The Elvis Minutes #09: Timeless
I will spend my whole life through
Loving you, loving you.
Winter, summer, spring-time, too,
Loving you, loving you.
Makes no difference where I go or what I do.
You know that I'll always be loving you.
I fucked up.
I underestimated--no, I just plain fucking repressed the problems I have with taking a quickening. And it cost me dearly.
For all my thoughts of seduction and making Duncan fall in love with me, I was prepared to go slow. He might not have been a virgin to male sex, but what I wanted from him was far more than a quick tumble in the hay. So I was going to be a little bit coy, and slightly demure in my whole approach because I knew--I knew--Duncan needed to be eased into such a relationship.
My plan had been going along smoothly. There was that intriguing spar in the dojo, and Duncan's impulsive swipe of paint on my nose at the doctor's house. The attraction was there, and the desire was building. Perfect. Until I took Kristin's head. At the first brush of her essence, I remembered why I'd stopped taking quickenings, but by then it was too late.
There is this chest, a fathomless box, in my head. At one time it was made out of wood, because wood was the strongest thing I knew. Then it became metal, the finest and hardest steel. It has its own corner in my mind, far from my conscious thoughts. There's even a screen between it and my dreams, so I can sleep at night. The chest has five padlocks--not that five are needed to keep it closed. The big one in the center is sufficient, but the other four are there to slow me down and give me pause when I feel the urge to open the chest. Sometimes I become desperate, and I think my only chance for survival resides in that box. Thankfully, usually by the time I get through the third or fourth lock, I've come up with a viable alternate plan, and I don't even have to touch the center lock. Trust me; what's in the chest needs to stay there.
The chest's original purpose was to be a repository for the quickenings I acquired. In the beginning, I took a head, opened the box, shoved the essence inside, then went about my business. Thus the box became like a battery, my extra energy supply when I needed an edge in a fight.
Then one day, I used the box for another purpose. I locked something away in it that was an essence but not a quickening. It was a dark, evil, malicious thing that needed to be contained, forcibly withheld from any light. But unlike the other essences stored there, this one fought its confinement. It screamed to me day and night, howling for its freedom. Once I learned to ignore the howls, it started whispering, reminding me of what it had done for me, and what it could do for me again.
I'm not sure which one I hated the most-- the screams or the whispers. The screams were annoying and distracting. There were times in the beginning when I had trouble following conversations because the noise in my head was so loud. For the better part of a year I camped out at the base of a huge waterfall-- just because its external cacaphony drowned out my internal one. The local residents declared I was touched by the gods. Of course, a majority of their gods weren't of the benevolent variety.
But if the screams were bad, the whispers...were worse. The whispers were seductive, tantalizing, and, most damning, they were cloaked in logic.
I have always been an extremely practical person. Conventions and social norms I see as choices, and if they aren't the right choices for my survival, I ignore or break them without so much as a flinch of my conscience. Pragmatism, according to the whispers, dictated that keeping the dark thing bound was against my best interests, that it only served to use up energies better served elsewhere. That much was true. It took a lot out of me to keep the thing fettered in the chest. The whispers also reminded me that just because I'd imprisoned this one evil entity, that there were others out there, and I would be defenseless against them. Also another truth.
So the whispers made a most persuasive argument and if I hadn't known the essence so well, maybe I would have fallen for it. But that essence.... Damn, let me be honest. It isn't an essence, it's a soul. My soul. And it took me thousands of years to recognize it for what it is--a horrid thing not fit to walk the earth. When I came to that realization, instead of doing the right thing and taking a fall in battle with a decent Immortal, I locked that part of me away in the chest.
No, I'm not wandering this world soulless. I have one, but it's not whole. I guess I'm like a person with only one working kidney. I look perfectly normal on the outside and I can function well to a certain degree, but I can't overdo it. My soul is weakened because the solid dark core that strengthened it is under lock and key. Dregs of the core still color the remains, giving me will and courage when I need it, but I'm still unbalanced, still...damaged. But also like a "kidney-challenged" person, I do what I can and I go on.
