Missing You
by Maxine Mayer

 

11/1/97

"What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
        Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
        We will grieve not, rather find
        Strength in what remains behind;
        In the primal sympathy
        Which having been must ever be;
        In the soothing thoughts that spring
        Out of human suffering;
        In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind."

"Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

- from 'Ode, Imitations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood' by William Wordsworth


PART ONE - DUNCAN'S EYES

1995, Duncan MacLeod's Dojo, Seacouver

I took another deep breath and brought myself back to a quiet position. Physically. But I realized full well that I'd worked through another kata without attaining true peace or quiet. Damn.

Then I took a look around the empty dojo and let myself feel what was in my heart.

Claudia's grand piano was gone, along with the newly-made Immortal herself. I cared for her, worried about her, and missed her company.

Richie hadn't been around for a while, not since Methos took Kristin's head, and I didn't expect him back for a time. I missed him too.

Methos himself - or should I think of him as Adam Pierson again - was off in his van on a cross-country tour with his new love, the dying Mortal, Alexa. Five thousand years old, and he was playing teenage beatnik. I missed him as well.

Joe Dawson, my Watcher and the only friend I had left in Seacouver, wasn't feeling too kindly towards me, or Immortals in general, at the moment. Couldn't blame him. We all act selfishly sometimes. He doesn't like it. Doesn't want to look at it from our perspective, either. Wouldn't work for him. He's angry at life, because Alexa is dying. Angry at himself - for giving a damn about Methos and me. For letting himself get embroiled in our problems, our lives, the way he has. Joe'd been giving me the cold-shoulder the last couple times I'd gone into his bar and tried to strike up a conversation. Made me feel unwelcome, which I guess I am, for the moment. I missed Joe, too.

I shook off my thoughts and began again, another kata, one of even greater intricacy and difficulty, hoping to take my mind off my aloneness, my loneliness. I should be accustomed to it by this time, but I'm not. But thinking - of anything at all - made me trip up in the kata, forget my place. I actually went down, tangled in my own feet, something that never happened to me before. So I gave up for the day. I'd been at it three hours anyway. Enough.

After my shower I thought some more about how to spend the next stretch of my life. Clearly, I'd be alone for a while. This was a great opportunity to go any place I liked, see new sights, meet new people. Right now, I didn't need to consider anyone from my past or my present, such as it is. I should be pleased at the freedom. I'm young - compared to some - only four hundred-odd. I'm strong and healthy. I'm rich, by Mortal standards. Rich enough not to need to think about money. I have everything. Most of the time, I even have love.

Not right now, though.

So maybe I should travel. Like Methos and Alexa. Travel the world. Seek new experiences. Find a new love.

Just like Methos, my five thousand year old friend, was doing.

How could he? How could he set himself up for pain like that - get involved with Alexa, after he'd found out she was terminally ill, dying, would be dead in a year or maybe less? How could he? For a man who kept telling everyone that he cared about nothing but himself - his survival - this was a suicide engagement. His pain when Alexa died would be enormous. I tried not to imagine it. I was a tough guy, compared to Methos. Methos was so sensitive, his feelings were so strong, his heart so vulnerable. I could imagine how he'd suffer when Alexa died. Too deep for tears, wasn't that how Wordsworth put it in his poem, "Intimations of Immortality?" Methos' pain would surely be too deep for tears, when she went. Well, he didn't have to be alone when Alexa died, unless he wanted to be. He had at least one friend now. Me. If he wanted me.

Damn!

Too long. That's how long it would be until she died. Too long. Damn!

I'd lived with the kind of pain I was experiencing too often not to recognize it for what it was. Too long, to hide what I felt from myself. I didn't quite understand how it could be, but I knew what it was. It was love, and the pain that bit into me with shark's teeth was missing him. Missing him. Methos.

Damn!

Did he even like poetry? Did he know Wordsworth's poem?

I'd find a place to go, to be, where I knew nobody anymore. Someplace busy, a big city with lots of people. Somebody, somewhere, was waiting for me, for someone like me. Somebody all alone and lonely, the way I was. I'd find that person, start again.

Because this thing with Methos was impossible. Pointless, purposeless, insane. Anything at all but reasonable and desirable. Caring for a man who'd survived five thousand years by his sword, his wits, and by not giving a damn for anyone but himself except in the most superficial way - that was idiocy. Had to go, had to end.

I didn't even try anymore to reconcile the two beliefs I entertained about Methos. That he cared for no one, and that his passion, vulnerability and pain were strong. Only he could understand who he was, what he'd been, and how he'd changed. I knew I couldn't. I'd tried hard enough since I met him. But I couldn't find the connection. I knew now that only living would teach me how anyone could be both. If I ever learned. Right now, all I understood was that what I felt for Methos was something impossible for us, something that had to end. I wished a harmless Mortal dead, that I might be with him again! This must end.

Find someone new, MacLeod, he'd say. He'd give me the advice himself, if he knew about this. He'd offer it freely, Methos would, if he knew.

Mustn't know, ever. I shivered. Never. Not ever.


PART TWO - METHOS' EYES

Late Summer, 1997, Duncan MacLeod's Barge, Paris, France

It was a bit of a bustle when my sister-Immortal Calara decided she'd had enough uplift for one century and arranged to move away from Mac's barge. But we managed it all, Mac and I. Called for Amelia to come with her car to give Calara a ride back home. Before we knew it, by ten in the morning one bright summer's day, she was gone.

But I was still here.

"So, let me get my things together, MacLeod, and I'll be out of your hair - such as it is - as well," I told Duncan, turning towards the door leading down into his barge.

"Okay, whatever you say, Methos," Mac answered, following me inside. "Where you off to?" he asked.

"I dunno. I've got my own flat, you know, not far from here. Rather nice, too." I made a wide circle of his living space, picking up bits and pieces of my things - shirts and socks, books, my Walkman - as I went. "You'll be glad for a little breathing space and privacy, after putting up with the two of us this long. We're not exactly conducive to meditation, I'm sure."

"No, you're not."

I found a large paper sack under the sink in the kitchen and tossed my few belongings into it. Then I leaned on the counter and looked at Mac. "I want to thank you for helping Calara. She's writing poetry again and that's good. After Godfrey was killed, I'd hoped for it, but didn't believe it really would happen for her - it'd been so long. You were just the ticket, Duncan. I'm grateful."

"Don't mention it."

"Well, then, I'm off...." I looked at him. He stood there still as stone, no expression whatever on his face. His hands were clasped behind his back and he balanced his weight evenly on both feet. He didn't rock back and forth. Even standing still, he was graceful.

