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The Rhymer and the Ancient Mariner

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Summary: After getting his soul, Spike runs into the world's oldest man who helps him deal with his soul-induced guilt.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Highlander > Spike-Centered > Pairing: Other(Past Donor)spikeNdruFR1815,734762,3448 Aug 058 Aug 05Yes
Title: The Rhymer and the Ancient Mariner

Author: spikeNdru

Rating: Adult/FR-18/Mature

Pairing: Spike/Methos

Warnings: M/M slash; nothing else excessive.

Author's Notes/Summary: After getting his soul, Spike runs into the world's oldest man who helps him deal with his soul-induced guilt. Takes place during the summer between Seasons 6 and 7 of BtVS.

Disclaimer: BtVS and AtS characters are the property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy/20th Century Fox. Highlander characters are the property of Panzer/Davis Productions, Gaumont International and Rysher Entertainment. No infringement is intended.

Spike gradually regained consciousness, and with consciousness came the awareness that every bone, muscle and tendon in his body hurt. No, not 'hurt'—every inch of him throbbed with pain, so that he could almost believe he had a heart that beat. His entire body felt like it was on fire, and he forced his swollen eyelids open to check for the sun. If he was about to turn into dust, he wanted to know—not let it catch him unaware.

He breathed a faint sigh of relief that it was still dark. But the burning sensation did not abate. It seemed to be inside him. He painfully turned over, trying to support his weight on his hands to push himself to his feet. The effort left him weak and shaking.

A patch of blacker darkness appeared to be the mouth of a cave, and he remembered where he was and that he had chosen to undergo the demon trials to earn back his soul. He clutched at his chest, where the burning seemed to be centered, and staggered two steps to the tree that held out an offer of support. His fingernails left bloody half-moons on his chest as he dug into the skin, trying to ease the burning inside.

And then the ghosts came . . .

Spike felt disoriented . . . disconnected. He'd wandered through the Congo like bloody Dr. Livingston for days . . . weeks? . . . because he'd conceived the urge to see Lake Victoria whilst he was here in Africa. Did they still call it the Congo? Half the world had changed names since he'd learned his geography, and at the moment, he just couldn't be bothered keeping up. Ceylon . . . Persia . . . he had a vague recollection that they were called something else now. Was Turkey still 'Turkey'? There was a song about Istanbul and Constantinople, but he couldn't remember which term was current.

He didn't even want to think about Eastern Europe. It was better that he didn't. Eastern Europe was peopled with ghosts — the ghosts of all their victims. How many had he slaughtered? Less than Angelus. Less than Darla. More than he could stand to remember. Happy Meals on legs. He'd given no more thought to his victims than humans did to the individual cattle they consumed. They were food — nothing else. Angelus always liked to play with his food, but not him — not Spike. He supposed it didn't matter. In the end, his victims were just as dead. Cattle.

Did humans ever dream of all the cattle that gave their lives to sustain them? Probably not. Eating cattle wasn't a sin — unless you were Hindu, he supposed. Then it might be a sin, but he didn't really know enough about the Hindu religion to ascertain that with any certainty.

But he did know that the C of E definitely prohibited eating people. Not that he particularly cared what the Church thought. He hadn't been to Church in well over a hundred years, with the exception of accompanying Angelus to various convents, of course. But, as they were R.C. And he was decidedly C of E, he didn't suppose that could really be counted as 'attending church'.

Oh, god! What was wrong with him? Was he going insane? Who gave a toss what the C of E thought? Eating people was wrong! Morally and ethically wrong, because . . . 'because it's wrong!' Buffy's voice echoed in his ears and he dropped to a crouch and gripped his head.

No! No thinking about Buffy! He had enough to deal with without adding Buffy to the mix. He could never, never atone for all the evil he'd done. Why had he ever thought he could? What had possessed him to even try? He'd thought getting his soul back would make him a better man. He knew now that was a fruitless hope. His soul was stained with the blood of all his victims — the nameless, but not faceless, victims who had taken up residence in his soul and who now tormented him with guilt.

