Work Header

Synopsis: Courage

Work Text:



How does one handle being called 'The Best?' Unless you are secure in your identity and comfortable in your own skin, you may confuse what you DO, with who you ARE. And there is always someone watching for the moment that you slip, eagerly waiting to topple you from your exalted perch.

One day it will happen. You are no longer 'The Best.' It can be devastating, if that was all that defined you. You feel depressed, insignificant, cheated. You seek escape by blaming others, abusing drugs, alcohol, sex or gambling. Maybe suicide. Maybe all of the above.

Fame, like power, can be addictive. Consider how many athletes, show business types, creative people in every field self-destruct when they no longer can 'defend their titles.' We may envy them their successes, but would we want to share their dark side?

Now consider an Immortal 'Best.' Decades, centuries of being challenged, not able to see any other rewards to life but victory, knowing one day-he has to lose. He may actually welcome the release when it comes.

That is the theme of this one. It happens to an old friend of Duncan's. He watches over decades as his friend changes. The Cullen Mac knew was filled with the love of life's challenges. He has become a fearful wreck, hounded by despair, fear and self-loathing.

New Characters:

BRIAN CULLEN - Immortal, old friend of Mac's. Known as a top swordsman but tired of constantly having to prove it. He has become an addict, changed into a different person from the one Mac knew.

HARRY - Cullen's drug pusher.

ALLAN KELLY - one Cullen's mortal challengers 19th century Switzerland.

ZOLTAN LASZLO - an Immortal challenger, later in San Francisco.

KATHERINE - Mac's mortal love interest in a San Francisco mining town.

Joe's Bar

He's the last customer,
Been imbibing all night,
Brian Cullen, once great-
Now a pitiful sight.
He drinks to forget-
Who he was, what he is,
With each drink he curses-
The fate that is his.

The Buzz penetrates-
His whiskey-soaked jumble,
It's Richie, just looking-
For Joe, not a rumble.
But a fight is what Cullen-
Has been lusting for,
He lunges at Richie,
Passes out on the floor.

Rich has learned well-
From MacLeod's tutelary,
Never hurt, never kill-
Unless necessary.
'Send him home in a cab,'
To the barkeep, and then-
Rich exits Joe's bar,
But, they will meet again.

Bike Path, The Park

'Look out!' yells Anne Lindsey,
Too late! They collide.
'This is a bike path-
Only for those who ride.'
The jogger who bumped her,
(Mac) indicates sorrow.
An out-of-court settlement?
Dinner, tomorrow?

She pedals off pleased,
Why wouldn't she be?
She has won the top prize-
In the date lottery.
But she lost her pager,
It was knocked to the ground.
It catches Mac's eye-
As he looks around.

A Mountain Road

Rich on his bike,
It's a beautiful day,
Until that old Buzz-
Gets in the way,
From above, Cullen watches,
Compares their machines,
He's on drug overload,
High on amphetamines.

He sings 'Danny Boy,'
Racing his white convertible,
He wants Richie dead,
That's incontrovertible,
He doesn't care-
Playing 'chicken's a blast,
Then catastrophe strikes-
When a bus can't get past.

The Hospital, Later

The victims are brought-
To ER, from the crash.
Brian Cullen is dead,
Anne can tell in a flash.
Duncan has come-
With her pager in hand.
He watches in wonder-
As she takes command.

To a hurt child-she's gentle,
Reassuring, and kind.
Mac admires this woman-
Her skill, her quick mind.
He senses the Buzz,
From the dead, Cullen's back,
He weaves toward a storeroom,
Behind him, comes Mac.

Warm greetings exchanged,
'Are you sure you're all right?'
'Yeah, the crash shook me up.'
He's a miserable sight.
He pockets some pills-
While Mac checks the halls,
Brian captured attention-
From the start, Mac recalls.

Flashback, Switzerland, 1810

In a coach, bound for France,
So far, the trip's dull,
But that soon will change,
There's an end to their lull.
A young man rides up-
Inflating his chest,
'Which one's Brian Cullen?
I challenge the best!'

He's a lad, a mere mortal,
To show their disdain,
Mac and Brian turn 'round,
Irrigate the terrain,
'I am Allan Kelly!
You will not turn your back!
I think you're a coward!'
Brian sighs, looks at Mac.

'Tell him to go home.'
Mac relays, 'You've fair warning.
Cullen's in no hurry-
To kill you this morning.'
'Mac... why do they come?'
'Because you're the best.'
'Bye, Brian.' Mac leaves-
Brian to his conquest.

The Dojo/Loft
Present Day

'Staying long?' Mac asks Cullen,
'Till I find this guy.
When I find him, I'll have him.'
Mac wonders, 'Why?'
'I'm still the best.'
'You always were.'
Then that Immie Buzz.
One more visitor.

'Take it easy,' smiles Mac,
He knows it's just Rich.
Then these two see other-
Richie: 'Son of a b-tch!'
'This lunatic chased me-
Down with a car.'
'This kid sucker-punched me-
Inside a bar.'

