|The Fabric of Our Lives
by Ashlyn Donnchaid
Originally published in "Futures Without End 3"
"Yeah. Okay. As soon as I can." Methos put down the phone with a little more force than necessary and sighed, yanked open the fridge, and took out a beer, slamming the door shut after him.
These signs of his annoyance weren't lost on MacLeod, who put down his paper and looked at his lover. "Something wrong?"
Another long sigh, then Methos answered him. "No. Yes." He moved past Mac, who caught his arm and pulled him down for a kiss before guiding him to sit on the coffee table in front of him. "You remember all that stuff I've got in storage in Paris?" Methos asked. MacLeod nodded. "I kept meaning to do something about it, and now they're selling the warehouse."
Mac looked at him with a hint of a smile. "That's not exactly the end of the world as we know it. So you go to Paris and take care of it. How long can it take? Couple of days?"
An even bigger sigh this time. "But it's February. It's cold in Paris in February."
"And just yesterday," Mac said, pulling Methos onto the couch next to him, "you were complaining that it was cold in Seacouver in February."
"Yeah," Methos answered as he leaned against Mac, "but that was to try and convince you we needed to take a vacation somewhere in the southern hemisphere, not to take a trip to Paris."
"I know. And I can't do either one until mid-winter break. You know that." He nuzzled his face into Methos' neck. "But then classes will be out for two weeks."
"And until then, I still have to go to Paris. Alone." Methos wriggled out of Mac's grasp and stood up. "So I might as well get it over with. I'll catch a flight first thing tomorrow morning." He walked away sulkily, pulling his duffel out of the storage closet, randomly jamming in jeans and sweaters.
MacLeod got up and followed Methos, standing behind him as he pulled open drawer after drawer, searching aimlessly. Mac stopped him, hands on Methos' shoulders. "I'm sorry. I'd like to go with you. You know that." He kneaded the tight muscles, feeling the tension start to ease.
Methos' shoulders relaxed under his hands. "I know. I'm just having a good sulk about going alone."
Mac pulled Methos upright and turned him around, almost laughing aloud at the exaggerated look of misery on his face. "You don't pout well." He stroked his fingers across Methos' lips. "Can I kiss it and make it better?" Without waiting for a response, he drew Methos against him, kissing him firmly, holding on until Methos melted against him, giving in to the absurdity of the situation.
Long minutes later, Mac broke the kiss and let go of Methos to reach into the chest of drawers. "Here. Take this with you." He held out his favorite fisherman's sweater. "You can pretend it's me keeping you warm."
"Thanks." Methos folded the sweater and put it in the duffel, then moved close to Mac again. "But I thought you were going to keep me warm right now." He slid his arms around Mac, leaning into his chest.
Mac hugged him, then broke the embrace with a small, frustrated groan. "I wish I had the time right now, but you know I have a class. Look, how about if I make a special dinner and make sure you're plenty warm tonight?" He gave Methos his best pleading look.
Folding his arms across his chest, Methos glowered at him. "I guess I'll have to accept that. I hope you realize how much of a tease you're being, MacLeod. I'd prefer you didn't make a habit of it."
He put his hands on Methos' shoulders, then slid them up to cup his face. "I won't. I promise." He kissed Methos softly but thoroughly. "I won't be late. I only have one class and a short meeting; I'll be home to share enough heat for your whole trip."
Methos smiled and put a hand on Mac's chest, gently pushing him away. "Good. You better get going before I change your mind for you. See you later."
Mac smiled back and squeezed the hand on his chest, then he released it and turned toward the elevator, picking up his portfolio as he went. "Bye for now." He turned to close the gate, holding his gaze on Methos until the elevator took him too far to see any more.
The drive to school was long, gray, rainy, and miserable, and only served to remind MacLeod that he'd much rather be with Methos, starting to heat them both up in anticipation of their too-soon separation. The trek from parking lot to classroom left him damp, cold, and grumpy, a situation he didn't see easing any time soon.
His class dragged on interminably. Usually he enjoyed these seminars, even managed to find an easy compromise for the flirting the coeds insisted on. It had amused him to find that he was still a question mark among the women students, even after the gossip got around when Methos accompanied him to a faculty dinner. But not today. Today he wanted to get back home, to spend all the time he could with his lover before he left in the morning.
It was silly. It wasn't rational. Methos would only be gone a few days, a week at the most. It wasn't like he couldn't exist on his own for a short time. He smiled, remembering his early years with Tessa. It had been so much the same, not wanting to be separated, not being able to keep his hands off her, needing to be with her, near her, as much as he could. Love. The most blessedly wonderful curse he'd known in his life, and to be lucky enough to find it again made it so much more special.
So he fumed, he fidgeted, he rapped his fingers on the table as he sat through what he had been guaranteed would be a short meeting. He found his thoughts wandering to the possible penalties for killing a fellow faculty member. Maybe maiming him would be enough to shut Watson up. When his department head caught his eye and glared at him, MacLeod stilled his hands, composed his face, and turned inward, relying on his meditation techniques to get him through to the end.
Finally, the meeting was adjourned, and he shot to his feet, nearly upsetting his chair, grabbed his papers, said a few quick good-byes, and bolted for the door. Shopping. He needed to get to one special store before it closed to get the one thing he wanted to give Methos to take with him to Paris.
Success was his. MacLeod arrived before closing, found exactly what he needed, and had it wrapped so it could travel in Methos' duffel. Another quick stop at the grocery and he was on his way home to spend as much time with Methos as he could before his morning flight.
As he walked into the dojo, he stopped and stood still as Methos' Presence washed over him. It was warm and comforting to feel, adding to the sense of home, not unlike the lingering scent of perfume Tessa had left in their spaces. But this space was his. Theirs. Totally male and different from anything he had shared with anyone else. Smiling, he stepped into the elevator and rode it upward, hoping he would find Methos in a better mood, and if not, prepared to do his level best to change it.
He was in luck. Methos was lounging on the couch, book in one hand, beer in the other, his head resting on pillows, one leg stretched out, and the other bent at the knee as a book rest. The broad smile his appearance earned him warmed him to his core, starting the usual physiological responses. He put down his bags and moved toward Methos, taking book and beer from him before kneeling next to the couch and capturing the happily curved mouth with his own.
"I'm sorry I was so long. You wouldn't believe what happened." He leaned across Methos' chest, looking deeply into his eyes, letting the comfort of that position push away the leftover tension from his day.
"Don't tell me, let me guess," Methos said with a smile. "Watson, right? What was he on about this time?"
He shook his head. "The usual. Nothing I want to think about." He sighed happily as Methos massaged his temples. "You keep doing that and I may not get up and make dinner."
