Disclaimer: This story is rated NC-17 for graphic depiction of homosexual activity. If you're not part of the K-Y Generation, get thee hence. The characters in this story are not mine. I am only borrowing them, and I mean no harm. No money changed hands.

Rating: NC-17

Characters: DM, M, A

Classification: Slash

Comments: Graphic homosexual adult content.

Summary: First time Duncan/Methos. A little angsty, a little silly.

This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. Please do not link, publish or post this material without permission.

Author's note: This story was written as a birthday gift for a friend, who is more of a friend than ever due to her extreme patience in waiting for it. My sincere thanks to Claire for her editorial prowess.

Any comments, questions, etc. can be sent to me at mtriste@hotmail.com.

For MW, with greatest love-a very, very happy, very, very late birthday to you!

A Miracle Every Day

By Aristide

It takes dynamite to get me up

Too much of everything is just enough

One more thing I just got to say

I need a miracle every day.

-Grateful Dead

Duncan MacLeod approached the door slowly, carefully checking the numbers displayed in brass letters against those written on a slip of paper in his hand. The buzz in his head and the matched numbers indicated that this was the place, but the loud, thumping music blasting from behind the door gave him considerable pause.

He debated whether or not knocking would be futile given the noise level, but long-ingrained habits of formality won out, and he raised his fist to bang on the door.

It swung open as soon as he touched it, revealing a wide, airy room cluttered with boxes and random pieces of austere furniture. Everything looked as if it had been shoved haphazardly against the walls to clear an irregular space in the middle of the brightly polished wooden floor, bare except for a portable CD player, a half-empty bottle of beer, and Methos; wearing what appeared to be a pair of black swim trunks, and nothing else.

Dancing. And singing badly.

Duncan stopped cold, surprised beyond words as he watched Methos hop serenely around the room, evidently having the time of his life.

Methos acknowledged him with a quick nod on the downbeat and waved him in with a smile, but showed no signs of stopping either his gyrations or his accompaniment. The song was unfamiliar, something with a folk-blues beat, keyboards and guitar. Methos was warbling something about needing a woman twice his height, and Duncan smiled helplessly at the mental picture of Methos clinging to the knees of some mammoth, gantrylike female. He stepped inside and closed the door.

"Well-you certainly seem in good spirits," Duncan said when the music finally stopped and Methos sank onto his couch with an exhausted sigh. "What was all that about?"

Methos picked up a gray T-shirt from a crumpled pile on the couch and used it to swab his perspiring face. "That was... 'I Need a Miracle Every Day'...would've thought it obvious..."

That had, indeed, been the rather incessant refrain of the song. Duncan ignored the sarcasm, watching curiously as Methos extended his foot and used his bare toes to grip the neck of his beer bottle.

"I guess I never thought of you as the dancing type," Duncan chuckled, weaving carefully past a barrier of boxes with 'Books-Misc.' written on them. Despairing of an invitation, he sat down in an armchair that proved to be much more comfortable than it had looked.

Methos shrugged, and deftly grabbed his beer as it dangled from his toes. "Dramatic renewal of purpose," he said dryly, as if that explained anything. He drained his beer, rolled the empty bottle briefly across his flushed forehead, and sighed.

Duncan frowned. "Renewal of...is something wrong?"

Methos grimaced slightly, but shook his head. "I hate moving, that's all. Sometimes it helps to just cut loose." His eyes moved to Duncan, suddenly bright with amusement. "Besides, I like the Grateful Dead. Aside from the music, I find their name to be a continual source of amusement."

Duncan chuckled again. "You never cease to amaze me. The Grateful Dead? What did you do in the Sixties, anyway?"

Methos' lips curved slightly, the ghost of a smile. "The same thing I usually do in any time of change. Watched it happen. Took notes. Read books. Got laid a lot."

Duncan had to bite the inside of his lip to keep from laughing. It wasn't that funny. "Did some of that myself."

"So," Methos said wearily, craning his neck to survey the heaped boxes and erratic furniture placement, "you want to help me settle in? There's beer in it for you."

"I'm here, aren't I? And-there'll be beer and dinner in it for me, because you're paying for the pizza."

Methos looked scandalized. "Just for unpacking? The stuff is already moved, MacLeod. I'm not asking you to perform Herculean feats with that overdeveloped physique of yours, you know."

Duncan kept up his end of the banter, some part of him quietly marveling at how easy it was, how it seemed that there was something to salvage, even after the disastrous events that had strained their friendship almost to the breaking point.

The new coolness that existed between them after he'd made Kronos' acquaintance had never really abated. Duncan had been fairly sure that soon enough he and Methos would drift apart, connected only through their relationship with Joe. The thought had both saddened and relieved him, oddly enough. Methos had been a good friend, but he had also proved to be a rather...challenging one.

Therefore Duncan had been both pleased and a little wary to find a note thrust under the door of the barge when he returned from his run:

'Have moved. Come help me unpack. The bribe is beer. If we finish early, chess and pizza. If not, drunken hilarity among the wreckage. 154 Boulevard Saint Germain, #14. M.'

He'd almost ignored the note. It would have been easy to do so, but in the end the friendly, casual tone of the scrawled missive had won him over.

As he settled in to work, pulling stack after stack of books from the endless boxes, he felt glad that he'd come. Challenging or not, Methos could be an amusing companion when he chose to be-and this afternoon he was in rare form, offering a never-ending stream of stories, remarks, quips and historical tales that engaged Duncan as much as they strained belief. He was glad for the distraction, given that Methos apparently had the world's largest collection of the world's dullest books.

Duncan fell gradually under the spell of the other man's voice as he loaded the bookshelves-losing the sense of the words themselves, but gaining a sort of auditory picture of how civilization had shaped itself for the past few thousands of years. It made him feel oddly young, as if history was a vast ocean in which he had only gotten wet to the ankles.

He slowly realized that he'd stopped working, that he now sat cross-legged and motionless on the floor with a dusty pile of books in his lap, running the tips of his fingers rhythmically over the spines as he listened. This realization was followed by another: Methos had stopped speaking, and now regarded Duncan with considerable annoyance from over his shoulder as he wiped a rag over the iron curves of a hideous floor lamp.

"You're not earning your keep, MacLeod," Methos accused, "you don't get to read the damn books; just put them away!"

Duncan felt his brows draw down. "Hey, I'm doing you a favor here, in case you forgot. And I wasn't reading, I was listening to your stories." Methos' accusatory glare didn't shift a bit, but Duncan wasn't about to leave it at that. "What's going on, Methos? You don't usually talk about...your life."

Methos tossed the rag aside, and sat on a nearby box. "Oh, so it's my fault, is it? And since when do you find my stories so mesmerizing? As I recall, your last comment on the subject was something along the lines of 'blah, blah...'"

Duncan smiled. He couldn't help it. "Touché, Methos."

Methos smirked, vindicated.

Damn. He hadn't wanted to give in so easily... "Okay, then how about this-in a desperate attempt to distract my mind from your endless droning, I took refuge in one of your seemingly thousands of boring, stupid old books." He held one up for emphasis. "I've been sitting here, secretly praying for you to shut up, hoping that you won't notice that I'm completely absorbed in-" he looked at the book in his hand...

"The Big Book of Gay Erotic Fiction!?"

Oh boy. Duncan felt his cheeks flush hot, and embarrassment drew a tight band around his chest, snagging his breath short in his throat.

He opened his mouth, unsure of quite what he was going to say next, but before he could speak he was interrupted by a wild burst of laughter.

"Your face!" Methos managed, rocking back and forth atop the box like some deranged maniac. He was holding his sides and shaking, and Duncan was not so far gone in shock that he failed to notice that there were actually tears standing in the other man's eyes.

Duncan was frozen, held immobile for a moment between acute discomfiture and a sudden flash of cold, irrational fear, but then he felt his mouth curve in a helpless smile, and then he was chuckling. Then laughing. Then Methos fell backwards off the box and became two waving legs accompanied by strange hooting noises, and then he was roaring, his ribs aching with pain.

He couldn't breathe-his lungs had given up somehow and walked off the job, and now he was going to die here ignobly on the floor of Methos' new apartment.

Eventually the threat of impending asphyxiation retreated as he got himself under control bit by bit, and as he wiped his watering eyes he looked up to see Methos peering hazily at him from over the top of the overturned box, mouth twisted with suppressed mirth.

"Oh," Methos sighed weakly, his voice hitching, "I haven't laughed like that in...too long."

Duncan nodded, glad for the new topic. "I don't think we've ever laughed like that together-"

It struck him, suddenly, what an odd thing that was to say, and he fell silent as his earlier embarrassment returned. There was a bizarre sense of being both closer and more distant from his host, and neither change was very comfortable. He drew a deep breath and waited, unsure of what to do next, how to re-establish his footing.

Methos got to his feet and retrieved the rag he'd been using, still chuckling, and returned to his work on the lamp. Duncan stared at his back, hesitating for a moment between his curiosity and his apprehension.

"I know you're doing me a favor, MacLeod," Methos said lightly without turning around, "but do you think you could find it in your heart to speed it up a little? I'm starving."

Duncan looked away from Methos and pondered the book in his hand, reflecting (not for the first time) that there was more to Methos than met the eye...

He shelved it.

"More pizza?" Methos offered politely, holding his hand out for Duncan's plate. Duncan groaned in protest, waving him off with his empty beer bottle.

"Oh God-no more. I feel like I'm gonna be sick as it is...how much beer did we drink?" he flopped sideways on the couch and stretched out, surveying with dismay the dozens of empty bottles littering the room.

"More than you're used to, apparently," Methos snickered as he walked to the kitchen. "Want another?"

Duncan sighed. "You must be...Well, okay. Yes."

Methos' laughter, warm but somehow disembodied, floated to him from the kitchen.

Duncan accepted the bottle Methos extended to him when he returned, and sat up. His head swam. "Thanks," he murmured, and drank. Pizza always made him thirsty.

Methos was looking at him, amused. Duncan felt a sudden need for a new topic of conversation. "The place looks pretty good," he ventured, waving his bottle to indicate the completed work.

Methos scanned the room and nodded. "Thanks for your help."

"Welcome. Next time I move, I promise to get you drunk." He flopped over sideways again.

Methos smiled absently. "I don't think you could afford it."

"It would be fun trying."

Methos stared at him curiously, turning his head sideways to meet his eyes. Duncan's stomach fluttered.

"I think I'm smashed," Duncan said seriously, and then broke up into a series of snorts and giggles.

"Undoubtedly," Methos agreed companionably enough. He turned away, and pulled a chair forward to the other side of the low table that faced the couch.


Duncan forced himself to sit up, and shook his head to clear it. "I'm in no condition-you'd wipe me out."

Methos grinned. "As opposed to when we play and you're sober, when I just beat the pants off you?"

"C'mon, Methos," Duncan whined, sliding down the couch until he was hanging mostly over the edge, "you wouldn't take unfair advantage of me in my intoxicated state, would you?”

The grin remained. Deepened, even. “There’s no need, MacLeod. I’ve gotten what I wanted from you—” he waved at the full bookshelves, “a few beers, and you were putty in my hands.”

Duncan felt a warm, terribly drunken smile stretch his lips. “Oh sure—I’m easy. A few funny stories, a case of mediocre beer, and I’ll shelve your damn pornography ‘till the sun comes up.”

They were both laughing then, but Duncan’s enjoyment of the joke was blunted as it occurred to him that this was a side of Methos he’d never seen—another molting, another persona emerging from behind the opaque barrier. He wondered briefly how they could all be the same person, how he should reconcile this open, unguarded man with the others he’d seen before.

The thought subdued him, and his laughter dried up. He might not be able to reconcile all the myriad guises, but he could tell Methos what he thought…

“I just thought of something,” he said quietly, leaning forward. “No—two things.”

Methos’ brow furrowed with mock-concern. “Shall I go for the fire extinguisher?”

Duncan waved off the sarcasm, but gave in to the urge to smile. “First of all, I’ve decided that you’re officially the weirdest person I’ve ever met. Secondly…”

Strange. In his head the thought hadn’t seemed like much of a risk. “This has been great. I— I had fun.” He hoped it didn’t sound as stupid as he thought it did.

