AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after Duende. It is also somewhat related to the
"Go, Mac!" Richie shouted his encouragement as MacLeod came roaring down the
quay on the motorcycle. He was bent low over the handlebars and grinned as he gunned the
engine. This wasn't so bad. It had been years since he'd ridden a bike, and it hadn't
taken much for Richie to talk him into it. Too late, he saw the board on the pavement. He
tried to swerve to avoid it, but only managed to hit it squarely. He let go of the bike as
it fell, trying to get away from the heavy machine. He rolled several times, and the last
he remembered was the agony in his head as the darkness came over him.
He moaned as he turned over, putting one hand to his forehead where the pain was the most
pronounced. He felt the sticky mass in his hair and hoped he hadn't died to an audience.
"Richie?" He tried to sit up, but a sudden attack of vertigo stopped him.
"Richie!" Where was he? He should be here. It was his motorcycle and he'd been
there before the accident. Silently, he berated himself for getting talked into such a
stupid stunt. Still not getting any response from Richie, he opened his eyes carefully.
Midsummer sun beat down on him, nearly blinding him. Wait a minute, how could that be? It
was winter in France. Shading his eyes with one hand, he looked around. Sand and scrub
trees were all he could see. That and the rock he'd probably landed on. A horse stood a
few yards away, looking back nervously at the wriggling bundle that was tied to its
This wasn't right. He had been on the quay by the barge. Acting like an idiot riding a
motorcycle, to be sure, but in Paris. Not in some desert with no one around but a horse
and someone rolled up in a rug. He rubbed his eyes and looked around again, but the scene
didn't change. He must have hurt his head pretty badly. He didn't remember having
hallucinations after a death before.
He rolled carefully into a sitting position, the pain in his head and body receding.
Slowly, he stood and approached the horse, talking to it quietly. It seemed very real for
a dream horse. He patted the horse on the neck and could smell the sweat on its body. This
dream was entirely too realistic. He sensed that whoever was in the bundle was an
immortal. He really wanted to know where he was and how he'd gotten there before dealing
with the captive, but he couldn't leave them wrapped up in a rug and slung over the horse,
either. After a moment's thought, he took the rug off the horse. Untying the ropes, he got
his first look at what was bundled within. The back of the man's tunic was torn and bloody
from battle. The dark hair was long and tangled. When the man turned to face him, there
was a familiarity to the features that took him a moment to register.
"Methos?" He looked at the man with a mixture of shock and joy. At least this
was something he knew. "Where are we? How did we get here?" The combination of
hate and fear on the other man's face unsettled him. Methos darted glances around him,
then scrambled to his feet and ran. "No! Wait!" MacLeod chased him down and
tackled him, holding the struggling figure firmly. "Why'd you run? It's me. MacLeod.
Don't you know me?" The bewildered look that answered him confused him even more.
"Where are we?" he repeated. A sullen silence was his only answer. "What's
wrong? Why won't you talk to me?" He began to understand the situation. It may be
Methos, but this dream Methos didn't know him and wasn't going to cooperate with him.
"Doesn't matter. Come with me. It'll be safer than being on your own out here."
He swung up on the horse and was surprised to find that the saddle felt as if it was made
for him. He reached a hand to Methos to help him up onto the animal. "Sit still.
You're spooking the horse. If you don't, I'll have to tie you to the saddle again,"
he told Methos. The other man sat as quietly as he could behind MacLeod.
The view from the back of the horse was as bleak as it had been from the ground. There
were hoof prints in the sand, but it was impossible to accurately judge their direction.
He decided to let the horse find its way back to wherever it had come from. Maybe he'd
find some answers there about this hallucination he was having. He dropped the rein on the
animal's neck and urged it forward. Left to its own volition, the horse set off at a
purposeful walk, and he was confident that the animal did know its way home. As they rode
on, he tried to figure out the pieces of the puzzle. The clothing he and Methos were
wearing and the trappings on the horse spoke of an era thousands of years ago. He was sure
the other man was Methos, but the man didn't seem to know him, and certainly seemed to
fear him. He hadn't wanted to threaten Methos, but for the moment, knew no other way to
deal with the situation quickly.
As they rode to the top of a dune, he saw a camp spread in a small valley below. He pulled
the horse to a stop while he surveyed the layout. A small stream meandered through the
valley, and the camp tents were all set up on the bank closest to the dune he was on.
There were four tents set apart from the others as if for the masters of the encampment,
then a couple of larger tents near the makeshift corral and the cook fires. Everything he
could see fit in with the altered reality of his dream. None of the people working around
the animals or the fires seemed to take any notice of him on the dune. One figure rose
from in front of his tent and walked forward as if to greet the returning rider. MacLeod
shrugged mentally and urged the horse forward again. When he was close enough to make out
the features of the standing figure, he halted the horse. Tall, strong, with a pronounced
scar bisecting the right side of his face. Kronos.
"Well, brother Duncan, I didn't think you'd let that one live after he caused you
such an undignified fall from your horse." Kronos stepped to his side and clapped him
on the thigh. "Or do you have more severe punishment in mind for him?" MacLeod
sat for a moment trying to assimilate this new turn. Kronos greeting him as a brother.
Methos definitely a captive, and not an important one. Until he got more information, he
had no choice but to play along with the situation. This dream wasn't going to be ending
any time soon as far as he could tell.
He shrugged at Kronos. "Killing him seemed too easy." He nodded at the man
sitting behind him. "You can see how quickly he learned to obey and sit quietly.
Perhaps there is hope that he can be of use to me. To us." As he swung his leg over
the horse's withers and slid off, one of the servants came up to take the reins. MacLeod
reached for Methos' arm and pulled him off the horse, then nodded to the man to take the
horse away. "Wait, you. Take this one also." He pushed Methos toward the man.
