by Maxine Mayer
I got his address from the Paris phone directory. I didn't ask anybody for his phone number or where he lived because I wanted to keep my visit a secret from all of them - Joe, Amanda. Well, there weren't so many of them, when I thought about it. But each loomed in my mind as a questioner, big time. Each loomed in my head, asking questions I didn't have answers for. Sometimes I believed I'd never have the answers.
I knew only this one thing. I needed to see him - Methos - and he wasn't around anymore.
Oh, he'd come back, for a minute, because Amanda'd asked him. Tried to save me from myself, over Stephen Keane. But that was weeks ago, and I'd traveled a bit since. There'd been no messages on my answering machine when I'd returned last week, leaving Richie behind with his new friends. No messages from anybody I cared about, anyway. Not from Joe, or Amanda, or Methos.
But it was Methos whose presence I needed. The one I wanted to talk to. Figure things out with. I couldn't escape the irony of my situation. I'd done my level best to push the man away, after he'd done his best to push me away. And now. Now, there was nobody else in the universe but him. My mouth twitched as I thought of it. Nobody but him.
I had his address, a flat I'd never visited, or known about, here in Paris. I'd checked the records with his landlord, pretending to be a creditor wanting to verify Methos' reliability. He was sound. The apartment had been leased, originally, twelve years previously - probably when he'd begun to Watch, this time around. Rent paid like clockwork, through a harmless Paris bank account in the Pierson name. Sound.
Not the flat he'd disappeared from, where he'd received me - and Kalas - when we first met. Someplace different, known to no one. Someplace hidden. For another life.
So he'd lied to me from the beginning. About having no place to stay, after he'd returned from Alexa's funeral. Whether that was because he hadn't wanted to be alone, or because he wanted to be with me, in particular, I'd no idea. The fact was, he'd lied. He'd had a home, a place to stay in Paris, all along.
I found it easily, though it was dusk when I'd finally decided to put on my coat and go to him. Screwed up my courage to do it, bracing myself against his rapier wit, or worse, studied indifference. My heart was in my throat but I kept my face impassive as I turned the corner and stopped, automatically reading the street sign affixed to the building at that corner.
Quite a nice section of Paris. The building he lived in was also nice. Nothing pretentious, but certainly one step up from a barge. His flat was on the third floor. I already felt his aura, strong and peaceful - almost unrecognizably so - from the street.
The outer door was not locked. I went in and mounted the steps, knowing as I walked that he'd feel my approach. Whatever surprise I gave him, coming like this, without a phone call, would be well-masked by the time I knocked on his flat door.
There was music coming from his home. Beethoven. I listened for a moment, distracted by the passionate notes of the "Moonlight Sonata." It was a particularly violent and erratic passage, the controlling reins held lightly by the composer, as if from far away. Letting the horse run wild, hoofbeats thudding in a headlong disastrous run, never pulled up short, only slowed by time.
I took a deep breath and knocked at the door and Methos opened it wide, stepping aside to let me in, without a word.
I nodded and quickly entered his flat, very aware that he hadn't turned off the music before he answered the door. Not even out of courtesy. It was a clear signal he didn't expect me to stay very long. Just the thought of his rudeness frightened me, and my heart dropped from my throat to my shoes.
God, I knew I deserved whatever he dished out. But it would be hard. I was still raw inside from the past several months of "troubles," and my temper was quickly roused. I added an extra shield around myself, so I wouldn't say anything stupid, or hurtful, that I knew about. Whether I'd remember in the heat of battle - I already thought of our talk as a battle - was definitely not certain.
"Hello, Mac," Methos said, going to the stereo and lowering the sound a fraction. The music had shifted from the "Moonlight" to the "Appassionata," and I recognized the pianist, Vladimir Horowitz. Bang bang bang - you're dead, I thought. The greatest pianist of his time. Possibly, all time. Except maybe for Mozart himself. Trust Methos to select Horowitz' rendition. Beethoven becomes them, I thought, Vlad and Methos.
"Hello, Methos." This was going badly. We hadn't even looked at each other yet. I busied my eyes taking in the apartment, the furnishings, the size and feel of the place. He'd returned to where he'd been working before I came, I supposed, to his computer. Sat down there, fingers resting lightly on the keyboard, palms grazing the edge of the table. Body hunched over in his chair, head back a bit, to see the screen. Great.
