by Maxine Mayer, 2/8/98
~ ~ ~ CIRCA "THE MESSENGER" ~ ~ ~
I don't know what he plans to do about his illicit membership in the Watcher Society - the moral bind that deception puts him in - but I think he'll do something. What happened with Joseph and the Watchers and Jacob Galati was over the top, even for Methos. It forced him to look at the life he leads. Take stock. Maybe for the first time in a long time. I think he finally acknowledged that he was doing the wrong thing by hiding his identity as an Immortal the way he did. Finally figured out that he'd lost himself in an attempt to "lose himself." That can't be good. Or an easy thing to face.
I hope he finds his way.
And I hope he finds a way to help Richie. Help me, help Richie, that is. I really hope so.
"No, seriously, Methos. Would you come out to the house again, help some more? While Anne's away, I want to do some painting, touch the porch up a little - maybe just repaint it entirely. And last time I spoke to Anne, she mentioned that the roof's leaking. Richie's off on another one of his road trips so I need to look elsewhere for a little brawn if I'm to have any hope at all of getting the house in shape between now and when they come home. I'd like to surprise her, make some repairs."
He didn't react to my crack about brawn. Instead he asked, "That's who the house was for? Anne Lindsey?" He sounded like he couldn't believe it. I don't know what he'd thought - maybe that I'd bought it for myself.
"For her and her child," I explained. "She loved it."
"Right." He swivelled up from his lounging pose on the couch in my Seacouver loft and went to the fridge to snag another beer.
"What?" What difference could it make to him who I'd renovated the house for?
"I dunno. Somehow, it never occurred to me I was painting my butt off for a woman who threw you over. It seems - odd. I certainly don't want to lift a finger, now that I do know."
"Methos," I said reasonably, "if you help out, you're not doing it for Anne. You're doing it for me."
"I know," he replied quietly, with a shake of his head, after a moment. Lingering by the sink, fiddling with the opening of his beer bottle, he sighed heavily, finally saying, "I guess this is just another example of the 'real' Duncan MacLeod. I should be accustomed to it by this time." He chuckled. "Somehow, though, it always comes as a shock - your masochism."
"It's not masochism, Methos, it's love." I wasn't angry at the harshness of his judgment. He might not be used to my ways but I had him pegged pretty well. He had my welfare at heart.
"So you're still in love with Anne?" he asked bluntly.
"Not 'in love.' But I do love her, yes. I'll always love her. What happened between us can't change that."
Again he chuckled. "Can't help thinking about how that old fraud described me." He meant the "other" Methos.
"He didn't know who I was, but he asked me how anyone could live five thousand years and do nothing, risk nothing."
"That's not true," I replied quickly, a little disconcerted by the jump in the conversation. "What's that got to do with anything?"
"Simply that you risk everything, all the time. And I risk nothing, ever. It's kind of strange, that we're friends at all. In the circumstances."
I frowned. "Two people don't need to be alike to be friends -"
"No. But the disillusionment factor becomes a really strong possibility, when they're as different as you and me."
The penny dropped. "Methos, is there something you want to tell me?"
He looked up from his beer bottle and replied quickly, "No, Mac. Nothing. Nothing at all."
"You're sure?" I grinned. "I'm feeling pretty generous toward you right now. You did me and Richie a good turn with your story about Spinoza. Saved Richie's life. Again. If you've got bad news, or a tale that's on the dark side, now would be a good moment to spill the beans. I'm not likely to bite your head off today!"
"Nothing. There's nothing, MacLeod." He pushed away from the sink and tossed his beer bottle into the trash. "And - you're welcome."
I grinned. "Yeah, I know."
"So - how about you pick a color for the porch and we'll buy some paint and lumber and get to work on your good Lady Anne's house?"
"Methos -" But he ignored me and we left the loft and shopped for paint and shingles and nails and drove to Anne's without talking about anything serious at all. I was certain there was something he wasn't telling me but knew he could out-stubborn me any day of the week. I thought maybe while we worked, he'd open up.
I imagined he had a tale or two to tell. He hadn't always been so bookish, I supposed. I certainly hadn't, and he was a lot older than me. I looked forward to hearing a few gruesome anecdotes - perhaps about famous Immortals he'd known, even some he'd killed. Nothing major. He'd most likely slipped through his centuries very much as he was slipping through this one. Cautiously, quietly. He had a good heart - that I knew. I didn't think he liked the killing much. He'd probably always avoided it, as best he could. He was a word man, not a Warrior.
True, his reluctance to speak much about himself, his past, gave me pause. I knew I shouldn't rule out every form of violence, when I thought about him. He was an Immortal, after all. And a consummate survivor. But somehow, my heart didn't really go along with what my mind told me. Lazy as he was, it was difficult to imagine Methos doing anything really active - even his style with a sword was more like dancing than fighting. I knew he'd fight when he had to but more than that - well, it wasn't his nature to be aggressive.
He'd astonished me by taking Kristin's head when I'd have walked away, but that was for my sake. Even so, he'd managed to explain what he'd done philosophically, in that strange way of his. "Someone had to." Not revenge, anger, passion. Simply, as insurance - to protect me from her for all time. Practical. I was thrown by it but I didn't have the heart to be angry with him for killing her. He'd wanted to be sure she wouldn't harm me or mine again. How could I quarrel with that?
What I'd told him earlier was true - I was feeling very generous towards him today. Very - emotional. Vulnerable. Loving. He was the most difficult man I'd ever met but he was also the greatest friend I'd ever had. Permanent. Absolute. Like a mountain or the sea. Even Darius hadn't been such a constant in my life as Methos was. Darius' life was so different from mine. Our friendship couldn't include the kind of companionship I shared with Methos. It wasn't an option.
But Methos - wherever I was in my life, my thoughts, my feelings, Methos was there. Ahead of me, before me. With his hand stretched out to help. To share my problems and trials. To offer what wisdom he could. To accept the decisions I made, my choices. Whenever I needed him, there he was, risking everything for me. I was more than grateful. I wished I could do something for him in return.
But he didn't need anything from me. He was self-sufficient, self-contained. He didn't need "things." Not a house or a barge or a truck or a bike or anything I could buy or make. Like Gina hadn't needed a new Italian car from Robert.
There was something Methos did need, though. From someone. From me. Trust. Acceptance. Friendship. I had all those things in my gift, and I intended to give them and keep on giving them to him. Forever.
It felt good to decide, at last, that Methos meant that much to me. That he was "forever" in my life - a constant - like Tessa and Richie and Darius and Amanda and Fitz and Joe. It felt very good. I grinned, mentally adding Methos to my pantheon of all-time friends, my household gods.
I'd told him I'd go with some shade of grey for the porch this time, and thanked him in advance for his help. We'd bought what I needed and made the short trip without talking much. As I drove I stole a glance at him. He seemed relaxed, like always. Happy. I was glad to see that, very glad.
Out at the house I'd bought and renovated for Anne and was now refurbishing for her, the sun shone warm - more like summer than fall - and I took off my shirt while we worked to get a jump on painting the porch before we started repairs on the roof. Methos put aside his outer sweater but left his t-shirt on.
"You're very quiet," I told him when he hadn't said a word for nearly an hour while we painted side by side.
"I'm concentrating. Want to get this right." His tongue was locked in the corner of his mouth and his focus was intense. When Methos was "on the job" he really was "on the job." He had grey paint all over his hands and his jeans were spotted with it. I wondered if he could afford to replace the clothes he'd ruined helping me.
"I appreciate what you're doing, Methos, but you don't have to try quite so hard. We've got two weeks and it's just a porch." I put down my brush. "I'm gonna bring up some beer from the car. Take a break."
"You can take a break if you like, Mac, but I want to finish this section before dark."
"Okay - I'll watch for a while."
I put the cooler of beer on the porch and sat down on the steps, turning so I could watch Methos while he painted. "You know," I mused, taking a sip of my beer, "what you said before - about us being different and that making for disillusionment - it's not right."
"No?" he asked, not looking up from his work.
"No. We may be different but we both have our pasts. You're not the only one with history."
"But I'm the only one with five thousand years of it."
There was a serious quality to his reply that made me want to put his mind at ease. I said, "Even Joe has history. I'll bet you anything you like, he's as sorry for some of the things he did in Viet Nam as you or I can ever be for what we've done in our time."
"You think so?"
"I do. Everybody has a past. Something he's done he's not proud of. Or wouldn't do again if he had a choice." I remembered Culloden and the months after that battle, but didn't mention anything specific. Methos didn't need to know. He'd seen enough of me at my worst when he'd joined me after my Dark Quickening. No reason to rub it in - that I wasn't a paragon of virtue by any means. I didn't want to tell him anything that might make him think less of me. I didn't want to push him away.
"You think we can change?" he asked thoughtfully. "You believe that?"
He put down his brush and came over to the steps, grabbing a beer and the bottle opener, popping off the cap. He stood near me, leaning back against a pillar we hadn't yet touched with fresh paint, and took a swig of the beer. "You think we can change beyond recognition? From bad to good? You believe that, Mac?"
"Yes, I do." Now I was desperate to convince him of that. I hoped he'd tell me whatever it was that was on his mind. Clearly, there was something he'd done that he believed would disillusion me, if I knew about it.
