|Lay Down With Demons
These beautiful men aren't mine. Never have been, never will be.
Let's see -- there's language, blasphemy, and implied slash. Maybe a little more than implied. Okay, I'll rate this one R.
Lots of people helped me with this one. Kat Allison and Melissa, who threw themselves bodily into the line of fire before I could stop them. Maygra, who read it again, and again, and again, and found me a title. She threatens beautifully, too. <g> In progress comments and emotional support were supplied by Shug, Mog, the incomparable Zen, and the patient, ever faithful Luminosity.
I'm going to save myself a lot of grief and tell you this right up front: this is the whole damn story. There will be NO sequels. My muses refuse to go through this twice.
Whatever I had been expecting, it wasn't this. I had prepared myself for arguments, defiance, at best for more convoluted rationalizations. Some fresh version of 'things were different then', updated and revised for a new season. Or at worst, avoidance. Deep inside, the small, terrified part of me that wakes in the middle of the night shaking and chilled to the bone, has been afraid for weeks that I would never see him again. Afraid that he would just walk away, disappearing into mist and legend for another hundred years, leaving me to wonder if he was still alive.
I had prepared myself for any of those. I had spent hours, then days, then weeks preparing myself for a hundred different versions of this scene. I knew just where I would stand, exactly what I would say, even how I would look when I said it. And I knew what he would say, how he would look: confident, angry, self-righteous and offended. Leaning against a wall or a counter, ready to jump whichever way seemed best or easiest at the moment. Or sprawling bonelessly across my sofa, relaxed and unconcerned, making himself comfortable in my home even as he tore out my heart. I was prepared to deal with that.
But not this. I have no words ready for this. None of my daydreams and rehearsals prepared me for him to sound or look like this.
His voice is low and rough, almost as if he hasn't spoken aloud in days. Maybe he hasn't. He looks like he's spent the weeks since Bordeaux dead and buried in a cold, wet grave. And now he's here, huddled in my doorway, arms wrapped around his chest, tensed as if prepared for a blow. And thin, even for him. Thinner than I've ever seen him. His skin is unhealthily pale, his only color the deep blue circles under his downcast eyes, and the flush of fever splashed unevenly across the sharp cheekbones.
I should get him inside. Get him a drink, food. Get him warm for God's sake. Death looks like he's preparing to die right here on my doorstep. Instead, I stand here, speechless and unprepared. Watching him flinch at my lack of response. Watching him tremble as he waits. Watching him suffer. Watching him take a small, shaking breath, and turn to leave.
He stops and turns back, and I can finally see his eyes; his dull, red-rimmed eyes. Christ! I don't know whether to be angry or heartbroken. Is he for real, this pathetic, wretched creature, or is he playing with me again? I don't know him at all, and he knows me too damn well. Knows just which strings to pull, which buttons to push. And I have no doubt at all that he'll use them. But I'll never forgive myself if I turn him away, unheard. I don't want to spend the rest of my life wondering if I should have invited him in, should have asked the questions and listened to whatever answers he was willing to give. Damn you to hell, Methos.
"Get your skinny butt in here. You look like death warmed over."
Oh, shit. I was just trying to unfreeze him a bit. I want to see a grin, a smile. A raised eyebrow, at least. I want to see Methos. I can fight with Methos. Don't do that. Don't. Laugh at me, scream at me, sneer. Throw something. Pull your sword and fight me, you sorry son of a bitch. Don't you dare cry. Even that one tear running down your cheek is too much. Let me be angry, Methos. I need to be angry. It's my only defense against you.
And you know that, too, don't you?
What do I do now? Do I ignore the tears still in your eyes, spare whatever's left of your pride and pretend not to notice? Do I offer you a tissue, or my handkerchief, or a drink? Or do I take you in my arms and hold you, comfort you by torturing myself? I don't think I deserve to be tortured, and I'm not sure that you deserve comforting. But I do think we both need that drink, a very strong drink. Then maybe we can talk about exactly what 'I'm sorry' covers. And what it doesn't.
"Give me your coat. You're dripping all over the floor."
