|A Slip in Time
by Lillian Wolfe
This vignette is based on the characters in the Davis-Panzer Production, "Highlander The Series". The characters of Methos and Duncan MacLeod slipped away to do a little moonlighting and we beg their bosses to be understanding. They weren't really busy right now. None of us are profiting from this, but Methos felt inclined to tell me a little story. When D-P have work for them, they will return happily to their regular jobs.
My special thanks to my wonderful beta readers, Juanita and Cheryl, who give me feedback, encouragement and correct the stupid mistakes! I'm very grateful.
Please do not copy, publish or post on the Internet without permission from the author. I don't want any legal problems.
Abstract thinking had a tendency to make Duncan MacLeod's mind ache. He was a very basic man really, grounded in what was tangible and easily comprehended. When he started trying to comprehend theory and obscure stuff, he had trouble following. All of which impressed the Highlander more when he considered that Methos, an Immortal born when theoretical thinking wasn't even conceived, seemed to follow even the most obtuse concepts with little trouble.
"Brilliant concepts and genius set aside for the moment, Methos. If time travel were really possible, why hasn't one of these masterful scientists done it already?" He asked it with complete sincerity even if there was a touch of frustration in his voice.
"Concept and the development of that concept don't always coincide, Mac," Methos explained patiently. He reached for his beer, savoring the exquisite chill of the bottle on this sunny August day in Nice. Where had the last six days gone? He and Mac had thought they had plenty of time to enjoy the warmth and sunshine of the French coast before Mac had to fly off to the damp, misty moors of Scotland on some family business. Personally, Methos wondered if that business didn't include seeing Rachel MacLeod, even though Mac didn't mention it. He knew Mac was fond of his kinswoman, but the Scot wasn't forthcoming about many of the details of the pending trip, nor was he anxious for any company. Not that Methos had asked in so many words.
Dense frown lines etched burrows in Mac's forehead. "I still don't see how it could possibly work. I understand, kind of, that light is traveling through space at a certain speed and that it takes a long time to reach Earth so the light we see from a distant star is quite possibly thousands of years old, but I still don't see how we can overtake it. A time machine seems like an impossible invention."
"Even some of daVinci's designs were considered impossible at the time. A helicopter? Who in the sixteenth century would have ever believed a helicopter would be possible? Yet there it was in his sketches a flying machine. H.G. Wells wasn't the first to conceive of a time machine, you know. And scientific study proves it can be done. It's just a matter of figuring out how to do it." Methos laughed and his hazel eyes gleamed as a thought appeared to strike him. "Hell, with enough alcohol in me, I could probably take you back to a time within the last five thousand years with so many vividly recalled details that you would believe you were there."
"Flights of fantasy don't count, Methos. I'm talking about really traveling through time. Although I will admit that the idea of being transported by your memories to say, ancient Persia would be intriguing." Mac leaned back, poured a large gulp of beer into his mouth and squinted at Methos. He was looking lightly tanned, like just barely browned toast. That was a direct result of the past few days on the beach. And his hair was longer than he'd been wearing it over the past few years, not quite as long as when he'd first meet him, but enough that the front locks slipped into a wave across his forehead so that his face had a fuller, less gaunt look. Mac admitted he liked that healthy look on his friend.
Grinning broadly at the Highlander, a mischievous twinkle sparkling in his eyes, the old Immortal offered the seemingly impossible treat. "Would you like to try it, Mac?"
Halcyon mood shifting seductively with the intrigue of the suggestion, MacLeod rocked forward. "You're serious?" Methos nodded. "You really think you can make me feel like I'm in Persia?" Again, Methos nodded. "All right, then. I'll bet you the finest dinner in Nice that you can't do it."
Impishly, the older man shifted his body to sit upright, reached across and laid his hand on top of MacLeod's. "Deal, Highlander, but this needs a special setting and something stronger than beer. It's also going to take a little bit of cooperation on your part." Methos' eyes grew thoughtful and he said nothing for a minute or two, then glanced at his watch. "All right. Give me a couple of hours to round up a few things. Meet me on the beach below the hotel at five."
Jingling sounds greeted MacLeod as he drew near the striped cabana on the beach. He soon spotted the metal tube wind chime that was attached to a pole outside the canvas structure. He almost laughed out loud. If Methos thought a blue and white tent coupled with the tinkling of chimes was going to be a time machine, the old Immortal had truly lost his mind. //Oh, yes. I'm going to have a fine dinner on the old man tonight,// he thought happily.
"Kindly indulge me, MacLeod," Methos said, stepping out of the tent and bowing toward Mac, arms gesturing for him to enter. He wore a woven robe of colored stripes and a band of multi-colored fabric was tied around his head. A small chill tickled the base of MacLeod's spine as he realized how completely natural Methos looked in this garb.
