Many thanks to Martha, without whom this would be completely incoherent. As well as homeless.

Also, it turns out I am terribly vulnerable to feedback. I got a letter on Birds and Bees that mentioned that not a lot had been done with the beginning of season five, and it was an interesting period for everyone involved. So, thanks, and here's more.


Samsara

 

--Holy One, I send a voice above
I send a voice above to you:
That I may live among my relations.
 

Duncan

He woke about an hour after dawn with his arms full. Joe had heavy curtains to keep the windows well darkened; he was a night person, and mortals needed at least a minimum amount of sleep. Duncan smiled faintly at that. They had gotten a very late start on the actual sleeping.

So while the habits of his body prodded Duncan that it was past time to be up, he was loathe to wake his partner. Joe was warm and loose and heavy in Duncan's arms. His smell was sweet and a little wild and very American. This moment could not last forever, but he could store the memory away, a comfort he could return to for a very long time.

At moments like this, it was easy to remember all the sweetness that had ever been in his life.  With Joe's head pillowed on his shoulder, Duncan almost forgot all the times he'd been alone or disappointed. How often had he woken in some pair of loving arms? How often had he been held? How many of his playmates--friends and lovers both--been brave, sweet souls? All in all, he had been very lucky.

 Despite his intention to let him sleep, Duncan ran his fingers lightly over the shoulder that was in such easy reach. Warm, he thought. Solid.  Joe was wonderfully broad and sturdy. He was strong and beautiful, continually changing, in the way Mortal bodies did.  Joe himself would probably not see that thought as a compliment, but the soft hair would be a lovely white in a few years. He would be beautiful then, too.

Moving of their own accord, Duncan's fingers hovered over the small, pink scar on Joe's left shoulder.  It was barely three months old and still vivid and bright. Oh, but Mortals healed slowly.  The frightening side to their rapid change and growth.

It was healing well, though. Methos had done good work. Fantastic work. MacLeod had assisted dozens of competent battlefield surgeons in foxholes and ambulances and leaky tents. None of them came close to Methos in either skill or knowledge.  Duncan, out of practice, outdated, and never very well educated to begin with, couldn't have been much help, but the old man had hardly seemed to notice. "Hand me this," "Hand me that," and the needle would flash, closing off a bleeder. "Move the light," and the scalpel would flip away unsalvageable tissue. Five hours of surgery in a dim basement with nothing but chloroform to keep the patient under (a method of anesthesiology that was an art form in itself) and an inept scrub nurse, and somehow Joe had healed so neatly that Duncan couldn't find the suture marks even though he'd known where they were.  

Duncan still wasn't sure what that horrible, bloody afternoon had cost Methos, though. The disaster in Paris had clearly hurt him, though not in ways Duncan could understand. And at first he'd been too angry at Methos for his part in things to try to understand.  Now, no one had a clue where he was.

Methos and Joe had done a terrible thing, that was still true. At the time, Duncan would not have believed it was necessary. Not yet...and maybe not at all. He might have been able to reach Jacob eventually. But their unstoppable hurry had been because they were both afraid the Watchers would find Duncan before Duncan could find another solution. He could not blame them for being frantic and desperate for him, not when he'd been frantic and desperate for Jacob.

He wished he knew where Methos was.

Joe frowned in his sleep and grew tense.

"Shh," Duncan whispered, gently petting the short, gray hair. "It's all right."

But Joe opened his eyes. A flash of fear, quickly fading.

"Who was it?" Duncan asked.

A hesitation, then, "Kurgan."

"The Kurgan's been dead more than ten years. He can't hurt you."

Joe blinked sleepily. "He was a Watcher boogeyman for several hundred. And who said anything about me?"

Duncan sighed and pulled him closer.

"And it doesn't matter that it's not him. Someone could come for you tomorrow. You could get that look now and--" Joe stopped, grinding his teeth. He knew this kind of sentiment was no help in the Game.

