Consider the Seahorse
"It's said that a woman knows when she is with child, apprehends the moment of conception with an ancient feminine knowledge, a female second sense, a woman's wisdom that surpasses learning. A gut certainty, if you will. Imagine for a moment that somewhere along nature's telegraph, the ageless signals are crossed, and not just the message, but the substance of the message, is delivered to the wrong address. Meet Methos, a man out of time, or Adam, as he calls himself, the first man, a name he may come to regret in the days and months to come. For Adam is about to receive a message never meant for him. A message from -- "
"Oh god," Methos said in his normal voice. "How am I going to tell MacLeod?"
|Now That You Are Pregnant: Congratulations! The months ahead will bring big changes not just physically but also emotionally. Expect a little bumpiness as you and your partner adjust to this important new stage in your relationship.|
"Mac, I have something... important to tell you."
Duncan looked up. Methos's face was as serious as his voice. "Something wrong?"
"Mac, I'm -- I'm pregnant."
Duncan snorted and went back to reading his book.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"Well, I'm waiting for the punch line. 'I was abducted by aliens' or 'I'm carrying Elvis' two-headed love child'."
"MacLeod, Elvis is dead."
"No maybe about it. I was one of the mourners. I walked right past his coffin. D-e-a-d."
"What? That waxwork? For all the funeral makeup, it could have been Jimmy Hoffa in that casket. Besides, Amanda swears--"
"Forget about Elvis! This is serious!"
"That'd be serious all right. Because you see, Methos," Duncan leaned forward, "you-- are-- a-- man."
"A five-thousand-year-old man. Immortal. An anomaly any way you look at it. Who knows what happens to a body after five thousand years? Maybe I'm due for a change."
"Maybe due for a --" he rapped Methos on the top of his head "-- tune-up."
"There's nothing wrong with my head! I'm pregnant, Mac. P-r-e-g-n-a-n-t. Knocked up. Got a bun in the oven."
"More like a few bats in the belfry."
"Most likely, considering what I'm going through. But it's real, MacLeod," Methos said earnestly. "As real as anything I've ever experienced."
"Give it a rest, Methos."
"Fine. See if I name it after you."
Duncan sighed, opened his book and pretended to read.
|Regular Check-ups Are Important: Finding a physician you like and trust can make a big difference to your well-being.|
"Of course, you've seen a doctor," Duncan said. More than a little sarcasm crept into his voice.
"Mac, I can't see a doctor! I'd be laughed out of the office. I wouldn't even make it to the stirrups table."
"So, how do you know -- how exactly did you arrive at this -- diagnosis? Use a rabbit?"
"'Be-Sure.' It's a home pregnancy test."
Duncan rolled his eyes. "A rabbit would work just as well. Considering you're a man."
"Well, it did. And anyway, you forget, I am a doctor."
"Oh yes, I did forget. And you have a specialty in male gynecology, I must have forgotten that too." He reached for his coffee cup and settled back, determined to ignore Methos until he stopped talking nonsense.
"Very funny. In any case, I got something better than a doctor. I got Grace."
Duncan choked on his coffee. Methos waited with a pained, patient look on his face until Duncan got himself under control, and resumed calmly. "She'll be here next week. She thinks I'm quite an interesting case -- you know that she has been studying immortals -- and she has some theories about it already."
Duncan just looked at him.
"She's taken a sabbatical from her regular research and is coming out here to be nearby and observe me the whole nine months, and afterwards. She can midwife, too," he said with obvious satisfaction.
"Not only have you gone mad, you're pulling other people into your delusion." Maybe, Duncan thought desperately, Grace was coming out to "observe" Methos's mental state. Yes, that sounded more reasonable. He'd probably get a phone call from her soon. He relaxed a bit.
"Just wait, MacLeod," Methos said. "She'll do some tests and then you'll have your proof. You can't argue with science."
Duncan rather thought he could, but kept his silence.
Grace arrived a week later, all smiles for Duncan, all businesslike affection for Methos. Duncan didn't have a chance to talk with her, but she gave him a knowing look as she swept Methos off to her discreet clinic for tests. He hoped she probed his brain as well as his body. Methos was gabbling about breast-feeding versus baby formula as Duncan saw them off, and Grace treated both men with a sort of calm efficiency, giving them different kinds of reassurance. Duncan watched the car disappear around the corner, then went for a long, long run.
Breast-feeding. Good God.
Duncan felt the presence of his two immortal friends before the lift clanked up to the loft, and was standing tense and apprehensive when they arrived. Grace looked serious and thoughtful, and Duncan's heart sank. Methos didn't speak, just stood there with a smile all over his face. He looked elated -- radiant -- Duncan thought. Oh, hell. He was probably certifiable.
Duncan couldn't speak either. He looked at Grace for help.
She put her hand on his arm and cleared her throat. Putting on her best professional manner, she said sturdily, "He appears to be pregnant, Duncan."
For a moment Duncan couldn't process the words. "You're joking, right -- he's put you to up it -- we're all laughing, right?" He laughed, or at least made a sound approximating laughter, although not very closely.
Grace took him by the shoulders and sat him down.
"How--? But-- What--"
"I don't know, Duncan. It may be something to do with immortals, an unprecedented human mutation, or it could be..." she trailed off.
Methos looked away from them, unconsciously rubbing his abdomen. "I'm not a likely candidate for a miracle," he said.
Your Body is Changing: During the first stages of pregnancy, you are likely to begin feeling the effects of morning sickness.
"What's wrong with him?"
Methos had barreled past Amanda with no word of greeting save a strangled moan and had disappeared into the bathroom, slamming the door shut. "More experiments with our friend John Barleycorn?" she said as the sounds of Methos being very sick came through the door. Even an immortal stomach would reject some of the alcoholic concoctions Methos came up with. He claimed they were authentic Roman recipes, but Amanda suspected they'd been his in the first place.
"Morning sickness," Duncan said sourly.
"Am I missing something here?" Amanda said, raising one eyebrow.
"Haven't you heard? We're going to have an addition to our little family." As Amanda continued to raise her eyebrows at him, Duncan went on, "A little bundle of joy, the pitter-patter of little feet. And Baby makes three." His voice rose as he spoke and ended on a high note. He stopped, closing his lips in a hard thin line.
"Duncan, what in the world are you talking about?"
Duncan sat down heavily on one of the kitchen stools and propped his elbows on the table, the better to hold his aching head.
Amanda sat tentatively next to him.
"Methos is pregnant," Duncan said flatly.
"Pregnant." Duncan said again, even more flatly. He put his face in his hands and rubbed his forehead wearily.
"Duncan, don't be silly. Methos can't be pregnant. He's a man. And I know he's a man because we--"
"Ask him," Duncan said.
Methos came out of the bathroom, looking pale. He wobbled over to the kitchen area, opened the refrigerator, and pulled out a bottle of beer. He looked at it sadly, and put it back. Rummaging in the fridge again, he pulled out a different bottle, filled with a pale, orange-pink liquid. He sat down with a sigh and unscrewed the top. He took a hesitant sip, then a longer drink, making a face. Finally he looked up at the two silent people watching him intently.
Duncan looked down at the table.
"Feeling a bit -- under the weather?" Amanda smiled uncertainly. "What are you drinking?"
Methos turned the bottle in his hand. "Tutti Fruitti Orange Mango," he read off the label, and took another drink. He clapped his hand over his mouth suddenly and belched, making Amanda flinch back. He set down the bottle looked across the counter at her, his face brightening.
"Amanda," he said, "Do you happen to know of a good place to buy maternity clothes a man can wear?"
Duncan, still holding his head, turned it slightly to catch the look on her face, enjoying despite himself the sight of Amanda struck speechless.
Eating for Two: During pregnancy, you are the sole source of food for your baby, and so you must increase your intake of nutrients and calories.
Duncan watched in bemused horror as Methos bit into a jelly-filled donut, not seeming to notice that half of the sticky red goo gushed out the other end and onto his fingers. The other man closed his eyes in rapturous delight, licking lips white with powdered sugar. Duncan frowned as Methos sucked on the fingers of one hand and with the other reached for another donut.