Luminescent light greeted Mac as he stepped inside. Fully a dozen candles in pierced metal holders burned within the surprisingly spacious tent. The diffused light gave a surrealistic impression to the unexpected furnishings within. The ground was completely covered in a red, yellow and blue designed carpet while several spreads were draped over the interior poles. He sniffed. The scent of oranges, peaches, cinnamon and something exotic he couldn't identify touched delicately at his nose. A small wooden table, surrounded by plush, tasseled pillows, sat squarely in the center. The drape over it looked to be silk. Two goblets sat on either side of a bronze fruit bowl, which was filled with apricots, dates, nuts, peaches and melons. Methos had definitely gone to some trouble and a bit of expense to create this illusion.
Moving silently behind him, Methos picked up something in the corner then offered the bundle of cloth to the Highlander. "You might want to slip into this, Mac. It's more comfortable and will help with the fantasy."
"Nice robe," Mac commented dryly. It was almost as colorful as the one Methos wore. But he slipped his shirt off and pulled the garment over his head. As Methos pointed to his own bare feet, Mac slipped the loafers off, then the socks. He had agreed to play along with this game.
Obviously enthused about this experiment, Methos encouraged Mac to sit on the cushions before the table. He folded himself on a cushion across from the Scot and gazed intently at him. "Now, MacLeod, this is where I will need your cooperation. I want you to relax, sip at the fruit wine and apply a little imagination. I'm going to begin describing a place that once existed. You try to picture it in your mind." Mac nodded.
"Persepolis is a bustling place, filled with markets, people, animals and the richly wonderful scent of fresh fruit and sweets. The wine is light and fruity, a product of the variety of mixed fruits in the orchards. You can smell the ripening fruit on the limbs in the garden just outside the window. Orange and peach scents slip in on a delicate breeze..." MacLeod felt himself relaxing, rolling gently with the rhythm of Methos' voice. He was only peripherally aware of the gentle movement of the long, slender fingers against the rose-colored silk cloth.
Quiescent words fell on him, patient little architects constructing a long-forgotten world- a place both so distantly removed and foreign to his experience that it could have been an alien civilization. He felt Methos' fingers touch his hand, pressing gently against his palm, lifting it to touch the trunk of an old olive tree, its truck twisted and wound with age. Around him was a splendidly verdant garden, brilliantly blooming plants and fruit-laden trees. Over the low walls, he could see the desert lands beyond the garden, but preferred instead to bask in the coolness of this haven.
Revolving to gaze behind him, he saw a huge palace resting on solid foundations of limestone. Great stone pillars rose from bell-shaped bases to form the supports for lintels that crossed them and exquisite wooden beams covered them. With just a thought, he was walking through the entrance into the palace, and he was filled with astonishment at the magnitude of the structure. At least a hundred columns formed the hall where he stood. He was dazzled by the beauty of it and delighted with the magnificence and luxury. A man walked toward him- no, this was a man of authority, the king. He was black-haired and dark-eyed, a strong man. And, he could tell by the stern expression, a willful man.
Shuddering slightly, he looked away from the king, seeking instead something menial to do. As he started away, he heard the king call him, beckoning him forward. Unresisting, he approached him, held out his hands and realized he bore a bowl of fruit. The king selected a fresh peach and dismissed him after giving him a curious look bordering on desire. He turned, moving swiftly from the hall, seeking the quiet of the garden.
Taking a sudden deep breath, MacLeod gasped and jerked back. "What the hell happened? What was in the wine?!"
Unmoving, Methos gazed steadily into his eyes, the green-gold flashing with the true memories of what he'd just created. Mac swallowed nervously, keenly aware of the intensity of the illusion and the extremely personal moments Methos had just given him. He had lived that moment as vividly as the old Immortal had actually known it. "Were you there, Mac?" he asked softly.
"Virtual reality had nothing on that experience, Methos," MacLeod said as the waiter poured the exquisite burgundy. "How did you do it? And who was the king? What was your relationship to him"
Waiting patiently for the waiter to finish his chore and move away, Methos considered how much to tell MacLeod about what had happened. Actually, it hadn't gone quite the way he'd intended, but he had been very successful in achieving his objective. Mac had indeed experienced the Persia he once knew. The waiter moved away and he raised his glass in a mock toast before replying.
"Xerxes, Mac. He was the King of Persia in ... 462 BC, I believe we now call it. Then it was simply the time of Xerxes the first. As to how I did it, that was a simple technique called hypnosis. Create the atmosphere, provide for the senses and guide the psyche down the garden path. Nothing more magical than that." Methos sipped at the wine, savoring this victory although it had cost a little more in emotional expense than he had expected.
"Yesterday as close as that," Mac said softly, noting that Methos had not answered the third question. //Why can't I let it sit?// he wondered. Perhaps because of the intimacy of the experience, the fact that Methos had put him into his own memories and opened up the small peep hole on his past. For whatever reason, the Scot had to ask. "Were you a servant to Xerxes?"
"Zoroaster," Methos answered with a slight shake of his head. "Not the one who lent his name to the religious cult, but one who was a counselor to Xerxes. And I wasn't a servant. But that's in the past, Mac-the long past. Let's leave it there."
As if on cue, the waiter set a platter of food before him and Methos cheerfully stuck his fork into the lobster thermidor, savoring every moment of the expensive and elegant dinner MacLeod was buying.