This started off as a writing exercise to get my creative juices flowing, and turned into its own short story. It's nothing fancy, but I thought I'd share. Also, this is my first foray into Highlander fan fiction. Whoo!
This is probably AU: I don't think Methos was in NYC in the early 90s, but he could've been...so hopefully I haven't mangled his time line too much.
It isn't often that his sense of when leaves him. If it happens, it is in the twilight of dreamtime, when the vastness of his past and the immediacy of his present collide in a nonsensical hyper color manner. In his dreams the sun-baked Mesopotamian plains of his earliest memories co-exist merrily with the ever-crowded markets in Cairo, the wretched stench of the Seine in medieval Paris, the sense of dynamic change in Commissioner Roosevelt's New York, and the cacophony of modern Mumbai. It is a muddy, chaotic mixture while he sleeps; when awake, it separates out nicely. Or nicely enough for him to get by.
Losing his sense of when while awake is dangerous. He's had many, many lifetimes of perfecting his part of chameleon and that demands a certain level of cognizance of his when and where. On rare occasion, though, memory overrides reality and he is lost.
It is early one evening, on 8th Avenue as he leans against the side of the not-ugly yet not-aesthetically appealing bus terminal, when he feels the chill of the September wind cut through the open front of his light-weight trench coat, that he perversely looses the sight of the armada of yellow cabs, looses the sound and sight of people in jeans and sweaters and light jackets, the faint smell of the sewers below and the exhaust fumes before him, the noise of a well-populated city located in the northeastern part of a country that is so very young-just over two hundred-on a continent he didn't even know existed until five hundred years ago. When disappears.
He is instead in Ur, after Ur-Nammu has defeated Lagash and solidified his hold on the southern part of the old Akkadian empire. The city is still a trade center by both river and sea, the great river Uruttu still follows a course favorable to the city, and the Gulf's coastline has not yet receded, leaving the city dry and abandoned to time. He doesn't know, yet, that the world will know this river by the name the Greeks give it, Euphrates. All he knows is hum of activity, the felt, linen, or wool tunics and shawls of those around him, the paved road beneath his leather-sandaled feet, the reed huts of the poor and the white-washed brick walls of the wealthy. Above is the sun beating down and baking land and man alike, Utu, the sun-god, is as prone to granting them the light they need to see by as he is withering crops through brutal heat. But Utu is not the focus of his thoughts.
Along the Uruttu, one of their few natural resources, mud, has long since been used to shape bricks, which have been put to many uses. Now, in this when, Ur-Nammu has directed that Nanna, the moon-god, the patron deity of the city, be honored with a new temple; the foundation layer of mud-and-reed bricks is nearly complete. Ur-Nammu is one of the more ambitious and organized of the rulers he's seen come and go over the generations, but even to his jaded eye this is a project of massive proportions.
Ten, perhaps fifteen, generations ago he would have been given wide berth and deference at his approach; then he was considered a minor god himself (he is, after all, immortal and un-aging). Now his clothing marks him as an ensi and he spares a moment to be amused that he's gone from being worshipped to being an administrator under orders of the king. He walks along one side of the foundation, ignoring workers, slaves, and all the droning, sweating, mortal humanity around him. He adjusts the brightly decorated and tasseled wool shawl draped over his left shoulder and nods approval to himself. It is a good foundation. Huge. Larger than he expected, it is already nearly twice as tall as the wealthiest home, and in his mind's eye he can see the ziggurat as it will surely appear, towering over the city, its painted walls casting all in its shadow, becoming the cultural center of the city, if not the literal center. He momentarily wonders if the structure will be tall enough that Nanna, not earth-bound like himself, traveling across the heavens in his gufa, will alight at the top as he illumines the night so that they may see in darkness. The temple that will eventually sit at the top will have a space for Nanna to stay, and a priestess to keep him company. Will he take advantage of that?
He knows that he did, when he was the subject of worship. And the shrines and small temples dedicated to him were not nearly so lofty.
He is broken out of his reverie by a gentle hand on his shoulder and a woman's surprised and gently concerned voice. "Adam?" It's apparent by her tone that this isn't the first time she's tried his name in recent minutes.
