Maxie is in labor! I'll do that, Duncan. That's what I came back for." He bustled into the kitchen and got busy at the sink, the owner of a cow and now a newly-made capitalist. Duncan couldn't wait to see him tomorrow at school.
Josh was through with the dishes and turned to go. "I wanted to thank you for Blossom. I'll take good care of her. She's the prettiest cow, you know. Thank you." And he reached out to shake hands with Duncan who pulled him into an embrace. Then Adam hugged him. Overcome with emotion, Josh rushed out the door.
Adam locked the door, and came back to Duncan, and took his hand. "Everything is ready downstairs. If there aren't going to be any more interruptions, we can go." He put a snarky edge to it, but there was a smile in his eyes. "Come on. I'll make this worth your while."
They put their shoes and swords in the cubbyholes at the top of the ladder and went on down into the cellar. Adam had built the ladder with its convenient cubbies after the near debacle the night of the Hurley's barn fire. In the eight years they had lived here, they had gradually transformed the forgotten root cellar into a very special place.
Adam stretched to his full height and beyond. Adam Benjamin was not as tall as Methos; he seemed not just a shorter but a slighter man. Duncan was amazed by the chameleon quality of his one true love. Adam was a very gifted actor, and Duncan didn't think it was due to all those years of practice.
Adam turned to Duncan, and put his arms around him, and held on. Duncan got as close to Adam as he could and held him even closer. They stood like that for a timeless period, just breathing each others' scent and feeling each others' strength. Adam leaned in closer to Mac and breathed deeply then started to nuzzle like a newborn while making his clothes, as well as Duncan's, disappear.
The warmth of the heater was gradually spreading through the room. Adam broke away and led Duncan to the bed. In the light of the lanterns, Adam's skin gleamed like a pearl. Duncan wondered how many would find that after fifty years they still felt the same way about their partner. He was still just as beautiful as the first time Duncan had seen him naked.
They leaned in for a kiss that rapidly turned passionate. Mac plundered Adam's mouth as he began a series of stroking motions down his back, to his perfect ass, then around to his nipples and going down his stomach to play with his pubic hair, then back again. Gradually, Duncan pushed Adam back onto the bed, never stopping his hands.
Adam looked up and saw a vision. Duncan smiled his heart-stopping smile. Adam had put his hands on Duncan's chest and reached up to kiss him again. Adam leaned to murmur, "Why do you love me? I've been snarling for days now." The spark of insecurity was back in his eyes. It tore at Duncan's heart, but that was one of the things that had kept Adam alive. How he could be unsure after five thousand years was part of the mystery.
In a flash, Duncan was on the bottom with Methos sitting astride his hips. All the insecurity was gone, and thousands of years of sexual assurance sat there with a grin on his face. His beautiful hands were back on Duncan's nipples, tweaking them, bending them to his will. Methos rocked his erection against Duncan's, gradually increasing his pressure.
Duncan succumbed to the pull of the beauty riding him. Methos leaned forward more and more until he was spread out on Duncan. Methos kept the pressure up and kept wiggling until they both came. He was laughing with pleasure.
Still vibrating from their orgasms, Adam reached down to the pile of clothes on the floor and picked up a knife. He took Duncan's hand, and put them side by side, and drew the knife across both. Then Methos put their hands together, the blood dripping down their arms to pool on the bedclothes.
Their quickenings flared blue with the effort to heal the cuts, setting off deeply pleasurable quakes in both of them. His unpredictability was one of the things that Duncan loved about Methos. The blue sparks gradually quit. Methos took his hand away and showed it completely healed. "Look. All gone." Laughing, he got up to get a towel. This was another of the things that held Duncan, intrigued him, fascinated him. He could find himself in bed with Adam or suddenly with Methos. Duncan shivered.
Duncan got up and stripped the bed. How they were going to explain this bloodstain was beyond him. The poor woman who did their washing must have figured out the relationship by now. He would think up something in the morning. Adam got back with a towel and a couple of spare quilts. He cleaned Duncan, then rolled them both in the quilts. With a big yawn, he tucked his head into Duncan's shoulder and went to sleep. Duncan lay awake for a little while, thinking sleepily about Methos riding his horse over the hill.