Probably a vain hope—Methos looked amused again. “Thank you on both counts, I think. However, don’t expect me to move again soon just to give you an excuse to get plastered and flop on my couch.”

Duncan sighed. He felt warm and sleepy and happy and buzzed; at peace with the world in a way he hadn’t in…too long, he guessed. He slid sideways on the couch again, regarding Methos with newfound admiration. “Where have you been hiding this guy?” he asked quietly.

Methos looked around, puzzled. “What?”

“This guy—the one that tells me stories and laughs and gives me beer and pats my head when I’m too drunk to move?”

Methos smiled. “You are wasted, MacLeod. I haven’t patted your head.”

“No, but you’re going to. Come over here and pat my head, Methos—I’m too drunk to move.”

Methos looked at him indulgently, almost fondly, but didn’t budge. Duncan was beginning to wonder if he’d put his foot in it, but then Methos was up and moving.

The couch sighed as Methos sat. There was a soft, almost imperceptible touch against his hair—unexpectedly gentle, indescribably soothing.

“There MacLeod,” Methos murmured, “you don’t have to move. You can just pass out where you are, and I’ll cover you up. Then, in the morning, you can have all the fun of blaming me for your headache.”

“I don’t get hangovers,” Duncan insisted stoutly. His own voice seemed distant and far away.

“Oh, I think you might have one this time.” Obnoxiously pleasant. “But look on the bright side—it will amuse you to try to remember whether or not you made a total ass of yourself.”

“Is that—am I…What?”

Methos looked down at him, seemingly from a great height. “I don’t recall you ever asking me to pat your head when you were sober,” he said wryly.

Duncan snorted, dismissing the comment. “Feels nice. I like it. Besides—”

He stopped. All at once unsure. What the hell was he doing?

Methos had that indulgent look again. “Why don’t you just ask me, Mac?”

Duncan tried to force his brain to focus. Had he missed something, some string of conversation that would make all this into something that made sense? “Ask what?”

Methos smiled. “MacLeod, if curiosity could kill, you’d be in a billion little pieces. It’s coming off you in waves. Since these subtleties began when you discovered the spectrum of my reading material, I can only assume that you have questions that you’re too polite to ask.”

He was embarrassed again, but it was different, more subtle and yet tinged with shame, as if he’d been caught in a lewd act. Methos suddenly seemed too close, too perceptive, and too sober to be safe.

“I didn’t mean anything, Methos—”

“I didn’t mean to imply that you did, MacLeod.”

Duncan searched the face above carefully for any sign of sarcasm, but there was none. There was only Methos, looking surprisingly mellow.

Moving slowly, he pulled his head from beneath Methos’ hand and sat up, breathing deeply until the room stopped pitching and yawing. He looked at Methos again. No change, just patient silence.

The words left his mouth even as they formed in his head—one of the more unfortunate effects of being drunk. “Okay then. What’s it like to sleep with a man?”

Damn. His cheeks were hot again. He fumbled for his beer and drained it, and picked resolutely at the label to delay the moment when he’d have to look up.

There was no response. He turned his head finally when the silence became too much, and saw Methos’ surprise—eyes wide, mouth slightly open.

“Well,” Duncan said with tipsy defensiveness, “you told me to ask!”

Methos snapped out of it. “Sorry, Mac. It’s just...that wasn’t the question I expected.”

Duncan’s cheeks were on fire. He shouldn’t have started this, but now he felt like he had to know. “Well, what did you think I was going to ask?”

Methos’ smile had returned, and Duncan was inexpressibly relieved to see that his cheeks were faintly pink. “I don’t…I thought you might ask me about…I don’t know. The book, perhaps, or ancient techniques, or…” he took a deep breath, and looked almost apologetically into Duncan’s eyes.

“Frankly, MacLeod, it never even occurred to me that you might not know.”

Now it was Duncan’s turn to be surprised. “What do you mean?”

Methos shifted slightly, making the couch creak. “I figured that…well…you’re four hundred years old, Mac. I guess I thought you must have done some experimenting in all that time—most Immortals do, at one point or another.”

Duncan felt a little strange. It was disquieting to think that his staunch heterosexuality made him some kind of…deviant. “You’ve read my Chronicle, Methos, and you know me.” He sighed. “Women. Hundreds, probably thousands of them.”

Methos grinned smugly “Oh yes, I’m completely familiar with Duncan MacLeod, Scotland’s answer to Don Juan. I guess I just acted on the knowledge that no Chronicle is ever complete…”

A silence fell; not entirely uncomfortable. Finally Methos leaned toward him, and Duncan experienced a moment of sheer panic until he understood that the other man only wanted the empty, peeled bottle.

“Want another?” Methos asked, standing and moving towards the kitchen. Duncan weighed the question rationally, listened carefully to the voice of his better judgement; and decided what the hell.

“Live dangerously,” he quipped brightly as he put his feet up on the table, “but can you deal with me if I pass out?”

Methos entered the room and handed him a bottle. It was icy cold to the touch, and Duncan shivered.

“No problem,” Methos replied, “how much money do you have in your pockets?”

Duncan snickered, and pressed a hand to his head as Methos sat on the couch, making the room sway.

Duncan studied Methos’ calm, tranquil features, and wondered what was going on behind those steady hazel eyes. “You never answered my question,” he said softly. He looked away, studied his hands picking and tugging at the label on his new bottle. He heard Methos sigh.

“No, I didn’t. I’m not sure if I know how to answer.”

Duncan waited, feeling sure that Methos must have more to say.

“How do you describe human sexuality?” the mellow voice continued finally, “for example, if I were to ask you what it’s like to sleep with a woman—”

“It’s great!” Duncan interrupted as he looked up with a grin. Methos laughed.

“Exactly that. It’s great; but moreover each individual experience is unique. It can be passionate, or rough, or tender…”

Duncan’s stomach fluttered uneasily again, and he looked away from Methos and back to his mutilated beer bottle. Somehow he’d never thought about men being tender with each other, and the idea was a little…unsettling. Secure in his masculine self, he just couldn’t imagine a man…

But Methos was a man, albeit a rather strange one.

He remembered his own brief pleasure under Methos’ gentle touch. It had been both sweet and frightening; something to be luxuriated in, and something to turn away from before it went on too long…

“What exactly is it that you’re grappling with, MacLeod?”

Methos’ low, pleasant voice jolted him from his reflections. Duncan looked up, once again feeling eerily transparent.

“Just letting it all settle. It hasn’t…I haven’t thought about any of this before.”

Methos smiled at him, shaking his head. “Ah, the easy naivete of the young,” he chuckled. “Well, I’m honored to have had the privilege of—”

“Methos,” Duncan interrupted. His heart beat too quickly, and his head spun with something besides the beer. He forced the words out, understanding that hesitation would be failure. “Will you kiss me?”

Methos appeared to be horrified. “What? No! Are you insane?”

Duncan honestly didn’t know if he could go any further. All he could do was look into Methos’ eyes and wait for his heart to stop racing. He summoned up his courage, and his hands unconsciously tightened their grip on the bottle. “I’m not insane. I’m curious.” A deep breath. “Please?”

Methos studied him intently for a long, uncomfortable time. Duncan swallowed reflexively and tried not to squirm with anxiety, knowing that his cheeks were flushed.

After what had seemed to be an endless period of agony, Methos shook his head and smiled again—amusement, or wonder, Duncan couldn’t tell. Methos leaned forward slowly, and Duncan had all the time in the world to feel each centimeter of distance burning away between them before soft, patient lips brushed lightly against his own, closing over him like a velvet trap.

Duncan’s entire body flushed hot with a sudden blaze of shock, a moment of almost painful intensity that quickly blurred into warm, melting waves of sensation. He felt weighted, pinned, able only to open further to the slow insinuation of soft lips and silken tongue that tasted him so thoroughly.

The combination of astonishment and carnal energy held him immobile for a long moment. It was a crux, a culmination; no less overwhelming for being unexpected. It seemed unbelievable—that he had asked, that Methos had answered, that right now he was motionless under the other man’s soft, compelling mouth while his body responded with lust.

It was suddenly not enough for him to be only a passive recipient, and he moved his hands up through what felt like oceans, ages of time, to rest finally on the smooth, angular planes of Methos’ face. He tilted his head slightly and delved in, exploring the slick, electric sweetness of the open lips. His feeding became more urgent as he realized that he was deeply, utterly aroused; his body tingled with anticipation, wanting more.

He drew breath to voice the groan that had built within, but Methos pulled gently away before he could make a sound, touching Duncan’s cheek softly in silent acknowledgement.

“Well now,” Methos murmured quietly as he settled back into the couch, “you’re just full of surprises this evening.”

Duncan was breathless, his mouth hot and hungry. His body ached. “I wasn’t done yet,” he gasped, shifting towards the other man.

Methos leaned away. “Wait, MacLeod,” he insisted, and Duncan paused.

Methos looked at him; a curious, penetrating look that made him dizzy even as he flushed with new reticence.

“I don’t think we should…do that.” Methos’ voice was gentle, but Duncan felt the rejection as if he’d been shoved away forcibly. He didn’t know what to say. There had not been much time for anticipation, but whatever thoughts he’d had left him utterly unprepared for…for the heat curling through his body, for one thing. His mouth still throbbed with the memory of the kiss, as if Methos had somehow branded him.

“Why not?” he managed. He shifted around on the couch and tried to still this new restlessness, a tight-wire of fear, anticipation and urgency that was almost shamefully exciting.

Methos seemed to relax a little, a faint, almost sad smile curving his lips. “The explanation would probably bore you to death, Mac. Suffice it to say that you’re currently inebriated, and probably not in your right mind, and leave it at that.”

Duncan’s jaw clenched with frustration. “I know what I’m doing, Methos.”

Did he? Did he really? “I’m not that drunk—”

“Let’s talk about it in the morning,” Methos insisted quietly, and stood. “I’ll get you some bedding.”

Methos was gone. Duncan closed his eyes and sighed. He actually felt relieved, a little, which added to his confusion. Yes, he was relieved; so why, then, was he so damn frustrated?

Lost in his own reflections, he barely acknowledged Methos’ return. He maintained enough awareness to answer the other man’s whispered good-night as he huddled gratefully beneath his borrowed quilt, but he closed his eyes on the thought that tomorrow he would request—no, demand—an explanation.

The sun warmed his closed eyelids, an intangible caress of peace that created a sweet, pervasive sense of well being. Duncan yawned and stretched, and wondered suddenly why his body was so stiff.

He opened his eyes and understood. He'd slept on the couch, Methos' couch, and as great as the couch might be for lounging on when drunk, it was about a foot too short for someone of his height to actually sleep on.

He curled himself gingerly into a sitting position, and winced at the pop and crackle of his spine. The first thing that caught his attention was the staggering number of empty beer bottles strewn about, many of them with labels hanging in strips and tatters. He sighed.

He investigated himself carefully for any sign of hangover, but evidently some of Methos' alcohol tolerance had rubbed off on him-other than the stiffness and his usual morning restlessness, he felt fine.

Better than fine, actually. There was an anticipation, an eagerness within him, different from the razor's edge excitement of last night. Even in sleep the memory of that kiss hadn't left his mind-but it was a sweet memory, at least. He rubbed his face and stretched luxuriantly, letting the feeling settle-he had time, after all; lots and lots of time.

A hushed, fuzzy murmur issued from the bedroom-apparently, Methos talked in his sleep. Duncan grinned, and wondered if he should go impose his bright-eyed, energetic self on his comatose host. Upon reflection, he thought better of it. He needed to think, and the reality of a grumpy, irritated Methos would probably interfere with the process, no matter how much fun it seemed in theory.

Duncan rose quietly, raided one of the few remaining still-packed boxes for a pair of sweats and a pullover, and went out to run.

Methos was still sleeping when he returned, even though Duncan had run for over an hour. He marveled for a moment that his presence hadn't wakened the old man-Methos must be utterly exhausted, a fact that made the prospect of waking him up just that much more enjoyable.

Duncan removed his shoes and socks, then stripped off the pullover and used it to wipe the sweat from his face. It had been a good run, if a little tiring. He'd reviewed all the events of the previous evening, and the various resultant emotions had stirred him to a faster pace than he was used to.