"As I remember, the deal was warmth and dinner, but I don't remember a particular order being required." Methos pulled Mac down for another kiss. "And I've been doing a little along the warmth line myself." At Mac's questioning look, he went on. "I started a fire, got out some pillows."
"And what did you have in mind?"
"A little wine, a little necking, nothing too strenuous, of course."
"Of course." He took Methos' hand and kissed his fingertips. "Now aren't you glad we finally put in that fireplace?"
"We, Mac?" Methos pulled his hand away and levered himself up to look MacLeod squarely in the face. "I don't recall much 'we' in that project."
"All right, you. It was all your doing. And I'll be eternally grateful." He stood up and pulled Methos to join him. "So, let's go enjoy your handiwork."
There were pillows and comforters arranged in front of the hearth, a bottle of wine in a cooler, glasses placed alongside. Methos drew Mac down next to him, then reached to pour the wine. "Like it so far?"
"Perfect. But I thought I was supposed to keep you warm." He took a small sip of wine, then kissed Methos, sharing the taste.
"Mmmm...that was your original offer, but I didn't see any reason not to do part of the work." Methos leaned down to take Mac's shoes off, then settled into the pillows, his head on Mac's shoulder. "But I'll let you do the rest."
Their afternoon was filled with caresses, soft whispers, and quiet embraces. Time was taken to prepare dinner, which was eaten leisurely before the fire, followed by a return to cuddling and touching and slow, gentle lovemaking. They slept, coiled around each other, tangled in the comforters, so completely intertwined that it was difficult to say where one began and the other ended. All too soon they were disturbed by the insistent chiming of the alarm clock, announcing the need to return to the world, to get up and prepare to meet a new day.
Mac brewed the coffee, taking a steaming mug to Methos. "I have one more thing for you to pack. Let me get it." He retrieved the package and brought it to Methos, who was sitting up and rolling his head from side to side.
"Remind me why we slept here and not in the bed, which was all of ten feet away," Methos muttered as he kneaded ineffectually at his neck with one hand while trying to balance his coffee in the other.
"Because," Mac replied, sitting behind Methos, "as I recall, when I suggested it, your answer was something to the effect of 'I'm warm, I'm comfortable, and if you move, I'll kill you.'" He kissed the back of Methos' neck, fitting his hands firmly over the stiff shoulders, working out the kinks. "So I let you have your way. Don't tell me you're getting too old for all this." That remark earned him an elbow in the ribs, and he bit Methos on the shoulder in retaliation. "Don't start something you don't have time to finish, old man. You have a plane to catch in two hours."
Methos leaned back against MacLeod. "I could miss the plane. I could stay here and make you keep the fire going until spring. "
"Yes, you could." He brushed his lips across Methos' ear. "But you'd be pretty upset if you waited that long to take care of your things and found them all gone when you got there."
He felt Methos' chest rise and fall in a sigh. "I suppose you're right. Why do you have to be so practical?"
"We each have our role in life. I guess I'm cursed with that one." He shifted out from behind Methos, handing him the package. "This is for when you get to Paris. Don't open it before then, okay?"
Methos took the package, turned it over in his hands, shook it, squeezed it, listened to it, then dropped it into his lap, his hands on top of it. "Okay."
"Good. Now, what do you want for breakfast?"
Holding out his mug, Methos grinned. "First, more coffee. Then..." He reached out and snaked a hand around the back of Mac's neck, pulling him closer.
Laughing, MacLeod freed himself. "You really are incorrigible. For that, you get what I decide to make." He got up, taking the mug to refill, and started pulling out things for breakfast. "Why don't you have a shower while I make this?"
Standing up and stretching, Methos smiled at Mac. "Only if you stop long enough to wash my back."
The vision of him, sleep rumpled and naked, standing among the scattering of pillows and comforters, reminded MacLeod of a painting of a sea nymph rising from the surf, except that the nymph he recalled was female, and Methos hated water.
He shook his head to clear the incongruous image, then waved a hand at Methos. "Go. I'll be there in a few minutes." As Methos turned to head for the bathroom, MacLeod mumbled quietly, "And you might make it a cold shower."
"I heard that," Methos said over his shoulder. "If I get chilled, you'll have to start this all over again."
It would be as much for me as for you, my friend, MacLeod thought as he watched Methos disappear into the bathroom. He took a few minutes to organize what he'd taken out for breakfast, then went in to find out just what sort of back washing he'd be asked to do.
Taking soap and washcloth in hand, he stepped into the shower close behind Methos. "I'm here, old man. Just how dirty is your back?"
Methos went very still under his hands, then spoke quietly. "Don't call me that." As Methos turned to face him, Mac saw the shadowed look in his eyes. "I...I don't like it."
Mac searched his face, then nodded once. "Then you'll never hear it from me again," he promised.
The corner of Methos' mouth twitched upward, and he turned his back to Mac once more. "I think my whole back is just filthy. Why don't you see what you can do about it?"
Long sweeps of the cloth and Mac's hands soon had Methos covered in soapsuds, first his back, then his hips, then his legs. As Mac worked his way up again, he pulled Methos back against him, reaching around to soap Methos' chest. He drew patterns along the defined muscles under his hands and moved his mouth close to Methos' ear.
"Why?" He waited a long moment, but got no response. "Why don't you like to be called that?" he whispered.
Methos said nothing for several moments, and Mac had decided he wasn't going to answer when he felt a long intake of breath and a small shrug of shoulders. "I don't know. All I know is I don't like it."
Mac's instincts told him there was more to it, but he wasn't going to ask. "That's good enough for me. But anytime you think you know the answer, I'd like to hear it." He moved them both under the soft spray of the shower, rinsing thoroughly, then stood there enjoying the warmth and comfort of the water against his skin and the man against his chest. "You know, if we don't get out of here, you'll never get to the airport."
"You say that like it would be a bad thing." Methos leaned into Mac, pressing close to him.
He hugged Methos tightly, his mouth still beside his ear. "What are you trying to avoid? The cold, deciding what to do with your things, or will you miss me that much?"
The back of Methos' fingers brushed his cheek. "If I had to be honest, I'd say it's all of it." He twisted in Mac's arms, facing him. "Or I could be flattering and say that I can't leave you for more than a few hours without dissolving into a miserable puddle. Unfortunately, we'd both know that isn't true." He kissed Mac quickly, then freed himself and turned the water off. "So I guess I have no choice but to go to Paris and take care of business." He turned, handing a towel to Mac. "Will you drive me to the airport?"
He took the towel and started drying Methos with it. "I insist on it. You may not turn into a puddle of misery when we're apart, but I do." He wrapped the towel and his arms around Methos. "I want every minute I can get."
