Friends are Worth It
by Ashlyn Donnchaid

WARNING: This story is rated NC17 for sexual content and has graphic consensual homoerotic content. If you are under 18, go back now. If same sex stories bother you, go back now.

DISCLAIMERS: Duncan MacLeod, Joe Dawson, Methos, Richie Ryan, Culbraith, the other guy all belong to Davis/Panzer and Rysher. The words are mine, with the exception of one scene from The Messenger, written by David Tynan and used without permission. No harm or infringements are intended, and no profit is made from this.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story begins during the evening of day one in The Messenger. Special thanks go to my beta reader, Meg Wittenmyer, for her patience, suggestions and encouragement.


MacLeod sat in the armchair staring at his book and realized he'd been looking at the same page for at least twenty minutes. He sighed and closed the book, reaching to put it on the table in front of him. In the same reach, he retrieved his snifter of brandy, and took a sip. He glanced across the table and saw Methos still sprawled on the couch, beer in hand, looking at him.

"You want to talk about it?"

"What? You didn't get in enough insults already?"

Methos closed his eyes and turned away from MacLeod. "OK, I deserved that." He looked at his beer, picking idly at the label. "I just thought..." He trailed off, looked at Mac and shrugged.

MacLeod sat quietly. He really did want to talk, and not just about Richie and the false prophet or his own problem with Culbraith. A lot had happened the last time he'd seen Methos, and they hadn't really resolved any of it. But he didn't want to open himself up for any more of the cynical old man's gibes, either, so he said nothing.

"OK, Mac. Go ahead and brood. Won't solve anything, but go right ahead." Methos got up and went to the kitchen for another beer. While he was at the fridge, he heard MacLeod get up and walk to the kitchen island.

"How was Tibet?" Methos turned and offered a bottle to MacLeod, who shook his head. He put the bottle back and closed the door of the fridge and stepped to the island, opposite Mac, and opened his beer, flipping the cap into the corner behind the appliance, watching it arc with a satisfied smile.

"Bad roads. Lousy food. The usual." The other man nodded.

"Find any answers?"

"Only one." He put down the bottle and pulled up his sleeves to reveal wrists that no longer carried tattoos.

MacLeod nodded again. "That was Joe's answer, too."

"I know."

"You talk to him?"

"Nope. Saw the scar." He looked Mac in the face. "But he's still Watching, isn't he?"

The Highlander nodded. "I couldn't let him do that. It was too much a part of him."

"Sure. And you couldn't have someone else be more noble, either, could you."

MacLeod glared at the older immortal, then dropped his gaze. "Yeah, partly," he admitted. "That and that there will always be Watchers. Should be somebody who cares, who feels. And maybe he can help make it what it was meant to be."

Methos walked back to the couch and relaxed into the same sprawl he'd been in before. "Maybe. You two work things out?"

MacLeod sat back in the armchair. "Mostly."

"And Richie?"

"We're still working on it."

"I mean, what are you going to do about what he's doing now?"

Mac shook his head. "Nothing. Maybe try to talk him out of it. I don't agree with it, but he's got to make his own decisions.

"Even if it kills him?"

"I hope it doesn't. Maybe he'll come to his senses before then."

Methos shook his head. "You amaze me, MacLeod. One minute you're making everyone's decisions for them, the next you let your young friend go off and follow a man that will get him killed. Which are you, clan leader and great protector or teacher letting go of the student?"

Instead of the sharp retort he expected, Mac dropped his eyes and shook his head. "Both. Neither. I don't know." The older immortal looked thoughtfully at MacLeod and realized that the younger man still had a lot of his own thinking to do. The events of the past six months had shaken all of them and there were still open wounds. MacLeod changed the subject. "I thought you'd go back to Paris."

"Nobody I wanted to see there." MacLeod nodded. As annoyed as he'd been after what Richie had told him, he'd actually been happy to see the figure lounging on his bed that morning. He didn't quite understand it, but he'd felt a connection to Methos from the first time they'd met, and didn't want to lose it.

They sat in companionable silence for a while, only interrupted when the antique clock chimed midnight.

Methos looked at the timepiece. "Nice."

Mac nodded. "I finally got the case refinished and found a guy to fix the movement. I may keep it." He got up and stretched. "I'm going to bed."

Methos swung his feet to the floor. "Yeah. I'll just find the extra blankets for the couch."

MacLeod stopped halfway to the bathroom. "Listen, why don't you just take half the bed. It's plenty big and more comfortable than the couch."

The older man sat up with a startled look and stared at the Highlander's back, then realized that all he was being offered was a place to sleep. He shook his head and smiled. Ah, well, he thought, maybe some day. Until then... "Thanks, MacLeod. I think I will."

They took turns in the bathroom, then MacLeod set the coffee on the timer for morning and locked up. Methos was already in the bed when Mac approached, and he lay on his back, hands behind his head and smiled at what he saw. He had always admired Mac's physique. He also had his own fantasies of what he'd like to do with it, but kept those to himself, never really expecting to be able to act on them. MacLeod settled into the bed, pulled the blankets up, turned out the light, then rolled on his side so his back was to the older man.

"'Night, Methos."

"Good night, MacLeod." Methos smiled a wry smile, then turned on his side so that his back was to MacLeod also. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

Mac didn't know what had wakened him, he just knew he was awake. The clock told him it was 2:00 AM. His senses told him it wasn't another immortal or a burglar. He lay still and listened, trying to figure out what had disturbed him, and he finally heard the small noise. It was coming from the other occupant of the bed. He listened some more and realized that Methos was masturbating. He was still on his side facing away from MacLeod, but his hand was moving rhythmically and his face was buried in his pillow to muffle any sounds. Mac laughed silently to himself at the irony of the 5000 year old man in the body of a 25 year old that still had to give in to the oldest of urges. He made no sound to give away to the other that he was awake, and before long he heard Methos climax. He felt a sympathetic twinge in his own groin, but managed to ignore it. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee woke MacLeod in the morning. He stretched and noticed the body that had moved next to his in the night. Methos was still lying with his back to MacLeod, but was snuggled close as if seeking body warmth. The loft was a bit chilly, but Mac didn't think it was that cold. On the other hand, Methos was a lot leaner than he was, maybe he chilled easily. He idly considered the possibility that the older man was lonesome, but dismissed it. Very briefly he considered the possibility that it had something to do with Methos jacking off in the night, but dismissed that, too. He decided it didn't matter, and he got up and went into the bathroom. When he came out, he was in his robe, and had brought out an extra one that he tossed over the still sleeping figure in the bed. He went on into the kitchen and poured himself a mug of coffee, and hitched himself up onto one of the stools next to the kitchen island.

When he was about halfway through his first mug, Methos woke up, sat up in the bed and rubbed his face. He looked around, found MacLeod, and smiled, then got up and put on the borrowed robe and went into the bathroom. When he came out, he looked at Mac and rubbed his hand on the lapel of the robe. "Thanks for this. It's a bit chilly in here."

"No problem. Coffee?" The other nodded. "You know where the mugs are. Make yourself at home."

"Don't I always?" MacLeod smirked at that. "What's for breakfast?"

"Oatmeal."

Methos stopped in mid-pour. "Oatmeal? Oats? Don't they feed that to animals?"

Duncan smiled. "Oatmeal. It's good for you. Lots of carbohydrate. Lots of fiber. We've got fresh fruit, honey and cream to go with it." While he talked, he got out a saucepan and the rolled oats, measured water and started it on the stove. "Of course, if you want to cook your own breakfast, you can have anything you like."

"No. Oats will be fine." Methos made a face, but quickly replaced it with a smile when Mac looked up. He pulled up a stool opposite the cooktop where Duncan was working. "I really should get some of my old recipes out of storage. Might be able to teach you what good food really is."

MacLeod didn't reply to that, just went on cooking the oatmeal, slicing the fruit and got out the cream, honey and brown sugar. When it was done, he served himself a nice bowl with all the toppings. As he went to sit at the end of the island, he motioned Methos to help himself. After serving himself, he also went back to his stool.

"What do you say to a bit of a workout after breakfast?" MacLeod asked.

"Who, me?"

"Yeah, you. There hasn't been anyone around I could spar with in a while. What do you say? Doesn't have to be swords, we could use staffs if you'd rather.

Methos thought for a minute. "Sure, why not. Shouldn't hurt too much."

"Great. Get on your sweats. I'll clean up this mess and meet you downstairs."

"Can I finish eating first?"

MacLeod laughed at his own eagerness. "Sure. Take your time." He finished his own breakfast and went to dress, pulling on sweats and socks. By then his reluctant sparring partner was finished, so while he got dressed, Mac cleaned up the kitchen. They rode down in the elevator together, and when they got to the dojo, Mac pulled out mats to cover the floor. "So what'll it be, blades or staffs?"

"Staffs, I think. No chance of an accidental beheading."

"Right. Safety first. Wouldn't want to put the 5000 year old man in any danger, now." MacLeod selected two staffs from the rack and handed one to Methos. Both went through a few moves to loosen up, and then faced each other in defensive postures. For an hour they sparred, one then the other getting the upper hand, but by the end, they had spent equal time on the mat. As MacLeod reached to help Methos up, the older man handed over his staff.

"I think I've had enough. Been a long time since I've had that kind of a work out."

"Maybe. You haven't forgotten anything."

"Don't you forget, we had sticks long before we had swords."

MacLeod put the staffs away, and folded up the mats. They went back up to the loft and took turns in the shower.

"What are you going to do today," Methos asked.

"Paperwork. I've got to finish a proposal for a class and look over the dojo books. What about you?"

"I need to see Joe about some unfinished Watcher business."

Mac nodded. "I guess I'll see you later, then." He picked up a couple of file folders and headed for the elevator. When he got to the dojo, he went into the office and pulled out a few more files and settled at the desk. In a few minutes Methos came down and headed for the door.

"Later, Mac." MacLeod looked up and waved at the departing figure, then went back to his papers. He was trying to decide whether to reopen the dojo and find someone to manage it for him. It didn't seem right without Richie, but he didn't think the young man would want to take the job again.

Methos arrived at Joe's a bit before lunch time. He went in and found the Watcher working on some of the lights for the stage.

"Hey, Joe. Need a hand?"

Joe Dawson looked over his shoulder. "Sure. I just added this light and I need to get the cable routed and tied down." They finished the job quickly and tested the angle of the light. After a few adjustments, Joe declared it good. "Great. That's done." He looked at Methos. "This a social call or is there some business?"

"Both." Methos led the way to the bar, where he stepped behind and took down a glass and drew himself a beer.

Joe had stopped worrying about MacLeod and Methos stopping by and helping themselves a long time ago. It hadn't taken him long to notice that any time they were around, the till never balanced. There was always an excess of cash that more than covered anything that was missing. He figured they liked feeling they could make themselves at home, and he enjoyed that they felt so at ease there.

"You want one, Joe?" The Watcher shook his head. Methos reached in his pocket and pulled out a key with a paper tag on it. There appeared to be an address on the tag. He tossed it on the bar in front of Joe. "Can you see that this gets to Headquarters anonymously? It's to the locker where the Chronicles I had are stored. I'm sure they'd like to have them back."

Joe picked up the key and fingered the tag, reading the address. "Sure. No problem. I take it this means you're gone for good?"

"I didn't really have a choice, did I?"

"No, I suppose not. You still going by Adam Pierson?"

"For now. That'll probably have to change." He paused. "I heard you left, too."

"You've been talking to MacLeod."

Methos shook his head. "No. I heard some rumors, and then I saw the scar on your wrist."

Joe pulled up his shirt sleeve and bared his left wrist. The place where the tattoo had been was just about healed. "It's not as bad as it was."

"But you're back in."

"Yeah. Of all people, Mac asked me to get back in. I can't say I was against it. You know what the Watchers has been to me. I just hope we can keep the balance."

Methos nodded. "Worth the effort, though."

"Friends usually are."

The oldest immortal straightened up. "What do you say I stay and give you a hand here this afternoon. MacLeod's doing some paperwork, and I didn't want to be there if Richie came by. He needs to talk to him alone." Dawson nodded his agreement with that. "Maybe later we can go and convince him to cook us dinner."