"Are those good for you?"
"Absolutely," Methos said in donut-muffled certainty.
"Will eating an entire box of jelly donuts make -- a healthy baby?" Duncan felt his face tighten as he said the words.
"It'll make a healthy baby girl."
Duncan thought over this statement. After a few moments' consideration, it still didn't make sense.
"Methos. What are you talking about?"
"Sweets, MacLeod. If you want a girl baby, you eat sweets."
"Is that right?"
"Well-known old wives' tale," Duncan retorted.
"Who'd know better?"
"Methos, you have completely lost your mind. The sex of an unborn baby has nothing to do with what you eat."
"No 'maybe' about it!" Duncan, losing his patience, started to shout. "Chromosomes, Methos! X and Y, remember? A pair from each parent..." He faltered.
Methos was smiling crookedly at him. "Therein lies the rub, eh? Looks like the rules may be suspended for this one, Mac. So I might as well go by one set of rules as any other."
Duncan scowled and looked at the table laden down with jelly donuts and chocolate chip cookies, angel-food cake and salt-water taffy, marshmallow squares and ginger pigs. A sudden suspicion crossed his mind. "What do you have to eat to get a boy baby?"
"Oh, disgusting things," Methos said vaguely.
"Might as well be."
"Give me the list Grace gave you."
Methos looked mulish and sheepish at the same time. Duncan had an urge to whack him between the eyes and shear him but good. "Hand it over."
Methos sighed theatrically and slid a piece of white paper across the table. Duncan read the neat, square writing.
"Broccoli, brussels sprouts, okra," he read aloud.
"Not just a boy, but a green one with leaves sprouting from his head," said Methos.
"Liver, orange juice, eggs..."
"With a mustache and hair in his ears before his first birthday."
"Beans, cheese, whole grains..."
"We'll have to get an infant football jersey. And we can forget circumcision, he'll K.O. anyone who tries to mess with his manhood."
Duncan put the list in his pocket and stood up. "I'm going to the store. Try not to die of sugar poisoning while I'm out."
"Oh, good. Pick up a bag of donut holes if you go by the bakery," Methos said. "And see if they have any Pfeffernusse. They were out the last time I was there."
Duncan ignored him and shrugged into his coat.
"And I'm getting low on candy corn."
Duncan pulled up the gate of the lift.
"Think of little Suzy or Cathy!" Methos called after him as the lift started down.
Alcohol is a Drug: When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, it can harm your unborn baby's delicate body.
Methos sat glumly at the kitchen counter staring listlessly at an impressive array of boxes and tins, cans and jars. A row of glasses was lined up in front of him, filled with different-colored liquids. He lifted one to his lips and took a sip. He grimaced.
"Tastes like horse piss," he said.
Amanda rolled her eyes. "How do you know what horse piss tastes like?"
Amanda took the glass from him and drank from it. Her eyes widened and her nose wrinkled up in disgust. She turned and spat, ladylike, into the sink. "Ew. You're right. Okay, another one down." She poured the rest of the contents into the sink and picked up a box and drop kicked it towards a trashcan at the end of the counter. The can was almost full and there were boxes scattered on the floor around it.
"I want a beer," Methos complained.
"I know you do, love, but your Doctor," she inclined her head towards Grace, who was sitting on the couch filling in some kind of schedule, "has given you strict orders. No alcohol." She pointed at another of the glasses in front of Methos. "So drink your iced tea."
"Decaffeinated iced tea," he corrected her morosely. "Herbal iced tea." His whole body curled away from the counter as if in cellular-level revulsion. "Honestly, I think the human race has steeped every kind of weed that grows in the world."
Amanda pushed a glass nearer to him.
With a sigh, Methos picked it up and drank. "Not bad," he conceded. "Tastes a bit like peppermint. What is it?"
Amanda picked up a tin. "Peppermint," she said.
"Okay, put that one aside. I won't want it all the time, but it's good."
"Good for morning sickness, or so I've heard," Amanda handed him another glass. "Try this one."
"Augh. Old socks in vinegar."
Another box sailed towards the trash can.
"This one's not terrible," he said, setting down a glass of greenish liquid. "As long as I don't look at it."
Amanda slid a jar to the side of the counter, to join the small number of containers that Methos had approved.
"Last one," she said, handing him a glass. "Then I'll start on the next batch."
Methos saluted her with the last glass, and drank. He froze.
Amanda hands stilled among the teabags as she watched him curiously.
Methos swallowed slowly, and took another sip. His eyes were open, but unseeing, faraway. Amanda's breath caught a little as his face changed, subtly, into the face of someone different. Still Methos, but a stranger, too. He sat that way a long moment, lost in memory. Amanda, not as long-lived as he, knew that sudden transportation into the past, and she watched him in sympathy and understanding. Then, with a shake of his head, he returned to the present and stared at the glass in front of him.
"Keep this one," he said.
Sex During Pregnancy: Pregnancy is a time of special closeness for couples. These feelings naturally include making love.
Duncan looked at him speculatively. "So if you're pregnant--" he raised his eyes heavenward. He was still waiting for it all to be a bad dream, a drug-induced nightmare, some kind of insanity from a bad quickening, or just plain insanity. Or maybe his friends had concocted all this as an elaborate joke, or were playing along with some weird reality-TV show, which meant he'd really, really take pleasure in taking their heads, beginning with the guy who jumped out and yelled, 'Smile! You're on Candid Camera!' "--that means that you must have female reproductive organs."
"I have a womb, Duncan," said Methos, holding his hands over his belly with tenderness. "Don't make it sound so nasty."
"So you have a womb. What about the rest of it?"
"What rest of it?"
Duncan looked at him.
"Oh, that. Well, sure. How else would the baby come out? Don't be dense."
"Ah, so you have the complete set. And that means--" He eyed Methos again, looking pointedly at his crotch.
Realization dawned on Methos's face. "Oh. OH no. You've tried to make a woman of me often enough, Duncan MacLeod of the Football Gang MacLeod. You're not going to make an actual woman out of me."
"Well, to hear you tell it, you already are a woman."
"Absolutely not! I'm still a man, MacLeod, and don't you forget it. If you want to fuck me you'll just have to get behind, man-to-man."
"Come on, Methos, this is a -- unique opportunity. Don't you want to experiment?"
"No! And besides, I'm in a delicate condition. I'm not sure if any sex is a good idea."
"Delicate condition, right. You've lived through centuries of women giving birth in the fields, Methos. Don't give me this 'delicate condition' bit."
"Yeah? I lived through the Victorian Era as well. Maybe that stuck."
Duncan gave up. "Well, you just sit by the fire and catch up on your knitting, then. I'm going out." He grabbed his coat and headed for the lift.
"Mac," said Methos earnestly. "Be careful! You've got more than just yourself to think of now. Don't tangle with any immortal enemies or old friends with enemies you are bound to avenge, or lovers with insane stalkers or old buddies who've gone crazy or rogue Watchers or Amanda."
"I'm not going looking for trouble, Methos. Though," he continued grimly, "if I find any, it will be too bad -- for them." He paused. "Why should I avoid Amanda?"
"No reason," Methos said.
Make Room for Dad: The father-child relationship is important from the very beginning.
"All right, what's going on between you two?" Methos and Amanda had been walking on eggshells around each other for days, not talking to each other, but not not talking to each other, and Duncan had a feeling they were not talking about something he should know about. Now.
Methos and Amanda exchanged glances. Some sort of decision was made and before Duncan could speak again, Amanda shifted and scooted over close to him and smiled brightly. His own smile in return felt a bit tight.
"Methos had the idea and -- we discussed it -- and we -- we talked to Grace. And."
"And what?" Duncan said, a little sharply. Methos had stood up and gone to stand by the window, with his back to them.
Amanda twisted her hands in her lap. "We think we know who the -- father -- the mother --" Amanda shook her head in frustration. "The other parent is."
