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.
Please do not copy, publish or post on the Internet without permission from the author. I don't want any legal problems.
This story was my response to an Inspiration Story Challenge Taselby issued. The quote she gave me follows the story.
"I'm sorry, Mac. I don't think I ever told you that." Methos' voice was soft, deep with sincerity. He'd been watching MacLeod gaze at a photograph of himself with Richie Ryan for the past few minutes. //Too much drink makes for deep reflections,// the old immortal thought cynically. MacLeod had been setting himself up for an evening of sorrow when they'd started this drinking party three hours earlier. But maybe it was time for it. He had regrets about the kid himself and they'd never held a proper wake for him.
"Uh huh," Mac agreed cryptically. He reached for the scotch and filled their glasses again. They'd already killed two other bottles and were about to deplete this bottle as well. Both of them were feeling the effects of too much alcohol over too short a period.
Mac slowly turned his gaze toward the slender man who sat cross-legged on the barge's floor. "Are you, Methos? Are you really sorry? If you and Joe had kept him on the phone like I'd asked, he wouldn't have been there." Methos knew it was as strong an accusation as the Highlander could make. He wouldn't transfer blame for what happened--that was Mac's own cross to bear, but he did made it clear that he felt that Methos and Joe had failed him. //Maybe I deserve it,// Methos thought, not because of the failure Mac perceived but because he hadn't really believe there was danger until it was too late.
"Mac--" he started, tried to find an easy way to say it and couldn't. "Dammit, yes, I'm sorry. I'm sorry Ryan's dead. I'm sorry his own impulsiveness took him there. But you can't blame Joe for what happened. There was no one on the phone when you handed it to him."
With the reluctant nod, Mac rose, crossing the floor to gaze out a porthole at the muted lights of the city. A low-hanging mist covered the river, giving a fantasy-like appearance to the blue-green glow of Notre Dame. "I've never killed my own student before. He trusted me and I failed him." He paused, looked back at Methos. "Have you?"
"Have I what? Failed a student?" //Yes, oh yes,// he thought. //More than once.// None of his students were still alive, save the one he was attempting to teach now. No, that wasn't technically correct. MacLeod wasn't his student in the sense of word the Scot used. What he was trying to impart to Mac was totally different. So, all of his students were gone and more than one by his own hand.
"Ever killed one?"
Methos unfolded his long legs, stretched them out, then climbed to his feet. "You're getting too morose now, MacLeod. How 'bout some coffee?" He headed toward the coffee maker on the counter, busied himself with finding filters and measuring the grounds.
His eyes came up to find MacLeod staring at him from only a few feet away. "I'm serious, Methos." The expression on his face was not an accusation, but more pleading. "When Warren killed his student, I couldn't understand how he could do it. How anyone could be in a position to do it, to let anger takeover like that. But then I--I--"
"Emotions are powerful enemies, Mac. They blind you to reality. Just like Cochrane couldn't see what he was doing through the anger, you couldn't see your fear compelling you. You were swinging blindly. Look, you said yourself that Ryan was a casualty of war. Ahriman found your weak spot and used it. None of us could have changed that."
Mac nodded, waited as Methos poured the boiling water through the filter. "What's your weak spot, Methos? Do you have one?"
//God! Haven't you figured it out, MacLeod?// he thought. He stared intently into the dark brown eyes, swallowed down the emotion that threatened to choke him. "Weak spots are dangerous. They can get you killed."
"Is that why you resented Richie?" The question was too casual.
Methos bit his lip, fighting back the exasperated reply that was on the tip of his tongue. Instead, he straightened, braced both hands on the counter and leaned forward toward Mac. "I didn't *resent* him. I worried that he was a weakness you couldn't afford. That you would always be trying to rescue Richie." And when was this pot going to start heeding the words of advice he kept throwing at the kettle?
"I felt a responsibility to him, Methos! Aren't you supposed to feel responsible for your students?"
Unbidden, a sharp memory of himself arguing with MacLeod in the tunnels formed under the stadium came to Methos' mind. He was pleading for Byron then--his student--and more. He wasn't responsible for the poet anymore; he'd turned him loose long ago, but he'd had cared. He had a close friend heading to kill a former lover and he had been powerless to stop him, knowing that the man deserved his fate. Had he failed a friend then? Had he been responsible for Byron's death? //Yes,// a soft voice whispered in his mind. But he'd made his choice knowing the consequences. "Like Byron," he replied. "In a way, I was still responsible."
MacLeod's eyes widened in surprise. "Your student? Methos, I didn't know! I thought--"
"Thought what?" Methos asked sharply. "That he was just an old lover?"
The Highlander stared at him, a slow realization transforming his face. //Shit!// Methos cursed mentally. MacLeod hadn't figured any of it out. What the hell had he just done?
The look on MacLeod's face told him he was clearly shocked. Methos bit his lip, moved away from the counter quickly, heading for his coat. //Stupid, stupid!// He berated himself. He should gotten some of that coffee into his system instead of letting the whiskey talk. Somehow, he thought MacLeod knew that much. The man had taken Byron's Quickening--didn't he get anything from it?
Methos felt sick, a churning in his stomach bordering on the edge of real illness. Hands trembled uncontrollably as he fumbled for his coat. //Can't feel,// he thought in a panic while his numb fingers were unable to really grasp the fabric. Even his chest hurt as he tried to breathe. //Gotta get out of here,// he thought, finally getting his arms through the sleeves.
Mac's hand fell on his arm, heavy--like a weight tying him to a block. He wanted to shake it off, but he couldn't seem to move. //Here it comes,// a strangely calm voice said, and he waited for the sharp edge of MacLeod's words that would cut deeper than a blade could.
