Eventually we got off the Christmas theme with a Challenge to answer a long-standing HL question. Actually, it was more of a tongue in cheek teasing of whatever members of the HL continuity team kept messing up. The Challenge was simply this: write a story or scene which explains in some way why Duncan's barge in Paris seemed to have more than one name. My response shows just how frustrating being the subject of a cult TV show can be; where an ordinary day can lead to—

That Sinking Feeling

It was just another day at the loft; that’s what he had told himself when he woke up this morning. It was going to be just an ordinary day; that wasn’t too much to ask for, was it? The universe owed him at least a couple of ordinary days after everything he’d been through over the centuries. But of course, the universe didn’t care what one person believed they did or did not deserve, even if that person was Duncan MacLeod.

It all started with a phone call; trouble seemed to come so much more abruptly since the invention of the telephone. He told himself he’d just ignore it, but when the ringing showed no signs of stopping he finally answered "MacLeod."

The voice on the other end had a definite Hollywood feel to it, "Mr. MacLeod, this is Bill Panzer, we spoke before…."

Duncan managed to keep his helpless groan off the line; "What do you want Panzer? I already signed that stupid waiver saying you could use my name and my face; only because I never dreamed you’d actually find someone with my face. Are you still annoyed that I insisted the Watchers be involved to keep things from going too far?"

"Oh no, it’s not about that. You see, we just moved production back to Paris for the new season—"

Mac tried to brush him off; "Yes, Paris is a lovely city. I could recommend some reasonably priced restaurants if you’d like."

The producer reacted with that Hollywood sixth sense that said when someone was about to hang up; "It’s about the barge."

Duncan’s voice got that quiet, flat tone that some people mistook for calm. In reality, this was when he was most dangerous. "What about the barge?"

The man spoke up quickly, "Well, you did say that we could use it."

"I said you could use the idea of a barge; I never said you could go anywhere near the Nobile."

"Oh. Then this is going to be a bit more awkward than I expected. You see, um, there was a bit of an accident. You have to understand, we use pyro a lot during production, and I do mean a lot of pyro. That stuff can be unpredictable, especially when you’re using it outdoors…"

This time MacLeod’s tone was unmistakable; "You used the barge, my barge for a Q scene. Without even trying to get permission. May I remind you that I know several very good lawyers, some of whom have been in practice for a very, very long time? "

Panzer became quite flustered, even over the phone. "This is just what I was trying to avoid by calling you right away. I’m sure we can come to an understanding."

"I’ll be there tomorrow. Be ready for me." There was a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained by hanging up on the man, but not nearly enough.

§ § §

Paris: City of Lights, airport of tourists; MacLeod had hardly stepped off the plane before he heard a girlish shriek. He turned around barely in time to avoid being swarmed by a knot of young women. "Adrian!" he heard in several voices; just great, series fans. Someone thrust a scrap of paper at him, three more offered pens. No getting out of it now; he made idle, hopefully harmless, conversation while he tried to remember that actor’s scrawl. They had given him something once, almost as joke, if he could only picture it… The girls all watched him with rapt attention, as if a Clan Chief himself had looked down upon them and smiled. He wrote a simple Ad-scribble Paul, with that strong, enthusiastic P, adding a quick "peace" for good measure. He had to repeat the scribble a couple more times before he could get away; in the end one woman pushed a small box into his hands, whispering a fervent "Thank you."

It took a while to find where production was working for the day and the search had done little to improve his mood. When he asked where he could find Bill Panzer, a couple of bored crew pointed the way. One muttered "Over there" was accompanied by a puzzled look and the comment, "I just saw him a minute ago, he was still talking with… you?"

The crewmember’s confusion was nothing compared to the actual moment when MacLeod found them. He had seen photographs, watched a couple of episodes out of curiosity, but none of that could prepare him for a live, face to face confrontation. The actor, still in costume, turned to look at the stranger and gave a completely out of character gape. Duncan, despite centuries of experience, had his own moment of shock. There were differences, all right, but they were minor; again, he thought Where did they find this guy?