"Have him cleaned up and given a clean tunic, then leave him in my tent." He'd
figured that he would have to stay and talk to Kronos, but if he watched where they
finally took Methos, he would know which tent was his. He turned to the other man.
"So, brother, is there any food or drink left for me, or did you finish it all while
I recovered from my indignity?"
They walked together toward the cook fires and MacLeod began to realize that this was the
time of the Four Horsemen, and somehow he had become one of them. He was sure that it must
be a dream or nightmare and hoped he would soon wake up. It couldn't be real. He didn't
believe in aliens or time travel. The only trouble was, this was without a doubt the most
real seeming dream he'd ever had. When they got to the fire, a woman came forward and
handed MacLeod a dish of a greasy meat stew and a cup of sweet wine. He thanked her and
followed Kronos to a spot a little ways away and they sat on the sand while he ate.
When he was almost finished, Kronos resumed their earlier conversation. "Why did you
keep that one alive? Granted he's new, but after the trouble he's already been with your
horse, I would think it would be simpler to kill him than tame him."
MacLeod took another mouthful of the stew to give himself time to think. "He's young
and strong. He could be very useful if he can be trained." He looked at Kronos.
"If he can't be trained, well, I'll deal with that then." He looked at the dish
of food again. "It really makes no difference, but there was something in his eye
that challenged me to try him."
Kronos laughed and put a hand on his shoulder. "One way or the other you will have
your revenge for what he did. I like that." He stood to take his leave of MacLeod.
"Just don't take too long. We don't need any unreliable servants if we have to break
camp quickly." He walked slowly back to his tent and went inside. The message was
clear. Either Methos would be convinced to be obedient quickly or he would die. If this
was a dream, it was getting a little too complicated. He finished eating the stew and
looked for some water to mix with the wine. While he was wandering around the cooking
area, he watched for the servant who had taken Methos from him. He finally saw the man
leading Methos away from the stream, hands bound behind him, but cleaner than when he'd
brought him in. He watched carefully as Methos was pushed inside a tent. A few moments
later the servant came out.
After what he considered an appropriate delay, he walked slowly to the tent that he had to
assume was his. As he pushed aside the skin that covered the opening he saw Methos, now
bound hand and foot and lying on a rug in one corner. He looked around the rest of the
tent, seeing the pile of skins and furs that must serve as a bed, a dish of fruit, and a
few cups and earthenware vessels for holding either wine or water. He didn't seem to have
many personal belongings, but there were a few clothes on a mat and sandals to make a
change from the boots he was wearing. He crossed to the pile of furs and sat down, elbows
on his knees, head in his hands, trying to think.
He felt the matted blood in his hair and realized that he was filthy and uncomfortable. He
got up and looked among his belongings for something resembling soap, then remembered that
this was probably before soap making was widely known. He picked up the cleanest of the
tunics on the mat and took off most of the outer clothing and leather armor that he was
wearing. He spared an apologetic glance at Methos as he left the tent and headed toward
the stream. The water was bracing but not cold, and he did his best to clean the sweat,
dirt and blood of the day's adventure off his skin. As he got out of the stream he pulled
on the cleaner tunic he had brought with him. Walking barefoot back to his tent, he
noticed that none of the servants seemed to watch anything he did. He was sure they were
paying attention in case they were called for any reason, but they were schooled not to
see what they didn't need to know.
As he reentered the tent, he threw the dirty tunic on the heap of outer clothing he'd
removed before. Methos had not moved while he was gone. The man had watched him enter the
tent, and continued to watch him as he moved around the tent, examining what little there
was inside it. MacLeod finished his inspection of the tent and stood in front of Methos.
"If I untie you, will you give me your word you won't try to escape?" Methos
stared at him, then nodded slowly. "Good." MacLeod bent down and undid the
leather thongs on the man's wrists, then reached for the ankles. When the bonds were
removed, Methos sat up on the rug and hugged his knees, but made no other move. MacLeod
sat down on the furs and looked at the other man. "You really don't know who I am, do
you?" His question was answered with silence. "Talk to me. You won't be punished
for answering a question." He marveled at how easily he let himself take on the role
of master. He turned his attention back to Methos as the man shifted a little on the rug.
"You are Death." The man spoke quietly. "You killed my people. You killed
me." He lapsed into an uneasy silence. "But you brought me back to life. You
have the power." MacLeod absorbed this latest bit of information. It sounded as if
this had been the first death for Methos. He didn't know what he was. And he believed that
he only lived because of MacLeod's whim. He knew nothing of their friendship or their life
together. He would have to find a way to keep Methos safe from the other Horsemen. It
hadn't seemed that any of the others had personal servants, but he hadn't been there long
enough to be sure. At the least, he could keep him separate while he taught him what he
needed to know to survive in the camp.
He lay back on the furs and closed his eyes. As he rested, he wished that the nightmare
would just end and let him go back to his real life. A sudden rustle of clothing and the
band of light as the door skin was pushed aside jerked him alert. Methos was trying to
escape. He jumped to his feet and ran out of the tent, looking for the fleeing man. He was
running toward the stream, and MacLeod gave chase, catching up to him at the water's edge.
During the struggle, Methos produced a dagger he must have picked up in the tent. MacLeod
twisted away from the blade and tried to pry it from the other man's hands. They fought
silently until Methos lost his footing and went down, the knife buried in his chest. This
was not what he had meant to have happen. MacLeod pulled the knife from the healing flesh
and slung the body over his shoulder.