Joe smiled. "Sounds good to me."

As late afternoon approached, Joe told the night bartender he was on his own, and he and Methos left. On their way to the dojo, they stopped and bought some groceries. Methos had claimed he had an idea for something he wanted MacLeod to cook. When they got there, Mac was still in the office working, and Methos went straight up to the loft with the groceries. Joe stepped into the office.

"Hey, Mac," the Watcher greeted him.

"Hi, Joe. What're you two up to?"

"Nothing much. We just stopped and got some groceries. Methos had an idea for dinner. You seen Richie today?"

MacLeod nodded to the corner of the office. "He brought back his sword. I couldn't convince him not to."

Joe looked over and saw the weapon leaning against the wall. "So that's all you're going to do? Let him be defenseless?"

"Joe, it's his life. It's his choice."

"I don't believe you, Mac." Dawson was getting angry. "You heard what I found out about that guy. Immortals die after they decide to follow him. You can't let that happen to Richie."

"I can't stop him."

Methos appeared at the office door, carrying a decanter and three glasses. "What are you two fighting about?"

Joe pointed to the sword in the corner. "Richie's given up his sword and Mac won't do anything about it."

Methos poured drinks for all of them, then sat down. "So Richie's his newest disciple. Isn't that cute."

Joe glared at him. "And I suppose you would know just what to do."

"Oh, yeah. Standard response to unforeseen dilemmas perfected over many centuries."

"What," MacLeod asked.

"Nothing."

Dawson snorted. "You know, I think I like the other Methos better."

"You asked," Methos retorted. "I think maybe I'll just go look at the graffiti in the men's room." He picked up his coat and went out, seriously considering leaving the dojo after using the men's room. He didn't need this.

"Is it just me, or is this guy really being a jerk?" Joe called after the retreating figure.

Mac spoke quietly. "There's nothing to do. It's Richie's decision. We have to respect that."

"What? Even if it kills him?" The Watcher was having trouble believing what he was hearing.

"I taught him how to survive. What he does with that is up to him."

Joe stood up and rounded on MacLeod. "Some guy comes along, says everything's just rosy. No more death. No more fear. Ah, hell, Richie's going to buy into that. But it's a mistake that's gonna cost him, Mac."

"Well, it's his to make. It's about integrity."

Methos came back into the office. He had decided to give it one more try. "OK. There's this Spanish guy, Alejandro Diego Spinoza. One day he gets called in by the inquisition for questioning. Red hot pincers, tongs, usual drill. Now, all he has to do is say 'no,' OK? Very simple word. They take his home, his money, his lands, but he will not give in."

"So what happened?" Joe prompted.

"He died, screaming in agony. But, he kept his integrity."

MacLeod looked at Methos and finished his drink. "Don't save my seat." He got up and took the sword from the corner. "Let yourselves out." He left in a cloud of Scottish indignation.

Joe looked at Methos with a small grin. "You are one calculatin' son of a bitch."

Methos gave a small bow. "I do my humble best." He picked up the decanter and his glass. "What do you say we wait for MacLeod someplace a little more comfortable."

Joe nodded and grabbed his own glass and the two went up to the loft and made themselves at home to wait.

About an hour and a half later, Methos looked up as he sensed the approaching immortal. "He's back."

MacLeod stepped out of the elevator. "You two comfortable? And do I have any Scotch left?"

Joe grinned and poured him a drink. "So what happened?"

Mac sat down. "When I got there, Culbraith had gone after Richie. The other guy wasn't around. I gave Richie his sword."

"And..."

"And Richie's fine. He took Culbraith."

Methos and Joe relaxed visibly. "That's good to hear," the Watcher said.

"Good," Methos said, "now that the problem is solved, you can make us dinner. I picked up a few things at the store."

MacLeod opened the fridge. "Looks like all you bought was beer."

"Look behind the beer. I brought food, too."

The Highlander found what Methos was talking about. The older man had brought sea anemones. "Where did you find these? Never mind. I think I remember enough of that recipe." He set to work cleaning the sea creatures and put together a hearty dinner for the three of them. Afterward, they all sat and drank until it was quite late.

"I think ish time for me to go," Joe slurred.

"Give me your keys, Dawson," MacLeod said, "I'm calling you a cab. You can get your car tomorrow."

"Thanks. You're probly right."

The two immortals escorted the Watcher out, and then went back to the loft, settling in their usual spots, Methos sprawled on the couch and Mac in the armchair.

"Thanks for the push, Methos." Duncan was looking at the glass in his hand. "If I hadn't gotten there when I did, Richie would be dead."

"And you couldn't have lived with that, no matter what you said. I know. I'll put it on your tab."

Mac grimaced at him. "Yeah, thanks." He looked at the clock. It was well past midnight. "One more drink and then I'm to bed." He poured himself another and one for Methos. They finished in silence, and MacLeod went into the bathroom and came out ready for bed. Methos went in, and by the time he came out, the Highlander was asleep. He climbed in the bed and pulled the blankets up around him and closed his eyes.

MacLeod woke to the feel of a warm body spooned against his own, one arm over him in a loose embrace. He smiled and reached behind him to caress the buttocks of the form that lay against him. As he reached back, he noticed the angularity of the body that was next to his, and woke up enough to remember who it was. He left his hand on Methos as he considered the situation. His thoughts were interrupted as Methos' hand brushed his chest and then strayed towards Mac's groin. At the same time, he felt the small motion of the other man's hips toward him, and could feel the beginning of an erection against his rear. He took his hand off Methos' hip and gently stopped the hand that was headed toward his crotch, and held on to it. He could feel Methos' face in his hair, and heard a gentle sigh escape his lips. As MacLeod continued to hold the hand still, Methos woke up more fully.

"Morning, MacLeod." He took stock of the situation quickly, silently berating himself for drinking so much the night before. It was tough enough maintaining his self control while sharing Mac's bed without the influence of good Scotch. He felt the firm grip on his wrist and lay still, waiting to see what MacLeod was going to do.

"Morning, Methos." MacLeod's thoughts were racing as he considered what was happening. It was pretty clear to him that he'd missed something somewhere. He thought back over the times they'd spent together, and with a sudden, blinding clarity saw the signals that had been there all along. His only problem was, he didn't look for them from a man. He realized that if Methos had been a woman, he wouldn't have missed any of them. He also realized that he didn't find the idea unwelcome. He released his hold on Methos' wrist and turned on his back. Methos' hand still rested on his chest. He looked at the ceiling as he spoke. "Little chilly last night?"

Methos slowly let out the breath he noticed he'd been holding. "Just a little." He made no move to break the physical contact. He wanted to see where Mac was going with this.

A tiny smile pulled at the corners of MacLeod's mouth. "Is that all?"

Methos allowed his fingers to stray minutely through the hair on Mac's chest. "Well, now that you mention it, I was going to ravish you as you slept, but you ruined that plan by waking up."

"Ah. I see." He turned his head to look at the older man. "And you're only half kidding about that, aren't you." It was a statement of fact, not a question.

"Yes. I'd rather you were awake." Now was not the time to lie.

MacLeod nodded, then closed his eyes and put his hands behind his head. "Seems I have some things to think about."

Methos put the back of his hand to his forehead in a theatrical gesture and turned on his back, finally breaking the physical contact with Mac. "Gods save me, I'm going to be burdened with a brooding Scot all day! I need a beer."

The spell of the moment broken, the Highlander chuckled. "No beer before breakfast. House rule."

"OK then, which one of us is going to get up and make coffee?"

"Me," Mac answered, "I want it to be drinkable." He got up and went to start the coffee. As Methos joined him in the kitchen he asked, "So, what do you want for breakfast today?"

Methos went over to the refrigerator and looked inside. "How about eggs a la Pierson? Looks like you've got the makings in here."

"You're cooking?"

"Hey, MacLeod, I've learned a few things in 5000 years, you know. Fast food is a fairly recent invention." The oldest immortal continued to take things out of the fridge -- eggs, beer, bread, milk, two kinds of cheese, then went to the spice rack and selected what he needed. "You don't have to sit and watch. I can manage this on my own."

Duncan smiled. "Sure. I'll get the coffee." He went and pulled two mugs off the shelf and poured coffee for both of them, then sat at the island. "I don't have to watch, but I'm going to enjoy it."

"Then make yourself useful. Do something with fruit and juice." He busied himself with the egg concoction. "You decide what to do with the dojo yesterday?"

MacLeod looked back from the bowl where he was selecting fruit and shook his head. "No. I think I'd like to open up again, but I need a manager." He came back with fruit, a cutting board and knife. "I don't think Richie'll want to do it, so that means hiring somebody." He kept on slicing fruit into a bowl. "You get your business with Joe done?"

"Yeah. I had to let them know where their books were. He'll tell them I'm not coming back." He poured his mixture into a baking dish and put it in the oven. "This takes about 20 minutes." He picked up his coffee and went over and sat on the couch. Mac finished the fruit and then sat in his armchair. "You want to work out after breakfast?" MacLeod stared at him open mouthed. "Stop looking like a fish. All I asked was if you wanted to work out. What's wrong with that? It's not like all I ever do is lounge on your furniture."

Mac closed his mouth and smiled. "Sure. My choice of weapon today, though."

Eggs a la Pierson turned out to be an interesting combination of bread moistened in beer with a mixture of eggs, a little milk and rosemary poured ever it and topped with grated cheese. The result was almost a baked custard and with the fruit, juice and more coffee, made a good breakfast. When the meal was eaten and the kitchen cleaned, the two again went to the dojo and mats were pulled out to cover the floor.

"MacLeod-san, what will be your choice of weapon today?"

Duncan looked around the dojo, considering his options. From the way Methos had addressed him, he knew he was expecting swords. Mac hated being that predictable, but really had wanted to use blades. He hadn't had a really experienced sparring partner since the last time he'd seen Connor. He sighed, giving in to predictability, and took two katanas off the wall of the office, and handed one to Methos.

"I thought so," the other said smugly. Duncan vowed to himself to make sure Methos paid for that crack.

They took positions on the mat and saluted each other, then brought the blades up. At first they cut and thrust and parried carefully, then as they became more accustomed to each others' style, they put more energy and daring into the attacks. The increasing boldness translated into small injuries for each man.

Joe Dawson had entered the outer doors of the dojo when he heard the clang of blade against blade. He carefully made his way to the glass windowed doors to the dojo proper and positioned himself where he could see in without being seen. He had a feeling what he would see, and wasn't disappointed. Quietly pulling up a chair he found in the entry hall, he made himself comfortable. He watched the two ancient warriors circling and testing each other, scoring small hits and pulling the potentially killing blows to keep them harmless. MacLeod appeared to be enjoying himself if the grin on his face was any indication. Methos looked a little more intent on what he was doing, but as he went on, a small smile formed on his lips, too.

Joe watched them for about 45 minutes, then suddenly, MacLeod's attacks changed. Quickly, Methos was disarmed and on the mat with Mac's sword at his neck. Just as quickly, the blade was put away, and the Highlander reached his hand to the oldest immortal and they grasped wrists as he helped him off the mat.

"That's for thinking I'm too predictable, Methos."

"Point taken." He rubbed his neck where the blade had pressed slightly into the flesh. "From now on I'll think it, I just won't let you know I'm thinking it." Mac glared at him. "You need to show me the hole in my defenses. You did that too easily."

"So, the 5000 year old man actually admits the 400 year old kid might be able to teach him something?"

"I do." Methos looked Duncan in the eyes. "And you may find there are things I can teach you, too."

Joe decided they weren't going to spar anymore, pushed himself out of the chair and opened the dojo door and walked in. "That was quite a show you two were putting on. Too bad I'm the only one who saw it."

"Hey, Joe," Methos greeted him, "how's your head this morning?"

"No problem. Couple cups of coffee, handful of aspirin, I feel halfway human." Joe grinned ruefully. "Been a while since I drank that much. Reminds me why I don't." He looked at the two immortals. "You guys look OK. That a side benefit of immortality?"

MacLeod laughed. "One of the good ones. You had any breakfast yet?" Joe shook his head. "C'mon up. Methos cooked this morning and there's leftovers."

