Carson Kearns' Highlander Fanfic

Carson Kearn's Montage by Killa

Lost in the Loving:

Lighting You Home

by Carson Kearns

(carsonkearns@hotmail.com)

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.

 

This Chronicle is set immediately after Lost in the Loving: The Blackest Waste

N.B. I take no prisoners in this Series in that I assume an intimate knowledge of Highlander, its major characters and their respective journeyings.

The Lost in the Loving Series attempts to stay as close to canon as is possible.


This story has been without a doubt the most difficult I have ever written in the Lost in the Loving series. Why?  There is just so much pain here.  I have followed Duncan's journey so closely and therefore it is impossible not to empathise very closely with his pain following the death of Richie. This chapter has had to attempt to capture that pain and despair.  There is no light here - Joe, Methos - Duncan - all are in deep deep grieving. Trying to describe this has been very difficult and I have threatened to abandon this so many times that the pharase "...I've trashed it!..." was becoming a mantra.  These people are the reason that 'Lighting You Home' finally saw the light of day; Nancye, Aine, Sonja, Killasdra, Marilyn, Robin, Kamil, Lisa W, Sharon C, Gillian, Listen-R, - and most especially MacGeorge who was determined to get through my thick head that *Less is More!*......

I should warn people that this is still a very heavy piece of work and I can't pretend to have succeeded in trying to capture what it was like for Duncan and Methos in those bitter months following the end of all certainty. I believe that Duncan would have not only lost all hope but would have been in deep and dark despair.   Please try and bear with me and him as we watch Methos' struggle to find a way to light his lover's darkness..


 

May, 1997. Paris.

Night of Richie Ryan's death, at the hands of his Teacher and surrogate Father, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.......


Watchers watch - didn't they? For thousands of years they had watched Immortals killing other Immortals. Recorded it. Imprinted it. Joe Dawson had watched his Immortal, Duncan MacLeod, take in a young homeless boy - Richie Ryan. Over the past four years he had watched the Highlander nurture the boy's heart and soul. Watched him teach him how to survive and how to be part of a family. Watched Richie Ryan thrive in the warmth and nobility of everything that defined Duncan MacLeod.
  

And now he watched Duncan MacLeod on his knees before the headless body of Richie Ryan. Watched his Highlander, offering his bloodied Katana to his estranged lover, Methos. Watched the world's oldest Immortal refuse - utterly - to meet Duncan's wishes. Duncan had somehow arisen from his own private rings of hell and had left the gruesome scene, swordless, completely incoherent and suicidal with grief.

"Demon 'One'. Duncan 'Zero'!" Methos sighed to himself. He spared Joe further grief by continuing his summations in silence:

//- Richie Ryan: bloody zero!
-Duncan's sanity....absolute bloody zero...//

In the shadows Richie Ryan's shocked Watcher refused to let any of the usual clean-up crew anywhere near the body or the two distraught men standing over it.

Methos' own body was alive with the thrumming of impending doom. Five thousand years of refining his senses left him with an uncanny ability to hear the chords and discords of the universe. And the universe thrummed that Duncan intended seeking Death's ferryman to take him across the River Styx - and to leave the world to its own devices.

Turning, Methos found Richie's Watcher. He felt no pity or regret for the way he intended to interrogate him. He did however vaguely remember having to remind himself that it was 1997, not 1097 BC and that the one called 'Methos' now slept deep inside his current personna - a researcher called 'Adam Pierson'. And that this modern, clean-cut Adam Pierson did not get so frustrated with blathering idiots that he ripped out their still beating hearts.

The one called Methos did that - the Other - locked away, deep ........

Indeed, Methos' current problems with his lover could be attributed directly to the re-emergence of this Other. The last time Adam had set aside his innocuous personna to allow Methos to re-emerge all the Highlander's trust had been shattered. It had been difficult enough for Duncan MacLeod to come to terms with having a male lover. To have that lover gleefully throw in his face that he had once been a raping, pillaging Horseman of the Apocalypse could have been farcical had it not been so tragically catastrophic. And as proof of Duncan's fury, Methos' three brothers were now dead. And as a final throwaway line Duncan had recently dispatched yet another of Methos' past friends, mortal slayers and wanton lovers - Lord George Byron.

All in all, it had not been an easy few months.

Duncan had accused Methos of simply using him - manipulating his heart to gain his love and his trust solely to use him as a weapon against Methos' fellow Horsemen. And Methos knew that he had never taken the time to put that fear to rest. Indeed, he had let it feed his anger at Duncan for his killing of Lord Byron, one of Methos' very few remaining friends.

And so Methos had refused to listen to his Highlander's ravings about supposed demons stalking the Quai and dead people haunting him. And now the one friend who had stood by Duncan, Richie Ryan, was dead.

As Methos came back to the present he shook his head to try and make sense of Ryan's Watcher's blathering about what had happened and how Richie had been killed by the Highlander. There was no discernable pause even for a slight breath.

"...... then MacLeod spun around and Ryan was just standing there - .. and MacLeod - MacLeod - there was no time... ....and Ryan.....Jesus! ... I don't think MacLeod even knew who it was. .. like MacLeod only realized what had happened when he took the Quickening....called out for Ryan, called out 'Richie?' - like he was hoping he'd step out from somewhere......and then...then....he turned back to Ryan's body on the floor and fell to his knees and...he...he was like a wounded animal...He's going to kill himself isn't he?"

"Not if I have anything to do with it," Methos answered, thankful that the recitation had finally come to an end.

Joe looked at Methos in confusion and despair, brokenly insisting that it would be a kindness "...to let Mac die. He'll never be able to live with himself. Never. Maybe this time he really has lost it. Too many Quickenings _ too many personal tragedies. Even the best of you can't keep bearing that weight!".