As he walked to his tent, he was greeted by a snide glance from Kronos. MacLeod grinned at
him with forced humor. "This one does seem to have spirit," he said, indicating
the body on his shoulder. "He'll soon learn there is no escape." Kronos nodded
and went back to his tent, watching MacLeod through slightly narrowed eyes. As he entered
his own tent, MacLeod put Methos on the rug in the corner again and waited for him to
revive. He watched the sharp intake of breath, the realization that he still lived and the
moments of pain as the other man returned to life. The fear that filled the eyes as they
looked at MacLeod caused a twinge in his gut. This was not how he wanted to be treating
his friend, even if the friend didn't know he was one.
"You gave me your word you wouldn't try to escape." Silence. "Talk to me,
damn it. You won't be punished for what you say or think."
After several moments, Methos answered him. "You speak of honor. Yet you have none.
You and your brothers" he made the word sound like a curse "kill and rape and
steal with no honor." He stopped, realizing what he was saying, and waited for the
punishment he thought was inevitable.
"You don't have to fear me. I told you I won't punish you for words or thoughts. I
don't want to punish you at all." MacLeod thought about how to word what he needed
Methos to understand. "I can protect you, but you must become my servant. I won't
harm you if you can do that. You won't survive if you try to escape. If one of my brothers
catches you, they will kill you and you will stay dead. Do you understand?" Methos
nodded. "I give you my word on this. The word of Duncan MacLeod of the Clan
MacLeod." He had no idea if this Methos understood the solemn vow that giving his
word included. He'd have to wait and see.
The next several days were uneventful, spent repairing tack and armor, sharpening blades,
dividing up the booty from the last raids. Methos made one more attempt to escape, and was
brought back by MacLeod without having to harm him. After that, he seemed willing enough
to perform the duties given him, and clothing was washed and mended, boots were repaired
and the horses were groomed and cared for. Evenings had to be spent drinking with the
Horsemen and acting the part that he had found himself in, though there was little
enjoyment of it. He had stopped wishing for the dream to end and simply concentrated on
On this particular evening, Kronos had guided MacLeod to a place at a small distance from
the rest of the camp inhabitants. They sat on the side of the dune and watched the
activity around the fires. Kronos pointed to the argument that could be heard even where
they were. "Duncan, our brothers are growing restless. I think it's time for more
adventure." It was true that Caspian and Silas had been more quarrelsome than usual.
"You remember that village we rode through a while back? The one where they said we
were demons? Maybe it's time for them to know the truth of their words." Kronos
turned to MacLeod with a grin. "What do you think?"
This was the conversation he had been dreading ever since he had figured out that in this
nightmare reality he was a Horseman. That he was the right hand to Kronos. "We still
have plenty of food and women. The villagers only used words as weapons. Do they need to
die for that?"
"Duncan, my brother, you are going soft. The village will be another example of the
superiority of the Horsemen. We need no other reason." He looked at MacLeod intently.
"We ride at dawn. Make sure you're ready." Kronos rose and started down the dune
toward the cook fires. He turned to face MacLeod once more. "You have not been
yourself since you fell off your horse. Maybe you need the adventure, too." He
grinned again at MacLeod, then turned back to continue down the dune.
MacLeod stared at Kronos' retreating back. He had no idea what village the man was
referring to, but he had attempted to defend them out of principle. He wanted no part of
killing for the sport of it, but it could be even more dangerous for him if he didn't at
least go with them. Maybe he could find a way to spare some of the villagers. He found he
had no appetite left, so he got up and took his dish back to the women at the fires, then
took his leave of the other Horsemen for the evening. As he approached his tent, he saw
that Methos had lighted the lamp. Right now he wished that this man was the Methos of his
real life. He needed someone to talk to. He pushed aside the skin and entered the tent.
Methos was lying on his rug with a blanket pulled over him. He looked up as MacLeod
"Stay where you are. I don't need anything." He crossed to his fur bed and sat
down heavily. He looked at Methos, who was sitting up with his blanket wrapped around him,
watching MacLeod. "We're riding at dawn tomorrow. I'll need the horse ready. Will you
be here when I get back?" This would be the first time he'd be away from the camp
since he'd brought Methos in. Methos would be left alone while they were gone, with plenty
of opportunity to run away.
Methos nodded. "I'll be here. You've kept your word to me and treated me well. And
where else would I go? The desert isn't very inviting." There were times when this
man sounded so much like his real life Methos. Pragmatic and cynical. He wondered if he
could possibly understand what he needed to talk about. Probably not. The idea that one of
the Horsemen wanted to find a way to stop the killing would sound crazy. MacLeod took off
his boots and lay down on the furs, pulling his blanket over him. He closed his eyes and
tried to sleep. Some time later he heard Methos get up and extinguish the lamp then go
back to bed. He fell into a fitful sleep, waking when he heard Methos get up.
The sky was just starting to lighten. Morning. The day he dreaded. He sat up and rubbed
his eyes, again wondering why this nightmare never seemed to end. Sometimes he almost
wondered if what he thought of as his real life was the dream, but the memories were too
vivid and complex for him to believe that. He was looking over the leather armor and cape
he knew he had to wear when Methos returned and handed him a cup of the herbal tea that
was all they had for a hot beverage. What he wouldn't give for a good cup of coffee! He
chuckled at the incongruity of that thought and sipped the bitter tea.