MacLeod put the mats and swords away, and the three went up to the loft. Methos went to shower while Mac made more coffee and heated up some breakfast for Joe. He served up the plate and when Methos came out, he went for his own shower.

Joe took his plate and sat in a chair in the living area of the loft. Methos poured himself another mug of coffee and sat on the couch. As Joe ate, he looked at Methos.

"This is great. What do you call it?"

"Eggs a la Pierson."

Joe laughed. "Original. Say, what was that move Mac pulled on you downstairs? He had you disarmed in nothing flat."

Methos glanced toward the bathroom. He could still hear the shower, so there was no chance MacLeod would overhear. "Promise me you won't tell him?" Joe nodded. "I let him."

Joe's eyes widened. "Why?"

Methos shrugged. "He needed to make a point. Didn't hurt me to let him."

Joe shook his head and laughed. "You two are something else. Couple of alpha males that just have to butt heads every now and then."

"I'm not alpha, Joe."

"If you say so."

"Really."

"Methos, the only difference in you two is that after 5000 years, you've figured out that you don't have to show it all the time. You save it for when it's important."

He looked at the Watcher appraisingly. "When did you learn so much?"

"I'm just an observer of the human condition." Joe went back to his breakfast.

"Yeah, well, do me a favor and keep your observations to yourself. MacLeod's not ready to hear that."

Joe laughed. "I know. Believe me, I know."

They heard the shower stop running, and in a few minutes MacLeod came out with a towel wrapped around his waist, and was drying his hair with another. Joe saw Methos turn to watch him, and also saw the way he was looking at the Highlander. He made a mental note of one more thing not to discuss with MacLeod.

"Hey, Mac, you got my keys stashed here somewhere?"

"Right in front of you, Joe, in the grinding stone on the table." He went into the kitchen and poured himself a mug of coffee then came back and sat down. "You in a big rush to get out of here or something?"

"Not a big rush, but I do have to get to the bar sometime this afternoon. I have some things I need to get done." He finished his breakfast and let Methos pour him another cup of coffee. "Don't suppose you've got a few aspirin to go with that?"

MacLeod laughed. "You really are in bad shape, aren't you?" He went and found a bottle of aspirin and tossed it to the Watcher. "Need anything else while we're doing first aid?"

Joe grimaced. "No. This'll do just fine." He chased the aspirin down with coffee. "A guy has a little too much one night and everybody gives him a ration of crap."

"Not everybody, Joe," Mac said. "Just your friends." He retrieved the bottle of aspirin and then went to get dressed. When he came out, Joe was on his feet and headed toward the elevator. "You leaving?"

"Yeah. I really do have to go." He picked up his keys from the table. "Thanks for breakfast. See you guys later."

"Later, Joe," Methos called after him. "So, MacLeod, what are the plans for today?"

"Nothing really." He went into the kitchen to clean up what little was left of breakfast. "What about you?"

"Nothing much. I heard about a bookstore downtown I might go to. They're supposed to specialize in old and rare books, and I've never been there."

"I thought you were out of the research game."

Methos shrugged. "I was doing that a long time before I was with the Watchers. It keeps me busy, and I'm always learning something."

By the time Methos arrived at Joe's that evening, the band was playing and there was a decent sized crowd listening. Dawson was behind the bar and handed over a freshly drawn beer as he walked up.

"Thanks, Joe. How's your head?"

The Watcher smiled. "Fine now. All it takes is time, fluid replacement, aspirin and more time." He made a couple of drinks for one of the waitresses, then came back to where the old immortal was sitting. "Did MacLeod chase you out?"

"No. Richie." Joe gave him a quizzical look. "I don't think the kid likes me much. And now that he knows who I am, he keeps expecting great wisdom and profound thoughts. I'm not a role model, I'm . . ."

". . . just a guy," Joe finished. "Yeah, we've heard that before." He rubbed his beard thoughtfully. "Do you blame him? Imagine being 22 again, being immortal and meeting you. Wouldn't you think that after 5000 years there might be some sort of wisdom or advice to give out?"

"Come on, Joe, all I've done is manage to survive. Any way I can. Nothing special about that."

"Nothing special. How about still being able to care? That by itself is a lot after all that time."

Methos looked at Joe with a half smile. "You are entirely too astute an observer of the human condition."

"I do my humble best." The Watcher smiled.

Methos shook his head, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a tattered volume. "Look what I found today. I haven't read it yet, but it's a diary that also has fairy tales in it. And look at the illustrations. Beautiful."

"Do you think it's an old Watcher diary?"

"No, just somebody's journal." He handed the book to Joe, who held it almost reverently. Even though he didn't have the bookstore anymore, he still appreciated old books. There was nothing quite like holding and looking at the written page to make you feel attached to the author.

"What is this, Old German?"

"Yeah. I haven't done a lot of reading in that lately, so it should keep me busy for a while."

"Here, you better put it away. Wouldn't want to spill anything on it." He handed the book back to Methos who slipped it into his pocket. He looked up at the door as Methos raised his head as if scenting the air. "We having company?" The oldest immortal nodded.

"Probably MacLeod." But he didn't stop watching the door. Couldn't be too careful. The door opened, and he saw he was right, it was MacLeod, and relaxed. He watched the Highlander stride towards the bar, and marveled that the word 'walk' could hardly be used to describe the way the man moved. It was almost like poetry in motion. He realized he was staring, and turned to ask Joe for a refill of his beer. He caught the Watcher looking at him thoughtfully. "What?" Dawson just kept looking at him, then turned away with a small shake of his head and a chortle.

"Is it obvious?"

"Only to me," Joe replied. "You know, you're probably playing with fire."

Methos grinned. "Now, Joe, an old alpha bull like me ought to be able to handle it, don't you think?"

Joe grinned back. "If you say so." He took a glass and poured a generous amount of Scotch into it, and placed it on the bar as MacLeod stepped up. "So, Mac, did you bring Richie with you?"

"No. He's going to take off for a while." Mac picked up the glass and sipped, savoring the smoky flavor of the liquor. "He needs to take some time to think. To look for answers. He's going to be OK, though."

Methos sipped his beer. "Sounds to me like the boy may be growing up. You going to be able to let him go, Father?"

MacLeod smiled. "I already have. He is like family, but he's his own person, too."

Joe smiled as he watched the interaction of the two immortals. "If you two parent figures will excuse me, I have a set to play." Joe joined the band and Methos and MacLeod moved to sit at a table close to the stage. They stayed through two sets, then said their good nights to Joe and left.

They got back to the dojo and rode up in the elevator together. "We really should figure a way not to end up with so many cars at Joe's every night. Seems wasteful," Methos said.

"If you hadn't walked out when Richie was here, we wouldn't have."

"Maybe. I don't think Richie likes me."

MacLeod laughed. "That's not it. He just expects old timers like you to be full of wisdom. I don't think he knows if he likes you or not."

"Old Timer. That's what he called me." They stepped out of the elevator. "I don't think I like that."

"It's accurate. Do you know anyone older than you?"

Methos shot him a dirty look. "No. But that doesn't mean I like being reminded all the time."

MacLeod laughed gently. "OK, no problem. We'll mark that subject off limits. Mostly."

Methos took off his coat and draped it over the couch. "I'm going to bed. You can sit up and think of insults if you want." He had decided on the drive back that he wasn't going to make Mac's decision easy for him. He was going to press his advantage and stay in the bed. He had briefly considered taking the couch, letting the Highlander off the hook, and decided not to, wanting to push MacLeod into thinking through what had already happened. He went into the bathroom and got ready for bed, and when he came out, Mac was sitting in his armchair with a glass in his hand, looking very thoughtful. Methos didn't want to disturb the process, and went to bed, but did not sleep.

Some time later, he felt the shift of the mattress as MacLeod came to bed.

Methos turned to face Mac. He could feel the tension in the other man as he lay with his eyes closed and one arm draped across his face.

"You awake, Methos?"

"Yeah." He waited for MacLeod to continue.

"Could you. . ." He stopped. After a few moments, he went on. "I've never wanted to make love with a man before."

Methos understood the many layers of meaning in MacLeod's carefully chosen words. He reached over and moved Mac's arm off his face and ran his fingers down Mac's cheek and along the line of his jaw. "It's not all that different."

Mac took Methos' hand in his own and held it against his chest as he spoke. "I know. At least, I think I do."

Methos decided he wasn't going to let the Highlander talk this to death. It was clear that the decision had been made, and that MacLeod wanted to try, but it was just as clear that he didn't know where to start. It had been a long time since Methos had taught a virgin, and while MacLeod didn't qualify for that label in many ways, in this he did. He pulled his hand from Mac's grasp and put his fingers on Mac's lips to silence him, then replaced the fingers with his own lips in a first, gentle kiss. MacLeod didn't respond, and Methos felt the tension in him. He didn't push, just continued kissing him gently and running his fingers through Mac's hair. Slowly, he felt the Highlander relax and start to return the kiss. Methos ran his hand down MacLeod's neck and caressed his most vulnerable spot, then continued to the broad chest, where he lingered, running his fingers over the well defined muscles, enjoying what he had thought he would never be able to touch. He felt the Scot tense again, and slowed his exploration, gently caressing the broad expanse of skin over muscle. Once more, the tension eased. Methos kept his attention on Mac's chest, running his thumb around first one nipple, then the other, exploring the dusting of dark hair that covered the soft skin.

As MacLeod relaxed under Methos' gentle hands and lips, he knew he wanted to touch the other, to learn the body of his new partner. He brought his hand to Methos' face, fingertips tracing the angular cheekbones and line of jaw, and ran his hand into the short, soft hair. He held Methos' mouth against his own, asking with his tongue for more. The oldest immortal responded gently, opening to MacLeod and sharing the taste of each other as their tongues danced and explored. The Highlander turned them both so that Methos was on his back, allowing him the freedom he wanted to touch him.

MacLeod ran his fingers softly down Methos' lean neck and stopped to touch where he had placed his blade earlier that day. On impulse, he reached down and kissed the spot lingeringly. As he did, he felt, rather than heard, a deep rumble in Methos' chest that could have been a chuckle. He stopped what he was doing and looked at the older man questioningly.

"Methos? Is something wrong?" He wasn't sure laughter was the response he was expecting.

Methos reached a hand to MacLeod's face and ran his fingers into his hair. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just happy." He pulled Mac's mouth back to his and kissed him again. MacLeod relaxed and went on with his exploration, hands moving over the silken skin that covered lean whipcord muscles. His fingers traced the outlines of Methos' chest and felt the ribs beneath, and followed each of them to where they joined over his heart. Mac placed his palm over that point, feeling the steady beat.

Methos put his hand over MacLeod's, then slowly ran his fingers up the other man's arm to the shoulder, feeling every muscle as he did. When he got to the shoulder, he carefully pushed Mac backwards so they were lying facing each other. He wanted to be able to lead their mutual exploration, and couldn't do that from his back. He ran his hand down the broad chest, pausing briefly to tease a nipple, then continued to the lean waist and across the firm abdomen. As his fingertips reached the waistband of MacLeod's briefs, he felt the Scot stiffen under his hand, and he ignored it, moving his hand to cover Mac's cock. He could feel through the fabric that his response had not reached this far. The Highlander started to reach for the hand that covered him, then hesitated and stopped. Methos had been fairly sure that this would be one of the boundaries that MacLeod would have trouble crossing. Deciding to change his approach, he took his hand off Mac, and urged him to lie on his stomach. When he did, Methos gave the other's shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"I'll be right back. Don't move." He went to his coat and retrieved another of the day's purchases, a small bottle of scented oil. He returned to the bed, and was pleased to see that the Scot had followed his instructions and not moved. He kneeled next to MacLeod and, moistening his hands with the oil, began to massage the other man. He began by lifting Mac's hair and using his thumbs to feel each vertebra in his neck, then worked to the shoulders and back. He neglected no part of MacLeod, working down each arm and hand, then returned to the broad back and moved toward the waist. This time when he got to the waistband of the briefs, he hooked his fingers inside them and started to pull them off. Instantly, Mac's hand stopped him, holding his wrist tightly.

