Carson Kearns' Highlander Fanfic

Lost in the Loving: Coming Home

Chapter 5

by Carson Kearns

 

crossbut.gif (1693 bytes)The morning passed quickly, Duncan arriving back late, dirty and needing a shower. Rachel arrived at noon to look after Mary while the adults attended the burials.

As Duncan came down the stairs Joe noticed the beautiful red silk shirt. He’d seen nothing like it since Tessa had died. Following Joe’s eyes Duncan smiled, “You know what she was like about my clothes. She loved me in colors.” 

Methos came up behind him, falling into one of his favorite caresses, wrapping his arms around Duncan from behind and laying his cheek against his back.

“Mmm - you smell of heather,” Duncan smiled, reaching up to cover Methos’ hands with his own.

“Darn. I thought I was using the tar soap!”

Duncan turned around and, oblivious of who was watching, gathered Methos into his embrace. “Don’t ever move from along side of me, Gradhach.”

Never ..........Never.

chapel.jpg (6563 bytes) Gathering their coats, they left the house, and walked to the beautiful old church which had been sheltering Tessa’s and Richie’s remains.  Joe had opted to be driven to the service, accompanied by Anne, in deference not only to his legs and the rough ground but also to allow Duncan to be alone with Methos.

Methos put his arm through Duncan’s, feeling his tension ease as soon as the contact was established. Stopping he turned Duncan to face him. “You OK?” he queried, leaning over to cup the side of Duncan’s face.

Duncan closed his eyes and turned his face into the caress, as he always did. Smiling, he remembered how Methos always teased him about having been a cat in a past life. Opening his eyes he stared at his lover. “Yes. I am. I’m not looking forward to it, if that’s what you mean. But you don't have to worry about my tendencies towards the overly dramatic. I’m keeping it simple. I’ve even changed my mind and asked a priest to come. And I feel as if I can finally say my own farewell to them all.” He reached out to mirror Methos’ caress.  "And, you’ll be pleased to know that I will finally know where they are,” he said, referring for the first time to their conversation that morning. 

Where are they?” Methos had repeatedly asked him. And he hadn’t been able to answer the very simple question.

The old church welcomed them, its golden brown stone merging beautifully into the green Glen. Joe, Anne and four pall bearers waited. Duncan walked up to the coffins and genuflected, in the way of the old religion, and leaning down, softly kissed each one. Signalling that he was ready, the pall bearers came forward and tenderly lifted Tessa’s coffin. Methos and Duncan took the position at the front, hoisting the heavy coffin onto their shoulders, interlocking arms for support. Ten minutes later the pattern was repeated with Richie’s coffin and both were slowly taken the short distance to the site of Duncan’s parents’ graves.

Duncan’s early morning activity was now clear, as one large hole revealed itself where previously there had been two existing graves.. The half containing his parents’ remains was surprisingly shallow to modern eyes - only some four feet deep. The dirt all over Duncan’s clothes, when he had returned, also now confirmed what Methos had suspected.

The reason behind his hurried trip to Rachel also now made itself clear. New MacLeod tartan covered the existing remains of Iain and Mary MacLeod.

Duncan turned and thanked the pall bearers who bowed reverently, and departed to wait out of sight until they were called to lower the coffins. Reaching into his pocket, Duncan took out a small pair of scissors. “Methos. Cut a lock of my hair for me? My mother loved my hair.”