So keeping the dark part of my soul locked up worked reasonably well for a while. However, I'd forgotten one small detail. I had to open the chest whenever I took a quickening. There wasn't enough room for another chest and I really didn't have the resources to make another, so any quickenings had to go into that one. It was a lapse in forethought, I know, but ripping out one's soul is a painful experience, and I'm not sure if I was in my right mind for a long time after that. Anyway, I took my opponent's head, the quickening snaked out of him, and I quite blithely opened the chest. My soul came roaring out, claws extended, black wings unfurled, and fangs bared.
I had to fight like hell to get it back into the box again.
Bruised and bleeding in places that didn't show, I knew I couldn't avoid opening the chest again. Taking quickenings was the nature of the Game I had to live. But the next time I fought and won, I was quite cautious when I opened the chest. I merely raised its lid a crack, and fed the quickening into it, one inch at a time. Every so often, a dark tendril tried to slink its way through the small opening, and I had to slam the lid down. But it worked. The quickening went into the box and the dark part of my soul stayed inside.
This is now the way I settle every quickening, and although it takes time and patience, it's better this way. Better for me, better for everyone around me.
That was the process I was going through as MacLeod drove me back to the loft. I was slowly feeding Kristin into a little gap in the box, and the black thing was desperately trying to get out. Over two hundred years had past since its last chance for escape, so it was primed and energized. What an agonizing struggle. One part of me was shoving bits of Kristin into the box. Another part of me was clamping down on the lid, ever vigil against my wily soul. Still another part of me was arguing on behalf of the dark thing, saying how foolish I was to deny its existence. Hell, I know it exists. It makes sure I feel its pain on a daily basis.
About the time I was finished with Kristin's leftovers, MacLeod asked me about my odd reaction. I was tired, drained from my multi-front battle, so I told him. Of course, he didn't understand. Couldn't understand. I let the conversation die and wearily began securing the locks. I was sickened by the glimpses of darkness I'd seen. If it'd been possible, I probably would have climbed into the box myself. But then my soul would have had free reign, and that was never going to happen again. No, my penance for having birthed the thing was to stand guardian over its prison, protect the world from its insidiousness. To protect the world from me.
Feeling thoroughly sorry for myself, I'd looked up to see Duncan's outstretched hand--and I had grabbed it. I knew the timing was wrong. I knew it was probably Duncan's empathy coming into play, sympathy for the pain I couldn't hide. What I never wanted from Duncan was a pity fuck, and I was fairly certain that was what he was offering. But at that moment, his hand was a lifeline and I was drowning. I shed all my objections like a second skin and reached for my salvation.
Oh, God, it was so good. We took it slow, first dancing naked in each other's arms. Then he was devouring me, those magnificent lips anointing my body like a beloved sacrifice. I writhed beneath his touch until the pleasure became too much. I needed distance. Remembering what I'd discovered while doing some friendly snooping, I retrieved a tube of lubricant and got Duncan's attention.
I've had the role of whore forced upon me so many times in the past that I find distance in fucking. It's an unconscious reaction on my part. Whether I'm pitching or catching, whether my partner is male or female, there is always a part of me that remains outside the actual act. Sometimes this only lasts for the few minutes it takes for me to realize that this person that I'm in, or who is in me, is someone I care about, that what we're doing is by mutual consent. Sometimes I spend the whole night watching every action from some distant hill.
I positioned myself for Duncan's possession and gentleman that he is, he slipped a finger into me first.
"You're tight," he'd whispered.
"I guess tonight is for breaking fasts." That seemed to shock and unsettle him. "All voluntarily induced, all voluntarily broken," I'd said quickly to forestall a highland brood.
He seemed to take me at my word. He eased into me as if I was something fragile and precious. I started climbing down from my hill. By the time he was entirely in I was there, too, body and mind. When he allowed me to fuck him, I was thrilled and secretly touched by such a gift. His body could inspire artists and writers, and he moved as a man who'd tested the limits of himself and knew where the edges were. And being inside him reminded me why I had stripped myself of my soul, why I had to remain on guard. The contents of the box could have destroyed this man in less than a blink of the eye. I couldn't--wouldn't--allow that to happen.
