Don't Rock the Boat (1/5)Author:
aka A. Barnacle Written for:
Duncan MacLeod, Methos, Amanda, Joe Dawson, Gina & Robert deValicourt, OFC x 2 plus cheese wire.Pairings:
NC-17 (slash slash slash slash) Word Count:
27 000 words Warnings:
Ahoy! Motion sickness ahead. Author's Notes:
This fic tried to live up to silentflux
's requests of happy endings, hurt/comfort, first times (kiss, sex, dancing, traveling, etc), historical, adventure, foodplay, I have a fond appreciation for restraints in bed or not.
After two years away Duncan returns to Paris, relaxed, stress-free and feeling good about life. Then Gina deValicourt visits, and he learns that two of his friends have vanished and another is playing amateur detective, for the cost of free beer. Before Duncan can turn around and take a breath, he ends up all at sea in a boatload of trouble, drowning in pleasure, drama, diamonds and mystery.Don't Rock the Boat
Duncan straightened as he was engulfed in Immortal presence. He turned slowly, reaching under the antique writing table to retrieve his katana. The direction of the buzz pulled him toward the barge's main door, and he moved cautiously forward, blade lifted and ready. He'd been back in Paris for less than a month and this was the first time he had felt the jarring sensation of another Immortal.
Someone knocked, and Duncan paused. It was trite, he knew, but it was rare for an enemy to knock, and he lowered the tip of his sword as the door opened and his visitor entered. "Gina?" he said surprised, lowering the blade completely.
"Where have you been?" Gina demanded as she marched down the few steps.
It was an accusation, and Duncan felt a little contrite as Gina glared at him. "Well . . ." he started, then stopped as she flew into his arms. He just managed to get his sword out of the way. He held her for a moment and then let her go, her glare softening. "I've been away," he said lamely.
"I know," Gina said, glancing round. "For two years. That's a bit longer than what you first told me."
He shrugged. After O'Rourke he had needed to get away.
"I see you've redecorated."
Duncan put away his katana and took a breath, not knowing where to start. "Yes," he said simply. "It seemed like time." He'd taken a few items from storage and put a few away. It had been the final part of his mental cleansing. "You've been looking for me?" he asked.
Gina gave a small nod. "I need your help."
That killed his smile and he waited. "Gina?" he prompted, imagining the worst. He'd talked with Joe Dawson a few days earlier and Joe had mentioned nothing to suggest there was anything out of the ordinary happening in the Paris area. But then, Joe was still in Seacouver.
"Your friend Maurice has retired, you know," Gina said as she walked over and picked up one of the picture frames sitting on the sideboard. The picture was of Tessa Noel and Richard Ryan, both sitting in a car, smiling. "He's moved to the country, working part time at one of those exclusive chateaus. Managing their wine sales."
Duncan raised a brow. "Gina, just tell me what the problem is."
That was less than informative and Duncan waited.
"You've replaced the sofa," she observed, putting the picture down.
"Forget that," he said, a little exasperated. "Tell me what's happened to Robert?"
She sighed, artfully, and stilled before looking up at Duncan with a beseeching eyes. "He went to buy a villa."
Duncan frowned and placed his hands on his hips.
"It was for the sunset views, you see."
That made no sense, but then Gina rarely made sense when she was upset. "A villa?" Duncan repeated.
"It was because of the vineyard."
"What vineyard?" Soon as he asked it, Duncan knew it was the wrong question.
"It was Maurice's idea," Gina gushed. "He said a chateau was better than a villa. If we had our own vineyard then we could control the crop and produce the wine we favored. The wine I remembered from two hundred years ago. Robert was sure it would work. Only, I remembered the first chateau we owned and it had this magnificent view of the valley, and the sunsets were . . ." she trailed off and closed her eyes, "magnificent."
"So Robert was scouting the area for a particular vineyard to buy," Duncan summarized, hoping to cut through all the explanations so as to reach the real reason for her visit.
"It was for our next anniversary." She looked at him again, then stepped closer and placed her hand on his chest. "You will come and celebrate with us. Yes?"
Duncan frowned, remembering their last anniversary and the problems that had caused. "You next anniversary is not for another 94 years," he said, praying he sounded diplomatic.