Duncan was up before dawn. He looked at his watch. All the watches with batteries didn't work, but his old wind-up Rolex kept perfect time. He thought he'd run a little before breakfast. Adam could sleep in. Mac went up the ladder and changed into his running clothes. He stood on the back porch to stretch, when he thought he saw a light in the milking shed. He walked up to the shed and looked in. Josh was polishing Blossom. "Josh." He jumped. "What are you doing here? The sun's not even up. Does your father know you came over here in the dark? It's cold and snowy." Blossom's head came around and she lowed at Duncan. "That's your opinion."
Josh had curried her coat until it shone like a new penny. Now he was working on her hooves. He looked up at Duncan with the most blissful smile on his face. "I asked Dad if I could come. I've already milked her. What do you think about some ribbons for her tail?"
"I think they'd look just fine. I'm going to run a little, at least if the roads stayed clear. I locked the door because Adam's still asleep. Don't go in the house until you see him. I don't want him awakened yet." He moved toward the road then came back. "By the way, did Maxie have her kittens?"
Josh stood up and came to the door. "Yeah. They're so cute. She had four of them. Two are black and white like her, and two are white like Himalayas. But right now they look a lot like drowned rats." And with that, he turned back to Blossom. Duncan and Blossom looked levelly at each other and with eyes the same shade of brown. It seemed that this was a queen among cows, accepting her due. Blossom chewed her cud nonchalantly.
Duncan ran on down the path to the road. It was tough going. The road was full of ruts that had refrozen into ice. He hadn't gone far when he realized that running was impossible and turned back. He got back to the house, and went up the porch steps, and unlocked the door.
He quickly built up the fire, then began to make biscuits. Setting them aside while the oven heated, he went down the ladder to wake Adam, only to find him twisting in the grips of a nightmare. Duncan scooped Adam up and held him close. "Shh, shh. It's all right. Methos, wake up now. Everything is all right."
Adam woke completely with a start. He gripped Duncan's shoulders, and Duncan could feel the fine tremors just under the surface of Adam's skin. With a strangled sob, Adam pulled away. Just then, Mac heard the back door and vaulted up the ladder. He hated to leave Adam, but they would both hate to have Josh discover their secret place and to find out that Adam and Duncan were lovers.
"He's just getting up." Duncan bustled about getting the biscuits on. He started some oatmeal cooking and got some strawberry preserves out for the biscuits. "Do you want some honey for the oatmeal? Why don't you cut that ham that's on the sideboard?" A very sleepy Adam wandered in and sat in the rocker in front of the fire. He looked so edible with jeans and his long johns showing. Duncan let a fleeting caress across Adam's shoulders serve in place of the kiss Duncan wanted to give him. "Mama was up all night with Maxie. She had four kittens, two black and white and two Himalayas. You're going to see them; aren't you, Adam?" He looked hopefully at the mostly asleep figure in the rocker.
"He's not much of a morning person." Duncan checked the biscuits. He had told Josh that many times before, but Josh was a morning person. The sooner he could get breakfast on the table the better.
"Not much of a crack of dawn person, you mean." Adam couldn't keep the beginning of a snarl out of his voice.
"He's a little grumpy." Duncan tried to turn Josh's attention to the meal preparations. Adam got up and stalked out of the room. "The biscuits are ready. Let's eat, and you can go home and get dressed for school." Duncan ushered him to the table and got the oatmeal off the stove.
Josh kept looking at the door. "He didn't say one word about the kittens. I thought he'd be excited. Is something wrong?" He looked at Duncan beseechingly.
"He'll be excited when he wakes up. He had some trouble sleeping last night and woke up with a nightmare this morning. I hope he's gone back to bed. Maybe a little more sleep will help. Eat your breakfast." And Duncan started to eat with determination.
Josh was very quiet. He got through, and washed the dishes, and was on the way home in record time. Duncan got up and went to find Adam. He was in his bedroom, lying on the bed with his sword beside him. The sword was like a talisman; the more troubled Adam was the more he wanted it with him. Duncan sat on the bed and reached to touch his lover's face. Adam flinched away.
"What is it? Something's been bothering you. What can I do? Whatever it is, you know I love you. We'll work it out." Duncan laid his hand next to Adam's shoulder. Adam rolled over on his side, facing Duncan.