Cold ashes swept about Methos, the Horseman called Death. Called to him. Smelt and sang of Death. And from the deepest parts of Adam Pierson's psyche and soul, his old friend, Death, answered. For if anyone could bring his lover through this tragedy, Methos - Methos - might. If Duncan MacLeod sought Death, then Death would answer.

"Well Joe if there's one thing I understand it's insanity." Joe paused in his weeping and looked - really looked - at Methos. And he knew without a doubt that what Methos said was true. For who else could truly get inside the frenzied terror of total madness and mayhem? Who could give Duncan MacLeod succour now - apart from Methos' deepest and truest self? Who alive could finally bring some hope and reassurance that madness and death could be contained and welcomed as a permanent lodger in one's heart and soul? 

Methos. Only Methos.

Methos continued. "There's a high price we pay for our immortality Joe." What he didn't articulate was that there were tenant's rights that Chaos always demanded. Like occasional time off for good behaviour. And the results? Nothing too dramatic. The odd piece of carnage. All containable and explainable, if you were Methos, the world's oldest Immortal.

Sustainable.

Methos laughed bitterly to himself. If you were Methos. But, dear gods, - dear gods - not sustainable if you were Duncan MacLeod, the world's only 405-year-old Boyscout. And not sustainable if the price Chaos demanded was the head of your surrogate son. Richie Ryan.....

"Joe - listen to me. Joe! I'm going after Duncan." It took a full minute of shaking and shouting before Methos was able to make his fears understood by the old Watcher.

"It will be alright, Joe...it will be alright..." Methos desperately sought to reassure a grief-stricken Joe Dawson. He was met with a look of horror. In truth he didn't blame Joe - even he himself couldn't believe the naiveté and triteness of the assurance.

"Don't be fucking ridiculous! How can it be 'Alright'? Mac's insane - and dangerous! Jesus Christ! How did this happen again? Where did it come from this time? Why didn't I see it? Why didn't you see it?" He turned once again to the carnage at his feet unable to suppress a moan of grief.

Joe Dawson rubbed his face and sat down heavily. "If there is a Demon, he's won. And if there isn't, we've lost Mac." He turned back to look at the body on the cold floor finally surrendering to his grief.

Methos followed his gaze and made Joe a promise. "I'm going after Duncan. I'll find him, Joe. Will you be OK?"

What possible answer there could have been to that question, neither Joe nor Methos had had any idea. But Joe gave the expected affirming nod and Methos quickly left, stopping only to remind Joe to take Duncan's bloodied sword with him.

Thirty minutes later Methos had located Duncan's unique signature in the direction of St Julian Le Pauvre - Darius' church. It made sense that Duncan would return to the one place that never failed to give him succour. The one place where he seemed to feel Darius' gentle, nurturing presence. Methos had found him here, on his knees, when he was in the throes of the dark quickening. And that was where he found him now.

He moved slowly towards the source of the incoherent sounds coming from the front of the Church - from before the altar. And there he found the man whom he loved more than life itself.

He stood and breathed deeply to calm himself as Duncan's disturbed and erratic signature pierced him. He stopped moving forward. Duncan was sitting on his haunches, his arms wrapped around himself. He was rocking gently - back and forth, back and forth before the altar.

 He looked like a ravaged, fallen archangel, his long black hair wild, framing a shocked face etched with grief and inconsolable loss. There was no color - all was black in his archangel's world. His eyes, clothes, hair - all was in shadow, all a negative print. All solidity had vanished, and all that remained was the suffocating, cloying darkened swirls of loss and deep despair.

The chorus to this Greek tragedy was provided solely by Duncan himself, softly keening...

 It sounded like gibberish to Methos, - a master of gibberish. And then he realized that it was probably Lakota Sioux.

"Wacekiyapi.... Wacekiyapi..."

Methos closed his eyes against such pain and said nothing. For Duncan was surely right to mouth alone these soul-wrenching, incoherent sounds. He was right to reject the treacherous words of love and support, and simply keen. For didn't words require the power to reason? And where on earth was reason to be found anymore, anywhere on God's earth?

"Why," Methos wondered aloud, "does growing up have to be so hard?"

He moved forward, slowly, so as not to frighten the Scot any more than necessary. And then he realised that nothing could possibly frighten, or even register, on Duncan's consciousness. He silently fell to his knees, instinctively needing to be at eye level, and gently but firmly gathered his lover into the shelter of his arms. And  he quietly wept for all that they had done to each other over the past few months. 

He lightly kissed his head and sighed with relief when Duncan didn't fight him - indeed, seemed to relax into him. "Shh...it's alright. I'm here. I'm here..."

He carefully rose, pulling Duncan upright with him, trying to let his own body's warmth register and stop the Scot's violent shivering. He looked into his eyes but saw that they were no longer registering any images. For all intents and purposes the Highlander was blind.

He guided him, zombie-like, out of the old Church, across the park, past Notre Dame and its solid flying buttresses and further along the Quai to the Barge. Soft lights reflected off the sandstone of Notre Dame and the beautiful sounds of the Dies Irae floated around them, creating a Gregorian cocoon.

"...Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla..."

"That day will be a day of wrath
it will unleash the hot ashes of the shades of hell.."


"How fitting," sighed the world's oldest Immortal, as the chant was soaked up into the mists now enveloping them.


As he gently led his lover along the Quai he asked himself over and over why he had not seen Duncan's breakdown coming - why had he not prevented it? How had he missed the signs that signaled how very close to the edge of insanity and unreason Duncan had been?