"And I want to give you every moment I can." Methos slid out of Mac's embrace. "So, if we're being sensible, the sooner I go, the sooner I can come back." Taking the towel, he finished drying himself.
"Now who's being practical?" MacLeod asked, smiling.
Methos draped his towel over Mac's head, ruffling his hair. "I guess it's your good influence rubbing off on me." He pulled the towel off Mac's head and combed his fingers through the unruly hair. "Now come on, you promised me breakfast before we go."
"And you shall have it." MacLeod pushed Methos toward the door. "You go make sure you've got everything packed, and I'll start cooking."
He pulled on jeans and a sweater before going to the kitchen, watching Methos as he worked. From there, he alternated quick glances at the stove with longer looks at Methos as he watched him looking for clothes and checking his duffel.
Still not dressed, Methos presented a fascinating picture, creamy pale skin rippling over sinuous muscle, every motion controlled and purposeful. He remembered commenting to Methos on his unconscious grace; his words had been met with amused disbelief. Mac shook his head. How could the man not know how he looked? Even as Methos pulled on his clothes, calculated to camouflage the figure within them, the beauty was there. MacLeod felt his face flush when Methos caught him staring, and he looked away, returning his attention to the task in front of him.
After setting his duffel near the elevator, Methos stepped close behind Mac, slipping his arms around his waist and resting his chin on Mac's shoulder. "Why do you blush when I catch you staring?"
Mac could still feel the heat in his face. "I don't know." He wasn't going to admit that he thought by now he should be over his obsession with watching Methos.
"Doesn't matter." Methos nuzzled and lipped Mac's neck just below his ear. "But you should know, I like it that you like to look at me."
"I don't think I'll ever stop liking it. You're beautiful." He turned in Methos' arms, sliding his hands up to Methos' face, his thumbs brushing softly across the high cheekbones. "Someday you'll believe that."
"Now you're going to make me blush." And it was true; Methos' cheeks had taken on a rosy hue. "But if you keep telling me that, I'm sure someday I'll start to believe it."
"Then I'll keep staring and telling you. But now..." he reached around, grabbing the skillet off the stove, "I almost ruined breakfast." He set the pan aside before moving his hands back to Methos' face. "So, do you really want breakfast, or should we make out until it's time to leave for the airport?"
A soft smile and a breathy laugh, followed by the eager meeting of lips, answered him. Slowly, MacLeod maneuvered them to the couch, sliding under Methos as they sprawled together.
The moments that followed were not those of passionate lovemaking. Rather they were a comfortable sharing, a hope of saying enough with touch and sound to stay the loneliness their parting was bound to bring, even though it would only be a few days.
They drove to the airport in relative silence, and Methos insisted that Mac not go in to the terminal with him. On impulse, he pulled Methos into a kiss before he could reach for the door handle. He smiled at the slight surprise on Methos' face as he reached past him to open the door.
"Go, before I make you stay."
"It won't be too long. Promise." Methos closed the passenger door and stood back on the sidewalk, waving as MacLeod pulled away from the curb. He could see Methos still standing outside the terminal as he merged into traffic, but too soon driving demanded all his attention, and he lost the view in his mirror.
Methos stood on the sidewalk, watching as MacLeod's car was swallowed by the constant flow of traffic. When it was no longer visible, he picked up his duffel and turned to go inside, smiling as he remembered Mac's impulsive kiss before he got out of the car. He touched a finger to his lips, trying to imprint the warmth of those lips on his, wondering if that memory would be enough to help him tolerate the many hours of planes and terminals and inane traveling companions that faced him.
His flight out of Seacouver left on time, had minimal turbulence over the Rockies, and he convinced himself that things might be okay-until they ended up in a holding pattern over New York, that is. The plane was diverted to Boston, and as helpful as the airlines tried to be, nothing could alter the fact that Methos was faced with a night in an airport hotel, and the only available connection to Paris wasn't leaving until the next afternoon, weather permitting.
The hotel was the typical airport, business traveler, commuter special. One bed in the room, a television, a telephone, and tacky furniture. Methos sat on the bed, only to discover the mattress was harder than he liked. He tried to call MacLeod to let him know what had happened, but all he managed to do was talk to the answering machine in the loft.
He woke the next day and looked out the window to be greeted by a driving snowstorm. "Wonderful," he muttered. "The same damn storm that brought me here is now going to keep me here. I hate winter." He climbed back in bed, pulled the blankets over his head, and didn't get up again until it was time to catch the shuttle to the airport.
The storm had cleared enough for the airport to open, and he managed to keep his first class seat on the substitute flight to Paris. The rest of the journey was uneventful, and he landed in Paris only eighteen hours later than his original plan.
Paris was gray and foggy, streets covered with dirty snow, and although it was morning, the sun was barely visible behind the clouds. Huddling into his overcoat, Methos noted that the weather matched his mood perfectly.
All he wanted was a comfortable bed and a beer. What he got after the taxi deposited him at the hotel was neither.
"But, Monsieur Pierson, your reservation was for yesterday."
"Indeed it was," Methos replied, trying hard to maintain his patience. "And wasn't it secured with a credit card? And shouldn't the room therefore be waiting for me?"
The desk clerk fidgeted uneasily under Methos' steady glare. "I will check, monsieur. Give me a moment." He moved to a computer terminal further from Methos' gaze and began typing furiously. When he finally looked up, he was smiling. "Monsieur, I am pleased to say you are correct. Your room is waiting for you." He pounded on the bell in front of him. "Front! Take Monsieur Pierson's luggage for him."
His duffel and the key to his room were given into the charge of the bellboy, and he followed into the elevator and up to the fifteenth floor. The plaque on the door said Troubadour Suite, and he almost protested, but decided to accept this manna the fates had seen fit to bestow on him. The bellboy, who had looked at him dubiously in the lobby, smiled broadly at the bill that was pressed into his hand, then closed the door softly as he left Methos alone.
This, he thought, will do nicely. A suite to make up for renting out his room, and in all likelihood, a notation by the desk clerk to make sure that Monsieur Pierson received exemplary treatment. Right now, though, all he wanted was sleep. Methos went through to the bedroom, and finding his duffel on the luggage stand, ignored it and stripped off his clothes, falling into bed, pulling the blankets tightly around him.
In the afternoon, he made several phone calls, took a long hot shower, and ordered himself room service before deciding it was time to call home and talk to MacLeod. He had been too cranky before, and he knew it wasn't Mac's fault he had been delayed or even had to be in Paris in the first place.
Glancing at his watch as he waited for the call to connect, he smiled. With any luck, he'd catch Mac right after his shower and with his morning coffee in his hand. The phone finally started ringing and then clicked as it was picked up.
"It's me. Don't say anything. Let me guess. You're in your white robe, hair still damp, holding your coffee. Am I right?" Methos leaned back on the couch to wait for the answer.
