Harlequin's Slash Fic

Nothing, Nada, Nihil, Nix

Title: Nothing, Nada, Nihil, Nix
Author: Julien
Universe: Highlander
Characters featured: Duncan MacLeod/Methos
Category, Word count: Short story; 5323 words
Rating: R
Summary: Methos has a cunning plan for seducing Duncan, but then Kronos shows up, and nothing subtle is going to survive.
Notes: This fic draws on the episodes Comes a Horseman and Revelation 6:8. Could I be any more clichéd? I think not!
First published: 14 February 1999 in Homosapien 6

 

 

Nothing, Nada, Nihil, Nix

 

It was a simple plan, subtle at times and direct at others. So simple that occasionally Methos wondered if he was losing his touch. The goal was to seduce Duncan MacLeod. The approach was to relate to Duncan as if they were already lovers. The man had been subconsciously picking up on this almost from the first; at some stage Methos did not doubt that Duncan would turn the fantasy into reality; with any luck at all, Duncan would think the whole thing was his own idea.

Mi casa es su casa, Methos had said when they met again, before he’d fully conceived of the need for his plan, let alone devised it. Soon that sentiment had been turned on its head, and instead he was bargaining for ownership of Duncan’s barge. I want to live where you live. MacLeod, that intriguing and infuriating man, turned everything on its head, though he seemed to remain blithely unaware of it.

So, these days, Methos was rarely far from Duncan’s side. And, whenever they were together, Methos behaved to all intents and purposes as Duncan’s lover… It was a physical thing: Methos would forever be turned towards the other man, open and vulnerable and yearning, soaking up sustenance from nothing more than Duncan’s presence. It was an emotional and an intellectual thing: oh, they still argued over virtually everything, having radically different worldviews, but Methos was never so raw than when he was with Duncan; the compulsion to share his truths with the man (love will always eclipse wisdom) and to devour Duncan’s own truths, was overwhelming. It was, when all was said and done, a fun thing, which certainly wasn’t to be sneered at after five thousand years: Duncan would come home to find Methos lying on his bed as if he belonged there, or Methos would bicker with and insult him as if they’d been married for centuries, or they would laugh the evening away while drinking beer at Joe’s.

Which was what they were doing at present: MacLeod was leaning on the bar, happily listening to one of Joe’s tales; and Methos was sitting beside him on a stool, facing Duncan of course, with his eyes imbibing the man and – as if that wasn’t enough – his thighs spread wide. With such blatant offers being made, Joe had long ago figured out what was going on. Duncan, however, was apparently taking his time, though all he need do right now was slide half a step sideways and he’d be deep in his friend’s embrace.

‘What about you, Methos?’

It was only his name that registered. Methos shook himself out of imaginings that would soon have become heated, and asked, ‘What?’

Duncan chuckled at him, and asked again in more detail. ‘You said you’d been married sixty–eight times, for God’s sake: with that many wives and mothers–in–law, you must have some stories to tell.’

‘Sixty–eight mothers–in–law,’ Methos mused. ‘What a terrifying thought. Maybe that’s why I’m so determined to survive: fear of an overcrowded after–life.’

That won him some hearty laughter and another beer. ‘Tell me about your wives,’ Duncan pressed.

Methos smiled at him, a smile that started fond and grew a touch sly. ‘Who said my marriages were all to women…?’

Duncan blinked once, surprise and confusion blanking his expression. Glancing once at Joe for support, MacLeod stuttered out, ‘You’ve married men?’ He could be such an innocent, which perhaps wasn’t surprising after only four hundred years of life.

‘I’ve married all kinds,’ Methos smoothly replied, leaning back a tad further in surrender, pleased that Duncan was at last consciously realising Methos was capable of many things.

‘Oh yeah,’ Joe contributed, tongue placed firmly in his cheek. ‘You should read some of the Methos chronicles, MacLeod… Racy hardly begins to describe them.’

‘Except immortals,’ Duncan observed, turning away to stare moodily into his beer. ‘You never married an immortal. You said that was too much commitment.’

