Insomnia
Pat Bentley

This is a middle-of-the-night Methos mind-doodling piece that involves Alexa.

This is my first net published story (very deep breath). No sex (sorreee). Lots of angst though, if you’re into that. I’m guessing this is rated NC-17 for graphic violence and language. Anybody interested in archiving this, let me know.

Here’s the fun part, explaining how this came about. Blame it on Amand-r. She wrote that incredible story, "Heat Goes to Cold" in second person, present tense, which allows for a very interesting study in introspection. Crawling into Methos’s mind, so to speak. I sort of meander between past and present tenses in the flashback, but hey, it’s a dream, so who cares.

Also, partially to blame is my dearest dear net buddy, Helen in Greece, who hates Alexa stories. Forgive me, my beautiful Stagie, you made this a kind of challenge. Mea culpa mea culpa, indulge me this whim. Blame it on that pesky muse who wakes me too early and ruins me for the rest of the day, and for having death on the brain a little too much lately. Maybe this is just my way of working the whole thing out. I dedicate this story to you, Stagie, Alexa and all.

Last to blame is the magnificent and haunting voice of Kate Bush, for it is she who has sustained me musically for the past two and three quarter decades. I am a musician and I wish I could do more here than simply share the song lyrics with you. Better that you listen to the CD, "The Sensual World", specifically, the song "This Woman’s Work," and you’ll understand where this is all coming from. (Kate Bush Music Ltd. 1989. Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc.)

Big mahalo nui loa (for the uninitiated, that’s "big thanks" in Hawaiian) to Hyper Bunny for checking the fight logistics for me. And to my Significant Other for putting up with talking about impalings and beheadings in the wee hours of the night. Mark, you are my hero.

Obligatory disclaimer: I’m playing in the sandbox with the Rysher characters. I don’t own them. Actually, I think they own themselves, but that’s another issue... I’m making no money off this. Just doing it out of love.

The story takes place around the time of Forgive Us Our Trespasses. DMOTCM is nowhere in sight.

3:30 a.m. Awful dreams.

You roll over with a jolt. Your nightmares have left you cold, frazzled. They were vivid and horrible only moments before, but now are thankfully fading. You wake your mind up just enough to banish them, yet not too awake. One sleep-encrusted eye peers at the glowing numbers on the clock next to your bed. Why must you always do that? Awaken too early? Now you’ll toss about, restless, thinking too much, unable to quiet your mind enough to drift back into oblivion. You’ll be robbed once again of those precious couple more hours of sleep that would have you feeling completely rested. You really hate facing the day tired and grouchy—probably as much as the people in your life hate being around you when you’re tired and grouchy.

It doesn’t seem to matter where on the planet you find yourself in bed, with body clock attuned to each new locale and time zone, it still happens. And you’re a master at resetting that body clock of yours, especially now with this recent advent of travel by jet plane. Lots and lots of practice.

You lie quietly still. Maybe if you don’t move at all, your brain will stop churning. You are aware you are alone this night. At least you won’t be disturbing a bed partner, which would necessitate explaining yourself while attempting to spare them your characteristic mid-night irritability. What had you done in your sleep this time? Had you thrashed about violently as you were known to do? Did you cry out? Did you mumble incoherent confessions in any one of the hundreds of current or dead languages you could rattle off the top of your head, out of the depths of your subconscious? You’re never sure what it is you say and do in that in-between place, between sleep and waking. This leaves you feeling unsettled, off balance.

You become aware of discomfort in your bladder and fling the covers aside, feet to the floor, padding off to the loo. Damn, this will guarantee you won’t get back to sleep now. You grope your way confidently in the dark, not wanting any light to invade your half-closed, puffy eyes. You’ve performed this little ritual every night of your life, over the millennias, this humble task of stumbling in the dark, seeking relief. Same as everyone else on the planet. Same as it ever was. That song, "Once in a Lifetime," "water flowing under ground." Reminds you of indoor plumbing.

