The basement of Shakespeare & Co. was damp. Moist, and it smelled of cold mildew. Yellowed parchment hung from laundry lines, covered in Methos's steady, thin handwriting. In the quiet of the room filled with only the muffled strains of music from the stereo playing upstairs, Methos could hear a faint swishing of cars driving past: rainy morning, promising a rainy day.
MacLeod paced back and forth, back and forth, across the length of the basement.
"You're making me dizzy," Methos said, mending an old plumed pen he intended to use, an open bottle of ink on his desk. He had a stack of letters and documents to copy or retrace, and one of his journals had become damaged. Only the binding, thankfully, but it needed attention.
MacLeod knocked over a broken lamp. "Sorry." MacLeod righted the lamp. "I should go. You're busy."
Methos glanced up, catching MacLeod's distracted gaze. "He's gone, then?" Personally, Methos was glad Cochrane had left.
"Yeah," said Mac, quietly, glowering at nothing in particular. He moved closer and Methos caught a whiff of his cologne as MacLeod looked over his shoulder, picking up one of the letters.
"Mac, he still has his head, and now his memory, too." Methos carefully followed the curve of his handwriting from six hundred years ago. It had changed, he mused silently. "That's more then he had to start with. Put that down unless you're planning to help." Methos said, without looking up.
"Do you need help?"
Methos sat up straight, his lower back aching. MacLeod had appeared at nine in the morning, not saying much, moody, restless. Methos nodded at the damaged journal. "How are you with bookbinding?"
Without answering, MacLeod took his coat off and cleared a table, searching through odd drawers and cabinets to find the supplies he needed. Methos watched him for a moment. It wasn't the kind of work he had associated MacLeod with -- MacLeod built houses, he worked with wood, he worked with people and things that were alive or living -- but MacLeod sat on a stool, sighed with a frown of concentration, and slowly, carefully, took apart the damaged binding.
Satisfied, Methos let him alone. They worked quietly. Hours or days could have passed without either of them speaking a word, lost in the minutia of words and paper. It wasn't until the dull ache of his lower back, and the chilled tightness across his shoulders grew uncomfortable enough to get his attention that Methos shifted in his seat and looked up.
MacLeod had threaded and sewn the spine neatly, in something that looked like a long stitch pattern but not so complex, using a thin but flexible cardboard for the cover. No longer restless, MacLeod sat reading the journal, completely absorbed.
Of course he was going to read it. Methos felt a little exposed, but he should have thought of that before giving the journal to MacLeod. He tried to remember what year of his life the journal contained.
"Anything interesting?" he asked.
MacLeod reddened slightly, closing the journal. "Sorry. I shouldn't have."
"It's all right." As he said it, Methos realized how much he wanted that to be true. There were things in his life he would choose to keep buried forever, but as he sat there in a damp basement only a meter or two apart from a man he dared to call a friend, he felt his past -- all of it -- well up inside of him, clambering at the back of his throat, wanting out. It made his eyes sting.
"What happened to her?" asked MacLeod.
"Oh," he said, swallowing the past back down again. He forced himself to smile, taking back the journal. He ran his fingers along the spine, taking note of the strong stitch work. Seville, 1632. The year he married Paloma, with the caramel scent in her hair and the black dove eyes that were always searching the horizon. She had left him before the year ended. "I never knew. She ran away to sea," he said with a smile. "Her father made her marry. She wanted nothing from me."
He had always imagined that Paloma had become a lady pirate. She had had fire enough for that, but in reality she had probably died all too quickly, somewhere alone and forgotten. It wasn't terribly unique, all together; just the drama of life, nothing that would cause Methos's hands to shake or his heart to beat loudly in his chest. He looked up and caught MacLeod watching him closely. "Take it," he said. His voice betrayed him, cracking slightly. He felt lightheaded, as if he'd just jumped from a cliff. "Take it and read it, if you want."
MacLeod kept looking at him, all traces of his earlier unease gone. He took the journal but put it down again. "Come," he said, standing, grabbing his coat.
Hesitating, Methos stood up. "Where are we going?"
MacLeod didn't answer, only impatiently held Methos's coat and ushered him out the door. Outside the air was soft with mist, gray overcast skies. MacLeod steered Methos toward the Citroen. Across the Seine, Notre Dame started tolling the noon hour.
They drove through the wet streets. "Mac?"
"I'm hungry," said MacLeod, his only answer.
Fifteen minutes later, MacLeod parked near the Port Maillot metro stop. The sun had come out a little bit and the air sparkled with moisture. The brasserie was crowded, buzzing with conversation, waiters weaving between tables. They had to wait for a small table in the corner too close to the kitchen door that opened and closed every other minute, but the seafood was excellent and the wine perfect.
After finishing his meal, Methos sat back in his chair, pleasantly full. Outside it had started to rain again, but he was dry and warm. He hadn't realized how cold he had been in the basement of Shakespeare & Co. MacLeod ordered another Alsace wine and a creme brulee to share.
They were only given one spoon for the brulee, the waiters far too distracted and busy to pay any attention. MacLeod scooped out a spoonful and ate it, then scooped out another spoonful and held it for Methos. He swallowed the rich dessert, ignoring the twinge of desire that warmed his belly like brandy.
Across from him, MacLeod was smiling, like he knew a secret and couldn't wait to tell it. What? he asked silently.
MacLeod shrugged, leaned in, indicating Methos should come closer. The small table gave the illusion of privacy in the midst of noisy confusion. Nearby a child was screaming for attention. Elsewhere a man was speaking loudly in French. Someone was singing. All of it was overwhelming, loud and abrasive, and perfect.
"Thank you," said MacLeod. "I'd love to read it."
Methos could smell the wine on MacLeod's breath. They were close enough for MacLeod's lips to brush against the skin of his cheek, like a kiss. He nodded, the warmth in his belly spreading, reaching all the way up to his ears.
Outside, he waited while MacLeod settled the bill. He stood on the sidewalk, still warm from the wine and the heat of the restaurant, lifting his face up to let the gentle rain fall on his eyelids. He thought of that journal freshly bound, he thought of Alexa and of Paloma gone for many years now.
MacLeod appeared and stood silently next to him. Like before, MacLeod took the lead, only this time he held Methos's hand in his.