Friendship Regained
by Ashlyn Donnchaid

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story takes place after the episode "Justice" and is the sequel to my story A Warrior's Quest.

He wasn't asleep. Really hadn't slept much for the last few days. Since Katya left. But not because of her leaving. Because of the feelings her presence had revived. She had been hurting, empty. He had made love to her to remind her that she was alive. And in the process reminded himself of a hole in his own life.

MacLeod thought back to that morning. He'd awakened to an empty bed, but with pleasant memories. He'd reached to the other side of the bed, felt the sheets still warm from recent occupation, and let his mind conjure the image of his lover. But his mind had played a trick on him, bringing him first the image of another lover from the past. A lover he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to make his peace with. He'd shaken off that image and gone up on deck to find Katya, asking her once again to think through her quest for vengeance. Now she had gone on to search for her own answers and left him with his memories.

Memories that nagged at him, that wouldn't let him sleep, pulling up emotions he'd thought might be better put behind him. It had been over a year since he'd seen Methos. Over a year since they had parted, barely friends and certainly not lovers. At the time, there had seemed to be some hope for their future, but a year of contemplation had brought him nothing but doubt. They had caused each other so much pain, he had come to believe it would be best for both of them to remain apart. So he had not gone looking for Methos. And that had been the agreement. When he was ready, he would look for Methos.

It unsettled him to be doubting his decision this way. It hadn't been easy, but he'd been sure it was right. He'd thought it over, looked at it from every angle, then carefully sealed off the emotions that were part of that piece of his life. Cleared it away as he had cleared his living space. Staying centered. Getting rid of the cobwebs. Looking for peace within his soul. Even his meditation was disturbed by memories. A smile. A look. A touch.

He'd tried to push them away. To recall all the good reasons he'd decided they could only be friends, but nothing was helping. He finally admitted to himself it had to be done. He settled cross-legged into his posture for meditation, but this time rather than try to shore up the barriers against the memories, he looked inward, slowly, carefully taking them down. Letting the images slowly wash over him, he looked for the reasons he'd shut them away to start with. His judgements that caused nothing but pain. Half truths and withheld truths that brought anger. Harshly spoken words that left wounds and guilt in their wake. This was it. These were the reasons he'd made his decision.

No sooner had he started to reaffirm that decision than the images changed. Hurt and pain gave way to moments of shared joy. Unquestioning support in times of need. You are too important to lose. Lives risked to keep the other from danger. Mi casa es su casa. The simple pleasure of a shared beer. He shook his head against these images that threatened to tear down his carefully constructed reasoning. But they wouldn't leave. They swept over him, bringing along with them the feelings he'd tried to bury.

He didn't open his eyes, but he moved, no longer sitting cross-legged. He drew up his knees and hugged them tightly, resting his forehead on his arms. The image that was strongest in his mind was their parting on the quay. A strong embrace, a tear wiped away. A question. Where will you be? The enigmatic answer. I don't know. Someplace warm. Someplace where you can find me. He felt the burning in his eyes, the dampness on his cheek. And knew he'd been wrong. This was not a decision he could make alone. It was time. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he'd start looking for Methos so they could decide together.

Sleep had still eluded him, but this time it wasn't the turmoil of self doubt. It was the racing thoughts that were trying to decide where to begin his search. A quick shower and a few things packed in a duffel and he was ready to go. Then a hesitation as he looked at his katana. Another quick decision and the sword was wrapped for travel. At the airport he'd booked the needed flights, called ahead to arrange for the parts of the trip that couldn't be made by air. And here he was, sitting in the first class cabin of a 747 on the first leg of his journey. A sense of calm settled over him at having committed to his decision, and he let his head rest against the seat and slept.

Now, almost twenty hours since the journey began, he was in the small plane that was taking him on the last leg. Having left Paris in the beginnings of winter, he marveled at the warmth and lush greenery he saw as they approached the island. Standing on the tarmac, he could understand the attraction this place might have for Methos. It was small, it was warm and the pace of the civilization here was pleasantly sedate. He hoped he was in the right place. Methos had mentioned Bora Bora enough times that it seemed the natural place to start. He took a taxi to the largest first class hotel on the island.

He was greeted at the front desk with a smile and disappointment. Yes, monsieur, your friend was here. No, he is not here any longer. But, monsieur, he did leave a message in case you called. He opened the note with a mixture of fear and anticipation.

MacLeod: If you're reading this, you're on the right track. I'm not playing a game, I just needed to move on for a bit. Next stop Tahiti. M.

Inquiries told him that he couldn't leave for Tahiti until the next day, so he took a room for the night, figuring that a shower and a little sleep might not be a bad idea. Morning brought him coffee, a good breakfast and a flight to Tahiti. His nervousness resurfaced as he took a taxi from the airport to the largest hotel. But Methos hadn't stayed there. Taking a deep breath, he continued on to the few other good hotels on the island. His persistence was rewarded at the third, but not by what he was really looking for. Another message waited for him.

MacLeod: You know me and cities. But right now even this one is too crowded. Follow the map I've drawn on the back of this. M.

