by Maxine Mayer
Warning Death Story
When we got back to Dawson's flat, Joe and I stared at each other, completely unmoored by this latest development in the neverending saga of Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. To each of us, it was incredible, well beyond belief, that Duncan had killed Richie Ryan, taken Richie Ryan's head. How could it happen? I felt as though I'd gone insane, along with Duncan.
My mind circled around memories while I drove Dawson home, after comforting him as he cried when he saw Duncan kneeling over Richie's headless corpse.
I remembered MacLeod's Dark Quickening. It seemed like centuries ago. Then, I'd hardly known Mac, and he'd had no idea who I was. Then, I'd been able to bring him out of his despair and darkness. Much as I'd loved Duncan, even then, I'd retained a little objectivity, enough to help me exercise reason, and pull him out.
Now - I didn't know that I had any objectivity at all, where Duncan MacLeod was concerned. Our lives had become such a morass of passion and anger and despair and love, all mixed together - his with mine - that I was in too tight to see with clever scheming eyes. Way too tight.
So I took the easy road and stayed with Dawson rather than follow MacLeod when he walked out of the ugly abandoned Paris racetrack where he'd beheaded Richie Ryan under the influence of a Demon. Or so he thought.
Joe shook his head over and over again, going about the business of getting his coat off and hanging it away in a closet, pouring drinks for the two of us, settling himself into an easychair - not a deep one, but not a straightbacked chair, either - and trying to relax for a minute, now we'd got him home.
"Did this really happen, Methos? Or am I dreaming?" he asked me, finally.
"It happened, Joe. Make no mistake. It happened."
"How? How could Duncan do it? He loved the kid!"
"Joe, we let him do it. We didn't try to stop him, not really. Sure, we spoke to him, we listened. But when it really came down to it, we did nothing, either of us. We're to blame."
"No - no, Methos, we're not. No more than if we'd been in another city when Duncan lost it! We couldn't stop him -"
"I could have stopped him, Joe. When I realized how sick he was, I could have taken his head."
"That's not exactly an option either of us considered, pal. We were thinking small, like - how about a rest cure, a nursing home, a psychiatrist, a priest. No, I don't think we could have stopped anything, not under the circumstances. Thinking small, like we were. I don't believe you had any idea of the scale this was on. Or the danger Mac had become, to other people. I know I didn't."
"I should have known. I should have realized," I retorted bitterly. "What's the use in my having lived five thousand years, if I can watch a man like Duncan MacLeod become insane enough to kill his own student, and not even recognize that it's coming!"
"Methos, don't beat yourself up over this. You are who you are. You don't believe in Demons. Neither do I. When one ups and smacks you in the head, you figure it's a branch from a tree, not a Demon. Anything but a Demon. You ain't about to change. Me either."
"You're right, Dawson, I cannot change. But I can do something to put things right."
"Nothing can ever put things right, Methos. Richie's dead. You can't bring him back."
"There's something I can do - there must be!"
"Like - what?"
"I don't know. That's the problem. I don't know."
I really didn't know what to do. There seemed to be nothing I could do, in the end, after this debacle, this disaster, this tragedy. What could I do?
It was almost a laughable thing. When I first saw what Mac had done, I didn't know where to offer my services first. Services I knew in my soul were going to be useless on any level, to anyone.
I'd decided on Joe Dawson, as the more vulnerable of the two of them.
A completely haphazard decision, it seemed, at that moment. But later I realized what I'd always known. How firmly I believed that Duncan MacLeod was not a man like other men. That his strength was extraordinary. That he'd resources within him that would pull and push him past this, without assistance from anyone, if he wanted to survive.
In my heart, I took the chance that Mac wanted to survive, and therefore, would.
In my heart, I wanted Mac to survive, no matter what he'd done. Or what he'd become. If he came out of this and survived, sane, it would only be temporary, I knew. Still, I wanted that - for him to survive, any way he was, any way he could. From the moment I'd laid eyes on him, I'd wanted that, needed it.
