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fic: Dissonance

Summary: Methos is among the first to realize that the Gathering has already begun.

Rating: T for mature themes.

Thanks to: My beta readers mackiedockie and Steven.

Disclaimers: The concept of Immortality and the characters within are the property of Davis/Panzer Productions. No harm, no foul, no money changing hands.

Author's Note: This grew from a drabble written for the highlander100 "teeth" challenge.



I haven't slept in days. None of us have.

It started as a mild headache one morning.

The next day MacLeod was setting my teeth on edge. We snapped at one another incessantly. I packed my duffel and left. When I reached the end of the quay I could still sense his Presence. That's when I knew. I pulled out my cell phone and began making arrangements. I went for a long walk and ended up back at the barge. There was nowhere else to go.

On the third day we began ostentatiously leaving our coats and swords in the closet. We didn't discuss it. MacLeod probably saw it as a sign of the trust between us. I understood it as a sign that we didn't trust ourselves. Certainly both of us were capable of killing without a weapon in hand. But to go and get a sword out of the closet would be an act beyond impulse.

Joe called that evening with an invitation to hear the new band playing at Le Blues Bar and a complaint about the size of his daily Watcher update. He laughed about it, made a comment about the full moon. At first I really thought he was having me on. How could the Watchers not know? Then again, I only recognized it so quickly because MacLeod and I have been living in each other's pockets these last few weeks. The Watchers would be taken unawares unless one of us warned them. The thought was tempting, but Joe deserved better. So I told him.

The fire ants of MacLeod's Presence swarmed over me as I listened to Joe Dawson's silence. He asked if I was sure. Was I sure? MacLeod hoped this was temporary, some freak occurrence of misaligned stars or the Earth's magnetic field that would soon pass. It will pass, certainly. One way or the other. I told Dawson I was sure.

Today I can sense every Immortal in Paris, a constant whine of feedback from concert-size speakers. There are fewer now than there were this morning. The slaughter has already begun. Joe calls every few hours, updating MacLeod on his friends' battles. Wanting to hear Mac's voice, and mine. With each reported death, MacLeod's face grows more lined. Amanda slipped away from her Watcher last night in Prague, and he is desperate for news of her.

The barge is a self-imposed cage, filled with of the scent of burnt bacon from breakfast, two sweating men, and the pulsing energy of one Quickening too many. MacLeod is pacing now. I'm almost surprised that he has let me stay this long. But of course he has. Duncan won't run from his own home. He won't ask me to leave whatever protection he can offer. And he won't take my head. Not while he can help it.

This is probably the safest place on the continent for me right now. Once subtle differences in the power and flavor of Immortal Presence have been amplified to messages in screaming neon. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod has been a very busy boy these last few years. Being this close to him is like standing at the open door of a blast furnace. And while I can't feel my own Quickening, I've taken perhaps more than my fair share of heads over the millennia. I don't think any Immortal will come knocking on this door while there is other fresh meat in range.

Besides, there is no one I would rather spend these hours with.

The phone rings shrill. MacLeod jumps to answer it. I can hear Gina's hysterical voice from across the room. She and Robert had come to swords over a broken vase. He comforts her, eyes on me the entire time.

I wish that someone else had taken Robert's head, for her sake. Silas taught me the bitter triumph that comes of killing a man you sparred with until his style is as familiar as your own breath. MacLeod and I haven't spent as much time together, but we know each other.

He is beautiful as a tiger when he spars, flowing muscles and deadly steel. When I push him hard enough, the feral grin hidden under the Boy Scout's regrets comes out to greet me. His body would strive against mine, eyes intent, short hair damped down with sweat. He would recognize all my usual tricks. I'd need to pull out something special, just for him. Would he close his eyes before the final stroke, or glare up at me, undefeated to the last?

No.

MacLeod hangs up the phone and backs towards the closet at the far end of the barge, part wary, part wild. He can smell it on me. Oh, no.

I pull Adam Pierson around me like a cloak, writing a lecture on Greek transitive verbs in my head. It works much better than baseball. MacLeod pauses, his body relaxing from battle-ready to merely vigilant. He circles round me to his laptop and sits down, half-turned to keep me in view.

I am now the proud owner of a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. My agent is purchasing the last of my supplies, and the charter flight is scheduled for 10am tomorrow morning. I hope it's far enough. I hope it's soon enough. I've had plenty of practice in controlling my own murderous impulses. But what about his?

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Comments

( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
cyberducks
May. 28th, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC)
Yes!! "My" Methos sniffs out the stupid Gathering and then runs far far away from it."My" Methos gets his murderous impulses under control. I pull Adam Pierson around me like a cloak, writing a lecture on Greek transitive verbs in my head. - very nice.
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
My Methos has sharp edges and exquisite self-control.
cyberducks
May. 28th, 2006 07:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, and Gina killing her Robert chills my blood - what insanity!
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
*nods* I imagined the scene from the beginning of "Til Death", only with this added pressure. Suddenly a game turns deadly serious and its all over.
mmapmaker
May. 28th, 2006 07:07 pm (UTC)
Gathering stories are difficult to resist, and yet, unless one alters the premise of 'There Can Be Only One,' then a deadly outcome is assured.