Finally, and with difficulty, he got Duncan inside the Barge, and lowered him onto his knees, his side to the fireplace.

He quickly rebuilt the fire. Duncan didn't stir and registered nothing of what was happening. Methos noticed how irregular and shallow his breathing had become since arriving at the Barge, as if a new layer of shock had settled upon him.

He turned and reached out to cup Duncan's head. "Duncan? Duncan? You can't hear me can you? Oh Gradhach - you've gone a long way away haven't you? It's OK...it's all right. I'm here. I'm here now. Sssshhhh..." He used his large hands to pull Duncan to his chest and let his arms provide a cocoon and a shield. Trying to quell the almost violent shivering that still wracked his body.  He continued to say anything that sounded soothing and comforting. As he heard the Highlander's breathing start to become more regular, he let his hands massage the back of Duncan's neck.

His instincts told him to keep touching, to keep making some physical contact. To connect. He continued to rub the steel corded neck and caught his breath as Duncan turned into the touch like a damaged, traumatized animal seeking any connection with any living thing.

He was grateful that Duncan allowed his face to lay against the warm hand that caressed him, seemingly unaware of the line of constant tears running in slow motion across his cheek and onto Methos' hand. They were all the more distressing to Methos for the complete absence of sound that would normally have accompanied such tears. 

Methos closed his eyes against the tragic picture, opening them only to see, for the first time, Duncan's gloved, clenched hand. With difficulty he prised it open and found a small, bloodied knife. Methos rose and turned on the lights and saw that Duncan's clothes were sodden with blood. He had been using the knife to mindlessly slash his forearms. The glove, Methos realized, was Richie's.

Recognising all the classic signs of deep shock he gripped Duncan under his arms and dragged him to the bathroom. A hot shower followed, despite Duncan's obvious distress as the sharp needles of water saturated him. Methos was all efficiency, ignoring the amount of blood that washed away. 

Thirty minutes later Duncan was dry and sitting on the bed, still shivering uncontrollably, unresponsive and unresisting as Methos dressed him in two pairs of sweat pants and tops attempting to keep him warm. 

And still no words, - just the shaking, the staring, -

 Methos led him back to the fireplace, pushing him to kneel down once more. And it was then that the contrast became real - the warmth and heat of the fire framing the cold deadened man before it. It was the passive acquiescence that unnerved Methos more than any other thing. All the fire and spirit, all of the fierce arrogance of the Highlander was gone. Perhaps left behind forever with Richie's headless body? Perhaps, with his beloved Katana - as if in discarding the sword, he had discarded his defining core.

"If only," the ancient Immortal whispered to himself, looking closely at Duncan's ravaged expression. "If only I'd waited for you yesterday. Listened to you when you were raving about being chased by a demon - and by Kronos." Not that he for one minute believed what Duncan was saying. But he could, he supposed, have tied him up. Or, at the very least done something to keep him off the streets until he sorted out what was happening in the disintegrating depths of Duncan's sanity. Poor Richie had tried to warn him and Joe. And they had ignored him.

Methos had refused to allow himself to admit that he still cared that deeply. He'd even started to persuade himself that it was just too dangerous to continue to let himself be so enraptured by the Highlander and had started to force himself to withdraw from his orbit. He had not been prepared for how impossible that had proven to be and how much it would hurt.

He set aside these useless memories and regrets and pragmatically tried to focus on his current problem. He let some water boil, found some herbal tea and walked quietly back to the fireplace. Surprisingly, Duncan let Methos feed him, draining the cup.

Finally, there were some whispered words.

"I killed him...he's dead...I killed him...I killed him...he's dead...it was Richie...it was Richie." And then the choking and hyperventilation as the sweetened tea was regurgitated. Methos quickly threw the towel before him and managed to catch most of it.

Hugging the Highlander to his chest, Methos spread soft comforting kisses on his head and knotted hair as he surrounded him with whispered phrases of comfort and mourning . They, more than anything, seemed to bring some semblance of relief. Finally, the Highlander turned and stared deeply into Methos' eyes and uttered some coherent sentences, as a slow realisation seemed to settle on his features.

"You're not safe. You're not safe, Methos! Get away! Don't let me kill you too - I'll kill you! He'll make me do it." He became increasingly distressed. "You don't understand. You don't understand. He shape changes. It's all unreal. Nothing makes sense. Nothing..." He stopped and looked intently into Methos' eyes and spoke slowly, his voice fractured, soft and deep. "If you want to live, get out! Leave."

The cold reality of Richie's headless body destroyed any counter arguments Methos thought of mounting. And in truth those arguments would have been based on naïvity. You didn't survive as Methos had without taking some basic precautions - especially against insanity. He spent the next hour simply holding Duncan in the safety and shelter of his arms, hoping that he would fall into a deep and exhausted sleep. 

Once he was sure that Duncan's exhaustion had taken over, he carefully slipped out of his sweater and lay it down on the floor over a cushion from the couch, hoping that its smell would somehow help to keep Duncan settled while he found some rope.

Duncan's passion for order ensured that Methos found the rope exactly where he would have expected to find it on the beautifully maintained Barge. Indeed, Methos recalled observing to himself some weeks before that the more Duncan's life seemed to be disintegrating into chaos the more he strove for order in the material world that surrounded him.

He was back with the sleeping Scot within five minutes. Duncan had instinctively turned onto his left side so that most of his face now lay against the sweater Methos had used to cover the cushion. His legs were drawn up - almost in a foetal position. His right hand was buried in the warm folds of the sweater.

