Disclaimer: Methos and the concept of Highlander belong to lots of people. I'm not one of them.
Thanks to: my betas amonitrate and beccatoria. You rock.
Special thanks to: the inventors, producers and distributors of blu-tack. Couldn't have done this without you.
Word of warning: 68 OFCs! Run for the hills!
Credit where credit is due: Some of these were at least partly inspired by ideas from beccatoria, mmapmaker, and Sylvia Volk. Wife #52 was bought from Jay Tryfanstone for the price of two camels. (Jay, I'll get back to you on that sometime.)
Adopting: They turned up in my head one night in early 2006, unasked. Clearly I do not own them, and can't tell them where to go, or not to go. If they - collectively or singly - turn up in your head and ask you to tell their stories in greater detail - do!
Alexa should have, would have been wife #69, and he still remembers her every day that he wakes to find himself alone; remembers her during a lonely breakfast – the whiff of fresh baguette and coffee opening floodgates; remembers her as he – alone - watches street performers, and tourists looking up at the Eiffel tower, and children feeding pigeons.
Wife #68 was a political activist, an idealist, who fell into black depression as her country fell into murder, and her blood in the bathwater tinges his memory. Wife #67 was an Italian countess of dubious descent, and he pretended to obscure Romanian nobility to please her brothers. Wife #66 laughed at him when he worried about her brothers, and did not stop laughing for days. Wife #65 wrote bad poems about thrushes, about larks, about nightingales, about swans on the river. Wife #64 murdered him for his money.
Although he filled an entire journal with loving descriptions of wife #63, when he reads now about how her hair touched her shoulders, how the long curve of her back met her ample buttocks, he is not certain if he remembers, or invents her.
Wife #62 he married for an uncanny resemblance to wife #38, although he did not admit it to himself until long after her death. Wife #61 had a dress the exact colour of her eyes, and it maddens him that he cannot remember what colour that was. Wife #60 blamed herself for not bearing him children, and his shame at never trying to relieve her of her guilt is more vivid than any memory he has of her. Wife #59 was the last - out of not very many at all - to call him by his real name. Wife #58 proposed to him.
He never actually married wife #57.
In the affections of wife #56, God always came first, and it made him sick; yet when she knelt and prayed for his salvation, what he saw on her face made him ache with a longing he would not name.
He may have had the best sex of a very long life with wife #55.
Wife #54 cropped his hair with the shears he used for the sheep's wool, and afterwards kissed the back of his neck, and the tops of his ears, and the crown of his head. Wife #53 had the calloused, cracked hands of a washing-woman, and the bearing of a princess. Wife #52 spoke of the seasons in layers of coloured silk, and of love in metaphors of rain, and sky, and sun. Wives #51, #50 and #49 were sisters he loved with dutiful equal passion, and they never grew jealous of each other.
Waking, the morning after marrying wife #48, he found her body cooling beside him, bliss still on her face.
Wife #47 left him for a silk trader yet he loved her anyway, loved her so that when she returned, old and impoverished, sick and contrite, to beg him to take her back - he did. Wife #46 was old when he married her, proud matron of an ever-growing clan, and there is a remote valley in the Pyrenees where every face reminds him of her. Wife #45 made him a rich man by accident. Wife #44 made him a beggar, by design. Wife #43 was a man.
He never entirely worked out why he married wife #42, yet he does not remember regretting it, either.
There is a valley in the Himalayas where the air tastes of wife #41 when he closes his eyes. There is a river in India whose water caresses him with the ghostly fingers of wife #40. There is a clay pot in the British Museum that was shaped by the palms of wife #39.
There was forgiveness in the eyes of wife #38.
It was too early, perhaps, for him to love wife #37, and in disgust and self-punishment, he killed her - but did so quickly, mercifully.
Wife #36 was the last to see him human for a thousand years.
Wife #35 haunts his dreams sometimes but he does not remember this upon waking. Wife #34 grew too tired to hate him, eventually. Wives #33, #32 and #31 he married so soon after one another they blurred in his memory even while still alive. Wife #30 he does not remember at all. Wife #29 laughed and wept. Wife #28 wilted.
He did not cry for wife #27, much.
When wife #26 died, soon after marriage, he could not leave the little village she had grown up in, for those were the walls she had painted, those were the mud floors her feet had trod, and he lived there, a humble widower, until they discovered he was a demon.
He gave wife #25 the name of an empress, for her family had never bothered to give her any name at all. He gave wife #24 the horizons he knew and she could not imagine, by travelling the known world with her. When the enemy came to their city, wife #23 gave her life fighting beside him, blood-slicked hand growing cold in his.
Marrying wife #22 made him a king, a mistake he studiously avoided repeating thereafter.
Wife #21 was tired, always tired. Wife #20 was not pretty by anyone's standards, not even his, but at night, when he looked at her face outlined by moonlight, she was beautiful. Wife #19 was a farmer's wife. Wife #18 was a farmer's wife. Wife #17 was a farmer's wife. Wife #16 was a mistake.
He remembers the sweet date, hot pepper taste of wife #15's mouth, in dark, cool alleys of southern cities, perhaps once a century.
Wife #14 was black as black olives, black as the nightsky in days when nightskies were still truly black. Wife #13 ran her fingers over his face, lovingly, after she caught the river blindness. Wife #12 he married out of courtesy, and it changed his mind on courtesy. Wife #11 was widowed in pregnancy, and died in childbirth, and for the first time he raised a child. Wife #10 was a child when he met her, forever climbing trees, pelting him with #9 smelled of sour sweat and earth after a day in the fields.
There must have been a reason, some reason he drove a dagger through the heart of wife #8.
He thinks he remembers wife #7's lips when he touches silk, velvet, fine-grained sandpaper, when he kisses young women, old women, when he kisses rough-lipped men.
He thinks he remembers wife #6's eyes when he looks at a pale November sky, when he looks at dark earth after a summer rain, when he looks at the muddy green of a pond in a shadowed corner of the garden.
There is a tiny woman he has never asked the name of, who may be 300 or may be 3000, who keeps challenging him and whom he could kill in the blink of an eye yet somehow does not, because in the inevitable aftermath, when she straddles him and he gives himself up to her, he thinks he remembers the smell of wife #5's skin.
He is not aware that the reason why he loves the sight of low, bare chains of hills is that, in layers of memory beyond conscious recollection, they remind him of the ridges of wife #4's spine.
He has a recurring dream of wife #3 hiding in the rushes by the river, and he knows that, if only he could find her, he would wake up remembering her face.
When wife #2 died he was certain he would never love again.
Wife #1 was the first, and will always be special because of that, but he does not remember her.
Wife #1 was the first, and will always be special because of that, and he remembers her every time he dies.
He does not know if wife #1 was indeed wife #1.