"Let me do this." Methos' voice was soft, but it was not a request. After a moment, his wrist was released, and he pulled the briefs down and off. He moved again to MacLeod's back and kneaded the muscles he had already loosened, then turned his attention to the long legs, starting at the feet and working his way up the calves to the thighs. As he continued to work the tension out of the Highlander, he was pleased to hear a small sigh that was almost a purring sound. His hands kept massaging the firm thighs and slowly moved up towards the buttocks, and finally reaching them, gently caressed the round flesh. Feeling that MacLeod was more at ease, he slid his hand up and under to Mac's chest and pulled him over onto his back.

MacLeod looked into Methos' face as he turned on his back next to the kneeling man. He was struck by both the gentleness and the desire he saw there. He watched the long fingers as Methos reached toward his face and began a slow massage, starting at his temples and moving along his hairline to the place where head and neck joined just behind his ears. The oldest immortal stopped there, kneading in small circles. The younger man moaned slightly with the pleasure of the touch, and he felt an ache of response begin in his groin. Mac reached up and pulled Methos to him for a long kiss. As he broke the kiss, Methos took MacLeod's hand from the back of his neck and kissed the palm, then placed the hand on the bed with a firm pressure. The Highlander left the hand where it was placed.

He lay still as Methos began again to massage him, working along his shoulders and down each arm in turn, then back to the broad chest, where the older man lingered and teased each nipple into a tight nub. He moved on to the abdomen and waist, then down along the hips, carefully avoiding MacLeod's growing erection. Methos' attention turned to the muscular thighs, and he began to rub and knead as he moved down each leg in turn and finished with a sensual massage of each foot. The Highlander was almost relieved when Methos stopped the touch that had brought him to a full and aching hardness. The older man lay down full length next to him and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. MacLeod reached to embrace him, and was a little surprised when he was stopped by Methos' hand.

"Not yet. I'm not finished."

"Maybe not, but it's my turn now."

The oldest immortal looked at Mac's face thoughtfully, seeing the desire growing in the dark eyes and smiled. "As you wish." He let go of the Highlander's hand, then ran his index finger down MacLeod's chest and belly and cupped his palm over the other's erection. He felt Mac shiver as he did, then push against his hand with his hips.

"Methos, please." His voice was a husky whisper. He took the older man's hand and moved it off him. He wanted to explore the body that lay next to him, and Methos' touch was too distracting. He eased the old immortal onto his back and, kneeling next to him, began slowly gliding his fingertips along every line of the man's face and neck, across the shoulders and down each arm. He was intent on the wiriness and angularity he found everywhere he touched. It was so different from any other lover he had ever had. His hands moved back up the arms, then went to the older man's chest where he brushed his fingers over the fair skin and around the dark nipples. Methos moaned quietly in response to the stimulation.

MacLeod drew his palms across the ribcage and abdomen to the narrow waist. Carefully, MacLeod pulled off Methos' briefs, freeing the rigid shaft within. He continued his mapping of the older man's body with his fingers, moving along angular hips and down long sinewy legs. When he touched the feet, he noted a small flinch and, with a little smile, filed away that ticklish spot for another time. Slowly, he slid his hands back up the long legs to Methos' groin, where he gently cupped the man's testicles in one hand. He heard a sharp intake of breath as he did, and understood. Methos had been fully erect the whole time he had been gentling MacLeod, and the Highlander knew well the ache of longing that could turn into just a plain ache. He also knew what he would like to have done to himself in such a circumstance and hesitated only briefly before continuing.

Methos had been enjoying the feel of Mac's hands as the younger man had traced the lines of his body. It had been a long time since anyone had paid that kind of attention to every inch of him and he closed his eyes and let the other man do what he wanted, each sensation adding to his arousal. MacLeod's touch on his aching balls drew a small gasp from him, and he felt the other hesitate. He opened his eyes and saw that Mac was sitting on his heels, looking as if he were in deep thought. Methos suspected he knew what was being decided, and closed his eyes again and waited for whatever the younger man was going to do. The oldest immortal smiled when he felt MacLeod's hand move to cover his throbbing cock, and then moaned as the man's hand closed around him in a firm grip and began slowly stroking.

When the rhythm changed, Methos opened his eyes again to watch what was happening, and saw the Highlander leaning over him. It took every bit of his fifty centuries of control not to explode with the pleasure as MacLeod's mouth closed over him. The feel of the lips and mouth that he had long fantasized about was almost more than he could bear. He reached his hand to the man's shoulder and then into the dark hair, caressing the neck as he did. Methos wanted nothing more at that moment than to let go and allow the waves of ecstasy to wash over him. The part of him that could still think knew he had to wait, to make sure that Mac's experience was as good as his own. He tugged on the Scot's hair.

"Duncan." His voice was a whisper. MacLeod looked up, and Methos drew him up alongside his own body as he rolled onto his belly. The Highlander understood what the oldest immortal was asking of him, and though he had never done this with a man, it was a technique he knew, and he knew there was no difference whether it was a woman or a man. He also knew he was ready and that he wanted this as much as Methos did. He reached for the oil and drizzled some across the older man's buttocks, smiling at his reaction to the cool liquid against hot flesh. He poured a little more on his hands and smoothed some onto his erection. Mac put his hands on Methos' shoulders, then drew them slowly down the man's back to his buttocks and kneaded the twin mounds. The older man groaned and pushed against the Highlander's hands. Mac smiled at the urgency and need he felt in that action and was pleased to realize his own feelings echoed those exactly.

Something in MacLeod would not allow him to take Methos as the man lay on his belly, offering himself. He needed the older man to be a partner, a lover, an equal to whom he could give back as much as he took. He put his hand on Methos' hip, pulling him back toward him onto his side, and slid his knee between the other man's thighs. Carefully, he probed with a finger in gentle stimulation, and again Methos pushed against him, more urgently this time. Answering the need, the Scot removed his hand, and guided the head of his penis into position and pressed in gently and steadily. As he penetrated, the older man gasped, then, after a moment, pushed himself back against MacLeod, taking him in fully. As he did, the younger man reached in front of them both and wrapped his hand once more around Methos' throbbing shaft. He began thrusting slowly, stroking the cock in his hand as he did.

He found the sensation incredibly erotic, feeling himself buried deep in the other man while holding Methos' erection in his own hand, it was as if it were an extension of his own body. He stroked firmly with his hand as he thrust with his hips, moving the two of them as one, and before long he heard a small strangled cry as he felt Methos give in to the pleasure, spilling hot semen into his hand in long pulses. Mac continued his motion, feeling the spasms of the older man's release around his own cock, driving him higher and closer to the edge, finally shattering his control. As the waves of completion washed over him, he bit hard into Methos' shoulder, stifling his cries as he pumped his heat into the other man, feeling an incredible sense of joining and oneness with him. When the moment of orgasm had passed, he lay still and held the oldest immortal tightly against him, not wanting to become a separate being just yet.

A few minutes later, Methos felt MacLeod withdraw slowly, then heard a voice in his ear. "Stay here." He felt the Highlander get out of the bed, and heard water running in the bathroom. Mac returned and climbed in behind the older man again, reaching over him with a warm, damp towel to clean and caress him. When he didn't move at all, MacLeod was concerned, and touched his face. "You OK?" Methos smiled and nodded. His whole body felt limp, but it was the exhaustion that came with complete contentment. The younger man took the towel back to the bathroom, and when he came back he lay down where he had been before, against Methos' back, his arm across the other's chest in a gentle embrace. As he drifted off to sleep, the oldest immortal heard MacLeod whisper, "Thank you, Methos."

As Methos woke up the next morning, he wondered briefly if he had dreamed what had happened the night before. The feel of MacLeod against his back, the strong arm across his chest and the face nuzzled into his neck assured him it was real. If not for his urgent need to use the bathroom, he would have happily stayed where he was for as long as the Highlander slept. Gently, Methos eased himself out of Mac's embrace and slid out of bed. The Scot gave a small sigh, but didn't wake up. After dealing with the call of nature, the oldest immortal decided to let MacLeod wake up on his own, so he helped himself to one of Mac's robes and went to start coffee. While the pot brewed, he leaned his elbows on the counter and watched the sleeping figure across the loft from him. There was only one more hurdle to cross, and he had no idea how Mac would feel in the chill light of day. Methos knew that what had been done in passion the night before could dissolve into regret in the morning. All he could do was wait and see.

The aroma of the freshly brewed coffee lured MacLeod out of his deep and peaceful sleep. He reached for the lover that should have been in his bed, and frowned when he found no one. He opened his eyes, looked around and found what he was looking for leaning on the kitchen island watching him. Smiling, he got out of bed, went into the kitchen and took two mugs off the shelf. He hadn't bothered with a robe, and the morning light gleamed on his naked skin. Turning back to where Methos still leaned on the counter, he stepped up behind the old immortal and reached around him, one mug in each hand and placed them on the counter in front of the older man. Methos straightened up and leaned back into the Highlander and at the same time picked up the coffee pot to fill the mugs in front of him. MacLeod's hands moved to the older man's shoulders, pulling the robe away from the spot he had sunk his teeth into the night before, and he placed a gentle kiss there.

"Morning, Methos. How's your shoulder?"

He grimaced. "A little the worse for wear, but I'll live."

MacLeod chuckled at that. "Yeah. We always do." He wrapped his arms around the older man and gave him a firm hug, then let him go and picked up his mug of coffee and went to sit down in the living room. Methos picked up his own mug and followed MacLeod, dropping into his usual spot on the couch, making sure he was where he could watch Mac doing his best imitation of a Greek statue. He was pretty sure that the Scot's easy nudity that morning answered most of his questions of how the man felt on the morning after, but he had to be sure.

"How are you this morning?" Methos asked him.

"Me? Couldn't be better. Why?"

"No reason." He sipped at his coffee, not really sure he wanted to ask the next question. "No regrets?"

MacLeod looked at Methos thoughtfully, suddenly aware of the question behind the question. Would any of this change their friendship. Of course it would, but not in any way that he needed to be concerned about.

"Only one." He met the older man's eyes. "I regret having been so slow to catch on." Methos felt the bubble of tension he had held inside himself burst, and a warmth and happiness spread in its place. That was all he needed to hear. He broke his gaze away from MacLeod and drained the last of his coffee, then got up to get some more.

"More coffee?" he asked Mac. He took the mug from the outstretched hand and filled them both. Handing the one back to MacLeod, he went on, "So, what's on for today?"

The Highlander shrugged. "Nothing much." He looked at Methos almost shyly. "We could always go back to bed." He felt like he had discovered a new delicacy and wanted to savor it as many ways as he could.

Methos chuckled. "Before or after breakfast?"

"Both," MacLeod purred. And it was so.

The two spent most of the next several days either in bed or heading back to bed, getting out of bed just long enough to eat or shower. On rare occasions they could be found sleeping in between lovemaking. MacLeod wanted to know everything he could about pleasuring his new partner, and Methos had to admit he had never known such an apt or enthusiastic student. He took great joy in showing MacLeod the passion he had hidden from him for so long, and in turn found equal joy in the passion that was returned to him. They kept the rest of the world at bay, and spent their time simply enjoying each other. As is always the case, reality eventually had to be reckoned with.

Methos stood with the refrigerator door open, staring at the nearly empty innards of the appliance.

"We're out of beer." He made the statement sound as if it were second only to Armageddon in severity. "And we ran out of food last night." He closed the door and looked at MacLeod. "We may have to go out."

Mac sighed. "We knew it would happen sooner or later. What do you say we have lunch at Joe's and shop afterwards?"

Methos smiled ruefully. He wasn't sure he wanted to face the Watcher yet. Joe was bound to be just a little smug about being right in his observations, but he couldn't think of any way to say no without having to tell Mac why. "Sure, sounds OK to me. Race you to the shower."

Clean, dry and dressed, the two arrived at Joe's a little after one o'clock and found Dawson behind the bar. He greeted them with a hearty grin. "Hey, you two! I wondered if you'd left town and forgotten to check with me first." He watched the two immortals look at each other, and took in the slightly changed body language between them. They stood just a bit closer to each other, the looks they shared were more intimate, they touched each other in small gestures that wouldn't have been noticed by most people. He caught Methos' gaze briefly and saw the truth in his eyes. Joe shook his head and chuckled. "OK, you don't have to answer that." He looked slyly at the older man. "So, was I right?"

