He came awake gasping for air, thrashing. The covers tangled around his sweating body and he fought them to get free, stumbling out of bed and onto legs that threatened to crumple. The silk pajama bottoms hugged his features, clinging damply. His hair was awry and his mind full of chaos' but he staggered out on limbs as unsteady as a colt's, following the faint signal of immortal presence.
He was there. He was really there. He felt giddy and sick and faint all at once. He thought he would collapse, so overwhelming were his emotions.
Connor MacLeod was sitting in the half dawn, sipping coffee. He had one long leg propped against the windowsill and he looked up, curiously, as Duncan entered the room and approached. The younger immortal went to one knee and reached out a hand, his fingers spreading wide, and spanned them across Connor's neck. The older Highlander tightened almost imperceptibly and the tremor communicated itself through the hot liquid in the cup in widening concentric circles.
Duncan closed his eyes, focused intently on his fingers where pulse and heat and life beat through the carotid arteries. For a moment he was utterly still and then righted himself internally, belatedly registering the incrementally increased pace of the heartbeat beneath his hand and the steely grip that fastened on the errant wrist. He opened his eyes, chagrined by his lapse, and found only calm blue ones watching and measuring him.
For a moment they were frozen, staring at one another.
"Good morning to you, too," Connor wryly stated. His grip did not yield on the wrist.
"I,uh," Duncan faltered, "had a dream." Damn. He knew his face revealed almost every secret to this man. He wished he had inherited a poker face along with his strong features. He did not even spare a thought to the fact that his friend had not removed his hand from his throat, the breath and life continued on under his fingers. "It was, it was, I was," He couldn't finish. He could only gaze back into that familiar face, tracing every feature as if seeing it for the first time.
"I'm used to haunting the dreams of women, Duncan, not inhabiting yours." Connor spoke it with characteristic dry humor and quirked an eyebrow at him.
"Not that kind of a dream, you shithead!" came the immediate retort. Followed by a hapless chuckle that choked itself off almost as soon as it began. Too many strong feelings still circled to be able to break away so easily.
"Eh? Too bad. I thought I'd get a wild tale out of you, or at least see how far it went before I clobbered you spitless." Connor's voice was shot through with deviltry.
That did it. Duncan pulled his hand free and leaned on the arm of the chair, laughing helplessly until his eyes blurred. He kept his head down even when he stopped, knowing he would have to explain himself as soon as he looked up. Connor would certainly have questions for this little display of emotion.
The hum of distress in him was still faintly there, dim and muted. He wrestled with his sluggish fortitude.
"What did you dream, Dhonnchaidh*?"
The old familiar name. Damn, Connor was going for his throat about this and he wasn't even ready, but, then again, he had definitely gone for Connor's. He could still feel the ghostly echo of the life under his fingers. Putting a hand on the neck of Connor MacLeod, well, there were not many immortals who would dare, let alone live to tell about it. Honesty was the best policy, no matter how he felt about it.
"I dreamed I killed you."
"So. You've done that before," said just as softly.
"No. Really killed you." He could not meet Connor's gaze. It didn?t even matter if he was talking about dreaming the killing or the few times inadvertently in a sparring session when they had critically injured one another. All the inarticulate horror and pain of the night swelled up in him and he swung his head back and forth like some mindless beast trying to free himself.
A firm hand on his shoulder anchored him temporarily, but he still felt as if he were drowning in clear air. "I killed you. It was terrible, even though there wasn't any other way. Standing over your grave on the mountain, I, I couldn't, there wasn't," He stammered to a halt with a giant hand clenched around his heart. He was not going to cry. He hadn't wept for years. Strange, how his cheeks were damp and the room swam giddily.
"Shhh." The hand crept up around his shoulder to the back of his neck, digging fingers around the tendons with casual familiarity. "Shhh. Just a dream, Dhonnchaidh."
"I never call you," he stumbled on, hardly taking a breath between words, "I know you"re right there in New York, but I hardly ever ask you to come and help me with anything. It's enough that I know you're there. A wall behind my back if I need it. Solid. Strong. Strength within strength. It's enough that you're just there and then I killed you and the wall was gone and it was like having no anchor at all and part of me, part of me..."
"Shhh, shhh," The fingers dug painfully into his neck, demanding focus and control.
But Duncan had no blockade for this tide and he lurched on, needing to say all the things left unsaid over the long years. "I buried part of myself on that hillside and it was like someone put a bomb to Scotland and sank her into the sea. There wasn"t anything left, and no matter where I went in the world, you weren't in it and, and, I'm not ready." He raised his face at this last, finally meeting the eyes of the man he had killed. "I'm not ready to lose you. I love you." And here he stopped, staggered, half- blind and frozen like an animal caught in headlights.
Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock on the wall kept the pace methodically. The only sound in the room over his pounding heart.
"I know you do, Duncan."
"I hardly ever tell you," he whispered in an untrustworthy voice. How could his soul hurt so much?
"That doesn't mean I don't know. And I'm the one man in the seven kingdoms of the world that has loved you all of your life." The older man paused for a few seconds. "All your life, give or take a few decades."
"I know." He was able to breathe easier and his vision cleared. Still, he felt like he had been run over by a truck. He shivered with barely repressed dread. "Pray that I'm already gone before you fall, Connor. Pray I'm gone. Pray I never see that day."
"Shhh." Connor rubbed the pad of his thumb firmly against the corded neck. "You're a wild, skittish thing this morning, aren't you? This is what a Star Wars/Star Trek marathon and too much whisky inspire, youngster. Too much Kirk, Jinn and Kenobi for you. Surprised you didn't dream those glow stick swords in there too!"
Duncan couldn't help the chuckle. He knew the elder Scot had a fascination for the lightsabers. One Halloween he fully expected to see him dressed in a cloak with a pretend one, temporarily insane with mischief and too much drink. He supposed he'd have to dress accordingly just to keep his old friend out of trouble!
And just as quickly as the thoughts worked their way through him, the despair and dread melted away to be replaced with fondness built upon 400 plus years of brotherhood. A kinship deep and quiet and strong, resting as a familiar spirit in his soul. This was just a morning and not a mourning at all.
"Tell me, Duncan," he interjected, "did you kill me over some girl?"
"No," with a snort of humor.
"Good. Then I can still try to steal them away from you."
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