Duncan smiled as he realised how carefully Methos was selecting a strand from beneath, so it wouldn’t show. Taking it, their fingers touching, Duncan pressed the offering hand in reassurance and walked up to the edge of his parent’s graves. He stepped down to kneel by the remains of his parents and gently pulled back the tartan. Two skeletons were revealed, still clad in the decaying remnants of their Highland clan finery. Patches of red and gold hair could be seen, still containing the colors of Scottish sunset over Loch Shiel, he realised. He snipped a relic of the hair from both of them.  Then he took his own long strands and bound them around the two lower arm bones still lying side by side.   He drew a letter from his pocket and placed it beneath the bones.

jbu01.gif (7344 bytes) Reaching over, the Highland son gently kissed the skulls of both parents and gathered a large MacLeod brooch from his father’s rotting raiments, a ring from the bones that were once his finger  and a further ring from his mother’s lifeless hand. Simple pieces, //... but more precious, more precious than everything I own..//

He reached behind and took a beautiful hair tie from where it now lay in the dirt behind the bones of her neck.. He smiled as he remembered the occasion of her receiving it from the normally gruff Iain.
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He took two objects from his pocket and placed a favorite ring of Tessa’s on  what had been his Mother’s ring finger and a racing medallion of Richie’s in his Father’s hand.  Tenderly laying the beautiful MacLeod tartan over them once again, he pinned a magnificent new MacLeod heraldic brooch on top. It was one of his most precious possessions, Methos having had it specially made for him as a birthday present. 

After his emotional purging of the morning , he felt as if a veil had been lifted away. It was as if every thought, idea, and recrimination ever pondered and grieved over concerning his parents and Tessa and Richie had tumbled out, on his walk to Rachel’s house. He had long wondered why such a religious people could not have seen his resurrection as something holy, instead of the devil’s work. And only this morning did the pieces come together.

Of course, he realised, he was already regarded as touched. He was, after all, a foundling child, born on the winter’s solstice, who had survived a night in Donan Woods. Survived, after Robert had reported him going down under a huge white wolf. Survived, without a mark. And after that night the ravaging white wolf had never returned, except her female form in his sexual fantasies. Cassandra had recently reminded him of just how simple those times were. How black and white the belief system. How fragile the line between acceptance and rejection.

He remembered his father’s fierce hug and joy when he had found Duncan unharmed after that night in the woods. Gently touching his father’s chest now, through the tartan, he acknowledged for the second time that day, what his son’s banishment must have meant to this proud old warrior. And what torment and pain he must have suffered, through his inability to reconcile his religious prejudices and beliefs from his feelings of love, pride and joy in his only son. Duncan  had stopped on the path that morning, feeling overwhelmed with the revelation and his belief in it. I was loved. I am loved. They loved and cherished me.

Silently, he spoke to his parents. //.. I’ve come to understand Father, that yew still love me and that yew never stopped loving me. Four hundred years later, Mother, Father, I’m kneelin’ here alongside of yew, loving yew, proof that love endures...//

 The ancient Gaelic poetry of Ossian came to him from the deep recesses of his mind. It spoke of a proud warrior Chieftain, and the love he bore his son. And the pride he felt in his achievements. Duncan had long wished it had been so with his own father but had never been able to recite the memorised words without bitter recriminations. Now he spoke them aloud, with pride, truly believing that it was his Father’s voice he could hear:

A mhic mo mhic's e thubhairt an rgh,
Oscair, a righ nan g fhlath,
Chunnaic mi dealradh do lainne's b'e m'uaill
'Bhi 'g amharc do bhuaidh 's a chath.

'N a aobhar shnin mo lamh,
Le failte rachainn 'n a choinnimh,
'Us gheibheadh e fasgath 'us caird,
Fo sgil dhrithlinneach mo loinne.

(Son of my son, so said the king,
Oscar, prince of youthful heroes,
I have seen the glitter of thy blade, and 'twas my pride
To see thy triumph in the conflict.

In his cause I would stretch out my hand,
With a welcome I would go to meet him,
And he would find shelter and friendship
Beneath the glittering shade of my sword.)


Methos was awe-struck by Duncan’s next action. “Father. This is Methos, my lover, my clan brother. I ask for your blessing on us.” 

Methos said nothing aloud, but inside - inside -  his soul sang of the ways in which Duncan MacLeod continuously surprised and delighted him.  It was so typically Duncan, he acknowledged. Once he had really made up his mind about something, he would sweep all before him with his certainty.  He recalled a certain bedroom in The Ritz in London, twelve months before, when Duncan had openly demonstrated in front of Joe his new easiness with external shows of affection and caring between himself and Methos.

