four in the Configurations arc
Configurations is a multi-part story consisting of: Symmetry, Triangulation, Linear Perspective, Quaternity, Squaring Off, and Full Circle. (Stories still under construction! Thanks for your patience)
Disclaimer: Highlander and its characters are owned by Rysher and Panzer/Davis Productions. I make no claim to them, I make no money on them either. Any original characters are solely of my own invention. Do not copy, post, link or publish this material without the express permission of the author.
WARNING! Rating: NC-17 for adult situations including m/f, m/f/m, m/m situations.
For help with names and terms, see the separate Glossary.
Thoughtful feedback gratefully received. Thanks for taking the
time to write, it's appreciated. Impolite feedback will be circularly filed. Life is too short.
This body's not Immortal. :-)
Quaternity: a set of four persons or items; in mathematics,
a quaternion - an expression that is the sum of a real number and a vector, and contains four terms, one
real and three imaginary.
'Alas! how deeply painful is all payment!'
'While you agree, you are lovers; and when it is over, anything but friends.'
George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron
The rain pounded down incessantly, neither changing in tempo as it hit the garret windows nor lightening its tenor to relieve the boredom. A gray, pallid light filtered in from the various uncovered windows, enough to see the room clearly. It was cold, both in temperature and in effect. Bare wood floors unrelieved by coverings stretched from one end of the once-attic to the other, scratched and dull in appearance. An empty hearth sat abandoned, bricked up and ugly, its once attractive mantel removed and replaced with a graceless but serviceable wooden board. Plaster walls showed signs of foundation settlement with great cracks wending their way down and across, traversing the ceiling in spots.
"It's not long enough."
"It never is."
The great space was broken up by few pieces of furniture, a big old iron bed, paint peeling from it in chips, covered with an unremarkable dark wool; a big, plain armoire, one door hanging drunkenly by one hinge; a large, scarred wooden farm table, with three unmatching chairs scattered haphazardly around it; and a surprisingly nice, comfortable rocker, once occupying a nursery to rock babes but long since relegated to the attic, its usefulness to its owner in the past.
"Sixty-seven, no, sixty-eight times...never one of us, though. That would be too much of a commitment for me to make. You'd have to love someone a hell of a lot to be with them 300 years."
Its current occupant found it useful. He had thought fleetingly of how many babies had been rocked and comforted in its embrace during its lifetime, and felt oddly vulnerable for a moment as he realized how comforted he felt sitting safe in its wide confines. Then the cold had crept back into him and any feelings he had were quickly frozen, numbed under the knowledge that for him, there was no loving embrace, neither when he had been a child, nor for very long anytime during his interminable lifetime.
The garret flat suited his mood, his needs. He was loath to stray far from the site of his final breakdown, the culmination of a multitude of emotions and feelings and desires from an even more multitudinous amount of years. God knew there were more hospitable places to be in the world then this coastline of France, especially in the rainy season, with its gray skies and blustery storms. But he didn't acknowledge that consciously. He didn't question his decision to stay here in Bordeaux. It seemed right. It reflected his view of the world, of life. Stark, inhospitable, cold. Dreary. Endless. That was life. Why shouldn't his surroundings reflect it?
He propped a foot up once more on the window ledge, rocking slightly and tilting the book he held to better catch the light from the window.
'And this is Hell- and in this smother,
All are damnable and damned;
Each one damning, damns the other;
They are damned by one another.
By none other are they damned.' **
Well, Percy, old man, wasn't that the truth? His friend's words seemed so apropos to any and all situations recently in his life. All are damnable and damned... that certainly fit. Three dead and one alive; three in Hades and one in hell. From where he sat, he wasn't sure of too much difference.
They are damned by one another, By none other are they damned.
Well now, that wasn't quite true. He was damned, yes, by himself, by his own blood-stained hands, by the blood-stained hands of those he called brothers. But also by another. Most definitely by another.
He shook his head as if to stop the voices moving through it, but it was a futile effort. They had been playing over and over in his mind now for almost a month. A month while he sat here and watched the rain fall, and little else. Walked everyday, miles it seemed. The soles of his boots were wearing thin and needed to be replaced. That thought made him laugh out loud. Sole wearing thin.....soul wearing thin.
Oh god yes, my soul is wearing thin. Maybe it always was thin. Maybe that's what allowed me to be the person I was then, even in those different times. Even now. Or possibly it's just that my soul's grasp on my baser nature is thin, and always has been. Unlike some of us.
The blinding, brilliant flash of being that he had experienced for those few moments in the dungeon of Kronos' perverted New Camelot came back to haunt him once more. It was forever etched upon his mind in a scene not unlike the ghastly, macabre shadows cast upon the walls of structures in Hiroshima when the first atom bomb had fallen. Those unlucky enough to be caught directly in its wave blast had been vaporized, or at least killed, but they left behind shadow selves, forever immortalized on the walls before which they had been standing.
Methos felt not unlike one of those bomb victims. Previously he had been, if not complaisant, then at least in equilibrium with his own being, his own choices. That state had, of course, been challenged over the years. To say it had not would be lying. But never with such devastating results. Never so thoroughly, so utterly ruthlessly. So successfully.
He still was not sure exactly how it happened. His eyes followed the path of a raindrop as it trickled its way down the pane of glass. That could be what's bothering me the most, the fact I don't know how it happened. Couldn't describe exactly what I felt, or saw, or experienced. In all my five thousand plus years, nothing like that has ever happened before. To me or anyone I knew about. To anyone that the Watchers have watched and recorded Chronicles about. What the hell was it?
He smiled a grim smile. Then again, I've never had any of this happen before. So why in hell did it have to happen all at once? Restlessly, he closed the book in his hands and flung it over onto the wide bed.
To survive countless things, only to be brought low by the very thing I've loved more than I ever allowed myself to feel... he pushed himself up from the rocker in a fit of restless movement. It was too much. It was just too much.
Even after nearly a month, it was still too much. And it didn't seem to be going away.
With short, jerky movements, he shoved his arms into a heavy oiled canvas raincoat. The walls were closing in once more, the shadows deepening until he couldn't distinguish himself from the encroaching gloom. He needed to walk. To get away, or try at least. His long legs pounded down the stairs and ate up the ground outside at a furious pace. The rain quickly soaked his hair, his face, dripping down and rolling off the raincoat.
But no matter how much it rained, it still didn't wash away what was inside.
Amanda was seldom patient, but this evening she forced herself to be so. There was absolutely no purpose in any theatrics. Joe, for all his seeming ability to be dazzled by her overt sexuality, had her number otherwise. She knew it, he knew it. If she was honest about it, it lent a kind of special cachet to their relationship. Here was someone who not only knew what she was, but knew who she was. Amanda hadn't thought she would like that, but she did.
So she sighed, grabbed the double Mike poured for her and curled up at the bar to wait for Joe. He was playing this evening with the band, and waiting wasn't a hardship. No, it was rather easy, really. The man sure knew his music.
When the last song had been played on the last set, she watched as he laid his guitar down carefully and acknowledged the enthusiastic applause that came from the crowd. Before Amanda realized it, he had disappeared into his office only to reappear with his coat on.
"Going somewhere?" she asked archly as the Watcher walked with a slow, stiff-gait behind the bar.
"Yeah, home." Joe bent down stiffly and retrieved his keys from somewhere under the bar. "I'm beat. Mike's closing tonight." He started walking to the exit, then turned to look at the dismayed woman. "You coming or not?"
Amanda didn't need to be asked twice. Scooting off the stool, she was at the door before Joe and had it open for him. He gave her a smile and a 'thanks' and led the way to his car.
"Been there all day today," he explained as he slid into the drivers' seat. "Tomorrow's a late day for me and I want to go home, relax."
"Honestly, Joe, I don't want to bother you for long. I just want to talk to you about Duncan."
Joe sighed. "Yeah, I figured. Well, wait till we get to my place before you start the inquisition, okay? I need to take these off," he slapped his leg, "grab a shot of whiskey. Then we'll talk like I said."
He was as good as his word. By the time he wheeled himself out of the bedroom, Amanda had a glass poured and waiting for him. "Damn, that's what I've been wanting this past coupla hours." He rolled his neck around to loosen it up. "It's been a helluva couple of months."
When the slender Immortal slid off the chair she'd curled up in to perch behind him, her fingers searching out knotted muscles, he groaned slightly.
"How's that feel?" she asked younger man as he turned limp under her ministrations.
"That'll work anytime with me, more than all your other enticements. Just ask me what you wanna know." Joe's husky voice rolled over her with a smile.
Her hands kept moving over his upper back as she answered. "Tell me what happened in France last month, why Duncan is so... strange. Why he won't discuss it, or Methos, or much of anything when I saw him in Europe recently."
Joe sat silent for a beat. "When's the last time you saw Duncan? Coupla months ago?"
"No, I haven't seen him since about 7 or 8 months ago, when I saw him in Paris. What's been happening?"
Joe grinned smugly. "Things you'd never believe, darlin'."
Amanda let go of his shoulders and slid next to him on the sofa. "Well tell me!" she said impatiently.
He held out his glass. "First pour me another, if you would." As she was putting bottle to glass, he added, "And pour yourself another one, too. You might need it."
The whole way across the country to JFK Airport in New York City, then further onto to Paris, Amanda vacillated between amusement, disbelief and wonder. My, my, my. To think my straight-as-an-arrow Duncan would actually.. And Methos! Sly old devil. The Four Horsemen? To be honest, the idea that Methos had been a ruthless, unforgiving son of a bitch made him much more attractive to Amanda then the persona he had been hiding behind for years, that of a plain, simple researcher. And to have caught Duncan in his grasp... She still found that hard to fully imagine. Not that she had anything against the idea. She certainly wasn't one to find anything against it. Not after the life she'd lead. But Duncan - oh my. Now it all made perfect sense to her.
She knew that if Joe hadn't been so concerned about Methos, she never would have pried anything out of him. He might have compromised his Watcher oath in the past, but not indiscriminately. And he did so now only because of Methos.
So here she was hightailing it over to Bordeaux to find out just what in the heck was going on with the world's oldest man. Joe's watcher had been observing "Adam" now for a month, but there were obviously limits to what he knew and could report about. That's where Amanda came into the picture. In exchange for the information he gave her, she was obligated to "report" back to Joe whatever she could find out. Sketchy news had come from the watcher following Cassandra (and Duncan) when they flew over to France, but it was far from complete. Something else had happened, obviously, and Duncan wasn't talking.
At Charles de Gaulle, she caught her connection to Bordeaux. Settling back in the small Fokker for the hour flight, Amanda realized she didn't really have a clue what she was going to say to Methos when she saw him. What could she say? It would have to be the truth, or at least some version of it. There'd be no other reason she would show up at his very out-of-the-way door for any other reason. In the past, they'd not been all that close, although ever since their tangle over the crystals and Methos' emotional exposure to Amanda concerning Alexa, they seemed to have developed a more companionable relationship. Or she should say that Methos had allowed a closer relationship after that occurrence. Previously, he had been prickly and elusive and not interested in having one with her. Which to be honest, had often annoyed the hell out of her. It wasn't often that a man was so indifferent to her. Oh, he had played the game, and once or twice she knew he might have really responded, but it was always as if part of him was otherwise occupied. That certainly turned out to be the truth.
