by Maxine Mayer
I flew home to Seacouver that night, lucky to catch connecting flights without having to wait hours in between. I don't think I could have borne that, easily. Waiting. I couldn't wait.
I wasn't sure if MacLeod was back from Paris yet. But I knew I'd be there, when he got there, if he wasn't already home. Knew I wanted to face whatever must come. And that I wanted Joe Dawson nearby, when I did. Amanda once told me, "Courage, courage!" If I'd ever needed it, now was the moment. My heart beat so frantically that I feared the other passengers might hear it. My throat was dry, my arms trembled, my stomach churned. And more than anything, I was excited - excited. There wasn't any way to calm myself. Nothing I could do. Nothing I could drink. I was excited. And afraid.
Feeling is good. Strong feeling is better. Turmoil is best.
I felt turmoil. Best.
I asked the cabby to let me off a block from the dojo, that I might prepare myself. For what, exactly, I wasn't sure. Perhaps, disappointment. Perhaps, more waiting. I approached MacLeod's place slowly, on foot, every instant searching, reaching out, for the aura of another Immortal. Praying for that. The closer to his flat I came, the more I braced myself for the disappointment, if he wasn't home yet. Soon, I probably would close my eyes, then trip and fall on my face, with disappointment.
No! Yes! Yes! There it is! I thought. There it is! He's home! God be praised! I feel him, he's home!
It was MacLeod's buzz, no doubt about that. Young, alive, rushing like a mountain stream, swirling like a whirlpool. Beautiful. His buzz was beautiful. Never mind the faults and flaws and fears and failures of the man. His buzz was beautiful. That's all I knew, and all I needed to know on earth. Near that buzz, I was happy. Apart from it, I might as well not exist. He was all that mattered. Worth - everything.
Of course, the spirit and the flesh are two very different things.
MacLeod was fussing with the dishes, cleaning up the counter by his sink, when I let myself in. The door was unlocked. He'd felt me coming, a block away.
"So. You're back."
"I was here before you, MacLeod," I responded, already slipping into the easy combative tone, the style we used to deal with each other, as he had. Not a minute together and already we were at odds.
"Ah - but you left. Now, you're back. I was here before you."
"Have it your way," I said wearily, tossing my duffelbag on the floor in a corner, and plopping onto the couch. "I'm too tired to quarrel."
"I'm not quarreling. Just stating a fact. I was here first." He often did that, dealt with me after the fashion he'd described himself as having treated Fitzcairn. Must have missed his old friend very much.
He finally finished sanitizing his kitchen and threw the dishcloth into a bin under the sink. "You want some coffee?"
"Scotch, straight up, please. It was a long flight."
"Where were you?" Duncan asked, pouring a drink for me and bringing it over, then moving back into the kitchen fast, to make himself one. To get away from me. "Joe seemed to think you weren't coming back." He looked at me then, and I knew that he'd been upset, maybe even hurt, to learn that.
"New York." Then. "Look, can I stay here for a couple days? I gave up my flat, my stuff's in storage. I've no place to go."
"Here?" He looked at me.
"Well, I could go to a hotel. But I've gotta get to my vault, pull out some cash. I had some unexpected expenses. Unless you'd care to tide me over? Then, I could leave now."
"No, no - it's okay. You can sleep on the couch for a few days, until you find someplace you want to move into."
"Thanks." Monosyllabic. The conversation of two people who'd never met. Didn't know one another. Couldn't care less. Polite. Accommodating. Distant. Charming. Groan.
We didn't talk for a while. MacLeod took his scotch to his favorite chair, which faced the sofa where I'd stretched out, and nursed it. I nearly fell asleep, I was so exhausted, and so let down. I nearly cried, as well. Cripes! Real life sucks, in a major way. Nothing quite like love from afar. Compared to that, real life's no bargain.
Finally, he spoke again. "What's in New York? Old friends?"
I didn't even want to answer. Or talk about it. "Yeah. Didn't work out. I figured I might as well be here as anywhere. Joe's here, you're here -"
"But I wasn't here."
"You were on your way."
"How'd you know that?"
"Because I was here. It's home. Paris isn't, not anymore." I shrugged.
"No place feels much like home, lately."
I looked up. "What'd you mean?"
"In Paris, I was - I felt - disconnected. Back here, even at Joe's, I feel pretty much the same. Maybe you had the right idea. Maybe it's time to move on, to a new life."
"You know better, Duncan. We carry ourselves wherever we go. Unless we're forced out, we can't simply up and leave, however much we'd like to. Gotta resolve whatever the mess is, right where we are."
"I can't see past it, Methos." He shook his head. There were actually tears in his eyes. I thought he might cry. That frightened me. "I can't see past it. I'm just - drifting - lost. Nothing matters. Nothing moves me. I'm - goddammit. I feel so alone, I could scream."
I wasn't up for this. I danced fast. "It'll pass."
He looked up. "When?" he asked heavily.
I looked away. "Your guess is as good as mine. Sooner or later. Eventually. I dunno."
"How about you? You okay? Joe wasn't exactly worried about you. Just - he didn't think you were doing the right thing. He said he thought you were running away."
"Maybe you were running away or maybe you weren't doing the right thing?"
"MacLeod," I said, getting up off the sofa and pacing to the other end of the loft, then over to a window, when I realized I'd moved towards his bed, "how the hell do I know? 'The right thing!' In a hundred years, I'll know exactly whether what I did was right or wrong, whether I should have done something different. Hindsight will teach me where I should have gone, what I should have done. Right now - I'm as confused as you are. Don't ask me the big questions, because I haven't got the big answers."
He followed me with his eyes, as I went from one spot in the room to another. Then he smiled. "That bad?"
"You've no idea."
He nodded several times. "None at all, of course I haven't."
"Okay - so maybe you're just as shook up as me. We've been through hard times. That takes its toll, MacLeod. If there's one thing I've learned in five thousand years - you can't rush the storyline. It takes its own sweet time getting where it's going. Try to rush, and you've got an abortion, not a life."
"God, I've missed you!" he said suddenly, and my heart flopped over.
