THE CALL (NC-17)
by Maxine Mayer, 7/13/97
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I'm drifting in a hazy cloud of sensuality, slowly rolling and turning in his arms, my body awash with sweat, my eyes closed to savor his touch. He touches me lightly in long sweeping motions, while kissing my face, his breath warm and welcome. I murmur endearments to match his sweet lovetalk and open my arms, then clasp him to me.... ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I woke from this dream unsettled, anxious, frightened and ashamed. I realized immediately I'd come in the night, a direct result of this terrifying dream.
And I didn't have a clue what to make of it. What was wrong with me?
"Are you all right, Duncan?" Sergey spoke from the twin bed next to mine. We'd been staying at hotels along the road, our directionless, purposeless auto journey taking us south from Paris into Spain. The dusty roads and barren landscape were just as I'd remembered them from long ago, a perfect complement to my own daytime emotional state.
"I'm fine, Sergey. Don't worry. I - couldn't sleep." I rose from the bed and grabbed my robe, covering my nakedness quickly, though the curtains were drawn and the room was dark. My discomfort persisted for some time after waking, as I knew it would. This wasn't the first such dream I'd had about Methos since he'd walked away from me once again, two months ago to the day.
I went to the window and pulled the curtain aside. It was nearly dawn. Maybe it would be better if we took to the road again, I thought. We'd stayed in this town nearly a week. It certainly didn't have enough attractions to entertain me for very long, although Sergey was easily amused and delighted with everything.
I felt angry again, that Methos had left me with this boy, this child. Oh, Sergey could defend me, if he had to, I didn't doubt that for a moment. Trained by Lamartin in swordsmanship and Quentin in strategy, Sergey'd already proved himself an able disciple of our "craft" - killing. He'd taken the head of an Immortal only a few days ago, up north. It had been my first chance to see him in action and I'd been impressed.
But his temperament and personality left a lot to be desired. That would have been true even if I hadn't found myself comparing him with Methos all the time.
During the day, I missed Methos desperately, for his companionship, his sense of history, his humor, his talk. At night, I missed him in ways I'd never considered before. Never experienced with him or anyone else. It was very frightening.
Sometimes I found myself chuckling softly, because I just wanted to talk to Methos about what I felt for him, and he was, of course, the last person I'd discuss such things with, the very last person - save Sergey.
But Methos wasn't around for me to talk to, so I let my fear and confusion build inside me while Sergey and I travelled farther and farther south, to lands where we'd be tempted by sensuality in every form, lands of heat and passion. Vaguely, I knew what I was drifting towards, what sorts of places and experiences. But I didn't let the knowledge take definite shape in my mind. If I did, I'd be afraid to go in the direction I was heading. And I really wanted to go.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The heat of his hands on my body fills me with desire, rouses my passion to heights I never knew before. His mouth on my organ inflames me. I swallow again and again, groaning and twisting with the swelling of my cock which is in his possession. I am moving, I am moving, I am crying, I am crying. At the last, I grasp his beloved body to mine in an unrestrained outpouring of my own deep love.... ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"That was a delicious meal, Duncan, wasn't it?" Sergey asked me, as we drank wine after dinner at a very expensive restaurant in a city in Morocco. We'd come south more quickly than I'd originally intended. Now we were in a land of sexual ambiguity, from my point of view. Merely sexual freedom, from the natives' vantage point. At least, for men. I was determined not to fight whatever was speaking in me, however frightening it was. I was also determined not to be without experience when I saw Methos again. I wanted any unnecessary difficulties out of the way.
"Yes, it was good. I didn't think you'd like Arab cuisine, Sergey. Have you eaten it before?"
"No. I mean, the chef Quentin employs is great. He can cook lots of different things. But Quentin and Lamartin aren't partial to Arab food, so I don't think anything they served at the chateau was like what we ate tonight."
"Well, perhaps you've eaten something like this in a French restaurant. Many of the chefs in Paris are Arabs," I said, making conversation with some difficulty. Sergey was not an easy man to talk to. Somehow, I couldn't help thinking of him as a boy, even though I knew he was two hundred years old.
"I don't know. Maybe I have." He wasn't even trying to keep up his end of the conversation tonight. I wondered what was troubling him.
"Is everything all right, Sergey?"
He looked up from his drink quickly. "Yes, of course. I'm okay."
"You seem a little quiet tonight."
"I - I was thinking about Methos."
"Really? What were you thinking?" I asked. At least, if we talked about Methos, I wouldn't be bored.
"When I left Quentin and Lamartin I thought Methos would come with us."
"So did I." I smiled. "I can understand your disappointment. I'm not Methos, not by a long shot. He's a very amusing fellow, especially compared to me."
"It isn't that. I've had enough amusement to last me several lifetimes, with Quentin and Lamartin. But he was different. Methos, I mean. He was - alive."
"I hope you're not saying that I'm dead!" I joked.
Sergey went on without even noticing what I'd said. "Even when he was so miserable I thought he'd die, he took the trouble to advise me. He really looked at me, listened to me, in a way nobody else ever did. Methos treated me like a man, not a child. I - I thought I could serve him. I hoped I could learn from him. I'm sorry he didn't come with us."
"Yeah, I know what you mean." I cleared my throat. "And you are serving him. This is what he wanted you to do. Protect me in his stead. But you understand why he had to go off on his own."
"Not really. I know he can't believe in Demons and Archangels. He's too down-to-earth, too realistic. I don't understand how he could let such fantastic ideas change all his plans, make him leave you that way."
"Maybe that's not why he left. Because of Demons and Archangels. Maybe those are just symbols of something, to him. Something else."
Sergey wrinkled his brow. "Do you think he left so he wouldn't do something he thought was wrong, Duncan?"
"Maybe." I smiled at Sergey. He'd surprised me. "You're very insightful."
"I have gifts. But insight isn't one of them. I've just been trying to put together some of the things Methos said when we talked that one time. Even - not the words - just the feeling I got from him. That he was tormented by things he couldn't talk about or explain to anyone."
"I'm sure Quentin knows what they are, but he's not telling."
"No. He'd never betray Methos' confidence."
"You felt as if Methos was tormented?"
"Oh yes. Like he - felt things he believed he shouldn't feel. Had dreams he didn't think were right. In fact, what I got from him was a sense of dismay, even fear, about what he was feeling and dreaming. About what he thought he was becoming."
I looked down at my drink. Took out a cigar and made a business of clipping the tip and lighting it. Anything, just so I didn't need to answer Sergey right away. If I took long enough, maybe I wouldn't need to answer him at all.
I thought, maybe it's not just me. Maybe Methos experiences the call, too. The dreams. I didn't know whether to be happy or scared when I thought that. The idea that Methos' desires might mirror my own made things seem more impossible rather than less. What if we'd been at cross-purposes for years, torturing ourselves and tormenting each other! What if that sexual energy had been misdirected, distorted, for years! What would that mean?
That could mean we'd been calling to one another, through the dark, all that time. Starting with my first real sickness in this century - the Dark Quickening. Could that have been a call to Methos - who'd left me alone, gone away with Alexa - to come back to me? The way I'd gone after the Horsemen, even though I knew Methos didn't want me to - was that part of it? My killing Byron - was that my way of forcing Methos - who'd once loved Byron, and still did, maybe more than he loved me - to need only me? My battle with the Demon. Was that the most horrible call of all? Challenging Methos - who I knew could never believe in a Demon - to believe because I did, to save me again, the way he had once before? Was my battle with the Demon a desperate attempt to bring back the friendship we'd shared before the Horsemen came into our lives?
But he'd never called back, had he? He'd just come when I'd called, over and over again.
If any of this was true, how many lives had such a perversion of love cost? I knew very well that the perversion didn't reside in our desires, but in the obscuring of those desires. If any of this was true, I had much to answer for, and so did Methos.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ We move as though we are one, in a slow cadence, like music, which grows more intense and more rapid as pleasure grows greater, until final explosion. We lay on the sheets, limbs entwined, heads very close, breathing in the perfume of our spent passion. I open my mouth upon his, sucking his tongue in a slow mirror dance to the sexual frenzy we'd completed a short time before. Our heat rises now once again, and the hardness calls loudly for more. I am lost in his love.... ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This time I woke groaning but I knew what I needed to do.
"Sergey, wake up!"
"What? What's wrong, Mr. MacLeod?"
I smiled to hear the man revert to his old formality. I answered gently, "I'm sorry I startled you, Sergey, but we must go."
"Where?" he asked, as he got out of bed and reached for his clothes, his beautifully proportioned body a nude silhouette in the faint light from the courtyard. But I wasn't tempted by his perfection.
"To find Methos," I replied quietly. "I've got to ask him something."
Sergey pulled on his shirt. "I'll go with you wherever you want, sir, but I know Methos wouldn't want you to look for him. He was pretty determined about going his separate way."
"Yes. He was determined. But so am I."
"Okay. Do you have any idea where he is?"
"None whatsoever," I said with a smile, "but I know people who do know."
"If you mean Quentin, or Mr. Dawson, I don't think they'll tell you."
"They'll get a message to Methos. That'll be enough."
I was dressed by then too. It was three in the morning, Moroccan time. I didn't even bother trying to figure out what time it was wherever Joe was. I just went to the hotel office and borrowed their computer to send email him. Then I sat in the dark courtyard drinking Turkish coffee with Sergey and waited for his response.
"Dawson. Thanks for getting back to me so fast." It was noon the following day when the desk clerk paged me to take Joe's phone call.
"What's up, Mac? Is there a problem?" Joe's concern for my welfare, even after all I'd done to lose any right to expect it, or ask for it, was a source of great happiness to me.
"No, everything's okay, Joe. But thank you for asking."
"So, why'd you reach out?" Dawson wasn't exactly hostile. More, impatient, curt. Understandable, in the circumstances.
"I need you to get a message to somebody for me."
"Sure. What's the message?"
"Just, that I've got a question that needs an answer."
"Okay. Who do you want me to get in touch with?"
There was quiet on the line for nearly a minute. Then Joe asked, "You sure you wanna do that, Mac? Bother Methos now? He's not gonna like it."