Wonder what he thought of Duncan's relationship with her? She would have to ask him, see if it bothered him. That didn't seem likely, though. After all, he had managed to seduce the straightest guy she knew, hadn't he? That took savvy, and confidence. Oh but she wanted to know how he'd managed it. Bet there were secrets there I could learn. Not to mention she was just damn curious.
It was on that note she disembarked from the plane in Bordeaux and retrieved her luggage. Quickly, she found the car from the Bordeaux Merignac waiting for her as pre-arranged and settled into her room after checking in. Methos would just have to wait until she rested, then took a leisurely bath and put on fresh clothes. Traveling for hours, cooped up in a plane for over half a day, she felt a need to recover fully before she felt ready to face whatever awaited her.
By the time she was ready, it was very late afternoon. A quick stop at the concierge had her finding just where Methos' address was on a local map. Too far to walk, she had a bell man hail her a cab and directed the driver to the address off the Rue Saint Remi.
The taxi dropped her off at the large old house. A wrought iron fence surrounded the structure, with flowers in orderly beds filling in the front corners of the property. Entering the double glass doors, she could see how each floor had been converted into flats, the mailboxes downstairs showing the occupants name. All but one had names on the boxes, and Amanda headed up the old stairway for apartment "E".
The stairs wound around in various directions, and she saw "E" tucked away under the eaves at the top, the dark wood door dull and scarred, having seen better days. Approaching the door, Presence hit her in a wave, a strong, unmuted sensation, leaving her dizzy for a split second. Wow. Obviously Methos was home, but she wondered if... it almost seemed like... Very odd, she thought as she knocked on the door, one hand near the sword she carried in her jacket just in case.
And got no response. So she knocked again, this time adding her voice.
"I know you're in there," she sounded annoyed, cautiously not using his name. "Open up."
Silence reigned, then she heard a scrape of wood on wood. "Go away, Amanda."
He didn't sound under duress. "Why? Are you busy with someone? I don't mind waiting," she added smartly. "I'll even come in and help."
She heard a faint snort. "Oh joy." His voice gained in strength. "No, Amanda, it may be hard for you to comprehend, but I'm alone. And want it that way. So just turn around and leave."
"You've got to be kidding. Do you think I've traveled all the way here from across the world just to turn around and leave? Dream on, Adam. I'm not going anywhere until we talk."
"It'll be dark soon, and cold. Hope you can get comfortable."
And that was that. No matter how much she pleaded, he continued in silence, not saying another word to her. Amanda waited for half an hour to see if he would relent. When he did not and the sun went down, she decided that was it for now. She was hungry and wanted to eat. Her heels echoed hollowly in the stairwell as she gave up and returned the way she had come.
Stupid, infuriating man. Walking along the pleasant city street, she spied a local restaurant and slipped inside. The flirting eyes and effusive attention of the maitre d' did much to restore Amanda's good humor. It wasn't long before she found herself ensconced at a comfortable table with wine in hand and food steaming on the table, all designed to put her in a much better humor. She hadn't eaten anything since the airport in Paris and was ravenous. With singular concentration, Amanda focused on her meal, letting the thoughts of her reason for being in France dissolve in a flood of ecstatic taste buds.
One bottle of wine and one dinner later, Amanda was determined to go back and try again. No way was he going to get the better of me, she vowed. She took a necessary trip to the WC and stopped to primp at the mirror. Walking out of the women's lounge, she headed down the long corridor and smiled when she felt that same nearly overwhelming sense of Presence. Ha, he had to eat, too.
Hurrying around the corner, she looked and found him sitting at the bar a split second before he turned to her. "Too late now, mon ami. I've got you."
He simply looked at her then turned back to his drink. "Go away, Amanda."
Dark smudges colored the skin under his eyes. Amanda took in the drawn look, the pale features seemingly more angular than normal, but kept her voice light. "After all the trouble I've gone to? You've got to be kidding." She signaled for her waiter to bring over her glass from the table. "You know, you're being really annoying, Methos."
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing about you."
"Yeah, well get used to it, buster. I'm not going anywhere until we talk." Her voice carried the very real anger she was now starting to feel. She smiled sweetly at the waiter as he handed her the wine glass.
They sat in silence, Amanda watching Methos while he hunched over the bar and contemplated his double whiskey. When he drank the last of it, he pushed the glass out to the edge of the wood surface and caught the eye of the bartender.
"Let me have another, and put both of them on her tab." He thrust a thumb at Amanda without even bothering to look at her.
She nearly burst out in angry words, but held her tongue at the last second. With a deep breath, she spoke to the busy bartender and asked for a pousse-café, creme d'amande. Methos looked at the pink liqueur the bartender brought and curled his lip.
Amanda simply took a sip of the almond-flavored liqueur and smiled. "Sweet and feminine? Thanks." She had him talking, that was the main thing. Patiently she drank her coffee and liqueur, not speaking since Methos was not. The hushed tone of the restaurant picked up as more patrons came in for dinner, creating a more convivial atmosphere. Amanda was content to sit and watch the comings and goings, waiting for the least little sign that Methos was ready to leave.
Finally he finished his latest double, his fourth, and pushed his stool back from the bar. Just as quickly, Amanda rose also, already having paid the bill earlier. Settling his raincoat around his wiry frame, he stood and looked at her briefly, his mouth tight. She looked right back. Without a word, he turned and headed out the door, walking away from his building.
"Where are you going?" Once the words were out of her mouth she could have bitten off her tongue, but there was no way to recall them. He looked at her slyly out of the corner of his eyes, not bothering to answer. Guess I'll find out, she thought.
She did. She saw more of Bordeaux by night then she ever expected or wanted to. More than once she thanked the fates that she had worn her most comfortable boots, or she would have been tempted to give up plenty of times. Once, she had to use the WC so badly, she finally pleaded with Methos to wait. She must have sounded so genuinely pitiful that he relented wordlessly and did, while she snuck into a bar and used the facilities.
Two and a half hours later she recognized the street they were walking down. His. Finally. Thank god. He had surely made her pay dearly for her actions. What amazed her was that she stuck it out instead of calling it quits and leaving to try again tomorrow. She didn't know what had motivated her: her promise to Joe, her concern and curiosity about Duncan and Methos, or simply Methos himself, the weary look to him, the strange Presence, his very unusual air of depression. Maybe it was all three.
He said not a word when she followed him up the stairs to his attic rooms. It was with relief she entered the apartment while he held open the door, shutting it tightly and locking it behind her. He might have let her in, but he was proceeding to ignore her while he pulled off his coat, tossing it on a hook by the door. She took off her own while he moved into a small kitchen at the far end, flipping on a light and slowly gathering coffee, placing a battered metal percolator on a burner to perk. Without asking her, he gathered two mugs, sugar and milk, placing them on the counter, then stood still and waited without moving for the water to boil.
Amanda got the message that things would happen in his own good time, and turned back to explore the flat. Books were piled on a large country table, along with a laptop, open, running and with a modem hook-up. Peeking, unfortunately there was nothing open on the monitor. Diskettes were piled on the table next to it, but the writing on them was indecipherable. More than likely some ancient language, an effective unbreakable code, she thought.
There was little else in the room other than his clothes in an old wooden piece of furniture and the bed. The room was lit by a single floor lamp sitting by a rocker, its golden glow only piercing the gloom so far. Another door sat next to the kitchen, and she discovered the ancient bathroom facilities. Ancient they might be, but they were functional and she used them, first closing the old wooden shutters over the uncovered window before turning on the light and shutting the door.
She took her time, washing her hands and brushing her hair, trying to kill time. When she finally opened the door, she smelled the distinctive scent of freshly brewed coffee and walked into the kitchen alcove in time to take a steaming mug from the other Immortal.
"Thanks," she offered.
"Welcome." He walked around her, making for the bed. Pillows piled up against the iron headboard as a backrest and he sprawled out, lounging on it and sipping hot coffee, eyeing her.
Feeling a bit at a loss, she made for the rocker, turning it around and pulling it closer to the bed. She was damned if she would sit 10 feet away and not be able to hardly see the expression on his face in the faint light. They sat like that for a few minutes, sipping quick sips on boiling hot coffee.
Methos finally broke the silence. "How'd you find me?" A faint curiosity colored his words.
Amanda crossed her legs, settling back in the chair. "Joe. He's concerned. He wanted me to come, find out if anything was wrong."
A sardonic eyebrow rose. "Why should something be wrong?"
"You tell me. Duncan won't speak of you, of what happened a month ago, to me, to anyone. He's... strange-"
Methos' eyes narrowed and he interrupted. "Strange? What do you mean?"
Amanda looked at him. "Strange. As in, the same way you're strange."
He thought about that. "And how am I strange also?"
Could be he wasn't aware of it. "Both of you 'feel' like more than one Immortal." She lifted her eyebrows. "I'd call that pretty strange, Methos. What's going on?"
That hit him hard. His feet came down off the bed and he hunched over, elbows on his knees, staring at Amanda. "You feel this? With both of us?"
"Didn't I just say that? Yes, I do. It's quite strong and obvious. I even thought... When I went to Duncan's barge, I thought someone else was there. Then the same thing when I approached you this afternoon. What is it, Methos? What's happened?" she repeated.
"Bloody hell." His response was to put his face down in one hand, rubbing his brow tiredly. Amanda watched, seeing frustration in his actions. Finally he ran the hand back and through his hair, upending it into spikes over his head.
He looked at her wearily. "I don't know, Amanda. I bloody well don't know. But it's driving me fucking crazy."
It was hard, very hard, for Methos to talk about what had happened, any of it, with another person, another Immortal. Anyone. But he had to. He felt a strong need to talk about it, as unsavory and uncomfortable as the process was. Once started, it was almost as if words came bubbling up to the surface unbidden, squeezing their way upward in a huge rush, the resulting congestion at times causing him to stumble and stammer to a stop while he tried to make sense of it all. He sat, eyes unfocused as he turned inward, reliving some of the most emotional moments of his life as he spoke.
He talked of his life so long ago, skirting details, but still. The picture was rather clear. The relationship with his 'brothers in crime' began to flesh out in scant words. How could something so complex be put into the limits of verbal language? It couldn't, or, he couldn't. Didn't know how. Didn't want to know how. Didn't really want to be doing any of this, baring parts of his soul, creating vulnerabilities. But the need pushed him on, driving him to reach an understanding, a new place of equilibrium with the way things now were.
Amanda barely breathed. She sat unmoving, eyes riveted on the older Immortal sitting before her. It was surprising enough that the man sitting before her was talking to her, considering everything. The intimacy of his revelations had her speechless. He was not a verbose person, but managed with few words to paint a picture of stunning clarity. About life thousands of years ago, his actions with the three other Immortals. Their exploits, their reign of terror. His involvement with Cassandra.
When he stopped, thinking, Amanda bit her lip in indecision. She wanted desperately to ask Methos how he had gotten from the place he just described, to where he was now. What had caused him to change when the others had not? As she sat silent, the moment passed as his voice began again.
