Part Twenty-Nine: Cold Light
Methos sat and listened to the snow faintly tapping on the glass of the high windows of the barge. It had gotten even colder in the hours since he’d given in to the feeling that something was going terribly wrong. He’d dressed and gone out after Duncan, the last print of his boot in the ice of the ramp telling Methos in what direction MacLeod had turned. Left, into the swirling whiteness of snow and the blackness under the bridge. He’d followed and found how right that wrong feeling had been.
Methos had walked into that darkness and found Duncan on his knees. He’d heard Duncan whimpering and crouched down next to him. His eyes adjusted and only then had he seen the splash of red across the front of the gray coat. He’d been immediately concerned, thinking that Duncan had been attacked. He reached out and took Duncan’s face in his hands to turn it up, only to look into eyes filled with pain and horror. The sounds resolved themselves into words.
“Tell me I didn’t kill her, please tell me I didn’t, I didn’t mean to, please tell me I didn’t kill her.”
Methos felt that heart-dropping sensation he’d get riding in a fast elevator. His mind dredged up the memory of Duncan standing over him, the katana in his hands and his eyes filled with that cold light. He was afraid to look into the deeper shadows but he had to. He stood and turned to see something white against the dark gray stone of the wall, about three feet up. He walked toward it and it came into clear focus. It was the hilt of Duncan’s katana, the blade stuck in a huddled form lying on the quay. Methos thought, ‘God, no. Please don’t let it be Ash.’ He took two more steps and his foot struck the hilt of an unfamiliar sword. This raised his hopes, but only for as long as it took for him to take one more step.
One good look was all Methos needed. He could see what had happened as clearly as if it were a film playing itself before his eyes. He thought, ‘This time you weren’t able to redirect the blow upward as you did when you attacked me. That only left down. Why did you do this? Oh Duncan, what is wrong with you?’
Ash lay on her back, her face peacefully composed in terrible contrast to the damage inflicted on her body. The sword edge had struck the base of her throat on the left side, but it had been a near-vertical blow, not the horizontal one that would have taken off her head. The power initially behind the stroke had carried the blade down through her collarbone and into her chest, but there had been no force applied after that. The blade had diverted outward, then caught, most likely lodged in a rib. Duncan had simply let go of the hilt. The resulting wound was ghastly, but not permanently fatal. Methos could see Ash’s left lung had been slashed, then the outward angle of the stroke had almost severed her left arm, along with her shoulder and a section of her chest.
Methos felt oddly detached. He wondered what had stopped the cutting edge, realized he’d have to free the blade to move Ash to the barge, and that she had to be moved or her body would freeze to the stone of the quay. He was trying to think of everything, everything but how Duncan could have done this. He tugged gently on the katana and the blade came out with little effort. He was grateful for that, he hadn’t wanted to put his foot on her body to yank it free. Methos laid the katana aside and knelt to lift Ash. He found her body would move, but her left arm was stuck in freezing and congealing blood. He was afraid to pull with too much force. He couldn’t bear to widen that already gaping wound, and he feared her arm might tear off. He needed to stabilize it. He felt at his waistband, but realized he hadn’t put on a belt.
He went back to Duncan. He was silent now. Methos crouched down again and could see he was withdrawing, his face taking on that blank expression. He shook Duncan hard; he couldn’t afford to be gentle with him. Duncan eyes focused and the look of anguish returned. Methos had to intercept the pain before it incapacitated Mac and he spoke with all the force he could gather, saying, “You have to help me, Duncan. Ash isn’t dead, but we need to get her inside and I need you to carry her.”
Duncan straightened up and would have gone to her immediately, but Methos stopped him, saying, “I need your belt.”
Duncan stood still and looked confused as Methos removed his belt and walked back over to Ash and knelt next to her body. He slipped the belt under her and buckled it high across her chest to support the arm. Then he gently worked her arm free, digging his fingers into the clotted gore until it was loose. He lifted her carefully and walked over to Duncan, transferred her into his arms with the wounded side against his chest and told him, “Take her to the barge, Duncan, I’ll be right behind you.” Duncan walked away slowly with his burden.
Methos picked up Duncan’s katana then quickly checked the area and gathered up Ash’s backpack and jacket along with the unrecognized sword. The blood blended into the black ice and would not be noticed by anyone demented enough to be out in this weather. He followed Duncan to the barge, carefully up the ramp and inside.
Duncan stood, unsure of what to do.
“Lay her on the floor, Duncan.”
Methos’ voice gave Duncan purpose, and he laid Ash down in front of the fire. He knelt beside her, unable to move. In the light he could see the damage he’d done to her and the sight wrenched a moan from him. He touched her, patting her face with his fingertips as if to wake her gently. Duncan began crying without tears, a racking dry sobbing as if he had no tears left and could only produce the sounds of grief. He couldn’t seem to stop.