Duncan fussed with the covers, gently petted Joe's hair again. "All life is fragile and precious, mine no more than yours. You could be hit by a car tomorrow. All any of us have is right now. Right now and the people who love us...and the people who have loved us. We keep that always."

"The people we love," Joe whispered, turning onto his belly so that they were more in contact.

Joe felt warm and sleek against him. "Yes. The people we love." Despite the seriousness of the conversation, he found himself smiling.

"Are you in a hurry this morning?" Joe asked. His hands were stroking now, straying lower.

"I'm meeting Richie later. We're boat shopping. But that's not for a while."

"Good." Joe nuzzled across Duncan's chest. The beard tickled a little. He stopped abruptly and looked up. "Have you told him yet? About us?"

"No," and then, "do you think I should?"

"No! When he's ready he'll see it." Joe was still petting him with his free hand. It was getting hard to think.

"He'll be angry if he thinks we've kept it from him."

"We're not hiding anything. He sees how I look at you.  When he's ready, he'll put the pieces together."

Duncan protested, "We're not that obvious--"

"Ian saw us together for less than two minutes and he figured out that that I was completely besotted with you. Richie doesn't see it because he's embarrassed. You know how it is when a parent starts dating."

"I'm not his father," but that sounded weak even to him. "Anyway, I went wenching with Connor."

"And how old were you at the time?"

Older than Richie. A lot older, at least by the standards of mortals.

"When he's ready to see it, you won't have to tell him."

***

--The objects of attachment, aversion, and ignorance: My friends, my enemies, and strangers. My body, my wealth, and my enjoyments. My fears, my needs, and my desires. I offer these with no sense of loss. Please accept them with pleasure, and bless me with freedom from the three poisons of anger, attachment, and ignorance.

A guy who may or may not be Methos

"You just met this man! What he's saying goes totally against everything we know. Why would you believe him?"  As always, MacLeod was eloquent, passionate, stirring. It was all Methos could do not to roll his eyes.

"Because he offered me his life! Now why would he do that?" Richie was also impassioned. The whole scene was nearly poetic.

"Because he's afraid to fight you," MacLeod answered.

"Or because he knew you wouldn't take it," Methos said.  That was a difficult--and dangerous--game to play with a lot of opponents, but Richie wouldn't be too hard to manage.

"Oh, yeah! Right."

Case in point. "It worked, didn't it?" It was getting harder by the second to pretend patience.

"He didnít know that it would."

Richie's contempt was a palpable force in the room.  The child had abandoned prudence for fantasy without a second thought and considered every attempt to lure him back to sanity a betrayal. There was only one possible outcome, but no force in the universe could get him to see that. "There's one born every minute," Methos said, not quite able to conceal his own contempt. And yet, Richie's utter thickness wasn't actually a surprise. You could not teach the young anything. You could not save them. You could not protect them. You could not give them an ounce of wit, no matter how you offered it. MacLeod's ongoing attempts to educate Richie in the basic facts of (immortal) life were almost as fruitless and pathetic as Methos' ongoing attempts to educate MacLeod.

It was all so pointless. Whatever any of them pursued--truth, morality, control, love--it all came to nothing in the end.  Methos had been stupid to come back.

Richie's patience with their old fashioned thinking was nearly gone. "Ok, fine. Whatever," he said, "I mean I'm talking about peace, here, fellas. I'm talking about a chance to end the killing forever." He turned his loving, disappointed eyes on MacLeod. "And of all people I thought you would understand." He stormed out, leaving a short, embarrassed silence in his wake. Methos wondered if he should count the boy's remaining time in hours or minutes.

"He's young, all right?" Joe said, sounding a little embarrassed for the kid. "Young people, they make mistakes."

Methos spared a moment to wonder if he should treat this seriously, and decided not. "Yeah, look at disco."

Joe rolled his eyes and looked away. He had barely met Methos' eyes once since he and MacLeod had arrived.  What was his problem anyway?  Even to himself, though, Methos could not pretend he did not care. He looked away.

 MacLeod gave them both a dirty look and collected his coat. "I've got to go," he said shortly. "I've got someone to find."

Joe looked after him, hesitating for a moment. Then he said, "I'm going to check on this other Methos. Maybe I'll turn something up."

Sure enough, he retreated to his office, leaving the real Methos alone in the bar. "Maybe I'll go buy some socks," he muttered. There was no one listening.

Stupid, stupid, stupid to come back. He should have just abandoned this life. Ah well. He had come back looking for a good dose of suffering. Might as well get on with it.

He got up to draw himself a beer--and mid-movement picked up a shot glass instead. Tequila. MacLeod was going head-hunting. Culbraith wasn't as good as MacLeod, but that didn't necessarily count for anything. MacLeod couldn't be taught prudence any more than Richie. One of these days he was going to go off in pursuit of some great cause or other and not come back.

Definitely tequila.

The source of all suffering was desire: wanting what you could not have, wanting more than you had, having and then losing....  This was the stuff that made living unbearable. The Buddhists were right--right enough to be very good at letting go and moving past the chains of 'want' and 'hope' and 'need' that bound you to suffering.

 Methos had traveled east to find some of that for himself: to free himself of the conflicted and frustrated Adam Pierson, to get over losing Don and Alexa.  To let go of how badly he wanted Duncan (who at the time hadn't even been speaking to him). To be done with the long unhappiness that held him and move on.  'Do it now' he'd thought. 'When all you have to give up is your desire and frustration. Don't wait until it's grief you have to release.'  So he'd packed a bag and run, emailing his supervisor his resignation so the Watchers would not look for him. East, searching for enlightenment.

He had forgotten that while it was wanting that caused you pain, it was pain that kept you tethered to life. Let go of desire and you fell off the Wheel. He'd walked himself exhausted. He'd said the prayers. He'd performed the meditations. He'd held the positions. He had followed this path before and knew the way well. In a matter of days it all began to drop away. His loyalty to the Watchers. His plans for his research. His attachment for Joe Dawson. His flirtation with MacLeod. His grief--oh, gods, Alexa!--It all faded, even the pain.  Like Adam Pierson. Like Methos.

It had been working really well. So well that when all the superficial masquerades of the last dozen years peeled away it became stunningly apparent that there was nothing underneath. "So who are you when you're at home?" Nobody, apparently.  Methos had been well on his way to Enlightenment, and face to face with perfect, painless detachment, he had done the only sensible thing and immediately run the other way.

It scared him, that nothingness. More than Kalas had. More than Gina de Valencourt looking to avenge the assault on her husband. More than Watchers carrying automatic weapons and machetes.

Coming out of the back, Joe stopped in surprise. "What are you still doing here?" he asked.

"Damned if I know." But he did know. There was more than enough desire in Seacouver to chain him to the wheel for centuries to come.

Joe looked him over for a long minute, the crossed to the bar. "What are you drinking?"

"Tequila."

Joe winced. "Don't expect me to keep up with you." He nodded toward a table. Adam snagged the bottle and followed him.

"So," Joe said into the awkward silence. "How was Africa?"

'How blessed I am,' Methos thought. 'To be alive so completely.'  It hurt, having awkward silences with Joe. That had never happened before. Back when they'd been casual colleagues in Paris, they'd at least been at ease with one another. They'd got on. It had been nice. Even the first time Joe had been confronted with Methos, his warmth had not been withdrawn.  Methos had liked having friends.

"Asia," he corrected. "It was hot and crowded."

"Oh. Yeah." Joe shifted his hands uncomfortably, then poured himself a drink. "Look. Methos. About--everything. I'm sorry."

Methos was surprised. "What do you have to be sorry for?"