"Almost. I put on sweats this morning."
"Mmmm, I love you in sweats. Underwear or no?" He heard the patient sigh and imagined Mac's eyes rolling.
"Underwear, of course. I'm going down to work out."
Methos' smile broadened. "Working out your frustrations? Do you miss me that much?"
There was a long delay before Mac broke the silence. "Have you opened your present yet?"
The quick change of subject amused Methos, but he kept from laughing. "No, I was saving that for tonight."
"Have you figured out how long you'll be there?"
Methos sighed. "I think so. I'm going to have to stay through next week to finalize things."
"I'm sorry. I can't make it happen any faster." Methos ran his hand through his hair. "If I hadn't been delayed a day getting here, I might have finished tomorrow. But tomorrow's Friday, and I can't do it all in one day. So there's the weekend to suffer through. Alone. Then the last of the business. Home by next Thursday, maybe." He heard Mac groan. "You'll manage, Mac. I'll manage."
"I know. I just wish I could have come with you."
"I do, too. But you couldn't, and that's that." He rubbed his hand over his groin, wondering if he could convince Mac that some sex talk was worth delaying his workout. "Like I said, we'll survive. But," he said, shifting to a mischievous tone, "if you get desperate, you can call me, and I'll talk dirty to you."
MacLeod chuckled. "Thanks. I'll remember that. If I get desperate."
A knock at his door interrupted his plans, and he sighed. "Mac, I've got to go. My dinner's here. I'll call over the weekend."
"I'll be here." MacLeod hesitated. "I...I miss you."
"I know, Mac," Methos said softly. "Me too." He held the line until he heard the click as Mac hung up, then put his own phone down. "More than I have missed anyone in years," he said to the empty room. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before opening the door. He watched as his dinner was arranged on the table and tipped the waiter generously before sitting down to eat.
As he picked at his food, he wondered why he'd even ordered pasta. He was spoiled by Mac's cooking and should have known the hotel restaurant couldn't come close. Maybe it was an attempt at comfort food, to remind him of home. Who knew? He pushed the plate away and got up to retrieve the package Mac had given him.
He turned it in his hands, holding and squeezing it, imagining what MacLeod might have sent with him. Cashmere? Fine merino? Chinchilla? Methos smiled at Mac's romantic nature. He finally started undoing the wrapping, carefully untying the ribbon, turning the package to unfold the paper, slowly pulling it back until he got the first glimpse of its contents. Reaching inside and touching the soft...blue plaid flannel.
"What the hell?" He pulled the rest of the paper off and held up the contents of the package, revealing a long sleeved, one-piece pajama outfit, buttons up the front, feet attached to the legs, and worst of all, a button-closed flap in the back. "I don't believe this." He turned the garment around, staring at the rear opening. "I really don't believe this." He threw the flannel onto the chair in disgust. "MacLeod, I thought you had some sense of romance. But this...this...thing! Flannel. Blue plaid flannel." He turned his back on the offending garment and rummaged for a beer, dropping onto the couch, as far from the cotton as he could get.
Maybe, he thought, I should tear it into ribbons and save it to tie up Mac as I explain to him what I thought of it. Or I could put him in it and send him out into the cold of Seacouver. He turned away, unable to look at it any more. Three beers later, a small grin found its way to his lips. One more beer and it was a full-fledged smile.
"Perfect," he told the pajamas. "You have your reprieve, and I shall have my revenge on MacLeod. I'll show him what he should've given me." He had one more beer, then went to bed, dreaming warm dreams of his vengeance.
Morning greeted Methos with a dim gray light that barely found its way through the curtains. Looking out the window, he couldn't see across the street, his view obscured by the thick flakes of a snowstorm, and he stood, staring out the window at the whiteness, knowing he had no choice but to go out into it. Glaring into the low clouds, he cursed softly, wondering if the gods of winter had followed him from Boston.
Cursing at them only seemed to annoy them more. He spent his day going from office to warehouse to bank and back again as the storm grew stronger, and the snow drifted deeper, doing its best to bring Paris to a standstill and making Methos thoroughly miserable.
Just one more stop, Methos thought, one more and then back to the warmth and security of the hotel. He gathered up the bundle he'd acquired at his previous stop and pushed open the door of the express office. Snow swirled through the door with him, and from the sympathetic smile of the woman behind the counter, he gathered he looked as miserable as he felt.
Pulling his packages out from under his coat, Methos placed them on the counter, along with the cards he wanted included with them. "This one," he pushed one forward, "has to be in the States first thing Monday."
"Oui, monsieur. Not a problem." The woman nodded and started filling out the forms.
"And this one is for Tuesday delivery." Methos touched the second package.
Again, the woman nodded. "Second day air will do for that." Putting a form with the second package, she helped Methos wrap them both for overseas shipping. "Gifts, monsieur?" she asked with a sly grin.
"Gifts," he agreed. He allowed himself a small smile in anticipation of the reception his presents would receive and let the smile broaden as he paid for the shipping.
At the hotel, he called for room service and ate sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, watching an old movie. Maybe if he didn't look outside, he could pretend the storm was gone, and if he stayed in his room until Monday, it might very well be gone. For the moment, there seemed very few flaws in either plan.
On Saturday morning, Methos felt it was his duty to sleep in and managed to avoid facing the new day until the newness was well worn off. The waiter who brought his coffee and breakfast was annoyingly cheerful.
"Shall I open the curtains, monsieur?"
Why would I want that? Methos thought, but only said, "No, thank you."
The waiter looked disappointed. "But monsieur, the storm has passed, and Paris is alive with sunshine."
"Thank you." Methos forced a quick smile, tipped the waiter, and herded him out the door. With some skepticism, he opened the curtains, then found himself agreeing with the waiter's assessment. Paris was indeed beautiful. Snow decorated the naked branches of the trees, and the sun sparkled off the drifts and created a jeweled wonderland out of the cold, miserable city he had been in the day before.
His better judgment told him it was still cold outside, but the whiteness of the snow-covered cityscape worked its spell and lured him out.
He walked aimlessly, letting the traffic lights and less busy streets direct his path, but wasn't too surprised when he found himself on the Quai de la Tournelle. He brushed the snow off a bench and sat, looking across the Seine at Notre Dame. Of course, the barge wasn't there; they'd had it moved to a secure berth until they came back to stay for some length of time, but he could almost feel the vibrations of all the time they'd spent either strolling on the quay, or sitting on the barge, enjoying each other's presence.
Methos smiled as his thoughts moved to the times they'd spent inside the barge, surely some of his favorites, as he and Mac lounged in front of the fire, arguing, getting to know each other. He sat for a time, lost in the memories, until his toes started to protest being covered as the snow drifted.
