|Carson Kearns' Highlander Fanfic|
Lost in the
Farewelling the Bard-Beloved
by Carson Kearns
“Music I heard with you was more than music
Warning, Background and Disclaimer
All standard disclaimers apply. The Highlander characters are the property of Davis-Panzer and are used without permission. But I'm not making any money out if this. This material may not be copied or distributed without my permission. Do not link, publish or post this material without permission.
Thank you everyone who has emailed me with comments. It's because of this feedback that I've been inspired to keep writing.....
Thank you to my Beta readers - Ruth and Sonja. words cannot express how much these two do for me.
(Conrad Aiken. Bread and Music. 1914)
Set: Well after Mary’s 16th birthday,
Here it is weeks later and I can still hear that fucking
phone. Methos (naturally) was no help at all. Along with that incessant
ringing I can still see him and hear him so clearly. The original Mr
Snide with his vicious comments:
“Are you going to answer that bloody phone or not? Because if you're not it's within five seconds of being thrown through the nearest porthole!”
Yeah - sure Methos. Why was it my job to answer it? Just part of everything that is mine being his and everything that is his being his I guess - except when he didn't want my phone to be his phone. He was lucky I didn't throw him through the porthole. Christ Almighty, I was spoiling for a fight with him that morning. Just aching for it. I wanted to explode…throttle him. Rail at the universe. And a ringing phone was as good an excuse as any for a screaming match. Since when had we ever required anything of substance to trigger a full blown soul-shredding? Ask Joe….
Except you can't ask Joe.
No one can ask Joe anything anymore.
I couldn't work out why Methos was so calm that morning, when I was so distraught and on edge. I was even stupid enough to momentarily think that he must simply be better behaved than me. That thought didn't last long, as I recall. What a joke - Methos better behaved? He's worse. Joe could have verified that… But Methos always complained that Joe's views were hardly objective - that he always takes - always took - my side.
And still that phone just kept on ringing - and ringing. And Methos just sat there - lay there - whatever that infuriating thing he calls whatever it is he does. He insinuates himself onto every surface… onto me—into me—
He just sat there - waiting for me to answer the phone. Demanding that I answer it. I tried sarcasm:
"You're closer to the phone, Methos. But that would require you to actually move, wouldn't it. You'd have to expend some energy. Heaven knows your right arm must be strong enough to lift the bloody phone. It gets enough practice from raising bottles and glasses every hour, on the hour. You never know - Joe's probably left you the Bar…"
Methos tried reasonableness:
Then he closed his eyes and stopped looking at me. His reasonableness just made me more furious. I wanted him to scream at me. Hit me…fuck me…whip me….anything. Anything to stop the pain I was feeling. Anything to give me an excuse not to pick up that phone. I tried— again—to infuriate him.
"You're like some parasite, Methos. A five-thousand-year-old parasite. I'm the host—your host. You just lie there—feeding off me…sucking me dry.” Even as I said it I cringed. This would have been the last thing Joe would have wanted. To see Methos and me screaming at each other—finding just the right phrase to crucify each other with. Each word a nail…but no Joe anymore to grip our wrists and stop the hammers pounding again and again and again…and again…
He bloody well knew I'd answer that phone. As if over two decades of living here, off and on, still gave him the right to be treated as some sort of guest. With some sort of guest’s rights. Guest rites would be closer to the mark. His arrogant expectations that I'll take care of all the servant rituals—like answering that phone.
Which, of course, I did. It seemed to take forever but I was finally in front of it. I listened to what was said and then I looked over at him and he closed his eyes…waiting to hear what I had to say. Looking back now I wonder if maybe he was just tired of my tears over the years and couldn't abide seeing my streaked cheeks—again. If he closed his eyes, he didn’t have to watch his brave, bonny Highlander in characteristic withdrawal, retreating from another death.
“Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate it…"
I've never been able to explain why, but I always find that moments of intense pain and grief always clothe themselves in the same raiment. Everything goes into slow motion, as if a giant hand descends on the Great Wheel as it goes about its regular turning, crushing across the barge and across my life.
And as that great hand closes tighter and tighter and the great wheel slows…
… and slows
…and slows …the only movement in my world so often at that time is dust…floating dust…
Methos finally opened his eyes and watched it all play itself out once again. Well—I think that's what he was doing. It looked like that's what he was doing, but you never know with Methos. For all I know, he was mentally compiling his laundry list. But I like to think that he was watching me. Watching the morning shafts of golden light swirl around the barge and around me as I stood there, motionless. I know - I'm pathetic. But if you had to choose what you thought your lover was thinking about—laundry lists or you, bathed in golden light, looking beautiful—what would you choose? I’m a Celt; I can't help but choose the beautiful over the mundane.
I remember how Joe used to snigger whenever he heard Methos tell me that I was beautiful.
"Knock it off, Methos. Talk about love being blind. Beautiful! Mac's passable, okay? Passable…"
I remember the summer of 2000. Methos told me, years later, how you'd sat in the back of the church in Glenfinnan and watched dust…golden dust… bathe me and the coffins. He said that he marveled at how even inanimate life forms caressed and surrounded me. He told me once that he used to be such a life form. Those were his words.
<<Dust....remember man that thou art dust….>>
So if I'm this powerful, this beautiful, this attractive—this, this anything—why couldn't I stop Joe from leaving me? I can defeat a god, but I can't defeat death. I can't halt mortality. I can't stop that scythe from reaping, and all my wealth can't buy off that ferryman. He came for Joe's soul and he wouldn't let me keep it safe, - with me.
I remember that as I put down the phone, standing in that middle of all that ridiculous surreal dust, Methos and I just stared at each other. “He’s dying, Methos. I’m going to him.”
I knew as soon as I said it that I'd finally found the words to make him react. They made him so angry. I knew that he'd wanted to lash out at his wild child. Me.
"How typically, bloody you, Duncan, charging off in full theatrical splendor to be there for a dying Joe Dawson. The last thing Joe would have wanted would have been a scene.”
But, as usual, I wouldn't have any of it. “Bullshit! Joe couldn’t have cared less about their sensibilities and hypocrisies. You can sit here and genuflect to it but don’t think that I owe them anything. I owe them nothing!”
I knew what he was thinking, even as he uttered those words. Well…I like to think I know what he was thinking.
<<How often have we played this scene out? How often have I tried to bring some reason and common sense to Duncan MacLeod?>>
That's what he would have been thinking, for sure. I know him too well, after all these years. Know all the nuances..the different breaths, the sighs….Then again, in other ways, I don't know him at all. That's always when it gets most dangerous, when I get so lost in the loving that I get too cock-sure (literally), too blasÚ, and come to realize through some tragic repercussion that I don't really know him all that well at all.
Anyway, he did what he always did. He started with the quiet voice, determined not to skittle his fragile Scot. Mr. Reasonable came calling again.
“Duncan, this isn’t about you. It’s about Joe.”
He reached across and gripped my upper arm. He shook his head, knowing how useless it was to try and talk to me when I got like that. He always over-articulates when he's most frustrated with me. His hands go into over-drive, as if he's dealing with someone who doesn't understand English or is particularly intellectually afflicted. Or emotionally afflicted:
“Duncan. Duncan! The- Watchers -look -after -their -own. Like it or not, Joe Dawson -lived -and -breathed -a -Watcher- ….There’s nothing you can do. It’s o-v-e-r. They’ll have him secured away at a tame hospital. You..you think that they risk old Watchers in their dotage giving away any secrets?”
And I have to hand it to him - he did sound reasonable.. I thought, too, about how often this scene had been played out, in just this way. Me, storming out. Methos shouting after me, so articulate. But I wouldn't have any of it:
“For you, maybe it’s over. Not for me. Not for me, Methos.”