"Yes," he answered with a wry smile, "I have."
"Who'd you miss? Me - or Adam Pierson?"
"Is there a difference?"
"Sure as hell is."
"Not in your 'feel,' Methos. No difference there."
"We can't live on 'buzz,' MacLeod," I replied quickly, "can't eat love."
"So - we fight a little. So what?"
"A little? Show me the moon, you'll call it the sun. Show me west, you'll say it's east. Fight a little?"
"That's what I said."
"Right. That's what you said. I say different." I stared him down. "This crap has got to go."
"As Dawson would say, could you talk a little English here?"
"Okay. English. There is no Adam Pierson. I am Methos. And I cannot continue to kill. If I do, I'll go mad. Clear enough for you?"
"Nobody's forcing you to kill, Methos. You can stay out of the Game, if you work at it. You've done it before. You can go to Holy Ground, if you have to, to stay out of it completely. I'll visit you."
"Thanks, but no thanks. It's you, MacLeod. I stay with you, and I'm in the Game, like it or not."
He contradicted me, with a shake of the head. "Not me. Us." He took a deep breath. "We've gotta work it out. However long it takes. However hard it is. We can't run away from it."
I went to the kitchen and poured myself another drink. Then picked up MacLeod's empty glass and brought him one.
"You know, Duncan, there's some as would say, we're co-dependent."
"Right. They aren't Immortals, now are they?"
"We're not so different from Mortals."
"They don't kill to survive. Methos, if you don't seek sanctuary on Holy Ground, you will kill to survive. And so will I. And we'll judge who we'll kill, when we'll walk away. And we'll decide who we want to protect, and who we don't give a damn about. Those are our options. We don't have the option of living a Mortal's life, rather than an Immortal's life - not for long. I know. I tried. With Tessa. Couldn't have been luckier - I was happy for ten years before the Game caught up with me."
"That's about the outer limit of luck, if my experience serves," I replied ruefully. Then, after a moment I said, "Wish I'd known your Tessa."
"So do I." He smiled. "So do I."
"Did you let Joe know you're back yet?" Duncan asked.
"No. Give him a call, would you? I can't talk to anybody now. Too tired."
He did as I asked, without comment. I was so vulnerable, so exhausted, I almost cried at that.
"You know, MacLeod," I said with a grin, after he'd hung up the phone, "we're two sick puppies. Anyone came for our heads tonight, would hit the jackpot."
"Well, then, let's hope nobody comes, because if I've gotta fight tonight - let's just say, it won't be my best fight, not by a longshot."
"On the other hand," I said, changing my mind, "I think if somebody came for my head right now, I'd be so mad, I'd probably slice him up like shishkabob!"
"There is that." Another small smile. I'd been a doctor in my time. Right now, I felt like a dentist.
"What'd you used to do for diversion, before?" I asked curiously.
"You know, when things weren't going well, or you were off your feed - what'd you used to do, to get past it?"
He made a face. Frowned. "I'm not sure. Mostly, women, I think. Sometimes, I just rode over the hill, looking for adventure. For a long time, I made war. Why? What'd you used to do?"
He said, "What's so funny?"
"I just realized, you really don't know."
"What it's like. To be different in every century. To do different things to divert yourself in every century. You don't know what it's like not to be whole, seamless, with a core that's intact no matter where you go, or when it is."
"You - you're not like that?"
"MacLeod, the answer to the question - what did I do to divert myself - is - 'when?'"
"When." He appeared to be completely at a loss to follow my train of thought.
"Yes. When. Which incarnation. Who was I, then? At that particular 'when.' Made a difference in how I frittered away the hours, the years, the decades."
"Okay, tell me. I love a good story, Methos, you know that. The older the better."
"Not tonight." I closed down again. He'd heard enough about my past incarnations to last him a good long while, I believed.
"874 AD," Duncan said, suddenly.
"I don't want to play," I responded irritably.
"Come on, Methos. 874 AD."
"Monk. Spent my free time walking in the woods, sitting under a tree, enjoying nature, away from the 'community,' as far as I could get."
"1194 AD." He was on a roll.
"Same. But I'd made some new friends by then. You might call them, 'pen pals.'" I grinned.
"Your old nemesis, Kalas, for one. I was called Brother Michael. Kalas never knew who I really was, or that I was an Immortal, like him. For that matter, I didn't know about him, until later."
Duncan shook his head. "Kalas and you. What'd you have in common? Books, I suppose."
"Yes. 'Preserving the word,' we called it, back then. We all really believed we were the cat's whiskers, the sacrifices we made, to 'preserve the word.'"
"Well, we were monks."
"You mean, chastity?"
"I can't believe all of you actually kept those vows. Particularly, the vow of chastity. Or obedience, for that matter."
"I don't know about everybody, but I do know about me, and my closest friends. We kept the vows, all right. In return for shelter, and the privilege the monks offered us. And the secret they kept. You can't live that close to people for so many years, without them noticing you don't get any older, you don't get sick, you aren't affected by injury, you don't die - you know the drill."
"Your closest friends and you. All in the same monastery?"
"No, no! Of course not. Separate. And in those days, fifty miles was a journey. Sometimes, we didn't see each other for decades."
"Sounds like an act of faith, to me, sticking with it, alone and on your own, like that."
"At the time, I was very happy to do it. Very happy, on the whole."
"Without anyone, of either sex. Yes. I was happy. The times were different-"
"And you were different. I remember."
I sighed. "Well, it's true."
"I know that now, Methos," he said sincerely. "I do."
"My God - so long?"
"We were doing what we believed was important work. Besides, we ate pretty well, in the monasteries."
"Right. You gave up women and freedom for food. I don't think so."
"I didn't say that. But - it was an advantage. That, and safety."
"Don't tell me you were afraid of anything - I know better now. Adam Pierson the coward never existed."
"They burned witches back then, MacLeod. They burned Immortals as well, when they figured us out. Decided we were unnatural. Abominations. In the monasteries, we were safe. Not an inconsiderable advantage."
"When you finally left, was it hard to adjust to the world again?"
