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DVD extras - "Dissonance"

In response to ithildyn's request:

Here's a Director's Commentary track for my Highlander fic, "Dissonance." It's still the piece I've received the most feedback on, and the only one that's been translated into another language (as far as I know).

"Dissonance" began as a response to the highlander100 challenge #92: Teeth. I wanted to use the phrase "sets my teeth on edge" to describe an Immortal's reaction to "the buzz." I'd just read the phenomenal One Thousand by Amada-r amand_r a few months before, and I thought - ooh, what if that's what the Gathering feels like? I probably should give Amada-r more credit for this, because the claustrophobic setting of my piece, with MacLeod and Methos trapped in the barge together, was inspired by her story.

So, here's the original drabble I wrote:

Within two days MacLeod's Presence was setting my teeth on edge. I could sense him from the end of the quay.

In a week I could sense every Immortal in Paris, a constant whine of feedback from concert-size speakers. The slaughter had already begun. MacLeod received a hysterical call from Gina. She and Robert had come to swords over a broken vase. He comforted her, eyes on me the entire time.

I own a tiny island in the Pacific. I hope it's far enough. I can control my own murderous impulses. But what about his?

I published the drabble in the final hours of the challenge, but I was deeply unsatisfied. The story in my head, the killing tension of it, couldn't be told in 100 words. So I started expanding it.

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

It started as a mild headache one morning.
I took Methos' advice here. Start small and build.

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.
In my summary and warning, I call this a Gathering fic. Everyone's feedback refers to this as a Gathering fic. But the word "Gathering" does not appear anywhere within the body of the story. The Methos Muse was insistent about that. I'm still not sure if it's because he's just in denial about the whole thing, or if Methos knows something we don't.

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.
Comparing two people's perceptions of the same event is a bit tricky when you're working in 1st person POV, but no one called me on it.

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.
I like the idea that the Watchers don't know what's up yet, and neither do most Immortals. Most of them, when irritated by another Immortal's Quickening, either Challenge or take off. Methos and MacLeod are stubborn enough to stick together anyway.

The fire ants of MacLeod's Presence swarmed over me I agonized over just the right description here. Fire ants. Yeah. 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. Slaughter on the streets of Paris. Joe's freaking out. Mac is freaking out. Methos is carefully not giving a damn.

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.
I worked hard on the first sentence of this paragraph. I wanted to create a claustrophobic, trapped feeling that would show (not tell!) the pressure they are under while staying in the barge. It was easy to understand why MacLeod would put up with it. But Methos .... I had to have a long chat with my Methos Muse before his motivation made sense.

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.
That, by the way, is not his motivation. It's just a plausible excuse to himself for why he's staying in such a dangerous situation.

Besides, there is no one I would rather spend these hours with.
That, right there, that's the real reason.

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. This mirrors the first scene where we meet Gina and Robert in canon, playing a game, breaking a vase, falling into bed together. It's also my attempt to convince the reader that this is very, very serious. If a pair of Immortals who have been married for 100's of years are killing each other, how can Methos and MacLeod resist?

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.
I was looking for some kind of transistion here, from the phone call to Methos's musing about MacLeod. Silas popped into my head. Another tension builder, since it reminds us that Methos is perfectly capable of killing someone he cares about, in the right (wrong?) situation.

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?
In my head, this had a sexual energy to it. I'm not sure how much of that came across. It's a nasty little fantasy, but hot!


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'm still not sure exactly how MacLeod picked up on Methos sliding into a fantasy of killing him, but it felt right.

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'm still fascinated by Methos' different personas, and like the idea of him summoning up harmless Adam to calm both himself and MacLeod. I'm not actually sure if Greek has transitive verbs, but it sounds like something boring that Adam Pierson might do.

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. Methos has contingencies. 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?

I've had a lot of people ask me to write a sequel, or continue this. But even when I only had 100 words, this was always where the story ended for me, with this question, this tense and ambiguous moment.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 14th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for doing this! Really enjoyable for me to be able to reread this one more time and with the added insight from your comments.

And I don't think I'd want a sequel. It just fits that it ends there. But that's just me :)
Apr. 15th, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
You're welcome, ith!
Apr. 15th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
very interesting. I like how active your methos muse is! Wiley bastard. And I love the ambiguity of the ending.
Apr. 15th, 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
Oh, my Muses and I have long and sometimes contentious conversations. I'm still pissed off about the Sydney Opera House fic that is stuck in limbo because Methos is too secretive and paranoid to even tell ME what's going on.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )