Gathering Schmathering

The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge

Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.

Contents

The Challenge by Leah CWPack
History Repeats Itself by Daire
The Way to Amanda’s Heart by SBO
Ye Olde Renaissance Faire by Wain
Role Model by Ysanne
The Favour by Ghost Cat

MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: GATHERING-SHMATHERING.

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 7 February 2001, at 9:11 a.m.

Your challenge this week, should you choose to participate:

Write a short story or scene involving any HIGHLANDER character, and the winning of the Grand Prize of some sort of contest or competition (other than the traditional one of the series). Extra stipulation: The word "mousse" must be included somehow.

Good luck!

MWC: History Repeats Itself

Posted By: Daire
Date:
Wednesday, 7 February 2001, at 4:33 p.m.

"I can't believe I lost again!" Methos exclaimed outside the Wheel of History studios. "And to you!"

"At least you did better than last time. And you're still lucky no one recognized you." Under his breath, he added, "Or me."

"Very funny, Mac. Where do these people get their facts?"

"The history books."

Methos grumbled. "History was written by people watching from the sidelines. I was there!"

"Well, you didn't write the history books, did you?"

"A few. I wrote that biography on Julius Caesar - "

"Blah, blah, blah, blah," Duncan droned as he walked ahead. Turning his head, he spoke over his shoulder to the ancient Immortal. "At least you came in runner-up this time."

"Great comfort. What am I going to do with a year's supply of hair mousse?"

"You can think about it while I'm on that cruise I won as the Grand Prize."

MWC: The Way to Amanda's Heart...

Posted By: SBO, get the tissues out... <oertlingt@aol.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 7 February 2001, at 4:35 p.m.

Valentine's Day was a week away and Duncan was near frantic. "What do you give someone who has everything and you've known for over 300 years?" he moaned to himself.

Jewelry? No, she could steal that, although he begged her not to. Clothing? No, she did better by going out and buying it herself, using his credit card. Flowers? That wouldn't work either, they eventually wilt and die. Even though Duncan knew he loved Amanda and she loved him, he wanted to do or give something so spectacular that he would convince her to stay--to finally, truly win her heart.

But he'd never known who or what he was competing against, as she so quick to tell him that day, "350 years and you still don't know" she'd said as she stormed out the door. Wait...he thought, "I'm competing against myself, fighting against this not even realizing it--I've been such a fool!" The full impact of her words was finally hitting him between the eyes, not to mention stabbing him in the gut.

The gut...maybe he was on to something here. Maybe the way to Amanda's heart *was* through her stomach... Duncan started to smile as a plan began to form in his mind.
----

A week later on Valentine's Day...

It took everything he had to convince Amanda to come back to the loft. She finally acquiesced using terse words and a few choice threats. Truth was, she was beginning to wear down on her own after a few days without Duncan around. She couldn't believe she was giving in so easily, but it was supposed to be the day for lovers, and maybe MacLeod was being sincere after all.

She wasn't sorry when the elevator finally made its way to Duncan's loft. The entire space was filled with flowers of every description and candles of various shapes and sizes all ablaze. The lights were dimmed, so that the impact of the scene was maximized. All at once the smell from the flowers was overcome by those wafting from the tiny kitchen where Duncan was standing dressed in a tux holding out a glass of red wine to her.

"DUNCAN!" she just about shouted. "What is all this about?"

"I thought you told me once in no uncertain terms, ‘a girl needs a little romance in her life...' Here's to a little romance, Amanda!" He lifted his glass and tipped it toward her in a courtly gesture.

"Oh, Duncan, when you get romantic, you really get romantic!" She touched her glass to his.

They ate and exchanged a pleasant conversation during dinner, nothing too deep or meaningful. She wasn't going to let it get that way either, her feelings were still too tender and Duncan still didn't know exactly how to phrase what he wanted to tell her.

"Desert?" He asked gently, "It's your favorite straight from Paris."

