All Soul’s Night

The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge

Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Rysher Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website. Please accept my apologies for the wandering formatting in this document. This particular Mid-Week Challenge took place at a time when the Forum was “migrating” between various different Forums, hence the different formats.

Contents

The Challenge by Leah CWPack
All Soul’s Night by Robin
Black and White Technicolor Dreams by Titania
The Yoke of Hathor by vixen69
Stick to the Trail by Leah CWPack
Hallowed Eve by Ghost Cat
Broom by VarReader

MWC: ALL SOULS NIGHT

Posted By: Leah CWPack <ashton7@aol.com>
Date:
Tuesday, 31 October 2000, at 7:36 a.m.

It's party time! Your Mid-Week Challenge, should you decide to participate:

Write a short scene or story about something truly spooky, taking place on Halloween. Any Immortal may play, with any other elements or mood. If you can, try to include a lyric from some appropriate song at the beginning or somewhere within the text. Good luck!

MWC

Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date:
Tuesday, 31 October 2000, at 4:44 p.m.

He could see her eye flashing fire. "Draw your sword." And it continued, the story he couldn't stop no matter how hard he tried.

Then Silas ax, "And now I am suppose to forgive you."

He could feel the fear, the anger, the pain, it was too much.

He screamed his agony. It haunted him and would not let him be.

"Methos, Methos. Please." came from a great distance.

Methos awoke in a cold sweat and a tangle of bedding.

"Methos?" came her soft concerned voice. He felt her reassuring arms come around him. He put his head on her breast.

"It was a horrible nightmare. You were trying to kill me." he whispered.

Cassandra, his wife of over three hundred years, held him close and cooed, "It was just a dream."

MWC Entry

Posted By: Titania <rthogan@gte.net>
Date:
Tuesday, 31 October 2000, at 5:33 p.m.

In Response To: MWC: ALL SOULS NIGHT (Leah CWPack)

Leah, I'm cheating, well not exactly... I just finished a Halloween story for the Lyric wheel and it fits the criteria here so enjoy.

Black and White Technicolor Dreams by Titania

The rain hit the pavement so hard that it actually seemed to be raining up. Richie Ryan pulled the collar of his duster tighter around his neck to no avail. It was an autumn Seacouver rainstorm and not even the finest raingear from R.E.I. was going to keep him dry.

With a sigh, he started up the three flights to his studio apartment. He passed the resident drunk passed out on his stairwell and wondered why the hell he hadn’t stayed with Mac. Richie knew that enough time had passed for them to be able to live under the same roof with a ghost of a chance of actually agreeing on something more meaningful than waffles or pancakes for breakfast.

Unlocking the door to what he affectionately called “The Dive” Richie couldn’t help thinking that living here’s just plain, especially after the luxury he had experienced while living with Mac. And Tessa.

Truth be told, it was Tessa who made the warehouse seem so luxurious. She was the artist. She was the one who knew just where to place which picture where and what mural should go there. She was the one who taught Richie that there was more to art than cool photographs ripped out of Life magazine and taped to his bedroom wall. She was the one who had opened up doors that he had never even known existed.

She was also the reason that he had the brown paper bag containing large amounts of alcohol. She was the reason that he was going to drink it all tonight and relish the short hangover come morning. She was the reason that he was in mourning.

Had been for these past years and no matter how good he felt the rest of the year, when this day came he went into a mourning so deep, so black that nobody could draw him out of it. Not even Mac. Though, truth be told, Mac dealt with this day in his own peculiar day, which didn’t include Richie.

That was their unwritten rule. Deal with this anniversary anyone you want, just don’t include me. Each man was still consumed with his own guilt about how he could have saved Tessa. Richie dealt with the fact that he had been murdered and become immortal and he knew, knew that given the choice, Mac would have taken Tessa over him any day. It never helped Richie’s mood to know that he came in second place. Not that he blamed Mac, but it was still a hell of a thing to have between them.

Pulling the tab on a brew, he turned on the television. On came an old black and white movie with some movie monster and a couple of old movie comedians. Richie decided it would keep him well enough company while he drank himself to oblivion.

* * *

The wolf howl woke Richie from a dead sleep. He was totally disoriented, even more so because it was so dark in the room he couldn’t make out any color. Everything appeared to be in black and white.

When he was finally oriented to the fact that yes he was still in his recliner, and that yes he was still trying to drink himself to the next realm, he started to focus on the fact that he had heard a wolf howl. ”Wolves don’t live in the city.” He thought, completely perplexed by the situation. And yet, there it was again, the lone cry of a wolf. A searching, plaintive cry that spoke volumes of despair. It was the sound his soul was making.

Dazed by the power and rawness of the animal cry, Richie wandered down the stairs to the streets to see if he could spy the pitiful creature. When he opened the door all he found was a barren city street without any movement. No rain, no wind, no sound, except for the howl of that single, lone wolf.

Richie stumbled down one street and another, looking for the poor pitiful beast all the while following the pitiful howling of an animal in obvious pain. He was becoming more and more desperate to find the animal, a feeling that made no sense to him. Why should he care about a wolf? It made no sense to him and yet he was compelled to keep searching. So search he did.

After turning so many corners that he’d lost count, Richie found the source of primitive wail. The beast had its back to Richie. It was sitting on its haunches with its black matted fur streaked with blood.

As the creature turned its head, Richie startled. He looked upon the beast with horror and disbelieve. Panic set in. Richie’s fear and confusion caused him to bump into a wall as he turned around. Silently watching Richie’s mad scramble flight from fear was the monster. A monster composed of a wolf’s body and Duncan MacLeod’s face.

* * *

Richie sat straight up out of his chair, still trying to run from the monster in his dreams. His heavy breathing slowed as he became oriented to his surroundings. “It’s gettin’ so damn creepy.” he thought. “I have got to talk to MacLeod. This has gone on long enough.” He resolved to speak with MacLeod that night. He threw his coat on over his disheveled clothes and wandered back into the rain.

When he arrived at the dojo he found the place deserted. He let himself in with his key. On the office door was a note for him from Mac.

Richie,
I went to find Coltec.
Don’t worry, I'll be fine.

Mac

Fin

Not Halloween, no lyrics--so not an MWC--

Posted By: vixen69 <mcvixen_69@hotmail.com>
Date:
Tuesday, 31 October 2000, at 10:49 p.m.

But inspired by the call for something spooky, so I'm contributing it. My muses are...capricious.

Here goes:

The Yoke of Hathor

The rider paused when the city of Thebes came into view—it was much the same as when he had last seen it. She had been alive then—no. Perhaps she had already been killed. He would have remained, but Methos had dragged him from there, promising him that revenge would come at a later time. It never had. But at the very least, he could fulfill his damn promise and end the curse before it drove him out of his mind.

