Biting Dust

Nynaeve

Email me!

All feedback appreciated! (archivist's note: this came from a Lyric Wheel Challenge)

Disclaimer: Not my people. Not my concept. No money even flashed at me for this. Maybe a tiny bit of fame, but that's it, folks. I'm not greedy.

Warnings: uh...Don't trust skydiving instructors named Ditch. No? Oh, you mean what kind of story is it...well, it's morose. And there could be minuscule, atomic particle-sized amounts of slash found hidden within (at Dana's urging!! *pointing finger*). And also take into consideration that this was written in between working two jobs and going to school--don't expect Ayn Rand-quality! There's swear words too...rated TV-AL for adult language. Consider yourself warned.

Warnings part deux: This is my first-ever-completed fanfic. Just thought you ought to know.

Warnings part trois: Per Lyric Wheel rules this has not been officially betaed. Therefore I claim, uh, credit for all mistakes.

Special canon warning: I'm playing fast and loose with both the TV and movie canon. It should be self-explanatory, but just know that I'm embracing some of what the movies claim happened and some of the usual tv-show info.

This was originally written as a Highlander Lyric Wheel story. Lyrics were provided by siva and are at the end of the story. Thanks babe.

Special thanks go to Amand-r, Dana and Chuck. I never would have dipped my toe in the Lyric Wheel pool if it weren't for them.

*~~~~~*

Closing the book, he felt the sadness that always accompanies the ending of good things sweep over him. He swallowed the last of his drink and let his head fall back against the couch.

That's it, he thought, another one bites the dust.

Methos stared at the empty bottle in his hand for a moment before blindly reaching over and setting it on the coffee table next to two others of its kind. Silence filled the apartment, and the muffled clinking of glass hitting the low, painted table seemed loud. Settling back on the couch with a sigh, Methos wondered if he should go get another beer as he hugged the book to his chest.

Why bother? Sixteen little ounces is hardly worth the effort. It would be half gone before I even got comfortable again.

Methos rolled his eyes up and stared at the ceiling far above. Then again, everything ends eventually anyway.

He flipped the book over in his hands a few times before studying the spine."The Fountainhead usually put him in a good mood, but obviously it had failed today. Perhaps my ego isn't as grand as Roark's anymore. Could I finally be getting humble? Methos smirked and tossed the book over the back of the couch. The thunk as it hit the floor was briefly satisfying, but in the subsequent lull a blanket of air seemed to press in on him. Trying to learn new lessons at this point in your life? Not likely.

He listened hard and could hear traffic nine stories below in the street, but it sounded too quiet for rush hour on a Thursday afternoon. New York City had seemed like a good choice for a move, but now he wasn't sure. In a city of nine million people he still felt a strange loneliness here. Definitely an unexpected reaction because Paris had finally driven him away with its choking streets, tiny cafes and sharp-elbowed crowds. Methos was used to being alone, but this felt different. He felt enervated, washed out, bored even. Just the task of moving off the couch to get another beer seemed pointless. A feeling of impending death weighed heavily all around him.

With that idle thought echoing in his brain, Methos rolled himself over and sat up. Death. What the hell?

But there it was. The spacious apartment was filled with the stale air of dead things all of a sudden. The empty bottle he had just placed on the table reflected the muted light dully, making the room seem even emptier than it was. The remains of his late lunch drooped on the plate he hadn't bothered to clear away yet. The lettuce wilted even further as he watched. A lone houseplant on the mantle over the fireplace almost seemed to be gasping for breath. And he could practically hear the milk going bad all the way from the kitchen counter across the room. Why hadn't he just put it back in the fridge? Too late now.

His eyes swept away from the clotting dairy product and fell back on the suddenly offensive bottle. There weren't even any bubbles left in the bottom to remind him of the taste and texture of what he had just finished drinking. If it weren't for the lingering smell, there would have been no way of remembering at all, no proof of its existence. He picked the bottle back up and rolled it between his palms, taking a deep breath and allowing the scent to fill his nose and throat. It even smelled old to him now, as if it was a bottle left sitting out for several nights after he had forgotten to put it in the garbage instead of only an hour.

Methos snorted out the stench. Why the sudden pathetic melancholy...brought about by a beer bottle? I'm really starting to slide. He tried to shake the melodramatic mood through motion. He flung one hand out and pushed himself off his new couch, intending to throw the trash away. But instead of ridding himself of his pathetic provocateur, Methos found himself standing at the front window. If he leaned forward, he could just make out a corner of Central Park. Despite the morose air it had recently taken on, his apartment really was very nice--almost worth the small fortune he paid for it. But now...now he just had to get away. He needed a fresh course in being alive, to immerse himself in the moment to moment living that made life interesting.