This time the tone was different. Softer, less harsh. Less self-condemning, she realized. With a start, she realized that she was missing the words as she focused on the sounds, and shook herself as she heard Duncan's name.
"---know I offered him my head right after we first met? While Kalas was giving us all a merry chase. I wasn't in any shape to win any fight, mentally, emotionally. I felt as dusty as the books I studied, and as important in the scheme of things. Then MacLeod walked in, and took for granted who I was instantly. Didn't try to take my head like so many would have. No, the overgrown boy scout attempts to protect me." A ghost of a smile crossed his face. "I read his Chronicles. He certainly lived up to his reputation.
"Kalas was serious. It didn't take long for him to find me." For the first time in some while, Methos seemed to recall that Amanda was sitting there. He looked directly at her. "You remember it all, you were there."
She nodded, thinking of her part in the whole Kalas story later on. "Yes, I was there. I remember only too well."
"It's funny, but if not for Kalas, I don't think I would have recognized how far removed from life I had become. From people. From the Game." He shook his head. "Nearly getting killed brought me face to face with something. I realized I had lost the fire that had kept me going for so many years. I was out of practice. And a simple truth kept flashing itself in my mind: my continued life would serve no purpose, none at all. If I lived, it would change nothing, help nothing, mean nothing.
"But my death, ah. That was another matter. My death could effect the world one way or another." He glanced up at her, eyes dark and bright. "So I offered Mac my head, came after him that evening dripping wet from my swim in the river, trying to avoid Kalas. He saw through my attempt, knew right away what I was doing. Refused to play my game."
His voice dropped down, faint as he swam in memories. "There I was, willingly ready to die after five thousand years spent doing everything imaginable to stay alive." He smiled to himself. "And the boy scout says no."
Amanda spoke up. "What did you do then?"
"Something so pathetically trite, it's funny. I fell in love."
A wry smile broke out on her face and her rocking picked up in speed. Who would have imagined that one day she'd be sitting here, commiserating with Methos, of all people, on the heartache of loving Duncan MacLeod? Life certainly was nothing if not a constant adventure, just the way she liked it.
Looking up, she caught a full picture of Methos as he wearily poured coffee into two mugs. As much as her romantic nature would like to believe that Methos was pining away from his unrequited love by the one who spurned him, it just didn't tally. Methos was too old, too, well....experienced, she supposed, (self-serving, the darker part of her supplied) to go this far overboard from Duncan turning his back on him. After all, he had saved his life from Cassandra. And wasn't that an interesting part of the story? He left something out. She looked up at him as he walked back into the room.
He left a lot out. Suddenly, she knew it as instinctively as she breathed. Accepting the newly hot mug, she waited until he had resettled himself as much as he could with the tension and exhaustion radiating from him in waves, then pounced.
"Okay, I'm suitably empathetic about your situation with Duncan. Being on his black list doesn't feel nice. I've been there, no fun. But if you're trying to get me to believe that that is the reason you are holed up here in this miserable little flat, looking like hell, then think again." She watched the fulminating look gather in his eyes, the first time since she had arrived that he had any kind of spark showing. Ah, good, the Methos I know and love. When he opened his mouth to say something, she forestalled him.
"Save it," she said flatly. "It's obvious, given everything, that something else is the problem here. And I think you've left out the most important parts of the story. Care to fill me in?"
Methos stared at the arch expression on the face of the woman to whom he'd just poured out his sordid life story. Anger instinctively rose but was tempered by an equal amount of respect for Amanda's no-nonsense approach to the issue. God knows he wouldn't have been able to say the words just spoken to most people. Their reactions would have become the issue, defeating the purpose of opening his mouth. This was as "safe" as it was going to get.
But his anger forced stubbornness. "Why should I? You seem to know everything already. Oh, and thanks for your kind and understanding words about Mac," he added, jumping up to move restlessly. He nearly bumped into Amanda as she stood also.
"Would you prefer that I coo and stroke your weary brow, shedding tears over the loss in your life?" she asked him impatiently.
"Yes!" he burst out, then stopped, looking chagrined then cross. "Bloody hell."
Amanda smiled at his discomfiture. "Okay." She stepped forward and gathered him into her arms, pulling his resisting body close in her embrace.
At first, he stood rigid, his ingrained avoidance of close contact with others making him feel awkward. But he took a breath, breathed in the very real scent of her and began to relax. His face buried in her hair, its sharp herbal flavor reminding him of the last time he stood like this. That time he had cried, loud and noisy sobs coming from his soul. There was no repeat of that now. He did, however, put his arms around her, holding on to the first warm body he had felt in over a month. With a sigh, he accepted her warmth, letting it begin to thaw out his frozen self.
"Better?" she asked quietly. He mumbled something into her hair. "What? I didn't hear you."
"I said yes, dammit." The annoyed voice in her ear was at odds with the needy grip on her arms. She bit back a tart response, reminding herself that if she got to be five thousand years old, she too could be stubborn and proud. Of course, now she most certainly wasn't.
Turning, she encouraged Methos to sit down on the bed with her. At his wary expression, she burst out laughing. "You sure know how to make a girl feel wanted, Methos. Just sit. I'm tired after the wonderful walking tour of Bordeaux you took me on earlier, okay? I have no wicked designs on your vulnerable person."
Shaking his head, he lounged back against the mound of pillows. "I- Sorry," he said shortly.
"Under normal circumstances I wouldn't forgive you, but..."she trailed off, curling up on her side next to him. She placed a slim hand on his chest, looking steadily at him. "So tell me," she said simply.
He lay back on the pillows, giving a deep sigh unconsciously. Peering up at the ceiling overhead, he wondered where to start. The image of Cassandra sitting, breathing fire at him from her cage, came to mind.
"I never could bring myself to kill her. Cassandra," he explained, noting her questioning look. "Even Kronos saw it all those years ago. I suppose there is some kind of cosmic balance to her attempt to kill me while I was..." he paused perceptibly, "unwilling to defend myself."
Amanda caught it. "Unwilling? I thought she tried to kill you while you were recovering from Silas' Quickening."
"Yes and.... yes." He paused.
"I'm trying! It's..." He shifted restlessly on the bed, turning to her. "How do you feel about yourself, Amanda? Does guilt from your past keep you awake at night?"
Amanda looked at him like he was crazy. "Get real."
His mouth quirked up. "Thought not. It never did me, either. At least not for centuries. But something about MacLeod...." his voice trailed off.
"Hey. That's something I can relate to, you know. Duncan's been...he's like my conscience, annoying as that's been at times. But he's hard to turn your back on..."
"Yes," Methos said softly. "Try to recall one of those annoying moments when Duncan was lecturing you about your behavior and remember how that feels. Only increase it by about ten thousand."
He looked full in her eyes. "That's how I felt, during the Quickening. During our Quickening. I-" he faltered a moment. "As I told you, Duncan fought Kronos, I fought Silas. We both were fighting in the same part of the underground base when we took their heads. At the same time," he said slowly. Amanda's eyes widened. "Have you ever seen two Quickenings at the same time?" She shook her head no. "Neither had I. Never read about it happening, either. You'd think-" He sighed.
"So there we were. I'd just taken the head of a man I'd called friend for over three thousand years. He trusted me, and I challenged him." He shook off the creeping, cloying darkness. "Duncan had taken Kronos' head, and the fireworks started. The energy loosed by two old Immortals was enormous. But... something happened. It went all - funny," he ended on a confused note, frowning.
Amanda frowned too. "What do you mean, "all funny"? Come on, Methos, what happened?"
"I don't know!" he exploded. "All I can remember is Silas' Quickening starting. I could feel him as the energy hit me. Then- I could feel Kronos, too." He wasn't aware he shuddered in memory. "I couldn't move, the energy was so powerful. It was all I could do to control what was coursing through me. Suddenly I was hit by a huge burst of energy, and it went on and on, blinding me in its intensity." He looked up at Amanda, a haunted expression in his eyes. "It was Mac."
He laid a hand over his eyes. "Ever gaze at something blindingly brilliant? After you look at it, nothing else can be seen, everything seems dark in comparison."
Amanda was still frowning. "So you shared Silas' and Kronos' Quickenings. That must have been fun." She couldn't help but think of all the negative energy generated by both the old Immortals. It was a miracle that Methos and Duncan survived such an onslaught. "But, Methos...what about the Presence you give off? How do you explain it in you and Duncan?"
He took a shaky breath. "Somehow we....linked."
Amanda waited but nothing else was forthcoming. "Linked?" she encouraged.
"As in... your energies linked?" she probed further.
He nodded again.
"Really?" He gave her an annoyed look. "That's --- something I've never heard of," she said, her mind racing. Linked?? "So how does this - link- work?"
He rubbed his head tiredly with his hand. "I have no idea, Amanda. I know I can.. sense him, can tell that he's living and breathing. I can pick him out from any other Immortal. When I last saw him, here at Elysium Church before he left for Paris, it...whatever it is... intensified as I got closer to him, like feedback in electrical sound equipment."
"Feedback." Amanda was struggling to put it all together. "So what does this mean for you both? Can this be reversed? Does it hurt in any way?"
"Not physically," he answered her last question.
"But mentally, emotionally?" she asked quietly.
Methos' own words were softly spoken, nearly a whisper. "How would you like to have a constant, inner reminder of your own.. darkness? To have yourself constantly reminded that a person you care for feels negatively about you?"
Amanda bit her lip, then reached over to brush light fingers over Methos' face. "I wouldn't like that at all." She continued to touch him gently. "What can you do about it?"
He thought of all the Watcher records and Chronicles he had checked in the past month, the databases and files of information, all yielding nothing. His answer was flat. "Survive and go on, as I always have."
Amanda stretched out on the couch, wrapping the cord around her hand as she waited for the telephone to be answered. She had waited as long as possible to make the call, mainly trying to sort out everything in her own mind. And, truth be told, she felt odd relaying the information back to Joe, even though Methos had allayed her guilt. She thought back over the past few days.
The first evening, when he had explained everything to her as much as he was willing, she saw Methos' complete exhaustion. The entire situation was weighing him down as he attempted to deal with it. With no one else to lean on, the weight of it fell fully on his own shoulders. Amanda was the first person to whom he had talked. No wonder it spilled out of him like water from a fountain, she thought. And he hated every word that squeezed its way out, stubborn old man.
Something about his utter aloneness caught at her and she stayed with him that night, holding him as she would an injured child. He only allowed it because he was too weary to bother protesting by then and fell asleep in her arms. In his sleep, he curled into her warmth as any needy child would, unconsciously seeking what she was giving. If he had any inkling of the image she had of him as an injured child, he wouldn't let her help him again even if his life depended on it.
Pride and caution not withstanding, he was still a pragmatist. Yesterday he had looked at Amanda as they had wandered outside, his restlessness making him move once more. "Have you reported back to Joe yet?" His voice was low, even.
She glanced at him, the idea of denying it flickering in and out of her mind quickly. No lying to those eyes. At least, not about this. "Not yet," she began cautiously. "How'd you know?"
His look was cynical and he ignored her. "Just do me a favor. When you do call, leave out the part about the...linking, please. Tell him about the Quickening, but just don't go into the details." He gave her a short intense look. "Please."