Methos thought that his heart would break with pride and love from Duncan’s affirmation and declaration of a love forbidden in the eyes of Duncan's parents. That gesture spoke of more courage, more total acceptance, more unconditional love, than Methos ever dared hope for. He recalled their lovemaking session when Duncan had promised to make Methos a member of the clan MacLeod, to give Methos a stake in Duncan’s own memories. Methos recalled he’d raised it, in reality, as a joke. But now,  - now,-  he was profoundly moved.

Rising, Duncan stepped out of the grave and walked to Tessa’s coffin. The lid had been loosened as he’d requested. Seeing what he intended, Methos helped him lift it aside. He had never seen Tessa except in photos and some videos of Duncan’s. She was dressed in a magnificent designer dress of a stunning chocolate-colored silk, with scattered pearls.

”My god, Duncan, she's beautiful.” Methos had thought he would be prepared but nothing could have prepared him for the beauty of the woman before him. Duncan had had her embalmed and had clearly spared no expense in ensuring that it was done by a world expert. Despite the six years, and the unavoidable marks of time, Tessa still looked beautiful, her hair still gold, her makeup subtle and refined.

Duncan answered one of his questions. “It was to be her wedding dress.” He then leaned down and kissed her lips and her eyes. “Hello sweetheart. I’ve brought you home.” Once again, he handed Methos the scissors and took the long tendril of his silken hair and threaded it through Tessa’s fingers. Methos noticed a beautiful ring, already on her wedding finger. Suddenly a wet stain appeared on the dress and Duncan pulled back to wipe his face. “I love you, Tess. I love you.” He stood upright, threw his head back and breathed deeply, getting himself under some control

Anne put her hand to her mouth, visibly moved. No matter how often she entertained death and kept it company in the small hours at the hospital, she knew that she would never come to grips with the reality of it. What cruelty the grim reaper engaged in, she lamented, taking someone as beautiful and as dearly loved as the woman before her had been. Moving closer to the coffin, she noticed the tear stains on the silk and felt her own cheeks running with tears for this stranger. The pictures of Tessa she had seen in the loft took on a new meaning and she wondered how she could ever have felt any jealousy of her. She now felt a deep caring and compassion and deep-seated anger that one so full of life and love and talent should have been so cruelly cut down. And seeing Tessa in death suddenly made Duncan’s periodic phases of despair so much more understandable.

Confirming what she was thinking, Duncan looked down at the ring he had just taken from his Mother’s hand. He brushed dirt from it, cleaned it as much as he could, and gently placed it on Tessa’s wedding finger. Kissing her hand he drew back. Taking the scissors, he then cut off two locks of her hair and put one in his pocket.

He gathered himself and moved towards Richie’s coffin and once again the pattern was repeated as Methos helped him remove the lid. Methos quickly moved alongside Duncan, having no idea what they would find inside. Duncan knelt, staring at the boy he had last lain eyes on that tragic night in Paris. Like Tessa, he had been superbly embalmed. He was dressed in the clothing of his generation - Levi’s, a black high necked pullover he had “borrowed” from Duncan and never returned, a black leather jacket.

Leaning down, Duncan kissed him on the forehead. “Richie. I’ve brought you home to be with your grandparents. Oh Richie,.cit an robh fasgadh bhon chas-shileadh fuar? Methos quietly translated. "Where was the shelter from the cold, drenching rain?" 

Taking his father’s brooch, Duncan pinned it on the pullover and laid Richie’s hands over it. He wrapped the intertwining locks of Tessa’s and his own hair in the lifeless hands before him and snipped a lock of Richie’s hair to leave with Tessa.