Deep thoughts will only make you drown, he reminded himself as he grabbed his sword-laden coat on the way out the door. As he was shutting the door, he remembered the bottle he still held because his hand wouldn't fit through the sleeve. Leaning over, he put it on the floor just inside the door and strode out of the room, dressing as he went.

*~~~~~*

Methos walked to the Park, avoiding the homeless and suit-clad professionals alike. He felt repulsed by the self-important air of the commuters and by the entreaties of the poor, which only disturbed him further.

It was quickly getting dark, as it tended to do in January in the city. Eyeing the vast, gooey shadows that poured onto the walkways from the even dimmer grass areas, Methos decided that maybe what he needed instead of a walk was another drink. He wasn't afraid of the beings lurking in the night so much as unwilling to tempt fate in so dark a mood. Killing was done best with a cold heart, but he wasn't sure exactly what the mood he was feeling now was. It was unfamiliar - neither entirely sadness, nor completely a depression. He was aware of a pressure of aloneness so acute it was coloring his every perception. A dirty dog suddenly rushed by his legs, and Methos shuddered at the unexpected contact. He turned away from the Park and began the long walk up Fifth Avenue.

How long...how long has it been since I wasn't so solitary? Why can't I remember voluntarily touching another human being in the last six months? Didn't I at least shake my new landlord's hand? Yes, I'm sure I did. Methos stopped his rapid stride, stood in the middle of the sidewalk and threw his head back to try and see the sky. Oh bloody hell, listen to me. He stood searching for a moment in futility before shaking his head and walking on again. He didn't need to see the sky to know the stars were still there. Eternal.

How long...how long will I slide? Am I really feeling this way or is it just one particularly bad year in a crowd of many? I don't believe it's bad. Can I really hate myself enough to let it linger if it was? Yet...maybe it's just lack of effort. Complacency can be so easy to slip into. Living isn't a passive exercise...I've got to take it on.

Smirking at his inner-cheerleader, Methos slowed and looked at the row of buildings he had reached. Picking one at random, he ducked into a bar. The interior was dark, of course, and the bar itself took up most of the space, jutting out into the open area in the shape of a large square. There were a few battered tables off to the left and Methos's practiced eye quickly assessed and dismissed the threat of the handful of drunks sitting around them.

Before he had taken a full step into the dingy establishment, the prickling of another immortal's quickening burned along his nerve endings. Methos stiffened and raked his gaze across the room.

A rumpled figure moved out of a narrow, poorly lit hallway near the back of the bar. Methos was about to succumb to the temptation to vault back into the anonymous night when, unexpectedly, the other immortal's face was illuminated by one of the few spotlights dotting the ceiling that still worked. Egads, just what I need.

Connor MacLeod. There was no mistaking that shock of badly cut hair or the prominent, predator-like brow ridge. Especially since Methos had once spent 3 hours studying every photograph the Watchers had of the man. When the unflinching gray gaze rested upon him, Methos knew that choices were gone.

Greet him, exchange vital statistics, leave, his brain wisely chanted at him. Methos felt relieved that his muddled organ was at least still able to give sensible orders, so he advanced a few steps closer to the Scottish legend, and out of the way of the door which was hitting his back as other patrons attempted to enter.

The human mind was immensely strong. Methos had been convinced of this for a very, very long time. Sheer force of will could entirely alter the course of a life, given enough time and effort. Methos was testament to its power. To live so long was, as he had noted earlier this evening, not an easy task. Life occasionally became uninteresting, but as long as he worked at it his spirit never flickered away completely.

Connor MacLeod was another story entirely. The man had once believed with his whole being that he had won the prize. This obviously wasn't entirely true, as the world was still riddled with other immortals. But it was nonetheless proven that the power of the Kurgan's quickening had transformed Connor, and he had unquestionably wielded powers.

It was a documented event in the Chronicles that he had even aged for a time, and then had stopped, and in fact reverted to his current appearance. Some cynics believed that it was a massive, cosmetics-constructed hoax, but Methos and others knew differently. Quickenings were strange, terrifying, unpredictable things, and for awhile Connor had been able to direct the force of one to do his will; Methos was convinced.

