A Highlander story
by Rachel Smith Cobleigh
A man in a light sweater, black jeans, and work boots was slouched comfortably back on a park bench. His long legs were stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles, and he occasionally munched on a handful of peanuts he took from a small bag that was resting on his stomach. His manner was unhurried, insouciant, lazy. At first glance, he seemed on the verge of taking a nap, but the effect was destroyed by the businesslike hilt of a sword clearly visible out one end of the rolled-up trenchcoat beside him, and the fact that it was within easy reach of his right hand.
A woman walked up to the bench and paused next to him. She was wearing a beige trenchcoat over jeans, a stylish sweater, and well-worn sneakers. Her hair was loose and she wore little make-up. Despite her dressed-down state, she did not look particularly comfortable.
"The most common cause of back pain is bad posture," she said.
"I have a hardy constitution," he answered, slouching just a tad farther down.
She shook her head and glanced at their surroundings. After a moment of indecision, she turned back to him.
"Thanks for meeting me," he said, when she sat down next to him. She crossed her legs and looked away.
"I was getting rather tired of the cat-and-mouse," she said.
They sat in silence for a long moment.
"Nice day, isn't it?" he smiled. He tossed back a handful of peanuts and smiled up at the sunlight streaming through the beautiful canopy of leaves overhead.
"Yes, quite," she answered.
They were silent again, for a long minute.
"So," he said.
He gave a long, contented sigh. "Isn't melodrama fun?"
She laughed, a short, disbelieving sound, and crossed her arms across her chest.
"What's more fun, do you think?" he asked.
"What're my choices?" she said, half-resigned, half-derisive.
"I'm not your Wise Old Man," he said. "You decide." He tossed back another handful.
He started to laugh and choked on his peanuts. She sat, looking straight ahead and smiling tightly, while he clutched his throat and lurched forward, coughing and wheezing peanut bits into the grass beside the bench. When he had sufficiently recovered a minute later, she pulled a small water bottle out of her coat pocket and passed it to him, still not looking at him. He accepted it without thanking her and took a swallow. He recapped it and passed it back. She put it in her pocket.
"Good one," he said, his voice dry. "Do I get a turn?"
"If you like," she said, endeavouring to sound bored and not really succeeding.
She nodded. "So what do you think talking will solve?"
"What not talking didn't, possibly," he answered.
"I hate you," she said.
"Well, not talking did convey that, yes."
"But I miss you, too."
He blinked and stared straight ahead and didn't say anything until an elderly couple coming down the path had moved out of earshot.
"Why?" he finally asked.
"No one else...has matched me as well as you did." She seemed to find the words distasteful.
He swallowed, sat forward, and looked down at his hands.
"So what's stopping you?" he asked, sounding less confident than he had earlier.
She uncrossed her arms and sat forward next to him, resting her elbows on her knees.
"Your turn," she said quietly. When he looked quizzically at her, she said, "For honest conversation."
"I've been a brutal mass murderer," he said, no humor in his voice.
"You think—no," he looked away, his mouth a flat line, and let out a long sigh. "A rapist. A slave-owner. A child-killer. I enjoyed it."
"For a time," she said.
"You think I've changed?"
"Don't play with me," she said sharply.
"What would you say if I said that a part of me still thirsts for blood?" he savoured the words as he said them, taunting her with the syllables.
"What would you say?" she responded, unintimidated.
"I hate myself."
"No you don't," she said. "That's too easy."
"I feel dead."
"That I can believe."
They were silent for a long while, and then he sat back against the bench.
"I've never tried to kill myself."
"But you've contemplated it."
"Yes," he said.
"It's too long. And it's not. I don't know." He blinked and looked back up at the canopy of leaves. They rustled gently in the cool breeze. "I shouldn't still be here, and yet I am and I don't want to let go yet."
"Why did you want to talk to me?" she asked.
He sighed. "I was sick of the melodrama. I really dislike the way I keep running into old acquaintances who want to kill me. I decided to seek everyone out first."
"And have an 'honest conversation' with them."
"Basically what I expected," he answered. "Many don't answer their messages. A handful were certifiable and were dispatched. The rest have talked, listened, and left."
She nodded. "The general sense you've conveyed is that you're not out for anyone's head, but you'll take it if you're threatened."
