|Men in Gray Flannel
by Maxine Mayer
It's the year 2012. The city is New York. The people are many, but mainly me and Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. The subject is going out of his mind. I am the subject.
"Then we'll meet in front of the Russian Tea Room? Seven? Is that enough time, Methos?" MacLeod asked me.
"I think so. I've got this four o'clock appointment - shouldn't take more than an hour or so. I'll go home, shower, shave, and change into a tux. No reason I can't be there by seven."
"Good." Mac patted my arm and moved to the door of my office. He swung his coat over his shoulders and shrugged into the sleeves, covering his really fine handmade Italian gray silk suit with the black cashmere topcoat. "We'll just have a drink there beforehand. You'll love the concert, Methos. Mozart by Mulligan - I think he's the best of the younger pianists. You'll see."
"I'm sure I'll get a kick out of it, Mac. Always loved Mozart." I managed a small grin which didn't reach my eyes. "It'll be worth wearing a tux for, I know."
"Trust me, it will be." He came back from the doorway and around my desk. He sat on the edge and bent over to give me a quick kiss on the mouth. He stroked my cheek, my jaw. Smiled at me. "The reception after - couldn't be avoided. I know you hate these things -"
"You do too, Mac," I replied, swiveling my executive chair around, away, and getting out of it. I walked over to the window and stuck my fingers between slats of the blinds, to look out over the city from our corporate headquarters on the fortieth floor. It was a gray day with no rain. I hate gray days when it doesn't rain. They depress me.
"Afterwards, if you like, we can go someplace together, just the two of us - let down our hair -"
"Right." I knew my mouth had become a slash in my face. An angry, unforgiving mouth.
"Anywhere you like," he continued, conciliatory, loving. "Jazz, blues, a comedy club -"
"How 'bout a gay bar?" I retorted, my anger getting the better of me.
"Sure," Mac replied evenly, "anywhere you want."
"I wasn't serious, MacLeod. Cripes," I said, turning to him, "isn't there anything I can say that'll make you lose your temper?" I was furious.
"We've been over and over this, Methos. Our business is too complicated, the deals too important to too many people, for us to bail. We can't get out now. Not yet. So we might as well put our hearts into the work, our hands to the wheel, and do what we've gotta do. When we can get out, we will. What's the point of me losing my temper, or you losing yours?"
"It's human - that's the point!" My nostrils flared. I felt like an animal. A trapped animal.
Mac stood. He walked to the door again, then turned and said, "Okay. It was a mistake. I shouldn't have asked you to join me in my business. But it seemed right at the time. For us to be together. Work together. I needed your help." He gestured. "It got out of hand."
"Out of hand! Is that what you call it? Mac - four years! Four years in a gray flannel suit! For what? I don't need the money, you don't need the money. Neither of us likes the work. The people we meet are -" I was at a loss to describe how much I despised the people we encountered in the course of our business dealings. I shook my head. "I want a cut-off date, or I'm outta here now. When? When will you sell off? Take the losses, whatever they turn out to be, and get us out of this hell!"
"I can't do it now, Methos! There's too much going on! Too many people will suffer if I simply bail out!"
"Well, I'll give you a cut-off date, then. Today's - what? November 21st? I'm outta here January 1st. That's it. Find yourself another pencil pusher, if you want to stay. I've had it."
"Okay. January 1st. I'll try." Mac sounded defeated. He hated to lie to himself. There wasn't a chance in hell he could divest himself of this monkey on his back by the first of the year. He knew it and I knew it. He ran his hands through his hair. He'd cut it short again. God, I hated his hair short. "Look, I've gotta go. I've got three meetings before dinner. You okay?"
"Sure, never better!" I quipped, sarcasm dripping from my voice. "The only bad thing I don't feel while I'm wearing this fucking wool suit is a rash. I'm terrific." I expelled a breath heavily.
"Methos - I'm sorry."
"I know you are, Mac. So am I. We'll talk tonight."
"Good." He opened the door. "Have a good meeting, beloved."
"Oh sure, absolutely. I'll whip their asses. Another half-million in the coffin - sorry, coffer." I grinned and made a scooting motion with my fingers. "Go on with you. I'll be fine. We'll both be fine. Come January 1st, we'll be fine," I lied.
He smiled small. "See you tonight."
I'd lied to Mac again. I had no business meeting to go to before I met him for a drink at the Russian Tea Room, before the concert at Carnegie Hall. I had other plans.