Methos dropped the jacket, backpack, and swords behind the fireplace and went to Duncan. He got Duncan up and managed to steer him away from Ash, peeling off the bloody coat and dropping it on the floor on the way to the bed.
Methos couldn’t bear to see him in such pain. He remembered where Ash had stashed a box of leftover drugs and syringes after Duncan’s detox and went to get it. He recalled that it had actually been him that had placed it on the highest shelf in the kitchen; he’d walked into the room and found Ash trying to put it there. He’d taken it from her, glanced at the contents, and asked her why she was saving these things. She’d answered, “You never know when you might need them again.” He’d reached up and pushed the box to the back of the shelf, telling himself he’d throw it out later, but he’d forgotten to.
Methos left Duncan sitting on the bed, went to the kitchen, and returned with the box. He filled a syringe, rolled up Duncan’s sleeve, and injected the contents into a vein. It would knock him out quickly, so Methos only partially undressed him, leaving him in his underwear and shirt, and tucked the blankets warm around him. He sat on the edge of the bed, listening to Duncan’s sobbing finally quiet. He was startled when Duncan spoke.
Duncan looked up at him, his eyes filled with sorrow and a hopeless resignation. He spoke softly, saying, “You have to leave, Methos, and you have to take Ash with you. I’m not safe to be around. You have to go.”
Methos protested, “I won’t go, Duncan. You need help…”
Duncan interrupted him with, “No one can help me, I can’t even trust myself. I’m losing my mind. I can’t go on like this, I need to be put away someplace where I can’t hurt anyone anymore. I have to call Joe and have myself sent to Sanctuary.” The tranquilizer was working, Duncan was speaking calmly about sending himself into a hell he’d been in involuntarily, and had never imagined he could want to return to.
Methos was shocked into speechlessness for a moment, then all he could do was try to delay the inevitable conflict by saying, “Sleep now, Duncan. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”
Duncan shook his head and replied, “It won’t be any different tomorrow. You have to leave me. If I hurt you I couldn’t live with it.” Duncan’s eyelids fluttered, then closed. He began to slip into sleep mumbling, “I can’t go on like this.”
Duncan was quiet now. Methos had to admit to himself that the sedation hadn’t only been for Duncan’s benefit. He didn’t want Duncan conscious and armed, not in his present state of mind. He left Duncan sleeping and went to take care of Ash.
Her sweater and jeans were soaked, one with blood and the other with melted snow. The jeans were easy to peel off, but the sweater was more difficult. He couldn’t just pull it off, Ash’s shoulder, arm, and upper chest were hanging by muscle and skin, held in place only by Duncan’s belt. There were scissors in the drawer of the desk and Methos used them to cut off Ash’s sweater. Now he had a full view of the wound and Methos was reminded of a split carcass in a butcher shop, all red meat and white ribs. He intended to slide the sweater out from under her when he noticed that one of the straps holding the sheaths to her back had been cut in two. He unfastened the other and slipped both the sweater and sheaths out from under Ash’s body. There was a deep gash in the left sheath, and Methos now knew what had changed the angle of the cut. The katana had sliced into the leather, then had hit the back of the falcata, deflecting the blade.
Methos set the bloody sweater and sheaths aside and did what he could to help Ash heal more quickly, setting the flesh back and adjusting the belt to keep it there. He wished he could clean her body, but she would reabsorb some of the blood and that would hasten the healing, though it would take hours for her to recover from this much damage. He spread a clean sheet over the couch, picked Ash up carefully and laid her down on it, pulling the top half over her, then he covered her with the afghan.
He needed something more to do and picked up Ash’s ruined sweater and threw it in the trash, then he picked up Duncan’s bloody coat, took it to the bathroom, and dropped it in the shower stall. He turned on the cold water and let it wash out most of the stain, what was left could perhaps be explained to the dry cleaner as red wine. He tossed Ash’s wet jeans into the laundry and cleaned the blood from the floor.
Methos sat down in the chair behind the desk. At that moment he realized that he had nothing left to do. Except for the one thing he didn’t want to do, which was think about what Duncan had said. Could he bear to consign Duncan to Sanctuary, to be warehoused like a piece of old furniture? Part of his mind was screaming, ‘No, not that, anything but that,’ while another part of his mind quietly asked the insidious questions, ‘What else is there? Can you stay, knowing he could turn on you at any time? Do you want that sword at your throat again?’
He felt as if he were being torn apart by giant invisible hands. Part of him wanted nothing more than to stay and try to help Duncan, but part wanted to run as far and as fast as was possible, and take Ash with him. He asked himself, ‘What would Ash want? Could she want to stay and care for Duncan after this? And if she did, could we take care of Duncan together, never leaving him alone? Would any of it help if Duncan were really losing his mind?’ His own mind seemed to be running in an ever-tightening spiral.
Methos sat, still and silent in the cold directionless light of a snowy overcast dawn.
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