Carson Kearns' Highlander Fanfic

Lost in the Loving: Lighting You Home

Chapter 5

by Carson Kearns

carsonkearns@hotmail.com

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

September  1997.

Duncan MacLeod wasn’t the only person who realised that the light of Iona had a power of its own.  After Duncan had left the house the next morning Methos stood by the large window and looked out over the Sound.  He had been so consumed with bringing Duncan to a place of safety and healing that he had forgotten that he too would be caught up in the cocoon that Iona offered.  He hadn’t been back for many years – too many years.  And those years he had seen more trauma than the previous few centuries.  Most of it he laid at the Highlander’s feet.

Still –the choice to stay with Duncan had been his. It wasn’t as if the Highlander had ever hidden the fact that he was a dangerous person to be around.  Methos’ own previous musings came back to him.  He had recalled that he was always attracted to such passionate men.  Such dangerous men. Such wantonly sexual men.  And they were invariably attracted to him.  It had always been a heady and dangerously volatile combination.  And he wouldn’t have changed it for any price.  He sniggered as that realisation reinforced itself.  No matter the pain, the fury, the despair – it was worth it to travel the heights and the plumb the depths of ones such as Kronos, various Caesars, the odd Borgia – Elizabeth (what a woman!) – the poets and the licentious crowds that fell at their feet.  

//Duncan MacLeod.//

 No one had been more surprised than Methos when he fell into the chair, the previous night, and wept.  And it was that very surprise that kept him here, with Duncan.  All of the boredom, the sameness, the safeness – the Scot blew all of that away.  On any day Methos had no idea what the sunset would bring or what Duncan would reduce him to. And he knew that he did the same for the Highlander.  Individually both were so controlled. Together they found parts of themselves that had lain hidden or dormant for eons.

So, he decided, as he watched the last of the fishing boats plough the waves on their way to the outer isles, last night’s breakdown was not something to be feared. Rather it was something to be welcomed.  Even in his despair – maybe because of his despair, Duncan had found a new pathway – a new target. And because of that, a five thousand year old man had rediscovered a depth of feeling that he feared might have died, a very long time ago.

“Perhaps, Gradhach, it’s your obsession with order?” he mused, rubbing a tired hand across a tired face.  If there were emotional dust balls lying around, Duncan seemed always to target them and expose them.  No matter that the Scot himself had so many of them.  It simply was more proof to Methos that an old theory of his had been correct.  The more chaotic Duncan’s life became and the more lack of control he felt, then the more he would seek order in the things he could control – like his physical surroundings.  His lover.

The ringing of his cell phone interrupted the musings and shortly thereafter he turned and gathered up his leather backpack and headed out of the house.  Duncan, he was sure, had no idea of the number of people Methos had set to watch over him.  If there was any guilt at all to be felt it was guilt that he felt no guilt.  He could always rationalise his actions. Quite simply he wanted to know where Duncan was and what he was doing.  And his own immortal signature meant that he couldn’t always find that out for himself.  Because he had been here so often in the past he knew down to the inch how close a fellow Immortal could come before the other knew of his or her presence.  The thinness of the air also had to be taken into account.

And after all – it was war, and the prize was this man’s life.  He didn’t need to read The Art of War to know what he had to do.  In every sense of the word he had written it.  Sun Tzu had learnt from the master, Methos, long ago that one never attacked an impeccable battle line.  One adapted. One faced the confusion of the enemy (and in this Duncan was the enemy) with composure (most of the time) and calm.  And one of Methos’ most insistent teachings had been that the conqueror must use local guides otherwise one could not take advantage of the local terrain. Local guides with cell phones was, of course, a bonus.

As he headed for the cliff top, he thought further on his tactics, knowing that he only had some weeks before Duncan called on the covenant that they had struck. Duncan had always been so solid – like a rock.  And he – he had always thought of himself as water.  Formless.  Adaptable.  Changeable. Necessary.  Water always finds a way.  No matter the terrain or the barriers.  He would find a way to light this man home.  He had to determine where the openings really lay.  The answer would lie in being more observant and remembering his own teachings – that the way to victory would lie with observing the enemy himself and understanding where the opening was.  

He knew he could use the fact that Duncan thought he knew Methos.  He had to use that misinformation - act in the ways Duncan expected, so he could slip in and around the stereotype.  Formlessness.  Duncan must not even know that he had been attacked until it was too late. 

Be mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness,” Methos had advised Sun Tzu, thus you can control the enemy’s fate.”