More than my own survival, sane or otherwise, I needed Mac to survive. And I believed he would, one way or another, with or without my help.
Dawson was another story. He needed me and he didn't make any bones about it. I'd offered my services to him and they were accepted. I'd let MacLeod leave the racetrack by himself, and gone to Joe.
When at last I'd finished comforting Joe and accompanied him back to his Paris flat and settled him in for the night, I didn't know what to do with myself, where to go next. What to do. Talking for a while, in circles, trying to take in what had happened, assessing the blame, the causes, the cures, had been a futile exercise. I didn't know what I thought anymore, or what was true.
Then Dawson said, "Methos, go to him."
"To whom?" I asked, sipping the nightcap.
"No, Joe, he's all right. I'll stay with you. You shouldn't be alone tonight."
"Methos, do what I say. Go to Mac. He's alone, too. And he mustn't be."
I twisted my mouth. "Maybe he deserves to be."
"Why? 'Cause he killed Richie? And Byron? And Kronos? And God knows how many others?"
"You know how many others, Dawson. The Watchers know." I couldn't believe Joe didn't blame MacLeod, hate him, for what Mac had done. But Joe was special that way. Very special.
"Makes no difference. One or a thousand. It's the Game. Go on, kid, take yourself where you're needed."
I inhaled deeply. "Where I'm needed. Right."
"Go on. Scoot." When I didn't put down my drink immediately, Dawson spoke more loudly. "Methos, this is the time, your time. Let it happen. Please."
I stared at the old Watcher, horrified. "You cannot mean what you're saying, Dawson. Not now."
"I do mean it. Now. Go." Then he turned his back on me and started for his bedroom. When the door closed behind him I looked down at my drink and finished it. I put the glass on the small table near Joe's door, leaving his flat quickly. My only consideration now was speed. How quickly could I cross Paris and reach Duncan's barge, so the man could cry in my arms as Dawson had done earlier this night. It seemed to me, that was what Joe was telling me to do next. I certainly needed somebody to give me direction, at that point.
I never thought I'd need to cry, too. It didn't cross my mind. Only love, only love crossed my mind. At the time.
"Duncan? May I come in?" I asked from the barge doorway, where I'd stopped, out of breath from running. He was there. I could see him from the doorway. He was slumped on the sofa, his head in his hands, his hands shaking.
"Come in," he replied, surprising me. His voice was hoarse, but strong.
I walked down the short flight of steps and over to the couch, taking off my trenchcoat and putting it aside as I moved. I stood in front of Duncan until he looked up. His face was wet with tears. His expression, the bewildered look of a child. I swallowed hard and sat next to him on the sofa without speaking.
"Thanks for coming, Methos. I hoped you would." Then he buried his head in his hands again.
I frowned, uncertain what to make of this impressive welcome. In the circumstances it seemed odd. "You're welcome," I replied lamely, deciding to say that because I was unable to think what else to say. Then I added, "Dawson was worried about you, he didn't want you to be alone."
"Dawson?" Mac lifted his head up to look at me.
"Yes. He sent me."
"Mac - I know what you're thinking - that he's angry with you, hates you. That he's outraged. Well, he's not." I cleared my throat. "He feels only love for you. He doesn't blame you for Richie's death."
With a little more vigor, but no anger or irony, he asked, "Who does he blame, then? I killed Richie. Nobody else."
"You didn't intend to kill anyone."
MacLeod ran his fingers through his hair, then squeezed his temples. "Didn't I?" Then, "Doesn't matter, now. You brought it with you?" he asked me in a brisk tone.
"My sword. Or yours."
"I have mine with me, yes, always do, nowadays. Why?"
"It's why you've come, isn't it? I'm ready. If we go on deck, you can just - tip me in - afterwards. Nothing to clean up."