"Involving you in that mess. What I did. You were right, I did know we couldn't trust--"

"You didn't get me involved," he answered shortly. "And as for the rest of it, you don't owe me an apology."

"Right. And the dead don't do forgiveness, so I am shit out of luck." In one movement, Joe drained his glass.

"Hell, no," Methos said sharply. "You do not owe an apology to Galati."

"That is not," Joe said carefully, "what you said in Paris."

"What did I say in Paris? That I was sorry Galati was dead?" He wouldn't have said that, even if he'd been drunk, which he hadn't been.

"That what we did was wrong."

"What I did in Paris was wrong." Sighing, Methos poured himself another drink. "Immortals don't turn other Immortals over to executioners. We fight. The winner lives. Thatís the game. Jacob Galati had to be stopped, and if poor Duncan couldn't do it, I should have."

"You couldn't!" Joe said. "If you had taken him secretly, Shapiro would never have known that Mac wasn't the murderer."

"Ah, practicality. No doubt that excuses everything."

"Watchers aren't supposed to go around killing Immortals. For any reason." Joe's moral outrage, his grief and guilt poured out in a flood of resentment and pain. Methos wished he could feel contempt for the raw sentimentality of it, but here lately he'd been doing no better himself.

He leaned back in his chair. "So try this scenario: You play the good little Watcher and stay out of it, Shapiro and his lot finally capture and kill MacLeod, the killings don't stop, and Shapiro decides it's hunting season....  How does that outcome sound to you? Practicality. Jacob is dead, we are all alive, Shapiro is enjoying a quiet retirement in Iceland.  And life goes on."

Joe poured himself another drink. "Man, I just can't figure you out."

"I wish to god I couldn't," Methos muttered, reaching for the bottle. "So? What news? What did you learn about this other Methos? Maybe you've figured him out."

"Nothing you don't already know, I'm sure."

Methos looked up sharply, but he couldn't tell if that was meant honestly or if it was some kind of nasty snipe. Since when had Joe gotten so hard to read? Something was up with him that Methos didn't know about.  "Do tell," he said.

***

--Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Richie

Mac was waiting when Richie got out of work.  For a moment that sparked a worry, like Richie was seventeen again and he had a lecture coming. But no, it wasn't like that anymore. And Richie wanted to talk, too.

Everything had gotten so complicated again all of a sudden.

Without speaking, they fell into step together and headed across the parking lot. There was a YMCA soccer field down the street, and beyond that a little church. It was kinda weird, Richie thought, how quickly he'd learned to retreat to Holy Ground when he felt uncertain or needed to talk seriously. But even before Richie's first death, Mac had sent Tessa and him to holy ground a couple of times when things got dicey. And it was kinda cool; no matter where you went in the world, there would be a safe place you could go if you really got into trouble.

"It's only a Game because people keep playing it." Richie said suddenly. When Methos had first said that, it had been a revelation.

"That may be true--" Mac said carefully.

"If we stopped playing, we would stop killing."

"The problem is, Rich, that not everyone will give it up."

"You could have said that about me six months ago. I thought...I thought the game was all there was. I thought it was 'kill them before they kill you.' I thought it was 'you can't trust anybody no matter what.'  I thought it was, 'no matter what you did, you could never be safe.'  But here I am. Here I am, Mac, and I want to believe in another way. I want to make another way."

"I understand," Mac said, "But it won't work." At least, Richie thought, he didn't sound patronizing.

They had reached the church. Richie sat down on the steps and Mac sat beside him. "There has to be more, doesn't there? I mean, how could we be put on this earth to kill each other.  There has to be more."

Mac sighed.  "It's a lot to think about, what life and death means. If it means anything."

"I want him to be right Mac."

"I know."

"I don't like killing." And it was good, wonderful to say that out loud. Always before, he had thought it hadn't mattered if you liked it or not. That was the Game. It was the only Game in town. You killed or you died, and hating it would only make you weak and dead.