Months later, Methos did at least admit a smile at the irony of their both drawing on the works of the same master strategist. He knew, however, that what the gods must have really guffawed about was Duncan drawing on Sun Tzu little realising that Methos had helped inform those views (at least theoretically), to defeat Methos. And so the great Wheel continued its spinning...

Methos wondered why that sage advice of Sun Tzu suddenly seemed so hollow now. There was something about Duncan that just seemed to make the known and the expected so unpredictable. Just when you thought you knew what he would do…..

Methos laughed as he recalled that Duncan too had spent time in the East. Spent years as Darius’ student.   Indeed, had spent more time in the past four hundred years on military tactics than had Methos.  No wonder he loved this man.  Who else could actually challenge him on such terrain and leave him unsure that he would or could win?

 He soon came to the 'White Strand of the Seat' – Traigh Bhan – and saw Duncan sitting on a large rocky outcrop.  The woman, Lynn, was painting – laughing at some joke the two of them were sharing.  Of course, Duncan would have felt Methos’ presence well before Methos appeared – so he wondered whether the light laughter had been timed to make the very impression it did. That there was no laughter – no lightness of spirit to be had back at the house, or in the company of Methos.

 Duncan watched as Methos walked straight up to the artist and studied her canvas closely before introducing himself.  Duncan knew that look – that predatory smile.  That butter-wouldn’t- melt- in -his- mouth look.  He wanted to warn Lynn.  But what could he say?

 //“Careful – he’s really a Horseman of the Apocalypse?  Don’t trust him – he’ll find your soul and claim it and you will never be free…”//

 He came to himself when he realised that they were both looking at him. Shaking his head he had to apologise and ask them to repeat what had been said.

 Methos gazed at him, intensely, before turning and looking out over the Sound. “Don’t worry about it Mac.  It wasn’t anything.”

Lynn picked up the conversation.  “It's still very rough Mr Pierson.  I'm just getting the outlines at this stage."  She turned to Duncan. "Your friend was just saying that he thinks I’ve captured you well - and that anyone would think you really were the warrior of the painting in a past life.”

Methos turned back to look at the woman.  “Duncan has told me a lot about you Lynn.  You certainly seem to have found the right ingredient to get him back out into the sunshine.”

 She laughed and recommenced her painting. “Oh no, Mr Pierson. It’s Duncan who has managed to get me out into the sun.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve taken such pleasure in my painting.  But when I saw Mr Mac…Duncan…well the idea for the portrait sprang fully formed-”

 “…just like the birth of Athena, from the head of Zeus!" Methos finished for her.

 It was to her credit that she didn’t seem to realise that she was being teased.  But Duncan knew.

 “Don’t let us keep you, Adam. You must have a lot of work to do,” he encouraged.

 Methos ignored him. “You’ve chosen an interesting place to do the portrait. Just over a thousand years ago this beach was the scene of a brutal massacre.  Vikings slaughtered the monks.”  He said nothing more for some minutes before picking up his backpack and departing.

 Lynn turned to Duncan and raised her eyebrows but the Scot had no possible excuse or explanation.  He could hardly say, “It’s just Methos, being unnerving….”.  Or - "Don't worry about it Lynn.  He was here you see when the Vikings attacked so he just can't look at a beach without running off screaming about Valhalla."  but that retort also brought back memories that he himself would rather not deal with.  He did wonder, however, whether Methos had really been there. Just as he knew Methos would want him to wonder. 

//Bastard.//

So he said nothing and if she noticed she was gracious enough to not comment on it..

 “No wonder you get a bit depressed, Duncan.  I think that your friend needs a bit of sunshine himself.  Would you think me rude if I were to ask a few questions?”  She continued to try and capture his lips…they had eluded her for days and she had told him that he wasn’t moving until she was satisfied that she had captured them.  A forceful hitting of the canvass with strokes of her charcoal to cover up what had been done revealed that she had not as yet been successful.

 “Well – I can’t promise to answer them Lynn.  Adam is a very private person.”

"Unlike yourself?" she teased, smiling.

"Point taken," he conceded.

 “When I look at him I see a lot of suffering, Duncan.  Has he had a lot to cope with as well in the past few years?  There is a hardness around him but I suspect that it’s there for protection.  He brought you here, so he must feel a lot more than he lets on?”

