And Hades Followed Him
by C.M. Decarnin
He felt the buzz, but the doorbell rang anyway. Someone polite. Peepholes were an excellent way to line your neck up precisely for a swordthrust through these flimsy modern doors. Sword in hand, he eased the spring lock back, clicked the deadbolt over and stood back. "It's not locked."
The door swung in slowly, revealing the greatcoated, pony-tailed silhouette against the light from the hall windows.
"Nice to see you too. Can I come in?"
Methos had not automatically lowered his sword as he would once have done, but at the pacific tone he turned to sheathe it. MacLeod, the ever-predictable, did not speak one way and act another -- one more among the many character flaws that were likely to get him killed. Disturbing, though, was the fact that he, Methos, had spoken his first thought aloud without knowing it. Hardly a survival trait.
MacLeod had taken his turning his back on him as invitation enough, and had stepped in and relocked the door. More Immortal etiquette.
"To what do I owe the honor...?"
"I thought we should talk."
"Meaning can I find some way to apologize for my first two thousand years of existence? Answer: no. So nice of you to call. We must do this again sometime."
The Highlander turned his sad brown eyes on him, and Methos made the mistake of meeting them. Oh god.
"I want to understand."
"You can't." He was shaking inside from the combined assault of soft dark eyes and maroon-velvet voice, but nothing showed.
"Not if you won't explain."
"Just out of curiosity, MacLeod, would I have a chance of physically throwing you out of my apartment?"
MacLeod's feet moved apart subtly into his immovable fighting stance.
"Fuck," Methos said under his breath, this time in Sumerian, and walked into the living room. "Fuck," in Akkadian. "Fuck," in Minoan. "Fuck," in Phoenician. "Mi casa es tu casa," to MacLeod. "Apparently." Allah this was going to be hard. He draped himself in the corner of the huge downfilled white suede couch. "What is it exactly you want to know?"
He hadn't meant it to come out sounding so hopeless. Watch it watch it watch it --
Duncan dropped the greatcoat over a chair. He had on that loose-knit thing. Please... don't... Methos was spiralling into panic, like a virgin feeling the underpants come off. Why, in Inanna's name, why should he be so afraid?
Because he could deny MacLeod nothing? But MacLeod never asked for very much. Only his soul. His bitterly won knowledge. His heart's blood. Occasionally his head.
And now something more painful than any of those. His past. The memories he'd begun burying three thousand years ago, and that had come back just like Immortals risen maggot-eaten from the grave.
Duncan sat at the other end of the couch and turned toward him. "Joe thinks I'm being judgemental."
"You? Judgemental?" Methos bit his lip. "Sorry. Old habits die hard. All the brittle mechanisms he'd used for so long to keep Mac at bay, keep himself from unendurable shame, keep everything manageable, had to stop here. He would never survive this interview if he aroused Mac's ire with flurries of stupid thrusts and ripostes designed to mislead. The Highlander had come for the truth, and truth he would have, or walk out of Methos's life forever. He would hear more truth than he wanted to, of that Methos was crushingly sure.
"It's because they were mortals, isn't it? I could have killed ten thousand of us, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. You'd be okay with that. But let one of them die and suddenly it's murder."
MacLeod's mouth opened incredulously, his eyes rolling to the side and back again. "Oh, come on!"
"All right." Fuck this was hard. "I don't mean to compare the Game to what I did. I -- I'm trying to say I see them differently than you do.
"I know you feel that killing one of them is like taking the life of a child." He stopped. "But then, I killed children." Methos drew breath. "Without mercy. Without compunction. No more than if I'd been a disease, a wild animal, a force of nature."
"You said -- you liked it."
Methos was silent.
"It was true?"
The old Immortal stood, unable to bear the deep undertone of pain in the beautiful voice, unable to speak, unable to breathe without the raggedness of his fear showing itself. He moved to the window, uncertainly, slowly enough to mimic his normal, loose-boned amble.
Duncan's voice harshened. "Don't you even care?" He could hear MacLeod's breath, louder than his own, drawn in. "Or don't you dare to tell me?"
It went through him like a blade, slicing his heart. Truth. Exposure.
Why should he fear it so, why cower before it? What more could it do to him? The Highlander so, so lost to him already.
Nothing. Nothing. Oh gods, he had nothing to lose.
"I told you once...the times -- were different."
The moment's silence was incredibly ominous, before Mac spoke, low and controlled. "And what times were those, Methos?" The sound of his name spoken by that voice, balm and healing. "What times were so different that slaughtering defenseless children or defenseless adults wasn't atrocity but just your personal style?"
No! A silent cry, piercing, as the blade returned with the deathstroke. Not an answer, or denial, just response to pain.
You die so beautifully. No. No.
He hadn't made a sound, or moved. What could there be to say or do.