And I won't even mention my sweater. I wondered where that was. Just one more thing you stole from me, Methos. My favorite sweater, three CDs, my peace of mind, two books, and my heart. Are you going to give any of it back? Or have you broken the CDs, too?
"Just give it here and go sit down, you...Christ, Methos, you stink! When was the last time you bathed?"
"You smell like you've been sleeping with a wet dog."
Or Kronos. No. I don't even want to think about...did you sleep with him? Did you kiss him? Did you fuck him? Oh God, did you love him? I never thought I'd want you to lie to me, Methos, but that may be the one question I don't want an honest answer to.
The floor, the walls, the door that I'm not going to let you walk out of, they're all easier to look at than me, aren't they, Methos?
"If you think you're sitting on my furniture in that condition, you're insane." Hell, MacLeod, why don't you go find a puppy to kick while you're at it? I don't fucking believe this. Damn you, Methos. How dare you come in here and make me feel sorry for you!
"I...you're right. I shouldn't have come. I shouldn't have bothered you. I'll..."
He had better not even look like he's thinking about leaving. He's walking Immortal bait right now, and nobody gets a shot at his head until after I've beaten the crap out of him.
From despair to -- is that terror, Methos? -- in one word. Not very flattering, but what did I expect? All that flirting, all those tempting little grins and not so accidental touches. You sorry little prick tease. What was it? We're you looking for another protector? A torture-free version of Kronos? Another winner to go with? Well, I won, didn't I? Just the way you planned it. And I own your ass now, Methos. Did you plan on that?
This isn't helping. Stop thinking with your dick, MacLeod, the man's about to fall over. I can decide later whether I'm going to screw him or beat him to death. Or both. But he's in no condition right now to fight or fuck.
"Strip. Give me those disgusting clothes and go take a shower. You're not leaving here until we've talked, and I can't talk while I'm gagging." You don't have to smell like a sewer to remind me what you are. I'm not going to forget.
"Methos. Now that we know who everybody is, strip. There's a robe on the back of the bathroom door. I'll make us something to eat, you look like you could use it." Oh, for God's sake...would you stop that? That's two tears now, Methos. I'm keeping score, and if I decide you're manipulating me again, you're going to pay for every torturous one of them. I don't know how, but you'll pay if I have to take it out of your worthless hide, one painful, bloody strip at a time.
"Why do you care? What I did...I thought you'd...why the hell are you being nice to me, MacLeod?"
Because it puts that sexy, wide-eyed look on your face. Because it's scaring the shit out of you. Because I'm a goddamned Boy Scout! How the fuck do I know? Why do I still care about you? How hard can it be to fall out of love? People do it all the time. God, this hurts. It shouldn't hurt this much, should it? Why can't I just enjoy seeing you suffer? You deserve to suffer.
"I'm not being nice, Methos. I'm fattening you up for the kill."
Damn, I don't think his legs are going to hold him up long enough to shower. I may have to...
I don't fucking believe this! You worthless prick! How dare you pass out on me! Who the hell do you think I am, your mother?
I hope that hurt, asshole. Damn shame this floor isn't concrete.
"How long was I out?"
"Two hours." Two hours while I bathed you and dried you, while I sat here beside you, watching you curled up like naked temptation in my bed. Two heartbreaking hours while I listened to you moan and whimper in your sleep. Two endless hours while I stroked you to make you stop. And it worked. Every time I touched you, you calmed. You turned towards me and clutched my hand like I was your only hope of salvation. Shit. I'd feel better if I thought you could lie in your sleep, Methos. I'd feel a whole lot better if I could just be angry again. Pity, anger, love, hate. I'm so tired of this. I wish I could pick one way to feel about you and stick with it.
"Stop saying that." Well, shit. I wonder which one of us was more surprised by that little slip?
"I thought that was what you wanted to hear."
Only if you mean it, Methos. And how the hell can I tell? And you can stop that too. I'm not buying that innocent Adam Pierson look again. I never took you at face value, but who could have dreamed there were so many layers of deceit between us? I thought you were...I hoped we....