Methos debated leaving him where he was but common sense took over. He wasn't, he realised, going to be of any help to Duncan if he was too tired to keep upright. He pulled Duncan to him and when he still didn't stir threw him over his shoulder, fireman style and somehow managed to get him up to the bed. He reached down, gathered up the rope and started to secure his wrists.

And it was then that all of Duncan's instinctive defensive instincts kicked in. Whether it was the realisation that he was about to be tied down, leaving him totally vulnerable, Methos had no idea. But certainly hundreds of years of training came to the fore in the form of pure Zanshin - the art of the warrior. Methos had seen Duncan in this zone many times. Total intuitive awareness of the environment was paramount. All reactions, in such a state, were merely the application of an applied natural law. The lightning strikes - thunder sounds. The wind blows - the tree bends. The warrior is attacked - the warrior defends.

The warrior kills...

And so it was that Methos suddenly found himself on the wrong end of such a warrior - one who was not about to allow himself to be immobilised and trussed like an animal. Methos realised later that Duncan's violent reaction had made it easier for him to actually tie Duncan.

For up until this moment he had only ever thought of such a scene in the many sexual fantasies that he had perfected over the years concerning this man. But to actually have to tie him, in these circumstances, was a gut-wrenching admission that his lover truly appeared insane, and possibly irretrievably so. He was certainly giving every appearance of being trapped in some violent web of delusion and chaos.

Tying him meant admitting that the Highlander was so dangerously unstable that Methos genuinely feared for his own life. Or - worse, that Duncan might kill himself by escaping into the Parisian streets, weaponless, seeking a Quickening-hungry Immortal.

Duncan's weakened state was no match for Methos and he was quickly subdued, his arms trapped. Thousands of years of subjugating had to count for something, after all. Duncan however refused to concede defeat. He screamed at Methos over and over to not "...do it like this.." but whether he meant the tying or whether he thought Methos actually intended killing him Methos had no idea. Both wrists were soon tied together and then pulled up to be finally secured to a part of the headboard.

Using all of his strength he finally wrapped his arms around his lover's upper torso and eventually felt the Scot yield the battleground, collapsing from exhaustion in the prison of Methos' arms. Some minutes later a wet washcloth had wiped away the worst of the blood spread all over his wrists - both now too slow to heal.

He soon had Duncan settled under the covers of the large bed. He felt a wave of despair wash over him as he looked at his Highlander, and reached down to feel the beautiful face. His form and grace were still markedly evident. If nothing else, he determined - if nothing else - despite the pain, he would always hold that image fast, in all the years ahead.

The fight and what it represented left Methos too agitated to fall asleep. There were too many thoughts and images suddenly coming at him - circling...attacking. Going up onto the deck of the Barge, he stood staring into those waters, musing on love and what it had come to mean in his life- the life he had fantasized living, with Duncan MacLeod. And when that thought and those images grew too painful, he mused on death and the ultimate absence of all that filled his empty life. And he mused on insanity and felt the siren pull of its caressing, tempting shadows -

Duncan. Life. Death. Insanity.

Perhaps what had drawn him to Duncan all along had been the passion that was always on the edge of being out of control? Perhaps deep-seated passion was only ever a hair's breadth away from volatility, obsession and madness? His own past, he realized with genuine shock, showed a similar pattern and propensity for being drawn to unstable and dangerous - beautiful - lovers.

"Maybe it's me? Maybe I'm all they need to trigger the madness?"

Cold winds blew along the Quai and sought to surround the lone figure standing staring out across the ancient river.  Methos soon found himself and his dark thoughts weighed down even further by the weight of the cloying  mist rolling in off the Seine. He considered all these things, standing on the deck of the Barge. Considered both himself and Duncan - like two big old redwoods. The past few months had taken such a toll on the Highlander's spirit that it was as if there wasn't anything of substance left to ground him anymore.

And what most people in Duncan's situation sought was invariably insanity, death or illness. Anything to remove themselves from the front line of expectation and consistency. Illness, of course, was much harder for an Immortal to retreat to. And this was no doubt why Immortals tended to either go mad or offer their heads to the nearest searching sword. And what siren sword wouldn't yearn for the neck of Duncan MacLeod with it's powerful Quickening there for the easy taking?

"Why?" he asked of the Seine, of the deities who lived on the holy ground of the great Cathedral - of any stray spirit who might know. "Why?" But they hadn't answered him in five thousand years so he didn't hold his breath this night.

He wrapped his arms around himself in a vain effort to keep out the biting wind. Ice seemed to settle into his soul as cold ashes blew across the Seine, touching his face with a fleeting kiss. He was startled out of his reverie by an anguished cry coming from Duncan and quickly ran back downstairs. 

*******************

Below the deck Duncan had awoken, still tied, and cried out in pain as his memories returned.

"Sssshhhh - sshhh...Duncan -I'm here. I'm here..."

But Duncan MacLeod took no comfort from Methos' words. Instead he stared at him, blinking - unbelieving. Finally he turned his head away and cried out, "You're not real. I know you're not real...not real...." He pulled at the restraints in frustrated anger - and fear. Terror transformed his face as Methos approached the bed and reached out to touch him. Finally something seemed to connect and he let Methos continue to soothe him. Didn't resist when those same hands bathed the night's sweat...

Fifteen minutes later, after the stroking had soothed the worst of the distress, Methos lay down on the bed.  He released the Scot's tied wrists and turned Duncan onto his right side, reaching over to pull Duncan's head onto his left shoulder. Both soon started to drift off into temporary but welcome blackness.

He knew that the night would be a broken one and that without giving Duncan some drug or sedative that neither of them would really get much sleep. He was right. It was Duncan's calling out to Richie that woke him, followed later by his thrashing about. But Methos held him tight and soothed him. Duncan quickly settled.