He couldn't go back to Europe or America — back to where he'd so wantonly slaughtered. It was better in Africa. He'd never actually killed anyone in Africa, to his knowledge, so the ghosts that accompanied him seeking recognition were at once removed. In Europe the memories would overwhelm him . . .

Where could he go? To Persia or Babylonia? The Cradle of Civilization — maybe in the Cradle he could be reborn . . . be civilized and learn to find some way of living with the horrors of all he had done. What the bloody hell was Babylonia called now?

Adam Pierson marked his place in the book he had been reading with a torn piece of acid-free paper and carefully closed it. He stood and stretched, feeling the tightness in his back, shoulders and thighs from sitting for too long in one position. If Duncan was here, he'd be suggesting Tai Chi or one of the other martial arts in which he excelled. Duncan was so . . . physical. The last time Adam had visited Duncan, he'd been woken up at the ass-crack of dawn by Duncan's enthusiastic rendition of Canadian Air Force exercises.

Adam shook his head and smiled again. He was constitutionally opposed to most forms of exercise on general principle, and as he had absolutely no desire to join the Canadian Air Force—or any other air force—he'd gone out for coffee and left Duncan to the dubious enjoyment of his exercises. Now, a nice long walk was something else entirely. In fact, an evening stroll to clear the cobwebs sounded like just the thing.

Adam glanced down at his oatmeal-colored cotton knit sweater and pale gray linen pants. His clothes were fine, but he traded the clogs he'd been wearing for a pair of Saucony trainers. The wry smile was back as he remembered a time when he'd transversed half the known world barefoot, or with only flimsy papyrus-reed sandals to protect his feet. He much preferred the comforts of the modern world!

Adam stepped out on his veranda and took a deep breath of the fragrant evening air, then turned back into the house. He slid a slim katana into the sheath on his back and pulled his sweater over it. His preferred 13th century broadsword was too large to bother with for a peaceful evening walk, but he hadn't lived for over 5000 years by being careless. Swordsmanship was the one form of exercise in which he excelled. As more than a few Immortals had discovered to their dismay . . . just because he didn't like to fight; it didn't mean he couldn't!”

Adam walked briskly down the path enjoying the evening air. He had built the villa in the mid-1800's and it had since become one of his favorite spots whenever he felt the need for solitude and contemplation. He'd come here after Alexa died, and the beauty of his surroundings had helped to heal his heart.

Adam came to an abrupt stop when he heard the tortured moaning. It sounded like an animal in pain. His hand hovered over the hilt of his sword. If the animal was badly injured, he should really put it out of its misery — it could be dangerous to anyone who happened to wander along this path. Even though it was clearly marked as private property, occasionally tourists ignored the signs, and he didn't fancy a lawsuit if a hapless trespasser got hurt.

The moaning stopped, replaced by wracking sobs. No animal could be making those sounds. Fuck! He really didn't feel like having to deal with an interloper that, from the sounds of it, was seriously disturbed. How did he get himself into these situations? He was just out for an evening walk on his own property . . .

Adam sighed. He'd have to investigate. Duncan, of course, would have already been rushing in to help — he was such a Boy Scout. It must be catching; his centuries-long policy of non-involvement had radically altered since he'd become friends with Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod!

Adam loosened the sword in its sheath so it could be drawn in a hurry, if it became necessary. He pushed through the vegetation surrounding the path, following the sounds.

A man, who looked to be about his own apparent age, was crouched on the ground, arms tightly wrapped around his knees. The sobs were interspersed with ramblings about Babylonia.

Oh, good! Just what he needed — a drug-addled tourist on a bad trip!

Adam paused. He was getting weird vibes — not the Immortal 'buzz' that signaled one of his own kind was near, but something else . . . something not quite human.

The man looked up and saw Adam.

“Excuse me, I wonder if you can tell me about Babylonia? I'd like to go there, you see, but I can't remember what it's now called.”

“It's called Iraq. Babylonia was the southern portion of what's now Iraq.”

“Iraq? Bloody hell! Don't want to go there to be reborn . . . what about Persia?”


“Doesn't seem quite as mythological, does it? There's no poetry in modern times — where has all the poetry gone?”