He almost felt naked without the rest of them, but it was far, far better that no one knew. Silas and Caspian would never understand, and Methos—who alone went with him to Kemet in the first place—would understand only too well and shame him about it. There was a thing he would not allow. And so Kronos had traveled this way on the false premise of following some new challenge, it being much easier to say that, than that he left to burn his wife’s corpse.

That was a thing he would need to explain, and he was certain it could not be explained. What he was certain of, however, was that he would get some peace if he did the deed.

Her name—she had never told him her name, but said that she had no name to give a man who wouldn’t give his own. When he said his name was “Kronos”, she told him her name was “Sekhmet”. “A god for a god—is that not well enough?” And it was well enough, because he expected only to use her for was what she seemed good for. He had never expected to feel anything but pleasure from either her caresses, or her dying, but she hadn’t made it as simple as that.

It was not the first time, nor would it be the last time, he learned that nothing was ever simple with a witch.

Ah, what she was good for, though. A woman trained from youth in the carnal arts, brought to warm the bed of Ramses, her hands could even kindle fire in those eighty-year old limbs—why not bring to an inferno the passion of a healthy man who had seen twelve centuries go by? Certainly, she made nothing of it, but that she preferred Kronos’ scars to Rameses’ wrinkles. And that was what had appealed to him about her—a heart of ice wrapped in a flame. Were she a man, were she Immortal, she might have been formidable. Her hands could just as easily tend to a wound as scourge a slave—and it seemed she saw no difference in anything she did, nor in what was done to her, taking a slap and a kiss with the same passive face, as if for her years she had seen as much as himself.

Of course, she ruined it, as women ruin anything. The stupid whore must have fallen in love. That was the only explanation he could think of. She had fallen in love with him. And that was why she performed the rite of Hathor.

What had he been expecting when she brought the knife and the rope to the bed where he lay? What he had come to expect with Sekhmet, something unexpected and strange, but he expected sex alone, or that and whatever whims possessed him when confronted with the tools she’d brought him. Perhaps she had finally expected to be dispatched, and was only inviting him to do the deed. But he had not known what to make of it when she bound his hand to hers, wrapping the cord at the wrists.

“I am Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” she said, intoning the words in a way that made the hair stand up on his neck. “I have the power to be Reborn. I am the Beginning and the End of Time.”

He had heard those words before, but they were uttered by an old, old Immortal, for whom they seemed a battle cry, a promise for eternal fight. In her mouth, they seemed a promise of another kind—but of what? And then she picked up the blade. For an instant, he thought she meant to skewer him with it, but then she laid open her palm.

“My brother Merneptah spoke to me today. He is aware of what you are, he said. Word was brought to him by Akhmose, his vizier…of the people you are from.”

He watched the blood drip from her hand as she spoke. She continued speaking, as if she felt nothing, and the look in her eyes was sincere. There are many reasons to doubt the sincerity of a woman, but a woman who is bleeding and tied to you seems more resolute than most. And he knew the people of which she had been speaking. From the time of Rameses’ death, there had been incursions by people from the West—in fact, people rather like himself. In fact, Methos and himself had conspired with them. He had no love of cities or kingdoms.

“I pledge myself to you, Kronos. To keep them from finding you, killing you. But in return, pledge yourself to me.” And with that, the woman cut his hand. He swore as his blood flowed, and she clutched his palm, holding it to her own.

“We are of one blood. I just ask that you leave. Leave me alive—leave Thebes. Or…take me from here.” And there her voice broke as she saw that he had healed. The knife dropped. She nearly leapt, pulling his arm with her, and tearing at the cord with her other hand. “What are you?” she exclaimed, having wrenched herself free of him.

“What do you think, you mad witch?” he exclaimed. He made to strike her with the hand recently healed, but she caught it, staring into the palm. The look on her face was such that he felt no need to attempt another blow.

“Perhaps you did not lie when you gave me the name of a god. How I have erred.” And with that, she bitterly wept, collapsing on the floor. He thought to leave, but the sight of her tears moved him to stay, as he recalled the use he had for her. He pulled her to her feet.

And in a rush she explained that they were yoked. She, mortal. He, what he was. That what happened to one affected the other—and as she had no fate but to die, the consequences could be grave. He laid her down on the bed, and, weak with emotion, she gave no protest, but made him swear--*swear *--that he would not allow her to be interred after the manner of her own people, but to be burned. She made him swear by the blood that flowed through them both. And to make her stop talking, he swore.

Had he only listened, he’d have been better off. Had he only returned at once to burn her once he’d heard she’d been killed. That was why he felt almost driven to do it now.

He knew that the city could not have changed so much that he would not find where she was entombed. She had shown him those tombs, in that long ago time. She tried to hide him there, as if among the dead, they would not be found. She showed him what she faced, there.

“I do not expect to live this life much longer—what I do is treason,” she had explained. “And yet, I was a…favorite. Once. No mean person. My mother and myself were the children of Rameses. I can not think that they would do anything but the proper services by me, and yet—it would be a horror. For I know two things. I can not wish to be preserved in this….shell! And if I am to be…” She touched his face as she paused, trying to find the words. She found no words to say, other than repeating, “We are yoked. We share the same blood—and fate.”

When he looked on the faces of the dead of Kemet—the carefully wrapped corpses preserved for eternal life, he understood her horror. But when the soldiers pulled him away in the morning—there was nothing that could be done. Not once he had been strapped to a tree in the hopes that he would give up what he knew of their enemies, left hanging until Methos brought him down.

It was six hundred years, and still she would visit him in his dreams. Pleading. Coaxing. At times, she would appear as he remembered her best, her skin tanned gold from the sun, and her hair shining like the mane of Seth, her eyes two turquoises, faded by the light. She would come to him with bangles of gold on her arms, and a dress of gauze so that he could see all her charms on display. And yet, the gauze turned to cerement cloth in his fingers, death’s linens, and he would awake with the kiss of a dead woman on his lips.

It had to cease.

****

Nightfall came—for only under the cover of darkness would he dare try to breech the tomb, being one man and alone. The part of the city in which her tomb was to be found, however, seemed seedier than before, and the tomb in disrepair—abandoned. Perhaps none had been there recently. He approached, and then felt a hand touch him.

“Greek?” a voice whispered. “What are you?”

It was a young boy. Kronos shook his head in annoyance. “I am no Greek. Have you no mother calling after you? Surely, she should be concerned about you wandering the street to be slain by the creatures of the night.”

“My mother sleeps with Greek sailors—I could take you to her,” the boy laughed, and then ran off.

“Come back here!” Kronos said in a loud whisper. The boy returned, reluctantly.

“You are no Greek. You probably have no money, either.”

A happy image of the boy lying on his mother’s bed with a snapped neck crossed Kronos’ mind for an instant, but he put the thought aside. “You approached me for a reason,” he said, firmly.

