Kay Kelly aka Wilusa
This is a Christmas story of sorts, a follow-up to "A Present With A Past." It also refers to relationships established in my story "Absolutely Not."
Backstory: In Paris, on Christmas Day 1999, Father Liam Riley felt obliged to visit a possibly-depressed Duncan MacLeod because all MacLeod's close friends were out of town. Both Amanda and Nick had called the Immortal priest, expressing concern.
Even the Highlander's friend Methos had deserted him, after spending his birthday with him earlier in the week. He too had phoned Liam, from somewhere in the States. "Check on MacLeod Christmas Day, will you? He isn't used to being alone. But, hell, I was three thousand years old when Jesus of Nazareth was born! I'm not a Christian, and I can't work up Ye Olde Holiday Spirit.
"Besides, I have to be somewhere else."
I'd give anything to be with Duncan MacLeod.
Even before he flipped the switch to light the towering Christmas tree, Methos had guiltily amended that thought.
No, not exactly. I'd give anything to have him here with us.
That, of course, can never be.
But if it weren't for the Immortal I'm visiting, MacLeod would probably be dead.
Or not the man he is.
He shuddered at that thought, then couldn't suppress a smile as the approaching Presence of his fellow Immortal washed over him. A Presence that seemed different from any other, brimming with sweetness. Unless love was playing tricks on him...
A last glance at the tree--and the bounty under it--convinced him he'd given a satisfactory performance as Santa. I know she thinks I'm ridiculously old-fashioned, wanting even the tree itself to be a surprise on Christmas morning. But the look on Marc's face last year was worth it.
From beyond the closed double doors of the living room, he heard an excited baby voice. "Papa? Papa here?"
His face fell.
Then a woman's soft contralto, explaining, "No, sweetie. I've told you Papa won't be able to come any more. But Uncle is here."
"Unca! I wuv Unca!"
Methos was smiling again as he flung open the doors. The adults barely had time to exchange nods before the golden-haired toddler was struggling to get from one pair of arms to the other. "Unca! Unca!"
"Merry Christmas, Marc." Methos swept the child up and lifted him high over his head. "What's this? You're taller than I am!"
Marc squealed in delight. Then he spotted the tree and presents, and went into a paroxysm of ecstasy. "Down, Unca, down!"
By now he was wriggling so that "Unca" was hard-pressed to hold him. But he managed to set him down safely--after planting a kiss on his curly head--and looked on indulgently as he made a beeline for a Furby Baby. "Furry, Furry!"
A throaty laugh behind him induced Methos to turn...and belatedly murmur his appreciation of the woman. At this early hour, she was still wearing her robe--deep red velvet, probably new and chosen for Christmas. Her face was free of makeup; if her shoulder-length brown hair had been combed at all, Marc had done a thorough job of disarranging it.
And she had never looked lovelier.
What's more, she was holding a sprig of mistletoe over her head.
After a long hesitation, Methos bent to kiss her. But he used all his will power to keep the kiss cool and platonic. She stiffened slightly, getting the message. As their lips parted, she took a step backward.
"I'm sorry, Jill," he said quietly. "I am attracted to you. More than you can imagine. I see your face in my dreams.
"But this arrangement we have could continue for fifty years or more, if you still think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. We may be sharing occasions like this when you're in your seventies. So I think we'll both be more comfortable if we never begin a sexual relationship."
He heard her sharp intake of breath, and his heart ached as she shook off the comforting hand he laid on her shoulder. She brushed past him, and stood for a long moment watching the child under the tree.
Facing the reality...that if she made this a lifelong commitment it would have to be for one reason, and one reason only. Methos wouldn't be part of the package.
She had to know she could still have the six-figure salary he'd originally offered. She had refused it, declined to accept more than a paltry twenty thousand--plus room and board--for what she had described as "a labor of love."
Acting as nanny for a two-year-old.
A two-year-old who had seen nigh on two thousand Christmases, but greeted every one as his first.
She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders. Then she turned back to her employer.
"You're right, Uncle." They'd agreed they would never risk confusing Marcellus by letting him overhear any other name.
But her lips silently formed the word "Methos."
Then former Watcher Jillian O'Hara lifted her chin, and said firmly, "I'm not aware of any drawbacks."
That afternoon--after a romp outdoors in a picture-book Vermont snowfall, and a hearty lunch--Marc was settled on the sofa with them, dividing his attention between a lapful of Teletubbies and the tape in the VCR.
A tape Methos had made the night before, of Midnight Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Midway through it, Marc dumped his toys unceremoniously on the floor, scrambled down, and went to sit on a hassock nearer the TV.
"He watched last year's tape till it was worn out," Jillian murmured. "Kept saying, 'Mass, Mass!' whenever I tried to get him interested in something else.
"Do you think it's the music, or could he really...?"
"I don't know." Methos shook his head. "Maybe some leanings are inborn. Though it certainly took his father long enough to find religion."
He should have kept his voice down. Marc spun around and said hopefully, "Papa?"
"Papa can't be here, Marc."
The youngster got up, toddled over to an end table, and picked up a framed photo. A grainy, sepia-toned photo, dating from the nineteenth century, of a smiling man in the habit of a Ludovician Friar. He held a beaming tot who was clearly Marc himself.
"Papa!" he said proudly.
