The Weight of Shadows
I'll tell you something. Whether you admit it or not,
everybody has a dark side. And when you are violated, the
best among us try to maintain a level of decency. But
sometimes, however, you're pushed; you're confronted with
a situation where you have to dig down into that part of
yourself you wish did not exist--in order to survive or
help others survive--when you sacrifice what you believe
in, even if it's for a split second. But after that moment
has passed, you still have the memory to deal with and it's
like a shadow that seems to always be there. And the people
that live in it never knew a shadow could weigh so much, and
the bitch of it is that the only thing that could fix it is
time, passing by, so you move on.
You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors shining through
Methos slowly twirled the crystal glass he held delicately in one hand, silently contemplating how the light refracted through the blush champagne. The bubbles spiraling upward in the champagne reminded him of the capriciousness of life. Even after five thousand years of dealing with life in all its glorious and not so glorious forms, Methos found he still had no better mastery over his fate than he had in his early years of immortality. No matter how hard he tried to avoid it, life's unpredictabilities kept surprising him, and not always in the most pleasant of manners. His long-lived experience allowed him to keep it manageable but control apparently remained in the hands of the Fates.
And this time Fate had brought him to Duncan MacLeod's table for an American style Thanksgiving feast, along with Amanda and Joe. Richie had apparently been busy helping renovate some chateau and unable to join them. MacLeod had simply shook his head and grinned when giving the brief explanation for Richie's absence. It had been the smile of an indulgent father.
When invited to this dinner, Methos had pointed out to MacLeod that the American Thanksgiving holiday was still a few months off. MacLeod had muttered something about it being a Thanksgiving of friends and family. Methos, who never paid much attention to holidays, had shrugged off his perversity and accepted the invitation, curious to see what MacLeod had up his sleeve. After all, how many times did one celebrate Thanksgiving, American-style, in Paris?
Methos couldn't help wondering if MacLeod had been forced into his invite by Amanda, or perhaps guilted into it by Joe. Whatever had worked the change in MacLeod, Methos found himself once again being treated like family rather than an outcast from the Clan MacLeod. It was just enough of a hook to pique his curiosity and keep him around for a while longer.
Methos' eyes never strayed from their intent examination of his champagne when MacLeod stood at the head of the table and began speaking. Instead, Methos indulged himself in the sensation of MacLeod's voice resonating through him with an almost sensual touch. It had been too long since he had allowed or been given this luxury. In the not so distant past that voice had held anger and disappointment -- a time Methos wasn't in a hurry to revisit.
MacLeod's voice, which moments ago had been warm with humor, had now shifted to a soft, serious tone. It grabbed all their attentions, and Methos finally tore himself away from his fascination with his glass of champagne to observe his tablemates. Even Amanda and Joe's playful bantering ground to a halt.
"There's a Thanksgiving tradition I'd like to follow today." MacLeod's faint Scottish burr flowed over his dinner companions like a soothing balm. Life had thrown this particular group of immortals and watcher a few too many curveballs as of late. MacLeod's dark quickening. Methos losing Alexa. The resurrected Horsemen. They had all been left with some healing to do. And then a week ago Steven Keane had blew into town, rekindling old emotional scars within MacLeod.
Methos, against his better judgment, had interfered. MacLeod had not been grateful. In the end, Methos had backed off once again. There still remained too much unresolved tension between he and MacLeod, the Horseman having driven a wedge between them. Methos had seriously considered leaving for good this time, or at least for a good long time. Instead, he found himself inventing reasons to stay near the Highlander.
Something unspoken refused to let him put distance from Duncan MacLeod. Methos recognized it for what it was but also knew it was something that would never be acted upon. All he had hopes for at this point was to regain the easygoing friendship that he and MacLeod had been building before chaos had stormed into their lives. Methos constantly cursed that part of himself that wanted the Highlander's presence in his life. The depth of that need that both surprised and dismayed him. He could only hope that MacLeod's invitation to this gathering was an indication that he was ready to let go of the past and move forward.
