Mood Music

The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge

Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.

Contents

The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Dancing in the Dark by Palladia
Cup of Kindness by Ysanne
April in Paris by Friend of Methos
Bring on the Rain by ShelBel
C’est La Vie by bookmom
For Elise by Storie
Mood Music by Highlandgal MacWench
Long-Lasting Songs by Leslie Fish
And I Must Bide by lynnannCDC
If I Ever Cried by Ghost Cat
Names by Hmpf MacSlow
The One by Robin
I Miss My Friend by Robin
Your Way by SwingGirl

MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: MOOD MUSIC

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 8 May 2002, at 9:58 a.m.

This week's challenge comes to us courtesy of a suggestion by Ghost Cat.

Write a short story, poem or scene inspired by a piece of music. There are no other restrictions, just go where the music takes you. Please mention the title of your inspiration and include lyrics if there are any. Any music style, era etc. qualifies.

DISCLAIMER: Remember to put "MWC" in front of the subject line of your entry, if you want Annie to spot and save it to the archives.

MWC: Dancing in the Dark

Posted By: Palladia <cmcintyr@alltel.net>
(IP: h166-102-114-138.ip.alltel.net)
Date:
Wednesday, 8 May 2002, at 1:35 p.m.

In Response To: MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: MOOD MUSIC (Leah CWPack)


By evening, it was overcast, and Enos considered that sneaking out of the cave to water a tree would be a safe expedition. He felt his way along the wall, picturing in his mind what he had seen. Following the girl with her lantern, he had carefully memorized every turn, the slopes of the floor.

He barely caught the faint drift of a song, but it was more than enough to freeze him in his tracks: it was a woman's voice, a grown woman, her voice low and sweet:

When the blackbird in the spring, on the willow tree
Sat and rocked, I heard him sing, singing Aura Lee
Aura Lee, Aura Lee, maid of golden hair
Sunshine came along with thee, and swallows in the air.

The girl's mother must have come to the cave to see her, bring her supplies. Maybe she just came to mother her a little. Child living alone out here with a horse, it was crazy. But then, the whole war was crazy.

The horse caught the scent of him and nickered. Damn friendly ol' hoss, couldn't he keep what he knows to himself, just once? There was a rustling in the dry leaves of his bedding as the stallion came over to stick his head across the rail that confined him.

Caught good and proper, Enos, he shrugged, touched the fine-skinned neck, and reached up to scratch behind the horse's ears, all in the darkness.

"Lucy said she'd had some visitors," the voice said.

"Yes, ma'am." With those two words, Enos knew: just as he'd heard she was an adult by her voice, she would recognize his. If the girl hadn't told her, she now knew: there were escaped slaves in this cave with her young daughter, and Aura Lee was a southern song.

Duncan MacLeod had gotten them this far, but now was the worst part. This woman stood between Enos, all of them, and their freedom. He had no quarrel with her, none at all, but he'd come so far, and Pennsylvania was so near. The hands that relaxed the horse into drowsing could also kill: powerful hands on a powerful man.

"This racehoss, he any good, runnin', ma'am?" Enos asked the woman he couldn't see.

"Oh, he's fast. But with the war, he's never been raced. How did you know?"

"I heard the girl say he's a Lexington colt. He's got those wingy feet - flares at the heels. Needs trimmed."

"There's nobody left to do it. I take a rasp to him, but you're right - he needs a trim. Shoes, too, really."

Enos ducked under the rail, ran a hand down the horse's leg, and pinched it to get him to pick it up. He felt the hoof, solid, no signs of cracks, but flared. He stretched his hand across the bottom of the upturned hoof, folded his fingers up the walls: the sole of the hoof fitted easily within his own palm.

"He'd take oughts. You got any old shoes of his around? Don't go buyin' new shoes, someone would ask why. Nails. I'll need your rasp, nippers if you have them, and a hammer."

As Enos straightened up, he stroked a hand down the horse's neck, and ran into the woman's arm. He jerked his arm back as if stung, but evidently she was standing leaning on the horse, with her arms crossed on his back.

Still, her voice, when she spoke, took no account of the touch. "You're a smith?"

"Yes, ma'am. I shod around Richmond." He'd had comparative freedom, doing his master's horses, traveling sometimes to do others' before the war, returning with the money to his master. He'd been lucky not to have been taken off with the troops, but Richmond had been the capitol, and there had more than enough to keep him busy there.

There was a long quiet, as the two of them stood on opposite sides of the horse, separately considering the future.

"You know," the woman's voice said, "Lee surrendered. Three days ago, at Appomattox. It came through on the railroad telegraph."

The horse shifted a little, relaxing further, and both humans automatically adjusted to his motion. Enos wished he could relax, too, but words trotted through his mind, ticking So. . .close. . .so. . .close. . .

He hadn't seen the woman, only heard her. Talked with her about the horse. It would be so easy, he thought. I've been a slave, but my boy won't be. Sorry about her, sorry about her daughter. But my boy. . .

"You know, we're going to need a smith in Cumberland. You could make a good living." The voice in the darkness was perfectly matter-of-fact, offering him a solution.

Enos weighed the words in his mind. One hand toyed idly with strands of the horse's mane, as he considered the odds. If the war was over. . . He had known well how it had been going for the rebels, because he'd been shoeing the couriers' horses, officers' horses, and as they stood around talking to each other, he heard. As if he needed their words, when he could look at the horses and men, both getting gaunter as time passed.

He believed Lee finally had surrendered. That might not stop some of the others, though. Still, if it was over, maybe this was far enough north.

"Ma'am, I was on my way outside. You get me those tools, I'll put shoes on him." Enos wanted to know what would happen next. Would she tell him she hadn't given him permission to leave, try to keep him here? Would she think she'd found some cheap or free labor in the aftermath of the war?

There was just enough light for him to see her leave the cave, heading down the path toward the river. Across the river, beyond the meadow that lay there, he could see the railroad tracks. But this was good bottom land, and if he could buy some of it with money he earned shoeing horses, he and his boy both could live well.

He hoped he hadn't made a mistake, letting her leave. He hoped he could quit running, let Duncan take the others farther North, just leave him and the boy. Now that the war was over.

He was used to being awake at night, and wasn't sleepy yet. Going back into the cave, he spoke to the horse, ducked under the bar again, and began to pick out his tail by hand. Strand by strand, he separated the hairs, taking out leaves and the odd burr. If the woman returned with tools, he'd do a real good job for her, get this horse's feet shod up.

If the war was over, maybe there'd be racing again, and his boy could be a jockey, after all.

When Duncan passed the opening where the horse lived, he couldn't believe his ears. Someone was in that stall with the horse, humming Aura Lee, chuckling now and then.

Palladia

MWC -- Cup of Kindness

Posted By: Ysanne <ysanne_1@yahoo.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 8 May 2002, at 5:12 p.m.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We’ll tak’ a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
----Traditional Scots air, words by Robert Burns

No one noticed the youngish man in the long coat striding purposefully around the outside of the motel, clutching a sack to his chest and reading in a soft, accented voice from a small piece of paper. After circling the building, he entered the bright lobby and was engulfed in warmth, the smell of pork and sauerkraut, and the sound of off-key voices singing familiar words to recorded big-band music.

“Guy Lombardo lives on,” Methos muttered, finding the stairs and climbing them two at a time.

He walked down the hallway, glancing at the numbered doors, his steps slowing as he neared the correct room. Methos paused before knocking, a few seconds of panic shivering through his chest. Get on with it, he told himself sternly, he already knows you’re here. He took a deep breath and knocked firmly, startled when the door opened before his hand dropped. MacLeod stood well back from the doorway, his katana in hand, and his face a wary mask. When he recognized his visitor his expression softened, but the wariness remained.

“You do turn up in the damnedest places,” Mac said.

“A Holiday Inn, Mac? Pretty common. Not up to your usual standard, is it?”

MacLeod shrugged. “I was heading for the Greenbrier, but they were booked. Haven’t been there since they expanded the resort in the thirties.”

He gestured with the sword, indicating that Methos should come in, and then he slid the weapon back into the black cashmere coat hanging by the door.

“So, watch the ball drop tonight?” Methos asked casually, sauntering in and handing Mac a lumpy plastic grocery sack.

“Ball?” Mac repeated blankly as he automatically took the sack.

Methos divested himself of coat and sword, muffler and gloves, and took back the sack.

“Dick Clark, mortal Immortal? Times Square?” he hinted, gesturing at the dark television.

“Oh, right. No, not really. I was….reading. Is it past midnight already?”

Methos’ quick eyes saw no book anywhere in the dim room. What he did see was that Mac looked exhausted, yet both beds were still neatly made. He walked past MacLeod and set the sack on the desk, then turned on the desk light.

“Yeah, it’s 2002 as of about ten minutes ago. Depending on whose calendar you’re using, of course. Got any ice?” he asked as he pulled a bottle out of the sack.

Mac grimaced at the thought of ruining a good single-malt with ice. “Not for that,” he said firmly, accepting the Glenmorangie and opening it. “There are glasses in the bath.”

Methos fetched the plastic glasses, tore off the protective film, and Mac poured a generous amount into each one. Methos took his and wandered to the window, looking down at the celebrants leaving the hotel. Silly hats were being worn and little paper horns were being tootled five stories below, to the accompaniment of loud, boozy laughter. Mac joined Methos in peering down at the mortals.

“Another year gone,” Mac said quietly.

Hearing the off note in the low voice, Methos glanced at Mac’s somber profile, hoping that this unexpected visit was not a mistake. Impulsively, he turned and held his plastic cup out in a toast.

“To the future, Duncan, and may the year hold a bit more joy than sadness.”

Methos pretended not to notice the sudden watery shine in Mac’s eyes, and after a moment the Scot nodded and lifted his own glass.

“To absent friends,” he said in a soft, rough voice, tapping Methos’ flimsy glass with his own.

“Absent friends,” Methos agreed, and both men drank. “Want a donut?” He returned to the sack and brought out a rather oily cardboard box. He opened it and handed Mac a donut with chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles, took a bite of another, and rummaged in the sack again. “This is for you,” he said, tossing Mac a small black figurine.

“Uh, thanks,” Mac said slowly, putting his donut down on the desk and turning the little man over in his big hands. “What is this, a miner?”

“Yeah. Bought it on my way here. It’s carved out of coal.”

“Coal?”

“Well, it’s impossible to buy peat in a gift shop on the West Virginia turnpike.”

He saw MacLeod slowly make the connection. The sadness etched on the handsome face lightened bit by bit until Mac was smiling at him, and they stood grinning at each other until Mac spoke.

“Decided to be my First Foot, did you? I suppose you circled the hotel sun-wise and chanted, too. Wish I’d seen that.”

“Of course, but I chanted under my breath. Didn’t want to frighten the natives with your weird Celtic customs. It’s been a while, so I looked up Hogmanay on the ‘net. Did I get it right? I brought food, drink, and fuel for your hearth, and I am properly tall, dark and handsome.” Methos preened a bit, and then spoiled the effect by cramming the rest of the donut into his mouth. Several chocolate sprinkles stuck to his chin, and he scooped them up with a finger and licked them off.

“Well, tall and dark, anyway,” Mac said, but his eyes were gleaming with amusement.