How much of us was truth? Was there ever any chance there would really be an us, or was I imagining all of it? No. Not all of it. I'm not that gullible. The desire I saw in your eyes was real, I know that. Could you see the desire in mine? If you would just look at me, really look, you'd see that it's still there. I can't hide it. It's too strong even now. And I can't hide that I don't want to feel desire for you. Dear Lord, I don't want to want you. I don't want to love you. And it shows, doesn't it? Is that why you won't look at me? Does the pain in my eyes hurt you, Methos? God, I hope so. I hope you drown in it, asshole. You put it there. "I want to hear why, Methos: why you're sorry, why you did it, why you lied. Why did you lie, Methos?"
Oomph. That's a punch in the gut. Oh, no. My sheets aren't that fascinating. He's going to look me in the eyes if I have to put my hands on his head and force him to. There's an idea.
Surprised you again, didn't I? But that's much better. I'm going to see your eyes while we talk this time. You're a damn good liar, but not as good as you think you are. Not anymore, not today. Not ever again. I know you better now than I did before, and it takes more strength than you've got left to lie to me with those eyes, Methos. At least, I hope it does. I haven't got anything else I can count on, so I'm betting my future on your eyes.
"In the dojo, with Cassandra." Get used to it. Every time you try to turn away I'm going to turn you back. And if you won't stay there on your own, I'll hold you there. We're going to see each other tonight, you son of a bitch. Can you see it in my eyes? Can you see what's at stake? Every hope I've got left is here in this room tonight. I need to see truth in your eyes, Methos. I need that more than I need my sword, my sanity, or my next breath.
"Because I didn't want to fight her. I didn't want to kill her."
"It was a fair challenge. No one would have been able to blame you."
"By the rules, maybe. But fair? Have you ever seen Cassandra fight, MacLeod?"
"That's beside the point, isn't it? I've seen you fight women before. Chivalry doesn't stop you. Hell, it doesn't even slow you down."
"Cassandra didn't deserve to die, especially not by my hand."
Truth. I really can see it. A little bit of truth, anyway, but not everything. He's still trying to turn away from me. What are you still hiding, Methos?
"I'm supposed to believe you were being noble? Try again. There had to be more to it than that, Methos."
"And you never would have forgiven me."
Oh. Damn, be careful what you ask for, MacLeod. Barely a whisper, but it's the truth, and nothing but the truth. He killed Kristin, and he let Cassandra live. For me. Methos and Kristin, Amanda and Kalas. Why do the people I love always want to kill for me? Do I give off some kind of signal, some twisted pheromone? Kill this person and I'll love you forever? I don't ask anyone to kill for me. Not for me. I'm so tired of the killing. So tired.
Cassandra wanted me to kill you, Methos. Did you know that? She didn't think I understood, and I didn't then. But I've had a lot of time to think about it. She would have taken your head herself if she'd had to, but she wanted me to do it. Not because she was afraid to fight you, or because she didn't think she could win, or to keep your blood off of her hands. She thought it would hurt you more if I killed you. She wanted the last thing you saw to be me, hating you. She didn't just want you dead, she wanted you to suffer. And in the end, even though she hadn't seen you in thousands of years, she understood you much better than I ever will.
That's probably why you're still alive. She wasn't being merciful, and she certainly wasn't doing me any favors. You told her she didn't know you, but I think that was a bigger lie than you imagined, Methos. She still knew one important thing about you: how to cause you unbearable pain. How else did she know that letting you live would be punishment enough? So she walked away and left you there, with me hating you and the men you'd called your brothers for a thousand years dead at your feet.
"How did you...No. Not how. Why were you with them, Methos? Why did you do it? Why did you rape and murder and destroy with them? Why did you enjoy it, Methos."
Damn. I'd get him another blanket, but I don't think it would stop his shivering. That kind of cold is born too deep in the bone for blankets or whiskey to cure. You don't think about those years, do you? Not any more often than you can help.
"Just talk to me, Methos. Tell me the truth tonight, and hopefully we'll never have to speak of it again. Just tonight." Take a deep breath, and don't cry, damn you.
"MacLeod, I don't know if I can make you understand. I'm not sure I want to try. It's not exactly something I enjoy remembering."
"I'm not really all that concerned about your comfort level right now, Methos."