The boy’s dark eyes darted in each direction, and then, more apprehensively, in the direction of the tomb.

“You came too close to that place…those tombs…I know songs come from there.”

“Songs?”

“She sings…”

“Who sings?” Kronos demanded, feeling a sense of rage building.

“I don’t know…I was telling a story! There’s nothing to steal there…my brother, I could tell you…”

He walked away from the boy, who followed him.

“My brother knows some people who sell scrolls to Greeks—not bad money. But that place…”

He pushed the boy down, who burst into tears, before picking himself up and running away. But he called over his shoulder.

“I told you! By the gods, I told you!”

And Kronos continued on his way.

He held a torch by the door, but saw that it had been broken into before. It gave way with the push of a sword. Hearing a sound, a scratching sound, however, he drew back, wondering. But it would be nothing. It could be nothing. He made his way down the stairs, and then felt something against his foot. He imagined it to be a bundle of rags, until he brought his torch near to it. It lay, face down, as if someone had collapsed in trying to crawl up the stairs. A bony hand, a light gauze clinging to it, protruded in an attitude of reaching upward.

He stooped down to touch the body, but paused to take a better look.

It was a body. Beads clung to the cloth around it, and the linens were torn and black with age. He could only just make out enough of the form to see what it was, but something about the pattern of the beads—in the shape of a lion’s face.

Sekhmet. He touched the thing.

How could a thing seem cold and yet so warm! The surface yielded but did not yield, and he reminded himself of how they preserved them—the bodies. Taking out the organs. Stuffing the crevices. Treating the skin, almost in the way leather was tanned. A dead body on the battlefield might at least be stripped clean and white down to the done by dogs and birds. But this…

He had seen the face of death before. Turning over the body, he saw death in a face he could still tell was her face. Not even thinking, he cradled the thing in his arms, barely wondering how it had come to be lying there. His hand touched the cloth that still clung to her face. It was wrinkled and pulled at, as if something had worked at it. And he was possessed with the urge to see.

Her features had been strong: those, she had told him, she inherited from her father. He continued, fascinated. What would it hurt to see? See what she was now. Her mouth had always tasted slightly of herbs, almost like incense. Alone of those of Kemet he had known, she eschewed garlic, claiming to hate the odor—saying it made her not wish to make love. And her lips had been full—rose petals. And that hair. A shame she would wear wigs to cover with ebon her copper glory. He was about to lift away the wrappings…

And then he felt a breath against his hand. In the flickering light from the torch, her face almost seemed to move underneath that last layer of cloth. He blinked. An illusion, nothing more. He had seen corpses swell in the heat. He had seen men loose the content of their bowels hours after death had taken them. Why shouldn’t a dry husk rattle? And then he heard a voice—in his head, and not in his head.

“You returned.”

His hand paused. Did he wish to tear back the last veil and see the dead woman as she really was?

“I told you we were yoked.”

Yoked to this? He knew the lips moved then, and he knew because his face had come closer to hers. He remembered how she was. Her skin was gold, but seemed even in this light to have darkened.

“Release me.”

And then the hand moved—no, the * claw * moved, the outstretched, stiff thing that still seemed to reach. The fingers slowly spread themselves, and he could see her palm. No cloth covered that—a puckered line revealed the scar that remained from where she’d drawn her blood. Stunned, he rose, letting the body settle back to where it had rested on the stairs, but now, face up. And still, the face seemed to be moving, under the cloth.

Kronos, Horseman, Killer of thousands, A destroyer of villages and tribes, dropped his torch on the body and fled.

Once outside of the tomb, he turned around, just able to see the flicker of the flames. Her words came back to him.

“Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.”

Something told him that though he had done the deed, it might not be quite over. But he ran into the night, found his horse, and discovered other nightmares.

(Why "Yoke of Hathor" when the chick's name was Sekhmet? Because Hathor was an aspect of Sekhmet, or the other way around, depending on how you look at it. Hathor was the goddess of love, lest you think I'm referring to the SG1 character. There is rumored to be a blood/magick ritual called the rite of Hathor similar to this--but I dunno, people. Sekhmet, by the way, had a lot of functions. But mostly, she was goddess of vengeance, the sterility of the desert, and plagues.)

MWC entry: Stick To The Trail

Posted By: Leah CWPack <Bizarro7@aol.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 1 November 2000, at 11:56 a.m.

In Response To: Quick refresher post of MWC: ALL SOULS NIGHT (Leah CWPack)

STICK TO THE TRAIL

by Leah CWPack

I wouldn't if I were you

I know what she can do

She's deadly man, she could really rip your world apart

Mind over matter

Ooh, the beauty is there but a beast is in the heart.

--"Man-eater" by Hall & Oates

Oddly, it was Joe Dawson who looked up first and stared expectantly at the door.

This didn't escape the attention of Methos, who happened to view it through the distortion at the bottom of his beer mug. A moment later, the sensation of an approaching Immortal hit him--and his drinking companion. He and Duncan MacLeod exchanged wary glances across the table and then looked toward the door.

Out of the darkness, a slender figure stood in the Halloween lights Joe had used to frame the doorway.

Cassandra.

Methos felt his hand seek out the hidden sword at his side almost as a reflex.

By contrast, he heard MacLeod push back his chair and hurry over to the woman, who looked remarkably exhausted for an Immortal. He murmured a solicitous greeting and took her by the arm, leading her back to the table as if her worst enemy on Earth weren't already seated there. "Brandy, Joe," MacLeod tossed toward the Watcher behind the bar.

Cassandra took the third chair with only a token malevolent glance in Methos' direction to acknowledge his presence. She rested her forearms on the table, staring at her hands.

MacLeod returned to his own seat. He threw a cautionary glare at Methos and put an arm around her shoulder. "What brings you to Seacouver? More trouble?"

"Not this time. Thank the goddess, it's over. I took care of everything myself."

"How novel," Methos murmured, mostly to himself.

MacLeod shot him another look, this one considerably more dangerous than the first. Methos tried to look a little contrite. "What happened? A headhunter come after you? Another prophecy?"

Cassandra shook her head and shuddered. "Nothing so dramatic. I was actually on vacation. Can you believe it? My first real retreat in over 400 years. No more Kantos to hound me..." She paused to glance at Methos again, "...*most* of my unresolved issues laid to rest. I leased a house out in the most remote part of the Virginia woods you could possibly imagine."

"I remember your fondness for remote homes in the woods," Duncan smiled.

"Well they're getting hard to come by, nowadays. I had about three days of utter peace and quiet. And then the kids came."

"Kids?" MacLeod blinked.

"Hikers. Campers. Whatever. Three of them." A haunted look crept into her eyes.

"What happened?"

"They were idiots. Complete prats. Although they were nowhere near my house, they were stomping around out there in the woods, making an incredible amount of noise. Screaming at each other. Thrashing around. Every other word out of their mouths was an obscenity."