"Took a few dozen women before I got the hang of it."
"The hang of sex?"
"The hang of living in the world without sex."
"What'd you mean?"
"You can't cut yourself off for that many centuries and not affect your interest, your fire. Besides, I'd come up with a whole new philosophy of women, and it didn't fit the times - at all."
"What kind of philosophy?"
"That women were men's equals. That they deserved respect and love. That they didn't exist simply to serve our desires and do our bidding. Let me tell you, that was not a popular concept, back then. I put myself on hold -" I stopped for a moment. "Truth to tell, my body put me on hold. I came back, eventually, to some accommodation with women, and appetite. Took a while, though."
"You're used to this, aren't you?" he asked, curious.
"To long periods of mess, disorientation, being without a sense of purpose, or direction, or connection. You're used to it."
"You cannot get used to it, MacLeod. You never do. That's the whole point. It hurts. It's the pain that forces the growth. Without the pain, we'd all be dashing about on all fours, instead of walking upright, as we were meant to do."
He smiled. "It's my duty to warn you, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law, Methos. You're committing wisdom - en garde!"
"Oops! Sorry! Thanks for the warning!" I grinned. "You are a Boy Scout, MacLeod. Won't even let me mouth off about life without giving me an honest out."
"I'm your friend. Wouldn't want you to destroy your image, without at least trying to prevent it."
"But you're wrong about me, Duncan. Adam Pierson didn't give advice. Methos has no such qualms."
"Methos," he murmured. "What incarnation of Methos are you now? From what time period? I mean, since Bordeaux and what happened with the Horsemen."
"All I know for sure is, I'm back before I stopped taking heads two hundred years ago. And I'm after I left the monastery for good. Joe figured, seventeenth century. That's about right, I think."
"So - tell me - what were you like then?"
"Heavily into art and music and science. Literature, not so much, as I recall. Loved poetry. Always have, still do."
"That's what you did for diversion, those centuries?"
"No. I did women. And men. Sex in all shapes and forms. My set were iconoclasts. Rebels. Kind of - throw things, drink up, shoot up - the whole ball of wax. What was soon to be called, La Vie Boheme. Bohemians." I wrinkled my nose. "Sounds so old fashioned, today."
"But it's still going on. Those punks with purple hair and rings in their noses - they're trying for the same effect."
"Not quite, MacLeod, not quite. We could read and write. I'm not so sure about the modern day punks."
"You'd be surprised."
I fell asleep on the couch, and MacLeod in his chair. The sun streaming in through his glazed windows woke me, and I stretched and went to the bathroom. When I came out, Duncan had already put on coffee and taken juice out of the refrigerator. The perfect hausfrau. Then, he'd always been that. Couldn't ask for a better stocked fridge or pantry. And when you took off your shoes and walked on MacLeod's floors, your feet didn't get black.
"Morning, Methos. Sorry I fell asleep on you."
"Did you? Didn't notice. Too busy snoring myself. Thanks for the talk."
Goddamn morning person! He was frisky as a kitten, raring to go, I could feel it. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open. I wanted nothing more than to get rid of him, so I could flop face down on his bed and sleep until three in the afternoon.
Of course, no such luck!
"You wanna go for a run with me?" he asked, all earnest and up.
"Sure," I said, groaning in silence. "Can't think of any better way to spend my morning."
"Good," he replied, taking my words at face value. "And later, I'm meeting Joe and we're going to the zoo. They've got newborn bears we want to see. Come with us."
"You sure you want me along?"
"Why not? It's Sunday - you don't want to go apartment hunting on a Sunday. Besides, maybe you can get your old place back. You can check it out with your landlord tomorrow. Then you'll know better where you stand."
"Okay. Fine. I'll run. I'll do the zoo. But I warn you," I said, shaking a finger at him, "comes five o'clock, I'm having me a drink at Joe's, and nobody better say me nay!"
"Absolutely. Wouldn't miss it for the world."
I smiled. He already had his running gear on. I said, "Wait for me in the dojo. I'll change, then I'll be right down."
After we'd run until I was blue in the face, and we'd stopped to buy drinks from a street vendor, I tried to convince him we should eat lunch out.
"No, no! Why waste the money? I've got plenty food in the house. I'll make us lunch."
"Whatever for? That's what restaurants were created to do - feed us."
"Methos - gotta stay healthy, for the Game. When I cook what I've bought, I know the food's right - healthy, nourishing. The stuff they serve in restaurants - it's okay, once in a while, or on a date, but not every day, not every night. It's bad enough we drink as much as we do."
"I hope you're not gonna try to get me to quit, because I'll be on the first plane outta here, if you even look that thought cross-eyed at me!"
"No. It's okay for us. There are some advantages to being Immortal. But I don't like to mess with my food."
"Okay," I said, putting up my hands in surrender, "you cook, I'll eat. Whatever turns you on, MacLeod."
"Well, I like to cook."
"I know. Even for yourself alone."
"I prefer company," he said, as he unlocked the dojo door. Then he glanced at me. "I did miss you, Methos. Whoever you are. You may not be Adam Pierson any more, but I'll bet my bottom dollar you still like to eat the way he did."
"You'd win that bet," I replied, grinning. "And yes, I do appreciate a decent meal. You're a good cook. With the advantage - over a woman - that you don't expect me to rave about it."
"Well, it wouldn't hurt -" he said, plaintively, joking, I hoped.
"Yeah, and I'm supposed to compliment you on the curtains, too?"
"A little appreciation goes a long way, Methos. Didn't you learn that in five thousand years?"
We got upstairs and he headed for the kitchen, while I made myself at home on his couch. "What time are we meeting Dawson? Can't wait for him to take the burden off me, for small talk."
"Can't live on buzz, Methos. Can't eat love."
I shook my head. "I can't live on health food. And I can't eat small talk."
"No?" he asked skeptically. Then he grinned. "Think the Giants are gonna win the Pennant this year?"
"Fuckin' A, Mac!" I answered automatically.
I went on, "Who do you have to fuck to get a drink around here?"
"Sherry?" Duncan replied, on cue.