She pouted. "I know that. This will just be a small affair. Fifty guests or so. Just a practice run for the next big event." She sent him a coaxing smile. "Bring Adam. He is such a sweet boy. Shame on you for not taking him with you on holiday. He missed you terribly."
"Adam—" Duncan spluttered. Methos was not what he would call sweet. The term 'bastard' better fit the man he knew. As for Methos missing him . . . he mind stalled on that outlandish concept. Methos would miss him like a hole in the head. Although the idea of taking Methos to the Highlands was . . .no
, Duncan shook his head, dismissing that idea. "You were telling me about Robert," he said, bring Gina back on topic. He was fairly sure it was going to be a personal dilemma rather than an Immortal problem.
Gina's smile vanished. "He found a chateau with the perfect sunset, here in Paris. Only I had my heart set on buying the villa first, so—"
"You argued?" Duncan asked, waiting for her to finish.
"No, silly," she sent him a reproving look. "We were going to buy both. One for summer and the other for winter."
"Only Robert vanished when he went to sign paperwork for the villa."
"A challenge?" he had to ask, had to get the possibility out of the way. It was unlikely, as Robert was very careful, but you never could be too careful these days.
Gina shook her head. "I don't think so. Amanda and I went to see the agent and he said Robert never turned up for the appointment."
"Amanda?" Duncan asked. He looked around, almost expecting the minx on legs to walk in. "She's involved as well?"
"Amanda tried to help. She had a plan," Gina explained. "She found Robert's car parked near the docks and in it was his phone and all the chateau papers. I was frantic, but Amanda said she knew someone who would know if Robert was in trouble. Amanda made a call, and before I knew it, she vanished."
"How can she vanish?" This was getting even more bizarre. "When was this?"
"And Robert? When did you last see Robert?"
"Six days ago." Gina hiccupped on a breath, letting her panic show through. "He's never been gone this long before. You don't think he's dead, do you?" She started to tremble. "I cannot live without my love, oh Duncan, what will I do if he is dead?"
Instinctively he wrapped Gina in his arms. "He's not dead," he assured. "I am sure there is a good explanation. We just have to find it."
That he didn't know just yet and he kissed her lightly on the forehead. "I doubt Robert would do anything stupid."
"What could have happened to both Robert and Amanda?"
"I aim to find out," he said, sending her a smile as he picked up the phone. He dialed Amanda's number, hoping she was still using the same one. It was a gamble. He hadn't actually spoken with Amanda since his return, or with any of those he considered family and close friends. He'd figured he had plenty of time to catch up with them all now that he was home. Besides, if anyone had been in real trouble he'd trusted Joe to tell him. He would have cut short his wanderings if necessary.
Duncan held the phone to his ear and waited, eventually getting the disconnected signal. He ended the call and dialed Joe Dawson's number. It rang six times before being picked up and Duncan glanced at the clock, then winced, seeing the time. Seacouver was nine hours.
It was gruff and Duncan took a breath. "Hi Joe," he said. "Sorry to wake you so early—"
"Do you have any idea what the goddamn time is over here, you son of a bitch. I only got to bed three hours ago."
"It's important." Duncan waited, hearing Joe mumble another curse as he moved. "Amanda's missing."
"You woke me to tell me you and Amanda had a fight?" Joe asked incredulously. "Jeez, buddy, you've only been home a short while, can't you leave off fighting for a few months?"
"Very funny," Duncan said, "and no. I haven't seen Amanda." He sent Gina a smile as the other Immortal walked closer, her curiosity increasing. "Do you know what she was doing yesterday?" Duncan didn't really want to explain to Gina about the Watchers and prayed Amanda hadn't let anything slip. He waited, hearing Joe mumble a curse before he heard the sound of Joe's computer.
"Amanda was spotted in Monte Carlo – this morning."
Duncan frowned. "What's she doing in Monte Carlo?"
"Let me get my crystal ball and see if I can work it out."
Duncan ignored Joe's dry sarcasm and sent Gina another tight smile before he walked away from her, trying to get out of earshot. "Do you have a Watcher on her," he asked in a fast whisper.
Joe sighed. "No. Amanda lost her Watcher in Barcelona."
