Disclaimers: Ever since I got a Blairmuse, he talks nonstop and won't let any of the other muses get a word in edgewise. So I brought out the big guns -- a challenge from Tiff: A short story inspired by the quote of her choice. You'll find the quote at the end of the story. Methos and the other Highlander characters belong to Rysher Entertainment and Davis/Panzer productions.

This is rated (gasp!!) PG for adult themes. Angst alert.

Comments are welcomed (and almost always responded to) at JBonetoo@yahoo.com.

The Last Wish (PG)

By Bone

November 1998

I never learn.

Throughout my five thousand years, the lesson that's been hardest to learn is keeping my distance. I'm human. Just a man. A little older, not appreciably wiser, just a man blessed and cursed with the whole array of human emotion. You would think after the hundredth rejection, after the thousandth bad ending, I'd learn.

Sad to say that's not the case. Every couple of hundred years, I forget the admonitions of engagements gone awry and I once again allow someone in. I leave a door unlocked and the fortress is breached. This time MacLeod walked in that door. Next time it will be someone else. And there will be a next time, have no doubt. Because if there's one thing in my long life that's certain, it's that I do not learn from my mistakes.

Some might consider that a flaw.

I've learned to live with it.

It's the way I meet people. It's the way I end up clasped in the bosom of friendship, for however fleeting a time. I guard, and guard, and guard, and then I slip. And then I find myself engaged with another person, or two, or three.

MacLeod came with a veritable menagerie.

A messy, lovesick, occasionally criminal, not always particularly bright menagerie: A mortal friend with a plethora of emotional and physical scars. A flighty girlfriend quite a bit older than he. And a boy. A young Immortal boy with all the sense God gave a flea. A boy who reminded him of a time when life was better, when love was true and strong and a woman's smile could light up a room.

MacLeod stood at the heart of them and they revolved around him. And when I came along, I orbited too, farther out, on the dark side.

Over time and from far distances, I watched my new found friend. I skated across the edges of his life, drawing close, drawing back. I seduced him slowly, deliberately. The more glimpses I gave him of my life, the more horrified he was, and the more attracted. I know that appeal. I know how the cobra looks to the mongoose.

After a while, it became a game. I never knew just who was seducing whom. I found myself trying to crawl inside his body, holding out my hands like he could warm me. I treated him differently than the others, I didn't just open up my life to him and invite him in. I made him work for it. Played hard to get, if you will. And like most men, he loves nothing more than a challenge.

In the midst of this, of the flirtation and seduction, the fatal flaw occurred, as always, like clockwork. I meddled. I felt compelled to do something when what I should have done is what I always do.

Nothing.

If I do nothing, only I pay the price. This is the lesson that I cannot learn. I tangle myself in another's life, and I find myself doing things, and eventually, inevitably, someone else pays.

I did this.

I made it happen.

I'm the reason Richie's dead.

It was the last wish on my birthday cake, that monstrosity that capped an evening made of whole cloth by the menagerie, who decided I needed a birthday, and therefore a birthday party.

I stood over those bright little candles and I wished for some time alone with Mac. Just a little wish. Just a little time. Time without Joe, or Amanda. Time without Richie, or even the worry about Richie.

I wished him gone and now he is.

A headstrong boy governed more by his whimsy than his brain has become a smear of blood on the pavement, salted with Scottish tears. A victim of his loyalty, of his stupidity, and of his unheeding love for the man who just ended his life.

Logically, reasonably, I do understand that in reality, I had nothing to do with it. But logic and reason haven't been doing their part around here the last few weeks, and I have difficulty resurrecting them now. Whatever Duncan sees, whatever made him do this, I can assure you logic and reason played no part. Because Duncan, alone, would never do this. And Joe and I, together, will never be able to convince him otherwise.

My last wish didn't do this. But I could have prevented it, had I learned my lesson. Had I kept my distance. But I didn't, and I haven't.

This grief could have been avoided. Should have been avoided. Had I heeded my instincts, honed over the millennia, the solution perfected over the centuries. Had I just done the nothing I'm famous for, this would all have been avoided.

When he walked in my door and said my name, I should have said, "Who, me?" and laughed at him as he drank my beer. When Kristin came, I should have stayed in Paris. Time and again, instead of doing nothing, I did something. Butted in, interfered, mediated.

Paying for his friendship in a currency he understood.

The one that sticks in my belly is Culbraith. Had I just kept walking, their opinion of me be damned, Culbraith would have killed Richie. But I had to go back, had to salvage what he thought of me, had to send him out to save the boy. Save him he did. For all the good it did, for all the time it gave him.

Richie's dead anyway, and now at MacLeod's hand. Had I kept my distance, his grief would have focus, his revenge a face. Instead he has only himself to blame. Himself and his demons.

He wants me to take away his grief. When I'm the one who handed it to him in the first place. I don't have any distance from this. I don't have any way to look at him and not feel some of what he feels, dry and hard in my own chest.

But I do have still, down deep, a nugget of self-preservation. If I give MacLeod what he wants, I'll be killing the thing that's keeping me alive. I need to know, wherever I go, that he is in the world. Battered, bleeding, but alive.

Not being with him is the price I'll have to pay. I can't stay after this, even if he wants it, which he won't. I know this wounded bear. He'll crawl in a cave and lick the gashes clean. He'll want to be alone. He'll want to keep his distance. I wish I could give him advice, but I'm not the best teacher in this subject. Do you see? Even now, in this cold hellhole, I want to reach out.

I never learn.

And so he kneels there, holding his katana up on the palms of his hands.

An offering.

A sacrifice.

But I'm not a god. I have no use for such things.

He wants me to do something. To take away his life, and with it his grief. And it's the one thing I can't do.

Never could, never would.

Never will.

But there's a small saving grace in his gesture.

About this, I can do something.

This time, I can choose to do nothing.

So I tell him, "Absolutely not."

And I turn my back on him.

I don't watch as he rises from his knees, but I hear the sound of his sword on the pavement.

I hear the sound of his footsteps, and I hear his voice, beyond consoling.

I go to Joe, old in his sorrow, and I let my comforting him comfort me, too.

There's nothing more I can do.

And the inspiring quote:

The Last Wish

Since all that I can ever do for thee Is to do nothing, this my prayer must be: That thou mayst never guess nor ever see The all-endured this nothing-done costs me.

--Edward, Earl of Lytton