Shaking off the snow, he walked on under the bridge, slowing as he remembered their encounters under its stony roof, standing for a moment as he made a silent prayer of thanks to whatever gods had prevented Mac from taking his head after their first fateful meeting. He moved on, making his way up to the street and hailing a cab.
The cabdriver looked disbelieving when Methos announced his destination, but a few bills in his hand convinced the driver that while monsieur might be out of his mind, he could afford to be. A few more bills when Methos got out of the cab at the marina convinced the driver that monsieur was certainly not out of his mind. The driver's smile and tip of the hat proved that generosity could overcome insanity.
The barge was still secure in its berth, well covered with snow, and Methos brushed enough aside to let himself in the door. Inside it was exactly as they had left it, dust covers over the spare furnishings, the fireplace still laid with logs and kindling. He stood for a long moment, looking around, then stepped in and pulled the cover off the couch. He smiled, remembering Mac's argument about bringing it back from storage, but in the end, Methos had won by insisting he wouldn't stay unless it was there.
Before sitting down, he struck one long fireplace match, touching it to the kindling and watching as the flames took hold, then shrugged out of his coat and pulled off his boots. He grabbed a quilt from the trunk and curled up on the couch, nestled in the blanket, and stared into the flickering colors of the fire.
He had no idea why he had come here. Maybe it was the memories brought back by sitting on the quay, maybe it was just being in Paris after such a long absence. Whatever it was, it made him feel a bit melancholy, sitting alone in the place where so much of their relationship had been defined.
Shaking his head to clear away those thoughts, Methos got up and put on water for tea, then walked slowly around the barge, touching a few things, brushing dust off others, finally ending up sitting on the bed. He picked up the pillow and smelled it deeply, imagining it still held Mac's scent.
He shook his head. "I'm turning into a real sap," he admitted to the empty barge. Wandering back to the kitchen, he stoked the fire before making his tea, then settled again on the couch, sipping the hot, pungent brew as he relaxed into the enjoyment of being in familiar surroundings.
The warmth and comfort of the barge lulled him to sleep, wrapped in the quilt, curled up on the couch. He slept dreamlessly, only waking when the fire burned out and the air once again chilled. Standing and stretching, Methos looked at his watch. Three in the morning. Not a good hour to have to find a cab.
With his overcoat wrapped firmly around him, he left the barge, locking the door, pushing aside more snow as he made his way out of the marina. The streets nearby were empty and dark, and he walked on in the cold until he got to a more populated area. He had to walk even more before he spotted any traffic, and further yet before an empty cab passed him, stopping at his hail.
"This is not a good night to be walking, monsieur," the driver told him.
"That," Methos answered, "is an understatement." He was thoroughly chilled and more than grateful for the speed with which the driver got him back to his hotel. A large tip showed his gratitude, and he went into the lobby, only to be stopped by the desk clerk.
"Monsieur Pierson, you have had several calls. Monsieur MacLeod seemed most distressed that you were out."
I'm sure he was, Methos thought. He smiled and nodded at the clerk. "I'll call him and reassure him. Thank you."
In his room, Methos filled the tub with water as hot as he could stand it, lying back so he was covered to the neck. While his chill seeped away, he kept the bath refreshed with hot water, letting it soothe and relax him. He was almost dozing when he jerked awake at the shrill sound of the telephone.
Whoever thought of phones in bathrooms is going to get a piece of my mind, Methos thought. He picked up the instrument and hesitated, then smiled before speaking to it. "Honey, I'm home."
There was a short silence, then a gruff, but very familiar voice. "Very funny. Where the hell have you been?"
"Out. What did I do? Nothing."
This time the silence was longer. "Sorry. I...I was worried."
"I know, Mac. It's fine. Actually, I went to check on the barge. Everything is in good shape there."
A soft chuckle came across the line. "Will wonders never cease? You, on the water, in the snow?"
"If you're going to be insulting, I'm going to hang up."
"No, please don't."
Methos smiled again. "Very well, but make it worth my while. You know what time it is here?"
"What did you have in mind?" Mac's voice was soft and sensual.
"Hmmm... What are you wearing?"
"Clothes. It's the middle of the afternoon," Mac said, with a trace of humor. "Why? What are you wearing?"
Now it was Methos' turn to chuckle. "Nothing at all. Want to talk about it?"
A small groan. "I can't. Not here. Not now."
"I think you're shy. Haven't you ever had phone sex?"
"Of course I have, but I said I can't talk now," Mac hissed.
"Why? Where are you?" When there was no answer, Methos had a flash of insight. "You're at Joe's, aren't you?" He laughed aloud. "No, I don't think he'd understand."
"Something like that."
"So," Methos continued, "ask him if you can use his office. I'll wait while you get to the other phone."
A long silence before Mac answered softly. "No. Not here. Not now."
"But, Mac, I need you to. I'm lying here, letting my hands drift over my body, wishing it was you touching me..."
A stifled groan cut him off. "If you keep this up, I'm going to hang up."
"Are you thinking about me? Does it get you hot, knowing I'm here naked, caressing myself?"
"That's it. I'm hanging up."
"Don't, Mac...Duncan." Methos sat up straighter in the tub. "I'm sorry. But listen, I'll call you Monday night your time. I should know how long I need to be here by then. Okay?"
"Yeah, that's great." Mac sounded pleased. "Maybe you can come home on Tuesday."
"Maybe. We can hope. Either way, I'll call."
"Good." There was a long silence. "Maybe then we can...talk."
Methos laughed gently. "I'll hold you to it."
"I'd rather not just talk." He heard a long sigh from Mac. "You take care of yourself, okay?"
"I will. Are you worried about me, Mac?"
"No, but be careful anyway."
"Don't worry, I'm always careful. And now I'm going to bed." Methos stood up in the tub, opened the drain, and grabbed a towel. "But it sure would be nice if you were here to dry me off first."
Mac moaned softly. "Go to bed, Methos. I'll talk to you on Monday."
"Good night, Mac." Methos held the phone until Mac disconnected, then put his own instrument down. "Sweet dreams," he said to the empty line. He dried himself quickly, then went into the bedroom, only to see the blue plaid flannel taunting him from the chair where he'd flung it. "Don't you start," he told it. "I don't care how warm you look, I wouldn't be caught..." He paused, considering. No one would know. He could wear it, just once. And it really did look warm.
"Maybe that's just it," he continued. "I wouldn't be caught." A slow smile spread across his face. He picked up the pajamas and sat on the bed, holding them, opening the buttons. "It can't be too bad," he mused, sliding his right leg into them. A little wiggle had his foot in the bootie, the elastic at his ankle holding comfortably as he pulled the fabric over his leg. "So far, so good." He stretched his leg out, looking critically at the fit. "Passable. Definitely passable."