It was Methos’s turn to gape dumbfounded. Did he detect a note of resentment there? Could that possibly mean Duncan was already considering himself a candidate for Methos’s affections? Surely Duncan wasn’t so far ahead of him… And surely the man could not throw this particular first stone. ‘Well,’ Methos blurted, ‘have you ever married an immortal?’

‘No. I would have married Tessa. Didn’t get the chance.’ Duncan tilted his head, considering. ‘There’s Amanda, though.’

Ah, yes. Amanda. Certainly a constant feature in Duncan’s life, if only an irregular lover. This was not the time for Methos to be reminded of all the other ties and loyalties and loves felt by the Highlander.

Abruptly Methos realised he was sitting facing the bar now, his thighs having withdrawn their bold proposal. Time to leave. ‘I think I’ll call it a night,’ he muttered, digging in the hip pocket of his jeans for enough money to cover his tab. ‘It’s late.’ With sidelong glances, Duncan was watching Methos’s searching hands and the mild contortions made necessary by the snug denim, and at any other time Methos might have made the most of inadvertently drawing the man’s attentions to his hips and all that was between them – for now, he tossed the bills on the bar, nodded to Joe, and loudly said, ‘Goodnight, all.’

‘Night, Methos,’ Joe replied, as if he’d noticed nothing amiss.

Outside it was dark, and there was the damp threat of rain. Methos turned the collar of his jacket up, folded his arms across his chest for warmth, and strode down the road, heading for home. For what passed as home at this time, in this place.

He didn’t get very far.

‘Methos!’ MacLeod, of course. ‘Methos! Wait up.’

He stopped walking, but he didn’t turn around, he just stood there with his foot tapping impatiently, huddled into himself.

At last Duncan was there facing him, that honest face twisted with yearning. It seemed the wrong kind of yearning, though. ‘Methos, I want to know –’

‘What?’ he prompted after a long moment of silence. The human creature, when he’d chosen to walk on two legs rather than four, made himself excessively vulnerable. Here Methos was, with his heart and his hunger and his sex exposed, with all of him standing there waiting for whatever Duncan chose to say or do next.

‘I want to know why you hang around. Why you want me for a friend.’

Oh yes. Blunt and hurtful and adolescent, as usual. Methos dropped his head to stare at the street’s dark stones. The Highlander had probably patented this kind of question: dumb, but nevertheless accurately hitting the mark.

‘Why?’ Duncan asked again. ‘Why me?’ Then he reached a hand out to clasp Methos’s shoulder. After a moment the other hand lifted as well, and then Duncan’s fingers were offering a reassuring massage through the leather and the wool and the cotton.

Methos lifted his head to consider the man, almost undone by Duncan’s crude but honest gestures.

Most times, a poor memory was a blessing, a survival trait, though Methos remembered so much; there were so many things he wanted to put behind him, but the bad memories were usually stronger than the good, and they doomed him. So many visceral recollections jostling for attention, so many moments recorded by sight, sound, taste, touch, smell; the oddest and most banal of things could echo back over the years, tugging out centuries–old memories: the smell of freshly–baked bread (drinking lattés with Alexa at a bakery in the cool morning air), the sight of brocade, any rich brocade (Byron), the coppery taste of blood (of course, my brother Kronos), the feel of the sun hot on his nape…

Methos stood there before Duncan MacLeod, fumbling in vain for his shield and his armour, knowing that his face was probably telling the whole tale.

‘Help me out here,’ Duncan whispered. ‘Tell me why. Tell me what you want.’

Unable to prevent himself, Methos shot the man a pleading look. And for a long moment it almost seemed as if that might be enough: Duncan took a step forward, and his face tilted towards Methos’s. Perhaps the man was simply searching for the truth, or perhaps – miracle of miracles – Duncan was actually seeking a kiss. It wasn’t as if the Highlander wasn’t brave enough.

But, even on this damp dark deserted street, the memory of the sun crashing down on him was unbearable. Methos dropped his head again, and felt the heat on his nape – and even as he realised Duncan’s mouth was pressing a kiss to his spikily–cut hair, even as Duncan’s hand began soothing and subtly redirecting the heat, Methos tore himself away. ‘No…’ And he was striding down that street, ignoring the fact that Duncan was calling his name. ‘No!’