At last I understood the welcome I'd received. He expected me to take his head. Wanted me to. Thought I'd changed my mind, agreed now to what he'd asked me to do earlier and I'd refused to do - absolutely.
"No, MacLeod. I'm not here for that. I'm here - so you can cry."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm here so you can cry," I repeated stupidly, thinking only that I wanted badly to do for Duncan what I'd done for Joe earlier. Comfort him. Something else struck me, another reason why I'd come. I voiced it. "I'd like to be with you when I cry. I'm hoping I'll be able to cry, if we're together. If I can lean on you."
"Methos, I want you to take my head. I can't live with this. It's impossible. I'm asking you as my friend, in the name of the love I know you bear me, to do this for me."
"You won't help me, then, MacLeod?"
"Ah, well, then, come on deck. I'll help you. With so much love being bruited about, one of us should be able to do the other a good turn." I snickered. "Only fitting it should be me, helping you."
"Don't do this to me, Methos! There's nothing left of me for you to lean on. You've gotta know that by now. It's all over - who I was, what I was. There's nothing here."
"If you say so." I looked away, already feeling such a lump in my throat I couldn't stand it. My mouth moved and my eyes filled with tears. I'd take his head and cry alone afterwards. Nothing new there.
"Methos - please."
"Okay, Mac, come on." I stood and went to where I'd put my coat. I took my sword from its folds and continued up the steps in a slow, heavy walk, dragging my weapon along the floor. I'd do it - take his head - if that's what he wanted. Maybe he was right. Maybe there was nothing left of who he was. There certainly wasn't much left of me.
I hadn't done it in time to save Richie. Maybe I could save others, in the future. Maybe that was what I must do, to atone for the blame I knew was mine, for doing nothing, before.
At the door I turned. He hadn't moved. He was still sitting on the sofa, staring at me. "You coming, MacLeod? I can't do this without you!"
"Tomorrow. Promise me you'll do it tomorrow. Tonight, if you want, you can cry with me."
I couldn't believe it. He'd pulled it out, even in the eye of this maelstrom, while he waited to die, he'd pulled it out. Compassion, friendship, concern. Infinite patience. Endurance. Tenderness. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Still there. Still there.
I took heart. Straightened up. It was so wild. Almost - exciting. Like seeing again, against the sky, the flight of an extinct bird. No. Like the sudden appearance in the jungle - against all odds - of an extinct animal, a giant wild cat. I was awed. And determined. This bird would fly again! This cat would hunt again! Whatever it took! But I knew it took only love, the great Plan, the simple Plan. Only love.
Slowly, I descended the few steps into his barge and rejoined him on the sofa, enfolding him in my arms. The suddenness and violence of his tears unleashed my own, and I cried as I hadn't even when Alexa died. For Richie, Byron, Alexa. For Dawson, and for Mac. In some strange way, I suppose, for myself as well.
He clung hard. Even after there were no more tears. Very hard. I was shaken.
"It's nothing, Mac. I love you." The words slipped out just like that. I love you.
"I know." Gripping my biceps, he moved back a little so he could look me in the eyes. "Tomorrow. You promise?"
"I promise. If it's what you want."
"It's what I want."
"So - I'll give it to you."
"Then - be with me tonight."
"I won't leave you," I told him, surprised he should imagine I would.
"No. That's not what I mean. I mean - be with me tonight, Methos. It's what you've wanted for a long time. And I know I've wanted it too. I knew it when I saw you fighting Silas. That I loved you. That nothing had any meaning to me at all, if we weren't together. That I couldn't take Kronos, if we weren't together. I knew. I hope you'll forgive me, one day, for -" he took a deep breath, "- for not having the courage to face it, to tell you."
"Mac -" I was really scared, now. These were the words of a man on his way to the guillotine. The intentions of a man trying to set his house in order, before death. To tell me he loved me so much he couldn't envision life without me at his side, on his side - well, I was gonna have to kill him, because he wouldn't want to look me in the eye, after this.