"I don't want to hurt you. I can't say what I feel without doing that. I love you too. But I'm beginning to feel stifled. I can barely make myself be civil to anyone. I want to be gone. If it were just me I would be gone."
Duncan was very quiet. He had known somewhere inside that this was coming. It tore at his heart. But Adam would have been gone fifty years ago and, probably, in the thousands of years before that. He was a wanderer; that was his essential nature. He had known for a long time that he had to hold Adam loosely. To close his fist tightly on his flighty lover would be to drive him away forever.
"Duncan, please don't take this the wrong way. I want us to reunite in just a few months. But I have to go soon. I'll turn surly and begin striking out at you if I don't get away. I don't have the easiest temperament now." He pulled his tearful Highlander down on the bed with him and held him. "You need to finish this school term, and I need to sell the paper and go. We'll have a grand reunion in New Orleans in July or August."
"Next summer? That's more than six months from now. You don't mean to leave right away; do you? Selling the paper will take time," he reassured himself. Knowing he was grasping at anything, Duncan couldn't help it. He snuggled down against Adam. This felt so right. Why did Adam feel he had to leave now?
Adam kissed the top of his head. It had gone better than he had expected. Let Duncan think that he would be here for a while. He intended to be gone in eight weeks; the kittens would be ready by then and he would take them with him. Two because they could keep each other company when they had to be in their crate.
"Duncan, you know that ten years is about the limit that we can afford to stay. These towns are just too small for us to try to stay any longer." Duncan drifted off, letting the sound of Adam's voice wrap him in comfort.
"Duncan, you have to wake up now." Adam was gently shaking him. "You're going to be late for school." Duncan rolled out of bed and went to the other bedroom to change into his school clothes. "I think I'm going to go over to the Hurley's and see the kittens before I go see about the newspaper." Adam came into the room, pulling on his shirt. "If Phillip Lacey comes around today, I'll name a price, start the negotiations."
"Okay. I know we have to go. I just don't want you to go alone. It frightens me." Adam stepped closer. "You know we're safer together. Didn't we prove that during the plague?" Duncan knew Adam wouldn't change his mind. He was just hoping for a reprieve.
"Nice try." Adam laughed. "I think that I'll go see the kittens now." He turned, and left Duncan to finish dressing. Adam got his sword from his bedroom, and put it in his coat, and went out the door.
Adam went along the path to the Hurley's farm. The ruins of the barn came into view. The barn raising was scheduled for the first clear weekend in February. He hoped he'd still be here. The large beams were cut and stacked off to one side. The Hurleys had been busy. Raw lumber was laid in a large stack off to the other side. It looked like they had nearly everything that was needed.
As Adam walked up to the house, he saw Addie dressed for school, coming down the path. "We have four kittens. You've come to see them, I expect. They don't look like much." This last remark was said in the nature of a warning.
"Good morning, Addie. I don't expect newborn kittens to look like much, so I won't be disappointed. How are you this morning? Ready for school?" Adam smiled down at her. Her brown hair was ruthlessly dragged into two pigtails. She was wearing a calico dress with a muslin jumper over it topped with a bright red coat.
"Uh huh. MOMMA, ADAM'S HERE. Bye." She scampered on down the path. She was going to be just like her mother, and that wasn't all bad. He turned around to see Serena smiling, at him wearing pretty much what Addie had on minus the coat.
"Goodness, Adam, how are you? Josh said you weren't feeling well this morning. I thought the glasses would help. Maybe they haven't had time. You have to be patient. Come on in. Have some coffee. Maxie and I had quite a night. Didn't we, Precious. She won't leave the kittens for a couple of days yet. But you can touch them if you want. I know you'll be gentle. The Watson's took the male black and white one, so that one's not available. There's a female black and white one, and the Himalayas are a boy and girl, too."
Adam wondered when she breathed. He took his cup of coffee and folded his long legs under him to sit by Maxie's box. He paid no attention to the babies at first, just petted Maxine. "You're a good cat. It was hard work. Yes, I know it was." He scratched her head. Maxie rolled over to show him her children. "You have beautiful babies!"
"Oh, Adam, you do know about cats. I know you said you did, but I wondered. You go ahead and spend some time with them. I've got to finish my morning chores." She stood up, blinking back tears, then hurried away.