And one for himself.

ll2ap.jpg (5960 bytes) Having bound the four people and the three generations to each other, he looked up, his dark eyes flashing, and drew a deep breath to center himself. “For a few years I had a joy in my life that will light me through all my remaining years.” Facing the two coffins, he finished. “This is your home, Tessa, Richie. You're with your clan. Oidhche mhath. Beannachd leibh.”

Joe stood looking at the scene before him, deeply moved. He sighed, inwardly as the words of an old poem played themselves over in his musician’s soul. He’d been thrilled when he’d come across a poem called MacLeod’s Lament - little realising how often it would form the backdrop to so many of his dealings with Duncan.

“It should have been the brave dead of the Islands
That heard ring o’er their tombs your battle-cry
To shake them from their sleep again, and quicken
Peaks of Torridon and Skye!

Gone like the mist, the brave MacLeods of Raasay,
Far forth from fortune, sundered from their lands,
And now the last grey stone of Castle Raasay,
Lies desolate and levelled with the sands;
But pluck the old isle from its roots deep planted
Where tides cry coronach round the Hebrides,
And it will bleed of the MacLeods lamented,
their loves and memories!”


He’d once asked Duncan how any Immortal stayed sane. He’d decided, long ago, that they didn’t. 

//.I guess, Mac, that’s why I’ll always forgive you anything. Anything....// he thought, looking at Richie laid out before him. What must it feel like, he wondered, to stand before the dead youth you had helped raise, and have his Quickening inside you? To look on that face, once so filled with laughter and joy, enthusiasm and mischief,  - and faith - and know that you, the most trusted person in the world to this young man, had ended forever that life, that hope, that trust.......?

And he knew beyond knowing that this was why, at the end of time, these two Immortals would be there. He could not think of anyone who could have come through such a tragedy with any shreds of any sanity at all. Certainly, he couldn’t think of any who would be able to stand before the slaughtered child, as Duncan now did, facing everything he had done, accepting all of its consequences, exposing all of his weaknesses and strengths.

And Methos? Methos would always survive. But with Duncan, he mused, you never knew when the dormant tendrils of guilt would awaken and strike out, striking down those too close to him, destroying a few more fragments of his sanity and bright eyed hopefulness. He shook his head, once again sighing for the lives these people were forced to lead.  He walked to the coffin to gently kiss Richie for the last time.

Duncan gave Joe time to say his goodbyes, for a second time, to Richie Ryan. Turning towards the Church he then signalled for the waiting priest and the pall bearers to come forward. As the coffins were taken up and laid in the joint plot the priest began Psalm 50. Duncan closed his eyes and let the words of the beautiful old psalm wash over him. Once, it had always been said for the Meeting of the Body.

Against thee only have I sinned and done evil before Thee: that thou mayest be justified in Thy words, and mayest overcome when thou art judged.........Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow.....averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis...cor mundum crea in me, Deus...........Create in me a clean heart, O God.....libera me de sanguineibus, Deus, Deus slautis meae.....Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation........”

Methos looked at the priest, presiding over the ritual, wondering whether he had any idea that his words were for Duncan, not the bodies before him.

And while the chant continued, both Immortals found themselves hearing the more familiar Latin, not the English coming out of the old priest’s mouth. 

"...May Christ qui vocavit te receive thee and may the angels conduct thee into Abraham’s bosom......Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: and let perpetual light shine upon them....."

Tessa’s coffin was taken up and gently lowered, followed by Richie’s, to lie alongside their clan ancestors. Duncan pulled more lengths of clan tartan out of a package he had left earlier, and kneeling, lowered the material to cover the coffins. 

“......May the angels lead you into paradise...Everyone that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die forever....Per christum Dominum nostrum.” Here the priest sprinkled holy water and incense over the grave and the coffins.

“.................Lord, have mercy on us.

...................Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison..

...................Requiescant in pace.....

...................The Lord be with you....

...................May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace.....”


Duncan looked around at the landscape of his home and attempted to ground himself as he started to slip in and out of the rituals of so many of the past cultures he had lived amongst, and studied. 