Something that damn fraud told him had triggered a memory for Methos. He wanted to tell me but didn't think I could handle it. I wanted to know. I wanted to know all there was to know about Methos. I hoped he'd speak to me here, now, in these beautiful surroundings, on this lovely day. I hoped he'd tell me now, while our friendship was so alive in my heart, so unsullied by darkness. I wanted to know - wanted him to tell me - so he'd realize how important he was to me. That there was nothing he could reveal about his past that would touch our friendship now. Nothing.
"So - what happens to what we did?" he asked, surprising me with the question.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, the things we did, that we wouldn't do again. Where do those things go? Where does the past go? The people we've hurt, the lives we've destroyed. Where does it all go? When we change?"
"I don't know. Nowhere. It stays in the past. It's gone. Over."
"Oh no, Mac. It's not gone." He shook his head. "It's nothing like 'gone,' believe me."
"You're saying that we cannot change?" That didn't sound like Methos to me.
"No. I'm simply saying that the past is always there, ready to become part of the present and the future, in the blink of an eye. We can't pretend things never happened just because we wouldn't do them again, or because we think we've changed."
I looked up at him and said very seriously, "Methos, if there's something you want to tell me, this is definitely a good moment for it. Like I said before, now's the time."
"No. I was just making conversation. General philosophical bullshit. Don't worry about it." He put his empty beer bottle into the cooler and went back over to where he was painting the porch.
I didn't press him again but I felt really bad. Hollow. Even under the best of circumstances, he wouldn't open up - didn't trust me that much. It was a shame but time would fix it. He was very old. Hadn't trusted another soul with his identity or his history in a very long time. I wished it were otherwise but he didn't trust me either, not completely. Not yet. I could wait.
And I looked forward to learning more about him. One day he'd tell me his story - whatever this particular memory was, that troubled him so. He'd be happy when he realized I wouldn't judge him or condemn him for it, anymore than he'd judged or condemned me for the things I did during the aftermath of my Dark Quickening. When he knew me better, he'd realize there was nothing he could tell me, nothing he'd done, that I couldn't accept and forgive. Because I knew who he was, who he was now. Whatever he'd done or been in the past, he'd changed. Now, he was good. I loved the man he was now, the good man he'd become. One day he'd know that for certain, and trust me with the truth.
~ ~ ~ CIRCA "THE VALKYRIE" ~ ~ ~
I told him everything that happened with Ingrid during World War II, hoping against hope that Methos would know the answer - what I must do to stop her from killing Mortals.
He told me I already knew the answer. That there was no hope for Ingrid, nothing I could say or do that would change her mind and make her stop killing. Nothing short of taking her head.
I balked. Became furious with him.
What was wrong with the man? Could he have done it, if he'd known Ingrid as I did? Was it so easy for him to contemplate killing a person he'd cared for, admired, loved? So easy to destroy a woman like Ingrid?
Ingrid was no Kristin. Ingrid was a good person, someone who wanted to serve mankind, who wanted her life, her Immortality to make a difference. Ingrid was noble. Maybe she'd lost her way, become obsessed with making up for her failures in the past. But she didn't deserve to die. She needed my help, my compassion, not for me to kill her! How could he expect that of me? Expect me to dismiss my friendship with Ingrid so easily, and just take her head?
I balked. Over and over again. Fought him with words. With contempt.
He fought me with reason and a philosophy of history I could never accept. That individuals don't matter, only movements of history mattered.
How could I live like that? Taking no stand. Taking no part.
How could he?
It was contemptible.
Evil flourished when good men did nothing. Didn't Methos know that?
But if Methos was wrong, Ingrid was right. And I knew she wasn't right.
Fucking moral dilemma, as he'd dubbed it. But this was no mere dilemma. This was life and death. This was Ingrid and me. And in some crazy way, this was Methos, too.
I fought him hard, wriggling on the pin he'd stuck in me, like I was a butterfly skewered to a display board.
But in the end, it turned out Methos was right and I was wrong. Ingrid couldn't be saved. Not by me. In the end, he was right. The only stand I could take was to take her head.
Afterwards, when I'd done what he knew all along I'd be forced to do, he sat with me and comforted me in my anguish. Gave me some of the truths I asked him for but not all of them. In the end, Methos stood by me when I did something I couldn't digest or dismiss. Offered strength, hope, friendship, when I no longer felt as if I deserved anything like those things. Offered wisdom. Offered humor. Offered food. Offered himself - his total acceptance and forgiveness - when I couldn't accept or forgive myself, or bear the pain.
One more killing, the reason for which disappeared for me the moment my sword fell from my hands and the Quickening entered me. One more ugly deed acknowledged and stored in my heart. One more ugly story in my past.
Like he'd asked recently, I wondered too, where does it all go, those bad things we do that we'd snatch back, if we could, but never manage to forget. I'd told him they were gone, over. But again, Methos was right. They were neither gone nor over. They were there, lurking, waiting to spring out of "nowhere" and torment our present, our future. Waiting, always waiting, like animals in the darkness, to destroy who we thought we'd become.
It was a lucky thing for me, that Methos was with me when Ingrid rose from the darkness, only to fall into darkness again with a stroke of my sword. Without his friendship, the embrace of his caring, his wisdom, his heart, I think I'd have been lost at that moment. If he hadn't been with me, I'd have been lost.
In the end, I took what he gave me - a strange absolution - and was healed, redeemed.
I couldn't imagine life without him now.
How had I lived without Methos all those centuries? It didn't seem possible. What had I done with my dread, my fear, my rage, my self-loathing, my anguish, my horror? Where had I gone with it, before Methos? Who'd taken the pain away? Nobody. I'd carried it alone. And now he shared the burden.
For months after I killed Ingrid I suffered about it. Methos didn't know all of it but he and I were inseparable - I wouldn't let him out of my sight. His presence was my sole comfort, soothing my wounds.
I dragged Joe along with us to concerts and movies and sporting events when I could, night after night, day after day. With one ploy or another, I managed to get Methos to sleep on my couch nearly every night, not that it was so hard to accomplish, but the uncertainty kept me working at it. The rest of the time I kept him with me as much as possible, just the two of us grating against each other, because I was terrified to be without him. Terrified that he'd go away, take another one of his walking trips, leaving me behind. Alone.
What if something else happened? Something else bad? How would I deal with it without him? It was unthinkable! I didn't want to deal with anything major without Methos by my side - not anymore. I'd had a taste of paradise. What it meant to have a brother close, at your back, looking after you, helping you fight, helping you understand, helping you live. I didn't want to be without that support ever again. It felt too good. If I had my way, Methos would live forever. And our friendship would be forever. I was deadly serious about that. I'd do whatever I needed to do to make that goal a reality.
"You really think it's a good idea, Mac? The two of us sharing this place?" He lifted his hand to indicate he meant the loft. There was a strange expression on his face.
"Why not? Save us both some cash and you're here all the time anyway." I'd made the suggestion and hadn't expected even token opposition from Methos - it was a good deal. I wheedled as subtly as I could. "There's plenty of room to partition off sleeping quarters for you. Aren't you sick of sleeping on the couch?"
"No, I like the couch. Very comfortable. Especially when you compare it with a bed of nettles." A joke. Why was he pushing the idea away? He spent more time here than at his own place - wherever that was. "Besides, now I don't pay you anything - not for food, drink, sleeping quarters. I expect you'll want a pretty penny for my share of these digs, if I move in. Not to speak of the cost of renovation."
"But you could stop paying rent on your own apartment," I rejoined. "Whatever I ask from you, it's got to be less than that!"
He grinned. "Mac, you're something else! What's your game? Why are you so anxious to make our arrangement permanent?"
"It's no game," I replied, backing off some. I shrugged, leaving my chair and going over to the cooking island. I picked up a sponge and wiped off the immaculate counter. I had to think. "I just figured I'd be doing you a favor, saving you money. And the trouble of keeping up your place when you're always here anyway. Besides, I enjoy your company. You seem to enjoy needling me. So why not make our arrangement permanent?"
"You really haven't thought this through at all, have you?" he asked.
"Of course I have! I've thought about it a lot. Even checked out the cost of putting in walls - partitioning off an extra room! What makes you think I just dreamed this up?"
"Oh, nothing. Except - what did you have in mind to do with me when Amanda visits? Or some other lovely lady? Or should I say 'ladies' - in the plural? Where do you plan to sleep when I bring a woman back here with me? In the next room? With masonite walls? I don't know about you, Mac, but I'm a noisy lover."
I felt my cheeks burn with embarrassment. He was right. I hadn't even considered women! The idea of a lovelife hadn't crossed my mind! I knew Methos wasn't the sort of man who fell in love at every turn, but I was such a man! Not to speak of my sex drive! I couldn't believe I'd forgotten about sex, entirely forgotten! Was I so completely lost in this obsession I'd developed about Methos' companionship that I didn't even remember Amanda? She was unlikely to object to Methos as my roommate but she'd scarcely be happy to learn he'd be on the other side of a flimsy wall when we made love! He was still laughing at me when I looked over at him in confusion, unable to think what to say.
Finally, he stopped laughing. "Mac," he told me seriously, no trace of humor in his tone, "we're a bit old to be roommates. Both of us. Lovers, maybe. Roommates, no."
I frowned. "I wasn't suggesting -"
"I know you weren't. Of course you weren't. Otherwise, you wouldn't be checking out lumber suppliers and making plans to divide the loft. But you're way out of your depth here, Highlander. Far from home. Think about what you're really doing - what you've been doing with us for a long time. Think, MacLeod."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying you don't know what's been happening to you. I'm sorry I didn't notice soon enough to warn you in time. Or to leave before it got to this point. Too late now, I see. I've been criminally negligent. I wager I've been having too much fun."