 

Kronos reappeared in Methos’s life, which complicated matters somewhat.

Methos had little choice but to welcome his brother, and begin working with him again. After all, two members of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – especially these two – could make a formidable team in their own right.

To Methos’s surprise, though, Kronos didn’t keep him on too short a leash, not to start with. ‘You took a risk letting me out of your sight,’ Methos commented as he returned to the old power station which had become their base of operations.

‘A lot of time has passed since we rode together,’ Kronos replied. ‘I had to be sure of you.’

The man’s back was turned. Perhaps this would be Methos’s only chance. He drew his sword – but no matter how swift or desperate Methos was, Kronos was more so. Methos ended up disarmed, with a knife at his throat.

‘And now I am,’ said Kronos in a deceptively reasonable tone.

‘Don’t you understand?’ Methos cried out, backing away. ‘I’m not like that any more. I’ve changed.’

‘No. You pretended to. Maybe you even convinced yourself you had. But you’re like me.’

‘Not any more.’

‘No?’ Kronos advanced, unerringly confident. ‘Tell me you haven’t missed it.’

Methos protested: ‘The killing?’

‘The freedom! The power! Riding out of the sun knowing that you’re the most terrifying thing they’ve ever seen.’

Closing his eyes against the siren’s song…

‘Knowing that their weapons and their gods are useless against you.’

…but feeling his blood simmering as the tune spun around him…

‘That you’re the last thing they’ll ever see.’

…luring him, snatching him up again, seducing him…

That’s what you were meant to be, Methos.’

…at last breaching him, penetrating him, the heat surging through him and possessing every vein.

‘Don’t fight it,’ Kronos crooned. ‘Feel it.’

And now every beat of Methos’s heart pumped the old cravings through his body.

Kronos promised he’d kill Cassandra before she had the chance to wreak vengeance on Methos (how foolish to earn a grudge that has remained firm since the Bronze Age). In return, Methos was required to kill Duncan MacLeod. Kronos and Methos swore on this deal, as blood brothers. It was as good as done.

 

Of course, when Methos next saw Duncan, he did nothing more than warn him away.

But, also of course, during Methos’s absence Cassandra had filled in the Highlander on the whole sorry story. ‘Is what she said true?’ Duncan asked, and it seemed his whole world lay shattered around him.

It was an impossible task, but Methos tried to find the words to at least explain the context. ‘The times were different, MacLeod. was different. The whole bloody world was different, OK?’

‘Did you kill all those people?’

The lost tone in Duncan’s voice almost did Methos in; but the man just wouldn’t leave well enough alone. Well, MacLeod, if you insist. ‘Yes. Is that what you want to hear? Killing was all I knew – is that what you want to hear?’

‘It’s enough.’

Methos grabbed Duncan, and shoved him up against the car. ‘No, it’s not enough.’ And Methos finally let rip with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It felt glorious. ‘Do you know who I was?’ he asked when he was done, quite manic by now. ‘I was Death…’

MacLeod grabbed him in turn, pushing up against Methos, while the Highlander’s anger warred with his desolation.

Methos just laughed at him. ‘The answer is yes.’ As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. ‘Oh, yes.’

A long moment stretched during which MacLeod almost wept. ‘We’re through,’ Duncan announced at last, a tremor in his voice. He nodded, to indicate the firmness of his intent. We’re through. The man was quite upset. For the first time, Methos understood that he’d lost a lover… Nevertheless, he nodded, too, fiercely, for there was no possible resolution, no conceivable reconciliation, no forgiveness or understanding even from this most generous of hearts. The Highlander should simply get as far away from his erstwhile friend as he could.

It was only then, as they let go of each other and MacLeod walked back to his car and Methos watched him go, that the anger reared up again, strong enough thankfully to deny the grief.

 

Methos stood there with Kronos’s sword at his throat, passive, surrendering, as he’d done with MacLeod on occasion, his hands loosely clasped before him, and his head tilted to expose the immortal’s ultimate vulnerability. Awaiting judgement.