“Look, I'm sorry you're distressed, but you're on private property, you know. Are you staying at a hotel, or with friends? Somewhere I can help you get back to, 'cause you can't stay here.”

Haunted blue eyes looked up at him.

“I don't have anywhere to go.”

The world's oldest living Immortal rolled his eyes. Adam Pierson was but the latest in a long line of aliases and personas he had adopted. Methos reminded himself that he had stayed alive and hidden for as long as he had by not getting involved. He'd lived his own life—gone his own way—by staying off the radar. What was this more-than-human stranger to him? Nothing.

He should just continue on with his walk and forget all about this . . . whatever he was . . . that didn't know the modern names for countries Methos had been familiar with for 5000 years. Sean Burns had been the psychologist, not him! It was all Duncan's fault! Duncan had dragged him out of his self-imposed exile and made him a friend — made him care. Duncan MacLeod was a helper . . . and apparently it was catching!

“Merde!” Methos rolled his eyes again and capitulated. “Well, you can't stay here! Come on — I'm taking you back to my place until we figure out what to do with you.”

Methos helped the man to his feet and shoved through the vegetation until they had returned to the path. Giving the stranger a gentle nudge to get him going, Methos pointed in the direction of his villa.

“That way. I'll be right behind you.”

With a sigh of exasperation, Methos followed him down the path.

“I'll get you for this, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod—and your little dog, Joe, too!”

Methos unlocked the door and stood back to allow Spike to precede him into the villa. Spike remained standing on the veranda, arms wrapped protectively around himself.

Methos waited. Spike didn't move.

“Well? Aren't you coming in?”

Spike shook his head. “Can't. 'm a vampire. Y'have to specifically invite me in, or I can't enter your home.”

Methos looked at him quizzically. “A vampire. Huh.”

“You don't seen either shocked that there are actually vampires, or in a hurry to tell me I'm delusional because there are no such things as vampires. Why is that?”

“Oh, no, I believe vampires exist. I had an interesting — encounter — with one . . . some years ago.” Methos smiled reminiscently. “She was a lovely little thing. Very . . . creative. I've never forgotten Darla . . .”

“You had an 'encounter' with Darla an' she didn't kill you?”

“Well, no. Maybe I'll tell you the story some time. Then again, maybe not. In the meantime, why don't you come in and have a beer?”

Spike looked at him distrustfully. “When exactly did you encounter Darla?”

Methos thought for a moment. “In 1631, I believe. We were on the same voyage to England from Massachusetts that spring—”

“Bloody hell! You're him! You're The Immortal!”

“Well, yes, I'm immortal, but I'm certainly not the Immortal. Although, when it's time for the Gathering, who knows?”

“Some bloody ponce calling himself 'The Immortal' chained up me an' Angelus in Rome in 1894 so he could get to our women.” Spike narrowed his eyes. “Was that you?”

“Certainly not. In the first place, I'd never call myself 'The Immortal' — that's just stupid. In the second place, I spent most of 1894 in South Carolina, sharing his final months and then burying my friend, Robert Louis Stevenson.”

“Oh. Right, then. You mentioned beer?”

Methos led the way to the screened sun room in the back of the house. The layout allowed it to catch any errant breeze, and in daylight there was a spectacular view. Spike sank down in a large, comfortably-padded wicker chair. Methos brought two bottles of cold beer from the kitchen. Spike accepted one and nodded his thanks.

“Nice place you got here.”

“It suits me. At times, we all need a refuge.”

A short, bitter laugh burst from Spike.

“A refuge? There is no refuge.” His hand clawed at his chest. “It's all inside of me. All the things I've done . . . the people I've killed . . . it's all in me, and there's no refuge from that!”

“No, there isn't. But I thought vampires didn't feel guilt? At least, Darla claimed she felt nothing.”

“Not supposed to. That's the deal. Demon takes your body, but your soul flies off somewhere. Die young, stay pretty and do whatever the hell you soddin' want to—no guilt, no remorse . . . that's the trade-off. But me? I was never in it for the evil. Not like Angelus an' Darla. Oh, I liked the strength . . . the power . . . The rush of a fight leadin' to the kill. Fists and fangs — made me feel more alive than I'd ever felt when I was actually alive. Instantaneous gratification . . . can't beat that! Anything you want — it's yours for the taking. But now . . . now . . .”

