Disclaimers: If they belonged to me, I'd probably still do this
to them. Damn.
Spoilers: For Kat Allison's "Parting
Glass." Read that first. This
is a loving tribute of a sequel-ish thing.
Summary: Duncan, after.
Ratings Note: R.
Acknowledgments: To my dearest Debba, for audiencing and
help with the tricksome English language.
I swear, Kat, you make me see myself. The myth-eater within me,
the one I'll always try to deny.
This is for you.
It started with the need to understand, and *that* started with the
first brush of eye-contact. Eyes goldenly hazel meeting his own, a
sardonic seduction Duncan hadn't been able to register until it was
too late, and Adam was a friend.
And Duncan has had time and years to consider the nature of
friendship, and what it has left him is this: A friend is someone you
believe in, no matter what. Everyone else is merely clutter, soothing
or not, vile or not. He had believed in Adam from the very
beginning, a flirt dangerous to himself and others, a 5,000 year old
scholar in a fighter's body.
A cheerful hedonist.
There were the years in which he'd blamed himself for that. Not
contiguous with themselves so much as a patch of particularly
specific self-loathing here, and here.
Duncan is fairer to himself now, and understands that he believed
precisely what he was meant to. No more nor less than a simple
deception, executed by a master.
A deception that worked for years not so much as a product of
his own capacity for self-delusion as for its basis in truth.
Methos is, among other things a scholar.
The birth and life of Adam is something he spent many years
focusing on, *dwelling* on, almost. Long before he could accept
the man's death. Because the fact of it is, Adam was a man. A man
with opinions, likes and dislikes, charming quirks, breathtaking
contradictions, and, perhaps most damning, the desire to be
friends with Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.
Even then Duncan knew himself well enough to understand an
essential weakness -- he was a man who required friendship close
enough to embrace, a social animal who had been cast out of the
fold at a crucial time.
A man more than willing enough to hold on to the hurt of that,
and so shape his life.
Adam, even known by a true name -- though not *his* name --
had genuinely liked the man he was then. There were the
endless philosophical arguments, gamely entered into despite the
several insults to Duncan's intellect. There were dinners, adventures
Adam surely had no practical reason to enter into. Games of chess.
Adam learned him, as Duncan learned Adam.
Later, after life had batted him around some, there were the long,
slow nights on the barge. Adam learned more of him, and more,
until all Duncan could give was more of himself, again and again.
Duncan learned the way Adam loved, and he still remembers
now -- with an innocent desire for all of love's mysteries at once,
and to try them on them both.
A laughing lover, a mocking and moody one when not directly
held to someplace flat, if not necessarily soft.
There were years in which he turned the months and years of their
affair over and over within his mind, painstakingly finding each
moment, each look, each ambiguous phrase that could have,
*should* have warned him of what would come.
Glimpses of Methos, and love not so much of innocence as total
Duncan is fairer to himself now. Similarities are never concrete
without direct evidence, and Methos would never give that.
Occam's Razor applies neatly: Adam was simply a man whose love
was a coincidental mirror to Methos' own.
Or, perhaps Methos is simply an eager lover, among everything
One of the hardest things about the return of Kronos was the
way in which Adam -- and he was still Adam then, no matter what
Duncan believed at the time or what Methos believes now -- reacted
to the whole mess. Retreat, followed by the burning of bridges,
followed by what must have been a truly epic blood sacrifice.
He understands now how terribly frightened Adam had been, death
on his heels from every faction -- including his own. It's one hell of
a joke, all of the things Adam had done to survive.
Adam had been designed carefully, lovingly. A near perfect
mannequin for every situation the man who'd built him had been
able to foresee, stalling only briefly at the return of the Horsemen.
How briefly was, of course, up for debate, but in the end it had
been Adam fighting for his survival against a man he'd called
brother. No, against a man who had never been a brother to him,
Adam's soothing acquaintance, a friend of a... creator.
There were years in which he studied those few days as close as
Adam ever had a parchment, looking for Methos so carefully. It
would be so easy to imagine a Methos caught out by his own
cleverness before backtracking diligently and ridding himself of a
problem of his past.
But it had been Adam holding the sword, and Adam who won
Duncan is kinder to himself now about it all -- it really had been complicated.
Joe's end, when it came, was mercifully brief. An aneurysm,
unseen and unexpected, and Duncan had known the truth of it
long before he walked in the bar. For all the people who'd lingered
at Joe's over the years, the place had had only one soul. Once
gone, the building was simply another corpse, if less offensive
In the end, Duncan had bedded Amanda, dear Amanda, just once
before returning to the wars. At the time, even after that last, long
night at Joe's with Methos, it was the only thing he could think of
Or rather, there had been all too many possibilities of what could
be done with his life, and absolutely none of them could do
anything about making him feel alive. Not like the soul-ache of the
The endless wracking sameness of his nightmares had offered him
strength in the form of ennui. The blood and sickness came and
passed, came and passed. The faces had no eyes, the bullets were
By the time the U.S. had agreed to add more men to the
Peacekeeping Forces, Duncan had left it all behind. It hadn't been
a conscious decision so much as a late realization. Waking to
himself in the slouches of the mountains, warming numbed fingers
by the fire so he could take proper care of the weapons.