"Okay. 'Bye, Methos," he answered, his voice low and thin.

I started towards the steps leading off the barge. "Then, I'm off.... " I walked up the steps and stopped by the door. I turned back again. He hadn't moved. "You'll be all right?"

"I'm fine, Methos. I'll get used to it."

"Used to what?"

"Being alone again. It's not the first time, nor the last. I'll accustom myself."

"You're not lonely, Mac, are you?"

He chuckled. "You mean, am I lonely yet? No, not yet."

"We'll get together tonight, if you like, at Joe's. Drink a couple beers. Listen to some music. What'd you say?"

"Good." He nodded. "I'd like that. See you at Joe's, then. About ten?"

"Hmhmm. Ten it is."

I left the barge. He didn't follow me up on deck to see me off, as he'd done for Calara. I felt his aura disappear as I walked away from his home at a fairly brisk pace. By the time I'd stopped to flag a cab, there wasn't anything left of him at all.


Late Summer, 1997, Methos' Flat, Paris, France

There wasn't any point crying over spilt milk. I'd handled it badly. Actually, I hadn't handled it at all. Never been able to do the right thing. Give over the lies and tell the truth. I'd been careless, again, staying with him this long. Now I'd pay for my carelessness. Fine.

He'll pay, too, a voice whispered in my mind.

He doesn't give a damn, I whispered right back, tossing my sack of belongings on the floor behind a screen. I wasn't in the mood to unpack.

Well, I thought, settling down at my computer table and turning on the drive, I've done what was necessary. I've got clean away, taking my junk with me. I've said goodbye. Thanked him for his help. Most importantly, I actually got him to take up his sword again, as I'd hoped. What more did I expect to accomplish? Anybody else would be delirious with joy, congratulating himself on his success! Only I could see failure where none exists.

It was nice while it lasted, though, being with him again, I considered wistfully. Like old times. No need for pain. No need for sadness. Nice while it lasted.

Far as it could go.

He mustn't know, ever. Not ever.

Tonight, we'll have a drink at Joe's, be back to the way we've been for years. Separate but equal. Good friends. Mustn't complain. Mustn't kick against the pricks. Mustn't show anything, nothing at all. Ever.

Duncan mustn't know. That's a fact, Jack, I reminded myself. He's got plenty on his mind. What I feel is a burden I don't need to share with the Boy. Not ever.

Actually, I thought, it's time for me to drift off again, drift away from this life. It's that time, I do believe. It'll be easier so. Better not to meet him this evening at Joe's. Or ever again.

Yes.

I called my people and arranged for a thorough packing and storing of my belongings, everything in my flat. Arranged for cleaning. Initiated close-down with my lawyer, my accountant and my banker. Showered, changed my clothes, packed a duffel, ate a stale roll, drank a beer. Left the flat.

I was on a plane out of Orly within the hour. Easy enough to do, if you've got a little money and you don't care where you're headed.

Too deep for tears.


PART THREE - DUNCAN'S EYES

Winter, 2008, Duncan's Duplex Condo, Manhattan, New York City

"Dawson? Thanks for calling. What have you found?" I asked, anxious to hear what my former Watcher had to tell me. I didn't know who my new Watcher was, but it was impossible to imagine a better friend than Joe'd been to me over the years.

"I've got a sighting, Mac. But don't get your hopes up. It's very vague, and it's from three months back. My friend just heard I was looking."

"Where?" I asked tightly.

"You're not gonna believe it."

"Where, Joe?" I repeated.

"Three months ago, a retired Watcher friend of mine spotted somebody he thought might be Adam Pierson in a bookstore in Greenwich Village. But by the time he got close, the guy'd paid for whatever he was buying and left the shop. My friend's getting on in years - he couldn't keep up."

"But he recognized Methos?" I asked urgently.

"He was pretty sure it was him."

"Thanks, Joe."

"Wait a minute, Mac. What're you gonna do? It's like searching for a needle in a haystack, looking for somebody in New York. You'll need help."

"No. I don't want any help, Joe. Thanks for telling me about this. I can take it from here."

"You think you can track Methos? The world's oldest living Immortal? The original disappearing man? By yourself?"

"I don't know. I'm gonna try."

"If he doesn't want to be found, he'll be history before you get a real fix on his whereabouts."

"Don't you think I know that, Joe? I'll be careful. I know his habits, what he likes -"

"Just don't get too close, don't spook him, Mac. You've been looking too long -"

"I'll spook him - but not before I talk to him. Trust me. If he's in New York, I'll find him."

"Good luck, MacLeod. I hope you find him. Tell him -" The old Watcher paused. "Tell him he owes me for his tab in Paris - with interest."

"Yeah, Joe, I'll tell him."


I couldn't really believe it, trust my luck. Methos in New York City! I'd moved here about a year back, after several people in Paris and in Seacouver had remarked that I never seemed to age. It was time. I'd hung on to my lives in Seacouver and in Paris well past what was prudent. Closer to twenty years rather than the average ten years Immortals were entitled to spend in one town. Hung on because I'd hoped Methos would come back. When he did I wanted to be where he could find me.

I'd hung on well beyond a sensible length of time.

But he hadn't come back and finally I'd been forced to move on, away from the places with so many memories of our friendship, our joy, and our pain.

I'd set up shop in New York City. I could probably last here for twenty years if I was careful not to get too close to anybody. I did most of my business through the web and the vidphone, as much as possible. I'd need to avoid vid and stick to audio, when I could. The computer industry drew a diverse market. I took advantage of it. I did a lot of flying but I met people I'd probably never see again, so I could last a long time in this life, if I exercised good judgment. The flying kept me busy, which was good. And everywhere I went, I looked for him. With no success.

Stubbornly, I didn't change my name when I moved on. I couldn't stand the idea that somebody who needed me wouldn't be able to find me. An old friend might find it difficult to track me down, but I wouldn't make it impossible. I couldn't.

Methos, of course, could and would and no doubt did change his name to make it impossible for anyone to find him. The New York City vidphone lists showed nothing for Adam Pierson or Michael Benedict or Methos Valerius - his three favorite names, ones the Watchers knew about. Nor did the New Jersey or Connecticut compuvid lists. That much I was certain about.

I chuckled. Couldn't track Methos as easily as we'd tracked Caspian, years ago. Then, I lost my smile. The trouble between Methos and me had started with the Horsemen. And never went away, even when the Horsemen were dead.