Not the same as it ever was though. You vaguely remember tripping off into the dark, bare-footed and evading sharp stones and bushes. Or having to suit up in layers of coats and foot covering to wade into frozen snow and bitter cold— looking for a tree. You did so appreciate those indoor Roman facilities when they finally came about. Civilization in all it’s glory. Toilets, the true mark of a cultured world. The Arab and Greek upper classes caught on pretty quick. The Chinese had always been delicate and perceptive in these concerns. But the Europeans—they were entirely another matter. Frankly, it surprised you they survived down through the ages at all, given their barbaric privy and personal hygienic practices. The dreadful smell of their cities was so appalling that it had, at times, been a trial to live among them. Or, even worse, to sleep with their women. It seemed a miracle to you that they bred at all back then. Gods, it was enough to send any respectable man to a monastery to copy texts for decades. Still, you kept going back there. And that makes you wonder about you.

Mission accomplished, you feel your way back toward your bed. You’re trying to maintain a mental blur. Your bare wood floor creaks beneath your weight. It feels cool, sleek, not like sand, not stone or straw. You notice the papillae, little bumps of goose flesh, erupting on your arms from a window you’d left open. There’s a soft breeze blowing in. What is this? Ah yes, summer. Seacouver. You are shirtless, clothed only in what they now call "briefs." It’s actually quite pleasantly warm tonight. Your head is achy, but this doesn’t concern you. It’ll pass soon enough. Last night you were listening to music before you went to bed way too late, with way too much to drink. And there’s this melody stuck in your head, thrashing about. Sort of like a music hangover.

You flop back onto the mattress and pull the light covers over you to shelter your skin from the night air. One more morose glance at the clock, which thankfully, hasn’t moved that much. Maybe you’ll have time enough to drift off again before the hard light of day—and those damned noisy birds—invade your senses. You can hold your breath for ten minutes under water (something you found out accidentally), you can slow down your heart rate, you can hum "om" biphonically. Damn it, why can’t you simply fall back to sleep? You mumble aloud the word "damn" in a dozen different dialects.

The song won’t be banished. You knew better than to drag that CD out last night. Gods, such an irritatingly sentimental old fool you are sometimes (although only in private; you’d never admit to that in a thousand years). Now you’ll pay for it in lack of sleep. You couldn’t remember the dream images moments before, but now one comes in loud and clear. Alexa. And death. The two are one image. You hear in your mind that first phrase of piano notes. Long fingered hands laying tenderly on piano keys. Like the silky touch of skin.

"Pray God you can cope..."

The willowy, child-like voice of Kate Bush. She does it to you every time. Every single time she takes your heart and dives into an abyss of misery and ache, and then soars past the heavens. How does she do that? Why do you, time and time again, keep going back there? You wonder about your sanity.

"I know you have a little life in you yet

I know you have a lot of strength left..."

You sandwich your head between the pillows and adjust your position comfortably on that side. The smell of your freshly washed sheets is a solace. Not animal skins, not lumpy down quilts. Not the odor of log fires permeating every piece of cloth, every object in the house. You nestle lower, stretching out into your covers and heave a long sigh. Ah, the creature comforts of modern living. Toilets, washing machines. Cleanliness. Warmth. You wonder if other people appreciate these small, every day miracles the way you do in these, the waning moments of the twentieth century. When the millennium hits, does that make you another thousand years older? Good lord! It almost makes you shudder. But then, who the hell’s counting? And according to whose calendar?

"Sleep." You think the word over and over, like a monotonous mantra. But it’s not working. You try to clear your mind of thoughts. Just go blank. Didn’t you study meditation with that Tibetan lama awhile back? Surely some of what he taught you took. Ah, but you’ve defeated yourself at the onset. You are trying. Let’s approach this again. You’re not trying, you are being. In the moment. In the abyss, the blur. The noh. The single, unending vibration...

Fifteen minutes later, your brain is still wide awake, even if the rest of you isn’t. And that oppressive song is still haunting you. The words are in English. You are in a place where they speak that language. Kate is English. It’s got to be Kate’s voice that does it to you. The song doesn’t even relate to you, fergodsake! How could it? It’s about fatherhood, and childbirth. And the fear of death. At least, that’s what you picked up from the video. It’s absurd. You can’t have children. You can’t have that kind of normal life. Not like them.