"Your horse is ready," Methos told him. "The others are starting to gather
at the fire. Do you want me to help you with these?" He reached for the leather
jerkin and cape. MacLeod stood and selected a clean tunic and leggings. With Methos' help,
he strapped on the leather armor and fitted the cape to his shoulders. Methos reached for
one more thing. "Don't forget this," he said as he handed MacLeod the death
mask. With that, his costume was complete. He was a Horseman. He picked up his sword and
dagger and left the tent without a word. What could he say to the man anyway? I'll be back
later after I help destroy a village, why don't you have dinner ready? Better not to say
As he walked toward the fires he saw the other three. Their costumes were as fearsome as
his own. Kronos looked impatient. "Did you forget, brother Duncan? We've been waiting
for you. Come here and let me finish your face." He had a small stick and a cup of
ash mixed with water. He drew a series of designs on MacLeod's face. When he was done, he
clapped MacLeod on the shoulder with a grin. "Magnificent as always, brother. Get
your horse. We should be on our way." As MacLeod went for his horse, the others
mounted and waited for him. When he rode up to them, they turned and started out at a
trot, then eased into a ground covering canter as they headed across the desert toward
After an hour or so of riding, Kronos signaled a halt at the top of a small rise. Spread
out in the lee of the hill below them was a small village. Huts gathered around the
central cook fire, pens of animals were at one end of the village, and some small gardens
were at the other end. The villagers were going about the business of caring for the
animals and plants. The whole scene was very peaceful. For the moment, MacLeod thought to
himself. Only for the moment. On Kronos' signal, the other three set off down the hill at
a gallop, taking an approach that would bring them into the village across the gardens.
Silas and Caspian led the charge, ax and sword raised. Kronos followed closely and MacLeod
trailed behind him.
When the villagers saw the riders approach, they started to run, yelling at the others to
find cover, but they couldn't outrun the horses. MacLeod watched as the first of them fell
to Silas' ax. Others were victims of Caspian's sword. Kronos detoured to the center of the
village, looking for the leaders. Always cut off the head of the enemy, either literally
or figuratively. Killing the village chieftains would do that. MacLeod followed him into
the village, sickened by the needless slaughter. As he rode through, one of the villagers
attacked him with a spear, running it through his leg. Out of instinct, he struck with his
sword, killing the man. He pulled the weapon from his leg, ignoring the pain.
Seeing him alone, more villagers attacked. He found himself forced to fight them off just
to stay alive. He worked his way closer to Kronos, swinging his blade and listening to the
battle cries of the other Horsemen. His own pain, the sense of brotherhood with the others
and an ancient bloodlust combined in him as he joined the fray, swinging his blade at
anyone who came near. When most of the villagers had been killed or run off, the Horsemen
dismounted, looking through the carnage for anything of value to take away with them. The
few baubles were gathered into a sack, and the women were herded together to be taken back
The ride back to their own camp was slower than the ride out, since they had newly
acquired slaves on foot in front of them. The slow pace gave MacLeod too much time to
think about what had just happened and what he personally had done in that village. He
didn't understand how he had managed to let himself get pulled into the killing. It had
been like so many battles he had fought in his other life, the enemy overwhelmed by
superior forces, the heat of the fight singing through his body, but at the same time, he
had no quarrel with those people. They only fought to protect what was rightly theirs. And
he had helped slaughter them. Dream or not, he had helped to kill them all. He rode
silently, following a short distance behind Kronos.
Absorbed in his own thoughts, he didn't notice Kronos slowing to meet him until the other
Horseman was riding next to him, close enough for their knees to touch. "You fought
well today, brother Duncan. I think you got your fire back." MacLeod didn't answer.
"We shall have plenty to celebrate tonight. Did you get a look at some of the new
ones?" He gestured at the women walking in front of them. "And the few we left
alive back there will spread the word that the Horsemen will not tolerate insults. A most
successful day." He grinned at MacLeod, then spurred his horse forward to join the
When they got back to camp, they divided up what little they'd found to steal from the
village. The new slaves were sent to be cleaned up and the Horsemen sat together
celebrating their great victory. MacLeod sat quietly drinking the wine that had been
poured, listening to the tales of the day's killing, already embellished in the telling.
He wanted nothing more than to get away from these men, but couldn't see any way to manage
that, at least not while the celebration was going on. He watched them choosing women for
the night, wishing this nightmare would just stop. He'd had enough when, during a
particularly grisly tale, Caspian produced the heads he'd brought back as souvenirs of the
day. As he watched Caspian hang them with his previous trophies, MacLeod got up and walked
quickly away. He managed to get out of sight of the others before falling to his knees,
violently ill. He retched until all he had left were dry heaves.
He got to his feet and stumbled to his tent, dropping on his bed once he got inside. He
didn't know why this particular incident had caused him to react so badly. He'd seen dead
bodies before. He'd killed before. He thought it was that the killing was so senseless,
and that in spite of himself, he'd been drawn into it. Caspian's trophies had brought back
the faces of all those he'd killed today and the memories had cut into him like a dagger.
He wasn't sure if he wanted to scream in anger or cry with the anguish he felt, and
settled on neither. He simply lay there with his eyes closed and his hands balled into
fists, trying to put the visions out of his mind.
He'd heard Methos moving around the tent and had ignored him until he felt the damp cloth
on his face. He opened his eyes and saw the man sitting next to him with a bowl of water
and the cloth in his hand. As Methos reached for his face again, he took hold of the hand.
"What are you doing?"
"Cleaning your face." Methos pulled his hand free and continued wiping off the
markings that Kronos had applied that morning.
"No, I mean why?" He again held Methos' hand.
This time Methos didn't pull away. He narrowed his eyes a bit as he considered how to
answer the Horseman. "You're tired. As your servant it's my duty to see to your
needs. Isn't that reason enough?"
"I suppose it is." It was true. He was exhausted, physically and emotionally. He
relaxed his grip on the hand and Methos went back to his work. He closed his eyes as deft
hands finished cleaning his face, then began removing his leather jerkin and boots. His
filthy tunic followed, and again he felt the damp cloth on his skin. MacLeod felt the
tension leaving as he let himself be cared for by this man who was and wasn't Methos. He
concentrated on the feel of the cloth on his chest, pushing the visions of the day's
events out of his mind. It felt good to have the sweat and grime cleaned off and he smiled
slightly as Methos worked.