Spike drew his legs up and curled into a ball, resting his forehead on his knees, hiding his face.

“Now I can't bloody stand it. They're all inside . . . clamorin' to get out . . . all the thousands of people I killed. They won't leave me alone! I thought . . . I thought if I earned my soul back it'd make me a better man!” The bitter laugh was repeated. “ 'm not a man at all — 'm a monster! How could I ever have thought I could be a man . . . make a difference? 'm a killer. 's all I'll ever be . . .”

“That's sort of up to you, isn't it? You can let the guilt overwhelm you, or you can accept that you can't change the past and go on from here.”

“You don't understand! I'm a murderer — I've killed a thousand people . . .”

Methos jumped to his feet and crossed the room. He gripped Spike's shoulders, fingers digging painfully into the muscles.

“Look at me! Damn you, look at me!”

Spike raised his eyes. They had darkened to midnight blue, carrying a century of guilt and despair in their depths. Methos' brown eyes were fathomless.

“You killed a thousand? I killed ten thousand and I was good at it! And it wasn't for vengeance, it wasn't for greed; it was because I liked it. I was Death. Death on a horse*. . . and the known world trembled before me. You killed some individual people? I wiped out entire civilizations — and I gloried in the destruction. So, don't you dare tell me you can't change! You can be whatever the fuck you want to be! You can get through this, if you choose to!”

Methos shook him like a rag doll.

“Do you hear me? You can change. You can learn to live with it. I'm still here. Five thousand years, and I'm still here!”

This Methos did understand, and for the first time since he had stepped into that cave, Spike felt hope. The terrible tension and despair drained out of his body and he unwound his arms from around his knees. He wrapped them around Methos' waist and held on, grasping a life-line he'd never expected to be offered. Spike buried his face in Methos' abdomen like a child clutching a parent for dear life.

“Help me!” he sobbed.

Methos' hands unclenched, and he stroked Spike's back, calming and soothing him.

“I'll help you.”

Methos MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod to the rescue. Methos sighed. His life had been a whole lot less complicated before he'd met Duncan!

Methos slid from between the sheets and yawned. It was still early, and he and Spike had been up late last night, talking. He splashed water on his face, brushed his teeth, then headed for the kitchen to put the coffee on. Methos poured a cup as soon as it had finished filtering, and headed for the screened sun porch. His back garden was as lush and beautiful as ever, but in the distance he could see his new paddocks and barn.

Spike's dietary needs had proven to be a challenge. In America, he'd been used to buying blood at the butcher's, but in a country where every scrap of food is precious, that wasn't an option. Animal blood was a source of nourishment for the people, not a by-product as it had been in the States. Expired human blood that would otherwise go to waste wasn't an option, either. The need for untainted blood on a continent ravaged by AIDS insured that blood was not stockpiled and allowed to expire — and Spike refused to take what was so desperately needed by the living. The only solution was to develop their own source.

Methos had ordered a small herd of cattle, built a paddock for them, and then a barn. As long as he was getting into the livestock business, he had also bought two gorgeous Arabians, and he and Spike had shared many long evening rides over the past six weeks that Spike had been his house guest. The rides were relaxing and freeing and during them, a bit of Spike's guilt and depression seemed to lift.

Methos smiled wryly. For someone who claimed he didn't want to get involved with people, he was certainly ruining his millennial-old track record! First Alexa — now Spike. They both needed him . . . and both were too stubborn to admit it at first. Maybe he was a helper, after all. Alexa had been dying when he met her; there wasn't anything he could do to change that. All he could do was make her last months as wonderful and special as possible. He had helped Alexa die with dignity and grace — but now he had the chance to help Spike live. And that was infinitely more satisfying.

Methos put down his coffee cup and went to change. He suddenly felt like going for a long ride.