I'd cared for him before those days but our troubles started then. He'd run away shortly afterwards, not for any reason concerning my feelings for him - I'd never spoken about how I felt - but just to get away from me. Disappeared without a trace, dropping his friends without hesitation, to preserve his newest hiding place. Pretty successful at it, too. This call from Joe was only the second sighting we'd had of the man since he'd left Paris in 1997.

He might simply be passing through New York City. Or he might have moved here quite recently. That thought excited me and I went to the compuvid lists and tried new listings. Nothing for any of the three states in the New York Metropolitan area. Nothing in the entire Eastern Sector. I sighed. Nothing on one bounce, ever.

But I'd find him somehow. Sometime. Of that I was certain. One day I'd find him. He couldn't hide from me forever. I'd never give up, till I found him. I missed him too much.


PART FOUR - METHOS' EYES

Winter, 2008, Methos' Subleted Apartment, Manhattan, New York City

I'd noticed the retired Watcher take my measure and I'd managed to slip away.

Thank God Carl Marius had lent me his flat. I'd everything I needed here, all in his name - computer lines, vidphone lines, all the amenities. I used his bank accounts, credit cards - a bit of savings in effort and time. All I needed to do was change the photos and keep up the payments. Nothing was amiss with Marius, except that the old Immortal had been here too long - people were noticing his age, or lack thereof. He had to leave New York. But his bills were paid and his home was nicely furnished. Too bad I couldn't take his job as well, but Marius was an expert at one of the many things I couldn't do at all. He played the violin and taught music at a private school. I might get away with faking many professions, but world-class musician wasn't one of them.

So I'd cooked up a few references - nothing splendid, just the basics - and got myself a job as a bartender in a small comedy joint in the Village. It was good to be around young people again. Helped me move with the times. There was music, too. New groups whose names I'd never heard of. The comedy was passable and the clientele was transient - tourists, mostly, and preppies and college kids on holiday from out-of-town schools. I thought I'd be able to hang on here for quite some time without anybody noticing my perpetual youth. New Yorkers weren't noted for their interest in other people, or their observation of the hired help. Yes, I could easily settle in here for a couple decades with nobody the wiser. The management of this club had changed hands several times since it opened in the fifties. No doubt it would do so many times again. Turnover of staff was rapid too. I'd be a new face to everyone for years.

I should be safe here, and quiet, for a long time, if I worked things right.

If he didn't track me down, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. If he didn't hit it lucky and find me.

I knew he'd comb the Village for me, once the retired Watcher reported sighting me to Joe and Joe told MacLeod. It'd happened before - I'd been sighted before. And I'd moved on. But New York City was a really big town. Surely my luck would hold and I'd be safe here. I was very tired of moving on, very tired indeed.

Too small, the world. It'd got too small. When'd that happen? Last century, I supposed. Just too damn small.

Too deep for tears.


Winter, 2008, Methos' Workplace, Greenwich Village, NYC

Of course, if I didn't mind living like a fish in a bowl in Asia or India or the Middle East, I'd be even safer, better hidden where the technology wasn't so advanced. But I didn't want that. No obscurity for the white guy among those peoples. I needed obscurity like I needed to breathe. So, the West was it, for me. I couldn't believe I was actually running out of big cities in which to hide. It seemed impossible. Wasn't it? Maybe.

For the thousandth time I ran over the alternative in my mind.

Maybe if I told him - told MacLeod - why I'd run, and kept running, he'd understand and leave me alone. So I could settle someplace and live quietly and not need to hide. At least, not from him. I could do that. Tell him. Then I'd be free.

No. Never. Never. I couldn't tell Mac, not ever.

I took a deep breath and swabbed down the bar for the twentieth time since I'd come on duty this evening. Business was slow on Mondays but the boss insisted on staying open anyway, just in case. Neither he nor I had much else to do. We didn't have much of a life. Working at the club was a good way to keep busy. I didn't mind.

The weekends were mad but I usually enjoyed the quieter nights. Brought a book along to read. But this evening I couldn't concentrate on my book. I was restless, nervous. I had this terrible feeling that the front door of the club would open and he'd be standing there, aura and all, a sword in his hands, and I'd be standing here, behind the bar, with a dishrag in mine. And there'd be no place to go or to hide, except inside my lies.

I didn't like lying to Mac. Never had. The pain of it was too deep for tears. But I'd do it if I needed to, if he found me, poor Mac. Lie for time, then disappear. I got tired just thinking about it, the running. I'd run, though. Because Mac must never know the truth. Never.


"Marius!"

"What?" I shouted back into the kitchen, to the cook who'd called me. All my paperwork was in Carl Marius' name.

"Vid!"

"Right there!"

My heart had stilled and my breath was very shallow. I knew nobody in New York who might vid me at work. Nobody at all. Whoever was on the phone wasn't anybody I wanted to speak with or see or see me.

I put down the dishrag carefully and picked up my jacket. I didn't carry my sword to work but I kept a dagger in the lining of my jacket and a small handgun in my pocket. That should buy me time if an Immortal with bad intentions approached. Long enough to run away.

Instead of walking to the back of the club to take the call - that's where I'd be expected to go - I slipped out the front to prevent anyone noticing I was gone.

What a shame, I thought, as I walked out the door. I'd need to move on again, because Mac had found me. Damnation!

Then I felt it, the awful aura of an Immortal I knew only too well. He'd guessed my move and was waiting for me. I was caught.

"Going somewhere, Methos?" Mac asked, stepping away from a street vid kiosk a dozen yards up the road.

"Not anymore."

"You haven't changed," he said, walking over and stopping maybe five feet in front of me.

"Neither have you." But he had. He looked different than when I'd last seen him, ten years ago. His hair was long again and he'd put on a bit of weight. And his eyes looked even sadder than I remembered them.

"Will you talk to me? Have a drink? Then I'll leave you alone."

"Sure. Whatever. But not in there," I said, indicating my workplace with a lift of my chin. "There's a quiet spot not far from here. You can have coffee if you want, or a drink."

"Lead the way."

He followed me - literally followed me - down the block to a small bar. It was clear he wasn't going to let me out of his sight until he'd spoken to me. I kept taking deep breaths and trying to think but with little success. I'd need to play it by ear, because I couldn't concentrate well enough to think up a good story. Not with him so close I could almost hear him breathe.


Winter, 2008, A Bar in Greenwich Village

We moved into a booth toward the rear of the bar and ordered beer.

"How'd you find me, MacLeod? I'm not living under any of my old names."

"The owner of the bookstore where you were spotted recognized you from the description I gave him. He told me your name, gave me your vid at work. Said you gave it to him so he could let you know when any books you ordered arrived. You slipped up, Methos."