"Chocolate Mousse from Tour d'Argent?" Did you have it shipped or something??"

"No, Amanda, not exactly. I called the restaurant and they sold me the recipe."

"Sold you the recipe?" Her jaw dropped and she was rendered almost speechless. Her resolve was almost gone

"They keep their culinary secrets...well...pretty secret..."

"How much, Duncan?" It must have cost a fortune.

"It doesn't matter, Amanda. I'd do anything for you, you know that," he confessed.

"Oh, that's so sweet," she whispered. Mission accomplished, resolve gone.

He screwed up his courage and using the words she'd said to him a while before, asked, "Amanda, would you like to play house for the next 80 years or so?

Her brown eyes widened and softened as if she were going to cry. "Oh, Duncan, do you really mean that? You want me to *stay*? Are you really asking me to?"

"I am," he said simply, moving to her chair, lifting her from it and carrying her to the bed, "starting now."

MWC: Ye Olde Renaissance Faire

Posted By: Wain <wamba@fast.net>
Date:
Thursday, 8 February 2001, at 12:10 p.m.

Amanda bounced lightly on the balls of her feet, waiting impatiently for the freight elevator to take her up to the loft. She tucked her hair behind her ears, brushing against her new earrings and setting them dancing. When the elevator groaned to a halt, she raised its slatted door and burst into a familiar scene--Methos sprawled on the leather couch reading a folded newspaper, Duncan wiping up the kitchen counter with a tea towel.

“We missed you for lunch,” Duncan reproved.

“I’m sorry I didn’t make it back in time,” she apologized, kicking off her shoes and dropping a quick kiss in the air over his lips, “but you won’t believe what I’ve won!” She turned her head this way and that to display the earrings, delicate, nearly identical works of the glassblower’s art, pale green orbs studded with deep blue blue bits.

Amanda beamed. “I was at the museum this morning . . . ,” she began.

“Amanda,” Duncan’s voice held a warning. “What were you doing at the museum?”

Her eyebrows quirked for a moment. She pouted and said, “Nothing. Research.”

From the couch, Methos didn’t bother to suppress a snort of disbelief.

Amanda dropped her purse on the low table in front of the couch and glared at Methos before continuing, “Don’t interrupt. The museum shop was having a contest to promote the new Renaissance exhibit, and I guessed the number of Venetian glass beads in the decanter behind the cash register.” She clapped her hands and asked, “Isn’t that divine?” She couldn’t believe they weren’t answering her. “Well?” she prompted.

Methos kept his eyes on his newspaper as he mimicked, “Divine! Western civilization reaches a low it hasn’t seen since the Goths sacked Rome--museums holding contests to bring the great unwashed in off the streets.” His mouth twisted in a lopsided smirk. “What’ll it be next? Subtitles at the opera?” He flipped his newspaper over and resumed reading the comics.

Amanda opened her purse and pulled out an ivory vellum envelope with an opened red wax seal that anchored a crimson ribbon. She waggled it in between her fingers as she strode dramatically to the center of the room. She swept around gracefully to face the two Immortal men.

“But that’s not all I won,” she said. Duncan looked at the envelope; Methos read the paper.

Duncan knew better than to ignore Amanda when she was this excited. “What’s in the envelope?” he asked.

“Tickets to tomorrow’s Renaissance Faire,” she replied as she curtseyed deeply, fluttering her eyelashes demurely before adding, “What-ho, good sirs! Which of you wishes to have the pleasure of accompanying this lady to tomorrow afternoon’s festivities?”

“The Renaissance Faire?” Duncan’s eyebrows raised, “That lot with the tents down at Stanley Park? I think they have their dates mixed up; it always looks more like a medieval fair to me.” Amanda deflated slightly. He spread his hands apologetically and said, “Sorry. I have two new members scheduled at the dojo tomorrow afternoon.” Duncan screwed the cap on a bottle of water and beat a hasty retreat to the refrigerator.

