All characters belong to their creators in the Highlander universe. They do not belong to me, nor do I receive any profit from them. This story was written for the Summer 2004 Highlander Lyric Wheel. Lyrics for the beautiful song, "Ghost Story", by Sting were provided by tarsh, and you'll find them following the story. Thanks, tarsh! Also much thanks to the fabulous esjay for beta duties. All remaining mistakes are completely my own.



Silence blanketed the house as Methos turned off the television. He stood and stretched his long frame, cracking joints reminding him of how long he'd been sitting. He walked through the empty rooms, stopping in the kitchen to get a beer from the refrigerator before stepping outside onto the patio.

The terracotta tiles were still warm underneath his bare feet, even though the sun was low in the evening sky. Methos gazed out across the valley at the ragged, rust-colored mountains. The sky glowed in waves of red and purple as the sun dipped behind them, and the stars above were just beginning to wink into view. Methos drew in a deep breath of fresh night air and let it out slowly, letting the day's cares go with it.

He'd spent several hours this afternoon at the computer, working his way into the Watcher database and sifting through the current records. It was prudent for him to keep tabs on any other immortals that might have been spotted nearby. But curiosity couldn't keep him from checking up on old friends while he was at it. Often he was saddened to find that someone he had known in another lifetime had been bested and was gone. Occasionally he was glad of it. There was one name that he never failed to look up. And as much as Methos tried to remain disinterested, sometimes the entries he found chilled him to the marrow of his very old bones.

He thought back on his last night with his friends, some fifteen years ago now. It had been a night like any other, the three of them at Joe's, drinking and telling tall tales until well after closing time. MacLeod had been the first to call it a night, and Methos had waved him out with nothing more than a "Goodnight, MacLeod". Then he'd watched as Joe wiped down the bar, locked the cash register and started turning out lights. He'd drained the last of his beer and set the bottle on the bar, slid off the barstool and followed Joe out the door. He recalled the look in Joe's eyes when he'd turned and said goodnight, the expression in his eyes conveying what he would not give voice to. He remembered the surprise as Joe realized that this time goodnight meant goodbye. He'd walked away then without looking back. Or so he told himself.

In actuality, he had never stopped looking back. He stood out here too often arguing his case. He could testify before the stars and those great red rocks that had stood sentinel over this piece of ground for two hundred million years. He could claim indifference. But he'd find himself here again, spending yet another night in court. The same old trial, the same old questions asked. The same denial as he wrestled the memories and the doubts back into one of those shuttered areas of his mind that he reserved for those things he most wanted to forget.

MacLeod was taking more challenges these days. The idiot insisted on living too long in the same places, refusing to relinquish the name he'd been known by for over four hundred years. He'd always said that he didn't invite challenges, but if that wasn't an invitation, Methos didn't know what was. Any immortal who wished it could find him easily. One had found him two days ago. The Watcher who had filed the report had written that it had been an especially vicious fight, and MacLeod had come close to losing his head. However, MacLeod only ever needed one small opening, and once found he was victorious.

Methos settled his long body into a chaise and put his feet up. Resting his head on its cushioned back, he contemplated the stars. MacLeod was a force of nature just as brilliant as those shining lights, binding his friends and loved ones close within his sphere of influence. He'd tried to pull Methos into his orbit too. Methos had always managed to dance away. He'd kept circling back around though, like a moth flitting around the porch light at night. Always fearful that one day he'd fly too close.

Life was quiet for him now. He'd spent the first few years traveling the globe. He'd made a point of briefly hitting all the spots where those he'd left behind would typically think of to search for him. Just to leave a hint of a trace. Slowly, he had left fewer and fewer threads to be picked up, and purposely faded away. Once certain that he wouldn't be followed, neither by friend nor watcher, he could disappear, and he had settled in a place he'd kept many years for just such a purpose. The towering red rocks of the American southwest ringed the two hundred acres of cactus-spotted desert. The house he'd had built by proxy, approving the plans, the Mexican tiles, and even the color of the stucco via long-distance communication. When the time was right, all he had to do was pick up the keys and walk in. And now that he was here, he rarely had to see anyone. Everything could be purchased via the internet these days, books, clothing, even groceries. Yes, he had everything he needed. But…

"Admit it, you old goat," Methos thought. "You'll never have everything you need."