Kronos was not happy that MacLeod was still alive. ‘Have I been wrong about you?’ Kronos asked. ‘Maybe I should kill you right now and make absolutely sure.’

Betraying nothing, Methos shifted against the blade as if it were a lover’s caress – which it was, in many ways. He still held any number of cards with which to bargain; he played one with the highest points. ‘If you do that, you’ll never have the Four Horsemen.’

Of course Kronos hadn’t known Silas and Caspian were still alive. ‘Then you live,’ he decided, eyes agleam. ‘The Four Horsemen ride again.’

 

Methos continued his reprise of Death, all the while working to ensure that MacLeod wasn’t far behind the Horsemen. At last the confrontation came: MacLeod had already killed Caspian, and now he challenged Kronos.

‘I go with the winner,’ Methos reminded Duncan, hoping against all odds that this was reason enough for the Highlander to want victory.

At last making his own loyalties plain, Methos saved Cassandra and fought Silas… and killed Silas, though he’d been fond of the man’s simple nature and unfailing good humour. Methos had even liked Silas for his directness.

As Methos dealt the fatal blow to Silas, MacLeod took Kronos’s head. Perhaps no one but the Highlander could ever have accomplished that feat.

The Quickenings took them both – first a mist rising so voluptuously that Methos was reduced to helpless sensual moans while MacLeod cried out – and then electricity arcing. The Quickenings of Kronos and Silas were powerfully primal. And the enduring bonds that had kept the Horsemen together over the years, now created lightning that spiralled between the two men who would have been lovers. As if the connection between them hadn’t been heartbreakingly strong enough, it was forged anew.

Once the craziness was over, Methos fell to the cold ground, weeping for Silas’s death and his own betrayal, grieving for Kronos, mourning the end of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Whatever MacLeod might say about them, they were brothers.

Cassandra would have killed Methos then, taking her revenge in this moment of utter weakness, if it wasn’t for MacLeod crying out, ‘I want him to live.’ She was rebellious, as caught up in her centuries of fear and hate and love as Methos himself was. ‘Cassandra! I want him to live!’

And then it was over. But for the helpless tears on Methos’s face, it was all over.

 

They met on holy ground after that.

For a long while, Methos and Duncan would only meet on holy ground. Both of them were shaken to the core, exhausted emotionally as well as physically – and yet they met again and again, working through interminable conversations that could never reach a conclusion. They were two such different men, who would never reach complete understanding, and yet it seemed impossible for them to let each other go.

‘You could have killed him,’ Duncan once said, referring of course to Kronos. ‘Why didn’t you?’

‘I wanted to,’ Methos confessed, heartfelt. ‘But we were brothers – in arms, in blood, in everything except birth – and if I judged him worthy to die, then I judged myself the same way.’

MacLeod turned away, leaving no doubt about his own judgement.

Methos declared, ‘I wanted to live. I still do.’ And, despite everything, there was so much else he wanted, as well. Nothing surprised Methos more than the ardent tenacity of the human spirit…

 

Another meeting in yet another church. Methos had brought them each a polystyrene cup of espresso coffee, which they carefully sipped while standing in the vestibule, unwilling to take their drinks into the church’s assembly yet wanting to avoid the cold wind outside. The best and the worst of Methos seemed bound up in the sun’s heat, so he had taken to living in cooler climates. Not that that had made any difference once Kronos had found him again.

‘This stuff,’ Methos murmured, lifting his coffee: ‘it’s harder to kick than heroin.’

MacLeod looked at him with a considering frown.

‘But, you know, any addiction becomes rather passé after a while. That holy spring I took you to near Paris, after the Dark Quickening.? I first went there two thousand years ago, with demons of my own.’

They didn’t talk much that time, but the quiet companionship had been blessing enough…

 

’There’s something else I lied to you about,’ Methos announced as they wandered an old graveyard in a town outside the city.