Duncan stared at her. "The father? What father?"
"The father of my unborn child!" Methos exclaimed melodramatically, spinning around to face Duncan. He flung his arms out and then clutched them in front of his breast. "God, I feel like I'm in a bad Victorian play."
Duncan looked from one to the other. "What are you talking about?"
Methos came back to sit next to Duncan. "It's like this. Unless this really is some sort of," he closed his eyes as if in pain, "immaculate conception, Grace feels the usual two-sex, ah, contribution to the gene pool is still in effect." He looked quickly at Amanda. "And we, uh, she calculated back to when conception occurred. To a reasonably accurate date," he said quickly, looking at Duncan's face.
Amanda touched Duncan's arm. "And you remember -- my birthday? When you thought it would be fun to surprise me with a -- a --" she stopped, and smiled tightly and blinked and looked desperately at Methos.
"Threesome," Duncan breathed. Oh, no.
Methos made an elaborate sweeping gesture towards Amanda, who grinned brightly and nodded. "It's like seahorses," she said.
Duncan put his head in his hands. Seahorses.
"Consider the seahorse," Methos wrote in his journal. "No different from any other animal, the male seahorses compete with each other. The usual stuff, wrestling each other by the necks and snapping at each other --do the buggers have teeth? -- dragging each other all over the seabed in tail-pulling contests. And for what? Well, girl seahorses, sure. But unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, the female seahorses do not get pregnant. The males do. You can look it up. They even display their pouches to the female seahorses to show how fit they are, the little exhibitionist tarts. Though that... I must say that conjures a disturbing picture. They're in labor for three days, giving birth to upwards of two hundred young. This exhausts them -- we are talking here of something the size of the tip of one's finger in labor for three days. Of course it exhausts them. Of course all of the color drains from their bodies and they become white and pasty looking -- who wouldn't? The upside of this is they're only pregnant for three weeks, and I for one am envious. But hours -- hours later they're out there showing off their goddamn pouches, begging to be pregnant again. Everybody knows about seahorses. Sure. Right. Do I really believe such a horrible creature actually exists? God, I need a drink."
Visible Changes: In the second stage of pregnancy, you will finally begin to appear pregnant.
Duncan opened his eyes. The frosted windows diffused the pale morning light, shimmering in the open space of the loft. This was normally one of Duncan's favorite times of the day, when he first awoke, lying warm in bed, especially when Methos warmed the other half of it. And the thought of Methos normally brought a feeling of quiet joy, but now it was overlaid with anxiety and a heavy feeling of wrongness.
He turned over slightly to look at Methos, sleeping deeply and peacefully. He knew that Methos was anxious too, but he shoved it down under flippancy, changeable moods, and a determination to ride the experience for all it was worth. Now he looked completely relaxed, content. Not wishing to disturb his peace, but unable to resist, Duncan reached out and touched Methos's cheek softly. His vision blurred slightly and he blinked. Ah, God. He stroked Methos's face gently.
His hand stopped and his melancholy mood snapped into cold shock. What had been a subliminal whisper was now clanging in his ears. The familiar rasp of Methos's morning beard under his fingers was missing. His face was perfectly smooth.
Methos gasped as Grace's hands moved up under his sweater. Most of the time her hands were warm and soft, as they should be, but gods, as soon as she put on her "doctor" hat her fingers turned ice cold.
"Will you stand still? Here, take this off." Grace tugged at his sweater as if he were a schoolboy, and he pulled it over his head and let it drop to the floor. Grace frowned, and he sighed, unzipping his jeans and pulling them down. Intently, she began probing his body all over with sturdy, chilly fingers. Methos looked down. His chest looked the same to him, maybe just a little puffy, but nothing to worry about--
Grace whipped out an instrument and laid it against his skin, measuring. It was cold. Of course. She measured his hips, too, and his belly, though that he could see had changed. As an afterthought, she ran her fingers over his throat where his Adam's apple should be.
"Much reduced." Grace said. She let go of him abruptly and gestured in that doctor sign language you understood even before they say the words, said that he could get dressed.
Methos stood musing, absently stroking his throat as Grace fussed over her record-book. She opened her mouth to speak, and Methos said, "It's too early to tell," at the same time she did. They smiled at each other.
"It is too early to tell, but your body is definitely changing -- in addition to the pregnancy itself. Your Adam's apple has diminished, your pelvis is slightly wider, and while your body is still male-normal, it will probably continue to change. So," she hesitated slightly, then forged on, "you'll probably develop mammary glands as well."
"It's only reasonable," she continued, as Methos sat down heavily. "A male body is not equipped for pregnancy, but since you are pregnant, whatever has caused that condition must also work to transform your body into one able to bear, birth, and care for a baby."
Methos was still several sentences behind. "Mammary glands? Breasts? Boobs, knockers, hooters -- me?"
"I'm afraid so," Grace said. "We probably won't have to get you a D-cup, but noticeable breasts are probably in your future."
But Methos had forgotten about breasts. His face had gone white. He covered his crotch protectively. "And what about--"
"I -- don't know." Grace admitted. "We'll just have to wait and see."
"Oh god." Methos was silent for a few moments, looking stricken. Grace watched him, worry touching her face. Then he sighed and stood up, a bit unsteadily. Looking at himself in the mirror critically, a crooked smile returned to his face. "I don't suppose there's any chance of a retrousee nose?" he said.
Maternity Wear: Attractive, comfortable maternity clothes will help you look and feel your best during pregnancy.
The lift clanked softly into place. Good lord, Duncan thought, as an alarming stack of boxes and bags teetered into the room, gradually settling to reveal Methos, Amanda and Grace. Duncan sat glowering at the kitchen counter, offering no help.
Earlier at breakfast, Methos had sat across the table from him, looking completely normal and in his right mind, and calmly said he was going shopping for maternity clothes.
"You could hide triplets under some of those baggy sweaters of yours," Duncan said.
"Very funny. But you must admit a pregnant man will likely be noticed," Methos countered. "I need a disguise. And what better way to disguise a pregnant man than in women's maternity clothes? It's only logical."
Then Methos had naturally, Duncan thought grimly, phoned Amanda, who thought the whole idea of maternity drag absolutely hilarious. She had shown up full of enthusiasm, with a huge tote bag slung over her shoulder from which she produced a profusion of lotions and paints, jewelry and scarves, lighted make-up mirrors and even false fingernails, which had driven Duncan straight to the bar.
He drank a double shot, and picked up the phone.
"Who are you calling?" Amanda said, sidling up next to him and slipping her fingers in and out of his pockets.
"The voice of reason," he said. "Grace." He cradled the phone on his shoulder and tried to fend off Amanda's hands. "What are you looking for?"
"This," she said triumphantly, waving his wallet. She plucked several credit cards from it.
"What, no room in that big purse for money?" he said. Amanda just wrinkled her nose and waltzed over to Methos, who sat looking curiously at a strange silver implement.
"This thing looks evil," he said.
Amanda snatched it from him. "It's an eyelash curler," she said, looking at him speculatively.
"Don't brandish it at me, please," he said.
She put down the eyelash curler and picked up a lipstick, raising an eyebrow at Methos.
Amanda shrugged. Snapping open a small compact, she applied the lipstick to her own mouth.
Methos rolled a tiny jar of blue makeup in his palm with an odd expression on his face. After a moment he put it back in the bag.
The room was now littered with open boxes and empty bags, and clothes were arranged on the bed, where Grace and Amanda stood consulting over Methos's makeover.
Duncan watched the transformation, unable to do tear himself away. It was fascinating, in a horrible sort of way. He was glad he had called Grace. She didn't make Methos over into the raging queen Amanda seemed intent on creating. After a while he even joined in, making a few reluctant suggestions and firmly siding with Grace when she threatened to tie Amanda up with her own feather boa and gag her with a sequinned belt. Duncan's mouth had gone dry at the sight of Methos vamping in a boa and made a mental note to bring it up later, when they were alone.