Amanda turned her attentions on Methos, who unfolded and refolded the newspaper with great care, obviously trying to ignore her. But Amanda didn’t intend on being ignored.

“Just think of it, Methos,” she enticed, “knights errant and ladies fair, strolling jongleurs and minstrels dressed in motley . . . “

Methos pointedly avoided looking at her as he drawled, “Been there, done that, seen the movie, bought the T-shirt.” He lifted up on one elbow and fixed Amanda with smiling eyes. “I wonder why no one at the Renaissance Fair ever dresses up as a sod-busting serf or a drudge hauling chamber pots out to the midden.”

MacLeod had walked around the kitchen counter and was leaning against it, legs crossed at the ankles, arms folded loosely against his chest.

“Methos is right,” he pointed out. “The good old days weren’t that good anyway, Amanda. Long on privation, short on creature comforts. Why would you want to relive them, even for just an afternoon?”

Amanda sighed and explained carefully, “Because it is only for an afternoon. By dinner, I can be back to the modern world with all its amenities--air travel, quick-drying nail polish, and extra-firm hold styling mousse. Besides, I have a gorgeous cotehardie that I haven’t worn in ages.” She gave MacLeod a critical look up and down before suggesting, “You would look wonderful in chain mail.” Duncan scowled.

Amanda turned back to Methos and pleaded, “It’ll be fun! They’re going to have a May pole.”

Methos dropped the newspaper to the floor, unfolded his legs, and sat up. He placed his hands on his knees and pushed to a standing position as he announced, “I’m out of here. Why don’t you turn your siege engines on him instead of me?” he pointed to MacLeod, “after all, he can always get Richie to meet those new members.”

By the time Methos banged the outside door closed, Amanda was advancing on Duncan, creamy envelope in her right hand. With her left, she traced the buckle of Duncan’s belt, fingers walking up the buttons of his chambray shirt until she reached the top one that was still fastened. She worked it free of its buttonhole and drew the envelope down Duncan’s chest and up again.

He caught her hand briefly. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked.

“I’m on a crusade,” she replied, holding the pointed corner of the envelope against his mouth, indenting his lower lip slightly, “and I won’t stop until I get what I want.”

She pinned him against the counter with her hips. “What say you? Sheathe that lance, good knight, and be none too gentle about it.”

“Lances don’t have sheathes,” Duncan’s voice was low, and his lips began to turn up in a smile.

Amanda pressed closer and spoke in his ear, “Bright boy; that was before your time. Are you ready to join me on the battlefield, my lord?” She indicated the bed with a tilt of her head and a wicked smile.

Duncan held his breath for a moment, considering, and let it go with a short , throaty laugh. If he couldn’t beat her, at least he could join her, and he intended to play his role to the hilt. He took her head in his hands, sliding his fingers through her dark hair, and protested, “But a knight never rides into battle without a favor from his lady.”

“Will this do for a guerdon, gentle sir?” asked Amanda, cracking the wax seal from the envelope and freeing the double-faced satin ribbon.

He nodded and accepted the crimson ribbon. He wrapped it lightly around his fingers and began to draw a silky path from her eyebrow to her jaw, down her throat and across her collarbone. Duncan nestled the ribbon in the hollow over her heart and planted a kiss there.

Slowly, he began to back Amanda toward the bed, his right leg brushing between her thighs as they walked. They shed their clothing as they went. Amanda stretched out on the bed and smiled archly.

“Should I prepare myself for a lengthy struggle?” she asked, her every sense quivering at attention.

Duncan’s fingers played at the back of her knee, slid to the curve of her hip. “That depends on how long it takes to storm the battlements, my lady.” His lips found her skin, pale and smooth as envelope which lay forgotten on the floor, and traced a line past her throat, her heart, her belly.