I watched from the window until I saw Duncan get into his limo and drive off. Then I went to my private dressing room and searched the closet for my jeans and a sweater, my old boots, my old black duster. I transferred my swords and gun from my black cashmere coat - doesn't everybody have one? - to the raincoat and changed into my preferred clothing. For nearly five thousand years I'd dressed like this - casually, in one form or another - except for a few decades these last couple hundred years. First, there'd been Byron and his elegant crowd. If I never see another ruffle, it'll be too soon! And now, suddenly, there was Mac and the Case of the Immortal in the Gray Flannel Suit. Cripes!
When I'd changed I took the freight elevator down to the lobby and left by the delivery entrance. John Brady, my bodyguard, followed me to the curb.
"John, I've got things to do. Pick me up at seven in front of the Russian Tea Room."
"You shouldn't go off alone, Mr. Marius. Mr. MacLeod won't like it."
"Mr. MacLeod won't know about it," I replied, with a seriously dangerous edge to my voice. John knew not to fool with me when I got like that. He'd learned early on that I needed a bodyguard like I needed a hole in the head. But Mac paid him well to follow me around as if I were an ordinary businessman with lots of rich important enemies who might try to have me assassinated. I wondered, sometimes, whether Mac knew the real reason he'd put a bodyguard on me. Whether he knew it was because he was afraid I'd disappear again and he wanted to be alerted to anything like that before I had a chance to get too far. Obviously, it never occurred to the poor man that I might kill John Brady before I left - to give me time to run and hide. No, that wouldn't cross Mac's mind.
"Mr. Marius, please let me come with you. I won't tell anyone where you go, or who you see. I just -" He stopped.
"I couldn't face Mr. MacLeod if something happened to you and I wasn't with you to help."
"Nothing's going to happen to me, John, I promise you. But you can't come with me now. End of discussion."
"Very well, Mr. Marius. Seven, at the Russian Tea Room."
"No, down the block, by the Oriental bookstore. We'll meet Mac together."
"I don't like it -"
"You don't need to like it. Just do it," I told him. God, I was sick to death of honorable men.
"Yes, sir, I'll do it."
"Fine," I said, thumping the man on the back. "Now, earn your keep. Find me a cab!"
Mac and I'd been lovers for the past several years but I wasn't monogamous the way he was. I'd had several flings during the time we'd been together and of late I'd been juggling three secret relationships, just to keep from losing my mind completely. It wasn't easy, fooling Mac. At least, not easy from the point of view of fitting my clandestine relationships into our busy schedule without him noticing. From another point of view, it was easy as pie, because Mac had no suspicions whatsoever. Since our sex life was fine, it didn't occur to him that I might seek anybody else. He couldn't conceive of a rutting animal like me. He's a one-person man - he likes them all, but one at a time. I'm - different.
Two of my current friends were simply that - friends. One was a man, Josh. He was young - twenty or thereabouts. I'd met him at a chess tournament. I'd won all my matches easily and he'd become an instant fan. I spent time with him, teaching him chess moves, accepting his adulation, enjoying the freedom to be just a guy, not a corporate mogul. The other was a woman, Ruth. She was young too - about thirty. She'd attended a lecture on Egyptian art that I'd gone to one night a few months back. We'd got to talking at the small reception afterwards and I'd asked her to come with me for a beer. We'd talked all night and I'd been seeing her off and on ever since. I hadn't made a move on her yet - she was a very special woman, brought out the Pierson in me - but it was only a matter of time.
Unfortunately, the third of my current friends was more than that. He was my lover. And he was a poet. I've always had a weak spot for poets. Luis was spectacular. I didn't think this was going to go away. Not for a while, anyway. Not in the mood I was in. Not if Mac persisted in his folly. I couldn't take any more of business. Luis had been talking about traveling for months now. At twenty-five, the gorgeous Latino-American had never been anywhere except New York City. The temptation to take him home - that is, take him to Europe, the Middle East, India, Asia - was very strong. My feelings for Luis wouldn't last forever but I couldn't imagine wasting them while they flourished. Not for this - not to wear a gray flannel suit and push a pencil. Not even for Mac.