Having said that, however, I love how you dealt with this. It felt truthful, was unapologetic, felt neither sappy nor maudlin, hurt just a little bit, yet still had a core of hope despite the uncertainty. It felt real.

Best regards,

Susan
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC)
"Real" is among the greatest compliments an author can receive. Thank you.
ithildyn
May. 28th, 2006 07:20 pm (UTC)
Now that creeped me out -- and I mean that in a good way :) You pulled me right into the mood of the story.
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC)
*laughs* This is one of the few scenarios in which being called creepy is a positive.
em_kellesvig
May. 28th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, oh yes. *evil chuckle* But don't believe for an instant that Methos has shown MacLeod every trick in his book. That "sparring" match in "Chivalry" was a complete farce on Methos' part. He's the Alpha male pretending to be a beta pretending to be a gamma pretending to be an iguana. I love Methos to Death but don't let him fool you...
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 06:46 pm (UTC)
An iguana? Sun-warmed and blinking? I almost get that metaphor. Let's say that he feels no need for that kind of power any more, but recognizes the drive in others and uses it to his advantage.

I agree that Methos hasn't shared all his tricks with MacLeod. But I imagine that he would share a great many, because he likes MacLeod and wants him to survive. Why let him be taken out by a simple hidden second blade? (The fight scene with NTB!Methos comes to mind.)
gnu57
Jul. 29th, 2006 04:26 am (UTC)
Bwaaahhahahhaaaa.....
He's the Alpha male pretending to be a beta pretending to be a gamma pretending to be an iguana. I love Methos to Death but don't let him fool you...

Laying on a nice rock, soaking up the sun....that's our Methos! That totally cracked me up...it's so perfect a description!

And this story made the hairs on my neck stand up...I could practically smell the ozone in the air. Not a pretty thought.
keerawa
Jul. 29th, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Bwaaahhahahhaaaa.....
And this story made the hairs on my neck stand up...

Thank you. It's not a pleasant story, but I'm delighted to hear that it affected you.
darthhellokitty
May. 28th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC)
Oh god, SUCH a good Gathering story.

I really, really hate the Gathering. But that's a good story.
cyberducks
May. 28th, 2006 09:50 pm (UTC)
I hate the Gathering too - I am sure some sick immie with an even sicker sense of humour made that up long ago - and all the idiots are ruled and abide by it.
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 06:48 pm (UTC)
I despise the whole idea. But it's got too much dramatic potential to ignore.

Methos, you might notice, never says that this is the Gathering.
darthhellokitty
May. 30th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)
Methos knows better! I'm sure it's some kind of freak sunspot thing, coupled with everyone EXPECTING the Gathering any time...

eldritchhobbit
May. 28th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
Outstanding! Truly a chilling story, and the characterization is spot on. This one will haunt me for a while. Great job.
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you! My Methos Muse was speaking to me loud and clear on this one.
adabsolutely
May. 28th, 2006 10:01 pm (UTC)
Very strong, painful, but good.
amonitrate
May. 29th, 2006 03:23 am (UTC)
intense and matter of fact and perfect. Thanks.

MacLeod probably saw it as a sign of the trust between us. I understood it as a sign that we didn't trust ourselves. Certainly both of us were capable of killing without a weapon in hand. But to go and get a sword out of the closet would be an act beyond impulse

love the precision and detail, and practicality.
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 07:06 pm (UTC)
Methos is certainly practical. I like the divergent perceptions they have of the same action. Thank you, amonitrate!
holde_maid
May. 29th, 2006 08:47 am (UTC)
Oh. My. Goodness.

Very good. *applauds*
(Deleted comment)
keerawa
May. 29th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
Methos is certainly affected, unless you believe that fantasizing about taking Mac's head is something he would normally do. Some of the Methoi might, but not mine.

Thank you for the original drabble challenge!
(Anonymous)
Sep. 24th, 2006 04:10 am (UTC)
Re Gathering
Very nicely done. I believed the characters actually would behave this way.

Like the others here, I HATE the idea of the Gathering. And I never even understood the WHY the original story was written that way.

The Kurgan would've/could've wanted Connor's Quickening just because it felt good.

The idea of getting "power" has never made sense to me because the winners (mostly) didn't get anything special from the Quickening. (I guess the Dark Q and the Light Q suppose the there WOULD be something more, but they kept saying that Immortals didn't KNOW or feel anything after a Quickening.)

I wonder if the Gathering would be triggered by so MANY Immortals living at the same time, and then the static of all Quickenings would just add up to TOO MUCH in the Q-sphere.

eva (not Anonymous really)
keerawa
Sep. 24th, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Re Gathering
Thank you, Eva!