"Guess I did," I replied with a grin. "I'd forgotten I'd given him my number. Some'd say I wanted to be caught."

"But we know different, don't we?" Mac contradicted.

"Yes, we do."

"Joe sends his regards."

"Right back at him, when you talk to him, Mac."

He didn't say anything for a while, just sipped his beer, then signaled the waiter for another round for both of us.

"You're not a very good friend, Methos, you know. I really needed you back then, in '97."

"You got along without me before you met me, MacLeod."

"That's true. But you had a big effect on me. It wasn't so easy to deal with what I learned from you, without you there to help me out."

"Is that why you're here - to complain? I never claimed to give a damn about anybody but myself. I left because it was time for me to go. I didn't care whether it suited you, or Joe, or anybody else. You must've known that about me."

"I knew, Methos. I just found it - difficult - to accept. For a long time."

"How long?" I asked, twisting my mouth in a grimace.

"Never." He took a deep breath. "That's why I tracked you. To find out if you'd left of your own free will, or under duress."

"Duress? What sort?"

"Danger. An Immortal after your head. That kind of thing."

"No, MacLeod, I left of my own free will. Because I'd had enough of us - you and me and Joe - to last me another thousand years. You might call it internal stress, maybe. Not duress."

"Well, that's straight enough," he answered, his voice steady but very thin. "So you've been all right, these last ten years? No pain? No missing any of us?"

"Missing you? I'm five thousand years old, MacLeod. I don't 'miss' the people I lose. I forget about them."

"I thought you remembered everyone you've ever loved."

"Well, maybe I didn't love you and Joe as much as you thought I did."

"Really? Could've fooled me."

"I did," I replied. He was making this very easy. For whatever reason, he was opening himself up to barbs and lies and ugliness without any reserve or attempt to protect himself. He'd be sick of hearing the sort of thing I was saying, soon enough. Then maybe he'd leave me be.

"Well," he said with a sigh. He stood. "Well, that's that. It was good to see you again. You look fit. I'm glad you're happy and at peace." He threw a few bills on the table to cover the tab. "Ten years is a long time, Methos. I've changed, and I suppose you have, too. But I'm glad to know, once and for all, that you left from choice. I like closure."

"Oh, I'm all for closure," I replied pointedly. "Be well, Mac. See you again in another ten years." He nodded and left. I didn't move but I felt him go, his aura disappearing with a slam when he'd reached the outer edge of my ability to sense buzz. I finished my beer, and the second one he'd ordered. When I was sure he wasn't coming back, I left the bar.

That's that, I thought. Won't need to run and hide again, after all. That's a relief.

He looks good. Healthy. Robust. Good.

I'd got away clean, and quickly. Lucky.

When I got back to the club where I worked, only half an hour'd gone by. Nobody'd missed me. These days, nobody ever missed me.


Winter, 2008, The Streets of Manhattan, New York City

For the next couple weeks I was a bit shook up. Concerned. It was hard to believe Mac would just let things rest like that. He'd always been like a dog worrying a bone. What I'd told him could hardly satisfy him once he'd thought about it. But a month went by without another word from him. I didn't hear from Joe either, though I was sure Mac had reported my whereabouts to his old Watcher.

Finally, I accepted that he wasn't going to visit me again, and I relaxed. Went to and from work without looking over my shoulder for him. Not that I'd need to do that - I'd recognize Mac's buzz anywhere. But he knew my range pretty well, and could stay out of it, if he chose. Could follow me without my sensing him. So I'd searched the streets and alleys and corners for his shadow until I finally decided he'd meant what he'd said. See you in another ten years worked as well for him as for me, now. We'd achieved closure.

Missing anybody? Who me?

The night I got back to my sublet apartment and found it ransacked, bottles smashed, chairs overturned, pictures slashed, I'd already put Mac and Joe out of my mind. That life was truly over, I believed. So I chalked up this break-in and vandalism to New York City at its finest, a random occurrence. I did wonder whether Carl Marius - the real Carl Marius - knew some people with a grudge against him. But there wasn't much I could do about that - short of moving again - to prevent them taking it out on me. So I dismissed the incident. I didn't report it to the police. I just cleaned up the flat and went on with my life.

Two days later there was a fire in the comedy bar where I worked. Nobody was injured - it happened in the wee hours of the morning, when the place was closed. But I was out of a job, for now. I didn't know whether they'd reopen the bar, but certainly it would be a while, if they did. I'd need something else to occupy my time.

When I mentioned what happened to my friend at the bookstore he suggested I might do some cataloging for him part time, for the equivalent of beer money. Since I didn't need the funds, only something to do, and I loved books, that worked fine for me.

I made no connection between my vandalized apartment and the fire at my old jobsite, until the bookstore was trashed, too.

I say it was trashed. Actually, the plate glass front windows were smashed, several bookcases were overturned, some framed posters were broken. No books were harmed in any way and nothing was stolen. But the incident really spooked my friend. He decided to retire, sell the store and seek greener pastures in Florida. He accepted my offer to buy him out and keep the place going myself. When we'd closed the deal I moved from Carl Marius' sublet into the little flat behind the store, cleaned the shop up, had a new sign painted and hung it out front. I named my bookstore - the first business I'd owned in nearly two thousand years - "Lost and Found, The Booklover's Friend."

Getting all the paperwork in order took almost three months. Unfortunately, I couldn't simply write my own, I needed to go through the city bureaucracy. A pain in the ass. When I'd finished and framed my business license I propped it up right in the window where anybody could see it. Then I waited for the next incident of violence, because I'd finally made the connection. Somebody was trying to get at me, isolate me. Shut down all my attempts to dig in and make a new life. I didn't know who or why yet. But I was on to him, whoever he was.

My first suspicion - that MacLeod was doing this - seemed so absurd to me that I dismissed it out of hand. Mac wouldn't, couldn't, do such things. Not the Mac I knew. For one thing, too many Mortals were being hurt for him to be involved. But somebody was doing this to me. I'd find out who and finish him off, and then I'd have peace once more.


Spring, 2008, Methos' Bookstore, New York City

Over the next several months, each time I went out for longer than a couple hours - carefully locking my bookstore behind me - another incident of vandalism occurred. Once, somebody broke in and smashed all the lightbulbs in the shop. Another time, my cash register was pushed off the counter, although no money was stolen. Small things, not really costly or harmful but time-consuming to clean up, or irritating to me for other reasons. I decided I needed help, so I hired a couple of college students - brawny phys ed majors, not literary types - to assist me and keep an eye on the place when I went out.