"I know, Joe. I know how hard it was for him to go off on his own again. Leave me. Us. But there's something I've gotta find out, and he's the only one who knows the answer. Can you reach him, Dawson? Do you know where he is now?"
"Yeah, I know. If you're sure -"
"I'm sure. Just give him the message. Sergey and I will wait for him here, however long it takes."
"What if he won't come, Mac?"
"I hope he'll come. Or at least call me." I swallowed. "I hope so. Tell him that."
"Okay, I'll tell him. If he says no, I'll get back to you."
"Thank you, Joseph," I said, using his full name because I wanted to remind him that we were friends before these last sad ugly times. I wanted him to know I remembered too.
Sergey was waiting for me in the hotel bar.
"Joe'll find Methos and get my message to him," I said.
Sergey nodded. "That's good. What do you want to do while we wait, Duncan?"
"I want you to stay here in case Methos or Dawson calls. I'm going into town for a few hours."
"I'm supposed to be watching your back, Duncan. I'm not supposed to leave your side."
"I'll be fine. If anyone's around, I'll disappear and come back here. I promise." Actually, I wasn't certain I could use Methos' survival tactics with anything like success, if another Immortal approached, but I'd sure as hell try. I was unarmed, had been for what seemed like a long time to me.
"Okay, then. I don't mind sitting here alone. I can read while I wait."
I left him in the hotel courtyard and quickly made my way to the souk. The noonday heat was oppressive, as it always is in the southern countries. I hurried, remembering how much cooler the dense narrow streets of the bazaar would be.
What I was looking for, I didn't imagine I'd be able to put into words - Arabic or English - but I was sure the street urchins would seek me out and offer to me what I couldn't express.
Before long a youngster had latched onto me, hopeful of earning a little money from a westerner. He spoke a few words of English. He wanted to show me the best vendors in the market. I shook my head no. He offered me a woman. I shook my head no. He offered me a girl. Again, I refused.
Then he stared at me, confused, as if he couldn't believe what he was thinking. I knew there was something about me which made it difficult for him to believe. That's why I was as I was in this respect - totally without experience after four hundred years. I returned the boy's stare with an encouraging smile, and nodded yes. He backed away from me. I grabbed his shirt.
"I said yes," I declared to the boy. "But not you. Someone else. Someone older. Help me."
The youngster frowned but he didn't try to run away again. "I will help. I will find for you." He still didn't really believe I wanted what I was asking for, but he was willing to try.
The boy brought me to the room of a young Arab who wasn't much older than my guide. But this one's experience showed in his eyes. He had a lot of it. He was quite beautiful and he seemed clean, which didn't stop me from thanking my stars that I couldn't get sick from contact with him.
He shooed the younger boy out of his tiny room after I'd given him some money. Then he told me, "I am Haresh. I close door now. I lock." He suited his actions to his words. "You not been with boy ever. I know. Do not be fear. I am much times with men. English men. French. Arab. All of men. I know everything. I will teach."
"Your name is Haresh?" I hadn't listened past the name he'd given me. I was horrified by that, remembering Haresh Clay. Of course, this boy didn't resemble the Immortal I'd killed. Nor could he be Haresh's son - we cannot have children. But the name!
The boy nodded. "Is very often name, Haresh. You know man of name Haresh?"
"Yes. I knew a man named Haresh, years ago."
"My father not of name Haresh. He of name Avram. Your friend not my father. Do not be fear, English. I will teach."
I told Haresh, "Please teach me all you know. I am not afraid but I am new to these ways. I must learn quickly."
"I not teach love," Haresh warned me. "I teach body, show things to do. All of things to do. I teach quick. Love is slow."
Exhausted, sweaty and stinking of sex, I made my way back to the hotel with the Arab boy in tow, because I knew I'd never find his room again in the maze of the souk, and I needed to learn more, much more.
I circumvented Sergey's aura to avoid bumping into him and went up to our room with Haresh. Then I rang the reception desk and had them page Sergey.
"You're back, Duncan! I sensed your presence. I was beginning to worry -"
"Have you heard from Methos?" I interrupted.
"No. Nothing. Mr. Dawson hasn't called either. So maybe Methos is on his way."
"Maybe. Sergey, book another room for yourself and send the porter up to move your bags from this one. I have a companion with me in our quarters. We need to be alone."
"Of course, Duncan. I'll do it right away."
"And get yourself some dinner. I'll call for room service. I plan to spend tonight and tomorrow morning alone with my friend."
"I don't want to intrude, sir, but you shouldn't be alone. If anyone comes, I should stay close -"
"Forget it, Sergey. I'll be fine. I'll disappear if anybody approaches. I promise. Then I'll look for you."
"As you wish, sir. I hope I won't regret it."
I smiled. "You won't. Don't worry, nobody's coming here, except Methos, I hope. You're off duty. Enjoy your holiday! I'll be okay."
I hung up the in-house phone and turned to Haresh, who was sitting on the floor with his legs crossed, patiently waiting for me.
