|Going the Distance
by Maxine Mayer
I had butterflies in my stomach when I thought about it - and even when I didn't think at all - just kept going along on automatic. Butterflies large and frantic enough to make me want to throw up. But there was no help for it. I'd promised Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod that I'd go the distance, no matter what, and that's what I'd do. Even if it killed me. And well it might.
"This seems like a nice enough apartment, Methos, doesn't it? Two good smaller rooms, and a large central area. Nice kitchen, nice bath. Windows facing the river. Whaddaya think?" Duncan asked me with a smile, swivelling in place as he pointed around to the various attributes of the Paris apartment.
"It's fine. Let's take it." I spoke curtly, my mind elsewhere. I was thinking how I'd miss the quiet and the freedom. The peace. How I'd be disturbed at all hours of the day and night by opera blasting from Mac's cd player. How I'd need to answer him - in a way I didn't need to answer a phone - when he knocked on my "private" door to ask what I wanted for dinner, or whether I wouldn't like some coffee, or if I thought I'd enjoy a few beers at Joe's jazz club.
"Well, that's enthusiastic. You don't like this place? Fine. We'll keep looking." Duncan sounded as pissed off with me as I was with myself for letting my irritation show.
"No, it's really fine. For the money. Between us, we can manage the rent easily and still save the widows and orphans of the world with what's left over."
Walking to the window and settling himself in the window seat - rather a nice touch to this room, I thought - he asked me with some concern, "Methos, what's wrong?"
I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to decide whether to tell him the truth and upset him, or tell him a half-truth and upset him even more, or tell him an outright lie and watch him relax with relief while I writhed in despair. I decided on the truth, wondering who I was turning into, and what that would do to my chances of survival in the Game.
"Me. I'm wrong. Five thousand years, Mac. Never set up house with anybody likely to live past their seventieth birthday. Last couple hundred years, haven't set up house with anybody at all, especially since the Mortal lifespan's lengthened out in a totally unacceptable way."
Mac smiled with a shrug. "Always a first time, old man."
I couldn't believe how well he'd taken the truth. I felt emboldened to say more. "You're gonna change my life, and I don't want to change."
"You'll be waking me up at dawn for a run along the Seine, for starters. Then you'll introduce me to the joy of box seats at the opera. Before I know it, you'll actually convince me I should tithe for widows and orphans." I couldn't help grinning but I really meant it. I didn't trust unselfishness and I absolutely despised togetherness. Neither worked for Immortals, not if they intended to survive past their first year.
"Is that it? You're worried about me changing you? That's truly the pot calling the kettle black, Methos. I'd scarcely heard of gray until I met you!"
I felt down, depressed. He was talking about important lessons I'd tried to teach him. I was talking about my life - who I was - that he was about to turn upside down and inside out. No comparison. I didn't reply.
He didn't wait more than a minute before he went on. He knew me too well, I realized. Knew when I wasn't going to say anything more. Damn.
"Well, we could make up some rules," he speculated out loud. "Set private times, boundaries, something like that -"
"You don't understand, Duncan. I'm in love with you. You're in love with me. We're not going to be roommates - we're lovers! What you're suggesting is impossible!"
Exploding, finally, he cried, "I don't understand why you'd want - whatever it is you want! How can you not want to spend every moment of the time allowed to us with me? I can't imagine not wanting to be with you every moment of every day! It's -" He didn't go on.
I knew exactly how he felt, what he was thinking. He felt hurt and betrayed and angry. He thought I'd been lying to him when I told him I loved him. Natural mistake, in the circumstances. We are so different, sometimes I think we were born on different planets, not simply in different centuries.
I tried to explain. "I don't think I mind being with you so much when it's my choice. It's the - necessity - that gets to me." I wrinkled my nose. "Anyway, that's how I see it."
"'Mind being with me?' You don't need to be with me, Methos. You chose it. We chose it. What's the problem?" So practical. When did that idealistic youngster become a pragmatist? When did I become an idealist? What's wrong with this picture?
