He sat, alone, in the early evening warmth of the Loft, thankful for the central heating and the quiet crackle of the new open fireplace. His fingers gently stroked the warm wood of the small box held in his lap, its richly polished hues drawing him back to when he had made it - and why.
He didn't have to look hard to see the gold of her hair, in the honeyed streaks that marked the sides of the box, - nor the rich deep reds that defined her lips. He stopped that thought and let his fingers caress the complex Celtic knot and crucifix that he had carved into the lid. His mind wandered. It was so seductive - to keep on thinking of her lips and the colors that suffused her loveliness when they laughed and they loved. Remembering Tessa - and being so lost in the loving of her...
October weighed heavily...
In early October he had suffered his first death - and everything he'd known and loved had been ripped from him. His family and clan. His assumed mortality and fertility. There were times when he could still hear the silent shattering of his Mother's heart at the loss of her 'beautiful boy'. Despite the visit to his homeland in the summer, his own soul still ached when he thought of his mother's pain.
In a gas-filled tunnel in an October long ago, Dianne had lain, cocooned in his arms. His words had evoked for her a funeral ferryboat, filled with the vibrancy and beauty of wildflowers in spring. And with those images and smells she had smiled, and left him forever, thinking that he was crossing the Styx with her. Whenever he saw wildflowers he thought of her, and the colors that were so cruelly taken from them both that night in London. As always, he had stood alone on the shore and watched her ferried away.
And it had been in another October that he had first come to know of the Watchers - and James Horton. He had killed Michael Moore, and, with the killing of Kern, had exacted retribution for Kahani and Little Deer. He could still smell the hot ash of their funeral pyres, thick in the autumn mists. He whispered a silent farewell to Kamir and Kristen, who, like all the others, had farewelled life at his hand or in his presence in the month of October.
He continued to caress the box as October after October started to tumble down the years, and he saw himself standing by Linda Plager's death bed, blessing her smile. She had told him, with her dying breath, that Duncan MacLeod had taught her to look for the light and not the shadows. He turned to his left and watched the late evening light streaming into the loft.
"You can shoot hope or despair, garbage or flowers. It all depends on where you want to spend your life," he had lectured. He smiled as he thought of how Methos would roll his eyes at such a typical MacLeod homily on living. He took a deep breath and watched the light moving across the honey-richness of the floorboards, and realized that he still believed what he had said to Linda, so long ago. He knew where he wanted to spend his life, and with whom he wanted to spend it. And it wasn't in the shadows.
Terrible as these weighted memories of October were, they could all have been borne - indeed, were being borne. But the one event that would forever ruin October for Duncan MacLeod, despite his current happiness and soul-searing love for another, was that it was in that month that his Tessa had left him, - forever.
Seven years before, amidst the fiery colors of Autumn, he had fallen to his knees by his dying lover and, in shock, had taken her into his arms and held her against the coming coldness of her death. He had been denied the chance to speak to her one last time of his love, or to have ensured that his face had been the last one she had seen - his lips the last warmth she had felt. Rich red blood had stained her chest - and her lips turned blue before his eyes.
"I love you," she had avowed, as she had reached out and touched him for the last time - only minutes before her words would be forever silenced. He had eventually come to see that the declaration was a suitable and joyful proclamation of all that their lives together had been. As she lay in his arms, he had made himself look beyond the colors of death to the color of her hair. Ever since, whenever he looked at the brilliant reds and golds of autumn, he saw the swirling lights of her hair and the sun reflecting the vibrancy of her eyes.
He had held her in his arms and refused to let them take her away from him. He remembered thinking it a cruel irony - that his arms could give her such strength and shelter in death, yet be so incapable of protecting her in life. He had held her until all the warmth and vibrancy had left her beautiful face. Watched the colors fade. Looked at her hands, through his tears - incredibly beautiful hands, that shaped and gave life to everything she touched. At some stage he had reached for and enclosed one of her hands and could still feel it held fast between his own. He'd wanted to keep her warm, lying there on that road - so cold.
In that moonlight she had become like one of her own pale marble statues - except that her statues and sculptures had been pregnant with life. Tessa had infused them with her warmth and her joy, her love and her passion. He had watched in shock as his tears had fallen onto her hair and her face and had run down her neck, soaking up the reflected light from the streetlights, moon and stars.
When Tessa died, the stars in his world had fallen - and he never thought to see them rise again. The days and nights had passed, relentlessly, continuing their turnings. He had stood outside those turnings for many years.