Duncan said nothing for a while. “He lost his wife to cancer recently. I think that he loved her very, very much.” He didn’t tell Lynn about the estranged 'Brothers'. Or the death of Lord Byron. And as he thought more about her words, he found that he also remembered the murder of the old Watcher who had run the bookstore with Methos. Don somebody?  He wondered why he'd never taken the time to find out what that death had meant to Methos..//Salzer!//. He was sure that was the name! Salzer had given Methos the bookshop.... The years of hiding away – losing who he was and what he stood for. The sheer weight of trying to survive. 

"Talk about the blind leading the visually challenged...," he muttered. 

Lynn changed the subject.  “Your sketchings are coming along well Duncan.  I’ve seen some of the work you’ve done with the monuments and it’s very good.”

He remembered the time before cameras, when skills needed to capture images and objects was vital.  And he remembered the long days and nights before modern entertainments when drawing helped to not only pass the time but honed his skills in ways he'd promised himself with his gift of immortality.  “I’ve done a lot of drawing.  I've had to in my profession. I don’t pretend to be very good at it.  But I do enjoy it - at least, I used to.”

 And so it was decided that he would, if he felt like it, join her in some sketching.  It amazed him that he could be so dispassionate about his intentions.  He could sit there and converse with her as if he had a future.  But nothing she or Methos or any of them said had in any way deterred him from his intent.  September 20th was approaching and with it his release.  What did it matter if a few canvasses had been scrawled upon?

 **********************

It was some days before Duncan ventured out again, but finally he stirred himself when Lynn came by wondering whether he was well.

"Ciamar a tha thu?"

"Tha gu math, tapadh leat."

They laughed. Duncan turned to Methos. "Lynn has promised to improve my sketching if I improve her Gaelic."

"Clearly therefore she doesn't mind it being out of date," Methos said with a smile.

"Well, Adam, if something's being out of date was a criteria I used then I wouldn't be in the profession I am, would I. Or hang around with the people that I do."

Sensing the unstated tension, Lynn quickly interrupted. “There’s a boat going to Staffa this afternoon Duncan. I wondered whether you might like to come? And you Mr Pierson?”

Before Methos could answer Duncan accepted. "Call him 'Adam' Lynn. Mr Pierson sounds so formal."

Methos fumed but managed to give a tight-lipped smile. Damn! On Staffa, Duncan would be off holy ground. He would be out of Methos’ sight. //Bastard.//

He immediately took back control. “Thanks Lynn' – I’d love to come. What time does the boat leave?”

Arrangements were made and glares were exchanged between the two Immortals. Duncan and Lynn departed for a few hours research or painting, or whatever, before they were to meet at noon at the wharf. It wasn't lost on Methos that the woman was able to get Duncan to do things that he could not. He mimicked their Gaelic words as they walked away from him. "Fine thanks! How are you!" Stopping to look at the pair disappear over the rise, on their walk to the Abbey, he turned and gathered his Journal and his laptop and prepared to do what he had been doing in all the weeks that they had been here – commit to the historical record what had befallen him and his lover and his doubts and fears for their future. And plot.

At noon the small boat arrived to tour the outer isles.  There were few people and they were thankful for that.  Apart from the crew and the guide, there was Lynn, Methos, Duncan and only one other couple.  It was soon established that they, Kathy and John, were English and were touring Scotland for a few days. Methos walked to the back of the boat and Duncan found that he was incapable of being rude to people who had done him no harm and who appeared to have a joy of life that he envied.  So he allowed himself to be talkative. The wind and spray were merciless but none seemed to really mind.  At one stage Duncan even handed Kathy one of his Celtic hair ties for her dark, wavy hair which refused to behave itself in any way at all.

The guide droned on in a way that infuriated Methos but of course he could say nothing.  The incredible islands of basalt, formed from the erosion of the lava flows so long ago, were spectacular.  Indeed, he had always found them spectacular. The Isle of the Women was pointed out with great glee, on their right, it being held that Columba refused to have women on Iona.  Its pink granite had been used in the building of the Abbey and Nunnery. He noticed that Duncan took more notice of the Uamh nam Marbh – the Cave of the Dead, just north of Fionnphort, on Mull.

Colonies of seals were soon sighted, sunning themselves on the rocky ledges and uninhabited islets of the Hebrides.  Both Duncan and Methos found themselves immediately engaged in the wildlife around them.  For months they had not ventured off Iona and if nothing else this was a welcome break, beautiful as Iona was.  All manner of bird life started to swoop about them – gannets were pointed out as they came in to land at their breeding grounds on Staffa.  Iona’s bird life was already known to the two with 'The Birds of Iona and Mull' being well thumbed.  Duncan even allowed himself a smile as he recalled how excited Methos had been when he had sighted a corn crake near the boggy field beside the Abbey.  It was as if he has discovered gold.  And in many ways it was, with only eight know to be on the island.  Flights of buzzards, twites, rock doves, starlings and hooded crows and jackdaws were much more obvious as they rode the many winds above Iona.  This day some of them even seemed to be following the boat with them to Staffa.