Methos glared at him and washed the donut crumbs down with a swig of whisky. He shuddered at the combination of tastes and Mac chuckled, taking their glasses to pour another. Methos watched, feeling the usual intense mix of emotions that Mac engendered in all his friends. Worth it, Methos admitted, all worth it, just for the smile.

MWC--April in Paris

Posted By: fom, <fomnumberone@yahoo.com>
Date:
Thursday, 9 May 2002, at 5:00 p.m.

Steam from his coffee cup on the vanity rose in soft puffs and joined the steam that smoked the edges of the mirror. As he lathered his face, he softly hummed bits of a tune, one he had known for years, one he had heard again only a few days ago. He felt for a moment the warmth of the sun on his face and almost heard the music in his ears as it sounded when he really saw her for the first time. He leaned a bit forward watching his reflection intently as he deftly moved the straight razor over his skin. The two-day growth of beard was beginning to disappear from the left side of his face, even as his thoughts went to the events of the last three days.

The day had been startlingly beautiful for early April in Paris and the coffee shop was uncommonly crowded. He had sensed her presence there but nearly missed seeing her. He caught only a glimpse of her pink dress from the back as she disappeared into the crowd leaving the shop, and he wondered about her briefly. Then he spotted her again in the open-air market. She was standing at the flower vendor’s cart, laughing as she spoke. He was within earshot and found himself drawn closer by the sight of her accompanied by the sound of music coming from the vendor's organ grinder. The tune was April in Paris. That song had always aroused a touch of melancholy in him, but today when he heard it he felt something different rising inside him, something akin to hope.

He had watched her, knowing she would surely feel his gaze, look up and catch him watching. Yet he could not bring himself to turn away. He was surprised when she did not look up but instead, spoke with the vendor another moment, then took her flowers and turned to go. He felt a sharp pang of disappointment, then was surprised at himself. Ridiculous, he thought, I don’t even know who she is. At the same moment he realized he wanted very much to know exactly who she was.

He had blinked and looked again and she was gone. The crowd eddied and flowed and he looked, and suddenly he was moving, looking and looking, and now more urgently, slipping through the crowd, pushing, breaking free, nearly running around the corner, running almost into her as she turned from the newspaper kiosk. He excused himself and she had looked faintly amused, then suddenly, quite unexpectedly, dropped her flowers when someone jostled her from behind. He knelt more quickly than she did, gathered the bouquet and handed it up to her from his knees, with an apology for startling her. He smiled what he felt was his most winning smile. She had blushed prettily, saying, "Pas de tout," and he had asked if she were all right. She had smiled and answered something, he was not sure just what because he found himself lost in that warm smile and in her eyes. They were blue as the wildflowers in a highland meadow, and he knew he had not seen a pair of eyes like that since his bonnie Heather’s.

Despite a nagging little sense of something, a bit of warning, though not nearly so strong as a foreboding, he had persisted, introducing himself. She seemed to think she knew him, wondering where and when they might have met before. The sense of instant familiarity was strong between them and Connor knew how rare a thing that was; he determined that very moment to pursue her. He continued musing as he shaved, vowing he would not let her get away from him so easily again.

Several scents assaulted her senses as she approached the doorway of the bathroom - - the fresh fragrance of his shower gel, the cool lime of his shaving cream, the rich aroma of Columbian coffee. She paused, leaning silently against the doorframe, her eyes on him. She realized that she enjoyed looking at him, in fact could hardly draw her eyes away, and she was a bit surprised. But then, in the three short days she had known him Connor had done little else but surprise her.

He was of medium build, his body compactly put together. She shook her head slightly in wonder - - there was not an inch of loose skin or even a hint of extra flesh on him anywhere. The muscles in his back rippled beneath his fair skin as he shaved. He was supple, and he moved with the graceful intent of one of the big cats.

She smiled a bit thinking, How young he looks. He was barefoot and wearing only his silk pajama pants. His shoulders were round with muscle and his arms were much stronger than they appeared at first glance. Her cheeks grew pink despite herself as she remembered just how strong those arms had felt around her the night before. Ah, when he held her...Memories flooded over her and she closed her eyes for a moment, remembering the warmth of his breath on her face, the slightly sweet smell of Scotch filling her nostrils as he kissed her lips and face and neck, his low, rather husky voice murmuring softly in her ears.

She had giggled when his beard tickled her neck, then gasped when his lips moved down her body. She was utterly surprised, yet again, at the erotic effect of his beard scratching gently at first, then insistently beneath her breasts. Lost in thought, she was unaware that her mouth had opened in a little gasp.

However, Conner saw, stopped mid-stroke and said softly, "I don’t have to shave it off, you know."

She blinked quickly and her eyes, blue as the spring sky and wide in disbelief, met his in the mirror. How could he have known what she was thinking? She swallowed hard and said faintly, "Pardon?"

A smile flitted across his lips as he looked down, holding the razor under the faucet. Then his eyes found hers again in the mirror. "It’s up to you," he murmured. Razor in hand he waited, watching the color heighten in her cheeks.

She ducked her head, overcome with sudden shyness, and to Connor at that moment, she looked sixteen instead of the thirty-two year old woman she was. He recalled her unwillingness to tell him her age lest he think her too old for him. Hmph, he thought laying the razor on the sink, too old indeed.

He felt her presence before he looked up. She had moved to stand behind him, so close yet not touching him. He was nearly overcome with the desire to take her right then and make love to her on the bathroom floor. Instead he closed his eyes, inhaled deeply and waited. She began to hum, picking up the tune where he had left off as her fingertips moved lightly over his back and around his mid-section. He exhaled slowly and relished the pleasure her touch and the sweet sound of her voice produced in him. Her lips, warm and moist, pressed the base of his neck and a shiver of anticipation went over him. Then her arms slid around him, and the thin silk of his striped pajama shirt could not hide the soft, luscious curves of her body touching his, then not touching, then touching again; at last fully against him, melting into him.

He leaned his head back into the curve of her shoulder. Since they were nearly the same height, his scruffy cheek found hers, smooth and warm. She choked off humming rather abruptly and laughed softly. He was delighted by her. Her laugh was feminine and musical, pleasing to him. He opened his eyes, found her reflection in the mirror and saw her eyes dancing with amusement, her face half covered with lather from the yet unshaven cheek.

He turned, gathering her in his arms. The moment was sweet as they laughed together embracing. Then, just as she reached to brush the lather from his face, his slender fingers gently removed the soapy foam from hers. He cradled her face in his hands, memorizing her, wanting to hold her in this moment forever. He saw eyes blue as the sky...not since his bonnie Heather...smiling at him...did he dare?...caressing him...he shouldn’t, should he?...welcoming him...how could he not...love her...

So he did.

April in Paris
Whom can I turn to?
What have you done to
My heart?

MWC: Bring on the Rain

Posted By: ShelBel the Wayward MacViking <ssatre@hotmail.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 8 May 2002, at 7:43 p.m.

It's been a while since I've done one of these...

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

Amanda dropped her coat on the floor next to the bed and sank to the comforter with a little groan. Closing her eyes, she rubbed the little frown that seemed to be permanently etched between her eyebrows lately. Limply she pushed off her heels and stretched out her feet, then lay back on the bed for a moment.

The sound of a singular, lonely raindrop hitting the window made her open her eyes. She peered at the grey-painted sky, then heaved herself off the bed and slouched to the bathroom.

With lethargic movements she turned on the water, hot only, and let it splash into the tub. To the sound of the running water she peeled off her black stockings, black silk skirt, black lace top, black leather jacket. Shaking out her hair, she paused as her eyes fell on a picture frame in the bedroom. Water still running she got up and crossed the floor.

She picked up the silver frame and stared, breath catching in her throat. Richie stared back at her, blue eyes sparkling and full of some as-yet-unrealized mischief, head tilted in his typical cock-sure pose. Tears rose unbidden and Amanda let them come, welcoming their hot tracks on her cheeks. Gently replacing the photo, she went back into the bathroom and turned off the faucet.

Sinking into the nearly-scalding water she let out a sigh and closed her eyes, uncaring that her hair was floating in the bath. Outside, the clouds let loose with a sudden spigot of rain and a crash of thunder.

In the bath, Amanda didn't flinch. Tears still streaming down her cheeks, she offered her pain to the heavens; it was the only way to know you were still alive anyhow. If you hurt- you lived.

"Bring it on," she whispered to the empty room.

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

Another day has almost come and gone
I can't imagine what else could go wrong
Sometimes I'd like to hide away somewhere and lock the door
A single battle lost, but not the war

But tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

It's almost like the hard times circle 'round
A couple drops, and they all start coming down
Yeah I might feel defeated, and I might hang my head
I might be barely breathing, but I'm not dead yet

Cause tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

No I'm not gonna let it get me down
And I'm not gonna cry
And I'm not gonna lose any sleep tonight

For tomorrow's another day
And I am not afraid
So bring on the rain

Cause tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

MWC : C'est La Vie

Posted By: bookmom <slblack@idirect.com>
Date:
Thursday, 9 May 2002, at 8:44 a.m.

C’est La Vie
Song by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

C’est la vie
Have your leaves all turned to brown
Will you scatter them around you
C’est la vie
Do you love
And then how am I to know
If you don’t let your love show for me
C’est la vie.

Claudia Jardin sat at the piano. The haunting strains of Greg Lake’s voice filled her mind. Without realizing it, she began to play the accompanying melody.
Despair was her constant companion since becoming Immortal.
Damn Walter and his high handed ways! He had ruined her life.

Oh oh c’est la vie
Oh oh c’est la vie
Who knows, who cares for me
C’est la vie.

Who indeed would care for her if her talent never truly returned? Not her fans. They had come to expect so much from her. She would be nothing in their eyes. She had no friends, no lovers who weren’t attracted to her fame and fortune.

Duncan’s soft, “I would,” voiced itself clearly.

Duncan, who had stood by her from day one. He had spotted her talent and supported her through it all. He had always let his love show for her, she just couldn’t see it.

Duncan, who never minced his words when all those around her bowed to her sharp tongue and childish ways. Duncan, who was there for her when all around came crashing down. Then it had been poorly played concerts, now it was this – Immortality.

In the night
Do you light a lover’s fire
Do the ashes of desire for you remain

Claudia knew now that she loved Duncan like she never had before. In her teenage years she had harbored a crush on her tall, dark and handsome benefactor. She had been insanely jealous of Tessa, that beautiful, blonde bombshell of a girlfriend. She had wished Duncan would look at her “that” way. When Tessa was around it was almost as if Claudia never even existed.

How could she have been so cruel? She hadn’t even gone to the funeral. She could have cancelled that concert if she really had wanted to. Instead, she let a good friend grieve alone. He had known true love for what would normally be a good chunk of time for a mortal, but in Immortal terms it was naught but a drop in the bucket. No doubt Duncan still felt Tessa’s death keenly.

Like the sea
There’s a love too deep to show
Took a storm before my love
Flowed for you
C’est la vie

Now that Immortality had been thrust so unceremoniously on her, she could feel the sharpness of her love for Duncan in her own breast. He would have never triggered her Immortality. He cared that much for her. He could see past the obvious that invited Walter to do what he did. The Game was horrifying. Duncan would never wish that on anyone. Living a life that spanned the centuries had its upside, but living with the pain of losing one’s friends and lovers was not appealing at all.