Oh he hated pleading for something, especially if it was for himself, she noted. "Methos, I won't tell him anything if you ask me not to. I struck a deal with Joe so I could get the information out of him." She flashed a big grin. "It doesn't mean I have to keep it."
That brought a hint of cynical humor into his face. "Such honor. What would MacLeod say?"
Her answer was slightly impatient. "He'd be angry I was bargaining with Joe in the first place. But who cares? I like Joe a lot, but that doesn't mean I feel any loyalty toward his organization. You more than anyone should know what they're capable of. And in this instance, Methos, my first concern is with you."
He looked at her, gauging her words. Seeing her sincerity caught him off-guard. The sense of warmth it generated was strong and made him very uncomfortable. "I just ask you leave out the...unusual results of the Quickening. Anything else you want to tell him is up to you." He sounded distant and uncaring.
"Well, gee, Methos, you're very welcome." Sugar dripped from her words.
He stopped to lean forearms on the railing, looking out over the Garonne river lapping at their feet. It was still gray, but a slight breeze had picked up and the clouds were scuttling eastward overheard, the sun making a weak showing occasionally. They had been walking along the riverfront today, heading southward along its banks toward the Pont de Pierre. Amanda paused next to him, leaning a hip against the railing.
Turning, Methos faced away from the river, his back and elbows on the railing. A face lifted to the sky, as if to absorb the slight sunlight peeking down. Amanda sighed in exasperation.
"I'll do as you ask, Methos. Joe won't know about the effects." He didn't respond. Amanda shook her head. There was only so much she was willing to take, and outright rudeness in the face of her trying to help was not part of the list. With a last glare at the angular face, she turned to walk back the way they came. That's it. I've tried. She walked on, scanning the boulevard for a passing taxi.
When a hand caught her forearm firmly, she turned in anger toward the other Immortal. "I've had enough rudeness today, thank you." She looked meaningfully at his hand.
He promptly removed it. "Amanda...." he scanned around them, looking everywhere but at the angry woman. Sighing, he hunched his shoulders and put his hands in the pockets of his raincoat, finally settling his gaze on her. "Sorry," he said shortly. "I'm not the best of company lately." What an understatement. "I do appreciate your concern. It's been...good to have you here. I'm just not used to so much.." he dwindled off.
"Closeness? Caring? Feeling vulnerable?" she supplied, an edge to her voice.
Methos let out a breath, half suprise, half laughter. "I suppose that's one way to look at it."
"The only way," Amanda said, but was grinning.
"Thank you." In a rare display of affection, he took a hand and cupped her cheek, his thumb brushing over the snow-soft skin there. "I really am glad you came."
"Anytime," her tone insouciant but her eyes soft. The moment settled into a sense of peace between the two Immortals. "Want to go get something to eat?"
Methos withdrew his hand slowly. "Actually, I think I'd like to be alone for a while. I think I'll walk over to the Musee des Beaux Arts."
Amanda shuddered, knowing it was all the way across downtown. "Have fun. I think I'll catch a taxi and go shopping." She waved down a passing car. "See you later?"
Methos leaned in and kissed her cheek. "Don't spend too much money."
"But that's what credit cards are for!" she laughed as she slid into the car.
Methos shook his head and turned around, crossing the street westward toward the town center.
It was dusk by the time Amanda knocked on Methos' door, but she knew he wasn't at home. No sense of Presence hit her. Twisting the handle, she was surprised to find it unlocked. Entering it cautiously, she walked into the gloomy interior, but knew already what she would find.
He'd left. All his personal belongings were gone, clothes, books, computer. What little warmth his human habitation had given the stark space was missing, leaving it all the more depressing.
Oh, Methos. Don't run too far. It won't get any better that way. Sighing, she closed the door and headed back to the hotel. She had delayed long enough. Time to make that call.
Paris, One Month Later
"He's not that different. None of us are. We all make mistakes." Duncan took a sip of his drink while perusing the chess board, comfortable in his chair.
"And we all have mistakes to forgive." Methos spoke up quietly from his position all the way across the barge from MacLeod, behind Amanda as she perched on the sofa. He stood slightly hunched in on himself, arms crossed and hovering near the fireplace as if cold. An odd awkwardness popped out every so often, his insecurity exposing itself in the midst of his perfected and insouciant "wise old ancient" act.
As the meaning registered, Amanda felt the tension level notch up by about 1000 percent. Duncan glanced over his shoulder, directing such an intense look at Methos, she marveled that the older Immortal didn't go up like an incendiary device right then and there. Uncomfortable with the threatened scene, she jumped in to deflect rising waters.
"Speaking of mistakes. There seems to be an Inspector who seems determined to put my cute little butt in jail." Her coquettish voice belied the tension in her stomach as she slid over to MacLeod and slipped onto his lap.
He chuckled smugly. "Sorry about that."
"Mmm, should I forgive you?" she teased him.
Still chuckling, he attempted to look serious. "Ohhhh, no, I don't think you should." He pulled her hovering mouth to his for a taste, then another.
In the background, Methos set his jaw and reached for his raincoat on the sofa. When he spoke he managed to sound indulgent of the two. "I think this is my cue to leave." Only the faintest strain was heard if one listened closely, and someone was.
"Bye, Methos." Amanda said around their giggles.
"Bye Methos," Duncan echoed.
The eldest turned his back on the scene. All he wanted was to leave as quickly as possible. "You guys be good," he tossed off. The two were giggling and kissing like teenagers.
Duncan spoke up, one more parting shot. "If not, we'll try an' be better."
Methos bounded up the stairs to the door, the sound of smacking lips and giggles following him unwanted out into the chill, damp air.
The sound of the door shutting was heard clearly by the two smooching inside. In a handful of seconds, the immediate feel of the elder's Presence faded in the distance. Slowly, Duncan pulled his mouth from Amanda's, burying his face against her chest and holding tight. She still giggled, not realizing the mood change until his continued silence went on for half a minute. When she backed away and saw the expression on his face, she sighed.
"You know, MacLeod, I love you dearly, but you can be a real ass at times." She kissed him once more on his forehead then slid off his lap.
Immediately he started chuckling again. "I didn't really mean for you to not forgive me." He came up behind her, attempting to draw her back into his arms.
"Maybe not, but right now I don't feel like it, okay?" She eluded his grasp and turned to face him, searching his eyes. "You knew what you just did to Methos, didn't you?"
Duncan's face hardened perceptively and he wheeled away from her, heading to pour another drink. "Amanda, leave it alone. It's none of your business," he stated bluntly. "You know nothing about it."
She followed him over to the bar. "That's where you're wrong, MacLeod.
I know all about it."
At her tone, he looked back at the older woman, eyes wary and questioning. "Yes," she nodded, "all about it."
He turned back to the bar, splashing whisky into his glass. "That doesn't change things. It's still none of your business."
"When you try to use me to hurt a friend of mine, another lover of yours, then you make it my business. All's fair in love and love, so I don't feel uncomfortable about us being together. But I won't be used like a weapon aimed at Methos, MacLeod. I sat there with him in Bordeaux for 5 days watching him struggle and hurt. He doesn't deserve it from you." She ended her diatribe angrily and whirled toward the door, snatching her coat off the wall rack. Turning as she stopped to shrug into her coat, she stood looking at the Highlander. A smidgen of indecision and uncertainty had crept into his eyes. "What did he ever do to you to deserve such animosity? Or was all your talk about forgiveness and understanding a sham?" Before he could respond, she slipped out the door.
Duncan was left alone with his drink. Pacing unconsciously up and down the length of the barge interior, he felt trapped momentarily, a sudden sadness and loneliness creeping in. An internal dialogue began.
Dammit, I've got a right to be angry. He lied to me.
< And that was the crux of the matter, wasn't it. Lying. Misleading. >
Making us, me, think he was, he was-
< What? The Perfect Immortal? A saint? A man who'd found all the answers and had lots of enlightened wisdom to impart? Just what did he "make" you believe? >
I believed that he was better than I was! That he understood and shared the principles I live by. That I could trust him with my life, with all of me -
< And why can't you? >
Because I don't know who he really is! How can I trust and respect a man I don't know? Who doesn't really want anyone to know him?
< You sure you don't know him? Positive he doesn't want to be known? Look deeper, Duncan. There's something you're overlooking. >
Duncan sat down heavily on the couch, his head falling back to rest on the pillows with eyes shut, glass balanced in one hand on his knee.
I don't want to look, I don't want to open myself up to more hurt. More betrayal.
< Then you'll remain closed off to life until you do. >
Moisture seeped out from beneath closed eyelids and ran in uneven tracks over his cheekbones and into his hair. He took a long, shaky breath, letting it out slowly, trying to find an elusive relaxation.
I don't care.
< Yes. >
It'll hurt again.
< Maybe. That's part of life. Can't have the ecstasy without the agony. >
With all I know, how can I forgive him?
< How can you not? >
< Isn't he a part of you now? Do you want to condemn yourself? You told them you 'needed to take responsibility for your actions'. You need to do so now. >
< Deal with it. >
< Why? Answer that honestly! Why does it hurt so much? >
Because I love him!
< Ah. Yes, Duncan, you love him. So what are you going to do about it? >
The tears came then, silent but copious, falling down off the sides of his face from under an arm thrown over his eyes. Even in private it was so very hard to express his grief and pain openly, but it welled up to the surface, sensing an available opening for the first time. He didn't know all that pain was inside, didn't realize he felt so strongly still, felt the loss so keenly. For the first time since Methos had thrown him against the car that afternoon in Seacouver and then proceeded to throw his past in Duncan's face, Duncan felt it completely. And he was right, it did hurt. It felt worse than he remembered it could, as if he was separated from an arm or a leg, a part of himself. It was even more devastating than he had experienced with Tessa's loss, different in some way he could not explain, could not articulate. A sob erupted from deep within, and a silent cry went out, all of his pain and loss embodied in it.
Oh, god, Methos!
Immediately he felt another presence in his being. Pain, a sense of devastation, of loss so deep it cut like a knife. And he felt as clearly as day the presence of Methos reach out to him just as keenly, the yearning and need strong, clear. His name echoed hollowly through the corridors of his mind, the tones and voice clear.
He gasped, shaken. Methos' presence was so close, as if he were in this room. Unbidden, his arm fell away and his eyes opened, searching the barge's interior in vain. Empty.
But the sense remained, fainter but there. Methos.
Duncan sat on the sofa for some time, not moving. The light changed as day deepened into late afternoon. As the evening gloom began to gather, he finally stirred himself, hopping up with a sense of purpose in his step that had been missing before.
Standing in the bathroom, the sense of focus followed him as he brushed his hair back into an elastic once more, and washed away the dried tear tracks from his face. Going to his clothes press, he changed his sweater for another one, gathered up his leather coat and sword, pausing to ascertain it was hidden properly within the coat's depths. Taking the steps impatiently, he swung out the door, locking it behind him.
He had something to do.
Why the fuck am I staying here? I could be back in Greece right now, lying in the sun. Working on the house. Helping Andreas refinish his ancient boat. Drinking retsina and dancing under the stars each night at Isidoros' taverna. He kicked a pair of jeans lying on the floor out of his way.