"You're not supposed to!"  Mac said sharply, the lecture voice emerging at last.

"You see, Mac, change has to start somewhere. Wouldn't you like to live your life without looking over your shoulder?"

"Yeah," and for a moment, Richie thought he heard a longing that matched his own. "But it's not possible, not in this life. We do what we do because we have to, we have no choice. There's a lot of evil out there, and it's up to people who can stop it to do so. If we don't, if we do nothing, then evil wins."

"That's it, it's just that simple?" Killing was right because it stopped evil? Surely killing was evil. He thought of Carter Whelen, killed just because Richie was afraid to back away from any fight. He thought of Haresh Clay, who had fought and died because Whelen's death was unendurable. All of that was evil.

"Whatever it is, it's not simple." Richie did hear the longing then. But he heard finality, too. Mac had been playing the Game for more than three and a half centuries. Playing. Fighting. Killing. He wasn't going to change.

And, god, he had wanted his teacher to be with him on this!  Richie was afraid that disagreement on this  would rip them apart. But--

But the chance to stop fighting, hunting, killing... the chance to walk away, to change the way Immortals lived, to stop living in fear.... He couldn't back away from that. "Listen Mac, I respect you more than anyone I've known, but I have to make my own decision about this."

"I know you do."

Richie looked at him hard. There was only worry and affection in Mac's eyes. That was good, but in a way it made things even harder. Sighing, Richie started back toward his bike.

***

--Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou Among women, and Blessed is the fruit of thy womb. Holy Mary, Mother of God Pray for us sinners, Now and at the hour of our death.
Joe

Joe would have said that all the Immortals had lost their minds, but he knew it wasn't insanity. As attractive as it would be to blame Methos' sudden comings and goings and icy snits on mental illness, really, Joe did know better. Sometimes people who were trying to cope with very long term planning were incomprehensible from a mortal perspective.

Which did not mean they were not all acting like idiots.

Richie was the easiest to figure out. After what happened last year, no wonder he was looking for some peace, some meaning, some higher purpose. Thirteen kills in 9 months. Dear god. In his place, Joe would be looking to escape the game, too.

Mac, though, who could usually be counted on to rescue people whether they wanted rescuing or not, was on some 'they have to grow up and take responsibility sometime' kick. Now, at the worst possible moment. Joe really hoped the reason for it wasn't hurt feelings over this new teacher Richie had taken up with. He did not want to think Duncan could be so petty. Surely, he wasn't.

And Methos! For some mysterious reason, he seemed pissed at everyone. This couldn't just be him still mad over what happened after the Tribunal. And he was no help at all. Joe wasn't sure what was worse, that the old man seemed to consider Richie as good as dead or that he didn't seem to care.

The bottom line was, Richie was running around right now without a sword.  There were a dozen Immortals in town, and most of them weren't Richie's friends. It could end at any moment, if MacLeod didn't see reason and do something. It might already be too late. Richie was hurting and making bad choices, but he didn't deserve to die for them. Joe could remember being that young. "Some guy comes along, says everything is just rosy. No more death, no more fear. Well, hell, Richie's going to buy into that. But it's a mistake that's gonna cost him."

"Well, it's his to make." Mac's voice wasn't as distant as his words. Joe might make some headway, if he had all day. "It's about integrity."

Joe wanted to hit him. This was Richie they were talking about.

Methos breezed back in, still smug and unconcerned. He plunged right away into some dramatic story about a victim of the inquisition. It was gory and unpleasant, but possibly on topic, and as always with his stories, riveting. "Now, all he has to do, is say 'no.' Very simple word. They take his home, his money, his lands, but he will not give in."

Joe sighed. This might or might not be useful. At the moment he was leaning toward not. "So what happened?"

Methos shrugged. "He died screaming in agony. But. He kept his integrity."

And now, finally, finally, Mac caved. He sighed at Methos and collected his jacket. "Don't save my seat. Go ahead and let yourselves out."