Some time later the Scot again started to talk, his words heavy with sleep and exhaustion. He turned his head to see Methos and smiled a smile of such devastating loveliness that Methos felt his breath catch.

"Methos! Thank God. Thank God..."

And then the smile was there once more and Duncan unthreaded his fingers to reach out and stroke his lover's face. "I had a terrible dream...was killing everyone... Byron..." And then a shocked look haunted his face as he continued to give voice to the unspeakable: "Richie... there was a demon... dreaming - I was just dreaming..." he sighed, his Scottish lilt lightly evident. So hopeful. And who could blame him for retreating into his past. And as he settled back into sleep his last words were that Richie would be there on the morrow and some further sleep-slurred words about taking Richie to the Opera: "... be good for him...good for you.....thank me one day...you should come with us..."

Methos said nothing. Did nothing. Just held Duncan for dear life and moved to cover more of him with his body, to shelter him and keep the dawn at bay and with it the tragic reality that these were not dreams at all - not dreams at all...

He remembered Joe laughing about Duncan dragging "...poor Richie off to see some Puccini..". It had been the night all hell broke loose, when Duncan first thought he saw the demon Horton/Ahriman on the steps of the Quai. There was little point now in wondering what might have been averted had he put aside his anger with his lover and been there on that Quai that night with Duncan and Richie Ryan.

He leaned closer to the Scot, now safe in his arms and whispered into his ear, "Yes Duncan - yes - I should have gone with you to the Opera...maybe next time..." There were so many many things that were now in the should have been and could have been categories.

And when the dawn came too quickly, it's light bathed the two men lying entwined on the large bed. Methos could feel that Duncan was awake, but he hadn't moved for what seemed like hours. Finally, sitting up, he leaned across the Scot to check on him. Duncan was staring at the light pouring in through the porthole. There was no sound - just a face and neck awash with tears. Finally he whispered, "It wasn't a dream ... He's dead. They're all dead."

Methos said nothing. He simply cocooned the Highlander, as if attempting to hold together the fractured pieces in his arms. He could do nothing about the deeply resonating shift in his being that was the unmistakeable fracturing of his own heart - breaking. Finally he reached down to the floor and found the ties that he'd used to secure Duncan the night before and reaching across he once again bound him securely before going to the bathroom.

This time Duncan gave him no resistance whatsoever....and it was that, more than anything else, that had Methos on his knees in the shower, silently sobbing. When he finally got himself under control he sat there, staring at the drain, wondering how many tears it had silently captured and funnelled over the years.


Methos reappeared and sat on the bed. "Duncan? Can you hear me? Will you eat something for me?"

He watched Duncan staring at his face, intently and then followed Methos' hand as he wiped away the tears that still flowed so freely down his face. Methos went to the small kitchen and soon returned with a mug of coffee and some eggs and orange juice. Duncan sighed with relief as his wrists were released and even tried to eat some of the food.

Methos then took him to the bathroom
where the Scot allowed himself be showered
, have his hair brushed out, and be clothed. And when Duncan insisted that he was tired, he was fed a strange drink and Methos gave thanks that at least one of them might know, however briefly, the siren seductiveness of blessed oblivion.

 


As Methos went about these unfamiliar domestic tasks he was completely oblivious to what was really going on inside his lover's head. But knowing his Highlander as he did, he could see that when Duncan had looked at him, he did not see Methos. But he had no idea whom he did see - just that it filled him with fear and left him silently inconsolable.

Throughout that day Methos ignored the ringing phone and spent many hours making arrangements to get them both out of Paris. Duncan merely lay unmoving on the bed or, later in the day after he had awoken, sat on the floor by the couch. He gave mono-syllabic answers to most of Methos' necessary questions but essentially stayed in his own silent cocoon.

That evening, as darkness fell, Duncan started to speak more freely - as if finally able to make some sense of all the images that had been haunting him throughout the day. He started to talk aloud.

"I should have sent him away! He shouldn't even have been here. I told him to wait and do nothing. I should have waited and done nothing until I'd worked out what was happening." Turning he then looked straight at Methos. "If you were really Methos you should have kept me here. You should have kept me here! You let me go alone!"

Methos rose and came forward to seize Duncan's shoulders. For a large man, Duncan was feeling increasingly ethereal - as if he was wasting away already- hollowed out with suffering. It was then that Methos realized that the Scot had no doubt not eaten or slept properly for many days.

"Yes. You're right. I should have kept you here. But what do you mean, 'If I was really Methos?' I'm am Methos, Duncan. Who do you think I am?" He continued to stroke the brow of the increasingly agitated man in his arms.

Duncan looked up and stared intently into his eyes as if trying to work out whether what his eyes told him about Methos' presence was real. Slowly he reached up and cupped Methos' face in between his two large hands, reassuring himself that he felt solid flesh. Finally he whispered, "I don't know who you are! I don't know what's real and what isn't..." He tried to swallow, to speak - to pull away.

"Duncan! What is it?" Methos reached out and cupped his face, trying to soothe him. "What is it?" As Duncan's breathing started to quicken he seized Duncan's arms and started to shake him, seeing the sheer terror in his eyes. "What's happening?"

"How do I know who you are? You could be the demon....maybe I'm not even really here?" He stopped, stared intently at the Methos-shape before him and whispered, "Is Richie really dead?"

Methos let his hands drop away in shock and pulled back. Turning away he forced himself to put some safe distance between them both, if for no other reason than to try and lessen the fear he now saw in Duncan's eyes and the entire carriage of his body. Looking at Duncan's shocked face he suddenly saw how utterly unknowable everything must seem. For what could Duncan do - when his entire world had now become shadows and illusions? When so many of those he had loved were dead and when he regarded his life as a monumental and tragic failure?