"Now, my friend, teach me more!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ A trellis hung with vines and gardenias stands in the garden where we lay together making love. The scent of flowers masks the odor of passion. I pull my beloved into my arms, smooth his body with my rough hands, glory in the silken whiteness of his skin. I touch hidden places, press hidden latches, open a Pandora's box filled with delights. My beloved responds with low urgent murmurs. From his heart, wounded by love to the point of death, runs a river of blood. I rejoice in his delight, his love, and drink his heart's blood.... ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"English?" Haresh poked my arm.
"I'm awake, Haresh," I told the boy. This dream had been more realistic than any I'd had before, flowers and all, because now I knew what I was dreaming about. I took a deep breath and smiled. This was wonderful. Wonderful. My groin ached. I needed, wanted more. I turned to Haresh and took him again, against the light of dawn.
When we'd finished I paid him, thanked him and sent him away. He was as reluctant to leave me as I was to let him go, but I expected Methos any time now, and I didn't want him to find me with Haresh. Methos and I didn't need any new complications.
I showered and dressed quickly. I was starved. I went down to the hotel restaurant and ordered a big breakfast. When I'd finished eating I sat back and drank coffee, thinking about what I'd learned, remembering what I'd only imagined until now.
Sergey joined me a little later, about eight. "Good morning, Duncan. Beautiful day, isn't it?"
I smiled. "Beautiful, Sergey. Very beautiful. How was your evening?"
"Good. I went to a - a nightclub, I guess you'd call it. They had a show. Dancers. Women." He moved his head slightly, glancing away in embarrassment. "Have you ever seen that?"
"Sure. Very enjoyable. Did you like it?"
"I did." He didn't talk for a moment. Then he asked, "Are you like Quentin and Lamartin? Celibate, now, after all these centuries?"
"No, not really. Why, are you?"
He blushed. "I have been, for a couple decades. It seemed - simpler - that way. It was - complicated to get away on my own when I lived at the chateau. I figured, what's the rush? I can wait. So -"
"You've been celibate for decades? I think you ought to do something about that. No place like here, no time like now."
"I did. Last night. I brought somebody back to my room. That was a good idea of yours, Duncan - separate rooms."
"Glad you liked it." I sipped my coffee. "Nobody called, did they?" I asked him. I'd told the desk clerk to put my calls through to the room Sergey took.
"Not yet, Duncan. Don't worry - if he hasn't said no, he'll come."
"Maybe." I frowned. My coffee suddenly tasted bitter. What if Methos doesn't come? I thought. What if he doesn't answer my call this time? Then I'll go after him, I decided, immediately feeling better.
"He'll come," Sergey repeated.
"Maybe." I wasn't so sure.
"You're up early, MacLeod!" Methos said. He'd appeared at my breakfast table out of nowhere, without warning, only his ancient crackly buzz - very pronounced today - telling me he was near. I'd stood when I'd felt it, my heart in my mouth, and waited for him to show himself. I was glad I'd sent Sergey off on his own again for the day.
"Methos! You came!" I smiled and embraced my friend tightly.
"Come on, Mac - don't look so surprised - I'm always at your beck and call. You knew I'd come." He patted me on the back, then held me at arms length as if to study me.
"I wasn't certain."
"You'd hunt me down, if I didn't come. Saved us both the trouble." He glanced at the table. "Any coffee left?"
"Sure. Join me. Please." We sat and I fussed with the coffee pot, serving him coffee in my own cup instead of asking a waiter for a fresh one. I strained every muscle to keep my hands from shaking.
Methos seemed at ease, though. He lounged in his chair, sipped his coffee, and looked me over. "How've you been holding up, MacLeod?" From his tone, I didn't think he liked what he saw.
"Good enough. Considering." I fell silent, not knowing how to begin. I was grateful for any small talk he could offer.
"In case you're wondering, I've been fine. No planes, no trains, no automobiles. And no worries. I've renewed my status as a card-carrying member of the Beat Generation," he told me, grinning.
I basked in that grin. It was more vivid than anything I'd experienced since he'd left - even sex. How I'd missed it - Methos' grin - heaven. "You're dating yourself, old man. The Beat Generation! No wonder you didn't know who Chubby Checker was! Probably skipped right over rock and roll!" I teased him, grateful for the opening.
He acknowledged my joke with another grin. Then he asked, "So - what's the dilemma this time, MacLeod? Why'd you call? Joe's upset, worried. So am I."
I stiffened immediately. "I'm sorry I disturbed your walking tour. You can leave as soon as we've talked, if you want to."
"No need to be testy. I'm here. Talk to me."
This wasn't going to be easy. I cast about for a way to start. Finally I said, "Let's take a walk."
"Right. Just what I need - another walk." He gulped down the coffee and stood. "Let's go."
"Should we inquire at the desk where they keep their Holy Ground, MacLeod?" Methos asked when we'd reached the lobby. He wasn't joking.
"No. No, that won't be necessary."
"Glad to hear it!"
We wandered down the street away from the hotel. Somehow, I couldn't bring myself to tell Methos what was on my mind. Finally, I took my courage in both hands.
"I've been having strange dreams lately," I said.