The truth. It was all there was left. It made him want to throw up with fear; but there was nothing else. He turned, following the only truth he had, to where it led him. To Duncan MacLeod. He felt himself take one step, move forward, in the grip of truth. Another step. Dragging him like the undertow of a trance, until he let his legs fold under him, and knelt, one hand on the couch, and rested his forehead on Duncan's knee. For the first time in the eternity that had been his life, he let his soul fall into submission utterly.
There was a silence so profound it was electric, drawing the one word out of him. Raising his face part way, eyes closed. "MacLeod."
The Highlander's voice was a study in anger, passion, doubt and shock. "Do you expect me to give you absolution?"
"Judge me, MacLeod. Know me, and judge me."
Distress crept under the other tones of Duncan's voice. "You mustna kneel to me."
"You asked if I liked to kill. I loved to kill. Loved it!" -- almost in a scream -- "I lived for death! I washed myself in their blood! Covered myself in trophies and insignia of their deaths! I gave myself the name of Death! Why should I not kneel to you? Who in this wide world is so unworthy that I, Death, should not kneel to them?"
MacLeod sat frozen. At last he whispered only, "Why?"
Methos laid his hand on Duncan's knee, and rested his forehead against it. His fear had not been misplaced. It was the only question that mattered.
He dragged himself back from the respite. A journey so long lay ahead of him he did not know how he could accomplish it. Unaccustomed emotion had carried him this far. He felt half-spent already. To reach this man...
"Do you know this poem, Highlander?
"Saru wo kiku
hito sutego ni aki no
More silence. "Aye. I know it."
"Only three hundred years ago. Only three hundred...but the times...were different. He left that child to die, MacLeod. A two-year-old, abandoned, no hope of survival, miles from anywhere. Did he pick it up, comfort it, take it to the nearest social worker? No, there weren't any. No one wanted other people's children, it wasn't part of their culture. No adoption agencies, no juvenile halls, no orphanages. But none of those is the real reason. The real reason is -- the times were different." He was looking up at the Highlander's face now. "He rode on by."
"I never felt the same about Basho after I read that journal."
"No one had ever told him any different."
"No one should have to bloody tell him!"
Ancient, deep pain seeped through Methos's middle. "I wish that were true." I wish it had been true...
What does this have to do with a thousand-year killing spree? The question was as plain in Duncan's angry glance as if he'd said it. Methos sat back on his splayed ankles. "All Immortals are foundlings, MacLeod. That barbarian hovel you grew up in was white picket fence suburbia compared to my neighborhood. The gods alone know where I was dropped. The place I ended up in had a lot more in common with seventeenth century Japan than it did with your peaceful herders. It was a roaring civilization that rolled over people like me. I don't know how I got there, I don't know how I survived. I was at least five before someone found enough use for me to make me worth feeding."
"Watching sheep?" MacLeod almost smiled in memory. Methos met his eyes calmly. "White picket fences," he murmurred. "No, I was a city boy. The kind of place they took me to had a name that meant a woven basket used as a cradle. There were quite a few of them in that part of town." He felt his emotional armor closing around him again, but would not let it deflect him. He added, "Please don't throw up, MacLeod, that couch is a work of art."
"You can't be saying what I think you're saying."
"Don't pretend you don't know it still exists."
"Not in --" The Scot stopped.
"Civilized places?" Then sighed into the silence. "I'm going to need a drink." He untangled his long legs, got up and went around the counter into the kitchen. He found two glasses and dumped double shots of Glenfiddich in each. Duncan still sat like a stone on the couch. Methos set a drink and the bottle by his hand, and sipped his own. He made a move to settle back onto the floor.
"No. Methos." Duncan reached out and took his hand. "Don't."
Methos looked deep into the unhappy eyes, dark with misery and pity. The fingers holding his were cold. "Jesus you're a soft touch. We haven't got anywhere near the bad part yet." The fingers closed tighter. Acquiescing, Methos sank onto the luxurious leather, with his back to the arm of the couch, legs crossed, facing MacLeod.
"I'm trying to explain a pattern here. It has two parts. Excruciating physical pain on the one hand, and almost total neglect on the other. I lied when I said we hadn't got to the bad part, on the neglect side. Children who don't have parents...don't have any upbringing by anyone the least bit caring... they're ruined, in a way abuse by itself can never accomplish. If it's severe enough, they don't turn into people." He took a big gulp of whiskey. "No socialization, they call it nowadays. They didn't call it anything back then." Abruptly Duncan seemed to notice his drink, and slugged back half of it. "I was ten before I really learned to talk. Never did get very good at it.
"As I got older I was less and less use as a prostitute. I wasn't beautiful, had no refinement and strangely enough my personality lacked sparkle. I'd been traded around from house to house. Finally they put me to recruiting. Grabbing stray kids off the street. Once in a while they let me have one." He sipped, watching MacLeod put his hand over his eyes. He said softly, "Hang on, Highlander, it's a roller coaster." MacLeod nodded, not looking at him. "I'm skipping most of it."