"I'll make myself a drink, if you don't mind," I said, still standing near the door with my coat on.
"Suit yourself," he replied, exercising a level of indifference I would never be capable of, not if I lived another thousand years. "There's ice in the fridge - through there," he added, lifting a hand from the keyboard to point off to his right. "If you're hungry, there's rice and goulash on top of the stove. It's still warm - I just ate. Help yourself." Didn't turn his head to look at me. But he'd offered food and drink. It was a start.
I cleared my throat. "Thanks, I think I will." I took my coat off and threw it on a chair near the door.
Deciding to wait on the drink, I went in the direction he'd indicated and found an efficiency kitchen with a two-burner stove. I took a plate from a cupboard above the sink and helped myself to the rice and goulash. It smelled good. I was beyond wonder that he could cook.
I chuckled to myself, thinking about everything he was. Scholar, Horseman, Watcher, Chef. Probably, a master chef, at that. I pushed away memories of Fitzcairn with a violence I hadn't expected of myself. For a long time, I'd thought of Methos as somebody a lot like Fitz. Sweet, a man with a strong heart and sword arm. And no principles, no real past, no life outside of what we shared, when we shared our lives. With Fitz, it hadn't mattered, because it was true. He was who he was. Methos - Methos was another story. Never was Methos who he was. And I'd never noticed the difference, until it was thrown in my face, forced down my throat.
I found a clean fork and knife in the drainboard and went to the small table Methos evidently used as a kitchen table. I tasted the food. "This is good, Methos. Where'd you learn to cook like this?"
"Don't you mean, when, MacLeod?" he replied, swiveling in his chair, finally, and facing me.
I let out a sigh, started to answer, then shrugged. "Maybe."
"Glad you like it. My favorite. Only make it when I'm not expecting anybody to eat any of it. Hate to share."
"Really? Sorry about that," I said, with a twisted grin. If I'd discomforted him by stealing his food, I was glad of it.
Suddenly, I was glad about everything. I was here. He was here. We were talking. He hadn't thrown me out. The food was good. Life was good. I felt like a child who'd arrived home after school to find his mother'd prepared his favorite meal for him. Only the disturbing sounds of Beethoven's passion in the background spoiled the picture.
"How's Amanda?" he asked, getting up from the computer and making his way to a chair - clearly his favorite - quite a distance from me. It was a beautiful, extraordinary chair. Like Methos. Deceptively simple and accessible. Perfect in its way. Different.
"I don't know. She was okay when we parted, couple months ago. I think she went to her place in Greece."
"But you don't know?" A hint of satisfaction in his voice, as though I'd confirmed something he'd expected.
"No." I frowned. "You haven't heard anything -?"
"Nothing. Just checking up on her." He grinned. No mirth in that grin. Just a grin. No light in his eyes. If Methos was inside that head of his, I'd have a job finding him. I put down my fork and pushed my chair a little away from the table. I'd lost my appetite.
"I see." I was quiet for a few minutes, just looking at him. He looked back, his regard completely without expression, as if he were studying a very large statue of a man, not a living being. Looking for flaws, aesthetics, checking provenance. No feeling at all.
My silence provoked a response from him. As if he was willing to give away a little, that he might not need to give away the whole show. Trying to fool me. I suspected him of any ploy, any trick, any devious plot, to fool me. But I had no idea what he was hiding.
He said, "I didn't think you and Amanda would be seeing much of each other, after that night. After Keane," he added, as if I might have forgotten the last time I saw Amanda. The last time I'd seen him.
"Well, it was time for her to move on, for a while. Me, too." The music in the background was getting really irritating, so much passion against so much dryness. I couldn't stand it any more. "Think you could turn that off?" I asked him, indicating the stereo with my head.
"You don't like Beethoven?" he asked, immediately complying with my demand, after deliberately waiting until I'd asked. He was well aware of the effect of such music in our space. It made the room violent, like a killing field.
"It's distracting me," I replied honestly, trying to give a little, now that the room was quiet. I felt calmer already.
"I don't know."