"What are you talking about?"
"This is dangerous, Mac. Truly it is. All I ask you to do is think. Think hard. Please." He stood up as if he was about to go and I panicked.
"No - don't go! Whatever it is, don't go! I'm sorry if what I suggested insulted you in some way - of course you'd want privacy - of course! It was foolish of me to bring this up! I'm sorry!"
"Mac, it wasn't foolish. It was crazy. And very sweet."
"So - don't leave. Just forget it."
"I can't forget it. Neither can you. I'll repeat this just once, MacLeod. This is dangerous. You should think about what it means. Please do that. If not for your own sake, for mine."
"I don't want to hurt you - your friendship means everything to me!"
"Believe me, I know that." He walked over to the kitchen island. Putting his hand on my shoulder he told me quietly, "I'm grateful for your friendship, Mac. I'm happy to do whatever I can for you. You're the best I've ever seen. I'm doing everybody a favor when I help you in any way I can." His sincerity seared my soul.
"You do help. You do -"
"But I won't be doing either of us - or anyone else - a favor if I don't tell you now, you've embarked on a dangerous course, this time round. Go no further until you know what you're doing, how you really feel, what this means. Please." He took his hand away from my shoulder and smiled. "Don't look so scared. The truth doesn't hurt - much."
I don't think I really heard a word he said. Only one thought in my mind. "You won't go?"
"I won't go," he assured me. "But why don't you go? Take a walk, pick up groceries, something for supper. Come home and cook. I'll be here. On the couch. Like always."
I nodded. "Okay. Okay." I was in shock, the terror of losing him because of my insane suggestion still throbbing in my head, my heart. I couldn't do without him! No! I put on my coat and left the loft but I didn't go far, just to the corner where I shopped for groceries with one eye on the dojo. If I concentrated hard I could sense him from this distance - very faintly. I wasn't about to get out of range. I could no more take a walk - trusting that Methos would still be lounging on my couch when I returned - than I could fly. Not after that conversation.
I took up a position in the shadows of an alley down the street from the grocery and waited half an hour - a reasonable time if I'd taken a walk - staring at the dojo door. Then I picked up my bag of foodstuffs and started back towards the loft.
Whatever I ought to be thinking about - according to Methos - I wasn't thinking at all now. Nor would I be able to think unless I could keep an eye on him. When he wasn't in sight, there was only one concern I focused on - his whereabouts. Whatever that meant, I wouldn't figure it out from afar. I chuckled mirthlessly as I crossed the street. Maybe I was out of my depth but Methos was a fool if he thought that would frighten me off.
Dangerous. All of a sudden he believed our friendship was dangerous. Why? And to whom? Both of us? The most wonderful thing I'd ever experienced in my life - his friendship - and he wanted me to believe it was wrong. Why? Methos had better tell me because there was no way I'd figure it out for myself. If I hadn't already, I wasn't about to.
Women? There were no women. There was only Methos.
Oh my God. Oh my God.
I was in love with him! With Methos! That's what it was! Oh my God! No wonder he'd thought it was dangerous!
The ramifications spun through my mind in chaotic disorder and I reeled on the dojo steps, nearly falling to the sidewalk. I grabbed the railing and dropped the grocery bag. I sat on the staircase with an undignified thump.
He was up there, in my loft! Where I live! And I'd need to get up, brush myself off and go in! Face him! After realizing this! Jesus Christ, it was impossible, impossible!
I took a deep breath. I haven't lived four hundred years for nothing. I knew how it must be. Claudia all over again, though this time the object of my unrequited feelings knew about them. And this time I'd do what I had to do for my own sake, not to spare the other person confusion or suffering.
I knew how it must be and I braced myself. There was only one way to go, into hiding - in plain sight. I must never let Methos guess that I knew what he meant. I'd just go on like before, cooking dinner, playing games, letting him sleep on my couch. No other way to go but on like before. I couldn't face him, if he realized I knew. I couldn't bear his wit, his joking, his contempt.
Women! I turned red again when I thought of what he'd said about women. I'd forgotten them but he'd remembered! Unbearable. My embarrassment knew no bounds.
I'd fight this - fight my feelings and fight to keep him from knowing. With my last breath, I'd fight this. He'd never know I'd understood. I couldn't bear it if he knew.
Now, joy was gone. Everything became impossible. Nothing was easy, natural, relaxed anymore. Every word out of my mouth was strained. Every gesture I made was controlled. Like kata, not life.
I let him go his own way, let him go, when he wanted. Raised no objections. Devised no ploys to keep him in my loft anymore. Instead, when he left my home I stalked him. Slept on the grounds outside his apartment building like a vagrant, just out of range of his buzz, so I could keep an eye on him without him seeing me, seeing what was clearly obvious to him - that I was in love with him.
When we were together I shrugged and pretended and joked and teased with every ounce of energy I possessed, just like before. But there was nothing natural or happy about us any longer. And I knew that if anything came along that was difficult, dangerous - any problem or sorrow - I'd never be able to turn to him for help. Never again.
Methos was right. This was dangerous. How I felt about him was very dangerous. Without another word spoken about it, how I felt was destroying our friendship. Secrets and hiding - his way, not mine. Running away - his trick, not mine. This was killing us. No, the truth doesn't hurt - much. But lies - lies hurt.
We began to drift apart, uncomfortable with each other. He spent fewer and fewer nights on my couch, joined me less and less often at the movies, for dinner, or a last drink at Joe's. I loved him more than ever but nothing else was the same. At last I realized that unless I spoke we were through. Dangerous, indeed.
"Good dinner, Mac," he told me, after a Thanksgiving feast I'd cooked for the three of us - Methos, Joe and myself - but that Joe ended up skipping because of a family crisis out of town.
"Glad you liked it. Thanksgiving is my favorite New World holiday."
"That's surprising," Methos said. When I looked my question, he added, "Considering the Indians, I meant." My God, did he know every hour of my life story? I certainly knew nothing about his.
"I was thinking more in terms of the settlers - their struggle to make a new life for themselves, to start over. Their sense of community. Their gratitude for the bounty of the land. Trust you to bring up the Indians!" I grinned and stood. "More wine?" I asked, going to the kitchen to get another bottle.
"I think what I've already imbibed will do me, Mac," he replied, standing and throwing his napkin by his plate. "It's getting late. I'm off." He went to the chair where he'd left his raincoat and picked it up.
"Late? It's not even ten. We could take a walk. Take in a movie." I felt restless and lonely, even though he was with me. I'd felt that way a lot lately. The price of secrecy and hiding. I didn't want him to leave, not so early. I couldn't face the four day weekend yet. He held his coat in his hands without putting it on but didn't answer me. "What do you say, Methos? I'll leave the dishes for later." I pressed, then kicked myself for doing that. It rarely worked with Methos. Somehow tonight I couldn't help myself. Holidays were always difficult for me. I was miserable and I didn't want to be alone. I wanted him with me even if our time together was joyless.
After a moment he said coldly, "You know, Mac, another couple weeks of this and we can throw in the towel for good. Since it appears you're gonna keep this up, might as well finish it now."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, my heart racing. All my vague recent yearnings to speak the truth disappeared instantly. I hadn't made up my mind yet! I wasn't ready! If we spoke, something would come of it and I was afraid to know what.
"Okay." He dropped his coat and went to the couch. "Let's have it out, Thanksgiving or no Thanksgiving. I'm fresh out of patience."
"Have what out?" I asked breathlessly.
"Playing dumb? The role doesn't suit you, MacLeod. Any more than the rest of the script you've written yourself."
"What are you talking about?"
"Okay, fine. I'll use words of one syllable. Any thoughts on what we talked about - last time we talked?"
"When was that?"
"You've gotta be joking." He stood. "Guess I got my answer. No thoughts. No truths. Nothing. Fine. I'm outta here."
"Why? What's wrong?" I started towards him, then stopped myself. "What did I do?"
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, please don't insult me. I'm five thousand years old. Show a little respect for your elders."
"How am I insulting you?"
"You know precisely what I'm talking about and you know absolutely what I meant back then. You figured it out pretty quickly, once I gave you a hint, and I've been waiting for you to say something remotely resembling a remark or a comment - waiting for weeks now. Instead, you've been stalking my flat by night, pretending that I don't exist by day. Or pretending that if I do exist, I'm nothing to you. This is unprofitable. I don't intend to hang about until it becomes costly. Do you follow?"
"For God's sake, Mac, don't 'Methos' me in that plaintive virginal who-me style! It suits you about as well as a party hat suits a lion! Take your fucking courage in your hands, open your mouth, admit the truth, and let's see what we can salvage from this fiasco - before there's no more 'we' to do the salvaging!"
I didn't hesitate. This was no threat. It was a promise. If I didn't answer him now I'd never see him again. "I'm in love with you and I don't know what to do about it," I told him.
"Ah, good. Very good. Brave boy! I commend you!"
I started to say "Methos" but stopped myself. I didn't want to "Methos" him. Instead I said wryly, "Thanks. Now that that's out of the way, you can begin the salvage operation anytime you're ready. Because I don't have a clue."
"Not even a little clue? A hint of a clue?"
"How about asking me how I feel about you?"
"I already know the answer to that."
"You do?" He was grinning from ear to ear at this point. "Really? Gee, any chance you'll take this opportunity to express yourself on the subject of how I feel? On a need-to-know basis, of course."