...Sangyela kyabsuchao .........I take refuge in the Buddha... .....Another means to help the dead is the practice of the Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities

....All things are impermanent, and all things die.... ...the Great Wheel spins, and it is perfect justice.

. ‘Perhaps all I can do is to guard the gates.’

..... We are a part of the universe’s ceaseless becoming....


Suddenly he was back on Iona...bathing his soul in that ethereal light...and then back in the mystical calm of the monastery in Malaysia...and then from a long way away Duncan was aware of that other presence that took up so much room in his heart and his soul, - Methos -  gently applying pressure on his arm. Blinking to clear his vision, he looked up from the coffins and realised that the actual ritual was over and that it was time to cover the coffins. Normally, this was left for the grave digger. But Duncan had undertaken to be the gatekeeper. Reaching over he picked up a shovel and started to cover, forever, these precious people.

Methos turned and walked over to Joe and Anne, suggesting that they start back to the house, thanked the priest and continued on to farewell the pall bearers. It was all done so quickly and efficiently that within five minutes all that could be heard was the sound of the soil as it was scraped, scooped and layered atop the coffins. Within thirty minutes, the plot was no more, now being filled completely. The two ancient headstones and the two new Celtic crosses stood sentinel.

Methos finally spoke, as Duncan laid down the shovel. “We’ll come back tomorrow if you like, and do some landscaping.”

“Yes. I‘d like that.”

For the third time that day, Methos came up behind his Highlander and caressed him from behind. “You okay?”

Duncan nodded, denying Methos the deep vibrations of his voice. Turning, he smiled. ‘I’m glad you made me do this. For the first time, in a long time, I can think about all of them, and not feel sick to my stomach with guilt and anger. I feel as if I’ve let go. Let them go.” he finished, sighing. “I actually feel a sense of liberation.”

Methos smiled, behind Duncan’s back. 

//...And knowing you, lover of mine, you’ll soon feel guilty about that feeling...//.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said liberated. That sounds like I’m glad to be rid of them.......”

Shaking his head, Methos firmly steered the ex liberated lover towards the path that led down to the Loch. “Well, we’re making progress. You managed to avoid guilt there for at least 45 seconds. I’m certainly beginning to have an effect for the better. By my calculations, Mac, that’s approximately nine seconds per year since we first met. At this rate it will only take a century to get you up to a solid 15 minutes in a year of guilt free reminiscences. We’ll have ninety nine years to plan for how we’ll handle the momentous experience.”

Duncan had the good grace to grimace. “I’m sorry that I’m so predictable. Didn’t I already apologize for that once already today? But that’s me Methos.  Too many habits are  ingrained. And by the way, I like the way you assume that we’ll together in ninety nine years.” He stopped. “It would be wonderful to sit by the Loch, but shouldn’t we be getting back to the others?”

warrior1.gif (10919 bytes) Methos let his exasperation show. “Let’s pretend that Joe and Anne are adults and capable of entertaining themselves without the light of your presence for one hour.” Methos looked at Duncan’s face and sighed. “Come here. I’m sorry I snapped. Come here.”

He took him into his embrace, using his hands to soothe the back of his head. “It was a shock wasn’t it?  Seeing them...”

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The man in the comforting circle of his arms simply nodded, saying nothing.

“Okay. Thirty minutes quiet time isn’t going to be begrudged by anyone. I passed a wonderful spot not far from here. Thirty minutes to just sit and breathe. Nothing more. I promise I won’t make you talk about it.” Methos pulled back from the Highlander, looking into his eyes.

Duncan looked doubtful. “Promise.”

“Promise.”