"Yes, I chose, you chose. But -" I flung my arm out, then dropped it to my side. I didn't know what I meant, I only knew this wouldn't work for me and that I wouldn't leave, either. Couldn't leave him. Agony. Now I knew how he felt with his damnable moral dilemmas!
"Methos, you can back away. Walk away. If you want to." His tone was serious. He'd stood. His body was framed by the window behind the window seat. He loomed, like a dark bird of prey. Even at his most patient and non-threatening, Duncan MacLeod was a presence to be reckoned with. By anyone. Especially, by me.
Then he smiled. An evil smile.
"What?" I asked, suddenly tense. Instinctively I raised my right hand and felt for the hilt of my sword where it rested secure beneath my coat, against my heart.
"I said, you can walk away. However - you walk away, you're a dead man."
"What?!" I cried, confused by his remark. He wasn't with me to protect me. If anything, it was the other way around. I'd nursed him through what looked to be a mortal illness - would have been, had he been Mortal. Brought him back from the depths of despair triggered by unimaginable traumatic events over the past few years. He was practically himself again, thanks to my incredibly effective care of him.
"I'll kill you if you try to leave, Methos. Hunt you down like a dog and take your head. Don't doubt it."
He shook his head. "No joke. If you don't want us to share a place, that's fine. But don't try to run away from what we've got together. I've had as much of your running away as I'm prepared to accept. No more. Thus far and no farther. I mean it, Methos."
The sound of what he'd said echoed of another time he'd spoken similar words, and I knew he remembered as well. He'd called my bluff. If I wasn't prepared to raise my sword against him, I'd better keep my word and live with him.
I sighed, capitulating. "All right. We'll try. Talk to the realtor and tell him we'll take this place. If there's any chance at all we can make it work, we'll find it. At least, it won't be for lack of my trying." I spoke bravely but I swallowed hard, wondering if I'd finally bitten off more than I could chew. Share the future with an Immortal! Eons and eons! Cripes!
"Thank you, Methos," he replied, coming over to me and putting his hand on my shoulder. Almost as if he wanted to start from scratch, from the time before we were lovers. Begin again, on an equal footing, as though he'd never been sick at all, and I'd never been the stronger, even for a moment. It was eerie.
And I understood it. And I was happy.
Just might work, I thought.
I put my hand over his where it rested on my shoulder. He was within kissing distance, I wouldn't need to take a step. But I didn't move towards him nor did he move in for a kiss.
We just stood there for a moment, savoring the asexual pact we'd sealed.
Then I smiled. "Must be close to five. Time for a drink with Joe."
Joe Dawson is Mac's Watcher - has been for many years. He's also Mac's closest Mortal friend, and mine. But he's more than that. Joe's a person in his own right - talented, charming, intelligent, warm-hearted and vital. A man of many parts who's suffered enough in his fifty-odd years to do anybody for five hundred. And loved enough to do anybody for five thousand. To sum up, I think the sun rises and sets by Joe, and so does Mac. Suffice it to say, Joe returns the feeling.
Which is why we three were comfortable enough to quarrel often, spit at each other more than we ought, and in general treat each other with careless disregard for each others' feelings in a way that would kill lesser friendships but only served to strengthen ours.
We also regularly assisted one another in what I see as our unending struggle against the Powers of Darkness. I probably shouldn't express myself so - it's quite old-fashioned and undoubtedly out of character for Adam Pierson, my alter ego. But it's exactly the way I see things. Us against the Powers of Darkness. Fortunately, I've been wise enough to hold my tongue to Mac and Joe. They still haven't figured me out and I suppose I feel safer knowing that. Any shred of mystery I could wrap around my naked vulnerability to the two of them, I seized upon greedily. It was hard to hide the fact that I couldn't resist them, either of them, even when my life depended upon it. If they knew, they were kind enough to the "old man" not to let on that they knew.
"Mac, Methos! Welcome back! How long have you two been in Paris? I heard you were on the way over. Been saving you the best table every night for a week!"
"We're here to stay, Joe," Mac replied, shaking Dawson's hand heartily. "Came back yesterday and took an apartment not far from the barge today."