Yeah. Right. I'm not concerned about him, not at all. That's why he's curled up in my bed, wrapped in my robe, spilling twenty- year-old scotch on my expensive sheets. If his lips so much as twitch towards a grin, I swear I'll turn those sheets into his shroud.
"Do we have to go into all the sordid details, MacLeod? Is it enough to know that it was rage, and pain, and revenge...and more than a little bit of insanity? Do you want to hear me admit that I hate who I was then? I do. I despised myself for more years than you've been alive, Highlander, then I spent a hundred lifetimes trying to make up for it. But I can't."
"Breathe, Methos. I want to hear it, but we'll never get through this if you keep passing out." Just calm down, take a deep breath, and I'll take my hand off your mouth. Your mouth. Your lips. Your beautiful face. Damn, Methos. I've touched you more since I've hated you than I did during all the years of loving you.
That's better. Take one more breath...okay.
"There's nothing I can do, nothing I can say that will make it one bit less horrible than it was. You've known people that are filled with self-hate, MacLeod. They're useless to anyone, and they're dangerous. I finally had to learn to accept what I was and move on."
"And now you want me to accept it." Three tears. I'm still counting, Methos. Three years of lies and deception on one side of the scale, three tears on the other. Three tears shouldn't weigh that much, should they? What did they cost you? What are they going to cost me?
"You're going to spill that scotch all over the bed, Methos. Let me have it."
"Thanks. I'm sorry I'm such a mess, MacLeod."
"Don't worry about it. It's not important." Not important. Right. Your tears don't bother me at all. And so the first lie tonight is on my head, not yours. Why did I do that? Why didn't I just use the sheet? Tears don't stain. Not sheets, anyway. I wonder if your blood could possibly burn my hands as fiercely as your tears do, Methos? I may choose to believe you just because I don't ever want to know that. Do you know that that's why I told Cassandra I wanted you to live? If she'd killed you, or if I had, I would have had to live with these unanswered questions about you, about us. And there would never have been any answers that meant anything.
I'll get over wanting you. Eventually. Maybe. But I don't think I could ever get over taking your head. You would haunt me forever. I'll see you in my dreams for the rest of my life; I don't want you in my nightmares, too.
"Accepting it is all you can do. I know you, Highlander. That's why I came here tonight. Not to beg you to forgive me, but to convince you that you shouldn't even try."
Four tears. Is this acceptance, this confusion and pain I feel when I wipe away your tears? Or is it just desire masquerading as compassion? I want to believe in you so badly that I can't tell anymore. But how can I trust you when I can't trust myself? How do I do that, Methos? And who do I ask these questions of now? This is the kind of thing I talked over with you. Who do I go to now? Darius is dead, and Joe...Joe's a Watcher. That's a little more information than I'm comfortable tempting him with. Connor? Oh, yeah. Wouldn't that be a fun conversation? Connor, do you think I'm trying to accept Methos' past just because if I don't I'll never get to fuck him?
That's the downside of being Immortal. There's never a father figure around when you need one.
"So you showed up on my doorstep, wet, cold, and smelling like a three day old corpse, all for my benefit? Gee, Methos, what did I ever do to deserve that?" No frown. Not a hint of a smirk. Not even a blink. That was one of my better attempts at sarcasm, Methos, react, damn you. I'm trying here, but I don't know how much more of this I can take. And this is what I thought I wanted from you. Truth and sincerity. Honesty.
Oh, dear Lord. No, don't...Oh, Christ, don't touch me. Why isn't my hand bursting into flames? It looks so normal, lying there under yours, but I can feel the bones dissolving into ash. If I pull away, will you think I'm rejecting you? If I don't, I may embarrass both of us.
"MacLeod, I know you don't think of yourself as my friend anymore, but I still consider myself your friend. None of this was your fault and you didn't do anything wrong, but you're tearing yourself apart over it, aren't you?"
My friend. Don't you know that I never wanted to be just your friend? And, oh, dear God, I still don't. Skinny, pale, shivering in my bed like a half-drowned kitten I pulled out of the gutter, and I still want you. Let go of me, Methos. Please.
"Part of you is outraged and appalled, and part of you believes in all that forgiveness is divine, thou shall not judge bullshit. Stupid, wonderful Boy Scout...."
