Den of Chaos Fiction
Highlander: the Series

 

The Stonecutters
by Taselby

 

This story is rated Adult for language, adult themes and M/M sex. You know if you should be here or not.

Methos/Adam Pierson, Duncan MacLeod and Joe Dawson are all the property of some faceless corporate goons with more lawyers than me, and I can only beg their indulgence for this little endeavor. I mean no harm, and no money changed hands. Just for fun, eh?

This story first appeared in Futures Without End #1 in September 1998. My endless thanks to Maygra, Melina, and Ellen for their invaluable assistance and support. It wouldn't be half so good without them.

Title is taken from "To the Stone-Cutters," by Robinson Jeffers.

Timing: Set in Paris between the episodes "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" and "The Modern Prometheus"


God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'

Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes....

--John Greenleaf Whittier, from "Maud Muller"


I can feel him before he opens the nightclub's door, his presence running before him like an overeager hound, loyal, faithful and exuberant, just like the rest of his followers. Unlike me. Faithless apostate that I am, I resolve not to look when I hear the door open and feel the damp tendril of fresh air reaching out to me, beckoning. Even the elements serve him.

In the end it's a futile struggle. He is beautiful, powerful, magnetic. Everyone can sense the aura around him, even if they don't know what it is. The mortals all want to be near him, to touch him like a talisman, like his power could be transferred to them. Immortals... well, that's a little more complicated. All eyes are drawn irresistibly to him, even mine. The women desire him, and even the men look on with hungry eyes as he parts the sea of people with a glance and a minimal gesture, like an old-style biblical prophet. Moses in khakis and a white sweater.

They all want him, or want to be him, but he's come here for me. And here I sit, waiting, frozen in the Gorgon's stare. Medusa was beautiful, too.

I wonder how long he'll stand here before he speaks, and what he'll say when he does. For a long time we just look at each other, each unwilling to be the first break the silence. There's tension around his eyes, and I can feel an answering tightness spread across my shoulders, creeping up my neck as the silence stretches out beyond the realm of comfort.

"Methos..." I can hear the different shadings of my name on his tongue, the dust and age of it. The death of Adam Pierson, of my remaining innocence, or his idea of it, is in his eyes. Not my death, just who he thought I was. In a way, this is worse. Silently, I curse him for using my name, for revealing so much, for wielding that damned honor of his like a sword.

Is it still blasphemy if you curse in the name of a god you don't believe in?

He's asked me for nothing, and that is exactly what I give him. The beer between my hands is stale and forgotten, dying in a pool of condensation on the tabletop.

"Joe said you'd be here."

"Well, then I shall have to remember and add him to my Christmas list."

"Don't..."

"What?"

"Don't make this harder than it has to be. Can I sit down?"

"It's a free country." He turns the chair backwards before he sits on it, straddling the seat and folding his hands across the back, like he needs the extra support, or the additional barrier between us. Foolish me, I thought there were enough obstacles for us to overcome already. That is, assuming we want to.

Like the rest of him, his hands are a sculptor's dream. Wide and dark, warm and strong, they were made for holding a sword, or a lover. I don't want to remember their heat, or their caution, not now when all I want in the world is to be able to hate this man. Casual touches, that's all. A restraining grip and the press of his body during a spar, a neck rub after a workout or a torturous night on his sofa, his touch is often unintendedly sensual, but never overtly sexual.

I want to hate him for rejecting me, for condemning me on the word of another, for his shattered illusions of me. I'm not who he expected me to be, and he can't forgive me for that, like the crime was mine.

"You called me by my name."

"What?" His turn to be confused and off-balance.

"When we met. You walked into my home and called me by name. Do you know how long it had been since anyone said my name to me, knew me for who I was?" If I don't look at him, this will be easier, but I have to look. He's a Gorgon. Beautiful and deadly, he can turn me to stone with a glance.

"You offered me your protection, and then your friendship. For the first time I can remember, there was a place I belonged, where I didn't have to be someone I wasn't, and where no one wanted my head." This is only a recitation of old history, MacLeod. We both know this, and it has no more meaning to either of us now.

I can't hate him, sitting there across from me with that clear, dark-eyed gaze, waiting to see where I will take this. Maybe I'm too old for hate. I know the futility, the danger of it. It takes too much of you, eats you up inside until that's all there is left. I can't hate him, or anyone. I'm just too tired.

I will not sell the shreds of my soul to hatred, but neither will I let love be my undoing. I could promise myself that I won't let him hurt me again, but that smacks of tempting the gods. I prefer not to make promises or give oaths unless I am forced to it. I tend to break them too easily. That's another difference between us: I know the convenience of honor.

"I still don't want your head."