That made even less sense. "When did she go to Barcelona?"
"What am I?' Joe asked. "A travel agent?"
"It's important," Duncan stressed, covering the mouth piece as Gina moved to his side again. "Go pour us both a drink," he suggested to her. "This won't take long." Gina considered him. "Please?" he asked, hoping she would go. Gina sighed impatiently but walked away. Duncan turned back to his conversation with Joe. "Gina's worried. Robert's disappeared as well."
"deValicourt?" Joe said. "Disappeared as in shortened, or as in poof?"
Duncan rubbed his eyes. "As in 'poof'," he said softly. "There one minute and gone the next."
"You're serious?" Joe said, interested now. "Let me check."
Duncan waited, hearing Joe exhale hard. "Anything?" he asked anxiously.
"His Watcher lost him in traffic. Seems Robert was doing a lot of property hunting over the last few weeks."
"Yeah," Duncan said. "That was six days ago."
"There's nothing entered in the database after the 25th," Joe said. "You really worried?"
"I wouldn't have called if I wasn't."
"Okay," Joe said. "Look, give me a few hours. I'll make some calls, see if I can dig anything up."
"Thanks," Duncan said.
Joe hesitated. "Umm, look . . . this might not be related, but there have been a few strange disappearances over the last few weeks."
That didn't sound good, and Duncan opened the barge door, going up onto the deck. "Strange as in how?"
"Small stuff like an Immortal going out and never returning home. Nothing involving a challenge, or even another Immortal. It's usually the settled Immortals as well. They just vanish off the radar without anyone noticing."
"When did this start?" Duncan asked.
"Roughly six weeks ago."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Duncan asked, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck react. He glanced around, but the river was quiet for once. He scanned the shoreline, seeing nothing.
"Because there was nothing to tell," Joe said. "The reports were from all over, like New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii, Mexico – and there was nothing to link them."
"Their Watchers must have seen something."
"I hate to point out the obvious, buddy, but you guys disappear on a regular basis," Joe said. "We try and keep up, but the Watchers aren't everywhere. And technology isn't everything, and you guys aren't micro chipped," he quipped, amused.
"Ha, ha," Duncan said, not laughing. He shuddered to think that some over-enthusiastic Watcher might one day try and micro chip an Immortal. Weirder things had happened.
"Good old fashioned leg work is still the best way to keep track," Joe continued, then paused, mirth again coloring his tone. "I noticed the trend a few weeks ago and have a guy looking into it for me."
Duncan's brows pulled down, not liking the sound of that. "Who?" he asked, suddenly suspicious. "Please tell me he's not back in the Watchers," he added in displeasure.
Joe chuckled. "Nah . . . keep your shirt on," he added, still sounding amused by the whole thing. "I keep him off the Watchers' radar and he does me a few favors by checking out things occasionally and giving me the heads up. Works a treat."
"I bet," Duncan didn't sound convinced. "So what does he
"He's heard rumors of a miracle cure, or something similar. Said he had a hunch—"
Duncan closed his eyes and rubbed his temple. "That doesn't bode well."
"Last I heard he caught a plane to Florence, Italy. Said he'd call after he checked out the wharf."
"Why the wharf?"
First Amanda was involved and now Methos. Duncan didn't like those odds. "Give me his number."
Joe chuckled. "Not sure that is wise."
"Alright, but you explain it to him."
"Oh, I will," Duncan said as he listened to the number Joe rattled off. "Thanks."
"Oh, and Mac—"
"Yeah?" Duncan asked, seeing Gina appear on deck with a drink.
"I've just pulled up the latest list of Immortals recently logged as 'missing'," Joe said. "Could be nothing, but you should know."
Duncan's gut tightened. "Who's on the list?"
"Warren Cochrane," Joe said. "His Watcher said he left for work one day and never returned home."
Duncan nodded and closed his eyes. "Thanks, Joe," he said, then hung up. He stared at his phone a moment then looked at Gina.
"News?" she asked.
"One step closer," Duncan said as he dialed Methos' current number. With Robert, Amanda and now Warren missing it made his involvement very personal. If something was happening then he wanted in. It was amazing that, after two years away with no stress, it only took one visit from a friend to turn his life upside down yet again. He watched as Gina went and sat on one of the chairs nearby, glancing around, and Duncan felt for her. If anything happened to Robert she would be devastated.