And all of my parts want you. Even the ones that should know better. What are you doing to me, Methos? You're giving me what I asked for. Why does it hurt so much, and how do I make it stop?
"There is no way to absolve me of my past, MacLeod, and even if there was, that absolution isn't yours to offer."
"So we just let it go. It happened, but you've changed, so we all pack up and move on." You have the hands of an artist, Methos. Gentle, with such long fingers. These hands were never meant to destroy, were they? But I feel the strength, and the roughness of the sword calluses. Oh, my beautiful Death. Don't touch me like that.
"If we're going to salvage any shreds of a friendship out of this mess, that's exactly what we have to do."
"And that's how we deal with the Horsemen? Do you really think it's that easy, Methos?" I wish I could take back my heart as easily as I took back my hand. Just casually rip it out of my chest and use it to push the hair out of my eyes.
"Don't flatter yourself, MacLeod. The only two people left in the world who have to deal with the Horsemen are Cassandra and I, and we have to fight our own demons. There's nothing you can do to make anything about this easier, Highlander. You can't turn on the lights and chase the bogeyman away. You can't kiss it and make it better. You couldn't do it for her, and you can't do it for me."
You don't know how badly I want it to be that easy. How badly I want to take you in my arms and kiss it better. I want to hold you, and comfort you, and tell you that none of it matters.
You're right, Methos, we all have our own demons to deal with, and wanting you is mine. More than wanting you, loving you. Forgive me, Cassandra. I love him.
"What about Cassandra? Is that what you expect her to do? Accept it and move on?" "She had her shot at me, and she didn't take it. That was her right, and her choice. Hopefully she's managed to exorcise some of her demons. I'll face mine when I get to hell. Why do you think I try so hard to stay alive, MacLeod?"
You were waiting for me, Methos. So that we could be together. So that I could love you. Damn, I'm glad you can't read my mind. I sound like the cover notes on a cheap romance novel.
I can deal with this. I have to. I can reach some kind of acceptance of who you were, or I can curl up and die. I've lost too many of the people I love to death. But I don't have to lose you, too. This time I have a choice. If there is anyway to live with this, anyway to move on from here, I'm going to find it, Methos.
"Why didn't you ever tell me about the Horsemen? I realize it's not the kind of thing you blurt out in casual conversation, but...I feel like..."
Damn, I didn't mean to ask that. Not yet. I don't want to sound needy. I don't want to be needy. I don't want to need you, Methos. Loving you is painful enough.
"Like I lied to you?"
"I didn't want you to despise me. I needed a friend, MacLeod. I don't have many. It's hard to form lasting relationships when you're hiding all the time, changing your identity, your entire persona, every fifteen or twenty years."
I don't care if it won't help, I'm getting him that extra blanket. And that's five. Stop it. Just stop it. Stop being weak, stop being wretched. You're stronger than this, Methos. You have to be.
I didn't do this to you, did I? I don't want that kind of power over you, Methos. I never did. I just wanted you to want me. How did you survive this long if one man's opinion can turn you into a shivering wreck? Is this part of what Cassandra saw? Why she tried so hard to make me hate you? Did she see how much you need me, Methos? Did she know that losing me would do this to you?
Why didn't I see it? Why didn't you let me see it? I wish I'd known. I wish...I don't know what I would have done differently. I don't know what I could have done differently, but I would have found something. Surely, in a universe of infinite might- have-beens and what-ifs there was one way, one path that would have let us walk away from Bordeaux alive, and strong, and together.
"I had been alone for...a very long time, MacLeod. Then one day you walked into my life, and you knew me. How could I resist that? It was like putting liquor in front of an alcoholic."
"I recognized you, Methos. I never knew you." What happened to us? When did we switch places? You're supposed to be the dark one, the deceiver that lurks in the shadows; I'm supposed to be the truth-teller who searches for the light. So why am I sitting here hiding the knife in my heart, watching while you twist the one in yours?
"You knew who you wanted me to be. I couldn't be him. I couldn't be your replacement for Darius. But I tried to be someone you could trust. Do you know what it's like to need a friend that badly, MacLeod?"