Like a song
Out of tune and out of time
All I needed was a rhyme for you
C’est la vie.
Do you give
Do you live from day to day
Is there no song I can play for you
C’est la vie

Yes, he did live from day to day. Claudia’s, “How do you do it, Duncan? How do you live,” whispered across the darkened loft the night before she left, when the weight of her situation finally crashed down upon her, was answered from the heart.

He had padded silently to the bed and enfolded her in a warm comforting embrace. They sat there for ages while she fought for control. Duncan then shared bits and pieces of his life and how he learned to cope with Immortality.

Oh, oh c’est la vie
Oh oh c’est la vie
Who knows, who cares, for me
C’est la vie.

Duncan cared for her. Perhaps one day it would be more than friendship’s love.

Yes, she would learn to live with what life had thrown at her. She would play her heart out for him, for her fans, for herself, for as long as she had.

Claudia could feel the terror of the unknown grip her tightly and with it the certainty that her talent had returned.

MWC: For Elise

Posted By: Storie <storie@meteorologica.net>
Date:
Thursday, 9 May 2002, at 5:58 p.m.

Vienna, 1810

“…and he wrote it for me! Oh, Duncan, no man has ever created music for me - I can not tell you how lovely he makes me feel.”

“I am happy for you, Therese. I’m not attempting to discourage you in any way. I just don’t feel that he is the proper man for a lady such as yourself.”

“Because he is a commoner?”

“No, Therese; because he is temperamental. I fear your happiness would not be his primary concern.”

“And is it yours, Duncan?” Therese fluttered her lashes and tilted her head demurely away. “At any rate, your concern is for naught. First he loved my cousin Giulietta, who married and moved with her husband to Italy; but Ludwig has also loved my sister Josephine from the moment he laid eyes on her. She might have returned his affections, had not our parents hastened to have her married to the Count.” She turned a little too quickly, a little too closely, and Duncan retreated a generous step in deference to Therese’s reputation amidst her family and friends.

“I believe Ludwig was hopeful when Count Deym left Josephine a widow; I believe he was heartbroken when she remarried to Count Von Stackelberg. But I do not believe he has ever stopped loving her and for that, I am no competition.”

“Yet he composed music for you.”

“Yes! It is called ‘Keyboard piece in A minor,’ and he autographed it for me.” She held up the sheets of music. “He wrote, ‘For Therese on April 27, 1810, as a remembrance of L. v. Beethoven.’ Oh, why could he not be more like you, Duncan? Then I believe I could love him, even if his love for me was tainted by desire for another. But he is so slight and not easily appealing to the eye, and you are right about his temper. He frightens me sometimes with his wild passions. But his talent ensures that he is not lacking for a lover; music answers his need for intimacy in ways no woman ever could.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you to try.” The corners of Duncan’s mouth turned up in an amused smile at his companion.

Therese looked shocked, then insulted, then flirtatious as she decided to take the words for the compliment they intended.

“I am not so young anymore, Duncan. At thirty-five, I have to consider my future. It is important for a woman to wed a man with a few coins and a title; social insurance, if you will.”

Duncan’s eyes burned into hers and she withdrew a little. “I’m sorry, Duncan. I meant no offense.”

“None taken,” he insisted, but the warmth in his eyes had considerably cooled.

“Will you do me a favor, Duncan? Will you hold onto my music for me? I am going away tonight to visit friends in Prague, and it will be weeks before I return. I do not wish to take it along; I fear it may be lost and it is precious to me, for my dear teacher composed it for me and signed it with his own divine hand. I will miss him while I am away, despite the foibles that leave him so unpredictable.”

“There are things about him you do not know,” Duncan said gently. “I would be honored to take care of the music for you, but I am leaving shortly for Switzerland.”

He offered the pages back to Therese, but she pushed his hands away. “Please, Duncan? I still feel it would be safer with you. I don’t…” she glanced furtively about the crowded room, “…I do not completely trust my family. They approve of Ludwig teaching me, but it would not do for any of them to feel that there was more between us than instruction. Take the music with you to Switzerland, Duncan, and when your visit concludes there, return to me and I will relieve you of this small burden.”

“What if I don’t make it back to Vienna?”

“Then I will find you, Duncan.”

Therese tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and walked him out into the garden. There, secure from the house and the crowd, she encircled his neck with her arms and drew his face down to hers for one last, enduring kiss. As they released one another and stepped away, it began: the aching, heart-rending notes of the Moonlight Sonata silenced the babble of human voices and filtered into the garden, drawing tears from the well of Therese’s soul, though she could not have explained why anymore than Duncan could understand the sudden o’erflowing of his own emotions spilling in unexpected droplets down his cheeks to water the ground at their feet.

Seacouver, 2000

“She was staying with a group of Red Cross volunteers,” the nun explained, “in a hotel. They were walking through the lobby when the bomb detonated. All her friends are dead.” The nun stopped at the door and turned a dispassionate face to Duncan. “She wishes that she had died with them. Don’t worry, she can’t hear us,” she opened the door and stepped aside for Duncan to enter. “Fortunately, all she lost was her hearing. It will be hard to live without it, but she can learn. It will just take time.”

Duncan lingered in the doorway, studying the young woman who sat at the piano with her back to him, shoulders slumped in dejection as she stared desperately at the keys.

“She can’t hear anything? Nothing at all?”

“Well, it’s not completely gone, but it may as well be. She has to pay close attention to hear very loud noises. She can feel sound better that she can hear it. Medical aid was scant, so she was sent back to the States as soon as it was clear her life was not in danger. Her parents have been and gone several times. She responds differently with each visit, but at least she responds.”

“She and her parents are communicating, then; that is progress.”

“Not really. They are angry. She is scared.”

“Does she play?”

“When there is a sheet of music in front of her, she plays;” the nun hesitated. “She plays the right notes, but the music does not sound complete. It’s not only that she cannot hear; I do not know how to explain it. It is as if something is missing.” She gazed helplessly at her patient, then drew a sharp breath and consulted her watch. She turned briskly on Duncan. “Be considerate of her. You have an hour. Nurses will drop by to check on the two of you.” She bustled out of sight.

Duncan approached the young lady at the piano from a wide angle, stepping heavily to alert her of his presence without frightening her. She saw him peripherally and turned her face to meet his eyes with the onslaught of terror and pain and agony and loss that no human could process within the pitiful experience of less than three decades. Duncan stood stiffly and absorbed her gaze, refusing to flinch or to look away. She relaxed by degrees, exhausted by the effort of living and breathing and surviving. Duncan sat on the bench beside her and caught her in his arms as she gave way to grief and sobbed against his chest.

Such was the nature of each of their visits until the day her family took her home.

Vienna, 1827

My Dearest Duncan,

It is with deepest sorrow that I write to tell you of the loss of our beloved Ludwig. He died before six o’clock on March 26, and what tales accompany his passing! It is said that a storm was raging throughout the afternoon and that in the moment of his death his room was filled with lightning, while the building quaked at the impact of thunder. I cannot tell the verity of it, for I was not there and was not informed for several days of the tragic event.

Oh, Duncan, that I should be asked to bear such a loss! Ludwig was a dear friend and mentor, but there was something between us for which I fail to find the words. When we played music together it was as if the farthest, most unreachable essences of our spirits were communing on some divine plane that mere mortals cannot reach, or achieve, or know. I do not expect you to understand; I hardly comprehend it myself. Suffice it to say that a part of me has been buried with Ludwig; I will play again because he wills it even from the grave, but something will forever be missing and I will know it, if no one else is ever aware.

It is my very heart, Duncan. A part of me was permanently and irrevocably bound up in him and such passion cannot live alone in me, I cannot bear it; therefore it must die in me as it died with him.

I hope you find London to your liking, though I do wish your travels would lead you back to Vienna. I would love to see you again. Please continue to keep safe the music I entrusted in your care. There was a time I wished to have those lovely pages back in my possession, but now I cannot bear the thought of touching them, for it would be like touching him. Ludwig’s music will outlive us all. I can no more claim exclusive possession of ‘Keyboard Piece in A Minor’ than I can insist the sun belongs to me, for it shines on everyone.

Until death calls me to the grave I will remain,

Your Friend,

Therese Von Brunsvik

My response to the mwc, better late than never.

Posted By: Highlandgal MacWench <highlandgal_98@yahoo.com>
Date:
Saturday, 11 May 2002, at 7:20 p.m.

ok here we go are we ready? if not just go with it.

It was a hot steamy night in Paris and Duncan Macleod was all by himself on the deck of his renovated barge listening to Loreena McKennitt's album Book of Shadows and drinking a glass of fine single malt scotch. When all of a sudden Mac sensed the presence of another immortal and looked around to see who it was and he locked eyes with his sometime immortal paramour, Amanda. Although he was glad to see the lovely immortal thief, he had only one question on his mind, "what does she want and how much bail will I need?" Amanda looked at him and said "Mac don’t look at me like that. Its not gonna cost you any bail money this time. I just have some news for you." Amanda then asked "what is that music you have on Mac? Its beautiful" "Its Loreena McKennitt's album Book of Shadows." It was coming to track 4 "Marco Polo" which reminded Amanda of being in Italy and the music that she heard there. Track 3 "Skellig" reminded Mac of being in Scotland b4 he became immortal. Amanda and Mac sat for the rest of the cd each lost in their own memories b4 she got down to business and told him about meeting Connor MacLeod for the first time. Amanda then told him that she had heard that he had met up with an old enemy and the enemy had won the fight and took his head but then she had run into Connor later and told him that she was relieved that he was still alive.

MWC: Long-Lasting Songs

Posted By: Leslie Fish <lesliefish@earthlink.net>
Date:
Sunday, 12 May 2002, at 12:19 a.m.

Chicago, 1982

Chicago was not a town that Duncan MacLeod liked to live in, or liked to visit, or liked at all; the weather was miserable, the air stank of pollution and dead fish, and the city's legendary political corruption was even worse in reality than in legend.

Besides, there were a few nasty old memories here that he'd just as soon not rake up again.

Nothing short of the Dubois estate sale could have brought him here again, but that had turned out to be worth it; the Dubois family's Victorian furniture and glassware were treasure enough, but the great-grandfather's collection of Chippewa Indian relics were the real prize. Duncan fondly remembered old Robert Dubois showing him that collection, seventy years before, while swearing that it would remain in the family as long as he had anything to say about it, thank you. Well, old Robert was gone, and his great-grandson had died without issue, and now the items were set out for sale on a single table, already priced. Duncan merely opened his checkbook, offered ten thousand for the entire contents of the table, and had the sale-director practically kissing his feet.

Only when the workmen were -- very carefully, as directed -- packing everything in the shipping crates did Duncan notice something odd among the treasures. It was a small wooden box, carved with imitation-Indian designs -- which was probably how it had wound up in the display with the other items -- but to Duncan's expert eye clearly not authentic Chippewa work. He took the box off the table and moved off to the less-crowded kitchen of the old brownstone mansion to study the oddity in private.

The lid was stuck on by years of slow warping rather than any latch, and a moment's work pried it off. Inside lay a jumble of small items that it took Duncan several minutes to sort out and identify. There was an honest-to-god rabbit's foot, an authentic Crackerjack tin whistle, a watch-fob concealing a sepia-toned photograph of a pretty girl with the bobbed hair and cloche hat of a '20s flapper -- interesting but not terribly valuable memorabilia of old Robert's childhood...