"I don't believe it - you actually saw that movie?"
"Not just once. Six times. All time record for me. Before vcr's. Paid to get in. Six times."
"You'll never cease to amaze me, MacLeod."
"Do my humble best, as Adam Pierson would have said."
"Why?" I asked.
"What did you like about that movie?"
He thought for a moment, then answered, a dreamy expression transforming his face. "The way it goes dark in the middle, when the rains come. The music. The pain. The hope. The love. The redemption." He smiled. "And of course, the lines. That is one clever screenplay. Play. The acting." He mused. "Nothing I didn't like about it."
"Except - you don't mention the story."
"You mean - what it's about?" he asked, playing dumb.
I nodded my head. "Yes, MacLeod, what it's about. Who it's about."
Suddenly, his eyes flashed and I felt his aura spike. "Let's rent it! We can watch it tonight, when we get back from Joe's. What do you say?"
"Oh no. Oh no. Not 'The Boys in the Band,' not with you, MacLeod. You gotta be putting me on. You watch that movie with your own kind, not with -"
"Not with who?" He interrupted angrily. "Strangers?"
"I didn't mean it that way."
"You did mean it that way. I'm not a homosexual, so I can't really appreciate that movie. You can't watch it with me, because of what - you'd be embarrassed? I haven't been around long enough? Don't know which end's up?"
"God, MacLeod," I said, letting out a sigh, "you gonna be difficult now? Just before we eat all that healthy food you're gonna prepare for us? Ruin our digestion? Okay - we'll rent it. Maybe even, watch it. Together. It won't be the first time I blushed. Or the last."
"It's perfectly clean," he replied indignantly. "No sex at all, in that film. I watched it with Tessa and Richie. Nobody blushed, that I noticed."
"Sure. Whatever. Fuckin' A, Mac."
Whatever was going on with MacLeod, I'd never felt so suspicious in my life, as I felt today. Nor, so vulnerable. Well, maybe when I'd placed his blade to my throat, the day we met. But certainly not since then. Not even with Kronos.
Was he actually going to try to seduce me? Me?
Green Boy, indeed. Goes to show, I was right. Don't trust anybody.
Whatever for? That was the question. If it was for love, fine. I'd be happy to oblige. Delighted. Ecstatic.
But if it was merely out of boredom, or curiosity, I was damned if I'd be his guinea pig. I cared too much. Once we stepped through the gate and arrived at the other side - once we did the dark deed - well, he should know - there's no way back. And no way out, without lots of pain. Man'd had enough women to know that, you'd think. Maybe he thinks, for men it's different. Maybe he thinks, for men it's simply sex.
Oh Duncan, you be careful. You be very careful. You're not with Adam Pierson any more. Methos here, who's there? Methos here, who's there?
Then, of course, there's the worst case scenario. Pity. Feeling sorry for me, because he knows I love him. Fuck the poor guy, it can't hurt much. And he loves you so much. It'll make him so happy. What's to lose?
Everything. Simply - everything to lose, in that case. For me. And for you. You'd pay heavily, if it's pity, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. You've no idea. No clue, what that particular experiment can cost you, friend. Innocence, for starters. Freedom, for dessert.
Watching the film with MacLeod was quite distressing. He enjoyed it so thoroughly, I thought he'd fall on the floor laughing. And he suffered through the sad parts - virtually, the entire second half of the movie - as if he'd never seen it before. The worst blast from his aura came when a character told the others, "Michael doesn't have charm, he has counter-charm." Clearly, this phrase evoked such anguish in MacLeod that he couldn't hold it in check at all.
I was so startled by the emotion his buzz emitted that I involuntarily said, "What!"
He shook his head and we watched the rest of the film. When it was over he stopped the tape and turned off the television. He shook his head. Went right back to my question about the line, "Michael doesn't have charm, he has counter-charm."
"I don't even know. I always loved that line, but I never felt like that when I heard it, not until this time."
I nodded a couple times. "Reminds you of somebody, is why."
I lifted an eyebrow and chuckled mirthlessly. "Me."
"The line? Or Michael?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Both, I guess. Can't separate the two, now can you?"
"But you're not like that character."
"No, not at a glance. I'm not a Mortal homosexual. But the glory of the play is its universality, Duncan. Michael isn't merely an 'anxious queer.' Michael is a man running from himself. Lashing out at everyone and everything around him, to avoid facing his own anguish. A man who doesn't want to be who he is. And has no choice but to be. Michael is a desperate, dangerous killer. A lovable man who cannot love."
"And you're gonna tell me you're like that?" MacLeod was incapable of accepting it, not in that form.
"I've been, and might be again, very much like that," I said, softening the images.
"When you were with Kronos?" he asked, a crack in his voice.
"Oh, closer in time than that, MacLeod."
"But not now?"
He wanted reassurance, fast. I wasn't going to give it. I lifted an eyebrow. Picked up my beer can. Left the couch and went to the kitchen. Without answering.
"You gonna talk to me, or what?"
"Duncan -" I sighed. "Things are tough all over."
"Talk, Methos," he demanded. "Now."
"Well, there's no question I'm a desperate, dangerous killer, when I'm cornered. Always been that." I smiled small.
"You're an Immortal - you kill to survive."
"But not always, only to survive."
"But - now." He was certain.
I let him keep his illusions, for the moment. "No, I don't kill Mortals anymore. For any reason. I promise." It was true enough, as far as it went.
"And you can love. I know that."
"Yes, well -" I didn't complete the sentence.
"You can. You have. You do. Alexa. Amanda."
I didn't respond.
"All right. Me."
He watched me circle nearly the entire room to avoid passing close to him when I brought my fresh beer back to the couch.
"You're here because you can't not be. But you don't want to be. That's what you're saying, right?"
"I wish I didn't need to be with you, yes, MacLeod. It's not pleasant. I haven't forgotten. Any of it."
"Forgiven, but not forgotten," he said, smiling again.
"Same as you, Mac, same as you."
"Oh, I don't think my memory is anywhere near in your class. I think your grudges could last millennia."
"And yours couldn't?"