"Methos? Don't leave, please." The voice was painfully gentle, promising understanding, compassion. //Not for me,// Methos thought bitterly. //Mac doesn't have those for me.//
Methos refused to meet Mac's eyes, couldn't look at him now, couldn't bear to see the recrimination he knew would be there, the disgust and horror that he'd not only allowed a student to be killed, but a lover as well. Not to mention that he doubted the Highlander would be very understanding of not only a homosexual relationship, but a ardently kinky one at that. Byron had been an adventurer in every sense of the word.
He took a deep breath, somehow finding his voice. "Mac, forget I said anything. I -- I don't know what I was thinking --"
"I should have realized it, Methos. On a gut level, I knew, but I never allowed myself to admit it."
"Did you find it that repulsive?" The old Immortal swallowed that like a bitter pill.
Unexpectedly, Mac's hand was against his face, his thumb rubbing against his cheek, gently soothing as he spoke quietly. "No. Not repulsive. Just... I never thought..." He paused, his eyes searching Methos' face as if they hoped to find something.
Methos couldn't meet Mac's eyes, turned his head away. He was dying inch by inch in that gaze and he couldn't find the strength to escape.
"...that you would be with Byron that way. This isn't censure. I understand that love doesn't have boundaries, particularly for one of us. I'm just surprised. Come on..." Mac's hand fell away from his face and he tugged insistently at his arm, urging him back toward the sofa.
"I should go..." Methos' rough voice managed a feeble protest. But his body, betraying his intellect, yielded to Mac's touch like a cheap whore to a promise of silver. It had always been thus around the Highlander. His better sense at odds with his desires, logic taking back seat to passion. In spite of all his sharp words, he was still trapped by an age-old need.
"Sit," Mac instructed softly, pushing lightly against his shoulder. The firm, warm hand felt like it could burn him where it touched. His knees grew weak as he folded himself into the cushions. He was wary, expecting a tirade or a lecture at the very least, not prepared for any compassion.
"For crissake, relax, Methos. I think we need to talk." Mac gave him a few minutes then as he slipped over to pour a two mugs of coffee and brought them back. He handed one to Methos, then sat on the floor where he could face the tense man. Mac studied him for a few moments, then asked carefully, "I need you to help me out here. I'm trying to understand. Byron was your student and your lover, yet you let me kill him. Why didn't you tell me then?"
Methos sipped the coffee, astonished that his hand wasn't shaking. A dozen thoughts went through his mind, but he only said, "Would it have mattered, Mac? You did what you felt you had to do. And maybe I agreed. You train your student, but sooner or later you have to let them go. Either they make it or they don't. "
"Why Byron? What was the attraction?" Mac's face clearly reflected the distaste he'd felt for the poet.
"You only saw one side of him, MacLeod. When I first met him, he was brilliant, like a bright star in a sea of darkness. Yes, he had problems, but most people do. Once I sensed he was pre-Immortal, I knew I wanted to be the one who trained him. I wanted... to bask in that glow of radiance and to be a part of it. At least for a while."
"But he was so self-centered, self-destructive!"
Methos turned his gaze on the Scot, the green-gold eyes almost appearing to be looking into the past rather than at the man who sat so earnestly at his feet. "We don't choose who we're attracted to, who we are willing to risk everything for. Maybe there's a need inside each of us that only certain people fulfill. A need that is blind to what the person does, but is feed by who they are, that internal flame. It's a desire that overpowers everything else. Kronos, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Byron, Lily Langtry ..." His voice trailed off and he added the last one silently. //Duncan MacLeod.//
Methos watched MacLeod struggle with what he'd said. It was probably too abstruse for the Highlander. He wasn't a stupid man, just grounded in a different reality. His Highland Clan had produced a man who tended to see black-and-whites, who made judgments based on right and wrong, who didn't bend when a storm's winds threatened to destroy him. It was part of why Methos sheltered there, huddled snugly against the strong tree that could weather the storm. But more importantly, the Highlander was that radiant beacon that so attracted him, that spirit that burned so brilliantly that he had to bask in its light. And it was worth all the danger, all the hurt, all the turmoil, all the unfulfilled desire just to be there. Even if he lost his life.
The silence wore on. How much damage had he done tonight? Methos shifted uncomfortably, set the coffee cup aside. He closed his eyes, begged silently. //Please don't cast me out. Please understand. //
A feather touch brushed against his cheek, then the firmer touch of fingers in his hair and the warm pressure of flesh touching him. Methos leaned into the touch, not daring to open his eyes to learn if this was reality or only desire-induced delusion. A moment later, the moist burning sensation of coffee-flavored lips brushing against his forced him to look to see if there was substance behind the illusion.
The Highlander's face filled his vision. No fantasy, then. Instinctively, Methos pulled back, doubt and uncertainty driving his actions.
"What?" Mac asked, his dark eyes reflecting confusion. "Do you not want this?"
Methos took a deep breath, forcing practicality over craving. "Not now. Not under these circumstances." He slid out from under Mac's touch. There were too many disorienting influences here and he couldn't take a chance that a completely sober and uninfluenced MacLeod would accept it if he let this go on. He got to his feet.
He refused to look back. "I have to go, Mac."
His footsteps carried him swiftly off the barge and onto the street. Moments later, he was behind the wheel of his vehicle, white-knuckled hands gripping the wheel. His head dropped forward and a groan of anguish escaped.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would know if the truths spoken this night would bring bitter grief.
If the truth hurts most of us so badly that we don't want it told, it hurts even more grievously those who dare to tell it. It is a two-edged sword, often deadly dangerous to the user.
--Judge Ben Lindsay