Apparently, if you were five thousand years old and you wanted someone to do something, all it took was one snappy story. Admittedly, it was one heck of a story, but Methos could have used it an hour ago and saved Joe all kinds of cajoling and begging. "You are one calculating son-of-a-bitch," he said sourly.

Methos dropped back into the chair he'd abandoned earlier and considered Joe with an icy stare. "Did you have a point?" he asked.

"Look, Buddy, I donít know what your problem is--" but he suspected that he did. The entire disaster in Parris had been ultimately his fault, and he had screwed up again and again throughout, making matters worse every time he'd tried to make them better. Methos had vanished from his apartment without saying good-bye, and even though Joe had managed to apologize, it was clear that Methos had not forgiven him for getting caught by his superiors, failing to sway the tribunal, and betraying Jacob Galati.

"My problem is MacLeod could get himself killed over that fool boy."

Joe froze for a moment. How embarrassing. Nothing to do with him at all.

He shoved his relief away and got back to the problem at hand. "Richie's being really stupid right now." He said reasonably, "That's not a capital crime."

"Oh, I beg to differ. Being stupid is certainly a capital crime, but I would really rather Mac not get his just desserts."

They're not crazy, Joe reminded himself. It's just the long term planning. "Look. Mac's not thinking straight, that's all. It's not always easy to figure out what to do when someone you love is in trouble."

"Love? What could you possibly know about love?"

The fury in the denial rocked Joe. He had not thought Methos could get that angry about anything. "Enough," he answered gently, trying to deescalate before things got completely out of hand.

Methos just gaped at him for a moment. "Unbelievable!" he exploded at last. "Absolutely unbelievable.  He is sleeping with you. Is there anyone out there who Duncan MacLeod is NOT sleeping with?"

Joe blinked.  Methos could not possibly be jealous of him. Surely not. Even if there was any possibility of Joe monopolizing Duncan's time in the foreseeable future, he would be gone in twenty or thirty years. Hardly a blink of time to Methos. "Well. He's not sleeping with Richie. And I think there is a pair of lesbians in his women's self defense class who he's not sleeping with."

Methos closed his eyes and breathed hard several times. "I didn't--I didn't-- It's--It's not fair. You're his Watcher, for god's sake. You aren't even supposed to be talking to him." It sounded almost like an apology.

Joe took heart from the words and the thin smile Methos managed. "Yeah, well. What are they going to do, shoot me?"

He had hopped the thin joke would ease back the tension a bit, help calm Methos down. Instead he froze, every muscle going as hard and motionless as granite.  While Joe watched, the color slowly drained from Methos' face and the fury that had flashed from moment to moment burned from his eyes in a steady, malevolent fire. "How dare you." Methos whispered. "What nerve you have, joking about that. After lecturing me about love."

"Adam?" automatically, Joe whispered the name he had used for almost a decade. He did not know the man in front of him at all.

"Don," Methos whispered. "And Christine. Alain Durries was a friend of mine, did you know? We were study partners at the Academy. And Rebecca. Darius.  Kamir." His voice dropped even further. "Alexa. All in the last few years. The blink of an eye. And you. You placed so little value on life--had so little regard for me--that you let the council march you off to be executed. You refused rescue. When any of them would have done anything for a few more minutes! When any of them would have tried to stay with me!" Suddenly, Methos turned away, retreating. He could not escape the room without passing Joe, so he fled to the far wall, his shoulders shaking.  "You decided to die."

Stunned, Joe took a step after him. This? Methos was angry about this?  "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't think--"

"You didn't think!" And as much as the rage in that wail frightened Joe, the pain in it was worse. Methos--Methos, for pity sake!--was having some kind of nervous breakdown, and Joe was supposed to cope with that? He didn't even have half a century's experience. He didn't know enough. What could he say in the face of a grief that must have been old when Joe's ancestors were trying to figure out the wheel?