That's not the point, Mac. You don't want anything from me except what I can't give you. Explanations. Apologies. I smile and look down at the reflection of a beer sign in the puddle on the table. Someone in here is smoking clove cigarettes.

"Why are you here?"

"What do you mean?"

Very good, that one is lifted whole from my own book of tricks. He's learning. I press on. "It's a simple enough question. You came here tonight looking for me. Why?"

"Do you want me to leave?"

No, I want you to drop to your knees and kiss the palms of my hands. I want you to say my name over and over until your voice is raw, until I come from the sound of it. I want you to touch me with those hands and kiss me until I weep and beg to belong to you. But I don't want you to leave.

Swallowing tightly, I push the fantasy away before I flush. Evasiveness doesn't suit him; it chafes like tight jeans and he squirms appealingly, like a schoolboy. "I didn't say that. Why are you here?" I need another beer. Where is the damned waitress when you need her?

He sighs and wipes both hands across his face. "I don't know. I wanted... I want to ask you if we can fix this. If we can mend fences."

More barriers. Mending fences, building walls, it's all the same. "Honestly, I don't know. Do you want to try? Is that what you're saying?"

There's a long pause while he thinks about it, the thoughts and feelings clearly visible on his face even in the dim light. I wonder how he ever learned to play poker with a face like that, so easy to read. We're treading too close to things that are better left unsaid; what can cure might also kill, and some words wound too easily regardless. I never had any enemy cut me as deep as this man I called friend.

"I did a favor for someone yesterday and she brought by dinner tonight."

My ears begin to ring, a high whining sound that cuts off whatever else he might be saying. He came here to tell me about another of his conquests? Something inside me breaks loose and begins to bleed sluggishly at the thought of him coming here fresh from her arms to tell me... boasting his victory like an adolescent. I'm staring at him, I know it but can't seem to stop. His lips are moving, and there's no sound but the droning in my ears.

There's no air in here. The smoke is too thick to catch my breath, the sweet stench of pipes and clove cigarettes and cheap perfume too cloying. Somehow, I get my feet underneath me and lurch out of the chair.

"I have to get out of here." At least, I think that's what I say. I can't hear myself any clearer than I can hear him.

The sea of bodies doesn't part so obediently for me, and I'm fighting my way to the door, suddenly sympathetic to salmon swimming upstream. Like them, I know only that I must do this or die.

Outside isn't much better. The spring air is cool on my face, but no more nourishing to my lungs or my pounding head than the claustrophobic bar was. My feet feel like lead, and I stagger forward toward my truck, inertia and an iron stubbornness the only things guiding me. I'm so tired.

I'm so tired of this.

Why is it always this way? He and I seem to exist only to hurt one another, every word calculated to wound. Nights like this I can touch the memory of his sword at my throat, the vibrant feeling of the steel where it bit into my skin... I can look at that moment without fear. His hands were so steady. I was too afraid then to appreciate the terrible ecstasy of the experience, waiting for death between one breath and the next. I was terrified, aroused, wanting to give myself to him so badly that I almost yearned for the stroke of his sword. I wonder if he's ever regretted that he didn't follow through.

The solid bulk of the truck is reassuring as I lean against it, still gasping for air like a beached fish.

"Methos?"

I can't help myself, I look up at him. There is confusion in his dark eyes, and more concern than I deserve. Swallowing my own hurt and resentment, I try to summon up the appropriate words, gathering the tattered remains of my self-possession like a beggar's cloak. I can't hate him; he hurts me like a child who doesn't know his own power, and I cannot hate him for that.

"I'm sure she's a lovely woman and a fabulous cook, and you two will be very happy..."

"Have you heard a word I've said?"

"What?"

"Just before your overly dramatic exit, I was asking you if you'd like to come to dinner."

"Dinner? With you and her?" My turn again to be confused. It isn't enough that he has to come and wave her under my nose, now I'm supposed to go see for myself how utterly charming they are together? Sorry, Mac, not tonight.

"Methos, there is no 'her.' You really haven't heard a thing I've said." He's speaking slowly, as if to a stupid child. "I did a favor for the wife of a friend yesterday, some appraisal on an antique she was buying. I saved her a bundle on it, and by way of thanks, she made a dinner and brought it to me this afternoon. There is far too much for one person, and I hate to eat alone besides." He stops and heaves a sigh, clearly frustrated.

"Now for the last time, would you like to come to dinner?"

Oh. My mind is changing directions so fast that I can almost hear the gears grind. There are surely a hundred very good reasons not to do this, but right now I can't think of one.

"Sure," I hear myself say with studied casualness, "I'd like that." It can't possibly be this easy.


Later at the barge there is no overt gesture of welcome, no instructions to hang my coat, to have a beer, or to make myself comfortable. It's like I was never gone, like those easy, homey rituals had never been denied me. He expects me to be relaxed here, like family.