...and a political button.

Duncan flinched as he recognized it. The button was much smaller than modern-day button-pins: maybe half an inch across. It wasn't made, like modern ones, of a sheet of printed plastic clenched over stamped aluminum or tin, but was truly enameled brass. The device on it, in simple black and red, was a half-globe surmounted by three stars and three capital letters.

I*W*W*

Duncan let out a long breath as his thumb unconsciously stroked back and forth over the button, wondering how on earth a rich man's son like old Robert had laid hands on such a thing. Those buttons were given or sold only to members of the old union -- certified members of the Working Class -- which Robert had certainly not been...

*He might have been a secret sympathizer,* Duncan considered. *We did get a few large grants from anonymous donors. Could it be...?*

Duncan thoughtfully closed the box and shoved it into a coat-pocket. Almost of their own volition, his hands rose and pinned the button on the back of his coat's lapel -- where it wouldn't be seen unless he deliberately flipped his lapel to reveal it. Remarkable how that old habit returned so easily.

As if the button were an amulet, its power released by his touching it, Duncan felt a nagging urge to do some quick research. He found his way to the telephone, searched for a moment and found the white-paged phonebook sitting under it. His hands turned to the "I" section.

Yes, the listing was there. Industrial Workers of the World, 1423 Howard Street, Chicago. That wasn't the old address, but he had a rough idea where it was. He remembered that the small street flanked a park, just off Halsted Avenue. Strange how the old memories came back.

It wouldn't hurt to go and look, just for old times' sake.

Duncan left some last instructions about the shipping, went out to his car and drove down Halsted Avenue until he found the right neighborhood, and the right street. Most of the buildings here were old, recognizable in style, enough to make the memories twinge.

The new IWW office was actually in a newer shop front building, probably built in the '50s. Through the large front window -- Lord, the union could never have afforded such windows in the old days -- he could see a cluttered office. The front area was lined with bookshelves, and behind a long breakfront cabinet full of pamphlets he could see a working-office area with a muscular middle-aged man poring over a ledger.

On the left-hand wall hung a painting that made Duncan gasp as he recognized it. It was the portrait of Joe Hill, painted by the long-ago prizefighter Max Baer. That hadn't changed.

Almost as if hypnotized, Duncan opened the door and walked in.

The front room, now that he could see all of it, also sported an old couch, a reading-table and a coffee-machine. It smelled of paper and mimeograph ink; the union headquarters still used mimeograph. Belatedly, Duncan noticed that a small bell was still ringing. A glance back showed that the bell was attached to the door-frame, hung so as to pull and ring when the door opened -- just as shops had used, seventy years ago.

"Can I help you?" asked the burly man behind the break-front.

All that Duncan could think to say was: "Uh, I'm an antique dealer." The moment the words were out of his mouth, he realized how ridiculous that sounded.

"Ah, you must be here about the Lenin autograph," the man smiled. "Hello. My name's Mike Hardis -- and no jokes about 'hard-ass'."

He held out a hand for a brief shake. Duncan noticed that the hand was heavily callused, more like that of a steel-worker than a clerk. The old union had always elected its officers, and most of them were heavy laborers. Duncan mumbled through the standard greetings, feeling as if time were shifting under his feet.

"We found it when we finally opened the old safe that we've been dragging around so long," Hardis went on, reaching into a heavy steel file-cabinet.
"We figure, the one of the guys who went to Russia in the '20s must've brought it back. Here."

On the break-front's top he set out an old leather-bound volume with the title, in Russian characters, embossed in gold lettering. Hardis' steel-worker fingers opened the book as carefully as if he were a brain-surgeon, displaying the title page. Duncan could make out the words "The Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx -- and below them, written in an unmistakable hand, was the signature of Nikolai Lenin.

"So, what's the estimate, d'ye think?" Hardis asked.

"$2500, easily," Duncan admitted. "Don't take less."

"Right," the man grinned, showing a couple of well-made false teeth. "That's what the other guy said. D'you want to bid on it, or broker the sale?"

"I hadn't planned either, but I'll think about it." Duncan handed him a card. "Keep me in mind, if nobody else can do you justice." He couldn't help adding: "Do you have anything else you'd like me to look at?"

Hardis laughed. "Nothing that's for sale, but you might give us an estimate anyway. C'mon." He waved Duncan around the breakfront and led him past the file-cabinets to the back room.

Duncan bit back a yelp of recognition as he looked around him. The mimeograph was no more than 20 years old, but the tall wooden composing desks were strikingly familiar. So was the hand-cranked adding machine. So was the ancient typesetters' cabinet, now used to store booklets. He recognized the booklets; the union's constitution probably hadn't changed in 70 years, either.

He also recognized the ancient address-plate maker, its Victorian filigree a little worn but still visible. The patent date -- 1893 -- was still visible. The only change was that the treadle appeared to be rusted shut, and a small electric motor sat on it now. He remembered the chore of working that treadle with his foot. The old memories were sweeping down on him like a Chicago blizzard, and he barely got out the words to say that these were specialty items, probably of interest only to a museum, which wouldn't pay very much.

"What the hell," Hardis shrugged, leading him back out to the front office. "We'll keep 'em as long as they're still working. We don't waste nothin'."

"Nothing at all," Duncan murmured, feeling slightly unreal. He glanced at the Joe Hill portrait as he passed it. The long-dead martyr's eyes seemed to watch him, amused at his confusion.

He heard the front door's bell ring again, and a man came in, whistling softly. Duncan flinched as he recognized the tune.

*"Solidarity forever...for the union makes us strong."*

He also recognized the whistle.

*...It can't be...*

"Hey, Joe!" Hardis called to the new guest, moving past Duncan. "How ya doin? Want some coffee?"

"Nye, nye," said a dry, spry, OLD voice. "Thee doctohrs say my blud-pressure is too high. Chust some dee-caff, if you got?"

*Dear Lord, it IS him!*

"Sure thing." Hardis lumbered away to the coffee-machine, clearing the path to the couch.

Duncan found his feet taking him there without waiting for his brain to engage.

The man sitting on the couch was small and wizened and old, very old, but the wrinkled hands that clasped the cane between his knees were still huge, big-knuckled and strong. Duncan would have recognized those hands, even if he hadn't recognized the still-merry, sharp blue eyes.

*Joe Vlad. He must be in his 90s by now.*

Too late, he realized that those blue eyes were fixed on him. And they recognized him.

For a measureless moment he looked at the old man, who looked at him, and prayed that the sight of him wouldn't give the man a fatal heart-attack right there.

Then Hardis brought the cup, which the old man took, and strode back to his desk and ledger. "Sorry I can't stop to rap with ya just now," he apologized, "But I gotta get the dues-reports finished."

The old man simply nodded, not taking his eyes off Duncan. Finally he reached out with his other hand and patted the couch beside him. "Dooncahn," he said calmly. "Long time, no see. Coome, sit."

"You two know each other?" Hardis raised his head in surprise, pen paused in his big hand.

"Antiques..." Duncan mumbled.

"Hah. Anoather eight years, I be a certified antique mineself. Sit, sit."

Hardis went back to his ledger, and Duncan could think of nothing to do but come and sit on the couch beside the old man.

"Uh, I think you have me confused with someone else...my grandfather, perhaps..." Duncan tried, keeping his voice down.

"Dooncahn's grendsohn would not heve recognized ME," the old man smiled wickedly, revealing yellowed but original teeth. "Coome, I em used to marvels. I em Hungarian, am I not?"

"Well, no one could mistake that accent." Duncan smiled despite himself.

"Also -- mine big secret -- I em wrong-side-of-blenket descendant of Vlad the Impaler, remember?"

"Uh..." Duncan vaguely remembered Joe Vlad, a much younger Joe Vlad, telling him that one night over his 16th or 17th beer. "I...heard that story."

"Aye. And you know what they say about mine famous encestor, no? What his title was?"

"I've heard the legends, of course..."

"Say the word. Dracula."

Duncan only shook his head, afraid of where this was going.

"So, es I said, I em used to marvels." The old man smiled keenly. "I see you walk about in sunlight, end I always saw you drink beer, not blud."

"No, I'm not that," Duncan shivered, and surrendered. "I'm...I think my kind might be the origin of the legend of elves."

"Eh, thet's a much prettier legend." Joe Vlad grinned. "So, what you been up to, these lest sefenty years?"

Duncan shrugged. "Running around trying to right wrongs, as always. The Resistance, in World War Two...smaller things, since. Got into the antique business. Found a good woman..."

"Ah. She heve nice tits?"

"Joe! ...Damn, you always were a tit-man," Duncan couldn't help smiling.

"Oh yes." The old man grinned, twice as wickedly as before. "There's this one gerl in the local, nice blue eyes, has these really great tits. I got to squeeze them et the New Year's party, end they're real all right. You stick around, meybe you meet her."

Duncan shook his head, laughing. Joe Vlad would probably grab the nurses' breasts on his deathbed. "I can't stay. I was just in town on business, and dropped in to see how the old union was doing."

"Well, we lost our last big job-shop in 1947, but we heve lots of small ones. We got big influx of new members in '60s and '70s -- kids grateful to see thet they could live to grow old and not sell out. We organize shops no other union will touch. We got more Directed Bargaining Orders out of NLRB then eny other union in the country. We survive, we last, soon enough we be need again big-time."

"I'll believe it." Duncan looked around him, at the enduring -- and working -- testaments to the past. "It's good to know that...some things last."

"Other then yourself, you mean?" The old man smiled with such sympathy that it made Duncan shiver. He took a long, leisurely drink from his cup. "Eh, in chust 92 years I see the world chenge so much...I can imachine what is like for you. How old you now?"

There was no point in lying. "Nearly 400."

Joe Vlad barely raised an eyebrow. "In all thet chenge, what you see thet lasts?"

Duncan shivered again. The old man always did have an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of anything. "Not much," he admitted. "And...that scares me. Tell me, you wily old goat; what have YOU seen that lasts?"

"Love," Vlad said. "Not chust for big tits, either. Ideals -- which is why I am still with union for sefenty years. Art -- you know, thet big-titted woman writes songs, like Choe Hill did. Those things lest, Dooncahn. You hold on to them."

Duncan only bowed his head. He couldn't think of anything to say to that. The old man patted his knee, then reached for his cane.

"I no can stay long," he apologized. "I heve a stroke not too long ego, end the doctors say I must teke it easy. I get home early for supper now."

Duncan hasted to help the old man to his feet. The body felt as light as crumpled paper, but his grip was still strong as iron. He waved a cheeful farewell and shuffled to the door, whistling as he went.

Duncan's memory supplied the words of verses never found in modern-day songbooks.

*"In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies multiplied a thousandfold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old,
For the union makes us strong."*

Around a living marvel like Joe Vlad, in this office where the antiques worked -- and walked -- it was easy to believe that.

Duncan tried to remember all seven verses to that song, and found the words coming back easily. Still, he thought, he should buy the latest edition of the Little Red Songbook -- the union's consistent bestseller for the last half-century -- just to keep the words fresh in his mind. Not to mention Joe Hill's classic "The Preacher and the Slave"...

