There Shall Come Up Briers and Thorns
Title: There Shall Come Up Briers and Thorns
Fandoms: Highlander: The Series, Biblefic
Word Count: ~1,800
Summary: In the month of November, the year of our Lord two-thousand-and-one, Methos and Yeshua talk for the first time since Gethsemane.
Notes/Disclaimers: When sophia_sol and I first started talking about her idea for a Methos and Yeshua story, one possibility discussed was a reunion between Methos and a modern-day Yeshua. She eventually went with the scenario that evolved into her amazing fic Narrow Is The Way Which Leadeth Unto Life... but the longer I thought about that reunion, the more the pieces clicked together, and the more I wanted to write it. So with her blessing – and invaluable betaing assistance – I wrote this fic as a kind of sequel to hers, exploring one possible outcome of what happened to Yeshua in Jerusalem. The title comes from Isaiah 5:6, the King James translation – I prefer NRSV myself, but it makes for less dramatic-sounding titles. Thank-you to yakbites for the potentially-offensive-content check, and, as usual, Highlander does not belong to me and I’m not making any money from this story.
ETA: sophia_sol has now written the next (last?) story in this sequence, And The Stars of Heaven Shall Fall, officially making this a trilogy. :)
It’s late November, the brisk air clouding his breath and leeching the nimbleness from his fingers, when Methos sees Yeshua again.
For one heart-stopping moment he finds himself frozen in the little coffee-shop’s doorway, unable to step forward despite the press of people behind him. The buzz of warning rattles against his skull as he stares at the familiar face, the dark olive-toned skin and broad nose so very different from what the so-called masters had painted. His curly hair, rich brown, has been cropped short, and his full beard is now a neatly trimmed patch on his chin, but it’s the change in his eyes that leaves Methos wondering for the briefest of moments if it really is Yeshua sitting there
Yeshua smiles, and raises his mug in greeting.
By the time Methos reaches Yeshua’s table, clutching his own mug, he too has an easy smile on his face. “Bastard,” he says, shedding his coat as he drops into the chair across from his old – friend? student? teacher? “You could have sent word.”
Yeshua snorts lightly. “What, didn’t you read the book? ‘Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here,’” he quotes.
“Sure,” says Methos, “but Mark also had some choice things to say about feeding the multitudes and healing the sick.”
Yeshua sighs. “Mark was Peter’s disciple, and Peter’s belief was always blind. The fool. I’m not surprised the story grew with the telling.”
Methos takes a sip of coffee. This isn’t the Yeshua he remembers, the one who praised Peter’s simple faith. Which makes sense, really. The Yeshua he knew in Capernaum was so painfully young; the Yeshua sitting before him now is nearly two thousand years old. That’s a long time even for an Immortal. More surprising, really, is that Methos is surprised at all. There had just been something that seemed so, well, so immortal about Yeshua’s convictions.
So to speak.
“Yeshua,” he begins.
“It’s Josh now, actually. Joshua Davidson.”
“Adam Pierson,” Methos says. In more way than one, he feels like he’s introducing himself for the first time.
“How do you get ‘Adam’ from ‘Methos’?” Yeshua asks.
Methos smiles. “You don’t. I haven’t survived this long by being easy to find.” Something of a lie. He’s used some twist on the name ‘Adam’ far too often, since his days in the synagogue with Yeshua and the disciples. It’s a dangerous conceit, he knows, and a possible tip-off to those who hunt him, yet he can’t seem to resist.
Adam: the first man.
“I see. Yet another lesson I should have learned from you, when I had the chance.” Yeshua takes a swig from his mug, and coughs slightly. Something about the movement piques Methos’ suspicion, and a deep sniff confirms it: Yeshua has added a shot of something extra to the drink.
“Bad week?” asks Methos dryly, sliding his own mug across the table. Even expecting it, he can hardly follow Yeshua’s sleight-of-hand; but when the other Immortal slides the mug back, his coffee has acquired the harsh warmth of cheap brandy.
“Bad couple of months,” Yeshua answers. He rubs a finger over his palm in the absent gesture of long habit, and Methos can’t help but raise his eyebrows when he realises that there’s still a scar there.
Methos has never known an Immortal who truly understood why some wounds scar and others don’t. Sometimes, though, he wonders if the answer might lie in the mind, not the body. That maybe Immortals scar when they can’t conceive of not scarring; when the wound is so awful, so symbolic, so momentous that they can’t accept that it would leave no outward sign. Immortals scar when, somewhere deep inside, they think of the scar as part of who they are.
Methos has no scars.
“The twin towers?” he asks, unable to take his eyes off the faint white marks on Yeshua’s palms. For a moment he can almost feel the heat of a desert sun, see those hands dart like swallows through dry air as Yeshua’s words draw his listeners closer. A jingle of the bell over the door gives him a half-heartbeat’s warning before a blast of cold air from outside drives the memory away.
“It’s got this country riled up, that’s for sure. Yesterday,” Yeshua says, grinning like he’s sharing some great joke, “a man told me to go back to Afghanistan. Because America is a good Christian country, and they don’t want ‘mother-fucking Muslim terrorists’ over here.” His grin does not reach his eyes. “Funny, no? I didn’t even know where to start. Should I have explained his own country’s history to him? Pointed out that I was born in Palestine? I didn’t think telling him I was Jewish would have helped much.”