Methos closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest, resigned that he would have to answer the Watcher's examination. "Yes, Joe." He spoke without raising his head. "Fire indeed." He looked up at MacLeod, who was having trouble following the conversation.

"Would one of you like to tell me what you're talking about?"

"No," they chorused. MacLeod looked from one to the other, then shrugged. He would find out sooner or later from one of them, of that he had no doubt. But until then, lunch was the first order of business.

"What's the special today, Joe?" he asked.

"Black forest ham and German potato salad. And beer, of course."

"Sounds great to me." Mac looked at Methos for agreement, and the older man nodded. "We'll take two. You want to join us?"

"I've eaten, but I'll have a beer with you. Find a table and I'll bring a pitcher." As he drew a pitcher of dark beer, the two immortals moved to a table.

"So what was that remark you made to Joe?" MacLeod looked accusingly at Methos.

"Nothing. Just a bad joke." He wished Mac would leave the subject alone. He didn't want to explain to him how much the Watcher had guessed. To forestall any more questions, he went to help Joe carry the beer and glasses. By the time they got back to the table, the Highlander had put away his curiosity for the time being. Methos filled glasses for all of them, then sat down. Lunch arrived as sandwiches on thickly sliced homemade bread, piled high with ham and Jarlsburg cheese and spread with country mustard along with hot German potato salad.

"You get a new cook?" MacLeod asked. Joe shook his head.

"Nope. Frank wanted to try out some new ideas, and I told him to go ahead." He smiled. "I didn't realize how good he was. I may have to give him a raise to keep him."

"If this is any example, it'd be worth it." He took another large bite of his sandwich.

Methos ate in silence, carefully avoiding Joe's gaze. When nothing was left on the plates but crumbs, the two immortals got ready to leave.

"Going so soon?" Joe asked.

"Yeah." Duncan grimaced. "We have to go to the store. Methos is out of beer."

Dawson laughed. "That could be a real disaster. See you guys around, then."

Methos hung back a bit. "You go on, Mac, I'll meet you outside. I need to talk to Joe a minute."

MacLeod looked at him quizzically, then nodded and went on.

"Joe. . ." Methos began.

The Watcher tilted his head and looked at the old immortal. "What? Are you worried I'm going to talk to Mac?"

"Honestly? Yes." Methos paced back and forth in front of Joe, then stopped and looked straight at him. "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't."

Dawson looked at Methos thoughtfully, then nodded. "OK, I won't." He paused. "But, you know, he'll figure out that I know sooner or later."

"Probably. Better it should be later." He reached out and put a hand on the Watcher's arm. "Thanks, Joe." He turned to leave. "I better not keep him waiting, or he really will wonder."

Joe nodded. "Later, Methos." He threw a parting remark at the older man. "Have fun." Methos looked back and saw the grin on Dawson's face, looked heavenward as if for guidance, and left.

When he got to the car, MacLeod was already in the driver's seat with the engine running. Methos slid into the passenger seat.

"What was that about?"

"Nothing important," Methos lied. "I had to ask him about one last bit of Watcher business." He changed the subject. "So, where are we going shopping?"

"I thought we'd go to the open air market in town. What they don't have, we can stop at the supermarket and get." MacLeod smiled wryly. "Sounds pretty damn domestic, doesn't it?"

"How did you get food before, have it brought in?"

"No," Mac chuckled, "but I don't usually have anybody to go shopping with, either."

When they got to the market, they decided to look around separately and rendezvous back at the car when they had found all they needed. MacLeod started with the fresh produce stands, and Methos wandered through stalls filled with herbs and more exotic items. After an hour or so of shopping, they met at the car, both of them heavily laden with their purchases which were stowed carefully in the trunk of the Thunderbird.

"What are we missing?" MacLeod asked.

"Beer."

Mac laughed. "I should have known." The two got into the car. "Liquor store, next stop."

At the liquor store, Methos picked out two cases of his favorite brew, while MacLeod selected a mixed case of wine and a bottle of brandy and a couple of bottles of single malt Scotch to replenish his supply. These also were seen safely into the trunk of the car.

"Is that it?"

Methos thought. "It's all I need. It's your house, though. I don't know about anything else."

MacLeod considered that. "One more stop. There's a couple of basics I'm almost out of." Once more, they climbed into the car and Mac drove to a supermarket. "You don't have to come in if you don't want. I've only got a couple of things to get."

"Suits me," Methos replied. "I'll guard the beer."

The Highlander grinned at him. "You do that." He got out of the car. "I'll be right back." He was as good as his word, returning shortly with two more bags of supplies. He dropped those in the back seat as he got in the car and started the engine. They were only a short drive from the dojo where Mac parked the car, and they carried in the afternoon's purchases. When everything was put away, Methos looked at MacLeod.

"Do you mind if I take a nap?"

"'Course not." Mac reached out for the older man's chin, pretending to look critically in his eyes. "Am I wearing you out?"

Methos grasped the hand that was on his chin. "Yeah. I'm too old for this." Neither one could hold their serious expression for long, and they laughed together.

"Go ahead, Methos. I'll wake you for dinner." The oldest immortal curled up on the bed with one blanket over him, and was soon asleep. MacLeod watched him for a while, thinking about all the things that had happened in the past week and all the new feelings that had been awakened in him. Realizing it had been exactly a week since Methos had arrived, he decided he wanted to do something a little special that evening. He sat and thought about what that would be.

Methos didn't need to be awakened for dinner. The luscious aroma of whatever it was that MacLeod was cooking was enough. He sat up on the bed and saw Mac working intently over the stove. He rubbed his face, then pushed the blanket aside and got up. As he did, he noticed the wine that was set out along with glasses, and the candles that were lit on the table.

"Hey, MacLeod, you got a hot date tonight?" Methos smiled at the Scot, who had looked up at his remark. He continued his little joke, "Give me the keys to the car, Pop, and ten bucks and I'll go to the movies and get out of your way. Is she anybody I know?" MacLeod had an unfathomable look on his face. He dropped his gaze and mumbled something Methos couldn't hear.

"What was that?"

"Nothing. Never mind." The Highlander turned and moved to the counter at the other side of the kitchen, his back to Methos, and placed his hands on the counter and stood there, the set to his shoulders and back screaming the anger that was in him. The older man realized what he'd done, and closed his eyes and cursed to himself in several languages. Would he ever learn? He should have known Mac wouldn't have seen the humor in what he said. He should have remembered how new this all was for the Scot. All Mac had wanted to do was something nice, and Methos had ignored the fact that MacLeod had no real frame of reference about how to do that when it was another man involved, so Mac had done the only thing he knew how to do. And instead of appreciating it, Methos had joked about it. He stepped over to MacLeod and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Duncan?" Mac shrugged the hand off, and stood stiffly, not responding to Methos. "Damn Dawson anyway!" he swore under his breath as he moved away and flung himself on the couch.

"What's Joe got to do with this?" Methos barely heard MacLeod speak.

"Just something he said to me." Mac turned to face Methos, but didn't move from where he stood at the counter. "He told me we were a pair of old alpha bulls that would always end up facing off against each other." The Highlander just looked at him. "He's right. You do this. . ." He waved his hand to indicate the table, "to do something special, something, well, romantic." MacLeod looked away at the use of that word. "All I manage to do is make a bad joke about it. You're not sure I'm kidding, and you get hurt and offended. And here we stand, snorting and pawing the ground at each other." MacLeod looked back at Methos. The older man was right. He had been hurt and angry when he thought Methos was making fun of him.

"Sounds pretty stupid when you put it that way."

"It does, doesn't it." He stood up and walked toward the kitchen. "The hell of it is that it's true." When he got to MacLeod, he put both hands on the man's shoulders and smiled. "I'll stop pawing and snorting if you will."

Mac took each of Methos' hands into his own and stood still for a moment. Finally a little smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. "It's a deal. Now, either get out of my kitchen or make yourself useful." Methos got out. "Why don't you open the wine." MacLeod motioned to the bottle on the table. "That vintage shouldn't need to breathe." Methos picked up the bottle and read the label. Very impressive. He opened it and poured a glass for each of them, taking one to MacLeod, who was back to working at the stove.

"What are you making?"

"Pasta with sun dried tomatoes, sweet sausage and olive oil. Caesar salad. Fresh bread. Gelato for dessert. That Merlot you just poured." He gave Methos a crooked smile. "That sound OK?"

"Sounds great." He sipped at the wine, which was smooth and fruity with a hint of oak. "You cook this way for all your friends?"

MacLeod looked up with his dark eyes intensely serious. "Only the ones I want to keep for a long time."

Methos held up his glass. "'The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.**'" he quoted, and touched his glass to MacLeod's.

The Highlander smiled at him. "Hamlet." He dropped into his Scots brogue. "Aye, an' the language is passing fair, for an Englishman." Methos chuckled at that.

"You better watch that pan or you're going to burn dinner," the older man warned him. MacLeod returned his attention to the pans in front of him, finishing the sauce, and cooking the pasta al dente. While the noodles drained, he pulled the bread out of the warmer and served salad onto plates, which Methos took to the table. When the sauce and pasta were tossed together, Mac brought it and joined him. They took their time eating dinner, opening a second bottle of wine part way through. When they were through, and the dishes were cleared, they relaxed on the couch with the last of the wine. MacLeod finally spoke.

"What'd you think?"

"Aye, an' the cooking was passing fair, for a Scotsman," Methos replied, in an imitation of Mac's brogue.

The Highlander smiled. "It was pretty good, wasn't it? Want any coffee or anything?"

Methos shook his head. "Don't need a thing." He felt full, a little sleepy, and very happy.

MacLeod looked at his friend and smiled. He took the wine glasses and put them on the table. "C'mon. It's time for bed. If you fall asleep here, you'll wake up with a stiff neck." They went to bed. The older man was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, and Mac followed him soon after.

Some time in the night, MacLeod was roused from his dreams by hands running across his chest and a nibbling on his ear. He grinned widely as he turned on his lover.

"Which one of us is insatiable now?" he growled at Methos.

"Does it matter?" the older man replied. MacLeod knew it did not as they moved together in blissful lovemaking. Afterwards, they slept peacefully, satisfied for the moment.

Methos was the first to greet the not so new day. He realized it was mid morning, and MacLeod was still sleeping soundly. He reached into Mac's hair and moved it, baring his neck, then gave a low snarl and bit him firmly. The Highlander sat up with a yowl, rubbing his neck and glaring at his companion.

"What was that for?"

Methos chuckled. "Seemed like a good idea at the time." He reached over and touched the spot he'd bitten. "Looks like you'll live."

MacLeod shook his head in disbelief and made a grab for the older man's hand, just barely missing as Methos pulled it away.

"Now, now. . . Not nice." He got out of bed and pulled on socks and sweat pants. "I don't know about you, but I need some other exercise besides what we've been doing lately." He stood up. "I'm going downstairs for a while." MacLeod thought about that idea for a minute, and decided he could use a different sort of work out also.

"Good idea. I'll come down, too."

Methos looked at him gaugingly. "Bring your sword with you." Mac looked back at him, and just nodded.

In the dojo, the oldest immortal pulled out a mat and began a series of yoga postures to stretch and warm up, then continued with some combinations of tai chi and more hatha yoga. The Highlander chose to do a kata with no weapon, moving about the floor in a dangerous dance. The two finished their exercises about the same time, feeling refreshed and in tune with their bodies once more. MacLeod came and sat on the mat next to Methos, who was still in the lotus posture as finished his meditation. He waited for the older man to complete his mantra and open his eyes. When he did, Mac placed his sword on the mat between them.

"I brought this as you asked. What did you have in mind?"

Methos reached for his own blade and placed it next to the katana. "The other day when we sparred, we used weapons that were in your style. I think it would be interesting for both of us to use unaccustomed weapons." The Scot was beginning to see what he had planned. "You use my sword and I'll use yours. A test of skills." He sat thoughtfully for a moment, then picked up Methos' weapon.