"I know." His voice was thick with emotion.
"I'd learned to handle a particular type of client, because I'd got so used to pain. One of them got a little carried away one night and I woke up in the dump outside of town where a lot of paupers' corpses were thrown. There wasn't a mark on me. In fact I felt better than I had in years."
He sighed. "You wouldn't believe how many times I had to die before I figured out what was going on. Immortals were few and far between in those days, none of these jetsetters turning up once a week like clockwork. Which is why my head didn't roll those first few years. Finally someone clued me in. But I had no sword, of course."
"No sword?" That got him.
"Bronze Age. Only the super-rich and the soldiers had anything like what we might call a blade. The few times I felt a buzz, I ran like a rabbit. You'd be surprised how effective that can be in giving meaning to the word 'Immortal'."
MacLeod was watching him and he could see the thoughts on that expressive face as the Highlander tried to comprehend the vulnerability of an Immortal living without a sword.
"I got through a couple of hundred years, and even though I had no friends or permanent home, there began to be talk and hard feelings. I was invited to leave town. I learned one big city is much like another. Hand me that bottle, would you?"
He filled his glass halfway; MacLeod did the same. Methos made a business of savoring the liquor, resting his head back against the arm of the couch, stretching and rearranging his legs.
"I take it we've come to the bad part."
Methos stilled. "You're an intuitive bastard. I never did ask you how in the hell you knew I was Methos." He remembered the effect his own name, with that voice and Presence, had had on him at their first meeting.
"It was a guess..."
"A bloody good guess."
"You were a Watcher studying Methos... suddenly it turns out you're an Immortal posing as a Watcher studying Methos... Looking back though... mainly I think it was the smart-ass look on your face. The I-know-something-you-don't combined with that -- antique smile... your Presence feeling so... old. My best friend was an old Immortal, I knew the type... I don't know, it just all came together."
"Like I said. Intuitive."
"What I've always wondered is...why didn't you just deny it? I would have believed you -- it was a pretty crazy guess."
"I suppose I didn't have the presence of mind."
"Try it on the next guy, Methos. You are presence of mind."
"It was love at first sight. I could deny you nothing."
"All right, be that way." He was quiet a moment, sipping whiskey. His voice took on the more velvet tones of concern, but he didn't look at Methos as he spoke. "Can you handle this? The bad part?"
"You noticed my diversionary tactics." The whiskey was getting Methos a bit too relaxed. He set it aside. "I can handle anything, MacLeod. Anything. Do yourself a favor and remember that."
"A very tough guy." Their eyes met.
"Liar." Shocked to the heart, Methos felt a wave of freezing, followed by a wave of heat, start out from his chest to his extremities. He dared not let his eyes fall away from MacLeod's, yet he was terrified of what might show. "You're not afraid of death. You offered me your head without a second thought." Second, third, and fourth thoughts, MacLeod. "You avoid encounters because you're afraid of contact. Good or bad."
Stop this now. "You couldn't be more wrong, MacLeod, as I was about to show you. Death, you might say, is my Achilles heel. I not only fear it, I'm downright phobic about it. Death and revival..." His eyes closed. "I can handle it -- what choice do I have? -- but I'll do anything to avoid it."
"But you were Death."
"The coincidence is not lost on me." Get on with it.
"There's probably no old Immortal who wasn't, some time or other, worshipped as a god...
"I can't remember how they learned I could not die. I don't even know where it was. I never knew their language. Except I can recite their liturgy syllable for syllable to this day." Whiskey -- No.
"It was some bastard Osiris splinter cult that had filtered out of Egypt. Deities who rose from the dead were very trendy in those millenia. Hush-hush, since it wasn't the state religion. Temple mostly underground. Rites, initiations, vows of secrecy. All very titillating, and would have been centered on sod-all, except... except that they had me.
"You know what the central image of all those religions is, MacLeod? Torture and death. There's a reason for that, it's because their practitioners are bloody sadomasochistic butchers. They may be doctors or lawyers or Indian chiefs in everyday life, but there's a slice-and-dice queen inside every one of them, and it's not that far from the surface."
"Not one word, MacLeod. You haven't seen it, fine, I have, and you get not one word in their defense!" How had he got to his feet? He had no memory of jumping up from the couch to tower at MacLeod. Not good not good not good -- He felt himself go blank, full-frontal to the brown intuitive eyes. Suddenly there was sweat on him.