When Mac and I got home from the reception after the concert that night - we'd abandoned the idea of cutting loose and going to a bar afterwards - Mac looked like hell. Tired, gray, puffy around the eyes. I don't know how I looked but I felt drained. I wasn't sleepy, simply miserable. The effort I'd expended during yet another evening in elegant surroundings exchanging meaningless talk with people I despised made my disposition worse than it really was. When I could live the way I liked to live - simply, unpretentiously - I was very positive about people. When I was forced to spend enormous chunks of time with people I'd nothing in common with, I became a misanthrope. And a liar, too. More so than usual.
But the way Mac looked - I was concerned. I didn't have a chance to ask how he felt, though.
"You ready to hit the sack, Methos? Because I'm dead on my feet."
"I can see that," I replied, an edge to my voice.
He turned from the bar in our living room and said, "What?"
I raised an eyebrow.
He explained, "I'm just tired. It's been a long day. Immortal or not, I need sleep. I was up at five."
"And it's two in the morning, so you're tired."
"Methos -" he sighed. "Look, I'll take a shower, change my clothes. We'll go out -"
"No. I just want you to be happy."
"You think having a drink in a bar in the middle of the night will make me happy?" I asked.
"It's a start. Methos, please, I love you. Let's just give it a rest. I know you hate the work, the life. A few months - a year at most - and it's over. We can move on."
"We will. I promise. Please, Methos, try. Don't do this to us. Don't spoil what we have. You've lived so long - this can't be the worst thing you've ever spent a few years doing. Just - try to get through it."
"Mac, you're right. I have done worse things in my life. But I never did them to myself, on purpose. I never tried to simply 'get through' life. I tried to find a way to live that made me happy. If I could."
"Yes, I know that." He put down his drink and walked over to me. Put his arms around me and held me close. "I know what you've given up for me. The freedom. I know." He held me more tightly. He sought my mouth, kissed me. He cupped my face, ran his hands down my cheeks. My eyes were closed. He kissed me again. His body moved against mine and I felt his erection. I experienced nothing of the sort myself. That shocked me. I pushed him away.
"What is it?" he asked, his face gaunt with the pain of rejection. There was fear in his eyes. "Tell me."
I decided I'd better. If I could no longer feel sexual desire for him, things were worse than I'd thought. There was no more time to play with. "I'm going away, Mac. I've met someone. We're going to Europe - everywhere - travel together. He's quite lovely. Beautiful. Young. Mortal, of course." I breathed deeply. "This time, I'm not running away without a word. I'm telling you. I'll keep in touch. Call. Write. Whatever. But I can't stay here, doing this." I gestured widely. "I just can't, Mac. It's too much. It's not a way I want to spend my life. Waste my life. I'm sorry."
He didn't speak. He stood there for a moment, then he backed away, into a leather easy chair. Sat heavily. Stared at me with no expression on his face. He was white as a sheet. I was reminded how he'd taken Anne's defection, years ago. Without a murmur.
"Mac - you'll be fine. You'll get over it. You'll find someone else. For a while. Then - when Luis is finished - I mean, when I'm done with him - I'll be back. If you still want me then, of course. Always that proviso. There's timing to consider, in all things -"
"Please shut up, Methos," he said quietly. "Please."
"Sure." I shrugged and went to the bar, fixed myself a drink and brought him his. He ignored my outstretched hand, didn't take the glass. I put it down on the end table near his chair and walked to the couch to sit.
"This - Luis - what does he do?"
"Works in a liquor store. He's a poet, Mac -"
"I might have known."
"It's nothing to do with that, he's just - he's really beautiful." I thought for a moment, how to make this easier. Anger was always good. "He's my type," I continued. "Always liked the Latin lovers -"
"He's young. Got a lot to learn. Never been anywhere, seen anything, done anything. It'll be fun."
"How long what? How long will I be gone?"
"How long have you been sleeping with him?"
"What difference does it make, Mac?" I asked wearily. "I've been sleeping with him, that's bad enough, isn't it? And I intend to go on sleeping with him, all over Europe, all over Asia, everywhere."
I'd intended to make him angry. Apparently I'd failed. He asked, "What if you could bring Luis here?"
"Beg pardon? Didn't quite catch that."
"If he stayed with us? Here. Lived in our home. With us. Until we divest. Then we'd go together, travel wherever you like."
"The three of us?" I asked dryly, incredulous.
"Yes. The three of us. You, Luis, and me."
"You can't be serious."