They both have swords drawn,
Mac: 'This is my home!
Rich is my friend!'
Seeing Cullen's syndrome-
Mac's mind hurtles back-
Years passed, then a change-
In the way his friend acted,
So different, so strange.

Flashback, San Francisco, 1854

The gold rush created-
This town by the bay.
Where Katherine and Mac-
Are enjoying the day.
As they head toward her room-
For an afternoon frolic-
There's a mean nasty Buzz-
In mid-smooch-diabolic!

Mac's reluctant to go,
Leaving Katherine his hat.
'I'll be back soon,
You look after that.'
Down by the wharf-
It's his old comrade, Brian.
'C'mon, have a drink!
Of thirst, I am dyin'.'

There's another Immortal-
Announced by the Buzz.
'My name's Zoltan Lazlo,
I've come here because-
I want Brian Cullen,
I am after his head.'
When Mac turns around-
Brian Cullen has fled!

Back in the Loft

Mac tells Richie, 'Don't-
If you don't have to.'
Cullen: 'You are Mac's friend-
That is all that saves you.'
Cullen leaves, laughing.
Richie: 'Mac, some advice?'
'Practice. Stay out-
Of his way.' How concise.

Morning, The Hospital

Mac's waiting for Anne,
'Rough night? Buy you breakfast?'
'Right now,' she sighs-
'All I want is some bed rest.'
'And dream of all this?'
'This is a nightmare.'
Mac gently persuades her-
They both want to share.

Outdoor Café

They sit by the water,
She tells him, it's tough-
When patients don't make it.
Did she do enough?
'That car that ran into-
The bus, it was filled-
With uppers, he took them,
And people got killed.'

Flashback, Opium Den in San Francisco

Mac cannot believe-
That his friend's sunk to this.
Sucking his pipe-
In this drug-hazed abyss.
'I've never before-
Seen you run from a fight.'
Mac speaks very softly,
'Why did you take flight?'

With tears in his eyes-
Brian mumbles his fears,
'I was scared, terrified,'
Mac can't bear what he hears.
'We're all afraid sometimes.'
'MacLeod, DON'T be best.
They keep coming at you,
They give you no rest.'

'The day surely comes-
When you fear every threat.
The pain is so great-
You need help to forget.'
Mac gently removes-
The pipe from his hand.
'Let me help you, my friend,'
Trying to understand.

Present Day, Deserted Building

Cullen tries out a sample,
Harry's finest cocaine.
He needs a big hit-
To cope with his pain.
'You're my best client-
Don't want you to die.'
'Don't worry,' pants Cullen,
'My threshold is high.'

It's a bust! The police!
'Assume the position!'
Even high on cocaine-
Cullen's still in condition.
Shot twice, he's annoyed.
Slugging cops? Mere formality.
As he leaves, one last taste...
'Excellent quality!'

The Loft

'If you want me to help you,
Stop snorting that stuff.'
'Who says I want help?'
MacLeod's heard enough!
'I am trying to remember,
Who you USED to be,
There was no better sword arm-
Or good friend to me.'

'I'd trade it all,'
Brian's eyes with tears filling,
'For a life that is normal,
Not one filled with killing.'
'We don't get that choice,
We shared joys galore,
Hasn't been one big swordfight,
Life can be so much more.'

Mac takes the coke bag,
'That is MINE! Cullen's cry,
'No more! When you use,
You cause others to die.'
'I know what you're doing!
Trying to get me weak!
You know you can't beat me-
When I'm at my peak!'

'Try to take me, right here,
Right now!' Cullen dares.
Mac murmurs, 'Good-bye.'
Cullen stonily stares.
He taunts, 'Keep the coke,
One day, you'll observe-
You'll need it real bad,
When you lose your nerve.'

Cullen's gone, his soul lost,
MacLeod's left alone.
The telephone rings,
It is Anne on the phone.
Her voice filled with life,
Can she help him mend?
'I just said good-bye-
To a very old friend.'

Dojo, That Evening

Richie takes notice-
Of Mac's fine attire.
His good-natured questions-
Arousing mock ire,
'Who? Where? What? Why?'
'None of your business!'
'Should I wait up for you?'
Mac smiles at his quizzes.

Joe's Bar, After Closing

The champagne's on ice,
Mac toasts, glasses clink.
'To out-of-court settlements.'
Anne doesn't drink.
'I'm on call,' she admits.
Mac is charmed, 'Do you dance?'
As they hold one another-
They soon find romance.

Her pager goes off,
Their bubble has burst.
He surrenders with grace.
Saving lives must come first.
As soon as she leaves,
He feels the sensation,
That unwelcome Buzz-
Needs investigation.

Warily Duncan climbs-
To the catwalk above,
Whoever it is-
Mac awaits his first move.
Cullen leaps out!
Couldn't fool Mac with trickery,
Now MacLeod demonstrates-
A more deadly Terpsichore.

