A Highlander Lyric Wheel Fiction which comes, as always, with thanks to Amand_r.
Disclaimer: Characters from the television series Highlander are owned by Panzer-Davis productions.
I own nothing.
Rating: PG13, very nearly gen.
Please consider This Love's downbeat counterpoint to the current, slow, happyfic.
Belinda is, of course, from Bad Day at Building A. Endgame happened.
This one's for LovesToWrite, with thanks, not just for the story but for the music. Appreciated.


This Love
(These little lies we tell)


Jay Tryfanstone



[Jen]
The Other One came to my mother's funeral. Strange to say that: for most of the years of my life he's been Adam, himself, never Uncle Adam or Addy or Unk or any little name that's too small to encompass everything he means to me. But when I was young, he was the Other One, and Mac was just He. Him. I can't remember the first time I saw him, somewhere round the edges of my eyes, standing in the shadow of a corner or just across the road. I'm quite sure I never thought him threatening, just a little bit sad. There was one time I remember toddling up to him - I was quite young, it was before Adam - and asking him for a story, just like that: it wasn't that I didn't know about strange men, but he wasn't strange, he'd been there for all of my life. He just smiled at me, and then he got up and walked away.

[Belinda]
She marries on a rainy day in May. He's her knight in shining armour: she's his princess. She wears white, not new. Bobby Joe wears his interview suit. He holds her hand so tightly that his fingernails leave little white crescents in her skin. They fill with blood slowly, reddening. There are white roses in the church. They have two days in a motel on the coast - Bobby Joe's brother pays. She's a proud woman, but six weeks later when she bends her head over the basin something breaks.

In the night he turns to her as if the misplaced conjunction of their flesh will salve the wounds between them. She knows the feel of his hands better than the colour of his eyes. He says, come here; she says no, but speech failed her long before he ever touched her skin. As the child grows she makes patterns of magazines, postcards, bus tickets. She re-arranges the cupboards and hangs her washing in rows by colour.

She has a daughter, slipping free of her body in a rush of blood and love like a major chord. The lights hurt her eyes: she's high on oxygen. She's always been scared of strangers, writing, commitment: but she files papers with a steady hand and flies to some other city. Bobby Joe doesn't make the cheques.

She buys a pink sweater with a blonde unicorn, sized for a doll. She buys building blocks. She finds two rooms and a job in a cafe. Her baby floats away from her on a tide of letters: they communicate in parenthesis, in the gaps between words. She buys crayons, and puts drawings of Daddy on the wall. Later, she will buy paints.

[Jen]
I must have been about seven when, quite suddenly, Adam was there too. He wasn't Adam then; of course, he was the Other One, one of two of them. It changed us. We spoke: at first, little things, the way you acknowledge someone you know by sight but not by name. Then one afternoon Mum left me in the cafe for a bit - she was going to the lawyer, I think, and I'd probably been whining all day - and they were there. Adam started making origami waterlilies out of napkins, boats and fortune tellers and a dragon with flames coming out of its mouth: by the time Mum came back we were friends. I don't know why I felt so fiercely protective about them, but it was the first secret I ever kept from my mother: the games we played, the books we read, the drawings we made - how ironic that seems now! - the long conversations that seemed so much more grown-up than anything else in my life. It was Adam that spoke, mostly: Duncan was always quiet, I don't know how much he'd really had to do with children - but he smiled. More and more, as time went on. It didn't happen all at once, but slowly, as if he too had been hurt and was healing. I've never asked. I love Mac dearly, but I know there's some goodbyes he's never going to mention.

You can call it what you like. Sure, I missed having a Dad, but Mum was more than enough parent for me. It wasn't like I didn't have friends my own age either, and we did stuff together, kid stuff, then girl stuff and later on boy-stuff, but Mac and Adam were there for me, all the time. They were the ones I went to when things went wrong, or when things went really right, or - I remember Adam explaining my body to me one afternoon sitting by the river, and how Duncan's ears got redder and redder and how we both thought it hilariously funny.

[Belinda]
The man from New York doesn't buy the first painting, or the tenth. He buys the first one that takes all the words she can't say and scars them across the canvas, the one where it all comes right, the first one the downtown gallery takes. When the money comes she puts it on the table and walks round it 'til Jen comes in from school. Then they go house hunting. Later, the man buys another painting, and a third. Jen is dating. There is a space inside her only paint will fill. There are no fairy tales.

Jen leaves home. It's too soon. She looks round and her baby fades, is flown: she paints harder.

[Jen]
My mother and I very seldom spoke. It seems strange now, thinking about it: she was always a quiet woman, but as time went on she said things as words less and less. I learned to read her body, the way she stood: she learned to speak in paint. It wasn't that we didn't love each other, just that we didn't...connect like that. And I had Mac and Adam, after all, never intrusive, just that they were actually interested in what I did at school and what my grades were and which Uni I wanted to go to - Mac shot the video for the application. When I got the place at Berkeley they took me out to my first proper restaurant: waiters in gloves, half-a-dozen knives - we made hats out of napkins and persuaded the maitre d' to let us have a spoonful of every kind of pudding. I can't remember what I told Mum: maybe that it was a date, I don't remember. She was always painting by then, she'd started to get recognised. Mac helped, I think. He had a gallery in New York then, though I didn't know that for a long time.

It's odd how easily we managed that transition to an adult friendship. Maybe it was because they'd always treated me as an equal. Maybe I learnt to recognise that that kind of friendship is precious. Maybe I learned just to see them as who they were, themselves, not just who they were in relation to me, and I liked them. And they liked me.