His enjoyment was interrupted by a motion at the entrance of the tent, and he opened his
eyes to see that Kronos had come in. "I was worried about you when you left us so
suddenly, brother, but I see now I shouldn't have been." He gestured at Methos, who
had been staring intently at the cloth in his hands since Kronos had entered. "You've
taught this one more than I expected." He turned a leering gaze at MacLeod.
"When did you plan to share your pet?" He laughed at the dark glare on MacLeod's
face. "Not tonight. Tonight he's all yours. But soon, Duncan, soon." He grinned
at the two of them a moment longer, then turned and left. When he was gone, Methos went
back to his work, but was stopped by MacLeod's hand.
"I didn't think about that." MacLeod sat up cross legged next to Methos. He
looked at the man with a wry smile. "Why didn't you say something?"
Methos shifted uncomfortably. "It wasn't my place."
"I thought we'd decided that you could say anything."
"We had." He looked at MacLeod with a little smile. "It's not for me to
question your pleasures. You brought no women to your tent and you kept me here with you.
I waited for you to take what I thought you wanted, but you never did. So I thought maybe
it was something you just didn't do." He looked at his hands again. "But your
brother thinks you keep me for your pleasure." He looked MacLeod in the eyes.
"And now he wants his turn."
Something about that look brought out the fierce protector in MacLeod. "No," he
said firmly. "I don't know how, but I won't allow that to happen." He wondered
if the Methos he knew in his other life had ever been as innocent and vulnerable as this
man, and if he had, what had turned him into one of the Horsemen. More importantly, he
wondered what had changed him into the man who had become his friend. He didn't know if
he'd ever have the answers to those questions.
"Come on." MacLeod stood up. "I want to clean up properly." He led the
way to the stream where he let the cool water wash away all the sweat and blood of the day
along with some of the memories. When he stepped to the bank, Methos handed him a clean
tunic which he slipped over his head. They walked side by side back to the tent. Once
inside, MacLeod poured a cup of wine for each of them. Methos was reluctant to take it,
but he insisted. "If I can't choose who I drink with, there's no point in being a
Horseman, is there?" When they finished the wine, MacLeod settled onto his furs and
watched as Methos put away boots and weapons and the other things used that day and then
lie on his own rug. MacLeod thought idly that he needed to find a few furs to make a
softer bed for him. As he drifted toward sleep, thoughts of the Methos he knew in his
other reality came to him. The Methos he knew before. Before he'd learned about the past.
A gentle man. A friend. And more.
He felt the warmth of the body that had moved next to his, the long fingers that touched
his cheek. He shifted to put his arm around his lover and pull him in for a kiss. He
smiled as the caressing hand moved down his chest and along his waist and hip, then down
the outside of his thigh. He pulled his lover to him in a powerful embrace. It had been so
long. So very long. He wanted to feel flesh against flesh. He pulled off the tunic he was
wearing and looked into the face of his lover. The angular cheekbones, the hazel eyes, the
long dark hair. Slowly he became aware that he had been dreaming. But such a nice dream.
He sighed and pulled the blanket higher over himself. It was then that he realized that
there really was someone in his bed.
The hand was still caressing him. He took hold of the hand and faced Methos.
"I thought you would like it. That it would give you pleasure." He dropped his
gaze from MacLeod's. "You've been good to me. I wanted to give something back."
MacLeod let go of the hand and ran his fingertips along Methos' jaw line. "You don't
owe me a thing. If anything, I owe you. I brought you here and made a servant out of you.
That can't have been easy." He combed his fingers into the mass of dark hair. "I
won't ask you to do this. It's not right for you."
"What if I want to?" He took MacLeod's hand and kissed the palm. "Would it
be right then?" MacLeod knew this would only complicate things, but he wanted it. He
couldn't deny that. And this whole situation was a nightmare, wasn't it? Why shouldn't the
dream have some pleasant parts, too? He pulled Methos to him for a deep kiss, running his
hands over the smooth skin of the man's back. He let himself be enveloped by the familiar
feelings as they made love slowly and gently, savoring every moment as if it could be the
only chance they had, eventually falling asleep wrapped in each other's arms.
A shaft of morning sun on his face woke MacLeod. He didn't open his eyes. He didn't have
to. Methos' head was on his shoulder, one arm across his chest and one leg tangled with
his own. By the steadiness of the breathing, he could tell the man was still asleep.
MacLeod wondered if he kept his eyes closed and wished hard enough that all his nightmares
would end. He wanted desperately to be away from these ancient Horsemen, and just as
desperately to return to a present day reality that didn't include their reappearance.
Sadly, he knew it wasn't to be. He could still feel the furs of the bed underneath him and
smell the skins of the tent around him. Another day to spend pretending to be a Horseman
and to deal with the complications he'd added for himself. But not this minute. For a
little while longer he could stay where he was. He hugged Methos to him and kissed the top
of his head. The other man stirred a little and sighed contentedly. Yes, they could stay
here a bit longer. Before long, sounds of activity in the camp convinced him it was time
to get up. Reluctantly, he roused Methos from his sleep. He chuckled a little at the fact
that in either reality, Methos didn't seem to be a morning person.
There was much to be done the day after a raid, and they worked together to get it all
done quickly. There were always repairs to the leather armor and the clothing worn. While
Methos worked on those, MacLeod took the horse for a long walk to ease the muscles that
would be sore after the previous day's ride. As he rode across the sand, he thought about
the new problems he'd created for himself. He had no doubt that Kronos would come to
'share' Methos before long. He also had no doubt that he would not allow it. What he
didn't know was what other problems that refusal would cause. He had to be prepared for
anything. Kronos' reaction could be everything from acceptance, which he doubted, to a
personal challenge, which seemed more likely. He also knew that both Caspian and Silas
would back whatever Kronos did. He'd have to keep an eye on Methos and watch his own back
at the same time.