Amanda reached out for him and grinned when she had him in her grasp. “You come well armed, my knight. Perhaps you will find that the châtelaine has unlocked all the doors for you.” She pushed Duncan onto his back and straddled him. She dipped her head to briefly capture his lower lip between her teeth, then kissed him deeply.

They battled long and hard, advancing and retreating, her fingers digging into his skin, his pulse thundering in his ears, until they collapsed, surrendering in each others’ arms, both vanquished and both victorious.

Duncan placed a soft kiss on Amanda’s neck and whispered, “I’ll take you to the Renaissance fair tomorrow, but I’m not wearing chain mail.”

Amanda caressed his face and replied with a drowsy smile, “All right, you win. You don’t have to dress up.”

MWC -- Role Model

Posted By: Ysanne
Date:
Thursday, 8 February 2001, at 2:48 p.m.

The only bad thing about jetting all over the world was getting one’s times all mixed up, Amanda thought, easing herself upright and leaning back against several fluffy pillows. Being wide awake at five a.m. was idiotic! It wasn’t even quite light yet, though MacLeod’s loft was filled with a soft, luminous glow from the windows – oops, we forgot to pull the blinds last night, she remembered, guess we were thinking of other things.

She smiled affectionately at the handsome man sleeping comfortably beside her. Maybe she would be kind and let him sleep a little longer; he had been a very energetic boy last night. Pleased with her own altruism, she quietly rummaged through her bag on the floor and pulled out a fashion magazine. She began leafing through the shiny pages, pausing now and then to admire or criticize the ads.

One double-page spread caught her attention and she read it with interest. There was an amateur photography contest, grand prize being an all-expense-paid week on one of her favorite Caribbean islands, plus a case of hair products. The subject of the photographs had to include beautiful hair, ostensibly made beautiful by the use of said hair products. Amanda lowered the magazine and thought hard. She was a fair photographer, and money had been rather too tight lately – she hated to sell any of her emergency jewelry if she could get around it. And besides, it would be fun! The only problem was finding the subject. She squinted as a ray of morning sun stabbed her in the eye, and moved out of the beam of sunlight. She considered her options on finding a subject for her photograph, and began thinking about how to make the photo creative.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a snort and cough from her bed partner, and his restless movements as he settled back into deeper slumber. She glanced over at MacLeod, who was now lying in the shaft of bright sunlight. Her eyes widened, and she stared at him, then her eyes narrowed speculatively.

The blanket had slipped down to MacLeod’s narrow waist as he lay on his side, his muscled back exposed. His long hair, freshly washed in a late-night shower, lay in shiny, careless waves that fell over one broad, bronzed shoulder. Amanda congratulated herself on insisting on creme rinse. She cocked her head, studying how the sunlight picked out strands of deep auburn in Mac's thick, dark hair and laved the expanse of his smooth skin with a golden glow.

Inspired, Amanda crept from bed and held up her hands like a movie viewer to frame a possible picture. Not quite right…she leaned over and carefully repositioned the dark blue blanket until the curve of one firm hip was limned in sunlight…perfect, especially with the hint of that one dimple showing. She blew out a breath and shook her head in appreciation. If that wouldn’t win a prize, she’d get a job flipping burgers! She pulled her camera from the depths of her carry-on bag and began snapping a roll of pictures from slightly different angles.

MacLeod stirred, called into wakefulness by the whir of the shutter, and mumbled something interrogatory. Amanda slipped the camera back into the bag and herself back into bed in one graceful motion, and helped MacLeod make it a very good morning.

----six months later----

“Amanda, what do you mean, ‘Nobody will know who you are.’? I’m calling you because Joe and Methos both handed me magazines with my picture in them – women’s magazines! They were smirking, Amanda.”

The teasing voice on the telephone just laughed at his outrage. “Oh, MacLeod, just have fun with it! Can’t you take a little joke? Besides, I think I caught a charming view of some of your best, um, assets.”

“Oh, very amusing!” The exasperated voice lowered and changed its tone with the next reluctant question. “Uh, you really think so?”