"No. Oh, you're right. I can't forget so fast either. But at least I'm trying. You - you don't want to forget. You want to remember the whole damn thing. What you said, what Cassandra said, what Kronos said, what I said. All of it. You want to rub salt in your wounds. Remember it all."
"If I don't, who will? MacLeod - to you it was one incident with one friend. To me, it was the death of a life. The death of men I spent centuries with. My brothers. But -"
"It was more. When our paths crossed, yours and mine, I felt - transcendent. Involved in something glorious. Protecting the One to Be. Now - since Bordeaux - all that's gone. I'm lost in the dark dreariness of ordinary life again. Disappointments, desires, fears. I'm nobody again. Hurtling through the centuries on a course going nowhere. Bordeaux was more than the death of the Horsemen. It was the death of my life, of the friend I'd hoped and trusted you were, of the man I was. And the man I became, when I was with you. If I can't have that any longer, at least I can remember it."
"You want to remember it, no matter how much it hurts?"
"Yes," I said softly, looking at him. "Oh yes."
He sat quietly for a while. Got up. Got another drink. Sat down again. Then put his head in his hands for a while. Finally, he looked up at me.
"We're still friends, Methos. Maybe it's not the same as it was. Maybe you're not so amusing, or noble. And I'm not so - innocent. But we're still friends."
I tried again. I don't know why. He wouldn't understand, no matter what I said, because he didn't feel the same, never would.
"What happened with the Horseman stole my way of life from me, MacLeod. My way of -" I took a deep breath. "My way of coping with my feelings. The jokes, the barbs, the light touch. The tight rein on my power and my anger. And my love." I looked at him. Tried to think of a way to say what I had to say, without saying anything at all. Gave up. Shut up.
"Methos, we're not so different. Everything inside me feels raw, scraped raw. All the time, now. Every day. I miss the carefree hours, too." His sincerity was so patent, I nearly died from the pain.
"We are different, MacLeod. The difference between 'one among many,' and 'one in a million.' You cannot understand, because you do not share the feeling."
"Why do you say that? How can you say that? You think I hold you lightly? That I don't care, don't give a damn?"
"Duncan - drop it, right now, before you're sorry you spoke."
But he went on. "You weren't there with me and Cassandra, in Bordeaux. You weren't there when she was press-ganging me into killing you and Kronos. You weren't there when I was wrestling with how I felt - going insane because I knew, just knew, I couldn't kill you, no matter what! Even if I had to! You can't know how that made me feel -"
"I do know. You felt like you didn't know which end was up. Who you were. What you stood for. Like your core was no longer intact. Stop me when I strike a chord."
"You make it sound so simple," he retorted bitterly.
"It is simple. You wanted me to live. You thought you shouldn't have. It went against everything you've been, everything you believe in. But it was true. Not pretty. I knew it then. I sympathized - from afar."
"What else could I do? I was otherwise engaged."
"Why'd you have to do it alone, Methos? Why couldn't you trust me?"
"I might ask the same question, Duncan. Why'd you go off with Cassandra, listen to her, not me?"
"Come on, Methos - she was the injured party. Not you."
"Three thousand years ago, she was the injured party! That day in your dojo, I was the injured party!"
He was silent for a minute, then got up and paced the room. Then stared at me.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, finally.
"I needed you, MacLeod. I didn't come to you because I wanted you to fight my battles for me, not the way Cassandra needed you to. I needed your friendship. Period. End of story. Not to help me handle a difficult problem with a tough Immortal. Not to help me kill the Horsemen. Only your friendship. Your trust. No questions asked. No answers required. I needed you, and I was the injured party!"
He didn't answer me, so I went on. "Because you did ask questions, Duncan. And you didn't like the answers. Who would?"
"You're right. I didn't like the answers. You made sure of that!"
"I told you the truth."
"No you didn't. You told me what you wanted me to know. Not the truth. The worst."
I didn't follow. "How'd you mean?"
"The truth probably includes a whole lot of extenuating circumstances - more than you can cover with a few words like, 'I was different, the world was different.'"
"I wasn't about to excuse what I'd done."
He smiled. "No, you weren't. No matter what it cost you."
"I didn't expect you to react differently, Duncan. I know you."
"Ah - but you didn't want me to know you. You had your chance, in the parking lot, to tell me what really happened with you and Kronos. Three thousand years ago. And that day. You didn't."
"No, I didn't. What would be the point?"
"You also didn't tell me you wanted him dead. There might have been a point in telling me that. You made a real song and dance out of what happened thirty centuries ago, but you didn't say a word about what had happened to you that day."
"I didn't need your help."
"You were running, Methos. You didn't tell me why. Ever gonna tell me why?"
"He wanted me to kill you," I admitted. Made no difference now.
"I thought so. Finally figured that out."
"I didn't want to," I added after a moment.
"There's a surprise," he retorted. "What was the big secret, Methos? Why couldn't you tell me what was going on? You had your chance. Several chances. Maybe not when you wanted them, in my dojo. But you had chances."
"By then it was too late, MacLeod."
"Yeah, by then you'd decided not to trust the Green Boy after all."
"I told you the truth," I protested.
"But not all of it. Not by a long shot."
I brushed my hand through my hair. Couldn't think, for a moment. Was he right? Had I told him what I did, the way I did, because I meant to push him away? Why? For his safety? Out of pride? Or guilt? So he'd punish me? I shook my head.
"I'd been alone a long time, MacLeod. I distrusted - everybody. Maybe, when I was pushed to the wall, my nature took over, same as yours."
"Maybe." He stared at me. "And maybe, you never trusted me to begin with. I know there's plenty things you don't tell me, won't tell me, about yourself. Plenty things you don't want me to know. Even now."
"It's been a long life, MacLeod. I haven't told you every detail. Sue me."
"You haven't told me anything at all! Except about that business with Kronos and his boys. Nothing. I don't even know if you ever met Darius, or just read about him - and me - in the Chronicles. I don't know what you've got going with Amanda - but whatever it is, I think it's worth a remark, seeing as how Amanda and I are an item. You obviously don't agree. Come on, Methos - I could drive a stake through your heart, and you wouldn't open up to me. Why is that?"