After leaving Duncan's earlier that day, he walked all the way back to his apartment. The exercise and the chill air went a long way toward taking his mind off the scenes from the barge and the Luxembourg Gardens from the other day. Once arrived however, with nothing to do, his mind worried the subject like a dog with a bone.
He had left the Gardens in a rush, anger and frustration paramount at the time. Let the bloody boy scout kill himself if he wants to! He had done all that he could do, talking, reasoning, then resorting to sheer force. A smile broke through briefly. He had to admit, pointing that gun at Duncan's vulnerable back and pulling the trigger did have its high points. It seemed a valid solution at the time. All he was concerned about was keeping Duncan alive, at any cost, and that cost seemed reasonable.
But MacLeod hadn't seen it that way, had he? No. Damned fool. Methos left, and proceeded to live in dread of the feeling that would filter through the link- the feeling of Duncan's death. But it never came. Then Amanda called him from the bar just to let him know that Duncan was alive, well, and had successfully avoided killing or being killed.
He found himself walking to the barge in spite of his inner voice of caution. He wondered if there was a part of him that craved being abused. Knocking on the door, sensing the Presence inside, seeing his face so close, so closed. At least he let him in, not saying one word, just leaving the door open and walking back down the steps to the living area. In the end, he hadn't stayed long. It was one thing knowing that he was despised, another completely actively participating in his own humiliation.
Walking home quickly, he slammed the door to his apartment. Bypassing the beer, he went straight for the hard stuff, quaffing down a tumbler full of decent scotch like water before remembering its cost. So bloody hell what? He got annoyed at his own thoughts. I can buy myself a damn truck full of it to pour down the drain if I want... I'm not Adam, poor starving grad student anymore. No, thanks to Cassandra and her damn machinations, I am now and forever more Methos, terror of the known world, killer of children, defiler of women and men, the greatest terror known to mankind. It doesn't matter that I put that behind me more than 2500 years ago, I'll never be able to move away from it, never be able to wipe the stain from my hands. That image will forever live on in their heads, his head, with nothing that can override it.
It would never matter there were intervening years, times spent in religious orders of one faith or another, the hours, days, months and years spent reliving every single one of his memories, the smell of blood, the stink of fear that he fed on at one time as if it were the breath of life, but which then were as noxious, poisonous fumes to him, causing him to writhe inwardly in agony, endless days upon days.
Even that phase too wore out from overkill and he moved on beyond atonement into a new phase of self, neither killer nor saint. Just himself. No guilt, no lust for power, just... living. Getting up each morning and feeding his mind, learning something new about the world around him. With onset of the Renaissance, came science, technology. New vistas to conquer, bloodless ones. Learning now not because of the power the knowledge afforded him, but simply just to know.
So what am I doing here? He's fine. Alive. Doesn't want you around. He looked around the apartment, the scattered remnants of a varied life. Time to push off.
Slowly, methodically, he began to gather belongings, piling dirty clothes in a basket for washing. He reached down and picked up the basket just as an overwhelming amount of grief and pain seared through his being. He nearly stumbled, the pain becoming almost physical enough to double him over.
Oh gods, Methos! a voice echoed down the corridors of his mind. The voice brought him instant realization that the pain wasn't his, but originated outside his own being. Panic welled up inside. Was something wrong? Was he being attacked by an Immortal? Everything in him reached out to the younger Highlander.
He waited for the other shoe to drop, the basket dropping through nerveless fingers as he reached out with his mind on that elusive link which tied him to the other Immortal. Nothing was there, nothing but a faint trace of the grief and pain that shot through it earlier.
He stood that way for some time, attuned to the slightest impulse transmitted. But there was no more outcry. Slowly, he grasped the basket in his hands, moving without thinking toward the utility room to start the washer. Clothes went in without notice or sorting.
Am I going to have to live on the edge of the cliff like this, over and over and over, ad infinitum? No.
Distance. Time. He could bring the first about quickly, to the second he was in the mercy of its grip, like everyone else. But no matter how slowly, it inexorably moved forward, effecting even in the most stubborn of situations.
Opening the closet, he pulled out two large duffle bags. The isle of Kythnos called.
Amanda wasn't home. It had been foolish of him to think she would be at home, upset and angry. That had never been her way. More than likely she was out at some local hot spot, dancing her cute fanny off, trying to decide who she should favor with her company that evening, the earlier encounter a distant memory. Nice trick, if you could do it. He realized he always had envied her ability for living in the moment, not letting the past overwhelm her to the point of moroseness. Sighing, he took the steps back to the street, pausing then heading toward Maurice's new place. He would wait there, maybe she would show before too long. Or he would call from his cell phone to check and see if she had gone back home later.
Entering down the steps into the muted, rich interior of the club, Duncan was glad there was only a smattering of patrons on this midweek evening. The tone of the place was low-key, conversation muted, mixing with the piped music heard from various speakers. The lighting was as soft as the sounds, the occasional clink of china or glassware sharp to his ears. A raised stage with instruments on it indicated that there would be live music later on, but for now it was peaceful.
Wanting to avoid idle conversation, Duncan steered clear of the polished walnut bar and settled himself at a table tucked out of the way, his expression clearly indicating his desire to be alone. There was no sign of Maurice and for that he was thankful, not wanting at all to deal with the curiosity and nosiness of the lively little Frenchman. A cocktail waitress came to take his order without fuss, delivering the double Scotch a moment later with the same efficiency.
He didn't know how long he sat there, couldn't even remember how many times the silent waitress had brought a refill and sat it down while removing the empty glass. His mind was on this afternoon and what had occurred, worrying it, turning it over and over in his mind. Talking to Amanda had become a necessity, one he was impatient to initiate.
He took the cell phone from his pocket and punched in Amanda's code, putting the thing up to his ear to hear. When the phone answered, his pulse jumped in expectation, but it was her machine. The message he left was short and testy, evident of his mood and impatience. A loud snap punctuated a faint scowl as he shut the phone and began to pocket it again.
"Obviously not what you were hoping for, an answering machine. Hate talking to 'em myself."
Duncan turned his head abruptly, the relaxed form standing to the side of the table a complete surprise. "Joe! What the hell are you doing here?" He was surprised enough to be shaken out of his mood, his hand coming out to grip the hand thrust at him.
Dark grey eyebrows rose over shrewd blue eyes. "Playing here with the band." He gestured to a chair. "Mind if I..?" He sat down slowly, the cane propped up against the table. "You're an ornery man, MacLeod. If the mountain won't budge, guess Mohammed's got to make a trip." He turned to look at the waitress. "Gimme a shot of whiskey, sweetheart." His eyes turned back to Duncan as she left. "You know, su casa es mi casa. Or ciudad, in this case."
Duncan's face changed as he spoke, eyes dropping to his drink, a frown darkening his features. There was no way Joe knew the association he had for those words, that phrase. Or maybe he did, god knows what he knew from various sources, even Methos himself.
Dawson registered the sudden shift in MacLeod's mood. He didn't know the exact cause, but something was smoldering inside the broody Scot, more so than normal, something set off by whatever he'd said. "You'd rather I left you alone?" He spoke bluntly to the Immortal's mood, eyes probing.
Duncan fiddled with his drink. "Just not up to much company this evening. Got a few things on my mind." This was said with less than Mac's usual definitive dismissiveness.
Joe simply sat and regarded the older man, nodding thanks as his whiskey was placed in from of him. In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought, repeating an oft-used phrase of his mother's to himself. "You worried about Methos?"
Duncan's gaze flew to the calm Watcher sitting across from him, shock showing briefly on the darkly handsome face before he recovered and smoothed out all but annoyance. "I hardly think that's any of your business, Joe," he replied, his tone cool and biting.
Bullseye. "Guess that's a matter of perspective." He paused, watching hot temper flare into Duncan's eyes for a second. "And don't jump the gun thinkin' I meant that it's my business because I'm your Watcher. I meant it because I'm your friend, and I care about you, friend. Period." He kept his eyes steady and calm on the wavering light sparking in the Scot's. "You want to talk, I'm here. You want to ask questions, I'm here too. I just might have some answers." The last dropped temptingly between the two men.
Knowing his man, Joe stood. "Gotta go. Time to warm up." As he moved past the Immortal, he laid a brief hand on his shoulder then moved off toward the passageway to backstage.
Christ, was he that obvious, that easy to read? Annoyance still swirled around inside Duncan, mixing with other feelings into a confusing jumble. Even though Joe knew more about him then any other person alive, except possibly Methos, he was still not willing to be reasonable about anything to do with the recent past. Anybody who tred into that portion of his life pissed him off. The idea that anyone thought they understood what he was feeling or thinking irrationally angered him even more.
Even so, he stayed, noticing the larger crowd now that it was time for live music. Joe and the other musicians ambled out onto stage and after tuning up briefly, started right into their first set for the night. Halfway through, Duncan tried Amanda's number once more half-heartedly, not really expecting an answer. By the time the set was over, his burst of anger had more or less burned itself out. He waited, feeling impatient that he had to resort to questioning the Watcher yet hoping that Joe wasn't put off by his earlier temper.
It took about five minutes before the grey-haired musician appeared from backstage, ambling over to the bar to speak with the bartender briefly. Turning, he eyed Duncan a moment before making his way back to his table.
Stopping short, he placed a hand on the back of a chair. "Gonna take my head if I sit?"
Duncan seemed abashed at that. "Sit down, Joe," he sighed. Giving the Watcher an brief look, he continued quietly. "Things have been- I've-" he faltered.
Joe waved him quiet. "Mac, we've all had our moments. Don't worry about it. Now, I've got half an hour. If you wanna ask me any questions, do it now or I'll be back on stage for another hour or so for the second set."
No beating around the bush tonight. Duncan took a long swallow of his drink, placing the glass carefully back onto the table. "Are you having Methos followed?"
Joe sat back in his chair. "Yes. Since Bordeaux."
"Where is he?"
Joe looked surprised. "Far as I know, still here in Paris, at his apartment. Why?"
Duncan frowned, running a finger along the edge of his glass idly. "What'd he do after....after I left Bordeaux?" He still wasn't looking at Joe directly.
That drew a response as Duncan looked up. "Where did he go?"
"Nowhere." There was a sound of impatience from Duncan as he shifted restlessly. "I mean, nowhere. He stayed in Bordeaux until little over a month ago, then he showed up back here." Joe took pity on the other man and offered more without waiting for the questions. "He rented a place in town there, stayed holed up most of the time, except when he wasn't out walking mile after mile around the town." He rubbed a hand over his late-evening bristled cheeks. "Watcher I had on him there complained more than once he was going to put new shoes on his expense report."
"Amanda went to see him."
"Yeah, I sent her."
"You sent her... why?" That took Duncan by surprise.
"Because I was worried about him. I couldn't very well ask the Watcher there to go in and check up on him, now could I? Couldn't very well do it myself either. So, it was the next best thing." He shrugged. "It worked. Seemed he needed someone to talk to and Amanda fit the bill."
Amanda fit the bill? Since when? Last time he knew, she and Methos barely tolerated each other. And just what did they have to say to one another? He glanced at Joe, aiming for casual. Failing miserably. "So what did they discuss?"