He could hear the call connect and start to ring at the other end, and Duncan waited. He knew Methos changed his numbers habitually, and Duncan assumed it had something to do with age-related paranoia. He'd never asked Methos for an explanation, but then he found he rarely pried into Methos' private life. He pried into Amanda's life, and well as numerous other friends, so why not Methos' life?
At present he could imagine Methos would be studying the number and debating if he should answer.
"I see you haven't changed your name."
A breathy chuckle. "How'd you get this number? No . . . let me guess."
"Where are you?" Duncan asked, feeling better for some reason.
"Depends on where you are."
Duncan didn't bother to hide his smile. "I'm in Paris. But you already know that."
"Good. Stay there." There was a pause, and some noise in the background – a voice announcement of some kind.
"How's the redecorating coming?"
"That was a week ago—" Duncan stopped, his brows pulling down. "You were here? Why didn't you visit?"
"Ah . . . now that would be telling."
Duncan's frown turned into suspicion. "You've been in Paris all along . . . haven't you?"
"Let's just say I like to stay up to date."
"Joe never said a word—" Duncan stopped and took a big breath. "Just tell me where you are."
Duncan ignored the amusement in Methos' tone. "I know about the missing Immortals," he said. "And your hunch."
"Joe's got a big mouth."
"Joe's worried. So am I," Duncan said. "What's going on? I thought you two were into exchanging useful information?" Another audible chuckle feathered over Duncan's ear. The welcome sound was drowned out by more noise from a loud speaker. "Where are you?"
"That's what Joe is supposed to think," Methos said and abruptly all the background sounds disappeared.
"Where are you?" Duncan repeated.
"Answering the call of nature, if you must know."
Duncan sighed. Methos never gave him a straight answer. "Maybe I should fly to Florence and visit the wharf area?"
"What else did Dawson not tell you?" Methos asked, resigned.
"He told me that you've heard of some miracle cure that may be related." There was a prolonged silence. "M—Adam?" he asked, remembering Gina was watching him. "Listen," he said, covering the slight slip. "Robert's missing, as well as Amanda and Warren. I don't want you to suddenly disappear as well."
"Didn't know you cared."
Duncan clamped his jaw, wishing the other man was close enough so he could glare at him properly. "Of course I care—"
"I didn't know about Warren either," Methos continued. "I'm sorry, Mac."
Obviously, Methos knew about Robert and Amanda. That didn't bode well and Duncan swallowed. "Challengers?" he had to ask.
"I'm still trying to work that out," he said.
"Beheadings?" Duncan pushed.
"Some," Methos confirmed.
"How many are we talking? Who? Do you have a name? Anything?"
"Look . . . slow down, take a breath," Methos chastised. "This isn't an exact science, you know. It's also one of the reasons why we didn't want you involved. Charging in like an enraged bull will accomplish nothing."
"We? And I don't charge in—"
"So far there have been six that I know about," Methos cut in, "Cochrane's not on that list. Neither is deValicourt," he added.
That was something and Duncan relaxed a little, sending Gina a reassuring smile. "So where are you?" he asked again, hearing the background noise suddenly increase.
"Ever heard of the Princess Line?" Methos asked.
Duncan considered the name, knowing Methos was being deliberately evasive. It was a skill the older Immortal excelled at. "No," he said. "Is it a Jewelry House?"
Methos snorted. "No MacLeod. How high was that mountain you climbed?"
Duncan ignored the slur on his intelligence. "Just tell me."
"The Dawn Princess is a luxury cruise liner and every year she does a world tour. Forty-two unforgettable destinations. One hundred and four days and nights of pure excitement."
"You sound like one of those tourist ads."
"If you have the voice . . . flaunt it."
Duncan grunted. "So why this boat?"
"It's a ship, Mac. There's a difference between a boat and a ship."
"Why?" Duncan repeated slowly.
"Some people find cruising relaxing."
Duncan closed his eyes and counted to five. "Adam—"
"That's the link."
"What? A cruise liner?"