"'We who are about to die salute you,' Methos. Yes. That's true. Everything you're thinking. It's true."
"This - I can't do this, MacLeod." Suddenly, I felt it was me who'd gone mad, not Duncan.
"Be with me tonight, Methos," he repeated quietly. "I don't want to die without doing at least one real thing in my life - giving you my love. Only love. No questions, no doubts, no regrets. Only love. Let me give myself to you, Methos, please. All that I can't bestow in the Quickening."
What was I to say? Dawson'd told me it was my time. I hadn't believed him. Now, I didn't have a choice. I had to believe. All Duncan couldn't bestow in the Quickening. My God!
I said, "Yes."
We walked to his bed without speaking and lay down without undressing. I simply let it happen. MacLeod was so clear, so resolved and whole, as he took me in his arms without a word, that I was astounded. In all the time I'd known him, there'd always been a certain tension, a shell of fear, that surrounded him. I'd read his Chronicles, but the man they'd spoken about I'd never met, nor seen, except in the first moment, when he'd realized who I was and said my name. From then until now, he'd never again been singleminded.
Now, he was just that - singleminded. It was awesome. All the artifice was stripped away. The jokes, the teasing, the arrogance, the bravado - even the genuine pride. It was as if he'd finally come into his own, in the aftermath of Richie's ugly pointless death. In the comfort and freedom he felt at his own imminent death. He could be who he was, at last. And who he was, was impressive.
Nothing exaggerated, everything in proportion. Strength and gentleness. Giving and taking in equal proportions. Awesome control and impassioned freedom. No more secrets, no more fear.
With his body, he told me that he loved me. Simple as that.
I was hard put to meet him on such high ground, having lived in secrecy and in fear for most of my five thousand years. In a quick attempt to get where he was, I compromised, knowing I couldn't do better. I didn't trust myself to initiate with any degree of honesty. I simply - responded. I did all I could to keep skill and perversity out of the picture. A compromise. The best I could do.
It didn't serve.
Only love would serve.
I didn't know if I could do it. If I had the courage.
The entire experience was a blow to my pride such as I'd never before taken.
All along, I'd assumed I loved him more than he could ever love me. I'd proved my love so often, you understand. And he'd done nothing of the sort. Done the opposite.
How could I have imagined how much he loved me? It was a very humbling revelation.
"Mac -" I said at last, as dawn seeped through the portholes and I realized that "tomorrow" was here.
"I'll keep my promise." It was the only gift I could give, that matched his.
"Aye. I know ye will."
"But it's a shame. Joe'll miss you."
"Joe. Yes. I suppose he will." He grasped me more tightly, his mouth against my temple, his arms trembling in the cold morning air.
"Does that - do you care?"
I raised the ante. "MacLeod. I'll miss you."
"It's a promise you'll keep, Methos. Today." Not angry, a statement of fact.
I felt my head splitting. How could I do it, keep such a promise, take MacLeod's head? But I'd promised to do it. I had to keep that promise. It was the only thing I could do for Mac now, offer him, as a proof of my love. But he was sane, now, I thought. Sane! To kill him, I'd need to be insane myself. Now.
I was wild with the horror of the choices, the conflicting claims struggling to bind me to a course of action. Love. To kill him, out of love, because he'd asked me. To kill him, out of love, to preserve this present Duncan, who was sane. I thought I'd go insane.
I pushed away the dark thoughts and said, "'Turandot.'"
"Do you have a recording of the opera 'Turandot?'" I asked him.
"Later. Before I keep my promise, would you listen to it with me?"
"I want to sleep now, Mac. I'm chilly. Cover us."
He adjusted the quilts over our bodies with one hand, holding onto me with the other.
And we slept.
When we woke, it was dusk. And it was time. Sleep had brought me peace of mind. I knew what I had to do. For Duncan. For love.
Either way, for either reason - because he was crazy and therefore he must die, or because he was sane, and wouldn't remain that way long, so therefore he must die now, while he was sane. Either way, if I loved him, it was time to keep my promise, take his head. What became of me afterwards was not an issue.