Joe sighed. "The weather! What d'ya think? The Horseman, his past, his present. He's human, he needed somebody to listen, to care." The reproach was obvious.
Duncan's mouth tightened but he didn't reply directly. "Did he realize that his words would be immortalized in your records as he spilled his guts to Amanda?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact, he did. Told Amanda it was okay. Anyway, you know damn well anything I have on Adam Pierson goes into a separate journal of my own, not into any official records. And what the hell do you care? I thought you severed all ties with Methos." Joe was starting to get a bit annoyed himself.
I thought I had, too. Only it's not going to be that easy, is it? He stood up, dropping a few bills on the table. "Thanks, Joe," he said shortly. He made an attempt at a neutral topic, gesturing toward the stage. "The band sounds good. Planning on staying around here a while?"
Joe looked at him. "You tell me. Leaving anytime soon?"
Duncan settled his leather coat over his shoulders, his gaze unfocused as he thought. Finally he looked at the Watcher. "I don't know. I've got a few things to do before I'll know what my plans are." A wry half smile formed on his mouth. "Don't worry, you'll be the first to know."
The Immortal walked out of the club with no further fanfare, leaving Joe frowning pensively. He only hoped that the 'something to do' involved finally sitting down and talking with the ancient Immortal. Joe had seen for himself how worn Methos looked the other day. The two of them needed to work out their differences, and put the past in the past where it belonged. But he recalled Mac's anger and disgust the day he told Joe about Methos' revelations while he paced around explosively in the loft. No amount of reasoning got through to him that day, and his stubborn hide still had a brick wall up a mile high on the subject.
Sighing, he got up to prepare for the second set. He had his own work to do at the moment. He prayed to an unseen God that something positive would be able to come out of the mess of the past few months. While an infant compaired to the Immortals, he felt old and wanted nothing more than peace for his friends. He just hoped they chose to do something about it finding it while he was still around to see it.
It was in the depths of the night. Paris never actually slept, but it did a good imitation at 3 a.m.. Traffic sounds were faint, the hustle and bustle that marked each day with noises and vibrations were down to a bare minimum. The night was clear and cold, the sky awash in stars like glitter on black velvet.
Separated by more than miles, two Immortals lay alone in their beds. Swords lay within inches of their fingertips, attesting to the caution and determination of both to survive in their Immortal state. Beyond that, their surroundings were quite different.
One slept in an unique space aboard a converted barge moored in the middle of Paris on the Seine. It was cold in the winter (as it was now) and roasting in the summer. But for all its discomfort in that respect, it had a homey, personal feel to it. A fire was currently banked in the enclosed fireplace, embers glowing red and casting a faint light in the surrounding space. Unique antique furniture set the tone, with a small blend of personal items saying a bit about the inhabitant. Colors were muted and mixed, creating a rich but subdued pallette. At one time the space rang with laughter and shone with the colors of a multitude of personal effects. Over the years the owner had slowly but surely stripped the space of much of what he had treasured at one time in his past. Now most of his most precious items were stored away in trunks, far away from casual, or emotional, eyes. There still were small testiments to the personality and interests of the owner in the chess set, the swords, books, a few pieces of art and a music CD collection that were easily accessible to visitors.
Tonight this Immortal took a long solitary walk home in the clear, cold air. Thinking, wrestling with his strongest enemy, himself. Finally he arrived at the barge. He had also arrived at a conclusion which brought a sense of peace within himself. He wanted answers. And he was willing to ask the questions, face to face, with the only one alive who could answer them. Tomorrow, he would do so. He slept.
The other Immortal slept a few miles away in a spacious single-room apartment with a bare minimum of personal effects in the environment. The overall impact was spare, modern and stylized in its effect. Efficiency of use was paramount, technology obviously a love of the occupant with the pricey computer and multimedia center occupying prominent positions in the space. While there were unusual and odd items scattered here and there throughout the space, it still somehow revealed little about the occupant. There was a sterile feel to it, despite it being obviously lived in.
The only thing it shared in common with the other abode was the sleeping place: both had oversized, low-slung beds, piled with down comforters for warmth in the Paris chill. The only other similarity lay in the fact that each inhabitant went to bed on their oversized mattress each night, alone.
Tonight was no different, although this Immortal had plane tickets waiting for him at the Air France ticket counter for pick-up tomorrow morning. It was a one-way booking.
He had gone to bed content with his decision to leave, expecting to sleep the sleep of one in whose world all was right, all calm. Bags were packed, necessary books and computer disks tucked inside a special carry-on with his laptop. The rest he didn't need. It would wait until the time he either decided to return to Paris, or cut ties with his current existence there and give up the apartment, selling or storing any belongings still housed inside.
He had thought of everything, as he usually did. After five thousand-odd
years, he learned to cover the bases. But some bases couldn't be
counted until they were tripped over, undiscovered as they were.
Until they made their presence known.
|He was standing on the banks of a river, the current lapping at
his bare feet. How
he got here, he wasn't sure, but it looked familiar. Sunshine baked down upon the
earth around him, on him, intense and white in its heat. His lungs expanded, taking
a deep breath of the dry, hot air and his body felt at once curiously at home and
ominously tense. He wanted to stay, relax, at the same time he wanted to run. Hide.
Slowly he walked along the edge of the water, watching the strangely rushing current swirl and buck in eddies as if something under the water were thrashing about, some
monster lurking below the surface were waiting for the unsuspecting to wander by.
Voices intruded. He turned to see a settlement behind him,
small and simple. Women carried water from the river up to the cook
fires, children splashed in the shallows.
Before he could move, Presence roared into his awareness and he turned
Frantic, he turned, trying to help those around him, but everywhere
he went, it
Now the flies came, tormenting in hordes, attracted to the decaying
Eventually the camp was barren of the dead forms, but had been transformed
He was tired, hungry, starving actually, thirsty beyond caring now,
This was his existance now, this was his home, with no food, salt
Leave this place...yes. He should do that, walk right out into the
The sound of sobbing woke him eventually. It took him a moment to identify where the sound was coming from. Only the feeling of moisture on his face had him noticing it came from his own throat.
The dream still swirled around him, the feelings as real as if he had just touched that hot, dry sand. He couldn't breath, his nose stuffed from too many tears. Rummaging next to the bed, he grabbed a handkerchief and blew his nose loudly, caring little for delicacy as the smell of death and decay seemed to be inside him. He wanted to push it away, push away the memory, but it was stubbornly persistent, the images not fading but staying, clear, as if projected onto the walls of his very apartment, everywhere, surrounding him. His being cringed from them but couldn't avoid them.
Pushing back covers, he moved into the bathroom, running cold water and bathing his face in it for a few minutes, the sweet essence doing much to wash away the stink left in his nostrils. Then he poured himself a double out of the open bottle on the kitchen counter. He probably should examine the dream, pick it apart and discover what bugs had crawled out from underneath their rocks this time, but a weariness persisted, carrying over from the dream, and it was all he could do just to swallow the alcohol in an attempt to sedate himself back into sleep. The fire of it burned its way down his esophagus, pooling in a warm puddle in his middle, spreading a welcome fire in his bloodstream within minutes. Crawling slowly back under the covers, he curled up on himself and fell back into a dreamless sleep.
A few miles away, another man lay awake in the dark, the rocking of his boat a mild sway as the current of the Seine floated by. But he didn't feel or hear the sound of water, his mind was still far away in a hotter, dryer climate, the only water the precious lifeblood of the river running through the area. He still felt the weight of the heavy sword in his hand, still saw the scene laid out on the land below him. The smell of blood, the falling bodies. The flies, the mounds of dirt. The broken, bloody figure walking toward him, silent awareness clear in hazel eyes that his sword could swing.
But he couldn't do it, couldn't use his weapon on a defenseless person, couldn't let him commit what amounted to suicide. No matter how much it was his duty, or how dark hazel eyes seemed to ask him to do it. He couldn't. There had to be another way.
Duncan knew he would have to find it, but didn't know where to start. Restless, he rose and pulled his discarded sweats off the chair and onto himself. There in the darkness, he began a moving meditation, each motion an outlet for unknown, unwanted, confusing feelings and images coursing through him in the aftermath of the dream. Instead of struggling to find the answers, he worked to find his center, knowing that any answers he truly needed would be waiting for him once he found his place of Being.
Dawn came bright, the sun sliding into view full force, casting a rosy glow over the city. Duncan had been awake now for some time, performing mindless chores around the barge as a way to stay occupied. He had planned on waiting until later to leave but something, some inner sense, kept nagging at him not to wait, leave now.
After fighting the feeling for over an hour, Duncan finally gave in to it. Grabbing his coat, checking his sword, he left the barge and climbed into his Citroen. When he arrived at the apartment building a couple miles away, he slipped into a parking slot across the street, then stood and contemplated the second-floor windows. If Methos wasn't up, then waking him would certainly be guaranteed to start off the conversation in a lively manner. If he didn't kick MacLeod back out the door and slam it in his face. Not that he hadn't been guilty of doing such a thing to the ancient before when he had arrived unannounced at an uninvited moment. But that had been before-
Realizing the delay tactics for what they were, he sighed, his hands shoved deep in the coat's pockets and moved slowly across the street. The glass entry doors sighed softly, as if in sympathy, then shut noiselessly behind him. Feeling washed over him on the way upstairs, like an electric current only less diffuse, not painful, tickling aroung the edges. Definitely here. Softly he knocked on the half-glass door, staying silent but back away from the doorway in caution. The ancient had been known to, on occasion, swing first and ask later.
He saw the shadow of movement through the glass, then the door swung open. Brown eyes met hazel-green and saw no surprise or even wariness. Just a trace of annoyance as he turned his back on the Highlander and walked back into the apartment, leaving the door open.
"Did I," he saw the bags sitting near the entry, "wake you?"
"No," Methos was gathering some papers from the work table near the window. "Been up a while. Actually, I've only got a few minutes. What can I do for you, Mac?"
The whole was said so casually it took Duncan a few moments to absorb it all. "You're leaving. Paris."
Methos smiled. "Looks that way."
He had been prepared for many things, but not this. "Why?" There weren't many times Duncan MacLeod felt like an idiot, but the seconds after this question, all he could think was he truly deserved anything that Methos threw at him. Instead, his words simply threw him.
"I think I've had enough of the atmosphere lately."
MacLeod waited for the punch-him line.
"Too much rain and grey skies. Time for some sun. It's shining somewhere in the world." It was mildly said accompanied by appropriate bland facial expressions.
That was it? I inadvertantly hand him myself on a silver platter and he ignores it? He stood stymied. Methos walked around him lightly, carefully packing papers into an overstuffed soft briefcase. "Where are you off to this time?"
Methos glanced up from his briefcase, eyes calm. "Old haunts."
Duncan began to simmer. He stood silent as Methos slung the briefcase over with the other duffles awaiting the trip. It had always bothered the hell out of him that this slight, slender, innocuous-looking person could manage to tie up his thoughts and tongue into a knot, that he could corner him in conversation and some of the time he wasn't even sure what had occurred... only that he'd been had. But then again, Duncan had always been better at the direct attack then obfuscation. Also in knowing how to use his presence to his advantage.
