Part Ten: Sweet Dreams
Joe and Ash traveled for fifty kilometers, with the only sounds the engine and Methos, snoring softly. Ash reached behind her seat and picked up her backpack, Methos shifted into the extra space, stretching out, not waking. Ash looked through the pack, digging around, coming up with a CD. “Mind if I play this?” she asked. She dropped the pack at her feet.
“No, go ahead.” Joe was curious, Mac leaned toward classical, Methos toward rock, what kind of music would she choose? Descending violins, and an incredible voice:
“Sweet dreams of you,
Every night I go through,
Why can’t I forget you, and start my life anew,
Instead of having sweet dreams about you?”
Joe was pleasantly surprised. “Patsy Cline! My God, that lady could sing with a cry in her voice. Where did you learn to love Patsy?”
Ash laughed and said, “Katmandu.”
“Now what did I tell you about pulling my leg?”
Ash was still laughing, “I’m not joking, it was Katmandu, in the late sixties. There was this enormous influx of hippies, they came for the hashish, and they brought tapes. By the time they left I knew all kinds of music, and every baker in a fifty-mile radius knew how to make chocolate chip cookies!”
Joe laughed with her. “What were you doing in Katmandu?”
“Well, I wasn’t exactly in Katmandu. I was in the Monastery at Kopan, above the city. It’s a Buddhist retreat. I would go into the city regularly, to beg.”
“Beg?” Joe was astonished; he couldn’t imagine this woman begging for anything.
“I was a bhikku, a beggar, it’s the lowest rank of Buddhist nun. My head was shaved, and I wore maroon robes.”
“How long were you there?”
“About fifty years.” Ash’s voice had gone quiet, and Joe decided to change the subject.
“How did you first meet MacLeod?”
Ash laughed again. “That’s a story you should ask him to tell.” She stopped laughing abruptly, and sighed. “If he ever feels like telling it. He’s not going to come back easily. First he’ll have to go through withdrawal, then fight the depression, and I don’t know that he’s even going to want to try, he was so far gone. Sometimes it all piles up so high, you can’t see an end to it.” The unbearable sadness was back in her voice.
“And that’s when you fall off the edge of the world?”
“Yes.” Ash shrugged. “ It’s paradoxical that something so destructive is a survival tactic, but for me it is. Without it I would have given up and died a long time ago. I guess it’s how I let off steam.”
‘More like numb the pain,’ Joe thought. ‘But it always comes back, doesn’t it? Where does the pain come from? Who pounds on the doors, Ash?’ What he said was, “If it works, I guess I can’t argue with it.”
“So you’re not trying to reform me?”
“No, I just want you to be safe. I wouldn’t stop you from doing what you need to do.”
“Thank you.” Ash suddenly seemed troubled, as if she could bear no more concern.
They had reached the outskirts of Paris and the morning traffic was heavy. Joe muttered a curse at Parisian drivers in general, and the one in front of him in particular.
“Be careful, Joe. The last thing we need is to be stopped. I’d hate to have to kill a gendarme.” Ash’s voice was cold as arctic ice, as cold as Mac’s body.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Joe was stunned by the sudden change in her. It was as if the gladiator was back, the fighter who would kill and win. He realized that was exactly what it was, Ash on guard, ready to defend MacLeod to the death, theirs or hers, most likely theirs. He maneuvered carefully through the traffic, not wanting to test the theory.
Ash pulled out her cell phone and made a call. “ Carlo, this is Sunny, I need some supplies, medical stuff, saline and glucose drips, tranks, I.V. setups, syringes. No, no I’m not setting up an entire refugee camp. Yeah, later today’s fine. Great, I’ll be there this afternoon. Always cash, Carlo, always cash, don’t worry, have I ever fucked you over? This is Sunny, man. You better be sorry, dude! Be seeing you.” Ash tucked the phone away, turned to Joe, and asked, “Could you take me there later? I don’t drive, and I can’t exactly take a taxi. It’s in Paris”
“Sure, no problem.” Joe wondered if she didn’t drive because of the blackouts.
They arrived at the barge, and Ash turned around to wake Methos. Her voice went smoky and deep. “Wake up, ‘Thos, we’re here.”
Methos opened his eyes, blinked, and rose up on an elbow. “Damn it, Ash, you know I hate it when you do that! It’s like you’re playing with my mind!”
“Next time I’ll make you forget I did anything, would you like that better?” Ash’s voice was sweetly soothing.
