by Maxine Mayer
Joe'd asked me the question but I hadn't answered him. "Where have you been?" he'd wanted to know. I couldn't answer him. In truth, I wasn't sure where I'd been. Or the other thing which Joe hadn't asked - how I'd been.
I told him, "Here and there - mostly there." The press of events ensured that he wouldn't ask again, and I was glad of it.
Circa post-"Archangel" through "Indiscretions" ~ ~ ~
Well, I did know something of where I'd been. Not with Joe Dawson. And not with Duncan MacLeod. That much I knew.
The old one accompanied home, put to bed, I'd gone to the young one, but hadn't approached him.
The young one on the road alone, in despair, off to a monastery, settled himself in.
I hadn't joined him. I'd watched from afar.
My Watcher credentials long ago turned in, my Watcher tattoo long since removed, still, I watched.
I don't know if it had always been my nature - to watch - but now it'd become second-nature to me, and an unhappy task, this time around, deeply unsatisfying.
I felt what I was, keenly. Felt useless. No other word for it. Simply - useless. To anyone, ever again.
A watch once set, I was loath to abandon it. I, too, settled myself in.
A small town an hour's hike from the outermost grounds of the monastery where Duncan MacLeod mourned and struggled, atoned and punished himself. But kept in shape - always that.
A vigil once set, I settled into it, let the feel of it settle in my bones.
Anonymous, clothed as a native, speaking the language, only skin-color separating me from the townsfolk - outwardly.
All that I was, all that I wasn't, separating me from each man, woman, child and animal, each flower, leaf, blade of grass in the village, in truth.
I was Immortal. All else was Mortal. That was the truth.
I wasn't part of anything, really, ever. Not part. Apart. Set apart always, from the beginning. Set apart later, by my Immortality. Set apart finally, by my survival. And what I'd done, to ensure my survival.
Now, set apart by my - choice.
To watch Duncan MacLeod - mostly there.
One thing more - I did another thing while I watched.
How useless can you get?
It took a year but he came out of the monastery and went back to Paris. I followed closely, out of sensing range.
He was still crazy.
I was still praying. Mostly there, in Paris, not so very far from the scene of his - eventual - triumph.
Sometimes, I prayed at the grave - Richie's grave. I took care to keep out of sight because Dawson came weekly. MacLeod, only once.
That's where I'd been when the killer challenged me - on holy ground - how fortunate!
I'd been determined to keep away from the rest of them - the Mortal, Joe Dawson, the Immortals, MacLeod and Amanda, and any others I could avoid. But my useless prayer vigil got me caught. Ironic and sad.
I helped Joe Dawson - I was embroiled again.
As if I'd never watched, stood vigil, stayed away. Mostly there.
Once again, I was mostly here.
Circa post-"Not to Be" ~ ~ ~
"You're useless! You know that, Methos? Absolutely useless!" This from MacLeod, who clearly didn't mean it.
"Never claimed to be useful!" I replied. "Never wanted to be!"
"I ask you for one thing! One thing! And you say no!"
"Badgering me will get you nowhere, Mac. I'm not doing it."
"Methos, please! I need to get away - I don't want to be alone. I'm - afraid."
"You're crazy, MacLeod! Absolutely out of your gourd, if you think I'll go traipsing around the world with you, simply because you're lonely!"
We were on his Paris barge and he'd told me about his dreams during the fuss with the Irishman. I'd stared at him, wondering where on earth all that came from - his fear I'd go rotten if he wasn't around. Or perhaps I'd been amazed that he believed I wasn't rotten, just because he'd been around.
Now I lounged on his barge floor, against a couple of pillows propped against the wall, sipping Indian tea, listening to the man lie straight to my face.
"Not just lonely. Afraid." He stood there - against the opposite wall from where I sprawled - like some dark-haired angel, dressed all in black - odd, that, after the white he'd worn for months. He was quivering with - something. Passion, certainly. Fear, possibly. Something else, definitely. What? I didn't know.
"What of, MacLeod? More demons?" He didn't reply. So I took up the thread of my thoughts, aloud this time. "You scared I'll go 'bad' if you leave me alone?"
"Don't be silly! That's the one thing about all the stuff Fitz - that I dreamed about Fitz - that I couldn't believe or accept."
"You do believe it. That's what your dreams are telling you."
"No, I don't -"
"You do! You'd think killing Richie would have cured you of hubris once and for all - but no! You still think the world revolves around you! Worse than ever!"
"I don't think that -"
"What's your interpretation, then? Of your 'dreams' about Fitz? And Joe, and Richie, and Tessa, and me?"
"I don't know for sure, but I think it's just my survival instinct kicking in. Trying to give me a reason to go on." He shook his head and leaned back against the barge wall. Then slid down and seated himself on a level with me. His voice shook a little. "I - don't seem to have one, anymore."