He took two steps over, moving near Methos and standing in his way. "Answer me this. Why didn't you have a sword in your hand when you answered the door?" He looked directly into the hazel eyes.
They shifted, looked away. He shrugged. "Saw you out the window."
"That one?" Duncan pointed to the front window with its venetian blinds still tightly drawn.
"Look MacLeod, I don't have time to play twenty questions. I've got a plane to catch-"
"The hell you do!" He slammed Methos up against the wall hard enough the place vibrated.
"Answer the damn question!" His rage seemed to blossom.
"Why don't we-"
"Goddamn it! Answer the fucking question!" Duncan slammed him once more against the wall with two fistfuls of shirt.
Methos' Adam persona fell off him like rainwater, leaving in its wake a smoldering visciousness. "Get the fuck off me MacLeod. Now." He moved and they grappled, both vying for supremacy. When Methos connected low in Duncan's gut, something moved up from deep within, the pain bringing a fiery haze over Duncan's vision. Then anger, a death wish- He saw his hands reach out to Methos' neck and squeeze.
Awareness. Breath. Oxygen. Pain. He gasped, rolling over onto his side. He was one big bundle of pain, from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet. God only knew what was healing. It seemed like everything that could have been broken or injured, had been. His mind was unresponsive, not offering him a clue as to what happened. As the deafening layer of pain lessened, he was immediately aware that he was not alone, there was another here. He could feel the deep complexity of the Presence, hear the layers of lighter overtones running above it. Methos.
How could he know that?
Duncan took in more breaths, shuddering as his body's healing abilities speeded up now that they were working on minor level injuries, the energies running through him like wildfire. He opened his eyes.
Christ Almighty. It looked like a bomb had gone off. Directly in his vision a table lay shattered on the floor, the lamp in pieces, scattered. The shelves situated in the corner had their contents strewn around, one shelf hanging out of the case drunkenly. As he sat up, he saw the damage extended to the computer table. The monitor lay on the floor, looking as if something had kicked it, the chair overturned. A sword lay on the floor, blood darkening its blade.
His brain kicked in and he looked frantically around for the other Immortal he sensed. It looked like a Quickening site... "Methos?" There was a movement to his right and Duncan turned.
"Must have been one hell of a party." The ancient staggered, standing against the doorframe.
The old one looked up and threw him a clean washcloth. "Here, help yourself. Sink or shower, take your pick." Methos had stripped down to bare skin to clean himself off. He grabbed a pair of jeans from a low shelf, then indicated a folded sweater. "Wear this after you get cleaned up. I think yours has seen its uses."
Duncan looked down at the rents and tears in the bloody fabric. How in the name of hell could I not recall how this happened? He wasn't even aware he had spoken aloud until Methos answered.
"You'll remember," he said flatly. "Clean up, I'll get us something to drink." He had dressed and now yielded the small space to Duncan.
His mind going round and round, Duncan slowly stripped off his top and removed the evidence of a horrific fight. When he was done, he slowly donned the sweater Methos had left for him. The blue sweater which was fashionably baggy on the ancient's more slender form fit the Highlander snugly. He didn't mind. At least it was warm. At the moment he felt a distinct chill.
Exiting the bathroom, Duncan found Methos sitting sideways on the couch, feet curled up under himself. A mug of coffee on the table to the far side of the couch waited for Duncan. He picked his way over the debris of the coffee table and sat slowly next to Methos. They looked at each other in the numbed silence.
"You want to tell me what happened?" Duncan asked slowly, almost as if he didn't want to know.
Methos didn't move, merely shifted his eyes upward, staring at Duncan. "You know what happened, Duncan. Think. Think back to the last thing you felt."
The words acted like a trigger as Duncan's mind was cast backward on its own to the last point in time he could clearly recall. He had gotten angry with Methos, had seen the eldest about to pull his usual disappearing trick once again. The anger cut through all that was extraneous like his katana through skin, leaving clearly exposed the reason that impelled his visit. When Methos had avoided the question...
"I got angry, initially. Normal anger. But then.." his voice dwindled off. He was aware of Methos staring at him. "I got even angrier. So much so, I lost control." He looked back up at the unswerving, shuttered eyes. He could feel the blood rush out of his face, leaving him feeling chill and no doubt looking pale. "I tried to kill you." The words fell like footfalls in the stark silence. "Christ Almighty, Methos, I tried to kill you." It proved more than he could take in. Jumping up as if to separate himself from his own memories, he began to prowl restlessly around the room.
One part of Methos thought cynically that the Almighty Christ had very little to do with anything that was occurring between Duncan and himself, and that Duncan would be better served to invoke a more appropriate god. He felt a bubble of mirth rise to the surface, in distinct contrast to the horror of the past twenty minutes. Time. Looking at his watch, he realized that he wouldn't be catching that plane to his island in the sun, at least not this day.
"MacLeod, sit down." His words went unheeded as Duncan wandered still, finally coming to a resting place next to the window where he opened the venetian blinds, letting in the early morning sunlight and lifting the gloom.
Methos closed his eyes. Why had he convinced himself that this moment need not come? Was he that much into denial? Slowly he gathered himself from the couch and walked silently over to stand behind the man who had caused him more turmoil in four years than anyone he could recall in millenia.
"Mac." No response save the tightening of Mac's fist where it pressed against the wall. He placed his hand firmly on the rigid shoulder presented to him. "You tried to kill me, yes. You failed, big yes. Better men then you have tried and failed." When Duncan turned his head, Methos continued. "I, on the other hand, didn't fail. I skewered you like a pig on a spit." His lip curled. "Felt good, too. Of course, I'm sure you felt otherwise."
Duncan couldn't hold back the bark of laughter that escaped him. "Glad you enjoyed it. I, ah, owed you that much." He rubbed where the faint echo of pain still lingered from the chest wound as the two men shared a moment of absurd humor. The moment faded and Duncan stared seriously at the ancient one. "I don't know why I did that, I... it didn't feel like me."
Methos looked evenly at him. "It wasn't. More then likely, it was Kronos, or what's left of him. Wouldn't be the first time he fell into a black rage and killed me or someone else for no reason."
Duncan wanted to deny these words, to express his disbelief in this explanation, but unbidden, his mind was suddenly filled with disjointed thoughts and random images, overriding his thought. He reached out blindly, hand connecting with warm skin, as he tried to keep his balance while the world spun. Gradually his vision cleared. Methos steadied him with hands on both shoulders.
Oh my god. His mouth opened and closed, nothing escaping. The intensity and unexpectedness of the sudden knowledge did not help numb his reaction to it. Even as the lean man propping him up looked on him with increasing wariness, Duncan was helpless against his naked response. He reached out and pulled Methos into his arms, tightening them around his stiff form.
"Be quiet. There's not a damn thing you can say, old man. Not one damn thing. Just- just- let me."
It was one thing taking inside another's thoughts and memories. He experienced it all the time with each Quickening, literally countless times over millenia. In those moments, even though their Being and Presence seemed to fight for supremacy, he still knew that it was only thoughtforms he fought, not a live, aware Consciousness. But this- Now the shoe was on the other foot, old boy, and the fit is quite raw, isn't it?
It took some time before he could relax and begin to lean into Duncan's warm embrace, however uncertain his leaning was. He couldn't recall the last time anyone had simply held him as they hurt for his own pain. Well, yes he could, but the experiences were so few and far between as to be negligible in the eternity that was his lifetime. Anyway, he strove not to remember the past, not unless he was sitting with a keyboard or a pen in hand, making the memories constructive by writing them down in his Journals. Otherwise, he preferred it be dead, covered over. Buried, else he be buried under the eternity of his own memories. It was the eternal, everpresent Now that he chose to focus on.
When he could. Sometimes the past had a mind of its own. Even now he was quite aware of what the braw Highlander was feeling, knowing about him. It left him feeling like that person he was so long ago, so helpless, nowhere to run or hide-
"Methos." A warm voice penetrated the haze of memories. He looked up.
"I'm sorry." Duncan's hands massaged gently where they clasped him around his shoulders. "I'm sorry," he repeated as if not knowing what else to say.
He didn't have to say anything else. Methos knew he meant exactly what he said, he was telegraphing it so loudly. The wave of that feeling went through him, breaking him into pieces before the strength of its onslaught. When Duncan reached down and put his gentle mouth against the tautly held lips, a second, stronger wave washed through him and took the pieces that he was and scattered them to the wind.
"I'll not hear it again, Methos. You've done nothing but protest the entire way here. We're here, you're here now, and that's the end of it." Duncan picked up the tightly packed duffle from the boot of the car and walked up the ramp onto the barge.
Methos stood there looking after the retreating back. Truth to tell, he felt damn odd. He felt as if he were insubstantial, that he might fly away on the wind as easily as the birds that scattered down the quay. He wasn't sure he even recognized his own self at the moment. How could that be? Grabbing up his other bags, he followed after the disappearing figure.
Duncan was opening up his clothes press when he arrived. "Here's plenty of room. Make yourself at home. Hungry?"
Hungry... "Yes, I guess. I dunno."
Something in his voice had Duncan looking up and walking over to where he fiddled with the laptop case on the desk. "Methos. Look at me." Hazel eyes swung upward to brown. "It's going to be all right. Now that I know what happened, it won't happen again. Not like that. I won't let it happen like that again."
Methos simply shook his head and continued unpacking his computer.
Duncan tried again. "What can I do to help you believe that?"
Connecting cord was strung from the modem to the phone line. "It's not that, Mac. I just, I don't know." He stopped working and considered. " I feel.. strange."
"Good-strange? Bad-strange? What?" Worry clouded Duncan's features.
Methos smiled slightly and touched Duncan's hand where it lay on the desk. "Nothing's wrong, don't worry. I just... I'm still trying to figure it out."
"Can we figure it out together?"
There was a simplicity and a diffidence to his question that had Methos stopping before the automatic denial popped out of his mouth. "Okay, Mr. Sunshine," he said with a small grin. He continued to set up the computer.
Duncan stood at his elbows watching patiently his every motion. When finally he pushed the button, the laptop hummed into life and its modem began the automatic dialing out procedure.
Methos nodded. "Yes, I'm just going to- ooommmph," he let out an extended breath as Duncan reached down and picked him up right off his feet.
"Not right now, you're not. Time for that later." He carried his burden over to the bed where he was gently deposited upon the bedspread.
"MacLeod, don't you think you're getting a bit carried away?"
Duncan laughed. "No. That's what's happening to you." He sobered. "Look, Methos, I know you're exhausted. Neither of us slept much last night-" He stopped at the look on Methos' face. "Yeah, your dream kept me awake. I was there."
The oldest pushed up onto elbows as he thought. Mac had been aware before this morning.
"But because of it, we're exhausted. I am, and I know you are. This whole thing...." He trailed off. "I'm drained. Let's rest, then when we wake up, we can talk about this, all of it. Agreed?"
There were so many reasons that flitted through his head why not to agree, but as he looked at the warm, smiling eyes next to him, he heard the docile agreement coming out of his mouth before he knew it. At his word, Duncan matter-of-factly stripped off his sweater and still-stained jeans, then turned to Methos to divest him of his clothes. Slipping them under the thick down duvet, he automatically slipped into a spoon position behind Methos, his arms lightly surrounding and holding.