When they were finished, Methos stood looking in the mirror, slightly taken aback at his own transformation. He wouldn't win any beauty contests, but the changes in him had softened the masculine lines of his neck and his newly smooth face showed no trace of a beard. Subdued makeup added more feminine lines and shadows. Grace's firm hand had steered him to a sort of casual punk look, and Amanda had moussed and combed his hair -- which he had been letting grow out -- into a pleasantly messy mop. He wore jeans with an expanding front, and a loose sweater not all that different from what he'd been wearing. Shirts with much roomier proportions were spread out on the bed. Duncan tried not to look at them.
"You are stunning," said Amanda, looking at Methos as Pygmalion must have looked at his sculpture. "Though perhaps your hair could stand a little -- no, okay," she said, at warning looks from both Grace and Duncan. "You're perfect. Let's go try you out, shall we?"
"Er..." said Methos.
"Just down to a little cafe for a decaf latte," she said.
Methos turned a little this way and that, still unsure of what the mirror was telling him.
"Come on, Methos," Amanda tugged at him.
Methos looked at Duncan, who, after a moment, nodded slightly.
"Right," Amanda said cheerfully, catching the interplay. "Off we go."
Methos pulled a stylish coat over his shoulders, specially fitted for his sword, and turned to Duncan. They stood looking at each other a little shyly, until finally Duncan leaned towards him for a brief kiss. Smiling crookedly, Methos let Amanda lead him to the lift.
After they disappeared, Duncan went to the bar and poured himself a double, drank it, and poured another. He tilted the bottle towards Grace, who nodded, looking a bit bemused.
This was going to be a very, very weird few months.
Center of Attention: By your fifth month it is probably obvious that you are pregnant. Both friends and strangers may be giving you a lot of attention.
Grace patted Methos reassuringly. "You're fine, Methos."
"I feel like somebody stuffed a basketball up my --"
"Shall we dribble you around the room then?"
"Very funny. Grace," Methos said, suddenly serious.
Grace was familiar with the changeable moods of pregnant people. She waited.
"It's going to be -- all right, isn't it?"
"You say that, but you've been at births that weren't all right."
"Yes, Methos, I have." She paused. "Don't worry until there's something to worry about."
"A pregnant man isn't something to worry about?"
"We've dealt with that, Methos. Other than the fact that your pregnancy is absolutely unprecedented in the history of the world -- it's progressing normally. You're doing fine."
"Well, I'm used to being unprecedented, I suppose." He struggled to sit up. "But I'm not used to being noticed. Perfect strangers talk to me on the street," he complained. "And they ask me the most appallingly personal questions." He pitched his voice higher. "Is this your first? When is the baby due? Have you had an ultrasound yet? Do you know whether it's a boy or a girl? Have you gotten pictures? My daughter put a sonogram on her refrigerator, said it was no end of comfort. Gah," he said, and swung his legs over the side of the bed Grace had set up for an examination table. "Can I have one of those?" he asked suddenly.
"An ultrasound? You will. Do you want to know if it's a boy or a girl?"
Methos considered. "Nah, I guess I'd like to be surprised. More surprised than I am already," he added.
"You may well be surprised. Duncan tells me you've been eating more broccoli," Grace smiled.
"And it'll be your fault if it's a girl with a mustache." He turned serious again. "As to being noticed... the Watchers are buzzing around, aren't they?"
Grace frowned. "There are more of them lately. I'm not sure if they've got wind of what's happening to you specifically or are just curious because all of us converged on Duncan's place. And they probably want to know who Duncan's new pregnant girlfriend is. And for that matter, where you've gone," she added thoughtfully.
"Oh, I'm always disappearing. More likely they think you and Amanda are up to something."
"I hope so," said Grace.
|Be Active But Be Safe: Light exercise is recommended during pregnancy, but take care not to overdo it. Using good judgement, there's no reason why you shouldn't continue your normal activities.|
Methos walked the streets of the city, looking for trouble. He glared at lounging teenagers, littered carelessly, and berated shop clerks who counted his change back too slowly. He was in a foul, bitter mood. He'd argued with Duncan, he'd argued with Grace, he'd cut off Amanda before she could start an argument, and he was now stalking along like a madma-- woman arguing with herself.
"I need to talk to Joe," he muttered. "No, no, can't tell Joe about it. I'm going insane! And who wouldn't? A man wakes up pregnant one day, what the hell? Give me a break. Shut up idiot, you're talking out loud, people will think you are insane! Is that me reflected in the window? Criminey. Yeah, well, why did you let Amanda henna your hair? For god's sake --"
Methos froze as the immortal presence crawled over his skin. He stood stricken for a moment as the initial shock of fear gave way to a strong and unnerving bloodlust. Taking a long breath to calm himself, he melted quietly into a shadowed doorway. With one hand he briefly touched the sword underneath his coat. With the other he took a firmer grip on the gun in his pocket.
Glancing up and down the streets, he saw no one who looked suspicious, but the street was full of people, so who could tell? A girl jostled him going into the shop, and he swung cautiously out into the foot traffic, trying to feel out the person following him. Prudence told him to fade into the crowd, and circle back to the loft. As long as he stayed in the crowded street, the stranger wouldn't challenge him, and he was confident he could lose whoever it was on the way back.
He walked to a cross street. Two blocks ahead, he could see where the streets darkened and shops gave way to warehouses. His eyes narrowing, Methos considered for a moment, then walked on, leaving the lights and the crowds and prudence behind.
He felt the presence grow strong behind him before he heard the footsteps. The man followed him openly, apparently sure in his ability to wrest the quickening from a somewhat addled woman who wandered the streets aimlessly and talked to herself in public. Methos moved erratically, taking care to mutter to himself, and led the man around a corner and into a small square, deserted and dark. He waited.
When his challenger edged around the corner, he found himself looking down the barrel of a gun. He stared at it for a long moment, then met Methos's eyes.
Methos stepped back suddenly, causing the other man to almost fall over his feet. With a flourish, Methos threw the gun sideways, at the same time unsheathing his sword. His eyes never left his opponent.
The other man had regained his composure. Drawing himself up, he spoke. "I am --"
"You are dead," Methos said, and struck.
Methos leaned against the back of the lift with his eyes closed in exhaustion and was only dimly aware of the pleasantly musical conversation turning harsh and shocked as the lift stopped. Hands reached for him -- so many arms, he thought, resisting in a semi-delirium the many limbed creature that sought to drag him into -- oh, the shower. Ah. That felt good. Now to just slip down... okay, okay big guy, I'm on my feet. Towels, blankets, bed, warm.... Fuck! That's cold! Steel on his chest -- he tried to focus on it. Stetho -- steth -- heart thingy. Okay. Fine. Go away, now. Yes.... He fell asleep with a smile on his face.
He woke up with a grimace. God, what had happened to his head? Oh, yes... His head was still on his shoulders. He rolled over on his back. Oh, God. That quickening was -- it was weird. His challenger hadn't been particularly strong, or mad, or even very complex. His quickening hadn't been anything special, but it had entered Methos with unexpected force. He rubbed his eyes. Perhaps "entered" wasn't the right word. "Drawn in," was more like it. He felt a chill at the thought.
He struggled to sit up and forced his eyes to focus. Duncan was sitting at the kitchen counter, drinking coffee. He looked once at Methos and then pointedly ignored him.
There was a second cup of strong, blessedly hot coffee on the counter when Methos staggered out of the bathroom and across the length of the loft -- when had it gotten so big? -- to the kitchen. Methos drank from it gratefully, pretending he was in a universe where there was no such thing as decaf, and stealing glances at the man who sat across from him in silence. It was, Methos considered, a dangerous silence, the kind that erupts eventually into shouting and raving.
"Ran into a bit of trouble last night," he said. Then winced at the thunder in Duncan's face.
"Went looking for it, more likely," Duncan said sharply. His voice rose to a near-shout. "What were you thinking?"