"What sort of dreams?" he asked, frowning. "Not Demons again, may God forbid!"
"No. Nothing like that."
"I guess the best way to put it is, sex dreams."
"You still celibate, MacLeod?" he inquired seriously.
"Until yesterday, yes."
"Well, that explains it. Your 'celibate' needs work."
I laughed. "That's the understatement of the century!"
"So - what'd you call me for? You know the answer to sex dreams - find somebody, get it on, be on your way! Pouf, dreams all gone, you're sleeping like a baby again."
"Not quite." I hesitated. "These weren't the usual kinds of dreams. Not for me." I bit my lip.
I managed to get it out, finally. "They were - homoerotic."
One eyebrow went up. "And?"
"They were - about somebody I know. And me."
"Mmm. A man you know."
"And you got frightened, is that it?"
"Something like that," I answered. "But not only that."
"It's never been an ambition of mine to be a dentist, MacLeod. Spit it out."
"I think this homoerotic - material - contributed to my experiences over the last couple years. The Dark Quickening. What I felt about the Horsemen, and Byron. My reaction to the prophecy about the Demon. All of it."
"Because I was repressing these - desires, I guess. So they came out in other ways. Whatever I can't face straight on always does surface somehow."
"So, what do you want from me?"
"I want your advice. How to handle it."
"I don't do advice."
I stopped walking and looked at him until he relented.
"You know without asking what I'd recommend, Duncan. Go to the man, get it on - or off, as the case may be - and get on with your life."
"It's not as simple as that, Methos."
"It never is, with you." He grinned again. "Okay, I'll bite - who is he?"
We were standing near a garden which almost hid a small villa. There was a stone bench by the garden wall. I sat down and Methos joined me. Instead of answering his question I asked him, "Have you ever had dreams like that? About you and another man?"
"Occasionally. I'm five thousand years old, Duncan. I've been with both men and women. Many times. Sometimes, my desires come out in my dreams." He shrugged. "It's not terrible, MacLeod. Don't be afraid. It'll turn out all right. Talk to the guy. I can't imagine the man or woman who'd turn you down. You won't be humiliated."
"You don't understand -"
He rode right over what I'd said. "Or if you prefer to forget about the whole thing, just find yourself a woman. These dreams will pass. They're not part of you, Duncan, not your nature. In time, they'll stop."
"Methos - listen to me," I said hoarsely. "You don't understand!"
"So, explain it to me."
"It's you, Methos! The man is you!" Then I turned away from him, my face burning, my heart in my throat. Terrified.
For a moment, it seemed as if time stood still. Like when we were in Bordeaux, fighting the other Horsemen, and we suddenly became aware of each other. Then Methos took up the beat of life again, and I let out my breath. He said, "Ah, I see your dilemma, MacLeod. Helluva thing."
I looked around at him. "Is that all you got to say - helluva thing?" He'd made me angry, as usual.
"What do you want me to say? What do you want to hear?"
"You know what I want to hear!"
He nodded. "You're right. I do know. Come on, then. Let's go back to the hotel." He stood up. "This one's easy. Nothing to it."
"That's all you got to say - this one's easy!"
"MacLeod, I don't believe that every bad thing you've done since we met was because you wanted to fuck me and didn't have the guts to admit it. No matter how seductive the theory, I don't believe the world revolves around your sexual appetites. I cannot accept a theory based on the hypothesis that you killed C'oltec and Sean and Kronos and Byron because you didn't want to face an unexpected development in your sex drive. To me, that interpretation is vicious. Worse - absurd. So - let's go. Let's put this thing to rest once and for all. Only way to deal with it."
"You're a bastard, Methos, you know that?"
"You know why."
"Hey, I'm just a guy! I don't know everything. Let's keep things simple. You wanna fuck, we'll fuck. Wouldn't turn you down, not on a bet! How does that make me a bastard?"
I pressed my hands to my head, squeezed my skull, turned in place, looking everywhere, anywhere, but not at Methos. Then I said, "Okay, let's go. I've got my own room and Sergey's got his. We can be private. Nobody has to know."
"I don't give a good goddam who knows, MacLeod! I'm not embarrassed. Or ashamed. But if you want privacy, it'll be our secret. From everybody." I knew he meant the Watchers.
"Yeah, good." We turned and walked back to the hotel. Suddenly, I was more terrified than ever. I tossed him my key. "Go on up. I'll get a bottle from the bar. I'll be up in a minute."
He frowned. "You better hurry. I'm pretty beat. I may fall asleep while I wait."
"Then I'll wake you when I come in."
This wasn't right. It wasn't what I wanted. I hadn't told Methos everything. I hadn't told him the truth - that I loved him. If we made love this way, with him thinking I looked on it as a fuck, it'd be more than a mistake. It would be the end of us. I'd be just like him - telling only what was convenient to tell. That wasn't what we needed or wanted. Either of us.
Did he really believe what he'd said - that my dreams were only about sex, not about repressed love? That, if I wanted, I could just put them out of my mind? That they'd pass. Or was he just saying what he thought would make things easier for me, or what I wanted to hear?