He walked the horse back to camp and unsaddled it, then led it into the stream to bathe
its legs in the cool water. Methos was already at the stream working on washing clothing
on the rocks. MacLeod took the horse downstream of where he was working and watched as the
cloth was pounded on the rocks, then rinsed in the water, and the process repeated until
each piece was clean. Methos knew he was being watched and looked up and smiled. MacLeod
thought that was the first real smile he'd seen on that face since he'd been brought to
the Horsemen's camp. He didn't need the complications of being attached to a servant in
this reality, but to have Methos, any Methos, in his life again seemed worth the risk. He
shook his head. This line of thinking only got him to the what ifs of what he considered
his real life. What if he'd never gotten involved with Methos? What if he'd listened to
Joe and tried to understand the past? What if Kronos hadn't found Methos at all? And the
biggest what if of all. What if this damn nightmare finally ended? What would he do about
He took the horse back to the corral and turned it loose. Kronos, Caspian and Silas were
already drinking as they sat near one of the cook fires. He decided that it would be wiser
for his image as a Horseman if he joined them. He knew Kronos was watching him, and didn't
need to have the others realize that he might not be the man they thought he was. He sat
with them, drinking and telling tales until past dark. At what seemed like a reasonable
time, he left the others and went to his tent. It didn't get any easier to listen to their
stories of killing and raping and the abuse of the new slaves brought into camp, but he
couldn't see that sacrificing his own life by challenging one of them would stop anything.
He was sure it would be a sacrifice, for even if he beat the one he challenged, the others
would be there to take him when it was over. Was this the decision Methos had made
millennia ago? To survive in hopes of some day being able to do something about the
situation? He didn't know. He might never know.
He entered his tent and looked around. All the disorder from the previous day was packed
away neatly, the clothes stacked on a mat, fresh fruit in the bowl, his bed smoothed and
spread out for him, and the wine and water containers filled. Methos was lying on his rug
and appeared to be asleep. MacLeod sat on the furs and took off his boots and tunic. He
thought about waking Methos to talk to him, then changed his mind. There was always
tomorrow. He lay down on the furs and pulled his blanket up and tried to sleep. He finally
fell into a fitful sleep, filled with images of the dead and of a leering Kronos demanding
to take Methos from him. A sound in the tent brought him instantly awake, listening for
its source. He relaxed when he realized it was Methos getting up to extinguish the lamp.
He stopped Methos before he got back to his bed and pulled him down next to him. Tonight
he needed to hold him and know he was there. He arranged himself against Methos' back and
nuzzled his face into the man's hair, then pulled the blanket over both of them and closed
his eyes. This time he slept peacefully.
The next day was like any other, taking care of the ordinary work, exercising the horses,
making sure everything would be ready for their next raid. In the afternoon, as MacLeod
sat near the cook fires, Kronos approached and sat next to him. The other man leaned in
close, and MacLeod didn't like the look in his eyes.
"Tonight, brother Duncan. Send your pet to me tonight. I want to know if you've
taught him as well as I taught you." He reached a hand to MacLeod's crotch and
squeezed hard. "Surely you haven't forgotten your lessons." MacLeod kept his
gaze impassive and Kronos laughed softly at him. "You always did try to deny that you
liked it, but I knew better." He took his hand off MacLeod and stood up.
"Tonight," he repeated. "I'll be waiting." He turned and walked away.
Tension gripped MacLeod's gut as he considered what he was going to do. He wasn't going to
send Methos to that man, he knew that. What he didn't know was what alternatives there
were. Or did he? The implications of what Kronos had said about lessons were clear. But
could he offer himself to Kronos in place of Methos? And would Kronos accept the
substitution or was he set on trying his hand with Methos? He rubbed a hand across his
face as he considered how complicated things had become. He had a few hours to think about
it, but he'd better have some sort of plan by evening.
By nightfall he'd made his decision. He'd sat with the Horsemen through the evening meal,
then got up to go back to his tent. As he left them, Kronos caught his eye with a
meaningful look. MacLeod simply nodded at him. He walked slowly to his own tent, replaying
the situation in his mind as he went. He was sure. It was the only real option he had. He
entered the tent to find Methos stretched out on his fur bed. MacLeod smiled at the guilty
look on his face as he sat up. He moved to the bed and sat next to Methos. He needed to
say something to him, but wasn't sure how to start. Methos looked at him and smiled, and
MacLeod saw the trust that was building between them. That made his decision even more
"Methos, I need you to do something for me. And don't ask why." He looked into
the face of the man next to him. "Stay here. Whatever happens, stay here tonight.
I'll be back, but probably not till morning. Will you do that?" He was answered with
a solemn nod. "Good. Now I've got to go." He stood up and looked around,
wondering if he should change what he was wearing. What did you wear for something like
this? He decided it didn't matter. With one glance back at Methos, he left the tent and
went to find Kronos.
A quick survey of the camp showed that he was no longer sitting around the fires, so
MacLeod headed for Kronos' tent. He stood outside for a moment, then took a deep breath
and walked in. He didn't see Kronos as he entered the tent, and he wondered where the man
was. His question was answered quickly when he felt a hand grab his hair and a knife at
"I knew this would be your choice, brother." Kronos held MacLeod close,
whispering in his ear. "I'm glad you didn't disappoint me." He pushed MacLeod
away from him. "But you tell me why. Does the slave mean that much to you?"
MacLeod turned to face him. "No," he lied. "He's not ready. That's all. He
doesn't know enough yet."
"But you know enough." Kronos leered at MacLeod in anticipation. He toyed with
the knife that was still in his hand. "When you first joined us you were good at
killing and planning, but you needed to learn obedience. In time, you were good at that,
too." He stepped forward and ran the point of the knife along MacLeod's neck.