It's hard though, not to be wary and defensive after so long, after so many rejections, so many hard words. I follow him to the tiny galley where he starts setting out pans and bowls of food to warm.

"You got a beer?"

"Yeah, help yourself. They're in the fridge."

He moves aside so I can open the door. There's a 6-pack of some American microbrew I've never heard of and a dark bottle of something else chilling. The raffia and wax covering on the cork looks home made. The beer is dark and rich, with an earthy, slightly burned flavor. I check the label again. San Francisco. It figures.

"Something wrong?"

He's standing too close. I can smell the faint spiciness of his cologne over the rosemary coming from the stove, see the one curl of hair behind his ear that's escaped his ponytail. It's an effort not to reach out and smooth it back into place.

"No, just looking at the label. I've never tried this microbrew before."

A brief nod as he pushes up the sleeves of his sweater. It's the white one that fits so nicely across his shoulders, the one with the raw neck seam. We fought over that sweater for two years. It's big on me, but I love it anyway. Mostly I'd borrow it just so he'd have to come and get it again.

"Is it all right?"

"The beer's fine, Mac."

"Then why don't we get out of the kitchen? Dinner won't be ready for about forty minutes or so."

It's only then that I realize I'm standing in his way, staring at the smooth fit of that white sweater, my fingers itching to touch his hair. As usual, smartass remarks are the best cover for an uncomfortable moment.

"I don't know, you look pretty good in the kitchen. All we need to get you is a pearl choker and a lace apron. You could be the next Donna Reed."

He looks at me strangely for an instant, unsure if I'm serious or not, but I don't give him a chance to dwell on it before I turn on a heel and stride with as much grace as I can manage over to the sofa. The cushions give a satisfying squeak and whoosh of air as I flop down in a possessive sprawl. I know what I'm doing, marking my territory like the old predator I am, daring him to cross the boundary. In another lifetime, long before Lon Chaney fixed that ridiculous image in people's minds, I was known as a wolf-man, rarely coming out of the forests, marking my campsite by pissing a circle around it. The idea is the same, but the gestures of territorial ownership have changed a bit. I don't think Mac would appreciate me draining my bladder all over his wooden floor.

More points for him as he sits at the opposite end of the couch. Either he's learning more of my tricks than I realized, or he's just no longer intimidated by them. Not so long ago, he'd have sat in the chair without ever knowing why. Now he invades my space, inviting himself into my circle with easy confidence, sure of his place there. As sure as I once was of my place in his. Nice to know that I've become so toothless and predictable.

Damn. I suck a deep breath and force myself to relax. I didn't come here to play dominance games with him again. I accuse him of building walls, making barriers between us, but I'm just as guilty of it as he is. I've spent months wishing back the easy friendship we had before Kronos and Cassandra came to ruin it. (That's not entirely true, and much of that fracture between us could have been prevented if I had told him about Kronos before, but Mac wanted to believe in Adam Pierson so badly. And I wanted to believe in Mac. Like all other dreams, though, it fell to ashes upon waking.) Months of bitter, hurt might-have-beens, and here I am, looking for reasons to be angry that he's comfortable in my presence again. I just can't help wondering if this gift horse has rotten teeth.

"So, what's for dinner?" I sit up, consciously turning off the 'keep away' signals. Wherever he's going with this invitation, I'll never find out if I keep him at arm's length. I can see him relaxing too, the tension draining out of his shoulders, his grip on the beer bottle loosening slightly. I don't remember him getting himself a beer.

"It's a surprise." He smiles slightly.

I'm smiling back before I know it. "Fine, keep your mystery, it just better not be those sweet-and-sour fish kabobs you made last fall."

"Fear not. I'm not the chef tonight..."

I cut him off. "And people say there is no god."

"Hey!" He scowls at me in mock-irritation, but lets the snipe go without further comment. A year ago sharp-edged banter like this would have been an invitation to a wrestling match, or a pillow fight, or other physical play. I remember one summer day when he ambushed me with one of those huge waterguns, soaking me mercilessly until I took back whatever I'd said, and we were both breathless and laughing. Childish, yes, but fun. Now he just squints at me.

Casual touches.

The memories are pleasantly bittersweet, and easy to drift off into. Perhaps half a dozen times we'd ever played like that, rolling around on the floor or chasing one another around the barge or loft like children, shouting and laughing. It was enough, just knowing he was that comfortable with me, and it hurt that he never knew how much it meant to me. Of any other desire or subtext on my part, he was blissfully unaware. It stung, but only a little. That's life.

The sofa creaks as he sits down beside me, offering a fresh beer to replace my empty bottle. I didn't notice him get up. Sloppy of me; inattention like that will get me killed someday.

