Part Seven: Dreams Past
Methos stopped in the guest room to pick up his coat, leaving Ash and Joe to go down the five stairs, around the corner to a hallway behind the bar, and out the back door to the alley where the Jeep was parked. Ash got in the back, tossing in her pack, leaving the shotgun seat to Methos, who came out moments later. They headed out, across the river, out of Paris, southeast.
After about two hours they stopped in a town for gas. Methos decided he was hungry, so they found a small cafe where Ash ordered orange juice, Joe coffee and croissants, and Methos an omelet, toast, and coffee. Ash drank the juice quickly and asked Joe for the car keys, saying she was going to lie down and take a nap the rest of the way. She stopped in the rest room on the way out and shot up, her craving conditioned, she usually stayed high for two or three days after giving in to her addiction. She was practiced, she knew exactly how much she could take and just float, not too out of it, just enough, it would make this part of the trip easier. She would have to be on guard on the trip back, with Duncan’s body in the car there could be trouble if they were stopped. Ash went out to the Jeep and lay down in the back, noticing that the seat folded down making a cargo area. That would make it easier later on; with the body covered it should be easy enough to move Duncan unnoticed. She drifted off, more than half asleep.
Inside, Methos and Joe were talking about her. Methos shook his head and said, “Something isn’t right about her. She has a strange look in her eyes, and I know she had a blackout last night; she was totally oblivious when I took my sword away from her throat. I haven’t seen her in a long time, but she was not like this before.”
Joe considered for a moment and said, “I think she’s been through a shock or ordeal of some kind. I saw that look in Vietnam and in the VA hospitals after I lost my legs. I saw it the first night she walked into the club. The thousand-yard stare, like they’re seeing something in the distance, and what they’re seeing isn’t good. The blackouts could be flashbacks, caused by stress, I don’t know. She blacked out right after she killed that guy who came for MacLeod, just for a few seconds, but it was definite. It can’t be physical, so it must be psychological.”
Methos was remembering the past, and said regretfully, “Ash was always somewhat...” he thought of so many possible descriptions, obsessive, unbalanced, disturbed, but be settled on saying, “…remote. It’s as if you can get close, but no closer, like there’s an invisible pane of glass that you can’t penetrate. Sometimes it’s thinner, sometimes it’s almost gone, but in the end, it’s always there.” But was it always there? Methos tried to remember Ash before, that first meeting, the weeks after, before the inevitable tragedy, before the burn scar, before... Methos reflexively closed his eyes. Even after two thousand years some memories hurt too much to look at directly, it was like looking straight into the sun, it brought tears to his eyes. Methos suddenly found himself blinking rapidly and trying to swallow past a lump in his throat.
“Methos...” Joe was concerned; he could see the sudden grief in him so clearly, and he had been through so many shocks in the past few hours.
“No, not that memory.” Methos spoke in a choked whisper.
Joe’s hand gripped his shoulder, the strong square fingers pressing into the tense muscle. “…are you all right?”
Methos was spared answering by the arrival of his omelet, which he began to pick at desultorily.
“Stop wounding it and eat it.” Joe let him get out of responding. “I’m going to pay the check and check the car. Come out when you’re done.”
Methos watched Joe limp away, and then made himself eat the omelet. He knew he would need the energy later, but it took some time to force it down.
Joe went out to the Jeep. Ash had left the driver’s side door unlocked, all he had to do was open it and get in, but he stood next to the open door, looking down at her. She was lying on the backseat, curled up, apparently asleep. He had never had much of a chance to look at her in daylight. The scarred side of her face was against her arm, the skin of the unmarked side pure and unlined. ‘She did die young, and she’ll look that young forever,’ Joe thought. Her hair was lighter than he had supposed, almost the color of bronze. There was little to do except look at her. She was not sleeping peacefully. Her brow furrowed, her face contorted, she was whimpering, the sound growing in volume and clarity until Joe could make out words.
“Please let it be over, please make them stop, please stop pounding on the doors, please, no more.” She sounded abject, pleading, Joe reached in, unlocked the passenger door and opened it, not knowing what he intended to do, only knowing he couldn’t bear that sound. He leaned in awkwardly, one hand on his cane, the other touching her face, stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers and the pad of his thumb. Ash’s eyes opened, a huge expanse of tawny amber, all irises, the pupils so constricted as to be almost invisible. Joe had seen eyes like this before and knew what they meant. Heavy drugs. Most likely heroin, he’d seen enough of it in Nam. An expression of terror flashed across her face, then she recognized Joe. He opened his hand, cupping her cheek in his palm. She smiled, then closed her eyes and slipped down into quiet sleep. Joe stayed that way for a moment, touching her face. Then he straightened and closed the door, locked it, got in behind the wheel to wait for Methos.
He sat there thinking, ‘How much has she been through in two thousand years? It would be hard enough for a man, but her? She’s so small, she looks so defenseless, but I know how wrong that impression is. What happened to her since Methos saw her last? What pain requires such heavy self-medication?’ He remembered a friend back in Nam, came back from a really bad patrol, had screaming nightmares; he found heroin and dived into it like a foxhole. It was the only thing that made him feel safe. Ash couldn’t be using that heavily, she was definitely straight all the other times he’d seen her. Joe decided not to tell Methos, he somehow knew she wouldn’t want him to know.
Methos tapped on the window, and Joe unlocked the passenger door. Methos slouched into the seat. They were each lost in their own thoughts. Joe drove back to the highway. Methos fiddled with the radio for a while, not finding anything he wanted to hear. He switched it off, slouched down further in the seat, staring out of the window, growing sleepy, hypnotized by the motion. Methos slipped down into a dream that was not a dream, but a crystallized memory so clear he could feel the cold and the anger and smell the stench of Rome.
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