When he attempted to analyse these fears of Duncan's - that Methos was not who he seemed -  he had to admit that there was a certain logic behind the fears. For if Duncan truly believed in a millennium demon, that this demon had deluded Duncan into killing Richie Ryan, that he had shape changed into Kronos and heaven knew whom else, then was it really so strange that he would now have no idea what was real and what wasn't? For someone like Duncan who needed his entire world to be ordered, Methos realised how utterly terrifying this must be.

Methos gripped the curved edges of the porthole, seeking something to anchor himself with as Duncan continued to mouth words and fragments behind him. His eyes began to fill with tears as the words became more clear and he heard the hauntingly poignant and tragic words of Byron now being repeated - words that Duncan MacLeod had never heard and could now only know through Byron's Quickening.

With deadly aim right into the most vulnerable depths of Methos' soul, Duncan's rich, beautiful voice echoed against the walls of the Barge: "What do you do when there's nothing left but the dark cold emptiness that stretches out for centuries behind you and when you look in the mirror all you see is the abomination of who you are...there is no heaven, Methos - it's just an illusion for fools and innocents. I have no hope, no dreams..." He paused, as if struggling to remember....and Methos joined in, helping him voice the hauntingly tragic words. "I have no poetry left. And all I feel is this raging hunger and all I hear is my own voice screaming my failure. You know who I've become...."

It was said like a chant - an invocation for lost souls. Methos let his head rest against the cold glass, despairing at the irony. So often he and Duncan mirrored each other. There were times when each had played the same role to the other - protector, predator, redeemer, saviour. And now the mirroring continued, as each feared the other was an illusion - that each had lost their lover and that only the shell remained.

Duncan MacLeod stood staring, his entire world seemingly reduced to an all-consuming fear that this man before him was not Methos but a demon god. And Methos looked deeply into Duncan's haunted eyes and could no longer tell who was looking back at him - Duncan or Lord Byron - the brilliant, tragic, passionate beautiful, insane, and quite suicidal Lord George Byron.

Certainly the Quickening of the brilliant Byron would not have been an easy one to integrate. Indeed, he wondered, could that Quickening, coupled with the furious fight with Methos that followed
, have been the trigger that had unleashed Duncan's murderous illusions about demons? Maybe - maybe- he realized, this was Byron's payback?

Turning, he once again tried to visually engage with the Scot. "Duncan, if I'm the demon, why haven't I killed you? Why didn't I take your head at the racetrack?" He had to repeat himself a number of times before Duncan seemed to realize that he was indeed talking to him - that the words were real.

"Because you like to play games. Because maybe you can't kill me yourself? Maybe that's part of the rules of your game. ..."

"Then why don't I just let you go? Some other Immortal sniffing around out there will take your head within the hour. Nice fresh Scottish meat. Why don't I do that?"

Duncan simply shook his head, slowly, at that logic, went to the bed and turned away. "I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. Nothing makes any sense. ...maybe this is all just a dream..."

Methos refused to let him distance himself and followed him to the bed. "If I were this demon, Duncan, then I'd keep you in danger. Arrange your death. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to take you somewhere safe."

Duncan looked up at him, sighed and then looked away..."There's nowhere safe."

Methos intended that, within another twenty-four hours, they would be far away from Paris. And as for the supposed entity? He had seen no sign of it - no red fog, no visions. If the demon existed, then Methos was convinced that he existed solely in Duncan's tragically muddled mind. And this time, - this time - he sighed, he was going to need a lot more than a holy spring to focus his Highlander. For Duncan, even at his worst throughout the dark Quickening, had not been delusional. Indeed, he'd been in terrifying control of his dark persona. This was utterly different, for not only was Duncan utterly lost inside himself he was also incapable of differentiating what was real and what wasn't.

What Methos was sure of was that there was no psychoanalyst he knew who would listen to more than two minutes of Duncan's ravings without having him committed. And he had no intention of letting anyone else anywhere near the Highlander to listen to him raving about beheadings and red fog and gods. Was there no end, Methos seethed, no end to the farcical tragedy that marked their passage through this mad, sad world?

His focus now was to get his lover to safety, to holy ground, where they could begin to try and make sense
out of what had happened. Perhaps some time on holy ground would allow Duncan to integrate the difficult Quickenings he had taken of late? And whilst sudden exits were suitably melodramatic, the reality was that there was always some organizing that had to be done.

That evening, Methos finally contacted Joe, affirmed that Duncan had left an Instructions File with Joe for just such an eventuality and gathered from him the promise to have Duncan's business affairs taken care of and for the Barge to be put into dry dock. A solid few hours of hacking and going through Duncan's business papers gave him the most important contacts and he sent either directions or transferred money to take care of anything that required attention.  He left a suitably
innocuous generic email contact number for any things that would require further discussion.

He gave Joe what reassurances he could and proceeded to make the same number of phone calls to ensure that his own affairs were suitably arranged and that certain drugs would be sent on ahead to their final destination.

He walked to the edge of the bed and stood and looked at Duncan, now so defeated, still tied. He reached down and let his fingers touch the hair and soon found himself taking a handful of it and twining it around his hand - as if that small gesture could somehow keep Duncan close by. As if that was all that was needed to keep him from being torn away from him. He leant down and smelt the hair and slowly let the black silken locks fall through his fingers. Standing back he inwardly sighed. Unconsciously he hugged himself and rubbed his upper arms.
 