"Why don't you remind me how obedient you can be." He pushed MacLeod to his
knees in front of him. "You do remember what I like, don't you?"
He'd thought he had some idea what Kronos would want from him, but as the night went on,
he realized he knew nothing of what was expected. Hours of pain and humiliation went by as
Kronos took greater and greater pleasure with each perverse activity. Morning found
MacLeod naked, hands bound behind him, lying on his face on the dirt floor of the tent. As
Kronos reached for him once more, he flinched, his mind screaming for it all to end.
Instead, the knife flashed in Kronos' hand and the leather at his wrists was cut.
"You can go now, Duncan." Kronos spoke to him almost sensuously. "It was a
lovely evening. We should do it again." MacLeod stood up slowly, looking for his
clothes. He found enough that hadn't been torn from him to cover himself as he started to
leave the tent. "One more thing." The voice stopped him in his tracks, but he
couldn't look at the other man. "This doesn't change anything. Send me your pet
tonight." MacLeod closed his eyes tightly and dropped his chin to his chest with a
feeling of defeat. After a moment, he opened his eyes and left the tent, walking slowly
back to his own.
As he pushed aside the door flap and entered his tent, he saw Methos was awake but still
lying on the furs. He sat up as MacLeod came in and his eyes widened at MacLeod's
condition. He said nothing, just got up and picked up a bowl and left the tent quickly.
When he came back he had the bowl filled with warm water and a cup of the herb tea. He
gave the cup to MacLeod, who held it with both hands as he sipped it. He took the torn and
soiled clothes from MacLeod and put them aside, then made him take off the last of what he
was wearing, and put that with the other pieces. That done, he took a clean cloth and the
bowl of warm water and started to clean off the blood, filth and body fluids that were the
evidence of the night's activities. When the outward signs of the evening were removed,
MacLeod lay down and tried to sleep. He heard Methos moving around the tent, then take the
dirty clothes and leave. After a while, he fell into a dreamless sleep. When he woke it
was mid afternoon, judging by the angle of the sun. Methos was working on mending the
torn, but now clean clothing.
He sat up and looked at Methos. "Thank you," he said simply.
Methos looked up from his work. "Are you hungry? I could bring you something."
"No." MacLeod reached for a clean tunic. "I'll go join them at the
fires." He knew he couldn't give Kronos the satisfaction of thinking that he was
cowed by what had happened. His body had healed and he would push the rest out of his
mind. He would go and face Kronos and the others like any other afternoon. MacLeod stood
up and pulled on the tunic and leggings, ran his hands through his hair, then squared his
shoulders and took a deep breath before he stepped out of the tent.
He pushed the skin aside and walked out into the sun. Looking around, he found the
Horsemen where he had expected, sitting at the fires and reliving the last raids. He
walked up to them and took the bowl of food that was offered by the cook, moving to sit at
what he thought was a reasonable distance. As he ate, he considered what to do about the
last thing Kronos had said to him. That he still had to send Methos to him tonight. He'd
tried what he thought was his only alternative and the problem remained. His reverie was
interrupted by the sight of Kronos standing up and walking toward him.
"Did you sleep well, Duncan?" Kronos sat down beside him. "I did."
MacLeod tried to ignore the twisting in his gut that was caused by having the man so close
to him. He almost cringed as Kronos draped an arm across his shoulders. "It's good to
have you really back. You haven't seemed yourself lately." He laughed softly.
"Until last night, at least. I'm glad you remember who we are." He took his arm
off MacLeod and stood up. "And you do remember that we share everything, don't
you?" He started to move away, then stopped and looked back. "Send him tonight.
If I have to take him from you..." He didn't finish the thought, but his meaning was
MacLeod stared at Kronos' back as he walked away. He knew what this was about. It was
about power. And control. Kronos was making sure that MacLeod understood who was the
master of the Horsemen, and Methos was merely a pawn in his game. Not letting Kronos win
this could mean death for one of them. But how could he send Methos to that man? He'd
given his word that he wouldn't allow it to happen. He needed more time.
He spent the rest of the afternoon walking and thinking. He'd followed the stream for a
couple of miles until he came to a bend where there was a spot protected from wind and
sun. He sat there for a long time as he considered what possible options he had. It didn't
seem to matter how he approached the problem, there was no way he could win. Everything he
thought of ended up with either Methos or himself dead. Some options ended up with both of
them dead. The only choice that left them both alive meant he had to break his word to
Methos. Which also meant for him that he had no good choices. He saw that the sun was
dropping lower in the sky and knew that if he wanted to get back before dark he'd better
get started. He stood up wearily, not having come to any conclusions about what he was
going to do, and started back to the camp.
As MacLeod walked into camp the sun was setting and the evening meal was being prepared.
He joined the Horsemen to eat and shared a few cups of wine with them before making his
excuses and going to his tent. He found Methos working on plaiting some leather pieces to
decorate the saddle. He stopped his work and looked up as MacLeod entered, then went back
to the braid as MacLeod sat on his bed and pulled his boots off. He watched the long
fingers working the strands of leather, fascinated with how easily they worked the
pattern. When the piece was done, Methos attached a small bell to the end of it, then held
it up with a little smile. MacLeod held out his hand for the braid, and when Methos
reached to hand it to him, MacLeod reached a little further and grasped his hand, pulling
him over to join him on the bed. He looked at the intricate work in the leather and shook
it a little to hear the bell ring. There was something in the simple gesture of Methos
making the braid for him that touched him deeply. He pulled Methos to him and kissed him,
then just sat and held him. He knew he didn't dare try and say anything, especially
knowing what in all likelihood was going to happen later that evening.