Adam petted Maxine a little while and kept on talking nonsense. He reached in the box and picked up the smaller of the black and white kittens. A quick peek showed him he had guessed right. Adam held the kitten down so that Maxine could still see it. She had been getting up when he took the kitten in his hands but settled down again when she had a clear view. Adam held the kitten for just a minute, then put it back. He would check out the Himalayas the next time he came. He petted Maxine for another minute, then went to find Serena.
"I want two kittens. I'll pay you for one or both of them." Adam smiled down at the startled Serena.
"No you won't. I won't take any money from you for any kitten. You can have all of them. I'll tell the Watsons they can have two next time. You hear me? Without you I wouldn't have Maxie, and I couldn't stand that." Serena was furiously blinking back tears.
"We'll talk about this later. I want both girls though. They'll be company for each other." Adam hugged Serena who was nodding. "Goodbye, Serena. You've been a good friend to me and to Duncan, too. As Adam was walking home, he started to muse about the last fifty years. They had led an almost normal life the last ten years, at least as normal a life as immortals could have. Duncan had loved teaching. The sameness of their everyday life had led to the healing of a lot of wounds for both of them. That had been good for him too. Adam hoped that the years to come would be equally normal. He was fiercely protective of Duncan.
He had seen many plagues in his years on this planet. Some were just local but a few deserved the name pandemic. There were no great pandemics in the first years of his life. Oh, people got sick and died, but if one traveled a way down the road, everything was fine.
Plague that killed everyone in its path everywhere seemed to be the result of population growth and trade networks that brought the clusters of people together. It was just bad luck that this latest version of plague was viral; there was no cure for a viral disease yet.
Adam continued musing, then looked up to see the first buildings at the edge of town. He had walked right by their house and kept on walking into town. He wanted to see Duncan, so he walked on to the school.
Duncan was outside with the children. The boys were on one team and were lined up against the girls and both sides were laughing with abandon. Duncan was in the middle of the excited children. Wearing worsted pants and a dress shirt with his tie streaming down his back and his coat open, he ran back and forth between the groups of excited children. Adam was stunned into immobility by the sight.
Duncan saw Adam standing, watching the children race back and forth. He looked so forlorn standing there in jeans and his long coat buttoned up to his neck. Just at this moment with his glasses, he looked ten years older. Duncan started toward him.
Addie broke free of the girl's scrum and ran to Adam. She grabbed him around the knees and laughed up into his face. Adam almost doubled over until his face was level with Addie's. He reached down and hugged her.
He stood up and looked over at Duncan. Then he spoke to the group of children who were hanging back. "Anyone want to hear a story about the years before the plague?" The children rushed to get a spot near Adam. "Let's all sit down." He looked around and found a rock to sit on. The children gathered around Adam, and Duncan moved closer.
"About fifty years ago in the town of Seacouver, Washington, there lived a prince of a fellow. He was tall, dark and so handsome that everyone sighed when they saw him. He lived in an apartment above a dojo not far from the waterfront and worked out every day. The dark prince was living very well and doing extremely well. He had plenty of money and a lot of very dear friends."
Adam looked up at Duncan who had moved still closer. "This dark prince loved opera and also liked the blues. One of his good friends played the blues and owned a bar. He had another friend who was also a prince of a fellow, but this other friend did not like opera, not at all. One day the two princes went for a drive. Everyone owned a car, and the dark prince even owned two, or was it three?" Adam looked up at Duncan with his eyes alight with mirth.
"Everyone?" asked Addie. Adam nodded solemnly. "The two princes just rode around for awhile, then they decided to go shopping. Well, actually, the dark prince had to wait for the other prince to go shopping, the dark prince decided that, the other prince would soon be naked." Adam smirked. "They went to the mall, a collection of stores all under one roof, and the dark prince decided to buy the other prince some new clothes. The dark prince had plenty of clothes; you could say he was very well dressed, but he considered his friend underdressed. In fact, you could say the dark prince considered the other prince to be badly dressed." Adam glanced at Duncan who was suddenly very sober.
"After the other prince had made snarky comments about everything he had tried on, the dark prince bought his friend some clothes and took him to lunch. They had ham from Denmark with cheese from Canada on bread from California. They drank beer from Germany and had chocolates from Belgium for dessert. Then they went home."