Methos squinted at Duncan through the steam of his coffee. "I was thinking I didn't want to lose my head to some child who thought he could take out an easy mark."
"Why did you fight him? Where was your gun?" Duncan's voice rose with each question. "You shouldn't go out alone! Why didn't you stay in the crowds?" He was raving now. "You should have come straight back as soon as you felt a presence! You could have been killed!"
Methos set down his cup and eyed him coldly. "Don't forget who I am." His voice was steely and flat. It was the voice of Death he used, and it stopped Duncan in his tracks. Methos looked at Duncan's lips drawn into a white line and relented.
"You sound like Mr. Dad," he said. "Don't stay out too late, don't go looking for fights and don't get into trouble -- or you'll feel the back of my hand, young man."
"This is serious, Methos."
Methos turned the coffee cup between his fingers. "Yeah. It's serious. But you still can't fight my battles for me, MacLeod."
"This is different," Duncan protested.
"It's exactly the same. Don't pull out your boy scout routine and start smothering me with high-minded concern."
Duncan didn't speak for a moment. "I'm not smothering you! I just--"
"Starting to," Methos said.
Duncan stood up and paced the room. Methos sipped at his coffee with his eyes closed.
"Have you thought about what a quickening might do to the child?" Duncan said softly, not looking at Methos but out the window.
Methos frowned at his coffee cup, thinking about the strange way the quickening had taken him. "Yes," he said finally.
"Yes?" Duncan came back to the counter stood over Methos, who had to turn in his chair and crane his neck to look up at him. "And? You want to share?"
"The thought occurs to me," said Methos, "That there's another meaning of the word 'quickening'." He looked away. "One mortals use."
Duncan sat down and looked at him quizzically. "What are you saying?"
Methos shrugged. He didn't know what he was trying to say. His mind skidded around vague impressions and unformed ideas. "If she's an immortal--" he began.
Duncan stared at him.
"Do you mean you haven't thought of it? I have." Methos said. "Usually around three a.m., waking out of a dream I don't care to remember."
"Well, yes, I suppose I have, in fact I guess I assumed it, but--"
"She'll be one of us," Methos said. "I can feel it."
"What do you mean, feel it?" Duncan asked skeptically. "Like a premonition?"
Methos felt his mind turning toward something dark he didn't want to deal with at the moment. But soon. He shook himself and drained the last of his coffee. "Nah. It's just logical."
"Logical." Duncan looked at him intently. The he sighed. "Well, until she -- he -- the baby-- is born, can you at least stay out of the way of hunting immortals?"
Methos looked at Duncan's worried face. "All right," he said. She has what she needed. The thought surfaced quickly and just as quickly, he pushed it away. He forced himself to smile. "But no smothering." He jabbed Duncan's chest.
Duncan took hold of his hand and kissed it. "No smothering," he said.
On the Road: During your sixth month of pregnancy, think about your safety while traveling.
"We should get him to holy ground," said Duncan.
Methos frowned. "I'm not a helpless female," he said, and then when Amanda and Grace looked sharply at him amended it to, "I'm not helpless."
"Maybe not helpless, but you're not in good condition to fight," Duncan said. "And you'll only become less able to fight as you -- come to term," he finished awkwardly. "Which is probably why immortal women don't become pregnant in the first place."
Amanda and Grace both looked at their hands with such an identical expression of sadness that Duncan wished he could take back his words. But he pressed on.
"The Watchers already know something's up. And if any immortals get any inkling that you are -- somehow weaker than usual, they'll come circling. We'll all be in danger, not just Methos."
Methos narrowed his eyes at Duncan. "I seem to recall something about a promise -- let's see, was it --" he snapped his fingers -- "no smothering?"
Grace reached out and took Methos's hand. "Duncan is right, Methos. By the time you're ready to give birth, you'll be far too easy a target for any opportunistic immortal. It's best you move now, before it gets more dangerous to travel."
"So where do we go?" Amanda asked, ignoring Methos when he glared at her in turn.
"The island," said Duncan.
Your Baby's Name: Every expecting family is questioned about what they will name their baby, and most couples begin name selection before the child is born.
It is nice here, Methos thought, as they all sat companionably around a fire in Duncan's cabin. Duncan could trudge around in the outdoors all day and get wet and muddy to his heart's content, while he could sit by the fire with a book like a civilized person. He plucked a chocolate from the plate at his elbow.
Grace stretched her feet towards the fire. "You'll have to decide on a name soon, Methos."
"Got one already," he said smugly.
Duncan looked at Methos questioningly. "What if all those sweets don't pay off and it's a boy after all?"
"Doesn't matter. This name will be good for either a girl or a boy."
"Well, what is it?" Amanda leaned forward impatiently.
"Can't tell you."
"It's bad luck. Can't say it out loud until the priest says it at the christening."
They all looked at him.
"Priest?" said Amanda.
"Christening?" said Grace.
"You must have heard of it. It's a longstanding tradition in --"
"Shut up, Methos, we know what a christening is." Duncan said. "I didn't know you were planning anything so formal."
"Well, it might not be as formal as all that. I might do it."
"Priests don't usually christen their own children," Duncan said dryly.
"I can also perform a Bambura naming ceremony, or we could have a red egg and ginger party," Methos continued.
Duncan pointedly picked up his book and turned a page.
"Maybe all three. Just in case."
Amanda was looking at him, curiosity gleaming in her eyes. "Pat?" she said suddenly.
"Your baby's name," she said.
Duncan leaned back in his chair and held his book in front of his face.
"No," Methos said.
"No, and I'm not going to tell you, so don't try to guess."
Amanda pouted. "Dana?"
"Would you two quit?" Duncan said irritably from behind his book. A few moments later he lowered it and added, "Jamie?"
"No, MacLeod." Methos sighed.
"Nope." Methos hauled a bag up next to him on the couch and rummaged inside.
"Kelly? Peyton? Leslie?" Grace said suddenly.
Methos shook his head. He pulled a disc player and a pair of headphones from the bag, untangling the cords and sticking the earplugs in his ears.
Methos rooted through the bag and pulled out a CD. Flipping it open ostentatiously, he removed the disk from its case and snapped it into the player.
But Methos had his eyes closed, as the wail of a guitar over pounding drums brought him peace and quiet.
Staying Grounded: As your body changes dramatically in the last stage of pregnancy, you and your partner may experience some tension, especially concerning intimacy. Keep lines of communication open.
Duncan woke up suddenly and felt the absence next to him in the bed. He rubbed his eyes and stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, then sat up and stared out the window. Finally he pulled on a pair of sweats and padded softly out of the bedroom.
He stopped in the doorway of the big living room, standing half in darkness. A slice of moonlight from the window illuminated the pair snuggled together under a blanket in front of the fireplace. The fire had died down but the warmth and comfort of the room was inviting. Duncan, not sure if the invitation included him, leaned against the wall and cocked his head slightly, listening.
Muffled giggling came from under the blanket. With a sudden grunt of annoyance, Methos's arm flung back the blanket and he rolled over on his back.
"I feel like a beached walrus," he said.
"Will you quit complaining," Amanda propped herself up on one elbow. "Just relax."
"I don't want to relax. I want to complain."
"You don't know what it's like. It's horrible. It's like I swallowed an anvil. An anvil that moves around. And kicks me."
"I thought that was supposed to be exciting."
Methos reached over and gave her a sharp poke in the belly.
"Exciting, wasn't it?"
"That's hardly the same thing." Amanda's voice grew wistful. "A life, inside you..."
Methos touched her face. "I'm sorry it wasn't you."
Methos struggled to roll over and face her. "No, I mean, I'm really sorry it wasn't you. Better you than me. This is no job for a man."
Amanda leaned over and kissed him. They were quiet in each other's arms for a moment.
Duncan watched them from the shadows, unconsciously holding his breath.
"I have a hard-on. It's somewhere down there," Methos said.
Duncan let his breath out slowly and turned to go back into the bedroom.
"Do you want me to -- what's wrong?"