Without another hesitation, he threaded his left leg into the pajamas, pulling them up over his waist. "Good. Legs long enough." He took a deep breath as he slid his arms into the sleeves and buttoned up the front. Methos stretched his arms out and swung them forward and back. "Better and better. Shoulders not constricting." He leaned over and let his hands drape over his toes, then stood up straight. "Okay, MacLeod, so you managed to find the right size," he said to the empty room. "That still does not mean I think this is a properly romantic gift."
Methos pulled back the blankets and climbed into bed. The combination of the hot bath, soft flannel, and warm blankets had him relaxed and smiling as he nestled into the pillows, pulling the blankets high around him. Within moments, he was sleeping deeply, dreaming happily of warm sun on tropical beaches.
He woke in the late morning to an insistent pounding on his door. Yawning and rubbing his eyes, he got up and walked toward the sound. "Yes? Who is it?"
"Room service, monsieur."
Shaking his head, Methos opened the door. "I didn't..."
"Oui, monsieur. He said you would say that," the waiter interrupted him.
Now Methos smiled. "I'll bet he did. Come in." He stood back and made way for the cart, noting the urn of coffee and plate of pastries flanked by a bowl of fresh fruit. When the waiter had left, he stood, fists on his hips, staring at the table. "You're unbelievable, MacLeod. Flannel pajamas and room service breakfast." He laughed softly, then sat down and enjoyed the repast before him.
The rest of Sunday Methos spent going over his papers, rechecking the arrangements he'd started on Friday. Monday was a day of meetings with bankers and lawyers, capped off by a tedious dinner with an estate agent.
His hotel room was a welcome sight, and he wasted no time getting out of his heavy clothes and into the pajamas. Sprawled on the couch, he picked up the remote and clicked on the television. A news show created the white noise he sought, and he leaned back, his head padded by the cushions, and stared at the screen, not really watching as the stories rolled by, one after the other.
An hour later he'd absorbed the facts that civilization was expected to survive another day and that it was still winter in France. He was also relaxed enough to sleep, but before turning off the set and getting in bed, he requested an early wake-up call. He was not about to miss making his promised call to Mac.
Anticipation wakened Methos before the concierge could make his call. Smiling at his own silliness, he rang room service and ordered coffee sent up. By the time he'd finished his first cup, he was ready to make his call. He dialed the number and waited while it connected.
The phone was answered on the third ring. "MacLeod."
"Evening. How was your day?" Methos relaxed back on the couch, a fresh cup of coffee on the table in front of him.
"Fine. Long." Mac's voice was soft and melodic in his ear. "Any news on coming home?"
"Not yet." Methos stroked his hand across his flannel-clad chest. "Did you get my package?"
There was a long silence, and Methos imagined Mac sitting still in his chair, deciding whether to answer the question. Finally, he heard the soft, "Yes."
Methos suppressed the chuckle that wound its way through his chest. "And did you like it?"
"It was...different." MacLeod sounded disinclined to say any more.
"Different how?" Methos prompted.
There was a long silence, accented by muffled clinks of glassware, most likely the result of Mac pouring himself a drink. "I don't often get underwear sent from overseas."
"Did you wear them?"
"Are you wearing them now?"
Methos smiled. "Hard to be a voyeur from here."
"You'd manage." A short silence. "Why don't you tell me what you expected to happen."
Unbuttoning the front of his pajamas, Methos brushed his fingertips over his nipple. "Very well. Are you sitting down? This could take a while..."
"I'm relaxed on the couch, wearing nothing but your gift."
Methos closed his eyes slowly, then opened them again. "That's a lovely image." He shifted, opening more buttons. "Okay, here's how it went. You're downstairs in your office when the package arrives. You open it, fold back the tissue, read the card. Decide to yourself that I'm a bit nuts, but think it might be fun. You go back up to the loft, change into what I suggested. How'm I doing so far?"
"Not bad. Keep going. What's next?"
"Hmm...you like the feel of the underwear. The way they're snug on your thighs and ass, yet soft and gentle where they cup your cock and balls." Now Methos' fingertips drifted over his belly. "Did you wear the shorts?"
"I did." Mac's voice was low, sensual.
"Then you're a bit peeved with me because the shorts don't cover the underwear completely, but you wear them anyway, letting the exhibitionist in you win out for once. You go back to the dojo, work in the office a while, but since it's Monday, you have a noon class. The women's self defense class. Some of them arrived early, as usual, just to stare at you."
"Methos...they don't do that."
He laughed softly. "They do. I'll tape it for you sometime, and you can see. But that's beside the point. At noon, you start the class. This time you really noticed them looking at you. Staring at the underwear peeking out of the shorts. Admiring your beautiful ass. Drooling over your...package." He cupped his hand over his groin, trying to contain the hardening flesh. "As I said, this time you notice. You like it."
"Yes." A breathless reply. "I like it. But they're not drooling."
"Sorry. No drooling." Methos ran the pad of his thumb over the tip of his cock. "You go on with the class, but you ache. It's difficult to teach with a hard-on. You finish the class. They leave, reluctantly, each one wanting to help you with your...problem. You don't respond to any of their silent offers; instead, you head for the showers. Alone."
"Alone. Because my insufferable lover is too many thousands of miles away. I turn the water on. Hard. Cold. Manage to barely control the lust I feel."
Methos laughed aloud. "Bastard."
"Most likely." Mac's voice had a grin to it. "So, when are you coming home?"
"Couple of days at most." Methos buttoned his pajamas, the moment having been thoroughly spoiled for him. "I'm almost done here. Will you model the underwear for me?"
"Maybe." A short pause. "Did you open your present?"
"Present?" Methos stalled. "Of course. It was very...blue."
"Will you model it for me?"
"Maybe. If you think you can control yourself at the sight of it."
Mac laughed. "I'll do my best." Another pause. "Call me when you can come home, okay?"
"I will." There was no levity in Methos' voice now. "As soon as I can."
He hung up the phone, then stared at it for long moments before getting up to shower. He only had a few meetings this morning, and then he was heading for the airport. Was it right not to tell Mac? He decided it was, that his return would be the sort of surprise MacLeod would welcome.
Showered and dressed, he packed his duffel, putting the flannel pajamas in last, then went down to check out. The desk clerk was most accommodating, hoping once again that Monsieur Pierson would forgive them for the misunderstanding when he had arrived.
Methos assured them that he did, paid his bill, and went out to have the doorman hail him a cab. His meetings with the bankers went well, the estate agent was ecstatic, and the last papers were signed before lunchtime. Against his better judgment, Methos let the estate agent buy him lunch, reasonably sure he could resist the temptation to kill the man in order to shut him up.