"I'm perfectly serious, Methos. You're unhappy. You're sneaking around. I don't want that. I want you to be happy. So bring your lover here. It's your home too. You've earned the right."
"You don't know what you're saying, Mac. You couldn't handle it."
"I could. And I would. I want to." He was implacable. His eyes were hard and his voice was dark. He meant it.
"No. It's not for us. Not for me, that is. Not what I need. It wouldn't serve."
"You won't even try?"
"No. I've gotta get away from here. Move on. This life is what's killing me," I replied flatly, not willing even to thank him for his offer. A blood offering. "I'm going. I'm taking Luis and going."
"And what about Ruth? What about Josh?" he asked. Now he was angry. "You gonna just drop them like hot potatoes? Ruth's in love with you. Josh loves you - trusts you. He thinks you're his friend. Don't you care?"
I was stunned. He knew. The only shock I'd given him was the going away bit. The rest - about all my lovers over the four years we'd been together - he knew.
"Methos? Answer me!" he said harshly. "You gonna just drop those two, without a thought for their feelings, their suffering? Without a word of explanation or goodbye? That's the plan?"
I found my tongue. I was furious again. "Yes, that's the plan. They'll get over it."
"That's always been your song, hasn't it? Always the same thing! They'll get over it!"
"Trust me, Mac, they will. This is the voice of experience talking. They will get over it. I'm not indispensable. There are plenty more where I came from."
"You're out of your mind!" Mac shouted. "There are no more where you came from!" He stood. "Don't you understand! There are no more!" He started to shudder, then he started to cry, great gulping gasps of crying. He fell to his knees with them, burying his head in his arms, twisting himself away from me when I went to him to hold him while he cried.
"Mac, please," I whispered softly as I knelt beside him. I felt badly for him, but I wasn't going to change my mind because of it. "Don't do this to yourself. Try to understand. Nobody lives forever. I won't spend my life doing things I hate to do - not if I can help it. Not even for you."
He didn't answer. Finally, I stood and went into the den. There was a day-bed in there. Before I lay down I took off my coat and put it on the carpeted floor next to the bed. I didn't undress. I was afraid to undress, to be that vulnerable. I stretched my hand down so I could feel the cashmere of my coat and I grasped the material tightly, closing my fist around the hilt of my sword. I fell asleep like that, although I tried to stay awake in case Mac came after me, into this room, sword in hand. I woke at first light and put on my coat before I walked through the flat looking for him to check that he was all right. His aura had disappeared. I'd thought he'd still be on the floor in the living room this morning, but he wasn't. He was nowhere.
I soon found out how accurate that assessment was. He was nowhere. Nowhere to be found.
Over the next several months I made inquiries through the Watcher network to find him. I hired private detectives to look for him. I enlisted the assistance and expertise of several old friends - Old Immortals - to track him. I found Connor and interviewed him myself, to be sure he didn't lie to me. He had no idea where Mac was. Joe didn't know either - I interviewed him personally, as well, for the same reason. And Amanda.
Everyone offered to help me look for Mac. I accepted those offers. But Joe and Amanda's offers to come to New York and keep me company while I searched - those I rejected. I had other plans.
Between flights to various large cities where I checked up on every Mortal and Immortal named in Mac's Chronicles who still lived, to see if he'd hidden with them, I held his - our - business together.
Yes, I could easily have divested, now that Mac was gone. We had each other's powers of attorney. I could have sold the business off but I didn't do that. I don't know why not. I just couldn't. Instead, I lived Mac's life for him, in his absence, like some fucking Mortal asshole. Made the decisions he'd make, to "effect fair business arrangements on a global scale," the way I'd described him doing, years before. I pushed a pencil and wore a gray flannel suit as never before. With me at the helm - my brains, experience, and total dedication to one thing, our business - the company flourished. In my own eyes, I was behaving so oddly that I took to going into the bathroom several times a day and looking at my face in the mirror, to be certain I was still Methos Valerius, that I hadn't shape-shifted when I wasn't paying attention.
I'd said goodbye to Josh, letting him down as easily as I could. I had no time, now, for students. I said goodbye to Luis, too. No time for lovers, either. Ruth, I continued to see occasionally, as a friend. She was an attractive woman. I took her with me to the elegant receptions, dinners and charity functions I was required to attend in my new capacity as head of our business. She enjoyed them. I wondered whether Mac read the papers, where he was. The society columns were full of Ruth and me. Such a lovely couple.