The sudden sound of a chair being shoved back drew his startled attention to Hardis. The man was lunging to his feet, with his face gone pale as snow. "Oh shit!" Hardis gasped. "I just remembered--"

"Was there something you wanted to ask him?" Duncan guessed. "He couldn't have gone far."

"Gone far..." Hardis gulped, then turned wide eyes on Duncan. "You saw him too?"

"Saw..?" This made no sense. "I was just talking with him. What do you mean, saw him?"

Hardis drew a deep breath, visibly calming himself. "Exactly what did you see, and hear?" he asked carefully.

"Well, Joe Vlad -- telling me how the union's been doing. Why?"

"Oh, shit." Hardis almost fell back in his chair, which creaked alarmingly. "It's true. The place is haunted."

"...What?"

Hardis pulled another several breaths, then recited: "Joe Vlad has been coming in here every couple of days for the past twenty...maybe thirty years. He always sits on the couch and has a cup of coffee, stays awhile, then leaves. I've heard other folks say he shows up at the meetings of the local, whenever it's held here. Everybody's so used to seeing him that nobody thinks twice about it...until after he's gone. We even give him coffee -- or decaf...and the cup always empties..." His voice began to shiver, and he stopped.

"Drop the other shoe," Duncan snapped, worried at the man's reaction. "What's so strange about that?"

For answer, Hardis got up again and came walking around the break-front. He paused briefly to cast a nervous glance at the painting of Joe Hill, then came over to the table and looked very deliberately at the coffee-cup sitting on it. He shivered visibly.

"What's weird about it is... Joe Vlad died three years ago. Of a stroke. We all attended his funeral, at Waldheim Cemetery. And he still comes in here every few days, and nobody ever realizes that he shouldn't be here until after he's gone. I swear, I never believed in ghosts before I worked here. Now I've got no choice."

Duncan opened his mouth, then shut it. He looked into the cup and saw that it was almost empty. He distinctly remembered Hardis filling that cup. He knew that he hadn't drunk any of it. The feeling of unreality swept over him again, and he thought he might faint if he didn't get out into the fresh air... Well, as fresh as Chicago air ever got.

He noticed that Hardis was staring at the Joe Hill portrait again, and looked at it himself. The eyes in the portrait were looking straight at him. He remembered that the eyes had looked straight at him before, when he was standing in a totally different position.

"Haunted," Hardis repeated quietly. "Maybe it's something to do with all the feelings people have put into this place, this union...all those ideals, held so hard for so long..."

Duncan found his lips shaping the words, the only solution he could think of. "Sell the portrait."

"No." Hardis' expression hardened. "They're our ghosts. Our miracle. We'll keep them."

"Then...sell me a copy of the Little Red Songbook," Duncan said.

"Right." Hardis reached into a shelf on the break-front and pulled out a small red paper-bound booklet. "Just a dollar. Used to be 25 cents."

Duncan reached into his wallet, thought a moment, then pulled out a fifty-dollar bill. "Keep the change," he said. "Buy more decaf."

Hardis nodded understanding, and solemnly locked the bill away in a battered but unbroken old metal strongbox. Duncan shivered as he recognized it.

He was out on the street again, getting into his rental car, when he realized that he was still holding the booklet in his hand. Guessing what he'd find in it, he opened the book and riffled through the pages.

Yes, there was "Solidarity Forever", and "The Preacher and the Slave", and several more very old union songs that he recognized. There were some new ones, too.

Thoughtfully, he closed the booklet and put it in his pocket. His other hand almost idly reached up to feel the button hidden under his collar.

*Some things last,* he understood. *Some mortal things can last a long time. Love, and ideals, and art... What can they carry with them?*

*Never discount the miraculous. The world contains more marvels than we know.*

As he settled into the driver's seat, he threw a last look back through the window, at the portrait of Joe Hill.

Even at this angle, the eyes were still looking at him.

MWC And I Must Bide

Posted By: lynnannCDC
(IP: spider-wm012.proxy.aol.com)
Date:
Tuesday, 14 May 2002, at 1:47 a.m.


Sorry to be so late with my entry, but I got back from vacation Saturday night and it took 2 days to catch up on all the boards.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

And I Must Bide

It was months before her birthday, six to be exact, but he had felt a sudden need to be in the Highlands that autumn. He had enjoyed his kinsman’s company in Paris, until the evening Duncan had persuaded him to accompany him to Dawson’s blues bar. The black singer Joe had hired, answering a request from a slightly tipsy tourist, had sung “Danny Boy” with emotion in her contralto voice that had touched not only a few patrons, but the austere older immortal as well. He had downed the Scotch in his glass in a single gulp, tossed some francs on the table and stalked out without a word. When Duncan caught up to him, Connor had only asked for a ride to the Paris Orly airport.

He caught the last available flight to Edinburgh that night, and rented a Land Rover to take him across the country to the Highlands, the wide motorway narrowing as he left towns and then villages behind him in the early dawn. The vehicle dropped and swayed through the eroded ruts of the trail that had once brought carts to the forge and he finally stopped the engine. The last time he had been here, he remembered, John had been with him. The child listened intently to the story his father had to tell him, asking the questions of a boy on the brink of manhood about his own beginnings. Connor had never lied about the adoption, about Brenda, but had explained little things away as ‘magic’ and the boy had believed with the trust of a child who loved his father, and knew he was loved in return. The teenager was now in Europe as an exchange student, and Connor missed him, but the words of the song had forcibly reminded him he missed many people from his long life. But none more than his Blossom, his fair Heather with tresses that had shined as bright as the sun, that eventually glistened as white as snow.

He stepped from the Rover and shrugged on his parka. The contralto voice of the singer faded from his head as he strode up the hill to the gravesite. Even though the song was written long after her death, he heard the soft singsong voice of his first wife.

If ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.

“No prayer, Heather, except the one in my heart,” he said standing by the grave known to few. “I miss you, I always will. Ramirez tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t exchange a single day of what we had. Missing you now is how I know I’m alive. It would be easy enough to let it end, but the old Peacock taught me too well. The pipes are still calling, and I can’t turn my back on the fight. You may see the clothes of a modern man, but I still have a warrior’s heart, and giving up is not who I am. Be patient, Blossom.”

The Highlander lifted his eyes to the mountains that surrounded him. Little had changed in this place during the four hundred years since he had left. The forge and the buildings had crumbled to moldy ruins in the damp air of the centuries, but the mountains remained steadfast and firm. As I must, he thought with conviction.

He dropped to one knee and pulled a candle from his pocket, placing it in the small cairn built a century ago. He struck a match and touched it to the white wick, the fire dancing high before settling into a short flame. “I love you, Heather. Every day brings us closer to the time we will be together, but for now, I am the one that must bide.”

And I shall hear though soft you tread above me
And all my grave will warmer sweeter be
If you will kneel and tell me that you love me
Then I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

“Sleep well, my bonny Heather. I love you so.”

The soft wind sighed in answer.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

thanks for reading

lynnann

MWC: "If I ever cried"

Posted By: Ghost Cat <ghost_cat@hotmail.com>
Date:
Tuesday, 14 May 2002, at 2:40 a.m.


I know you never said that you’d be leaving.
But your empty bed says that you’re gone.
I know that darkness doth feed upon the sorrow,
And that the long night has just begun.

She stirred restlessly in bed, hovering on the edge of awareness, plagued by unpleasant dreams. Instinctively, her body sought the warmth and comfort of her lover; her eyes snapped open as she found that his side of the bed was empty.

She sat up quickly, now fully awake. The bed was small, and so was the room: a shabby walk-up hotel was the latest of a series of temporary homes. She scanned the room, saw that the set of clothes dropped negligently onto a chair was missing; that wasn’t the only thing that was gone. He always believed in the importance of the truth, and so she knew what he was—an Immortal. He stressed over and over to her that if both he and his sword were missing, she should find a safe place and stay there. She supposed that this place was safe enough for now.

The bed didn’t seem warm anymore without his presence; with a sigh, she slipped on a robe and walked over to the window. “Where are you, my Love?” she whispered into the darkness.



I can’t even see through my window
The dark shadowed panes hide my view.
But I can recall there once was a garden
And that one day I walked there with you.

 

She had always had a deep desire to travel, and the man who had swept into her life did his best to fulfill her dream. They roamed the world, stopping wherever the mood took them, but even he didn’t have an infinite amount of money. For every rich manor house or presidential suite, there were a half dozen places like this one. She didn’t mind; as long as they were together. The waiting ate slowly at her nerves; she wished for one tiny spark of that strange talent that allowed Immortals to sense one another. At least then she would know that he was still out there, somewhere.

She sat in silence, staring out the window; the night was black and moonless, her own face confronted her from the glass. Her mind wandered down paths of memory, to the moment when he had shared his deepest secrets with her, as if revealing some bright treasure kept long hidden. It had been a beautiful summer day (how many years ago?), surrounded by the green life of young buds and ancient trees.

She remembered his heartfelt sigh of contentment as they walked arm in arm down perfumed paths. “I wanted you to see this place first; it’s one of my favorites.” Even in memory, she loved the sound of his voice. “I don’t know why I don’t come here more often.” Their wanderings had taken them to a clearing in the park, dominated by a lone oak that seemed to stand sentinel. He walked right up to the base of the ancestral tree, resting his hand against the trunk as if he could feel the life flowing through it. With an enigmatic smile, he had turned toward her, reaching out his other hand in invitation. “Did you know,” he had said, his voice soft and casual, “the last time I was here, this tree was merely a sapling?” That simple admission had lead to a long, strange conversation that would change both their lives forever.

I feel a change in the weather,
In the distance, I hear a squall.
I don’t really know if I will stay or I’ll go,
Pretty soon some rain’s going to fall.

Life forever and death around every corner; such was the world of the Immortals. She had been dragged into that world not by force, but by love; fully knowing what it might mean. There was a tension in the air, something that she could almost, but not quite identify. Her body trembled with a sudden premonition that somewhere, out there, something terrible was about to happen. She had promised to stay out of danger; their mutual oath to keep their personal relationship a haven from the Gathering. And yet, wasn’t love itself a greater duty than any oath? She was already out in the street, nightgown, robe and coat all flowing in the wind, before she even consciously made the decision.



If I ever cried, I don’t remember.
To my empty heart I must explain
How one moment so sweet,
On a dark city street,
Made the stars fall down like rain.

She ran blindly down the dark streets, following instinct, and a sense of horrible urgency. Ominous clouds hung heavily, cutting off the stars. She wasn’t certain if the moisture that blurred her vision was rain or tears; she wouldn’t let either one stop her in her quest. She wiped them aside without a thought, hardly even slowing down in her mad race against time. In the distance she heard a sound that might be mistaken for a gathering storm. She knew though, from bitter experience, the difference between the crash of thunder and the clash of steel on steel.



I feel a change in the weather,
In the distance, I hear a squall.
I don’t know if I will stay or I’ll go,
Pretty soon some rain’s going to fall.

She turned in the direction of the sounds of battle, putting on a final rush of desperate speed. Suddenly, she burst out of a narrow alley into an open space—and stopped, stunned, by what she saw. The confrontation before her was very different from the practice spars he had allowed her to witness. This was real combat, deadly serious; the specter of death hung in the air more palpably than the storm clouds overhead.

