Characters from the television series Highlander belong to RPD. Please
don't sue, I'm only playing.
Warnings: Er, purple prose? Slash, not particularly explicit, and
an ending that can't decide if it wants to be a beginning.
Characters: DM, M
Plot: PWP, but (gasp) this is in canon. It's about time.
Dedication: Craig, my dear, this one's for you, even if you're not
going to like anything about it except the title.
I did mention purple prose, didn't I?
December 1997. Lewis.
He curses himself for a fool even as he shoulders out of the warm firelight
into the night. It's winter. The wind rose in the afternoon, and now
it flirts with sleet, stinging and bitterly cold: it tugs at his hair
and his jacket. The flashlight he's borrowed from his landlady seems
pathetically inadequate, a small and faded circle of light swinging
on the track. After two or three steps he gives up and switches it off,
leaning into the wind with his eyes closed. It doesn't matter. His eyesight
will adapt and, anyway, he knows this track. He's walked it ten times
in the last fortnight, in daylight, in cloud, in the shifting purple
light of the twilight hour. Never like this, though, never on this night.
But still, his eyes tearing and the breath coming cold and damp in his
mouth, he walks forward.
It's twenty minutes, in the pale winter sunshine. At night he doesn't
know how long it takes to struggle up to the brow of the hill and pause
there, before he ducks his head again and steps forward.
forbid ye, maidens a',
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tamlane is there.
has craved this, the sense of peace, of solitude, of being in a place
which is no longer quite part of this world and so is unaware of the
depth of his failures and betrayals. He is, after all, a child of the
Highlands, and the veil is thin here. He did not come for absolution,
for the men and women who could give him that are gone. He came for
Tonight, though, even as he crests the hill, enters the avenue, and
his feet adjust to the tough short-cropped grass underfoot, he is aware
that he is not alone. There is something in the night with him, a presence
which is as aware of him as he is of it. As if, somewhere outside the
storm, someone watches, waits, neutral.
cum and gang to Carterhaugh,
And ask nae leave o him.'
is not entirely unexpected. Tonight is the winter solstice, the day
of the dead. It is, although Duncan does not know it, two minutes to
He can barely see the luminous stripes on his own jacket: he doesn't
see the first stone of the central circle, only careers into its solid
weight and hangs there, gasping into the wind that has risen vicious
and keening against his skin. The stone is not smooth, like the terrible,
yet gentler monoliths of Stonehenge. Callanish rises sharp-edged and
proud into a harsher sky, the fourteen stones of its inner ring half
grouped. He circles them all, slowly, one by one, navigating by touch,
and as he does the wind tears at him as if it would rip him from the
earth. Yet at the same time he can hear the pipes, wilder and stranger
than the pipes of his childhood, and as he touches each stone and moves
on they become louder. He completes the circle and rests in the lee
of the kingstone. It's then that he feels, light and exact, the touch
of someone else's presence on his, but it never occurs to him that this
is a threat. Instead, blinded, panting, he leaves the guide and walks
sure-footed to the central monolith. The wind screams in his ears, sending
sleet vicious and cold as grief against his skin, but he still kneels
and places his sword on the short grass and bows his head.
He has come here to forget, but in this moment he remembers the long
line of his dead, the betrayed, the mortal, the murdered, the long,
long list of the people he has loved and who died because of him. He
does not need to see their faces, for their voices are with him.
But there is something else here with him in the night. It's a presence
which raises the hair on the back of his neck and his head from his
crossed forearms, a presence which stills the wind and the rain and
leaves him alone with the music.
Why pu ye the rose, Janet ?
What gears ye break the tree ?
Or why come ye to Carterhaugh,
Withouten leave o me ?
the knowledge that someone stands behind him. He does not rise or turn,
for if in this moment he looses his life it is payment due and just.