But whatever Connor had done fourteen years ago, he now seemed for all intents and purposes to be no different from other normal, powerful immortals - or whatever normality could be attributed to this state of being. No doubt a fight with him would be extremely dangerous to his opponent. Methos had no intention of finding out, however.

Methos stop moving forward and waited as Connor closed the remaining space between them. Methos found that he was feeling an unfamiliar emotion at this meeting--anxiety. He shifted from one foot to the other, hoping that the younger man wouldn't notice. When Connor had gotten within arm's length, Connor stopped and stuck out a hand without saying anything.

Methos's eyes widened in disbelief--this MacLeod must be as trusting as his hapless cousin, offering his hand to an unknown immortal. Then Methos noticed the man's other hand mysteriously out of view beneath his coat. No, not trusting at all, just very tricky. Methos smiled faintly. He would be willing to bet that if he even flinched menacingly right then, he would find himself with a katana at his throat.

"Connor MacLeod," Methos noted, carefully keeping both hands in view. He'd really hate trying to explain to Duncan having to kill his cousin over a misunderstood greeting.

"No, that's my name, I'm afraid. You'll have to pick another." Connor let out an engaging, raspy laugh as he shook the hand Methos had offered in return.

Methos felt his own lips turn up in response.

"Well? Are you going to choose or not?"

"Adam Pierson will do," Methos said in way of an answer. He quirked an eyebrow and tried to gauge the other man's reaction. Had Duncan ever mentioned him to Connor? Probably not, Methos decided, as Connor's gaze remained steady along with his clasping of Methos's hand. Duncan had usually respected Methos's wishes to remain anonymous, excepting, of course, making sure Joe knew the truth. Oh, and Amanda. And then Richie. Actually the man did have a big mouth after all.

"Are you looking for me?" Connor asked reasonably, finally breaking the moment and the handshake, but remaining obviously wary.

"Well, I wasn't looking for anybody, but I'm actually rather glad to have found you." Methos searched his mind, discovering to his surprise that it was the truth. He had never even met this immortal before. Why wasn't he running? Maybe because it's Connor MacLeod, something whispered deep inside his head. You ought to know him by now, after all the research you've done. He felt a deep need to understand this man's story. How had he harnessed such power? Methos had had brushes with such things before, but never to the degree Connor MacLeod had taken it.

"Is that right? Planning on trying to take anything that doesn't belong to you?" Connor's already narrow eyes slitted even more as he asked the question.

The light glinted in the corner of one and Methos felt himself hold the gaze a beat longer than he normally would have. Were his eyes really gray? How interesting.

Methos gave himself a shake and focused. "I might take a story away with me, but nothing more valuable than that."

"Stories can be very valuable," Connor shot back, barely moving his jaw to grate out the words. He had a husky voice.

Methos also observed that even though Connor's tone was rough, his hand finally came out of his jacket, but still hovered nearby the opening. Very sly, indeed. He obviously had far more sense than his clansman did.

Before Methos could offer any further explanation, a chair came sailing towards his head. He ducked and whipped around to find the explanation, only to see that the drunks had pulled themselves together enough to start a brawl. One of the idiots pulled a knife and lunged at the man attacking with furniture. Methos turned and rolled his eyes at Connor.

Connor chuckled in his unusual way and they both headed for the door.

Once outside, Connor shrugged to settle his coat around himself better while eyeing Methos up and down. Methos accepted the gaze and smiled a tiny smile. Finally, the younger man spoke, "Let's walk."

In response, Methos turned and started back towards the Park. "You're probably wondering how I know of you."

"The question had occurred to me."

"Let's just say that I know a relative of yours rather well."

"Duncan always did have trouble keeping his big mouth shut." Connor grinned at Methos, letting him know that he didn't really mind.

"I've had that same thought on more than one occasion myself." Some things never changed. The two men walked a little further before Methos finally decided how to broach what he wanted. He definitely didn't want to bring up the Watchers. He wanted to gain the man's trust, not alienate him completely. Blunt might work here, though. "Duncan has told me a bit about you, actually. I know your story--the Kurgan, the aftermath of the quickening, everything."

Connor stopped walking for a second before starting again, this time at a faster clip while mumbling something in his native language that included references to both sheep dung and his cousin. Methos had to bite back a smile at the man's creativity, but then Connor replied shortly, "If you're another goddamned kid who wants to be my student, then I suggest you give it up. I don't take on stragglers and I don't give advice."