I remembered the trunk against the wall, went to it and lifted the lid. The package was still there from when I'd retrieved it from storage months before, just waiting for this day. “Now it’s my turn to watch,” I announced, to anyone listening...which probably meant no one.
I didn't care what Methos said or did, short of shooting me in the back (which still comes too easily to him). I grabbed my coat and sword and stopped to throw off one last piece of rationalization at him. Though why I say "one last piece" I don't know. I hadn't, in truth, given him any rationalizations much at all.
“If it’s about Joe, then it is about me! His last sight isn’t going to be of those carrion.”
I hoped that he'd included himself in that remark; after all, he'd had ten years with them. It was only afterwards that I realized that I was also insulting Joe but, as with so much of what Methos and I carelessly throw at each other, it was too late by then to take it back.
Much later, when he lay in my arms, he told me that my exit was akin to watching the proud figurehead on the prow of a galleon at war.
"Gods, MacLeod. Your coat billowed out its mourning signature, scattering sunlight and dust motes." Well, he knows how theatrical we both can be. We're our own drama company. He always brings out the best and the worst in me.
And he did what he mostly always does. He followed me. I loved him for following me. I think that if he hadn't, I wouldn't have even made it to the car. I guess at least being with me gave him some hope of being there to pick up the inevitable pieces. And who more practiced than Methos? The relative quietness of the past year had been a luxury that couldn’t have lasted. We both knew that.
And it was that peacefulness that was going to make losing Joe even harder for us both.
Don't think that I didn't know how selfish I was being. I did and I do. I knew that Methos was grieving just as much as me. I know that. I know how pathetic and selfish I was being, and continued being in the days afterwards. You know, for all our great ages, Immortality makes such spoiled children of us.– Or, of some of us.
At some stage, just after we parked the car, I remember warning him how out of control I felt. Like that would have been a revelation to him!
“Can we at least keep the hysterics to a minimum, do you think? Like actually trying to avoid killing anyone, MacLeod? Just keep yourself under control.”
I said nothing, just looked at him; the older and wiser companion of my nights and days. I'm so stubborn. Why, why, why am I so stubborn? Why hasn't he been able to get rid of that in me? I told him afterwards, tongue in cheek, that he'd failed me totally in this regard by failing to help me grow up:
"I blame you totally, you will be amused to know."
I was desperate for him to come with me and be there with me. But I just couldn’t ask. I looked. No voice. No request. I knew that there were times—too many times, judging by his sigh—when he felt as if I gave him no choice but to follow me. I never really thanked him for following me that day.
Another thing he hasn't yet sorted out in me is my pride. And arrogance. But that's probably because, for all Joe's jibes, the facts speak for themselves. One thing both Methos and I learned early in our lives was that physical presence, confidence and beauty always has the effect of dissolving many seemingly impenetrable barriers. Unfair, perhaps, but true. And let's face it. It worked until we actually had to get from the elevator to Joe's bedside. All those guards, just for us.
"Fucking Watchers!" I said, loud enough to make sure they heard me. I took a malicious delight in reaching to fondle the Katana. What use that would have been to me against a hail of bullets I haven't the slightest idea. But it felt good. Methos pushed my hand back to my side and took charge by just waltzing out of the elevator as if we owned the bloody place. And there they all stood, waiting for Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod and Methos, the world's oldest living man, to fully emerge from the elevator. I'm glad we didn't disappoint them. Joe would have laughed. Would have abused us afterwards, mind you, but he would have enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Maybe Methos was wearing his Apocalyptic Face; I wasn't watching his face. I was watching them fall back from us. What he said to me afterwards was right. That maybe the battleground wasn't of our choice, but the weapons sure were. The old reliable ones of presence, charisma, and pure, unadulterated barely contained power. I don't feel embarrassed writing that any more. Methos finally convinced me of that, to know and acknowledge all the weapons we have and to not be afraid to shamelessly use them.
It was a simple question I asked of the Watchers.