He lifts the empty from my hand, pressing the cool, moist shape of the new bottle into the curl of my palm. His hand is very warm where our fingers brush. Again, my oaths are meaningless, and I look up into his eyes, dark and soft with concern. Tender Gorgon, the death in your gaze is all the sweeter that you bring it unaware.

The moment is crystalline and perfect, glistening, devoid of thought or consequence, spinning off endlessly into the past as long as I hold his eyes. His eyes... dark and clear, but not like the night, no. They are both more mysterious and more familiar, the lush brown of autumn forests, the depth of mountain lakes at dusk. Held by that quiet gaze I lean forward, my heart hammering like it's about to burst. There is no thought, no time to reconsider.

I kiss him gently, as easy as butterfly wings, afraid to frighten, afraid to bruise. Oh, gods, his lips are warm velvet under mine, soft and just barely moist, his skin fragrant with the traces of cologne and the earthy remains of his beer. This instant, this blessed pause between heartbeats seems to linger forever, pressed like a rose in an old book. I lean in a little deeper, feeling the give of his full mouth, the heat of his breath. His lips are soft and sweet and good and intoxicating...

And not responding.

Duncan isn't pulling away, but neither is he responding to me. Gods... I can feel the chasm opening up under my feet; I beg it to swallow me and let this be over. On its own, the tip of my tongue steals a tiny touch against his upper lip, and I know that I am truly damned beyond redemption as he hisses and pulls back, his eyes wide.

I can't think, I can't breathe with him just sitting there across from me, so close, looking at me like I'm a stranger. Neither can I look away.

"Do you want me to leave?" My voice is faint, competing with the pounding of my heart to be heard in my ears.

He blinks, shaking his head minutely. There is a brief flash of pink as his tongue flicks across his lip, tasting. "I didn't say that."

A chime sounds in the galley and like that, the moment is over, any possibility inherent in it swept away into the ether.

"That's dinner," he announces blandly, burying the magic and pain of that vanished instant under another layer of mundanities as he rises to turn off the oven and toss the salad. More barriers.


Dinner is a delicious but silent affair, the light clink of knives and forks playing an eerie counterpoint to the soft music he's put on the stereo. I'm distracted by my own churning thoughts and the way he keeps looking at me when he thinks I'm not paying attention, a kind of surreptitious stare. Two minutes after I swallow the last forkful, I can't tell you what we ate if my life depended on it.

He bursts from his silence with an almost-audible snap, looking up at me with bright eyes. "I almost forgot!" he exclaims and hops up to collect the raffia-and-wax decorated bottle and two matching goblets. It uncorks with a muffled pop and light mist, and Duncan pours two glasses of a rich looking rose-gold wine. He passes one to me with a curious expression.

"I never did ask you earlier what you were drinking to."

"No occasion." A fragment of something surfaces in my memory, and I quote softly, "I was trying to drown my sorrows, but my sorrows, they learned to swim..."

"What's that?"

"Nothing. Something I heard once." The goblet is beautiful and heavy, faintly misted from the cool wine. "What should we drink to?"

He looks down into his glass for a long moment before smiling. "To stonecutters."

I know the reference, he has to realize that I would know it. "For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun die blind and blacken to the heart..."

He shakes his head, silencing me with a look. "Yet stones have stood for a thousand years..."

The words hang in silence for a moment, gradually rinsed away by a swell of the music. "You missed the point, Methos. Nothing lasts forever."

He's calling me by name again. I turn away from him before he can finish the thought. I don't want to hear his rationalization of why we can't be friends. Why, yet again, he's decided that he's through with me. Thank you, MacLeod, you were very eloquent the last few times you banished me from your kingdom. The words We're through come to mind, as do Mind your own business, and the simple excluding tactic of his foreplay with Amanda the last time I was here. I want to find a marginally polite excuse to leave, but I'm committed to stay at least until I finish the goblet. I don't know if I can drink to his toast.

The wine glistens like a liquid sunset. He's following me back to the couch, still talking. Doesn't he ever know when to shut up? When I want him to say something, he has nothing to give me, but when I crave silence it's like being stranded with a chatty preschooler. Shut up!!

"...Nothing lasts forever, so we just keep rebuilding it. Stonecutters fighting time with marble..."

The music sighs again, breathy and irritating as I sit down, a little heavier than I intended. Rebuilding? The thought is numbing in its unexpectedness, in the dormant potential that lies waiting under the surface of the sound. This I can drink to, the celebration of possibility, the embracing of hope. Time alone will tell if we're building bridges or walls. A short gesture toward him to acknowledge the toast, and I raise the goblet to my lips. The wine is heady and faintly effervescent, rich with the taste of grain and raspberries. I look up, surprised.

