torch, torch@doubleagent.org
August 2000 - August 2002 (December 2002)

Disclaimer: Bah. Have you ever met an Immortal? Many thanks to Ellen for taking a slow stroll around the editing block with me. Do not archive this story without permission.

Going forth by day

Death is invisible and timeless. There is no in-between, nothing elapsed from life to life. One moment you're there, the next moment you're there. In pain, and pissed as hell, usually.

He knew that, but there was always the fear that this time, the nothing of death would last forever. One moment he would be there, the next... there wouldn't be any next. Waking up from sleep, you can feel the hours in your body, the dreams, the tossing and turning. The sensation of time elapsed, of having existed, unconsciously. Waking up from death, you're in the same moment and the same pain, seconds or centuries later. Not waking up was unimaginable, and yet he imagined it far too often.

This time, he was waking up. And there was pain. A dull, solid pain, throbbing in his chest. He was lying down, and someone had been considerate enough to close his lids so his eyes wouldn't dry out. The first breath hurt; the second one hurt less, and with that, he knew that the pain would go away. Having that knowledge, he could ignore it. He opened his eyes and looked straight into a brown gaze that burned so hotly that the voice sounded oddly flat by comparison. "What the hell do you think you were doing?"

Methos drew breath to speak, but could only cough. He tried to raise himself up on one elbow, wavered, and was caught by Duncan's strong, furious hands closing around his shoulders in a grip that was a smaller, more comfortable pain. He let himself be pulled up to sit half-leaning against Duncan's shoulder, coughed again, and looked around. Everything in the loft was in its usual place, except for him; he was on the bed, not the couch. "Dying," he croaked out finally. "I thought you noticed."

The grip on his shoulders hardened even more. "Methos."

"I thought," he said, speaking slowly so he wouldn't make himself cough again, "it would be inconvenient if she killed you." A slow breath, another one, and then he started to feel like himself again. There must have been more damage than he'd thought. He had dim memories of hearing several shots before everything had faded away.

"It didn't occur to you that she could easily have shot both of us and taken our heads at her leisure? Fortunately," the voice was probably supposed to make him wince, but he didn't feel up to it, "she emptied the clip into you, and then decided to bash your ribs in with a length of steel pipe for good measure."

Methos ran a hand down his chest. That would explain the extensive damage; if it had just been a simple shot to the heart, he would have revived much earlier. Time might not matter while you're dead, but it matters very much when you come alive again. "Which gave you the time to challenge her and take her head, which I couldn't have done since you had my sword, which I'm never handing over to you again no matter how prettily you ask. She's dead, I'm alive. Sounds like a happy ending to me."

When Duncan stood up abruptly, Methos slumped backwards, catching himself on one elbow. He looked up at the back of Duncan's head. Duncan took a few steps away, then turned around. "She said her name was Lise. What did you do to her to get her that angry with you?"

"Lise?" Methos managed to sit up, and rubbed a hand over the back of his head. Being dead displeased him. Anything can happen to your body while you're gone, and no sound or touch will wake you before you have healed enough. Death is far more terrible than sleep. "Lise. Lise. Are you sure it wasn't Liesl?" He shook his head slowly. "I thought she was after you."

"It wasn't me she tried to turn into roadkill," Duncan snapped.

You never get used to death. No matter how many times it happens, the descent into nothingness never becomes familiar. And every time there is an afterwards, the colors seem brighter, but only for a heartbeat and a half. "Maybe she had me mixed up with somebody else."

Duncan made a sound of Scottish disbelief. "I'd say she got a good look at you." He turned away for a few moments, then came back with a glass in his hand. "Here."

Methos drank. "The good whiskey? I'm honored." Waking with a mouth tasting of death was worse than waking with a mouth tasting of sleep. Death tastes like cold, cold earth and a night sky with no stars. Death tastes like the dust on a book that no one has ever read. "I feel like I'm at my own wake."

Duncan sat down on the bed again, narrowly missing Methos' knee. He had a glass of his own and turned it over in long, sun-browned fingers. He looked intensely, beautifully alive. "And whose fault is that?" Duncan raised the glass, but didn't drink. "I didn't think you did things like that for anyone."

"I don't," Methos said, and he did drink, making a small, silent, private toast. "Not for anyone."

He leaned back again and watched Duncan smile.

* * *

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