"An interesting idea. I like it." He swung the sword to feel the balance, to get used to the one handed grip. At the same time, Methos got off the mat and took the katana, working out the two handed balance. When they were both satisfied with the feel, more mats were pulled over the floor. They took up positions on the mat and saluted each other, then began circling warily, cutting, parrying, thrusting, and blocking as each worked out the style they could use with the other's weapon. MacLeod drew on techniques he had learned from his early teachers, and thought he was doing quite well until Methos pulled out a move he hadn't even heard about in centuries. He found himself suddenly disarmed and his own blade at his throat. He grinned at his opponent and held out his hand.

"Well done, Methos." They grasped forearms in the handshake of old warriors. "Now, shower and breakfast." He reached down to retrieve Methos' sword and carried it up to the loft. When they stepped out of the elevator, Methos held out his hand for the blade.

"Give me that. You go shower and I'll start breakfast." Methos took both the weapons and put them carefully on the living room table, then made a pot of coffee and considered what he wanted to make for breakfast. By the time Mac was out of the shower, he had fried a couple of rashers of bacon and mixed up batter for pancakes. "Great. You can finish this while I shower." He handed the spatula to MacLeod and went into the bathroom. When he came out, Mac had two stacks of hotcakes waiting and had warmed the maple syrup. Methos filled his mug with coffee and took a plate, holding it up to test the aroma. "Mmmm. You got these just right." He put it down and drizzled syrup over the cakes, then dug in with a fork.

MacLeod had taken his plate and was sitting on a stool by the kitchen island. "I give up. What's the extra flavor in this?" Methos grinned.

"Very simple. Just a little nutmeg and vanilla." They finished breakfast, cleaned up, then started on the important work. Both swords, having been used, needed cleaning and checking for nicks in the edges. Methos pulled a small leather pouch out of his duffel that held the stones he used to polish his sword, and MacLeod retrieved the box he kept his supplies in. The two took seats and worked on their weapons. After a few minutes, Mac looked up at Methos.

"You studied with Morgan." He had finally remembered where he'd heard of that one move Methos had disarmed him with.

"You recognized the move?" He was a little surprised that Mac had not defended it if he knew where it came from. "Then why didn't you counter it?"

"Just returning the favor for the other day."

Methos looked at him with slightly narrowed eyes. "You knew?" The Highlander nodded. "Why didn't you say something?"

MacLeod didn't answer right away. "It took me most of the day to realize what you'd done. I kept thinking through the sequence and finally saw what had been missing. By then it didn't matter anymore."

Methos nodded. "Where did you learn Morgan's technique?"

"I spent some time with one of Morgan's students." He went back to polishing his blade. A few minutes later, he went on. "Do you know the counter that his student perfected?"

"No." Methos stood up. "Care to show me?"

"Sure." They moved to the clear area of the floor in front of the elevator. "OK. This is Morgan's move." He went through it in slow motion. "You defend." Methos did. They were interrupted by the buzz of the elevator call button.

"You expecting anyone?" Methos asked. Mac shook his head. Being closest to the lift, the older man stepped to the intercom and answered it. He smiled when he heard Joe Dawson's voice at the other end. "C'mon up, Joe, we're decent." MacLeod gave him a startled look at the choice of words. Methos unlocked the elevator and sent it down for the Watcher, then looked back at MacLeod. "Where were we? Right. I was defending." He again went through the moves.

"Now, instead of this move," Mac repositioned the older man's blade and wrist, "you go to here. Then strike and push away here." Again he moved Methos' hand. "That opens your opponent for a blow here." One more move of the blade. "Got it?"

"I think so. Do it again." They went through the moves very slowly.

When the elevator arrived, Joe raised the gate and took in the scene before him. He made the strategic decision to go the long way around through the kitchen to a chair across the living room from where swordplay was being discussed.

"One more time." Again in slow motion. "A little faster this time." Methos was getting the feel of the changes in the defense. They repeated the sequence several more times, the last time at normal speed. "Very nice. You say that was from one of Morgan's students?"

"Yeah. By the time I heard of Morgan, he had gone into seclusion. He wasn't taking on any students. I heard about one of his students who was and found him." He looked at the older man enviously. "How did you get to study with him?"

Methos smiled wryly. "I knew him a very long time ago."

The Watcher chuckled at that. "What was it, about 1200 years ago?" The oldest immortal looked a little surprised. "Morgan's chronicle was required reading," Dawson explained. "He crossed paths with a lot of you guys. That was one of the few times the Watchers actually knew where you were." Both immortals had returned to the perfecting of their blades. Finally MacLeod spoke.

"This just a social call, or was there something else?"

Joe shifted uncomfortably. "Something else." He ran his hand across his beard as he considered how to say what he had come to talk to them about. He had rehearsed a dozen ways on his drive over, but none of them seemed right. "I've got a bit of a problem."

"What is it, Joe?" MacLeod looked at his friend with concern clearly showing on his face. "Can we help?" The Watcher hated what he was about to do, but he had been torn by his loyalties too many times not to. He looked straight at the Highlander.

"Mac, I'm your friend." He included Methos in his gaze. "You're both my friends." He looked back at Mac alone. "And I'm something else, too. I'm what you asked me to be. I'm your Watcher." He was speaking quietly, intensely, and had the full attention of both men. "You two have put me in a very difficult position. I can't keep leaving things out of the Chronicles just because it's more convenient that way."

"What do you mean?" MacLeod asked.

"I mean this." He waved his hand at the two of them. "You two. Together. This changes things. If your history is to be even close, I should record this." Understanding dawned on the Highlander.

"You know?" He stood up abruptly and rounded on Methos. "You told him?" His face flushed with a combination of embarrassment and anger. "I don't believe this." He got up and started pacing angrily, his sword still in his hand.

"Mac, I didn't. . ." Methos began.

"Don't say a word," MacLeod almost shouted. He stalked to the window and stared out, unseeing. "Did you two have a nice laugh over it?"

Methos put his blade on the table, threw a dark look at Dawson, then stood up and started toward the Scot. "Duncan. Listen to me." As MacLeod turned and glared at him, the older man hesitated, then took a breath and continued walking. "No one is laughing." As he reached the younger man, cold steel was held up between them. Methos looked at the blade and moved no further.

"MacLeod." The Watcher had spoken quietly and both heads turned to look at him. "Methos didn't tell me anything. He didn't have to." He ran a hand through his hair in the familiar gesture. "You forget. I observe. I see what others don't." He met the Highlander's eyes. "Sit down and listen. Please." Silently he thought, you too, Methos. The anger of the older man was not lost on Dawson.

The oldest immortal reached past the sword in front of him and gripped MacLeod's arm, attempting to guide him to the couch. The Highlander pulled out of his grasp and sat instead in a chair, distancing himself from the older man. He still held his katana, the tip in the rug and the hilt in his hands, and he seemed to be studying the carvings intently.

"Mac, this isn't easy for me," the Watcher began. "Your friendship is very important to me." MacLeod lifted his eyes to meet Joe's. "When you asked me to get back in the Watchers, I came very close to refusing. I remember what's happened to us too many times before." He toyed with the handle of his cane. "But what you said to me made sense. Watchers should care about immortals. They should care about your history and your lives. God knows I care. Maybe too much. So I rejoined the Watchers." He stared at his hands for a moment. "And now you've made a change in your life. An important change. I can't record who you really are without including this." He looked up at Methos. "I know this effects you, too. Help me find a way to record this without hurting you." He looked again at MacLeod. "Both of you."

The Highlander looked at Dawson, unable to respond. Intellectually, he knew the Watcher was right. What was happening had to be recorded. Emotionally, he couldn't begin to deal with what Joe was asking. He stood up.

"I can't answer that now, Joe." He stepped to the coat rack and picked his off a hook. He looked back at both Joe and Methos, then turned and headed for the door to the stairs. "I'll be back later." They heard the door close as he left.

Methos stood up and stared at the door for a moment, then went to the fridge for a beer. The day was not starting at all as he would have liked. He came back to the couch and sat, glaring at the Watcher.

"Well done, Joe." The sarcasm dripped from his words. "I thought we agreed you wouldn't talk to him about this."

"We did," the Watcher replied. "I'm sorry I had to do this, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew I'd been wrong to say I could leave it alone." He looked at Methos almost pleadingly. "You know what being a Watcher means. You know how hard it was for me to decide to leave. What do you think it did to me for Mac to ask me to get back in?" Dawson dropped his gaze from the older man's. "I have to do what's right for the Chronicles. I want to do what's right for the two of you." He looked up at Methos again. "I know I can't name you in the record. Even if it wouldn't hurt you, it would get me in some trouble, just admitting I'd known where you were." The oldest immortal smiled at that. "Like I said before, I'm asking for help. Find me a way to put this in the Chronicles without hurting anyone. Just don't ask me to leave it out. You know I can't do that." Methos sat quietly, thinking over what the Watcher had said. After a few minutes, he spoke.

"There may not be anything to record." Joe looked confused. "You saw him, Joe. When he found out you knew, he panicked. He may decide it was all a mistake, something he did, I don't know, out of curiosity or on a whim or something." Dawson realized what the old immortal meant, and also understood that there was a possibility that the whole thing could mean an end to the friendship Methos and MacLeod shared.

"Damn, Methos, I'm sorry. I had no idea things were still that fragile."

"Neither did I." He took a long drink of his beer. "But I probably should have." When he spoke again, it was with a forced cheerfulness. "No matter. We'll know more when he comes back." Joe didn't buy it for a minute.

"If there's anything I can do. . ." Methos just looked at him wryly. "Yeah. I guess I've already done enough for now." He pushed himself out of the chair. "See you around, Methos."

"Later, Joe."

MacLeod watched Dawson come out of the dojo and get in his car and drive away. He had come downstairs and gotten in his own car before he realized he didn't know where he wanted to go. Rather than drive aimlessly, he just sat, trying to make some sense of what was happening. When he couldn't, he folded his arms on the steering wheel and rested his head on them, trying to clear his mind of the turmoil. He closed his eyes and wished the jumble of thoughts would somehow sort themselves out. He was in the same position an hour later when he sensed the approach of another immortal. Opening his eyes, he saw Methos come out of the back door of the dojo and approach the car. When he got to the side of the car, he put his hand on MacLeod's shoulder.

"Joe's gone. C'mon back up." He gave the shoulder a quick squeeze, then turned and went back inside. Mac sat for a few more minutes, then got out of the car and went back up to the loft. He found the older man on the couch with a book in one hand and a beer in the other, and had to smile at the familiar scene. He took off his coat and hung it up, then got out his sword to finish the cleaning and polishing he had started earlier. The Highlander worked in silence, concentrating on the task. When it was done to his satisfaction, he put the blade and his tools away. He went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of orange juice and returned to his chair.

"How long has Dawson known?"

Methos closed his book and swung his legs onto the floor to sit facing MacLeod. "Does it matter?" Mac's gaze didn't waver and the older man sighed. "He knew for sure yesterday. He's suspected a while longer."

"Suspected?"

"Mac, he's a Watcher. He notices things." He turned the beer bottle in his hands. "He told me I was probably playing with fire."

MacLeod remembered the remark Methos had made to Joe the day before. "Fire indeed." Methos looked at Mac with a start. "That's what you said to Joe." A little smile found its way to MacLeod's mouth. "Should I take that as a compliment?"

Methos tilted his head a little to one side and considered the question. "You could. Or you could take it to mean it was a dangerous game I was playing."

MacLeod thought about that. He wasn't sure exactly what Methos meant, but he was pretty sure he didn't want to ask. At least, not yet. He added that to the other unsettled thoughts he was trying to sort out. He desperately needed to find a way to clear his mind and decided there was one thing he could do.

"I'm going running." Mac pulled on his running shoes and a sweatshirt, and picked up his keys. "I'll see you later." He drove to a park that had miles of jogging trails and started on the longest one, hoping the endorphins from the exercise would help to blank out his confusion. He paced himself for seven minute miles and ran until all he could think about was moving one leg in front of the other and the feel of the ground against his feet. He kept running until his lungs screamed for oxygen and ached at the effort of breathing. Finally, he slowed and walked back to his car to cool down. Looking at his watch, he figured out he had done almost fifteen miles. Before getting in the car, he stretched out his legs and back, then drove back to the dojo, his mind at least more peaceful than it had been.

Back at the dojo, as he walked up the stairs to the loft, he felt an immortal presence, and assumed it was Methos. He was right. He found the older man in the kitchen, doing something with greens and vegetables.