The light-hearted banter soon revealed that the woman called Kathy worked with Sound Archives and her partner, John a music executive. Kathy laughed," I had to drag John here because I promised a friend that we’d take some pictures of Iona for her.  But when he heard that Fingal’s Cave was so close by he made a deal that we had to include that in our itinerary.”

Duncan picked up the conversation.  “You’re a Mendelssohn fan John?

Methos turned at that and decided to join in.  “Careful MacLeod – that’s getting awfully close to opera for my taste!”

“I refuse to believe that there is a soul alive that isn't moved by 'The Hebrides Symphony'!" John challenged, light-heartedly.

“Nope,” was all he offered, smiling, and turned back to gaze at the incredible cave formations. “If you ask me..”

“We didn’t!” Duncan interjected, just as the extraordinary sight of Fingal’s Caves came into view.  None of them (apart from Methos) had ever seen anything like it.  It was impossible not to be over-awed by the tiny island’s grandeur with its many columns of basalt  - looking for all the world like organ pipes.

Methos continued, ignoring Duncan's rudeness. “If you ask me, there’s a lot of intellectual snobbery about Staffa.  All anyone ever wants to talk about is how Keats and Wordsworth and bloody Walter Scott and Queen Victoria for God’s sake (I mean – didn’t these people have a home to go to?) all visited it and somehow imbued it with their presence.  As if it needed anyone to give it anything more than what it already has…”

Duncan of course knew exactly what to expect as the ancient Immortal started to satirise the poems and epithets that Staffa had inspired.  Standing at the front of the boat, Methos let his booming baritone reach out across the waves to Staffa, with suitable theatrical gestures.  It was done brilliantly, as only Methos could, and everyone found themselves laughing at his recitations.  Even the Scot admitted a small smile…

"Cliffs of darkness, caves of wonder, 
Echoing the Atlantic's thunder,....".
  

He paused.  “You would think that Walter Scott could at least manage correct scansion wouldn’t you!” he sighed, shaking his head sadly before launching into another literary gem: “

"This was architectur'd thus
By the great Oceanus -
Here his mighty waters play
Hollow organs all the day;
Here, by turns his dolphins all,
Finny palmers, great and small,..."

At that Methos affected an attack of nausea.  "Gods - I can't go on!  'Finny palmers' indeed! And if you think that Byron didn’t give Keats hell to pay for that monstrosity you can think again!” he revealed to all.  

Duncan turned to watch Lynn, Kathy and John all staring at Methos in stupefied wonder. And what would you all think, he mused, if you only knew that he had no doubt sat in on that particular conversation between Keats and Byron?

As if reading his thoughts, Lynn challenged Methos on his seeming acquaintance with the Romantics.  “Had a brief flirtation with one or two of them in my University days,” he offered, managing to engage the Highlander’s sneer for at least a few seconds.  It didn’t deter him from his recitations and all sighed and moaned as he once again held forth to the various puffins all gathering to welcome the newcomers.

“I’ll spare you all Wordsworth in favor of my particular favourite, James Hogg:

‘Thou art no fiends' nor giants' home -
Thy piles of dark and dismal grain,
Bespeak thee, dread and sacred dome,
Great temple of the Western Main!’..”

Turning he took everyone in as he sighed – “They just don’t make poets like that anymore!”

John refused to be daunted.  “Well I don’t care what you say – I’ve bought a tape of The Hebrides and I intend playing it in Fingal’s Cave and all are welcome to join me,” he laughed.

“Mendelsson!” muttered Methos.  “Your musical education is sadly lacking young man.  What this island is really famous for is that it inspired Pink Floyd to write and produce a song called ‘Fingal’s Cave’ (hardly original I’ll admit) for Zabriski Point.”

Kathy refused to believe that..

“Well – I didn’t say that it actually got used!  Just that Staffa inspired it.  That’s much more important in the artistic scale of things than Scott, Keats or the other rag taggers.  Not to mention of course that no-one ever bothers to mention its other major claim to fame - Jules Verne visited the island in 1859 and used it in his novel The Green Ray.”

“Aaah – that well known literary tome,” Duncan threw in.  He further assured everyone that they mustn't let Adam impress them.  "He probably just looked it all up on the internet ten minutes before we left."