“No, I most definitely would not!” Methos was not buying the sweet act. He was not in a good mood; he really did hate it when she hypnotized him. It made him feel so out of control. It also made him wonder what she could make him do, if she really wanted to. That thought was very disquieting.
“You know I wouldn’t hurt you, Methos.” Her voice was soft.
He did know that, strangely enough. When she had hurt him, it was by omission, by leaving, not directly. Not like he had hurt her. ‘I’m sorry, Ash.’ He couldn’t say it out loud, not now; he could only try to convey it with his eyes. It seemed to get through.
“Come on, ‘Thos, let’s get MacLeod in.”
“You know I hate that nickname.” Methos sounded irritated, but didn’t pull off the look.
“That’s why I use it.” Ash was laughing, playfully.
“All right, children, that’s enough.” Joe sounded amused and was shaking his head and smiling.
Ash got out of the car and joined Methos at the cargo door. They lifted the sled with MacLeod’s body out of the Jeep, up the ramp, and on to the barge, setting it on the deck. Methos unlocked the door and they carried him in, turning the sled vertically through the doorway, then inside, and put it on the floor. Ash pulled a knife out of her boot and began cutting the rope that bound Duncan’s shrouded body to the sled.
Joe limped in; he needed to see MacLeod, to make sure he was really here and in one piece. Methos looked around at the barge, it was spotless, neat, and felt inexplicably alien, like he had never lived here, or loved here. Or bled here. He put that out of his mind, glad of the distraction when Ash asked him to help her slide Mac’s body off of the sled and on to the floor. She unzipped the first bag, and began to unzip the second.
“Do you have to?” Methos didn’t want to see that too-white, too-still face again.
“He should be warmed slowly, but if we leave his body wrapped the arctic bags will only hold in the cold, and it will take much longer. You don’t have to look at him; I’ll cover him with a sheet.” She finished unzipping the bag and threw it off Duncan’s body. She unwrapped his head and hands and put the coats aside. The frost on his hair had melted leaving it slightly damp, but otherwise he appeared the same. His hands were undamaged, his face unmarked, still bearing that odd expression of mingled peace and pain.
Joe came over, looked down at MacLeod, and asked Ash, “Are you sure he’ll come back all right? I mean, freezing bursts cells all over the body, is there a possibility of brain damage?”
“I don’t think so. I was frozen for three months once and I came back fine. He’ll come back, once he thaws out. Then we’ll have to deal with the rest of it.” Ash picked up the coats and stood.
“What rest of it?” Methos came over, but avoided looking down.
Ash had to tell him. Better now than later, she decided. “Duncan’s going to go through withdrawal, and the depression isn’t going to just vanish. He’s not going to simply wake up and resume living. We’re going to have to stay with him, watch him, take care of him, and I don’t know for how long. It could take years.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll stay and care for him for as long as it takes, I won’t desert him a second time.” Methos looked intently at her. “What about you? Are you willing to stay for years, if necessary?”
“Yes, Methos, I’ll stay.” She returned the look, pledging an oath with her eyes.
Methos nodded, accepting her unspoken promise, then asked, “Will his withdrawal be as bad as mine was, will there be a difference between Scotch and absinthe?” What he remembered was so vile he hated to think of Duncan going through the same experience.
“Unfortunately it’s the same, though he’ll have it easier than you did. With the medications available today we can ease the worst of it, but it’s still going to take four or five days. Afterward he’ll have to be watched twenty-four hours a day, never left alone, and there’s always a chance he’ll try to kill himself again. On top of it all, he’s likely to hate us for bringing him back to a life he didn’t want to live.” Ash crossed to the couch and dropped the coats on it, then shrugged out of the heavy ski jacket and added it to the others, revealing another dark, loose-fitting sweater.
“It’s not the same life, Ash. Now he has you and Methos, maybe together you can show him that.” Joe followed her over to the couch. “I have to get back to the bar, there are deliveries coming in. What time do you want me to come back for you this afternoon?”
“About two-thirty would be fine.”
“Where are you going?” Methos asked.
“To pick up medical supplies, food, and whatever else I can think of, we’re not going to be able to get out much once MacLeod thaws out, so I’d better do as much as I can until then.” She walked Joe to the door.
Methos started to take off his heavy jacket, then realized the heat was off. The gas furnace was a pain to light; it had taken him some time to learn its eccentricities. MacLeod lit it so easily, from long practice, but Methos had been forced to learn the hard way, many times Duncan had been too drunk to handle it. He wished Ash would find a sheet and cover him. He went to the kitchen, looked in the drawer where the matches were kept, found them, and started the process of persuading the heater to light.
