Author: Stale Pine Needles aka merriman
Written for: Nirva
Characters: Methos, Duncan, OFC villain
Rating: PG-13 (gen)
Author's Notes: Not being a climber myself, and having never been to Mount Everest, I might well have gotten some details of the location wrong. For that, I apologize. The Khumbu Icefall is a dangerous part of the ascent from the southern slope of the mountain and its shifting terrain has claimed lives in the past.
Summary: Methos really shouldn't have taken a challenge on the mountain. He shouldn't have been on the mountain in the first place.
Khumbu Icefall - Mount Everest:
"This is ridiculous," Methos snapped as he dodged out of the way. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because this is what we do," his opponent said. She was a previously unremarkable woman who'd shown up with the latest group of would-be summitters. He wasn't even really sure of her name. Cameron? Carrie? It didn't really matter now that she'd come at him with a sword in the middle of a mountain he was pretty sure counted as holy ground.
"It's not what I do," he pointed out. Though he had brought a small sword with him on the expedition. Not the usual, since that one was a little on the bulky and hard-to-explain side, but a perfectly serviceable blade. Unfortunately, it was in his tent back at Base Camp and all he had was an ice pick.
"Then this should be quick," she said, laughing as she swung at him again.
Methos had a split second to wonder if he was right about the mountain. Sure, it wasn't just one big temple, but that didn't mean it wasn't holy. Then again, those rules had always been a little fuzzy and he'd never been entirely sure whether a place had to be officially sanctified by someone to qualify. But then he didn't have time to think about it and could only hope that if he won, the mountain wouldn't come down on his head.
It wasn't easy, fighting with crampons strapped to his boots, uneven ground, limited space and of course, no sword. At least she wasn't trying to push him over the edge. After all, if he fell into a crevasse then she'd have to climb down to take his head. But she wasn't letting him win, by any means, pressing forward and slicing up his outer coat so the down drifted out like snow. Still, she'd been right about one thing: It was quick. Whether it was the mountain protesting the duel or just bad luck, before they'd been fighting five minutes the weather turned, sending a storm howling down on them.
Back at Base Camp:
"What do you mean, he's missing?" Duncan demanded. He'd come all this way and Methos was missing. Of course. Just like him.
"I'm truly sorry, Mr. MacLeod," the man said. He'd introduced himself as the expedition leader, which meant he was the perfect target for Duncan's growing anger. "One of the smaller expeditions radioed down from Camp 2. They had an injured climber they were trying to send down and Dr. Adams agreed to meet them at Camp 1, above the Icefall. We had no indications a storm would come through! It was one of the worst I've seen and I've been doing this a long time. He never made it to the camp. We're missing a climber too. We've had search parties out since the weather cleared but there's no sign of either of them and all our fixed ladders and ropes are gone."
Duncan glowered but the man was clearly too busy trying to cope with the aftermath the storm and of losing both a climber and the expedition's doctor to react much to him.
"I'm going up to look," Duncan said after a moment of strained silence. "I came to climb anyhow, so I might as well go."
"You just got here," the man protested. "You're not acclimatized!"
"I'll be fine," Duncan assured him, turning to leave before the man could stop him. If Methos was alive on the mountain, he'd find him.
Khumbu Icefall - Deep in a Damnable Crevasse and Covered in Snow:
This is all MacLeod's fault.
It was the first thing that Methos thought when he came back to life wedged deep in a crevasse. He was pretty sure that was going to be his first post-death thought for as long as he associated with the man. It was a nicely simple thought, uncomplicated by actual events. Of course MacLeod wasn't there and he hadn't been the one insisting on a bloody duel on a mountain that clearly hadn't appreciated it, but blaming him was so much more satisfying than blaming anything else, like Carmen. Which he now remembered was her name. Hopefully she was stuck in an even deeper crevasse than he was. Or buried. Of course, he shouldn't have let her challenge him in the first place, but there'd be plenty of time to acknowledge his own stupidity when he was warm and safe and not stuck between two chunks of glacier that he wouldn't have been anywhere near had he not had to get out of Paris to avoid yet another of MacLeod's old 'friends' and yes.