Despite those assurances, all insisted that they were indeed impressed and gained promises, to Duncan's groans, that Adam would entertain them with many more poetic delights on the journey home.

 Two hours later they were back on the boat en route to Mull and Iona.  To a casual observer it had all gone splendidly.  The tall, longhaired, beautiful man named MacLeod had been as charming as his academic companion was (playfully) snide and cynical.  When all the rest had listened in awe to John’s ‘Mendelssohn’ tape inside the cave that had inspired the Hebrides symphony, Methos had chosen to sprawl over the rocks outside, amidst the wildlife.  He did engage with Kathy on the trip back and got into a light-hearted argument on the merits and demerits of digitizing archival material.  He was sufficiently impressed to get her email address for follow up and gave her one of his.

 

"Getsomeonein@hotmail.com?" she laughed.  There has to be a story behind that!”

Duncan couldn’t resist as a faded image of Methos at his best came, unbidden, to taunt him. He was determined to keep it a faded image and ignored the yearning to allow the fine tuning that his heart craved. So he fought back with the verbal weapon Methos himself had helped hone over their years together.  “It’s Adam’s philosophy on life.  Never do anything yourself that you can con someone else into doing.  Isn’t that right, Adam?”

 

“Absolutely.  There’s always some sucker willing to do it for you while you sprawl all over their couch drinking their beer!” he offered.

All immediately agreed that they wanted to know where Adam had found anyone like that so that they could have one too.  Duncan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and settled for a stress relieving “.. fucking bastard…” when the wind ensured that Methos would be the only one to receive the expletive.

 

On the whole, Duncan observed it all and played his part.  When he asked the couple where they were traveling to, he visibly paled when they answered, with great excitement, “Glenfinnan!” but he recovered quickly and even, under Methos’ concerned stare, managed to tell them of some beautiful places on the shores of Loch Shiel that they would otherwise miss. 

 

Yes – he had traveled there a number of times.  No – he didn’t expect to visit on this trip to Scotland.  Yes, he had had family there but they were all dead now. Yes – it was indeed a beautiful part of Scotland…Yes, was true that Prince Charlie had first raised the Standard there and yes, he really must learn more about that historic period,  - one day.  And on that note, the small boat pulled into Fionnphort and Kathy and John, with smiles and laughter all around, departed for the Highlander’s home village. 

 

Duncan was physically and emotionally drained.  And so, he suspected, was Methos.  He stopped and gazed out towards Iona as the boat made its way back to the island.  He tried to regroup, through the sheer weight of exhaustion.

 

//"To advance unstoppably, strike at openings," advised Sun Tzu//. 

 

He quietly shook his head. For both he and Methos had found many openings this day.  Truly, the Highlander surmised, war was exhausting.

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

 In the days that followed Duncan sought out any of the paths that presented themselves as long as they led him away from Methos. 

One of his regular walks was to the beautiful Bay at the Back of the Ocean, on Iona’s west side.  It was invariably deserted and provided a much sought after haven from any human contact.  He was pleased that he seemed to have the entire beach to himself. He had no idea that atop one of the adjoining cliffs Methos stood and watched – far enough away to avoid being sensed by his Immortal lover.  He watched.  And he begged.

 First he called on the most powerful of the gods from his early years.  Surely all of those blood sacrifices had to count for something, he sighed.  And then he called on his own powers from the times when he himself had been worshipped.  And then he called on the Christian god so well known to him from this very place – Iona.  He felt the strong breezes encircling him and called on them as well.  No sacrifice would be too great, he promised any quasi-deity, any element of nature, if it returned to him the heart, body and soul of the beloved man now standing in Iona’s shore far below him.

 He ceased his invocations (he’d rarely known it to ever help anything) and chose instead to gaze at Duncan, standing at the edge of the brilliantly blue and green lagoon.  The cry of the gulls and the gentle breeze were the only soft noises – the only audience.

 “Go on Duncan – feel it – “

 And as if Methos’ words had been borne on the wind, Duncan slowly started to remove his jumper, shoes and jeans.  His long dark hair was loose and fanned out around him.  He then ran into the freezing waters of Camas Cuil an t-Saimh, past the sentinel rocks of Eilean nan Slat and Stac liath.  Methos watched him dive beneath the waters.  He had no idea if they could in any way dilute the Highlander’s grief – but it gave him some comfort to think so.  Birds started circling this new life form in their midst but kept a wary distance, as if sensing that this was a presence that demanded distance.