"What were they doing?" Duncan wanted to know.

"I created an illusion of invisibility and paid them a visit to find out. There was a girl with a video camera glued to her face. They appeared to be intent on making some kind of documentary or something."

"About what?"

"I haven't a clue. They seemed more intent on nonsense than anything else. I'm afraid they looked as ignorant as they sounded." She sighed and put a weary hand on her forehead. "I went home and hoped they would leave, eventually. They didn't. It soon became apparent that they were lost."

Duncan took the brandy from Joe and laughed. "Oh, no."

"Yes. They got even louder, screaming at each other, whining, fighting, wailing and shouting at all hours of the day and night. I couldn't get any rest at all. I did feel sorry for them; you know I have a soft spot for teenagers stuck out in the wilderness."

MacLeod grinned. "I recall something like that."

"Well I started to leave clues for them, so they could find their way out. The most basic Boy Scout woodsmanship stuff. Piles of stones. Bundles of sticks pointing in a specific direction. They were clueless. They didn't get it."

Methos snorted. "I'm afraid if it isn't on a video screen nowadays, the youth nowadays don't understand anything."

"In fact, my gentle hints seemed to throw them into a terror. As time went on, they became more and more confused. They were wandering around in circles. They left trash everywhere in the forest."

"Maybe they were on drugs or something," MacLeod offered.

"I hope so! I'd hate to think all three of them were just naturally that stupid. I tried more obvious signposts. Back in my youth, my tribe used to build little stick figures and have them point the way in the wilderness. I tried that approach. I made stick men and hung them from the trees by the dozens."

"What did they do?"

Cassandra's mouth quirked for the first time. "Well the girl seemed to think she'd found the holy grail and spent a couple of hours, capturing every single stick man on her video camera in loving detail. The boys had to drag her away. All three of them found the whole thing menacing."

Methos caught himself grinning at the unfolding story. It *was* starting to become pretty funny.

"After four nights with no sleep, I lost all sympathy for them." Cassandra took a sip of her brandy. "I decided I needed to drive them off."

"Did you do the white wolf thing?"

She smiled at Duncan. "That might have worked on a 16th Century Highland boy. I was afraid these idiots would have an automatic weapon in their backpacks. They were determined to find something, so I gave them what they asked for. Frightful noises in the night. Omens and portents. Blood on the stick bundles. One of them ran off in the night and finally stumbled onto a road. He hitch-hiked away. The other two were in a full panic. I lured them toward my house."

"Did you leave a trail of breadcrumbs and turn them into gingerbread cookies?" Methos snorted.

Cassandra stared at him coldly. "Five thousand years and this is the wit you've managed to accumulate?"

"Well--with the material I have to work with..." he shrugged. "What happened?"

"I made the house look abandoned and decrepit. They ran inside, shouting like demented piglets. I'd finally had enough. I used my Voice to make the boy stand and face the wall. The girl hadn't stopped screeching for half an hour. I grabbed her video camera and brained her with it." She heaved a mighty sigh and shook her head. "The next morning, I drove the two of them off and checked them into a nearby 'rest home'. With a little time and therapy, they might be all right in a few months. However, my vacation was totally ruined."

"Sorry to hear all of that," MacLeod said. "You're welcome to stay at my place, if you think a change of scene will help."

She smiled at him. "Very sweet of you to offer, Duncan."

"Just don't make a lot of noise," Methos cautioned the Highlander, a look of mock seriousness on his face.

"*He* doesn't come by too often, does he?" Cassandra asked, poison dripping from her tone.

MacLeod laughed. "If you two fight, I swear I'll get a video camera and start making a documentary," he threatened.

Cassandra's expression grew thoughtful. "You know, when I was getting all the garbage out of the woods, I found the girl's video camera. But I never did find the tape. I must have dropped it somewhere."

"I wouldn't worry about it," Methos snorted. "Who's going to want to watch an amateur documentary of a bunch of teen-age dorks, running around in the woods?"

MWC response "Hallowed Eve"

Posted By: Ghost Cat <ghost_cat@hotmail.com>
Date:
Saturday, 4 November 2000, at 9:20 p.m.

Hallowed Eve

She wore a long black cloak whose heavy velvet folds whispered across the floor as she walked. Underneath was a one-piece jump suit, a black and white animal print. Taking a seat, the young Immortal unconsciously bared her throat in a gesture of total trust. She closed her eyes as the white base coat went on; after all, if anyone knew about face painting, it was Methos. Tonight was going to be great fun, if a certain Duncan MacScrooge could be convinced to lighten his mood.

Amanda, who had generously provided the cat suit, was searching the depths of her cavernous walk-in closet for something appropriate. Haunting music from the classic Phantom of the Opera played in the background, completing the mood: "Close you eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams. Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before. Close your eyes; let your spirit start to soar. And you'll live as you never lived before…." All Hallow's Eve was approaching and everyone was getting into it, with one exception.

MacLeod paced the floor with a scowl that could have inspired a few masks; "I can't believe you're doing this. And you, do you have any idea how dangerous it is to encourage a writer?"

Deb wanted look Mac in the eye, but Methos had an iron grip on her chin as he worked on her tiger stripes. "Look, I know we have to stay low-key most of the time and not attract attention, but this is Halloween, Samhain if I remember correctly. When the borders of reality weaken; when spirits and legends walk the earth. It's also a time when you come straight from a Q, covered with blood and still smelling faintly of smoke; and the only reaction you'd get is who does your makeup? I'm not going to be careless, but I'm not going to stop having fun either!"

Amanda, an incurable fun-lover herself, rose to the author's defense; "I don't know what you're worried about, the party's on Holy Ground. I'm sure we won't be the only Immortals looking to let their hair down tonight."

"I'm more concerned about the ones who decide this is the perfect time to go hunting." He sighed deeply; "All right, I'll go. If you're keeping an eye on her, then someone will have to keep an eye on you."

"Wonderful!" With a flourish the young writer arose from the makeup chair, completely transformed. As a tiger-woman, in black and white, she was the essence of beauty, grace and power. "Carpe Noctem everyone, seize the night!"

§ § §

Duncan made a gorgeous samurai, resplendent in a silken gi and embroidered sash. A katana, THE katana, rode prominently on his hip and from his unconscious swagger it was obvious he missed the days when you could wear a sword openly. Amanda and Methos had spent hours arguing about costumes until they finally made the mistake of asking for suggestions.

"Tell me, have you ever heard of a little something called The Rocky Horror Picture Show?" Deb asked with a truly wicked grin. She and Amanda shared one conspiratorial look and, before he could protest, the fishnet stockings and garters were already in place. MacLeod almost answered the eternal question of whether it is possible to die laughing. He nearly collapsed from embarrassment as Amanda stepped out in an antique 17th Century wedding gown. With her patented disarming smile she commented, "Well, I've always wanted to wear one."