The Mortal cocked an eyebrow. Then he frowned his surprise. "A flat? Together?"
"That's right, Joe," I said. "Wonders have absolutely ceased. At this moment, we've out-stripped all future wonders. We're about to embark on the great adventure - living together."
"Sounds to me like you don't quite cotton to the idea, Methos," Joe said thoughtfully.
I didn't know how to reply and Mac didn't help out. At last I said as I slid into a chair at the best table in the house, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."
Mac looked at me sharply but didn't say anything.
"Well, that sounds like fun," Joe remarked. "You letting Mac force you into this?" Dawson was always protective of me. Seemed to think Mac was the stronger of the two of us - a hangover from the old days when he believed in Adam Pierson, I suppose.
"That's ridiculous. I'm not forcing him to do anything. We decided together," Mac told the Watcher.
"Yes, we did. It won't be easy but it might be fun anyway." I took a deep breath and turned to Mac. "Sorry. Didn't mean to make it sound as if I were reneging again."
"Again?" Joe echoed. "You two been round and round on this before? What's the need? Why do it if you don't want to?"
"I do want to," I said. "And Mac wants to. It's just - different from what I'm accustomed to, with my -"
"Go on, Methos. Say it! With your other lovers!" Mac exclaimed. "Joe knows."
"Of course he knows. It wasn't a secret that I loved you - not to anybody but you, MacLeod."
"Boys, boys, please! Keep it down! This is a PG-13-rated establishment." Joe smiled. "Listen, I don't go on for my set for another thirty minutes. How about we go out back and talk in my office?"
"There's nothing to talk about, Joe. It's decided. We signed the lease this afternoon." Mac shrugged. "He'll pay rent on the place whether or not he sleeps there."
"Oh that's lovely! Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, Evil Landlord!" I said with a sneer.
"Not 'landlord,' just roommate. If that's all you want. We can skip the lovers part, too, if you like." Mac seethed and when he was angry he rarely hid his feelings.
"Fine! Then I'll have no reason whatever to make a stab at going the distance! I might as well walk away now!" With that brilliant remark, I stood up fast enough that I knocked my chair over.
Mac glared at me, I glared back, and Joe slowly made his way around behind me and righted my chair. "I said, let's take it out back." His tone was hard and dangerous. "Now, march, you two!"
After another glare at one another, Duncan and I marched.
Joe followed us after a brief detour to the bar for a bottle of scotch. By the time he'd joined us in his office and began setting up drinks in glasses he kept there, Mac was half-sitting on the edge of Joe's desk and I'd sprawled out on Joe's couch. Neither of us were looking at the other.
"Did you two ever think there's such a thing as a compromise?" Joe asked as he handed two drinks to Mac, who moved from his place long enough to give me one.
"This is a compromise, Joe," I replied, my fingers tightening around the glass. I sat up straighter on the sofa and tried to sound reasonable. "Between everything and nothing."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mac asked, his voice a low tense growl.
"It means what it sounds like. We're compromising between never seeing each other again and 'married with children,' Mortal-style." I felt as if I was drowning. Had no idea what I was talking about. I was lashing out and I knew it. Couldn't help myself.
Settling into his chair behind the desk Joe mused, "Doesn't sound like it to me, Methos. Sounds like you two have opted for 'everything' - total togetherness. Reminds me more of Gina and Robert than Mac and Amanda. Now that's a compromise - Mac's relationship with Amanda. On-again-off-again love. Beautiful in its way. Perfect for Immortals with no morals and raging libidos -"
"Joe!" Mac was embarrased. I don't think he realized how his centuries-long friendship with Amanda might look to an outsider - a Watcher.
"I'm not criticizing, Mac. Just telling it like it is. You and Amanda love each other deeply but you've realized you can't sustain the emotion on a daily basis. So you agree to part when the going gets tough." Joe shrugged. "It makes sense, particularly for Immortals who can afford it - financially, time-wise, and ordinarily, emotionally, too."