And he remembered...it had only been after Ingrid's death that Duncan had taken their physical relationship to a higher, deeper level when he had for the first time, taken Methos into his body. It had been an act of total trust and love and surrender. And Methos knew that he would never, ever, forget the sight of his Highlander's enraptured face and eyes while Methos slowly, slowly, entered his body and found his soul. Trust. Such trust. Duncan had so feared being entered. He had feared that level of commitment - of exposing that much of himself. Feared appearing weak - passive.

The memory refused to be set aside. Indeed, as he stood and looked at Duncan on the bed it became stronger and he recalled that they had talked for hours. He smiled at that memory. For Duncan, somehow and somewhere had, irrationally, come to associate being entered with being vanquished in battle - being attacked...losing... unwelcome invasions, out of his control. He had spent centuries honing his body as a shield against all potential invaders and their weapons.

They'd continued to talk - and Duncan had conceded that he always took the dominant role in his love-making and that the only times he didn't were only ever games. Lovemaking with a fellow Immortal, who was his equal physically, was a very different situation. He had, however, and after some particularly skilled persuasion, finally acknowledged the difference between submission and powerlessness. And
so
Duncan had, that night of Ingrid's death, let down all of his shields and had welcomed his lover deep inside, into the inner core. 

"The scabbard and the sword. Both shelter. Both protect..." Methos had soothed.

H
e had taught Duncan that he could trust Methos to know the difference - that allowing him inside his shields was the ultimate act of trust in Methos. It was a tangible gift of love in its truest sense. It had only been a few days later that Kronos had came calling and had made Duncan's gift appear to have been nothing but a trite offering in a trite game played by Methos...three years of trust building with the Scot destroyed in minutes...Oh yes - he had pierced the Scot indeed.

He hated the way certain images simply refused to dilute themselves - to be gone. Duncan's eyes that day he confronted Methos as he attempted to leave Seacouver and Kronos - eyes filled with betrayal. And Methos had fought back with every weapon he knew to keep Duncan safe - keep him away from the mayhem that he knew would follow Kronos' re-appearance. 

"We're through..." Duncan had told him - his grief leaving him barely coherent.

Of all the physical pain Methos had inflicted over all the millennia, he found it extraordinary that those tear-filled eyes of Duncan left him with more genuine guilt and pain than he could ever remember feeling. That look seemed to sum up all the grieving of every victim who had ever had the misfortune to cross the Horseman's path.

As Methos let these memories scorch him, he admitted that there were times when he hated everything and every person, living and dead that had ever come between him and Duncan MacLeod.


Twenty four hours later he had made all the preparations that would enable them to leave Paris the next day. He was exhausted, having spent many hours watching Duncan either kneeling and rocking - or battling his terror during the bouts of partial coherence when Duncan appeared to realize where he was and what had happened. Twice he had attempted to escape the Barge and twice Methos had battled him, stunned at how strong he still was after so many days with little food and sleep. He had finally succeeded in tying him once again to the bed and had sought some peace on the deck of the Barge.

The sound of a car pulling up on the Quai drew him back to the present and its dangers and he turned to see Joe Dawson walking towards the gangplank. They stood and stared at each other, their silent understanding and compassion a sudden cocoon of warmth in the bitterly cold night air.

Methos finally broke the silence. "These past two days have been like a bloody Grade B horror movie," he sighed.

The ever-faithful Watcher said nothing. Finally he stepped onto the deck. For the next minute both men simply hugged each other.

"I know he's here. How is he? You didn't answer my calls...?"

"No - I didn't. He's in shock. Distraught - and is currently tied to his own bed because I don't trust him not to escape or take my head if I happen to fall asleep. How's that for a summary?"

Joe said nothing - just listened.

"You know Joe, I've lived through some long nights. But nothing compares to this. Nothing. It's like its grafted itself onto the back of my bloody eyeballs and everywhere I look I keep seeing him, on his knees, beside Richie..."

"Yeah - well join the club!" Joe moved to sit down, as the ancient Immortal continued to talk aloud, talking at Joe and not to him. But it still fulfilled a purpose.

"You know of course that I have no bloody idea how to get him through this, don't you? Christ, Joe - I don't know that this is salvageable. I really don't." Methos put his hands deep into his pockets and turned towards the great Cathedral. Finally he again broke the silence. "Still, it wouldn't be hard to care for him a little better than I have in the past few months would it?"

"Don't beat yourself up Methos. You've both been beatin' each other up for months and you know it. You both keep forgetting how short life can be - for all of us."

Methos let the words sink in. "It's true Joe. You saw us that night in the club after he killed Byron. All I wanted to do was to punish him - punish his jealousy... My beautiful Scottish avenging archangel. At least, that's what I tried to pretend. But do you know what it really was?" He turned to look at Joe Dawson -to emphasize his confession. "I didn't - trust - myself. I was determined to convince myself that my world didn't revolve around Duncan MacLeod.  That his absence didn't leave me feeling half dead."

Joe's whispered "I know..." was lost in the sounds of the lapping tide.

Methos continued. "Byron and Duncan. Green younglings - both of them..." he mouthed aloud, remembering the looks Byron and Duncan had exchanged when they first met. "Maybe Byron would have been better to have never met me. I've been trying to remember if Kronos and Byron were already mad before they met me or if it was my unique talent for sending my most passionate lovers insane that triggered it."

"I think that you're giving yourself too much credit, old man. Mac always seemed so strong." He paused, memories stealing into the open wounds now covering their souls. "You know he never asks for help. Always has to be the Clan Chief." He shifted his weight and stared beyond Methos, as if searching for a fragmented memory - or perhaps, hope.