‘No, really?’ Apparently Duncan was now so far recovered that he was capable of humour. Well, gentle sarcasm at least, and a wry smile. Drawn anew by the man’s beauty, Methos just watched him for a while, content (he has the prettiest profile), until Duncan finally prompted, ‘What was the lie?’

‘Oh. Well, I do remember who I was before I became immortal. Other parts of my life are a blur, but not that.’ Methos cast Duncan a piercing glance, but the man was patiently paying attention. ‘I was born of noble blood, MacLeod,’ Methos said with his habitual ironic tones, as if it didn’t really matter. ‘I was born to rule, raised in luxury – incredible luxury for the time. But I was a… a disappointment to my father. I was an intellectual, not a leader. I wasn’t even a warrior, not back then.’ Letting a chuckle escape him, Methos mused, ‘He might have approved of what I eventually became. Anyway,’ he continued brusquely, ‘my first death was at my father’s hands. I loved him, I wanted to be him, I tried so hard, but I failed.’

‘That’s sad, Methos,’ Duncan responded. ‘That’s very sad.’ Which perhaps indicated that sympathy could begin to flourish between them once more…

 

The next time they met in an urban church, a beautiful old stone building that had been swallowed whole by progress. They sat together in the front pew, and for once Duncan began the conversation. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever liked you more,’ he slowly said, ‘than when you fell in love with Alexa.’ MacLeod smiled at him, and Methos managed to summon a smile in return. After all he’d been through since, the pain of losing Alexa had faded somewhat. Duncan continued, ‘You’ve been alive for millennia, you’ve had so many wives – spouses,’ he amended with brief confusion – ‘and lovers, and you’re such a damned pragmatist. For you to fall in love like that, Methos, that was delightful. Knowing that you wouldn’t have long, but giving her your heart anyway, that was charming. It was as if…’

‘What, MacLeod?’

‘As if you were a youngster discovering true love for the very first time.’ MacLeod laughed for a happy moment, but then sobered with a new thought. ‘I think that was one reason it hit me so hard when Cassandra told me what else you’d been.’

‘Alexa,’ Methos repeated, savouring the name. ‘She was,’ he announced, ‘pure. In all my time on this earth, I’ve only met a handful of people I’d call pure. But she was. And I’m not talking innocent, or prim and proper, or asexual. Pure.’ Methos found Duncan gazing at him far too intensely for comfort, and he took refuge in cliché. ‘You know what they say, MacLeod: only the good die young.’

Duncan gave him a wry grin. ‘What does that make you?’

Grinning in reply, Methos said, ‘The baddest man there ever was, of course.’ And they laughed together, at last jointly reclaiming the humour they’d so often shared, this moment of happiness echoing overhead in the church’s rafters. Methos stretched his long legs out, and slumped against the back of the wooden pew. After the quiet returned, he said, ‘When I love, when I truly love, it’s like osmosis. It’s the ultimate in surrendering. When I was with Kronos, I was Kronos. When I was with – When I was with a poet, I became a poet. In my heart at least,’ he added with a chuckle. Even Methos’s delusions of grandeur were more reasonable than that. ‘When I was with Alexa, I was pure for maybe the first time in my life.’

Sitting upright there in the pew beside him, Duncan considered this for a long time. And, perhaps not unsurprisingly, when he spoke it was to carefully ask, ‘You and Kronos were lovers?’

‘Yes.’

‘Back then?’

‘Yes.’ Methos didn’t make him ask: ‘But not when he returned. He didn’t require that of me, he must have known that would be pushing me too far. As for what his plans were once you were dead,’ Methos shrugged one–handed, ‘I couldn’t say.’

Duncan was staring at him again, solemn and strangely mysterious. The implications of Kronos’s plans, and their relation to MacLeod himself, had obviously registered. And it seemed that they needed no more words. For Duncan, having met and held Methos’s gaze for an eternity or two, was now drawing closer, and closer still, and at last their mouths met in a tentative kiss.

It was a good kiss, once they were sure enough of each other to deepen it, full of tender mutual passion: it had been worth the wait, worth the fear and pain and anguish.

