Carson Kearns' Highlander Fanfic

Lost in the Loving: Lighting You Home

Chapter 7

by Carson Kearns

carsonkearns@hotmail.com

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

 

Saturday 20th September. 1997. 

“Ioua”   7am

What does a man do on the day of his dying?

Duncan MacLeod let himself wonder this for some minutes, before accepting that there was no possible answer.  So he decided to do what he had done for as long as he could remember - to commence this last day with cleansing.  First he would exercise his body and mind and then he would cleanse himself.  It somehow seemed fitting, that he should be disciplined right up to the ending of this existence.

He had no idea what waited beyond this life – except perhaps release, and the hope that he might be re-united with those most dear to him.  If it also brought redemption, then it would be a gift beyond price.

Glancing across the bed, he saw that Methos still slept, so he quietly slipped out of the bed, clothed himself and set out to run the length of Iona.  He paused at the new sign that Methos had placed on the house some weeks before and let his fingers trace the letters that Methos had so carefully carved. 

“Ioua” – the name of the Moon Goddess who may have given her name to Iona.  <<Methos the lunatic>> Duncan had jibed.  It had been one of the few times in the past few months that they had both actually laughed. 

And Methos had, the next day, christened their house “Ioua”.  Duncan also suspected that it gave Methos pleasure to know that people would think it a misspelling of Iona. 

Duncan harrumphed as he pulled his hand away from the sign.  Methos really could be an intellectual snob at the best of times – easily amused by laying cultural literacy traps.  Of course no one ever even knew that they had been tried, tested and failed, he sniggered, as he started to jog along the furrows in the dirt. But that didn’t matter to Methos.  In the past two weeks at least twenty people had commented on the supposed misspelling of 'Iona'. Methos, Duncan recalled,  simply told every single one of them that he was sure he had spelt Iona correctly and since he’d gone to so much trouble with the carving of the sign he thought he’d leave it as it was “…thank you very much though for telling me and I really will work on my spelling in future…”.   Duncan smiled further at the recollection, shook his head and started to speed up his run.

He’d never work Methos out – even if he had five thousand years.  And then he remembered that he only had some twenty-four hours, - assuming that Methos would plead that there was no way that they could get across the Sound at midnight, and that another few hours to first light wouldn’t make any difference. Strangely he found that he didn’t mind that happening – this day signalled that Duncan had won - and the blood covenant must be honoured.  It seemed petty to insist that the minutes and seconds now be abided by. 

He didn’t want his last thoughts to be petty ones…

He started his run towards the northern end of the island.  It was dawn and he found himself stopping a few times, just to take in the sheer beauty of the rising sun coming up over the Treshnish Isles.  A part of him wondered why on earth he was bothering to jog? And then another part answered that his leaving should be as his coming and as his living.  One simply didn’t offer soiled goods to the gods of the Otherworld.  When he left this world, he wanted to leave it as a warrior and as a Clan Chief – fit, proud, and, - ironically, - at peace.

He stood looking out over the Atlantic and enjoyed the chill of the morning air.  He had always loved the season’s cycles – the turnings. They had always held a special place in his life simply because he was a solstice baby.  His mother had made a point of making sure that he understood its significance, and where the winter solstice stood in relation to all of the other year’s turnings.  He had grown up with a people who had always had an easy relationship with the unseen world. Indeed, in the wild isolated hills, glens, and shores of Scotland, it didn’t pay to place all of one’s faith in only one divinity.  So Duncan’s faith system had always been an eclectic mix of the Pagan and Christian. His days and nights were the warp and the weft of a complex tapestry of seasonal prayers, rituals and ceremonies.  He suspected that that was why he had agreed so readily to attend the Mabon ceremony this night.

And here, on this island of light, he now faced a dawn that signalled diminishing light, as this part of the planet entered autumn and winter. Everything was slowing down – growing older and colder.  It was fitting that the forces of death should be sweeping in and overshadowing the vibrancy of spring and summer.  He felt himself the embodiment of what was happening in nature  - the spring and summer of his life now grown old and cold.  Autumn – the season for reaping what one had sown.  <<Appropriate,>> he mused, raising his brows in the way he always did, and leaning his head a little to the left, as when bemused or confused.  There were times when  he thought that he’d spent most of his life in that state.

 Harvesting, death – and resurrection - were the marks of Mabon, the Autumn equinox.  Just as the dying sun would eventually return with the Spring equinox, so too would the seeds now frozen in the ground.  Belief in this same cycle had sustained Duncan for many months – that he would be reborn in a different time and place, far away from this planet’s grieving. 

 Autumn….. the time of giving thanks for bountiful harvest. But it was also regarded as the time for separation, of going within and preparing for the darker season of Samhain.. He remembered, long ago, being with Ceirdwyn and watching the  Coven, at Mabon, weaving the cord that once connected it and cutting it  between each member as a symbolic act representing this time of separation. He thought it ironic that a time of Thanksgiving should also be the ritual time of separation....Methos....

 “Harvest-home, harvest-home
We have ploughed , we have sown,
We have reaped, we have mowed,
We have brought home every load, 
Hip, hip, hip, harvest-home."

“Hip hip indeed,” he sighed.

As he continued to run he wondered what the festival this evening would bring – and, with what he knew of Lynn, decided it would be something suitably New Age.  And wouldn’t that go down well with Mr. Cynical!  Privately Duncan still laughed at Methos’ many names for Lynn – Moonbeam, Melonpatch, Celestial Harmony – that had been a favorite for one week.  Then he’d taken to calling her after various namings of the seasons – Walpurgisnacht – or WackyWally for short.  When challenged he insisted that it was real - 'MidSpring' apparently, according to the Teutons…well, according to Methos, he cynically reminded himself.