He'd driven a stake through my heart, already, the day we met. "Why is what?"
"Why don't you trust me? Is it something I said?"
"MacLeod, it's who you are."
"Because I'm young?"
"I don't think so." I shook my head. It wasn't that.
"Because I'm a 'Boy Scout,' right? That's it, isn't it? Same reason Amanda won't give me the time of day about her past, except the clean bits, about her and Rebecca."
"You gotta admit, Duncan, the seamier side of life doesn't exactly turn you on."
"How the hell would you know? Ever ask me?"
"I've read your Chronicles. No x-rated bits at all."
"So why am I with Amanda? And you? Tell me that!"
I had no answer, so he went on. "Watchers don't know everything. And they don't tell everything, either. You haven't got a monopoly on cheering your boy on. Watchers fall in love with their Immortals, same as anybody else. They write from an angle, slant their stories whatever way they think makes their boy seem worthy to be the One in the End. They're no different from you, Methos. You see what you want to see, when you look at me. Couldn't bear it when I almost went under, after Coltec's Quickening. I thought you'd commit suicide, when I killed Sean Burns. Didn't fit my image, did it?"
"It's not the same, MacLeod. You were in a unique situation, there were powerful forces at work within you, driving you where you would not go." I shook my head. "It's not the same."
"How's it different? You've been driven through fifty centuries by a force you couldn't control. Immortality. If you - smoked a little grass and popped a few pills to ease the burden along the way - how is it different?"
I didn't answer him. I grinned.
"What?" he said.
"What?" he repeated. "Why are you grinning?"
"You're very sweet, Duncan, you know that?"
He made a face. "Yeah, I know. They all tell me so."
"But you don't say - if I rolled in the hay with someone of the same gender - how is it different?"
"Well - add that to the list. How is it different from anything any of us does to make it from today into tomorrow? Sometimes we do the wrong thing. Sometimes we regret what we've done. We try to do right. Do what seems right, at the time. Do what makes us proud, would make our family proud, if they knew. We fail miserably, often enough. I really don't understand how you could believe I'd put homosexuality in the same basket with murdering Sean Burns. I don't understand how you could believe I'd put loving another man in the same class with what you did with the Horsemen."
"I don't think that."
"Not when you put it that way. You don't often put it that way."
"How could I? We never even talked about it before!"
"When you're right, you're right, MacLeod."
"Of course," I continued, "that's not the problem."
"No?" He sounded skeptical.
I smiled. "No."
"Okay, I'll play. What's the problem?"
"Us. We're the problem."
"You telling me you want to sleep with me?"
"No. I'm not telling you that at all."
He looked at me hard, then got up and made himself another drink. "Want another, Methos?"
"Sure. A double."
He came back to his chair and sat down again, sipping his drink slowly. "So, you're not telling me that at all," he said, resuming the conversation where I'd left off. "Why aren't you telling me that? It's true, isn't it?" Dry. Dry as dust. We were having an academic discussion. Researching the truth.
Two could be dry. Two could tell the truth. "Because I'm afraid."
"Why? According to you, our friendship's dead. We hang around together because we don't have a choice. If we had free will, we'd be out of here in a flash. So - what've you got to lose?"
He had a point. After a fashion. What had I to lose, according to my own theory? Only thing left was his respect, according to my theory. And I'd already forfeited that, when I told him about my exploits with the Horsemen.
When I didn't reply, he said, "You're pretty stubborn, Methos. But then, if you weren't, you wouldn't have survived five thousand years, would you?"
"Dunno. Probably not."
"You want me to make the first move. So it'll always be my fault, if anything goes wrong. So you can keep your hands clean - though why you should want that is beyond me. You want me to make like it's my idea, when we both know I wouldn't come up with that idea in a million years, if you hadn't somehow mesmerized me into thinking of it."
"Oh - I mesmerized you, did I?" I said testily.
He raised an eyebrow. "Maybe not literally. But you've got a buzz and a half - when you want to - and you usually want to, with me."
"Oh - now it's my buzz, is it?" I retorted. "I'm emitting presence - got no choice. Nothing more."
"Bullshit. You've got a choice. I don't know how you do it, but you do it, all right."
I began to laugh. "You're telling me, I'm coming on to you with my aura? I'm seducing you with my buzz?" I laughed some more. "And I thought you had no imagination, MacLeod! I was wrong!"
"Now you're lying, Methos. Again. Thought you'd finished doing that. Lying to me."
I got serious again. Couldn't let things run away with me. "I love you, Duncan. But I'm not trying to seduce you, or hypnotize you either. That's the point, Green Boy!"
"What's the point? What do you mean?"
"I mean, if it isn't too difficult for you to believe, I've got a bit of honor, too. My raping and pillaging days are long past. My centuries in the monastery weren't entirely lost on me. I did know Darius - perhaps better than you did. Certainly, longer. And I don't take trophies!"
"You're too honorable to sleep with me?"
"That's not what I said! I said, I wasn't about to seduce you or hypnotize you into doing something you don't want to do!"
"Who says I don't want to?"
"Who says you don't want to do what?" He didn't answer. "You see - you can't even say the words. How on earth could you do the deed?"
"Okay." His face was a study - bravado warring with embarrassment, tortured by terror of being a fool. But he did it, he said it. "Who says I don't want to make love with you? I do."
That's my boy! I thought! As he once said of an old friend, Warren Cochrane, he never ran from a fight in his life! I thought the same of Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Never ran from a fight in his life! Give him something really tough to do, and he'll do it! Give him something really tough to admit, and he'll say it. Whatever the cost. Even if it were a lie.
"Really?" I said, sarcasm dripping from my voice.
"You don't believe me? I'm not a liar, Methos."
"You mean - now?" His voice faltered. He looked like a scared rabbit.
"Now. Call Joe and tell him we're going to be lovers, and you want him to be the first to know, since he's your Watcher."
He was furious. He stood up. "Why you making fun of me, Methos? You think I have no feelings? That you can't hurt me?"