"I'm sure you find this amusing, Methos. Which is why I didn't say anything before."
"Oh no. Not at all amusing, Mac. Not in the least bit."
"How do you feel about me? You're a good friend. You've always been that. I know I can trust you with anything - any problem, any question, anything. I know I can rely on you to protect me with your life."
"Sounds right on the money so far."
"That's it. Not 'so far.' That's as far as it goes, for you - friendship. I want to hold on to that and I hope you won't let what I've told you - how I feel about you - make a difference."
"It shouldn't make a difference? That you're in love with me shouldn't bother me, interest me, change anything? That your thrust, Mac?"
"Mmm. Interesting slant. I wouldn't have believed it possible for a man who's lived four hundred years to come up with such a crock of shit, but I guess you live and learn."
"I mean it, Methos!" I was really upset. It did make a difference - of course it did! He would probably leave me because I was in love with him! How could I have said anything so foolish! How could he stand to hang around me after this was in the open between us! I was so stupid! But I repeated it. "Don't let this make a difference in our friendship. I mean that."
"Oddly enough, I know you mean it. You really mean to ask me to bear with you, stick by you, in spite of this odd weakness you've discovered in yourself, this 'illness' - is it terminal, I wonder? You want me to grin and bear it."
"Uhuhuh!" He wagged a finger at me. "You're doing it again, Mac! Methos-ing me!" He grinned. "So, okay, works for me. I'm gonna bear with you, Mac. Thick and thin, like the good friend I am. Do you think the lumber mill will be open the day after Thanksgiving? So we can buy some masonite and build me a room here?" He gestured around, adding thoughtfully, "I probably should rent a small truck and bring some of my furniture over - a chest of drawers, some bookcases, my computer, my books, my CD's and tapes -"
I interrupted as soon as I grasped what he was talking about. "You can't live here!"
"Why not?" He'd plastered his most innocent expression on his face. "You invited me to move in with you. I'm taking you up on your offer. We'll worry about the ladies when they get here. One of us could always go to a motel for a couple nights. Maybe bunk with Joe."
"Methos - did you hear what I said? I'm in love with you! We can't be roommates!"
"Why not?" That innocent expression again.
"I'm in love with you!" I repeated, exasperated.
"So - I dunno," I finished lamely.
"Are you planning on attacking me in the middle of the night? Coming into my cubicle and taking me by force?"
"So what's the problem? We're friends. We'll share the flat, expenses. Hang out. Drink beer. Watch television. You'll cook and clean, I'll eat and make a mess. We'll buy earphones -" He was really warming up to the idea.
"Methos," I said finally, trying to be calm. "How do you feel about me?"
"Excuse me? Did I hear correctly? You want to know my thoughts? My feelings? My interest in this? Looking for input? I thought you already knew." His voice was hard now. "I thought you knew everything."
"No. I don't know. I just - assumed. I'm sorry. I should have asked, let you tell me. Asked," I repeated stupidly. I took a deep breath. When I expelled it, it came out as a shudder. "Tell me. Please."
"This might be anti-climactic, and I hate to step on yet another of your nifty plans, but I really don't think we're gonna need to find a lumber yard."
"That's how you feel?" I asked quietly, my heart sinking.
"Yes, Mac, that's exactly how I feel."
"I see." I didn't try to pretend I wasn't miserable and lost. I could feel the blood draining from my face as I sagged against the kitchen island.
"You see," he echoed thoughtfully, nodding once. Remote. From a great height.
All I could manage was, "Yes."
I guess my reply galvanized him. He shifted on the sofa, sat up. His sprawl disappeared as if it had never been. He pointed to my bed. "You see that bed, Mac?" I nodded. "I'm thinking of moving from the couch wa-a-a-ay over to that bed. That's where I'll be, if you need me. If you want me. If you don't - well -" he raised a shoulder - "the sofa will be free, from here on out. You can use it."
I wasn't sure I understood what he meant even now, his tone was so at odds with his words. "What was dangerous a month ago is now just fine?" I asked him tentatively, trying to follow, hoping against hope I'd grasped the import of what he'd said. That I wasn't mistaken. That he wasn't going to leave me.
"No, it's not 'just fine.' It's still dangerous. It will always be dangerous."
"But you don't care?"
He chuckled. "I'm gonna tell you a little secret, Mac, something you may not believe just now. Someday, though, you'll believe it."
My strength seemed to be renewing itself with every moment that went by. I found myself able to reply with some semblance of humor. "Any secret of yours is a secret of mine, old man."
"Here it is, then. Despite all appearances - and notwithstanding any evidence to the contrary - I am not a coward."
"I've seen no evidence that would make me believe you're a coward, Methos. Ever."
"So - what'll it be, Mac? Bed or couch? For you, I mean?" he asked, no hint of a joke in his voice or his eyes now.
"You're sure?" I still couldn't believe that he'd sleep with me. I was sure he didn't love me - not the way I loved him. I didn't trust his offer. For the first time since I'd met him, I didn't trust him.
"This is no time for bullshit, MacLeod. Bed or couch! Make your choice!"
He who hesitates is lost. "Truth, Methos. I choose truth. I'm for bed."
In the morning I watched him sleep, the sunlight streaming through the window creeping closer and closer to his face until it woke him. Then I said, "The fraud was wrong, Methos. You do take risks."
"Oh God. I'd kinda hoped for ten minutes in the mornings to brush my teeth and take a leak before you started the moral dilemma routine, Mac. Any chance for time out?"
"Nope. I just wanted to get that said before you started the self-deprecation routine."
"Touche." He grinned and got out of bed, a naked, narrow-torsoed, long-legged, broad-shouldered god. This morning I could see he was completely at ease with the change in our relationship. As he walked to the bathroom he tossed me a word to make sure I remembered my place - and his. He was boss. "I like my eggs over easy, Mac. Like everything else."
Boss was a role I soon learned he'd assume here - in the loft - nowhere else. For everyone else's consumption, I was boss, as before. He was slave, as before. Only we knew the truth. He'd enslaved me more truly than if he'd bound me in chains. Any way I looked at it, I knew that was true. Because I couldn't live without him but he'd manage fine without me.
Not that he didn't care. Not that he didn't love me, in his way. I knew very well he did, and how much. But he didn't depend on me as I did on him. He kept coming back to me, he was drawn to me, desired me, needed me. But he could live without me and would, if he had to. I couldn't live without him, wouldn't want to live, if I lost him through any circumstance.
He never took advantage of that, not once. But it was there between us - my dependency, his independence. I didn't mind. I loved to love him. I hadn't been this happy since Tessa died. It didn't worry me to lean on Methos. It felt good. Strangely liberating. Like something I was meant to do. Part of my training, maybe. A completion of all that had come before.
I think Methos worried about it though. Worried how it might affect my Game.
Once I tried again to ask him about his history - the memory from his past that had disturbed him after he'd spoken with the fraud. At the time, he'd refused to talk. Now, he pretended not to remember the incident, not to know what I was talking about. I stopped trying.
He still didn't trust me completely. I told myself that it didn't matter, that I could wait, that he'd come around. But now it hurt me. Where before I'd only speculated about him - his life, his past - now I felt as if I was entitled to know because we weren't simply friends anymore, we were lovers. I had a right to know. It hurt me that he wouldn't open up but I didn't press and I didn't ask again. I just waited, hoped. Wished.
I began to put the fine points together and came up with an insight about Methos I found a lot more difficult to accept than his secrecy because it was the basis for everything else. He lived in the present. Totally. He dredged up no memories, told no anecdotes, acted as if he was born thirty years ago. Finally I admitted to myself that he'd be that way forever. Live that lie night and day, no matter how long we were together. He'd never trust me with the truth, with his past. In his mind, he had no past.
Something died in me when I knew I'd never find out who Methos really was. I think I loved him more than before but I hurt inside in a way I'd never experienced with anybody else - not when the love was so good.
I also made another discovery. That Methos wasn't being self-deprecating when he'd told me about what the fraud said to him, insisting that the accusation was true. He was being as honest as he knew how to be. The fraud had been right about Methos. What he'd said was true. Methos took no risks. No real risks. Like the risk of opening up to me. He'd risk his head, yes, but not his heart.
There was a very good reason he'd never told me how he felt about me until I'd spoken first. Never told me he cared, or that he desired me. The reason wasn't simply that he didn't want to push me into something I wasn't ready for. It was just that he wouldn't risk it. For himself.
I was not happy to know that about him. When I thought about it I was very sad. But I didn't think about it often. Much of the time we were together, Methos and I, I didn't think at all. I loved him. He cared for me, loved me, in his own way. I convinced myself that was enough. Between the sex and the company, I was having too much fun to think beyond the moment. Like Methos, I was having too much fun to think at all.
~ ~ ~ CIRCA "COMES A HORSEMAN" AND "REVELATION 6:8" ~ ~ ~
That's what things were like for us on the day the world crashed down around us.
I was having a lot of fun that day teasing Methos about his appearance as a contestant on the "Wheel of History," a game show. He'd missed a question - a bit of trivia - and I poked fun at him. He thought of himself as the master of trivia. It was one of my great pleasures in life to prick his balloon when he tripped up on the small stuff. His efforts at self-defense were always so clumsy, so silly. I think I loved him most when he was clumsy and silly, vulnerable for once, even if it was only in this small, unimportant way. Nothing could be more appealing, more adorable. That particular afternoon I couldn't wait for us to get home so I could demonstrate my love in a very physical fashion. Couldn't wait.