“Gods,” he’d yawned, when Duncan insisted that he had to come to the Mabon Festival, “tell the Voodoo Queen that I’ll only come if she promises to do the Calinda.”

“OK, Methos – I’ll bite.  What’s the Calinda?” he had asked.

“Haven’t you ever been to New Orleans on St. John’s Day MacLeod?  Tell her I want gourds, conga drums, gyrations, twirls, snakes.  I want overheated horny loins and…”

“Thanks Methos.  It’s Mabon – and Lynn is not some frenzied Voodoo Queen.” 

Duncan felt himself smiling at the recollections.  No one could do dry wit like Methos could. 

He felt the rising sun on his back as he ran towards the other end of the island.  He knew that the road would soon give out, so he satisfied himself with a route past the Abbey, doing some circuits around the Nunnery and then heading off to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean.  Once there he stripped off and threw himself into the brilliant blue waters and shuddered as they started to numb his body.  

He wasn’t expecting the sea life and so was initially startled when a group of seals decided to investigate this stranger in their midst.  He thought of a new thing he could do on the day of his dying - and started to play with them.  He decided that there must be irony somewhere, in this amniotic frolicking – such a suitable bookend for his coming and his going.  He was reminded, amidst the turns and the dives, of how he had stood on a nearby cliff top not so very long ago and wished only to be lost in this ocean’s dark womb.

He walked from the water, reached for his sweatshirt and used it to towel himself dry.  He looked out over the vast ocean and watched the seals still rising and diving so beautifully from the water.  They called to him to come back and play.

"Soon" he whispered.  And then he saw, in their place, memories of Methos and how he would look, seal-like in that water.  And he thought of Tessa:

"Thou art the grace of the swan of swimming, 
Thou art the loveliness of all lovely desires…"

He set aside the words from the Carmina Gallica's 'Invocation of the Graces' – another of Tessa's favorites after he had introduced it to her.  He sat and let himself be bathed in the warmth and the light.  He looked out at the water, wondering where his soul would be on the morrow, - if anywhere.  Perhaps there would be complete nothingness?  The child in him wanted to believe that he would be with Tessa again, and Richie – Little Deer and Kahani and all of his lost loves, family and friends.

He sighed, and rubbed his hands through his long hair and was surprised at the intense longing he felt to be reunited with his parents.  It had never mattered to him that he was not of their seed – even when his father had insisted that Duncan no longer belonged to them. He may have been rejected – but he had never rejected them.  Or his clan. His mother – what he would give to be with her again.  All of the musing about the Equinox had brought the image of the earth mother solidly into his consciousness – the mistress of earthly domains, the Matriarch – the Great Mother.  How he would love to see her face and feel her hands as she soothed his brow and brushed his hair and scrubbed his filthy face.  She had clutched him so fiercely to her breasts that he’d never once doubted how much she loved him.  Lionness.

  He laughed as he remembered how once, when he was only a lad, she had single-handedly beaten off two attackers who had threatened her Duncan.  He liked to think that he had helped with their defeat, but he’d always suspected that Mary had terrified them with her fierce and murderous determination to keep her bonny boy safe.  And hadn’t he received a thrashing from her afterwards, since they were only alone because he had gone wandering again.  She had been the one to find him.  And after the thrashing she had burst into tears and wouldn’t let him go…

If only he had realised then how these solitary wanderings set the pattern of his life.  And how all of the people who loved him, left him. He let the warmth of the rising sun wash over him, and let his mind wander over the incredible life that he had lived.  An old song began to play in his memory:

“Oh little did my Mother think
When first she cradled me
Of the lands I was to travel in
And the death I was to dee…”

He closed his eyes and let this mother's fiercely protective arms enclose him again and gave himself up to that feeling of warmth and pleasure and security.  He started to feel buoyant - even excited as the enticement of his liberation started to finally become real.

"For the years of my life are numbered,
And I shall soon take the road of no return…
My days have passed far otherwise than I had planned,
and every fibre of my heart is broken…where then is my hope?
Who can see any happiness for me?…"

He was surprised when the lamentation of Job suddenly broke through his musings and even more surprised when he realised that his heart was not broken in the same way that it had been when Methos had brought him to Iona.  It was as if he had gone past that soul-fracturing despair and he was now quite clear as to where his hope and his future happiness lay.  Beyond this world.  Beyond the people here whom he still loved so dearly…

He thought again of being cocooned in his Mother’s arms, and of a saying that she would often whisper to him when he was upset from a scolding or from some real or imagined defeat:

“If tongue cursed you 
a heart blessed you
If eye blighted you 
A wish prospered you. “

She was always there, bringing him the light.  And then he realised that it wasn’t only his Mother’s arms that were giving him comfort in his dreams, but also his lover’s...his lover who was staying here in this world, without him…

Methos his soul's healer, his shield from continuing pain and confusion.

 

And now things suddenly weren’t as clear as they had been. 

He let himself think about what would happen within twenty-four hours, when Methos gave him release. The image jolted him.  Methos, standing above him with his broadsword commencing its arc…Methos looking in horror at his headless lover…Methos taking Duncan’s Quickening.  Duncan seriously wondered whether Methos would ever be able to carry out Duncan’s wishes. Yet Methos had promised, and Methos had made it clear that he would be the one to hold Duncan’s Quickening. 