“Silly boy! Of course I do, and when I come back from St. Kitts I’ll give those assets my very best attention, how about that?”

Amanda smiled smugly at MacLeod’s response and turned off the cell phone, then finished her pina colada, adjusted her bikini, and stretched out on her beach chair. Two waiters in flowered shirts nearly knocked one another over in a race to get her another drink.

Back in rainy, gray Seacouver, a smiling MacLeod dialed another number.

“Seacouver Women’s Shelter? I’m calling to see if you could possibly use a case of hair products. What? Oh, shampoo, mousse, things like that. Great! I’ll bring it over this afternoon.”

Ysanne

MWC "The Favour"

Posted By: Ghost Cat <ghost_cat@hotmail.com>
Date:
Saturday, 10 February 2001, at 5:11 p.m.

Duncan was grumbling and complaining his way through Deb's video collection, in search of something they would both enjoy, when suddenly the phone rang. She answered with a simple "hello," immediately followed by a quick gesture that signaled possible trouble. He was on alert instantly, though he got few clues from the one-sided conversation he could hear. "Yes, he's here" -- "Who gave you this number?" -- "Oh, I see. Dawson." -- "Who is this?"

Mac watched her eyes get very, very large; small, strangled noises rose from the back of her throat. He was forced to grab the phone out of her hand, before she dropped it. "This is Duncan MacLeod. Who are you?"

The voice on the line was an echo of his own; "MacLeod, I'm glad I finally found you. This is Adrian Paul." Suddenly Deb's apoplexy made perfect sense, poor girl. The actor seemed to have the same thought; "Is she going to be okay?"

"You picked the wrong lass to call in person; I think she's having a fit. She'll come out of it though."

There was a mix of surprise and guilt in his tone; "She's going through Highlander Shock? But I thought she was--"

"Yes, she is," Mac interrupted quickly, "but she was also a Series fan. Still is, despite my best efforts. Are you familiar with the term Dunkie Junkie?" A sigh from the other end spoke volumes. "What do you want?"

"I was hoping to ask a favour from you. I was supposed to make an appearance, but it looks like I won't be able to make it. There was an accident during production of my last film..."

Remembering the demise of the Nobile, Duncan growled, "You seem to get into a lot of accidents during production."

"That was not my fault, that was F/X!" He quickly lowered his voice, as if remembering to whom he was speaking; "I wouldn't be asking this of you if it wasn't a charity event. There's a minimum $32,000 for the PEACE Fund, if I show up for broadcast."

"Wait a minute: broadcast? If this is going to be on television, I'm not going to do it."

"Relax, there's no danger; everyone will think you're me. Besides, the odds of an Immortal showing up at a live taping of Millionaire are--"

"What did you just say?"

"The appearance: It's Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I thought I mentioned that already."

Duncan let out a slow calming breath, which was the only thing that kept him from screaming. "No. No, you didn't."

"Please! It’s for charity, for the children. Regis isn’t all that bad; I did an interview with him once. And they practically hand
you the answers up to $32,000. It’s not as if I’m asking you to come back with the million..."

Duncan sighed, "A children’s charity." Deb, having finally recovered her composure, heard this and began nodding vigorously. She knew the good things PEACE did for children; it was part of what she had first admired about Adrian. Old beliefs whispered in his mind: the Clan is all, always take care of the children. A decision was made, for better or for worse. "Will I at least be able to pick my own Lifelines?"

Relief colored the actor’s voice, "Whoever you want; they haven’t been chosen yet." A pause, then "If you do what I think you’re planning, though, be careful. Give any phone numbers you want, but please use the names of the actors."