Then it came - the hot blast of an incredibly old Immortal's aura. I could have walked away - that's what Methos wanted us to do. Ignore it. Go around. Walk away.
I should have walked away, like Methos asked me to do. The way Methos did.
But I didn't walk away. I walked right into that hot blast of aura like the fool I was - straight into hell.
I can hardly speak of it, even now. What happened was so horrible, so devastating - to me, to Methos - it's all I can do to endure the anguish that even now, months later, churns inside me when I remember. I don't think I've ever put it behind me. I know I'd never suffered such a disillusionment before - nothing like - save when my father disowned me, threw me out of the Clan when I rose from death to Immortality. I can only compare what I learned about Methos and the Horsemen, what happened with Kronos and Cassandra, to that. Compare the pain to the pain I felt back then.
Methos justified his lies by saying I couldn't have forgiven him if I'd known the truth. That it wasn't in me to forgive what he'd done, been. That's why he'd lied to me, withheld the truth. Part of me knew he was right but the other part screamed out against the lies - screamed 'foul' - because he pretended - continues to pretend - that I'd never asked, never wanted to know his history, his life story, and that's a lie. I'd wanted to know. I'd asked. But he wouldn't tell me.
He'd been the one who'd judged. Judged me.
All along, Methos judged me not ready, not willing, not able to know. Thus the lies, the omissions, the half-truths and glancing innuendoes. Anything but a stab at telling me who he was, until that day when life forced the truth from his lips, like blood frothing out of the mouth of a dying man.
In our hotel room in Bordeaux before our final confrontation with the Horsemen, Cassandra had asked me whether I could kill him - Methos - and I'd replied "if I have to."
Sure, why not?
I'd already followed him across the ocean, half-way across the world, against his desperate protests and denying my own words that were meant to end our bond.
I'd already humiliated myself in my own mind, though nobody else knew except Methos what these revelations about him really meant to me and him.
So why not kill him while I was at it? Kill him, get myself killed, the works. What point to keeping up this farce, this insanity - Immortality?
Joe Dawson didn't see what we'd found out about Methos the same way I did. He made excuses for Methos. For Methos' past. But I realized that it wasn't his past that bothered me. It was his present.
What was he doing? Why'd he leave, go back to that life, with those men - Kronos, an insane murderous thug?
Why'd he lie to me about who he was? All along he'd let me believe his "past" might consist of a series of peccadilloes. Nothing major, nothing monstrous. Wrong moves, wrong choices, mistakes now and again. Let me imagine that his past was no worse than mine. If anything, less dark, less ugly.
He told me why, in the church, when I asked. Because it wasn't in my nature to forgive what he was. So he hadn't offered me a choice. As much as told me he'd lied simply to protect his cover, so he could go on pretending to be "just a guy," go on fooling me and everybody else.
Sure, the times were different now. He was different now. When the dust settled and I'd had a chance to think, I knew that very well. It wasn't who he'd been or what he'd done that stayed with me, gave me pain. It was what he'd become. That was worse to me than what he'd been and done.
What he'd become was a liar of such skill that nobody who cared about him could dream he lived a lie. This was what was unforgivable.
I wondered what Alexa would have thought, had she known. Not about three thousand years ago - the past was the past, and by the time I'd arrived in Bordeaux I'd accepted that in my heart, even though I couldn't say the words. No, it was his present-day deception that kept me in turmoil. Made me wonder about the love he'd proclaimed for me and Alexa.
Methos lived a lie as Darius never had, as Marcus Constantine hadn't, as none of us do, with the people closest to us. Mortals or Immortals. He existed in shadows so dark I wondered if he could ever find himself at all, or if he was as much a mystery to himself as he was a cipher to us.
Adam Pierson was born thirty years ago. Perpetually. Adam Pierson didn't struggle. He'd arrived. Methos never existed. That's who Methos was to all of us, and to himself - a man who was born thirty years ago and lived a simple scholar's life without discernible difficulty - until Cassandra and Kronos came and advised us differently.
I'd fought with Joe over what Methos told me he'd done and been. But I fought with myself over just who the hell it was I imagined I loved. Adam Pierson didn't exist. Methos the Horseman had disappeared in the mists of time. Was there anybody there? A real person? A man? Someone to love?
Cassandra wondered if I could kill Methos. I wondered how I could kill a man who doesn't exist.
Ironically, Cassandra was the stranger to me, not Methos. Cassandra, who'd manipulated me more than once - first, as a boy, then as a man - had lost all meaning for me. What remained of our history - the love we'd felt for each other - was memory enfleshed. For both of us. In the end, that memory, the remembrance of shared awe, saved Methos' head. But it couldn't save his life because he didn't exist.
But all those thoughts about Methos - the feeling of betrayal - disappeared the moment I saw him again. And after the fighting - with Caspian, with Kronos - I believed they were gone forever. Only the love I felt for this fragile, courageous, wonderful creature remained.
"Let's go for a walk, Methos," I told him, when he'd finally stopped sobbing after taking Silas' head. I reached down and grasped his arm, trying to help him to his feet. Helped him sit up at least, when I realized he wasn't fit to stand.
I was still flushed with the joy I'd felt when I knew I hadn't been wrong, he was on my side. I wanted to get him away from the horror of the scene that surrounded us. Headless bodies. The marine base itself, like a dungeon out of a horror movie. The awful lapping of the waves - somehow the worst of it all. The sound - I didn't think I'd ever hear the sound of the sea without remembering these terrible days.
"I'm exhausted, Mac. Must we do this now?"
He looked exhausted. I realized he was afraid to be in my company, talk to me, afraid I'd ask him something he wouldn't be sharp enough - in his weakened post-Quickening state - to parry with a deft remark. "I'm not asking you to 'do' anything, Methos. Just to be with me for a while, away from here."
He took me at my word and stood up but his shoulders slumped. I could see him pulling himself together physically with a great effort, then with another great effort wrenching himself into the moment. "Okay. Let me fetch my coat and my backpack. Give me a minute."
While he was gone I cleaned up. Rolled Kronos and Silas' bodies and heads into the sea. Dipped Methos sword and my own in the water to cleanse the blood away - polishing and sharpening would come later. I couldn't figure out why it was taking Methos so long to find his coat and gear until I remembered about the virus Kronos bred and the animals he'd used to test it on. Probably, Methos was "cleaning" too.
It was over. Both the threat from the Horsemen and the battle to resolve it. We'd survived. Now all we needed to do was live with the aftermath. To do that, I needed Methos. I sat down on a piece of machinery, put my head in my hands and waited for him to come back.
"Thanks, Mac," he told me when he saw the bare concrete floor and his clean sword. He looked around and walked to the spot where I'd taken Kronos' head. I saw him bend and lift something from the ground. Kronos' sword. He brought it down to where I sat near the sea and dipped it into the water to clean it. He did the same with Silas' ax. Then he stood like a statue, staring blindly at the sea, a weapon weighing down each hand.
"You - you plan to take those with you?" I asked numbly, the thought almost inconceivable to me, though I'd preserved many swords in my time, from many opponents, for various reasons. Somehow, Methos doing the same with Kronos and Silas' weapons seemed different.
"Yes." A curt reply, no explanation offered. But I knew now that the weakness and pain still etched in his face and his stance was not due to the force of a Quickening but the force of his feelings. His sorrow and love for those we'd slain.
"Let me carry one, then," I told him, acknowledging his right to offer his former brothers the same tribute I sometimes gave defeated foes. I stood and put out my hands. After a moment he chose Silas' ax and gave it to me. I hid it inside my coat on the opposite side from my katana. He did the same with Kronos' sword.
"That's about it, I guess," he said distractedly. "Let's go."
We walked for about half a mile to where I'd left my rental car and got in. I drove us back to the hotel and we went upstairs. Cassandra had already cleared out of our room, paying the bill for the few days we'd been together in Bordeaux. The clerk at the reception desk said she'd left no message for me. I hadn't expected one.
Methos showered first and changed into a shirt and jeans he took from his backpack. I showered and changed too. Dinner was a simple affair - sandwiches and beer I ordered from room service - and very quiet. I don't think Methos said more than five words in the course of two hours. I know I didn't. Then we both spoke at once.
He said, "Mac, I'm sorry you got dragged into this."
I said, "We'll drive to Paris in the morning, unless you want to go tonight."
Leaving what he'd said unexplored, he answered my question. "No, the morning is fine. I need a good night's sleep. That was about the worst Quickening I can recall taking, and I've had my share."
"Well, it's over now," I told him. "They're out of your life for good. I don't understand everything about it - and I don't care. I'm just glad it's finished and we can put it behind us."
His cheek quivered, not with a smile. "This must have been what I was getting at when I asked you where you think the past goes when we've convinced ourselves we've changed."
I looked up quickly. "I guess it's my turn to suggest that we don't need to do this right now."
"No." He shook his head. "We don't need to do it at all. But then we can't move on."
"I'm too beat to ask a straight question, or give a straight answer. I don't think I can concentrate tonight."
"Can you sleep?" he inquired with a trace of sarcasm.
"I'm gonna try." I smiled. "You too, Methos. We can talk tomorrow -"
"We can talk for the rest of our lives, Mac," he replied sharply, "and still get nowhere on this."
"That's what I meant when I said I'm too tired tonight. I don't want to do this now."
"Very well. Tomorrow, then." He stood and brought his beer over to the bed. "I guess I should ask - bed or chair?"
