We were arguing. Again. Somehow, in the thirty years I've known Nick, we rarely have a conversation about Immortals that doesn't end up in an argument. He'd try to be the master investigator, and I'd try to keep him as far away from my kind as possible. I knew, better than most, just how Immortals didn't play by mortal rules. You'd think he'd have learned by now, but he was so determined to see justice triumph.
The man got on my nerves, and we both knew it. Maybe this argument wasn't really been about an old friend of mine with a talent for flaunting the law. Maybe it really was about our stormy relationship, sometimes friends, sometimes lovers, sometimes enemies, and sometimes nothing at all. As many times as I'd thought I'd be better off without him in my life, that he'd be better off without me in his life, I couldn't stay away.
Now, he bore the scars of living in my world, the knowledge he couldn't share but with a few trusted others, the countless times of being used as a pawn against me, the physical wounds of close brushes with his mortality. Time and experience had hardened him, sharpened his humor, and turned him into an intensely private man. Every time I looked at him now, his hair turning gray with age, a slight limp in his step, I wanted to weep.
He gave up so much for me, and would continue on doing so until he died. I couldn't take it anymore. So I tried to leave, grabbing at the excuse the argument offered. I didn't intend to come back.
He knew it, too. He'd learned early how to read me, and I wasn't as good at hiding things from him as I tried to be.
"Damn it, Amanda, why can't you accept that I love you?" he shouted at me as I headed for the door of the house we shared. "Nothing else matters. If you want me to, I'll get down on my knees and I'll pray to God that I stop loving you because you drive me insane!"
He took a hold of me then, turning me around, his hands grasping my smaller ones. I snatched them back like a child.
"That's not the answer," I told him, irritated.
"No? Then what is?" He ran a tired hand through his hair and swore, clearly frustrated. "How many times do I have to remind you that all your worrying about me isn't going to change how I feel or what will happen?"
I turned away then and stepped towards the door. He merely stepped around me and blocked the door. Despite the slight limp and his age, Nick moved quickly. I often forgot that he still could. Unconsciously, my gaze went to the cane he leaned on, and he caught that stare.
For a long moment, he seemed surprised that I'd look. It had been seven years since he had rescued me from a scientist who'd wanted to use me as a research project. Unfortunately, the scientist had been well-armed, and Nick had chosen not to tell me just how badly he'd been hurt until well after the fact. Even with the progress medicine had made in treating injuries, Nick had nearly lost all the use of his leg.
"Is that it, then?" he asked me now. "I may be crippled, Amanda, but I am never broken. I thought you knew that." Deep blue pools of hurt laced with dangerously volatile frustration stared at me.
I couldn't help it; I swallowed nervously. I was too well aware of that look. It meant he was going to do whatever it took to make me see reason. I didn't want to listen to reason. Reason wasn't fun. I was going back to having fun and pretending that my heart wasn't involved in whatever I did.
"Is this your way of saying that I'm useless to you because I'm not and never will be whole like you? Forever young and undying." He tapped the cane with his free hand. "I thought I knew you better."
I did, but I wasn't about to admit it then. Instead, I stared at him until he let me leave, resignation clearly etched on his face.
Just as I shut the door behind me, I heard him say, "I love you, Amanda."
I blinked against the sudden rush of tears in my eyes and steeled myself to live without him, knowing just how empty it would be.
Three years passed. I toured with what they laughingly termed a circus revival. It was a hollow joke, and never mind that my heart wasn't in it.
In the end, I ran to a private island owned by an old friend.
I'd known she would run here. How she had managed to find out about it wasn't a surprise to me. Amanda had contacts everywhere; what she couldn't steal, beg, or borrow, she would charm someone into giving her. That had been her way ever since I'd known her. I knew I'd never told her about the island; I had to have one place in the world where no one could find me. Still, I wasn't too surprised to find her here.
Though I knew she had felt the silent klaxon call of my arrival for some minutes now, she didn't get up from her position in the sand. The tide lapped gently at her bare feet. Her eyes were focused on the horizon, apparently fascinated at the dark rainbow of the setting sun as it played over the rolling water. Her hair cascaded down her back in loose red waves, and I tried to remember when the last time I'd seen her like this. Somehow, it hurt to see her so silent, so still, so...surrendered.
"He's dead, isn't he." A statement, not a question, and bare of anything but defeat.