§ § §

Arrangements were made surprisingly quickly, possibly in fear that MacLeod might change his mind. Those who knew the truth made sure everything would seem as normal as possible, even as far as providing stories and such for the inevitable Regis banter. Duncan made a few phone calls, after much effort managing to convince Methos, Amanda and Cassandra to be phone-a-friends. Methos thought that the Scot had gone completely insane, while the ladies repeatedly assured him that yes, they would remember to answer to the names "Elizabeth" and "Tracy" if the precious call came through.

If anything, Deb's excitement outpaced Duncan's, being of the television generation. Finally she just couldn't contain herself; "When are we leaving?"

"We? We are not going anywhere. 'Adrian' is taking his good friend 'Jim Byrnes' for support."

Her pout of disappoint lasted only a second, quickly controlled. "You're giving Joe a free ticket to New York? Don't you even make him work for it anymore?"

Mac snorted his amusement. "Sometimes. Besides, you have to stay by the phone; you're one of my lifelines."

"Humph. I saw the list, with all that experience on your side, why would you need me?"

He brought out his best charmer's voice, "My dear, you're my resident science fiction expert. If I get stuck on an entertainment question, I'll know who to call."

"Oh, wouldn't that look great: Adrian Paul losing on an entertainment question! He'd never live it down, and he'd probably find a way to get back at you for it."

"I warrior never goes into battle thinking he's going to lose."

"All right, but I hope you realize this is a whole new form of combat."

§§§

The plane to New York, the stop at the hotel, and the contestant orientation were all a blur. He was still reeling from the controlled chaos that is live television when suddenly they were being introduced: "Appearing for the third time on Celebrity Millionaire, Drew Carey!" (Applause, cheers); "Star of stage, screen and recent beknighting, Sir Sean Connery!" (Wild applause, and Duncan's own jaw dropping); "Actor, director, dancer, expert martial artist and well-known action star, Adrian Paul!"

The camera turned to him; he flashed a quick peace sign, knowing that was what "he" would do. More names followed, but he hardly noticed. The studio lights blazed down on him, sweat making his shorthaired wig itch maddeningly (Adrian hadn't had long hair in years, but there was a limit to what he would do for the man). All too soon, the first Fastest Finger question was being announced.

"Put the following films in order of their theatrical debut, starting with the most recent." He nearly panicked before he saw the choices: A: Highlander (groan), B: Excalibur; C: Dragonheart; D: Rob Roy. With a swordsman's reflexes, he put in his answer: C-D-A-B. The time limit elapsed and Regis announced, "And the ones who got the correct answers are--." He saw "his" name light up, along with Connery's and a few others. "...And the fastest time, by less than a second, is -- Adrian Paul!" He was so shocked that for a split second he didn't even recognize the name. He had been certain that Ramirez (no, Connery! Ramirez is dead) had gotten it. The cameras turned to him once more and he leapt into the battle like a true Highland warrior.

Thankfully, Regis gave only the barest of introductions, nothing he would be expected to answer. After a brief outline of rules he had heard 5 times during the orientation, the questions began. "For $100: Which of the following is a whipped chocolate dessert, popular in France? Is it, A: moose; B: mouse; C: mousse; or D: too expensive."

Duncan relaxed visibly; this was a good sign. He smiled because it was expected of him, and even let himself joke a bit; "Well, Reg, I've spent time in Paris and I can tell you, everything is too expensive, but my answer is still 'C' - mousse." The host barely looked down at the screen (this being the part they tried to get through quickly); "You're absolutely right, it is chocolate mousse."

The first few questions just flew by, and as the choices became harder, "Adrian" found himself surrounded by suspicious coughs, hints and clues. To someone trained to detect the slightest signal from an opponent, it was as unsubtle as an axe blow. The man hadn't been kidding: they were ready to hand him answers on a silver platter until he got to the guaranteed $32,000. The idea offended his sense of honor, but the few times he tried to ignore the hints, even Regis himself would herd him in the right direction.

After the first commercial, Reg began questing for the prerequisite embarrassing story, which Adrian had supplied in advance. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the infamous "We're gonna need birth control" story; though Duncan found himself blushing through the whole tale-- and it hadn't even happened to him!