He remembered Deborah Campbell and the way her suicide had been received.  He’d never believed that suicides were damned – but years of indoctrination were still able to make themselves felt as the fear washed over him.  What if he were damned – for eternity?  He thought about that for a while and then set it aside and decided that he was willing to take the risk, for the possibility of release from the constant pain that he carried.

His only real physical fear was that Methos might hesitate at the last and he was coward enough to want the decapitation to be swift and sure.  He knew that Methos wasn’t as meticulous as Duncan was about such things as cleaning his sword – sharpening it… Maybe one of the things you did on the day of your dying was to stop thinking about such things, he decided.

As for Methos – he knew that he was as helplessly lost in the loving of him as he had always been, and that Methos would be, for a time, utterly lost in the grieving.  But unlike Duncan, he would be stronger.  He would rise above it.  He would survive.

Duncan had long ago decided that their staying together could not be and that being with Duncan MacLeod would result in Methos losing his life, sooner rather than later.  Better therefore to end the relationship now and gift Methos with a powerful Quickening.  Perhaps Methos would even win the Game – the stupid Game. 

But what then, he wondered, of Connor?

He spent some further minutes watching the seals continue to play – beckoning him to come dancing with them.  He shook his head and decided that he didn’t want to try and solve these unsolvable questions about the Game. There were no answers for Immortals, only questions and mysteries.  Only journeys.  His death would not be a death, but a new life.

One thing he was certain of, as he walked back across the island, was that he had never loved anyone as he had loved Methos.  And that was exactly why he must ensure his safety and leave him forever.

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

“Ioua”.  7am - 9am.

Back at Ioua Methos had watched his lover rise and leave the house.

He allowed himself a moment of self-indulgence. What, he wondered, should you do on the day of your soul’s dying?   "Colainn gan cheann duine gan anamchara," he sighed, as he repeated the favorite phrase of St. Columbus to himself.  “A person without a soul-friend is a body without a head.” And today – or tomorrow, he would lose his soul-friend forever.

In taking Duncan’s head he would, in every sense that mattered, decapitate himself.

Twenty five hundred years ago, Sophocles had told him, “Better to die, and sleep the never-waking sleep, than linger on and dare to live when the soul’s life is gone.”

What would that twit know, he sniggered.  He'd been dead all these centuries. But he - Methos, had dared to live.  Until Duncan had walked down those stairs in Paris and they had met for the first time, Methos had refused to acknowledge that his soul had been sleeping.  He had no intention of letting it sleep again.

He let himself muse on that for a minute, shook his head and castigated himself for letting too much of the Highlander rub off on him. Duncan might sit around bathing in such metaphysical and theological mysteries, but Methos had work to do.  So one thing Methos didn’t intend to do on the day marked for his own soul’s death, was to sit around in bed being theatrical and melancholy.  If Duncan intended to be dead within twenty-four hours then Methos had a busy day indeed planned for himself.  While there was life, there were still possibilities.

He prepared breakfast for them both and included the usual sprinkling of St. John’s Wort that he had been feeding Duncan for months.  He had worked with these powerful natural antidepressants and stimulants and had seen them make a visible difference on the Highlander.  He didn’t for a minute think that one final dose would make a difference but he sprinkled them out of force of habit if nothing else.  He refused to give up. 

He would never give up.

He felt Duncan’s approach and continued to cook breakfast as the Scot came through the door, looking distinctly sweaty and entangled.

“Been swimming?”

Duncan walked over to the stove and investigated the various concoctions that Methos was preparing.  “Yes – I didn’t intend to, but the water looked so beautiful.  And there were seals!” he smiled.  “Tell me Methos how is it that you never seemed to be able to boil water until we came here? And all of a sudden you’re a gourmet cook?”

“I don’t recall ever saying that I couldn’t cook.  I can do everything,” he insisted, humbly.  “I simply choose not to, most of the time.” He turned back to the oven and took out some warmed bread.   “Now go and try and get some of that sweat and salt off you before you sit down at my table!”

What Methos wouldn’t have given to have gone to the shower with him and wash every inch of that body.  But that brought associations of the washing of the feet of Christ before his crucifixion and he refused to accept that there should be any association. 

He would never give up.

He had set a table outside in the morning sun so that they could sit together and eat looking out over the Sound.  It would be less claustrophobic – less painful, to have boats to be able to comment on, people walking by the house and playing below on the sand.

Methos also wanted as much of the light and sun to bathe Duncan as possible.  He had come to have an almost irrational belief that there was still time for it to heal this damaged and ravaged soul now sitting next to him.  Calmly eating. There seemed to be an unwritten agreement that nothing would be said about the date or what it signified.  It was too painful – and would be to no avail.  Better to have a totally surreal, superficially pleasant breakfast – even if Methos ate virtually nothing and Duncan ate like a horse.  Associations with last meals were too much for Methos and he soon left the table 

Duncan watched him disappear and the door close behind him.  He had to remind himself to stay strong – not to rush to him and take him into his arms or try and have one of the many, many conversations about why this had to be so.  If he truly loved Methos, he knew he had to safeguard him.  That meant removing himself permanently from Methos’ life.

At the back of his mind there was a persistent thrumming – an insistence that there was an alternative and that he was merely rationalising his cowardice.  For after all, he could safeguard those he loved by removing himself to holy ground, permanently.   He’d still be alive and Methos would be spared being the instrument of his death. The doubts were persistent – that he was placing his own wants ahead of the needs of others.

“Gods, Methos – you don’t even have to be here to be here!” he complained, throwing down his serviette and gathering his coat to go to Lynn.  He had a feeling that that conversation would certainly be held sometime in the next twenty-four hours.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

MacLeod Research Center. 10am – 3pm.