“Where is he?”
And I was so careful to speak quietly. They answered equally quietly, as if afraid that if they made me speak too loudly, then all would be unleashed and all would be chaos. All would be lost.
I remember when we saw Joe in that sterile bed, I thought about how old and frail he looked. But the passion was still there. I could see it in his eyes and in his smile. His spirit was stronger than ever. The room was filled with Watchers; old men who had lived through the decades with him and no doubt some of them had watched their organization almost disintegrate. And I noticed some younger ones there; come, maybe, to pay homage to the old war-horse.
That's what he was: a legend.
He didn't stop smiling, I remember, as he watched the faces of the Watchers, watching us.
Methos spoke to him first. "You're enjoying their dilemma, aren't you, you old reprobate".
"Well, buddy what're they gonna do? Put me on trial?" he chuckled and wheezed.
I admit I almost found myself sympathizing with the Watchers and their total inability to work out (either singly or collectively) what in hell they should be doing about the two Immortals now amongst them. Joe took charge, as I recall, and patted the side of the bed, looking relieved when I sat.
“Give these poor guys a break, Mac!"
I suppose I nodded, because I sure wasn't able to say anything.
“Mac, if you go into a dive over this, I swear I’ll come back and haunt you.”
I tried to smile. Joe knew that I only did this when there were no words. I didn't take my eyes off him; I couldn't.
“It’s okay, Mac. It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay, Joe. It will never be okay. It gets harder and harder...” I was so afraid that he was going to die before I could tell him how much I loved him. I pulled out the old length of MacLeod tartan from the package I brought with me. I had last worn it at Culloden. I remember kissing it and then wrapping it around both of our hands. I took him into my clan. If I couldn't save him in this life, I could at least send him to my family in the next.
“I have been so blessed, Joe. So blessed. Soraidh g'an ollave ro dhileas …”
"No one does drama like you, Mac…." But I could tell from the way he grabbed my hand that he didn't mind indulging me in this last piece of MacLeod ritual. He turned to Methos, and whispered:
“What’s Mac blathering on about now with that Gaelic? And before you tell me, make sure you remember what a pain in the ass you can be, Methos. Just because I won't be around to remind you doesn't mean you'll have anything to get complacent about. So be nice to Mac while I’m gone.”
And Methos, of course, was his usual snide self with Joe.
“Now why would I do that? Particularly now you won’t be around, you old fart, to always take his side. ” I loved the way those two always baited each other like that. God, I'm going to miss that. I remember how Joe laughed at Methos before turning back to me, gripping my hand even tighter, inside the tartan and whispering, “What did you say to me, Mac? What was the Gaelic?”
I looked at his old worn fingers and thought about the ink, the blood, the keyboards that had helped him chronicle my life for so many years. Bringing his hand to my forehead, I bowed my head in homage to him. I didn't bother being quiet any more. I wanted them all to hear. “Och˛in! Soraidh g'an ollave ro dhileas . 'Farewell to the beloved Master-Bard.' That's what you've been to me, Joe, amongst so many other things. "
“Master-Bard, eh? I like that, Mac. I like that a lot. Wanna do somethin' for me?”
“Anything Joe. Just name it.”
“Dance for me, Mac.”
I knew what he was doing. I'm not totally obtuse, despite Methos' worst fears. I knew the boundless depths of Joe's caring, his love and the generosity of his spirit. I knew that his love and concern for me would want to spare me being the one to hold him while he died. But that's exactly what I wanted to do: to cradle him in the shelter of my arms.
But I rose to the occasion and put my own wants aside.
And I danced for him.
Methos moves with such grace. He took over the hospital bed as if it was his to manipulate at will, and moved to sit behind Joe’s head, pulling the fragile body up against his chest. I liked the way the silvered head rested against Methos’ shoulder.