"Duncan - you no more want to make love with me than the man in the moon. It's my shtick, not yours. Even for me, it was an acquired taste. And not acquired by choice. You're a man who loves women, not men. You want me to get you drunk? Dope you up? So you'd maybe get an ounce of pleasure out of an act which has no purpose whatever except pleasure?"
Stubbornly, he hung on. "I said I wanted it. It's not just a word - I meant it."
"No, you didn't mean it. You couldn't mean it. You love women too much."
"I love you too, damn you! Don't you think I'd get some pleasure out of giving you pleasure? Don't you imagine I'd get some pleasure out of holding the person I love? Touching the person I love? Whoever he is? Don't you think I dream about it? What do you take me for, an idiot?"
"Sometimes. But not at the moment. At the moment, I'm the idiot." I didn't remember ever being this frightened of anything or anyone. Not in fifty centuries. But then, I didn't remember loving anyone quite so much, so fast. Not an Immortal. Never an Immortal.
"You're scared, aren't you?" Duncan is nothing if not intuitive in matters of the heart. And gentle.
"No Green Boy could be more frightened," I admitted.
"You're scared of me?" he asked, astonished. When I didn't reply he added, "You know I won't hurt you."
"That's truly feeble, MacLeod. I'm not frightened you'll hurt me."
"I'll play. Why are you frightened, Methos?"
"I'm afraid - to get what I want."
"And find you didn't really want it after all?"
"Something like that."
"How much like that?" he asked.
"Don't be afraid," he answered with a smile. "You'll have a good time. We'll have a good time. Promise. Never had any complaints, so far. Not in four hundred years."
"Well, there's always a first time. No double entendre meant," I added with a grin.
"It's not. Not my first time."
"I thought you said you didn't lie to me, MacLeod," I retorted.
"I'm not lying. There have been a few. But sex only. Never anything more. Never - anything more," he repeated.
"That game's over, Methos. I think we're done talking. Time to do, not to talk," he said, hard as nails.
"Ah, Duncan, my Dark Duncan. When you're right, you're right."
There are collarbones and collarbones. There's skin and skin. There's mouths and mouths.
And then there's MacLeod.
He'd said he wanted to make love with me. Not that he wanted to have sex with me. Make love with me. He proved it.
I accepted his ministrations with nearly total passivity. Perhaps I harbored a lingering fear I'd be seducing him, somehow, if I did even the slightest thing that might be construed as active, not to say, aggressive. If I used any technique whatever, of which I was master. If I even moved, I think.
"It's your turn, Methos. You okay? Still breathing? Or are you dead?"
"I'm dead. You killed me, MacLeod. I'm quite quite dead. Take my Quickening and go."
"I'd be happy to take your 'quickening,' if you'd move a little. You're giving 'lazy' a bad name, Methos."
"Quit whining. I'm exhausted. Utterly wiped out. Tomorrow, maybe -"
"Not tomorrow, Methos. Now. Let's see what a five thousand year old man can teach a Green Boy about love."
I smiled. It was dark in the loft, so he didn't see my smile. But I'm sure he heard it in my voice. "Not much, I assure you, Old Timer," I replied.
"Come on, Methos, strut your stuff! A little showing off wouldn't come amiss right now, really it wouldn't!"
I rolled over and groaned. "Well, if you insist!"
"I do. I insist!" His mouth found mine again, and my heart went into my throat. Such a sweet brave boy, I thought, not for the first time that night. No doubt about it, it was showtime!
Have you ever been to Seacouver in May? When the trees are greening and the sky is brightly blue and the sun strikes you dead? Have you ever been in Seacouver in May? When it rains every day and the dreary gray of spring drives you mad with longing for Paris?
Have you ever walked the streets of Seacouver and thought you were in Paris, because suddenly, Seacouver was the City of Lights, the City of Lovers, because you were in love? And there was no shadow of Death to dim your joy?
Well, I have.
Sometimes, hausfrau is really cool. Most Immortals aren't terribly domestic. They try to invest their energy in training or spiritual discovery. Some study. Some make lots of money. Some conquer women. Some conquer men. Some become philanthropes. Some become misanthropes. Some become dissolute. Some become collectors.
But few are domestic. MacLeod was one. And the happier he got, the more domestic he became.
He must have been delirious, because he cooked himself into oblivion over the next few days. And absolutely eradicated every particle of dust in the loft, then went to work on the dojo. When he wasn't attacking me in a major way, in bed, he was playing opera really loud - singing along, off key - and cleaning or cooking. Or buying me clothes, particularly, sweaters, with loathesome designs. Or doing laundry. Merely watching him exhausted me. I rested on the couch, or the bed, as often as possible. Anywhere the view was choice, to watch him explode. Glorious!
I was incapable of doing anything but watch him, or eat what he cooked, or run with him, or spar with him. Or make love with him. I could do nothing else. I read nothing. I thought nothing. I simply basked in his aura, which was up to double-strength - and counting - and returned buzz points for buzz points, whenever he stopped a moment in his labors to smile in my direction. Which couldn't be too often for me.
But something was wrong - I trusted nothing of this. Nothing at all. Yes, I delighted in it but distrusted it mightily. And the happier we became, the less I trusted what we had.
Finally, MacLeod noticed.
"What?" I asked irritably, puffing on a cigar, a new experience. "I'm using the ashtray."
"What is it? What's the matter?"
"Nothing. Nothing's the matter. What could be wrong? I'm in heaven. You're in heaven. What's for lunch?"
"Nothing's wrong, Duncan."
"You want to do something? Go to Joe's tonight? We haven't seen anybody but each other in weeks."
"Joe understands," I replied.
"That's not my point."
I'd moved a bit past total distrust - with him. "I'm frightened," I admitted.
He put away the broom and came and sat next to me on the sofa. "Give me that cigar. You know you hate smoking."
"Take it," I muttered, making a face.
He did, and put it in the ashtray. Then he turned to me and rested his hand on my shoulder. "Tell me."
"It can't last."
He shook his head. "I'm not a 'here today, gone tomorrow' sort of man, Methos. You've read my Chronicles. You should know that much."