It was obvious from the start that this was no ordinary Halloween party. The word Buzz didn't begin to describe the wave of concentrated power that swept over them from within the old church. They all felt the difference; Debra, the Sensitive among them, nearly fell to her knees. The boys caught her, one on each arm; "Are you going to be okay?"

She nodded slowly, waving off their assistance. "I'm fine. I just... never thought there could be that much Q in one place. I hope Cassandra isn't here." Methos went pale for a second under his makeup, muttering a fervent "So do I."

Their smiling host was waiting at the gate; he was dressed in royal splendour, though MacLeod recognised him as a former monk. A familiar face was quite reassuring, and Duncan was sure the man, an old friend of Brother Paul, could keep the peace. The rules were fairly simple: weapons could be worn if desired, but should not be used in anger (this was, after all, Holy Ground); rivalries should be put aside for the night. Other than that, it was pretty much no holds barred; though behaviour that was truly outrageous was discouraged.

Inside they were confronted by a bewildering array of costumes historical, literary and theatrical. Deb couldn't help but think again of Phantom: "Masquerade, paper faces on parade; masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you." One group seemed quieter than the rest, keeping to themselves like dour chaperones at a high school dance: the Watchers. Methos was suddenly glad for the sheer audacity of his costume, which would never be associated with the quiet, thoroughly unimaginative Adam Pierson.

The church, though still consecrated, had not seen use for decades; the pews had been removed, leaving plenty of room for celebration. Those who found it too crowded inside could retire to the relative quiet of the cemetery. Eclectic seemed to be the watchword for the night. Modern music of various styles competed with the classics and rhythms too old to have a name; a banquet was laid out representing scores of cultures and eras. Deb was amazed, "Who'd have ever thought that Immies could party?" Methos, close enough to hear the comment, merely shrugged; "What did you expect; this is a celebration of Death. Eat, drink and be merry..." The other half of that phrase hung in the air, unspoken: for tomorrow we may die.

The Cat pulled up her hood and wandered through the crowds, fascinated. She found herself constantly swept into dances, both partnered and group, but that was the least of her worries. The more she mingled, the more she regretted getting separated from her friends, as the entertainment grew steadily stranger. Gambling was popular it seemed, anything that involved a risk. Dice and cards were common, but so were more esoteric games: knife-throwing contests; impromptu sparring matches, which attracted side-bets almost instantly, as well as other pastimes, some of them bearing an uncomfortable resemblance to Chicken or variations of Russian Roulette.

Backing away from the risk-takers, she nearly ran over a group who appeared to be trying to embalm themselves. A coloured bottle of some thick, bitter-scented liquid was being passed around, "Absinthe?" Deb pulled back quickly, "No, uh, thanks. Never touch the stuff." As she slowly moved into a nice safe corner, she could swear she saw something lift up out of the wormwood drinkers and drift towards the ceiling. The further it got from its 'host' the more it seemed to take shape: no longer something, but someone- a phantom Immortal.

She rubbed her eyes, wondering if there was anything recreational in the air. The ghost figure hadn't disappeared; it had multiplied! One spirit became dozens, became scores, became hundreds; until it seemed there was a second spectral gathering hovering in mid-air. Students saluted their teachers, old friends embraced, old rivals glared at one another across the Ether.

This is impossible she thought to herself. Immortals don't have ghosts; that's what Quickening is for. Or was it so bizarre- Halloween is, after all, a night for spirits, and what is the Quickening but the spirit of a defeated Immortal? All these Immortals, all that power, gathered in one place, on Holy Ground no less, tonight of all nights. Who knows what could occur? No one else seemed to notice what was happening. Was she hallucinating, or was this another of her unique talents? She was ready to believe it was all in here head when a figure that looked like a translucent Rebecca Horne looked down at her and smiled.

Debra wove her way through crowds both real and ethereal, scanning for the familiar faces of her companions. What to do once she found them, she had no idea.” I see dead people?" Ridiculous. "Mac, if you feel a little tired tonight, it might be because a couple of your Quickenings decided to stretch their legs and take a walk?" They'd think I've gone mad. No, whatever was happening here, she was on her own.

She soon found herself out in the cemetery grounds, away from the masses for a moment at least. Closing her eyes, she leaned wearily against a gravestone when a voice, vaguely familiar, startled her out of her thoughts. Getting a warning Buzz here was like expecting to hear one voice at a construction site, but the idea of being surprised somehow irked her. "My Lady," commented a crisp but pleasant British accent, "you look as if you've seen a ghost." The hood thankfully concealed her jaw-dropping gape, "You!"

There was a warm smile on the nearly transparent figure, "That's Hugh, not You; and please, call me Fitz. Everyone does." Deb wobbled for a second, "Don't faint dear, I won't be able to catch you."

"Fitzcairn," she sighed. "On All Hallow's Eve I'm haunted by, of all people, Hugh Fitzcairn. Shouldn't you be bothering Duncan or something? You were so good at it when you were-"

"Alive? Don't worry, you can say it. I'm perfectly aware that I'm dead, deceased, pushing up daisies, generally sans tête. Not exactly thrilled about it, mind you, but such is the Game. As for MacLeod, I've been his friend long enough to know that tonight you need my help more than he. You're new aren't you? The first century or so is always the worst."

There was something about the man that invited openness; part of what made him such a good rogue while he lived. "The first century, he says. Sometimes I think I've got it together and then it hits me all over again: centuries. The idea is overwhelming."

"We're not so different from the rest of the world you know. Our lives, like theirs, are made up of moments. Let me give you the benefit of my wisdom and experience, free of charge. In your life, there will be moments of wonder, and moments of dread; cherish the first, and learn from the second. And above all, never let go of your sense of humour, because without it, you might as well be dead."

She laughed in spite of herself, "The wit and wisdom of Hugh Fitzcairn is ever more wit than wisdom." She let him sputter in mock affront before adding "You're my kind of guy; I wish I could have known you." While all this made her feel better, it did nothing to ease her boundless curiosity, nor the nagging worry of who else might be haunted tonight, and by whom. "Does this kind of thing happen often? Is this the reason why we keep to ourselves for the most part?"

A hint of uncertainty flickered across the spectre's face; "From what I can tell, it's only times like tonight when it can happen. Hard to know for certain, I've come to this party a few times over the centuries, but this is the first time I've experienced it from the Other Side, so to speak."

She nodded with dawning comprehension, "Because this is the first time Duncan's been here, and you're in him. Duncan behead Kalas behead Fitzcairn- Quickening genealogy." A bitter laugh; "And when the conditions are right, everyone comes out to play." Suddenly Deb imagined the raging power of a combat Q, multiplied exponentially; "I just hope you can all return as quietly as you came or this whole place is going to be a crater."