All too soon, that which he had dreaded did happen. The door skin of the tent was pushed
back and Kronos stepped in. The Horseman took in the scene in front of him and grinned.
"This is a lovely picture, Duncan. Have you been giving him last minute
instructions?" Methos stiffened in his arms as he heard Kronos' words. MacLeod held
"No, Kronos. I told you. He's not ready." He met Kronos' steady gaze and hoped
in vain that the Horseman would give up on his need to use Methos against him. It was not
"I told you, brother, we share. Everything. And tonight I want to share him." He
pointed at Methos. When MacLeod made no move to release him, Kronos stepped forward and
grasped Methos' arm roughly and pulled him out of his embrace. MacLeod shot to his feet
and reached for Methos, but even more quickly, Kronos had produced a knife which he held
at Methos' throat. "What we don't share, none of us can have. Isn't that what we've
always done?" He stood helplessly as Kronos dragged Methos out of the tent and across
the camp to his own. He watched until the two were inside the tent, then turned and went
back into his own. He saw the braid that had dropped to the ground and picked it up. He
sat heavily on his bed, holding the braid in both hands, listening to the soft sound of
the bell, wondering what he had done in his life that the gods felt they had to punish him
this way, and why his punishment had to be at the expense of his friend.
He sat motionless through the night, waiting and listening. The only part of him that
moved at all were his hands, fingering and twisting the braided leather, holding it as if
it were a lifeline to Methos. Morning found him in the same position, still holding the
braid, staring at it unseeing. A sound outside his tent caught his attention and he looked
up to see Kronos entering with Methos slung over his shoulder. He dumped the naked body in
front of MacLeod and stepped back.
"You were right, brother. He wasn't ready." Kronos turned and left.
MacLeod moved to the body, turning him onto his back. He grimaced at the jagged wound in
the chest that was just starting to heal. It would be a while before Methos revived. He
arranged the man so he was laying flat on his back, then picked up the bowl and went for
some warm water. The least he could do was what Methos had done for him. When he came back
to his tent, he could see that the wound was slowly knitting, but life had not yet
returned to the body. He started to clean the blood and filth off Methos, hoping that
removing the outward signs of the night with Kronos would help how he felt when he did
revive. After finishing that task, he pulled a blanket over Methos and sat with him and
waited. Finally, he heard the sharp gasp and saw the eyes that flew open as life returned.
He reached a hand to the man's shoulder, flinching at the momentary panic he saw in his
"Easy. You're safe now. It's me, MacLeod." The eyes that met his own held only
the pain of healing. He'd expected hate, maybe accusation, but not the simple acceptance
that seemed to be there. He saw that Methos was trembling and understood the chill that
often accompanied a death. He pulled him onto the bed, then stripped off his own tunic to
better share his body warmth. He nestled himself against Methos' back, his arm across the
man's chest holding him close. He covered them both with the blanket. Methos placed his
own hand over MacLeod's, lacing their fingers together. They lay quietly like this as the
healing process finished and Methos' body temperature returned to normal.
When the shivering stopped, MacLeod moved slightly to place a kiss at Methos' neck, then
spoke softly into his ear. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"For what?" Methos asked him gently. "For expecting him to live by your
code? He only did what he said he would." He squeezed MacLeod's hand. "I knew
what you were doing when you left me here that night. And I loved you for it. But I also
knew it wouldn't change anything." He turned his head enough to see MacLeod's face.
"Didn't you know that?"
MacLeod hesitated before answering. "I guess I didn't want to know. I hoped that if I
made an honorable offer he would accept it. All I got was humiliation for both of
Methos shook his head. "Don't think that way. He only wins if you let yourself
believe you've lost. You've done the most important thing you could."
"What would that be?"
"You made the choice to live. As long as you're alive there can be a way to change
things, and a chance for redemption. Maybe not today. Maybe not even soon. But
someday." Words spoken by another Methos resonated in MacLeod's head. Live. Grow
stronger. Fight another day. He was starting to really understand what that meant. That
there would be times when the choices he would have to make would not have a right answer,
but that he should find the answer that meant survival. He still couldn't justify that
with his own code of honor, but he knew he had to consider how to blend the two concepts
and find something that would work for him. He was also starting to understand some of the
choices that his real life Methos must have had to make through the millennia.
He realized that Methos had fallen asleep in his arms, and he smiled. He settled his face
contentedly against the man's neck and closed his eyes. He'd find a way to make things
right. Someday. He fell asleep with that thought in his mind. He slept soundly, and when
he finally woke up, he panicked briefly when Methos wasn't next to him, but he heard him
moving around. He opened his eyes and called for him.
"Methos? Come here." Even as he spoke, he saw that he wasn't in his tent
anymore. He was home on the barge in his own bed. Then who was moving around?
"Mac? Thank God! You're OK." A very worried Richie Ryan was at the side of the
bed. MacLeod pushed himself into a sitting position in the bed and smiled as Richie
reached to arrange the pillows behind him.
"How long have you been out? Over a day." Richie was fussing with the blankets.
"I was getting really worried. I didn't know what to do."
MacLeod grabbed Richie's hands. "Stop fidgeting. I'm OK. But I'd love a cup of
Richie grinned at him. "Sure. I'll start some." The young man moved quickly to
the kitchen and took out the supplies. MacLeod watched him work for a few moments, then
looked around the barge. Nothing seemed to have changed. It was still winter in Paris.
What had seemed like weeks of time must have been an intense nightmare. As he continued
looking around he saw a small item on his bed side table.
He reached over and picked up the braided leather and fingered the bronze bell attached to
it. Maybe it hadn't been a nightmare after all. He was still holding the braid when Richie
walked up and handed him a steaming mug of coffee.
He pointed at the leather. "What's that?"
"A gift." MacLeod smiled to himself, then looked up at Richie. "A gift from
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