Duncan had looked around and found himself alone, new snow
gradually obliterating all trace of what had been a
counter-revolutionary faction before Duncan had come with the
night, killing and dying and rising, always rising for more until
there had been nothing for his senses but blood and cordite, and
the howl of the wind.
A single snowflake fell and remained on an open, blue eye, and
Duncan had thought to himself, 'and no, this is nothing like
Culloden at all.'
There had been years after when he never once questioned the
statement, moving through the countryside, gathering followers
less like a natural leader than a natural magnet. Blue helmets
painted black, or in urban camouflage. Old men and young,
killing and killing until the quiet days came.
No one in the mountains but them, no snipers on rooftops,
Russian and American military equipment rusting in the dirt.
Old-woman eyes peering out through the windows, infants crying
with lusty, empty freedom.
The problem had been that he'd been thinking like a mortal,
when only an Immortal solution could truly apply. The problem
had been remedied.
There had been years after that, wandering the edges of the Sahara
with a camel and the young, blank boy who'd simply followed him
out of the range of the wars, into the first functional airport to lay
an unexplained wad of American dollars into Duncan's hand, and
then onto the plane.
Duncan made love to him in the bustling, vital, ignorant noise of
Cairo, and made a manful attempt to cry in his arms that ended in
a more brutal fuck.
The boy followed and said nothing, and his only noises were
whatever notes caught on his gasps.
The wind followed, and Duncan wandered, and when, far from
civilization, he heard the sounds of the boy hanging himself from
a beam in an abandoned watering station, he'd shifted in his
blankets once before returning to his nightmares.
It was the plague that finally made Duncan think again. Late at
night in a violently unfamiliar New York City, Amanda quite dead
at his side. Some variant of tuberculosis, the first and last news
had said. It was relatively kind to Immortals, the lungs degenerating
much faster. Amanda was as pale and lovely as a white rose beside
him, pared down to an essential razor of beauty, a single drop of
blood at the corner of her mouth.
Sometimes Duncan thinks of the way Amanda had found him, still
brown from the sub-Saharan sun, still essentially dead. The lesson
of O'Rourke had seemed to boil down to the fact that sacrifice was
a fool's game, after all these years.
Amanda found the part of him still willing to play the fool in an
extensively comic affair involving black pearls and the Russian
mafia. He'd laughed and laughed at the way it had worked out,
Amanda hanging upside down, sputtering indignance and jiggling
in all the appropriate places, the mobsters in varying stages of
unconsciousness in the pristine hotel suite, the look in her eyes
as he'd shot them all dead before setting her free, so scared and
It had been heartening that someone only a thousand could
understand it so clearly, and love him just the same. Duncan had
remembered hope, and they'd done the town through the end of
its life, and its slow, howling death.
This was Amanda's sixth death since the plague had began, and
Duncan wondered if, when she awoke, she'd be ready to leave yet.
There was something of the Carnivale in the death throes of the city,
something beautiful in the way so very many of the mortals
blazed through their last days delirious and free.
Empty freedom for them, too. Not for Amanda, not for Duncan.
He wondered if there were still clean places.
He wondered who he was becoming, and held to his pure, clean
love for Amanda.
There had been years after that, after their parting in the glittering
slate of Paris, years when Duncan had remained with the two
perfectly healthy pilots who were doing their best to remain alive
Somehow, they wound up flying in supplies to scattered
communities. There were childbirths to help with, limbs to remove,
petty squabbles he found he could end with rhetoric. Nightmares,
A woman named Annette in Texas, small and rounded and vividly
female, full of bleakly knowing smiles.
He stayed with her for her smiles, but she hated chess. She
snapped and snarled like a wolf, but it was only for her own pain.
Duncan thinks it was emphysema that finally took her, though it
was hard to tell. Mortals were dying younger, from so many
Eventually he left the pilots and wandered the plains.
Eventually he left the plains and worked as a bouncer in a
massive whorehouse in Kansas, and then as a teacher.
Duncan is kinder to himself now and understands what it means
to be truly, deeply bored with life. Forgives himself for not
knowing it sooner.
He wandered America for fifty years, watching everything rebuild
much too fast, helping when asked. He'd wanted to lose track of
time, but mortals were careful with it these days. It was as difficult
to avoid as people were. Always the need to move through a likely
town, walk amongst the slowly coming flood of mortality. Moth's
wing brush of life.
One damp, misty day in San Francisco, Methos appears on his
doorstep with a bottle of good Scotch and a six-pack of one of the
new local brews. Duncan wishes a little for words, but understands
now that they were never his strength with this man.
They drink in silence for a while, watching the bay. One raised
eyebrow from Methos is all he needs of a complaint about being
forced to lounge on a boat again. Duncan can laugh at it, easily.
"So how's tricks, Highlander?"
"My name is Duncan."
"Is it, now?"
There's a long pause, and Duncan can feel Methos' eyes on him.
He doesn't turn.
"The years have been kind to you, Duncan." Quiet, and so serious
that Duncan has to laugh, long and loud.
"Yes. Yes, I suppose they have."
Duncan is careful of himself now, and when he walks out into
the morning mist, he does not look behind.