Ten minutes saw Methos sitting on a log in the middle of a private clearing overlooking the Loch. Duncan sat on the ground, by his knees, his head resting on Methos’ lap, his arms flung out casually over Methos’ thighs.   He had said nothing. Methos released Duncan’s hair tie and fanned the luxuriant locks around his neck and shoulders and then began kneading and massaging the strong neck before him. Gradually he moved around to get at Duncan’s temples and forehead. The only sound was the screeching of birds as they soared over the still waters of the Loch, swooping, gliding, oblivious to the two life forms intruding on their favorite playground. The day was pleasantly warm and Duncan had shed his coat. From the air, the stunning silk shirt of Duncan’s made it appear as if one of the life forms had a huge red blood stain over his upper thighs. There was no discernible movement from below, encouraging the birds to totally ignore them as they played with each other atop the wind currents.

Suddenly Duncan broke the silence, as Methos knew he would. “I don’t know what I was expecting. But I wasn’t expecting that.” He gripped Methos’ thighs more tightly, looking for all the world as if he were spread across an executioner’s block.

“Expecting what, Duncan?” Methos kept up the same rhythm, his fingers circling the energy meridians at Duncan’s neck. He’d first come across acupuncture thousands of years before and had long been a devotee of the shiatsu massage techniques. The emotional stress Duncan was suffering was, he decided, definitely impeding his ki channels and Methos had determined that he would give Duncan a full shiatsu massage later that evening. But for now, this was working.

“They were vibrant, laughing, moving. All of them. Mother, Father, Tessa and Richie. And then you see them in front of you. Dead. You kept asking me this morning where they were and I said I didn’t know. Knowing their precise location physically didn’t help me place them spiritually. I felt as if they were trapped somewhere. But I think now that it was me who was trapped.” He kept talking, now that Methos had succeeded in getting him into a state of calm and familiarity around the beloved Loch. “Seeing them like that...I realised that I’d been thinking of them, somehow, alive in those coffins. Going to the cemetery and talking to them.....” He sat back and turned around and leaned his head back on Methos’ thighs but now the sun shone down on his face. Methos kept massaging his forehead and cheeks, even as he continued speaking. “It’s funny. In burying them, I feel as if I actually released them from their caskets. I don’t think of them in there any more. Now I just think of the bodies they inhabited as being there. And I think of them as being with me.”

He suddenly sat up, as if the doors of perception had suddenly been cleansed. “Now I can talk to them anywhere.” He looked up at Methos. “How do you stand me? It must be like living with a pre-schooler. It all seems so obvious now. But before...before, I felt as if I was swimming through treacle. I couldn’t make anything clear or understand it.”

Methos simply smiled. “You are a pre-schooler in comparison to me.” He playfully tousled Duncan’s hair. “No wonder you and Mary get on so well.”

“So, “ smiled the pre-schooler, “can I use your body for finger painting practice?”

“Only too happy to help a promising, but struggling, pupil.” Leaning down he captured Duncan's beautiful mouth. And after some minutes they recommenced breathing. “But I don’t think that there’s anything you can teach me about that particular activity, Duncan.”

Duncan laughed out loud. “There were some subjects where I always had a natural talent. These very shores were my classroom.”

loch3.gif (20652 bytes) “Then we should erect a plaque. "On this spot, between the years 1602 and 1622, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan Macleod perfected the art of glorious, sinful lovemaking. Declared Holy Ground in this Summer of 2001, in memory of his wondrous achievements in advancing the cause of lovers and lovemaking everywhere'.”

“You’re mad, Methos. But we’ll order the plaque tomorrow, since you insist, and nail it in a secret place.” He laughed again, enjoying the relaxation after the tension of the ceremonies.

He once again laid his head back on Methos’ lap. “Duncan. I....” Methos found himself unable to continue, and looked away.

Gazing up at him Duncan smiled and noticed him rubbing the ring Duncan had given him that had lain on his Father’s finger for over four hundred years. He reached up to caress his cheek, moving down to his lips. “That’s okay. I wanted to do it. We’ll get the ring cleaned and resized.” He paused, remembering. “He had large hands. At least, I always remember them as large. I remember him as a large man. But in reality he was probably shorter than Richie.” When Methos still did nothing, he sat upright and frowned. “Unless...I’m sorry Methos. Did I misread something? Do you not want the ring?”