"The last place each Immortal has been sighted is near a dock and, surprise surprise, in each instant the Dawn Princess is either in dock or just left dock."
"You've gotta be kidding."
"Do I sound like I'm kidding?"
Duncan could imagine Methos' sarcastic expression. "It still doesn't explain why."
"International waters and all that. Certain laws are relaxed."
"Like what? Murder?" Duncan asked in disbelief.
"It's happened before," Methos said. "I remember this time when—"
"Let's not get side-tracked," Duncan cut in. "So you're saying that an Immortal is using a cruise liner to travel from country to country to behead other Immortals?" It sounded preposterous. "A Quickening could sink the ship. Even one that big."
"I'm not suggesting anything," Methos said, his voice filled with breathy laughter. "I'm just curious why every Immortal on the planet is interested in this cruise liner, and why beheadings follow this ship like an ugly curse."
"You're not telling me everything, are you?"
"Bright boy," Methos said. "Look, my boat's about to sail, so I have to go. When I know something, I'll call."
"Ship," Duncan said on reflex. He heard Methos chuckle and then the line went dead. "Damn him," he said, closing his cell. He glanced up as Gina moved to stand before him.
"The Dawn Princess?" Gina said, her eyes again clear and bright.
"You know it?' he asked, surprised.
"Of course," Gina said. "Who doesn't?"
Duncan closed his mouth and then blinked as Gina took his phone. "I'll get my agent to book us two cabins. Use your name in case Robert is held prisoner," her eyes hardened as she pressed the buttons on his phone. "I shall kill whoever dared threaten my Robert. I swear."
Duncan watched her, not questioning her ability to carry out such a threat. Then his mind stalled. Book them on the cruise liner . . .
She glared and held up a finger to silence him, then turned away as her call was answered.
Duncan shut up. He didn't think it was wise for Gina to accompany him, not after what Methos had said. But suggesting that to Gina was likely to cost him his head. So he would just have to make sure she didn't do anything too reckless. Who was he kidding?
Gina ended the call and considered him, her lips pursed. "We will fly to Rome in the morning. The Dawn Princess will dock there at 7am and sail again that evening. We have plenty of time to find my Robert, Amanda and your young Adam before he runs into trouble." She smiled, pleased. "Now dinner tonight," she carried on. "You have nothing in the refrigerator, so I will call my chef and have him make something simple for us. I am thinking duck with apricot sauce. Yes? You can choose the wine."
She walked away before Duncan could answer, and he sighed. Then what she had just said registered. His young Adam
. . . and Duncan stared after her as Gina went below, still talking to her chef. He was doomed. Gina would have him fed, packed, organized and loaded on board the Dawn Princess whether he liked it or not. It seemed his aimless wandering and relaxation time was well and truly over.
Not all cruise liners operated like this floating amusement park. With the world tour, passengers could book on for a limited package of three to ten ports, or do a couple of packages, or even do the entire tour. As it was, Duncan found Gina had purchased a 10 ports package and he was now booked on for an 'exciting time' touring through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Egypt before disembarking at Muscat, Oman. Of course he didn't have to stay on board for the entire journey, but his room was paid for with no refund. If he failed to return to the ship at any port before sailing time, the ship would leave without him and it would be his responsibility to reach the next port to rejoin the ship.
Then to complicate matters even more, the only room Gina could purchase, at such short notice, was the most expensive; a balcony stateroom. Gina was delighted, only frowning once when he told her they had to share and that – no, he was not sleeping in the hallway outside, no matter how thick the carpet looked. As it was, he feared she was going to be an intolerable room companion, especially as his pillow landed on the floor. He prayed they found Robert as soon as possible.
Duncan left Gina in the room and went to the plush Riviera Bar on the 12th Deck. He fortified himself with a double whiskey, watching the docks of Rome as the liner cruised from the bay. Despite the fact that he didn't carry his sword everywhere, he normally had it close, and being without one now made him edgy. To bring any weapon on board ship meant filling out paperwork, in triplicate, and then having Customs check his permit, and notify the relevant authorizes. Modern travel was becoming more and more difficult, with many Immortals leaving weapons in lockers at airports and train stations. So he had reluctantly left his katana on the barge, and he knew Gina had done the same. They'd found Robert's sword in his car, and Duncan could only assume Methos had boarded weaponless as well. Although, knowing the devious ancient, Duncan would not be surprised if Methos had not smuggled something
on board this ship.