They were both driven away. One was mugged in my shop. The mugger broke the boy's jaw and he quit without notice. The other's scholarship was withdrawn because of some technicality neither he nor I could understand. He went back to his home town in Massachusetts. Now I was absolutely sure MacLeod wasn't doing this. He'd never harm Mortals, not seriously.

With my two assistants gone I was alone again, feeling rather trapped in the bookstore. I knew I couldn't let anybody else in for the kind of harassment I'd been getting, so I didn't try to replace the two boys who'd left my employ. I'd been made a prisoner in my own home, which was intolerable. Of course, I could simply run. That option remained. But I found I wanted to stay and fight.

Finally, I called Joe Dawson, who still tended his bar in Seacouver, according to the compuvid lists.

"Methos, what can I do you for?" the old Watcher asked, as if he'd last spoken with me a month ago rather than more than ten years since.

"I'm having a spot of trouble, Joe. Do you know where MacLeod is? I'd like to get in touch with him. I need help, and the people I've hired - let's say, they're in more danger than I care to put your kind in."

"I thought you two spoke a while back."

"We did. But we didn't exchange business cards. I assume he's moved on - away from Paris and Seacouver. He's not still hanging on to that life, is he?"

"No, he's in your neck of the woods now." Joe chuckled. "He lives in Manhattan, Methos."

"Here? He's here?" I was astonished. I couldn't believe MacLeod had that much control. That he could live in the same town with me and stay away. I must've been mistaken about how much he cared for me.

"Sure. I can give you his number - hang on - but he hasn't changed his name. He's listed on vidphone. Been living in New York for a year or more."

"I'll take the number - save me the trouble of looking him up."

"I'm not sure he'd be real anxious to help you, Methos. He sounded pretty bad after he spoke to you."

"Leave that to me, Joe. Just give me his number."

I dialed Mac the minute I got off vid with Joe.

"Methos!" He'd picked up on audio only. Punched up view-mode only after he'd heard my voice. A wise precaution, I thought irrelevantly.

"I'm in a bit of trouble, Mac. I need help. You available?"

"What sort of trouble?"

"I can't be on duty twenty-four hours a day, and whenever I leave my business, my flat, I'm vandalized."

"Vandalized? Is it serious stuff?"

"Depends how you look at it, MacLeod. Cleaning up the glass from broken windows gets pretty tiresome after a while, as you know. I could chuck it all, disappear, but I'd rather catch whoever's doing this to me and finish him off. I'd like to be able to close up shop and go out to dinner without returning to a break-in. The guy's struck a nerve, he's bugging the hell out of me."

"What shop are you talking about, Methos? I thought you worked for somebody else - at that club in the Village."

"That's a while back. Place was burned to the ground. I've bought a bookstore - the one where you guys spotted me. When can you be here?" I asked, taking for granted that he'd want to help me. Joe didn't know everything.

"Tonight. Got some things to attend to first, then I'll come down to your place."

"Thanks, Mac. I owe you one."

"You don't owe me, Methos. You did plenty for me - back when. And not just greasy kid stuff, either. I owe you."


I got off the phone and went up front to check out a couple customers who looked as if they might be encouraged to buy something if I chatted a bit. But the hours passed slowly while I waited for Mac. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been so impatient, so - excited - about seeing anyone. I was ashamed of myself. Ten years, and nothing had changed. I was still missing him. Damn!

I was at the cash register when I heard the explosions. I shooed my customers to safety out the front door and ran to the back. The entire rear end of the store - my flat and the small garden behind it - was in ruins. This time I couldn't avoid the police - they simply arrived, along with the fire department. By the time I'd finished answering their questions and the last of the small explosion fires had been extinguished, it was dark. But it wasn't until everyone but me had cleared out that I felt Mac's aura and went around to the street to meet him. If nothing else, I had the explosions to thank for my more sober mood. I was no longer excited to see him.

"Mac, you're late."

"What happened here? You're not hurt, are you?" he asked, reaching for my arm.

I stepped away. "No, I'm fine. But I think I'll move back to my old sublet. Either that, or leave town."

"You've changed your mind? You won't fight this?"

"What's the point?"

He answered roughly, "You know the point."

"Maybe I'll fight. I don't know yet. Right now, I don't know anything, except that there's a hole in the ground where my home used to be, and I'll need to plug it before I can leave for the night."

"I'll help you. Come on."

We worked for about two hours to secure the back end of the building, using bricks from the garden, and several beams we found in a vacant lot nearby. It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough for me. There really wasn't anything much inside to steal, except books, and I didn't deal in first editions.

Finally, I collapsed on the ground behind the shop, dropping my head into my filthy hands. Mac lifted my chin to look at me, concerned. I moved his hand away.

"Methos?" I didn't answer. "Methos, it's just a shop. I can lend you the cash to rebuild, if you need it."

"No, Mac, I don't need cash. I can handle it. It's not that."

"What, then?"

I sighed. "A few photos. A few trinkets. Souvenirs. That sort of thing. You know the drill."

"I'm so sorry, Methos. I know how terrible it is to lose what can never be replaced." I wondered if he was conscious of the irony in his words.

"Well, I'll get over it," I told him, standing and brushing myself off. "But just now, I'm too beat to fight the loss. I'll be fine in the morning."

We walked around front to the street. I thought I'd hail a taxi to take me up to Carl Marius' old apartment. Then I remembered. "Damn!"

"What?"

I chuckled. "My swords."

"They're inside?"

"Yep. By my bed. And we just sealed my flat up tighter than a drum."

"You're not thinking straight, Methos! We can go in through the bookstore and get them."

"Right. Of course. I must be losing it."

"You're just tired. In shock. Give me the keys, I'll get your swords. Is there anything else you want?"

"No, just the tools of our trade, Mac." He smiled. I handed him my keys. I sat down on the curb to wait. In a few minutes he was back out again, a sword in each hand. "Here you go, Methos!"

I stood and took them from him. "Thanks, Mac. I'm gonna grab a cab. Can I drop you somewhere?" I didn't know where he lived.

He didn't answer for a moment. "If anybody were to come after you now, Methos, you're in no shape to fight."

"I'm tougher than I look."

"Methos -"

"So I'll run."

"Maybe you shouldn't be alone tonight."

"We back at the old stand again, MacLeod? You watch my back, I'll watch yours?"

"That was the plan, wasn't it? That's why you called me."

"I shouldn't have called you. It was a mistake. I don't want to start up again. It won't work."

"Just for tonight. Come on, I'll get us a cab. I'll make dinner. I've got a big place, plenty of room for you, until you find someplace else."

