|A Few Questions
by Maxine Mayer
"So, Mac, alone at last!" Methos joked, a silly grin on his face.
"That's right. I'm gonna miss your sister. She kept you off my back, most of the time."
"What'd you mean?" he asked, all innocence.
"I mean, while Calara was here, you had all you could do to hold up your end of the arguments with her. So you had no time to pick on me."
The old Immortal's mouth twisted in a wry smile. "Suppose that's true enough. But now -"
"Now, it's time for a trip, Methos. Long overdue."
"What are you talking about, MacLeod? I have no trip planned."
"You're not the only one with plans, old man. I've got a little plan of my own. You can join me or not, as you like."
"Where?" he asked, curiosity getting the better of him. "East? West? Back to Seacouver?" We were in Paris on my barge.
"It's a surprise," I told him, turning away to hide a smile, and going into the barge proper. He followed me down the steps and over to the kitchen area. He grabbed a beer and turned to flop on the couch - only there was no couch - so he sat cross-legged on a cushion instead. "Hungry?" I asked.
"I don't like surprises, Mac," he said seriously. "Where? Or should I say, why?"
"Hungry?" I repeated, opening the refrigerator and taking out some leftover meat sauce. I took a box of spaghetti from the cupboard and set up water to boil.
"Mac, where and why?" Methos repeated in a no-nonsense tone of voice. When I looked at him, his expression was anxious.
"What's wrong with you, Methos? Where's your sense of adventure?" I teased.
"I'm too old for adventures, MacLeod."
"Okay," I said, relenting. "I thought we'd go on a walking tour. South. Down the coast, to the Riviera. Stay in a few quaint inns on the way. Like you always say - no trains, no planes, no automobiles. Just sturdy boots and the open air. It's nearly autumn so it won't be too hot to walk, and you won't burn in the sun." I twisted my mouth in a grin. "Maybe we'll take some heads -"
"Just kidding! But that was the point of this little exercise with your sister, Calara, wasn't it? To get me to take up my sword again, take heads? So - why not?"
"What's your game, MacLeod?"
"My game? No game. I've been cooped up in a monastery for a year, except these last few weeks walking my feet off all over Paris with the two of you. I'm sick of Paris. I think I recognize every stone in the road here by now. I'd like to see something else for a change -"
"With me." Methos looked skeptical.
"Why not? We're friends, aren't we? I'd ask Joe to come along but he can't walk that far or that long and I don't want to drive -"
"Right. We're friends."
I looked up from the sauce I was stirring and asked, "We're not?"
"I dunno, Mac. Last thing we shared before the Demon struck was a bottle of scotch in memory of George Gordon, Lord Byron. And we've never even talked about that."
"You're telling me you want to talk about Byron?" I asked, thrown totally off my stride.
"I'm saying, we never have. Not about Byron, not about Kronos, not about the Horsemen. Not about what happened between us when Stephen Keane popped up -"
"I figured, water under the bridge - it was a long time ago, Methos -"
"Not according to my way of reckoning, Mac."
I was upset. It wasn't that I didn't think about the terrible troubles we'd shared, Methos and me, the past couple years. I thought about them often enough. Dreamed about them, sometimes. I had more questions in my mind than answers. But I'd been sure Methos wasn't interested in dredging up those times again. So I'd tried not to show him I thought about the past, and I'd made certain I asked him no questions. Like the saying goes, "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies." That went for Methos, in spades. I suppose, for all my curiosity, for all my burning desire to know, there was a good part of me that didn't want to know. And I certainly didn't want to force him to lie to me to keep me from knowing.
"I - I thought it was over, all that. I didn't think you wanted to stir it all up again," I said.
"Mac, I've got a lot of questions I need answers to before I'd want us to be friends again. Before I'd trust you again."
"You? You've got questions to ask me?"
"What - you thought it was the other way around?" He looked startled.
"The two of us sound like a vaudeville act, Mac - who's on first, what's on second. Yes. Yes, I've got questions."
"We're not friends?" My mind stopped there, I couldn't think beyond that thought.
"As far as the grand scheme of things goes, Mac, yes, you're a friend, not a foe. For the Game's sake. That sort of friend. A good guy. I'd prefer you kept your head. But for anything more - I hesitate to put a name to it, anything friendlier, more intimate, than the Game - yes, I've got questions. I'm not ready to trust you in friendship. I'm not sure I ought to trust you."
"Methos -" I was stunned. "Of course you can trust me. I'd never hurt you!"