"Yes." That is what I wanted from you, wasn't it? And even more. I wanted everything from you, Methos. I wanted you to be everything I'd lost, returned to me in one ancient, beautiful soul. Darius' wisdom, Fitz's laughter, Tessa's passion. You understood that long before I did, and you gave me what you could: laughter, wisdom when I would take it. You even tried to give me the passion, didn't you? Damn. I thought you wanted me, but didn't need me. I'm beginning to think I had it all backwards, Methos.
I can't take anymore tonight. Not tonight. I don't think either of us can. And I know things now that I can't let you read in my eyes. Not yet. I need time to bury them. Thank you for teaching me how to do that, Methos.
"Lie down, Methos. You need to sleep. We can talk more tomorrow."
"I should go home. You've done more than I had any right to expect, MacLeod."
"All I did was pick you up off the floor and hose you off, Methos."
"You listened, MacLeod. Thank you for that."
"Get comfortable, Methos, you're not leaving. Not in this condition. Right now you couldn't defend yourself from a ten year old with a sharp stick."
"You've got a point. At least let me move to the couch."
"Stay right where you are."
"I don't want to take your bed, MacLeod. You've done too much already."
"I'm not being generous, I'm conserving energy. Move over. You were having nightmares earlier, and if you do it again, I want to be able to kick you without having to get out of bed." And I want to know that you're safe. Even if it's just for tonight.
"From the look of you, I'd say that's been happening a lot lately. Have you been having nightmares every night?"
"Not every night, just the ones when I try to sleep."
"About the Horsemen? In Bordeaux, or back when...?"
"I've been dealing with my past for a long time, MacLeod. When I have nightmares now, they're about the future."
"The future? What are you afraid of, Methos?"
"I'm afraid I'm going to be alone. I was never very good at being alone."
Were you afraid of losing me, Methos? You're not going to. Ever. But I can't tell you why. I'm the one with secrets to keep now.
"Go to sleep, Methos. You're not alone. I'm still your friend, and I'm here. And I'll still be here when you wake up."
Shall I count the wet lashes as a sixth tear? If you could keep your eyes open you'd be weeping, but you're already asleep again. Why do you trust me that much? It's heart warming, but probably not wise. I wouldn't take your head, but...
Do you know how tempting you are, lying there defenseless in my bed? You do lie in your sleep, you know. When you're asleep you look so young, so innocent, so damnably chaste.
Your hair is so soft. I didn't expect that. I thought it would be sharp and prickly, like your tongue. You don't stir when I touch you, would you wake if I kissed you? One small, gentle kiss?
"Shhh. Go back to sleep. It's just me."
Yes. Hold my hand if it helps.
I was ready, Methos. Ready to accept your past, even if I don't understand it. Ready to tell you that I love you. Ready to tell you that more than anything in the world, I want to curl up next to you and hold you in my arms. That I want to kiss you, and taste you, and steal your breath with my mouth as I enter you. That I want to listen to the sounds you make while I take you, and watch your eyes when you come.
Then in three miserable, short hours you took me from wanting to fight you to being convinced we were meant for each other. Then you broke my heart all over again. And I don't think you were even trying hard. This time I can't even pretend it's your fault. Blame this heartbreak on the Boy Scout.
Sleep, my friend. When you wake up, there are so many things I want to tell you. I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that we were always meant to be together. I want to tell you that you're never going to be alone again because you belong to me now. I want to throw you down, pin you to the bed and tell you that I'm going to make love to you for the rest of our lives. But I won't.
I thought I wanted to know the whole truth, Methos, but I learned more about you tonight than I wanted to know. I'm such a fool. If only I didn't know...
If I didn't know how badly you need me, I could be holding you in my arms right now. If I didn't know to what lengths you would go to keep me in your life, I could be wrapped around you, keeping you safe from the demons in your dreams.
I love you, Methos. Maybe someday I'll be able to tell you that. Maybe someday I'll be able to ask you if we can be more than friends. Maybe someday I'll be able to ask if you can love me back. Maybe someday I won't have to guard every look, every word, every touch, to keep from giving this secret away and damning myself to a deeper hell than this one.
But not tonight, and not tomorrow. Someday. Someday when you have more than me in your life.
Someday when I'm sure you're strong enough to say no.