Fitzcairn tsked wearily; "There you go, thinking negative again" and then he just floated off.

§ § §

Methos wondered if he was losing his survival instinct. He had had a feeling from the beginning that something strange might happen tonight, yet here he was. It wasn't the first time he'd experienced something like this, but the voice when it came surprised him nonetheless. "Brother, you've changed!"

Bitter sarcasm tinged his voice as he turned to confront a spectral Kronos; "That's what life is, we change or we die. I'm sure you understand that now."

He heard another Horseman approach from the side and Silas' deep booming laughter. "No Brother," he grinned, taking in the Frank-n-furter costume, "I mean you've really changed."

Caspian slipped silently behind him, Methos had no choice but to talk his way out of this. "It's designed to shock, just as our garb in the Old Days was."

"Our garb; the Old Days? Perhaps you haven't changed as much as you believe." Kronos leaned close, hissed in his blood brother's ear, "Tell me you don't miss it. Tell me, truthfully, that you don't dream of it: the smells of smoke and blood, their screams like music, the sense of power." He shrugged his massive shoulders; "Say we are no longer a part of you and we will simply leave you. Alone."

"I will never forget what we were- what I was. It will always be a part of me; but it isn't all of me. I'm not living off hate and bloodlust anymore. I don't need that; I don't need you." With that, he looked his Brother in the eye one last time, and stepped through him. He walked away and didn't look back; and the Horsemen simply faded away.

§ § §

Debra watched amazed as Methos confronted his past and won; smiled as she saw Amanda joyfully reunited with her mentor, and wondered, not without some dread, what spectre would come walking out of MacLeod's past. The answer, when it came, was worse than she could have imagined.

The voice in her ear was barely a voice at all; "So, you're MacLeod's new pet project. Or should I say his pet?" Kalas- her blood turned to ice at the thought.

With more confidence than she felt, she looked the ghost in the eye. "If anyone deserved to be taken down, it was you. Didn't anyone bother to tell you you're out of the Game?"

Kalas snarled; a mix of hate and madness gleamed in his eyes. "The Prize may be out of my grasp, but it's never too late for revenge!" The spirit finally turned toward MacLeod with a sneer; "Here's another good friend I can take away from you."

Deb could see the flash of anger in Duncan's dark eyes, the burning desire to once again rush to the rescue. She shook her head once; "Don't worry Mac, he can't hurt me. He's not real."

Kalas' laughter hissed dangerously; "I'm as real as you make me, Child." A sword appeared in his hand, flicked once. The blade passed through thick velvet like air, only to bite painfully into flesh. "That's the problem with having an imagination, isn't it? You're never completely in control of what you believe."

She felt a burst of panic as she grasped her bloody shoulder, swiftly pushed down the fear. If she drew her own blade, she'd only admit that he was real, and commit herself to a duel she could never win. As Cassandra's student though, she had other skills at her disposal. She started to control her breathing, narrow her focus. At the edge of her awareness, she saw Duncan again try to rush forward; Methos held him back, "Don't. She has to do this on her own." She closed her eyes, pushed aside even that, until there was nothing but her and the ghost. This would be a battle, not physical, but mental. One doubt, one distraction, could kill.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-" She stumbled on the word Death and Kalas cut again, toying with her. She held her concentration despite the pain; "Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face-ah!" another cut, another burst of agony; "face my fear. I will permit it to pass through me and over me." Kalas swung at her leg, fierce with anger; a deep wound brought her to her knees. She screamed, but did not stop her litany. If anything, her voice grew stronger, more confident. "Where the fear has been there will be nothing"; the phantom blade came down, passed harmlessly through her neck; "only I will remain." With a roar of frustration, what was once Kalas disappeared. "And thus will I prove that I am stronger."

§ § §

If a combat Quickening was an energy storm, then this was the Northern Lights. The same awesome power was there, but without the violence. One spirit seemed to volunteer to go first; he stepped toward his host, stepped into him. A glow appeared, and that glow spread, until everything was bathed in colour. It was beautiful, it was magical, and yet it was sad somehow. When it was all over, everything was back to normal.

Well, almost everything. As the power faded, Debra felt strange, felt different somehow. There was a warm, comforting feeling inside, an echo of laughter. Fitzcairn? *Hush dear, he'll never know the difference.* There was a feeling like a mental hug, then the presence faded away, leaving behind memories that were not her own.

The trio left the old church, each one lost in their own experiences, it had truly been a magical night. Methos finally spoke, "That was- interesting." The tension was broken, Mac laughed softly, "Another Methosian understatement."

The young author who had started it all just smiled wearily. "Next year, let's just pick up some videos, okay?"

MWC: Broom

Posted By: VarReader
Date:
Friday, 10 November 2000, at 5:22 a.m.

Hi ... this is my first attempt at a MWC, actually in response to the Halloween one (it took me a long time to get my thoughts together). Any responses -- even "Ecch!" -- gratefully appreciated ...

"The way you swept me off my feet
You could've been a broom ...
Well, you could've been anything that you wanted to
I can tell
The way you do the things you do."

The sun shone steadfastly if not warmly down upon the garden of herbs and flowers, but the woman sitting on the decorative wooden bench felt as if the weather was changing from instant to instant, mellow spring to December blizzard. Cassandra took stock of her surroundings, allowing herself to register the tended area outside her Highland cottage in all its comfort, loveliness and practicality. At least she knew where she was, which -- she acknowledged ruefully -- was more than should could reliably claim of her state of mind on the way back from Bordeaux. Her mood swung from fury that vengeance had been so close, to sorrow that Duncan had, in the end, stayed her hand, to a sort of acceptance -- that miserable bastard whose name she didn't even want to think had apparently saved her life, first by freeing her into the river and then by challenging another of his vile kindred. And, she grudgingly admitted, it was remotely possible that Duncan had been right, that maybe the snake had stopped his cohort from unleashing a plague upon the innocent mortals of the wine region.

In the moments when Cassandra felt calm enough to breathe, she supposed this ought to count for something. It wasn't enough to warrant forgiveness -- she truly did not know how forgiveness could exist for the deliberate slaughter of her family, her tribe, and all the violations that had followed. Still, perhaps recent events might be enough to make her able to live with the fact that she hadn't severed the son-of-a-dungheap's head when she had the chance ... but having to feel that she in any way owed anything to that rapacious murderer swung her right back to fury again.

She couldn't stay angry with Duncan, though. Cassandra sighed at the thought. He looked adult now, but he was really just a child in the scheme of things, a very sweet child. Duncan believed, rightly or not, that the evil manipulative liar had saved his life on occasion, and Duncan MacLeod, bless him, always felt obliged to pay he debts. She could hardly have expected Duncan to stand by and stay out of it. And -- here in her home, surrounded by the soil she had tended, plants she had nurtured, everything around her where she had chosen it to be -- Cassandra could almost admit that it was within the realm of possibility that Duncan was right. Almost.