"Bed. For both of us," I replied firmly. "Your timing's off, Methos. This is the wrong time and the wrong place to ask that. Wait until we get back to Seacouver. Time enough to worry about it then."
He raised an eyebrow. "You plan to return there soon?"
"Not really. I think I'll stay on the barge for a while. I'm not ready to travel that far. Travel back in time," I added with a chuckle. I could tell he was waiting for me to ask him to join me in Paris. He'd lost confidence in what we had together. Couldn't blame him. I'd told him we were through, after all. "You can stay with me on the barge. I'd like that."
"Good of you to offer but I don't think I'll take you up on it, Mac. This might be a fine time to take a break."
"From each other?" Funny how a few days could change everything. I didn't panic although I didn't like the idea of a separation. But it seemed he needed one. I refused to force things. There'd been entirely too much of that lately.
"Yeah, I think so."
"Okay. If that's what you want -"
"You're not angry, Mac, are you?" He sounded as if that really mattered to him. Whether or not I was angry if he didn't join me right away. Slipping back into one of his identities, God alone knew which. Time would tell.
"No, I'm not angry. Not about you leaving and not about your past. Not even about the lies. Just sad."
He'd gotten into his half of the bed and under the covers while we were talking. I'd settled in on my side. "I thought we weren't going to do this tonight," he said.
"The best laid plans -" I let the sentence trail away.
"Why are you sad?"
"Because I don't know who you are. I thought if I learned about your past, then I'd know you better. Turned out, finding out about your past makes me know you even less. Who do I love?"
He grinned. "Odd, isn't it?"
"I thought I didn't know who I was anymore after what happened with Galati and the Watchers. But this! Little did I think -"
"When was the last time you had a clue, Methos? A hundred years ago? A thousand? Will the real Adam Pierson please stand up." I spoke calmly but I knew anger was seething inside me, the numbness already wearing off. Rage would come soon enough. "Who the hell are you?"
Wearily he replied, "Some guy survived for five thousand years, Mac. That guy looks a lot like me. Is it really necessary to know him so intimately, to know who he is? I'm Methos, and the most significant thing I can tell you about me is that I don't know who I am. Most of the time I don't care who I am. Nobody does."
"You're wrong. We do care. Joe. Me."
"In that case, I wish you luck finding out. My passport's in my coat."
"How can I love somebody I don't even know?" I asked him, my anguish and rage seeping out. I was too exhausted to keep them in.
"We do it all the time. I don't know you. Doesn't keep me from loving you." A careless reply, a throwaway. A bone tossed to a dog.
I didn't let it pass unchallenged. Instead, furious, I worried it. "I suppose you mean by that, that we are what we do, not someone who survives from lifetime to lifetime, no matter how the outside changes. That we're not ourselves, not anything constant at all."
He stared at me, a small frown creasing his brow. "That's right. We're not 'being,' no. We're not 'being' at all. We're what we do." For a moment he was silent. Then, with a small shake of his head he told me, "You're frightening me, MacLeod. Sometimes - your quickness of mind.... It's more than I look for in anybody."
"I don't hold a candle to you in the mental gymnastics department, Methos. But I've been around a while. I've got some grasp on the difference between contemplation and action. Right now, I'm more concerned about getting a handle on being and nothingness."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. 'Doing' is so transient. 'Being' is so permanent. 'Nothingness' hovers inside us like a black hole waiting to suck us in, 'disappear' us, like some Central American military junta." He smiled. "Makes me wonder."
"About 'nothingness.' Death. If what I think's going to happen really does happen, I expect 'nothingness' will begin to hold quite an appeal for me."
I squinted at him and turned on my side, resting my head on the pillow so I could see him. He was still sitting half-way up with pillows propped behind his head, his hands white and motionless on the blanket. I ventured a guess as to what he was telling me. "You think it's over? That we're through?" I asked him curiously.
He nodded, glancing at me, then away. "I do, yes. I don't think we'll survive this."
"Does it matter to you? I know you can manage without me. Without us."
"I thought so too." He took his beer from the end table, drank some, and carefully put the bottle back down. "Yes, I thought so." He was staring at the wall opposite. I watched a tear slip down his cheek.
"I agree to some time apart, Methos. No more than that. I don't know what I'll do with the time. I hope nothing - no one - comes along who's really tough. I'm not up for it."
"You're up for anything, Mac. Trust me." He patted my arm without looking at me.
"I don't even remember what it's like to be alone. To be without you."
"It'll all come back to you."
"Methos, I trusted you."
"With good reason." He sighed. "But that's over. We can seal the crack but it will always be there."
"When I remember, I can't accept what you were. When I think about it, I can't forgive you for the lie you live. But in my heart, I know I'm not going to be able to go on without you."
"That's quite a bind you're putting yourself in, Mac. You're wrong about all of it. You'll end by accepting what I was, forgiving me for the lie I live, and going on without me. I've done it a hundred times. You can do it this once."
I shook my head. "Not while you're still alive. Like you said, Methos. Some guy survives. Who that will be is up for grabs."
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod is who it will be," he said intensely, turning to me at last. "Please don't let the monstrous thing - the abomination I've become destroy the one thing I love. Please."
"What monstrous thing? You're not an abomination!"
"The fraud said it, and it's true. Done nothing, risked nothing. That's who I am. How I survived. It's not your way. Don't learn it from me."
I didn't answer him. What could I tell him? I had no idea what would become of me if I lost him. I was quiet for a long time, until a stray thought came to me and I sat up in bed, also leaning back against the pillows the way he was. "I don't understand one thing."
"Who is Cassandra? I met her when I was a boy. I was around twelve, thirteen. Long before First Death. Then, she was beautiful, kind, mysterious. Awesome. So wonderful that I thought I'd imagined her."
"I don't recognize her at all. What she's become - I felt nothing but pity for her, Methos."
"Pity? Not love?"
"And the awe?"
"Gone. As if it never was. Even after I found out she was an Ancient - so much older than I'd imagined."
"Well, it's difficult to sustain awe in these times." He grinned. "Though I admit, I seem to retain mine for you."
"No matter what you do or say, I never lose my awe of you," I replied.
"Now that's hard to believe!"
"It's true. Sometimes it's awe, as in awesome. Sometimes it's awe, as in awful. But I've never lost sight of it. It's part of the love. Part of who we are." I shook my head. "Maybe that's what's wrong," I mused.
"There are so many things wrong, MacLeod, I shudder at the prospect of counting them, let alone righting them!" He patted my arm again. "Go to sleep. I assure you, every question you have will be here in the morning."
"And you? Will you be here in the morning?" I asked, almost back to how I'd felt about him, to where we were together before this all happened. He had a way of bringing me close without half trying. My heart was still with him. I loved him so much and the love gave me indescribable joy.
"I will be here in the morning." He smiled reassuringly. "Aren't I always?"
He was there in the morning.
We went to a cafe near the hotel for breakfast, then took a walk to a cemetery nearby. We talked a bit. I asked him a few questions about Kronos and Cassandra. He was so distant, so remote, I almost couldn't talk to him. It was as if our love didn't matter to him anymore. He'd shut himself - his feelings - down.
I think I was surprised. I know it made me very angry. How could he do it? We'd agreed to a separation the night before but after that we'd talked quite freely and unselfconsciously, in a way that made me happy. I was shocked when he walked away from me without a word. I didn't panic, though. I figured he'd return in a few days. A week or two at most. I could understand he needed some time to recoup, get back to normal. He had wounds that needed healing.
But he didn't return. Not for months.
It took me that long before I realized he might not come back at all.
At first I simply waited day after day for him to join me on the barge. Waited for him so we could fly back to Seacouver together.
Richie came to Paris and we spent a little time seeing the sights. I took him places he'd never been, that I thought he might enjoy. I was a little distracted. At first, though, not enough for Richie to notice. I don't think I was in too bad shape yet. I managed to defeat the Immortal Consone, a superb swordsman who'd been my teacher years ago. Richie recognized enough about my state of mind by the time I started preparing to take on Consone to question my judgment but I told him some tale that didn't satisfy his own - better - judgment. But what could he do? If I wanted to fight with another man's weapons, on another man's turf, how could he stop me? He had no control over my actions. He had little influence on me. No one had, except Methos.
And Methos wasn't around.
Richie got into trouble and I bailed him out, shrugging off my growing panic that Methos wouldn't return. But Richie stayed behind on the Riviera and I went back to Paris alone and waited some more.
The longer I waited for Methos' return, the more angry I got. His defection was yet another instance of his lies, his unforgivable deceptions. He'd implied he'd stick with us, even though he doubted whether we could make a go of our life together now. So where was he? Where the hell was he?
I'd as good as told him I couldn't live without him. He'd replied that I could. That I should. Was that supposed to make everything all right? Was I supposed to like it, too?
Well, I didn't like it. I didn't like it at all. If I ever saw him again, I'd make sure he knew that, in spades.
~ ~ ~ CIRCA "FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES" AND "THE MODERN PROMETHEUS" ~ ~ ~
We are what we do, Methos believed.
What did he do?
He hid from me right in the middle of Paris - for months - until Amanda brought him out of hiding when Steven Keane threatened. Then he stole Keane's challenge, would have killed the man, to save my life.
We are what we do. I couldn't accept what Methos did. Neither the hiding nor the casual killing. I was angered beyond reason by it - all of it. Enraged.
I attacked him with everything I had - and he faltered under my onslaught.