As I took off my coat and brought out the Katana, I thought back to all the times Joe had watched me do this. Often I wouldn’t even know that he was there until I'd finished. He knew my routine and often, he came to watch my katas. I used to feel bad about it, being so physically whole. I used to wonder how he felt watching my legs move with such power. I asked him once about the frustrations of having an Immortal who was such a fanatic about physical fitness? He just laughed and challenged me to an arm wrestle—and whipped my ass.
By the time I got to the open French doors leading out on to the balcony, I'd convinced myself that I could do this for him. I knew the sun behind me would throw my silhouette into dark relief and I was grateful. That meant that he wouldn’t see the tears. I looked the part. My hair had been loose on my shoulders from the outset.
And I danced for him.
In the summer of 2000, Mary watched me, in Scotland, performing Katas—my Mary—and she'd insisted that I was dancing. "Dance for me" Joe had asked. Those three words summed up everything that we'd all been to each other: the shared memories, the misunderstandings, the joys, the laughter and the love. The dreams, the tragedies, the art and the music.
So I bowed, went to one knee, kissed the hilt of the katana and held it formally in a ritual salute to my own bard-beloved, and then commenced the deadly moves. Joe would have known them all. I cut and parried and lunged. I could feel the sun washing over me. I could feel the tears coursing down my face and neck.
And I felt him leave me as I danced that deadly dance of death.
I watched him close his eyes and saw Methos' arms tighten around him…and I like to think that mine was the last image that he took with him. I like to think that.
I bowed to him - to my ollave ro dhileas - already traveling with the Ferryman.
I know that Ferryman well.
I wonder now if Joe followed my eyes as he journeyed towards him.
He'd waited so long, so patiently to take Joseph Dawson across to the
Otherworld and relieve him of his burdens.
I knew Joe had gone from me.
It seemed to take forever to get from the doors back to his bed and take him from Methos' arms. I held him fast. Laying him down for the last time, I took a gold mourning locket from my package and took a lock from my hair, a piece from my tartan and placed them inside the small glass case. I left it around his neck. I took a lock from his hair and closed my fist around its silvered strands. I have my own mourning locket, with too many strands in it.
I heard Methos say his own private farewell to Joe in a language no person on the planet could have deciphered. But since Joe Dawson’s soul was no longer bound by such time and space constraints, I guess that that didn't present a problem.
Then we walked away from him, forever.
Yesterday I went to the small chest where I keep my most precious things and found a poem Methos had written for me. I don't even know whether he wrote it before or after Joe's death. He didn't tell me that he'd written it, just left it for me to find.
I promised Joe that I wouldn't go into a major depression and I'm really trying not to. But come back to me soon, Methos. Nothing makes sense when you're gone from me.
When some time has passed—a generation or two—I’ll come for Joe.
And I’ll bring him home to Glenfinnan.
Methos has already written Joe's epitaph for me; for us. He's much better at words than I am.
Who will sing these songs for me now? Who will write my stories? Who, apart from Methos, will love me like Joe did and have faith in me and follow me to the end of this planet and beyond? Joe filled a dark spot inside me…he's my last link with Tessa. Now they're all gone and it's all up to me to know what they brought to this world. And brought to me.
I've got Joe's music playing and it fills the barge, with everything he was and will always be. When I play his music, I can hear him talking to us, counseling us.
I'm listening, Methos. Are you?
It's time to come home, old man…
Farewelling the Bard-Beloved
Brave bard-beloved of MacLeod's life and
You left him to mourn all the years of your
Bard', - you'll be
mourned for your silence
You left us to mourn all the years of
(Methos. For Duncan)
|First, some Glenmorangie. Then Joe's music. Then your
poem, Methos. And then the thoughts of all of us, toasting faith…
"To faith, Joe. To faith."
May 3rd, 1999
Poem 'Farewelling the Bard-Beloved' channelled from Methos to Duncan via Carson Kearns.
May 3rd, 1999
Poem 'Farewelling the Bard-Beloved' channelled from Methos to Duncan via Carson Kearns.