"Then let me tell you," he said, unfolding his legs and coming to the kitchen table. He pulled out a chair and turned it around, straddling it, crossing his arms at the top and looking at me earnestly. I was immediately on guard against his sincerity. This was not Methos. He was preparing to lie to me. I'd be careful how I reacted to whatever he said.
"Sure, tell me. You know everything."
"Not everything. But you - I know you, MacLeod. Very well."
I shrugged, leaning back in my seat, preparing for a long drawn-out load of bullshit. "Then why don't you tell me?"
"You've missed me. You're worried about that. You want to apologize, but don't know how, or for what. You want to accept my plea for forgiveness, but don't believe I'll let you, now that so much time's passed since I asked. You cannot think of anything but our friendship, its loss, its meaning to you. You wonder if I've shut myself off from you completely. Whether you'll ever be able to get through to me again. And part of you wonders whether I really give a damn. Because part of you is afraid you don't know me at all."
I was stunned. I didn't answer him for a long time, and the silence was a scary third party in the room.
He spoke again. "The answer is yes, MacLeod. Yes to everything. Yes, you don't know me. Yes, I forgive you, and I accept your request for reciprocal forgiveness. Yes, I've shut myself off from you completely. Yes, you'll get through to me again, because I love you." He made a strange motion with his mouth, and his cheek twitched. Maybe he was grinning, I couldn't tell. "Is that what you want to hear?"
I almost threw up in a reflex against the echoes of what he'd said.
I rubbed my mouth and swallowed hard. I pushed back in my chair, scraping the hardwood floor, and rose. I bit my upper lip with my teeth. I closed my eyes.
"That's what I wanted to hear," I replied finally. Then I looked around me frantically.
"Through there, MacLeod. The bathroom - it's through there." I rushed to the room he pointed out.
When I came out of the bathroom the music was on again. It must have been a CD, because he'd started at the top again, the beginning of the "Moonlight Sonata." I was relieved. I didn't think I could take the silence at that moment. I didn't have the words to fill it. I didn't think Methos believed it was still his turn.
Then the violence in the music grew, as I took a different seat, this time on a small couch far from the computer end of the room. Methos was back where I'd left him, at the kitchen table. He'd looked up as I crossed the room behind him.
"Mac, I'm sorry. I suppose I should have waited until you'd said your say. But I've been waiting for months. I'm a bit - impatient."
"It's okay. I don't think I'd ever have gotten it out. Just as well you spoke for me." I looked at him from my distant retreat, and shook my head. "I never thought of myself as tongue-tied before," I said with a chuckle.
"Well, we're none of us perfect."
I started to ask him for a drink, but changed my mind and got up to make one for myself. He had a small bar, but stocked with whatever was necessary. Scotch, brandy, rye, vodka. Like an ordinary person. I made my drink, thinking of how he was. How extraordinary he was. Five thousand years. And he had a bar stocked like mine, like anybody's. A room of his own, like anyone's. A kitchen, a bathroom, a bed.
I turned, drink in hand, and told him, "I am sorry, Methos. I don't know what got into me. I was okay, after Bordeaux, but when Amanda sent for you about Keane - I lost it."
"You were never 'okay,' MacLeod," he contradicted. "Simply - glad we were both alive. That we'd survived. It overshadowed what was unresolved, for a moment. Never wiped it away altogether."
"I suppose you're right."
"I am right. I'm still right. Nothing's changed. Only your need for me, to see me, overshadowed your reaction to my past again." He flipped his hand over. "Love's like that. Clouds all the issues. But the issues remain."
"Love?" I said, my voice a shallow croak.
"You do know, MacLeod. Don't pretend to yourself, it doesn't help."
"You're saying that - what I feel for you - is - love?"
He nodded. "Damn shame, that. But it's true."
"Not friendship?" I faltered, seeking wildly for another explanation, any explanation. Just, not that one.
"There's no other explanation, Duncan." He answered my thoughts in a gentle voice. "It's easier, once you get the hang of it."
"Love - like - the other kind of love?" I asked, my head splitting, frowning at him.
"Like -" I cast about for an example. "Like - for Amanda?" Sexual, I meant. He couldn't mean that.
"No. Not like for Amanda." Gentle again. Frighteningly gentle.
"Then - what?" I was bewildered.
"Like for Tessa." Very firm. Brooking no quarrel.