After dinner—Methos had been surprised to learn that Spike frequently ate food—they retired to the sun porch to enjoy coffee and brandy. Methos asked what he'd thought was an innocuous question.

“Do all vampires eat food? From what I've read, I thought they only drank blood.”

Spike seemed to withdraw, and Methos realized his error. Methos had been treating Spike like a man, and the reminder of what he really was weighed heavily on him.

“Only need blood to survive. I eat because I like it . . . to be sociable . . . dunno why exactly. Always have done. Angelus used to ridicule me for it.”

“Do you know, I hadn't realized it before, but most of the time I actually forget that you're a vampire.”

Spike was out of his chair in a flash. He clutched Methos' throat, lifting him from his chair as he went into game face. Spike's eyes glowed a sulphuric yellow and he snarled.

“Never forget! This is what I am! 'm not a man. Can't be a man—the demon's always inside. Always.”

His features seemed to melt and change and he looked human again. He stepped away from Methos with a horrified glance and pressed his face against the screen, staring into the night. Spike's voice was a whisper of sound as he quoted.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie.
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

“I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.”

“Samuel Coleridge, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” Methos said, coming to stand beside Spike.

“You know it?”

An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! More horrible than that
Is a curse in a dead man's eye.

“Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet, I could not die.

“It resonates, doesn't it? For both of us, I think. Yet, don't forget the part that goes: The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honeydew.
Quoth he, 'The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.'

“So you believe penance is the answer — that we can ever make up for the things we've done?” Spike turned and looked directly into Methos' eyes, desperately needing the answer.

Methos gave a slight shrug. “I have to believe it. There isn't anything else. We find some way to make our peace with it and we go on. Or, we let it consume us, get sloppy and die. Personally, I prefer life, whatever the cost.”

Spike's lips twitched. “The Rhymer and the Ancient Mariner — that's us.”

He laughed, and suddenly an attack of what could only be termed 'the giggles' overwhelmed him. Laughter is always infectious, and soon Methos was laughing, too. Clutching each other for support, they staggered over to the wicker couch and collapsed on the fluffy pillows.

Methos tried to speak, but whenever he looked at Spike, a new spate of laughter erupted. Finally, he managed to gasp out, “What's so funny?”

The question made Spike laugh harder. “You don't know?”


“Then why are you laughing?”

“I don't know!”

That struck Spike as the funniest remark of the night. “You pillock! Least I know why 'm laughin'!” He punched Methos in the shoulder in glee.

Methos punched him right back. “Tell me and then we'll both know.”

“Right, then. The thing is, when I was human, I used to write poetry — and bloody awful poetry it was, too. So, that makes me a 'rhymer', alright?” Spike had to pause for another round of laughter. “An' you . . . you're older than dirt, so that makes you the Ancient Mariner.”

“Ancient Equestrian, maybe. Not much of a Mariner.”

“Oh, come on! In all those years, you must have spent a lot of time on the sea.”

“Not if I could help it! Forty years as a Phoenician galley slave early on cured me of that. I never wanted to go near the bloody sea again!”

Spike made a clucking sound with his tongue. “The Rhymer and the Ancient Equestrian just doesn't have the same ring to it. Guess you're stuck bein' the Ancient Mariner, mate!”

“As long as I don't actually have to 'marinate', I don't give a flying fuck what you call me!”

Marinate!” Spike lost it all over again.

Methos got up and poured them each another glass of brandy, then sat back down next to Spike.

Spike took a sip of his brandy, and then another. He put the glass down on the end table and turned to face Methos.

“Thank you,” he said quietly.

“For what?”

“For . . . accepting me as I am. I can't tell you how much that means to me. You never judge. You know what I am and what I've done and you've never looked at me with disgust in your eyes. My . . . emotions have been wonky ever since I got m'soul. I know I've been actin' a bit . . . manic-depressive, shall we say? Can't have been easy for you. Yet you've never . . . well. I don't know how I'll ever repay you.”

“Live. Grow strong. Don't give in. Live to fight another day. I plan to be around for a very long time, and I'd like to spend part of it with you.”