When Duncan entered the room he saw, as he expected, Lynn busily daubing away at the large portrait she had been meticulously working on for these many weeks.  Duncan hadn’t seen it since the first preliminary sketches – she had refused to let him see its progress.  He hadn’t really minded, but he was intrigued as to the style that she would end up adopting – the garb she would clothe him in.  He knew that she had very carefully researched his period so he assumed that she would come close to getting his appearance close to what it had been in the 18th century. 

He had no idea what she intended doing with the painting but he knew that her research would need future funding.  He had actually taken care of that, but he also hoped that Methos might buy the painting – if it was any good.  He smiled at that thought – the mere fact that a stranger wanted to paint your portrait in no way guaranteed that they actually knew one end of the paint brush from the other, he reminded himself.  So if he was placing any hopes on his image being preserved for the coming generations, he really should, he remembered, not place any unrealistic expectations on Lynn’s artistic abilities. 

 

“Probably be a series of post-modernist cubes!” he mumbled to himself. But he doubted that, because he had seen her preliminary sketches and they had the makings of a man in them.  The makings of a man’?  He wondered why that phrase bothered him…

 

His cynical wonderings about Lynn’s artistic skills were brought to an end by the artist herself.

 

“Duncan!”  She had a smile that could light up Iona and Duncan found that this day – of all days – he was happy to indulge her.  She leaned to give him a kiss and a hug and he returned her warmth in a way that he hadn’t over all these weeks.  He had moved through the denial and the anger and all of those well-documented clinical stages of grieving.  He felt himself now in a totally accepting space and knowing that this could be the last time he would touch Lynn he gave her a strong and firm embrace.  She pulled back and looked at him in some bemusement.

 

“Hmm…why so …so….engaging this morning, Duncan?”  She turned to get her brushes ready, her water, and pulled the sheet off the portrait.

 

Duncan laughed.  “I know that I haven’t been the easiest person to be with these past weeks.  I’m leaving tomorrow.  I just wanted to let you know that anything more you want to do on the painting you’ll have to do today.”  He paused.  “And Lynn – thank you.  You might not realise it but you’ve helped me more than you’ll ever know.”

 

Lynn suddenly seemed flustered.  “Going away?  Tomorrow?  But Duncan we still…”

 

He interrupted her.  “I’ve left all of my notes on the translations here.”  He handed her a folder, filled with carefully written notes and drawings.  He had finally agreed to let Methos help with them when his own research had yielded dead end after dead end.

 

She looked through them and was stunned. 

 

He continued. “Adam is responsible for all the really clever bits.  He’s brilliant.  You should stay in contact with him.”

 

Lynn looked up from the sheaf of notes that she was looking through.  “Duncan – you say that as if you won’t be with him?”

 

“I’m going away for a while.  That’s all.  We need time apart.  I’ll leave Iona tomorrow and Adam will probably come with me but we’ll part soon after.  Don’t worry about it Lynn.  We’ve discussed it and we’re fine with it.”

 

He could tell from her look that she didn’t believe him.  But she had the good grace to say nothing about it.  “Well, that’s your business and not for me to intrude into.  But what is my business is getting this portrait finished.  There’s actually very little left to do, but Duncan I’m determined to have it finished for the unveiling of the artworks tonight.  So,” she gestured to a part of the workshop that was filled with light, “over there young man, and don’t move until I tell you that you can!” she laughed.

 

As Duncan stood there, looking at Lynn painting and rubbing out and re-painting, he could see that many of the others in the group were also desperately trying to finish their artworks for the Mabon Festival.  By 3pm, with a few stretch breaks, Lynn had pronounced him totally redundant to her needs as far as the painting was concerned and he took his leave of her once again.

 

“Duncan!  I will see you tonight won’t I?  You and Adam?”

 

He smiled.  “Yes – I promise.  We wouldn’t miss it for the world.  Me..Adam says that I’m the essence of Narcissism.”

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

St Columba Hotel.  10- 2.30pm

 

 

Methos’ favorite waitress saw him instantly and came to talk to him.

 

“It’s a bit early for you isn’t it Adam?  We’re still serving breakfast though if you’d like some?”

 

Methos shook his head.  ‘No thanks Catherine.  I’ve already eaten.  But you can get me a jug of beer if you don’t mind.  I thought that I’d just sit here in the garden and take advantage of the pleasant company and do some reading.”

 

She smiled.  Adam was one of their favorite customers.  Well – that was strictly untrue – Adam and the gorgeous Duncan were two of their favorite customers.  The two men were always so polite and so generous, even with the haunting sadness that seemed to accompany them both.  She, along with all the locals, knew that Duncan had suffered some terrible tragedy.  She knew that many of the locals kept Adam informed of where Duncan went and what he did.  She had had many fights with many of the local girls – insisting that they all leave the two men alone. 

 

Methos took himself off to the garden and found one of the garden benches in a quiet, but sunny, spot and pulled out his Journal.  He could see across the Sound to Mull and the location of the Cave of the Dead.  He pulled out his cell phone and satisfied himself that he knew exactly where Duncan was – still posing for the portrait -

 

“Shouldn’t come to too much harm with Manat the Moon Mother of Mecca…I hope…” he muttered.

 

He continued to write and ate a leisurely lunch.  He still refused, utterly, to believe that he would lose the Highlander.  But inside his chest there was a tightness and a pain that he hadn’t felt since Alexa had finally closed her eyes.  In five thousand years he had never managed to work out the mystery of inevitability. Or fate.  Right up until the moment of death, he still always found himself surprised when those he loved actually died.  And while he still knew that he had cards to play with Duncan, there was something that was knocking at the edges of his mind to which he utterly refused to give admittance. 