Fandom's not fond of the Gathering. The knowledge that you WILL meet your Immortal friends and lovers over a sword some day is just too grim.

If it were some response to over-population, one might hope that the imperative would disappear once enough of the Immortals had been killed.
killabeez
Jun. 4th, 2006 11:08 am (UTC)
Loved this, even though I read all Gathering stories with a smirk and a willing suspension of disbelief. Methos is wonderfully present and himself in this, and as always, you give us such perfect details to breathe life into the whole thing. I really like how you balanced Methos' plans for his own survival with his emotional attachments.
keerawa
Jun. 4th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you Killa!

I'm not sure that Methos actually believes in the Gathering, either. But all it takes is one unusual phenomenon and enough Immortals crying out that the sky is falling...

I was impressed with how well Methos rationalized that staying at the barge with MacLeod was really much safer than leaving. He almost convinced me.
ann_i_blessing
Jun. 7th, 2006 10:36 am (UTC)
Doesn't require believing in the Game to know that you're going to have to fight everyone who believes in it.
ann_i_blessing
Jun. 7th, 2006 10:36 am (UTC)
Well-crafted, and good Gathering stories are like sonnets or haiku: darn' difficult to do well. I like the quick confident slide into seeing himself prevail if it came to swords, and the deliberate pulling back. And of course the Watchers aren't going to recognize it's beginning. The tragedy, of course, is that he won't be able to persuade Mac to find his own small sea-island.
keerawa
Jun. 7th, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you Ann!

The tragedy, of course, is that he won't be able to persuade Mac to find his own small sea-island.

Very true, and Methos knows better than to even try.
jinxed_wood
Jun. 17th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC)
Thoughtful and well written, colour me impressed :-)
keerawa
Jun. 24th, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you, jinxed_wood.
ekaterinn
Jun. 24th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
I can't believe I missed this when it was first posted! Shivery, but strangely lovely. Methos, controlled and thinking in the face of circumstances that can only be called apocalyptic. I can just imagine him, watching MacLeod stalk around in the barge, his expression carefully unreadable.
keerawa
Jun. 24th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC)
Methos, controlled and thinking in the face of circumstances that can only be called apocalyptic.
That's our Methos.

Thank you for sharing your response to "Dissonance", Ekaterrin.
springwoof
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
very very cool. great atmosphere.
the anguish this is causing is very vivid: Gina's, Joe's, Mac's, and Methos' hearts are being torn asunder. I like how Methos is doing the best he can for those he loves under the circumstances...
keerawa
Apr. 6th, 2008 09:46 am (UTC)
Thanks, springwoof. I always get very tense when I read this one. The Highlander fandom is generally cheery, but the horror of "There Can Be Only One" underlies everything.
akuni
Jun. 18th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
Brrr, this makes me shiver, you've painted a great picture. I can feel the tension stretching closer and closer to the breaking point, the pulse and pull of the chaos outside their fragile balancing act, and the unspoken despair that must surely be singing through all of those with heart enough to still care.

Gina and Robert are a special heartbreaker. =/ Oh I hope that Pacific island is far enough!

Thank you for such a gripping story. +mem
keerawa
Jun. 19th, 2009 04:40 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, akuni! I've always been really pleased with the way this one turned out. SPN -> Highlander fic, eh?
akuni
Jun. 19th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
*laugh* Funny how these things work! I actually came here for the Highlander fic, but when I saw the SPN story I had to stop and check it out, too. :)
gryphonrhi
Oct. 23rd, 2011 04:36 am (UTC)
I always have trouble believing the Gathering's a real thing, but it's real enough here and nasty. Poor Gina. And poor Mac and Methos, and everyone else who has any chance of surviving. that said, I do wonder if sunspots had anything to do with it, since it feels like Methos has done this before and more than once.

Here via your self-rec, and thanks, this is great. (Chilling? But great.)
keerawa
Oct. 23rd, 2011 06:02 am (UTC)
*nods* Methos never actually says that this is the Gathering. (I didn't notice that until after my first draft.) Which leaves a certain amount of leeway in our interpretation.

Thank you for reading and commenting, Rhi!
gryphonrhi
Oct. 23rd, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
Hey, no, thank *you* for linking to it. I'm not sure how I missed this, so I'm glad you told me about it!

Would you believe I have no clue what to self-rec?
marbleglove
Oct. 25th, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
I read and enjoyed this years ago and I like it just as much re-reading it again. But oh, it leaves me with my heart beating, sitting on the edge of my seat, wanting to see if Methos can hold out for just those few more hours it takes to get him to his island. Wonderful.
keerawa
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
Thank you, marbleglove, it's wonderful to hear that you had such a visceral response to the story, even on a re-read!
( 45 comments — Leave a comment )