It had been fairly easy, actually. Four hundred years was long enough to wait. Last night had informed him that there was obviously pleasure to be had in this strange new realm, and he was determined to find some. He had kept his mind away from specifics since it was nearly impossible to run when his body fluctuated wildly between apprehension and arousal, but the curiosity and the desire were undeniably real, and therefore must be acknowledged.

When his body had cooled a little Duncan walked resolutely into the bedroom. Methos was stretched across the entire bed facedown, only one arm and some crazy spikes of hair visible. Duncan chuckled quietly. The first thing, prerequisite to any other action, was to pry Methos out of his comatose state.

He moved forward and settled on the edge of the bed, not quite a full-force bounce.

"Rise and shine, old man," he said brightly, wiggling a little to heighten the annoyance factor. There was a low, unhappy groaning noise, and the covers shifted about mysteriously, finally resolving into a dark cave from which one resentful eye peered.

"Go away," Methos insisted groggily, and disappeared under the covers again.

"Methos..." Duncan wheedled, rocking back and forth so that the whole bed swayed, "are you going to sleep all day?"

"Yes, thank you," the terse, irritated words were muffled under a heap. "Don't let the door hit you on the arse on your way out."

Duncan laughed. This was even more fun than he'd expected. He tugged at the covers playfully, but they were secured in a deathgrip. Determined, he wrenched at one corner until everything flew up in a flurry of blankets. One quick, economical movement, and he managed to bundle himself neatly underneath before the covers settled.

"MacLeod!" Methos squawked in a scandalized tone, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Duncan snuggled into the recently vacated half of the bed and burrowed his face into the nearest, still-warm pillow. "Expanding my horizons," he quipped.

Methos appeared to be fully awake now, and his outraged glare made Duncan chuckle. "You're in my bed," Methos observed.

"Yes, I am."

There was a pause. Methos sniffed.

"You've been for a run."


"Get out."

It was halfhearted at best. Duncan watched Methos work hard to maintain that unconvincing look of stern composure, but there was definitely some sort of struggle going on.

"I will if you join me," Duncan wheedled, alarmingly fearless in the face of Methos' reticence, "Shower?"

The mock-sternness and the amusement faded abruptly away from the other man's face, replaced by a cautious wariness that cooled Duncan's blood at once.

"What are you up to, Mac?"

The words were spoken so carefully, so guardedly, that Duncan was hard pressed to maintain eye contact. He took refuge in the obvious; his voice now hushed to a quiet murmur. "I'm...I'm taking up where we left off, last night."

Methos only stared at him, an unsettling look of...pity?

All at once, his body went cold, and he shivered under the impact of a sudden realization that he had no idea whether or not Methos was even attracted to him. He scanned desperately over the events of last night, seeking proof-he didn't just assume, did he?

His breath caught in his throat. No, none of Methos' actions gave any evidence-oh God. His stomach tensed with embarrassment, and he abruptly covered his face with one hand, amazed that he'd been so bloody dense.

"Methos," he began haltingly, "I didn't even think..."

"Why does that not surprise me?"

Well, at least Methos had regained his sense of humor about the whole thing. Duncan lowered his hand and forced himself to look at the other man. "I'm not your type, am I?"

Methos' eyes slanted half-closed. "What?"

His face was hot. "I just assumed, when you...last night, that you thought I was attractive-"

His words were cut off by the other man's laughter, a lively, almost merry sound. Duncan's stomach curled further in on itself.

"Oh, MacLeod, you're unbelievable," Methos sighed. "By all means, go with the idea that you're not my type-it'll do your ego no end of good..."

Methos seemed to find the idea highly humorous, as he chuckled on for some time. Duncan was not amused.

"Well, if it's not that, then what is it?"

Methos sobered, and turned toward him to lie with his head propped on his hand. Duncan tingled for a brief moment-lying in Methos' bed, talking face to face, was...nice. As if, under different circumstances, Methos might just reach over and-

"MacLeod," Methos said quietly, interrupting his thoughts, "you are undoubtedly attractive to me. I've always found you to be."

In the sudden, overwhelming rush of relief, Duncan reached out before he knew he was going to do so. Methos forestalled him with one raised hand.

"But you are also," he continued, "as you informed me last night, completely inexperienced with...men. I'm guessing that if your curiosity hasn't led you over the line even once in the past four hundred years, there's probably a good reason."

Duncan felt dim stirrings of frustration-hadn't Methos listened to him, last night? "I told you, Methos, I just ever really thought about it before." He softened his tone, looking for something he couldn't define in Methos' careful features, "But I've thought now, and I want to know...I want to know what I've been missing out on."

Absurdity struck suddenly-was he really doing this, trying to persuade Methos into a roll in the hay? He shook his head, almost hiccuping on the sudden laughter that wanted to erupt. "Don't make me get tough," he warned menacingly with his best growl.

Methos only studied him with apologetic eyes. "You're not ready...you don't know what you're doing, Mac-"

Duncan sighed. Infuriating, annoying immortal! "That's my point exactly, Methos-"

"And I'm not about to risk everything-"

Duncan had heard enough. He reached out for Methos' shoulders and found smooth, bare skin warm under his hands. He stifled the other man's shocked noise of surprise with his lips, and dragged him under.

Methos evidently wanted to say something, and pushed gently but repeatedly at his arms. Duncan persisted, allowed the frustrated tension that had built inside him to pour itself out through the language of tongues. A brief, half-formed thought echoed quickly through his mind that no-one should taste this good first thing in the morning after drinking all night, and then he was lost-demanding, pushing, sealing them together, seeking out whatever secrets there were to be found between Methos' soft lips.

Once again, he was both amazed and a little dismayed by the speed and intensity of his body's response. One deep, hungry kiss and all his limbs were trembling with unknown desires, a sudden, absolute intoxication that was both unfamiliar and terribly compelling.

Beneath him, Methos responded. Feather touches skated over his skin, making him shiver, easing him somehow without reducing his urgency. Slowly Methos guided him onto his back, and Duncan reluctantly surrendered his entitlement to the other man's mouth. Gasping for air, he dimly recognized the core of sweetness that drew such responses from him, seduced by the erotic lassitude of surrender, of letting Methos take control.

The kiss began again, softer, a leisurely and strangely decadent melding of flesh, an invasion of moist silken tongue. Duncan felt himself being undone by Methos' patient, experienced mouth-he was relaxed, almost sleepy, yet his arousal had drawn taut like a tripwire, waiting to snap.

At last Methos released him, and looked down at him with bright, dilated eyes. "You're sure?"

Duncan moaned in response and buried his face in the hollow of Methos' throat. Warm, spicy scent, indescribable. He shivered. Methos nuzzled him briefly, almost tentatively, then moved back in to capture his mouth again.

It was different now. Methos was clearly kissing with the goal of arousing him, yet the pace was still torturously slow. Duncan vibrated with suppressed energy and reached out, needing to touch, to hold; craving bare skin against his own.

Methos stopped him, guided his hand gently back to where it had started. There was a tender, massaging press into the center of his palm, and Duncan understood-keep that hand there. He wondered briefly if Methos meant to drive him insane, but he obeyed, and clenched fiercely into the bedsheets in frustration.

Methos stroked him slowly, lightly; sweet, amorphous touches that trailed over his bare throat and collarbones. Duncan arched up off the bed, his erection straining.

"Easy, MacLeod," Methos whispered against his open lips, "just let me do this..."

"But you're killing me, Methos," Duncan hissed, struggling to stay still.

Methos pulled back a little. "Breathe. Relax. You're not a horny teenager, you know." One sensual finger trailed from his throat to his nipple, moving in slow circles.

Duncan gasped. "I'm going to explode all over your sweatpants if you don't..."

Methos smiled. "No, you won't. Breathe with me."

Duncan tried, forced his attention away from the burning need in his body and onto the deep, controlled breaths that Methos took. Little by little he relaxed, and a strange, creeping enervation overtook him. He became molten, passive; surrendered totally to the mouth and hands that directed his pleasure.

Now that it was too late, now that he stood committed to this unexpected course of fate, Duncan realized that there was more to fear than he had ever imagined. The idea of sex with his own gender-yes, that could be compassed, even pursued. This inexplicable abandon, however; this shattering intensity...anything this powerful had to be bloody dangerous, sooner or later.

Even these thoughts and the new dread they summoned couldn't make a dent in his desperate need for the moment to go on, and he trembled with ecstasy even as he shook with an unsuspected dismay at his own appetites. He offered a silent prayer that Methos had some measure of control, because he obviously had none-each new territory explored only left him more compliant.

When Methos finally grasped the rigid flesh of his erection, Duncan was only able to moan softly. His eyes were wet with tears from an unknown source, his body welling, filled, overflowing with passion. Methos' strokes were firm but slow, an irresistible caress that seemed utterly unlike any other in his experience. He was floating, cushioned on delight; completely dependent on the relentless, exquisite touch that pulled groan after groan from him.

His mouth couldn't form the words-(What have you done to me)? He wanted to ask, but he knew that if he did the torment might stop, and that would kill him. (Don't stop...don't leave me like...this).

Methos kept him suspended in bliss for a long, aching, unmeasurable period of time, never hurrying, finding his most sensitive areas only to lavish them with delicate attention. Duncan eventually became aware that despite his utter inertia he was shuddering uncontrollably in Methos' arms, his body driven ruthlessly past whatever limits he thought he had.

At last, after a slow build of pleasure so acute it seemed almost like pain, Methos pulled away from his mouth and fastened brutally onto the sensitive skin of his throat. There was a flash of deep, searing heat as Methos bit into him, and Duncan's overloaded nerves exploded with final ecstasy. He cried out hoarsely, pumping blood and semen from his throbbing, exhausted body, unsure which gave him more enjoyment as release echoed between his throat and his cock in long, endless pulses.

"You're so beautiful..." Methos' whisper was hot thunder in his ear, liquid fire on his skin, something to hold fast to as everything else drained away. The hand cupping him smoothed slick wetness over his burning shaft, easing the ache there, satisfying a hunger that had seemed unappeasable.

As the pain at his throat faded, as shivers died away and mellowed into a deep, quiet calm, Duncan was amazed to find himself actually drifting down into sleep. Fears were forgotten while he felt safe and comforted in the welcoming circle of Methos' embrace; feeling at rest, knowing without asking, and without an answer, that he was cherished.

Duncan armed the sweat from his forehead, took a nail from his mouth and placed it, gauged his aim carefully, and brought the hammer down squarely on his thumb.

"Damn!" He spewed nails as he yelled, and dropped the hammer to cradle his smashed thumb gingerly. This was not working, not at all. At this rate he'd probably end up accidentally sawing one of his limbs off, probably while performing some innocuous task like changing a light bulb.

The pain had already receded as his body performed its old, old trick, but he decided abruptly that he'd had enough anyway. He put his tools away with as much slam and noise as he could muster, uncharacteristically lacking regard to where they actually belonged, and got in his car.

Four days. It had been four days since he'd seen Methos. Four days of frantic activity geared toward occupying his mind with new concerns, all wasted effort, apparently.Four days ago he had awakened in the late afternoon in Methos' bed, his body still tingling, his mind eerily blank. When he rolled over scent and sensation had brought it all back in a ferocious, sickening rush-the rich smell of sex lingered in the air, reminding him of his capitulation, his unanticipated surrender. The few remaining traces of dried semen on his stomach revolted him as much as if it hadn't been his own.

The other half of the bed was empty except for a sheet of notepaper laid on the pillow. The surge of relief dizzied him, and he ignored the small tremors of his hand as he reached for the note.

'My dear fellow hedonist: investigation proved the house to be seriously lacking in the necessary components for an old-fashioned bacchanalia. In other words, I have gone out for beer and oysters. I will be back. I will cook. _You will bathe_. See you soon-M.'

He had struggled up and out of the bed as if it had been on fire. Images of his loss of control ate at him, washed over him with an intensity that made his knees weak. He found his clothes and put them on in a panic, desperate to get out of the apartment before Methos returned.