"That's right, Marc. That's your Papa."
He's not mature enough to understand that priests aren't supposed to have children. But Darius fathered him long before he became a priest. Before he ever heard of Christianity.
If I'd let Marc forget his father, I COULD have brought MacLeod here. Earned some Brownie points with him, for assuming responsibility for a helpless baby Immortal.
But I couldn't do that to Darius. Not to a father who loved his son so much.
Almost as much as I love mine.
On a long-ago night in Scotland, Methos had made the stunning discovery that male Immortals could sometimes father children. That he had done so, and a pre-Immortal child was growing in his wife's womb. A wife named Margaret MacLeod.
Once recovered from his initial shock, he had been determined to keep the child and raise him. But Darius had dissuaded him, by telling him about another Immortal who had attempted that...only to have an enemy break into his villa and make his son Immortal at the age of two. At the time, Darius hadn't admitted he was the tragic father. But Methos had never had a moment's doubt.
And now, whenever he looked at Marc, he was reminded of the fate his own child had--perhaps narrowly--avoided.
But MacLeod could never be allowed to know Immortals were capable of fathering children. If he learned that, it would only be a matter of time until he correlated certain dates, and realized he himself had fathered Richie Ryan. Even as it was, he was haunted by the memory of having accidentally killed his young friend; the truth would shatter him.
Damn. If it weren't for that, he would have been my first choice to become Marc's guardian if something should happen to me...
Lost in thought, Methos was brought back to the here and now by an insistent tug on his pants leg.
"Unca! Come play wif me!"
That night, when the seemingly tireless child had finally gone to sleep--clutching his Furby Baby--the ancient Immortal was still troubled.
He didn't want to die. Ever.
And he had never expected to die, rarely thought about it, until that horrific night in Bordeaux...
Fighting Silas had been an enormous risk. He'd avoided tangling with other Immortals for two hundred years. Partly in an attempt to honor his Hippocratic Oath, partly to elude the Watchers--but mostly because of the ever-present danger of a Dark Quickening.
After all that time, he'd been rusty. Taking Kristin's head had been no problem; she was a poor fighter, and MacLeod had already worn her out. Silas was another matter.
But he'd had no choice. He'd known that if MacLeod killed Kronos, a still-living Silas would try to kill MacLeod while he was weakened by the Quickening. And if Kronos killed MacLeod, Methos himself would have to kill Kronos after the Quickening, to save the world from the megalomaniac his "brother" had become. A still-living Silas would stand in his way.
There was a real chance Silas could kill him. Or put up such a struggle that he'd still be incapacitated by the Quickening when the other fight ended. That was why--despite the risk to himself--he hadn't challenged the giant Horseman until after he had unlocked Cassandra's cell. He'd hoped that in a pinch, if Cassandra saw Kronos or Silas vulnerable, she'd grab a sword and do him in.
Richie had been alive then, and only his own unsavory past had kept him from telling MacLeod the truth about their relationship. While he was dueling Silas, his mind had screamed, Why didn't you tell him, you idiot? About himself, and Richie, and Marc? And then, No, I'm glad I didn't. What if Kronos had killed MacLeod, and learned about Marc from his Quickening?
Then had come blessed relief. He had won. MacLeod had won. Everything was going to be all right...
Until he felt Cassandra's blade at his neck.
He'd wanted to shriek, "No! No! You don't understand! There's this baby Immortal I have to take care of. I'm the only one of us who knows about him, his father trusted me..."
Cassandra had saved the child Duncan MacLeod from Roland Kantos. She cared about children.
But that was merely a cruel irony. He had known she wouldn't believe him, would dismiss his plea as a cowardly excuse to beg for his life.
In those few seconds of nightmare horror, he hadn't thought of himself, or even his son or grandson. Only of Marc suffering another loss. And the very mortal Jillian being left, impossibly, to cope with an Immortal child on her own.
Then MacLeod had intervened, saved his life. The crisis had passed.
But the fear had not.
And on this Christmas night, sitting alone in an incongruously normal Vermont farmhouse, Methos reached a decision. In a firm hand, he began to write.
The truth about Immortal reproduction: females sterile, males fertile on rare occasions. Pre-Immortal children born of Immortal fathers and mortal mothers, who always died. He offered his guess that all living Immortals had come into the world in that way, and their earliest ancestor had been the product of mutation.
Then he told the story of Darius and Marcellus, and his own promise to support and look after Marcellus if Darius died. Gave the current address of child and nanny, and information on the trust fund he had set up.
After agonizing for an hour, he put pen to paper again...and revealed the whole truth about Duncan MacLeod and Richie Ryan. With the caveat that MacLeod must always be protected from that bitter knowledge.
Frowning, he reread everything he had written. Then he nodded. He, like any man, might die at any time...and none of these secrets should go to the grave with him. This was a necessary precaution.
Some primal instinct, deep in his gut, told him he was making the right choice.
He secured the envelope with double and triple seals.
Then he went online and e-mailed Joe Dawson.
"Joe--I need to see you as soon as possible. I have a favor to ask. It's critically important that you hand-deliver a letter...to Cassandra."
Author's Note: For anyone who isn't familiar with Season 6...Jillian O'Hara is a character involved with Methos in an alternate reality, in the series finale "Not To Be."
Background from Nessa's Heavenly Backgrounds