Spike looked deeply into Methos' eyes and slowly leaned toward him. His lips hovered over Methos' and when Methos didn't pull away, Spike pressed a feather-light kiss on his mouth. Methos' lips parted and Spike swept his tongue over them. He felt the warm breath of Methos' sigh as his hands grasped Spike's shoulders. Spike deepened the kiss and slid his own hands under Methos' sweater, caressing the hard muscles of his back.

Their tongues danced in each other's mouths, and then Spike broke the kiss to yank Methos' sweater over his head. Spike's own T-shirt followed, and then hands and mouths and tongues seemed to be everywhere at once. Sliding over smooth chests and backs; licking taut throats; laving hardening nipples; grasping and clutching and licking and sucking every inch of exposed skin.

Methos staggered to his feet and pulled Spike into his own bedroom.

They fell upon the bed, all thought of finesse lost to the urgency of need. Methos struggled to unbuckle Spike's belt — strange how clumsy it felt to be working the buckle backwards. Spike had an easier time of it. He ripped at the waist of Methos' linen pants and the fabric tore in his hands. The button went flying into a corner of the room. Silk boxers followed the button, and then Spike was wriggling out of his own jeans.

There were no longer any obstacles, as cool flesh slid over heated skin and mouths met again. Spike's blunt teeth left a line of reddened marks down Methos' throat before gently biting and sucking at hardened nipples. Spike pressed a series of kisses down Methos' body, loving the way the muscles contracted under his touch. Spike breathed in the scent of blood pulsing so close to the surface, and scraped his teeth along the throbbing vein on the underside of Methos' cock. Spike's tongue teased the head of his cock, sliding along the foreskin until Methos moaned with desire. Spike's cool mouth closed over the heat of his erection, and his hand cupped Methos' testes. One finger gently teased at his opening as his balls tightened in Spike's hand.

A book fell to the floor with a thump, followed by a half-full glass of water, as Methos frantically pawed through the drawer of his nightstand, searching for the lubricant he was sure he had seen there . . . His hand closed around the tube and he hoped to hell he remembered correctly; that it was first aid ointment, and not Bengué.

“First aid ointment? Oh, well . . .” Spike coated his fingers with the thick ointment and Methos breathed a sigh of thankfulness for vampiric night vision.

Spike slowed his ministrations, teasing and licking and letting the tension build until Methos though he would burst. Spike's fingers thrust and twisted inside him as his mouth tightened and the pressure on his cock increased. Methos came with a rush, deep inside Spike's throat, and then felt his trembling legs lifted by strong hands as Spike's cock, slick with ointment, thrust into him. His legs tightened on Spike's shoulders as Spike's hands grasped his hips; first pulling him closer, then pushing him away as Spike thrust harder and deeper, allowing his own climax to build.

Spent, Spike collapsed on top of him and Methos gathered him into his arms, turning on his side and holding him close throughout the remainder of the night.

A halcyon month followed, filled with joy, laughter and discussions of literature, history and philosophy. There was an openness of spirit that Methos had never been able to share with anyone before. He and Spike fit, and the physical aspect of their relationship was nothing short of phenomenal. They liked the same things; they laughed at the same jokes. Methos' dry wit was a perfect complement to Spike's snark, and he could happily imagine spending years in Spike's company.

Methos had come to a decision. Today, he would ask Spike to stay with him. They needn't spend all their time in Africa — Methos owned houses and apartments and villas in various places throughout the world that no one else knew about. Not Duncan, and certainly not the Watchers. As Adam Pierson, he'd made sure the Watcher organization never got to close to finding 'Methos' — but he'd be willing to open his private life to Spike. They could go wherever Spike wished.

Decision made, Methos turned the horse and gave him his head. He felt a pressing need to get home to Spike. He couldn't wait to share the news with him . . .

Methos slowed the horse to a walk while they were still some distance from the villa, allowing him a chance to cool down. His fingers were clumsy with excitement as he unbuckled the girth, heaved the saddle onto a sawhorse and threw a blanket over the Arabian. The rubdown would have to wait. He hurried into the house, calling for Spike.