My strength and patience rested on the certainty that I'd hear about it if somebody took Mac's head.
My only hope was the conviction that wherever he went, he'd be celibate, like me. Dreadfully, painfully, miserably chaste. He had an enormous sex drive but he was utterly monogamous when he was in love. I held fast to the hope that monogamy would bring him back to me, sooner or later.
Somehow, living a life I hated didn't matter to me now. Wasting my life doing things I hated to do didn't matter either. Only one thing mattered. That Mac was safe, somewhere, until he came back to me. I knew he'd come back. He had no choice. I could wait. I had no choice.
The bodyguard Mac gave me when we'd joined forces in business four years ago - John Brady - was now my only trusted companion. The only person who knew what I meant to Mac and what he meant to me. For that reason, John couldn't fathom why Mac had left me. We were in my office, months after Mac disappeared, when John finally opened up to me and asked me the question that burned in his heart.
"Mr. Marius, why? Why'd he leave?"
"I'm not sure, John. I know he believed I betrayed him. He was right, of course. Mac's always right."
"You were together for so long - you'd have worked it out -"
"That's not true, John. We wouldn't have worked it out. I was about to leave, myself. He was - very angry." I smiled. "I think he left so he wouldn't need to kill me."
"He'd never do that, not Mr. MacLeod. He's an honorable man."
"'So are they all, all honorable men,'" I quoted. "There are things you don't know about Mac and me, John. Just stay with me. Until he returns. You remind me of him. I - I can't be alone."
"I'll stay, Mr. Marius. But you are alone. Miss Ruth is a good friend, I know, but you don't love her, not like you love Mr. MacLeod."
"You amaze me, John. I know you'd never -" I hesitated to finish the thought. Finally, I said, "I'm grateful for your acceptance."
"Mr. Marius, I hope you won't take this wrong, what I'm gonna say -"
"Whatever it is you think I'd never do, that's all out the window now. I love you both. Mr. MacLeod and you. That's turned my way of looking at things upside down. I don't see the way I was brought up to see, not anymore. The black and white's turned gray." He bit his lip. "I believe I'm a very lucky man, to know you two. You're different and you've made me different. I'm happy about it."
Upside down. Yes, I understood. Maybe what John experienced was like what Mac experienced - the black and white turned gray. For me, something different had happened. For once in my life, I'm committed without a lie, to love. With every bit of me, to a love that transcends me. My love for Duncan takes me high. I cannot be without it. For me, the opposite's occurred - the gray's turned black and white. I'm grateful for it.
"If you're happy, I'm happy for you," I told John, getting up from my chair and patting his arm. "Now, let's get something to eat. Have you ever had the food in Brazilito's?" I asked him, leading him to the door. "No? Well, it's Mac's favorite restaurant, and the food's brilliant. The wine's terrific, too. I'm hungry. Let's go there."
Mac ran so he wouldn't kill me. I'd finally decided that was the truth of it. Decided that my initial impulse to hang onto my sword that last night we were together had been correct. Inspired. He thought I didn't love him, and in a way, he was right. I hadn't loved him enough to sacrifice myself for him. And that made him want to kill me.
I was in bed, alone, when I thought those thoughts. I missed Mac beyond belief, couldn't understand how I'd contemplated leaving him, even for a moment. Couldn't conceive how I'd considered any sacrifice too great, if it kept me near him, with him, in his embrace.
He'd made so many sacrifices for me.
When I was with him, I didn't feel alone.
He'd sacrificed everything he was, everything he believed, because he loved me.
That was the price he'd paid so I wouldn't be alone.
The price. Falling from black and white into gray, to learn me, to know me, to be me, so I wouldn't be alone.
I'd asked him to accept me for who and what I was, and he'd done it. It hadn't come easily and it hadn't come quickly, true enough. But it had come eventually, all the more precious for his struggle to get there. All the more precious because he wouldn't let me go. Wouldn't dismiss me from his heart. Preferred to pay the price, no matter how high. It was high enough, that much I knew.
And I hadn't liked wearing gray flannel and pushing a pencil - my widow's mite. The price I'd been called on to pay for the pain he'd suffered while he worked out his descent into gray, for my sake. A few years behind a desk, or at a reception or two, in a tux. My widow's mite. I hadn't liked it, it'd seemed high to me, at the time.
For that, I would have left him, gone with Luis, never looked back.