"The first time --" His voice no longer the whipcrack he had let it be -- "they brought me out, there were only about twenty in the congregation. They'd put big clunky shackles on my wrists, chains the size of hawsers, ankles too. That first time was so straightforward -- they laid me out on the altar -- cold rough stone. I'd no idea what was happening, having never been in a church before, but I knew it couldn't be good. Then I saw the knife. You can't conceive, Boy Scout, what a man like me feels at a moment like that. A coward, the kind that dies a thousand deaths. I could do nothing. They opened me up, and offered my guts to god. I was never there for the best part, where they divvied up a slice of my liver among the faithful. Apparently the feasting and merriment were something to be seen. When I woke up, they painted half my face with my own blood, and had me fuck all the women. I gather I was to get them ultra-pregnant. There's a laugh, eh. No one seemed to mind it never worked.
"The shackles never came off. I lived in a cell that was fairly luxurious -- after all, I was a captive god -- but the shackles were chained to a ring in the center night and day, except when it was show-time. I was their bread and butter, they were taking no chances. About once a month they killed me, oftener during the holidays. It turned out the old priest wasn't very imaginative, which I didn't appreciate till after he was gone. Isn't that always the way? I remember the first time the new priest sliced open my ass to fuck me. I remember the first time they used hot brands."
Trembling. He was trembling, but he didn't know where he was. "Well fed, well housed, idolized, not much in the way of work to do. Seemingly an idyllic existence. There was only one thing wrong. They fed me, cleaned me, perfumed me -- if I never smell rosewater again it will be too soon. But it never occurred to any of them....to talk to me." His voice broke and he disguised it as a laugh. Clever save. Breathe.... Then he felt MacLeod's arms turn him, and go round him in an embrace as gentle as a zephyr. No. Oh no. Don't don't don't don't.... With enormous effort he jerked back an inch and the arms fell away as easily as cloud. He stumbled and gasped. Had he imagined --? The arms caught and supported him.
"Methos. Open your eyes."
I can't. But he did. It turned out to be good advice. His room, Seacouver, twentieth century. Real, blunt, undramatic. Antidote to tears. Now if he could just get MacLeod to stop touching him. He shifted experimentally and the hands fell away. As simple as that. He walked over to his sword and unsheathed it. Duncan watched him, and quietly resumed his seat on the couch. Methos stood before him sword in hand.
"Touch me again MacLeod and I swear by your Christ and your Virgin I will take your head, I will scatter your limbs to the four quarters, and give your dick to the fish of the sea, and your heart to the birds of the air, and your eyes to the beaks of the crows."
The sword flew up with a whop of displaced air, then swished to the side, down gently, point to the floor. If only there were a god he actually believed in, these curses might make more of an impression. He sat in his corner of the couch again, and laid the naked blade between them. Light glimmered along its razor edge like a warning.
"Can I talk?"
Methos shrugged. "Talk all you want, just keep your fucking hands to yourself."
"You're not a modern man. Why are you so afraid ta cry?"
"Let me rephrase that. Talk all you want, as long as it isn't New Age gibberish." He filled his eyes with scorn.
He saw MacLeod change stance, as clear as if it had been on the practice floor. Balanced and in control. Fuck. "How long did this go on?"
"I don't know. I saw three priests grow old and die, and another --" He shuddered, in spite of himself. "-- get halfway through his ecclesiastical career."
He saw he had taken MacLeod's breath away. "But -- but that must have been years!"
"Somewhere between fifty and a hundred, I've never been able to date it any closer than that. The congregation grew to hundreds. I no longer had to fuck all the women. Even for an Immortal, they'd discovered, that was asking a bit more than the healing could handle. Instead, they let the men fuck me. I --"
"No!" After the involuntary cry, Duncan had covered his face. Well well well. Look what gets the gut response.
"What did you think this was all about, Sunday school? Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, and lambs skipping through the gates of Paradise? My hole was the only gate they cared about and my sacred schlong the only rod. I was a star, MacLeod! All that was missing was the paparazzi! The in crowd came from leagues around to watch me die and fuck my risen ass. One came from so far he spoke to me in a language I still understood then, before it slipped away. You know what he said to me? He said, "You die so beautifully." He was on my back at the time, fucking my brains out. Those were his words of passion, that was what had got him hard. I've never been able to forget it. Maybe because I heard so few words I could understand. Maybe because it taught me something. I tried to die less spectacularly. But it's hard to control a scream of real agony, or actual death-throes, and they knew much better than I did how to make my body react. They were even putting makeup on me by that time. Maybe the thing would have died of its own decadence, but as it turned out that's not what ended it.
"A good earthquake always brought them in in droves to their god of life and fertility." He knew his smile was frighteningly mirthless. "We'd been having a swarm of real rattling shakes, and one night--" He had to stop and catch his breath. "The stone that held the bolt and ring of my chains split." He caught his breath again, painfully. He saw Duncan start to move, then look at the sword that lay between them, and think better of it. "I killed my way out. Starting with the little vestals who served my room, the guards, a couple of priests. At first I strangled them with my chains. As I got weapons, I kept going back, making sure the ones I'd already done were seriously dead. I think I was pretty unclear on the concept of 'dead' by then. I reached the outside. I still remembered about there being other cities. I ran. I escaped.