He finally found him crouched in a corner of what had once more become the guest room, since Spike had moved into the master bedroom with him. A feeling of dread formed in Methos' gut as he observed Spike rocking incessantly back and forth, arms wrapped tightly around his knees.

“What the fuck happened?” Methos dropped down beside Spike and took him into his arms. Spike continued to rock. “Spike? What's wrong? What happened while I was gone?”

Spike looked up, his eyes dull and unfocused. “From beneath you, it devours . . . from beneath you . . .”

What devours?”

“I don't know! I have to go back. To Sunnydale. I don't know why I have to go, but I must.”

Methos' voice was low and ragged. “I don't want you to go. Please stay.”

Spike's tone was desolate as he answered. “I want to stay. I've been happier here, with you, than I ever thought possible. But I have to go. Something big, bad and ugly is coming and I'm needed.”

Spike reached out and cupped the side of Methos' face with a trembling hand. The ghost of a smile touched his lips. “The man hath penance done, And penance more will do. I think I have more penance yet to do.”

“I'll go with you.”

“No. It's something I have to do . . . but if you could help me get there in a hurry — I think time is of the essence now.”

“I'll do whatever I can.”

“We'll see each other again. Somehow, someday, we'll see each other again.”

Methos made the arrangements to accompany his 'brother's' remains back to the States. He hated sitting alone in the First Class cabin, while Spike traveled in a coffin in the cargo hold. He hated wasting the precious few hours they had left.

Upon landing at LAX, Methos purchased a round-trip ticket for the commuter flight to Sunnydale, then an additional ticket from LAX to Seacouver. He may as well go visit Duncan while he waited for Spike to take care of whatever business he had in Sunnydale.

Spike had asked him to call someone named Willie to meet them at the Sunnydale Airport, and a very shifty-looking character this Willie was. They loaded the coffin into the back of Willie's old Country Squire station wagon and drove to the far side of the parking lot. Willie furtively looked around, and then, with Methos standing guard, released Spike from the coffin.

Without a word to Methos, Spike climbed in the front of the car with Willie. He never looked back, but as they drove away, Methos thought he heard Spike singing.

Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard a maid singing in the valley below . . .”

Seacouver, May 2004

“Oh, come on, Methos! You're no fun at all anymore!” Amanda crawled into his lap, her long delicate fingers ruffling his hair.

“You haven't been anywhere in ages! Why won't you come to Paris with Duncan and me?”

Amanda performed a very fetching pout, that she had used to good effect on countless men over the ages.

“Please? For Me?”

Duncan rolled his eyes. He was one of the few men who seemed to be immune to The Pout. Perhaps that's why Duncan and Amanda always managed to find their way back to each other.

“Amanda! Leave him alone. If he doesn't want to go, he doesn't want to go.” Duncan turned to Methos. “You know you're welcome to come with us, right?”

Methos nodded. “Thanks. Maybe I'll join you later.”

“Your loss.” Amanda dropped a kiss on his head, and then she and Duncan — and more luggage than Methos would have thought necessary for ten women — were gone.

The loft suddenly felt very empty without them. Methos thought he might as well go to Joe's Place for a drink.

As he walked into the blues club, Joe put down the towel he had been using to wipe glasses and came out from behind the bar.

“Hey! Good to see ya,” Joe greeted him. “I was just trying to call you, but when there wasn't any answer, I thought maybe Amanda had talked you into Paris, after all.”

“What do you need, Joe?”

“Not me. A friend came looking for you.”

Joe nodded in the direction of a table in the far corner. Methos' heart skipped a beat and then lodged in his throat, if that were possible. Wrapped in black leather, covered in dried blood, he was the most beautiful sight Methos thought he had ever seen.

Methos hurried to the table. Spike stood. Methos gripped Spike's hands tightly, grinning so broadly he thought his face might crack. Spike wore an identical grin.

“How did you get here?”

“Hitched a ride on a dragon. Would you believe the bloody great ponce actually wanted to kill it?”

The End

5703 words

*Methos dialogue from Comes a Horseman, by David Tynan

The End

You have reached the end of "The Rhymer and the Ancient Mariner". This story is complete.

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