Methos had been right, he acknowledged that now. He hadn't been ready. He thought back to his morning run as he searched for his keys-he'd been excited, even eager, for something different, something outside his experience-a friendly, casual tryst between friends. He had not been prepared, mentally or emotionally, for the...for what Methos had done. He'd not been ready to be shown-

He forced himself away from that particular train of thought. Not now. His keys were in his pocket, his feet were on the stairs, and his car was a safe haven, a perfect fulfillment of his need to put the miles behind him.

Now he sat motionless behind the wheel of his car while he examined his healing thumb, wondering what the hell he'd done. The frantic tension of the past four days finally drained away, leaving him feeling empty and, worse, ridiculous.

Duncan closed his eyes and leaned his forehead on the steering wheel. He hated feeling that he'd behaved like a fool-it was so horribly reminiscent of his youth...

The sudden need to see Methos was both immediate and overwhelming. He had to find out what damage he'd inflicted by running away, yes, but there was something else as well, something he wasn't sure he understood-a simple yet profound need just to be with Methos, to feel his presence.

Duncan started the car and drove slowly away from the small cottage he'd bought on a whim as a restoration project (read: convenient distraction, his mind supplied), held tight in the grip of something that frightened him as no opponent could.

Despite the warmth and brilliance of the day, Duncan felt chilled to the bone as he walked over the cobbled path below the stairs that led to Methos' apartment. He approached the door slowly.

When the sense of another Immortal hit him his heart began pounding in his chest, even though his only conscious awareness was gratitude that Methos was home.

He didn't have to knock. The door opened as he lifted his hand. Methos studied him from the doorway-a little tentative, perhaps, but not hostile. Duncan kept his features carefully neutral, and took a deep breath.

Suddenly, the words he needed to say, the words he'd been counting on to mend his fences, were only vapor on his tongue. He stared at Methos, seeing a man who had been a friend to him, who had both saved and betrayed him, who had driven him out of his mind with sexual ecstasy. It was almost like looking at a different person, and he wondered what in the world had stopped him, for so many years, from noticing how...really...beautiful...

Duncan shivered slightly, dangerously close to the unseen edge of some invisible chasm as he stared silently into dark, enigmatical eyes, the pieces of the man he'd been scattered to the wind.

"MacLeod," Methos acknowledged politely. He held the door open. "Want a beer?"

Duncan sighed with contentment as he pushed his empty plate away. His appetite had diminished to almost nothing over the past few days, and it had been deeply satisfying to feel hungry again.

Methos returned from the kitchen and silently offered another beer. Contentment faded away as Duncan accepted it, trying to ignore the way his stomach tightened. It was altogether too quiet. There had been some light conversation between them at first that he didn't remember one word of, then Methos had invited him to stay for dinner.

Now there seemed to be nothing left to say, except what he had no words for in the first place. He had tried to make himself offer the apology he'd intended, but every time he looked at the other man his courage failed him, leaving him frustrated and slightly shamed.

Methos sat down across from him and regarded him calmly. Duncan relaxed a little when he saw that the hazel eyes held no recrimination, only mild interest.

"You still owe me that game of chess."

Duncan swallowed. Obviously, Methos wasn't going to start the conversation he needed to have. For a moment he considered joining in with the deliberate pretence of ignorance-it would be easy with the path right there in front of him, and it would be safe.

An unexpected strength rose within him at the thought-it would be safe enough, yes, but at the bottom it would be a lie, a worse betrayal than those which already lay between them.

"Methos," he began tentatively, "I came here...I want to talk to you."

The other man's eyes flickered, the only sign of response on otherwise placid features.

"I don't think there's any need, Mac," he said quietly. "You've been a good friend to me, although I'll admit there's been a few trying moments. We both...enjoy each other's company. Let's keep that. I don't need to-"

"I shouldn't have left here," Duncan interrupted. His voice was hoarse, and he cleared his throat briefly. "I wish now that I hadn't, but-"

Methos raised his hand, and Duncan's words collapsed into silence. "You don't need to say any more." Still, no anger, only calm assertion. "Just let it go, Mac."

Duncan wondered, briefly, why he felt the need to torture himself this way. "I can't," he stated simply, and pushed himself further, "I...I don't want to."

Silence. He struggled, trying to find a way to speak past the barrier of fear. "I just...panicked. It wasn't what I expected."

Methos sighed heavily. Duncan's heartbeat sped up as he saw some uncertain emotion break through onto the other man's tranquility, disappointed when Methos buried his face in his hands.

"I'm telling you, MacLeod," his voice was low and muffled, but no longer calm, "just forget about it. We can simply-"

"No, Methos," Duncan insisted, "I can't forget it. I...like I said, I was just surprised by the...intensity." His heart hammered, echoing in his ears.

Methos looked at him above the barrier of his hands, his eyes deep, unreadable. "What do you want from me, Mac?"

Duncan was on the spot. His throat locked, frozen, a torrent of indistinguishable answers choked at the source. "I..." he swallowed, a dry click in his ears. "I want to know..." he couldn't continue.

Methos sighed again and lowered his hands. He looked both wary and unhappy, and Duncan was stabbed with a sudden pang of guilt-why was he doing this, to both of them?

"As your friend," Methos began quietly, "I ask that you consider this advice carefully. You know that I don't offer advice often, but I think the circumstances demand it."

Duncan's stomach sank, but he said nothing.

"You've decided, for whatever reason, that it's important for you to explore something new. Good for you, Mac. You have my blessing. I advise you to go out and find someone willing to show you everything you want to know. Paris is full of...you shouldn't have any problem finding suitable candidates."

Duncan opened his mouth, but Methos shook his head firmly, silencing him.

"Go out and find what you're looking for. It can only strengthen you. But don't put our friendship at risk for a glandular-induced curiosity. Speaking from experience, it's something you might regret for a very long time."

Methos' words stopped, but now that he had the chance, Duncan couldn't make himself speak. There was something he needed to say, some central, irrefutable fact that countered Methos' argument, but it wouldn't come to him. He was left staring and numb, watching Methos play absently with the drops of condensation on his beer bottle.

He looked on, mesmerized, as long, slender fingers traced intricate patterns on the brown glass, a touch both delicate and purposeful. It was exceptionally strange when he realized that he was envious-Methos had touched him that way, had traced patterns of pleasure into his skin that left him branded.

When he looked at Methos again, it was if an unresolved mystery clicked into place with final insight. A knot of tension in his chest eased, and he took a deep, grateful breath. He saw a gestalt of the man that had been his friend for these last few years-a conglomeration of life and learning that drew him irresistibly-a sensual, beautiful, frightening man.

There was darkness there, and danger; ancient defenses honed to perilous sharpness and a vast, unimaginable awareness that mocked what he thought of as time. Yet there was humor and compassion there as well-an earthy, basic humanity that was no less comforting for being well concealed. It was like being safe in the jaws of a monster, like finding a companion in an enemy camp.

"No, Methos. It has to be you."

Methos' eyelids lowered. Before he could say anything Duncan stood and moved to him, ignoring the pounding of his heart. "I want to be with you."

It was easier than he thought it would be. He reached out, resting one hand on the firm warmth of Methos' shoulder. When he felt the tension there he turned his grip into a caress, kneading the tight muscles.

A hand closed firmly over his own, stopping him. "I'll tell you again, MacLeod," Methos' words were almost a growl, "you're making a mistake. You don't know what you're doing."

Duncan smiled. If Methos had intended the warning to dissuade him, he had miscalculated. It was always easier to be the seducer than the seduced. He leaned down, grazed Methos' warm, flushed cheek with his lips, and sought out the other man's ear, his voice sunk to a whisper. "I don't have a single clue about what I'm doing. Why don't you show me? I'm not afraid any-"

Methos was on his feet and against him with one smooth movement, so quickly that Duncan gasped.

"You should be." The words were icy, malevolent.

Duncan scrambled to keep his balance as Methos pushed him backwards. His breath jarred loose from his body as he thumped firmly into the wall. Methos leaned against him heavily, eyes luminous, lips parted. There was warmth, no-heat, a hardness pressed against his own with staggering heat that made it very difficult to breathe.

"I'm not afraid," he said when he could, and closed his eyes at the weakness in his own voice.

"Liar." Smooth shift of rigid flesh rubbing over him. Duncan gasped again.

"You lie beautifully, MacLeod, but not well. You got more than you expected last time, and yet here you are again. I can feel you shaking-" it was true, his body was trembling, his breath short and high in his throat, "and I can smell your fear."

The intensity that had flayed him last time had returned in force, every nerve blazed with sensation. A warm hand cupped his chin, tilted his head back. Soft lips nuzzled his throat, followed by a sharp and sudden bite that tore a surprised cry from him.

"Fortunately for you," Methos continued, his voice calmer now yet somehow more threatening, "I like you that way."

Duncan reached out, unsure whether he intended to push Methos away or pull him closer. Before he could do either his wrists were taken, raised above his head and held one crossed over the other, secured in an implacable grip.

Surprise opened his eyes. Methos looked amazingly calm, as if he were performing some mundane task rather than engaging in fairly rough foreplay. Duncan's hands twitched, manifestation of a sudden need to drag Methos to the same level of arousal he felt.

"Please," he whispered, pulling gently, "I want...I need to touch you."

There was no release. "Later," Methos said indifferently. A thigh nudged between his own. Duncan struggled with an unexpected moment of panic as his legs were forced open, as Methos sighed against his neck, shivering warm over the sensitive skin there. Panic receded as Methos' erection pressed through hindering layers of fabric into his; sliding with rhythmic pressure that obliterated alarm under rolling waves of pleasure.

He had only just made the transition and was beginning to tingle nicely when the pressure suddenly eased and was gone. He drew in a startled, frustrated breath, writhing in the grip that held him immobile.

"Don't stop that...Oh God-"

He could feel Methos' smile, teeth exposed over the vein that pulsed in his throat.


The soft command stilled him, but he failed to control the shudders that gripped his limbs. His knees were weak. There was a gentle touch at his throat, and then cooler air as his shirt opened slightly, as one button slipped free.

Duncan groaned and went limp, held upright only by the hand securing his wrists and the knee pressing between his legs. He felt like some kind of sacrifice, martyred to a desire that demanded everything and left him hollow.

Soon his shirt hung open and cold air caressed him, teasing his nipples to points of hardness that were nearly painful. Light, easy fingers stroked over his chest, teasing him further, tempting, yet refusing fulfillment of the firm touch that he craved.

"Duncan..." Spoken to his lips, an unexpected presence. It brought a focus to the haze of want, and he opened to Methos' tongue thirstily, greedily.

He felt sudden freedom from the irritating constriction of his jeans, and then Methos had him firmly in his grasp. Methos' mouth pulled from him even as he moaned, hushed him gently and sighed into the hollow beneath his ear.

"It would be such an amazing thing, to fuck your beautiful body..."

Duncan arched and flexed against the wall. Sudden fear was swallowed up by equally sudden excitement, and without thinking he spread his legs further apart. "Methos, please...do it-"

"Oh no." A quiet but resolute refusal, two simple words that brought commensurate amounts of relief and disappointment. He closed his eyes.


"Shh. Don't whine, MacLeod."

Duncan bit his lip to keep in the words that wanted to pour out. His head tilted back helplessly as Methos pleasured him in that slow, maddening way again, stroke after stroke of blissful frustration.

"Besides," Methos continued in a warm whisper, "you'll like this."

His wrists tingled as his hands were released, and he opened his eyes. Methos was on his knees in front of him, pulling gently at the open flaps of his jeans. His body blazed with sudden, dizzy understanding.

"Methos wait, it's...I mean...I want to touch you."

Methos looked up. His eyes were brilliant, aroused, incredibly compelling. "Shut up, MacLeod. Hold on to my shoulders or my hair, if you have to. Otherwise, I'll tie you up."

Duncan tensed, puzzled; slow hurt welling even through the desire. He opened his mouth to protest, but lost the words to a harsh gasp as his pants and briefs were tugged down in one quick motion and the cold plaster of the wall iced his bared skin. Then all thoughts were eradicated as his cock was swallowed into burning wetness, his entire length deep inside with one stroke.

He couldn't stop himself from crying out, no more than he could help burying his hands into the short, soft warmth of the other man's hair.