He still had the gift in his hand; Duncan handed it forward. "This is for you. She said her name was Shawna… or was it Sunshine?"

Adrian took the box without much surprise; "So, how many of them were there?"

"Three or four, I think."

"Only a handful? You were lucky." The actor smiled, the warm, genuine smile of someone not afraid to laugh at himself; "At least when you have people chasing you, you can feel them coming." The smile faded quickly when it wasn’t returned, he muttered a quick, "I’ll be in the trailer" to his producer and walked off, opening the gift. Duncan could still hear his voice in the distance, "Chocolate; I never should have admitted I like chocolate. If I start gaining weight McAsh is gonna…"

MacLeod turned his attention back to the reason he had come. "I’m here. Let’s talk about what happened to my home."

If there was one thing a producer knew, it was how to placate someone. "First thing I want you to know, all your things are safely in storage, we made sure of that before we started."

It would take a lot more than that to soothe this Highland temper; "One more time. Where— Is— My— Barge?"

Mr. Panzer paled for a second; decided the direct approach would work best. "After the explosion it— Well, basically it… sank."

One word, icy calm: "Sank."

"Umm, yes. But I’ve had the props master and the location manager working ever since; I think you’ll be quite pleased—"

"Show me!"

"— With the results." Fortunately they were already close to the river; the short walk was nonetheless filled with a tense silence. As they approached the water the producer smiled and made a grand gesture. Duncan looked in the indicated direction, saw something very familiar. Familiar, and yet not quite right somehow. The low deck was the same, the wheelhouse; yet there was no sense of welcome in the lowered gangplank, and it just didn’t feel like home. He frowned, silently, thinking only That’s not mine. Looking again, he noticed the detail that had bothered his subconscious before: "The Amadeus?"

The other man spoke up quickly; "It doesn’t have to be the Amadeus, it can be the Nobile; it can be anything you want. It’s yours now."

"Don’t you know that it’s bad luck to change the name of a ship?"

"I’d hardly call one river barge a ship. It doesn’t even go anywhere."

"It doesn’t matter, it’s the principle of the thing." He sighed wearily, "I just hope the writers around here understand me better than you do. Fine, I’ll take it; it’s good enough for now. But I’m going to have a document drawn up detailing exactly what you can and cannot do. Have I made myself clear?"

"Perfectly clear. Actually, as long as you’re here anyway, the writers and I were discussing an Evil Twin episode in the near future and we were wondering—" Duncan glared at him dangerously. "Nevermind."

§ § §

Back at the loft, a few weeks later, MacLeod was preparing an early dinner while Methos sprawled on his couch with a beer and the TV remote. His bored channel surfing eventually settled on The Series. "Do you mind?" he asked, "It’s one of my guilty pleasures." Mac grunted noncommittally and the program stayed. As the episode began its inevitable combat scene, Duncan was drawn to the screen in spite of himself. Not only was he a pretty good actor, that Paul fellow was damned good with a blade. The combat ended and he suddenly realised where the duel was set; Duncan groaned helplessly.

Misunderstanding the sound of despair completely, Methos nodded. "Yeah, I think they really overdo the Quickenings too, but exactly how do you represent something like that visually anyway? Besides, viewers love F/X." As the first crack of thunder rumbled from the speakers, both Immortals went silent to watch the display. The pyrotechnics settled down, and Methos turned to Duncan with a grin; "All right, now you’ve got to admit that one looked pretty damned realistic."

"It ought to have been!" Mac growled, snatching the remote and shutting off the set.

"What? What did I say?"

This story required more weird research, as I quested through eBay to discover exactly what AP's signature looks like. I originally wrote Duncan as jotting off a quick "A-scribble, P-scribble" until I learned that our favourite actor is one of the few people in the Business who actually has a readable autograph.

I still can't resist mentioning friends and Forumers, partly as a tribute and partly because I'm too lazy to make up names. This time I gave a tip of the hat to Shawna/Sunshine, who is the moderator for the Adrian Paul Talk Lounge e-group, where I lurk but rarely participate. As for the chocolate joke, well, I just couldn't resist.

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