"MacLeod, I've got someplace else," I replied heavily. "The flat where I was staying before I moved into the back of the bookstore. I'm not a homeless waif. I'll be okay. I'll survive. I don't want to go back to your place and be cooked for and coddled and -"

"Just for tonight. You're not fit. Tomorrow, you can move out on your own, if you want."

I sighed again. "You didn't let me finish, Mac. I don't want to be cooked for and coddled and cared for and then kicked out because I'm unacceptable. Not even for one night. The answer is no, MacLeod. Thanks, but no thanks."

I walked away from him quickly and I knew he wasn't following because his aura faded and then disappeared entirely the farther away I moved. I hailed a cab and was back at Carl Marius' sublet in twenty minutes.


Spring, 2008, Methos' Subleted Apartment, New York City

My doorman was out cold in the lobby when I got there. Someone had done a thorough job of beating him to a pulp.

I ran up to my flat to vid for an ambulance.

My apartment was wide open. The lock had been smashed and the door was off its hinges.

Inside, I saw that the place had been trashed again. I'd need to put in a lot of work before I could sleep there. I found the vidphone and called an ambulance for the doorman. Then I waited with him in the lobby until I heard the siren. It was time for me to disappear for a while, before the cops came and asked me questions for which I had no answers.

I suppose I was in shock. Certainly, I was exhausted. At any rate, I wasn't thinking clearly. I reasoned that I didn't know where Mac lived so I couldn't take him up on his offer of a place to stay the night.

I walked for a few blocks, then crossed Central Park West and sat down on a bench outside the park. It was a dangerous place to sleep but no more so than anywhere else I'd tried to live recently.

I was dozing off when I remembered what Joe'd told me. MacLeod had kept his name. I could get his address from compu-post - if not for his home, maybe for his place of business. Finally I realized I could simply call him at the number Joe'd given me. Chances were, there'd be a connection that routed his incoming vids to follow wherever he went. I found a vid kiosk.

"MacLeod here."

"Duncan, it's Methos. Things are a little more serious than I thought. They've trashed my old place, too. Put my doorman out of commission. Can I take you up on your offer? Maybe between the two of us we can find out who's doing this and close him down."

"But not tonight. Tonight, you just rest up. Where are you now? I'll come and get you."

"74th and Central Park West. Outside the park, on a bench. Like a homeless waif," I told him, grinning at the screen.

"Yeah, well, not for long. Wait where you are, I'm only a few minutes from there."

"I'll be here. No place left to go."

"I noticed."


Spring, 2008, Duncan MacLeod's Duplex Condo, Manhattan, New York City

Mac was as good as his word. He arrived before I had a chance to miss him and bundled me into his limo. We were at his home in minutes.

This time Mac surprised me. His building was luxurious, not at all spartan or low-profile like his old barge or the loft above his dojo. It looked like the home of a wealthy man. Which was what he was, of course.

When we got up to his apartment I whistled appreciatively. "Nice place you've got here, MacLeod. Decorate yourself?"

"No, I got someone in." He smiled. "Somehow, I just didn't feel up to doing it myself."

"Well, it's quite lovely." It was lovely. Modern, but beautiful. Actually, I liked the furnishings and the colour scheme, the pale, neutral colors - white, beige, cream. Very relaxing. There were a few nice bookcases finished in black lacquer, a Chinese effect, yet modern. A lot of glass and brass. A couple stone sculptures to complete the picture. But no antiques, if you didn't count Mac and me.

He poured me a scotch without asking what I wanted. For medicinal purposes only, no doubt, I thought. "I knew you'd like it," he replied with a smile. "You always complained about my other places - they weren't fancy enough for you."

"I never complained. Simply - commented. My flat was no better."

"No?"

I remembered too late that he'd never seen my Paris flat. I'd never invited him over. "No. It was small, sparsely furnished."

"You didn't lose all your furniture, did you, in the explosion at the store?"

"No. That stuff's in storage. I didn't ship it here when I left Europe."

"The Methos Chronicles?"

"Safe."

"That's good." He joined me on a long sofa and sipped his drink. "Are you hungry, Methos?"

"Not really. Today's been - upsetting. I don't think I could eat anything quite yet."

"Well, let me know when you're hungry. I'll order something in."

"I thought you said you'd cook."

He sighed. "Not tonight. I'm pretty tired."

"You sound worse than me, MacLeod. What's been going on in your life lately?" Suddenly, a horrifying thought struck me. "Nobody's been having at you, too?"

"No, no. Nothing like that. Just - a lot of tricky business deals. My corporation's involved in a takeover. Here in New York, and in Tokyo, in Singapore, in Amsterdam. I've been on a plane to one or another of those cities at least three times a month for the last year or so. And it's not finished yet."

"Your corporation? What are you selling, Mac? Or is it, buying?"

He grinned. "Both. Computer components." He sighed. "I never did anything on this scale before, nothing with this - scope. I find it exhausting."

"I'll bet. Knowing who to trust. Timing. That sort of thing."

He chuckled. "Should have known you'd get the gist of it faster than me. For all your poverty."

"I'm not poor, Mac. Why do you think I am?"

He raised an eyebrow. "I don't think it. Not anymore. I used to."

"But you do think so. You offered to loan me money tonight."

"Just a reflex. From the past. From when I believed in Adam Pierson."

I smiled. "Those were the days, right, Mac? When Adam Pierson walked the earth?" I held out my glass for a refill. He got up, took my glass and went to his bar.

"There never was an Adam Pierson, Methos," he replied, his tone less bitter than sad. He selected a cigar from the humidor by the bar and fiddled with it.

"Ah, there's the rub!" I quipped. "I don't think I actually apologized to you for that deception, Mac. I'm sorry. I never should have pretended so very thoroughly, so very successfully, to be Adam Pierson."

"You couldn't resist. You knew who I needed - you'd read my Chronicles. You knew I'd lost Darius - nothing you could do about him." He gestured with his cigar, continuing to talk while he poured drinks. "But then it was Fitzcairn. How could you resist replacing him? It was an act of love, and a stroke of genius. If it hadn't damn near destroyed me, I'd be grateful. I certainly welcomed the deception with open arms, at the time."

I sat up straighter, taking the drink he'd brought me from his hand. "What are you talking about, MacLeod?"

"I've had plenty of time to consider things, Methos. Ten years." He nodded. "Even I could figure it out, given enough time."

"Figure what out?" I asked, a bit frightened.

"Why you did all the things you did, when we were together."

"And why did I do those things, do you think?"