"Methos...oh fuck-please..." the words came without his control. The silken glide of Methos' throat inflamed him-it was like stroking into a satin furnace. Methos set a fast, devastating pace, and Duncan shuddered as his cock was devoured, laved, tormented with pleasure. He found himself struggling against it, wanting more, needing to do more than just take, but it was futile. Methos' expert mouth would not be denied; it seduced him, claimed him, demanded his submission.

Duncan clenched his fingers as well as he could in Methos' hair and came hard, groaning with ecstasy and disappointment. Against the dictates of his will he arched forward and finished out the final, agonizing throbs deep in Methos' throat, and then gasped desperately for air as he slid down the wall, bereft, undone, tears stinging in his eyes.

Methos gathered up his boneless limbs, a cutting kindness that wrenched at him. The soft touch of gentle lips on his heated brow was worse. Duncan remained lax and pliant, eyes closed, until his ragged panting eased, and then shifted in Methos' arms, seeking out the mouth that had done such damage to his self-restraint.

It was a balm to his spirit when Methos didn't deny him. He tasted the strange, bitter flavor of himself on Methos' tongue, and lost himself in moist communion until the other man shivered against him. He stroked down Methos' body until his had found a hard length trapped behind denim somewhere in the tangle of their limbs, but although Methos sighed seductively into his mouth Duncan found his wrist captured, pulled away slowly but firmly.

"No, Duncan," Methos said quietly, stroking his cheek.

"Please," he entreated, but the grip on his wrist was adamant. "Why not?" He searched Methos' face for some sign, some residual anger, but there was only Methos, his features set and certain.

"Because I don't want you to."

"Yes you do."

"No. Now, get off my lap-you weigh a ton."

Stung, Duncan rolled away from the warmth and welcome of Methos' arms, tense with confusion as he watched the other man get to his feet. A hand was offered, and Duncan allowed Methos to pull him up, dismayed at how weak and uncertain his legs still were. Methos appeared to be utterly unaffected, busying himself tucking his shirt into jeans that were severely tented.

"Methos, do you...Should I go away?"

Hazel eyes met his, assessing, judging. "Do you want to go?"

Duncan clenched his teeth in frustration. If this was a game, it was not a pleasant one. "No, but I don't understand-"

Methos silenced him with one finger touched briefly against his lips. "You don't have to understand. Just put it down as one of life's great mysteries, like the Pyramids or Stonehenge or-"

"This isn't funny, Methos."

Methos' eyebrows raised above a gentle, questioning smile. Duncan wavered for a moment, but to his dismay he found that he couldn't resist smiling back. He pushed the tension away for now, willing to go where he was led. "Anyway, those aren't mysteries. You probably know everything about them."

"I do. Someday, if you're very, very good, I'll tell you all about it."

Duncan wanted to smack him. Unfortunately, he also wanted to throw him to the floor, rip his clothes off, and make passionate love to him. He sighed, resigned. "Just when I thought you couldn't get any weirder..."

Methos chuckled. "Wouldn't make any wagers on that, if I were you." He reached out, and Duncan relished the soothing warmth of fingers on the back of his neck. "Come to bed with me?"

The worried knot in his chest eased a little. "Thought you'd never ask."

Methos' bed was soft and cool, his body warm and hard. Duncan reveled in these two conflicting pleasures, and stretched with sybaritic enjoyment now that he knew that Methos wouldn't send him away. Eventually they would have to talk, to sort out exactly what was going on behind those clever eyes, but for now it was enough to have hot, smooth flesh pressed close down his back, and strong arms wrapped securely around him.

It was strange to feel Methos' rigid erection against his buttocks as they lay entwined in the quiet darkness-he didn't know whether to be comforted, frustrated, or alarmed. He sighed. He couldn't lie in bed with Methos and not be aroused, dammit. Frustration won the palm. He snuggled closer to the other man, enjoying Methos' sudden gasp.

Encouraged, Duncan arched smoothly backwards, remembering the feel of having Methos rub up against him, relying on memory to serve him as an example in this unfamiliar place. Immediately he heard a low, muffled cry, and the arms around him tightened almost unbearably.

"Don't do that-Oh Gods..." No longer muffled, or low for that matter. Good.

For one brief moment Methos ground into him. Duncan's body jumped as arousal spiked, as sharp teeth found his shoulder and bit down. It was abrupt and unexpected, and he groaned with satisfaction as long legs thrust rudely between his own, rolling him to his stomach.

His cock was hard again, aching with anticipation, but before he could arch back into that dizzying heat, he was alone.

Methos stood beside the bed, his breathing ragged, his eyes only a vaguely reflected gleam in the darkness.

"Do you want to sleep on the couch again?" Methos demanded, his voice shaking and cold.

Duncan was instantly sorry. He felt for Methos, even though he couldn't begin to fathom why the other man insisted on denying himself. "No," he said softly, pulling back the covers, "come on. I'll behave."

A deep breath, an agonizing moment of waiting, and then Methos was close to him again. Duncan forced his body to be still and closed his eyes, holding tight to the arms that encircled him, determined not to let them slip away.

The first concrete thing that registered on his muzzy consciousness was the sound of birds. Duncan opened his eyes, and immediately winced them closed again at the brilliant, painful glow that filled the room from around the edges of the blind-covered window.

He knew exactly where he was, this time. Methos' bedroom, Methos' bed. Methos' long legs tangled intimately with his own. He smiled languidly.

To avoid an unnecessary shock to the system, he opened his eyes just a little, giving them time to adjust as he watched gleaming motes drift through golden shafts of sunshine. An inspiring sight, and he wondered idly what would be the best, most perfect, most irritating way to wake Methos up.

When his eyes were accustomed he turned over quietly. Methos was still lost in deep sleep, his lashes casting long, fillumbrate shadows on his cheeks. He looked sweet, and peaceful, and alarmingly young, which caused Duncan a full three seconds of hesitation before he gave in to the evils of temptation and bent close to the nearest rosy, illuminated ear.

"Methos..." he whispered as he nuzzled gently into the tickle of short hair, "get up and play with me."

Methos sighed and stirred, and his brows drew together. "Wha...mf." A vague sniff, and then his features relaxed immediately. Still out cold.

Duncan smiled again, chiding himself. In this strange new world that Methos had begun to show him, it had to be the strangest thing yet to be lying in this warm bed, carefully avoiding thoughts of lust because Methos was just so damn...cute. He'd have to shake it off, or he'd never get anything done.

He traced a delicate line with his tongue over Methos' neck and ear. "If you don't get up, I'm going to go turn on your computer and mix up all your files..."

Methos whined and turned away from him, huddled under the blankets. Duncan snuggled close and enjoyed the opportunity to stroke softly over bare, smooth skin; his first chance to touch without being pushed away. Methos was lean and velvety and warm, and it seemed that every place Duncan touched fit sweetly to his hand, just so. Duncan's morning erection began to assume painful rigidity.

He moved closer. With a slow, hesitant, curious touch he let his hand drift down to the yielding curve of ass. It wasn't the pillowed roundness he was used to, but his body showed a sincere appreciation nonetheless, and his breathing almost became panting as silken flesh tempted him. He fit there nicely, yes, pressed gently into the crevice between rounded muscles.

Methos made a faint, interrogatory noise and shivered, but that was all. Duncan bit his lip. In addition to the wonderful heat nestled against his groin, Methos' sleeping body was folded peacefully into his arms like a miracle of casually given treasure, willingly surrendered. He buried his face in Methos' pillow to muffle his low moan of desire.

His balls were heavy, aching; he was unused to self-restraint in these circumstances, but he found to his surprise that the faint, masochistic edge only increased his pleasure. He leaned forward, dizzy and breathless. "Methos." The best he could manage was a deep growl, "I swear-if you don't wake up right now I'm going to fuck you senseless."

The body in his arms came to sudden life, an instant rigidity that spoke of an abrupt change from sleeping to waking. Methos' head turned, and then dark, sleepy eyes were squinting into Duncan's face.

"Good Lord. You're still here?"

He couldn't help smiling. "I'm still here, I'm very horny, and I love your ass. Good morning."

Methos' head turned away and slumped back onto the pillow. Duncan pulled away a little, his blood cooling as he wondered if Methos was angry, but soon a deep, evil chuckle from the other man reassured him.

"You think it's funny that I'm still here?" he asked in mock-irritation. Methos' hand immediately crept over his thigh, patting consolingly.

"No." Duncan waited patiently for the rest while Methos yawned. "I think it's funny that twice now I've lost a bet."

Duncan eased his hand around Methos' side, not quite sure how to turn this conversation into a seduction. "What bet?" he asked absently, marveling over the firm, utterly desirable ripples of musculature at Methos' chest.

"I bet myself a case of very good wine that you would be gone when I woke up."

When the words sank in, Duncan stopped, his hand frozen. "Are you serious?"

Methos chuckled again, and nodded.

Duncan pondered this for a moment. "What was the other bet?"

Methos turned in his arms. His mouth was still curved with a faint trace of amusement, but there was sadness there as well, his eyes overbright.

"The other day, when I left you sleeping and went out to shop, I bet myself that you would be here when I got back."


Duncan's chest tightened, and the flush of arousal transformed effortlessly into the heat of remembered shame. "Is that why you won't...Why you wouldn't let me..."

Methos nuzzled his shoulder, and without thought Duncan cupped the back of his head.


"But I told you when I came back-I just didn't know..."

Methos raised his head. "Yes, you did. But you told me that the intensity was what frightened you, drove you away." He sighed, and traced a delicate line between Duncan's eyebrows with one elegant finger. Duncan shivered. "I can be fairly intense at times, as you might have noticed. I'm going on the assumption that when things get too intense for you you'll run, and under those circumstances I'm not going to let myself get too...involved."

Duncan was raw, blistered with guilt. His first impulse was to find a way to make amends (hopefully something involving gratuitous nudity, his mind supplied). His second was to stop and think about it.

He closed his eyes, and summoned up every aspect of what Methos had done, every instance of lost control. The guilt backed off a little-everything was different now. Just a few minutes ago he'd been seriously contemplating a fairly intense act of his own...

Deliberately, relentlessly, he forced his mind onto the most daunting thing he could think of, picturing Methos atop him, thrusting into his body.


Was there fear there? Certainly. Almost low-grade terror, as he considered his knowledge of Methos' capacity for ruthlessness. However, the terror couldn't obscure the fact that he was abruptly dizzy and sweating, that the thought made his erection throb so hard it hurt.

"I think I'm done running," he said dimly, hearing the thud of his heartbeat in his own voice. He reclined back into his pillow, breathing hard, waiting for the fever to dissipate.

When a small measure of equilibrium had returned he opened his eyes. Methos was leaning over him, concern evident.

"Mac, are you okay? You're all red-"

"I won't run, Methos." His words still sounded shaky and faint, and he drew another deep breath. "I just made myself imagine the scariest thing I could think of, and I almost came all over your sheets."

Methos' answering smile was so sweet, so lecherously sweet, it cramped his chest. "The scariest thing?" Gentle lips touched his briefly, gone before he could capture them. "Let me see...being forced at sword-point to watch 'Melrose Place'? Oh Duncan, you are a sick, perverted man-get off my sheets!"

Duncan laughed, and thumped Methos solidly on the chest. Dammit, he was not going to let idiocy interfere with lust-"Oh no. I'm not getting off these sheets until...Well, until you let me do everything you wouldn't yesterday. You owe me."

"Do I?" Methos was sultry, his eyes half-lidded. That look-God, it actually made him weak. "Then, by all means, let me even the score. What's your pleasure?"

Duncan rolled onto his side, forcing Methos onto his back. Anticipation coiled within, an unexpected delight. "You've driven me out of my mind, you know," he said sternly to Methos' calm smile. "You got me so hot I thought I was going to explode, and then you didn't let me touch you. That was truly evil." His hands trailed lightly over sharp, defined collarbones, and then drifted lower. The silky tickle of sparse hair against his palm made him shiver.

"I haven't even seen you," he murmured, trying to sound properly maltreated and not just horny.

Methos smiled and stretched, the picture of sensual indulgence, and folded his arms beneath his head. "Poor, abused Highlander." He blinked, once again undermining Duncan with maximum cuteness. "Well-here's your chance."

