And Hades Followed Him
by C.M. Decarnin
"What you have to understand about Methos," said Kronos, accepting the bowl of sugared Arabic mint tea on a saucer, "is that he will always be desperately embarrassed by his own sweetness. You should just pretend that you don't notice it." Sitting on the opposite couch across from Duncan, he shook back his long black hair on the shoulders of his black and silver Horseman regalia, blew on the tea, and took a sip.
"I like to be open and honest," Duncan said.
"Why? Methos isn't. He lies with every breath he takes. Trust me, he's a master of lying by telling nothing but the truth. How do you think he beat me?"
"As I understood it, he told you everything but the truth."
"Oh no. You see he knew I'd see through every move he made. He let me know everything, every little plan -- he had to, he knew how well I know him. I know every square inch of his body, Highlander." For a moment, danger crackled between them, then Kronos relaxed again into the astonishingly beautiful and lucid guest. "I knew his mind even better. The one thing he managed to keep me from realizing was you. You were his secret weapon. I thought of you as just another Immortal. Methos knew better. I knew you were a rival, but I'd always killed those in the past, and he'd accepted that, because I was the universe, the bitter truth, the inevitable. But the instant you came face to face and committed to fighting me, he was off. It was all he'd been waiting for. I lost him." Kronos shook his head. "Methos never liked a Challenge. Not like you and me, eh? When I saw him taking on Silas.... Silas was a very dangerous man, and his friend. I knew then that he belonged to you, not me. That was the secret he had kept, under all his machinations and misdirection."
Kronos looked directly into MacLeod's eyes. "You were the secret he kept from me, Highlander. Do you know what secret he kept from you?"
Electrical sensation washed over Duncan, power-charged as a Quickening, carrying him up like a comber of exhilaration, painlessly, accelerating like a roller-coaster to a top --
With a gasp, Duncan woke up.
There was no buzz.
...still seemed so vibrant with emotional impact, the sensations still swirling in Duncan so fraught with significance. He still felt the amazement, awe, and excitement of his presence, electricity...
It reminded him of something...someone...
There had been very little about him that was threatening, except at the mention of sex with Methos. It was as if he were being seen in some secret dimension, where nothing mattered but personality and communication, where crime and consequences were irrelevant. Or perhaps...
...perhaps this was how Methos had seen him. So many millenia ago.
He had dreamed after Quickenings before, visions and snatches of what that person had seen, known. And sometimes he dreamed of them as he'd known them in life. But never anything like this. Never this energy.
Kronos must have been the oldest man he had ever beheaded.
He looked at the clock. It was well past noon. He was meeting Methos at Joe's later, and then they planned to get in some sparring, after everyone cleared out of the dojo.
The more distant Methos was from him, the longer since he had touched him, the less MacLeod could understand his own behavior. While he manhandled Methos, his actions seemed natural, a part of him. Now....
He could hardly believe what he remembered doing. Remembered enjoying. Wasn't there ever going to be a time when he could be loving and tender with Methos? Make love instead of just brutally take it? Didn't Methos ever want that? Duncan loved to kiss and cosset his lovers, spend hours drifting in and out of sex, giving them everything he could detect them to wish for, and leaving them replete, smiling, and, usually, asleep. He liked them to love him back. He liked them both to end up in a nest of warm sweaty sheets like a pair of forest animals tucked safely in their den; to wake up together in the night for intense, deep, unreserved union; to wake in daylight for kisses, petting, talk, food....
And what he had done so far wasn't even enough to bring Methos off. What unthinkable things would he have to resort to? Would it even be possible? Methos had not seen in him that mysterious quality capable of triggering orgasm.
MacLeod, on the other hand, had been having no trouble climaxing in his unaccustomed role.
He didn't feel very happy about it.
Methos's fear troubled him even more. So many secrets. So much he didn't dare to tell. MacLeod had met his first great revelation with such rejection... but it was more than that. The fear was a part of Methos, there long, long before MacLeod. Yet it had never shown up so much as recently. And Methos had not, till now, feared MacLeod, with that open-eyed terror he showed so often around other Immortals. Even when MacLeod had first forced his confession about his involvment with the Horsemen, Methos had showed no fear. It was as if he had had an implicit trust in MacLeod that nothing could shake.