I bought a bottle of scotch from the bartender in the hotel restaurant for double what it would have cost me in a shop and went up to my room. Methos had left the door open a couple inches, so I wouldn't need to knock, and he wouldn't have to get up. Lazy bastard.
The maid had been and gone and changed the sheets. Methos was asleep - or pretending to be - on top of the bedspread - fully clothed, of course. Couldn't get himself under the covers naked, oh no, not him! Had to make things difficult. Bastard!
I put the bottle on the nightstand, undressed quickly and lay down next to him, cradling him in my arms, thankful to Haresh for his lessons, glad I'd been wise enough to seek outside assistance. I could tell that Methos wasn't gonna help me out.
"Methos," I whispered, taking the hand which was curled by his mouth.
"I'm awake, MacLeod. This is so strange. I didn't expect it, when Joe called me."
"Disappointed, or just surprised?" I asked.
"I think the word's 'dumbfounded,' Mac," he retorted.
I bit my lip. His reactions were upsetting me. "I've been training," I said finally, thinking if he knew I wasn't a 'virgin' any more, it might help things along.
"How'd you mean?"
"I took a master. Crash course. So I wouldn't be more clumsy than necessary."
He turned over and lifted himself onto one elbow, eyes wide open now. "You're not serious."
"Perfectly serious," I replied, grasping his hand more tightly.
"You didn't think I'd know what to do?"
"I didn't want to turn you into my teacher."
Methos' reactions were confusing me. I was happy I'd hired Haresh. Apparently, Methos wasn't. I couldn't begin to guess why not. He pushed my hand off his and went to sit in a chair.
"What's going on, MacLeod?"
"I thought we'd settled that."
"No, nothing's settled. I don't think I like this." He stood.
"Methos, no! Don't go!"
"What's your game, Duncan? You can have sex with anyone. Sergey seemed nice, what little I saw of him. Very attractive. No doubt he'd be willing, if you wheedled a bit. Straightlaced sort, but you'd know how to handle that. You don't need me for this."
"It's you I dream about, Methos. You I want."
He shook his head. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod! You've got no idea what you're doing. None whatever. You're in cloud-cuckoo land."
"So, tell me."
He turned away, but after a moment asked, "Did you enjoy what your 'master' showed you?"
"More than I expected, I'm afraid. Didn't know what I was missing."
"And now you want to try it with me."
"It's not like that, Methos. With you, it'd be different -"
"How?" Blunt. I couldn't tell if he was angry.
"Because - it's just different." What was the matter with him? Why was he making problems?
"We're friends, is that it?"
"Partly," I admitted. "Something like that."
"Drop the other shoe, MacLeod. Now."
At last I figured out what he was trying to discover. "I can't," I said.
"I'm outta here." He had the door opened before I could get over to him. I panicked. I wasn't dressed. If he walked away now I knew I'd never catch up with him.
I rushed to block his exit. I grabbed his arm. "Don't go. Please. It's different because I love you, Methos. You must know that."
"You love me." He nodded a couple times. "Perfect."
"It is perfect."
"No. It's not. Lies are never perfect."
"It's the truth, Methos. I just didn't realize before. Stay here with me. Please. For a little while. Later, if you want to leave, I'll understand. But stay, for now."
"You've got no idea what you're asking me to do, MacLeod."
"I'm asking you to make love to me," I answered evenly. "If you love me, I'm asking you to show me."
He ran his fingers through his hair. At last he said, "You'll be the death of me."
"No pain, no gain. We're both at risk."
"No, not you. You're not at risk. Not like me." He was trembling. I grabbed him.
"Exactly like you, Methos. Exactly like you."
His shoulders slumped. He sagged in my arms. He didn't resist when I pulled a little. He let me sit him down in a chair. He was still wearing his long raincoat, even in this heat. I tugged at it until I got his arms out and could lift him enough to get it off him entirely. The coat was weighed down with concealed weapons - his two swords and a couple daggers I didn't recognize.
"Where's my katana?" I asked, to give him time to pull himself together.
"Joe's got it."
"These new?" I hefted the daggers, one in each hand.
"Picked them up in my travels. Antiques."
I held the weapons carefully. Methos was not carrying them for display purposes - the blades were sharpened to a killing edge.
I remembered the days when we'd gone places together. Before the Horsemen, when we were friends. It seemed years ago, those times. I knew my memory was playing tricks on me, but I believed we were happy then, even if we did have our troubles. At least we were together. In those days, Methos often didn't even bother to carry his sword. Now he was in full battle dress. Ready to defend himself - all by himself. So alone.
I studied the workmanship on the handles. "This one's really lovely. Must be quite old."
"Fifteenth century," he muttered. "Cost me an arm and a leg."
"Good you've got two of each, then," I joked.
"You know, MacLeod, I'm tempted to throw your own words back at you."
I put down the weapons. "Which words?"
"That I was doing all right without you. That I had time to think. To heal. Those words."
I'd been squatting on the floor next to him, my hands resting on his knees. Now, I sat back heavily. "But you came! You always come, when I call! You must want to come."
"Oh, MacLeod, you're such a pain in the ass! Of course I want to come."