 

Acceptance? 

 

Inevitability? 

 

“You can keep bloody knocking!” he politely informed them. 

 

He would never give up.

 

He was suddenly aware of music coming from a part of the garden which was being set up for a late afternoon wedding.  The musicians had no doubt come to practice, although they didn’t sound as if they needed any practice to Methos’ expert ear.  Nothing elaborate – a nice simple harp, a singer, a cello.  He closed his eyes and listened to the haunting strains of the Eriskay Love Lilt now permeating not only the garden of the Hotel, but well beyond, if the faces of tourists looking over the dry stone walls were any indication.  The haunting Gaelic chorus started to insinuate itself into the hearts and souls of all who listened that afternoon…

 

“Vair me o, ro van o
Vair me o ro ven ee,
Vair me o ru o ho
Sad I am without thee.

When I'm lonely, dear white heart,
Black the night and wild the sea;
by love's light my foot finds
The old pathway to thee.

 Thou'rt the music of my heart,
Harp of joy, o cuit mo chridh,
Moon of guidance by night,
Strength and light thou'rt to me.”

 

It seemed so unfair – so unfair - that a song being sung to these newly married lovers, at the beginning of their soul’s journeys, should also be so relevant to him and Duncan – two lovers now, supposedly, at the end of their journey.  He breathed deeply, trying to get some air back into his lungs. 

 

He rose and left the garden while he could still control himself.  It was as if every tragic note of every song ever sung was closing in on him and he felt his heart-strings stretched, taut and over wrought.  His heart would admit only to a dirge and the harp of joy, being proclaimed with such passion, seemed to be playing only minor keys.

 

Methos stopped to control himself before arriving at Ioua.  There wasn’t much time left and he had no idea if his final tactic would work.  Either way, he was determined not to let himself fall into despair.  As Dylan Thomas had once so wisely advised, he would not go gently into this evening’s night but would rage, rage against the dying of the light.  He had always done so.

 

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

 

Ioua.  3pm – 4pm

 

As he entered the house Methos could feel Duncan, but couldn’t immediately find him.  He found him overlooking the Sound, sitting cross-legged in meditation -  so deeply inside himself that he didn’t stir, despite another Immortal closing in on him.  Then again, Methos reassured himself, it was holy ground so he had probably filtered out that warning signal.  He also liked to think that Duncan trusted him totally – and he had to stop himself from automatically telling Duncan that that would get him killed one day.  For that was exactly what it was going to do.  The man Duncan most trusted in the world was expected, at daybreak the next morning, to stand by Duncan in just this position and slice off his head.

 

He wanted to be violently ill.  Wanted to grab Duncan and shake him and shake him until he started to see sense.  Wanted to scream out across the Sound.  Duncan MacLeod could perhaps stand by a man and calmly slice off his head as he committed hari kari.  But Methos doubted very much that he could do that. What was worse was a terror that he would botch it – that Duncan would turn and look at him at the last minute and his sword would waiver…

 

He stopped such thoughts, controlled his nausea and reminded himself that it wouldn’t happen.  Tomorrow wouldn’t come.  He would not find himself in such a position.  Duncan would not be on his knees, in supplication and hope – waiting…He watched Duncan beginning to stir from his meditation, so he walked up behind him and sat down.  He said nothing – simply pulled the Scot back into his arms.  He rested his chin on the top of Duncan’s head and breathed in his scents, letting them fill him as he gazed towards the Cave of the Dead.

 

Finally Duncan spoke. “I need to use your computer.  Is it all right?” 

 

And of course it was. Rising, he left, hesitating half way to the house and turning back as if he meant to say something.  He seemed to think better of it but continued to look at Methos, who was still sitting on his knees, letting his hands enfold his upper arms as if trying to hold himself together.

 

When Methos finally entered the house Duncan rose quickly from the computer and went to the bathroom to shower.  Methos decided that he desperately needed a beer and as he was pouring one he noticed his sword - and was almost sick.  It had been carefully -and no doubt skilfully- polished and sharpened.   Duncan – solicitous and practical to the last - had at least thought to save him that appalling duty.

 

Cut clean!” he heard reverberate all around the lonely house.  He felt everything closing in on him and were he a few years younger than five thousand, he knew that he would give in to the temptation to panic.

 

When Duncan reappeared he was dressed in black jeans and a deep black hand knitted sweater made on Iona.  His hair was tied back and a sterling silver ‘Hold Fast’ hair tie held it in place.  Despite their unspoken agreement not to go to the Cave of the Dead until the dawning, he knew that Duncan wouldn’t come to bed that night but would spend it in meditation.  So these, Methos realised, were to be the raiments of his dying.

 

“Suitably practical to the last,” he observed, as Duncan poured himself a whisky. “Nice dark color to soak up the blood.  Low neck-line – hair neatly pulled out of the way…sword nice and sharp,” he threw at the Scot, inclining his head in the direction of the Ivanhoe.

 

Duncan turned, looking shocked. “Methos – stop it.  Don’t do this or I’ll leave, I swear.  Don’t make it harder than it is already.  I’ve done what you asked – everything that you asked.”  He backed to a large chair and sat down in it, downing all the golden whisky and pouring himself another.  He continued.  Everything you insisted on I gave you – exercise, meditation.  I ate.  I read and involved myself with other people.  I let you love me.  I did all you demanded.”  He put down his glass and came over to the desperate man standing by the window, looking out over the Sound.