"I spent the next six or seven centuries in the city dump outside of Babylon. I had no language. I'd forgotten how to speak, in the temple. I had no clothes except my shackles. I'd beaten the chains away with stones, eventually, but the shackles were too heavy. I ran from any humans.
"And then one day I looked up from whatever I was feeding on. And a man sat there on a horse, watching me. I felt his Presence. I ran, but there were others, and they chased me down. I fought them like a wildcat, till finally they ran me through just to quiet me. When I woke up in their camp the man was watching me again. I moved and found chains attached to my shackles. In my reaction I broke several bones and had to be put down again to heal. The next time I woke my hands were tied behind my back, but the shackles had been cut off. The man was watching me again. He was Kronos.
"He tamed me, with food and caresses. He was fascinated with me. I think never before nor since had he shown the patience that he showed for me. In that first month he never struck or injured me. He slept with me in his bed and never attempted me. He fed and cleaned me with his own hands. He spoke to me constantly. At the end of that month he untied my bonds and I didn't run away. I belonged to him.
"He taught me to talk. He taught me human ways. I think he wanted to see how much I could learn. He caught teachers for me. He gave me delicious food. He gave me clothes that stopped the eternal sunburn. He had slaves pick my fleas and lice. He stopped the fear. He gave me a sword."
"Dear God." Yes. He was my Teacher, Highlander.
"One night after I'd done well on a raid, he told me I was beautiful and taught me love. He had to hit me a few times, I was so afraid, but he knew I wouldn't run. By then, he was my world. He taught me to love what he did with me, and I loved it, and him, more than anything I had ever known."
MacLeod moaned softly.
"Did I hear you say all is relative, Highlander? Too true. Fast-forward a thousand years.
"In that time Kronos made two mistakes. He taught me to kill. And I loved it. I loved the feel of going where I wanted, when I wanted, into the very heart of their nests, sweeping them aside like vermin, and taking the best of all they had. But it was more than that. I loved the feel of the sword going into them." Methos shuddered, and shuddered again, and could not stop. "MacLeod--" Duncan moved toward him tensely. "Would you take that -- could you put that away?" He made a slight gesture of the hand wrapped around his drawn-up knees.
Swiftly Duncan took the sword from the couch and placed it carefully in its sheath. Then instead of coming straight back, he stepped to the refrigerator and filled tall glasses with ice and hissing soda. Methos said, "Bless you Duncan MacLeod," and downed his without taking a breath. "My mouth is like cotton. And -- back in two minutes." MacLeod took advantage of the time to refill their glasses.
"What was Kronos's other mistake?" he asked, when Methos returned buttoning the top button of his fly.
"He taught me to read."
Methos drank more soda, still standing, neck stretched, eyes closed in bliss. "Thank you.
"I loved the kill so much I wanted bigger raids. I thought knowledge was the key. Kronos let me plan raids to capture teachers of reading, and I learned to read in all the languages that had writing in that region. I killed, and read. I guided our raids east because I kept finding hints of a great treasury of knowledge there.
"Finally Kronos put his foot down and we returned west to our own regions. But we clashed over that, for the first time. And then I took Cassandra."
The faraway look stayed in Methos's eyes, even as he turned to MacLeod. "She knew things." He struggled to find words. "From her shaman, and from caravan traders. She was different. Nothing we would call worth knowing today maybe. But to me.... I could talk to her. Kronos took her because he knew that, and knew I was no longer his...subject. I was sick of having to guess his every thought to stay alive. I knew if I left him I would have to stop killing... but that was almost a relief. I think I'd done what mortal lifetimes don't leave time to do. I'd outgrown being a psychopath.
"When I left, I let him think I was dead, and rode east, and finally made it into India."
He felt strangely light, almost as if he were floating. He hesitated. "It's hard to get across the main thing I'm trying to say. How far I was from being...human. That I lived a very long part of my life so little different from the wild dogs and the rats around me. The centuries it took for my mind to assemble something like the basic structures of a human personality. Understand, MacLeod, that by the time Cassandra met me I was almost a civilized man of my times. But it took twice as many years to get there as you've even been alive. And I'll never be --" He studied the Highlander, who was watching him with those maddeningly compassionate brown eyes. I'll never be like you. "-- really normal."
"Don't say that."
"It's nothing but the truth MacLeod. The cerebrum may look urbane, but under that there's nothing but a mass of misconnections and tangled wiring, like something cobbled together by a mad scientist. Death is still under there, along with all his little friends. Why do you think I hadn't taken a head in two hundred years, and two hundred more before that? For the same reason an alcoholic doesn't take that first drink. You could say I'm afraid of death in more ways than one."
"No one has more right to be." The Highlander's eyes were still deep and dark with empathy. Methos turned toward the windows.