I was silent for a long time. I gripped my glass hard, so hard that I noticed it was in my hand, and I downed the contents in one shot. "This is something you don't simply imagine? Something you know? And you think I know it, too?" I spoke harshly, quickly. A measure of my terror.
"It's no more frightening for you than for me, MacLeod. Love's scary, however old you are, or how much experience you've got. You should know that."
He'd said the one thing that would get my attention. Pressed my buttons, as he'd intended. "You're frightened, too?"
"Have been, all along. Easier, of course, when you didn't know. Had no need to know." He shrugged, managed a small grin. "But when the thing's forced down your throat - well - yes. Oh yes. I'm frightened. It's not easy, MacLeod, being in love with the boyscout of the western world. Judge, jury, executioner. Not easy, being in love with a hero."
"Why not?" I asked, wanting to get something out of him, anything true. Anything real. Anything but this pack of lies he was telling me, to hide how he felt, what he was really thinking.
"Because I'm unworthy of a hero. We both know that."
I was almost sure he meant it, that he believed he wasn't worthy of me. I swallowed again, the violent music in the background again driving me out of calm, into chaos, turmoil, fear. Thundering like my head. I'd never before noticed how erotic Beethoven's sonatas were.
"Methos - you saved my life! Times and over again! Don't you think I know that? Don't you think I'm grateful?"
"Of course you're grateful. Doesn't make me worthy. You can't help knowing that, MacLeod. You've got a good ear for the truth."
"Better than yours, apparently," I retorted, angered, and not knowing why. But I knew why. He called me a hero, pretending it was something good, while in his eyes I knew it wasn't good. It was - less than what he was, not more. To him, a hero was a fool. It didn't matter if sometimes he played the hero, saved me. He wasn't a hero, not at heart. I was. Therefore, to him I was a fool.
He smiled, accepting the criticism, waiting for me to explain why I thought his ear for the truth wasn't good enough. I didn't explain. I was too angry.
"Turn that off!" I said again, explosively. The music had reached a pitch which coincided with my anger. I couldn't help realizing it was inciting me to violence - or worse. I wondered, for a moment, what could be worse than violence, in this context. Then I knew. Sex. God!
"Sure, Mac," Methos replied mildly, getting up and going to the stereo. He stood there for a moment, listening to a few more phrases.
"I said, turn it off! Before I break it!"
He put his hand on the off button, then looked at me. "MacLeod, it's not going to go away, you know. Music or no music. The love. The desire. It will be there, no matter what you do." Then he turned the music off.
"Fuck you!" I shouted. "What if you're wrong? Did you ever consider that? Maybe you're wrong! Maybe it's just friendship! Maybe I just don't want to lose a friend!"
"Maybe," he said quietly, returning to the kitchen table and sitting again.
I felt terrible. Ridiculous. My words echoed in the room, stupid. Stupid. My shouting alone proclaimed their falseness.
"You're not wrong," I conceded. Defeated. Utterly defeated. Our war was over, and I'd lost. Now we had another war to fight, no easier. The way I felt - the fear, the burning embarrassment that reddened my face when I thought about how I felt - how could this second war end? What would become of me? Of us?
"As you say." Methos seemed tranquil. Resigned. Whatever I did about this love we felt, was all right with him. Accept it, embrace it, act on it. Fine with him. Reject it, spurn him, leave him. Fine with him. Great! No help there! So much love, there, that he only wanted my happiness! Great! Just what I needed! A sacrificial lamb for a lover! Terrific!
"Now what?" I asked him anyway.
"What'd you mean?"
"I mean, you're the one with all the experience." When he didn't contradict me, I knew I was right - he'd been with men before. Maybe long ago. Very long ago. But that didn't matter. Even if it had only been once, at the dawn of time, he'd have been one up on me. He knew what to do. I didn't. I went on, "What do we do now? What comes next?"
"That's up to you, MacLeod."
"If I wanted to - act - on what you've told me. Then what?"
He grimaced. "I dunno. Do you want to act on it? What I've told you?" he added sarcastically, underlining the fact that I couldn't even say the words. The word. Love.
"I've done all I know how to do, Methos. I did miss you. I do care about you. I feel -"
"I feel desire for you," I said, forcing the words out of my mouth, the way I'd force an opponent down the side of a precipice.