 “Gods, it must be bloody freezing!” Methos muttered. He watched in awe as Duncan, silkie-transformed, dived again and again in and out of the majestic waters.

 “How could that not be food for any man’s soul?” he wondered, moving back out of sight of the man below whilst still ensuring a line of sight for himself.  At just that moment Duncan stopped and turned to stare at the place where Methos had been only seconds before.  He seemed to satisfy himself that Methos was not present and continued to swim for a further fifteen minutes.  He stayed nude until the sun and wind dried him and then quickly donned his clothes.  

Methos continued to watch as Duncan started to carefully choose some of the unusual colored stones from the shoreline.

 “If ever there was a man born incapable of doing nothing it was you!” he sighed with some satisfaction.  Methos – who had never in his long life had trouble doing nothing,  - shook his head in amazement.  This was the very thing that he had hoped for – to see Duncan start to engage with life and beauty once again.

 He could predict what Duncan would do with them – meticulously polish them and set them in some form of beautiful display.  Then reality hit and he made himself also consider that  perhaps Duncan was simply filling in time until their contract was up?

 

 “Well – either way, youngling, you’re out of the bloody house and that has to be an improvement…”

 Looking down he saw Duncan start to make his way across the sand towards the walking tracks which would take him up over Cnoc Urrais and back to their house on the other side of the Abbey.

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

Later that week Methos stood in the late afternoon mists of Iona and looked around at the legendary 11th century Saint Oran's chapel where so many of Scotland's royal line had been buried. Forty Eight, including Macbeth, and the man Macbeth had murdered, Duncan 1st.

Being summer it was impossible to avoid the tourists and Methos stopped and listened to one of the many tour guides.  "Legend has it that when the rest of the world sinks below the waves, Iona will remain. Just before he died, St Columba said the following:

 "Iona of my heart, Iona of my love, 
Instead of monks' voices there shall be lowing of cattle: 
But before the world comes to an end 
Iona shall be as it …"

"Sure he did!" Methos quietly guffawed.  Well, he admitted - he had said something close…

Who would ever have thought, he mused, to have heard one of the towering figures of Celtic Christianity, St. Colmcille's words being repeated by a Tour guide here in the late 20th century.  He was further unnerved when he wandered into the tourist shop to browse the new books that had come in.  The Iona Anthology drew his eye and he was stunned to find himself reading an entry entitled, Columba Visits Brude, King of the Picts, at Inverness’ by one Adamnan – drawn from the Chronicler’s Life of St Columba.

 “So much for copyright!  Wonder if I could get the royalties in alcohol??” he asked of the six year old beside him. The child was singularly unhelpful on expounding the latest thinking on intellectual property and copyright laws so Methos merely shook his head sadly, recommended the tome to the parents standing by, and left the shop. It amused him to wonder what his autograph on the book might be worth??

He found Duncan sitting on the remains of a wall of the Nunnery, staring at the garden that helped to give these surrounds such a peaceful air.  Methos noticed that Duncan often wandered around the ruins and into the Abbey itself.  He had even spent two days deciphering the 15th century Celtic designs on MacLean's cross, carefully drawing them, tracing their outlines and spending time back at their house going back into his past and his memories until he had worked out most of them.  He refused any help from Methos and only went to the Research Center when he knew that no matter how long he tried, he wouldn't be able to decipher some of the inscriptions.  They began the quiet walk back to the house.

 Lynn - as always - the ethereal Lynn - had offered to assist him with the inscriptions.  "How helpful of her," Methos snidely threw off.  "You could have asked me."

 "Yes - I could have, couldn't I!"

The Scot appeared to take delight in throwing that sentence back at the old man – as if reminding him that none of his phrases were ever forgotten and that Duncan invariably was only ever biding his time for payback.  Methos was delighted.  The Duncan he had first brought to Iona would have not even registered the sarcasm much less harboured a witty revenge.

 "What did you do for the rest of the afternoon?" he asked.

 "Sat in the Abbey listening to the visiting Benedictines Gregorian chants.  It was beautiful.  Reminded me of Paul…"

 Methos said nothing more and they were soon back at the house.

 As he prepared their evening meal he hardly took his eyes off Duncan who was standing, as usual, by the large window, bathed in the light of the dusk.  He had started to wear some of the colors that Methos provided and was  this day wearing a deep blue cotton pullover, made on Iona.  Methos had noticed that Duncan often chose blue these days and as he stirred the pasta he reminded himself of the mythic associations of that color. 