But now, something had. Under his love and sexual need ran a constant fear that it hurt to witness, and that Duncan longed to assuage. What had caused it? When he had spoken with Methos in Bordeaux, after the Quickening, he had made plain that he understood Methos's efforts to help stop the Horsemen, that he held him in no blame for those actions. If anything, Methos had seemed somewhat depressed at that meeting, and not inclined to prolong it, as if the death of Silas had been heavy on his soul. Duncan knew that feeling too well, having more than once absorbed the Quickening of a former friend who could no longer be allowed to live.
Did Methos think that Duncan might place him in that category? Why? What had he done? It struck him suddenly with the clarity of a lightning-bolt. Of course. There could be no other explanation. Methos had done something, not in the Bronze Age, but recently, for which he feared Duncan might attack him, hate him, despise him. With the certainty that seemed to come over him more and more about Methos since the double Quickening had linked them, he knew he must be right. Methos had done something; something terrible.
Unless Duncan could find out what it was, Methos would continue to live in fear of him, unable to find again that deep trust, unable to believe in his love -- unable to come?
And if he really had done something Duncan absolutely could not forgive...?
Better to know it now, he told himself, before things went any further. At least it would end Methos's misery either way. He had known just enough of panic terror in his life to count it among the least pleasant experiences of human existence. That Methos was willing to suffer this fear to be with him -- once more it humbled him almost to sadness that the oldest Immortal should choose him, love him, out of all the world.
He realized he was still lying in bed and got up. But in the bathroom, shaving, he found himself staring into the mirror, at the brown eyes looking back, the few familiar lines on his face, dark hair tied back out of the way. He knew he was handsome, enough women had told him so, but the thought closer to his mind when he looked at his own face was... "lived-in".
Love at first sight? In God's name, why?
When he finished and had put the kettle on, he went to the bookshelves. What he wanted was in The Revelation to John, the very last book of the Bible. He leafed through and found it.
"When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him..."
It chilled him. It was Methos, the correspondence was exact, though many would find blasphemous the suggestion that the Four Horsemen had been common legends already over a thousand years old when John was born, rather than a divine prophecy for the future. He had been fourth to join, had ridden pale horses by preference, had been called Death. And Hell itself had followed him both into and out of the Horsemen's camp.
It followed him still.
It was all but unbearable to think what his lover had endured, what he had meted out in return as he cut his swath of horror through history.
There was nothing Duncan could do to change that. But the present he could change, and would.
He arrived at Joe's for dinner a little early, but Methos was already there, and turned from the bar with a look of such expectancy, love, and hope, that he was smitten all over again. His whole body yearned to go to him and take him in his arms, and it was with pain and surprise he realized he could not do this. Not here. Not anywhere.
For a split second he decided to flush the rules and write his own. It would be fun, said something hot and deep and hard in him, to watch Methos deal.
Then he remembered: Here there be Watchers. Already if one had seen that look on-- Adam'--face.
MacLeod glanced at Joe behind the bar, and the Watcher's eyes were indeed a bit round and stunned-looking; but it was Duncan's face, not his lover's, that Joe was studying. Quickly MacLeod rearranged whatever his expression had been into a smile of greeting -- and saw Joe do the same.
He nodded. "Joe. Adam." Something about saying that name seemed to take away the rest of his breath. He dared not look at Methos again as he came over and leaned into the bar. But neither could he resist. Methos's face might have appeared neutral to anyone else, but to Duncan the mild, happy expression shone with love.
"What can I get you, Mac?"
Duncan turned to smile happily at Joe. "What?"
"What are you drinking?"
"Oh. Club soda for now Joe. But can you chill some champagne?"
"You got it."
"How have you been, Joe?"
"Never better. And you?"
"Good. Really -- good."
"You look good." Joe was observing him, and he knew the comparison was to the night before, when he had not looked good. He suddenly felt self-conscious.
The second buzz had been partly masked by the all-important Presence of Methos, and he had ignored it till now, since Methos himself was unconcerned. He felt the slap on his back and saw Richie's other hand clap Methos's shoulder.
"Hey!" The ruddy-faced youngster was grinning. "I guess you two kissed and made up, huh?"
Methos choked discreetly in his beer.
"Richie," said Duncan quietly but warmly.
"I know, I'm supposed to be minding the dojo. I'm on my way." He slapped them both lightly on the shoulder again. "See you later, Mac." And a bit more patronizingly, "So long, Old-Timer."
Methos's closed eyes and mouth all formed straight lines for a moment.
Then he slowly turned his head and gazed through slitted lids at Richie's retreating back.
Joe started laughing, almost silently but so hard he had to hold onto the bar to stand up. Every time he looked at Methos he bent over again. Mac tried not to become infected, but his smile trembled.