"Thanksgiving is traditionally a day to give thanks for what we have," continued MacLeod. "And, I think it's long past time that I share with all of you what I give thanks for. You've all stuck with me through trying times, and I count myself lucky to count you all as friends and family." There was a pause as MacLeod's eyes sought out Amanda. "Amanda, I thank you for always believing in me, even when you don't agree with me, which is frequently."
Amanda's laughter floated over them.
"And thank you for being you. Aggravating as you can be at times," MacLeod smiled, "I love you."
Amanda reached over to lightly caress MacLeod's face. He took her hand in his, kissing her fingers, before releasing her and seeking out Dawson.
"Joseph, sometimes I don't know why you put up with me. I think I take much more from our friendship than I give to it. You've a big heart and you're a giving person. You're always there when I need you. Thank you, my friend."
A long silence followed. Methos, whose eyes had returned to his glass of champagne, refused to look up, even when he felt MacLeod's eyes on him. Then he could feel Amanda and Joe's eyes as well. Methos heaved an internal sigh. He hated public displays of emotion. And he knew that what was coming was either going to be incredibly sappy or incredibly hurtful. He wasn't prepared for either. Fingers toying with the stem of his champagne glass, he attempted to ignore the ongoing silence. MacLeod, a soft humor in his voice that Methos had never thought to hear directed at him again, dared to breach the silence.
"I'm thankful for good friends. I'm thankful for friends who can still care about me, even when I've deeply hurt them. I'm thankful those friends can still find it in their hearts to count me as a friend. Especially when I'm such a pain in the ass."
Now Methos did look up, recalling when he had last uttered those words shortly after putting a bullet in MacLeod's back. Methos, finally believing Amanda's assertions that MacLeod might, out of guilt, not put his all into a fight with Keane, had gone in MacLeod's place to fight Steven Keane. MacLeod, unfortunately, had shown up before Methos could take Keane's head. Oh, how this Highland child frustrated him at times! Yet he found himself repeatedly indulging those boy scout tendencies and wondering how MacLeod had managed to keep that code of honor with him all these years.
Methos' gaze refocused on the here and now to find MacLeod's eyes fixed on him. Eyes that were warm with affection. In fact, Methos could have sworn those eyes were practically smoldering with -- he gave himself a mental shake, telling himself to snap out of silly daydreams. He was way too old to have such fantasies.
Knowing he was only seeing what he wanted to see, Methos looked away, unable to hold that gaze. While he hoped that he and MacLeod might retrieve their friendship, he knew MacLeod would never be his in a more intimate way. Unfortunately, his heart didn't seem to know that, and Methos, who had been known to lecture Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod about wearing his heart on his sleeve, had found himself ensnared by MacLeod before he had quite comprehended it was happening. By the time understanding had hit, it was way too late to turn back. Duncan MacLeod had his heart whether he wanted it or not.
Methos glanced in Amanda's direction in time to catch her double take at the intense emotions in Duncan's eyes. He watched her track MacLeod's gaze back to him and then dart back to MacLeod again. Dawning comprehension mixed with a small mischievous smile lit Amanda's face. That alone should have made Methos nervous but he was too caught up in the fact that he wasn't the only one seeing the banked smolder in MacLeod's gaze. A smolder that was definitely directed at Methos. What the hell was MacLeod up to? Methos wondered, unwilling to let wishful thinking get ahead of common sense.
MacLeod's glass of champagne rose in toast to Methos. The world had narrowed down to just the two of them, Joe and Amanda forgotten. "To good friends, acceptance, and what may come."
There was definitely no mistaking MacLeod's intent now. Methos felt his heart bursting with hope and hastily quashed it before he did something foolish. While he trusted Duncan not to take his head he wasn't certain he was quite ready to trust him with his heart. Whether he knew it or not, the Highlander already had a large piece of it. Methos was hanging on desperately to that last small piece of himself that refused to surrender to the Highlander. That small piece that would sell his soul for a mere touch from the overgrown boy scout.