"Methos, I'm sorry. I'm young. I was stupid. I was trying to do the right thing."

"The right thing," Methos snarled, still not looking at him, "Was not dying on me."

"I'm sorry." He searched for something helpful to say, failed. "Forgive me."

"How can I?"

"I'm not dead, Methos. I'm still here, and I'm still your friend."

"For however long that is," came the bitter answer.

"Yes. For however long that is."

Methos began to weep. It was a strange, unselfconscious crying, another reminder of how alien this Immortal was, how different the rules he was raised under must have been. The sound of it was heartbreaking. Joe stepped closer and laid his hand on one of the shaking shoulders.

In a few minutes the shaking petered out. Joe looked around, but he could find nothing to hand him but a slightly used towel. "Sorry," he said awkwardly. "I think this end is sort of dry."

Methos managed a tight laugh. "You moderns are so prissy. In my day, we'd wipe our noses with dirty poison ivy leaves and be glad to have that much."

Joe managed a weak smile in response. "You did not."

"No, you're right. Wrong hemisphere." He folded the towel neatly and set it aside. "You're just the same, you know. You and MacLeod. Always so many things more important than staying alive."

"He does love you," Joe said gently. "He just doesn't move on these things as fast as he used to. You matter a great deal to him."

Methos grimaced. "Oh, please. Don't. I couldn't bear it."

"What can I do?" Joe immediately regretted the question. It nearly set Methos off again. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and then took a deep breath. Joe did not dare say anything.

Methos laid his right hand on the crown of Joe's head and placed the left on Joe's left shoulder.  The gesture did not feel spontaneous. It felt formal and symbolic, though it wasn't anything he had ever heard of. "What am I going to do with you?" Methos murmured.

"You're going to let me take you to dinner," Joe said.

"Right," he answered faintly. "Obviously. How silly of me...."

"And then we're going to find Mac, and if he needs it, help him out with the Richie problem."

"Certainly."

"Good. Ah. I'll drive."

"Probably best, yes." Methos followed him almost meekly to the door. They remembered to lock up behind them.

***

--Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the lord my soul to keep.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Richie

Mac was seated on the hood of his car, waiting, when Richie finally came down from the lush back yard of the house the teacher had taken. It was embarrassing, having to be rescued. Especially having to be rescued after he'd been warned.  But as many times as Mac saved Richie's ass, he never called him stupid or told him to go to hell.

He had tasted it in the Quickingening. Heard it. Felt it. Culbraith hadn't been lying. He had killed Methos. Not Methos--don't forget, you were wrong about that, too. Methos is the flippant loser who's  been visiting Mac all along.  But someone good. Someone who had had the courage to try to change the world. "Damn," he whispered.

"You ok?" Mac asked. He looked pointedly at Richie's sword, and, remembering, Richie knelt and cleaned it on the grass.

"Oh, yeah," he managed, putting the sword away. "I'm fine."

Mac sighed. "We need to take care of them," he said gently.

"Yeah. I know. Always clean up the mess. You got a shovel?"

"I'm thinking the flower garden," Mac nodded. He hit a button on his keyfob that opened the trunk.

"You know what I hate most?" Richie asked after a moment. "That sometimes it feels really good. When they go right through you. And that peaceful moment at the end. I hate that."  He reached into the trunk and took the shovel.

***

--To the divine, exalted kami, I humbly offer my prayers.
Teach me to live with a pure and sincere heart.
Grant me perseverance and that my heart be genuine, childlike, and true.
Grant that I stay on the path of sincerity and truth.
Grant that I be strong and diligent at my deeds.

Duncan

He did not follow Richie home. By the time they finished erasing the fight, he had seemed steady and alert. Duncan didn't want him to feel fussed over. He would be all right, and he didnít need him thinking his teacher didn't know it.

So he came home and cleaned up the kitchen. It didnít take long.