"Kvass?" I suspect that Duncan's culinary friend dabbles in more than blending spices. This is a very old recipe. I wonder if he knows all of the connotations of sharing it with someone.

"Is that what it's called? She just sent it to go with dinner."

I nod, content to keep the secret. We sip the wine together for a while, not speaking. There is a definite thrum of nervousness in his body, and he trails the rim of the cup along his lips in a way that speaks volumes. He's thinking of our kiss, my kiss. I want to touch him, to taste the kvass on his tongue, to feel his hands on my face. Of course, the moment for us to have become lovers is long since past, all the chances gone without exploring the possibilities. I should have made my feelings known a year ago, perhaps after that mess with the deValicourts. I should have loved him then, and told him what a lie Adam Pierson really was. Might have been. Maud Muller had the truth of it.

At last my goblet is empty, and I think again of leaving. I don't need him. I do need to get out of here before he decides to dissect that ill-advised kiss, while there is still a shred of friendship remaining. He's right, we can rebuild it, but not if we sit here tonight and pick it apart. I need to go.

Too late. For the second time tonight he's lifting a cup from my fingers, but instead of refilling it like I expect, he sets it aside and opens my palm, tracing the calluses with his fingertips.

My heart is pounding, cold adrenalin flooding my limbs. It's an effort not to move. Swallowing hard, I hope my voice will work on the first try. "MacLeod, what...?"

Those fathomless dark eyes catch mine again. Gods, they're beautiful, as dark as a shaded pool. Mac silences me with a gentle shake of his head, and continues caressing my palm with slow, easy pressure.

"You gave me a lot to think about tonight."

Oh gods, oh gods... The need to get away is almost overpowering, pulsing in time with my heart. I have to move; I can't move. I can't breathe when he looks at me like that. Beautiful and deadly... he is my doom.

"Mac, I don't think..."

"Duncan." The deep voice is quietly intense, with a faint note of command.

I pause, confused again. He's doing that to me a lot tonight. "What?"

"Call me Duncan." The maddening stroking continues, moving up the inside of my wrist. "I like the way you say my name. I want to hear you say it. 'Duncan.'"

"But I..." Warm fingers are laid across my lips, silencing me again. They smell like sweet wax and his cologne.

Those exquisite eyes lock with mine again, softly burning in their intensity. "I want to hear you say my name," he repeats. "Say my name."

I swallow again, every limb rigid and trembling with the effort of keeping me upright and still. I want to run, I want to throw myself at him. His fingers drift across my lips and begin to trace a slow line down my cheek. They're slightly cool from where he's been holding his glass, and I know my face is flushed and hot. From somewhere I find the strength to meet that gaze with equal intensity and more than a little fear.

This is a bad idea, I know that for a fact even as I struggle harshly for breath. My entire body is shaking, the left hand alone held unmoving in his grasp. Damn him! Why is this so much more frightening now that he is taking the initiative?

I need to go, need to leave before we compound this mistake any more than we already have. This is a bad idea, and Duncan isn't helping anything. His fingers are warming against my throat, firm and gentle at the same time as they explore the tendons there, pressing lightly over the artery to feel my pulse. I don't know what he's doing, what he's trying to prove, but I wish he'd stop now, before it's too late. Please don't do this to me.

But as much as my mind screams for escape, I'm frozen, held immobile by the light touch of his hands and the soft burning of his eyes. They're so full of wonder and curiosity, rimmed with only a hint of color, the pupils large and black with passion. He wants me (the thought rings bell-like through the vault of my being: He wants me), wants to explore this new feeling, this new desire. A year ago, I'd have met him touch for touch, with equal strength and hunger. Now, what we have is so fragile, I'm afraid we'll shatter it to pieces with an incautious kiss.

"Say it," comes the insistent demand. He's touching my face, leaning close to nuzzle my jaw, bold and shy all at once, and I yield to it, give in to the heat of his hands, the soft command of his voice, knowing it's only the first step in my downfall, my doom.

"Duncan..." I breathe, as if for the first time, and he's there to take the breath from me in a searing kiss.

Oh, gods... My hands tangle themselves in his hair to pull him against me. I moan into his mouth, begging with little noises for more... It's too much, too much... I was right, I'm shattered beyond repair, broken by this simple touch, and I still can't get enough. I don't need him, I don't. I deny it to myself even as I reassert a measure of control, gentling the kiss before it consumes me. I ease him back, searching his face.

"Duncan, are you sure about this?" I have to know. Either answer might kill me, but I have to know. I need to hear the words. There is a kind of precarious balance between us while he hesitates, not to consider, but to breathe. I know then, in that teetering moment before he speaks, that I can deny him nothing. Self-denial is an old companion to me, and as long as the burden of this yearning was mine alone, I was content to keep it so.