One by one the stars had reappeared in the darkness that surrounded his life, after she had died. And one by one, it seemed that whenever light and warmth had reappeared, the stars would be put out. There were so many nights when he wondered why his world seemed only to have so many false dawns.
Every autumn since, he watched the falling leaves swept up and taken by bitter winds, to be tossed and broken. He could never see them fall to earth without also seeing Tessa's tragic, swirling dance of death.
It was only fitting that winter should follow. It seemed to take many years before his soul had started to thaw. And he knew to the minute when that had been. His strong hands held the box tight and he felt himself smile as a new warmth started to fill him.
"Mi casa es su casa..."//
And warmth and color had filtered back into his life.
He looked down at the simple box, thinking back to the heat of the previous Scottish summer when he and Methos had taken the bodies of his family home - to Glenfinnan. Tessa and Richie now lay with his parents in the place Duncan had always loved. He had, in every sense of the word, left them in the loving arms of his mother and father. He had felt a new peace descend on his life as he had gazed out over Loch Shiel, knowing that the cycle of life could now continue with the passing into the earth of the last bodily remains of his family.
He wanted that to be in Scotland. Wanted the last of their life's essence to feed the soil and waters of his homeland. He liked to think of the endless knots of his Celtic home and took pleasure in knowing that the only family he had ever known were now linked and locked in this world and beyond - forever.
He turned and smiled as he heard the elevator ascending and found his thoughts now moving to his current family. He waited for Methos and Joe to emerge into the loft and they did so as the last of the sunlight streamed in through the new colored glass he had had installed in the tops of the windows.
Methos stepped out of the elevator and let his eyes send a warming and affirming caress. "What have you been brooding about?" he asked, allowing a smile to soften his words. He didn't wait for a response and went straight to the kitchen to unload the groceries he had bought for them.
Duncan watched him, conscious of how well Methos knew him and his predilections. He brought himself fully back to the present - and smiled in welcome. He was looking forward to seeing Anne and Mary on the morrow, and tonight he intended celebrating life and relaxing with Joe and Methos. Stepping out of the shadows into the light. He said nothing further about his brood - just raised his eyebrows at Methos and shrugged. He continued to rub the smooth wood of the box that had triggered the memories. Methos came forward, handed him and Joe a beer, and sat down on the couch.
"Come here, Mac," he smiled, patting the warm green leather next to him. Duncan mentally shook himself and, picking up the box, sat down alongside his lover. The cycle of life continued and he felt blessed to have his family around him once again. The deep green of the couch spoke to him of new life - and new loves.
Methos looked down at the wooden box. "What's brought this on? You made it...?"
Duncan simply nodded. He opened the box and took out some photographs of his family at play - one of him laughing, as Richie fell out of the canoe...one Richie had taken on the same holiday, of Duncan and Tessa kissing...Richie racing his bike. But the real treasure was the box itself. It had been made up of different woods, highly polished and finished with old-fashioned joints. No nails or screws were obvious in its construction, except for the brass hinges. Duncan continued to rub his fingertips over the box.
"The wood comes from the island, another from a timber fitting in the Barge and another from an old beam in the Antique shop. The base comes from a tree that had fallen a long time ago and was lying by Loch Shiel. I collected it in 1746. What's left of it is still in storage in Edinburgh."
Methos reached across and touched Duncan's hand and gave it a firm squeeze. He also knew his timbers. Knew that the box was a mixture of deciduous, for the never-ending cycle of birth, death and re-birth - and of the evergreen - eternal life after death. The box signified the intertwining of mortality and immortality.
Tessa and Duncan.
"You OK Mac?" Joe eased himself into one of the sturdy chairs.
Duncan turned and smiled at Joe - his personal Bard and the chronicler of his nights and days. He raised his beer to them both. "I'm fine. To all those we've loved and lost."
And all three drank.
As Duncan gently closed the lid, Methos leaned back into the comforting Methos-indentations of the couch. "A very wise man once reminded me that '...they always live while we remember them...'."
Duncan laughed aloud. "I hope you appreciate having such wise people in your life, Methos." Rising he took the box and instead of putting it back inside the large chest that sat at the end of their bed, he placed it on one of the shelves holding other treasures from other times. He let his hand linger on the warmth of the wood, and let his fingers trace again the Celtic knot he had carved into the lid.
Turning back to Methos and Joe, he reminded himself that there were no endings - only new beginnings.
|Copyright © Carson Kearns 2001||