When I looked at him it was with contempt. When I spoke to him my words were venomous. When he asked for forgiveness I refused it with a glare that would have smote Goliath. When I dismissed him I was holding Amanda in my arms. If I'd lifted my sword and taken his head, I don't think I could have done anything that would've hurt him more. I certainly tried hard enough.
He seemed strangely reassured by my behavior.
We are what we do, Methos believed.
What he did was incredible, audacious, brilliant.
What he did was start over - from scratch - as if we'd never been friends, never loved, never become lovers. As if the past hadn't happened - any of it.
What he did - as soon as Amanda moved on - was start hanging around again in the places I frequented, in his old way, like Adam Pierson. Re-invented Adam Pierson. It seemed to me as if I was seeing a ghost.
Joe'd bought into a jazz bar in Paris and had come over from Seacouver to work it. Methos and I spent hours there with my Watcher, drinking, talking a little about music, musicians. Listening to new artists audition.
It was nothing like the way we'd been during that brief time when Methos and I were lovers. Methos didn't come to the barge. He didn't invite me to his flat. It was like in the beginning, like strangers meeting for the first time, who are attracted to one another on sight but need time to find out how much they have going for them. Whether the friendship could grow.
We are what we do, Methos believed.
What he did might have worked, I think, in time, if fate hadn't conspired against us. Because Methos was very old and very experienced and very clever. His will was strong and his patience stronger. He wanted us to be healed and was content to endure what he must, for as long as necessary, to make that happen. Methos had time on his side and he knew it - nobody knew it better. And time is the great healer.
I think what he tried to do might have worked, if not for the darkness and beauty that was Byron.
Byron's arrival in our lives made it very clear to both Methos and me that we weren't strangers who'd just met and were getting to know one another. That we were lovers who'd nearly destroyed each other very recently. That we couldn't start over. That we couldn't put our feet into the same river twice.
Byron called Methos "Doc," and with that one diminutive conjured up for me both a representation of another life Methos had lived that I didn't know about, and a jealousy for the love they'd shared that nearly gutted me.
And more. Envy for the poet's words, which I'd loved for centuries. Envy for the poet's luck - Methos had loved him, still loved him. No matter what Byron's arrival might do to us, Methos was glad to see him and he didn't try to hide it from me.
And one thing more.
The rage I'd tried to bury in everyday living, everyday talking. The rage Methos had tried to dispel by starting over as Adam Pierson.
It poured off me - my jealousy and rage - ate at me from inside, affected my judgment, my words, my reactions, and what I did. Methos must have been dying inside when he recognized the unleashing of my rage but he couldn't have doubted, even for a moment, what Byron's arrival on our little scene would do to his plans to start over.
It killed them outright.
We are what we do, Methos believed.
What I did was kill Byron.
I didn't listen to Methos when he tried to stop me from taking Byron's head. My arguments might have made sense but even had they made no sense at all, I wouldn't have listened to Methos' plea to spare Byron.
There was just one way Methos could have saved Byron's life. If he'd taken up his sword and cut off my head, Byron would have lived.
We are what we do.
Methos didn't take my head. He let me take Byron's.
To Methos, it was simply the lesser of two evils, I'm sure. To me, it was devastating.
As with Ingrid, all my reasons for taking Byron's life disappeared when my sword dropped from my hands and his Quickening entered my spirit, a Quickening like no other I'd ever received.
Now I knew the poet as no one else ever would. His despair, yes! But so much more, so much more!
The glory that was Byron was lost! The poetry, the music, the joy, all lost! His love for Methos that still lived, buried deep in Byron's heart, was lost!
And I was lost. And so were we - Methos and me.
~ ~ ~ CIRCA "ARMAGEDDON" ~ ~ ~
I can't speak much about what happened after I took Byron's head. All I can do is recount the events, what I remember of them.
Before my final breakdown, I spent a little time with Methos and Joe Dawson. Not much time and not the same kind.
Joe knew I'd avenged Mike's death when I killed Byron but that didn't seem to bring us close. There was the other side of the coin - that I'd taken the head of a man who meant so much to Methos. Joe felt that very deeply, I think. He loved Methos a great deal and Methos didn't do the best job ever of hiding his pain. He tried, I know, for my sake, but fell well short of hiding what he felt and thought. So Joe saw, and knew. It didn't endear me to my Watcher.
Drifting apart became a way of life for the three of us, just as drifting together became what Joe and Methos did.
Then Richie came back to Paris and I spent a little time with him. I took him to the opera, which he didn't like, understand or appreciate. I knew I shouldn't try to force my tastes down his throat but I believe something told me that I might not have much longer to be a good influence on anybody. Some inner logic that was beyond words or thought compelled me to try to give what good gifts I possessed to those I loved, before darkness washed over me forever.
There's no easy way to say it, just as there's no easy way to live with it. In the thrall of a Demon - or a hallucination - I murdered Richie Ryan, my only son.
Methos and Dawson were both horrified, devastated. Joe clung to Methos and Methos took on the burden of Joe's pain. It was the only thing left that Methos could do for me. The only thing. So he did it. Later, when I had time to think, and I considered it, I was grateful and humbled.
I went away, spent a year in a monastery trying to find some answer to the ruin of my life. Trying to get beyond the murder I'd committed. And trying to find a way to defeat the Demon who'd chosen to destroy me and my son, and who had no mercy.
In my mind, I accomplished that task.
In my mind, I was healed.
Joe accepted that and forgave me for Richie's murder but we weren't friends anymore. The love was still there but life had torn away our friendship, as a hurricane might sweep through a grove and tear away the trees. It was as if Joe and I had never been more than Watcher and subject. And there wasn't anything at all I could do to restore what we had. What life had taken away only life could restore, if it would.
I didn't see Methos again after Richie's death.
I haven't seen him in over a year.
I don't know whether I'll ever see him again. He's disappeared quite efficiently. I haven't even asked Joe whether he knows where Methos went. I have no doubt that Methos knows where I went, and that I'm back in Paris again. If he wants to talk, to be with me, he knows where to find me.
I don't deserve their friendship, neither Joe's nor Methos' friendship.
I deserve only this - aloneness - which envelops me like a shroud.
Time is the great healer, I know. Time will mute the pain and the memories will fade. We Immortals are human, at least to that extent. For us, as for Mortals, time is the great healer.
And truth is the great killer.
Once Methos had called himself names, ugly, frightening names, and I'd dismissed them as self-deprecation, exaggeration, told him he wasn't an abomination. Rejected his sole attempt to let me know who he really was.
We are more alike than I dreamed, or he knew.
He is a monster, an abomination, and so am I. We all are, all Immortals. That's the truth of it.
We were in awe of each other.
Despite everything we knew, witnessed, every revelation, all the years we'd lived, all the time we'd been given to know the truth, Methos and I were in awe of each other.
Awesome, indeed, we two monsters, abominations!
Some would say we deserve each other. I know there's nobody else for me now. Ever. WIthout him, I'm dreamwalking through my days. Without him, I'm alone. A ghost of Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.
I miss him. Methos.
I love him.
I want him back. On whatever terms, in whatever guise, I want him back.
That's the only truth left to me now. Very simple. Nothing noble. Nothing proud. I don't want anything more from life, just Methos.
I want Methos back.
Pray God, he forgives me, takes pity on me, and comes!
It was about ten in the evening on a dry winter night when I walked into Joe's Bar in Seacouver carrying my flight bag. I'd just arrived back in the States from Paris and wanted to have a drink with my old friend before I returned to my empty loft. Joe was expecting me - I'd called ahead to let him know I was flying over some time this week.
"Mac, good to see you!" Joe greeted me cheerfully, setting up a shot of scotch on the bar in front of me without asking what I wanted. "How was your trip?"
"Uneventful." I downed the scotch and he poured me another. "How've you been?"
"Not bad. People like to stay indoors during the winter. It's good for business."
"Anybody around I should know about?" I asked, just for something to say. I didn't really think there was. Joe was too relaxed to be worrying about the Game. Things must be pretty quiet.
"Well, nobody dangerous - to you," he drawled.
I'd been glancing around at the crowd. Now I shifted to face him and frowned. "Who?"
"An old friend. Methos."
I'd numbed my longing for Methos pretty effectively over the months. I'd had to, if I wanted to continue putting one foot in front of the other like a normal person might do. If I wanted to survive. Why I continued to cling to life, I'm not sure. Because Methos hadn't taken pity on me, hadn't come.
"He's here?" I asked flatly, hardly taking it in. My response to Joe was automatic, and ridiculous. Obviously, Methos wasn't here. I'd have known if he was.
"Not this minute, no," Joe replied patiently. "But he's in town. Took a studio apartment near the docks - not far from his old place. He comes in two or three nights a week to have a drink, listen to the music."
I didn't say anything.
Joe went on, "He's okay. Just like always. Well, you know Methos - nothing gets him down."
I didn't answer.
"He got himself a job at some bookstore downtown. Not the Watchers' place, another one." Joe grinned. "A rival establishment."
I cleared my throat. "That's good," I said. "He likes to keep busy."
"Yeah, well, don't we all," Joe responded quietly. "You okay, Mac? You don't look so good."
"I'm fine." I inhaled, exhaled, put down my glass and moved away from the bar. "I'll see you soon, Joe."
"Mac - wait!"
I turned. "What?"
He grinned. "You forgot your flight bag."
"Right." I grabbed it and started to walk away again.
"Mac, don't let him lie to you."
Without pausing in my departure I replied, "Methos lie? Never. He wouldn't know how." I chuckled. "But thanks for the tip."
"My pleasure. And Mac -"
I stopped walking. "Yeah?"
"It's good to have you back. I - we missed you."
Turning to him I said, "It's good to be back, Joe. Thanks."
If Joe wanted to pretend we were still friends, forget the past, forgive me, I wouldn't fight it. I needed every friend I could get, especially old ones, because I was in no shape to make new ones.
Despite Joe's obvious assumption, it wasn't so I could go and find Methos that I left the bar in such a hurry. I left to avoid meeting him there, if he chose tonight to come in. I didn't want us to meet by accident - or even by his intention - in the bar, if Joe'd told him I was due back.
If Methos wanted to see me, fine, but I hoped it would be in private. I didn't want him pretending we were still friends, as I knew he would if we met in public. Dawson's charade was more than enough for me. I didn't want to go through it again with Methos.
Sooner or later we'd meet up with each other. I wasn't anxious for that day to come. It held no shred of hope for me. I could wait.
I had my answer to when I'd see Methos again when I got near my dojo. His aura flooded my senses while I was still on the street. Whatever his reasons, he'd been waiting for me on my turf. I could hardly believe it. I'd see him tonight - now! No matter what he said or did beyond that, I'd be able to look at him!
It was almost more than I could take in.
I didn't get on the elevator immediately. I don't know how long I stood in the darkened dojo without going up, willing the confusion away, trying to calm my heartbeat, steady my trembling hands. It must only have been for a minute because after a minute the elevator began to creak as it started down to the dojo level. Methos was on it. He swung up the gate and gestured me in. When I hesitated he sighed and came over to me. He grabbed my flight bag and my arm.
"Come on, Mac, you're home." With that, he dragged me onto the elevator, let go of my arm so he could close the gate, and pressed the button, sending us up to the loft. When we arrived, he reversed the procedure, pulling me off the elevator and dropping my flight bag near the couch.
I just stood there. I didn't even look at him as he moved around the loft, taking a beer from the refrigerator, popping off its cap. He handed it to me. "Have a seat. You're home," he repeated. "Joe told me you were on your way back from Paris but he didn't know which flight you'd take so I've been waiting here."
"I wanted to see you the minute you got in. I've missed you." The simplicity with which he spoke was indescribable. My stomach churned with fear and excitement and my throat nearly closed with the upsurge of my love for him.
"Joe warned me not to let you lie to me."
"I'm not lying."
I held the beer bottle tightly without drinking or speaking.
"You are glad to see me too, aren't you?"
I glanced at him. "Oh yes."
"Good." He walked over to the couch and sat down. "Have a seat," he directed, pointing to my favorite chair. "I saved your place."
I felt like a sleepwalker as I took the few steps to my chair and sat down. "Joe tells me you got a new apartment, a new job."
"That's right. The job's okay - keeps me busy. And I love books, but you already know that." He smiled. "The flat's small. Unfurnished."
"You've got plenty of furniture in storage," I replied, hardly knowing what I was saying, my limbs numbing, sweat breaking out all over my body. I thought I might faint.
"Yes, I do."
"If you like, I can help you move your things in. We can rent a truck -"
"Not necessary. But thanks for the offer."
"I'd like to help, Methos -"
"I don't live there," he explained quietly. "The flat's just for cover."
I didn't know what to make of that. "So where do you live?" I asked, bewildered.
"I live here."
"That's right." There wasn't a trace of sarcasm in his voice. It was as if he was talking to someone who might be mentally ill. "You do remember? I moved from the couch to the bed. And I asked you where you'd be sleeping - bed or couch? Does it ring a bell? Let me refresh your memory. You chose bed."
"Well, then -" he remarked, clearly happy that my memory was intact.
"That was a long time ago, Methos."
"You said we should table the discussion until we got back to Seacouver. That there'd be time enough to talk about it then."
"Now we're back. Both of us. I'm ready to talk," he told me, his tone serious, his expression unreadable.
"I didn't mean it - what I said back then. I was only trying to put you off - stop you from leaving me right then and there. I didn't want to talk about it at all, ever."
"So what do you want to do about it? May I stay here? Or should I go?"
"No! Don't go!"
"All right. All right. It's okay, Mac. If you want me to stay, I'll stay. I like it here." He smiled reassuringly.
I swallowed. I was dizzy and nauseated. "I don't feel very well. I think I better lie down." Blackness dotted with white sparks blinded me. I thought I might faint.
He actually picked me up - pulling me onto his shoulder fireman style - and carried me to the bed. Where he got the strength I can't imagine. I'm very heavy.
He took off my shoes and drew the bedspread over me. Turning the night stand lamp to its lowest illumination, he went back to the kitchen and shut off the lights in the rest of the loft. Then he came back and sat on the edge of the bed close to me, taking my hand in both of his. I thought I'd pass out. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the pressure of his hands holding mine, trying to stay conscious.
"What have you done to yourself, Mac?" he asked. "No, don't answer that! Never mind. Doesn't matter. We'll fix you right up."
"I don't think so," I murmured. "Humpty Dumpty...."
"Humpty Dumpty? Ah, yes. Had a great fall. All the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again. Well, Mac, you know how I love eggs. Over easy, scrambled - makes no difference," he replied merrily. "Can't get enough of 'em."
"Like I always say - you cook, I'll eat."
"I'll cook. In the morning." I opened my eyes and looked into his. "Will you be here in the morning?"
"I'll be here."
"Then I'll cook," I stated firmly, closing my eyes again. The effort to speak had brought the dizziness back in full force and I swallowed hard.
He was quiet for some time and the dizziness passed.
Then he contradicted me. "Well, maybe not tomorrow morning, Mac. I see truth's been taking its toll. Perhaps I'll do the cooking for a bit."
I looked up at him quickly, searching his face to find out what he was thinking, but there was only concern and something that might be pity in his eyes. "Methos, you don't need to do this."
"You're wrong. Can't let the house fall down around our ears. There are necessary repairs to be made. You taught me that."
"Did I? When?"
"Out at Anne's place."
"And the rest of it?" I asked.
"The rest of it is that 'no matter what happens between us, you'll always love me.'"
"And if I'm beyond repair?" I asked bitterly, knowing that could well be the case.
"You mean, if you really turn out to be Humpty Dumpty?" He shrugged and smiled. "Then I'll make do with scrambled. Like I said, I love eggs. Wouldn't give 'em up for the world."
I squeezed his hand, then turned on my side, moving a little closer to him. After a while, I drifted off to sleep. When I woke it was still dark and he was still sitting near me on the bed. He looked upset. "What is it, Methos? Tell me."
Running his fingers through his hair he said, "We are what we do, Mac. What I've done - to survive - better to forget it, make fresh starts - Still, I should have told you. This - all of it - wouldn't have happened to you, if I'd told you the truth in the first place."
"Methos, I know you did what you had to do. Even the not telling part. You made choices I can't imagine ever making. But I'm happy you didn't do what I might have done, because I'm happy you survived."
"Not generous. True." I thought for a minute. "But this - 're-inventing yourself' business - it's hard for me to understand."
"It's my way. I know it can't be yours. That's something of what I was getting at when I said we two were so different. To be friends in spite of the differences isn't easy."
"Is there a lot left?" I asked. I knew there probably was and wanted to be sure he realized that I didn't think everything about him was out in the open. And that I didn't care what more there was.
"What do you mean?"
"Other things you've done - that I'll discover - that you think might disillusion me some more?"
"Thousands, Mac. Thousands. Doesn't bear thinking about." He shuddered. "I hope you'll never know the hundredth part of it." He glanced at me. "I suppose that means I'm a coward after all."
I smiled. "No, it just means you're human."
In the morning I did make breakfast. Methos seemed restless, moody. He toyed with his food, then took his plate to the sink. He stretched out his hand for my plate but instead of giving it to him I went over to him, stood close, and took his hand.
"I'm as tired as I've ever been, Methos." I sighed. "I wish we could just - stop it, all of it. I think I'd even be willing to try your way - just start over."
He smiled, perking up. "I have a plan."
"Yes?" I asked, encouraging him. God knows, I wished I had a plan.
"I warn you, it's something we've never done before -"
"I'll try anything -"
"I don't want to compromise your high ideals, Mac."
I snorted. "A bit late for that, isn't it? What's your plan?"
"Well," he drawled, "we could kiss and make up." His face was a study in earnest innocence.
I began to laugh and I kept on laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks. "Kiss and make up?" I sputtered. "That's your plan? Truths be damned?"
"It was just an idea," he told me, pretending high indignation at my amusement. "Got a better one? If so, we'll go with yours."
"No, I think your plan holds a lot of promise. Kiss and make up - ingenious."
"Well, I try." He drew me close and guided us over to the couch. Letting go of my hand he lifted his and touched my hair. "Shall we give it a whirl?"
Nodding, I closed my eyes and let him kiss me. After a moment I opened my eyes and stood up. "Great plan. Very practical."
"I thought so," he said modestly.
Leading him from the couch to the bed I remarked, "Actually works, your plan," I said with a grin. "Is that what you want to hear?"
"Yes. Oh yes. That's what I want to hear."
Well, it was a great plan. And it worked. It actually did.
NOTE - With permission, in this story I twice paraphrase lines from Maygra de Rhema's wonderful novella, "Sheathing Fate." They go something like this. "Will you be here in the morning?" and "I will be here in the morning." Thank you, Maygra.
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