"At home, the princes lounged on the couch and watched television. They bickered about which program to watch; there were two hundred channels available. The dark prince wanted to watch the news while the other prince wanted to watch wrestling. The dark prince won. They watched CNN and heard the first reports of a new disease that had appeared in New York."
Adam had been watching Tom Hurley while he had talked. His sympathy and his apparent knowledge of what was to come in the story convinced Adam that the Watchers had found them. They could not stay here or stay in New Orleans. Duncan, on the other hand, would probably embrace him. Meeting Joe Dawson had made him overly-friendly with all Watchers.
"What's snarky, Adam?" Addie was like her mother; she took one little point and stuck to it. He picked her up and swung her around and around.
"It means sarcastic. That's all there is. Let's get up and run around. Who can run to the post office and back?" He put Addie down, and with a shout, she was off. Turning to Duncan, "I want you to meet our Watcher." He faced Tom with a hint of a threat. Adam had straitened to his full height and was looking very formidable.
"Tom?" Duncan looked at Tom with a mixture of horror and enlightenment on his face. He had often told Adam that the Watchers could not possibly have found them. It was a shock to find out like this that their Watcher had been with them all along, watching and recording.
Addie came running up and took Adam's hand. "You didn't say they lived happily ever after. They did; didn't they?" She looked up at Adam with perfect trust in her face. Duncan took a step toward Adam who looked at Duncan with tears in his eyes. "And what about the pwincess?" Addie continued.
Adam blinked rapidly to clear his eyes, then knelt down in front of the little girl in the red coat. He reached out to take her hands. "The princess was in Europe, and there she remains to this day. After many, many trials and tribulations--that means troubles, Addie--our princes lived very happily ever after."
"What were the trilubations, Adam?" She moved in between Adam's knees and put her head down to nestle against him. Duncan looked at her father.
"The plaque had begun. There were many dark days ahead full of tri-bu-la-tions, but our princes survived the plague and all the difficulties that came after it. That really is the end of the story." He put his arms around Addie and hugged her hard, then released her. She danced away to stand leaning against her father.
"I want to thank you, both of you, for the way you've treated my children." Adam colored slightly while Duncan ducked his head in embarrassment. "You've treated them as if they were your own. The difference in Josh is amazing. I can't thank you enough."
Duncan paused for a moment, then said, "They're great kids. It was easy to love them. And Josh was good to us. I've got to go in and get these kids ready for tomorrow." He turned and went in, calling the children who had started to scatter in all directions.
Adam looked directly at Tom with a hint of his old arrogance. Tom looked back with just a bit of reluctance. "You know I was a Watcher at one time?" Tom nodded. "I didn't even suspect you until just now. When did they recruit you?"
"About four years ago. A man came to town, and somehow he knew who you were and wanted someone to watch you. I was shocked to find out that you were Immortal. I had always wondered if you and Duncan were....a couple, but I never suspected you of being Immortal." Tom finished what was a long speech for him with just a hint of wonder.
"I think that we're both surprised that they managed to find us this far from the cities. The organization was in such disarray after the plague. You know that the disease isn't through?" Tom's eyes got very wide. "After the population begins to build again, the disease will be back. Maybe not in your lifetime, but it will be back." Adam looked up to see Duncan walking across the school yard. "And we are a couple. I thank you for keeping our secret."
"Ready to go home for lunch?" Duncan said with a smile.
"I never got to the office, so I might as well go to lunch." They said their good-byes to the Hurleys and started home. "He's been watching us about four years. I've been trying to think of a stranger who was in town for a little while, then left about that long ago. There was a Methodist preacher who was riding his circuit who never came around again. Maybe that was the Watcher who recruited Tom."
Duncan frowned a little. "Maybe he was the one, maybe not." Then he got to the point. "This won't make you run; will it?" He didn't look at Adam. This was his greatest fear. That Methos would run, and he wouldn't have any way of finding him. He didn't know what he would do if Methos did run.
Methos came around in front of him. "Never doubt that I love you, Duncan Macleod. But I do plan to go after the Hurley's barn raising and take the kittens with me. You'll follow after school is out. That's all that I have planned. No running, period!"
Then on the road, where anyone might be watching, Adam kissed Duncan, thoroughly.