She froze, not daring to make a sound for fear of distracting her love at a crucial time. It hardly would have mattered at this stage; the duelists fought with utter focus, as if the universe ceased to exist around them. Both men were staggering from exhaustion and the burden of their wounds; surely it couldn’t last much longer. Despite the darkness and the confusion, she knew her beloved by instinct. She watched the action with her heart in her throat, waiting for that one fatal moment when one or the other would make a mistake.

The dark clouds released their burden, and the sheets of heavy rain added to the chaos of battle. Traitorous footing lead to a misstep, an opportunity, a lunge that sent a blade tumbling into the night.

For a moment, she lost track of who was who; fear betrayed her and she shut her eyes tight against what she knew was coming. She heard the sound of a powerful blow, an animalistic roar dredged from the victor’s last reserves of strength. There was a sickening thud; she forced down her panic and opened her eyes. A body lay on the ground, a body that seemed strangely incomplete. Something had rolled toward her, coming to a stop against one of her boots. With dread certainty, she knew what it was; she forced herself not to look down.

Where two men had stood, now there was only one. Her heart clenched as she saw her beloved, drained, pained, barely able to stand. Heedless of the blood and nearby corpse, she ran to his side to comfort him. He saw her coming, a mixture of shock and dismay crossing his tired face. Weakly, he tried to push her aside, but she wouldn’t allow it. He started to collapse with the effort to keep her away; she guided his fall and held him, gently, in her arms. She saw a glow out of the corner of her eye, attracting her gaze. As she watched, fascinated, a mist seemed to lift out of the body on the ground, gathering strength and form. Suddenly the Thing rushed toward her, passed through her, and into him. She gasped as if she had touched an electric current; something powerful tore her beloved from her arms. She watched in awe as he danced in a shower of light and color and fire; a display that was beautiful, and terrible. She watched him, yet at some level she was within him. There was a connection at that moment, a sensation of standing at the edge of a whirlwind that she would tear her to pieces if it touched her. In her soul she knew that the whirlwind could not harm him, that he lived with that whirlwind inside him every day of his life.

The wild power faded as quickly as it had come, and now he was holding her in those strong, comforting arms. “Hush,” he whispered, “It’s over now.”



If I ever cried, I don’t remember.
To my empty heart I must explain
How one moment so sweet,
On a dark city street,
Made the stars fall around us like rain.
The stars fell down us like rain.
The stars are all falling like rain.
The stars fell around us, like the rain.


Author’s Note: These images have been haunting me since the first time I heard the song (Byrnes will do that to you), but the details were tantalizingly few. No matter how many times the Muses showed me this scene, they never named names, and I never saw any faces. I can’t tell you who these lovers are, because I don’t know myself. Yet I am glad to have been able to tell their tale, and I wish them well.

Names

Posted By: Hmpf MacSlow <hmpf1998@gmx.net>
Date:
Monday, 20 May 2002, at 5:12 p.m.


Leslie and Palladia encouraged me to post this as a response to the MWC of the week before last week (how do you say that correctly in English?), although it wasn't written for it. It was actually written for the Lyric Wheel, but since the Lyric Wheel is all about incorporating a song or even using it as the basis of a story, it seems to fit... (I totally missed that MWC - I didn't spend much time online while I was writing my story, which took me about two weeks.) Well, here it is:

***Names***
A Lyric Wheel story for the 'Where You Live Wheel' (May 2002) by Hmpf MacSlow

*Author's notes*: This is exactly two weeks too late. I have a very good excuse, though - besides being MacSlow, which means it always takes me a bit longer to finish a story. On May 4th, the day of the posting deadline, I moved. I was mostly busy with preparing the move the week before, and busy unpacking and getting settled the week after. Hence, the delay in finishing this story. Also, I had to scrap my first attempt, which turned out to be crap after about one and a half pages were done.

But, in case anyone is still interested in reading it, here is my story, at long last. I'm not sure if the parts mesh well (there's a concept behind it, but I'm not sure how well it's coming over), but I can't make it any better now without causing another delay, and I just want to be done with it. I do like the story as it is, despite its flaws.

Aside from Methos and Flavius (my own creation), the characters in this fic were shamelessly taken from Real Life. So was the dig, though the one I am describing would have to have taken place a few years before the one I modelled it on. I'm in the story for a very short cameo, as well. *g*

*Thanks to*: Leslie Fish, Ghost Cat and a number of other forumlanders who gave me weapons advice, as well as forumlanders kdrah and Alexander who improved my Latin. :-)

*Disclaimer*: Not mine. Just poaching.

*Lyrics*: 'Clothes of Sand' by Nick Drake, sent to me by Pollyanna. Yeah, I ended up using them, after all. ;-)

*Feedback*: Yes. Please. (hmpf1998@gmx.net)

*********Names*********
by Hmpf

There is a certain low key joy in riding a train out of the city early on a transparent summer morning, the young man on a seat by the window reflects. A taste of new beginnings is on his tongue that he remembers from leaving many cities and that he knows in this instance to be an illusion, for he is not leaving, and really, he has no desire to leave this life so soon. Adam Pierson is much too young yet -- younger than he looks; born not of woman but of a carefully constructed identity about fifteen years ago in a mouldy Paris basement. He has a painstakingly forged passport, a childhood that never was, well-hidden, inexhaustible funds, a mostly likeable, mostly inconspicuous manner spiked with a few plausible flaws, and a disarming smile.

On this mild August morning on the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany, he is on his way to work.

The morning sun fills the sky with golden promise, sharpening the edges of leaves and trees and glinting on the skyline the train is steadily moving away from. Proudly joking the city styles itself 'Mainhattan'. Adam Pierson, however, does not think the resemblance with that other financial metropolis so striking. Unlike New York, Frankfurt is only impressive from a distance.

As the train describes a long curve the city is lost from view. There are only green and yellow fields now, and a stretch of suburb disappearing in a gentle fold of the land. High-rise apartment buildings in shades of pastel sit isolated in the middle distance like building blocks placed by a baby giant in a modernised Arcadian landscape.

Like much of Europe, Germany is a thoroughly tamed country, parcellated and marked with ubiquitous signs of human habitation -- roads and railroads, power stations, farms, and villages blending into suburbs blending into industrial areas blending into cities. There are no horizons free of electrical lines, no skies without the vapour trails of aeroplanes.

Adam Pierson, who is a student of history -- as well as of human nature -- can fill the well-ordered meadows and fields with primordial forests in his imagination, although he has never seen the country in its pristine state. However, he is rather fond of civilization. By no means does he feel humankind should return to a simpler life anytime soon. The landscape’s artificiality therefore does not make him uncomfortable, as it might a more romantically minded person.

Houses are closing in on the train tracks now, tidy little two- or three-storey houses: sober small town houses, built mostly after the war. The leaves of a tree leaning over the fence of an abandoned factory yard brush the train’s side. The train stops at a small station to disgorge a few youths trailing a tinny suggestion of hip hop.

Adam Pierson gets off the train at the next stop. The platform is a little off the centre of a conglomeration of houses that were once a village and are now something of a suburb to the small neighbouring town. A five minute walk among monuments of modest 1950s prosperity, past a bakery that seems to be a relic from that very era and where, on an impulse, he buys some rolls, takes him to the edge of the small knot of winding streets. There, he crosses a busy road, then walks across a patch of high grass, and is on the road that will take him to his place of work. The three yellow containers greet him from afar across the fields.

***

'Good Morning!'

Everyone in the cramped room looks up at the sound of the uncommonly cheerful greeting. Six pairs of bleary eyes take in the somewhat goofy smile plastered across the features of Adam Pierson, the excavation's very own Brit.

'Morning, Adam.'

'Hi, Adam.'

'You look extremely happy this morning. Something happen on the way here? Did you run over a cat or something?' a girl tying her shoes leaning on the container's small and defunct radiator asks.

Adam Pierson tilts his head in mock confusion. 'Why, it's a wonderful morning! The sun's shining, the birds are singing... there isn't even a hint of a cloud.' He is all wide-eyed enthusiasm. 'Come on, doesn't it make you want to --'

'It makes me want to sit in the shade and do nothing very much.' says the girl.

'Birdsong? Uhm, you *did* notice we're right beside a six lane highway here, did you?' a voice remarks from behind his back. 'And where's your car?'

He turns and steps aside to let Sandra enter the already overcrowded room. She's as good an embodiment of the idea of a sprite as he has ever run across, a little short-haired blonde with a genially wicked sense of humour.

'It died yesterday.' he confesses to her, mournfully. 'I took the train and walked.'

'You walked?! All the way?' Another student looks up from applying sun screen to his legs, amazed as only a car owner can be at such an announcement.

'Well, yes, all the way from the station. It's not like I had to cross the Sahara or anything.'

'Gee, Adam, you should have called us! We would have picked you up!' Sandra says.

'I have no doubt about that, but I rather like to walk, sometimes. It's like being on holiday.' he grins.

He puts down his backpack and removes a bottle of water and a crinkled sunhat from it. He does not change into his work clothes, having already put on a faded, threadbare pair of blue jeans and sturdy old hiking boots when he left home. For reasons of his own he cannot change his clothes in a public place. The reasons have a calibre of 9 mm and a 12 cm blade. They are hidden in his boots, invisible as long as he takes care to keep the trouser legs over them. He has thought about flared trousers for a moment or two, because they would make access to the weapons easier, but he knows that his fellow students know him well enough to know he is not the type to go for a fashionable seventies revival style. Anyway, out here in the open he is not likely to get into a situation where he might have to surprise an opponent.

Sunhat and bottle in one hand, he leaves for the tools container to grab a spade and a shovel, then makes his way across the field to the trenches.

***

Moments out of a day:

Early morning: the sun is still low, lending to the air an as yet mild warmth that does not hinder the workers. The drone of the highway has retreated into the background through habituation. The trench, ten by thirty metres, lies half-shadowed by the mounds of excavated earth that surround it, and in the shadows it can still get positively chilly. Later in the day the heat will increase to become almost unbearable in the early afternoon, sweltering and oppressive, and the students will then remember the cool shadows with regret. Adam Pierson is driving his spade into earth that has been softened by the night's dew, and the work is easy. He is not used to hard labour, but he adapts easily, and finds the simple, down to earth processes of digging, shovelling, and checking the broken up soil for shards of seven thousand year old pottery unexpectedly satisfying. His mind seems to settle down into a state of perfect serenity while his muscles tense and relax in a rhythm so natural it could be innate.

Breakfast, 10 a.m.: the students convene at the containers again, sitting down in the shadows on the trampled straw or on chairs taken from the containers. When they return to the trenches, they will find the ground dried and hardened by sun, and the work will get draining. Munching on his dry rolls, Adam Pierson is getting into a discussion about an obscure little soccer club he has never heard of with Sandra's fiercely fanatical boyfriend. The club has a long history of apparently deserved defeats, but Sandra's boyfriend has a faible for lost causes, it appears. Another student joins in, and Adam Pierson becomes intrigued by their ironically tempered passion. He has never been to a soccer game. Maybe he should give it a try. He remarks as much to his fellow students, and they seem pleased.