"You wouldn't have said that an hour ago."
"An hour ago I didn't know you."
Methos's eyes shut tiredly. And now you think you do. Innocent blind Highland fool. He set down his glass, as it suddenly felt almost too heavy to hold.
"And now you can judge me?"
"You know I canno't."
"Oh. Fine then."
"Who could weigh what you did against what was done to you? You know it's impossible. You like to pretend you think I'm a simple Christian, though you know I amna'. If I had been, I would never have presumed to think I should judge you -- that was what was killing me, Methos, the feeling that I should judge you evil and -- at least cast you out of my life. If you were still doing those things...I would have to stop you. That's what I am. I was raised a shepherd, and I kill the bloody wolves."
"Jesus let the wolves kill him."
He could hear the slight smile in Duncan's voice. "He was a metaphorical shepherd. I was a real one. The point is, you're not one of the wolves. You haven't been since a thousand years before Christ was born."
Objects still seemed preternaturally bright and clear. He turned to MacLeod and the man's physical presence overwhelmed him. The way his throat rose out of the shoulder-wide neck of that loose-hanging shirt thing, that clung and draped over his body so erotically, so long it almost hid his thick sex, behind those loose drapy trousers he wore everywhere. MacLeod was a man who loved his sensual comforts, all apart from the fighter's need for clothing that didn't bind. He raised his eyes, half dizzied. He saw MacLeod had registered his sudden loss of speech, and that left him even more incapable.
"Am I still on the menu for the fish and the crows?" The deep-purple, velvet voice was light but gentle.
Methos's mouth opened, he looked at the couch, and over to the sword-case. "I have no idea where that came from."
"You were just a little far back in the past. So, if I put my arms around you now, you'd let me live?"
Methos's heart stopped, then thudded so he felt the beat to his scalp. He made his lips quirk and his yellowy eyes amused. "This is so sudden MacLeod."
"No. Not that sudden."
"It's been coming on for some time now."
Though MacLeod had made no move, Methos's back jarred against the bookcase that lined the far wall, without his having any conscious thought of moving. His fingers felt the book bindings. There was no further retreat.
"Great timing MacLeod. I no sooner finish my pathetic tale of abuse than you decide to yank my chain with this truly bizarre line of bullshit. I don't need this." He pushed off from the shelves and found it was possible to walk. He rounded the back of the couch, gave Duncan a wide berth, reached the door and pulled it open. "I'm old, I'm tired, I feel like I've been through a wringer three times, I want to be alone. Please leave."
With a slight sigh, Duncan started for the door.
"Don't forget your coat --" He had time for nothing but a half-gasp before Duncan's arms enfolded him and his mouth was covered, opened, and taken possession of by the Highlander's soft lips and soft, full tongue. The door slammed as they bumped against it, and he dimly heard the click of the deadbolt sliding home. Then gentle fingers brushed the back of his neck, the side of his neck -- his knees buckled and MacLeod let him up for air. He straightened against the support of the door. "You're not listening."
"Noo. I'm not." And his mouth was gently taken again, his lips filled
by the yearning slow slide in and out of Duncan's soft flesh. Staggered,
he tried to put his hands against Mac's chest to push, but his palms flattened
on the nubbled cotton weave of that shirt and the heat burning through
from warm muscles, and he jerked as if he had been scorched, and groped
back against the door. The tongue keeping his mouth open made him feel
vulnerable all the way through. He stopped thinking. The darkness behind
his eyes seemed to be filling with white. If worse came to worst, he thought
lucidly, he could always pretend to faint.
When he returned to consciousness he was lying on a bed. He felt weight and Presence. Near. His eyes opened on a vision. An angel in a cloud of long black hair bent over him, eyes dark and deep, lips swollen, rosy.
Dreamily, Methos murmurred, "There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth."
The angel smiled wide as a boy and laughed in Duncan MacLeod's voice, "You may want my head on a platter, but you don't quite work for me as Salome."
Methos blinked and MacLeod came into focus. He was lying beside him, weighting the mattress disturbingly, propped on an elbow. Methos quickly looked down at himself. His jeans were unbuttoned completely and spread open, and his knees were raised on a couple of pillows. "Getting started without me, were you?" The idea upset him.
"Just a little first aid. I've not had a reaction like that to a kiss in a hundred and fifty years, I have to say."
"I passed out?"
"Cold as a mackerel."
Methos was remembering. "So now are you convinced I wasn't warm for your form?"
"Because you fainted with passion?"
"Shock and revulsion."
"I guess that's more revulsion there in your drawers." Methos was silent. Duncan leaned closer over him, and his hand settled gently over Methos's crotch. The fingers began outlining Methos's genitalia through the soft cotton cloth. The breath left his throat with an irrepressible sound. MacLeod leaned still closer, while his fingers never stopped measuring the changing length of Methos's cock. "Do you think I've not seen how you look at me? Aye, like a starving bairn locked out at the door of the banquet room."