"Funny, I don't see it quite that way. I wonder what an objective observer would think, if he heard our story, sight unseen, without knowing either of us."
I frowned. "You mean, somebody like Joe?"
"Joe! You think Joe's objective, Mac? How about Amanda? Think she's objective, too?"
"I don't know what to think! You wanna tell me what you're getting at, Methos, because I don't know what to make of it." I put down the stirring spoon, turned off the flames under the spaghetti and the sauce, and tore off my apron. "Come on up on deck - there's no goddamn fucking place to sit in here!" I told him roughly, suddenly furious with myself for putting my furniture in storage. What the hell had I been thinking?
He followed me up on deck. The sun was blinding. The day was absolutely glorious - Paris air at its finest, like a tangible thing you could hold in your hands, like a woman's face you could kiss. But as far as I was concerned, Macbeth had murdered Paris.
We sat on the edge of the barge, our feet dangling over the water, a couple feet apart, deliberately keeping our eyes from each other and staring at the river instead. The soft lapping of the waves and occasional city noises were all we heard. If we turned around and looked we'd see people walking in the distance, cars moving. But we were pretty much alone and private, on my barge.
"Well?" I asked, trying to keep fear out of my voice. I ended up sounding belligerent. "What are your questions?"
"For starters, why the hell did you take on the Horsemen with Cassandra?"
"You can ask that? After what Kronos and the rest of you did to her and her village?"
"Three thousand years ago, MacLeod! You were never a man who went in for vengeance! But you let Cassandra drag you into a fight - against me as well as Kronos and the others - for something we did thousands of years ago. Why?"
"I thought that was pretty obvious -"
"Not to me," he said, his voice low and grim. "We were friends, Mac. I'd saved your life, your sanity. Drank your beer. Listened to your bullshit stories and helped you get through your absurd dilemmas. Did what I could when Kalas threatened. I'd stood by you when you killed Ingrid. Stopped you from letting Richie get himself killed - more than once. Took Kristin's head when you couldn't, even though you knew she needed to die. So - it's none too obvious to me, how you could take up with Cassandra and launch a damned near effective offensive that was likely to get me killed."
I didn't reply. When he put it that way, it seemed as strange to me as it probably did to him.
After a few minutes, he turned and looked at me. "You don't deny I've got a right to wonder, do you?"
"No. I don't deny it. And you're right. I never counseled vengeance. Just the opposite. I tried to keep the peace when I could -"
"So, what's your answer, Mac? Do you know what got into you? You did realize I was in danger from Kronos, I think. Am I right in that? You did know Kronos was in town for me? To find and kill me?" His voice was earnest and anxious. As if he wanted to set the record straight. To be certain that the black picture he was painting of my behavior was accurate, not something he was making up in his own mind.
"I think so. I'm not sure."
"Okay. Fair enough. But Cassandra. I don't think there's any question that she wanted to kill me. That much you knew, right?"
"Yes. I knew. She wanted you dead. She wanted me to take your head," I replied dully, a dreadful feeling of nausea and churning beginning in my belly.
"I know you didn't want to kill me. I'm only curious as to why. Since you blithely forced me to remain in harm's way, with Kronos, by your own sticking around." When I didn't answer Methos said, "Mac? How about it? Any answers?"
I evaded his question. "I - you're my friend. I wouldn't have killed you."
"No, not with your own hands. And you didn't let Cass kill me either. But the other things you did - before the end - what the hell were you thinking, to go after Kronos? You knew I'd need to stay -"
"I wanted him dead, Methos."
"We had history. He was Evil -"
"Fuck off, MacLeod! You wouldn't know history if it bit you! If I, who rode with Kronos for a thousand years, was willing to let it be, run away, why the hell couldn't you?"
"Because you lied to me!" I answered at last. "Because you lied to me about who you were, what kind of man you were! Because I couldn't kill you - but I could kill him!"
"I see. You couldn't kill me - but you could kill him. Why is that, Mac?"
"You were my friend. Are. Isn't that reason enough?"
He tilted his head. "Is it? It would be, for me. But for you -"
"Look, can we get off this, Methos? I don't know what happened. I lost it. I felt sorry for Cassandra when she told me about her village, her people, her life. What you and the others did to her. I was shocked. I just went after Kronos. I didn't go after you." That was a lie but one he'd forced me to tell.
"I wouldn't have killed you." That at least, was the truth. "I was glad when I found out you were on my side, after all. Relieved. More. Overjoyed. So, could we drop it, please?"