 

Are you going to keep your side of the bargain, Methos?  It was a blood covenant.”  And then a kindness entered his voice.  “But if you can’t, you have to let me go.  Follow if you must, and take the head of whomever takes mine.  But Methos – it is over.  Tomorrow, I leave here and I won’t be back.  I’ll either go with you to the Cave of the Dead, or to the mainland to find someone who will kill me.  I’ll find a train track – I’ll find anything that will end this.  But you will no longer have any right to stop me.”

 

Methos finally turned and looked at Duncan and after a further few minutes spoke so quietly that Duncan had to strain to hear.

 

“You’re right.  I no longer have any rights.  I have wants and needs and desires but I have no rights.  I’ll take you to the Cave of the Dead.  And afterwards I’ll take you to Loch Shiel.”  He turned back to the window.  What he didn’t say was that if any of that came to pass, then he would soon follow Duncan to wherever his soul had fled.  He had finally been given an answer to the question he had been asking for months. 

 

Finally, he knew how to die.

 

“You think I’ll keep my word?” he asked of the man to whom it was anathema to even think of not keeping one’s word.

 

“Will you?” Duncan asked.

 

“What would a betting man do at this stage I wonder?  What odds would he lay?  Let’s see.  I made a blood covenant to Kronos – to kill you.  And I ignored it.  Of course I rationalised, -brilliantly-, that an oath taken under duress was not binding.  I seem to recall that the phrase “worth pigshit” figured prominently…”.   

 

Duncan tried to stop the self-flagellation but Methos continued: “I shot you in the back whenever you didn’t do what I wanted you to.  I interfered in your Challenges – that Keane idiot, and Cassandra come to mind.  I’m sure there were more.  I lied to you about who I was and what I’d done.  I abandoned you when you asked for help -  and Richie died.  You had to persuade me to help you rescue Joe from Shapiro. I helped trap your friend, Jacob Galati – who you had to watch die and as a result you had his Quickening forced on you.  I lied to my brothers and betrayed them.  And not content with that I helped kill them. I let you kill Byron.”  He turned and stared at Duncan, before continuing, “How can you be so incredibly- so naively - honorable?  I don’t know whether to be flattered or dumbfounded that you’d simply expect that I would keep my word to you?  With that history!”

 

Duncan stared back, and shook his head as if he were in a surreal movie.  “I guess, when you put it like that, you wouldn’t exactly win Citizen of the Year.”

 

Methos interjected.  “Try Survivor of the Year!”

 

Duncan continued to stare at him and then closed the distance with a fierce hug.  Methos reached out and they both held each other so tightly that they could feel every rib – every surface. 

 

“Methos,” Duncan finally whispered into the clothes at Methos’ neck, “I don’t know whether you will be able to do it.  That’s OK. But you have to be willing to let me go.”

 

Methos pulled back and continued to stare at the determined eyes pleading with him.  “I honestly don’t know if I can promise you that Duncan.”

 

Duncan smiled.  “There – you see,” he said quietly, reaching out to trace Methos’ cheekbone, “you’re improving.  The old you would have just promised me what I asked for.  At least now you’re being honest. But tomorrow, Methos, I’m leaving here and I’m not coming back.  One way or another.” 

 

Methos asked one further question.  "When you just said that you "..let me love you..".  Was it all pretence?"

 

"It was never pretence. I was numb for so long – and I wanted to stay in that place.  Once you started to touch me again I ….".  But Duncan never finished the sentence – simply reached out, lightly touched Methos' cheek, turned and left the house. 

 

Methos watched him leave and then went to the window and watched him walk to the Research Center.  Even when Duncan stopped and turned and looked back – Methos watched.  He watched him until he couldn’t see him any more.  He would always watch him, no matter where he was or what world they were living in.

 

He would watch over his lover…be the gatekeeper of his nights and days.

 

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

 Research Centre.  4.15pm – 5pm

 Duncan arrived as the artworks were being set up. 

 

“Oh no you don’t Duncan MacLeod!  No one gets to look at the final products until the unveiling at 9pm.”  Despite Duncan’s protestations, Lynn wouldn’t have a bar of it and, laughing, told him that no amount of pouting lip or seductive charm would work on her or any of the other artists.

 

“Seriously Lynn – are you pleased with it?” he asked, taking her two hands in his own.

 

“Duncan you have no idea how pleased I am.  I hadn’t painted in a long time before coming to Iona – but with this project it was…,” she stopped, as if trying to find the words, “ as if the brushes took on a life of their own.  There’s something about this place ….”  She continued to babble.  “Personally I think that it’s my best work – far better technically than anything else I’ve ever even attempted.  But it’s more than that – there’s something about it that is so …hmmmm..charismatic?.  And,” she smirked, “it isn’t just your pretty face.  I can’t wait for you to see it.  At 9pm along with every one else!” she again insisted.

 

He didn’t push it any further.  She again took his hand and started to drag him towards Dun I where the Mabon ceremony was to take place.  “Where is Adam?”

 

Stopping to retrieve his long overcoat he shrugged into it and started to join the crowds now heading towards the hilltop.  “He had a few things to do.  He’ll join us there.”

 

 

Dun I.  5.30pm – 7.30pm

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

 

But Methos didn’t join him there and Duncan found that it totally unnerved him. Why had he expected that he would?  Was Methos still even on Iona?  He found it increasingly difficult to pay attention to the ceremony – not that he had much time for it, but he knew it was important to the people who had spent so long in preparation.  And in his own way, he was Celt enough to feel comfortable with being part of a ritual to honor the new phase that the earth was entering.