It was Methos's turn to stop walking, and Connor reluctantly came to a halt a few feet away. "I'm sorry, but I guess I'm not making myself clear. I don't need a teacher--gods know that I don't need that!" Methos snorted loudly. "I have your cousin's version of what happened to you; what I want is yours. I need to know," he began then hesitated. "I just need to."

Something in his eyes must have expressed Methos's honesty because Connor retraced his steps until he was face-to-face with the older man, studying him with a burning expression. His response, when it came, was pointed. "Why?"

Methos sighed and looked back up at the sky. The stars were still hiding from the city lights. He wanted to scream at them to stop pretending they weren't there, but the effort wouldn't have made a difference.

The weight of living pressed in on him again, and Methos couldn't keep a note of exhaustion from entering his voice. "Have you ever been tired? I mean really, bone-crushingly weary? Maybe you're too young, but it inevitably will happen after enough time has passed. It begins to feel like the world has used you until there's nothing left. Dragged your bloody ass to hell and back, taken you on a hard ride, burned you up and left you on the other side, and suddenly it's easier to just sit on the sidelines for awhile and recover. Do nothing." He quirked his mouth at the irony of his favorite piece of advice coming back at him like this.

He spun around slowly while still studying the rooftops and beyond then continued. "Eventually, 'awhile' becomes years, and years become centuries. The only problem with this is that one person in the grand scheme of things is pretty easy to forget. People everywhere will still go on living their lives, even if you don't. Governments will still rise and crumble, rain will still fall in Seattle, Asia will still be overcrowded, and it doesn't make one whit of difference whether you got out of bed or not this morning.

"Now trust me when I say that I recognize this for the pathetic, self-pitying bullshit that it sounds like, but that still doesn't stop the creeping conviction of being really and truly all alone in the universe." He finally stopped the words that had been flowing of their own volition and looked over at the other man to see what his reaction would be.

Connor studied him for a full minute without letting anything obvious past his stern expression. But Methos was an expert at interpreting the thoughts behind the surface, and to him, Connor's eyes blazed with an intense heat.

Methos shivered, and that broke Connor out of his quiet contemplation. He rocked on the balls of his feet for a second before turning at the intersection they had been standing at and starting to walk in a direction perpendicular to the one they had been heading in. "Come with me," Connor ordered.

Methos followed, not feeling up to questioning his companion at the moment.

They walked for endless numbers of blocks before reaching a seedy section of city that was filled with warehouses and condemned apartment buildings. Connor stopped at the front of a large, nearly destroyed structure that had once housed a huge neon sign on its roof. All that remained of the sign was a blackened skeleton however, and most of the building looked to have suffered the effects of a raging inferno at least a decade ago. No one had bothered to try and rebuild. After a brief pause at the entrance, Connor flashed Methos a significant look and ducked inside.

Methos doubted the structural integrity of the place, but had a feeling that any answers he might get were waiting on the other side of the door. He moved into the burnt-out husk and saw that the building had once been a gigantic, open, square space. Most of one wall was now missing, and most of another had once been a wall of windows that had completely blown out at some point. It was amazing that there was as much roof still overhead as there was. There were more than a few gaps where the black sky was visible.

"How old are you?" Connor was standing in the middle of the floor space, studiously not looking too curious about Methos's answer to his question. .

"Why is that important?" Methos tried to look busy smoothing down his coat. He had the strangest urge not to lie to this man.

"No reason really. I'm just trying to figure out who this person in front of me really is. Do you know where we are?"

"Not in Kansas anymore?" Methos couldn't help quipping in the face of his tension. He shoved his hands back into his pockets and closed his coat more tightly around himself.

Connor chuckled. "That's one way of putting it. You wanted to know my story? Well you could say that it's right in front of you, all around you, in you even."

Methos's mind was buzzing. He whispered, "What is this place?"

"This is where I fought the monster that changed my life...the Kurgan." Connor suddenly looked lost, standing all alone in the huge, blasted-out room, his eyes shadowed and dark. "I was ready to die that day. I wanted it..."

The last was said so quietly that Methos almost missed it.

"Why did you bring me here?" Methos asked. The last thing that he had expected Connor to show him was any kind of vulnerability.

"It helps to put me in the mood, you might say." Connor's eyes cleared as fast as they had clouded and he flashed a quicksilver smile. He seemed himself again, so Methos urged him on with his story by walking a few steps closer and loosening some of the tension in his own shoulders to show his receptivity.

