December 15, 1986
"I call," Joe said, tossing a five-dollar bill onto the table in front of him. "Don?"
"With this hand?" Don Salzer shook his head, and his cards followed Joe's money onto the table. Both men turned to the third player.
"Adam?" Joe prompted.
Adam Pierson was sprawled improbably in one of Shakespeare and Company's uncomfortable wooden chairs. A heap of crumpled bills on the table in front of him attested to either his skills as a player, or to an extraordinary run of luck. Joe had never played poker with him before and hadn't been expecting much of a challenge. As a result, he was nearly seventy dollars poorer than he'd been at the start of the evening. Adam had turned out to have one of the best poker faces Joe had ever seen, as well as a nearly uncanny ability to read his opponents.
"I suppose you'd like to see my cards," Adam said, clearly trying not to grin. Away from the poker table, the kid was an open book.
"Sometime this century," Joe agreed, then half-wished he hadn't, as Adam lay three queens and two fours face-up on the table.
"Jesus, Adam," he said. "If I'd known you could play like this, I think I'd have backed out." He aimed a mock-glare at Don. "Thanks for the warning, buddy."
"You wouldn't have believed me anyway," Don said, smirking.
"It's really not that difficult," Adam shrugged.
"Yeah, yeah." Joe rolled his eyes. "You're a genius. I hear enough of that from Don, thank you."
"Aw, Don, you brag about me? I'm touched."
"In the head," Don snorted. "Shut up and deal the cards, smart ass." He said it affectionately, though, and Adam's sudden smile was as surprised as it was warm.
"It's a journal," Don said later. The three of them were relaxing over beer, courtesy of Adam, and had closed the shop and moved to the more comfortable chairs in the office. "I'm almost certain that it's one of Methos'."
"Those damned things turn up in the most random places," Adam said bitterly.
"Anyway," Don said, raising an eyebrow at Adam, who subsided, "I can't go myself. I've got my section report due the day of the auction, so I'm sending Adam." He looked over at Joe. "I want you to go with him."
"What?" Joe and Adam demanded.
"He's less suited for fieldwork than anyone I've ever met," Don continued, "and there are bound to be some Immortals there. I'd be a lot happier if you'd go along and watch his back."
"That auction," Joe said, understanding. Poker face or no, he wouldn't have wanted to send Adam to that auction alone either.
Adam looked distinctly put out, and there was an unaccustomed edge to his voice when he said, "You didn't tell me that. Who's going to be there?"
"They're auctioning off the duFresne estate," Don said. "The family collected museum pieces for centuries. Duncan MacLeod and Amanda Darrieux have already reserved rooms at the Ritz. Hugh Fitzcairn might be coming as well, and I'd be surprised if the deValicourts missed it; they were friends with one of the duFresnes sometime in the fifteenth century."
Adam's expression was unreadable. Joe couldn't help feeling sorry for the kid. He'd only been with the Watchers for about two years -- two years that he'd spent entirely in Research. The idea of being around four or five Immortals must have been spooking the hell out of him.
"Hey, it'll be all right," Joe told him. "None of those guys is in the habit of going after mortals. You won't even have to talk to them."
Adam smiled at that, but it was a grim expression, and he was distracted for the rest of the day.
December 18, 1986
Adam's jeans and sweater weren't exactly business attire, but after one look at his expression, Joe decided to let it be. Still, the kid seemed to relax after a few minutes, and by the time they pulled up to the auction house, he was back to normal. He paused at the top of the steps and took a deep breath, then squared his shoulders and opened the door, holding it open for Joe before following him inside.
They were a good fifteen minutes early, and the potential buyers were just beginning to seat themselves. Most of them were in suits and ties, but Adam's casual clothes didn't stand out quite as much as Joe had feared they would.
They picked up a pair of catalogs and made their way to a mostly empty row of seats. Adam took his coat off, and was draping it over the back of his chair when he suddenly winced and put a hand to his head.
"You all right?" Joe asked.
"Fine," Adam said. He waved a hand as if to physically brush aside Joe's concern, and sank heavily into his chair. Joe frowned, but let it slide in favor of looking around the room to see if any of the expected Immortals had arrived -- and yes, there was Duncan MacLeod, with Amanda on his arm and Hugh Fitzcairn bringing up the rear. They were looking in his direction, Joe realized, and jerked his eyes away before he could get caught staring.
"MacLeod's here," he said quietly.
"Wonderful," Adam muttered. He still had one hand pressed to his temple.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Joe asked again.
Adam smiled at him, though the expression looked forced. "Really, Joe. I'm all right. I've just got a bit of a headache." He leaned back in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Joe risked another glance over his shoulder. MacLeod, Amanda, and Fitzcairn were still staring in their direction -- staring at Adam, Joe realized. He looked from Adam to MacLeod's speculative expression, then back at Adam again. At Adam, who was shaking his head slightly, as if to clear it.
You've got to be kidding me, Joe thought, but he'd seen that look on Immortal faces too many times to mistake it for anything else. Another glance at Adam's oblivious, if pained, expression almost made him wonder if he was imagining things -- until Duncan MacLeod made his way through the crowd to loom over them. He looked down at Adam, and crossed his arms over his chest.
"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he said.
Author's Notes: This plotbunny was eating me alive. Unbeta'd, so any mistakes are my own. As always, feedback rocks my world.