MacLeod rose quickly and dressed. So did I. He made sandwiches and brought out a bottle of brandy he told me he'd been keeping for a special occasion. He was quiet but not subdued. I was close to hysteria so I didn't speak much.
Without me mentioning it again, after we'd eaten Mac went to his collection of records, tapes and CD's and pulled out three versions of "Turandot."
"Di Stefano, Carreras, or Pavarotti?" he asked, looking at me with a smile.
"Carreras, please," I replied. "You don't - no, I guess that would be too much to ask."
"What?" he asked, a look of interest crossing his face.
"You don't have Carreras singing 'Zarzuelas,' by any chance, do you?"
He grinned. "I do." He squatted again and searched for a moment. "Here they are," he told me, pulling a cassette from its place.
"You're really organized, MacLeod, aren't you?" I risked a complete sentence in my old style, shivering inside, cold in a way that nothing physical could match.
"And you're a never-ending source of surprises, Methos," he retorted. "When'd you get so knowledgeable about this kind of music? Opera? Zarzuelas, of all things!"
"I've been around a long time, Mac. I - nevermind."
"I wanted to know you better, so I studied the music you loved. It's kinda hard to resist."
He chuckled. "Not for everyone."
"Well, I had a big incentive."
"I hoped we'd listen together, someday."
"And this is the day," Mac answered, almost gaily, putting the CD of "Turandot" into the stereo and pressing the play button. He joined me at the kitchen table and lifted his glass as the music began. "It's a good day to die!" he toasted, waiting calmly for me to acknowledge the sentiment with a clink of my glass.
I lifted my glass to his and repeated, "A good day to die!" And drank.
Then I closed my eyes and listened to the music. Let it drive itself through me. When I opened my eyes to fill my brandy glass again, I saw how the music was affecting Mac. His eyes were closed and he looked like he was at peace. He looked happy. That was good.
"Richie hated opera, you know," he told me, during a quiet passage.
"Well, he was young. He'd have learned, eventually."
"Maybe. He resisted, though. Didn't want to let the music in. I didn't understand why. Still don't."
"He went as far as he could go, to be like you, Mac. Right down to being Immortal. He needed to maintain something separate, something of his own. It's the way they all do, the Mortals, their way of growing up."
"Richie wasn't Mortal," Duncan contradicted.
"He was living his first time around, MacLeod. He was as Mortal as they come, in that."
"I wanted to share it with him - opera, the music I loved. I thought it was important, a gift. Instead, I always ended up preaching at him, disapproving of him."
"Let it be, Mac. It's over. He knows you love him, where he is now."
"Aye, he knows, now." Peaceful. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, as he once was, strong, singleminded, beautiful.
I held back my tears, so they wouldn't interfere with my talking. "I love this part," I said, to change the subject. I was clinging to the ordinary, to language, words, with everything in me.
"It's good to think about, isn't it - that somewhere, sometime, there was a person who could feel a thing like this, and express it, for the rest of us."
"In a way that cannot die," he added, opening his eyes to look at me.
"You said it."
The CD finished, finally, and Mac got up to put on the zarzuelas I'd asked to hear. Time was getting short. I fetched my sword and MacLeod brought me his cleaning kit. "Use this," he offered. I listened closely to the music as I cleaned my weapon and sharpened it carefully. To give him honor when I cut.
And then the zarzuelas were finished too and there was silence. I looked at Mac and he nodded. We both stood and walked up on deck. It was very dark. There were no stars or moon to see. I felt a vague disappointment. I so loved the moon.
He knelt on the deck and looked up at me. "Thank you, Methos. I enjoyed the music."
"You're welcome, Mac." Then I gripped my sword tightly and asked, "You ready?"
"Yes, I'm ready. Thank you."
"I love you, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
"Goodbye, Methos. I love you. There can be only One. May it be you. Cut clean." When I hesitated he ordered, "Now!"