The lights were as hot as ever, the music was pounding like a heartbeat, and they were getting into serious money now. Here was the true test of courage: when to keep going, and when to show "the better part of valor." The audience got him through the dreaded technology question, and suddenly he was going for $125,000. A rescue from Methos (err, Peter) was very tempting when a question on ancient Egypt appeared, but he forced himself to muddle through on a 50/50. Success! This kind of thing could get almost addictive, he was riding an adrenaline high all the way to the top. The quarter-mil question was on antique art and he breezed through it like it wasn't there. Suddenly he was at a half a million dollars: the furthest any celebrity contestant had been. How long could he ride the crest of the wave before it crashed?

They broke to commercial-- Millionaire was the reigning king of artificial tension-- and during the break Duncan remembered to breathe. Regis looked genuinely concerned, asking if he was all right. Duncan nodded and admitted that he was getting quite anxious, but he’d be okay. The host reminded him again that this was for charity and that there would be no shame in dropping out at this level. He was about to say something else when the signal came in they were back on the air.

The camera focused in on a $250,000 cheque, and another for $500,000, while Regis asked about the chosen charity. Once again, the words were memorized, but the idea of not having to think of what to say calmed Duncan somewhat. "The PEACE Fund is my own charity; PEACE is ‘protect, educate, aid children everywhere’. When I was doing Highlander, I discovered that children looked up to me, to what my character represented." Those last words sounded like they’d been added for his benefit. "I realized that I needed to do something to deserve that admiration, and so I started PEACE. This particular money will be going to the Schools Make a Difference program."

"Well, I’m sure the kids and the schools are behind you all the way, but right now it’s time to play Who Wants to be a Millionaire?--" music, lights, the whole spectacle as the half million dollar question was revealed. The host saw it a half second before the contestant and, looking up from the screen, Regis smiled. There was something in that smile that Duncan distinctly did not like, it made him nervous. He looked down at his own little screen... and broke into a cold sweat. They had been told time and again that the question "stacks" were completely random; there was no way this could have been arranged-- a Highlander question.

Why did it have to be a Highlander question? If "Adrian" lost it all on this question, the humiliation would never end. Deb’s comment echoed in his mind: he’d probably find a way to get back at you for it. The question was being announced even as he read it himself. "Tracy Scoggins and Claudia Christian both played female Immortals in Highlander: the Series. In what other Science Fiction series did both actress appear-- A: Sliders, B: Deep Space Nine, C: Quantum Leap, or D: Babylon 5 ?"

Regis must have seen the look of terror on Duncan’s face and, though it confused him, he reacted quickly. "Just relax now, read the question slowly. This game is never as easy as people think; I’ve had a lot of people tell me that a soon as they sit in that chair, things they’ve known for years just fly out of their head."

"I really wish you hadn’t used the word head." God! Had he really said that out loud? He heard laughter, the distraction gave him time to collect himself. As he reached for a sip of precious cold water, the glass almost slipped out of his fingers. Had he been holding a sword right now, it would likely fly halfway across the room. The only thing worse than getting this question wrong would be to refuse to answer it at all; he had to continue.

Regis was speaking again, "I hate to do this, but I have to remind you that if you get this question wrong, you will lose $218,000. On the other hand, you do still have one lifeline; and you have to admit, this is the perfect question for a phone-a-friend."

Lifeline: never had the word seemed more appropriate; he felt like he was drowning. Everyone would expect him to call Ms. Scoggins, but Cassandra hated the Series; she wouldn’t know. Amanda only followed the show as long as she was the subject; Methos was a closet Series fan, but he might give the wrong answer just out of spite for that Chubby Checker incident. That left only one choice.... "Regis, I’d like to use my lifeline, I’d like to call Debra Campbell."

The frown on the host’s face showed that he thought it was a bad choice, but not long enough for the camera to catch it. He continued because he had no other option; "And who is Debra?"