 //The most insubstantial of colors on this most substantial of men//

In the natural world it seldom appeared, except as translucency - an accumulation of emptiness.  Despite its appropriateness in that regard, Methos was struck by how right it was that Duncan would have progressed to blues and saw it as a hopeful sign.  It was the color of the heavens and the depths of the sea.  He knew how seductive that void of emptiness was to Duncan.  It was the color of prisms - the coldness of glass - pure and cold.  That certainly summed up his Highlander. The blue was serving its purpose but it was also known for drawing the person towards the infinite - beyond nature.  Kandinsky's art works had always attracted Methos for this very reason.  But he had no desire to see Duncan beyond the infinite and beyond the natural elements of this world.

 Oblivious to the colourful musings of his lover, Duncan continued to gaze out into the blueness of the bay and the light night sky.  For a reason he couldn't quite fathom he felt almost relaxed and he thought back to the afternoon he had spent with  Lynn…

 Methos poured a light sherry for them both and suggested that Duncan go and bathe before dinner.  He no longer laid out clothes for Duncan but he knew that Duncan would choose the blue linen. Certainly a new calmness was evident.  Then again, Methos mused, best not to get blasé.  Duncan was always most dangerous when you took him for granted, he reminded himself.

 //”Don’t press a desperate enemy,” Sun Tzu advised. //

Later that evening Methos tried to get Duncan to hold him.  Touch him. But the man in his arms said nothing. Betrayed nothing.  He had finally learned his lesson  - that thoughts led to action.  And action killed.  It killed those you despised.  It killed those you loved.  Better to say nothing. 

 Do nothing. ……..

 Feel nothing……….. 

 Be nothing……….. 

 Become nothing………… 

 All the tears might eventually wash him away to nothing, he hoped.  In the meantime, they scarified.  They burned.  They eroded.  But they didn't cleanse.  Nothing really cleansed.  People like Lynn provided a welcome distraction, that was all -until the 20th of September….

 In the Abbey that afternoon the Highlander had listened to the chants of the Benedictines.  Psalm 50 reverberated around the beautiful stone walls of the ancient building and the walls around Duncan MacLeod's heart:

 "…Wash me yet more from mine iniquity: and cleanse me from my sin.  For I acknowledge mine iniquity: and my sin is always before me…Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow…deliver me from blood guiltiness, O god…let perpetual light shine….let perpetual light shine….."

 He thought, just as they started on the Book Of Job, that maybe Methos was paying the monks. His own private Gregorian Juke box - D1 -(Job 25)

 "He hath led me, 
and brought me into darkness, 
but not into light."

He wondered.  Surely even Methos couldn't do that - could he?  Could he?

He awoke from a dream hours later and could feel the strong arms of Methos enfolding him, stopping him falling.  But his own hands refused to move, refused to hold Methos in his arms - refused to close around any object any more.  For those hands had betrayed him when they had cut off the head of Richie Ryan.  When he'd last let them clasp, they had enfolded the dragon head of his Katana, and sliced off the head of his student.  He never wanted to clasp any living thing again - never enfold or embrace. 

He sensed Methos closing on him – wanting to kiss him – and he pulled back and turned away, refusing to let Methos' mouth close over his own.  But he could smell the need on Methos and knew that he wanted his Scottish warrior - wanted him desperately.  He thought of an inspired response to what he knew would soon be coming. He had noticed that as the deadline approached, Methos was touching him more – holding him more.  Wanting to take, surround him and protect him and keep the world away. There were times when he despaired that Methos would ever learn that what he was protecting was worthless.  So he determined to once again teach him that his Highlander wasn’t worth saving.

He knew that Methos loved to take him, whore-like.  Moist Scottish flesh spread out before him, long hair loose and abandoned across the pillow - laid out like a spoil of battle for the victor.  He licked his lips and egged Methos on to do what the ancient Immortal's body and soul craved. 

Gripping each long leg Methos took a firm hold behind each knee, pushing the legs apart and back.  He knew how much Methos loved that sight - Duncan spread before him, on his back, waiting for Methos to thrust into him over and over.  And as Methos started to push into the pliant body before him, Duncan opened his eyes and seemed for all the world to give himself and his body over to Methos, who couldn't and wouldn't stop and started to stroke Duncan's cock and leaned forward to kiss that mouth so long denied him. But Duncan turned away and again refused to let that mouth cover his. 