It really is all MacLeod's fault.
He could get back to the specifics of blame and death and MacLeod when he was out of the damn crevasse. Now, to get out. One mitten was was long gone, which meant that unless he could get up to a slightly warmer elevation, his hand would freeze faster than Immortal healing would keep up with. And that was an unpleasant cycle to consider. Amazingly, he still had the ice pick in one hand. Between that and the crampons he hoped were still on his boots, he figured he'd be able to climb out. Not quickly, of course, but he'd get there.
Two hours later he'd gotten himself several meters up a sheer wall of ice and was taking a much needed break, braced against the opposite wall while he was still close enough to it to do so. The gap just got wider and wider the higher he got. Eventually breaks wouldn't really be a possibility. But he wasn't really sure how long he'd been out after the storm, so the sooner he got out, the better.
Methos made a mental note as he started moving again: Always bring rope. Really, why hadn't he? He was climbing a mountain, after all. Which he now vowed to never do again. But if he did, he'd bring rope. And a grappling hook. And a gun.
Khumbu Icefall - The Surface, Which is Much Larger Than Expected:
Granted, Duncan had known how large the area was, but knowing it and seeing it were different experiences. It was vast. He was undeterred, however, and began his search on instinct. It was still early in the morning and the sun hadn't been on the Icefall long enough to start things melting and shifting.
"Methos!" he called out, but the only answer he got was a slightly ominous cracking sound from somewhere not too far away. He headed in the opposite direction, using what was left of the ladders and ropes from previous expeditions to get across. And over every crevasse he paused to look down.
When it felt like he was smack in the middle of the area he took out a pair of binoculars and started to look around for any sign. Snow, ice, bits of rope, bits of ladder, more snow, more ice. Sword.
There was a sword sticking out of the ice not too far from where he was. He lowered his binoculars and the sun glinted off the blade, making it an easy beacon to head towards.
"Why couldn't the mountain have swallowed you?" a voice called up from nearby as he approached the sword. "Holy ground, you absolute idiot!"
"Methos?" Duncan tried to follow the voice to its source and looked down to see one very cold and very wet and very pissed off Methos scaling the ice.
Methos stared at him, then closed his eyes, shook his head and continued climbing.
"I'd ask what the hell you're doing here, but I'll wait until I'm up there with you. You wouldn't happen to have some rope, would you?"
The Relative Luxury of Base Camp
No one had even tried to make Methos explain how he'd survived or why his bare hand wasn't frostbitten, let alone still in one piece. They'd just welcomed him back to camp with obvious relief and made sure to get him plenty of warm food and drink. The only question anyone had asked him was if he'd seen the climber who'd followed him up, claiming she didn't know if he had the experience to cross the Icefall without help. And to that he answered no. He hadn't seen her.
"So she challenged you on the mountain?" Duncan asked later that night while they sipped their tea in Methos' tent.
Methos nodded and pulled his hat down to cover his ears a little better. "Probably thought the only holy ground around here is the temples. Maybe the summit. No clue why she'd risk it."
"Maybe she knew who you are," Duncan suggested.
Methos shrugged and focused on his tea and adjusting the pillow on the camp chair he was seated in. Hardly the five star accommodations he'd spent much of his climb imagining, but really, it wasn't bad. And he wasn't inclined to move just then.
"Doesn't matter," he said after a while. "I don't think the mountain cared what her reasons were." If it had indeed been the mountain. They'd tried to remove the sword from the ice, but it was stuck fast, sandwiched between two gargantuan seracs that had fallen against each other to form a tight seal. So they'd left it for future climbers to puzzle over, or for the mountain to claim, which honestly, Methos thought was far more likely.
"So!" Duncan said, making Methos look over. "What do you say to actually climbing it? I mean, I did come all this way and that was before I knew you'd gotten yourself into trouble."
Methos stared at him. "You're joking, right? You found a sense of humor somewhere and now you're making a joke? Because I really don't think I'm welcome up there right now. Give it a few thousand years and enough incense to choke a monk and maybe." Or maybe never. Never sounded perfect right about then.