I lifted my sword high and sliced down, cutting clean. Took his Quickening without collapsing, something I'd never before been able to do. It was a good Quickening. Strong and very pure. Like music. With MacLeod inside me, I'd be even stronger. Bring him with me, in the End, I thought. As he was, as he should be - good and pure and strong. He'd never suffer again, never go mad again. It was over. He'd be with me, in the End. Thus would the bird fly, the cat hunt. In me.
As he'd instructed, I tipped him into the river, body and head, and then went below deck. I cleaned my sword once more, while I listened to "Turandot" again.
It was over. He was gone.
Gone. My only love was gone.
Now all that remained for me to do was to tell Dawson so he could write his final report for the Watchers and close off the Chronicles on the Immortal Duncan MacLeod.
Yes, the time was now.
I picked up the cell phone and dialed Joe.
"I'll be over in a little while. You need me to bring anything? Milk? Beer?"
"Nah, I've got everything we'll need. Even snacks, if you're hungry. You coming alone?"
"Ah. Well, see you soon."
Despite the fact I'd told Dawson I was coming alone, he peered down the hall when he let me in. I could almost feel the drop in his spirit when he was certain MacLeod wasn't with me.
He sloughed it off and asked, "Want a beer, Methos?"
"Sure. I'll get it myself." I took a beer from his fridge and joined him where he'd sat at his kitchen table, nursing a scotch.
"So - how's Mac doing?" Joe asked. The words were kindly but the tone was matter of fact - as if he knew MacLeod was fine, would always be fine, no matter what tragedy befell anybody he knew, or himself.
"Oh - Mac's good. You were right, Joe. It was 'my time.' He surprised me."
"I'm happy for you, Methos. You've been waiting patiently for a long time."
"Yes. Well, I got what I was after, Joe. Everything. Mac's with me now."
Dawson frowned. He said, "Yeah. I guess that's a good thing, then. You can take care of each other. He's certainly gonna need a lot of hand-holding, that's for sure."
"You planning to take Richie's body back to the States? For burial?" I asked, still a little reluctant to reveal the truth to Joe. My little secret about my only love. Holding back, for as long as I could.
"I dunno. I might need to stay here. Depends where Mac goes - I'm still his Watcher, you know. As for Richie - Paris was as much his home as Seacouver, these last few years. Might even be easier to get together a group of mourners, here in Europe, than back in the good old US of A." He paused. "Like I said, it depends where MacLeod goes."
"You don't have to worry about him, Joe. He'll go wherever the funeral is."
"You think so?" The Watcher looked up at me hopefully. "He's well enough to travel?"
"Don't concern yourself about Mac, Joe," I repeated. "You can forget about MacLeod. He's dead."
The Watcher dropped his glass with a bang that shattered it, automatically putting up his arms when the noise came, to protect his face. I did the same.
When we'd recovered from the sound of the glass breaking he said, "What did you say?"
"He's dead, Joe. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod is dead. You can write your final report, close off your Chronicles, and accept another assignment."
"Who took him out, Methos? What sonuvabitch would do such a thing to him, in the shape he was in?" Joe asked, anger quickly replacing startlement. A deep anger, fury, that grew as he sat in front of me, his fists clenched on the table.
"I took him out, Joe."
"You! But you loved him!"
"He'd lost it, Dawson. He was out of his mind. There was nothing left to salvage. He challenged me, and I won. That's all of it."
"Yes, me." I couldn't resist a jibe. "Is that what you want to hear?"
"Methos - I can't believe you did this." He shook his head. "There was a chance, with time - he'd come out of it -"
"And do what - spend the rest of his life beating himself up about Richie? He was finished, Dawson. There was nothing left, nobody there. Nobody home."
"You saying, it was a mercy killing?" Dawson asked me, not sarcastic, just inquiring. His anger banked, against the possibility of learning something. Anything.