Somehow, that one sentence, uttered by him with despair rather than joy, assured me of his love as no tender words would have done. It didn't make things good. "So it's true. You do love me."
"I haven't exactly been keeping it a secret."
"The - physical component - surprises me."
"Cripes, MacLeod, you trying to impress me with your vocabulary?"
"Give me a break, Methos. I'm not used to talking about sex, just doing it."
He sighed heavily. "Well, then, let's just do it."
"You make it sound like a death sentence."
"If the shoe fits -"
"I don't understand. You say I shouldn't be embarrassed or ashamed. You say you've done this before. Why do you act as if I'm torturing you with red hot pincers?"
"Is that how I sound?" He grinned.
"Not the ultimate turn-on, is it?"
I stood. "Look, Methos, we don't need to do this. I'll get dressed. We'll find Sergey, have an early lunch, a few drinks. You can rest up for a while, then be on your way. I'm not out to force you to do something you don't want to do."
He didn't answer, so I picked up my trousers and shirt and started to dress.
"Don't do that, Mac."
"Don't get dressed. I'll explain."
I dropped my clothes. Then I sat on the bed and waited. This better be good, I thought, because I'm feeling worse about us with every passing minute. I didn't know what was bothering Methos. I just knew that the things I'd told him about how I felt hadn't helped.
"My problem's not with making love. My problem's with after."
"I won't regret it," I said quickly.
"But I will."
"Because I won't want to stop."
I stared at him. "So, we won't stop. We'll send Sergey away. We can travel together again, just like we planned -"
"For how long?"
"What'd you mean?"
"We're Immortal, MacLeod. We live forever, until somebody takes our heads. For how long do you see 'us' working?"
"I don't know. I haven't been thinking about that. I've been having enough trouble just getting 'us' started."
"Well, I've been around five thousand years, give or take, MacLeod, so I do think about such mundane matters - the past, the future. The nature of man. Give me a time frame. Decades, centuries?"
"What's your point?"
"My point is that your last long-term commitment was to a Mortal woman."
"Tessa. So was yours. Alexa. So what?"
"Think about it. Think about living with me the way you did with Tessa. With that kind of commitment and feeling. Protecting, cherishing, obsessing. Building a life together, day after day." He paused. "Think about all that, MacLeod. Then think about me. Immortal, impossible me."
"Okay. I've thought about it."
"And?" He cocked his head, lifted an eyebrow.
"And nothing. We've been doing it for years, without talking about it. We've been joined at the hip - till death do us part - since we met. Except for sex."
He shook his head several times. "No, Duncan, we haven't been doing it. We haven't been doing anything like living an exclusive love relationship. We've been avoiding it like the plague since we met. With good reason."
"We can try -"
"No!" he shouted. "We cannot simply try! It doesn't work that way! You and I cannot have a one night stand with each other, Duncan. We start, we're stuck! We'll end by killing each other!"
"Only if it doesn't work out," I replied quietly. "What if it does work out? Then we'll be happy together -"
"That's a pretty big risk, if you ask me!"
"Like I said, we're both at risk."
He took a deep breath. "I won't survive, if we fail."
"We won't fail."
"You cannot know that."
I stood. "I'm standing here naked and telling you that we won't fail, Methos. You gonna try, or you gonna run and hide?"
He ran his eyes over me. Then he grinned. "And people call me a calculating sonuvabitch!"
"Is that a yes?"
"Hell, yes, that's a yes!"
Without a moment's pause Methos joined me in nakedness. One minute he's teetering in front of me, a skinny fragile creature, looking like you could knock him over with a feather. A Modigliani. The next minute he's standing there, tall and broad-shouldered, like the big brother of the model for Michelangelo's "David." I knew my eyes widened in shock when I saw how beautifully he was made.
He grinned. "Pack up all my cares and woes, singing low, here I go, bye bye blackbird," he sang, mangling the lyrics but holding the tune better than I ever could. "Close your mouth, Duncan, if you're not gonna sing!"
"I don't think I can talk, let alone sing," I said.
"No." I swallowed. "No problem." Except for his abrupt moodswings, which I'd never been able to keep up with.
"You like?" This time, his smile was radiant. When I didn't say anything right away, he went on, like he was remembering things from very long ago. "Once upon a time, I was the tallest guy on three continents. Didn't see a soul who came close, for millennia. That was my first clue I'd live a very long life, MacLeod. But people kept getting taller, until I fit right in."
"I don't like where that's going, Methos. Your height's nearly average, now. Especially in the New World."
"Well," he drawled, "nobody lives forever."
When I heard that, I closed the small gap between us. "If I have my way, they will."
Methos grinned. "Tell that to the guys you've killed, Mac."
I didn't reply. I didn't want to think about killing or death. I wanted to think about life. And about love. Suddenly, I wanted Methos very much.
We were standing quite close to each other. He'd stripped, yes, except for a small medallion on a thin gold chain. I didn't quite understand how he'd managed it, but I felt as though he was more naked than I was, although we both weren't wearing clothes, and he even had that piece of jewelry on. I raised my hand to touch the pendant but Methos moved back fractionally.