With a sigh, he fingered the label on the bottle in his hands. He started picking at its corner, carefully lifting and tugging in an attempt to remove the label in one unbroken piece. It was one of the many little games he used to take up his spare time. Spare time. As if he had anything but spare time. He started most days at the computer, tracking his investments and paying bills. Some kind of exercise usually followed, either running, swimming a few lengths of the pool, or working out in his gym. Afternoons were filled will any number of things, cleaning, laundry, reading a good book, or cruising the internet. He'd reacquainted himself with the kitchen too. He'd gotten out of the habit after a number of years spent getting take-out and letting MacLeod cook for him. Now he spent many evenings trying recipes from a new cookbook or inventing some of his own. He'd eat, he'd clean up, and he'd watch the news. He'd go to sleep and wake up in the morning to start the cycle again. It was glorious. It was terrible.

Methos loved being alone. But he hated being lonely. And he'd never felt loneliness quite so acutely at any other time in his life. Funny that. It kept him constantly pondering. He'd been alive longer than anyone else on the planet, known more people, lost more. Why had he never felt this before? At least he didn't think he had. He searched his memories endlessly, but could never come up with an instance where he had felt such a deep, gaping emptiness. He found that fascinating - and awful.

It had been a hundred years without someone he could call a friend. And several times that long since anyone had really known him, known who he was. Duncan MacLeod had filled that gap. A gap that he hadn't realized was there until it had been filled. A gap that felt even wider now because of that realization. MacLeod had been a good friend, a true friend. One who had opened his home and his heart. One who had judged him and forgiven him. One who had shared with him and laughed with him. And one on whom Methos had begun to rely on. That was what had frightened Methos; that was why he had decided to leave. He couldn't afford to rely on another immortal, especially one with a big target stamped on his head. It should have been easy; he'd done it many times before. The knowledge of who he was and what he had to lose had never failed to help him rationalize his behavior. But this time was different, and no one could have been more surprised by that than Methos. He felt like such a fool.

Everything he'd done from the moment MacLeod had walked into his life had been to seek his attention. MacLeod was so full of life, and Methos had been powerfully drawn to him. MacLeod's vitality, his zest for living had infected him. He'd allowed himself to become immersed in MacLeod's life. It had felt so good, and he had stayed far longer than he should have. He'd gotten involved. He had mattered to MacLeod, and what was worse; MacLeod had begun to matter to him. He'd seen himself sinking deeper and deeper into a bond that could only bring him a heap of trouble. What could he do but run? He'd felt that his very life depended upon it. And he was certain he'd made the right choice. Unfortunately, that certainty of mind had never extended to his heart.

The sky above him was inky black now, and Methos marveled at the millions of stars. He wondered if MacLeod ever thought of him now. And if he did, did he ever smile at the memory? Methos hoped so. He closed his eyes, letting his own memories have free rein, trading them for that denial which usually kept them at bay, and a low murmur escaped his lips, rough with emotion from the knowledge of what he'd given up.

"Damn you, MacLeod. I must have loved you."



Ghost Story

I watch the western sky
the sun is sinking
the geese are flying south
it sets me thinking

I did not miss you much
I did not suffer
what did not kill me
just made me tougher

I feel the winter come
his icy sinews
now in the firelight
the case continues

Another night in court
the same old trial
the same old questions asked
the same denial

the shadows close me round
like jury members
I look for answer in
the fire's embers

Why was I missing then
that whole December?
I give my usual line,
I don't remember

Another winter comes
his icy fingers creep
into these bones of mine
these memories never sleep

and all these differences
a cloak I borrowed
we kept our distances
why should it follow that
I must have loved you?

What is the force that binds the stars?
I wore this mask to hide my scars
What is the power that pulls the tide?
Never could find a place to hide

What moves the earth around the sun?
What could I do but run and run and run?
Afraid to love, afraid to fail
a mast without a sail

The moon's a fingernail
and slowly sinking
another day begins
and now I'm thinking

that this indifference
was my invention
when everything I did
sought your attention

You were my compass star
you were my measure
you were a pirate's map
of buried treasure

If this was all correct
the last thing I'd expect
the prosecution rests
it's time that I confessed
I must have loved you
I must have loved you





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