Methos picked up the thread. "Doesn't know a whole lot about receiving does our noble Scot! I think that he only ever learned how to give. Protect. Nurture. I don't think I've ever seen him actually agree to be cared for by anyone...." He stopped himself at that pronouncement before continuing, "Should make the next few days and weeks interesting!"

He was thankful that Joe didn't dispute that there would be a living Highlander to care for.

The river's Quickening-like reflections provided a welcome distraction. Tourist boats sent their wash in giant ripples and Methos clutched a railing a little tighter as the Barge rose and fell on the turbulence. Not, he decided, that a few ripples could in any way compare to the metaphysical undertows, backwashes and currents that now permeated the Barge. But they at least provided a gentle rocking rhythm for his and Joe's conversation and for his distraught lover's sleep.

"We're all so lost now Joe. I think it's too late. Duncan is so completely lost in his grieving...". And what he didn't bother to voice was that he was equally lost in the loving of the Highlander - his tragic, insane and utterly lost Highlander.

"Thirty minutes ago Duncan was raving about red fog - glowing eyes - dead men stalking the Quai? Jesus-bloody-Christ!" Methos tried to close his eyes and ears against the memories and the words.

Joe continued to provide the expected counterpoint. "Well Mac has always had a flair for the dramatic. You know that."  And then the logical consequences of that statement registered on them both.

Over the course of the next five minutes Methos catalogued the proof of Duncan's fragility. Post-Culloden, he recalled, Duncan had indeed gone on a murderous rampage - insane with grief for the destruction of his homeland and his people. He could have easily disintegrated after the murder of Darius, had it not been for the solid strength and support of his Tessa - and, of course, Richie. He had suffered delusions and had almost killed Richie Ryan when his old friend Garrick had visited Seacouver. He had fallen victim to a Dark Quickening - a complete breakdown - when he took the head of the Lakota Shaman - K'oltec. And it wasn't, he agreed with Joe, as if all of these rampages were confined to one period - they covered centuries.

"There's a pattern of breakdown there Joe that a blind person could see."

Duncan's MacLeod's Watcher nodded but finally refused to accept such a neat summation. "You know what pressure he's been under for the past few years. But he always - always -recovers, Methos. Always!"

"You keep telling yourself that Joe. Sure - he seemed to recover. But maybe only part of him ever did. Maybe less and less of our solid Highlander has been coming back to us?"

As he considered these things more slowly, he felt himself starting to panic. Perhaps what drew him to Duncan all along had been the passion that was always on the edge of being out of control? 

"Maybe it's me? Maybe I'm all they need to trigger the madness?" He turned to Joe - challenging him to answer.

He considered all these things, standing on the deck of the Barge with Joe, seeking solace and hope. He shook his head, breathed deeply and wrapped his long coat more tightly around his self-disgust.

He took many deep calming breaths to settle himself and try and think more clearly. There was little point, he decided, in continuing to think about what had happened in the past. He had to focus now on the future.

Methos turned to stare in the direction where Duncan MacLeod lay. He determined, then and there, that he would find that flicker of life in Duncan, that connection with the living, and keep it burning. He would use his own love of this extraordinary man as a beacon, to light him home. It would become his new mantra - lighting Duncan home.

Joe stood up and turned towards the door of the Barge. "I want to see him Methos." He held up his hand as if to forestall Methos' reaction. "Not as his Watcher - just as his friend."

Fifteen minutes later Joe, quiet tears running down his face, was still sitting on the bed that held Duncan prisoner. Finally he looked over to Methos. "You're going to have to get him to somewhere safe. Maybe the island? No one else can do it. Promise me that you'll look after him Methos. No more fighting with each other. You have to look after him or I swear I'll....."

 Methos smiled for the first time in a long time. He sat on the bed and pulled the old Watcher to him. "It's okay Joe. I promise." He finally mentioned the unmentionable - as if not speaking Richie Ryan's name might undo the horrific events of this night. "Bury his sword with him. I know that Richie didn't want to be a part of the Game, but....maybe one day Duncan will be capable of deciding where he wants him buried..." shaking his head he declined to make any further comment on the burial.

Finally Joe stood and going to the head of the bed leaned down and lightly kissed the Highlander's forehead. "Peace, my friend. Peace." He let Methos help his unsteady steps back onto the Quai and into his car. As he went to drive away Methos reached in and touched his arm, attempting to give some reassurance. "I'll find a way Joe. I promise. I'll find a way to bring him back to us. Or die trying..."

Joe Dawson covered his mouth with his hand and closed his eyes, taking many deep breaths. Finally he reached over and grasped Methos forearm, attempting to signal faith - and renewed hope. "I'll look after things with Richie." Looking back to the Barge one last time the weight of all his years seemed to settle deep inside his soul. "Keep him safe, Methos. Please. I haven't a clue how you're going to do that. But if anyone can, it's you."

Methos stood watching the car disappear, sensing that Joe had departed with a deep sense of foreboding - if not despair -,  for both himself and for Duncan.  So Methos made a promise to himself that somewhere, somehow, he would find the way to bring Duncan to safety. No matter the cost. No matter the ethics...(least of all the ethics...)

He came to himself and remembered what he had to do - get Duncan out of Paris. To holy ground. To a land that would reach out and take hold of its wandering son and bring him home - eventually. And if there were mystic Otherworlds to be involved, then where better to start than with the Otherworlds that had nurtured this Celtic solstice son and forged his body, heart and soul.

Somewhere there was a candle. 

Somewhere... 

He was determined that he would find it. Leaning down he whispered to the broken man lying before him, "We're going to Scotland, Duncan. I'm taking you home."

End of Chpt 1

Go to Chapter Two


28 October 2000
Re-edited 2 January 2001
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