Glimpsing Amanda and Joe's expressions, Methos knew the sudden sexual tension that leapt across the table between himself and MacLeod was not all in his imagination. Joe's mouth had dropped open and Amanda, the little minx, was already putting them together in her mind and liking what she saw.
Attempting to give off an air of indifference he was far from feeling, Methos started to raise his own glass of champagne to his lips in reply to MacLeod's toast and was alarmed to find that his hand was actually shaking with reaction.
Taking a deep cleansing breath to steady himself, he saluted MacLeod with his champagne before taking a sip. Methos attempted to maintain his calm facade but the warmth blossoming within was making that difficult. Finally, unable to resist but still unwilling to let the others know how deeply this moment had impacted him, Methos allowed a small smile slip out. "To what may be," he toasted MacLeod.
A satisfied smile curled the edges of MacLeod's mouth and he had the air of a man who had just verified something extremely important to him. Methos frowned. MacLeod read him way too easily these days. That would never do.
Affecting an air of boredom to cover the overwhelming relief this moment had brought him, Methos set his glass down. Picking up his fork and knife, he held them poised over the Thanksgiving feast piled on his plate. Dryly, he offered, "We're all thankful you're thankful, MacLeod, but I'm starving. I say it's time to eat."
Their eyes met again, MacLeod's acknowledging that Methos could only stand so much open affection and Methos' quietly expressing his pleasure at this unexpected turn of events.
Laughing, MacLeod sat down and picked up his own fork and knife. The serene moment of renewed friendship passed to be replaced by the usual bantering between this circle of friends. With one marked difference. One that didn't escape Joe and Amanda. MacLeod and Methos couldn't seem to keep their eyes off each other. Both Watcher and female immortal had no trouble recognizing the hungry look of would-be lovers.
I see your true colors shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are shining through
Dinner had been polished off with dessert and after dinner drinks. Sharing amused glances, MacLeod and Methos had silently concluded that neither Joe nor Amanda were being much help with the kitchen cleanup and had banished the two of them, drinks in hand, to the sitting room.
Unbeknownst to Methos and MacLeod, they had fallen hook, line and sinker for Joe and Amanda's hatched plot to leave the two immortals alone. The two men obviously had a few things to work out and the sexual tension alone between them was enough to warm a sauna.
While the two washed dishes in the kitchen, Joe and Amanda quietly conspired on the couch until finally Amanda gave a loud, and obviously false, yawn.
"Take me home, Joe?"
Smiling, Joe readily agreed but couldn't resist jostling the little manipulator just a bit. "My place or yours?"
"We'll discuss it in the car." Amanda gave the Watcher a sly look and ran a hand suggestively over his chest as she leaned in for a chaste kiss to his lips, leaving the Watcher speechless.
From the kitchen, Methos and MacLeod watched their friends gather their wraps and make their way out the door.
"I think we've been set up," MacLeod offered, his tone amused.
"You think?" Methos turned to him, tossing the towel he had been drying dishes with at MacLeod. "I don't think; I know." Grinning, he reached into the refrigerator for a beer and held one out questioningly to Duncan, who shook his head and held up a bottle of very old brandy. Methos' eyes brightened when he recognized the bottle. It was one of his favorite brandies. Very old. Very hard to find. With no argument, he put the beers back into the fridge and followed MacLeod over to the sitting area, where a fire was blazing in the fireplace.
Taking a seat on one end of the couch, Methos was pleasantly surprised when MacLeod joined him on the couch rather than the easy chair. MacLeod poured brandy into snifters for both of them. Handing one to Methos, their fingers touched and Methos was certain that MacLeod purposefully let his touch linger. Then the touch was gone and MacLeod was gazing at him over his own brandy snifter, which he held up to clink against Methos'. "To us," he said softly.