Approaching noon: with the soil now as hard as concrete, spades are no use anymore. In some places the students have to tackle the ground with pick-axes. Adam Pierson is lugging ten-liter watering cans from the water tank to the trenches. There, the precious liquid is used to soften the uppermost layer of earth. In their sunhats, mostly bought at a local discounter, the soon-to-be-archaeologists, including Adam Pierson, look like a bunch of displaced tourists. Later Adam Pierson is kneeling, carefully digging through the earth with a trowel. The shards are not easy to notice, and more often than not they fall apart as he is trying to separate them from the earth that has covered them since the day a Neolithic housewife threw them away. A gentle wind carries shreds of a conversation to him that takes place somewhere behind his back -- Sandra and some other girl discussing the merits of the various incarnations of Star Trek while they are digging. A waft of tar is blown across the trench from the relentlessly approaching construction site that is the reason for this hurried excavation.

Suddenly, the sound of the trowel scraping on something. He has found a shard, a big one, and like a miracle the soil falls away to reveal it, whole and solid, and for a moment, he just sits there, the perfect shard cradled in a dirty hand.

A little later, he is cleaning the profile. 'This earth is seven thousand years old,' he thinks, inconsequentially. Not exactly awed, but keenly aware of the length of time. Feeling young. Then he thinks about soccer.

***

In the afternoon, leaning on his spade, sweat drawing maps on his shirt, Adam Pierson is resting for a moment, when suddenly his body becomes alert to a danger in the vicinity. He tenses, then slowly sinks into a crouch in the hole he is working in, pretending to dig with the trowel while calmly scanning the perimeter for the source of the disturbance. A car, a big BMW, has pulled up beside the containers. A man is getting out, takes a long black coat from the co-driver's seat, puts it on and starts to head for the trenches. After a few steps, he is checked by something invisible, shakes his head as if to clear it, then looks around with intense interest. Adam Pierson eyes the bank of the highway, calculating his chances of crossing the six lanes unscathed, but something in the way the stranger moves, the way he holds his head, gives him pause. A furtive glance around tells him no one can see what he is doing, and his hand sneaks to his boot top. The stranger is approaching unhurriedly. Now he is only 300 m away, now 200 --

'Das kann doch net wahr sein!?' The man shouts his surprise in perfect Hessian-flavoured German, a deep rumbling laugh mixing with the words, and quickens his steps. 'Old friend! What a wonderful surprise!' He stops beside the hole Adam Pierson is still crouching in.

'Flavius! It's an unexpected pleasure to see you, too,' the oldest man in the world says, squinting up against the sun, and taking his hand slowly away from his boot. He rises and climbs out of the hole, brushing dirt off his jeans. The other man claps him on the shoulder, then laughs and embraces him. Adam Pierson laughs, too, and then quietens and grins while the younger man's keen glance takes him in head to toe.

'So, what was that thing you were about to surprise me with?' Flavius ask amiably.

'9 mm automatic. I wasn't sure of your intentions.' Adam Pierson replies, just as amiably.

'Wouldn't that be kind of against the rules?'

'Only if I took your head.'

'Which of course you'd never do.'

'Oh, never. Taking a quickening in front of all these people would really screw up my studies.' Adam Pierson smirks. Then he raises his eyebrows in silent warning as he sees Sandra approaching. 'I'm Adam Pierson,' he says under his breath.

'Karl-Heinz Müller.'

Adam Pierson cannot suppress a snort of laughter.

'Hey, that's a perfectly normal name for a German my age!' (Low; then louder, with a glint of mischief:) 'We can't all be eternal thirty-year-olds, you know.'

'Ah-ha! So that is the solution to the dig's greatest mystery! Thirty, is it?' Sandra, who has heard the last part of the sentence, grins, clearly not believing a word of it.

Flavius returns her grin, rejoining, 'Oh, Adam's been celebrating his thirtieth birthday for years now. He's terribly vain.'

'Yeah, I'm sure he's wearing a toupet, too.' Sandra beams.

'No, but I'm dyeing my hair,' Adam Pierson admits, coyly.

***

'Friend of your father, indeed!' Flavius snickers, commenting on the explanation the older man has given to his colleagues for their acquaintance. The senior students who are leading the excavation have called a break, and the two old friends are now strolling along the edge of the field while the other students are taking their lunch in the shade of the containers. 'So, you're digging out my old villa?' Flavius ask. He has posed as a curious local in front of the students.

'Well, it's part of the excavation, yes, but it's not what I'm working on. Seems you had neighbours -- or predecessors, really. There's four Linear-Bandkeramik houses right beside yours.'

'Linear-Bandkeramik...?'

'Neolithic. About 7000 years ago.'

Flavius casts an astonished glance at the trenches. 'You mean you can still find traces of houses that stood here such a long time ago? Hey, they're older than you, even!'

Adam Pierson scratches his head and grins lopsidedly. 'We don't find much, really. Stains in the ground and what's left of their refuse. Shards. Charcoal. Nothing that would get us onto the title of Newsweek or the Spiegel. It's an interesting experience, though. Quite different from what we used to call 'archaeology' just a century ago.'

'Well, if you're looking for treasures, maybe you'll find that sestertius I lost behind the house in '95.' Flavius deadpans. Then his demeanour changes. Something seems to give.

'You're really into this archaeology stuff, aren't you?' he demands to know, eyes narrowed, head tilted.

'Yes. I try to keep out of the eras I've lived through, though. I know too much that I can't explain to participate in any kind of educated discourse on these. But I know about as much about the stone ages as the next guy, so I'm really quite on the same footing as any other student. Or professor.'

'You a student? Or a professor?'

Adam Pierson laughs. 'If I were a prof, I wouldn't be working here.'

'So, Adam Pierson is newish?'

'No. In fact, Adam's quite close to his expiry date. I've used him for over fifteen years. He's already had, well, let's call it a different career before I decided to try for a Ph.D.'

'Why didn't you start a new identity for that?'

'Oh, but I like being Adam. I want to make the most of him, you know.'

'But 'Adam Pierson' is just a name, Methos. You could have done just the same as you're doing now under a different name, and had the chance to do it for years! Now, you'll have to leave 'Adam Pierson' behind in a few years, and you'll have to stay out of the field of archaeology for quite a while to avoid being recognized by someone who knew you as him!'

The older man regards Flavius for an extended moment, then says: 'It's not that simple.'

Flavius meets his eyes, then shakes his head and turns away.

'Loquamor lingua mea, amice. Nemo lingua mea iam loquitur,' he says, finally.

Adam Pierson stands looking at his friend's back for a while, staying silent.

'Sure we can talk Latin,' he then says, quietly, 'but I suspect it won't help you.'

The constant low drone of the highway seems to grow louder as they stand in the stifling heat, Flavius in his too warm coat; the man who calls himself Adam Pierson waiting, his gaze resting on Flavius' broad back. He remembers the proud Roman centurio; remembers taking him on as a student after his First Death in a skirmish with the Germans. He had been his first student in a thousand years. Having seen how far he could fall, how easily, he had deemed himself unfit to guide a new immortal for a long time, and he would not have taken Flavius as a student, had it not been for -- No, there had been no rational reason. No reason except for the secret need for a closeness he had found he could not find with mortals, a closeness he had not found since -- *Don't go there.*

'Flavius,' gently.

The other man shrugs and gives a short, helpless laugh.

'Methos... I came here to get in touch with the past. I wanted to get in touch with *myself*, because I've lost touch, I've lost myself, and there's a woman in a big house in Bad Homburg who thinks she's married to Karl-Heinz Müller, and sometimes I think she's right, too, and it's scaring me like nothing on a battlefield ever could.' He takes a long, shaky breath, surprised at his outburst.

He turns and, for the first time sees Methos, his teacher, not Adam Pierson. He has always been impressed with the ancient immortal's ability to always seem to belong right where he is standing. He is the most self-assured man he has ever met, thoroughly himself, free of all the many insecurities that Flavius cannot seem to shake even after two millennia. He stands relaxed, legs just slighly apart, arms folded, a smear of dirt on his short sleeve beside his right hand. Flavius remembers that expression on his face, too -- part irony, part pity, part *what*? Wisdom?

Or is he only amused?

And of course, he is silent.

Frustration rises in Flavius, threatening to turn into irritation, but he masters himself. 'Have you ever felt that?' he asks. 'Do you know what I'm talking about?'

Methos smiles, almost ruefully, looks aside, looks back at his student, looks down at his feet, then meets his student's eyes with a gaze full of amused understanding and regret.

'You really did try hard to hold on to the original Flavius, didn't you?' he observes.

'I'm trying to be myself.'

'You can't.'

Flavius' glance is a plea for a reassurance that his teacher cannot give. He meets his student's eyes squarely, and Flavius knows the comfort he will find here will be a mixed blessing.

'You said Adam Pierson was only a name, Flavius. You're right, but it isn't that simple. Adam Pierson may be 'only' a name, but then, so is Methos, and so is Flavius. They're different labels put on the same box at different times. You want to separate Flavius and Karl-Heinz, but that's impossible. You have tried to hold on to a core that does not exist.'

'But -- Karl-Heinz, and every identity before, started out as make-believe. They were masks, roles. Until recently, I always knew where the role ended. I always knew who I was behind the mask.'

'We're not meant to be static, Flavius. Don't try to be that Roman centurio when the Roman Empire has long since fallen. You're almost two thousand years old; no one can hold onto one identity forever.'

'But you seem to be very much yourself. You always did.'

'I was three thousand years old when we met, Flavius. I had lost myself numerous times, tried many different personalities. In the beginning, I played; then I *became*. It's a risky thing, but it's the only way for us. Let go of the old Flavius, and give Karl-Heinz a chance. See where he will take you. And when you've lived a thousand lives, erred a thousand times, *maybe* you'll discover who you really are. Believe me -- you probably have no idea... and you may not like some of the things you will find out on the way.' he falls silent.

'So, you lived through, what, a millennia-long midlife crisis, and then you found out who you really were, and you're telling me to do the same?' Flavius asks, desperately incredulous. His teacher, the corner of his mouth twitching into a half-smile, watches him for a moment, then replies, 'You don't really have much of a choice.'

Again, they are silent.

'Care to share some of the terrible errors you made? Just so I know what to expect?' Flavius says, with forced levity.

Without warning Methos' features turn inscrutable. 'No.'

'All right,' Flavius, taken aback, hastens to withdraw from whatever sore spot he has touched. 'So, um... I guess I'll just have to wait and see what kind of mistakes I will make, myself...'

'Don't be afraid.'

'Yeah. Right. Whatever.' Flavius turns to go.

'Hey, kid?'

Flavius remembers getting annoyed at that address even back in the time when he had still been a very young immortal. He had died a relatively late First Death, and had been used to being treated as an experienced and respected elder. Suddenly having to take on the role of a student again, that late in life, had been hard on him. He turns to find Methos grinning, delighted as a child who has played a trick on an adult. Yet the old one's expression changes, and he grows serious again.

'Don't try to burn your changing name,' are his cryptic parting words.

Flavius turns and departs.

***

In the late afternoon, the students are plodding from the trenches to the containers in a long, tired procession. Adam Pierson is next to last, carrying two ten-liter buckets of earth to be analysed after the excavation. The rattle of tools in a wheelbarrow announces that Sandra is closing up with him.

'Hey, Adam.'

'Hey, Sandra.'

'What happened to your father's friend? He left pretty suddenly.'

'Yeah, he had an appointment he had forgotten about. Maybe he'll be back for the guided tour some other time.'

'I hope so. My man would love to show him around, I'm sure.'

Adam Pierson laughs. 'Yeah, he's a regular tour guide, isn't he? He's really missed his calling!'