Cullen's thrown on his back,
Mac's sword's at his throat.
'Do it!' Cullen dares.
Fear replaces his gloat.
Mac raises his sword.
Must it be this way?
'Next time this happens-
I won't walk away.'

The Dojo Office, later

Mac's clothes are besmirched-
With dust, soot and grime.
Rich comments, 'You had-
One hell of a time.'
After hearing Mac's tale,
'He's ALIVE?' Mac just shrugs.
'Rich, it's not him-
His problem is drugs.'

Flashback, Opium Den, San Francisco

They have sent for MacLeod-
To talk to his friend,
The opium's pushed him-
Off the deep end.
'They're swarming around me!'
Cullen's voice shakes with dread.
I can't even feel them-
And they want my head!'

Cullen's grabbed an old man,
Trapped, immobile with fear-
That Cullen will snap,
Slice his throat ear to ear.
Mac soothes Cullen gently,
Cullen lowers his blade.
Mac embraces his friend-
As he begs Mac for aid.

The Loft

'Mac, he's a junkie!'
His brain is all messed,
Whatever he was-
He is no longer best.'
'Rich, we all have-
Our critical moments,
When WHO WE MEET changes,
Our inner components.'

'The people I've met-
Connor, Fitz, Tessa, you-
Have helped me become-
What I am, in my view.'
'Well Mac, if I met-
Someone else in your stead,
I know who I'D be,'
Says Rich; 'I'd be dead.'

Parking Garage

Cullen's shaking down Harry,
'I need MORE!' insisting,
'Take it!' The coke-
Isn't worth his resisting.
Cullen calls Mac, beseeching,
'I'm trying to kick,
Please come and get me,
I need you, I'm sick.'

Mac calls Brian's name,
A van's roar-his answer
Cullen's berserk,
Brain destroyed by coke's cancer.
Mac flees from the van,
'Run! Duncan, run!
Go run your kilt off!'
Cullen's game has begun.

Duncan sprints toward a wall,
His fate appears sealed.
Then he whirls, sword in hand-
Leaping on the windshield!
He clings by a hair-
Till in sheer self-defense-
He vaults himself off,
Now his back's to a fence.

The fence is chain linked,
Mac cannot get away-
From the hurtling van,
He is trapped, easy prey.
In a desperate effort,
With a matador's art,
His sword stabs the windshield,
Straight through Cullen's heart.

Both men are dead,
Bleeding, broken and damaged.
While Mac tries to heal-
Cullen wakes and has managed-
To extract Mac's katana,
And, despite pain intense,
He heaves MacLeod's weapon-
Over the fence!

Weakened by pain,
No plan,
Mac staggers forward-
Into the van.
He gropes, blindly seeking-
Till his bloody hands clench-
A tool of defense-
An iron lug wrench.

Mac parries some thrusts-
Till he builds strength to climb,
Cullen slices his neck,
Whoa! Too close, that time!
Cullen struts, arms held high,
With his own skill impressed,
He trumpets his victory,
'I'm still the BEST!'

His moment has come,
Mac leaps to the fence,
Stabbed again as he climbs,
Falling...torment immense.
But, he reaches his sword,
And, with echoes, long past,
'Bye, Brian' he murmurs.
It is over, at last.

The Quickening's violence-
Fades with the dawn.
Mac weeps bitter tears-
For another friend gone
Dreams unfulfilled,
Opportunities wasted.
Eternal life's fruits-
Forever untasted.

Mac ponders his fate-
One he did not choose.
How many more friends-
Will The Gathering lose?
Will his turn be next?
Fear mustn't deter him-
From living his life-
By the passions, that stir him.

Morning, Outside the Hospital ER

He has grieved long enough,
Thinking only of death.
Hope must not depart-
While his body holds breath.
His life will have purpose,
That's his avowed plan.
He will treasure each moment,
And he'll start with Anne.

'Rough night?' 'Nah!' he says.
But his eyes say it all.
'Nightmares?' asks Anne
She has made the right call.
Her strength is a comfort,
Her mood confident,
'Buy you breakfast?' she offers,
For now, he's content.

Peace, Emit
© 2001-2003

From Under the Kilt from Highlander: The Official Site:

David Abramowitz, Creative Consultant
'Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.'

Don Paonessa, Creative Consultant, Post Production
'The cocaine show... There was a very controversial thing that I did at the end of the teaser, when the guy goes into the bus. I created this kind of psychedelic light blast that some people thought was cheesy, but I thought it was pretty cool.'

Ken Gord, Producer
'This is one of favorites, too. I think Pyper Ferguson was one of the best Immies ever, I think of the entire 113 episodes. He was a great, great character, well cast, well written and well directed. A little violent probably for most people, I think the fight at the end was one of the most violent we had, but you have to push sometimes and see where it takes you.'

~ The Lamb