Methos sipped at the brandy, thoughtfully studying the Highlander. All the signs were there. The heated gazes. The constant touching and brushing up against each other all night. The lighthearted teasing. Being comfortable in each other's presence once more. Something had changed their relationship from friendship to something deeper when Methos wasn't looking.
Methos had desired MacLeod almost from that first meeting but had kept that desire deeply buried to preserve a blossoming friendship. He had come perilously close a couple of times to expressing his affection but self-preservation had won out. In those first few moments when MacLeod had found Adam Pierson here in Paris and had known him as Methos, Methos had recognized that here was a man he would give himself to completely. And that had put him on his guard.
Despite the potential threat to his survival that MacLeod brought to his life, Methos had been unable to stay away. So he had remained close while still keeping as much emotional distance between them as possible. Who had he been kidding? From day one there had been no emotional distance. He had felt himself slowly but surely being pulled into the world of the Clan MacLeod and could not seem to find the will to resist it.
But now, something had shifted, and he needed to know what before taking this further. Not only was MacLeod once more offering his friendship, no holds barred, but he was now offering something more. Something far more intimate. Even Joe and Amanda had seen it.
Casually, Methos asked, "Care to define us, MacLeod?"
The silence from the man who sat next to him lasted so long that Methos wondered if he had been mistaken after all. MacLeod leaned forward, gaze directed downward at the brandy snifter held between his hands.
At Methos' soft utterance of his given name, MacLeod turned his head to gaze at the other man. He reached out a hand to touch Methos' face, fingertips strolling in a gentle caress across the cheekbones, chin, and lips. "This," he whispered. "This is us, Methos." He leaned in and gently touched his lips to Methos'.
The kiss was short but sweet. Methos found himself following Duncan's retreating lips until he realized what he was doing. Swallowing the nervous lump in his throat, he took a drink of his brandy and leaned back into the couch in his customary sprawl, the picture of unconcern.
"MacLeod--" He stopped abruptly when Duncan held up a hand to forestall him.
"Let me talk first, Methos. I need to . . . explain." He grinned self-consciously. "I know this has all sort of hit you out of left field." Needing to shake off his excess energy, MacLeod jumped to his feet and began pacing back and forth between the couch and the fireplace. Methos watched the pantherish stride with growing arousal but refused to let himself be drawn in yet. He and MacLeod badly needed to have this discussion. They needed to clear the air before moving on.
"After I finished with Keane," began MacLeod, "I had time to finally let some things settle. It was as if I were seeing things clearly for the first time since Cassandra and Kronos."
Methos didn't miss MacLeod's hesitation over the mention of Cassandra and Kronos.
"You know, I didn't realize I was hanging on to so much self-hatred over what happened after Culloden. Can I ask you a question, Methos? A personal one?"
Methos nodded warily, not entirely following MacLeod's conversation that was jumping from one topic to another with no rhyme or reason that he could see.
"After Kronos, you told me that Cassandra was one of a thousand regrets. How do you do it?" asked Duncan, an earnest need for understanding in his expression. "How do you live with those kind of regrets and not let them consume you?"
Methos let out a breath held in anticipation of another round 'how could you?'. But the accusations never struck. Abandoning his sprawl, Methos leaned forward, cupping his brandy snifter before him. "Can you forgive yourself for what you did?" he finally asked.
"Noh." In his distress, Duncan's Scottish burr was beginning to surface.
Methos stared at the floor. "Neither could I," he replied almost too softly to be heard. Louder, he said, "You learn to live with it. Some days it consumes you more than others. Do I regret what I did? Yes. Will I apologize for it? No." He looked up to defiantly meet MacLeod's startled gaze. "What I did, MacLeod, when I was one of the Horsemen, happened three thousand years ago. All those mortals are long gone. So are the mortals you slayed in anger. Nothing you or I can do can make up for that. You can only try to be the best person that you can be now. I've changed. You've changed. What you did after Culloden will always be a part of you. Move past it. Live in the present. Survive."