A hand comes up to trace the ridge of my brow. "Yes, yes... More sure than I've been about anything in a long time."

The balance is tipped, and I'm sliding, crumbling like an old wall. There is no comfort in his reassurance, only new uncertainties, different consequences to face. One more question I need to ask. "Have you ever..."

He cuts me off with a quick, fierce kiss. "No."

Oh, Duncan, that raises more questions than it answers. I toe off my shoes and peel my socks off with one hand. It's been a long time since I've been with a man like this, longer still since I've taught a virgin. Then again, I don't think he'll need much guidance.

I pull him up and lead him toward the bed, pausing only to refill one of the goblets. Rolling a sip of the kvass around on my tongue, I have to wonder if love potions really do work. He sits on the edge of the bed, waiting for me with only a hint of nervousness. Funny, I'm almost as nervous as he is. The mood has been broken a bit, and we've both had time for the reality of this decision to settle in. One more thing left to say.

"Duncan, anything you don't want to do, or don't like, or even if you just want to stop, say so, and I will."

He nods gravely, taking me at my word, little knowing how badly I'm shaking inside. Another sip of the wine, and I pass him the goblet, inviting him to drink. My shirt comes off with an easy, fluid motion, and I toss it aside, watching his reaction.

He sets the cup aside and reaches for the hem of his sweater, uncertain and bold, determined to match me garment for garment. Shoes, socks, belt, all go the way of the white sweater. When he reaches for the button on his slacks, I stop him.

"Not yet," I whisper, pressing him back into the comforter, covering his body with my own. We spend a long time just kissing, just touching, acquainting each other with the feel of hands and mouths, the way the solid weight of bone and muscle competes with the dizzy lightness of oxygen-starved perceptions. It's easier than I imagined, giving this part of myself to him, accepting pleasure from him. I've loved men before, but there is something both comforting and terrifying about taking a lover who is more physically powerful than I am. Duncan would never hurt me, never use size to his advantage like that, but the fear is still there.

Soon he's pressing back against me, pushing our erections together with a maddening friction. This is what I was waiting for, for him to relax (for us both to relax) and let the desire reassert itself. His hands are everywhere, big and warm, spreading over my back and neck, cupping my face to pull me in for more hungry kisses. I could be happy just doing this, just necking on the bed, but I can tell he wants more, he just doesn't know what to do about it.

A firm push against his shoulders keeps him still on the mattress, and I let my mouth wander over his throat and chest. Nipping, tasting, teasing, finding the soft places under his ears, testing the solid rise of his chest with my teeth... As if by accident my lips find a hardened nipple and begin a slow, circular brushing motion. He starts to squirm.

"Methos..." My name comes to his lips like a prayer. Yes, Duncan, like that, say it like that. It's been too long since anyone said my name like that.

When his movements take on a frantic edge, I move my attention to the other nipple and reach for the button at the waist of his slacks.

He freezes at the contact, breathing shallowly with anticipation. Desire and fear, I know the combination. Our eyes meet; his are slightly wild. I don't know what he can read in mine, but it seems to calm him a bit.

"It's all right, Duncan. Let me do this."

A nod, and I continue, pushing aside the soft fabric and slippery boxers he's wearing. He's a sensualist at heart, I always knew it. The tangle of cloth follows the sweater into shadowed oblivion over the foot of the bed, and he looks at me.

I'm staring at him, I know it. He looks like a god, like sunlight and passion brought to earth and imbued with human form. Hyperion incarnate. And he reaches for me. I haven't even touched him yet, and seeing him like this, I don't know if I can. He's too perfect.

"Your turn," he announces as he turns me on my back and presses a wet kiss into my throat.

I let him have his way, let him touch where he wants, go where he will. He lingers in places that I imagined he would, my shoulders, my chest, testing the straight lines of my waist and hips with firm caresses. There is nothing soft or feminine about my body. I'm all planes and angles, and it fascinates him. It's hard not to help him, not to grab his hands and pull them where I want them to go. I'm panting and whimpering by the time he finds my nipples, my fingers clenched with lethal intensity around the comforter. His mouth is hot.

He stops, why does he stop? I look down at him, only then realizing my eyes are closed. He's staring intently at the snap of my jeans. Please... One brave finger traces the waistband, lingering at the little silver button before he pulls it open, peeling back the zipper with slow deliberation. He's a little surprised that I'm not wearing underwear, but still helps me ease the heavy denim off my legs.

He's staring at me again, thinking, deciding how far he's ready to go with this. Kissing is one thing, being confronted with the naked reality of the situation is another. There is something inherently threatening about an erect penis, even to another man, something about the protruding length that promises violence. It destroys even as it creates. I need him to touch me. If he stops this now, before he even touches me, I don't know what I'll do.