"I - love you," I said, finally, taking the last step, from which I'd never go back. Like Tessa, I thought to myself without speaking it. Forever. Totally. Like Tessa. That's what he meant. A mix of Mortal and Immortal love. Not like with Amanda. In what way different? I couldn't think in what way, but I knew it was different.
"Ah, Mac!" he said on a sigh, his eyes closing.
"I didn't think I'd be able to say it, either," I added with a grin he couldn't see. "But I did. So - what's next? Help me out here, Methos." The relief was overwhelming. I was at an advantage, very much of an advantage. I'd pushed the flap of the envelope so far, that Methos was the one who needed to catch up. Good! Because I hadn't a clue where to go from here.
His eyes still closed, he rubbed his mouth. Then he opened his eyes, gazing at the carpet. "I don't know."
"Whaddaya mean, you don't know? You're five thousand years old! I'm not talking philosophy, here, Methos! Don't tell me you don't know what's next!"
"There are a lot of considerations, MacLeod. Love isn't everything."
Now he tells me! "What are you talking about? What considerations?"
"The Watchers, the Game -"
"Methos, the Watchers can go to hell in a basket, as far as I'm concerned! And this has nothing to do with the Game!"
He stood and looked at me. Then he spoke seriously. "Not if we don't take it any farther, no."
I felt helplessly confused. "The Game?" I asked, pleading for some answer.
"Two Immortals who love each other, who live out that love, in practice. In the open. Make themselves targets. Vulnerable. Each capable of being held hostage to the other's love."
"You're worried about that?" I asked, shocked.
"MacLeod, I've seen it happen again and again. Before." Then, dropping the serious tone, he grinned. "I've had a bit of time to think about this, you know."
"Have you?" I replied, sarcastic again.
"Since the moment I laid eyes on you."
"Really?" My heart leaped, afire at the thought of it, the idea of it! Since he met me, he's loved me - like this, this way! And I suddenly knew that I'd loved him the same way, for just as long, too!
Something about me must have shifted, when I realized how long I'd loved him, because he looked up at me and repeated, "Yes, I've had quite some time to think about it."
"While you kept me in the dark."
"I didn't do anything, Mac. You stayed in the dark because that's where you wanted to be."
"And now? You finished with it, now, Methos? Or have you got something else you want to make sure I never find out?"
"Like, what do we do next, damn you!" I exploded.
He began to laugh. For a moment, I was startled, then angry. Then I laughed too.
"Okay, what we do next, is have another drink, change the CD to something a little less - evocative - put our feet up and relax. I've every faith in you, Mac. You'll think of something."
"You're the planner, Methos."
"No. Not in this. I won't set foot on land you don't want traversed. Trust me, MacLeod. It's better this way."
"And - the Watchers? The Game?"
"That's one of the things you need to think about, part of what comes next, as you put it."
"I see." I didn't, of course. How could I? All I knew was, with every moment that passed from when I'd told Methos I loved him, that love grew inside me, blossomed, became sweeter and more beautiful to me. Filled me. Made me happy. Happier than I'd been in years. Happier than I'd been since I'd lost Tessa. It was an incredible feeling - freedom, joy. I could hardly hold it inside, it threatened to burst my heart. So great a joy! How had I been so stupid? Not to know! Something like this - to hide from myself! So much time wasted - when I could have felt like this!
"Getting the hang of it, Mac?" he asked me with a silly grin.
"I think so." Then I added, "Maybe the music isn't such a bad idea. But not some of your Springsteen. More Beethoven."
"Feeling good, MacLeod?" He smiled at me as he went to turn the music back on.
"Better than I've felt in years. It's incredible!"
"Then Beethoven's a good balance to that."
"MacLeod, he never lets you forget the pain that goes with passion. Or the violence. Or the fear. Or the dark."
"And he never lets you doubt that it's worth it, either," I replied.
A peaceful passage of the "Pathetique Sonata" came on. I said quietly, "I'll talk to Joe. He'll understand."
"Yes. He will. Does."
"Think he's guessed?" I asked Methos. He'd joined me on the couch and we had our feet up on the coffee table. We weren't sitting close enough to touch, but he hadn't put himself on the opposite end, out of reach, when he'd come to sit with me.
"He knows how I feel, certainly," Methos explained.
