After Hours


March 2000


Joe's Bar. After closing. Some nights that was when the day came together for Joe -- after closing. Most nights the bar got wiped down, tables cleaned off, chairs put topside, the floor given a quick mop, and that was it. Then there were nights like tonight. When Joe wasn't quite ready to leave the music yet. And his immortal friends weren't quite ready to leave Joe yet. They'd close up the bar together and then MacLeod and Methos would settle in for a last drink while Joe played something to suit the mood on his guitar, sometimes singing, sometimes not, but something that would soothe all their souls in the early hours of the morning  when unbidden thoughts sometimes haunted all too fragile souls. Sometimes the mood was somber, sometimes rollicking. Then there were nights like tonight when it was quiet and comfortable. The kind of silences that only good friends could withstand.

Dawson's fingers glided over the strings of his guitar as he let the mood find the music tonight. While trying to settle on the right piece of music, he gazed out across the room from his stage viewpoint. With the lights turned down for the night and the stage lights off, the room was dimly lit but Dawson could still make out the two men sitting near the back wall. The corners of his mouth turned up at the sight before him.

He never thought he'd see the day when Mac and Methos were getting along in such perfect harmony. They'd spent their whole friendship being discordant, sometimes on purpose, Dawson suspected. They never could quite seem to agree on the same tune. Always sniping. Always arguing. Always moody. Never getting along.

Dawson backtracked. Well, that wasn't exactly true. They did get along. They just had a funny way of going about it. It was like they couldn't ever agree to the same tune at the same time or if they did agree to the same tune then they couldn't agree to play in the same key. But somehow they managed to hit the same notes in unison often enough that it all eventually worked out all right.

Still, MacLeod and Methos had been a strange melody at times. A haunting tune that never quite came together. Dawson continued to idly strum his guitar, letting the music find itself for a time while he contemplated his feelings for these two sometimes difficult immortals.

His first thought, and one he had long ago admitted to himself, was:  I love 'em both. He'd never quite been able to figure what kind of love he held for them. Sometimes he loved them like brothers. At other times he loved them with all the strength and exasperation of a father. But mostly he loved them for the unlikely soul-deep friendship that had been forged between mortal and immortals.

Dawson couldn't help wondering at times what MacLeod and Methos thought of him. He'd never had the feeling that they ever pitied him as 'that poor mortal'. Sure, he knew they used him and his Watcher connections all too frequently, but hell, he turned right around and used their immortal connections too so he guessed it all evened out in the end. That was the good thing about their friendship. They didn't keep track of who owed who, unless one of them got ticked and decided to try to use it as a bargaining chip. And all three of them had been guilty of that on occasion. Despite all the emotional ups and downs between them, however, he knew that they all valued this friendship with a deep abiding affection.

But just look at them now. Dawson's gaze rested fondly on the immortals in question. He never thought he'd live to see this day. He had hoped they might reach this point some day, if they didn't kill each other first, but he never thought he'd see it in his lifetime.

They'd finally found their harmony. No more discordant solos working overtime at finding the harmony of a duet. The duet came naturally to them now. It played with a sweet passion thrumming just under the surface along with a surprising gentleness and undeniable strength and devotion. Most of all, though, Dawson noted the unswerving trust that was now present. That trust hadn't always been there. It had been a relief when they had finally started smoothing out the bumps in their friendship, but even when the trust had been rebuilt, MacLeod and Methos had both still been too stubborn to let it fly to its limits and beyond -- until now.

Joe's fingers glided gently over the strings of his guitar as he tried to find the right music to reflect his thoughts about his two friends. His bemused expression brightened to a smile when his fingers found the right combination, especially when he saw that the tune evidently agreed with his immortal friends as well.

Dawson's music took flight, inspired by what he saw on the other side of the  room. MacLeod and Methos had managed to fit themselves into one chair. Mac, his legs stretched out comfortably on a neighboring chair, lay cradled between Methos' legs. His back fit snugly against the older immortal's chest, Mac's head rested against Methos' shoulder. Their clasped hands rested on MacLeod's stomach, the interlaced fingers representing just how intimately the two men had become entwined. Mac's eyes were closed, an expression of contentment on his face that Dawson suspected had more to do with the close proximity of Methos than the music.

A dark enigmatic gaze met a smoky mortal one and held. For a brief moment the murky depths cleared, permitting a glimpse that was rarely allowed. Dawson nodded imperceptibly in acknowledgment of what he saw in those eyes before they once again lowered to the man Methos held in his arms.

Life was good, thought Joe Dawson as he watched his two favorite immortals. Life was damned good.

And the music continued to drift out of Joe's Bar . . . after hours.

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