Yes... Light, feathery caresses of his mouth along my hipbones and upper thighs, the easy rasp of a stubbled cheek everywhere but where I need him to be. Please, Duncan...

My eyes are closed again. It's a long moment before I feel gentle fingers tracing over my length, stroking with growing confidence as I react. Those hands... one wraps around me, and I can't help pushing up into it, groaning low in my chest as a broad thumb samples the moisture at the tip. Then the hand is gone, but before I can form a protest I am again engulfed, this time in soft liquid heat.

His mouth. Dear gods...

I can't look. If I open my eyes and see what my body is telling me then it will be over, and I can't let myself come yet. I've waited too long, there's too much more still to savor. Without looking I reach down and lift his head from my lap. He resists at first, but finally acquiesces.

He's so beautiful like this, flushed, his mouth swollen, his eyes vulnerable. I sit up, leaning down for a kiss on those delightful lips, tasting myself on his tongue.

"Is something wrong?"

"Shh... No, no, just a little fast. We have time."

He nods, understanding, or thinking he does. I don't want this to ever end. If I could halt the progress of the sun and stars so that morning would never come, I would. I would keep him with me like this. Just like this, responsive and willing, needy and uncertain, hungry for touches he doesn't know yet, ways of love that I can show him.

We kiss again, slowing the pace of pleasure to a slow, burning tease. I want him so badly that I can barely sit still, the ache of arousal and frustration both painful and sweet.

"Methos," he gasps into my shoulder, feeling it too, "please... Touch me, I need you to touch me..." He drags my hand to the hard center of his craving, pushing the hot length into my grasp, curling his fingers around mine and guiding us both in a strong, regular rhythm. He breathes heavily into my neck, almost sobbing with relief. I'm too cruel to let him do this, so I stop the movement, pulling his hand away.

"No, don't stop..."

His protest descends into a broken moaning as I replace our hands with my mouth. His flesh is hot, slick and salty with sweat and other evidence of his arousal, and I could lose myself in the scent and taste of him. I remember the rhythm he needed, and refuse to give it to him. If he'll only relax, I can show him so much more.

Legs part obediently for me as I shift between them, pushing his knees further to either side. I twirl one finger through the slickness at the head of his cock, wetting it before searching for the sensitive, secret entrance to his body. I want him. I want him to let me do this, to show him this pleasure.

He hisses and tenses up as my fingertip gently invades him, but makes no move to pull away. He trusts me, believes that I won't do anything to hurt him. If I was broken before, now the pieces of me that remained are surely swept away and scattered. I don't deserve this kind of faith.

Reluctantly, I let him slide from my mouth. He's too tight; we'll need more than a fingerful of pre-ejaculate if I'm not going to hurt him.

"Duncan, do you have a lubricant?"

"Yes." He never questions what I want it for, just retrieves the small bottle from the bedside table and hands it over.

This is much better. The gel is cool, but warms quickly, and makes it easy to slowly insert a finger. Now, with the lubricant to help me, this can be about giving pleasure, rather than trying to avoid pain.

He's very still while I do this, one bold, slippery finger stroking inside him, rotating with lazy caution. I take his cock back in my mouth before I add more gel and a second finger. Now his breathing is becoming strained, labored with the effort of his control. It's all for nothing, I won't let him come yet. There is still more.

My mouth is a distraction, a tease to keep him busy. There it is, the hidden pleasure I was looking for, what I wanted to give him. A light nudge with one slippery fingertip and he is coming off the mattress, gasping. He clutches the back of my head, trying to push me further down on his erection, at the same time spreading his legs even farther apart, mutely begging for that touch again. And I give it to him. And I give it to him again.

"Please don't stop. Oh, God, Methos... don't stop."

I can't refuse him anything, so I don't stop, timing the stimulation just right so he doesn't come yet. My own erection is tight and nearly painful from neglect, my hips grinding it into the comforter, smearing wetness in the same rhythm that my fingers work inside Duncan. I don't want this to end.

"Wait..." he pants, breathless. I freeze. True to my word, I'll walk away now if he asks me to, but I hope he won't ask that. Don't ask that.

He sits up a bit to look at me. There is a hint of tension, of uncertainty in his face as he pulls me up to him, kissing again. His tongue is everywhere. I wonder if it excites him to taste himself on me, like I tasted my own flavor on his lips?

"Will you show me all of it? I want to feel you... I want to know."

I blink at him stupidly for a moment, not understanding. Or understanding and not believing.

"Please?" He's nervous, thinking I don't want to do this for him.

"Duncan, you don't have to do this..."

Another kiss, and a hand against my cheek. "Please, I want to. I want to do this with you."