"What do you want to hear, Methos? Something different than what I'm saying? That's all I know, what I told you just now."
"I want to hear why you chose to champion Cassandra, instead of me."
"My God! You think you deserved a champion?"
"I think you didn't value our friendship, when it came down to the wire. So I'm wondering whether you value it now."
"I do." I brushed my mouth with my hand. "I've had a lot of time to think about things, this last year. I made a mistake. I let - irrelevant considerations - sway my actions. Cassandra was doing the wrong thing and I went along with her. I'm sorry."
"And me? What do you think I was doing, if she was doing the wrong thing?"
"I know now that you were trying to do the right thing. To protect me. And Cassandra. To stop Kronos. I was blind back then. The shock of her story -"
"Mac, I don't believe you understand yet, what you did back then."
"Why don't you tell me?" I said sarcastically, smarting under the relentlessness of his assault.
"I will. You chose to abandon one friend for another. You chose to take action without proximate cause. As far as you knew, Kronos was no longer a threat to anyone except me and Cassandra. You interfered between Immortals - not to prevent bloodshed but to take heads yourself. You made cause with another Immortal to destroy several of your kind - and dragged in a Watcher to help you, in the bargain. You acted in anger, inciting violence, in aid of nothing. I'm hard put to find a reason to trust such a man as you showed yourself to be, let alone be his friend. Your behavior's been erratic, unprincipled, unreasonable. Any objective observer would agree. Don't you?"
"I said I was sorry -"
"Sorry doesn't cut it, Mac."
I stood and walked a few yards away on the barge, wondering where this was all going. I knew without question that Methos was still my friend, had never for a moment considered not being my friend. So what the hell was he doing? And why?
I changed the subject, best I could, to one where I thought I was on solid ground. "Look, Methos, you mentioned Byron before. I know you cared for him once upon a time. I know you still considered him a friend, even at the end. But you understood, I thought you understood, why I took him on."
"Sure. I understood."
"So why'd you bring him up? Yes, I killed him. If you're looking for 'proximate cause,' he'd just murdered Mike."
"Permanent preventative action, against my friend. But not really, was it? Mike was dead. Nobody else was in proximate danger. A clear case of vengeance, in my book, MacLeod."
"He'd have killed again -"
"You don't know that."
"We both knew it," I said, furious.
He shook his head. "It's not enough, Mac. Not enough reason to challenge and kill him. Not for you. You didn't kill Kristin, with the same kind of provocation. I could name half a dozen others. Keane challenged you directly, and you let him go. Now, Kalas was another story - that was preventative action. But Byron? No, I don't think so."
"You're saying something, Methos. I'd like to know what it is."
"I'm saying you went after Byron not because he killed Mike, or would kill others in the future, but because he was my friend. You gonna kill everyone I've ever known, Mac?"
"Methos! That's crazy! Byron was a mad dog at the end. Full of drugs and drink and delusions of grandeur! He'd set up a pattern - he was suckering in helpless mortals who admired him, worshipped him, for his music! Then killing them! That's why I challenged him, took his head! Not because he was your friend - in spite of it!"
"You gonna go around killing everybody whose lifestyle doesn't suit you, MacLeod?" he asked quietly. "Where do you draw the line? Drinking, drugs, a nasty disposition? How many Immortals have you let walk away, how many have you given that option, if they'd take it? But not Byron."
"It wasn't like that - it wasn't because he was your friend! How could you think such a thing?"
"I dunno. Maybe I hoped you'd let Byron go just for my sake - whether he deserved to die or not. Maybe I was simply disappointed." He scrunched up his shoulders and stared into the sun, then ducked down his head and looked at his shoes.
I didn't know what to say to him. "Methos - please -"
"It's a feeling, Mac," he told me moodily. "A feeling that I don't know which way you'll jump. That your spine isn't straight any more, if it ever was. That I can't count on you, trust you. I don't like feeling this way - I don't get a real charge out of the notion that my judgment of you was wrong. I admired you for centuries, by reputation. I admired you in person, when I met you. I would have given my life for you. Both when Kalas threatened, and after. I still would. In the grand scheme of things. In the Game. Old loyalties die hard. But friendship? A road trip? A beer? I dunno. It seems pretty foolish to me now."
