The night was clear and crisp as Methos walked the streets of Paris. His feet brought him to the cathedral of Notre Dame. He gazed up at its soaring architecture, seeing edges once sharp and square now rounded by time. He wished his own memories and regrets and guilt could have been so gentled by the passing centuries, but they were not. Some regrets were so deep that they could never be healed, and clear and razor-sharp they cut him in a million ways that no one would ever see.
The presence of another immortal made him turn quickly and he swallowed hard upon seeing who approached. He relaxed a trace upon not seeing a sword in her hands but did not let his guard down completely.
"Cassandra," he said in simple greeting.
As she came closer he could see the rage and hate etched on her face. But he also saw something else deep in her eyes, something only someone who knew her well would have noticed: pain. Pain caused by an ancient wound to her spirit that had never healed. A pain he had caused. His stomach knotted as a fresh wave of regret sliced through him.
"I need to know something, Methos," Cassandra said in a voice full of anger and hurt.
He knew the question. Knew it as sure as he was standing there. And he answered. "Yes."
He could have lied. He could have gone on about what he had been and done. But he didn't. After all the years between then and now, she deserved the truth.
"You think you know what I would ask?" she asked incredulously.
Methos swallowed hard and replied, "You want to know if I ever truly cared for you or if it was all a lie."
Cassandra looked surprised at his answer, but quickly asked acidly, "Well? Did you?"
Methos' brow furrowed. "I've already answered that."
Casandra's face took on a confused expression and he continued. "Yes, I had feelings for you. Yes, I genuinely cared for you. Yes, I...," he paused and turned away from her.
Her hand on his arm turning him back around surprised him but her demanding words didn't. "You what?
Methos slipped his face slip into its practiced mask, the one that hid all of his true inner feelings. "I loved you. More than anyone or anything I had ever cared about to that point in my life."
She let go of his arm and hissed, "Lies."
Methos let the mask slip away and his emotions filled his voice as he replied, "No, the truth, as painful as it is for me to admit and you to hear."
"Then why would you share me with Kronos? Why did you not fight for me if you loved me so very much?"
Methos turned away from her and took a step towards the wrought-iron fence. He grasped two of its bars in his hands and leaned in to rest his forehead on another.
His voice was weak sounding and timid as he asked, "Do you remember Silias' piglet?"
Cassandra gulped. "Yes." It was not a pleasant memory.
Silas had found a small piglet in a village on a raid. The big man had brought it back to camp and for weeks had played with and coddled the little thing until it had followed him everywhere in camp like a puppy. As incredible has may have been, the big barbarian loved that pig, and the camp was often filled with his genuine laughter as the piglet did something silly as piglets often do. But as they were wont to do, he and Caspian had a stupid argument over something trivial and Caspian took that piglet and tortured it for two days before finally killing and eating it. Silas would have intervened and challenged Caspian, but Kronos had stepped between them and said, "It's just a pig, let it go, Brothers," and that had been that. It had been to Methos' tent that Silas had escaped that night to drink himself to oblivion, falling asleep with his head in Cassandra's lap as she comforted him like a child at Methos' request.
"What do you think Kronos and Caspian would have done to you if they had known of my feelings?" Methos said as he stood and pushed himself off the fence to turn back towards her. "That piglet had least had the peace of death eventually, but you're an immortal. Kronos would have tortured and killed you day after day. And he would have done it for as long as it amused him. But what you don't understand was that it wouldn't have been you he was torturing. It would have been me. He would have tortured you until I couldn't bear listening to your screams any longer and took your head myself to free you."
Methos was breathless and his eyes misty at the thought.
Cassandra's face took on an expression of horrific understanding. "We could have left, ridden away, started over somewhere far from Kronos."
Methos shook his head sadly. "You know Kronos would never have allowed it. He would have chased us to the ends of the earth no matter how long it took."
"You could have killed him."
"Therein lies the rub doesn't it? You know I couldn't. Not then."
Cassandra let out a breath, and with it some of her rage left her, but not the pain.
Methos stepped closer to her and, taking a chance, gently laid his hand on her cheek. It was familiar to both of them, and she couldn't help but lean a little into the touch.
Tears began streaming down Cassandra's cheeks, wetting his hand. "I hate you, more than I can put into words."
His words were a harsh whisper as he said, "I know. And I am sorry, Cassandra. I am sorry for what Kronos did to you. I am sorry for what we did to your people. I am sorry for what I did to you. But most of all I am sorry that I wasn't strong enough to protect you or brave enough to take the chance and leave with you."
"We could have had a good life together."
"Yes, we could have," he answered, blinking back his own tears.
"In all these years, did you think about me at all?"
Methos clenched his jaw tightly for a moment before answering honestly, "Every day."
Cassandra pulled back and wiped her face. Unconvincingly she whispered, "This changes nothing."
"Now who's lying?" Methos chided softly.
Her gaze locked onto his as they stood there in silence.
Finally, Methos broke the quiet. "My turn to ask you something."
Cassandra licked her lips to find moisture and in a shaky voice replied simply, "Yes."
"Are you sure you know the question?" Methos replied.
"Yes, I loved you."
"I don't generally ask questions that I already know the answers to," he chided lightly.
Her eyes narrowed. "Then what do you want to know of me?"
"Will you ever be able to forgive me?" he asked hesitantly.
Her immediate answer didn't surprise him, but the way it cut his heart to the quick did. "No."
Methos swallowed hard and nodded. "I understand."
An uneasy quiet moment spread between them. It was Cassandra's turn to break the silence as she said with conviction, "I never want to see you again."
Methos' eyes were sad as he nodded and repeated himself, "I understand."
Cassandra straightened and turned to walk away. She had gone a dozen or so steps, with Methos dying a little inside with every one she took, when Cassandra paused for a moment before turning back around. Faster than she had walked away from him, she now walked back.
Cassandra's eyes held his for a heartbeat before she took his face in her hands and kissed him deeply. His hands tangled in her hair as he lost himself in a passion that he had though had been lost to the ages. A lifetime of regrets and lost opportunities washed over Methos as they kissed, her body molding to his as if thousands of years hadn't passed since they last touched this way.
Cassandra pulled back and gently traced his lips with her fingertips one final time. She whispered sadly, "Goodbye, Methos."
Methos tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and replied hoarsely, "Goodbye, Cassandra."
Cassandra turned and again walked away from him, this time not turning back. Methos watched her until she turned a far corner and was gone. He held his breath for a moment, expecting, no, hoping, that he would see her come back around that corner, but she did not. Letting out his breath in a deep sigh, he turned back to face the cathedral.
His fingertips traced his lips just as Cassandra had and he let his emotions run free. The tears he expected, a purging of his soul, for things lost he could never find again. But in the middle of his tears his smile was unexpected as a crystal clear memory of the first time all those years ago that she had come to his bed willingly and the way they shared mutual passion that night. A slide show of other tender moments between them played in his mind ending with the kiss he could still taste on his lips. Yes, she hated him now and would never forgive him, but for the briefest moment in his long history, he had loved her like no other and she him.
He turned away from the fence and began walking the dark street again, taking all of his memories and all of his many regrets with him as he went.