'Well, it's something to fall back on if the 'becoming a world-famous archaeologist' plan does not work,' she grins. 'Do you plan to walk back to the station, or can we give you a ride?'

Adam Pierson considers the growing pain in his muscles and the sultry weather. 'I would really appreciate a ride.'

They have reached the containers. Sandra's boyfriend is standing by the door of the office container, still wearing his improvised 'Lawrence of Arabia' hat -- a baseball cap with a towel attached to protect the back of the neck -- talking to one of the other leaders.

'We're giving Adam a ride to the station,' announces Sandra to him.

'Yeah, sure, no problem. You'll have to wait a moment while we're closing up, though,' he addresses Adam, apologetically. 'Oh, and if you were serious about wanting to give soccer a try, earlier, we're playing on Wednesday.'

''We' as in 'Offenbach Kickers'?'

'No, 'we' as in 'we the archaeology department'. You'd be very welcome to join us.'

Adam Pierson, student of pre- and early history, thinks about the proposition for a moment, then resolves that it is something that he might enjoy.

'Sounds good to me.'

******

Lyrics: 'Clothes of Sand' by Nick Drake (sent to me by Pollyanna)

Who has dressed you in
Strange clothes of sand
Who has taken you far from my land
Who has said that my sayings
Of clothes of sand were wrong
And who will say that I
Stayed much too long?

Clothes of sand have covered your face
Given you meaning but taken my place
So make your way on down to the sea
Something has taken you so far from me.

Does it now sem worth all the colour of skies
To see the earth through painted eyes
To look through panes of shaded glass
See the stains of winter's grass.

Can you now return to from where you came
***Try to burn your changing name***
Or with silver spoons and coloured light
Will you worship moons in winter's nights.

Clothes of sand have covered your face
Given you meaning but taken my place
So make your way on down to the sea
Something has taken you so far from me.


Soon...

MWC: "The One"

Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date:
Monday, 27 May 2002, at 9:32 p.m.

Ray picked the song and as it began he thought of Cassandra. This was their song even if she didn't know it.

"The One: Gary Allan.

Written by Karen Manno and Billy Lee.
© Lucky Girl Music/Migraine Music.)
From "Alright Guy", © 2001, MCA.

No rush, though I need your touch,
I won't rush your heart.
Until you feel on solid ground,
Until your strength is found.
Girl,
I'll fill those canyons in your soul,
Like a river, lead you home.
And I'll walk a step behind,
In the shadows, so you shine.
Just ask it will be done,
And I will prove my love,
Until you're sure that I'm the one.

Somebody else was here before.
He treated you unkind.
And broken wings need time to heal,
Before a heart can fly.

Girl,
I'll fill those canyons in your soul,
Like a river, lead you home.
And I'll walk a step behind,
In the shadows, so you shine.
Just ask it will be done,
And I will prove my love,
Until you're sure that I'm the one.

Trust in me,
And you will find a heart so true.
All I want to do is give the best of me to you,
And stand beside you.

Just ask it will be done,
And I will prove my love,
Until you're sure that I'm the one."

Cassandra stood in the doorway watching Ray as he softly sang the end of the song.

"I know." she said softly.

He turned and met her eyes. "Are you sure?" he asked not wanting to push but daring to hope.

She smiled and held out her hand. He walked to her and took the hand of the woman he would die for and had killed for. "I won't rush you. But if you want me, I'm yours."

Cassandra put her free hand around his neck and pulled him close to kiss him for the first time as a lover. "I love you." she whispered.

Ray pulled her gently into his arms and she melted against him returning the hug.

The Watcher and the Immortal turned and walked to her bedroom.

MWC:

Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date:
Monday, 27 May 2002, at 10:30 p.m.

"Mac, I need you to come to the bar now." come the voice of a worried Joe Dawson.

"What is it Joe?" Duncan asked.

"It's Methos."

"I'm on my way." Duncan said and hung up.

Duncan came through the door at Joe's and felt the Buzz. Joe looked over at him and nodded. Duncan walked over to the bar and looked around for his friend. "Where is him?"

"Mac, I'm worried about him. He didn't move when you came in. I know he felt you and our jumpy World's Oldest Immortal didn't move." Joe said.

"Because I knew it was him." came a voice from upstairs.

Duncan climbed the stairs and sat down next to his friend. "You knew it was me." Duncan questioned.

"Some songs are right on the money." Methos clicked the play button on the CD Player sitting on the table.

"I Miss My Friend: Darryl Worley.

Written by Mark Nessler, Tom Shapiro and Tony Martin.
(© Buna Boy Music/Glitterfish Music/Mosaic Music/Tree Publishing Company/Wenonga Music.)
Single release: © 2002, Dreamworks.

I miss the look of surrender in your eyes;
The way your soft brown hair would fall.
I miss the power of your kiss when we made love
Oh, but baby most of all, I miss my friend.

The one my heart and soul confided in.
The one I felt the safest with,
The one who knew just what to say,
To make me laugh again,
And let the light back in.
I miss my friend.

I miss the colors that you brought into my life.
Your golden smile, those blue-green eyes.
An' I miss your gentle voice in lonely times like now,
Saying it'll be alright, I miss my friend.

The one my heart and soul confided in.
The one I felt the safest with,
The one who knew just what to say,
To make me laugh again,
And let the light back in.
I miss my friend.

I miss those times, I miss those nights,
I even miss those silly fights
The making up, the morning talks,
And those late afternoon walks:
I miss my friend.

The one my heart and soul confided in.
The one I felt the safest with,
The one who knew just what to say,
To make me laugh again,
Let the light back in.
I miss my friend.

I miss my friend.
I miss my friend.
Mmmmmm.
I miss my friend."

Joe brought a bottle of whiskey and three glasses up and sat down before the song ended.

"How I knew it was you. One of the gifts from Abigail." Methos said, "I miss my friend."

Joe poured him a drink.

MWC: Your Way

Posted By: SwingGirl <SwingGirl3@yahoo.com>
Date:
Saturday, 27 July 2002, at 12:52 a.m.

This was one of the last MWCs that Leah gave. I started it at the time, but didn't get around to finishing it until tonight, so I thought I'd just go ahead and post it now.

MOOD MUSIC: Write a short story, poem or scene inspired by a piece of music. There are no other restrictions, just go where the music takes you.

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

Alexa sat on the balcony, looking up at the stars. She and Adam had just arrived in Paris that morning and spent the day sight seeing. She knew that she should get some rest, but she wasn't tired. The two of them had already planned what they would do the next day and she was very excited. Alexa had wanted to visit the city since she was a little girl. She found it hard to believe that she was finally there.

She sat for a while longer then got up and went into the room. Getting into bed, Alexa still didn’t feel tired, so she watched Adam as he slept. It was something that she had done many times since they’d been together, but it always struck her how different he seemed when he was asleep. Usually he seemed older than he was, wise beyond his years. She was constantly finding herself amazed at the things he knew about the places they visited. It was as if he had seen it all before.

When he slept, though, he seemed younger, more vulnerable, and it always reminded her why she had agreed to go away with him. Alexa knew from experience that it was often hard to get Adam to open up, even to her. At first she thought that she had made a mistake in going with him, but she quickly learned just how right it was. Whether it was a candlelight dinner, flowers from a vendor on the street, or a hug or caress when she wasn’t feeling well, Alexa knew that Adam loved her very much. He showed her how much he loved her in small, everyday ways. It was what she loved best about him. She didn’t know how long she had left and hated that every day was so uncertain, but she knew that she could face anything, as long as Adam was by her side.

As she watched him, her turned to face her. Alexa could just see him by the moonlight that was shining in from the balcony door. She drew nearer to him and kissed him gently on the cheek, careful not to wake him. She thought again about how lucky she was to have found him. "Thank you. Thank you for loving me the way you do."

And with that thought and the man she loved by her side, Alexa finally drifted off to sleep, dreaming of the wonderful things that they would see and do tomorrow, together.

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

Your Way
by Paul McCartney

I like it
Please don't take my heart away
It's happy
Where it is so let it stay
You gave me love
You gave me what I wanted
You gave me love your way

I've seen it
Shining from the furthest star
Like Venus
Saw it on her way to Mars
You gave me love
You gave me what I wanted
You gave me love your way

Your way is strong
Your way is right
Your way is mine tonight

I like it
Please don't take my heart away
It's happy
Where it is so let it stay
You gave me love
You gave me what I wanted
You gave me love your way

Your way is strong
Your way is right
Your way is mine tonight

Your way is strong
Your way is right
Your way is mine tonight

You gave me love your way

MWC part 2: I Do

Posted By: SwingGirl <SwingGirl3@yahoo.com>
Date:
Saturday, 27 July 2002, at 1:04 a.m.

Methos sat, watching the water lap against the shore. After they left Paris, Alexa had wanted to go to the Mediterranean Sea. They had arrived this afternoon and spent the rest of the day on the beach, walking, talking, and just being together. Now the day was almost over and as the sunset painted the sky a beautiful pink hue. Methos reached out to Alexa, who was lying next to him on the blanket, rubbing her arm. He wanted to wake her so that they could share the view, but he didn’t. He knew that Alexa had been feeling tired and he worried that Alexa was pushing herself too hard. Though neither of them wanted to think about it, she was sick and would only get worse. Methos wished that she would rest more and take better care of herself, but he also wanted to show her as much as possible while he still could.

When they had first met, Alexa had called him cynical and he had to admit, that usually he was. It was hard not to be when you had lived as long as had, seen the things that he had seen, done the things that he had done. When he met Alexa, though, all that had changed. From the second he saw her Methos knew that he wanted to be with her. He told Alexa that the alternative to going out with her was unthinkable and it hadn't been just a pick up line. He had meant it. It had been hard to convince her to go with him and even after she had agreed, he worried that she would change her mind and go back to Seacouver. They had never discussed it, but Methos knew that even as they saw the world together, Alexa felt homesick. He lived in constant fear that he would one day find her gone and that he would be alone again. For all his worry, though, Alexa hadn't left and every day he loved her more and more. Her enthusiasm and wonder was contagious. It made him feel more happy, content, and alive than he had in a very long time. He tried to show Alexa every day just how much he loved her.

Turning back to gaze at the sunset Methos took her hand. He knew without looking that the ring he had given her was there. A smile came to his face then as he remembered Alexa’s reaction when he had given it to her. She had agreed to marry him and Methos knew that he would love her not for as long as she lived, but for as long as he lived. He brought her hand up and kissed it gently. "I love you darling, I do. I only hope you know how much."

Then as the last of the daylight faded, Methos leaned back and listened to the waves on the shore. As he watched as Alexa continued to sleep, the peace and contentment that he felt when he was near her filled his soul and once again he realized how lucky he had been to find her.

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

I Do
by Paul McCartney

If you only knew
How much it meant to me
You'd understand
And I would feel
Your love was true
This is all I want
This is all I need
This is all I long for, I do

Just remember this
After a time it's through
And evermore
Will there be days
For me and you
This is all I ask
All I ask of you
Please remember darling, I do
Love you

Days go by so quickly
When you're having fun
But life is never easy
Even in the sun

Please remember this
After a time it's through
And evermore
Will there be days
For me and you

This is all I want
This is all I need
Darling please remember, I do
Love you
If you only knew

 

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