Methos shook his head and smiled. “No, no. Relax. You didn’t misread anything. I want it very much. I was stunned, that’s all.”

“Good - I like you off balance,” Duncan chuckled. He stood, pulling Methos to his feet. “We have to get back. They’ll think we’ve got lost.”

“That’s not what Joe will think. Or Anne, for that matter.” They started walking towards the house, conversation now coming much easier. “Duncan, have you actually spoken to Anne about us?”

Duncan raised his eyebrows and grimaced. “No. Anne was never the easiest person to open up to. Mind you, I was worse. I mean, let’s be honest. Even Amanda had trouble accepting us. It’s not as if I was even bi, Methos. You’re the first male lover I’ve ever had. I find it hard enough explaining it to me, much less a female ex-lover. Stop looking at me like that. I just wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Then what about Rachel?” Methos noted the phrasing of the Highlander: <<...the first male lover. Not, the only male lover? So, Duncan, have there been others since we first made love?>>

 He’d always assumed that Duncan would have spent the many fractured times of their relationship either on his own or with female lovers. This was definitely a revelation (if he was reading it correctly) and one to be pursued in the near future.

“What about Rachel?” Duncan shrugged his shoulders. “Is it your job in life to keep turning over rocks in the hope of finding something unpleasant for me to have to deal with?”

“Now you mention it. But seriously, you didn’t find her behaviour after you announced your Immortality, a little strange?”

“No. She’s always suspected. Somehow she’s always known.”

“Even so, Duncan, it was unbelievable. ‘I’m Duncan MacLeod, born in 1592...blah blah blah...’ to which Rachel replies 'That’s nice for you. Getting late, must be off.’ I mean, really...”

“I'm sure she already knew.  The night I killed Kanwulf I got angry at Joe and screamed out for everyone within a two mile radius to hear that Kanwulf had killed my Father. But okay...yes.... I’ll talk to her. But I’m not talking about our relationship to Anne unless I’m forced to.”

“Fine. Forget I ever brought it up.” //...You’ll worry yourself to death about it...//

“Fine. I will.”  //..And don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing. Pushing my guilt buttons.//  “Methos, I’ve had new plastic button covers made!”

They were close enough to the house for the sound of Methos’ laughter to be heard, judging by the curtain which was drawn back by a figure in the front drawing room.

As the two Immortals came into the entrance hall, and then the drawing room, Joe and Anne smiled as Duncan threw out yet another challenge in his seemingly hopeless wager with Adam Pierson. “Bjor.?"

Methos sighed.  " But you’ve already asked me that. It was country #24 but I still get to count it. So you only have three left.”

“Quechua?"  Duncan looked pleased with himself as Methos had to stop and spend almost a full minute on the answer.

“Good one, MacLeod. But not good enough, bright boy. Sirwisa.”

“You don’t have to look so self-satisfied, Adam. And how do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“You don’t.” Joe laughed and poured them both a whisky.

Duncan took the drink with relief, raised his eyebrow and tried to read the face of his lover. Methos couldn’t keep the twinkle out of his eyes, loving it when he reeled Duncan in like this - again and again...//...Don’t ever change, Gradhach. Don’t ever change...// Gazing back with his Inscrutable Face, easily confused by amateurs with his Innocent Face, he outstared the innocent child before him. Anne watched the interplay with a genuine amusement and a growing admiration, if not quite affection, for the strange Adam Pierson.

“Are you telling the truth or have you cheated?” Duncan demanded, right eyebrow suddenly too heavy for his forehead, mouth just beginning the early formation of a provocative pout. //...Don’t try your Inscrutable Face with me, Methos. I’ve got weapons you haven’t dreamed of...//

 But as he gazed more closely at Methos’s eyes, he began to suspect that, as usual, he didn’t stand a chance when it came to Methos’ ability to tie him up in knots.