Yet you have had children. Not your own, of course, but you have tended a few. And you have been there, been where the song talks about. Standing by, awaiting word. The weird thing about it is that you never related the song to that event specifically. No. In some off-the-wall, ill-begotten, metaphorical way, it was always about Alexa dying. Bits, snippets of out-of-order lyrics scream through your brain. Like Kate’s screams. She screams and shrieks so beautifully. And then, she’s the man in the song, speaking his internal and external thoughts. What a mysterious, well conceived piece. How horribly appropriate.

Kate switches from a voice of a child needing comfort to another voice, a deadly serious adult needing comfort.

"All the things we should’ve said
that we never said,
All the things we should’ve done
that we never did
All the things I should’ve given
but I didn’t"

What else could you have given her? You wanted it to be perfect, your ‘tour of the New World’. All those places you’d been time and again, though entirely new to her. San Francisco, and the drifting fog, all the touristy spots. The majestic vastness of the Grand Canyon. Chicago blues. New Orleans sleaze. The Florida Keys—Margarettaville, and Hemmingway hideouts. New York, the fast track, the off-Broadway theatre. Then time was running out. Egypt. Greece. The end of the line.

You sometimes surprised yourself by morbidly staring into Alexa’s face, imagining the flesh melting away, hollow eye holes, sharp-edged bones protruding through rotting skin. Then you’d blink and feel depraved and foolish. It wasn’t so much the knowing death would happen, it was more about the knowing when that got to you. Like an impending execution without hope for reprieve. You wracked your brain grasping at straws, looking for anything, any way at all, to cheat Death. Like the way you cheat Death every day.

You didn’t want to tell Lex about you, about the immortality. It seemed so damned unfair. Like rubbing the unattainable in her face. Like salt poured into a seething wound. But it got away from you. Couldn’t exactly just explain it away, what happened. Then again, you could have controlled that volcanic temper of yours that you always let seethe and fester much too long... until those hideous little repressed sides of you come peeking out.

"Give me these moments back
Give them back to me
Give me that little kiss
Give me your... hand"

Give in to it. Just ride the thoughts through, you tell yourself. If it’s nagging you this badly, then let it go. Those pre-waking dream images. Something about white lime-painted cement houses. Donkey carts. Ah yes, now you get it. Hard-beating sun, yet cold air. 2 April 1996. Barren hillsides and sea cliffs. Santorini, the top of the volcano. Gloriously blue ocean. Not just blue, but all the incredible shades it could be, each clearly defined, each pulling the eye to wonderment. Octopus hanging on clothes lines to dry. Black robed priests and black clad old women with heads covered. And yes, the brilliance of the sun going down. Sweat, despite the breezes, even at that time of the afternoon, at that time of the year. Alexa’s there. Still healthy and filled with life, still so beautiful to you. She’d been your wife for nearly two weeks. Each dawn was a radiant gift in her eyes, bringing a sense of awe into your jaded world, into your tormented soul. You’d never planned to allow Lex to affect you the way she did. You were so certain you could handle it, that it would all just pass away and leave you unchanged. You’ve seen people you cared about whither and die in front of your very eyes before. This time would be no different.

You never took her to your house outside Athens, the one you’ve been living in off and on for the past hundred years. The house you’d had specially built on that exact spot overlooking the ocean and familiar ruins below. You made sure she would never share that part of your life, never share those rooms, that bed. That she would never know your real name. Methos. Her memory would not affect you there. On that trip to Greece, you so eloquently played the tourist. You stayed at a bed and breakfast villa in Phira, run by an elderly couple you had met on Mykonos the year before. They always called you "Adama," and treated the two of you like you were their family. You consciously decided long before you took her there, that Santorini should be the place you would remember her by later. The place you would probably never return to again.

On that particular day you remember you were angry, brooding. That morning you watched Alexa have a reaction to her medication. She’d spent almost an hour in spells of vomiting and dry heaves. She looked like a ghost and you could do nothing for her. It left her spent and trembling, yet that afternoon, she insisted you leave the car parked and you two walk the distance of the small town. You cursed inept and vulgar modern medicine that seemed to have progressed no further than leaches, blood-letting, and skull drills. You’d put your faith in those drugs to prolong the quality of her life, not to prolong and add to the suffering. You cursed you for not finding a cure yourself. God knows, you had the time. But no, you’d rather hide. You realized, in that moment, just how little the world had changed in these many thousands of years. Just how little people knew about life and death.