"You don't trust me anymore? Because I killed Kronos and Byron? You don't want to be my friend?" I was standing, when I asked him. I don't really know how I stayed upright. I felt faint. My heart was breaking. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but it was really strong in me, that if Methos didn't value me, after everything he'd seen in fifty centuries, then I couldn't be worth much. He'd believed I was the best he'd seen. Now, he didn't trust me enough to have a beer with me. I was sick at the thought of it.
"Maybe you were right, and I was wrong, Mac, when you said I should see you as you are, not as you used to be, or as I want you to be. Maybe that's all we can expect from each other. Not just you and me. All of us. To see each other as we are and accept that."
"You're not wrong, Methos. We ought to look for the best in the people we care about, our friends. Try to help them become the best they can be. It's not a weakness to do that. It's not foolish." I'm not sure why I said such a thing to him. Dared to give him advice when he'd already said he didn't believe in me any more.
He looked up. "Whatever faults you had, Mac, you were always compassionate. It hurt when you refused to show me any compassion at all. It made me wonder what the hell I was doing, hanging around with you, risking - everything - staying put, being vulnerable. To be a friend, a companion to a man who showed me no pity, gave my friends no quarter, and wouldn't forgive me for the past even if his life depended on it. And then, to top it off, disappears for a year and expects to start up again where we left off before all that happened, without a word, or a talk, or anything - as if nothing had happened."
"You're right, Methos. I was so glad to see you when you came to the barge a few weeks ago, I didn't care what had happened. Didn't want to talk about it, or think about it. I just wanted to be friends again. It seemed like you did too. Why'd you change your mind?"
"You misunderstood why I came, Mac. I didn't come to be friends. I came to make you take up your sword. For lack of a better way to explain it, Joe sent me." He squinted up at me, putting his hand up to shade his eyes. "You understand? My friend Joe asked me to help you. Like with the Dark Quickening. So I came and I helped you, best I could. For Joe."
I knew I better sit down before I fell down. I joined him again on the barge rail. I couldn't speak.
He went on, "So, you ask, why am I still here? Probably because I'm a sentimental fool. I've lost a lot of friends in my time. I try to hold on to the few that are left. But I'm not sure I can hold on to you." He twisted around and glanced at me. Then he turned away again. "Every time I look at you I remember how I felt when Kronos took me -"
"What are you talking about?"
"He took me. He - killed me, captured me, by my van. Let me go, only to find out whether I'd return. That's when I went to the dojo, to you, for help. But Cassandra was there -"
"I don't understand."
"There's nothing to understand. That was my first impulse - to seek your help. I thought we were friends, that between us we could figure a way to take Kronos down. Or disappear where he couldn't find us -"
"Methos, what are you talking about? He wasn't after me - I thought he was after you and Cassandra -"
"After me, at first. Then, when he decided he preferred keeping me alive so I could help him with his plans, he turned his thoughts to killing you. Kronos wanted you dead. I agreed to join him, put the Horsemen back together again, to put distance between you and him."
"You bartered your freedom for my life?" I was stunned.
He went on as if he hadn't heard me. "He wanted me to do it - to kill you to prove my loyalty. And I agreed. But I had no intention of killing you. I tried to run away, hide. Because you wouldn't listen to what I had to say. You were - otherwise engaged."
I swallowed. "I was. Otherwise engaged." I banged my fist on the railing. "Damn her!"
"Don't blame Cassandra - she told you the truth about the Horsemen, MacLeod. Only, it was old news, and you didn't listen to the latest developments when I tried to tell them to you." He shrugged. "But of course, the minute I saw her with you I knew I was on my own. That you'd take her side. I don't even know why it hurt. You were just following your nature -"
"You had a right to expect more from a friend than me just following my nature," I said with conviction. "You had every right to expect me to be on your side, right or wrong."
"Ah, Mac, it's been a long time since I expected anything of anyone. Prevents disappointments, when I don't. Look how disappointed I was, the one time I did."
The resignation in his voice made me feel sick. I repeated dully, "You had every right. We were friends. I should have taken your side."
"Cassandra was your friend, too. And a woman. Like I said, you chose one friend over another. Foolish of me to be surprised or disappointed or hurt, that it wasn't me you chose. But I was. And it kinda undercuts trust and future expectations. You can see how it does that, MacLeod, can't you?"
"Good. We understand one another."
"So, that's it? You don't trust me any more? You've given up on me?"
"I don't know."
"You had questions. I've tried to answer them. We've talked about what happened. Is it all for nothing?"
"Mac, the questions, the answers - they're just words. What we'll do when we're faced with those kinds of choices again - I don't think we've begun to know the answer to that."