"To protect me. At first, from yourself. Then, from anybody. Anybody at all."

"That's not a why. That's a what."

"Methos, I don't know why, if that's not the why of it - to protect me."

"I did want to protect you, Mac. Back then, I wanted it more than anything in the world."

"I know." He stared at me. "And now. Still want to protect me, Methos?"

I bit my lip. "I'm sorry I hurt you with the lies, Mac. It just happened."

"What? What happened?"

"A splinter, a sliver of me - Adam Pierson - became the whole."

"That's it?"

"The lies - snowballed. Suddenly, that's all there was - lies. It's why I left."

"I know." He put his drink down and took my glass out of my hand. "Look, I'm hungry, if you're not. There's a Brazilian restaurant downtown. The food's really good. You'll like it. Come."

I shook my head. "I'm not hungry."

"Keep me company. They serve beer."

"Okay. But let's make it an early night. I'm really dead on my feet."

"Sure. Early night. But I wanna eat first."


Spring, 2008, A Brazilian Restaurant, Manhattan, New York City

The restaurant was quite posh, located in the diamond district but up a flight of stairs. It was clearly a discreet "members only" sort of place.

"Where are your servants, Mac?" I asked suddenly, as I followed him up the steps.

"I let them go when I discovered where you were, Methos."

"Why?"

"Privacy. Actually, I still have a servant who comes and cleans. And my chauffeur is available when I need him. Then there's my private secretary - a man, by the way. My lawyers, my accountants, my butler. The cook. They just don't live in anymore."

"You've really gone whole-hog on this money thing, haven't you, Mac?"

He shrugged. "I'm a businessman."

"That's the reasoning behind it?"

"No. The reasoning is - it's good to keep busy."

"I simply can't get my mind around it. Duncan MacLeod, Immortal Tycoon," I commented, sitting at the table the maitre d' showed us to. "You moving in those kinds of monied circles, Mac. I remember how you used to feel about rich Immortals. You never trusted them."

"I've changed, Methos. I told you that. In more ways than one." He studied the menu for a moment, then looked up at me. "I still call myself Duncan MacLeod. But I've dropped the description that used to go with it."

"You don't think of yourself as 'of the Clan MacLeod' anymore? Chivalry is dead? That sort of change?"

"That's right. I'm on my own. No clan, no family. No one to think about but myself."

"Like me."

"You're a good teacher, Methos. I learned lessons from you I didn't think I'd ever learn."

"You didn't want to learn them, Mac. I'm not sure I did right to try to teach you anything at all."

He shrugged. "Maybe not, but I learned anyway."

I narrowed my eyes. "And just what did you learn, Duncan MacLeod, of no Clan at all?"

"I've done things these last ten years I wouldn't have believed I'd ever do." He smiled. "And it hasn't bothered me a bit."

I didn't answer him. What was there to say? Whatever my intentions were ten years ago, destroying Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod wasn't one of them. I'd only hoped to toughen him up a bit, for the Game. Make him stronger, better fit to survive. Not ruin him forever. If he'd changed for the worse, it wasn't my fault. I'd nothing to reproach myself about.

The waiter came to our table and Mac ordered steak and rice with a special Brazilian sauce. The smells in the restaurant were tantalizing and I realized I was hungry after all. I told the waiter I'd have the same. Mac selected a wine and we waited in silence until it arrived. I drank some before I spoke again.

"Did you do this to me, MacLeod?"

"What?"

"You know what. Flush me out. There weren't any loved ones to endanger, but ways were found. As Kalas found ways to flush you out. Ways to revenge himself on you. Did you do this to me?"

"How could you believe that? Would I break a boy's jaw? Steal a student's scholarship? Burn down a man's business, risk destroying the Methos Chronicles?"

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod wouldn't. No." But he had, or he couldn't know all the details.

"Well, then -" he replied, sitting back on the cushioned chair and searching his pockets for his cigar case.

"You've changed."

"Come on, Methos. Nobody changes that much."

"Don't they?" I squinted at him.

"Well, maybe they do. But not me."

"I'd miss him if he died - Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."

"You haven't seen him in ten years, Methos. Your choice, not his. Missing him is a fiction. Something in your head. It's not real. Or you couldn't have left."

"You still miss Adam Pierson, don't you?" I retorted.

"I - I miss - you."

"Me? You mean, Methos?"

"That's right."

"Methos the Horseman, who cannot change, couldn't have changed? I don't think so."

"Yes."

"Why?" I asked, curious. "What use was he to you? More trouble than he was worth, surely."

"You haven't asked after Amanda, Methos."

I frowned. "She's all right. I've kept tabs."

"If you say so."

"You haven't been in touch?" I asked. "Surprised to hear that. You two were very close, once upon a time. It was lovely. Romantic."

"She didn't see it that way. After you left, neither did I."

"What are we talking about, Mac? You're not saying there've been no other women?"

"I'm not saying it. But it's true. No women, no men. Nobody."

"How long?"

"Ten years."

"Why not, Mac?"

He shrugged. "Waiter! More wine!"

"We haven't finished this bottle yet!"

"We will."

"My God, are you salvageable?"

"You walk away, Methos, you have to be prepared for things to change while you're gone. You should know that."

"Change, yes. Disintegrate entirely, no! I'm not responsible for all the ills that flesh is heir to!" I wasn't, was I?

"What you see is what you get, Methos! You walked away. It might not have worked out the way you hoped it would."

"You survived," I insisted.

He smiled and gazed at me steadily. "Did I?"

"Didn't you?"

"Not as well as you did, Methos. Not so much experience on my own. Too many questions with nobody to answer them. No. I really didn't survive. Not exactly."

I was horrified. He was telling me he'd survived but he'd lost his soul. He was telling me that I'd go on missing him forever, because who he was, was gone. That's what he believed about himself, and expected me to accept about him.

But Duncan didn't know everything there was to know, anymore than Joe Dawson did. Not about himself. Or about me.


"You did those things to me, to my associates - for revenge?"

"No. Simply, to force you to come back to me."

"You're kidding."

He shook his head. "Not kidding."

"Why?"

"Because Duncan MacLeod loved you - and I remember him."

I laughed. "This is a joke, right?"

"Why would I joke about it? You broke my heart."

"I? Because you loved me? Why do you think I left?"

"I know why. Now. But then, I didn't."

"And now, it doesn't matter any longer. That's it, isn't it?" He didn't answer me. "Duncan? The hour is past?"

"Bright boy." He poured more wine into my glass. "Have some wine, Methos. It's good, isn't it?"