Time for a little flattery, though she wouldn’t hear it until broadcast, after it was too late. "She’s an up-and-coming young author; she’s written several Rysher-approved novels and she probably knows more about Science Fiction than half the script-writers in Hollywood."

"All right, sounds like the person to call then. AT&T, please get Debra on the line; when she answers you'll have 30 seconds, starting as soon as you read the question."

Elsewhere, the young author in question was sweating bullets; the show was a same day broadcast, not truly live, so she had no idea what was happening. Suddenly the phone rang and she nearly hit the ceiling. She grabbed the receiver; "Hello?"

"Hello, is this Debra?"

"Yes, speaking."

"This is Regis Philbin calling from New York; we’ve got a friend of yours here, and it looks like he needs your help." Oh, Duncan, what have you gotten yourself into? "The next voice you hear will be Adrian’s, and you’ll have 30 seconds to help him answer a $500,000 question."

Great, no pressure! "I’ll do my best."

Duncan spoke slowly and clearly, taking no risks of misunderstanding. He paraphrased to save time, "Deb, Tracy Scoggins and Claudia Christian both appeared on what other Science Fiction show besides Highlander?"

She cut in before he could even start the answers: "Babylon 5!"

"Are you sure you don’t want to hear the choices?"

"Not necessary. Claudia played Suzan Ivanova, and Tracy was Elizabeth Lochley. It was Bab 5; I’m sure."

"How sure are you?"

Damn it, doesn’t he trust my instincts? "Du--Dear, I’m sure enough to risk my head, now say the words!"

"You heard her Regis; D: Babylon 5. Final Answer."

The host nodded once; "You said D and you are..." Deb, still able to hear everything, was sure the patented Regis Pause would be enough to drive Duncan over the edge, but finally he ended with "... Absolutely right! The answer is D: Babylon 5 and you have won a half a million dollars!" The entire studio sighed, and so did millions of viewers. Now, for the final question; Endgame, so to speak.

Regis, I’d like to take the money and walk away; the words were already on his lips and he’d feel no shame in speaking them. He practiced in his mind even as they were announcing the last question: Regis, I’m taking the money; Regis, this a lot of risk, and I think I’ll take the money. "Regis..." his gaze strayed downward to look at the screen; he could not believe his eyes. "Regis, I’m going all the way."

The final, $1,000,000 question, the question no celebrity contestant had ever answered, was this: "Where did Charles Edward Stuart fight his last battle, before being forced to escape into France? Was it A: Edinburgh, B: Prestonpans, C: Derby, or D: Culloden?"

All the tension flowed out of him like a moment of perfect meditation; he smiled, a warrior’s smile, the smile of someone who knows he’s just won. "It’s about time you asked a question about Bonnie Prince Charlie!" He let his brogue show, and he didn’t care who heard it; "That’s the Battle of Culloden, letter D; Endgame, final answer."

"You said D: Culloden, and you have won one million dollars!"

Lights flashed, music blared, confetti fell from the ceiling; it was one step below a Quickening and nearly as chaotic. Half the studio audience leapt to their feet and the other contestants surrounded him to offer their congratulations. Someone handed him a cheque and he showed it to the camera; "I think even Duncan would agree; this is one time I hope there will be more than one."

He disengaged himself as quickly as possible; the show, after all, had to go on. Dawson was waiting for him off-stage with a grin that was almost too big for his face. "Another victory for the Highlander, eh? Nice touch at the end, by the way."

Duncan returned the grin and the two men embraced roughly as cameras watched. Thankfully, there were no live mikes back here. "If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s improvise!"

"You do realize, they’ll probably expect you to stay on and cheer for the others."

"Too bad, I might come back tomorrow. For now, I’m for a hot bath and a cold Scotch." Side by side, the two men walked out of the studio and into the streets of New York, in search of a private, but well-deserved, victory celebration.

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