Methos gives an easy-sounding laugh, because that’s what Yeshua seems to want from him. “You planning on moving on?” he asks. “The old stomping grounds, maybe. Somewhere with a bit of sun. I’m thinking of heading back to Paris sometime soon – it’s no Judea, but you’re welcome to join me.” It’s an impulsive offer, but a sincere one.
Yeshua shakes his head. “Not yet. It’s hard enough to fly on faked papers on a good day. Here and now? Looking like this? I’d never make it.” He takes another sip from his mug. “Besides, where would I go? Anywhere worth being is full of humans. And humans never change.”
Methos isn’t certain quite where he expected this conversation to lead, but this isn’t it. “That’s not what you used to think,” he says.
Yeshua shrugs. “I stopped being a naive kid sometime right about when the Christians started killing the pagan priestesses.” He stretches, almost casually. “Missionaries went forth to baptize at the point of a sword. The Crusades raged from my homeland to the tip of Europe – two hundred years of violence in my name. I still think my favourite was the bit was where my so-called followers massacred my people for refusing to believe I was Adonai’s son.” There’s a bitter note now, under his casual tone. “From the heel of Rome to the fires of Auschwitz, Adam.”
Methos purses his lips, thinking. He’s wondered, now and then, what Yeshua would think of the things done in his name; but he had imagined grief, not anger. Methos tends to favour anger himself, should humour fail him, but the Yeshua of his memory was capable of it only in wild bursts when driven past the point of endurance. This is a different sort of emotion - one that came, perhaps, when grief grew too large to hold inside.
Despite himself, he finds a sort of grim humour in the anger: Yeshua wears it with all the subtlety of a child’s favoured blanket, flimsy protection draped cloak-like over small shoulders.
“When Columbus sailed and the pilgrims followed,” Yeshua continues, “I thought it was our chance for a clean start. A country full of people who understand what it’s like to be persecuted! Maybe this is where it’ll begin. The kingdom of god among us. So, I came along.” He points at Methos. “Tell me, you seen the natives around recently? And now this whole mess. People who think I’m their prophet killing people who think I’m their God.” He snorts. “I reckon it’s a good thing I gave up on the whole lot of them centuries ago, or I might be a bit bitter about all this.”
“Yes,” says Methos, dryly. “I suppose we can all be grateful that you dodged that bullet.”
For a moment, Yeshua looks startled – then he laughs. “You always did speak your mind; never the role of cringing sycophant for you. I’d almost forgotten.”
Methos laughs, but there’s a certain unhappy set to his jaw. ‘Cringing sycophant’ – he’d used those words, or the Aramaic equivalents. The Yeshua of old had always chided him for it. The Yeshua of today... Methos hadn’t always liked the disciples, but they’d been a brotherhood, close-knit and wild-eyed and loyal unto death; most of them had, in fact, died in Yeshua’s name. They deserved no less than Yeshua’s loyalty in return.
Yeshua leans forward. “So tell me what you think of this, then: the Game is the key.”
Methos tilts his head. “The key to what?”
“There can be only one,” Yeshua quotes. “And to the last of us goes the prize: power beyond imagination. Enough to rule this planet forever.” He takes in the cafe with a gesture of his hand. “Humanity can’t fix itself, Adam. But at the end of days, when only one of us remains, he who holds the power and knowledge of all Immortals – he could make people better.”
“ ‘He’,” says Methos, flatly. “You mean you.”
Yeshua’s lips thin in grim amusement. “I have read my book, you know. There are those who think that the kingdom of god won’t come until I return; and that my return will come only with the eschaton. And there are those of us who think that the Gathering signifies the same – the end of the world as we know it, Adam. But maybe, under the right guidance, the end of the world could be the beginning of God’s kingdom.”
“What happened to the Yeshua I knew?” Methos asks. It’s all he can think to say. He supposes, realistically, that he ought to be grateful the kid’s finally realised that preaching love never works.
Yeshua drains his mug in one last gulp, then stands. For the first time Methos sees the tell-tale impression of a sword beneath his long coat. The blade is concealed with the ease of long practise – he doubts anyone but another immortal would have seen it.
“What happened to Yeshua of Nazareth?” Methos asks again, nodding towards the weapon. He doesn’t say what he’s thinking, which is: when did you lose that light in your eyes, Yeshua?
“Yeshua of Nazareth survived the cross,” Yeshua says flatly, as the coffee-shop’s patrons mill around him, chattering brightly to each other. “And his enemies never did manage to do him in. His life was Gethsemene, betrayed again and again by those who loved him until one day, he died. And I walked away. Yeshua was a naive fool – I’m better than he ever was.”
His eyes hold nothing but that anger, and a sort of cruel amusement.
Melodramatic, Methos thinks, cynically. Self-pitying. Was he like this before? Memory is a tricky thing. He remembers passion, and humility. But perhaps the seeds of the man standing before Methos had been there all along, hiding beneath the wild smile and kind eyes.
And Yeshua – no, Josh – walks out into the cold.
Crossposted to highlander_fic, highland_cross, and crossoverfic.