"I know the answer to that, Methos. What you'll do. You're my friend so you'll try to save my life - jump in front of a truck for me - like you did with Keane."
"For all the good it did. You still wouldn't accept me. Or forgive me." It wasn't an accusation, just a sad commentary on the facts. He didn't even raise his voice.
I knew he'd disappeared, as completely as if he'd hopped a freighter. He was still sitting in front of me but in his heart he'd left. "It's not questions or answers now, Methos, is it?" I asked gently, trying to reach him in that distant place he'd gone to. That far-off place where I couldn't touch him or hurt him any more.
"Then what is it?"
"How you feel. That's what it is."
He surprised me with his response. I didn't expect him to tell me anything at all. "I feel like shit, Mac. Betrayed, alone, hurt. You said earlier, that it was a long time ago. To me, it happened yesterday. It's still happening, now."
"I suppose you are," he said simply, nodding.
"As sorry as you are, for the lies you told me. I still wake up in the middle of the night and ask you in my mind, why you lied to me. That's in the present, for me."
He looked up. I was surprised to see tears in his eyes. "I know, Mac. I'm sorry about that. Really I am."
"Yes, you are. And I'm sorry I didn't do what I should have done. But it's over. I want it to be over. What else can I say? I want it to be over. I want us to be friends. Do you want that, too, or do you want to close the books on us? That's the choice we have now. In the present. We can't change the past."
For a moment, while he was silent, I held my breath. Then he told me wistfully, "Those few years, before all this happened - I was pretty happy, Mac."
Those words - so simple - tore my heart. But I made myself strong, to do what needed to be done, to hold on to him, to save us. "I think it's your turn now, Methos," I said carefully, keeping all inflexion from my voice.
"To do what?"
"To accept. To forgive. To try again."
"Think so, do you?" he asked dryly.
"Yes I do." I clamped my lips together. Then I spoke again. "I'm not the most objective observer you'll ever meet. I don't claim to be. I know I made mistakes. Wrong choices. I hurt you. But I think you agree that Kronos and the others had to die. I even think you agree that Byron had to die. Maybe I shouldn't have been the one who took their heads. Maybe I should have let you work things out on your own, stayed out of Kronos' way. Let you find your own way to reach Byron, if he could be reached. Or to kill him, if he couldn't. Your friends. Your business. I shouldn't have interfered."
"It did look that way to me, Mac," he said softly.
"But it's over now. I can't do anything to bring them back or work things out in a different way."
"I'm still your friend. I can't begin to imagine a time when I won't be. That doesn't mean I'll always act the way you'd like a friend to act. That I'll always do what you see as the right thing. Nevertheless," I continued, trying for a lighter tone, "I'm not the worst person to have for a friend."
"I'm a pretty good drinking companion. Not bad in a fight. Pretty good sparring partner. You like my cooking. I like to walk."
"All that's true," he replied with a grin.
"If you stick with me, you'll always have a place to sleep. Mi casa es su casa, Methos. My couch is your couch."
His mouth twisted in a small wry smile. "I dunno, Mac. At the moment, you don't have a couch. And you wouldn't give me your barge when I was homeless. You're not the most generous guy I ever met -"
"You're a cheapskate yourself, old man! When's the last time you bought the beer?"
"If we go on the road, we go Dutch, fifty-fifty."
"That's a deal, Methos," I said immediately, putting out my hand for him to shake before he thought better of it. After a moment, he took it, then let it go. He stood and stretched. I thought his mood had shifted and I let out a breath, happy that the moment of danger had passed. But I'd relaxed too soon.
"One thing, MacLeod."
I frowned. "What?"
He laced his fingers together and then squeezed them tightly, holding them under his chin, bending his head slightly. Then he took a deep breath. "I'm betraying every rule I've lived by, to save our friendship. If - if this happens again, I'm gone."
"You threatening me, Methos?" I asked mildly, standing and facing him. He was, and I knew it. It didn't matter a damn to me. As long as he wasn't gone now.
"I guess you could call it a threat, but I see it as a promise. I'll always be your friend but if you betray my trust again, I promise you that it'll be from afar."
"Fair enough." It was fair. I wasn't worried. I've always been a quick study. Learned from my mistakes. I wasn't likely to make the ones I'd made with Methos again. Other ones, not the same ones. But that was in the future, not to worry about now. I'd jump off that bridge when I came to it. "Fair enough."