I was very quiet, thinking hard. I was grateful to Joe for putting things on the line to Mac, thereby taking the heat off me. Surely Mac would grasp the impossibility of what we'd set out to do, and back off. He'd backed off with Amanda - or she had.
Unfortunately, my heart sank to my shoes when I thought about it. What if Duncan did back off? Where would I be then?
Not where I wanted to be. Not with him. Not happy. Damn.
Mac defended himself. "Look, Joe, you don't understand what's happening here. Amanda and I are a different story entirely. We both agree that we can't live together."
I looked up - what was Mac getting at?
"Why don't you and Methos agree, then?" Joe asked. "The man's five thousand years old, MacLeod. He's set in his ways. He's a loner. He doesn't belong in a marriage - and make no mistake, my friend, that's what this is - a marriage!"
"Because we're in love - we don't just love each other, Joe - we're in love! I can't stand it when he's not with me! He feels the same way! What Amanda and I have won't work for Methos and me! It's not the same!"
Joe stared hard at Duncan for a time, then shifted in his chair to look at me. "Is that true, Methos? Do you feel the same way?"
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. Sheer joy had filled me when I'd heard Mac say what he'd said about his own feelings. I knew he was right about me too. Glad that he finally knew it.
"Methos?" Mac's questioning was gentle. But he wanted an answer.
"I feel the same way. But the problem doesn't disappear. I don't know how to live with another person. I never did. It's one thing when I come and go as I please. It's quite another to know that where you are is - home. That I can't go 'home' to someplace else, when I need to get away from you, need to be alone. For any reason." I looked into Mac's eyes hoping to read comprehension there. Acceptance. Forgiveness. I didn't know what I was seeking, or seeing, couldn't put a label on it.
"Boys, I think you're making a problem out of nothing," Joe told us, a small grin lighting up his face. "You see, you're Immortals, so you're lucky devils, in a way."
"What is it, Joe? What's your solution?" Mac asked.
"You're not who you seem - that's my solution." The Watcher looked as if he'd swallowed the proverbial canary and both Mac and I were irritated by that.
"Tell us, Joe," I said quietly. "Now."
"Like I said, you're different, not what you seem. You can afford other ways of dealing with problems - ways most Mortals can't clear."
"Such as?" Mac asked.
"Such as sharing an apartment and still being able to afford to keep up the barge and Methos' flat. Without much financial strain, if any."
"Why would we want to do that, Joe?" Mac asked.
The Watcher shrugged. "Because you can."
"Can what?" I said.
"Can afford to give each other freedom without destroying your life together." When neither of us replied, Joe explained, "If you keep the barge and the flat, Mac, you can hare off whenever you're pissed with him and Methos can go 'home' when he's had as much as he can take of you - of 'togetherness,' so to speak."
"A compromise," I said slowly.
"A cop-out," Mac said fast.
Joe raised one hand and shrugged. "You wanna label it, or you wanna make a go of it?"
I turned to Mac. "It's a start. Maybe we'll never use the barge or my flat again. Joe's right - we can afford to hang onto them."
"Sure, we can afford it - financially," Mac spat out. "But can we afford it emotionally? Always wondering when the other one's gonna split in the middle of a tough situation, always the option of bailing when the going gets rough -"
Joe interrupted, "Those options are there no matter what else the two of you decide, Mac. This way, it's a hop, skip and a jump to come back again. Compared to Methos' usual destinations when he's pressed - Bora Bora, Timbuktu - down the street to a Paris flat seems like an acceptable distance. At least, to me it does."
"To me, too, Joe," I replied, my eyes locked on MacLeod who'd gotten up from the desk and moved to the far end of the office while Joe was talking, his back to both of us.
Mac didn't answer. Again, I knew what he was thinking. About his life with Tessa. As close to a Mortal life as an Immortal could get. Love, trust, companionship - and no "outs." No doubts, either. Tessa had loved him with all her heart, as he'd loved her. There'd been no compromises of this kind in their decade-long love affair. No need for them.
My heart ached for Duncan but I knew I could never provide what Tessa'd given him - total devotion. Not because I was Immortal but because I was me.