 

Beside him Lynn was beaming. “Isn't this wonderful Duncan?  Just wonderful. I’m so sorry that Adam has got caught up.  Then again, between you and me, I don’t think that he would be very tolerant of all this." 

 

Duncan raised his eyebrows in acknowledgment, but was kind enough to say nothing.   She started to laugh.  Duncan shook his head, finding the entire scene surreal.  He craved death and here was this lovely velvet-clad woman, celebrating life.  She took his hand and took him towards the Tobar na h'oige - the Fount of Youth."

 Duncan tried to pull away.  "Believe me Lynn - that's the last thing I need to visit."

 "Indulge me please?  Please?"  Sighing and raising his eyebrows he shrugged and let her take him over to the Well on Slibh Meanach.

 As the sun entered its final descent, Lynn started to talk.  "It's said that this sprang from the sacred cauldron of the De Danaan.  It isn't just a pool for eternal youth, Duncan.  It can also bestow healing.  Do you believe that?"

 He wanted to say "No!" - that such things were silly.  But then the vision that had come to him as he was cleansed and reborn after the dark Quickening filled his memories.  He saw himself standing in a blue pool of water and felt again its healing properties washing over him like rain…"Yes - I believe that it can happen…" he finally uttered, in a deep, broken husky voice.

 They both turned to the center of the ceremony and watched quietly while the earth’s dying and future re-birth was celebrated.

On the make-shift altar a single dish containing a sheaf of wheat was standing, decorated with a circle of pine cones, grains, acorns, red poppies, autumnal flower fruits and leaves.

He was suddenly surrounded by chanting, and just as it started he felt Methos and turned to find him.

"Now is the time of balance, when night and day face each other as equals. Yet at this season the night is waxing and the moon is waning; for nothing ever remains without change, in the tides of earth and sky. Whatever rises must also set, and whatsoever sets must also rise. In token of which, I will dance the dance of going and returning!"

As Duncan left Lynn, she joined a group who were starting to dance, slowly, in an inward spiral.  He came to Methos and gently touched his face and then stood behind him, and held him to his chest. Methos said nothing.

The chanting continued.  "Behold the mystery: in silence is the seed of wisdom gained.  Farewell, O sun, ever-returning light,
The hidden god who ever yet remains
He now departs to the land of youth
Through the gates of death
To dwell enthroned, the judge of gods and men,
The horned leader of the hosts of air.
Yet, as He stands unseen without the circle
So dwelleth He within the secret seed
The seed of new-reaped grain, the seed of flesh;
Hidden in the earth, the marvellous seed of the stars
In Him is life, and life is the light of man,
That which was never born, and never dies.
Therefore the wise ones weep not, but rejoice."

The dancers then reversed their slow movements, and spun outwards in a spiral once again.

Duncan let his lips gently touch Methos’ ear, and whispered.  “I thought you weren’t coming.  What happened?”

 

“I didn’t know if I could keep a straight face and didn’t want to embarrass you,” Methos lied.

 

Duncan wasn’t fooled.  “I don’t believe you.  I think that this ceremony means more to you than you’re letting on and you’re afraid of the memories it and its like bring back to you.”

 

Methos turned and stared at the man behind, holding him so safely. “Bright boy.  Who will give me these wise insights once you’re gone?”

 

“It’s not as if there were many of them Methos.  I was never very bright when it came to us.  I know you don’t believe it now, but you’ll be better off with your own counsel.”

 

Methos turned back to look at the fire.  “Arranging all our lives up to the bitter end I see. That Wondrous MacLeod Hand on the Great Wheel. I swear Duncan I don’t know what we all did before you came along to order our lives for us.”

 

“You lived,” was the broken reply that was felt, more than heard in his ear.

 

Lynn interrupted them, welcoming Adam and hoping that he would join them for the Art Show unveiling.  Adam made all the suitable acceptances, the “wouldn’t miss it for the world, have been looking forward to it immensely” responses and together they went back down the hill to the Research Center, where a suitable feast had been laid out.

 

Somewhere en route to the Research Center Duncan gave in to Lynn’s playful request to remove his hair tie so his hair would look similar to his portrait.  He carefully, Methos noted, placed the tie in his jeans pocket and shook out his hair, running his fingers through it. He hadn’t cut it at all while on Iona and it was longer than it had been for many, many months. 

 

 

Research Center  8pm – 10pm

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

 

As they entered the Research Center there was the usual stunned silence that tended to accompany Duncan’s entrance into any space with people in it.  Tonight it wasn’t only Duncan who left people gawking.  Adam had packed away his Just a Guy persona and Methos now stood alongside the Highlander.  Methos had also chosen black and together the two Immortals were breathtaking.  Duncan himself found Methos’ ability to manipulate reactions hard enough to understand, so he was sympathetic to the locals.  They were no doubt wondering how they could not have realised how magnetically attractive the quiet academic was. 

 

The momentary silence was finally broken by Duncan smiling at everyone and moving to take off his overcoat.  Methos followed him and together they went to get a drink and some food, while someone was starting to give a speech on the quality of this season’s art work.  There were ten pieces in all, of varying sizes and all were sequentially uncovered.  Neither of the two Immortals took any notice of the other paintings, their being there only to satisfy Lynn.

 

 

Prizes had been awarded and Duncan found himself pleasantly surprised when Lynn’s portrait, “The Clan Chief” was given first prize. At the mention of the title he sneered but then told himself that it was not an unrealistic title, given the power of the portrait. As the sheet was removed with great ceremony everyone found themselves suitably stunned anew.  The portrait of Duncan was magnificent. He knew that she was using him as a model for her book on warrior motifs but he felt as if he were looking in a mirror.