Methos set down his beer, looking into the corner of the ceiling. "Well. It's nice to be able to bring a little joy into the lives of others."
Joe succumbed entirely. He wobbled away, stopping every few steps to lean on the bar, shoulders heaving helplessly.
Duncan smiled sideways. "You should take that on the stage."
"Been there, done that, got the toga."
"You enjoy it."
The faintest ghost of a smile played through his expression, but he didn't answer, just sipped his beer. Duncan longed to hold him, to kiss the smile to the surface of his lips....
At their table in the furthest, dimmest corner, after giving their food orders, MacLeod was tolling over in his mind the virtues of staying home and cooking. Here, they couldn't touch, not even their fingertips, couldn't sit and stare dumbly into one another's eyes, couldn't lean toward each other and whisper yet couldn't talk aloud of love if anyone was near; even their feet were on view. They sat in faux-relaxed postures. Methos smiled wryly at him.
"Do you want to use the bathroom?"
"No," he answered miserably.
Methos stared at him levelly. Then he got up and walked away. Frowning after him, Duncan saw, for just an instant, the ever-so-slightest... sashay... to his hips.
His brain woke up.
He followed Methos down the tiny hallway and through the door marked Men, locking it behind them.
Methos put his arms around his neck. "Hello, Duncan."
Duncan gently embraced the pliant, warm body. "Hello." He kissed his mouth as if it were a mountain spring, and he a grateful, thirsty traveller. The little room became a lovers' bower.
He sighed, relaxing.
"I love you," Methos whispered. Duncan just tightened his arms around him.
After a moment he said, "I can't believe you're mine."
"And I can't believe you ever survived at court."
Duncan smiled against his slightly scratchy cheek. "Intrigue was never my strong point," he admitted.
"Well, don't be demonstrating your strong points here. We have exactly two minutes more in this bathroom together before they start posting the banns."
Duncan moved his hand from Methos's hair to the back of his neck, and ran his other hand gently down to the base of his spine. He coaxed another kiss from him. Inexorably Methos clamped close all along his front, as if heavily magnetized. When the two minutes were up, Duncan smiled. "I think your dick has a date with that sink," he said with perfect cruelty, and walked out.
By the time Methos rejoined him at their table, looking completely humiliated, food was being served, and the champagne appeared. Duncan handed Methos a champagne flute and took up his own as the waitress left. He touched the glasses together gently, meeting his lover's beautiful wounded eyes. "Tonight," he said simply. Methos met the deep significance in the dark brown eyes without understanding it, and the look of dumb love on his face was so exquisite that Duncan wanted to take him then and there, and gently ravage his sweet body on the table, on the floor....
There still weren't very many people in the room....
...but they would probably notice.
Philosophically, he ate his dinner.
They were almost done when he saw Joe making his way toward them through the tables, which had finally filled up a bit. He had adjusted to being with Methos where others could see them, and smiled readily.
Joe didn't smile back. As he reached their table, he braced himself on his cane, looking first at MacLeod, then at Methos. "I just got a phone call," he said grimly. "From Cassandra. She's here in Seacouver."
Terror. Freezing. Mac's eyes flew to Methos, and he saw a certain fear and wariness in his face, but it was nothing compared to the shock of ice in his own veins at the presence of such a threat to his beloved.
"Where is she?" he snapped to Joe.
"She wants to see you, Mac. She gave me this address." He took the slip of paper but could make no sense of the numbers and letters on it. "She said for you to come alone."
MacLeod was already standing. As he put on his coat he turned to Methos and rapped out, "You stay here. Don't move until I call. If for any reason I don't call within an hour --" He looked at Joe. "Take him to holy ground and keep him there." He only had time to register the amazement on Joe's face before he was headed for the door.
The day had been warm, and he had left the top down on the T-Bird. He got a map of Seacouver from the glove compartment and tried to locate the address on Joe's note, but his hands were shaking and he couldn't find it with the flashlight. He put his face in his hands. His mind raced, getting nowhere.
He felt the strong buzz, and looked up, panicked. It took him a moment to spot Methos, dark trenchcoat and moseying gait, leaving the bar and coming toward him. "Methos--!"
Methos leaned down to him. He put one hand along his jaw and the other back into his long hair, and kissed him. "Calm down, Highlander," he said. He kissed him again, calmly and gently. He looked at MacLeod for a long moment. "Remember the first day we met? I told you then. You can't fight my battles for me. You ended up doing it anyway." He smiled, looking into MacLeod's eyes. "I know I can't stop you trying. But it can't always be that way. You know that don't you?"