"That's new," I remarked about the medallion, trying to ignore the little distance he'd put between us. I took a deep breath and waited for his reply.
He touched the pendant. "Needed all the help I could get. Found this in a little shop in Madrid. It's old too, like the daggers."
"They have beautiful jewelry in Madrid. It's a Watcher pendant, right?" When I'd recognized the design I knew for sure he'd been tracking me all along. He'd always be a Watcher, in or out of the Society.
"Mmm. Yes. But the shopkeeper didn't know its provenance. It's authentic, I think. Seventeenth century. Must've belonged to a woman, it's so tiny. Very fragile."
"It's beautiful," I said. Then I reached up again, to touch Methos' shoulder. This time he didn't move away. "You're very beautiful too. And quite old. Worn, the design rubbed away, like on the pendant. Maybe more valuable because of that."
"Poetry, MacLeod?" But he didn't grin. He was very serious. So was I.
"Been reading a lot of poetry lately. In Carmel, St. John of the Cross was required reading. I knew before I'd entered the monastery that many scholars have interpreted the Song of Songs from the bible in a sexual way, but I'd never realized that St. John's poetry was open to that kind of interpretation too."
"John's poetry," he murmured. "Yes. Oh yes."
"You were always quoting him to me in your letters. But only the prose. His poems are wonderful too." Then I recited from memory, "'One dark night, fired with love's urgent longings - ah, the sheer grace! - in darkness and concealment, my house being now all stilled -'"
"Yes." He went on, but skipped a verse. "'On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me, nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guide than the one that burned in my heart -'" He stopped. After a moment he said, "Mac-"
"I shouldn't have done it, right?" I asked him. I brushed my fingers down his cheek. He was so beautiful.
"Taken a teacher, to train? No, it was a mistake, but not a bad one." He lifted his hand to hold mine close, against his cheek. "It's your nature, to strive to succeed, excel, in everything," he murmured. "Utterly foolish." He moved my hand to his mouth and kissed my palm.
"You forgive me?"
"Absolutely not!" he declared. "You'll need to unlearn everything! It's like taking piano lessons from a lousy teacher. You'll need to start over from scratch."
I smiled. "Now that I've got a maestro to teach me, it won't be long before I'll be ready to play in Carnegie Hall."
"One step at a time, MacLeod, one step at a time."
We moved to the bed as if we were in a trance. It was easier than I'd ever dreamed, being with Methos. For once in my life, I forgot about success and perfection, about pride and power. Maybe he just carried me along on the waves of his own seriousness, his own sincerity. I think something happened to me that I'd never experienced before. For once, I left it to somebody else to take care of things. Someplace deep inside me, I must have trusted Methos, must have known he'd be able to take care of me, and that made all the difference.
"You're a dreamer, MacLeod. It's who you are. Be a dreamer," he said quietly. I nodded. Then I closed my eyes.
He roamed my body very slowly. "Love is slow," young Haresh had told me, and he was right. Where Methos' hands brushed me, rested, caressed, pressed, that place became more real to me than it had ever been. I longed, I yearned, I lacked nothing, I had everything. With Methos' love, I received everything. Methos' love was everything.
He spoke at one point. "I loved you for a very long time, Duncan, before my love spilled over and I discovered I wanted you. I ask you to believe that. The love spilled over and I knew I wanted you. And my desire to care for you became a happy torment to me, a sweetness, never a burden. I wanted to possess you, and to belong to you. To exchange who we were. And then the moment came when you were no longer perfectly you, and you suffered, so I realized our time was near. Then, the vessel cracked and your heart's blood seeped out. You lost everything. Now, there's nothing left of you to exchange with me. So, I offer you my heart's blood - to replenish your supply."
"Not unto death, Methos, please."
He reassured me. "'Take a little wine, for thy stomach's sake.' For medicinal purposes only."
"I love you, Methos."
"And I you," he replied, holding me tight. "And I you."
I append in its entirety an English translation of the poem "The Dark Night" by St. John of the Cross, in all its beauty and perfection. May every good meaning this work of love offers blaze like the noonday sun in our hearts!
THE DARK NIGHT
by St. John of the Cross
Stanzas of the Soul
One dark night,
Fired with love's urgent longings
-Ah, the sheer grace!-
I went out unseen,
My house being now all stilled;
In darkness, and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised,
-Ah, the sheer grace!-
In darkness and concealment,
My house being now all stilled;
On that glad night,
In secret, for no one saw me,
Nor did I look at anything,
With no other light or guide
Than the one that burned in my heart;
This guided me
More surely than the light of noon
To where He waited for me
-Him I knew so well-
In a place where no one else appeared.
Oh guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with His beloved,
Transforming the beloved in her Lover.
Upon my flowering breast
Which I kept wholly for Him alone,
There He lay sleeping,
And I caressing Him
There in a breeze from the fanning cedars.
When the breeze blew from the turret
Parting His hair,
He wounded my neck
With His gentle hand,
Suspending all my senses.
I abandoned and forgot myself,
Laying my face on my Beloved;
All things ceased; I went out from myself,
Leaving my cares
Forgotten among the lilies.
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