Yet steel does not sing through the air, and the half-wanted fire of
pain does not come, nor the long, cold slide into a death he does not
understand but would welcome. Instead he feels, so lightly, a pair of
hands draw a line down the skin of his face, span the curve of his cheekbones
and his lips, come to rest, finally, and close his eyes. No more than
fingertips rest on his skin, cool and steady and accepting. The briefest
He can, he is sure, smell the shy wild scent of the white five-petalled
aye, at every seven years,
They pay the teind to hell;
And I am sae fat and fair of flesh,
I fear 't will be mysell.
nods his head in assent, and the fingers leave his skin, leave him.
He is alone and not alone: he stands, questing, into the faintest blush
of warmth on his skin, cocks his head to the skirl of the pipes. And
someone takes his hand, twines their fingers in his, long, thin fingers,
smooth skin: pulls him forward, gently. He takes a step forward, another,
desperately uncertain. But the hand pulls so gently, and now his other
hand is taken. Step again, and again, and suddenly he realises that
he is moving to a rhythm he recognises. He takes another step with the
rhythm of the dance already beating in his blood, and another. The hands
in his tighten, lift, accepting, urging, and he holds them, resting
his weight against a grip which gives him exactly the strength he needs.
He leans back into that acceptence, dances. Blind, but he does not stumble:
trusting, but he is trusted. Stepping, spinning, letting go only to
reach and find himself met, step for step and strength for strength,
he dances between the stones.
As he dances it seems that all the griefs and regrets slide into the
music, keep pace with him but play outside his mind, not in it: the
pipes sound for him, not them. He is free, here, and he pulls the companion
of this freedom closer and swings faster into the grip of those long
fingers, just for the joy of it. He is laughing, tipping his head back,
feeling welcome warmth break over his face. With that he lets go of
one of those hands, strips his jacket from his arm, swops hands and
discards it. He is aware of unspoken and pleased amusement. It might
have been enough, just this, the dance and the acceptence, but he wants
more. He swings the weight of his partner forward into his arms, holding
tight, aware that the tall figure under his figure never misses a beat.
Slides into the dance, into Duncan's arms, as if they have down this
many times before, under many different skies. It's not the yielding
softness of a woman he holds, as it had been in the early years of his
manhood, but he has known all along that the hands that matched his
were those of a man. But the strength that echoes his does not test
or threaten but instead sings with his, point to counter point, braids
neatly under and around his own, gives him courage. Even now, he could
walk away. He knows that. But the rules are different, here, tonight,
and he allows himself to run his hands across broad shoulders and narrow
waist, pulls this graceful, limber body into his own and dances with
it until they make one shadow in the darkness.
Although he is not entirely certain that they dance in the dark, for
the light beyond his closed eyes is silver, not black, and he is so
warm now that it could be summer, a long lazy Highland summer warmth.
Then, just as he starts to feel tired, the pipes slow, fading, and the
figure in his arms moves against his, the first time either of them
has broken the rhythm. Weight tugs against his hands. The witching hour
is over, and already he feels colder, feels the faintest whisper of
a wind that should be howling in his ears.
It's not enough. He holds tighter, feels the man in his arms brace to
pull away, takes the curve of short soft hair - sidhe hair, he knows
without looking it will be black as midnight against white skin - in
his hands and turns his face against skin, smooth, the angularities
of cheekbone and nose and finally the softness of a mouth that opens,
startled and gasping, against his own. He kisses blind, tasting warmth
and honey, texture, fear, but the man in his arms has loosened and twines
against him now soft as the petals of a rose. He reaches, uncertain
but very sure that this is what he wants, and finds himself met desire
for desire, sliding down into the softness of the grass slow and sweet,
mixing memory and blind need, hand to hand, skin to skin. He discovers
himself unclothed, gently, by hands both urgent and shaking, unclothes,
with a touch that maps and learns all the unseen curves and plains of
another body. This strange new land...hard, soft, hot, velvet and cream:
he tastes, licking across skin that shudders under, over, beneath his,
is touched, tongue and teeth and the dry heat of eight insistent fingers
and two sundering thumbs.
taen her by the milk-white hand,
Among the leaves sae green,
And what they did I cannot tell.