Methos moved his hands to Duncan's hands and threaded their fingers together.  He let his torso caress the newly engorged cock sandwiched between the two hot bodies.  Duncan closed his eyes but couldn't stop the groans of pleasure that crept out of his mouth and throat as Methos pushed deep inside him and started to pump and thrust.  When they came, they came together, Duncan's semen coating both their upper bodies from shoulders to hips.  As both calmed down, Methos settled back on his haunches, trying to get his breathing under control.

And then the words that Duncan had been saving - "You never asked if you could, Methos. Is that how it was for Cassandra?"  Even though he knew that the blow must finally come, from these barbarous verbal assaults, he wasn't actually ready for it and the shock of Methos’ fist striking his face made him gasp.  Methos would be distraught after this - distraught.  It had truly gone better than the Highlander could have hoped for. 

With another brutal punch, Methos ensured that Duncan lost consciousness.  How did he let the Scot keep getting away with this?  How?  Wasn't he the master strategist?  He stepped off the bed but left Duncan lying there, bloodied.  He shook his head as he realised how neatly he had stepped into the trap.  He swore.

//”Don’t pursue a feigned retreat," advised Sun Tzu.// Sun Tzu would not be pleased with him.  But of Duncan MacLeod, at this moment, he could be very pleased indeed:

 “.. plot against others to discern winning and losing strategies,… work on them to discern their patterns of action… induce them to adopt specific formations… skirmish with them to discern where they are sufficient and where they are lacking…”

 He had even let himself be fooled into thinking that he was managing to turn the Highlander away from his desire to die. 

 And it was only a matter of weeks now until their covenant was over - mere weeks.

Duncan started to stir as Methos washed his bloodied face and semen covered chest and stomach.  His fingers traced the blue bruising still evident on the stubbled face below him and on Duncan's wrists.  Funny - but blue didn't seem so peaceful any more.  Swallowing hard, Methos said nothing but quickly rose from the bed and went to the second bedroom, quietly closing the door. 

Duncan had been prepared for another fight - not this sad resignation and grief he saw etched on Methos' face.  He hadn't bargained on his last weeks being spent without Methos to hold him every night.  Without Methos' scents settling on his too sensitive skin and seeping into his soul.  He'd never felt so trapped.  He couldn't end his life because of the covenant.  He couldn't flee Iona.  He couldn't be nice to Methos - that would make the leaving too hard.  Better for Methos to look back on their time as evidence that all was unsalvageable, no matter what he did for Duncan.  And without a doubt, that plan was working.  But the cost was much higher than he had ever, ever anticipated.  Somewhere in the past few weeks he had started to let himself feel again…the light and the warmth had started to penetrate the numbness and grief.

Rising, he went to the bathroom – looked at his reflection in the mirror, and quietly washed himself.  He still could hear nothing from the other bedroom.  He lit a candle and went to his favorite place – by the window.  Darkness was everywhere, outside the house.  Turning away, he saw, on the table, one of Methos’ notebooks.  He’d never invaded his privacy.  It went against everything he believed in.  But he hadn’t reckoned on this fresh pain – and wanted – just for a moment – to see his beautiful handwriting.  Wanted to trace his fingers over the curves – he wanted to touch Methos, and hold him – and kiss him.  He opened the book to the last entry – and moved the candle closer.

Every warning signal he knew was ringing.  This was, he reminded himself, exactly the reaction that Methos would have wanted.  Indeed – perhaps Methos had planned the entire scene – down to leaving out the book??

There were times, he sighed, when they were both so clever, so determined to best the other, that it all just ended up a complete mess.  He looked more closely at what Methos had written:

 

Duncan: On lighting you home…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What gain is there, what gain in reaching out to feel
Your warmth, your face?
What pain is there to bear in holding fast to me
Your form and grace?

I roll in to the place where last your body lay
Beneath my own…
I fantasise you here, I yearn to hear your sighs
Your sated groan…

I gently press my face onto your pillow slip - 
I breathe you in…
I hold you fast, forever held inside myself,
Inside my skin…

My fingers trace the place where last you lay your head - 
I trace your pain…
I leave the slip unwashed, our sheets a scented shroud
To love, in vain…

Is it so wrong to long for scents that flavor still
your passing through?
To covet still those nights and wondrous days of love
When first we knew -  

When loving only me you lay, replete a while, 
Inside my soul…
Please know, the candle still burns bright, to light you home -
and make us whole…

  (Methos. Iona. 1997) 

 

And with that, Duncan MacLeod fell to his knees.  Gripping his head, he doubled over with a pain that he hadn’t let himself feel since the night that Richie had died. And then the sobbing started in earnest.

 

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

 

End of Chpt 5

Go to Chapter 6


4 June, 2001

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