You and she had walked through the quiet island town, and stopped for an early dinner at one of those outdoor cafes. Then you felt it. The Buzz. It set your hands and your mind tingling, then the sensation passed. You see him. Your eyes meet. You don’t know this one. You size him up. He appears older than you, but he’s a young one, new to immortality, to the Game. You can see it in how he carries himself. Hair streaked with gray, a short beard. Bigger build than you, but not taller. That doesn’t mean anything. You can take him easily, and not even work up a sweat. He sees you, eyes you up and down with a scowl. This meeting appears to be accidental. He takes a table at the far end of the cafe, but within easy eye and ear shot. You wonder who is his mentor, if he might be close by. You scan the street around you and feel nothing. Does he have a Watcher yet? He orders his coffee in Greek, periodically glancing in your direction. He’s sizing you up as well.

You make yourself look vulnerable, intimidated. Alexa isn’t catching any of this. You don’t think this one will simply walk away. He’ll need to be persuaded. You instinctively check for your sword, which you’d foolishly left it in the car, maybe a mile away. Alexa thought it was very strange you had it at all, and you didn’t feel like arguing with her about it. When you first showed it to her, you performed a kata of sorts, letting her think it was a hobby. You told her that you and MacLeod spar from time to time at his dojo. She bought the hobby part, but not how you wanted to carry it with you all the time.

You did have a dagger though, a very long and fine one, strapped to your jeans behind you. You’d held your own at sword point with it more than once. He hears you speak to the waiter in English. You were irritated about something. Something idiotic, like the restaurant gave you problems with the kind of credit card you offered and you had to give away the rest of your handy cash to pay for the meal. No bank machines around and tomorrow would be Sunday. You were cursing your stupidity for not thinking ahead, all the while putting up a face for Lex that everything was well. You do that, tend to bottle things up too much. Then, when you explode...

The two of you get up from your table to leave the cafe, and your little friend across the way quickly pays the tab for his drink. You start down the street and he follows a distance behind. You choose the ground, luring him onto a deserted, narrow street. As soon as he enters the close confines, you turn to confront him. Alexa is confused but you’re not thinking about her at this moment. You motion her away and focus completely on him. Very ancient, primal instincts kick in at that moment.

"Do you want something?" you ask him in Greek.

"You know what I want," he answers in English, and reaches into his coat for a sword.

"You gotta be kidding. Do I know you?" You glance sideways at Alexa, who’s starting to freak.

"What does it matter? I am Rota. You’re immortal, that’s enough."

You don’t reciprocate the name exchange. He’s got a heavy Greek accent. He’s a local, just what you didn’t need. You really don’t want to whack this guy, but you may have to to keep him out of your way later.

"Look, whoever you are, I’d really rather not do this in front of the lady. I’m unarmed. We’re on vacation." Doing your defenseless routine. Works every time. Sucks ‘em in. This makes you chuckle inside. Odd how things come to you at the strangest possible moments. Reminds you of that scene in the Felini movie, "Satyracon," where the young hero tries to talk his way out of a battle with the Minotaur by pleading, "I’m not a fighter, I’m a student." You’ve used that one many times. Even with the Watchers. "Why don’t you just turn around and walk away before somebody gets hurt."

He sniffs, unimpressed, and steps in closer, taking a solid stance. He brings his blade into view.

Your nostrils flare as your face goes expressionless, except for your eyes— piercing, narrow. Your movements are precise, almost machine-like. He’s right handed. You are ambidextrous. He’s bulkier than you. You are faster. His single edged cutlass is a lighter weight and not as strong a blade as the one you carry. Who’s mentoring this guy? He makes his move, slicing from left to right, wide and high. Right, like he’s immediately going for your throat. This isn’t going to take long.

You take advantage of the opening and half turn into his body with your back against his chest, your right shoulder blocking the motion of his sword arm. You grab the sensitive pressure points on his wrist and pull his hand back hard to the forearm. You hear it crack. The wrist goes limp. The hilt falls from his hand into yours, and you scoop the sword blade around, under your arm. You kick his knee out from under him and yank his arm forward, while giving the sword a hard thrust backward into his body. You feel the blade penetrate flesh and bone, half way to the hilt. So easy. The feel of it in your hand, that sensation of power, is exhilarating. He drops away like lead behind you. As he falls, you turn into him and twist the blade, driving it upward into his body before you wrench the sword free. All of this in a fluid single motion, and not even a bruise on you. It felt -- fun. Instinctively, you poise to make the single handed lethal cut to the throat. Then stop.