Thoroughly tuckered out, as one of my wives used to say, I'd fallen into a dreamless sleep. I woke to find him staring at me. I wonder what he saw or thought he saw. I'm plain compared to him. He's the epitome of the modern masculine form. Tall, broad-chested, hairy, and well-tanned. I'm more the classical figure: smooth- bodied, pale-skinned, and sleek like a runner. Evolutionary changes. He was born in the cool highlands and I was born...wherever I was born. Somewhere warm, if my lack of body hair and fat deposits are any indications. But not the desert. My nose is much too narrow, and my skin too white.
"Are you okay, Duncan?" Maybe not the best question to ask a new lover, but he was staring at me so intensely. Did he have regrets?
When I saw his eyes, I didn't need his words. "Aye. Better than okay. You?"
"I'll do, for an old man." An old, very satisfied man.
At first I was hurt because it sounded like I was right--this was a pity fuck. But the question was delivered with warmth and concern. Take what you can get, Methos, my heart whispered. "Has settled. She wasn't that strong. Mortals were more her prey than our kind."
His fingers reached out to stroke my face and I turned into his touch.
"Are you sorry you broke your fast?" he asked softly.
"No, not either one." Killing Kristin was something I had resigned myself to do. Sleeping with Duncan was a sweet fantasy. So no, no regrets about what was done, but maybe the when was a bit unsettling.
He kissed me, a light brush of his lips, before wrapping me up in his arms. I teased him for being a cuddler, then told him about some of my past exploits. Oh, the trouble one can get into by "getting into" something that didn't belong to him.
Duncan grinned. "Have you been sleeping in the wrong bed, Methos?"
The question was just another tease, but suddenly I was uncomfortable and unsure. "Have I?" This wasn't the plan. We hadn't been ready to take this step.
Duncan rubbed my chest soothingly. "Not this time."
Not this time. Are you sure, Duncan?
He ordered me to get some sleep so I'd be able to help out again with restoring the house for his former girlfriend. I told him what I thought about that idea, and then we started haggling. I won several perks before being insulted. He called me an imp, a junior devil. Junior? Me? I paid him back by going down on him. Take that, Mr. Bossy, I'd thought gleefully as he came rather abruptly.
Afterwards, he'd snuggled around me, and I pretended to fall sleep. But the weight of what we'd done pressed heavily on my mind. Being practical and logical, I knew I'd made a huge mistake.
Fucking one's self has nothing to do with masturbation.
Did I do what I knew was right and head back to Paris the next day? Did I say, "Duncan, last night was great. Thank you for helping me cope with a bad quickening, and now I think it's best if I went back to sleeping on the sofa?" No. Instead, I repeated the mistake again and again.
Each time was better than the first as we learned each other's physical and mental peculiarities. Duncan liked to have his nipples teased and his navel rimmed. I liked the kisses he dribbled down my back as he took me from the rear. He liked watching me come as he sucked me off. I liked the way his body tensed just before ejaculation, and the heavy weight of his body sprawled across mine afterwards. God, I reveled in being with him. To awake nine days in a row wrapped in Duncan's arms, feeling thoroughly fucked. That was paradise.
I kept our involvement a smug secret from Joe, silently agreeing when MacLeod drifted away from me in public. I was a Watcher sleeping with an Immortal. It wasn't something Joe should know. Hell, it wasn't anything anyone should know until we, Duncan and I, were ready for them to know it.
Love is a sneaky bastard that blinds the eyes, confuses the mind, and dulls the senses.