Not only was I a fool, I'd gone back to square one - I'd gone Evil again.
Then he'd run, and I'd found black and white, True Good, at a price. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one paying it.
Damn me to hell! If I didn't know that Duncan was suffering too, I'd be happy to suffer the deserved anguish of being separated from him. It was small punishment for my crimes. Not endurance - anguish. If only Duncan wasn't sharing it, somewhere, alone.
Where was he? He'd managed to find me, four years back. Only took him ten years to do it. Why the hell couldn't I find him?
My five thousand years weren't worth a damn, if I couldn't read him on this. I had to read him. Find him. I had to.
I turned on the lamp on my end table and sat up in bed. I stared across the room at the small framed sketch Tessa'd made of Amanda so many years ago, and I thought.
If I were Mac, that night, what would I be thinking? Where would I go? Why would I go?
Okay, I'm Mac. Methos wants to leave me, he's found someone else, another man, a younger man, a beautiful boy. Methos is unhappy. He hates our life together. The life I've trapped him in. He longs for his freedom. He's unhappy. I'm Mac. It's my fault!
Of course! That's how Mac would see it - as his fault. Somebody's unhappy? His fault! Somebody's hurt? His fault! His fault, his crime, his just punishment.
Crime and punishment.
Angry, knowing deep down that I'd betrayed him, overwhelmed with rage at the betrayal, violent - wanting to kill me. But not letting himself really feel such things - such rage - against me, because that's wrong, that's unworthy. Besides, it's all his fault, right? He imprisoned me, made me unhappy. So how can he be angry with me?
He'd committed a crime against me. And a crime must be punished. I'm Mac. I must be punished. How?
Where would Mac go to find punishment? Where does anybody go?
The bastard was in prison!
Four hundred years he'd survived without landing in prison for any length of time! But that's where he was, I was certain of it!
No wonder I hadn't been able to find him!
But now I could!
"Model prisoner, he is, Mr. Marius. Your brother's the finest inmate-trustee I've ever had here in Lauriten State." The warden couldn't sing Duncan's praises highly enough. "I know he was drinking when he did it - when he assaulted that man, put him in the hospital - just like the records of his conviction state. But since he's been here, he's never done anything more violent than defend himself. Nothing else of a violent nature. And on the other hand, he's been a real positive influence on the other inmates."
"I'm sure he has been, warden. My brother's a man of peace - except when he's drinking," I said, nodding sagely at the warden. "May I see him? If I'd known he was down here at Lauriten, I'd have come sooner."
"He's got a minimum of three years more on his sentence, Mr. Marius. But if I had my way, I'd keep him here forever, he's such a help with the others. Of course you can see him." The warden stood and we walked towards the visitors area. "You're a lawyer?"
"You might be able to get your brother up before the parole board. If you can manage that much, I know I've got enough influence to get him out of prison early, once he got a hearing. But it would take a real good lawyer to set the process in motion. He's not due for a parole hearing yet. Won't be for another six months at the inside."
"I'm going to try, warden, you can be sure of that."
"You two - you don't look like brothers - got different last names -"
"We're step-brothers. But close."
"I can see that. Wonder why he didn't look you up, when he got arrested, you being a lawyer and all."
"I was out of the country. Maybe he tried and couldn't find me."
"Yeah, I guess that's what happened." He opened the door to the visitors waiting room. "Tell you what I'm gonna do. Instead of seeing him in the regular way, across glass, I'm gonna let Duncan talk to you in here."
"That's really kind of you, warden. I appreciate the consideration."
"Don't mention it. You wait here, I'll send for your brother."
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod! You are such a pain in the ass!" I greeted him, then embraced his unresponsive body tightly. "We'll have you out of here in no time - one way or the other! If I can't get you a parole hearing, Amanda and I will do the other thing!"
"Why are you here, Methos?" he asked quietly. "I was sure you'd be in Europe by now. Or Asia, or India. Someplace old, someplace - home. With someone young."
"Do you suppose I deserve that crack, Mac? Yes, guess I do." I smiled and walked to a lumpy sofa and sat in it. I was so glad to see him. He looked ten years younger than when we'd been together last, the night of the Mozart concert. His hair was long again, the way I loved it. But his disposition left something to be desired. He continued to stand just inside the doorway. "Sit down, take a load off your feet," I continued. When he didn't comply, I added, "It's not a concession. It's just conversation."