Once, I asked them why. It was one of those lovely summer evenings, when the sun just hovers on the horizon: we'd had strawberries for pudding and Adam was feeding them to Mac, one by one. I said, I don't know, something about when I was very young and why they'd spoken to me, that first time, and how I recognised Mac...Adam froze then, very still. It's not something I see him do often, only when something threatens one of us - there was this one time with a man in the park, but - anyway, he froze, and it was Mac who said. "I knew your mother once, when she was very young." He said it very carefully, as if he had to think about every word.

I never mentioned it again.

[Belinda]
When she's sixty the gallery in New York holds a retrospective. She doesn't want to go. She doesn't like strange bathrooms. The man sends plane tickets and a gilt edged invitation with her name picked out in carmine. At the gallery, he says "I love your work." He's younger than she expects. He doesn't look at her, but at one of the new canvasses. Getting older, she has taken up realism, of a kind: Mab curls in an acorn cup. He says, "I wish I could do more." His voice is the colour of burnt sienna. She wonders what he means. He says, "It's nice to meet you again, after all these years." She doesn't say anything, although when he walks away the shape of his back is strangely familiar. She says, "I don't know you."

Beside her someone says, "We connect in our dreams." The room smells of flowers and turpentine. She turns round, but it's no-one she knows. He says, "Mac loves your paintings." His eyes are older than his face. He says, "Here, have some wine." Later, she paints his face under a death's head mask and MacLeod buys it for a six figure sum that pays for the first round of surgery and the last consultant. Towards the end, before Jen arrives, the man from the gallery sends her roses. She knows he won't say goodbye. He's said goodbye too many times before.

[Jen]
My mother never told me she was ill. It was the hospital that wrote to me, and by the time I got there it was almost too late. I think she probably couldn't talk, but I don't know what we'd have said to each other anyway. I held her hand. She smiled. She died gently, and I'm glad I was there. Afterwards I managed the funeral and the flowers and the notices in a kind of daze - it was like it was happening to someone else. There were thousands of flowers. I hadn't realised just how well known she was, or how people had loved her paintings. I called Adam, of course, and he flew down the next day. He was very gentle. He did it all right: did what I asked him, never tried to take over - I felt so brittle, like there wasn't a lot of me left - almost like it was when I was very small and we were just tiptoeing round each other, making a friendship out of scraps and bones. That's what I mean when I say it was the Other One that came to the funeral, back when we were both damaged...

Afterwards, I just wanted to go home, which by then was the big brownstone facing the park that Mac bought back in...oh, I don't know, it was just before Mum sold to the Met for the first time. Anyway, it was home to me, right from when Adam opened the big double doors and said, here, this is your room...Mac had two or three of Mum's paintings in the house. I knew them so well they were almost part of the scenery, but this time I walked in the door and went right up to the Death's Masque in the hall and just stood there and looked at it. You probably know the painting. It's from Mum's realistic period, a bit darker than most of her stuff: it's the one with the man in the mask and the really intricate collage round the edges. You've maybe seen it in a magazine somewhere, but when you're actually stood under it it's massive, nearly seven feet tall, and all the little details in the paintwork just sing out to you. I'd never really looked at it before, but this time I did. It's Adam in the mask, of course, that's why Mac bought it, but I'd never realised before...well, the way it's painted, it's almost frightening, but then you look at the way Adam curves his hands, almost like he's holding a child, and all the little figures in the smoke - there's a dragon in it, somewhere round the top corner, and a couple of imps, a princess - you can tell that by the hair - and there's this tall figure the Met says is Oberon but I swear it's Mac, you can tell by the shape of his back.

You'll read a lot of different critics who all have their own ideas about what my mother was trying to say, and she never gave interviews about work, ever. She never even spoke to me about it, not even when I was very young and she was just starting. But what this painting says to me, now, is love. Her love for me, Adam's, Mac's. This is all her fairy stories rolled into one and giftwrapped. I think the only reason she sold it to Mac was because she knew I'd have it too.

My mother and me, we never even said goodbye. But she loved me, and I loved her, this much I know I know.

Fin



Lyrics are This Love, from Maroon 5's album Songs About Jane.

I was so high I did not recognize
The fire burning in her eyes
The chaos that controlled my mind
Whispered goodbye as she got on a plane
Never to return again
But always in my heart

This love has taken its toll on me
She said Goodbye too many times before
And her heart is breaking in front of me
And I have no choice cause I won't say goodbye anymore

I tried my best to feed her appetite
Keep her coming every night
So hard to keep her satisfied
Kept playing love like it was just a game
Pretending to feel the same
Then turn around and leave again

But oh

This love has taken its toll on me
She said Goodbye too many times before
And her heart is breaking in front of me
And I have no choice cause I won't say goodbye anymore

I'll fix these broken things
Repair your broken wings
And make sure everything's alright
It's alright, it's alright
My pressure on her hips
Sinking my fingertips
Into every inch of you
Cause I know that's what you want me to do

This love has taken its toll on me
She said Goodbye too many times before
And her heart is breaking in front of me
I have no choice cause I won't say goodbye anymore

This love has taken its toll on me
She said Goodbye too many times before
And my heart is breaking in front of me
She said Goodbye too many times before

This love has taken its toll on me
She said Goodbye too many times before
And her heart is breaking in front of me
I have no choice cause I won't say goodbye anymore