Claudia Jardine and her troubles quickly showed me the folly of following my emotions. I got a hasty phone call from MacLeod asking me if I wouldn't mind moving out while he took care of her. It was for my own benefit, he said. Despite the incident with Kristin, I was out of the Game. An Immortal was after the young woman; the loft could become quickening central. That made sense to the lovesick fool that I was, and so I dutifully packed my duffel and was gone before he and his friend got back. I figured it would be a waste of Adam Pierson's scanty funds to go back to Paris for such a short time, so I went to the nearest cheap motel, stowed my bag in the flimsy pasteboard "armoire", and went to hang out with Joe. I told myself it didn't matter that MacLeod had asked me to leave.
It took returning the interested glances of a barmaid to make me realize the amount of hurt I was experiencing. Mac and I had made no promises to each other. Our intimate conversations had consisted of "Do me," and "Oh, God." The only tangible proof of our relationship--other than messy sheets and several spent tubes of lubricant--was the key he'd given me to the loft. But all that truly symbolized was that I was a trusted guest. So I really shouldn't have felt anything other than minor annoyance at having to find a new place to lay my head. And since this was the modern age with a Motel 6 on every street corner, it wasn't a big problem.
But it was a problem, and it hurt so deeply that I almost missed it. It was a slow bleeder and by the time I recognized what it was, I'd already made contact with the barmaid. Alexa Bond. Pretty, but delicate somehow. I heard her laughing with some of Joe's patrons. I wanted her to laugh with me.
Sometimes I'm mortified by how flustered I act when I first meet someone I think I might like. If Joe hadn't called to warn me that he'd sent Mac to my flat in Paris, I probably would have been tongue-tied when I met the Highlander. That heart of mine. Always my biggest stumbling block. Anyway, Joe introduced us, me and Alexa. I came away from the experience knowing I wanted to know her a little better. She went away thinking I was cynical, but cute.
MacLeod and his piano-playing prodigy showed up, and I figured out why he was so quick to protect her. Claudia was a pre-Immortal, and someone wanted her dead before her time. Yadda, yadda. I went back to thinking about Alexa. Mac's kicking me out of the loft told me what he thought about our relationship. Surely asking Alexa out wouldn't be seen as a betrayal.
Just in case, however, I went to Mac and told him about the spark I'd felt with Alexa. He seemed happy for me, and while I nursed a silent disappointment that my affection for someone else didn't bother him in the least, he went on and on about what he should do about Claudia and that fop, Graham. I guess his priorities were pretty clear.
I guess mine were, too.
I asked Alexa out, then got stood up. Joe was the one who broke the news to me: Alexa has a fatal illness. Actually, I'm not sure if it was news. I've seen mortals in all stages of dying. There is a pallor to the skin, a haunting in the eye, a shadow that follows them. So had I seen Death trailing this young woman and that was why I'd fixated on her? Or was it because that beneath her brave exterior I sensed someone who needed me?
For as long as I can remember, even when my dark soul was still on the loose, I needed to be needed. Maybe it's a psychological response to something that happened in my forgotten past, or maybe it's just a character flaw. MacLeod obviously didn't need me. But Alexa did.
Alexa wanted the world, and I--who knew it more intimately than any other being on the planet-- could give it to her. I could be her "knight in shining armor." Yes, I'd chided MacLeod on his chivalrous tendencies, but I wasn't a stranger to the heady feeling of taking care of someone, of having another rely on you. It's all a facade in the end for we are ultimately only responsible for ourselves, but it's a good lie, a comforting lie, when we kneel next to a freshly dug grave....
"You don't need to be a witness to what I'm going through. It's going to get ugly," Alexa told me when I finally convinced her to go out with me.
"You look beautiful to me," I said truthfully. "Look, whatever it is you're going through, I can handle it. If you'll let me." What I didn't say was that although I could handle it, and the reward of being with her would make everything worth it, it was not going to be a picnic in the park for me. No matter how many times I'd experienced it, losing someone hurt. It hurt a great deal.
Some of my thoughts must have made it to my face because she asked, "Why would you want to?"
"Because the alternative is unthinkable." No one should die alone and unloved. "How long?"
"Less than a year...they don't know." She looked at me. "Do you ever wish that time could stand still?"