Hands were shaken, backs slapped, empty promises to keep in touch made before lunch was through, and Methos pulled away from the businessman and jumped into a fortuitously close and available cab.
"Monsieur!" the driver greeted him. "I see you survived your walk in the snow."
Methos grinned. What were the odds that he would find the same cab that had picked him up the other evening? "Yes, I did. And now I'm headed home."
"Of course. The airport with no delays." The driver threaded his way through the workday traffic at speeds that might be called suicidal, but with a skill that managed to keep them both alive. He stopped the cab in front of the international terminal and jumped out to open the door for Methos. "Have a safe flight, my friend. Come back soon."
"Thank you." Methos paid the driver, including another substantial tip, then turned toward the door. He hadn't booked his flight yet, but fortune was again with him. There was a flight with the proper connections leaving within the hour. He bought the tickets, checked his duffel through to Seacouver, and went to the gate to wait.
Unlike his flight to Paris, his return was uneventful, just long. Dull hours in the air to New York, a two-hour layover, and anticipation-filled hours from New York to Seacouver. By the time he picked up his duffel, he was mussed and tired, his internal clock complaining that he hadn't slept in twenty-four hours. "Sleep can wait," he told himself. "What we're going to do is more fun."
He had the cab driver drop him at the coffee shop two blocks from the dojo, just out of sensing range. He took a quiet booth in the back, ordered coffee and cherry pie, then pulled out his cell phone, punching in Mac's number.
"You know, someday you're just going to say 'hello.' Don't you think people will know it's you?"
"How are things going? This better be a call to say you're coming home soon." Mac's voice was warm and cheerful.
"It is. I'm done here." He paused a moment. "Did you get today's package?"
"Yes." There was a rustle of fabric and creak of furniture. "And I'm wearing them now. Lying on the couch. Thinking of you."
"That's good." Methos kept his voice low. "How do they feel?"
"Like your fingers on me. Soft. Caressing."
"I wish I was there." He stood up from his booth, left some bills on the table, and made his way to the door.
"Me, too. " MacLeod paused. "Would you mind if I called one of the ladies from my class? I mean, if you're going to be away much longer? It could hurt me to wait..."
"Don't you dare." Methos slung his duffel over his shoulder and started up the street to the dojo. "If I have to wait, so do you." When he was a block from the building, he felt Mac's Presence.
"Dammit." MacLeod swore softly in his ear.
"One of us. Close."
Methos quickened his pace. "Can you see who it is?"
"No. It's too dark outside. I don't think they're in the dojo, though."
Grinning, Methos broke into a jog. "Maybe they'll just go away."
"I don't think so. They never do."
"If you weren't so damn high profile, Mac..." He unlocked the back door to the dojo and slipped inside quietly.
"I know, I know. This isn't the time for lectures."
Taking the steps in twos, Methos climbed the two flights of stairs. "Be careful, Mac." As he rounded the last steps to the landing, a hand shot out and grabbed the front of his coat, and a sword was laid against his throat.
"I think you should take your own advice."
The coincidence of the phone call from Methos and the sudden presence was just too damning. MacLeod was sure it was Methos teasing him, and he decided to play his own game. He listened intently to the background noises and knew when Methos started up the dojo stairs. He positioned himself inside the door, sword in hand. When he was sure Methos was on the landing, he flung the door wide and grabbed the coat of his very startled lover.
"I think you should take your own advice." Mac grinned at him, then pulled him in for a kiss before pushing him through the doorway.
He stared at the bedraggled figure before him. Disheveled and wrinkled, his duffel hanging from one hand, Methos was a most welcome sight.
"You look like something the cat dragged in."
Methos smiled and ducked his head. "No, only two airplanes and a couple of cab drivers."
Mac put away his katana, then took Methos' duffel, opening it to find the blue plaid pajamas. "Here." He handed the garment to Methos. "Take a quick shower and put these on."
"No arguments. Do it." He took one threatening step toward Methos, who shook his head before retreating to the bathroom. Once Methos was inside and the door shut, Mac set to creating the mood he wanted. He closed up the loft and turned out the lights. The fireplace was lit and already sending a warm glow into the room. By the time the bathroom door opened again, MacLeod had the covers turned back on the bed and was lounging across them.
"I don't know why you wanted..." Methos stopped and stared at what was before him.
"Because," Mac said, rising from the bed to approach Methos, "I wanted the pleasure of taking it off you." He unbuttoned the top button, kissing Methos low on the neck.
Methos smiled at him, then narrowed his eyes fractionally. "You knew."
"Of course." Mac unbuttoned another button, kissing the skin that was bared.
Another button and another kiss. "Called the hotel. They said you'd checked out." One more button had Methos bared to the navel. "Bastard."
"Most likely. But what for?"
Mac teased his tongue into the ticklish indent in Methos' belly. "For trying to trick me."
"And is this punishment, or..." Methos sighed as Mac nuzzled his way to nip his hipbone. "...reward. Definitely reward." Mac licked his way up along Methos' ribs to his nipple, circling it with the tip of his tongue. This drew another sigh and a question from him. "Why do you get to be naked? I thought you liked my present."
MacLeod chuckled. "I'll let you unwrap me in that one tomorrow. Tonight's my turn." He prevented any further remarks by covering Methos' mouth with his own, touching softly, barely making contact with his lover's tongue. At least, not until Methos grabbed him by the hair and pulled him hard into a kiss that matched his own hunger.
He pulled Methos close, one hand against his back, the other on the back of Methos' head as he sought and found the depths of his lover's mouth. He pulled back as their teeth rapped sharply together. "I missed you."
"And I you." They so seldom spoke of these things that this small admission from Methos was special to MacLeod. He dove back to Methos' mouth, kissing, licking, biting, always trying to bring them closer, his hands covering Methos in touches and circles that reflected his desire. When his fingers brushed over the buttons on the back of the pajamas, he unbuttoned one, just enough to reach in and caress Methos' buttocks. The touch of that warm flesh spurred him on; he undid another button and held Methos' buttocks with both hands.
"See?" he said between kisses, "these are practical, too." He squeezed Methos' ass and pulled him close, pressing their bodies together.
"Practical, my ass," Methos growled, squeezing Mac's buttocks.
"Exactly," Mac moaned softly.
Methos' hands touched him, caressed him, mirroring his own urgency. He backed Methos up until he was on the bed, stretching out over him
Kisses on the neck became nibbles, then bites as Mac worked his way from Methos' shoulders to his waist. The flannel was wet from Mac's mouth, pulled up from his teeth, and Methos was squirming beneath him.
"Duncan," Methos gasped. "If you don't let me take this thing off, I'm going to die of heat prostration."