But where did that leave her? She hadn't taken the bastard's head when it was beneath her blade, so if in fact he had wanted to save her and not simply been desperately trying to avoid antagonizing Duncan further, she'd now repaid him for her life. This, of course, presumed that anybody could sanely believe repayment was called for after her attacker had stolen her life again and again and again in those first years of her Immortality. Actually, having to listen to him blather on about Stockholm Syndrome -- was there anything he could have said that might have been more insulting? -- would be reason enough in the present to kill him.

But Cassandra knew she wasn't going to kill the reptile. She'd had her chance and not used it. Because Duncan wanted it or because finally she was herself better than a barbarian or because of some other reason altogether, she felt the reasons why she'd spared the fiend didn't really matter any more. The opportunity hadn't come for millennia and there was no reason to assume it would resurface. If she really wished to show her final triumph over the Horsemen, three dead and one at least weeping on his hands and knees at her feet, surely this could be best achieved by putting all four of her tormentors in the past. It would not have changed anything, she told herself, to hear that one man at least say he was sorry while he was sobbing on the concrete. Words were just words. Besides, it seemed most improbable that he had the capacity for sincere sorrow, especially about his own deeds. Let him breathe on Earth or rot in Hell, he was out of her life and once she removed him from her thoughts, he'd be effectively dead as far as she was concerned.

With a groan, Cassandra stood. It wasn't that simple. She knew where the creep was now. She also knew she wasn't going to kill him -- unless, of course, word came to her of him harming Duncan, and then no deity living or dead would stop her. She'd spared his life, but surely there was something she could do to make her anger felt, not just something that could be shrugged off ... She knew what she'd like to do to him, with a knee or a flying kick. She'd done it in the early days of her captivity, before she'd been made to imagine for awhile that she actually had feelings for -- The fury was back as a dull red pulse in her temples. Tea, or better still strong coffee, might help.

The wind picked up, blowing down from the peaks with a frigidity that belied the still-bright sky. Cassandra wrapped her shawl more tightly around her shoulders and went back into the cottage, past the arched wooden door that stood open. The wind followed her in, sending a few dried leaves skittering in at her heels, like ducklings flocking round their mother. The mental image lightened Cassandra's mood, even as she reached for a broom to escort her guests back outside across the threshold. Her forefinger touched the broom's green-painted handle -- and froze as a sudden spark of inspiration came to her. It was a shame no one was there to admire the beauty of a smile that spread over her face, curing her mouth appealingly and bringing a sparkle to her eyes. The project that occurred to her now, a spell, was complex and would take a long time to implement -- so long that she'd have to do it in stages, she was a busy woman, after all -- but it was well worth the undertaking. It wasn't as though she'd kill the son of a bitch, or even permanently injure him. Given that she'd spent decades cleaning up after him, it was in fact a sort of poetic justice. Even her noble-minded pupil Duncan couldn't really object. As for the worthless wretched creature, she had a feeling he'd object a great deal -- but he'd still prefer it to losing his head.

A FEW YEARS LATER

"Aren't you going to invite me in?" Duncan was honestly surprised. He knew that Methos was making a show of bringing the decanter of wine and the goblets out to the terrace, but he assumed at some point the other man would want to provide a tour of the mansion. Even allowing for the differences between Methos and most other people -- even most other Immortals -- no one lived in a place like this without wanting to show it off. Duncan hadn't seen the interior on his earlier visit here -- the beginning of a strange and terrible adventure -- but now, for the first time in a long while, he had both the time and state of mind to appreciate the little things in life. Not, he corrected himself with a slight smile, that Methos' London home could reasonably be referred to as little.

Methos coughed. "It's a bit of a mess, actually. Would you like to go out? There's a great pub just around the corner ..."

Duncan's eyebrows drew together quizzically. Methos was trying to hide something, but with Methos, you could never tell if the secret would turn out to be mass murder or an embarrassing taste for "Planet of the Apes" TV episodes. One way to tell. "Sounds great," Duncan announced cheerfully. "Just let me use the loo first."

"Um," Methos began, but by then his friend had stepped through the doorway. As Methos had expected, Duncan stopped after a few steps and stared at the room around him, momentarily silenced by bewilderment. "Cleaning lady quit?" he asked finally.

Dust was an inch thick on the hardwood floor. It rested in gray furry clumps on the furniture and danced in feathery motes through the air. Footprints vividly crisscrossed the floor, but little flurries of dust were already drifting down to make them less distinct even as Duncan watched. Methos tried for a casual shrug and a nod. "Something like that."

"Methos -- " Duncan gestured at the room. "Haven't you tried to clean it?"

"Well, it's very big," Methos hedged. "Hard to keep clean."

Duncan moved further into the room, shaking his head. "Then why don't you move?"

"I *did*," Methos protested. "I bought this place because I thought it would take longer to get ... well, like this."

"Methos ... " Duncan didn't know where to begin with his questions. "All you need is a broom."

"Oh, I've got a broom, believe me," Methos sighed.

When he did not elaborate, Duncan pressed his inquiry. "Ever thought of using it?"

"I've tried," Methos acknowledged unhappily. "I was trying to find a good time to ask you about this, actually. I thought maybe you could help."

"You want me to vacuum you're living room?" Duncan was starting to wonder whether Methos had had some sort of breakdown or, for reasons yet unknown, had developed an inexplicable phobia about housecleaning. "What about a maid?"

"I had three. They all ran screaming."

Duncan scuffed a toe at the dust. It piled up before his shoe into a little gray shape that looked like a cross between a tuba and a teddy bear. "I'm not surprised. This is filthy, Methos."

"You think I don't know that?" Methos' voice peaked in misery, causing Duncan to look at him with fresh concern. "This is the fifth place I've lived since this started, MacLeod. I can't ... oh, look, I might as well show you. You'll never believe me otherwise. Come on."

He beckoned one-handed, then moved ahead with resignation but such speed that Duncan had to sprint a few steps to catch up. "Where're we going?"

"Kitchen," Methos answered, not turning around.

The corridor was likewise carpeted with dust, as was the kitchen floor. Duncan now perceived a knocking sound. "What's that? Old pipes?"

"Plumbing, you mean?" Methos smiled mournfully. "I only wish it was." He reached his destination, a broom closet in an alcove that led to the laundry room. He put his hand on the closet doorknob. Duncan realized the knocking was coming from the other side of the door, frequent and rhythmic, as though it was being struck from within by a piece of wood. Duncan only noticed the hook-and-eye latch holding the closet shut as Methos -- reluctantly, it seemed -- swung the hook up and back. "When you see ... well, what you're going to see, bear in mind how important it is to me that you see it, all right?"