Time has been both my friend and my enemy. I know better than to ask anything of it. I handed her an envelope. Adam Pierson had maxed out several of his accounts. Thankfully he had a mysterious benefactor who would make sure he'd manage for however long Alexa needed him.
"Plane tickets? Where?"
"Anywhere you like. Everywhere, if there's time."
"It's not that easy," she protested, dazed and hopeful.
"Yes, it is," I'd told her. "You spend whatever time you have left dying, or you spend it living. With me." I'd taken her hands and made a vow. "Please, say you'll come with me, Alexa." Who could resist a classic line like that? She hesitantly agreed.
So I'm committed to Alexa now for whatever time she has left. And if there's some miraculous cure out there, that's fine, too. No, I haven't forgotten Mac and I didn't fall for Alexa to get back at him. I know that none of this--distance, separation, pause in relations-- is his fault. It's just a case of putting the cart before the horse. We, Duncan and I, exist in two different places at the moment, and until we're both sharing the same space, we're destined to bring each other pain. In other words, I love Duncan but he doesn't love me--yet. And my hanging around waiting for him to fall, well, that isn't going to happen.
I do have some pride left, not much, but some. Want me to bow before your god? Would you like that in a slight kneebend, a full kneel, or flat-out prostrate? Glory in being a martyr, my ass. I've outlived most gods, so I know bowing is merely a gesture. Too proud to back down in an argument? Arguments are just words. Not something worth dying over. And we won't even discuss social standing and appearance. There's just too much change for me to be haughty or humble. I've been rich. I've been poor. I've been considered ugly--too tall, too skinny, and too pale. I've been considered handsome because I am tall and skinny and pale. Everything is subjective to time.
Everything except my heart. It has always been true to itself, despite its stubborn and sometimes cruel owner. I'm proud of what it has accomplished over the years, of the people it has loved, of the deeds it has caused me to do. My heart is what gave me the strength to shed the dark soul. It's also the key factor in keeping it imprisoned. My heart has berated me, and sometimes betrayed me, but it has never deserted me. It has lifted my spirits when I've been shunned and despised. It has been my only comfort as I watch all those around me die.
It's my heart that Duncan has unknowingly broken. I can't stay and let him damage it even more.
Alexa is a good woman. She can give my heart what it needs to mend. We're not fooling ourselves about being the great love of each other's life. We care about each other. That's enough for now. We've decided to save the plane tickets for later. We're going to do a driving tour of the New World, then head for the old. It'll be fun and informative and seemingly challenging--for her sake. And when Alexa dies with a smile on her face, it will make my heart whole again.
But first it has to survive telling Duncan that I'm leaving. God, even our problems are mirror opposites. He has a young woman who's struggling to accept her Immortality, and I have Alexa who finds out more and more every day just how mortal she is. How could I have possibly thought.... But I hadn't been thinking, had I? At least not with my brain.
Traitorous heart. Bane of my existence. My best and dearest companion.
Duncan is either going to be annoyed that I couldn't wait for him to fix his newest Immortal child's problems, relieved that I'm gone and he can go back to bedding Amanda, or it's not going to matter to him one way or another. I don't know which reaction I'm hoping for.
Maybe the one I'm hoping for isn't even listed.
Will I stay if he asks me to?
Will he even notice that I'm gone?
Will he even care?
If I'm seen with someone new,
Don't be blue, don't be blue.
I'll be faithful, I'll be true;
Always true, true to you.
I sigh as I settle back on the sofa and wait for MacLeod to come home. This is not the end of Mac and me. The connection we have is too powerful to be severed so easily. I'm just leaving to give us a bit of breathing room. What we are--what we can be--to each other can't be rushed, despite the impatience of the most foolish of hearts. If I've learned anything in five thousand years is that everything comes into season in its own time.
Duncan and I haven't come into season yet.
But we will.
There is only one for me, and you know who.
You know that I'll always be loving you.
Loving You ~ Words & music by Jerry Leiber - Mike Stoller
Continues in Elvis Minutes #10