At last he sat on a plastic chair across from me. He didn't speak.
"Shares are up fifteen points, Mac," I told him.
"I said, our stock's up." He looked bewildered, as if I were speaking in tongues. "Our corporate stock. I've made gains, this last year."
"I see. You're running the business," he said flatly.
"That's right. Didn't sell off, or sell out. Been waiting for you to come back, to do that."
"Well, you've got a long wait, Methos. I was sentenced to three to five. I don't come up before the parole board for quite some time."
"Like I said -"
"I don't care what you said. I won't be broken out of here. And I don't want you screwing around, being my lawyer, to get me an early parole hearing. I'll serve out my time. I nearly killed that man."
"But you didn't kill him."
"Didn't kill me, either."
"But you're killing me now, Mac."
"You'll get over it."
"I thought you didn't like that song."
"I've changed my mind."
"Again? Last time you changed, I ended up wearing a gray flannel suit, pushing a pencil for years! I think I liked it better when you were stuck in your nature, without any hope of change."
"You didn't like it better. You hated it."
I'd got him! He'd pushed past sullen retorts and on to heated responses. Round One to Methos.
"MacLeod, I don't know how long the warden will let us spend together. He thinks you're my brother - same mother, different fathers. He believes I'm a lawyer. Just so you know the story."
"I don't care about any of it, Methos. He's a warden in a prison. He's not gonna discuss my family life with me."
"You'd be surprised. Don't know what he calls you to your face but behind your back, he calls you Duncan. Thinks you're the greatest thing to hit his prison since sliced bread!"
"I'm a model prisoner, Methos, but I belong here."
"How about me? Do I belong in prison, too?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, frowning.
"The prison of our business, wearing a gray flannel prison suit."
"You don't have to keep it going, Methos. Sell off," he said roughly. "You deserve your freedom."
"So do you." He didn't answer. Okay, a hard sell. I could do hard sell. "Mac, you remember what you asked me, about Josh and Ruth?"
"What about them?"
"Ruth's still my friend. Josh is no longer my student. Luis is over, of course."
"Why, of course?" he asked, in spite of himself. "You fell in love. There's no need for an Immortal to hold to the conventions, Methos. I know that. I just - forgot. It's an old song. I'm sorry I sang it to you."
"I agree, there's no need for me to hold to the conventions. I don't need to be faithful, simply because you are. I don't need to be honest, simply because you are. I'm not bound by loyalty, simply because you're loyal."
"So why are you here? Why are we having this discussion?"
"Mac, I love you. There are certain - fundamentals - built into that."
"Fidelity, honesty, loyalty." I grinned. "Conventions."
He shook his head. "Not for you."
"Yes, oh yes, for me. But only if I want the real thing."
"The real thing - meaning, love?"
"Bright boy. If I want a drinking companion, or a sex partner, the conventions aren't necessary. But if I want love, if I want to be able to give love, not just take it, the conventions must be observed. There's never been a civilization that didn't build on that, in one form or another. I know. I was there."
"That's not true. There've been harems and arranged marriages and condoned infidelity and purdah and every sort of dispensation for a man to commit infidelity, to lie and be disloyal, and still call himself civilized."
"Civilized, yes. Loving, no. No man or woman has ever meant their love without meaning the rest of it too. Look at literature, poetry, song. We love one-on-one. We kill, when that commitment is betrayed. Men do. Women do. It's our nature."
"I always thought it was - until I met you. You showed me how limited my ideas were - how small. You taught me how bound I've been by upbringing and emotion."
"I scoffed at chivalry, that's true. I was wrong, Mac. Wrong to scoff. Wrong about chivalry. You taught me that."
He stared at me, his eyes bright with tears. "I did you a wrong, Methos. I made you unhappy, for the sake of my own idea of chivalry."
"Don't you believe it, Mac! I refused to commit, I was afraid to commit, and made myself miserable. It wasn't your fault."
"Not my fault?" he echoed, his voice filled with wonder.
"Not my fault," he stated, accepting. He let out a breath and let the tears come. Round Two to Methos.
I let him cry quietly for a while, then I played my real ace. "Mac, I want you out of here. I need you."
"I've gotta finish out my sentence," he intoned dully.
"Finish it someplace else," I retorted. "I need you with me."
"You just do without me, Methos. Find someone else." Ruthless. Brutal. Beautiful. God, how I loved him!