Finally, Mac took a deep breath and faced Joe and me again but he didn't say a word.
"Mac? Any thoughts?" I asked, cut by the look on his face. Another shifting in his eyes, another bit of joy and innocence and hope stripped from his life. Another pain swallowed. God in heaven, I thought, what on earth was I doing to this man I loved more than life itself - but not more than myself. Clearly not. What was I doing to Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?
"Thoughts?" Mac's reply sounded distant, controlled. I glanced quickly at Joe and saw he was unhappy with the look on Mac's face, too.
"You don't need to make up your mind right away, Mac," Joe told him. "The two of you can move into your new place, hold on to the barge and Methos' flat for a while. Maybe after a few months you'll both find out that living together isn't so bad. Then you can give up your other - 'options.' Like Methos said, it's a start."
"A start." Mac inhaled and exhaled deeply. "A start. When will it be more than a start? When will it be a fact? Something good that a person can hang on to, believe in?" He focused on me and asked, "When are you going to want this more than you want your own way, Methos? Stop 'starting' and start 'living?'"
"I don't know, Mac. I'm doing what I can. I love you. If that's not enough, I don't know what I can say or do to make it enough. This is -" I stopped, began again. "What you say is true, MacLeod. I don't love you more than myself. And what's more, I don't believe it's a way to be. Not for me. Not for Immortals. Not for you. But I do love you."
Mac nodded and said, "I see."
When he didn't say anything further I added in a rush, "Your call, MacLeod. Perhaps this is your share of 'going the distance' - accepting the fact that I cannot be everything you want me to be. That I'm not who you'd like me to be. That I may never feel as you do, think as you do, live the way you believe a man should live." I stopped, then repeated, "Your call."
I could see the tension in Joe's body as he took in what I'd said and I knew he agreed with me. Mortals did it all the time - compromised, made do, made new starts. Tried to accept differences between themselves and the people they loved that they were never granted enough time to change. Learned to love the differences, rather than fight them. Agreed to disagree. Sometimes.
And sometimes, agreed to part.
Immortals had another agenda, and living alone - or with Mortals - was part of it, nearly always. Those who chose companionship with other Immortals - well, they had their share of troubles. Often, to the death.
I tried to distance myself - old habits die hard - as I waited for Mac to take in what I'd said and reply. I didn't want to finish this - we'd only just begun. I didn't know if I could live without him, difficult as it might be to live with him. I didn't want to try.
But I wanted something. For myself. Something more than Mac and me simply pretending we were happy when we weren't. I wanted our "going the distance" to be real, not a game between us. I was committed to Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Maybe not in his terms but in my own. As deeply as I was capable of being. And I wanted him to be committed to me - Methos - not simply to his idea of life with his beloved. I wanted him to love me - Methos - not simply his own dream.
I had my own dream. That was it.
"You're a hard man to argue with, Methos," Mac said finally.
"I didn't realize that was what I was after. That I've been trying to make you over into my idea of a 'real' lover." Nothing if not bright, Duncan MacLeod. And so very brave.
"That's only part of it, Mac. The rest is love." I smiled. "I've always been lucky in love."
"Have you?" he asked wryly.
"Oh yes. Of course. Everyone I've ever loved has been better than me - not that it's such a difficult accomplishment. But at least my - adoration - has been well-placed."
"So - let's go home," Duncan said gently, walking to the sofa and putting out his hand to pull me to my feet. He adored me too, misplaced or not.
Joe asked, "Any chance of a dinner invite sometime soon? I'm dying to see your new place." He was grinning. How he loved us! We'd never be all he thought we were, but it was wonderful to feel his joy when things went right between us, even for a moment. Mac squeezed my hand and I knew he experienced this as I did. Joe's love was beautiful. It warmed the soul.
"Sure," Mac said, "how about Friday? Lemon sole, new potatoes, asparagus, white wine? Chocolate mousse for dessert? How's that sound?"
"Delicious! I'll be there," the Watcher said with a grin.
"So will I," I told Mac. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."
Duncan smiled. "It's a start."