I considered lying. I debated the wisdom of subterfuge. In the end, I opted for truth. Whether or not Amanda believed me was completely up to her. I was tired; traveling might be faster these days, but jet lag was still jet lag.
"No, not yet."
"Then why did you come?" Her voice was bitter with resentment at my intrusion.
"Maybe," I drawled, "I just wanted my island back."
"Funny," she countered, still looking out to the ocean, "I didn't see 'Methos' as the owner on the deed papers." She chuckled without humor. "You really think no one would pick up on Adam Pierson just because you haven't used that identity in twenty years?"
"You really think Nick wouldn't notice when you sent him your sword?" I countered. "He fell for that once. Would've fallen for it again had he not recognized it's not the one he gave you ten years ago, and the one you've preferred ever since. You did a good job of trying to forge the carving of the Raven on the hilt, but not good enough."
"Damn it, Methos, since when did you go and become a Boy Scout?"
I stuck my hands in my pockets, and thought of the once-proud man who'd more than earned my respect. I owed my life to him, and while I didn't always honor blood debts, I knew that if I had to make a choice to break it, it would be hard to do so. "He's not dead yet, but he might as well as be. He knows you're still alive, and that you're not coming back. Now he has no reason to go on living."
"He'll get over it."
"How?" I demanded, knowing Amanda hadn't seen, didn't know. The look on Nick's face when he opened that package and pulled out the sword had scared me. He had turned ghostly white, then as if someone had flipped a switch, all the joy had drained out of him.
"He's in a hospital in Paris, waiting to die. If it weren't for the doctors insisting otherwise, he'd likely starve to death."
Amanda turned, her stoicism crumbling with every word I spoke. I forged on, knowing I had to make her see. At that moment, I think I hated her for what she had done. I didn't know, didn't want to examine why I felt so compelled to give her a piece of my mind.
"Three days ago, he looked at me and asked me to disconnect the IV that was keeping him alive."
"You didn't." Hope mingled with fear colored her voice.
I didn't answer right away.
"Damnit, Methos, it's not my fault!" she exploded, standing in a swift motion that brought her face to face with me. "I never asked him to fall in love with me, never asked to become the next handy target for headhunters after Mac disappeared, and I never asked to see Nick get hurt the way he has been!" She was breathing heavily after her outburst, angry tears trailing down her cheeks.
I wanted to resent her. I wanted to demand retribution for what she'd done to a friend. I wanted to forgive her. I wanted, very much, to hold her, and never let her go.
She stepped towards me, and I reached for her without thinking. She leaned into the accidental embrace, her angry monologue continuing in muffled sobs against my shirt as she poured out her heart. I knew the information I was hearing was far more than I needed to hear.
We'd been like this before, her in my arms, but it had been for different reasons, different needs. I recognized the moment that we felt the emotion shift, and she broke the embrace nearly as quickly as I did.
"I can't go back, Methos."
"Then you'll just have to live with knowing you killed him with kindness, won't you?"
Disgusted, I turned and left.
I stared at the line of footprints in the sand a long time as the beach turned chilly in the night air. I knew he was right. Damn him.
I got to the hospital barely in time. Methos had arrived sooner than I had, and apparently had told Nick of his failed effort to reach me. It had been the last blow. Methos tried to stop me from going in to see him, saying I was too late, but I pushed him aside. I had to see Nick.
I was shocked by the way Nick had aged since I'd left. There was little left of the man I'd once known. The man in that hospital bed was a stranger, just as I was to him.
"Oh, Nick, I'm sorry," I told him, taking his hand.
The smile on his lips was a pale ghost of the irritated-but-amused one that I'd seen more times than I cared to count. He didn't say anything more, sliding into death with a quiet sigh.
And now I struggle to understand why he left this gaping hole in my life when everything else seemed more important.
if loving me was just a game
that you played to pass the time
then I hope you've won the prize
if letting go made sense to you
then I hope logic will see you through
when my love isn't around to debate
if leaving me is easy
then what will your life be
when I'm dead and my ashes are dust
if leaving me is easy by Raine Wynd
Methos, Amanda, Nick Wolfe, and Duncan MacLeod (mentioned in passing) are the property of D/P/P, Rysher, and all the moguls over there, even though Rysher ditched HL:TR and left the cast and characters panhandling for an American distributor in the streets of Tobago, and later Paris. Thanks to Amand-r for the beta and the inspiration for the disclaimer.