The green leaves were between.
finds himself taken and shaped to the tune of a desire that should be
alien but is terribly familiar, as if he has done this before, here,
with this man. Stretched, entered, completed, broken and remade, trusting
and trusted with powerful vulnerability.
taen her bv the milk-white hand,
Among the roses red,
And what they did I cannot say,
She neer returnd a maid.
finally, he comes, is allowed to come, slides into it, feels it crash
over him, unendurable, unforgettable, he knows that the man with him,
inside him, shudders and gasps with him. It's his own name sent screaming,
frayed, into the darkness, where he is silent. He will recognise the
cry of that voice in his dreams, undone by passion and sounded in love.
Now fear, sudden and black and bitter, follows the moments of golden
peace: he rolls, grasping, but the man with him slides out of his fingers
like an eel, an adder, cool and shifting and gone, and he can feel the
darkness against his eyes. He holds fast as long as he can, to the fingers
that held his moments ago with a grip of iron and now fight his wanting
with equal force. He opens his eyes.
And the dark takes him.
In the morning, when he wakes, stiff and cold and clothed, with a fading
headache and a precious sense of peace regained, he remembers one thing.
His lover's eyes are green as grass.
Queen of Fairies keppit me
In yon green hill to dwell,
And I'm a fairv, lyth and limb,
Fair ladye, view me well.
Paris, 2002. Winter.
The fire in the grate flares after the whisky, the glass given to the
flames. He stares into it for long moments, remembering another solstice
night, when he was alone and bitter and not here. His own place, his
books, his friend curled up on the sofa, his mind at peace. He can hear
the music at the back of his mind, soft and sweet, and Methos has brought
roses, small white winter roses still cool with dew. But there is something
lurking at the edges of his mind, something which uncurls in the peace
of this moment and says, remember, remember...
He turns around suddenly, and Methos' dark head lifts, eyes wide and
Methos' white skin, his dark hair, his limber body. Methos dancing,
"Have you ever been to Lewis?" Duncan finds himself asking.
Methos frowns at him. He shakes his head, once, and turns himself emphatically
back to the book in his hands. Don't disturb me, Highlander. No.
But it is not for nothing that he's watched the old man all these years,
Methos talking, lying to him. He recognises the slight tuck at the corner
of Methos' mouth and the way his lashes lower a fraction too quickly.
Suddenly sure, he leaves the fire and walks forward into the older immortal's
space, leans forward, and as Methos looks up, startled, he looks down
into the infinite green of his lover's eyes.
I but had the wit yestreen
That I hae coft the day,
I'd paid my kane seven times to bell
Ere you'd been won away.'
he says, with absolute certainty, for surely now he can hear at the
back of his mind a tune that he recognises, and the sound of the pipes
is both strange and very sweet. "Dance with me."
And Methos lets go of the book and slides upwards into his fingers so
gently it's as if they have never not been lovers.
Obviously, Winter Solstice references Tam Lin. The verses I quote come
from Sir Walter Scott's Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, (1833),
but there are many versions. The best sung version I know is by Frankie
Armstrong, on the album I heard a Woman Singing, which is one
of the most terrifying pieces of music making I've ever heard.
taken her by the lily-white hand
And by the grass-green sleeve
And he's laid her down at the foot of a bush
He's never once asked her leave, me boys,
He's never once asked her leave
when it was done she has turned herself about
To ask her true-love's name
But she nothing heard and nothing saw
And all the woods grew dim, me boys,
And all the woods grew dim
might also recognise Joan Baez (Green is the colour of my true love's
eyes / In the morning, when I wake) and also Elliott (Mixing
memory and desire). Before anyone starts getting worried, any references
to Callanish apart from the purely factual are entirely and known to
be the product of my imagination.
produced a podfic of Winter Solstice. Amazing how different the
story reads, read aloud.
She did a beautiful piece of work. Download below: at Sendspace.