He did some laundry.

He unpacked the box of antique books that had arrived that afternoon. He would have called his buyers, but it was very late on the east coast.

It was late in Seacover, but he wasn't ready to settle down. He made some green tea and picked up one of the books. It was in Russian, the more complex alphabet that had been used before the Communists tidied and organized the language. It would be a challenge, but it was The Idiot, which would give him an edge. He knew the plot.

While he was still trying to decide if his Russian was up to reading it or not, another Immortal resonated against his quickening. Not Richie, not tonight, but probably Methos. His backpack was in the corner, so Duncan's houseguest would show up eventually.

Then the elevator started up, and Duncan went for his sword. Methos used the stairs. This had to be someone else. He ran down the list of who was in town. The list was short, and they all would have called ahead, anyway.

He set his feet, waiting, until he saw Joe in the elevator beside Methos. Right. Of course. He turned to put the sword away, and turned back just in time to see Methos, pulling up the grate, stumble and nearly fall. He tried to clutch clumsily at Joe, who dodged and growled, "Grab him, Mac," before nearly falling himself as Methos finally snared him.

Duncan caught Methos at the waist, but the man turned to water in his hands. Drunk, he realized. Certainly, too far gone to defend himself--it was something he never would have expected from the careful, circumspect Methos. "What were you thinking?" he demanded of both of them, trying not to let Methos drop the rest of the way to the floor.

"Why not?" the words were slurred and bitter. "Five thousand years and I haven't accomplished anything. Might as well enjoy myself."

Right. Methos didn't look like he was enjoying anything. Duncan couldn't tear his eyes away. Amazing. Very, very drunk. "How the hell did you manage it?"

"It wasn't easy," Joe said, "Believe me. But he was committed to the project."

Shaking his head, Duncan tossed Methos over his shoulder and carried him toward the bed. Damn. "Joe, get me some towels. In case he ralphs."

When Joe held out the towels, Methos' shoes were off and his jeans loosened. "It's a puzzle," Duncan drawled. "The real question is, do I want to know?" He spread the towels and moved Methos' head on top of them.

Looking sadly at the semi-conscious figure on the bed, Joe said, "It's my turn to tell a story. 1781. Rebecca-- de Cordoba at the time. One night she just...popped. Broke every bit of glassware in the house--this was when glass was expensive, remember--including some of the windows. Beat three of her servants bloody. Slaughtered three cows and appeared to look for omens in the innards--"

"Wait! What? Rebecca?"

"Yes, Rebecca. And then she killed herself with belladonna. Twice. Well, twice that we know of. Her Watcher was one of the servants that got beaten bloody."

"Rebecca?" Duncan gaped. "But she was--"

"Old, MacLeod. She was very, very old. Sometimes the old ones, they flip out for a while."

Duncan looked from Joe to the figure on the bed. "Methos?" he asked. Surely he was misunderstanding.

"Well, he hasn't started beating the servants, yet. But he's having a rough patch."

Duncan shook his head in denial, but he could not ignore the evidence. Here was Methos, the world's oldest and most careful man, inebriated into helplessness. "What--what do we do?"

"I'm not sure we do anything. I mean, he's got to be tough enough to handle it. You don't get to five thousand by being a push-over, you know? But I think he needs a little time. And somebody to look after his head for a half-hour or so until he sobers up."

Shocked and a little worried--and not feeling any more enlightened than he had before--Duncan nodded. He suspected that Joe might not be nearly so calm about this as he seemed, but really, panicking wouldn't help.

And anyway--everything would be fine. This was Methos.

"Look," Joe said, "I'm tired. I'm gonna head home."

"Yeah. Yeah, thanks." Duncan hugged him briefly. "I'll call you if....Well."

"Yeah." 

Duncan saw him to the elevator, then returned to the bed. Methos appeared to be asleep, now. Or passed out. He dragged over a chair and settled down to wait.

Feedback

Home