"I'm sorry," said Methos, his voice suddenly brittle with pain. "This isn't going to work."
"Hush," Amanda said softly.
"He -- won't touch me."
Duncan leaned back against the wall, watching them, trying to swallow.
"Shhh," Amanda took Methos's face in both her hands and kissed his nose, then his lips. "He will."
"It scares him," Methos said. "He doesn't know what to do. So he--"
Duncan took a deep breath, and moved silently into the moonlit room.
"He made a joke about it at first," Methos said. "Wanted to fuck me like a woman. I blew him off."
"Because you were scared?"
Methos laughed shortly. "Bright girl."
Amanda sighed, and kissed his cheek. "Now what?" she said as Methos stiffened suddenly, looking up at a deeper shadow.
Duncan moved into the dim square of light.
"Oh," Amanda said.
Duncan found he couldn't speak, so he just lowered himself to the floor next to Methos.
Amanda sat up. "Maybe I should--"
"Stay," said Duncan and Methos together. Amanda looked from one to the other and nodded slowly. She waved Duncan closer, and settled down next to Methos. Duncan did the same, awkwardly, on his other side.
Amanda reached her hand across Methos's belly towards Duncan. After a pause, he took it. She smiled and squeezed his hand, and gently turned it palm downward to touch Methos. Duncan couldn't take his eyes from hers, though he knew Methos was looking at him. Amanda leaned over and kissed Methos. Duncan couldn't help but smile a little at the way she looked pointedly at him to follow her example, and finally, he looked into Methos's eyes.
And almost flinched. Methos's face was so full of pain. Duncan's small smile faded abruptly and his hand clenched over Amanda's.
"Methos--" Duncan said, but Amanda was rolling her eyes in a way that clearly said, "No words." He forced himself to flatten his hand on Methos's belly again, and leaned down into a kiss. Just softly at first, an apology, but Methos pulled him down by the neck and kissed him hard. When they finally broke apart, Amanda's eyes were shining.
So were Methos's. Duncan felt his must be too.
"So um. How do we-- I mean--" Duncan felt like an idiot. "Why do I feel like such an idiot?" he said, suddenly annoyed at the universe. "It's not like there are any experts at doing this."
Methos's and Amanda's eyes met.
"He wants to complain too," Methos said.
"Obviously. Can we just be a little more romantic here?"
Duncan frowned, then realized Methos's body was shaking between them. He was laughing. Duncan grinned. This made Methos laugh harder.
"Well, excuse me," Amanda said, but she was smiling.
"It's just that --"
"I forgot to bring flowers," Duncan grinned.
"Chocolates would have been better," Methos said. His face sharpened in sudden desire. "You don't happen to--"
Amanda moved up snugly against Methos and ran her tongue along his jawline. "This is better."
Amanda leaned back and felt around on the floor behind her. She produced a small tube and, after squeezing a bit across her palm, handed it across Methos. Duncan took it, and smiling, rolled over to pull off his sweats.
"Turn this way, old guy," Amanda ordered, pulled Methos over on his side to face her. Duncan moved in close behind him, and after a few fumbling grabs at Methos, not sure where to put his hands, he finally held on to his shoulders. As he entered him, it felt almost like ... the way it was before, if he didn't think about Methos's enormous belly or his chest that was softer and rounder than before and... oh, but... his hand slid around to touch a nipple and Methos took a ragged breath. Duncan drove in deeper and harder, and just let himself forget everything but the feel of Methos's skin against his skin, the heat of him deep inside, his heartbeat, his broken breathing and soft moans, growing ever harder and louder.
Duncan opened his eyes and met Amanda's. She smiled at him and his eye travelled down her body, watching as she undulated in her own pleasure, as she and Methos pleasured each other with their hands.
She smiled wider as Duncan's gaze stayed on her breasts.
"Need. More. Hands," he panted, between thrusts. He felt Methos laugh, felt the laugh turn into a gasping moan as orgasm hit him, felt his own orgasm triggered by the sudden clenching of Methos's body, heard Amanda cry out.
The three of them lay in the sticky glow of gratified sex, content to just breathe and to touch each other softly.
"So," Methos said dreamily. "About that chocolate..."
Stay on Top of Your Emotions: Many women become more and more sensitive, emotional, and anxious during the third stage of pregnancy.
"It was a dark and stormy afternoon," Methos intoned, looking gloomily out the window. "The rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the path (for it is in the countryside, not London, that our scene lies) rattling along the rooftop and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
Duncan looked up. "Hitting the Victorian potboilers again?"
"I'm just glad we're on the warm, dry side of the glass." He turned away from the window to the more festive scene inside the room. "When you said shower, you weren't kidding," he said sourly.
Amanda made a face. "Ha, ha. Stop crabbing and come sit down. We're almost ready." Methos grumbled and waddled over to the other side of the room, where chairs were drawn up in a semi-circle around a low-slung table piled high with brightly-colored packages. Next to it sat an ungainly bulky shape covered with a soft quilt that Methos could see, as he lowered himself heavily into a chair, had a rabbit and duck motif. It got on his nerves, made him feel like he was drowning in treacle. At the same time, it made him feel vaguely bloodthirsty.
Why did women get all pastel and cute over pregnancy these days? He could remember a time -- long stretches of time, actually -- when childbirth occurred unaccompanied by pink and blue bunnies. And so, he was certain, could Amanda and Grace. He sighed, stifling the urge to curse.
He wasn't sure he cared for all this fuss, anyway. Certainly there were things he needed, and it was handy to have someone else go out and round it all up for him, but did they have to go in for all this -- silliness? They could have just carted the stuff in, and he'd have been satisfied.
But he smiled and went along with it, opening presents and mentally dividing them into two kinds: useful, practical equipment and stuff to chuck out as soon as nobody was looking. He would not give any child of his this pop-eyed, hot-pink, vacuous-faced -- "Seahorse," he said. "Very funny." It was ghastly. It made him want to burst into tears and club someone to death.
He managed a sickly grin. He looked over at Duncan, who had scorned the circle of chairs and sat perched on a barstool next to the counter, drinking a beer. He seemed to have an invisible shielding around him that said. "Male! Masculine! Manly!" Methos's mouth -- and his eyes -- watered a bit at the sight of the beer bottle, but all that masculinity emanating from MacLeod made him feel slightly better.
Methos wasn't sure when the tenor of the party started to change, but he felt it as a slight prickling at the base of his spine. He would have discounted it as just more of this blasted emotionalism that had him seesawing between a desire to shed tears or someone's blood, but the gifts he was now opening fell into a new category.
These were all rather superstitious, and they all had to do with protection. His slight feeling of unease turned into full-fledged anxiety. He fought it down even as Amanda, with a sheepish expression, offered him a small jar of salt, a gift meant to keep evil spirits at bay. Duncan's gift was a more elaborate version of the same thing, a fine wrought-iron Celtic witch-pin, traditionally placed in an infant's crib to protect her from the fairy-folk. As for the crib itself-- Grace pulled the duck and bunny quilt covering away to reveal two cribs.
"Why two?" Methos asked.
"This one," Grace explained, touching one of them lightly but careful not to rock it, "is borrowed from a friend of mine who had a baby last year. It's... unlucky to put an infant into a new crib," she said, looking a bit embarrassed. "But after the baby has passed one night in the borrowed crib, you can put him in the new one."
"With no ill effects," Methos couldn't help saying, this small bit of sarcasm the only thing betraying his desire to howl.
"Right," said Grace.
"And you people were chiding me for being superstitious."
"Well, you can never be too careful," Grace said stoutly. "And besides, there's just something comforting about the old ways, to touch on the old traditions, if only a little bit."
"I know some old ways that would definitely not be comforting here," Methos said. But she was right. He did feel a bit of comfort from these gifts -- certainly more comfort than he got from a shocking pink stuffed seahorse.
"Guess I'll take all the help I can get," he said. "We can get," he amended.