"Welcome back," Methos greeted him. He looked at the Scot critically. "You need a shower. Go. Now." As the younger man went, he called after him. "You want some of this?" Mac looked back and nodded. "Fine. It'll be ready when you come out." He added more greens and cut up some more vegetables and started the water to blanche them. The cooked beef was sliced and marinating and the whole salad was near to being put together when MacLeod appeared, clad in only a towel. The sight of that perfect body took Methos' breath away, and he shifted slightly to readjust his own clothing as his body responded to that vision as well.

The Highlander's gaze locked with the older man's and he strode into the kitchen and to where Methos stood, chef's knife in hand. He took the knife and set it down and turned off the stove, then pulled the old immortal to him in a rough embrace.

"Leave that. I want you. Now." Methos looked at the dark eyes that were filled with need. He stripped off his sweater and undid his jeans, dropping them and then stepping out of his shoes and jeans both until he stood naked in the kitchen. He pulled the towel away from MacLeod's waist and reached for the bottle of cooking oil, handing it to the other man. Methos turned and leaned on the counter, spreading his legs slightly.

"Do it. Here. Now." MacLeod said nothing, but the oldest immortal felt the cool oil and the man's hot hands as he prepared them both, then the exquisite pain as the Scot took him, thrusting hard and deep, his breath ragged as he quickly reached his peak, crying out with each thrust as he pumped his heat into Methos. When he was done, he leaned against the older man's back and sighed, then kissed him at the point where neck and shoulder met. Straightening up, he withdrew from the other man, then turned him around to face him.

"Now you."

Methos looked at him and shook his head. "Not here." He led the Highlander to the bed and positioned him on his back with his hips just off the edge. The older man tossed a pillow on the floor to kneel on and took the lubricant from the night stand. Kneeling at the edge of the bed, he lifted MacLeod's legs onto his shoulders, then applied the gel to himself and his partner, probing with his fingers until Mac was ready to accept him. He pressed himself in steadily, watching the Scot's face as his expression changed from pain to pleasure. He rocked against the other man slowly, running his hands over the chest in front of him as he did, closing his eyes and concentrating on the sensations. As he continued moving against MacLeod, he ran his hands along the man's legs to his hips, then held on as he thrust faster, bringing himself closer to the edge, moaning softly as he gave in and spilled himself inside the Highlander. He was still for a moment, then separated from the younger man and stood up, reaching a hand out to him.

"Come with me." Methos led the way to the shower and started the water running. The two showered together, washing each other's bodies, then toweling each other off. Pulling on bathrobes, they both went back to the kitchen, Methos to try to salvage the salad he'd been making, and MacLeod to open another of the wines he had purchased, a fine chardonnay this time. Mac handed a glass to the older man.

"Can it be saved?" he asked, indicating the heap of greens on the counter.

"I think so. Good thing I hadn't blanched the vegetables yet." He turned the stove on under the pan again, then tossed the greens in a large bowl with some dressing. "Will this be enough, or have you worked up more of an appetite?"

"Bread. We need some bread with it." He went to the refrigerator. "Good. There's some left." He turned on the oven. "I'll warm it up and make some garlic spread." He pulled out butter and fresh garlic and went to work.

Methos watched the younger man work, wondering what was going on in his mind. He knew there were many unresolved issues, and as enjoyable as their sex that evening had been for both of them, it was not the answer to most of the questions. MacLeod seemed comfortable with the relationship as long as it was behind closed doors, but when the world looked in, he had doubts. Methos was reasonably sure the doubts were not related to trusting him, but were Mac's own insecurities about what a relationship with a man meant in terms of his own sexuality and definition of who he was. He also knew that, as the partner in the new relationship, he was not the one who could talk to MacLeod about these things. He hoped Mac could find someone who was.

The bread was warmed and spread with the garlic mixture, the salad vegetables were blanched, cooled and drained and mixed with the greens and topped with the marinated meat. Wine glasses were filled and the two ate dinner quietly, side by side on the couch. Methos cleared the dishes and poured the last of the wine and sat down on the couch again. Since Mac wasn't feeling talkative, he picked up the book he'd been reading earlier. The Old German in the ancient journal was slow going, but the tales were interesting. MacLeod picked up a book of his own and started reading, but it was obvious his attention wasn't there. He finished his wine and leaned his head back against the couch cushions and closed his eyes. Methos smiled at him and went back to his reading, intent on deciphering the old handwriting. He was surprised a few minutes later when MacLeod reached and took the book out of his hands and put it on the table. He looked at the Highlander and read the confusion in the man's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Methos."

"For what?"

"For how I acted earlier today. When Joe was here." He reached out and touched Methos' face. "I wasn't fair to you."

"Mac, I. . ." He trailed off as the younger man pulled him into an embrace and kissed him gently, then held him as if to comfort him. Methos realized that MacLeod was the one who really needed the contact and reassurance, and at the same time needed the control of being the one to initiate it. He shifted slightly to get more comfortable and moved to be able to put his own arm around the Highlander. It disturbed him greatly to see Mac like this, his normally self assured demeanor held hostage by the turmoil in his mind. He sat with MacLeod for quite a while, trying to think of a way to help his friend.

In time, Methos decided that he should get MacLeod to bed. He urged the other man to stand up and guided him to the bed, got him out of his robe and under the blankets. Taking off his own robe, he climbed in beside the younger man and held him again. He knew it was all due to the doubts and questions that were disturbing the Highlander, but he found it disquieting to have the man behave this way. He again wished there was something he could do about it, and knew there was not.

MacLeod had been up for some time when Methos decided he wasn't going to get any more sleep. He could hear Mac moving around in the kitchen and had smelled the aroma of fresh coffee as it brewed. He sat up in the bed and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, then got up and pulled on a pair of sweat pants. He hadn't slept well at all, and he didn't think that MacLeod had either. The only good thing was that the Highlander seemed to be in a better frame of mind this morning. Methos was pouring himself a mug of coffee when the phone rang and Mac answered it. From what he could hear, it sounded as if it was some kind of business about the dojo. He took his coffee and went to sit on the couch. MacLeod hung up the phone and looked at Methos.

"That was the city people. They say they have to come and inspect the dojo before they'll let me open up again. I'm going down and do a little cleaning up before they get here."

"Give me a minute and I'll come help."

"No," MacLeod answered sharply. He realized it was sharper than he intended. He softened his voice a little. "No, I can handle what needs to be done." Methos looked at him appraisingly. Mac needed some time alone. That was something he could let him have.

"Anything you say. I'll tidy up here, then." The younger man nodded, refilled his coffee mug and headed downstairs. Methos looked around the loft to see what might need doing, and started cleaning things up. When he got to the clothes he had left in the kitchen the night before, he stooped to pick them up and sighed. MacLeod had been so needy then, and now, this morning, was barely speaking. The old immortal wasn't sure that brooding was a good next step for the Scot. On the other hand, it was a more normal reaction for him to have. Methos finished picking up and made the bed, then decided he needed some breakfast. As he made himself a meal, he considered what MacLeod might be thinking about. He knew that the idea of someone knowing about their new relationship disturbed the Highlander, and wished he could be the one who could talk to him about it, but knew, as the new partner, he was definitely the wrong person. He wondered if Dawson could understand what Mac was going through, and decided that he would be better than no one for him to talk to, and tried to think how he could get MacLeod to go see the Watcher.

Methos cleaned the kitchen after himself and double checked the loft for anything that could use his attention. Finding nothing, he picked up his book again and settled on the couch, not wanting to disturb whatever Mac was doing in the dojo. Some time later, the younger man came back up to the loft.

"They've been and gone," he said. "The city people." He sat in his arm chair, looking at Methos. "Will you be here for a while?"

"I hadn't planned on going anywhere," the older man replied.

Mac fidgeted a little. "They say they may need to come back and check on some things. Could you be here in case they call?"

Methos looked at MacLeod and nodded. "Will the phone ring up here?"

The Highlander nodded. "I'll forward it. You won't have to do anything, just let them in." MacLeod got up and refilled his coffee mug. "I need to go out for a while."

Methos nodded. "I have laundry to do. I'll keep an eye on things. Go do whatever you need to do."

Mac finished his coffee and took his coat off the hook. "Thanks. I'll see you later." The oldest immortal watched the man leave. He hoped MacLeod was headed for somewhere he could find some answers.

Mac walked out of the back door of the dojo and got in his car. He'd thought about the events of the day before, and he wanted to talk to Dawson. He drove to Joe's tavern and parked his car. It was almost lunch time and he hoped to find the Watcher there. As he stepped inside, he almost regretted his decision. The place was full of lunch patrons. Joe was behind the bar, doing his best to handle the crowd. MacLeod walked up and greeted the Watcher.

"Hey, Joe."

"Hey, Mac." Dawson looked at the Highlander, and poured a generous glass of scotch that he placed on the bar. As he assessed the man in front of him, he decided scotch was not enough. He turned to the other bartender and indicated to him that he was going to be in his office and he was not to be disturbed. Harry would just have to manage the crowd himself. He picked up a bottle and another glass, and motioned to MacLeod to follow him. When they entered the office, Joe closed the door behind them and then moved to his desk and sat down. The Scot took a seat opposite the desk.

"You look like hell."

"Thanks, Joe. You're not so bad yourself" The Highlander's attempt at sarcasm fell short of its mark. The Watcher poured himself a drink and waited for what MacLeod really came to say. "I've been thinking about what you said yesterday." Joe nodded. Mac swirled the liquor in the glass, then took a drink. "If it ends now, does it go in the Chronicles?"

Joe paused before answering. "No. It doesn't."

"Good." MacLeod rose to leave. "That's what I wanted to know."

"Mac, sit down." The Scot looked at Joe. "This isn't the end of the discussion." Mac looked at him blankly. "Sit down," Joe repeated. MacLeod sat. "Have you talked to Methos about this?"

"No. It's my decision."

Joe rubbed his beard thoughtfully. "I see. So now you're making his decisions for him, too."

MacLeod sat in silence, staring at the glass in his hand. "Joe, I can't. . ." Mac began.

The Watcher cut him off. "You have to." When he got no response from MacLeod, Joe decided to change his tactics. "Why can't you talk to him?" Still no response. "Mac, he's your friend. Don't you think he deserves it?"

MacLeod looked up angrily. "This isn't about him."

No it isn't, the Watcher thought. It's about you. "Then tell me what it is about."

MacLeod stared at the glass in his hand, saying nothing, for several minutes. When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet and intense. "It's about making a mistake."

Joe remembered what Methos had said the day before about not having anything to record. He pursed his lips thoughtfully. All he could do was ask enough questions to know that Mac was certain of his decision and not just looking for the easy way out. They both owed Methos that much.

"Are you sure it was a mistake?"

"Yes." MacLeod didn't look up when he answered.

"Why?" At that question, Mac did look up.

"Why what?"

"Why was it a mistake?" The Scot didn't answer. Joe pulled the cork from the bottle and added some of the liquor to his own glass and MacLeod's. "Methos is a friend, right?" Mac nodded. "Did he force you to do anything you didn't want to do?" A shake of the head. "Was the sex good?" Mac dropped his chin and flushed slightly. "I'll take that for a yes." Joe sipped at his drink. "I guess I don't see the problem yet." He ran a hand across his beard. "Then again, maybe I do. Do you feel guilty about enjoying sex with another man?" Mac's flush deepened and he launched himself out of the chair and started pacing in the small office. Bingo, Joe thought, now we're getting somewhere. "Do you love Methos?" MacLeod stopped pacing and glared at the Watcher.

"Joe, please. He's a friend."

Dawson smiled. "Mac, you know as well as I do that love takes many forms. Love of a parent and child, a brother or sister. Love of a comrade in arms. Romantic love. And love of a good friend." MacLeod stopped pacing and sat down again. "You've had women friends that you cared for, that you could share sex with and not feel that you had to settle down with." Mac picked up his glass and took a swallow of the scotch. He could see where Joe was headed with this line of thought. "So why is it so different to have a man as a good enough friend to share sex with? It's not like he's asked you to pick out drapes and monogrammed towels." Mac let a little smile pluck at his lips at that comment.