Eventually Duncan drew back again, though he left his hands exactly where they were on Methos’s waist and shoulder, as if maintaining his claim. His breath was labouring with barely suppressed excitement. ‘Come home,’ MacLeod said. ‘Come home with me.’

‘Yes,’ said Methos. ‘Of course.’

 

The morning dawned crisp and clear, promising a beautiful day, and the barge wallowed happily in the Seine’s gentle waters. The only thing that Methos cared about, however, was insinuating himself further within his and Duncan’s embrace. A handful of lazy hours passed by… After each of various excursions for necessities such as coffee, they both found themselves returning to the bed and the embrace.

There was still no need for words. Eventually the touches and gazes and kisses metamorphosed, as they must, into love–making. Duncan moved over Methos, giving all of himself even though his every move was possessive, his every instinct was active. Methos, having already surrendered everything, simply surrendered again, and yet again. While Duncan hadn’t physically penetrated him, that act seemed somehow superfluous. This was enough: Duncan’s strong beautiful body moving over Methos’s own passive leanness, bringing them both anticipation and satisfaction, eternally asking the question and answering it in the same breath. Pleasure swept through Methos in blessed rolling waves, then ebbed soothingly away, and the end was barely distinguishable from the middle and the beginning.

Afterwards both men still seemed reluctant to leave the bed where they’d finally consummated the connection between them. In the trusting silence, Methos found his thoughts turning from the specific to the general.

The good thing about sex was that it existed forever in the moment. Its energy, its joy, its pain, its pleasure was of the moment alone. Afterwards it became memory, the kind of memory that faded all too quickly. Methos’s problem was with the memories that wouldn’t fade – the heat of violence, the freedom of power, the imperative of darkness unleashed. But sex retained its freshness for him, untainted by boredom or comparisons, even though he’d had plenty of loving over the years, some just as good as this.

Of course he’d occasionally abstained by choice or circumstance, for decades or even longer. (He’d explored the seven virtues, adding them to his repertoire one layer at a time, one century at a time. A century of prudence, a century of temperance. It seemed a silly approach now – but he’d had no better guidance back then.) He’d always enjoyed sex, though, and the abstinence hadn’t been relevant to that, neither a cause nor an effect. The rapes he’d committed… Rape was something else again. A perversion of the sexual urge and other urges commingled. Such thoughts didn’t belong in the Highlander’s bed.

Methos shifted within Duncan’s arms, merely to feel his skin caress his lover’s. Sex with MacLeod had been as good as Methos had known it would be.

Eventually, knowing that they must soon rise to the occasion of their midday meal, Methos said, ‘I have one more tale to tell you.’

Duncan resettled himself, looking at Methos with a solemn trusting smile. ‘Yes?’

‘It’s set a long time ago. Almost two thousand, four hundred years have passed since then, to be more precise. I was in Athens. Greece. Silas and Caspian were never at their best in a city, so Kronos sent me on ahead. After I’d concluded our business, I was crossing one of the town’s squares, and this old man accosted me. Me, out of all the merchants and slaves and soldiers – he fixed on me. I can remember the day’s heat as if it were yesterday. And he asked me a question…’

 

‘What is worse than death?’

Methos stared at the old man. His tones were too genuine for this to be rhetorical, and yet the answer was obvious. ‘Nothing,’ Methos blurted out. ‘Of course. Nothing.’

Eyes glinted amongst crinkles of skin as the man smiled, his white hair shining like the purest snow. He had a face so kindly and so venerable that Methos’s palms itched to slap it. ‘Are you so sure? There’s nothing at all worse than death?’

‘No!’ How could this conclusion even be questioned? Methos was furious, he could kill this annoying mortal, he could kill him in any of the number of ways he’d killed before or even invent something new – but instead Methos found himself stumbling away, the sun hot on his nape, the heat radiating from the paving stones, the blood in him simmering confusion, shimmering fear. ‘No!’ he cried once more, before at last finding the entrance to a street that led away from the square, that shaded him from the full force of the sun.

 

Methos had started running, and he never stopped. He’d run away from Athens, he’d run away from the Four Horsemen (well, for as long as Kronos let him). Methos tried to run away from himself. Of course, it never worked. He just kept running. There was nothing else he could do.