"God, Mac, you're gonna drive me crazy! How much reason to live does a man need? There are people who love you - isn't that enough? Must they all go down the drain if you're not around, for them to be enough?"
"Don't you get it, Methos? I don't feel it any longer - how I'm loved. Yes, in my head I know it. I know Joe loves me. I know Amanda loves me. I just don't - feel it anymore." His eyes were filling with tears. All I wished was to get away before he said anything more. Anything about me loving him.
"That frightens you?"
"From the top of my head to the soles of my feet," he replied with a small smile.
"So you've decided it's just a trick your subconscious was playing on you, to keep you alive? The stories Fitzcairn told you in your - dream?"
"I think so. Something like that, at least." He nodded. "Exaggerated. Like dreams always are. Strange and disjointed. Illogical. But filled with the kinds of truths that I would accept. That I do accept."
"Enough to keep you going," I added sagely.
"Exactly. Just enough to keep me going."
"But not for long." I licked my lips. Perhaps I'd stopped praying too soon.
"Methos, I know you don't need me. But I need you. I need - what you've got a lot of. The will to survive, even when things aren't happy and beautiful and full of joy."
"It's not that easy, Mac. You've done fine up to now. I don't imagine I'm indispensable. I've got no delusions of grandeur." I quirked an eyebrow and one side of my mouth went up. "I'm no Jimmy Stewart."
He nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe I had it the wrong way around - in the dream."
"How'd you mean?"
"Maybe I flipped the mirror. Maybe what I really believe is that I'd go bad, without you."
"It's all nonsense, MacLeod," I retorted, finally getting up from the cushions and circling the barge. I went to the fridge but there was no beer. That much I knew. So I didn't bother opening it. I sighed, exasperated.
"Maybe so. But I feel it - I need you. I need - a teacher."
"For what? You're already the best swordsman in the world. The best martial artist. The best - everything!"
"What do you think, Methos? For survival - it's what you do best." And he had the gall to smile.
"You're doing fine, Highlander. Just fine. Over four hundred years and not a scratch on you. You don't need me as your teacher. You need -" I stopped, appalled at what I'd almost told him. That he needed me as his lover. Not even true. I was simply projecting.
"What? What do you think I need, Methos?"
I thought fast. "You need a new reason to be. Not the old chivalrous one that your dream rehashed. 'Without whom the rest of us would go to hell in a basket.' Obviously, that's not good enough for you anymore. It was all your - subconscious - could think up. But it isn't enough."
"So teach me. Help me understand what keeps you going. Why you don't give up. Why you kept on, despite all the regrets, the memories, the losses, the darkness." He was earnest but there was something there I didn't track, and I didn't like it.
"It's not - teachable."
"Then let me - absorb it." And again, the pitch. The onslaught. The overwhelming hubris. That if he asked, I'd do it. That's what it amounted to. He believed it, that if he asked for anything in the world, I'd do it, give it to him, find it, bring it to him. He wasn't wrong. "Please, Methos. Come with me."
"I can't." There, I'd said it. And now he'd ask why.
"Why can't you?"
For a moment I didn't answer. Then I asked a question. "Where have I been for the past year and a half, MacLeod?"
"I don't know. It was all I could do to figure out where I was. I couldn't think about you. Where were you? Tell me. Please."
"I've been with you." I'd said it. Now the proverbial merde would hit the fan.
"With me?" Just echoing. Not sinking in.
"That's right. Outside the monastery walls and grounds. But - with you."
He frowned. For a moment, I thought he'd come down on the side of thinking I'd somehow betrayed him - his expression resembled nothing so much as the way he'd looked when he'd asked me whether Cassandra'd been telling the truth.
"Methos -" But he didn't finish the thought. He choked up.
"You were there?"
"The whole time?" A question asked to stall for time, until he'd digested what I'd told him.
"Mostly there, the whole time. First I settled Joe in. Then - yes. Mostly there. In the village. Watching."
"Just watching?" He sounded suspicious. Perhaps he thought I'd been protecting him from other Immortals.
"Not just. Nothing 'just' or 'merely' about it. Totally. I was watching and I was praying." I gestured. "You were never alone, MacLeod. You'll never be alone. Not while I live."
"Praying?" A little slow, MacLeod, to take it in.
"For me?" Cripes, the man was such an egotist. But he was right, of course.
"No, I was praying for rain! Of course, for you!"
Finally, the question. "Why?"
"Joe loves you. Amanda loves you. I love you. It's quite simple, MacLeod. It might not be enough for you. It's plenty good enough for us. We don't need to believe you'll go to hell if we're not around. We just -" I shrugged. "We just, merely, only, stupidly, love you. And that's enough."