"Let me help." Mac finished undoing the buttons. As Methos wiggled out of the sleeves, Mac pulled the garment off and down his legs, then got off the bed and went to the kitchen. He came back with a glass of ice water, handing it to Methos.
"Thanks." Methos took a long drink, then set the glass on the side table.
"I didn't get this just for you." Mac dipped his finger into the water and drew a cool line across Methos' forehead. He dipped again and added a line down Methos' nose. When Methos' made a face at him, he leaned down and licked along the places he'd cooled with the water. He finished by kissing Methos on the mouth, a kiss so quick that it had Methos groaning in complaint.
"Still too warm?" Mac picked an ice cube out of the glass. "Here, let me help." He touched the ice to Methos' lips, then down his chin and throat to the hollow at the base of his neck. When Methos stretched his head back, he leaned in and kissed his Adam's apple, then lapped at the hollow below. The heady taste of cool water and clean skin mixed with fresh sweat sent shivers through his body.
He traced his ice along the defined lines of Methos' chest and belly, dripping coolly into Methos' navel and causing shudders in the surrounding muscles. "Too cold now? I can fix that." With incredible gentleness, Mac sucked the cold drops out of Methos' navel, smiling as the surrounding muscles tensed. He dragged his lips up Methos' body, suckling at each nipple, pausing to lick the small hollow at his breastbone. A hand in his hair dragged Mac back to Methos' lips, and he draped himself over his lover as he was devoured and in turn tried to give himself wholly to Methos' mouth.
Both their bodies were filmed with sweat; they slipped against each other, pressing their cocks between them. Mac rolled to his back, pulling Methos on top of him, managing not to lose the kisses and nips that drew them ever closer.
He wanted to touch, to feel the body he'd missed, the heat of skin, the firmness of muscles, the strength of arms around him, the demanding softness of lips against his. His hands were everywhere, on Methos' back, buttocks, stroking through his hair, finding his spine and shoulder blades, grabbing his ass and pulling him in hard. Methos' legs slipped between his, bringing their groins into almost painful contact. Almost, but not quite, and Mac pressed up against him, asking for more, then spreading his legs in silent invitation.
Methos buried his hands in Mac's hair, holding him still and kissing him hard and deep, then dove for the bedside table, quickly finding the bottle and dropping it next to them on the bed as he went back to his attack on Mac's mouth.
Mac wrapped his arms around Methos, keeping him tight against his chest, reveling in the feel and sound of harsh breaths and pounding heart. When Methos broke their kiss and started to slide away, he eased his grip, letting his lover move down his body. Brief attention to his nipples had him moaning and wriggling on the bed, and hot breath along his cock sent tremors through his body.
He opened his eyes, pulled the pillow under his head. Now was when he needed to watch, to see how Methos looked as he prepared them both, carefully stretching him. Methos' hands explored and sensitized what was already too sensitive, waiting until his body opened on its own, soothing his trembling flesh with gentle hands, pushing in slowly, carefully, until they were one.
This was the moment. Methos' eyes were tightly closed, his mouth barely open, sweat dripping from his nose and chin. Nothing was more beautiful to Mac than this vision, his lover buried deep within him, both of them trembling and sweating, neither wanting to move and break the spell.
A small clench of his muscles did it, and Methos' open mouth grinned wide. "You want it, do you?" He tightened his muscles again, and Methos gasped. "Ask and ye shall receive."
With agonizing slowness, Methos began thrusting, long, deliberate motions that drove Mac close to the edge time after time, only to be pulled back when Methos changed his rhythm. It went on, this exquisite pleasure that they shared, until both were panting harshly and near exhaustion.
Methos' muscles were trembling from the strain, and Mac knew he couldn't last much longer himself. All it would take is a small touch to his aching cock, and he did it, reaching for himself, stroking up his shaft to the head and back down, letting it start, the pooling of energy in his gut, the tension in his balls, the explosion that let go as he squeezed himself, covering them with his hot fluid as his body spasmed and jerked in release, bringing both tears and laughter to him.
A single stifled sob, and then fast hard thrusts signaled Methos' quieter orgasm, and he felt Methos' heat filling him.
He caught the limp body that fell against him, Methos' chest heaving with each labored breath, and he petted the damp hair, caressed the slick shoulders, kissed the forehead that turned up toward him.
Long moments they lay like this, Methos' weight on top of him, a precious thing he was only too happy to hold. His hands never stilled, touching, stroking, soothing the man in his arms, and he smiled when he felt the even breathing of sleep. Shifting enough only to make them both comfortable, Mac closed his eyes, too, inordinately happy to have Methos home again.
Gentle motions woke him, and he smiled at Methos' attempt to rub his eyes without moving. "Hey there."
"Hey yourself." Methos' fingers touched Mac's mouth.
Mac stretched. "Unh. We must have done it right." He grasped Methos' fingers and kissed them.
"Yeah. Plenty messy here." Methos ruffled his hair. "Shower?"
"Shower." He let Methos pull him up off the bed. "And maybe clean sheets, too."
"Maybe." Methos ducked away from his attempted kiss and dragged him into the bathroom. "But shower first."
He grumbled softly, but let himself be pushed into the bath, relaxing under the warm water.
When Methos took soap and a cloth and started scrubbing his back, he knew he was going to have to learn to purr. It was the only proper response to this sort of pampering. "You're good at this..." He stopped himself just short of saying 'old man,' remembering his promise, hoping Methos would miss his slip.
He was alert to the mood change when Methos stopped washing him and stood quietly with his hands on his shoulders. Methos stopped him when he would have turned around. "It's not easy."
He was quiet under Methos' hands. "I know."
Methos rubbed the back of Mac's neck with his thumbs. "Yeah." The only sound for a long moment was the hiss of the shower. "I can't ever forget how long I've lived, but there are times like this that I try to set it aside, to live only in the moment." Methos laughed softly. "I hate that cliché." Methos' lips touched his shoulder. "What I mean is that I need moments when time and age don't matter, when you and I are all that exist. Does that make any sense?"
"It does." He turned and faced Methos, taking his face in his hands, rubbing his thumbs over Methos' cheekbones. He kissed him gently, then pulled him close, hugging him as they stood under the water, moving slowly to finish washing as the shower chilled.
Toweling off, he remembered there was one thing he still didn't know. "You never said what you did with your things."
Methos glanced sideways at him. "You're right. I didn't."
"And?" he asked with mock annoyance.
"I bought the building."
He stopped drying his hair and stared at Methos. "You could have done that without going to Paris."
Methos grinned at him as he ducked out the bathroom door to avoid the towel Mac aimed at his head. "Of course. But how else could I get such a nice welcome home?"