Methos summoned all the torn rags of his will to make his voice sound as he needed it to. "Duncan, I don't want you to do this."
The touches at his penis stopped.
He forced his eyelids open and met the brown questioning gaze squarely. "Please don't."
Now it was MacLeod's turn to snatch his hand away as if it were burnt. His eyes were wide, his voice aghast. "I -- I truly thought --" He searched Methos's eyes. "You don't want me?"
"Answer me this, MacLeod. Why do you -- all of a sudden -- want me?"
The uncertainty left MacLeod's face, left the set of his shoulders. "Because -- I've been in hell for two weeks. And I couldn't understand why losing you put me there. Why seeing you as a perverted murderer took my world and broke it ta pieces. I couldn't understand because it never occurred to me you were my world. I'd never had that happen before. In four hundred years I'd never looked at a man as a lover. When I saw it in your eyes, at first I didn' believe it. Then...it...amazed me. I thought it made me sad, because you were needin' the one thing I could never give you. Och, no't the sex, if it'd been only that -- I knew you wanted ma love. I thought I was only flattered, the little flutterin's in my heart." Duncan smiled sweetly, tenderly down at Methos and at his own self-delusion. "That you could love me, I thought was a miracle, so huge a compliment. I went around for days proud as a peacock, and happy wi' it -- except when I remembered I should be sad." His smile failed a little as he searched Methos's eyes. Methos let his eyelids fall, to show as little as possible of his thoughts.
"Go on," he said. For a moment there was nothing but silence.
"Then Kronos... Joe told me how he introduced himself to you." Methos felt Duncan's fingers touch him, gentle, just over his heart.
"Joe has a big mouth," he said lightly, to cover the change in his breathing.
"He needed to tell me. I didn't realize how brutal Kronos was with you." His hand moved to Methos's forearm. "I'm not sure you realize it yourself."
"You're wandering from the point, MacLeod."
"When I knew you were going with Kronos, that's when I decided to kill him. Not just kill him, I mean, but to spend the rest of my life if I had to tracking him down so I could kill him. From that moment he was a dead man. But I didn't make the connection. There were enough other reasons he had to die.
"And you had told me you were a murderer on a scale with Hitler or King David. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. I thought I was losing my mind. You were inside my defenses, and you hit so hard...." The tiny massaging motions of Duncan's fingers had stopped, and Methos quietly moved his arm away. You see, Highlander? Now do you bloody see?
"That's why, isn't it?" Methos almost jumped at the echo of his thought. "I thought it was because I was straight, but that wasn't the reason you never let yourself try for me, was it? It was because of what you'd been."
"I'm casting my mind back over our conversation, and excuse me, but when exactly did I confess to this consuming passion?"
Duncan gently stroked Methos's cheek and neck. In shock, Methos shut up.
"The Horsemen were, will always be, a terrible, horrible tragedy. Nothing can change that. But the tragedy started ages before you were born. And you outlived it. You changed. Kronos and the others didn't, but you did, out of your own loving heart and mind."
"Stop there. You're wrong. My change started with Kronos. He gave me everything I have, he showed me what a heart and a mind were, and in return I led him to his death."
"What he showed you was perverted. You found the truth for yourself. You know that."
Methos sighed deeply. "You can't imagine how much help I had."
"We all had help. Methos, be quiet and let me tell ye how I love ye."
The oldest man suddenly found he had not a syllable to say.
"I told Cassandra I wanted you to live. It was all I knew at that moment, it was the one thought in my whole being, to stop her from killing you, to keep you in my world. I didn't understand till later that you'd planned it all, that you never had any intention of joining Kronos, but I still wanted you, needed you as if you were my own life. Afterward, I couldn't let go of it, it obsessed me, you obsessed me.
"But it wasn't till the moment you went on your knees to me that you gave me the key. I knew that you had given yourself to me in that moment, to the very foundation of your soul. That gift...and the beauty and love and suffering in your face... the love I saw in you turned around and I saw its other side, and it was everything I felt for you. The fact that you were male became as irrelevant as I ought to have known it was from the beginning. But -- in the same instant that I saw it all..."
"You knew you couldn't allow it. Couldn't love -- what I was."
"It tore me open. I had no defense. What I felt the next moment was almost... hate."
"But you listened."
"I had asked. I owed you that much. And I was..." He seemed to search for words.
"You were Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod." Methos spoke tiredly, with a wistful shadow in his voice. "With truth, liberty, and justice for all."
Duncan leaned over him. "I was going to say, I was so endlessly and hopelessly besotted with you I had to hear your voice, no matter what the words might mean, I had to be in your presence no matter how much it was killing me. I had been looking for any and every excuse to see you until Joe "convinced" me I should, and now that I knew the truth of my own feelings I couldn't let you out of my sight. I was going to say, I'd found my heart's desire, and I couldna bear to leave you."