The weight of millennia settles back on his shoulders, the earthy smell of laborers and laboring in the heat of the day fades from his memory to be replaced by the smells of Manhattan, which blend with the floral perfume of his mortal friend. The now too-cold-for-him wind creeps under his coat and bites through his sweater. How stupid of him to have lost his senses. He's beyond lucky that she's not a fellow Immortal, hoping to lop off his head. He takes a moment to re-center, to remember: Manhattan. Columbia. Cars. Neon. Telephones. Car phones. Walkmans. (This last still throws him, though he owns one and has an embarrassing number of CDs taking up space in his ragged messenger bag, he is still astounded that he can carry around a hundred-something songs-quality-sounding music!-imprinted on little circles of plastic; sometimes it takes him longer to adjust to the concept of a new gadget than it takes for him to adapt the use of one. He's sure that by the time he actually becomes accustomed to compact discs, music will be available in yet another format, and he'll have to adjust his thinking all over again.)
He slouches into his Adam Pierson persona and offers her a smile. She's a grad student at NYU; they'd met late in the Spring term, commiserated with one another about the demands of graduate life over several beers, and he'd woken up in a nice warm bed with a lovely young body pressed against his own the next morning. It was a situation that repeated itself every few weeks, a comfortable pattern they both appreciated. His stay in New York wouldn't last much longer, as his primary motivation for coming here had been a visiting professor of antiquities at Columbia and his desire to check in on the collection at The Met (purely, of course, to see how badly they were mangling their translations and identification of objects). She is a welcome distraction while here, but no reason to stay.
He'd intended to spend his evening alone, but her small warm hand changes his mind. There is a pub a short train ride away that has a decent selection of beer and he could use someone thoroughly modern to ground him in the here-and-now. He generally prefers his own company to that of others, but there are times, like today, when being alone is just not good for him.
The sun sets and the crescent moon rises as they walk, and they need the city's artificial light to keep the darkness at bay. He casts his eyes up to where he knows the moon, Nanna (or Kaskuh, or Artemis, or Mani, or Diana, or Chandra, or Khonsu…there are so many names rattling around in his memory), to be. It happens that the bottom of the crescent seems to rest on the top of the skyscraper in his line of vision, and he thinks wryly to himself that this unattractive, efficient construction of steel and glass and stone did what a dedicated work of architectural art did not: touched the moon.
Methos/Adam hunches against the chill air, then drapes his arm, with a practiced air of artlessness, around the shoulders of the young woman. The Mesopotamian sun has faded back into the recesses of distant memory, and he is living in the now again, so he greedily absorbs her body heat until they step into the pub he'd aimed them toward. He relishes the modern conveniences of heated rooms, imported beer on draught, and beautiful, intelligent women for company. And he's pleased to have lived long enough to experience a when that includes both central heating and air conditioning. It would've been a shame to be separated from his head before such luxuries were invented or taken advantage of.
"What were you daydreaming about back there?" She asks him, her head cocked in curiosity, the dim light of the bar catching the green in her eyes just so.
The smile he graces her with over his pint is rueful. "Ziggurats. Specifically, the Great Ziggurat of Ur. An exciting topic to be sure." He's deliberately downplaying his interest, knowing she'll take the bait and excitedly ask him about it. Her passion is sculpture, but she has a lively interest in architecture as art, and so his own studies in antiquity-and by extension the ancient art of building-is often a discussion point for them.
Her expression is encouraging, her voice indulging. If she sometimes looses focus when he rambles about ancient cultures, she is always attentive when he talks about ancient architecture. Methos has often wondered how she can separate the two. At her wordless invitation, he leans over their shared table, beer in one hand, the other free to use as he talks. "Four thousand years ago, invaders who'd been wreaking havoc on Mesopotamia were pushed out, and a generation after that, the conquering hero was killed by his ambitious son-in-law, Ur-Nammu. Ur-Nammu was quite the civil builder: he fixed the irrigation systems that had previously been destroyed, rebuilt or built roads and walls, dug canals, and went about proving how grateful to the gods he was for his reign. In the major cities of his kingdom he dictated that great works be built in honor of that city's patron god or goddess. The one in Ur, dedicated to their patron Nanna, the moon-god, which you can still see in Iraq, was made in three parts. When it was finished, the ziggurat in Ur was close to thirty meters tall, that's roughly one hundred feet. If you take into account the fact that the homes of the wealthy were only two stories, and the poor lived in small reed and mud huts, that should give you an idea of how important this temple was to them…"
As he talks to her about the first great work of architecture that he remembers seeing, he sips his beer, admires her for her body as well as her intelligent questions, and finds, again, the balance he needs between past and present.
Thanks for reading!