I nod, not trusting my voice. I must have died, and this is surely the garden of delight where the blessed spirits walk. Elysium, Valhalla, Heaven, Tir na nOg... I don't care what they call it. My life isn't virtuous enough for this reward, but hopefully the gods won't evict me until tomorrow.

More gel and a third finger, this time intended to stretch, to open him, instead of merely penetrating. He's so tight, so hot inside... I don't want to hurt him.

A few moments later he's gasping, red-faced as his hips move up and down in time to my stroking. I give myself a quick, liberal coat of the gel and pull his thighs over my own, replacing my fingers with the head of my cock. There are better positions for this, easier ones for the first time, but I'm selfish. I want to be able to see him.

I begin to push gently, with easy pulses, sinking myself slowly, an inch at a time. It's easier if I concentrate on how I do this, rather than on what I'm doing. Thinking too much at all will push me over the edge in the span of two breaths. I've waited too long for this, and he deserves better, besides. I'm halfway inside when I see something flash across his face.

"Stop."

So I stop, mind and body screaming protest. I was content to go slowly until now, until he stopped me. Now all I can think about is driving myself into him. He feels so good, so snug, even better when I remember that I am the first he has ever shared this intimacy with. The first he trusted enough...

Trust. I cling to that word, slowing my breathing, trying desperately to ignore the silken grip of his body. He trusts me.

"It hurts..."

I nod, knowing the feeling. "Only for a moment. Do you want to stop?"

"No, just... wait a bit."

"All right."

He gradually relaxes, and we continue, even slower and more carefully than before. Fully inside him, I wait again for the sign that he's ready to move. I lean over against his chest, and his arms come around me, like I'm the one needing reassurance and comfort. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm the needy one here tonight, in the shadow of his strength. He moves, the pleasure of that slick joining sweeping the thought away before I can finish it.

We rock together, slowly at first, but with increasing desperation as he feels the need, driving himself against me, pulling at me with his heels and hands to urge me deeper, harder... Trapped between us, his erection is seeping wetness. One dark hand slides between the press of our bodies, seeking his cock, stroking in time to my thrusts. He looks astonished, the soft, open expression of his pleasure one of perpetual surprise. He becomes very still, gasping...

"Methos..." One word, and he is coming, pushing and clenching around me as he pours himself on our bellies.

A wet, sticky hand reaches for my face, and I turn into the caress, not caring. His semen is on my lips, in my hair, his scent covering me, his body surrounding me...

"Kiss me..." he pleads, and I am lost. He holds me while I come, the orgasm torn from me... Don't let this end yet. Not yet...


If my eyes teared up and overflowed, the display was lost in the moment, camouflaged by sweat and absorbed by his hair, where I find my face buried. I should move. Despite the seeming slightness of my build, I weigh a good deal more than most people would suppose.

"Don't move yet."

"Okay." I don't really want to move, to hasten the ending of this night. Here, resting secure in the circle of his arms, the spread of his legs, I can press myself against him for these last moments and pretend it will never be over. Self-delusion is an old companion of mine too.

Under my cheek, I can feel his heart calming, the sheen of sweat cooling on his skin. His hands are tracing idle patterns through my hair and over my shoulders. I can't help the sigh that escapes me; I wish I could say that it's one of pure contentment, but this will all end soon, and walking away will be a hundred times harder now. I'm anticipating, I know, flinching from the blow before it ever falls, feeling the old loneliness threaten before the door even closes.

"Sleepy?" His fingertips are trailing over the arch of my nose, smoothing across one eyebrow and back into the damp, sweaty tangle of my hair. It's an endearing, affectionate touch, quietly exploring with no demand. I could lie here and let him touch me like this for a decade, at least.

"Not really." Shifting a bit, I can see his face. He still looks dazed, happily confused by what we've done. I smile at him, a little tiredly. We're both exhausted. I can feel the crust of lubricating gel and semen tightening as it dries on my skin.

"We're a mess."

"Mmm-hmm, then we did it right," he says smugly.

I can't help laughing. "What?"

"Sex is supposed to be messy. If it isn't messy, you aren't doing it right."

Something in his tone makes me serious. "Duncan..."

"No, no regrets. Enjoy tonight with me, that's all."

"Well, I have to say that you certainly know how to treat a guest." We sit up a bit and share the now-warm goblet of kvass. I remember his toast from earlier, about rebuilding, about embracing hope, and I don't feel quite so lonely and shattered. "But what about the rest of it?"

"The rest of it can wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."

I groan and roll away. "Scarlett O'Hara you are not. Shower?"

"Sure." He passes me the cup again. "Say, do you know this stuff used to be considered a love potion by the Slavs?"

I sputter. "I thought you didn't know what it was!"

His grin is pure mischief. "I never said that..."


Finis


To the Stone-Cutters
by Robinson Jeffers

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaw, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart.
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.

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