Methos set his now empty brandy snifter on the coffee table and rose to his feet. Approaching MacLeod, he stood scant inches in front of him. "You are one of the best and brightest among us, Duncan. Don't toss that away because of something that happened 250 years ago."
MacLeod felt himself blushing at the close scrutiny Methos was giving him but he bravely maintained eye contact. "As I said, I've had a lot of time to think in the last few days. What you said to me at the Gardens that day finally sank in."
"What?" teased Methos, trying to lighten the mood. "That you're a pain in the ass?"
MacLeod grinned before sobering. "No, what you said about good and evil. Rage and compassion. Love and hate. Murder and forgiveness. It's not a black and white world. I have trouble figuring that out sometimes."
"You mean you're hard-headed."
"That too," replied Duncan easily. "And you know what else started sinking in while I was doing all this deep thinking?" He leaned in closer to Methos.
Methos leaned in to meet him. His breath whispered across MacLeod's lips as he spoke. "What?"
"That I love you. You're my friend, Methos. A good friend. A trusted friend. But I want more. I want you. With me. Near me. Loving me."
Methos' breath caught. It had been a long time since someone had tried to seduce him. Only this wasn't a mere seduction. Methos knew from the expression in those dark Scottish eyes that Duncan MacLeod was talking about something far more deeper and long-lasting. "And what would you do if you had me?" he asked softly.
"This." MacLeod's hand slid behind Methos' head to cup his nape and pull the older man forward into a searing kiss. Methos' lips parted and eagerly accepted Duncan into him. Emotions raged at Methos to be cut loose. Intense feelings that Methos had denied himself for far too long. Overwhelmed, he took an involuntary step backward and found himself falling into a sprawl on the couch, MacLeod landing atop him. The Highlander's mouth latched onto Methos' again with a hunger that left the older immortal without breath.
Finally, MacLeod pulled back to peer down in satisfaction at the flushed countenance of the oldest of their kind. Methos' eyes were black with arousal. He grinned up at this youngster who had the power to make him feel so alive simply with his presence, a look, a touch. "What next?"
"Five thousand years old and you still don't know what comes next?" growled MacLeod as his hand slipped between them to squeeze Methos' erection.
Methos' mouth opened in a wordless gasp of pleasure and MacLeod took possession once more, his tongue tasting the earthy sweetness of Methos.
Groaning, Methos pushed him away, reluctantly twisting his head to avoid those possessive lips. "Duncan . . . ohhh," he gasped as teeth nibbled at his throat in love bites. Methos struggled to concentrate. "Duncan, are you sure about this? This won't be a simple roll in the hay, you know. It changes everything."
MacLeod pulled back so he could gaze into those millennia-old eyes. "I know. I want this, Methos. I want you. Make love to me."
Methos' eyes widened when he realized what MacLeod was really asking of him. "To you?"
MacLeod stood, pulling Methos to his feet as well. Holding his hand, he led him to the bed, where he turned and pulled Methos back in close once more, his brown eyes warmly regarding this man who had captured his heart. "I want to feel you wrapped around me, Methos. In me, over me, surrounding me. Show me what you can't say."
Methos' head bowed slightly. He knew he hadn't said aloud to Duncan that he loved him even though the Highlander had said those words to him. It was the final barrier. His final wall of defense. And it was one he wasn't sure he could overcome. It was too much of an admission for someone who had spent too many centuries hiding his true self from others. He knew he couldn't say those words to Duncan and still hold any of himself back. Hoping Duncan could settle for what he did have to offer, Methos lifted his face to MacLeod's, letting the other man see in his eyes what he couldn't say aloud. MacLeod cupped his face between his large hands and smiled. "I know," he said softly. "Now show me."
And Methos proceeded to do just that. He let the past fall away. Left the Horsemen and Cassandra behind. Left old arguments with MacLeod behind. He even left Adam behind. He shed it all and moved over Duncan, his touch gentle and loving.