He paced twice. Back and forth, the long way up and down the barge. Then he stopped. In front of me. "No."
"No?" I smiled. "What's that mean? I'm not lying -"
"No. It's not simple. Not where you're concerned, Methos."
"Okay. You want to go on a trip, get away. You don't want to be alone. You're lonely. You're frightened. Fine. I'll come along. Satisfied?"
"You asked. You beseeched. You begged. You talked me into it. Now you say you don't want me along?"
"Now I say, why?"
"Why are you agreeing to come? What are you hiding? What's your game?"
"Cripes, MacLeod, you can't have it both ways! You want me with you, I'll come. No game."
"Then the other thing, Methos. You don't love me, not like Joe and Amanda."
"Okay. I don't. I'm just easily entertained. You're a laugh riot."
"Joe Dawson left me alone while I was in the monastery. Amanda didn't even trouble to find out where I'd gone after I killed Richie."
"If you say so."
"I know it. But you - you prayed? You went where I was and prayed? For a year? Longer?"
"Until it was over, Mac. Least I could do."
"The least?" Incredulous.
Patiently, I explained. "MacLeod, I didn't prevent what happened to you. To Richie. To everybody. I didn't understand but that's no excuse. I wanted to help you get over it. The least I could do."
"Sue me." I was getting really upset. I hadn't meant to tell him that - it was a compromise. I could tell him the truth, or I could tell him the facts. I told him the facts and it would lead him straight to the truth, if I wasn't really careful. I was not finding the right words. I was not being properly careful. I was losing. Damn.
He went another road.
"What do you think? Can you imagine any circumstance in which you'd join Kronos - go rotten - again?"
"Why not? No circumstance? No disillusionment? No bereavement? No - pain? That would tip you over the edge?"
"No." My lips were a straight line. I opened them only to emit the one syllable. He still didn't believe I'd changed. Worse than Kronos. Damn him. Both of them.
"No? What if - oh - what if I died? Lost my head? Was gone. For good."
"Unthinkable." I was staring at the floor. That was the truth. The world without MacLeod was unthinkable. I couldn't picture it. The image wouldn't come. I swallowed.
"'People die,' you said. 'Immortals die,' you said. 'Goodbye,' you said."
"Why not? Because you won't let me die?" He smiled. I didn't see it - but it was in his voice.
"I won't." Stubborn.
"That much?" he asked, more smile in his voice.
"Much more, much worse. You don't want to know."
"But I do know. Through a glass, darkly. I'd like to know, face to face." Earnest.
I raised my eyes, then. "You wanna know?" I was angry.
"Fine. I'll tell you." I stopped.
"I - I'm in love with you. Is that what you want to hear?"
"Yes." His turn for monosyllables.
"Well - now you know. And no, there's nothing that could happen - even the unthinkable - that would turn me rotten again. Nothing. Hasn't been, for millenia, and now - never will be again."
"So - Fitz was right and wrong, in my dream. I was right and wrong?"
"Yes. If you hadn't been - alive. If there hadn't been - you - the world often would be a bleak place, for me. Without joy, without passion. But no, I wouldn't - revert. Nothing could do that, make me revert. I've changed. If I hadn't, I couldn't love you." When he didn't reply, I added, "You see how that is, don't you, MacLeod? I wouldn't have - appreciated - you, had I not changed, permanently."
"I should be so lucky," he remarked.
I didn't understand. "How'd you mean?" I was praying again. For myself, now. Desperately. That this wouldn't turn ugly and that I wouldn't lose - everything. All well and good, to survive on air. Not pleasant, though. Not like surviving on love.
He repeated it. "I should be so lucky. To be - like you."
"What, be like me, carrying regrets that weigh you down until you can't even sit? Until you can only sprawl?"
"Courageous. A fighter. So passionate." He was crying! I couldn't believe it.
"You're daft, MacLeod!" I didn't dignify his remarks with a verbal contradiction, only the epithet.
"I'm not. Daft."
Okay, nevermind. "So - where'd you have in mind to go. Here, there? Mostly there?" I grinned.
"Doesn't matter. Here, there. Mostly there. With you, Methos." He came closer, and I turned my head, looked away. "Look at me. Face to face."
I looked. Then I closed my eyes. "What is it, MacLeod?"
"Don't you want a - response? To your confession?" Gently.
"What response? Not necessary. I know all I need to know." Stubborn. True. I'd stopped praying. I was safe. He still wanted me with him. No need to pray.
"You're not even curious?" he asked.
"Whether your - feelings - are returned?"
"I can wait." Stupid. Ambiguous. "I mean, I can wait to find out. No need to know now. Let it be a surprise." Flippant. Stupid.
"You're sure? You don't want to hear?" I opened my eyes. A grin on his face. Not triumphant. Happy.