Duncan ignored the remark. He didn't forget the smart-ass comment, however-he'd get his own back as soon as he had Methos as hot and desperate as he had been. He stroked his way slowly down Methos' torso, lowering the bedcovers as he went, gratifying his desire to look and his desire to touch in the same leisurely increments.

"Close your eyes," he said softly.

"Why?" Golden-brown loveliness, rimmed with green. He had to ask?

"Because I get...impatient when I look in your eyes. Now, close 'em."

Wow. Methos actually obeyed him (note to self: must use that tone of voice more often...). Duncan kissed him softly on the forehead in reward, and returned to his own pleasures.

There was no question about it-this body was intensely beautiful to him, albeit in a different way from what he was used to. He marveled at the way that the polished, luminous skin flushed faintly under his touch, a response that intoxicated him. He contemplated the lithe grace of muscle and bone, finding unexpected joy in grazing over crucial spots that made Methos shiver and sigh.

For a long, quiet time he memorized the planes of Methos' face; brows and lashes like tender sparks against his fingertips, lips that awed him with curved symmetry, and that nose, which he couldn't quite decide on, but which he eventually determined to like. He kissed it, just to be sure.

"Weirdo." Methos murmured.

"Hush. Takes one to know one." He lowered his hand to tweak one nipple gently. Sure enough, there were no further comments from the peanut gallery other than a soft gasp.

When his fingers found their way to Methos' lower abdomen he found himself tensing, just a little. He forced his muscles to relax, unwilling to allow Methos to perceive his apprehension. (It's just another part of him...Jump in, Duncan-you'll probably fall in love with the damn thing sooner or later, so...) Resolute, he pushed the covers down one long, corded thigh, baring Methos' groin.

He swallowed. It was exquisite, no question about that, but...

A soft touch on his cheek distracted him. He looked up guiltily to find Methos staring deep into his eyes, both gentle and kind.

"Don't be afraid, Duncan," Methos whispered soothingly, "I won't hurt you."

Duncan smiled, but it was more difficult than he would have liked it to be, what with his fears all back at once and shouting in his head for attention. "You're very...well endowed," he finished lamely. Fuck. He was blushing again.

Methos held his eyes. "I won't hurt you." The words were repeated solemnly.

The hand on his cheek slipped to the back of his head as Methos pulled him down to opened lips. Duncan's fears were eased, erased by the slow, patient invasion of the kiss. He felt his body glow and warm again with desire as his mouth was plundered, ravished with tenderness, devoured with such devotion that it scalded his heart. Slowly his hand found its way back, took the hot length of rigid, silken flesh in a firm grip. Methos arched against him, and when Duncan stroked experimentally Methos gasped for air.

The response renewed Duncan's own hunger, and things went from temperate to scorching with alarming rapidity. Duncan let his body take over as his hand moved faster; he pressed himself urgently against the tight muscles of Methos' thigh, and lost himself deep in arousal when his busy hand slid up and over the slick wet liquid that seeped plentifully from the straining shaft in his grip.

"Wait," Methos panted against his mouth, "there's something...Oh please-"

"What is it?" he groaned, struggling to get the words out. Christ-he was on fire-he needed this so badly. If Methos wanted him to stop...

"Here...come up here."

Shaking, Duncan got to his knees and followed the eager pull of Methos' hands until he was astride the other man's thighs. He watched silently as Methos stretched and fumbled blindly at the bedside table, and accepted the small plastic bottle of massage oil when it was placed in his trembling hand.

"I've wanted you to do this since I first saw you," Methos said, his voice tight. "I want to feel you, and watch you...please-"

Duncan gasped as large, strong hands ran up his thighs and settled in with a fierce grip. Sudden dismay warred with arousal-what the hell was he supposed to do now? "Methos," he said as calmly as he could, "what do you...I'm not sure..."

Methos reached for him and pulled. Duncan barely managed to catch himself on his hands before Methos sucked him into another delirious kiss, this one ravenous, making him shudder. "I want you to touch both of us," the words were almost lost against his mouth. "I want to be pressed tight against you when you come, Duncan...please say you'll try this for me..."

Somehow he managed to pry the cap open despite the tremors in his hands. The oil was thick and slippery, heavy with some strange scent he didn't recognize. He gasped at the coolness as he applied it to himself, glad despite the mild shock that something had finally taken the edge off-he was too close to being out of control already. He stroked the rest onto Methos, and his nerves vibrated with the resulting groan.

"Methos," he murmured, feeling desperate and overheated and woefully ignorant, "you want me to..."

Methos' hands, clamped firmly once more into the muscles of his thighs, felt like the only thing right now holding him on the planet. "Yes," Methos said through clenched teeth, his head tossing on the pillow. Duncan leaned forward a little and brought their cocks together, encompassing as much of both as he could in the slick grip of one hand.

"Yes-" Methos repeated, an exclamation this time rather than a direction, his voice urgent and deep.

Duncan was already quivering with sensation when the strong hands on his thighs pushed him firmly back before rocking him forward, making everything abruptly much more intense. He arched, transfixed, and moaned mindless pleasure to the plaster ceiling as he squeezed them together, stroking in slow rhythm.

"Look at me-"

Suddenly, unaccountably shy in the grip of such excruciating ecstasy, Duncan had to force himself to do it. Methos' face was a mirror of his own desperation, however, and soon enough it was an irreplaceable added rapture to watch and be watched. He was lost, deep in the dilated heat of Methos' eyes, his ears given only to the passionate groans of his lover, when the first sensations of warning tingled over him. He froze.

Methos went rigid beneath him, his eyes changed in an instant from molten lust to bright, flaming panic. "Oh fuck! Not now-"

They were both moving, scrambling on either side of the bed for clothing and weapons, when Duncan found himself calm enough to speak. "You expecting somebody?" he asked, grimacing as he stuffed his aching, overlubricated erection into his jeans.

Methos shook his head. "No one knows this address except you and Joe..."

Their eyes met. Duncan saw Methos' lips set into a harsh, unforgiving line even as his own stomach tightened with sudden fear and anger.

"Damn. If he's been-"

Duncan was cold now, the heat of desire transmogrified into the immediate imperative to protect, to win.

"Don't think about it," Methos said bluntly. He took his sword in his right hand and left the bedroom, motioning Duncan to stay back.

Yeah. Right.

Duncan followed with his katana drawn, and halted in the shadow beyond the doorway, his heartbeat now slowed to the steady, focused rhythm of battle-readiness.

There was a brief, rapid knock on the door, quiet but urgent. Then a voice, just on the edge of hysteria. "Methos!"

Amanda. Duncan sighed and sheathed his sword, smiling a little at Methos' hushed stream of curses. Methos turned to him. "Did you tell her where I live?"

Duncan shook his head. The fight had faded from his blood, leaving him with an adrenaline hangover and the worst case of blue balls he could ever remember. "What do we do?"

Methos shrugged, and winced a little as he reached down to adjust his groin. "Gods, my balls are killing me..." Duncan nodded in sympathy.

The knocking grew more frantic, louder. "Methos!"

"On my way, damn you," Methos called, his voice the perfect mixture of annoyance and boredom.

He opened the door. Amanda sprang inside quickly, then closed the door and put her back against it, glaring fiercely up at Methos. "What the hell took you so long?"

Methos scowled. "You could have called, you know. How did you find me, anyway?

Amanda tossed her head. "Joe told me, of course-"

Duncan remained in the shadows of the bedroom, trying to determine the best possible way to get rid of her in the shortest possible time. He was still reviewing his options when Amanda's hurried words intruded.

"Look-I need your help. I can't find Duncan-he doesn't even know I'm in town..." Her eyes widened as he stepped into the living room. "Oh. Hello." She smiled, bright and innocent.

"What kind of trouble are you in?"

Amanda sighed. "Nothing much," she said innocuously, eyes averted. "There seems to be a small group of gentlemen who want to dispute the ownership of certain properties..."

Duncan sighed and rubbed his eyes, too angry and exasperated to be patient. "What did you steal, and from whom?"

Amanda walked to him quickly and pressed up against him. As if in slow motion his arms went around her, but his eyes were held by the sight of Methos leaning stiffly against the door, watching them, his face grim.

"Well, they stole it first." She sniffed. "Jeez-have you two been using each other for target practice again?"

"Target practice..." he echoed, looking from Methos to her.

"Sparring. Whatever. You smell like a goat." She stepped away from him. "Anyway, I went to the barge, but you weren't there. So last night I went out, and I met these guys, and they just happened to need some help-"

His muscles tensed, increasing the ache in his body. "Guys? What kind of guys?"

She sighed impatiently. "Just guys, Duncan. So it was a beautiful plan, and it would have worked perfectly if..."

He fought the urge to reach out and shake her, and won by a narrow margin. "If what?"

She smiled ingenuously. "If they hadn't had this perfectly lovely Matisse lying around from an earlier...project. I thought with that and the necklace I could-"

Duncan groaned, and covered his face with his hands. It was too much. His body was raw with frustration, needing Methos' touch. But his conscience... Could he send her away, just tell her that she'd have to get herself out of her own hot water?

He couldn't. It would be a great and wonderful thing if they just taught her a serious lesson, but if she died-if they somehow managed to really kill her...

"What do you want me to do, Amanda?" he asked wearily, lowering his hands.

She stepped close again and patted his cheek. It took real effort not to flinch. "You can stop being such an asshole, for one thing," she said sweetly. "You can help me make them see reason, and take the price off my head-"

"They put a contract out on you? Already?" he had no idea why he was actually surprised.

Amanda frowned. "They do seem to be pretty attached to that painting..."

Oh, what he wouldn't give for a really sturdy, wooden paddle right now...

She sidled close and cupped the back of his neck. "You can help me take care of my little problem. Then you can take a shower, and then..." she smiled-a rich, promising smile, "you can take care of me."

He scowled. Damn her! "I'd like to take care of throwing you off a building."

Amanda laughed. "Oh, get over it, Duncan," she insisted. "You know that lecturing me does no good, and you always give me what I want eventually, so ungrouch your eyebrows and come on."

He uttered an audible growl of frustration, but he started looking for his coat anyway.

"Here, MacLeod," Methos said quietly, a sudden shock, "it was in the closet."

Duncan swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. Methos was impassive again, nothing evident on his face except bland indifference, nothing to steer by. It was a setback that caused his skin to break out in a sudden cold sweat, fear and uncertainty and residual desire that left him feeling ragged. There was no established protocol here...

"This won't take long." He hoped Methos took it for the promise that it was.

Methos' fingers touched his as the coat changed hands, sparking a rush that made Duncan wonder how in the hell the other man had gotten so far under his skin so damn fast. (Fast enough, and far enough, that I can't even be afraid anymore...)

He put his coat on and went to open the door for Amanda. She peeked cautiously into the hallway and then darted through, already waving him on.

He stopped, his hand on the doorframe, and wondered what words he could possibly use to ease that terribly careful look from Methos' face.

"I'll be back. Very soon."

Evidently inadequate. The look remained, his words acknowledged only with a curt nod.

He stepped outside, ignoring Amanda's whispered entreaties for him to hurry up, and closed the door.

It was nearly twelve hours later when he finally arrived on Methos' doorstep-exhausted, filthy, and slightly bloody, but essentially undamaged. He'd felt Methos' presence as he approached, but this time the door remained closed. He knocked.

"Who is it?"

Duncan was too tired for games. "You know bloody well who it is, Methos. Open up."

He heard the sound of a bolt being thrown, and then Methos was there, the door held politely open for him to pass through.

He walked in, shedding his damp coat as he went, and tossed coat and sword and all over the arm of a wooden chair before flopping bonelessly onto the couch.

"That woman will be the death of me."

The couch dipped as Methos sat next to him. Duncan looked up hopefully, but the other man's face was carefully neutral. "Bad, was it?"

Duncan sighed. "Bad enough. The idiots I could handle, once they understood that I was capable of either dismembering them or turning them in, that is. Amanda was a different story."


Duncan rubbed one hand over his face, and sighed again. It was probably going to be a very, very long time before she forgave him for this one. "I made her turn in the merchandise to the Suretê, and then put her on a plane to Marrakech. She's livid."

No response.