"Adam!"

Alexa. Shit! Holy bloody damn hell! You’re swearing in fifteen languages again. Why did you do that with her standing right there? You could have taken him down without the extraneous gore.

"Don’t worry, he’s not dead." You’re trying to reassure her. She’s not buying it.

"What do you mean, he’s not dead? You just gutted him with a sword!"

"He’s immortal." That stupid bastard. You toss his sword to the ground and sit on a door step. "Give it a minute. He’ll come ‘round." It’s then you realize there’s blood on you that isn’t his; the sword sliced into your side as well, along your rib cage. A shot of pain brings you back to reality. Lex sees your wound. You can’t remember what it was you said exactly about that. You cup your face in your hands and lean into your knees, trying to get a grip on your composure. You look up into her bewildered face. She sees Death in yours. That is who you are. You have that power and you can still wield it with abandon when the opportunity presents itself. You still take pleasure in it. Are you lying to yourself that you’ve changed? No getting out of telling her about you now. "He’s immortal, like me." You really don’t want to get into this. You wonder how little you can get away with telling her. She’s not stupid. She’s going to ask questions. Lots of questions. This fuels your anger.

She’s looking about, wondering if you’ve been seen or heard, worried about you, acting like she’s an accessory to murder. She wants to protect you. Now there’s a novel reaction you haven’t seen in awhile. She doesn’t know whether to go for help or stay put, and is bewildered that you continue to sit there doing nothing. Then she sees your wound heal, her eyes wide as saucers.

Minutes later, Rota rouses to consciousness, surprised to find his head is still attached. You wonder if he suddenly has a new appreciation for being alive. Nah, probably not.

Alexa gasps.

"See, I told you," you tell her wearily.

Then, as though you switch gears, you stand over him and hold his sword to his throat. "I’m armed now." You’re gloating, you can’t help it. You bend over and grab him by the hair, snarling into his face. "You’re a very lucky man this day, filos mau," you tell him mostly in English. No, you growl at him. "You’ve got her to thank for that. Don’t you EVER cross my path again!" You huff and push his head back hard to the pavement. What you’d really like to do is turn him into a pin cushion. "Now walk away, fool."

Rota coughs, grasping his stomach and his wounded pride. The front of his clothes, and the pavement where he fell, are spattered in blood and entrails. He reaches for his sword. Ah, this one wants to play. You snatch it up before he does and shatter it against the wall of a house. "Get yourself a better blade," you snap back to him in Greek, kicking the hilt. "That one you had was crap. At least make the challenge interesting."

You grab Alexa’s arm, escorting her through the narrow street back to a main road. She looks back at the man on the pavement, who is attempting now to stand.

She asks you, "What do you mean, immortal?"

Now will come all the questions. You are furious. Your words are coming out in spurts. "We don’t die. Not like mortals." You try to regain your presence of mind. "Lets go back to the villa. This is going to take a bit of explaining." You swear, never NEVER again will you go anywhere without your sword. You should have your head examined!

Kate is screaming—
...make it go away
Just make it go away now"
All the things you couldn’t give her...

It was just as well she died when she did. Then she didn’t have to live with you, and with what you are. But, what about the next one, the next mortal incarnation of ‘beloved’? The one who’s going to live? You know who that is.

A heaviness is settling in on you. What a relief. Your thoughts take on a hazy, less defined tone. You think of pearls on a long strand extending down through time, far, far back—all the "beloveds" who had come before. Some orbs are large, some small, some in odd shapes and textures. You picture a needle penetrating through the layers of nacre, the calcium skins giving way, all the way to the core, then out the other side. Another bead on the strand. But unlike the others, this last one is black. It stands out from the rest. The black pearl, the most precious, most treasured of all. The spike stands ready, awaiting the next iridescent, transient bead.

You drop away into unconsciousness. Blackness. Temporary release.

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