"Rest, Methos. I'll take this watch," Duncan murmured in his ear, then kissed the exposed skin softly.
Methos breathed deeply, his hand coming up and covering Duncan's where it lay on his chest. My champion against all that comes to attack in the dark, he thought a little giddily. In the chaos and exhaustion of his mind, it shook him how safe he felt. Wasn't that a bit absurd given what occurred earlier? Maybe so, but I'll plead insanity. He chuckled to himself. These events have finally divested me of any intelligence, I admit it. He shifted deeper into the warming embrace. And right at the moment, I don't care.
It was many hours before either stirred again. Neither the hustle on the city streets nor the bustle on the waterway next to them disturbed their slumber. Duncan regained consciousness slowly, absorbing the sensations he was feeling. Warm smooth skin touched his own down most of his length, his hands wrapping around it and pulling it back into his chest. Adam. Methos. With his name, a whole host of thoughts and images were released in Duncan's mind. Unconsciously his hands tightened.
Good God, how in heaven had he ever survived five thousand years with these memories? He could hear Methos' voice as he instructed, "Those were different times, different rules. You can't judge the past by the present." But he knew he hadn't truly understood until he saw it through new eyes.
Carefully, he moved to get more comfortable without disturbing the slumbering form in his arms. What was hardest to absorb, he realized, were the dual perspectives of both Kronos and Methos. Seeing and feeling from both sides of the coin the experiences they had shared. The terrors which had been both inflicted and suffered were still fresh in his mind's eye.
He wondered just what else was lurking beneath the surface of this mild-visaged creature, just what other horrors lay in wait to be remembered. No question why he stays on the move, I'd be trying to outrun this too, if it were me. But we all know what happens when you try to do the impossible.
The body he held twitched, then stretched lightly. He nuzzled his face into the warm crease of pale skin below the hairline, absorbing the scent that was a combination of shampoo, soap, sweat and simply the smell exuded from his skin, a mixture unique and evocative. He could feel the portion of his own anatomy which snuggled closely against firm buttocks begin to harden in spite of his wishes.
He knew immediately the moment when consciousness returned to the elder. Running a hand soothingly over his lean chest and belly, he breathed against his skin, "Sleep well?"
The lithe figure stretched again, all muscle and sinew tautening. "Mmmph..." he groaned.
"I take it that's good?" Thumbs found tight spots down the curling spine.
"Gods, yes..." Methos rolled over onto his stomach and presented his spine for more ministrations.
Duncan dug into tight muscles. "Methos.... we need to talk."
An indistinquishable mumble can from where his face was buried in a pillow.
"Seriously." The hands paused.
A deep breath preceeded the face emerging. "I know, Mac. I'm here."
Duncan hesitated. "You want something to eat and drink first? I can make some coffee, or I even have some beer..." he trailed off as Methos laughed.
"No, Mac. Let's get this out of the way." The oldest propped two pillows from the pile under his head and snuggled down under the covers, his face the only thing peeking out as he glanced over at Duncan. "When was the first time you became aware of... the link?"
"Link?" Duncan slid back down under the covers. The air in the barge was chill. "What link?"
"The- you know. That's what I call this thing we've got going. A link. Ever since the double Quickening in Bordeaux, I-" he stopped.
Duncan looked intently at him, a frown on his face. "Amanda mentioned something about staying with you for five days in Bordeaux, that you weren't doing so well."
"No. I was having, ah, a bit of an overload, I guess. You were there, all the time. Your anger and feelings were there too." He looked at Duncan carefully. "Can't say it was fun."
Duncan cursed in Gaelic. "I'm sorry, Methos," he said, reaching out a hand and making contact. He lay his hand warmly over the part he imagined hurt the worst, the eldest's heart.
Methos looked evenly at him. "I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty, Mac. Circumstances happened the way they did. No sense in going now and beating our heads up about it. Gods know, I wasn't very... Let's just say I could have handled it better then I did." His mouth quirked up in a smirk.. "I think I was getting too much of that god-awful Scottish-Celt brood influence. I did my best at a Duncan MacLeod imitation for quite some time."
"Yeah, and I understand that one of my favorite antidotes was what knocked you out of it." Duncan was trying not to show his intense curiosity.
Methos wiped the grin off his face with an effort. "Oh, Mac, I certainly can understand why for all those centuries, you've just been unable to say no."
Duncan didn't move a muscle, just stared at him for half a minute, then shook his head. "No, you didn't. Don't try to fool me. I know both of you."
"What, are you saying that she wouldn't be interested in me?"
"Get real, old man. Amanda doesn't have any limits. She probably did try and come on to you." Methos wasn't saying a word. "No, it's you that wouldn't. Didn't."
Methos moved as if to distance himself from Duncan. Annoyance narrowed his eyes and colored his voice. "And why do you figure that?"
Duncan shrugged. "Am I right?"
"What the hell do you think?"
Duncan moved closer to the old man, drawing him close even while stiff with anger. "I think that this... link... has you feeling very uncomfortable. It bothers you that I can see you that well, doesn't it?"
"It's a goddammed invasion of privacy!" Methos muttered.
"But you didn't feel that way when it was just you tuning in, did you?"
Methos sighed. "To be honest, yes, I did. Not in the same way, of course. But.. this, this closeness, this intimacy." He shuddered. "I'm too used to being alone, Mac. Years and years and years of being alone."
"And I'm not," Duncan said matter-of-factly. "I grew up in a clan, and I've missed havin' my clan around me over the years. I've had my times of privacy, of aloneness. But I like the people, my friends. I like feeling that connection to another."
Methos gazed at him, stroked a hand down his arm and chest. "You're very lucky, Duncan. This doesn't faze you in the least, does it."
"Well, I canna say that it hasn't thrown me. But neither can I say I find it so hard to deal with, not like you." Duncan shrugged again. "It's just there. You heard me call out to you yesterday, didn' you?"
"Yes.... you scared me to death. I thought, I thought- well, I wondered..."
"And I heard you call out to me. It was then that I began to notice it. I just had to release the anger first. It had been blocking it." He thought about that. "That's what happened this morning, isn't it? The anger."
Meths stared off in the distance. "Anger. Yours, the residual thoughtforms of Kronos' emotional being, mine, and let's not forget Caspian and Silas' residuals." He frowned and Duncan felt the pain flit through the link.
Would it always be this strong between us? Duncan wondered. What would happen to us if we ever had a serious, serious falling out? How could we survive like this? That eventuality was too much to even think about at this time, so he pushed it aside. Another time.
He refocused on the topic. "Two points: one, I understand about Silas now, Methos." He watched horror at that idea appear and disappear quickly in Methos' eyes. Well, no wonder. "Two: you are calling what we get from a Quickening thoughtforms and residuals. I've never heard that before."
It took Methos a moment to refocus away from the knowledge that Duncan knew enough to understand his feelings about Silas. He cleared his throat. "Well, a Quickening isn't the person's soul, nor is it their Life Essence. It's more a- well, thoughtform. Something indigenous and unique to Immortals. An energy form that contains and is made up of all the emotional and mental patterns of the person. All their memories, all their feelings. Rather like a computer memory. It's static. It can't talk to you on it's own, you can only access the patterns and memories that exist in it already.
"Some memories and patterns are stronger and more intense than others. With Kronos, anger and violence were an ingrained, automatic response to many situations. When your anger toward me surfaced in one lump sum, I assume that it set off Kronos', rather like a tuning fork does to another tuning fork. Maybe even the other two, I don't know. Then, it was compounded by the link... I felt the anger, it sparked mine, we fed it back and forth to each other in an endless loop..." He shrugged. "Or at least that's my theory."
Duncan looked worried. "Do you think it could happen again?"
"You're asking is it possible? I don't see why not. But Mac, in my opinion, the probability that it'll happen again is not that high. You had a whole lot of anger, about me, culminating in one place in time. That moment is gone, in the past. Unless you get that kind of feeling again, I seriously doubt it."
"So you're saying it was the anger that prohibited me from being in touch with this link before now."
"Yeah, I think so. The anger caused you to not want to see me. You didn't want to see how I was feeling, to know the other side of the coin. It literally blinded you to what was inside you at the time." Methos turned to him, curious. "What caused you to doubt your anger? To begin to let go of it?"
Duncan got a sheepish expression. "Amanda." Methos gave a bark of laughter. "Yeah, I know. But she really got upset yesterday after you left the barge. And I don't blame her." Duncan's face went serious. "I treated you awfully. You didn't deserve that. Even if you did shoot me in the back."
"And a more enjoyable feeling I've not experienced," Methos interjected.
"Shut up and let me finish abjectly apologizing."
"Oh is that what you're doing?" Methos smirked.
"Yes, dammit. So let me finish. Where was I? Oh yes... you shooting me in the back-"
"And a more enjoyable feeling-"
"Methos!" Duncan thundered. "Let me finish, please!"
"You want to make it up to me? Why don't you do your version of 'shooting' me in the- back."
"But why- ahhhhh. Oh." His mouth was occupied for a moment while hands were busy elsewhere. "I still wish you'd let me have my say."
Methos rolled his eyes. "Duncan, you must know by now I try to discourage your overly abundant and annoyingly frequent displays of Scottish guilt and angst whenever possible. And if I have to seduce you senseless to do it, well, such is life."
Silence reigned for a moment. Then Duncan could speak once again. "I still need to say this. I'm sorry." He moved fully into the other man's arms, wrapping his own around warm leanness. "I've missed you very much. I was a stubborn fool. There, I'm done." Duncan felt the hands on his own body tighten almost painfully in response to that. The sound of silence was heard once more until Methos sighed.
"Where's the tape recorder when you need it?"
** Percy Bysshe Shelley, Peter Bell the Third, pt. 3, "Hell," st. 15.
Pardon my cliche-ness, but...I recently bought Elton John's latest CD, The Big Picture. I think it's the best he and Taupin have done in quite some time. The words to each and every song are just, well, they speak to me. You get to have some of the more notable lines thrust upon you here, since I think they fit so well. :-)
Love's Got A Lot to Answer For / Elton John & Taupin
Pull my coat around me / Feel the cold wind haunt me / Streets are empty
just like me / The murmur of an echo / Seems to come from every window
/ Is loneliness the same as being free
I guess I must have been dreaming / To think that I believed in you at all / Now I just can't fight it / As the shadow of the night begins to fall
Love's got a lot to answer for / Oh I just can't sleep with this feeling
anymore / Let the cold night air cool the heat / Of two hearts gone to
war / For no matter who wins, in the end / Love's got a lot to answer for
All I need is darkness / The best of all protection / Freedom's like the stars in the sky / Alone and cold and burning / Each one keeps it's distance / if only we were stars you and I
Oh I guess I must have been dreaming / To think that I believed in you at all / Now I just can't fight it / As the shadow of the night begins to fall
Love's got a lot to answer for / Oh I just can't sleep with this feeling
anymore / Let the cold night air cool the heat / Of two hearts gone to
war / For no matter who wins, in the end / Love's got a lot to answer for
[ Email the author ]