Duncan leaned over and rested his head on Methos' shoulder. "I've been pushed around by thugs, subjected to bad language and a drive to the airport, and assaulted by an enraged woman with no morals. Take me to bed."

Silence. Duncan lifted his head and looked at Methos. The other man's face was tense and drawn, gazing out into nothing. Duncan's stomach tightened as he realized the bad parts of this day might not be over yet, after all. "Methos?"

"Did you sleep with her?"

It took a few moments for the impact of the question to sink in. "Did I...No! Methos, what's wrong with you?" Dismay and righteous anger rose, but he pushed them aside, for the moment.

Finally Methos turned towards him, slowly, and the hot recrimination in the wide, hazel eyes was like a physical blow.

"You ran again."

Duncan blinked, feeling almost as if there was a dead circuit somewhere in his brain that was not allowing him to process this information. "What?"

Stony silence.

Duncan's fingers curled tightly into his palms with sudden frustration. "Methos, I didn't run from you-she needed help! What was I supposed to say? 'Sorry, Amanda, but you're going to have to stick your own neck out on this one because I'm trying to get laid'?"

Methos cut in, caustic and harsh now that the indifference had been breached. "And weren't you relieved to have such a perfect excuse? Face it, Mac-things got intense again, and you ran."

(I don't even believe this). "Methos, of course I wasn't relieved-I'm in an extreme state of lack of relief, as you well know-"

Methos stopped him by the simple expedient of putting a hand over his mouth. Duncan's temper flared, but at the sight of the intense vehemence in the other man's eyes, held his peace.

"I am not finished, MacLeod." Methos took his hand away, and Duncan waited, holding his words in check, for the moment. "When you walked out of here, I saw nothing, heard nothing that told me that you wouldn't be back in Amanda's saddle within the hour, and that hurt."

Duncan's breath caught as the fiery, eager tension of hostility dissolved into the endlessly familiar, crushing sensation of guilt.

Did he have a right to be angry?

Methos was being utterly unreasonable. Wasn't he?

"I told you that I would be back," Duncan said softly, all he could manage in the moment. Methos' eyes had gentled, but instead of reproach there was now a deep, liquid sorrow of unshed tears that was somehow worse.

Duncan found that he couldn't continue until Methos looked away from him, when he could think of something besides the distress in the damp eyes. He could fix this, and he would. "If I were running scared from you, Methos, I wouldn't have come back. If I wanted Amanda, I wouldn't have sent her away. You and I didn't have-we had no time to talk about...any of this." He reached out and touched Methos' shoulder, considering various ways he'd like to ease the tremors out of those tense muscles. "Now get over it and come to bed with me." He tried a smile.

Methos appeared to be mulling over his words, chewing reflectively on his lower lip. When he turned again Duncan was stunned to see that the threat had become reality, and Methos wept silently-not sobbing or gasping for breath, just shedding large, bright tears that dewed his long lashes into damp, crystalline clusters.

"I don't think you want to do that with me right now, Mac. I think you should just go. Immediately."

Duncan resisted the urge to reach out and pull Methos into his arms, forcing himself to focus on the other man's words rather than the forlorn tears. "Why?"

Methos looked away and wiped his face. "Because I'm still angry. And because I gave you my word-and right now I can't trust myself not to hurt you."

Duncan bristled. "Methos, I'm not leaving, and I'm not giving up on-"

His words were choked off when Methos turned to him again, eyes now dry, and deeply cold. "I mean it, MacLeod. We've had some fun together, but you have no idea what you're risking. Get out. Come back when I'm not mad anymore-it won't take long. I'm already far too susceptible to you."

Duncan felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from his chest. Methos was being stubborn, and that, at least, he could understand. "I'm not going anywhere, Methos. I would never have left earlier except-"

His words were chopped off short as Methos grabbed the front of his shirt and shoved him backwards. He overbalanced and bounced on the cushions, but Methos was on top of him before he could sit up.

"The fact is, MacLeod, that I don't trust a damn thing you say."

Duncan was stunned, both by the physical attack and by how much Methos' words stung. His muscles tensed in preparation for a struggle as he considered throwing Methos into his damn bookshelves and leaving the house, but he couldn't do it...not yet. Not unless there was no other way.


"I'm not done yet." Methos' eyes were enormous, almost frightening, dark with turmoil. "I'm not going to argue with you about whether or not I should trust you-I don't. So I'll take you to bed if you want me to. I'll give you anything you want. As long as you understand that I can no longer afford to care about whether I make you happy, or what your bloody limits are, or whether you'll be there when I open my eyes in the morning."

Abruptly, with the strange clarity that sometimes came to him in times of conflict, a thought occurred to Duncan that held him immobile, froze him with an angry contradiction burning a hole in his tongue.

How would he have felt if their positions had been reversed? How would it have been if their earlier lovemaking had been interrupted by one of Methos' old girlfriends, demanding a combination of rescue assistance and sexual gratification?

His entire body tensed, torn between irrational anger and the blessed relief of understanding. He would have been pissed as hell. He would have wanted to know, demanded to know, girlfriend or not, that Methos wouldn't abandon what they had only so recently found...

It was more than mildly ironic that what snapped him back to the present moment was the feeling of possessiveness washing over him as he realized that Methos was hard and hot against his thigh. He sighed, and struggled to keep himself from arching upwards.

He caught Methos' eyes again. So much pain, concentrated and distilled in golden brilliance, overfull and bleeding out somewhere inside... "I'm not leaving. You may not trust me, Methos. I can't help that. But I trust you."

His words flickered in Methos' eyes; some place too deep for him to see. "Then you're a fool."

Duncan sighed again, surrendering. It felt so good-to let go of control, to let barriers drop-to give in to what he really wanted. He reached up and pulled Methos tight against him, trying to communicate welcome, atonement and urgency all at once. "Maybe so. Maybe you'll make me wish I'd never met you. But I guess I'm going to have to take that chance, because all I've been able to think about since I walked out the door is how much I need to make you come."

Methos went rigid against him, the pain in his eyes iced over, transformed in an instant into something darker, more dangerous.

Duncan let him go when he pulled away. He watched Methos get slowly to his feet, his angular features closed and frighteningly distant.

"In the bedroom," Methos said, a curt command.

Duncan swallowed and struggled to his feet, feeling Methos' gaze on him like an uncoalesced threat. He'd done it-he'd declared his intention to stay. Now he had to keep his word, give whatever proof of desire Methos required...

He kept his back very straight as he made his way into the darkened bedroom, trying not to think about what Methos might consider adequate evidence.

He didn't have much time to worry about it. He was only just over the threshold when Methos stepped close behind him and pushed him up against the wall, pinning him there. A deep, pervasive warmth soaked into him from the other man's body, and he couldn't repress a gasp as his legs were kicked wide apart and the heat pressed closer, burning even through layers of clothing.

"You shouldn't have stayed, MacLeod," Methos growled against the back of his neck. "You should have gone back to your normal little life and set up house with Amanda, because I've decided that I'm going to fuck you hard, and now it's too late for you to do anything about it."

Duncan shivered and made a concerted effort to keep his breathing steady. Methos' anger was as hot and ungoverned as the erection that pressed against his ass, and as threatening. He tried to force himself to relax, to maintain the calm determination that had carried him to this place, but abruptly Methos' hands were everywhere, distracting him. The touch was not rough or violent, but demanding enough that it might as well have been. Any thoughts of resistance eroded under the arousal that flickered into existence despite, or perhaps even because of, Methos' ruthlessness. He surrendered to the expert manipulation; firm touches at his chest and groin that brought him to instant, aching hardness. Methos gathered him in, wrapped him tightly with arms that had begun to tremble. Then sharp teeth found his throat and he gasped again as a fine sweat broke out over his body.

"Tell me you want this, Duncan." Methos' voice was hypnotic, commanding, laced with need.

Duncan strove to answer, fighting hard against the shame that rose up like an old ghost. "Yes," he managed breathlessly, "I want this." His face was too hot, and he pressed his forehead gratefully against the cool plaster.

Methos' nimble fingers attacked his collar, then lower, and Duncan shivered again as his bared chest was pushed against the wall while Methos stripped his shirt free.

"Such lovely skin..." The hands touching him now were patient and seductive, almost teasing, and Duncan braced his arms against the wall to keep his knees from buckling. Suddenly his hips were pulled sharply back, and he uttered a helpless groan of both fear and desire as Methos ground into him, slow and hard, drawing out hunger while his jeans were unbuttoned and unzipped. When a strong hand eased around his straining shaft Duncan cried out and arched, trying to push backwards and forwards at the same time.

"You are hot off the mark, aren't you? Hard to believe no one's ever taken advantage of this divine ass before..."

Methos' hands were everywhere, sadistically erotic; creating new desires in him only to leave them unfulfilled. Duncan bit his lip, steeling himself to bear it, but then Methos' hands were gone, leaving him shaking and abandoned against the wall.

"I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere." The words were whispered with tingling intimacy against his throat. "In the meantime, get those clothes off-I won't want to bother with them later."

The juxtaposition of shame, anger and raw need made the task much more difficult than he expected. When he was done he leaned gratefully back against the wall, eyes closed, his breathing shallow and rapid. With Methos gone it was hard to remember why he was doing this, why he was putting himself through this. These nagging doubts didn't have too much hold on him, however, as the answer to the unspoken questions was evident-it was burning hard and slick against the plaster, waiting to be touched, aching.

He heard soft, near-silent steps on the thick carpet, and then there was a firm grip on his hair, and his head was pulled smoothly backward. He jumped.

"Spread your legs." , He did, and his pulse raced out of control, hammering in his ears.

"Wider, MacLeod." How could something so ominous be so arousing? "C'mon, open up..."

He obeyed, the muscles in his inner thighs stretched and trembling. There was no contact between them except the grip on his hair, and his face flushed again at the humiliation of exposure, the utterly sinister sense of objectification. "Methos-"

"Be quiet, Mac." A low chuckle. "A little uncomfortable, is it? Don't worry, you'll have other things to occupy your attention very soon."

A light, teasing finger traced from the back of his neck down his spine, slipping finally into the cleft between his buttocks. He drew in a sharp breath as his body tensed.

A gentle tug on his hair. "Give me your mouth, Duncan. You virgins are always so terribly noisy, and I have these brand-new neighbors to consider..."

(Don't...) The word wouldn't come. Methos might listen to him. Duncan managed to suppress a sob as he turned his head; his body strung out in torment between terror and want. Methos' rough, demanding kiss intensified rather than allayed his discomfort. He was aroused to the point that he almost craved the pain he knew would be forthcoming-anything to get him past this place of conflict.

He shook; straining at bonds that weren't even there when the smooth coolness of a lubricated finger slid slowly into him. He gasped around Methos' tongue-there was no discomfort, but it was so utterly, terribly alien...

Being taken. (Christ-how do women stand this?) Duncan forced himself not to resist, an effort that almost failed until the presence inside him moved delicately, stroking someplace within that fired pleasure through his nerves with such intensity that he cried out. Methos pressed against him, blissfully warm, naked skin to skin at last, and muffled him completely with an open, insatiable kiss, his appreciative murmur lost between their meshed tongues.

Duncan's hips pushed backwards as an unknown and unsuspected hunger burst through him. There was a brief spark of hot, lightning pleasure, but Methos pulled from him immediately, swallowing his whimper of protest.

Soon there was more; slight stretching and the first suggestion of pain, followed by a delirious, annihilating flash that sent him sliding down the wall as his cock left a wet trail down the plaster. Methos caught him neatly, sucking on his tongue with enthusiasm, and guided him gently towards the bed.

The coverlet brushed cool against his cheek, a soothing contrast to the heat of Methos' body along his side. There was no longer any danger of falling to the floor, but now there was no resistance possible to the patient fingers that entered him, no place to go except where he was. Everything except his cock was utterly limp, turned malleable under the slow but relentless invasion. He was suspended, poised on the brink of explosive release-unaware of his own cries, he was alive only to the sweet, burning rush that flooded his senses.

A firm grip on his left thigh pulled at him, but Duncan had no resources left to obey. His leg was shifted up without his help, his knee bent to position his body wide open. Methos' tongue glided over his ear, bringing the sound of panting breaths like soft thunder.