MacLeod finally let out a long breath, and closed his eyes. Methos's warm hands caressed his face. He caught one of the hands in his. "I can't lose you. I can't." He shuddered. "Just the thought of..."
"My head rolling? What we do is horrible, MacLeod. It's horrible, and we do it. We have no choice. It's not our immortality mortals would hunt us down for, inside we all know that. They'd hunt us down for what we do. The fact that we kill, and the way we kill. You know what it's like to see a friend's head lying ten feet from his body, you know what it's like to make that happen. I think more of us are insane than anyone will ever know, from the choice we make to stay alive. But everyone makes it in some way. No one gives away all their worldly goods and starves to death to save others from dying. And just like them we put it out of our conscious thought, or we couldn't live with ourselves. But it's harder. Harder to stop thinking about a head and a body and the blood that sprayed all over you, than it is to pretend some stranger isn't dying because we didn't give up our own bowl of rice. You're the best man I know. You're also the most precise and efficient killer I've ever seen. You've made it an art form. You know what it means, too well. When it comes up to haunt you, it's got to come hard. That's all this is. It's ghosts, MacLeod. By your code, I don't even deserve to live. For loving me, you deserve to lose me. But I didn't survive five thousand years by thinking like you. By definition, I'm the hardest person in the world to kill. Remember that."
"The best killer and the best survivor," MacLeod said, eyes saddened. Neither of them had to speak the thought that haunted the words: the Gathering. "I've been afraid that -- Since I first met you, I've tried to change you, make you more..."
"Honorable," Methos supplied, trace bitterness lacing his voice. "Don't worry, MacLeod, you've failed."
"I don't want you to change. I'm afraid to upset the balance that's kept you alive. And just by being near you I bring challengers close enough to you to feel your Presence, Immortals from all over the world who never would have known you existed... And the Watchers will find out about you." He touched Methos's cheek. "And whatever you might say, I know you would fight for me."
"Rubbish, MacLeod. You don't need me to fight for you."
MacLeod was quiet.
"And I don't need you to fight for me. Whatever you may think. Remember -- I couldn't beat Kalas, but he didn't manage to kill me, either."
"Then why did you offer me your head?" A dozen heartbeats went by with no answer. "You could have run away from him. But you knew I wouldn't. Methos, you offered to die so that I'd have a better chance to survive."
"He would only have followed me."
"He wouldn't. No one could. The truth, Methos."
His ancient lover's face reflected strange glimmers in the neon and moonlight. His mouth looked tight. "All right, I was starry-eyed. I hadn't yet discovered your more annoying character traits."
The glinting eyes finally fell. He leaned forward slowly in an embrace. His lips moved against MacLeod's jaw, and neck. "I wanted to be with you. I didn't think it could happen any other way."
After a moment MacLeod felt a hot drop splash against his neck, and roll down inside his sweater, followed by another. The tears continued to fall with never a sound. He held Methos, and began kissing him, finally moving him by main force so he could kiss his mouth, invading him with a comforting and loving tongue. Methos pulled back for air.
"Oh MacLeod." He had hidden his face against his arm on the car's window-ledge. Finally his voice came, halting. "You were so good. You'd never done a single evil deed in your life. I had entries about you in my journal. You were a legend, the White Knight, but I never understood until I saw your face, and heard your voice." He half looked up. "You can't know what it did to me, when you said my name. When you knew me. No one had called me by that name in...so long."
"You didn't look fazed."
"No. No, I wasn't at all. I felt -- happy. Magical. In the moment. That first day I was sure we would be lovers. Until I had time to think...."
"And fight Kalas."
"He knew who I was. Everything started to fall apart. He'd reminded me of what was actually in my journal.... I knew you couldn't love... that person, and I began to think you'd been sent only for me to... help."
"By dying? I never thought you put any faith in signs and portents."
"Only the ones in my own heart."
"Your heart was right the first time." He put his hands on Methos's shoulders. "The first moment."
Methos rested his forehead back on his arm. Then he stood up. "Yes." He drew a deep breath. "I'll see you at the dojo. And don't worry. If Cassandra were here hunting me, she wouldn't start by announcing her presence to you."
His lover looked down at him, shadowy against the light, darkling and full of mystery.
"Be careful." He couldn't express the fear that still lay under his heart.
End of Part 4
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