"Mac, I can't find anybody else. I can't even try." For the first time in our history, I had the truth on my side, a truth that would please Mac rather than disgust him. For the first time in our history, I was telling him the truth when I implied I'd been celibate. A unique ace. I was almost afraid to play it, afraid I'd botch it. I wasn't used to truth. It frightened me.
"I don't believe you."
"John Brady's in the car. I'll get him in here. You can ask him yourself."
"John Brady." For a moment I could see him struggling to remember who that was. Then he said, "John, your bodyguard. He's lied to me before, about you."
"Man's the worst liar I ever met, Mac. And he's been my constant companion since you disappeared. You'd know in a minute if he was lying to you."
"Methos, I don't care. I don't care what you do with other people. As long as you -" He inhaled deeply.
"As long as I what?"
"As long as you don't leave me," he finished.
Almost there, I thought. Almost. "You're the one who ran away this time, Mac."
"I want you home. With me. Don't fight me on this. Please."
He was silent for a long time, and I thought I'd overplayed my hand. I'd never dealt truth, before. I'd tried to handle it as Mac might but maybe there was something I should know about truth that I didn't know. Maybe I should have stuck with what I did know. Too many maybe's. Shit.
When he didn't speak I finally said, "Mac? I love you. Let me get you out of here."
He looked at me. There was something strange in his expression, something I'd never noticed before. Hope. He told me, "All right."
Round Three to Methos. Thank God.
I drove the limo myself when I picked Mac up after he made parole. He looked uncomfortable when he got into the car. He was wearing what I'd sent him - his gray silk suit and his black cashmere topcoat which he didn't need in this weather, except that it concealed his sword. The moment I saw him dressed in those clothes I knew I should have selected jeans and a sweatshirt, a leather coat - something plain. He was no longer the businessman he'd turned himself into during our ten year separation. The outfit didn't suit him anymore. It actively made him unhappy to be wearing it.
He sat back in the soft leather passenger seat and turned to me. I looked around at him, a question in my eyes.
"Methos, thanks. For everything."
"There's something I've gotta tell you."
"It better not be that you're not gonna be staying with me," I said grimly.
He smiled. "No, not that."
"Good. Okay, what?"
"Something happened to me in prison, Methos. Something wonderful."
I was wary. If he'd fallen in love, I'd shoot him, then take his head. "Yes? What?"
"I became myself again."
"You mean - Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?"
"That's what I mean." He chuckled. "God, I've missed you. It's like a breath of fresh air, your leaps of thought."
"Leaps of thought? What, was that some kind of difficult question? Was I supposed to have trouble figuring it out?"
"So, if you missed him - Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod - you don't need to miss him anymore."
"Oh God - we're gonna have righteous indignation coupled with moral dilemmas again?"
"No, it's gone way beyond that, Methos. Gone much farther back than that."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I'm the 'pre-Methos' Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
"Really?" I said, my ears perking up. "The one from the Chronicles, the one I never got to meet?" I was grinning from ear to ear. If it was true, it was a dazzling prospect!
"Really. All enthusiasm and hot blood and excitement. Black and white and red all over. Happy and restless and full of wanderlust - and just plain lust."
"In other words - young?"
"That's right, young. Better than young. To all intents and purposes, Mortal. Even - selfish. A fit companion for an Old One like you, Methos. Somebody to show the sights to, somebody who'll gape at the Pyramids and tremble with joy in a souk. Someone who'll weep in Jerusalem and face east in Mecca."
"But you've seen those places, Mac. It won't be the first time for you."
"Yes, it will. It'll be the first time I see those places with you. Believe me, I'll gape and tremble and weep with the best of them. Like a Green Boy -"
"Like a child -"
"Like a lover -"
"And absolutely, positively, not like a man in a gray flannel suit!"
Mac grinned. "Bright boy!"
"It won't take us more than a couple months to sell off, Mac. But I don't think we can do it quicker than that."
"Better start the car, then," he told me, grinning. "No time to waste."
"There's just one thing."
"I know our love is pure and high-minded and spiritual and all, now, Mac."
He grinned. "That's true."
"But - is there a kiss in this for me, anywhere? A chaste, spiritual kiss, of course - but a kiss, nonetheless...."
He grinned more broadly. "For somebody as loyal and faithful and honest as you, Methos? You better believe it!"