As if she had read his mind, Ash asked him, “Where are the sheets?”
“In the trunk, by the bed.”
She took a sheet and spread it over Duncan’s body, and Methos felt better, though he knew it was childish. ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ he thought. As if he could put Duncan out of his mind or his heart, he was imprinted there, unforgettable. He finally got the fire lit and removed his heavy jacket and ski pants, tossing them on the couch with the others.
Methos felt Ash was as distant as the moon, despite the fact she was only ten feet away. He went to her and took her in his arms. He expected her to fight, pull away, anything but what she did, relax into his embrace.
Methos wanted her, the echoes of ancient passion resonating inside him. ‘A hundred and fifty years, and I’m still hungry for the taste of you,’ he thought. Methos took her face between his hands and kissed her, slowly, thoroughly, thinking, ‘How can you taste the same, smell the same, feel the same? How can I want you with Duncan’s body laying there?’ He realized it was because of Duncan’s body, he needed life, he needed to feel warmth, contact, he was so cold and dead inside. Maybe Ash felt the same need, the same emptiness. Methos was pressed close against her; she could hear his quick breaths, feel his rapid heartbeat, his hardness against her.
“Ash, I need you. I need to feel something that isn’t pain, or loss, or guilt. I need to take pleasure in you, and I need you to take pleasure in me.”
Ash thought, ‘Oh, please, no Methos, you don’t know what you’re asking, I don’t know if I can, I don’t even know if my body can respond anymore.’ She said, “It’s been so long since I let anyone touch me.”
Methos was kissing her throat, his hands on her breasts, his fingers caressing, he said in a husky voice, “How long? Ten years? Twenty?” She would do this, Methos knew, join a convent, or a cult, embrace celibacy, but twenty years was the longest she had ever lasted. Ash was such a sensualist; she couldn’t stand it too long.
“More like sixty.” Ash spoke in a whisper.
Methos stopped kissing her and looked in her golden eyes. “Sixty? You haven’t been touched in sixty years!” Methos was shocked; it beggared belief that she would remain celibate for sixty years.
Methos had it wrong. Ash didn’t correct him, only thought of the vast difference between letting someone touch you and being touched. “I shut it all off, all sexual feeling, all desire. It had become a source of pain, and I just—shut it off.”
“No, Ash, I don’t think so. I can feel you trembling, your nipples are hard, your pupils are dilated, your body wants this, needs this. Let it happen, let me love you.” Methos knew her, he knew she needed this even more than he did, and he needed it so urgently.
Methos was right. Her body did want it, sixty years of denial and repressed desire broke loose, she was helpless under his hands, hands that knew her body better than any other hands on earth, hands that could play her body like a violin, making it cry and sing. It was singing now, singing its desperate need, held back, suppressed for so long, tearing free, flooding her with intense heat, with only Methos to save her from the flames. He would not save her. He would give her to the fire, bathe her in fire, shoot a stream of liquid fire into her, and she would beg him for it, crying, screaming. Her hands were tearing at his clothes, pulling at his sweater, his belt, his jeans, wanting his skin under her hands, wanting, wanting.
They stumbled to the bed, falling on it, clothes half off, hands completing the undressing, whose hands, whose clothes, it didn’t matter as long as they were gone and skin was on skin. Methos took the sheathed swords from her and kissed along the grooves that were left by them in her back. He could feel the flashes of her Quickening on his lips where the abrasions healed, tickling, tantalizing, but he couldn’t wait any longer; he needed to be inside her, immediately. Methos shifted, getting her under him, her legs opened for him, he was in her in one smooth thrust, and she moaned deep in her throat, the sound going through him, making him have to stop, hold on, or he would come that very second. Ash held still, knowing how close he was, knowing he would lose control at the slightest increase in sensation.
When it was safe, he began to move, slowly, and still she didn’t move, so unbelievable was the feeling, so devastating after so long she was afraid to move, afraid the sensation would increase, and it was so close to unbearable. Methos knew, he had made love to her before, after a long abstinence, he knew to be slow and gentle, to take time, to let her adjust. He couldn’t even imagine how it must feel to her, but he was so close, it had been so long for him, too, and he couldn’t go on much longer. She was holding him, when she wrapped her legs around him it was just too much, he came with a cry close to a scream. Ash felt it and joined him with a sound more like a sob.
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