 

He turned and found Methos, equally surprised. “Did she ask you for any historical references or sources on the period, Methos?”

 

Methos threw up his hands in defence.  “Hey!  I’m innocent.  I had nothing to do with it.  Never spoke with her about it at all.  But I must say that she has certainly captured you very well indeed.  She’s an historian and she did her research.”

 

Duncan shook his head.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for them to whisper as they were inundated by the crowd, oohing and aahing over the quality of the portrait. He had to put up with a verbal assault of observations on how he could so easily have stepped out of the painting and how he looked so natural in it, etc etc etc and if ever a man was born to wear the kilt and a sword it was him. He kept politely thanking everyone, pointing out that the only weapons he could use were kitchen implements…

 

As the night wore on, Duncan noticed Methos in conversation with Lynn and presumed, correctly it transpired, that he was purchasing the portrait.  The crowd thinned, and finally Duncan had a chance to break free from people who were determined to monopolise him all night.  He went and stood in front of the portrait, now with a SOLD sticker on it.  It was, in every sense of the word, superb.  He was everything in the portrait that his father would have wanted him to be – a Chief – so fiercely proud and so protective.  So determined.

 

He remembered, when he’d agreed to let Lynn paint his portrait, he had hoped that it might result in a legacy of sorts.  Looking at the portrait he felt that his hopes had been realized. He wished his mother could have had a small portrait, to give her comfort on all those lonely days and nights without him to look after her.

 

<<”Tell me Narcissus – is there anyone else?”>> he heard Methos chiding.  He allowed himself a small laugh.

 

But then he found himself thinking of Methos’ lonely days and nights to come and immediately turned to find another drink – refusing to let that thought gain hold.  But he was pulled back to the portrait and stood staring at himself, seeing the man his parents had raised.  Their words came tumbling down the years, surrounding him,  telling him time and again of his purpose – his duty,  protection of the weaker and the needy.  Obligation.  Duty.  Bravery in the face of defeat…:

" ….you are Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod…take it…take it I say…//Aye .you're a good lad…. //You'll not walk away on this! Not while I live.  A challenge is made. No MacLeod can turn his back on such words. …// you're a Chieftain's son ….. //I raised you to lead this Clan and to bear this sword after me. No matter the cost…. "

  He poured himself a Glenmorangie and wandered to look at the other paintings. Most were pretty ordinary, although they had a certain naïve charm.  He laughed quietly as he heard Tessa’s education of him coming to the fore.  She would have been appalled by most of them – except for Lynn's.  She would have been quite jealous of Lynn's portrait because Tessa herself, although by far the more gifted artist, had enormous difficulty capturing Duncan in any way that seemed to satisfy her.

 

He continued to wander past all the other paintings.

 

Methos was holding court, surrounded by at least ten of the island’s hopefuls.  It had to be said that they were certainly determined.  A blind person could see that Adam and Duncan were a partnership, but this didn’t seem to be deterring any of the women buzzing around the stunning, intelligent and very humorous Dr Pierson. 

 

A crashing glass brought the conversation to a sudden halt. 

 

Methos looked up and saw Duncan in front of one of the paintings – pale and clearly shocked.  His whisky lay in a puddle of splintered glass.

 

“Get me a wet flannel will you?’ he asked of no one in particular and raced to where Duncan stood, transfixed.

 

“Duncan!  Duncan?” But the Highlander was oblivious to him, and simply kept staring, in horror, at the painting.  Methos took his face between his hands and tried to get his attention but to no avail.  Duncan’s eyes were filling with tears and he continued to stare at the painting.

 

Methos finally turned around to look at what it was that had so unnerved Duncan – particularly a Duncan who had been so in control of himself this day. Methos started to assure everyone that there was nothing in the painting per se, which was a problem.  Rather, he suggested, there might be an association that had been a very painful one for Duncan. Gradually he moved the shocked Highlander back into a chair and kept repeating, over and over, soothing words and phrases.  Lynn was there with a warm cloth and was wiping his brow and offering him a brandy - which he swallowed.  But his eyes never left the painting.

 

Once he had calmed down enough to start breathing again with some regularity he took his head in his hands and leant down, as if he was going to be sick.  When they were assured that he had himself under control, Methos turned to join Lynn in looking closely at the painting.  He too seemed quite shocked.

 

Lynn looked at the painting and looked back at Duncan. It seemed innocuous enough on the surface – it was clearly historical and held an image of an old hermit at its center.  On the left side, there was a further scene involving the hermit, along with a man with long dark hair…wild clothes…arms outstretched, clearly terrified.  He was being attacked by lightning.  At his feet lay the headless body of the hermit.  Across the painting were the words “"..An evil one will come to vanquish all before him. Only a Highland child, born on the winter solstice, who has seen both darkness and light, can stop him."

 

At the top of the painting, as if looking down on the scene portrayed, were a pair of eyes – eyes that Methos had seen many times before when he had researched Duncan’s Chronicles.  They belonged to James Horton.  Duncan’s nemesis. 

The painting was entitled Blessed and Cursed”. 

The painting was not signed and the artist couldn’t be found.

Duncan finally spoke – fortunately in a whisper.  That didn’t lessen the accusatory and betraying tone.  He kept saying over and over, in Gaelic “You did it Methos.  You did it. Only you could have known! You did it!  It’s Ahriman!

 

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

 

End of Chpt 7

Go to Chapter 8


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