‘That was his entire MO: asking the most bloody annoying questions.’

‘Socrates…’ Duncan whispered worshipfully.

‘And then he drank the hemlock, less than a year later. For him, there were things worse than dying. He could have left Athens, he could have agreed to their restrictions. But he didn’t. They sentenced him to death for being so damned annoying. Well,’ Methos added with a humourless laugh, ‘the charge was impiety, but they hated him for challenging them. And he sat there amongst his friends, and he voluntarily drank down the hemlock. Stupid old man.’

Duncan was gazing at Methos in awe. An awe that only Socrates deserved.

‘I never…’ Methos blurted. He tried again. ‘I’m not that kind of man. He made me think, the bastard; I’ve been tormented by this for twenty–four centuries. But I am what I am – a survivor. That won’t change. For me, nothing will ever be worse than dying. Do you understand me, MacLeod? The answer is nothing.’

A gentle hand reached out to caress Methos’s hair, his temple. They lay together for a while, naked and entangled and slowly letting peace try to reclaim them.

‘I told you about my father,’ Methos eventually said. ‘My mortal father. I’ve learned, since then, how not to fail. How to become… what I love, what I need to be. I haven’t loved wisely, MacLeod. Love has never been wise, not for me, not even –’ and this puzzled him – ‘not even with Alexa.’

Duncan’s dark eyes were troubled, though he remained silent. Of all men, surely the Highlander was capable of grace.

‘You asked me why I’m with you,’ Methos said, shifting so that he was talking up at the ceiling, ‘and that’s why. You’re what the best part of me yearns to be.’

‘You love me,’ Duncan concluded at last, in a rough voice, ‘because I know there are worse things than dying.’

‘Yes.’ And Methos let out a breath that he’d held for too long. It had taken him two thousand, four hundred years to reach this place, this time, in which he was finally ready to love a man who knew the answer to Socrates’ question.

‘You asked me to accept you for who you are. Well, I love you,’ Duncan said, ‘because of who you are. Who you are, given who you’ve been, the way you’ve changed and grown – that’s rare, that’s the most precious thing I know.’ He declared, ‘I love Methos because he is Death no longer.’

Methos turned to the man with a smile that felt blinding. It fitted oddly on his face, stretching his features in new ways. And for one blessed moment he truly believed that love had at last become wisdom.

‘But I have to tell you,’ Duncan continued with a happy grin, ‘that you really don’t need me. I hope you’ll stay anyway. But I have to tell you something. When you decided against Kronos, you answered that question for yourself. Giving up the violence, the bloodshed, the terror. You decided that riding with the Horsemen was worse than dying.’

Methos was staring at the man, horrified. Pale – he felt pale, as if everything vital within him had washed out and drained away with the shock of MacLeod’s disastrously muddle–headed revelation. ‘You’re wrong,’ Methos managed to stutter as he pulled away from Duncan. ‘Wrong.’

‘Oh, Methos…’ Duncan sounded smug, happy, tolerant. Patronising. ‘You would have given your life for that crystal to save Alexa.’

‘I was in love!’ Methos burst out, glaring now. ‘I wasn’t rational.’

‘You offered me your head, your Quickening, so I could deal with Kalas.’

‘Maybe I knew you wouldn’t take it! Maybe I wanted you to realise how serious a threat he was. I’m a survivor, MacLeod. And nothing’s worse than death.’

‘Methos, you know very well there are some things that –’

Fumbling for his clothes, Methos shook his head – and the gesture was so strong, or he was so fragile, that his entire body swayed. ‘You’re wrong. The answer is nothing.’ Even he could hear the tremor, the quake in his voice.

MacLeod was beginning to look worried now, perplexed, sitting up naked in the bed they’d shared. ‘Methos, don’t…’

‘No.’ And he ran. Barely dressed, barely remembering to grab up his sword. There was nothing else to do except run. So Methos ran. And, this time, Duncan didn’t call after him.

Posted in: Highlander, Slash fic

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