"I don't think he's worrying about it, Watcher or no. He'll observe. He won't interfere."
"But he'll record?" I asked.
"That's up to you, Mac. He's got no reason to assume anything beyond friendship between us. No reason to guess."
"So it'd be up to us to tell him, if we want him to know?"
"Not up to us. Up to you, Mac. He's your Watcher. They're your Chronicles." He lifted his shoulders. "Nothing to do with me."
"I'll tell him," I said decidedly.
"What'll you tell him, MacLeod?" Methos asked, grinning. "There's nothing to tell, yet."
"There will be," I replied, surer than I felt. The love had sunk in. The sex hadn't. I realized, if we didn't get past the first time, we could go on for years, doing nothing about the sex. That made me panic.
"Is that your favorite word, your Word of the Month?" I said, exasperated. "Maybe?"
"Maybe," he repeated with a grin.
"You just want to go on like this, talking and listening to music? And do nothing more?"
"Maybe." His tongue snaked out and licked his lower lip, the way he did when we sparred with swords and he was having fun. Playing on the edge. He was enjoying this! What a devious bastard!
"Okay," I said, settling into the sofa and crossing my arms in front of my chest. "This is nice. It's good to be back talking to you again, Methos. I really like this flat. You should have asked me over long ago."
"It's small. Not enough room for you to really pace. Your barge's much better - so much larger."
Damn him, couldn't get a rise out of him. At that moment I really loved him, really hated him, and really wanted to get his goat. Trouble was, I couldn't think how.
"You'd be more comfortable if we were on the barge?" I asked, in spite of myself. I thought maybe I'd be more comfortable there. This place was his. Every inch of it marked with his personality. From the computer set-up to the small kitchen to his wonderful chair. To his bed. I couldn't take my eyes off that bed. It was directly opposite where we were sitting. Miles away, down the other end of the room.
"Maybe." Then, begrudging the extra words, "Up to you, Mac."
"What?" he asked, feigning innocence.
"I don't know where to start!" I told him.
"Yes you do," he answered seriously. "No 'maybe's' about it. You know."
"Why won't you help?" He was silent. "Will you at least - respond - if I do start?"
"Maybe." This time he couldn't keep the grin off his face.
I turned and made myself comfortable on the sofa, one elbow up on the backrest, my other hand resting on my bent knee. I was facing him. Close enough to touch him, if I put out a hand. If I put out a hand. I swallowed. Didn't move. Couldn't move a muscle.
He stood. "Another drink, MacLeod?" he asked, picking up our empty glasses and going to the bar.
"Yeah. Sure. Scotch."
"I know." He fixed us drinks and brought them back to the couch. This time he sat at the opposite end from me. Out of reach, but facing me, in a mirror position to my own. He sipped his scotch and put his glass on the end table. I did the same.
I took a deep breath and slid along the couch until I was back in touching distance, and he was cornered at his end. He drew back but had no place to go now.
"Fine move, MacLeod. Better than mine."
"I'm a better strategist than you've ever been, Methos. Even fighting fair."
My eyes widened. He'd placed himself in the corner of the sofa, after all. I'd just followed his lead. He'd made the opening. I put my hand on his knee. "Thanks, Methos."
"You're certainly welcome, Mac." Big grin, flaunting the double entendre, the help he'd offered, a handicap he'd taken. He narrowed his eyes. "I hope you'll take it from here, because I've done all I can."
"All you can, or all you will?" I said, lifting my hand from his knee and placing it on his face, letting the feel of his cheek, the strange touch of stubble, sink into my palm. I didn't wait for an answer. I moved forward and kissed his mouth.
Then I took my hand away and looked at him. His eyes were closed. A tear slipped from his left eye, out from under his eyelashes - long girlish eyelashes - down his sharp cheekbone, down to his mouth. He opened his mouth just enough to let out the tip of his tongue and take in the tear.
Then he lifted one hand, eyes still closed, and unerringly found my hand. "Okay," he said, opening his eyes. "You've done your share. You can relax now, Mac. It's my show now."
"Thank God!" I said with a huge sigh, squeezing his long fingers with my own squarer, shorter ones. His skin was smooth and cool, a welcome contrast to my rough calloused hands. Irrelevantly, I thought, he should train more.