“Don’t you ever learn? If I am lying, I’ll lie and say I’m telling the truth.” That revelation was reinforced with a cocky wider eyed stare, as if Methos were talking to a seriously intellectually impaired adult, or Mary. “And if I was telling the truth, it still needn’t follow that I’ll tell it about everything. I could still lie about telling you whether I have or not, since it would be a different lie than the one you’ve asked me about. You’ve only asked me about lying about the correct words, not about whether I’ve told the truth. So simply asking me whether I’ve lied or told the truth...”

Still clutching the whisky for life support, Duncan put both hands to his forehead and attempted to clear his ears and mind. “What? What on earth did that mean? And take that self-satisfied smirk off your face. I have no idea what you just said. Can’t you just answer yes or no? Why is straightforward honesty so difficult for so many people?”

“Because you got such a large helping that there wasn’t much left over for anyone else. But, essentially, Duncan, I did answer simply.” He stopped to savour the taste of the Glenmorangie, keeping his eyes large and guileless. “It’s just that without the qualifiers and added contextual insights, you might have been confused and I might have inadvertently been ambiguous.” Methos explained from somewhere behind his Wounded Face.

Duncan growled in frustration and sat down heavily in the nearest over stuffed armchair. “Adam, have you lied, by making up or substituting an incorrect word for any country that you didn’t know?.”

Methos pulled back and narrowed his eyes.  //...Gods, gods, gods I love this man...// " No, I haven’t lied. Satisfied?”

“Then why don’t I believe you?” Duncan queried, his face and eyes full of complete mistrust.

“Because then you wouldn’t have anything to worry about. And Mary’s already told us that you are the greatest worrier in Christendom. And besides, do you really care if I’ve lied?”

“I care in terms of honor.” Getting back out of the chair, he went over to pour himself another drink, taking the opportunity to whisper to Methos as he passed, “But I might be persuaded to forgive you. Depending on what punishment you have in mind for the loser.”

Methos laughed. “Believe me, MacLeod, in this case, the loser is definitely the winner.”

“If you didn’t have such a smirk on your face I might believe you. And if I lose, I’m not doing anything I don’t want to.” He glanced at the others, suddenly embarrassed and conscious of the lack of any other conversation in the room.

“You say that now, but you will. You’re too honorable for your own good. You’ll feel too guilty if you don’t. And besides, it would mean that your word meant nothing. Nothing at all. So much for honor. Not that I care about it, but I thought you did.”

Duncan shook his head in complete frustration. “How does this always happen. Joe? You explain it to me. I’m the one who always tells the truth but I’m the one Meth - er...Adam -  always leaves feeling  like his soul needs a shower and that I need to find the nearest Confessional! Why is that?” He looked from Methos to Joe, in total confusion.

Methos checked his facial files for his Confused and Concerned Face, one he’d truly perfected to an art form some two thousand years before when trying to persuade that dolt Brutus to do something or other he didn’t want to do. There was a lot of Brutus in Duncan, he suddenly decided. “I’ve no idea, Duncan. It must stem from a guilty conscience.”

Returning to his chair, intent on engaging Joe in conversation, Duncan threw a parting shot. “Afrikaans?”

“You’ve already asked that. Number 15. Oke. You’ve got one left...”_

”I haven’t asked Afrikaans. Now I know you’re lying. Armenian?"

Pausing for dramatic effect, Methos simulated a drum roll, before announcing to the room, “You’ve lost!” Stopping to yawn, he announced, “Number 50 of your quota of fifty Countries. Garejure. A slightly loose translation but it fits within the rules.”

Duncan and Joe exchanged raised eyebrows. “Huh! Rules. You and rules! Why do I bother.” And so saying Duncan helped himself to his generous glass of Glenmorangie and settled down to begin a decent Scottish wake.

In the corner Anne pondered this strange relationship, determined to question it the first chance she got.

celtcrs1.jpg (8602 bytes)

 

Go to Part 6


Re-edited 7 January, 2001
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