I gestured with both hands - a mistake. My hands shook. "Look, MacLeod, I'm an old man. I don't - need - anything. Do you understand? I don't need - period. I want, occasionally. I'd like, sometimes. I need, hardly ever. From you, I don't need at all. I've got what I need."
"How old did you say you were? Fifteen? Seventeen?" Outright grin. Damned arrogant bastard.
"I didn't say. Joe Dawson said. Your point is?"
"Does it make you happy to be in doubt? To wonder? To worry? To - fret?" What a word, from him!
"It makes me happy to love you. I'm sure I won't be happy to hear you don't return my affections. Therefore, I prefer to hear nothing."
"You never did care much for the truth."
"I never did care much for bullshit, either!" Furious.
"Passionate bastard, aren't you?" he said, this time I heard longing in his voice. I wondered why.
"Got enough passion for two, is that it?"
"Yes. If need be."
He laughed, then, and I came as close as I'd ever come to smashing him in the face. He said, "You're making my mouth water."
"I said, you're making my mouth water. All that passion and no place to go. I see you don't want to waste any on me."
"What are you talking about?"
"How about it, Methos? Care to waste some passion on me?"
"You arrogant bastard! I've wasted more passion on you than you deserve!"
"But you love me - you said so!"
"Doesn't make you worthy!"
"You're wasting your love on me?"
"Maybe I am. Sometimes I think so."
"When you ask me stupid questions!" Exasperated, I moved away, walked around the barge. Checked the fridge. Maybe there was a beer in there, after all. Maybe pigs fly. Then I looked at him. "It doesn't matter. It's -" I lifted a shoulder - "Only once before in my life was I truly - part of something. Not - apart."
"When? The Horsemen?" Sometimes, he's uncanny. His gift for making connections, heart to heart - frightens me.
"And this - what we have - is like that?"
"I can't explain. Only describe it. It's like a rope - so long, just that long, no longer. I'm tied to you as if there were a rope around our waists. Some slack -" I held my hands about a foot apart. "Not much. No, I don't understand it. No, I don't mind."
"A rope? Not a chain?"
"Not a chain. You'd think - only a rope - how strong could it be?" I drifted for a minute until he spoke and called me back.
"What does it mean, Methos? That you love me?"
"Yes, I figure it means I love you. Sometimes I believe you love me too."
Might as well, I thought. "When the Horsemen business came up, you followed. You followed me. And you trusted me. It wasn't about Cassandra. It was about the rope. So I was convinced you loved me. Then, I wasn't sure again. Comes and goes. It doesn't matter."
"No. It doesn't." Facing him, really strong. "It may not be - love - on both sides. But it's there. It's there like - I dunno. Like a bird. Like a lion. Like a mountain."
"There? You mean - it's real? Whatever it is?" he asked.
"That's what I mean," I said wearily. "Real. Whatever it is. However it changes. Wherever you are. Wherever I am. Here, there, mostly there." Fatalistic, I muttered, "Damn thing just gets worse."
"Worse? You mean, stronger?" I nodded and he said, "I noticed that."
"I did what I could, Duncan." I was apologizing. "I tried to - break it. Cut it."
"Yes. I tried. You had a go, too. We both knew somehow that it couldn't be a good thing, couldn't be right for us."
"No. Not if we want to survive. Be - viable."
"So you tried?"
"I tried. To break the bond. Cut the rope. It doesn't happen. I figured it out. The more we tried, the stronger the rope bound us. So I stopped worrying about it."
"Went with the flow?"
I nodded. Remembered. How awful the flow was, sometimes. A year in a monastery. A year playing footsie with a gaggle of Immortal Female geese. Dreadful. "I've got scarcely any life of my own now. Even the Watchers are finished for me. If not for Joe and Amanda, I don't think more than two words a week would cross my lips. 'Another beer.' Those two words."
He grinned. "You're useless, you know that? But then, so am I. I'm gonna get us killed one of these days, if I keep on calling you without saying a word."
I was startled. How'd he know? He was Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. That's how. And that's why I loved him. "Yep."
"We've gotta get a life, Methos." He grinned.
I cursed him. "Activist!"
"Useless!" he cursed in return.
I smiled. "You can stop calling. I'm here."
Neither of us said anything for a bit. Then Duncan spoke. "We've gotta get a life. Together."
I nodded calmly.
"When the time's right, Methos, just do it, okay?"
"When the time's right, I will," I agreed. Only fair.
"All that passion - I can't wait!" he encouraged, with another sweet smile.
I wondered if I still had the nerve. Remembered how. It'd been so long. "Bribe me."
"I suppose you mean beer?" I nodded. "So predictable."
When he returned with the beer, I found I still had the nerve. Still remembered how. After all, it was a lot like praying.