"You and little -- ?" Amanda waited for Methos to fill in a name, and stuck her tongue out at him when he just smiled. "Methos Junior," she continued, smiling in turn as Methos winced, "will have plenty of help."
"Four parents, poor thing," Grace said.
"Poor thing, nothing," Amanda said. "What I would have given..."
All of their faces grew more somber, as their thoughts turned to the past.
"So she'll have all we can offer, and turn out to be absolutely wonderful," Amanda said briskly into the silence.
"Beautiful, to begin with," Methos said, batting his eyes.
"Only if she takes after me," Amanda said, batting her own. Methos pretended to glower.
"And she'll be -- an artist -- a singer." Amanda stood up and started to dance a slow bump and grind across the room, singing the words to an old blues song.
"He's a deep sea diver, got a stroke that can't go wrong
He's a deep sea diver, got a stroke that can't go wrong
He can stay at the bottom and his wind holds out so long"
Duncan smiled as Amanda gave one last shimmy, leaned in close to him and brushed her lips against his cheek. "If she sings like that we'll have to lock her up in a tower until she's twenty," he said.
"I predict she'll be smart enough to talk her way out of that," Amanda said.
"And who'll teach her to fast-talk?" Duncan grinned.
"We all have our different gifts," Amanda said.
Methos looked pensive. "Different gifts. Beauty. Intelligence, creativity..." he nodded at the women. "Longevity," he said with a wry twist of his lips. "What is your gift, Highlander?" he asked, his voice dropping unconsciously into a formal tone.
But Duncan was tensed, listening. He slid slowly from his perch to move to the window.
"Someone is coming," Duncan said.
Show Your Appreciation for Every Gift: Traditionally showers are given as a fun way to provide a new mother with necessities. But others may wish to give you gifts individually. Keep a record of gifts and remember your thank-you notes!
Methos shivered suddenly. Now? he thought.
Amanda joined Duncan at the window. "I don't see anyone."
"She's gone up the path," he said.
Duncan looked at Methos oddly. Methos felt his chest tighten. He lifted a shoulder slightly, but he knew. And so does he.
Both Amanda and Grace had, without speaking, moved closer to him, and even as Methos felt the presence of another immortal, Amanda slipped the hilt of his sword into his hand. He thought briefly about hauling himself into a standing position, but decided against it. Duncan, unsheathing his own sword, opened the door.
A sudden flash of lightning back-lit the figure and thunder shattered the air. Cued up perfectly, Methos thought sardonically. Old Bulwer-Lytton couldn't have done it up better.
Cassandra stepped across the threshold without looking at Duncan and strode into the room. Amanda and Grace stood in front of Methos like bodyguards, swords drawn and ready. Cassandra pulled off her dripping coat and let it fall to the floor. She did not draw her own sword.
Duncan moved to face her. "How did you find him?"
Cassandra looked down at Methos. "I was called," she said.
Duncan's turned to Methos, who nodded.
"You called her?"
Methos smiled slightly and shrugged.
"Why?" Duncan said in disbelief.
"This is between Methos and me," Cassandra said to his protectors. "Do not interfere."
"We will interfere," Amanda warned, raising her sword.
"This is holy ground," Duncan said.
"I didn't come for his head," Cassandra said. "I came because of the child."
Methos looked up at Cassandra. Her eyes flickered once to his belly and then met his eyes. "He asked for a prophecy."
Duncan's face matched the thunder outside. "Are you out of your mind?"
"Very possibly," Methos said, still looking up at Cassandra. "But I need to know what she can tell me. Let her through."
Reluctantly, the other three moved away, but stood tense and poised in fighting stance.
Cassandra moved slowly towards Methos, and looked down at him for a long moment. Then she knelt before him. Methos could feel the others tense as Cassandra reached out with one hand to touch Methos's stomach. She lifted his shirt and pressed the palm of her hand against his skin. His breath caught and his eyes closed involuntarily as he felt an electric sensation flow between them, like a quickening, but soft, almost pleasant. He opened his eyes.
Cassandra own eyes were enormous, and seemed to look straight into his soul. He remembered this intensity, the power that had moved in her, even then. It was so much more powerful now. He felt a sudden fear. She nodded, not smiling, as she acknowledged it.
"I would kill you, Methos," she said, "but Duncan MacLeod wants you to live."
Duncan, who had moved forward at her first words, stilled.
"Yes," Methos said.
"And this child needs you to live."
"Yes," he said again. His tongue seemed to have thickened. He could barely speak.
"You wanted a Prophecy," she said, "And I will give it. But it may not be what you want to hear." Methos was silent, and she moved her hand slowly across the curve of his abdomen.
"You," she said, her voice suddenly harsh, "will learn to the bottom of your black heart the true worth of a mother's grief." Methos turned his face away. "You will feel fully the desperation of a mother's desire to protect her child. Do you understand, Methos Death?"
"Look at me," she commanded.
Methos looked into Cassandra's eyes. She held his gaze, and he felt the pain in her eyes must reflect his own. She nodded finally, as if satisfied.
She sighed and relaxed, closing her eyes again. He shivered under her touch.
"And the child. She will be taught well, by many teachers."
She... Methos's couldn't help the flash of triumph as he looked up at his companions. "Four," he said, thinking of their earlier conversation. "Four teachers."
"Many more. One of these will be your enemy."
Methos looked the question at her. She nodded solemnly.
She looked down at her hands, a slight frown on her face. "Her life... is both short and long," she said finally.
"Her-- first death?" Methos whispered.
Cassandra closed her eyes. "That is not given to me." She opened her eyes and looked at him sadly. "But she is one of us."
Cassandra had left, disappearing alone into the rainy night. None of them had suggested she stay. Now they sat in a tight circle, drawing on each other's closeness for comfort.
"That was dangerous, Methos," Duncan said.
Methos was silent. Had he gotten the answer he sought? The child would be one of them, but when or how she would become immortal, he didn't know -- wouldn't know until it happened. He didn't know if Cassandra would be able to tell him later, when the child was a little older. He didn't think he could ask. He sighed and looked over at Duncan. Their eyes met and held.
"You haven't given your gift, Highlander," he said finally.
Duncan came to stand over Methos, still looking stormy and troubled. He reached down to take Methos's hand in a firm clasp.
"I can only give her one gift that will last," he said. "My clan."
Methos's eyes widened.
"Whatever her first name will be," Duncan said, "her last will be MacLeod."
Now the Big day has Arrived: Make sure you have everything you need for your comfort during and after labor. Be prepared and ready for any emergency.
Duncan paced outside the birthing room -- his big bedroom, where Methos had been enthroned like a king -- around whose needs and wants, wishes and caprices everyone in the household revolved. Duncan hadn't felt so much like a serf in centuries.
He loved Methos, loved him fiercely and deeply and utterly loyally. But in the past month he'd been tempted to bash his brains out with a rock more times than he could count.
Now it was different. Now it was all he could do to keep from rushing to Methos's side and clutching him as if he were drowning and only Duncan could save him. But he did it. He did it because if he as much as stepped over the threshold of that room, Grace would kill him again. He rubbed his chest ruefully. He didn't think he'd made that much of a scene.
Methos howled. Duncan ground his teeth. Methos had given up the breathing exercises, refused painkillers, even tossed aside the leather bit Grace had given him, and preferred instead to wail and howl and scream his way through labor. In a moment of panting respite, he'd admitted he wanted to get his money's worth out of the experience, and didn't feel at all compelled to any womanly notion of courage or pride.
So he howled through another set of contractions, and Duncan, pacing and prowling on the other side of the door, picked up the scorned leather bit and put it between his own teeth. Duncan bit into the leather and squeezed his eyes shut. When this was over, he was going to take Methos outside and beat him to death.
Duncan suddenly became sharply aware that the sounds in the other room had stopped. He listened, waiting for Methos to howl or at least moan. He waited for women's voices. He waited for a baby's cry.