"You could say that. Put it in your final report, in his Chronicles that way. Good idea, Joe."
"A mercy killing." He shook his head. "On his barge?" I nodded. "Where's the body, Methos?"
"In the river."
I stood. "Well, I'll be going. You have my number. Let me know where the services will be held, Joe."
"Methos - wait a second." I looked at him. "You got his sword - the katana?"
"It's where he left it, far as I know. At the racetrack. Send somebody for it."
"You don't want it?"
"No! No! I don't want it."
"He challenged you, and you took him out. That's it? You couldn't stop the fight?"
"What do you want to hear, Joe? I didn't try to stop the fight. He was sick. He'd lost it. He challenged me. I won. That's all they wrote."
"I can't believe it."
"You looking for somebody to be angry with, here I am. Be angry with me. It's true."
It came around again. "But you loved him!" Bewilderment. Sorrow. Despair.
"You're wrong, Joe - I didn't love him! How could I? There was nothing left to love!" I struggled to make him angry, ease his pain with it.
"No. It's not right. You didn't do it."
"I did do it. Damn you, what's wrong with you, Joe? I haven't survived for five thousand years by feeling sorry for sick animals. He was insane. He was weak. He challenged me. I took him out."
"No." Final. "I'm not buying it."
"So - who do you think killed him? Because he's really dead. He's not coming back."
"Oh, you killed him, all right. But not like you're telling me. I'll find out. I've got Watchers staked out all over the quai. I'll find out what happened."
I panicked. I took a deep breath and told him the truth. "Okay. It wasn't quite like I said. He didn't challenge me. I just - took his head."
"What - when he was asleep?"
"No. He knelt on the deck and bowed his head and I -"
"You've got Mac's Quickening. He gave it to you. Methos - he was sick, and you let him talk you into taking his head?"
"It was a gift, Joe. A gift to a terminally ill friend. Only love."
"A mercy killing, is what you're saying. Another version of a mercy killing?"
"He's not coming back, Dawson," I shouted. "I can't bring him back. Let it be."
"You're gonna bring him with you, to the End, is that it?" Joe asked with a cruel smile.
"If I can."
"It doesn't work that way, Methos," Joe told me, shaking his head. "In the End, there can be Only One. If you get there, it'll be you, not him."
"Don't - please don't, Joe. Leave me a bit of illusion, for the moment." I was wrung dry. Who could tell whether I was even sane any longer.
"Not you, Methos. Oh no, not you. No illusions for you, buddy. He's gone. You killed him. You live with it." Then, in a vicious parody of my remark, he quoted, "Is that what you want to hear?"
I left the Watcher's home and started back toward the barge, my feet leading me there without any intention on my part. It was as if Mac wanted to go home. So I took him home. Whatever version of the truth I told, it wouldn't wash. When I took Duncan's head, he was sane. At that moment, there was hope. Everyone who loved him would think there was hope. I was the crazy one, the weak one. But now I had Mac's strength inside me, always with me. No matter what anybody thought, I knew that was true.
I was sitting on the sofa drinking a scotch when I felt the aura of another Immortal approaching. It was moving fast, coming to the barge. Now I was really scared. It was Amanda's buzz, I'd know it anywhere.
"Methos - where's MacLeod? I heard about Richie. Is Duncan alright?" She spoke on one breath, anxious to see him.
"What's the matter, Methos? You all right?" Her concern made me ill. I got up from the sofa, backing away, out the door, up onto the deck. She followed me.
"Come inside, Methos. You look sick. Sit down, I'll get a wet cloth, you look faint. You're white as a sheet."
"Amanda - no!" I didn't budge from where I'd backed away to - the rail of the barge. I couldn't tell her, I couldn't!
"What is it, Methos?" she asked, moving quickly towards me, her arms opening wide to embrace me, comfort me. I pushed her away. "Methos - where's Duncan?"
"He's - he's dead, Amanda. I'm sorry."