He took another sip of his whiskey, his eyes remaining on the diminishing wharf area. He had not sensed any other Immortal presence at the check-in terminal, or on board yet, but that did not mean he was alone. Still uneasy, he pulled out his cell, calling Dawson.
"I ain't heard anything yet."
Duncan smiled. "Hello to you too."
"Yeah, well, some of us have to work for a living. You enjoying the cruise?"
Duncan instinctively glanced around, wondering if Joe had a Watcher on him. "Who is it?"
"Relax," Joe drawled. "Adam told me about the Princess Line so I've pulled a few strings and got a couple of guys in position to watch the dock area as she comes into port."
"I've just left Rome," Duncan said, "and nothing. No presence, no evidence of a Quickening."
"Yeah, well . . . hold up a minute, something seems to be happening," Joe said, sounding distracted. In the background the sound of typing on a keyboard could be heard.
"Joe?" Duncan prompted, hating to wait.
"We're using this new interface that was trialed a few years back. Byproduct from that fiasco after Don was killed. Adam submitted the specs and suggested it be called the 'Salzer2000'." Joe gave a small chuckle. "The European Hierarchy had a collective fit and is still in shock that an Immortal would offer the organization such a data tool. I had to do some fast talking, but the system looks good so far. It gives live updates and satellite coverage for all our guys on the ground. Instant hook-up too, so anyone with access can view a live challenge. Adam's one clever son of a bitch."
"That's not the term I'd use," Duncan said, not comprehending why Methos would perfect the very thing that almost killed them all a few years ago, and then give it to the Watchers. "Just tell me what's happening."
"Your friend Cochrane just got picked up by an unknown."
Duncan moved, tracking through the people to reach the railing. He stared in the direction they had come, no longer seeing the dock area, but waiting, hoping he didn't see the telltale flashes and lightning that followed a beheading. "Joe . . ."
"Some guy . . . no wait. The stills are a bit grainy but it looks like a woman. I'll run it through the database, see what names I get."
"Adam's right," Joe said, "you've got blinkers on when it comes to the fairer sex."
"I do not," Duncan protested as he continued to scan the harbor behind.
"By the looks of it she's emptied a clip into Cochrane, then dragged him into the back of a van."
"Dammit," Duncan muttered, looking down into the murky water. He was tempted to jump and swim back. But even if he managed to make the water without being killed, he would still be hours behind. "I'm stuck on this boat—ship," he snapped. "Tell me you have someone following the van."
"Yeah," Joe said. "But I can't order my guys to interfere, you know that."
"Joe . . . Warren's a friend."
"I know and this kills me," Joe said. "If it was me I'd do something. But these guys aren't trained. And I can't ask them to get involved. They're Watchers. I'm gonna get my ass kicked as it is, just for assigning them to the docks."
Duncan closed his eyes, knowing Joe was right and that he couldn't ask this of him. "Yeah, sorry. It's just—"
"I know. It stinks," Joe said. He waited, more keyboard sounds. "Do you know anyone in the area? Anyone friendly, that is?"Someone, an Immoral he could contact
. . . and Duncan thought back. Who was in Italy? "Marcus—" Duncan said aloud. "I don't have his current address, but . . . "
"I'm on it," Joe said. There was a pause. "Constantine is currently in Rome. I have the number of his estate."
"It's worth a try," Duncan said, listening as Joe gave him the number. "Thanks, Joe. I mean it."
"Yeah," Joe said, the smile back in his tone. "When I know the van's destination, I'll text you. And if you run into my contact, make sure he knows I didn't send you. Okay? My life won't be worth living otherwise."
Duncan gave a small laugh. "I can try, but he's got a mind of his own."
Joe scoffed. "Don't I know it. Later, buddy."
Duncan ended the call then dialed Marcus' number. If luck was on his side then Marcus would help and Joe would get them the van's address before Warren lost his head. As it was, Duncan wanted to know why he hadn't sensed Warren in the dockside terminal.
* GO to part 2