"I don't know, Joe. It just is." The Watcher's questions had brought back all the doubts and confusion he thought he had solved.

"It wasn't difficult until you found out that I knew, was it?" Joe asked softly. "It has to do with what other people will think."

MacLeod didn't answer for a long time, and Joe let him sit and think. When he finally did answer, he spoke very quietly. "It's not what other people think. It's what it made me think about myself."

"What, Mac," Joe asked gently, "do you think you're gay or something?" The Highlander looked at him out of eyes that were pleading for help. "Did it ever occur to you, you stubborn Scot, that after 400 years you may just be learning something new?" Mac looked confused. "Maybe you're finally learning that friendship can be expressed in many ways. Take a hint from Methos. After all that he has lived through, labels like straight or gay don't apply. He just is." MacLeod started to speak and Joe held up a hand to silence him. "Go and talk to him. Find out what he's asking from you. Then make up your mind."

"Joe, I can't."

Dawson smiled. "You can't not do it. Go. Talk to him. Don't lose a friend over this." Mac sat for another couple of minutes, then drained his glass and stood up to leave.

"Thanks, Joe." He held out his hand to the Watcher and the two shook hands firmly.

"Any time, Mac. Any time." He watched as MacLeod turned and left, closing the office door behind him on his way out. Joe shook his head to himself and smiled wryly. This was the first time he'd had to help a man who was having problems with another man. But like he'd told MacLeod, it wasn't all that different. A friend was a friend.

Mac drove slowly back to the dojo. He was sure Joe was right, he should talk to Methos. He just wasn't sure how he was going to manage it. Talking about his feelings had never been something he had been able to do easily, and Methos was not always an easy person to talk to. He shrugged mentally and decided to play it by ear when he got there. He pulled into his parking place at the rear and walked up the stairs to the loft. As he started up, he felt the presence of the other immortal. He was sure it was Methos, but touched the hilt of the sword under his coat out of habit. When he got to the door and went inside, he didn't see the other man at first, then realized he was on the bed, with a blanket pulled loosely over him. Methos had watched him come in to the loft, then seeing it was MacLeod, had put his head down to continue his nap.

The Highlander took off his coat and hung it up, then stepped to the bed and sat on the edge. "Did the city people come back?"

Methos turned over just enough to look at Mac. "Yeah. Actually, no, they called and said they had everything they needed and would let you know."

"Thanks. Go back to sleep. Neither one of us got much sleep last night."

Methos smiled at that. "Maybe you should catch a nap, too. You look like hell."

MacLeod smiled wanly. "So I've been told. Maybe I will." He reached down and took off his shoes, then stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes. Methos lay his head down and went back to sleep. Several hours later he woke up and noticed that dusk had fallen. MacLeod was still sleeping soundly, and the older man decided not to disturb him. He switched on the light by the bed, stacked up some pillows to lean against and picked up the book he'd been reading when he'd fallen asleep earlier that day. He'd been reading peacefully for a while when the figure next to him started to stir. He reached over and moved a wisp of hair that had fallen across Mac's face. When he touched the man's forehead, Mac opened his eyes and smiled.

"You feeling better?" Methos asked.

MacLeod rubbed his face with his hands. "Yeah."

"Where did you go today?" Methos had decided to take the bull by the horns, as it were, and wasn't going to waste any time. Mac rolled onto his side to face the older man, and propped his head on his hand.

"I went to talk to Joe." He worried the edge of Methos' blanket with his fingers. "I went to tell him he didn't have to put anything in the Chronicle." At that, the oldest immortal pushed the blanket off, picked up his book and started to stand up.

"Right. Fine, then. I'll get my stuff together and. . ." He was stopped when Mac's hand shot out and grabbed his wrist.

"Methos, don't. Sit down. Let me finish. Please." The last word was said so quietly that Methos almost didn't hear it. The grip on his wrist remained until he sat down on the bed again, then his arm was released. He positioned himself so he was sitting cross-legged next to the Highlander.

"Go on. I'm listening." He really was in no mood to hear MacLeod rationalize why he had made the right decision, but didn't see that he had much choice. Hopefully, the man would be brief and he could pack and be on his way.

"Like I said," Mac continued, "I went to tell him he didn't have to put anything in the Chronicle." He looked up at Methos' face. The older man's expression was unreadable. "He sat me down and lectured me like no one has since my mother." He dropped his gaze, looking intently at the edge of the blanket he had gone back to worrying. "He made me see that I can't make this decision alone." He twisted the fabric in his fingers. "He told me I should talk to you. But I don't know how to talk about this." This was a little better than rationalizing, but Methos was about out of patience.

"What do you want me to say?" He pulled the blanket out of MacLeod's hand and threw it aside. "You were ready to throw it all away because you got worried about your image when you found out Joe knew. Doesn't say a lot for your opinion of me, does it?" Methos knew this was harsh, but he felt he had spent the last two days treading carefully around MacLeod, and he realized he wasn't willing to let this go without a fight. The Highlander was too important to him.

"Dammit, Methos, that's not what this is about." The Scot sat up and faced away from the older man. He went on, his voice heavy with emotion. "This is about me not knowing how to accept what you were offering me. Maybe not even understanding what you wanted from me." He glanced behind him at Methos. "You knew you were the first for me. Did you expect it to be that easy for me to handle? Maybe we were both wrong."

"Do you believe that?"

"I don't know." He turned to face Methos. "All I know is I want to figure this out."

"Fine." Methos spoke coldly. "If I recall, you were the one who said he wanted to make love to me. Am I right?" MacLeod nodded. "And you didn't know how. So I showed you. And it was good, wasn't it?"

Mac met the older man's eyes. "It was fantastic."

Methos smiled. "It was, wasn't it?" The smile disappeared. "But I expected more of you, MacLeod. I expected that once you had made this decision that you would have understood what it meant to me. But I guess you couldn't think past your curiosity." MacLeod sat quietly for a long time. Methos let him think, knowing the only real answers had to come from within him, not from anything he could say or do for the Highlander.

MacLeod knew he had angered the older man. By giving in to his own insecurities, he had pushed Methos away just to soothe his own ego. He finally spoke without looking at the other man.

"It was much more than curiosity. But, you're right. I didn't think about what it meant. For you, me, or anybody."

"MacLeod. . .," Methos began, then started again. "Duncan, all I have ever wanted from you is your friendship, in whatever form you could give it." He lifted a hand toward MacLeod, then dropped it before it reached its target. "I have lived a long time, MacLeod. For me, a strong, loving friendship can include the pleasures of the body. Man or woman, it makes no difference." He locked eyes with the younger man. "Can you understand that?"

"I don't know," MacLeod answered honestly. "It's not how I was raised." He focused on the eye contact. "You are special to me. I don't want to lose that."

"I think that's up to you, Highlander." MacLeod again sat in silence, considering the ancient man's words.

"I'm a fool," MacLeod said quietly. "Joe was right." Methos looked at him quizzically. "He told me that what you were offering me was a deeper friendship. An extension of what we already had. And he was right." The Scot cast his eyes around the loft, seeking an anchor, finding none. He looked at Methos. "And I want it. I want what we found together." The oldest immortal sat staring at MacLeod.

"Are you sure?" Methos asked quietly.

"Yes." The Duncan MacLeod that said that one word was again the strong, self assured man he was used to seeing. He knew there was only one more thing he needed to do. And this wasn't for the Highlander, it was for himself.

Methos reached into MacLeod's hair and using that and a hand on the man's chest, forced him down on the bed underneath him. He hesitated for a moment to look in Mac's eyes and grinned when he saw his own desire reflected there. He kissed him roughly, probing with his tongue, biting MacLeod's lips, pushing him hard into the bed. The old immortal kept his fingers twined in the dark hair to keep his lover in place, and with his free hand worked quickly to open the buttons of Mac's shirt and push it off to expose the broad, beautiful chest it had covered. Just as quickly, he undid the fastenings of Mac's jeans and urged the Scot to take them off, revealing the burgeoning erection within.

As he took the hot flesh in his hand, he heard a moan that was almost a growl, and felt MacLeod's hands pulling at his sweater, trying to push it over his head. Methos purred deep in his chest and moved enough to let the garment be removed. As the Scot reached for the older man's jeans, Methos began stroking the flesh in his hand, his fingers wrapped firmly around it, his thumb caressing the velvety smooth glans. His attentions made Mac's hands on his jeans falter, and he chuckled at how easy it was and how much he enjoyed distracting the Scot. The hands returned with a determination to finish their task and did in spite of Methos' attempts at distraction. MacLeod's concentration was improving. The old immortal slid his hand off the cock and trailed up Mac's chest to his face. With one hand on each side of his head to hold him still, Methos moved to lie full length on top of the Scot, pinning him to the bed. He kissed him deeply, reveling in the feel of flesh on flesh, the erotic touch of the other man's erection against his own.

Slowly, he let his mouth drift to MacLeod's neck, grazing the skin with his teeth, nipping at his throat. Shifting a little, he continued down the perfect chest, pausing to tease a nipple before working his way across the firm belly to his goal, the throbbing shaft laying in the mass of dark curls. He ran his teeth over the length and heard Mac gasp, and felt the hands on his head begging for more. Methos smiled at the man's urgency, and moved to kiss his testicles before returning his attention to the hot flesh. Taking the rigid cock in his hand, he stroked it firmly before taking the length in his mouth, sucking hard as he moved down over it, grazing it with his teeth as he returned to the head. The pattern was repeated until all he heard from MacLeod was a series of strangled moans as he neared his climax. Hands pressed him downward as hips thrust upward, and Methos took the Highlander deep into his throat as the waves of pleasure broke over him, sending hot semen into his mouth. The old immortal sucked and swallowed until the Scot stopped moving and the hands against his head relaxed.

Methos lifted his head from the softening member and, looking at MacLeod's face, was both pleased and amused by the grin he saw plastered there. He quickly placed his own mouth over the grinning one, sharing the taste of himself with the younger man. Breaking the kiss, Methos urged Mac onto his belly and reached for the lubricant on the bedside table. Warming it in his hand, he then used the gel and his fingers to prepare and stimulate the Scot. When he could wait no longer, the oldest immortal pressed himself deeply into MacLeod, gasping at the feel of the firm muscle around him. He began thrusting slowly, closing his eyes and letting the sensations guide his motions as the other man shifted slightly to allow himself the freedom to push back against Methos as the older man thrust forward. As their dance continued, Methos slid his fingers into the Highlander's hair to bare the man's neck and shoulder, and he kissed and nipped MacLeod and whispered to him in languages long forgotten.

He wanted the joy of this moment to go on forever. His body, however, had other ideas, and he felt himself getting closer and closer to completion, finally losing his control and pumping his heat into MacLeod in long pulses. As the ecstasy took him, he bit deep into Mac's shoulder as he cried out with each thrust of his hips. As the moment passed and contentment swept over him, he separated himself from the other man, got up quickly and went to the bathroom for a warm, dampened towel. After cleaning them both, he threw the towel at the bathroom door, ignoring it when it landed on the floor. Retrieving the blanket he had thrown aside earlier, Methos lay down again next to the Highlander, pulling the blanket over both of them. He looked at the younger man's face and saw what he thought was a pensive look.

"Duncan?" Mac turned on his side to face Methos. "You OK?"

Instantly, the look was replaced with one of happiness. "Fine. I was just thinking."

"What about?"

At that moment a growling noise was heard from the vicinity of Methos' stomach. MacLeod grinned and put his hand over the source of the sound. "About that. I realized neither of us has probably eaten since breakfast. You hungry?"

The older man shook his head. "Not enough to get up and do anything about it."

MacLeod nodded his agreement. "Morning's soon enough to do something about that." As he spoke, he put an arm around Methos and pulled him against his chest, fitting himself against the man's back, wanting to feel the warmth of the body next to him and the touch of the flesh next to his own. He was very sure he had made the right choice. They lay like that in silence for some time before MacLeod spoke again. "There's only one more thing we need to do."

"And that would be?" Methos asked. Mac nuzzled the man's neck and chuckled deeply.

"We'd better go see Joe tomorrow and help him figure out how to write his Chronicle."


The End (for now)
February 1997

**William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3