"You left Kristin."
"I didn't love Kristin."
"You don't love me. You can't."
"We back to square one again? Why not?"
"It's against nature - or at least, your nature."
"What? Loving you, or making love with you?"
"I don't know."
"Methos, what is it?"
"You got a call earlier, when you were out shopping. Amanda. She'll be here soon. Flying the last leg in from Paris."
"So? It'll be good to see her again. I've missed Amanda," Duncan replied evenly.
"That's it? All you can say?"
"What do you expect me to say, Methos?"
"How much do you want her to know?"
"About what?" he asked.
"I'll give you three guesses!"
"About us?" Sometimes, he's a bit much, even for me.
"Bright boy! Yes - about us! Amanda doesn't need to know, if you prefer it that way."
"Know what? That we're sleeping together or that we love each other?"
"Either one. Both."
He smiled. Squeezed my shoulder gently. "It's too late," he said softly. "She already knows we love each other. Amanda's no Green Girl, Methos."
"She knows nothing of the sort. We're friends. She knows that much. Nothing more."
"Amanda knows everything, Methos. Knew all along. And what she didn't know - I've already told her."
"You did what?" I shouted, jumping from the sofa and moving away from Duncan.
"I told her. That we've become lovers." He looked up at me. "I thought she ought to hear it from me, rather than from some big-mouthed Watcher. I called her in Paris, when we began."
I was thoroughly perplexed. "Why'd you tell her? This changes nothing between the two of you."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I mean, you'll go back to sleeping with her. It's only right. This was a lovely diversion, Duncan. Thank you. I'll move out before she gets here."
"I'll be fine. I'm accustomed to seeing the two of you together. I won't get in the way, promise."
"What!" I shouted, utterly losing it. "You don't expect me to make a threesome of it, do you? I don't do threesomes. 'I like 'em all, but I like 'em one at a time'!" I quoted.
"Methos, I'm not going back with Amanda. And I don't do threesomes either. I love you. We're - together - for as long as you're willing to tolerate me. I know it won't be long. I've read your Chronicles, too. You don't let any grass grow under your feet. That's all right. I'll be happy with what I get. Amanda and I are friends. She understands. Do you?"
"Nope." I didn't. Nothing.
"I think it ought to be pretty obvious - I'm monogamous. And housebroken. I love you. As long as you want me, I'm here."
There's always a short lag between hearing and comprehending, I suppose. "You're not going back with Amanda?"
"That's what I said." He smiled. "You don't want me to leave you, do you?"
Put that way, it was a bit foolish. "No, I don't want that."
"You're still - pleased with me - those are words you understand, right? Aren't you?"
"Pleased with you?" I was bewildered.
"Yes. Pleased. The new toy hasn't paled for you yet, has it?"
"MacLeod - what are you talking about?"
"I remember very well what you said before we got together, Methos. That you were afraid you wouldn't be happy, once you got what you were after. Well, you got it. Are you still happy?"
"You think I see you as some sort of - possession - some toy I was hankering after? And now I've got you, I'm sure to fling you into a corner, when I've tired of playing with you?"
"That's about the size of it, I'm sure," he replied.
"And you'd engage on those terms?" I asked.
"I have. I have no choice."
"No choice?" I asked.
"I love you." He shrugged. "Sometimes, it's not reciprocal. But I want to be with you, so -" He shrugged again.
"Where's your katana?" I asked.
"In the stand by the back door."
"Please get it, MacLeod."
He stood up and brought me his katana, offering it into my hands hilt first.
"Thank you." I took his hand, as I had so long ago, and placed the hilt of the katana between his fingers. "There you go, Mac." I lifted the blade to my neck. "Take it."
"Take my head. My Quickening. Everything."
He frowned. "What are you doing?"
"Take it! Go on! It's a good hefty sum, fifty centuries. Doesn't come along every day. Take it."
"But you've already got it - why not finish the job?"
"Everything! Everything I am! All my power, my memories, my spirit! Who and what I am! You've got it all! But evidently, you don't believe it. So - I'm willing to prove it. Take my head. My Quickening. Go on! Cut clean!"
"You're crazy!" he shouted. "I'd go mad if you weren't here! Alive! I want you to live!"
"No - not me! You don't know me! You've proved that, by what you think of me. So - take it all. Then, maybe, just maybe, you'll understand!"
There were tears in his eyes. I let go of his blade and he put the katana aside, on a low table. I embraced him. "I don't know what you've read about me, Duncan, but I never walked away from someone I loved, not even Kronos. We were separated by circumstance. I didn't leave him."
"Look at me, Duncan. Do I look like a Lothario to you? Like Don Juan, perhaps?"
He smiled but the tears were still there. "Not exactly," he admitted.
I nodded. "No, not exactly. MacLeod, in the End there can be Only One. That'll be you. Until then, I'm afraid, you're stuck with me."
"I'll track you down, if you leave," he said, and I felt his buzz warm at the thought. "However long it takes." Action suited him.
"I'd expect no less from Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
"Well, that's what you'd get."
"I hope we won't need to have this conversation too often, Duncan," I murmured, smoothing his back.
"Every decade or so," he replied, with a lilt in his voice.
"Well, then, that's all right. Because we're done none too soon."
"What do you mean?"
"Amanda. I feel her. She's across the road."
"You can feel her from that far away?" he asked, amazed.
"At the moment. Farther, when I'm in the woods, or on a farm. City life dulls the senses. Besides, too many emotions coming at me right now. Yours, especially."
He held me tightly. "Before she comes -"
"One last embrace? Ah, Duncan - such a Green Boy, you are! And so well loved!"
"For an Old Timer, you're pretty well loved, yourself!"
"Ah - but I've earned it!" I retorted, laughing.
"Good to hear you laugh, Methos. Always good."
"I never thought I'd laugh again, after Bordeaux."
"Neither did I."
"But inside your aura, when you were open to the Quickening - I felt joy. And that was the best!" I kissed him quickly.
"No. This is the best," he replied, returning my kiss. "Right now."