They slowly peeled away layers of clothing. With each new piece of clothing to fall to the floor, Methos felt one more layer of his facade drop away. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It would be so easy to give himself over completely to MacLeod. He couldn't recall feeling such a strong urge to do that in at least a millennia.
It was ever so easy to fall when it was Duncan doing the holding. And fall Methos did, taking his heart with him and handing it to Duncan MacLeod.
I see your true colors
I see your true colors
That's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
The aftermath of their lovemaking was comfortable and peaceful. They were both content to simply laze about in bed, holding and stroking each other.
MacLeod, his head resting on Methos' shoulder, finally found his voice again. "You never did say, Methos."
"Say what?" asked a perplexed Methos.
"You said survive. But how? How do you get past all the ugliness and find that place that says it's okay to survive?"
Oh, Duncan, thought Methos sorrowfully. Still such a youngling at times despite the wisdom he frequently displayed. Time to rock MacLeod's boat a bit, perhaps, and shift his perceptions once again.
"Shadows, MacLeod," offered Methos quietly. "It's all about shadows. You can't let them weigh you down."
There was a moment of silence while MacLeod tried to unravel this latest bit of information from the eldest of their kind. While deep in thought, one of his hands continued to idly draw swirls on Methos' stomach, traveling closer and closer to Methos' groin until the older immortal wriggled in pleasure. That snapped MacLeod out of his reverie. His tone turning playful, MacLeod teased, "Did you, Mr. I'm-Just-A-Guy, just share some of your I've-survived-five-thousand-years wisdom with me?" MacLeod's expression was full of mock wonder but when Methos gazed into those eyes, they were still somber and heavy with past griefs.
Methos slapped MacLeod's bare rump playfully. "Listen to your elders, MacLeod," he growled. He paused to allow the moment to settle into something resembling candor before he began speaking again. "There was a man who once said something very fitting for this dilemma you find yourself in. Good advice. So listen up."
Methos' hand found its way to MacLeod's hair once more and began stroking through it in a calming manner. His chin rested atop MacLeod's head and his eyes stared off into an unseen distance. "This man said that whether we admit it or not, everybody has a dark side. And when you're violated, the best among us try to maintain a level of decency. But sometimes, when you're pushed, when you're confronted with a situation where you have to dig down into that part of yourself that you wish didn't exist, when you find that deep well inside you to help you survive and help others survive, you sacrifice what you believe in, even if it's for a split second. And once that moment has passed, and you've survived, you still have the memory to deal with. And that memory, Duncan, is like a shadow that seems to always be there. And those of us that live in that shadow find out just how much a shadow can weigh. And the only thing that can fix it is time passing by. So you move on."
Methos halted abruptly, realizing the moment had gotten much more pensive than he intended. He had pulled the shadows back over them rather than lightening the weight of them.
"Who said that, Methos?" MacLeod asked, his tone conveying his belief that Methos himself was the originator of those words.
Methos carefully released his breath, hoping his gamble would pay off and bring them out of the shadows once more. "Some guy who used to go by the handle Midnight Caller."
MacLeod's head lifted to peer at Methos. "Midnight Caller? What kind of name is that?"
"It's the name of a 1980s television show actually," Methos replied with a perfectly straight face.
MacLeod's gaze turned confused, then it turned inward, considering, and then he got it. He began spluttering in that adorable way he did, just like when Methos had taken the barge in exchange for a favor and had nearly gotten his head lopped off by Gina de Valicourt.
MacLeod finally stopped spluttering long enough to exclaim, "A TV show? You're quoting me words of wisdom from a television show?!"
Methos blinked innocently. "Hey, just a guy, remember? You can't expect me to come up with this stuff on my own."
There was a moment of silence while MacLeod's gaze devoured Mr. Just A Guy, and then he pounced.
And the shadows lifted once more, swept away in a storm of passion. And the sunrise that day was indeed a glorious one.
I see your true colors shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you