Then I didn't have another thought for hours, while Methos put on a "show" beyond anything I'd ever experienced, read about, dreamed of, or imagined, in my life.
I'm not certain what happened at the end, but when I came to, the CD player was blasting Beethoven's sonatas, only the movements that were loudest, most violent, most passionate. Methos must have programmed the equipment to repeat only certain cuts.
And he was staring at me. "Good morning! Feeling any better?" he asked, deliberately replacing the ugly associations I had with those words with beautiful ones. Then I realized, I had no ugly associations with anything about him. None. Never really had. All the years - all three of them - were bathed in a rosy foolish haze. The past we'd shared, however horrible and frightening and dangerous it'd seemed at the time, was beautiful because we'd lived it together. I felt very odd. Very odd.
"I don't know. I didn't know I wasn't feeling good earlier."
"Is that a yes?"
I lifted an eyebrow. "Maybe."
He grinned. "Want to shower and shave? I've already done. Everything you need's in there. I suppose you can find something to change into, in my wardrobe."
"Yeah, I guess." I didn't move. "This music - the banging - you think it's appropriate?" I nodded toward the stereo. "A little loud, isn't it?"
"This is what's known as a musicians' building, MacLeod. Soundproofed. There's a pianist or a violist on every floor, in every apartment. Even a drummer. They practice all day. Can't hear a thing."
"That's not what I was getting at, and you know it, Methos! Sounds like we're getting ready for Armageddon, not breakfast!"
"If you say so," he replied, shrugging. "I like it."
I expelled a big sigh and started for the bathroom. "I can see you're gonna be a lot of trouble, Methos."
"More trouble than I'm worth, Mac?" he called after me.
I poked my head back outside the bathroom door. "Maybe!"
Before I could get myself into the shower, before I'd turned on the water, he was at the bathroom door.
"Do you mean that, MacLeod?" he asked, deadly serious.
"Methos!" I didn't know what to make of it - it was so crazy, so absurd, and so utterly like him. I was taken aback.
"Do you mean that, MacLeod?" he repeated, with greater emphasis, each syllable separate.
I knew I'd better answer fast. His home or not, he'd disappear before I was dressed, if he doubted me for a second. "No!"
"You sure?" His eyes were narrowed, his tone intense. Jesus!
"Not more than you're worth," I told him honestly. "But a lot of trouble, yeah."
"Well, all right then. I can do 'trouble,' just not 'more trouble than I'm worth,'" he said quietly, relaxing again.
"God, Methos, give me a break! I was joking! You remember 'joking,' don't you?"
"Like the back of my hand!" he said, but I knew he didn't mean it. Too many years, waiting. Too much water under the bridge. He didn't see anything about us, about loving me, or me loving him, as funny. Not yet, anyway.
"Take a shower with me," I coaxed.
"I've already had a shower."
"Take another. Come on, Methos. Let's work with the music, not against it."
He stared at me, like he couldn't believe I wanted him again. Wanted more. "Really?" he said.
I smiled. "Really. If you and I don't sing along with Beethoven, who will?"
"Oh, there'll be somebody," he responded, already nearly out of his clothes. "We're not indispensible, you know, MacLeod," he told me, in that superior way he uses when he's happy. "Right. Not too hot, not too cold. What'd you think?" he asked, stepping aside so I could feel the temperature of the water.
"I think we're indispensible. And I think the water's just right. Let's go."
"What?" I said, getting into the shower. He followed me in and we stood there, ridiculously cramped in that space, as long as we weren't holding each other.
The water ran down his head, his body, as he said again, "Mac -"
"Tell me." I was frightened. What couldn't he bring himself to say?
"You be careful. Very careful. Don't lose your head, MacLeod. Don't. I couldn't bear it -"
"I won't. Not if I can help it. I promise."
"I know you cannot promise. But -"
"I'll be careful. I can promise that much. You too."
"Me too. I promise to be careful."
"Good. Now that's settled, let's take a shower, okay?" I embraced him again, unable to hold back my joy. I don't know whether he realized that some of the water covering my face was tears. But when I looked at his face, I could see his tears, distinct from the shower water. Rivulets of magic, like the melodic line of a sonata. We were both singing along with Beethoven, fortunate disciples of the master.