"Seemed the smartest policy."
They sat in a more comfortable silence than they had before. After a time, he turned to look at her.
"So you really miss me?" he asked.
She pressed her hands to her knees. "As much as it pains me to admit it...yes."
"So what's stopping you?"
"What do you want, Methos? A pardon? I can't exactly say that I forgive you, because I don't, but even if I could say it, it wouldn't change what happened."
"No, it wouldn't."
"So what do you want?"
"Just this. This is enough," he answered quietly.
A few moments passed in silence and then she shifted. "I thought you were long dead," she said. "No one had heard from you in more than a millenia. I thought I was over you—over hating you, over missing you, over feeling anything at all about you. You were just one more animal—but no, not all of me thought that. You were my first lover, I hated you. But I couldn't forget that you weren't always the brute—you changed. I was young and naive and I took private credit for that until I learned better. When I didn't want to remember, a flicker in a dream or a passing rider on horseback would remind of your posture; a voice would sound like yours for a moment; I would see a similar nose and my heart would catch—not in desire, but in fear...and then in faint desire. I never separated myself from you entirely, though I believed I had, though I fiercely wanted to. I hated you, I hated the grip you had on me even, I thought, in death. The moments became less frequent and less potent, but they never stopped entirely."
Cassandra shifted and continued. "What you did when you killed Kronos and Silas, I still hated you. You were an untrustworthy snake, turning on your fellow vipers. It meant nothing. You deserved to die. But you were broken, beyond sense, and MacLeod wanted you to live. MacLeod, who has spent his life playing the hero and vanquishing monsters just like you. He trusts you. I died a little bit that day, because a little bit of me was to hate you. Now...now the hating is the facade that I'm used to, and the missing is the only real thing left. Stings to say it aloud, but there's a kind of relief in it, too. I can be honest with myself."
"Where do we go from here?" he asked.
"Back to our respective lives, I should think. You to your lover, me to mine."
"My wife died."
"You get that a lot, I hear," Cassandra said.
Methos sighed. "I'm sure there is a God. He likes to torture me."
"Why marry them?"
"Because...I mean it. They're worth all of me." He smiled briefly. "Uninhibited sex."
"Marriage doesn't make for uninhibited sex."
"Then you don't know real marriage."
"Don't-" Cassandra bit off her words and looked away. "MacLeod and Amanda told me about Alexa."
"Ah," Methos said, sounding displeased.
"I asked MacLeod how he could trust you and he told me. It was two days ago, before I agreed to see you. I didn't tell him I was going to do this, but I think he suspected."
"I haven't told him about these arrangements," Methos said. "I don't think he would understand."
"So you have a lover?"
Cassandra shifted and looked at the park around them. She smoothed her trenchcoat on her knee. "Loosely. It's occasional. It's been less occasional of late."
"Life just keeps going on, doesn't it?" she said.
"With brief flares of joy," he answered.
She turned to him, weary anger in her voice. "How could you murder hundreds of innocent people and feel any joy now? How can you live with yourself?"
"I can't, really," he said. "At least, not with the me that murdered. I've had to change."
"You're almost unrecognizable," she said. "Almost."
"It depends on what you're looking at."
She turned to face him. After a long moment, he returned her gaze. They both remained fixed there for several heartbeats, and then she turned away and he slouched back down on the bench and stretched out his legs. He picked up the long-forgotten bag of peanuts and held it out for her. After an initial look of reluctance, she reached in and took a handful. He tossed back a few for himself and then set the bag down on the bench between them.
They sat in mutual silence and watched as the sun drifted lower in the sky.
I welcome all feedback, including critique and suggestions for improvement, so feel free to tell me what you think, and thanks for reading!
In addition to my inner muse discarding all the complicated plots and contrived devices to force these two characters to come to some peace with each other, it also constrained how much I could dramatise in this vignette. The only things I could describe were what I could observe of their conversation; I could not speculate as to their actual emotions or thoughts. I found it greatly lessened the melodrama. :)
I do not own any Highlander properties, nor do I make any money from this story.
Characters and situations based on Highlander (1992-1998) © Davis-Panzer Productions.
This story released under the GPL/CC BY: verbatim copying and distribution of this entire work are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided attribution is preserved.