"Dead? You're joking! Who?"
I didn't reply.
"Who, Methos? Who took him out?" Another angry one, who'd soon be bewildered and hurt, instead of angry.
"You don't want to know."
"I do want to know! Damn it, Methos, who did this? Tell me, or I'll find out from Joe."
"Okay." She turned on her heels and went back into the barge, making for the phone. I rushed after her and grabbed the phone away. "What are you doing?" she asked, furious. "If you won't tell me, I'll find out from somebody else. You can't keep it a secret, Methos. Who are you protecting?"
"I did it. I killed MacLeod. He wanted me to do it, so I did. Out of love. Only love."
"This isn't exactly a laughing matter, Amanda," I told her. "You're looking for somebody to be angry with, to challenge over Mac's head - here I am."
Defiant, I said, "You want my head? Take it." For a moment I was who I've always been, a reasonable materialist who could see things through somebody else's eyes with ease. Amanda's eyes.
"Methos - you're serious. You killed MacLeod. Why? Or should I ask, how?"
"What does it matter, why or how? It's done. He's gone. There's nothing more you need to know."
"Okay, Methos, I'm gonna ask you this once. You tell me the truth, and I won't talk about it again. Was it a fair fight?"
"Fair?" I laughed. "It wasn't a fight, Amanda! He knelt up top, on the deck, and I lopped off his head. End of story."
She didn't speak for a moment. "He wanted you to kill him."
"Because of Richie."
"Indeed, indeed. Because of Richie, and everyone else. Everything else."
"And you just - did it." She turned away from me and walked to MacLeod's bar, fixing drinks for herself and me. "Here, drink this down."
"Thanks." I finished the shot in one gulp.
"So now I guess it's my turn."
"To do what?" I asked impatiently.
"Well, you're not gonna be able to live with this, any more than Duncan could live with killing Richie. So, it's my turn, to put a sick animal out of his misery."
I grinned. "You know, I think you've got something there, Amanda. A glimmer of an idea. Work with it, refine it, come back when you've put the finishing touches on."
"You don't like that idea, Methos?"
"I'm not MacLeod. I want to live."
"Still? You still want to live, even without him, even without love?"
"Absolutely. I got along without him before I met him. I'm gonna get along without him now."
"Song lyrics, Methos? Stooping low, even for you."
"You try for my head, Amanda, and you'll die. It's that simple."
"Oh, me, too? Two in one day! You're an amazing fella!"
"I didn't survive for five thousand years on cheap sentiment," I told her, my voice hard, and my eyes harder. "You try for my head, you'll die. Your call, Amanda."
She shook her head. "No, I won't try, Methos. I couldn't beat you, and I don't want to die." She walked toward the barge doorway, up the short flight of steps. Then she turned. "You're planning on moving in here?"
"It won't bring him back, you know."
"Nobody knows that better than I do, Amanda."
"You're gonna be one lonely man, Methos Valerius."
"Nothing new there, is there, my girl?"
"I'll be with Joe, if you need me." Another very special person, Amanda. No blame, no hate, simple acceptance. A blessing to everyone she knew.
"I'll see you at the funeral services, Amanda."
When she'd gone, her aura completely dissipated into the Paris night, I added, "Goodbye, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. God's speed." With Amanda's departure, the last link to the old Duncan was severed. Now only one Duncan remained, mine. My only love, inside me.
I put on my coat and secured my sword in its folds. Took another swig of scotch. Scooped up a dozen of Mac's CD's and shoved them into my pockets.
Then I left the barge, slowly making my way back to my own flat, wondering whether he'd like the place. He'd never seen it, of course. I'd never asked him over. Now, of course, I had no choice. He'd be with me, wherever I lived. As long as I lived. As long as I survived. In whatever shape I was in, sane or mad. Duncan was with me now. Only love, bird and beast, strong and pure. For as long as Methos Valerius survived, Duncan MacLeod survived as well.
So - I'd survive.