Duncan burst through the door to a grim tableau. Methos lay on his back, panting and sweating, a mass of blood between his thighs. Amanda stood to one side, her hand in her mouth. Grace held a red bundle of humanity in her arms, her hands moving over the small body, now bending to place her mouth carefully over the tiny mouth. All of their faces were stricken.
"What's wrong?" Duncan's voice was loud in the silent room.
"Amanda -- assist me." Grace commanded, and Amanda flew into action. Grace hurried over to a low table and placing the infant upon it, working frantically, using a mix of modern instruments and old knowledge, while Amanda worked by her side, seeming to know just what Grace needed at each point.
Methos watched them, his face agonized, his eyes burning like those of a fever patient. Duncan stood helpless and useless, feeling as if his whole body were turning slowly to lead.
Finally Grace, her shoulders slumped, stopped working.
"No," Methos whispered. "No!"
Duncan took a ragged breath, his own lips forming the word, though he made no sound.
"But -- the prophecy -- " Methos's voice grew louder. "She said -- she said teachers," he cried desperately. "She said we'd all be -- even an enemy. She has to live! It can't be right! She has to live!" His voice rose, strained, as if he were being strangled from the inside, and he tried to pull himself up, to do what, Duncan wasn't sure. He could hear Cassandra's voice in his mind, telling the other prophecy: "You will know the true worth of a mother's grief -- down to the bottom of your black heart --" He dropped down on his knees and put his arms around Methos, to hold him against the grief that he too, felt to the bottom of his heart.
Amanda began to tremble, wringing her bloodied hands, tears running down her face.
"Can I hold her? Just for a minute?" Methos said. His face was white, but his eyes were dry, Duncan marveled, through the tears blurring his own vision.
Grace gathered the tiny baby in her arms and brought her to Methos.
"Oh, damn," he said, as he held her against his breast. "Oh, god damn." Methos looked up at Duncan in anguish, as if he could somehow fix it, make it right. Duncan looked away, unable to bear the bewildered horror in Methos's eyes. In his turn he looked beseechingly at Grace. Her face sadder than he had ever seen it, she reached out and ran her fingers down the small, still face in Methos's arms.
Then suddenly, they heard it. A faint, very tiny, almost inaudible, but unmistakable cough.
Their eyes all went to the infant at Methos's breast.
She coughed again, gulped in enough air to power a good blast, opened her mouth, and wailed.
"Are you sure she--?" said Duncan, relief flooding him. "Maybe she just--"
But then they all felt it. A very small immortal presence tingled lightly over their raw nerves.
Postpartum Blues: Many women become slightly depressed and cry easily after the baby is born.
Methos picked up a box of tissues. "Will you stop crying, Amanda, you're seriously getting on my nerves."
"But she's so beautiful," Amanda sobbed. She reached out and delicately ran her hand across Hayley's downy head. "Isn't she beautiful, Duncan?"
Duncan smiled and put his finger into Hayley's clutched fist. "Yes, she is," he said. But he couldn't keep the uneasiness from his voice.
Methos narrowed his eyes at Duncan.
"She will be fine," Methos said stolidly, as if Duncan had spoken aloud.
Duncan stood up and went outside. He didn't know what to feel. He had been relieved -- no, he had been transported with joy -- when the newborn had breathed and lived. But -- what had that presence meant?
Grace came out and stood beside him, not speaking, but still managing to convey comfort to him. "Will she--" he stopped.
"Be an infant forever and always? I don't know, Duncan. Only time will tell," her mouth twisted in a bitter smile at the irony of the words.
Time was something Hayley would have in abundance.
Duncan awoke from a dream in which a bloodcurdling scream woke him from a dream in which a baby cried. He shook his head and the room around him came into focus as solid reality, but the crying continued. Beside him, Methos half sat up and rolled off the bed with his eyes closed, and staggered over to the crib, snapping on a pale light. He picked up a squalling Hayley and padded over to the kitchen and pulled two bottles from the refrigerator, and staggered more carefully back to the bed. Sitting down wearily, he stuck one bottle in a warmer Grace had brought him, and opened the other on an opener screwed into the nightstand. He made cooing noises at Hayley and took a drink from his bottle. He frowned at the warmer.
Duncan smiled to himself as he watched Methos scrape industriously at a picture of a bunny with the edge of a bottle cap. The cheerful sappy face was almost scratched out. He sat up and put a hand on Methos' neck, rubbing softly.
"You're awake," Methos said, arching his back into Duncan's hand.
"Something woke me up. Can't imagine what it was."
"Our little tyrant here." Methos removed the bottle from the warmer and tested the formula on his arm. The simple maternal gesture made Duncan's heart constrict, and then pound a little harder as he remembered the conversation with Grace when they discovered Methos's milk had dried up.
"So I'm turning back to normal?" Methos said, his hand going to his face. He had no beard yet.
"Looks that way," Grace said. "I want to keep a close eye on you the next couple of days."
"But if he's changing back already -- that doesn't make sense," Duncan said.
"Foundlings," said Amanda softly.
Grace nodded. "It could be a mechanism to separate blood kin." She looked pensive. "First an unnatural birth, which would drive the man -- the mother -- away from the tribe for his own survival."
Methos shuddered, and Duncan's mouth tightened grimly.
"Then, if the mother is unable to care for the child, it would have to be left with others. So, yes, foundlings."
Duncan felt the hair raise on the back of his neck. "You can't mean that we all -- that our real mothers were -- it couldn't be -- that's pretty farfetched," he finished weakly, his eyes on a man who had been delivered of a child not too long ago.
Grace shrugged. "It's one theory."
"One theory." He threw up his hands. "Oh that's just great. There's a theory to keep you awake at night."
Now he looked at Methos and Hayley and shivered. He realized he was clutching his stomach and unclenched his hands. Resolutely putting Grace's words out of his mind, he settled down against the pillows, and ran his hand down Methos's back.
Methos shifted the infant in his arms. "She's getting heavy."
Duncan's mouth tightened. After a tense two days in which Grace and Amanda, and even Duncan, had weighed the infant almost hourly -- over Methos's protests that it was unlucky -- there had finally been a change. Grace had whooped when Hayley had lost weight. "Newborns do that," she had explained when they had all stared at her. "It's normal."
Normal. Someday she'll look me in the eye and ask me about normal. "That's good," Duncan said with feeling.
"Yes," said Methos.
"I hope Amanda has the paperwork fixed up solid," Duncan said after a moment, to change the subject.
"Don't worry, Duncan. She's good. The Watchers will know, of course, but to the world, Amanda Deverieux MacLeod gave birth to a healthy, seven pound, four ounce female; father Duncan MacLeod." He put Hayley's bottle on the nightstand and slung her over his shoulder and began to pat her back. "By the way, she tells me you've been married a year next week. Happy anniversary." He twisted to look at Duncan, grinning.
"Wipe the smile off your face, Methos. It's serious." Duncan closed his eyes briefly, as if in pain.
Methos grinned again. "Well, you're the one who came over all Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod and offered your clan as a birth gift. And there's only one sure way to do that."
Marry the mother, Duncan thought, panic rising in him. Only four people in the world knew Amanda was not the mother, but it was the rest of the world they had to satisfy with conventional bonds, legal bonds, to keep Hayley with them and to protect her -- to keep her safe from dangers of which the world knew nothing. To teach her the things she would need to know of herself, and her kind.
So he and Amanda became man and wife -- for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death did them part. At least on paper, and in the computer files of several different countries.
Fortunately, they were both experienced in parting and death. He sighed. Not to his surprise, Amanda seemed stricken by the plan, and had left with alacrity -- to set it all up, she said. She hadn't yet returned, somewhat to his relief, though he knew she'd be drawn back in her comet-like fashion, with one more small immortal to exert a pull on her vagabond heart. He hoped their marriage wouldn't get in the way of their -- whatever it was they had. Methos was climbing back into bed, almost asleep again. Duncan pulled him close and kissed him fiercely.
"Someday," he swore, "I will marry you."
Methos laughed sleepily. "Go to sleep, MacLeod." But he returned the promise with his eyes.