This seemed to do the trick and Connor continued. "He destroyed everything I ever cared about, you know. Always throughout my life, he was there, casting his ugly shadow. First, attacking my Clan, running me through and causing me to be cast out. Then by killing Ramirez and hurting my Heather and my home. And then there was the Gathering..."

Connor walked slowly to stand on a patch of ground by the wall of broken windows. He looked down for a few moments before continuing. "I know it wasn't the fairy tale Gathering that all immortals have heard of, but it sure as hell didn't stop the rest of us from believing what we felt, from needing to seek each other out and kill. All of us that fought could feel it. A calling...not voices, but more like a push, urging us to do what we did. I thought about it later and wondered if maybe the gods had set us up just so the Kurgan would die...

"By the time we faced each other I was already feeling my defeat. So many of my friends were dead--for all I knew, they all were. I hadn't heard from Duncan in years, and I had no reason to believe he had escaped. It was a living hell for most of a year. I fought almost constantly during that time, one after another.

"I couldn't turn my brain off either. You asked me earlier about being tired and being alone. I wonder if you have ever really understood the Gathering. I know we all think we know what it means and are sure we want to live, but at what price? I thought then that it was possible that the Kurgan and I were the only immortals left. To win, and to be all alone..."

The two men looked at each other again, eyes flashing mirrored pain, one remembered, one raw. Connor continued, his voice even lower and rougher than before. "It didn't seem so awful then to just die. And I thought about it...all during the fight I thought about it. But there was one thing that wouldn't let me forget my other choice. Brenda.

"She was there, beautiful Brenda. So young, na´ve and wise. She never forgot that in the end the basics are all that's important. Life. Death. Good. Evil. Darkness. Light. How I could have ever been so stupid to forget I'll never know, but her presence and who she was reminded me. My own self stopped mattering, but the idea of living didn't.

"I ended the fight with those fundamental things tearing through my head. When the quickening hit all I could feel was the power of what is at the core of humanity. This is how it changed me. I was able to feel more clearly the pulse of the world. I knew for a time, beyond any doubt, how it all works. When the years pile up immortals start to lose sight of the fact that we are only human, too. But mortals are what make this world work. You wanted to hear my story and find out what I learned. Sorry it's not more shocking. Maybe I will give you some advice after all--don't forget. Any of it. The lovely and the profane. It all matters. Nature is both halves of a whole, and we are none of us so pure as to be beyond nature."

Connor stopped speaking and silence once again filled the space between them. But this time it didn't feel so heavy to Methos. Don't forget. Could it really be so easy? The last few years had been haunted by mistakes past and present. I guess it's true that I've been spending an awful lot of energy trying to avoid thinking about it. Maybe it's time that I stopped fighting.

Methos let out a deep breath and spent a few moments testing some memories from recent years. He expected to be hit by slashing pain, but it never came. Huh. Perhaps this kid has some lessons I could learn after all. Out of the corner of his eye he almost imagined that he could see the edge of something. The other side? Could this be where he crested the hill of depression?

He turned his eyes back onto the steady gray gaze across from him. The possibilities that ran through his mind seemed to cause the pressure within his chest to grow ever lighter.

After a few minutes of breathing in air that no longer seemed fouled by the presence of death, Methos let his head fall back once more. He stood looking at the sky peeking through the torn roof and couldn't help letting a grin loose across his face. He vaguely recalled that this was the first genuinely happy moment he could remember having lately, but it didn't matter. Millions of stars stared boldly back at him. Born again.

*~~~~~*

Endendendend

*~~~~~*

Otherside Red Hot Chili Peppers

Chorus *How long how long will I slide Separate my side I don't *I don't believe it's bad Slit my throat It's all I ever

Heard your voice through a photograph I thought it up it brought up the past Once you know you can never go back I've got to take it on the otherside

Centuries are what it meant to me A cemetery where I marry the sea Stranger things could never change my mind I've got to take it on the otherside Take it on the otherside *Take it on Take it on

Chorus Pour my life into a paper cup The ashtray's full and I'm spillin' my guts She wants to know am I still a slut I've got to take it on the otherside Scarlet starlet and she's in my bed

Lyric A candidate for my soul mate bled Push the trigger and pull the thread I've got to take it on the otherside Take it on the otherside Take it on Take it on

Chorus Turn me on take me for a hard ride Burn me out leave me on the otherside I yell and tell it that It's not my friend I tear it down I tear it down And then it's born again

Chorus How long I don't believe it's bad Slit my throat It's all I ever

To the Authors' pages