"Best I've tasted since the fourth century. B.C., that is." I grinned. My nostrils flared. This, I could deal with. This I could understand. Revenge. For lost innocence, lost chances, lost love. This, I knew.

"What are you thinking, Methos? That it's finally come to swords between us?"

"Not at all. Too fast, isn't that?"

"Right. I've something else in mind. Can you guess?" He smiled and I was reminded of Dark Duncan. Then, I hadn't dealt to the Dark One; I'd sought the Bright One. Now, Dark Duncan's time had come.

"You've still got a fine sense of proportion, Mac. Just enough. No murder, merely mayhem. Start small and build. Save murder for last."

"You shut me out, Methos. Out of your life. So I shut you out of your own life. Your hold's so tenuous, your grip so loose, nothing much was needed, to do that."

"Well, we're none of us perfect."

"And now," he said solemnly, "none of us wants to be."


I was liberated by what'd happened to Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. No need to walk softly. I could stamp my feet. The deaf can't hear, no matter how hard you stamp your feet.

Dinner over, he asked me softly, "Will you come back home with me, Methos? Or must I force you?"

"Willingly. I'll come willingly. You need only ask."

"What?"

"Back then, you needed only to ask. But you were afraid and so was I. So you didn't ask, and neither did I, and here we are." I stood and put on my jacket. I raised an eyebrow. "Coming?"

He stood and signed the check. He grabbed his coat and held it over his arm, protecting the sword within its folds. Out in the street, he shrugged into the coat. He looked at the sky. "Nice night. We'll walk."

"Fine with me."

"Why'd you leave, Methos? That way - without a word - after everything we'd been through. After you'd forced me to take up my sword again. You must've known I'd be lost without you."

"You still don't get it, do you, Mac? I knew nothing. I understood nothing. I worked in the dark, blind as you. Deaf and dumb and blind as you."

"No."

"Yes. Oh, yes." I searched the skies for some way to make him understand. "I could never make you believe me, could I? Believe that I was just a guy. That I didn't have all the answers."

"I believed you."

"No, you didn't. You wanted ancient wisdom. I could only offer - who I was. You were in love with a legend, with the oldest man still living. I was in love with a deluded child."

"So you abandoned the deluded child? That made sense to you?" he asked angrily.

"I couldn't have cared less, Mac. I simply ran from a threat and hid. That's all. I didn't abandon you. Nothing so grandiose. I just ran away."

"But you wouldn't have run, if you'd known I cared. That's what you're telling me." When I didn't answer, he grabbed my arm. "Is that what you're telling me?"

"What do you want, Mac? If it's me, you've got it. If it's a teacher or a saint or the fountain of wisdom, you've come to the wrong man. There is no Methos, the oldest living Immortal. There's no Adam Pierson or Michael Benedict either. There's just me. A tired old man who's very glad to see you. I loved you once for all you were." I paused. No, I wouldn't say I loved him still, that would spoil it, if he knew. "I could love you again, even now, for what remains of you. And for whoever you've become. I just can't be anyone but me."

"You loved me once."

"How often must I repeat it?"

"You could love me again, even as I am?"

"Dark or bright, Mac. Makes no difference to me."

"How could it not make a difference?"

"Because that's who I am. The kind of man who doesn't give a damn if you've slipped from the straight and narrow. I only tried to make a difference for your sake, because you do give a damn."

"You don't know who I am anymore."

"Oh yes I do. I know lies when I hear them." We were back in front of his apartment building. I gestured for him to walk in. His doorman opened the front door and we went to the elevator.

As we rode up I waited for him to speak but he didn't say a word until he'd let us into his flat.

Then he said, "What'd you mean?"

"I was bewildered for a moment when I realized someone was systematically attacking me, because I thought you were doing those things. But I dismissed you as the culprit, because you couldn't have done them."

"I did do them."

"No, not all of them."

He looked up. "I didn't beat up your doorman, Methos -"

"Of course you didn't."

"But the rest -" he shuddered. "I did it all."

"Yes. But the boy's broken jaw was an accident, wasn't it? An over-zealous hireling's work. And I bet the other boy, with the scholarship, has a better one now. Isn't that right, Mac? And the owner of the comedy club received ample recompense for his loss by fire?"

"How? How could you know this?"

"Because I know you, and I know there is no such person as Dark Duncan. I tried hard enough, often enough, to conjure him up, wouldn't you agree?" When he didn't respond, I added, "I worked at it, Mac. It was the only gift I could give you - to bring out the Dark, so you'd survive in the Game."

"You succeeded."

"No, I didn't."

"You can't know how I've lived, what I've done, these last ten years -"

"You grew up. I know how hard it can be to stomach that. Most of us never even try to grow up. It hurts too much."

"I've destroyed men with my business deals -"

"Right."

"You don't believe me?"

"I believe you've done what was necessary to effect equitable business arrangements on a global scale. I believe those with less scrupulous aims fell by the wayside. I believe that."

"And the innocent people who shared their lives -"

"Paid for their trust, or their greed, or their stupidity, as people have paid since the world began. Nobody's entirely innocent."

"Now who's the fool?" he asked me, walking over to his living room window and looking out at the city.

"You were always ruthless, Mac. You just never knew that about yourself." He turned and stared at me. I gestured, helpless to explain. Finally, I told him, "Salvation has nothing to do with perfection, Duncan. We're none of us perfect."

Then I sat down in a deep chair and tried to relax. I was cold, and bone tired. I hoped he didn't want to do much more of this tonight. But I supposed I owed him as much of it as he needed. Ten years' worth. Whatever he'd done back then to hide the truth of his love for me - from himself and from me - my guilt was greater. I'd loved him too, and I was the one who ran away.

He looked down at the carpet. Cleared his throat. "I don't know what happened to me, Methos. I only know, from the moment I saw you, when Kalas threatened, there was no turning back. There was no one else. There couldn't be, no matter how I tried."

Always so courageous, I thought, thrilled. "Same here, Mac," I said dryly.

"I've missed you."

"Same here, Mac."

"Methos - it hurts."

I levered myself out of the chair very fast. I was on him in a moment. I held him as tightly as I could. "It's supposed to hurt," I whispered, my mouth brushing his temple. "But it's over now. I'm here. And I love you."

"You're here," he echoed. "I couldn't bear it, that you weren't."

"Missing me is a mistake in judgment."

"Missing you is my name."

"So, what'll your name be now, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, now that I'm here?"

"There's always something missing, Methos. Isn't there?" he asked, his voice rough, his eyes searching mine for the truth. Some things never change.

I smiled and whispered, "Not necessarily."

 


End