Methos was so thoroughly humbled as to be bereft of speech. MacLeod saw it. His touch on Methos's cheek was soft as eiderdown.
"I think you need to go to bed." Starting with the socks, MacLeod began to take off Methos's clothes. He paused a moment at the cotton briefs, then gentled them off over Methos's still standing erection, but said nothing, and went on to the shirt. Methos let him, as if he were a child being tucked in, under the cool sheet and soft summer coverlet. MacLeod leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. He caught MacLeod's wrist wordlessly. "I'm not going anywhere," the Highlander asssured him, and he let go.
He felt as if he were only about an hour recovered from being run over by a truck. He had been knocked down and dragged out, and he supposed Duncan was right that what he needed was sleep, but his skin felt as if it were being shadowed and lit by cloud and sun running over him in some mountain meadow, alternately warming and chilling his sensitive flesh. It begged for touch. When Duncan was done in the bathroom, he would have to use some cold water. He heard the door open and looked up as steps came close.
He had only time to see Duncan standing there, erect and naked, before the covers were lifted and Duncan climbed in, onto him, one knee then two between his thighs, and his body settling over him with the heavy heat of the sun. When the hot weight pressed him down his whole body convulsed, and he cried out to gods who had died when the Pharaohs were young.
All after that was incoherence, physical protest as Duncan tried to
pull away, his great strength lifting Methos bodily off the bed as arms
and legs clamped fiercely round the Highlander to keep him. And at Methos's
pleas, or they might have been commands, sobbing from his throat, the Highlander's
hot blunt thickness pressed through his agony, entered him, and possessed
him, as slickly as if thickly greased. The thrusting that began then, keeping
him helplessly open even as his body convulsively needed to close on each
burning glide, drove him to a level of hysteria at which he could only
cry and beg with the wordless breath forced out of him by his own arching
pleading and Duncan's increasingly brutal thrusts. And then, abruptly,
the ecstatic god left him, and he fell back to reality, of the bed beneath
him and the heavily rutting Scot upon and deep within him. His sex felt
at the same time numb and agonized, his body battered and torn. He looked
up at the archangelic being above him, and between the transports of glory
shivering across his lover's face, and the pain of what Duncan forced into
him again, he felt his heart break, and tears flowed from him on long slow
sobs as he clung to the mating Immortal as if he would never let him go.
And Duncan's body, feeling the weeping as release, began its approach to
transcendance. His thrustings became slowed, roughened, each ending in
a deep burrowing stretch as if he would fuck a tunnel to Methos's wildly
beating heart. The final lunges threw him about like a doll, as Duncan
lifted him with long moaning cries, swung him to the side and flung him
down again, reared, and took him like an earthquake, Methos's shoulders
being pushed further and further over the side of the bed, till a great
weight pinned him, crushed his hips deep into the mattress, and a white-hot
star bloomed in the darkest depths within him. Duncan's electrified body
shuddered, made a tiny thrust; shuddered with the same small thrust again,
and again, and again; wove side to side in a last upward arc to small cries
of ecstasy, and then Duncan's weight fell on him like a sequoia, driving
the breath from his body and the last incoherent thought from his mind.
"Methos. Methos." MacLeod swam into focus, his gentle pats tapping at Methos's cheek, stopping as he saw the green-gold eyes open to him. "Methos? I'm so sorry. It never occurred to me -- I only collapse like that when it's totally out of hand, and I never, never meant for --"
Methos reached up and put his fingers over Duncan's mouth.
Duncan whispered through them, "But are you hurt?"
Methos whispered back, "I'm an Immortal, MacLeod. What the hell difference does it make if I'm hurt?" He rolled away toward the foot of the bed until he found a sheet he could put over himself. He sat up and wrapped it around his waist, and threw the end over his shoulder. Only then did he turn back and kiss the worried Scot's face. "You've reduced me to smoking rubble." He gave him a smile. "But other than that, I'm fine." He stood up with a groan. "God, I'm not as young as I used to be." He made it in a stiff shuffle across the short hall to the bathroom. Only when the door was shut behind him did he fold almost double to the deep, stunning pain in his groin. He went to his knees, one hand on the sink counter. Carefully he hauled himself along toward the tub. His hand knocked an open jar of Vaseline to the floor. The contents had been almost all gouged out. Well, that explained one thing.
Releasing the sheet that covered him, he levered himself into the tub
and kneeling in front of the faucet, turned the cold water on over the
stiff red length of his unyielding penis. After the first searing shock
the pain began to lessen. Soon the organ hung limp and healing in the splash
of the icy water. But the oldest Immortal let the water run on, his hands
against the tiled wall, as he shook with one completely silent, deep, despairing
sob after another.
End of Part 1
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