"Last chance, Duncan. I don't know if I can stop this, but-"

"No..." the word was drawn out endlessly as fingers withdrew, leaving him desolate. "God-don't...don't stop."

Methos was a welcome weight upon his back, nestling gently between his spread legs, nudging lightly against his ass. One arm twined beneath his own to caress the sweat from his brow, the other insinuated downwards to inflict the slow torture of a firm grip around his shaft. Duncan moaned, but he was cut off abruptly by a hand covering his mouth.

"Forgive me," Methos whispered, and pushed mercilessly into his body. Duncan's muscles locked into the rigidity of absolute shock-this invasion was like nothing that had come before; this was huge, inescapable, and without thought his hips twisted away, seeking surcease. Methos' body shifted above his own, pursuing him, and Duncan's struggles only forced them closer together.

There was no outlet for the shriek pent up inside him, but he sobbed freely against Methos' restraining hand, hearing Methos' voice through wavering consciousness; throaty, desperate.

"You are so...fucking...tight..." A strong, sure hand caressed his waning shaft as his body began to adjust, and Duncan fell gratefully into the offered relief. Methos was totally motionless inside him, and he released Duncan's mouth to reach his hips, shifting, tilting. Duncan gasped as sharp pain transformed to warm fullness, and groaned harshly as Methos slid with terrifying ease deep into his body.

"That's-oh Gods..." Methos wrapped around him more firmly, abandoned his cock to take both Duncan's trembling hands in a tight grip. "Hold on to me...Duncan-hold on-don't let go..."

He held on, clinging desperately to the strength the other man offered. Methos moaned like a man in pain and pulled back, squeezing Duncan's fingers brutally tight as he thrust again. Duncan uttered a lost, wailing cry that was half panic and half ecstasy, shuddering wildly between the two. Methos took him fast, a pace that allowed no time to adjust emotionally as he had physically, no chance to encompass the deep erotic terror of being possessed.

When pleasure came to him again it was as abrupt and devastating as the pain had been. It consumed him, seduced him, beguiling his complicity in his own undoing. He quivered under Methos' skill, his frustration mounting as the other man rocked over and over that place inside that left him defenseless-he'd thought that this conjunction would at least make Methos more desperate than himself...

He arched his back and opened fully to the penetration, dizzy with triumph at Methos' resultant moan. Wet with sweat and undulating with a strange, greedy hunger, his body took all that Methos had to give and demanded more. For one intoxicating moment he felt Methos tremble ardently on the edge of restraint, heard a helpless urgency in the other man's groans that spoke eloquently of surrender. He pushed back against the taut muscles straining above him, determined to drive the other man over the edge, but Methos froze suddenly; panting, shaking, yes, but still controlled.

"Not yet," the low voice sighed breathlessly, and Duncan almost wailed in frustration. Methos guided their joined hands downwards, wrapped their meshed fingers around his aching erection. "I'm not...oh Christ-I'm not that easy, Duncan."

Methos moved slowly now, teasingly, sliding their hands softly over the length of Duncan's eager, weeping cock. Duncan was on the rack again, torn between two sources of pleasure that were quickly melding into one vast, unfulfilled ache. He bit his lip. (Please, Methos...) He bit harder to deny the words.

Methos felt huge inside him, drawing out time and sensation as he luxuriated, reveled in Duncan's body, release always just out of reach. Hot tears stung Duncan's eyes, and he writhed under the deliberate torture.

"Methos-" his voice sounded terribly weak, and he gasped for air.

"Easy, Duncan. I...soon, I promise."



Methos cradled him, rocked him, gave him everything except what he needed. Duncan abandoned himself-his tears were born of passion now, welling from a terrible, raw place in his spirit where Methos had rooted and found a home. To be taken this way, touched this deeply, was both an incredible joy and a fierce, burning pain-there was no more to withhold, he'd given everything-and he would exist to the end of his days bearing the mark that Methos had branded him with.

Methos moaned against his throat and began to move more quickly. Duncan melted under new waves of sensation, but still, it wasn't enough.

"You...want this-say it, Duncan..."


Harder now, fast and hot and perfect...

Duncan shuddered in Methos' arms, gasping at the exotic rush of being forced ruthlessly into the release that had been denied for so long. Pleasure crested while Methos throbbed sharply within him, filling his body, his senses, his being with an outpouring of tenderness that was almost painfully intimate. They were locked together, and as Duncan's ears reverberated with their eerily harmonic cries he felt that Methos was his, finally, absolutely his; and he reached back to cradle the damp, silky head with one hand while his cock spurted semen over the fingers of the other.

The pulses within and without seemed to go on for an endless time, feeding the lingering traces of fire, satisfying the hollow ache. For a fragile, immeasurable moment Duncan felt at peace, connected irrevocably within the sanctuary of the dark world that they shared. He closed his eyes and listened with perfect contentment to Methos' heartbeat, audible in breath and body, the most soothing sound he'd ever heard-

A dreadful, appalling shock swept him as Methos pulled abruptly away. The sudden vacancy stunned him, left him cold and shivering on the bed while he struggled onto his back, fighting the lassitude in his sated limbs.

"What the hell...?"

Methos was up and moving, his back to Duncan as he slipped quickly into his clothes. Duncan looked away long enough to grope for the bedside lamp, but the light revealed no obvious explanation-Methos just kept dressing.

"What are you doing?" he demanded, reaching out for Methos' arm. His touch was rebuffed; his hand knocked away with casual violence that dismayed him.

"I've got to go, MacLeod." Methos turned towards him briefly, and a flash of silver flew from his hand to land next to Duncan's knee. A key, he saw in disbelief. "Lock up when you leave. You can put the key above the jamb. I have another." The dry, emotionless words cut deeply, scored away any thoughts of rational protest.

"Leave? Methos, no-"

"I told you that you were a fool, Mac. Maybe next time you'll believe me. See you around."

Duncan had no time to encompass the depth of this cruelty before Methos strode from the room. He scrambled up and out of the bed, but when he entered the darkened living room the front door had already closed with a final, quiet thump; sealing him shut in empty, ticking solitude, the tidal ghost of his own breath the only proof of life.

Methos walked until he was chilled to the bone. The streets were shrouded in silent, ephemeral mist, and he was soon drenched from his passage through the dim and insubstantial fog.

For a long while he kept his mind carefully blank, aware of nothing more than the sound of his own footsteps and the sonorous drum of his own heartbeat. He could feel something laying in wait for him, however; the mass of turmoil that he'd pushed aside in order to walk out. It was a cold and suffocating obstruction in his chest, choking off all flow of life to the parts of him that hurt. (Which at this point), he thought ruefully, (is pretty much everything...)

He halted when he found himself at a small park and sat down, unmindful of the bedewed state of the cold, cement bench. He buried his face in his hands and began the slow process of lowering the barriers he'd erected so hastily, safe now to give free rein to what would have been so deadly before. The tension in his body eased but the tremors increased, and although his limbs were frigid with cold he found himself flushed, burning with the accrued heat of repressed response.

There were no tears. He'd not allow any. He could allow the hurt, however; fall into the white roar of silence inside, wincing at the shattering emptiness of his hands, just a short time ago so full...he knew who the fool was, all right.

(This is the sacrifice-this is the price you have to pay for the luxury of distrust. Enjoy the knowledge that you hurt him before he could hurt you, because you surely paid enough for it...)

It wasn't fair at all. It was terribly unjust that with a multitude of centuries behind him life could still bring this unexpected pain. He was the one who hadn't been ready; utterly unprepared for the moment when raw male lust gave way to something that transcended his definition of tenderness.

Threatened-had he ever been so deeply, terribly threatened?

He'd had more than he ever imagined warm inside the circle of his arms, dying of pleasure with nothing held back...and the part of him that answered was pulled up from beneath dense, packed layers of time to surface into light it should never have seen again, terrifyingly defenseless.

He wondered for a moment what it might be like to fall into that connection offered so freely, to live day to day hoping optimistically that nothing would harm him, that no blade would carve a void into his naked vulnerability.

Methos knew better. There are knives everywhere. It can't be any other way.

And so his body had acted and his mouth had spoken, an automatic and long-established series of steps designed to put distance between himself and any given threat, any liability...and yet, his long, long memory found no instance, no evidence of a time when survival cost quite this much. Too bad.

With a deep sigh Methos rose and turned his steps toward home. Duncan should be gone by now-if not, he'd fade away at the first flicker of Immortal presence, and just keep on walking.

It was done. He was safe once again, treacherous possibilities locked away in the numb vault of control.

(You cannot possibly offer me anything that would make me stay. I can turn away, walk away from the perfect miracle of having you alive and loving me-I don't need you. I can walk away.)

Pain like the amputation of a gangrenous limb-sacrificed for the integrity of survival of the whole, but shrieking without understanding as flesh was torn, stripped screaming off the bone. He had a certain level of clinical detachment from it now, allowing him to observe this process with fascination, safe in the knowledge that it was vital. He studied it all the way home, unaware that his body had betrayed him and his eyes ran with tears.

He failed to notice them even as he entered his silent, empty apartment and performed a brief examination to confirm that all of Duncan's things were gone. It was a long, long time before he slept, but even in the dark and forsaken hours he never stopped to wonder why his pillow was so uncomfortably wet.

When Methos opened his eyes he was momentarily dizzy and disoriented. There was something in this strange place that both comforted and disturbed him, some forgotten thing that spoke of momentous, desperate choices, and memories of unexpected tenderness...

He blinked.

His new apartment.

The strange became familiar with a sudden click of recognition-just as the memory of last night settled onto his chest with suffocating force.

His eyes winced closed. He surrendered to the pain, knowing that it would pass. He was in the middle of drawing a deep, desperate breath when two separate things intruded upon his consciousness with a jarring thud-the first was music, incongruously light and joyful within the framework of his inner gloom; the second was a low, penetrating vibration which had passed unnoticed until now-the hum of Immortal presence.


He fought the overwhelming wave of gratitude that bloomed hot in his chest, that stung warm in his eyes-here, Duncan was here, and it was everything...it was...

It was up to him to send Duncan away. Again. It was surely going to kill him, but-

Duncan's head peeked around the doorframe, eyes wide, but the humor and amusement faded from his face as he looked at Methos.

"Hey..." The rich, warm voice was full of concern, and Methos wondered at it until the moisture on his cheeks caught him between dismay and surprise.

He refused to wipe his eyes. If he was going to insist upon being maudlin he would just have to sit here and enjoy the mortification. "You were supposed to be gone, Duncan."

The other man ignored his words. In a moment Duncan was with him, around him, warm and alive and very much not gone. Methos' eyes wouldn't stop-actually seemed to be getting worse, and he buried his head in the soft cotton over Duncan's hard chest. (Just for now...) just a moment to listen to that heartbeat.

"Methos, I...You...You got scared last night, right?" The words were so soft, so gentle-they burned in his ears. He nodded, blind, warping under the sweet anguish of it.

"I'm not leaving you."

No words. There were none. He'd used them all up last night, and five thousand years' addiction to survival couldn't make him go through that pain again.

A heavy sigh from above. "I suppose I should be glad you came back here. I went out to look for you, and I was prepared to go off on a tour of the world...Bora Bora and points south, I guess."

He turned his face in, ashamed of smiling over such an idiotic joke. He closed his eyes, and listened.

(Let it go.)

(He won't leave, and you don't have what it takes to push him away, so let it go. Just for now.)

And he did. The terrible vulnerability passed slowly away as he rested in Duncan's arms, each rising fear grappled to earth with the same, calm response.

Just for now.

Slowly the music he'd heard earlier recaptured his attention-Jerry Garcia, catching him up with helpless joy, as always. Methos surreptitiously wiped his eyes with Duncan's shirt to erase the last traces of tears, sighed, and wrapped his arms tightly around Duncan's warm, giving body.

The fact that Duncan's mouth was silky and hot and inviting couldn't distract him-even as their kiss turned from comfort to passion-from the music; and Methos' foot marked absent time as he let it go and fell into whatever was waiting for him-just for now.

I can't get around, and I can't run away- I need a miracle every day. (Got to be the only way,) I need a miracle every day.

-Grateful Dead