Thanks for all the kind words, everybody -- it wasn't my intention to create a cliffhanger -- it was just really late at night and I was falling asleep before I could finish typing it in (wasn't able to cut and paste from my WP program)! :)

*************

Duncan nodded, now thoroughly mystified by both Methos' words and actions, as well as by the peculiar knocking. "Okay."

Methos started to turn the knob and hesitated. He winced visibly, then summoned his resolve and yanked the door open. A broom, leaning against the inside of the door, clattered out onto the floor where it landed loud and hard, despite the thick dust.

Duncan shook his head. "I don't see what ..."

He trailed off as the broom handle, unassisted, righted itself. Slowly at first, then with speed, the brush swept a clean line in the dust, leapt up a few inches into the air, landed bristles first on the floor, swept another line at a forty-five degree angle to the first, became airborne again, then swept a third line.

Duncan felt his jaw drop. He couldn't help it. "What the hell ...?"

"Entertaining, isn't it?" Methos observed. "At first. Here, come over this way."

Dumbly, Duncan moved to stand next to Methos. What had seemed random brush strokes by the broom, seen from this angle, were now evident as letters. Duncan began to read aloud. "T-H-I-S ..."

The broom diligently went on, sweeping into the next word between pirouettes in the air. "You can see why it's been hard to keep a cleaning lady," Methos remarked, rather mildly under the circumstances.

Duncan nodded, his eyes still glued to the broom. "Yeah. When did this start?" The broom had now spelled out THIS IS FOR.

"Last Halloween," Methos said. "She has a real sense of occasion."

Duncan turned to look at him with a frown. "Who?"

Methos' expression was somewhere between exasperation and embarrassment. "Who d'you think?" One of his hands reached backward for the counter, holding on tightly for no reason Duncan could yet detect. "I went through three apartments, a house, and now this place. It's no good -- it just happens wherever I go."

Duncan turned back to the message in the dust just as the broom completed its sentence. His eyes scanned the message: "THIS IS FOR THE 49TH TIME YOU HIT ME." The broom tilted backward on its bristles, as if admiring its handiwork. Then -- there was no other word to describe the broom's movement -- it charged, handle-first, slamming Methos hard in the groin.

As the Immortal doubled over, knees buckling, the broom nonchalantly swept back through the words into the closet. The door swung shut with a satisfied-sounding click.

Duncan turned wide-eyed from the now-closed closet to his gasping friend, belatedly offering Methos a hand up. He desperately tried to think of something intelligent to say in the circumstances. "Have you tried a vacuum cleaner?" he managed.

Methos glared at him through pain-narrowed eyes. "Yeah, as a matter of fact. Have you ever been hit -- *here* -- with a vacuum cleaner?"

Duncan started to make a sympathetic sound, but it changed as he looked again at the words in the dust. "How many times *did* you hit her?"

"Oh, it's not just hitting, it's ..." Methos trailed off, shaking his head. "If she really plans on paying me back injury for injury, this could go on for ... a very long time. Can you talk to her?"

Duncan took a step back. "And say what? You expect me to tell her you don't have this coming? Can you blame her?"

"I ... I was someone else then," Methos retorted defensively. "I've changed. *You* know that. Even she knows that. I saved her life."

Duncan nodded stolidly. "And she spared yours. The way I see it, you're even on that score."

"Come on, I've got to be able to clean my home!" When Methos saw that he wasn't gaining any ground with the other man, he scowled. "You were the one who insisted on coming in, remember. Can't you ask her to stop? She'll listen to you."

"Methos ..." Duncan looked away. Methos had been there for him, time and again; he couldn't just turn his back on the man. And yet, Cassandra was well within her rights here. Duncan hated torn loyalties, and this conflict had proved one of the worst of his life, savior versus mentor, present versus past. He had not known how to address it when he first discovered the truth of Methos and Cassandra's shared past, and for all he'd learned since, he felt he scarcely new better now. "I'm not the one who needs to talk to her."

"What should I say?"

Duncan raised his eyebrows. "You told me you had regrets."

Methos stared at him. "After what I did, do you really think an apology is going to fix things?"

Duncan held Methos' gaze. "It's a start." He tilted his head in the direction of the phone mounted on the wall.

"Don't you get it?" Methos shook his head from side to side.

Duncan's expression hardened somewhat. "You're saying you *don't* have regrets?"

"It's just *words*!" Methos exploded. "That's all an apology is. After everything that ... she'll be insulted, MacLeod. It's ... it's presumptuous and it's inadequate."

"And it's a start," Duncan repeated insistently.

"Oh, for ..." Methos drew a long breath and gave up. Cassandra could hardly have a worse opinion of him than she already did, although he didn't like to think what her magic might make the broom do if she felt freshly provoked. However, at this point, almost anything seemed preferable to MacLeod's nagging. "Oh ... go ahead."

With a small nod of satisfaction, Duncan picked up the phone and dialed. Methos found himself rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, barely restraining himself from tapping his fingers, as the other man spoke into the receiver. "Cassandra? ... I'm okay, how're you? ... I'm in London, actually ... Yeah, the son-of-a-bitch is right here ... yeah, he showed me ... He's got something he wants to -- wait, just let him say it, okay? You don't have to do anything differently, but ... yes, I believe him, but no, that doesn't mean you have to, but if ... yeah ... no ... please? Thanks." Duncan finally held the receiver away from his ear, out to Methos.

Methos approached the phone as if he was afraid the earpiece would bite him. For all he knew, Cassandra might be able to make it do just that. Gingerly, he put the phone to his ear, but didn't speak. Silence crackled for long seconds down the line. "Well?" the voice at the other end growled.

"I just wanted to say ... and not because of the broom, by the way, although that's been very effective ... I just wanted to say ... I'm sorry." Methos replaced the receiver in the cradle before any more words or, worse, silence could come at him. It was entirely possible that she would think him insincere and the punishment would continue unabated, but now that seemed a small thing. It was only two words, but saying them, it frightened Methos to realize how much he meant them.

The latch hadn't been replaced, and now the broom closet door flew open with a shriek of hinges. Methos drew back reflexively, anticipating the worst. "Oh, no."

The bristles swept furiously over the floor. Methos turned away, both hands cupped protectively over the broom's customary target, leaving Duncan to make out the words: "THIS IS FOR NOT MAKING THE CALL YOURSELF."

The broom whisked through the air. The handle bobbed upward, smartly rapping Methos on top of his head, then flew back into the closet, which shut with a rattling slam.

The two Immortals looked at each other. "Maybe this means it's safe to sweep your floor now?" Duncan hypothesized hopefully.

Methos shrugged, rubbing his scalp where he felt a lump forming. Since he was Immortal, it would recede fairly soon, but just now that was scant comfort. "Who knows? I'll tell you one thing -- never piss off anyone who knows how to use a broomstick."

END

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