This was taking on the appearance of a scavenger hunt. He rented a small car and followed the map, ending up at a resort that was a collection of bungalows hidden among the palm trees, all close to a private beach. He stretched his senses, searching for any hint of Presence and felt none. He was beginning to think that this was some sort of test, and anger was joining the tension in his gut. The manager of the resort had another message for him and regretted that monsieur had missed his friend by only a matter of weeks. He ripped the note open, his annoyance showing in his actions.

MacLeod: By now I'm sure you think this is some sort of trick. It's not. Neither of us knew how long it would be and I'm trying to leave a trail you can follow. I'm heading for Arutua. M.

His anger eased and he chuckled at the destination. Arutua indeed. Thanking the manager and leaving him a large tip, MacLeod drove back to Papeete and arranged for passage to what he hoped would be his last stop.

Once again, he found himself standing on the deck of a boat, nerves on edge as they approached the dock. Arutua was a small island, lush and lovely and largely uninhabited. Not a normal tourist stop, he could understand why Methos might come here. Unsure how to start looking for him on the island, MacLeod located the person who was the closest thing the island had to a constable. This time he wasn't greeted with disappointment and another note. Yes, he was told. Your friend is here. He's staying in the bungalow down the road just past the coconut grove.

He got detailed directions and decided to walk the mile to where Methos was staying. He slung the duffel over his shoulder and started down the road, although road seemed a generous term for the tire tracks that he was following. It was late afternoon and warm, but he found that he was sweating more than he expected, even considering his exertion in the heat. He was also noticing a tightening in his gut with every step he took. He tried to regulate his breathing to match his pace and ease his nerves, but it was no use.

By the time he got to the stone pillar that marked the turn he was to take, he was drenched in sweat. The trail that led away from the road was only wide enough for a single person and disappeared into the lush growth. It wasn't supposed to be far now. He leaned a hand against the pillar to rest for a moment and gather himself before continuing. One last steadying breath and he started down the trail, alert for any sense of Presence. He'd gone no more than thirty yards when he felt it. The sound/feeling that resonated in and around him, signaling another of his kind. But this was no ordinary Presence, this was the one he recognized as being uniquely Methos'.

He stood still, letting the sensation wash over him, somehow relieved that even after more than a year, the unusual link that let him recognize that one immortal Presence was still there. It was extremely rare to know another immortal by his Presence, but just as rare was the shared Quickening they had experienced in Bordeaux. He hadn't tried to understand it, wasn't sure there was an explanation.

Knowing that if he could sense Methos, the other man could sense him as well, he continued down the path. Another hundred yards and he could see the bungalow. It was nestled in the center of a clearing close to where the foliage gave way to a white sand beach. With the bungalow facing the lagoon, it meant he was approaching from the rear. He walked along the side of the building and around to the front where he saw the large, open porch. There were two lounge chairs on the porch, one on each side of a low table. The table had a bottle of beer on it, near the empty chair. Another beer was being held by the man occupying the other lounge chair.

Methos looked up at MacLeod as he sat and picked up the bottle near the chair. The beer was perfectly chilled, condensation beading on the glass. He took a long drink, then looked at Methos with a little smile.

Methos smiled back and saluted him with his bottle. "I see you found me."

"I guess I did." He took a long look at Methos. He was dressed in a loose cotton tee shirt and baggy shorts. He looked relaxed and tanned, or at least as tanned as his complexion would allow. "You're looking well."

"I've been relaxing, thinking. But not thinking too much." MacLeod sat still as Methos looked at him steadily. "You look ... changed."

Changed, MacLeod thought. More than he ever would have imagined. "That's a good way of putting it." He stared out across the sand and didn't go on.

After a few moments of silence, Methos spoke quietly. "Tell me."

He looked at Methos, trying to decipher what he saw in his eyes. Compassion. Understanding. Support. Friendship. The same things he'd been given by this man a year ago. How could he have thought staying away was right? Taking a drink of his beer, he tried to consider where to begin. And decided there was no place like the beginning.

"I ... went east," he started slowly. "I had no plan, no real direction. Just kept moving. I got to Malaysia and found a monastery that seemed to have what I needed. Peace. Hard work. No questions. A way to re-center and control what I was feeling." His voice had softened to almost a whisper. "I cried. Every day. I had no idea that one person could cry so much. I ached. All I felt was empty. Some days I still wondered if it wouldn't be easier just to die. But I got past that. Came to understand why it had happened. To forgive myself." Glancing at Methos, he saw nothing but acceptance on his face. He took a deep breath before going on. "I thought I understood what needed to be done. And one day I just knew it was time to leave. I think when I cut my hair it was a symbol of who I thought I needed to be to deal with the demons." He sat quietly, almost unwilling to continue.

Methos sat up and leaned toward him, the motion attracting his attention. "And did you? Deal with them?"

"In a way." He looked at Methos as he spoke. "The demon is gone for now. But I'm not sure all of mine are."

Methos sat for a long moment, then stood up and moved around the table. "Why don't you change and I'll show you around." He led the way into the bungalow. As MacLeod followed him inside, he was almost relieved that Methos had changed the subject. He wasn't sure he was really ready to talk about everything. Some of the focusing he'd done in the past year had, in reality, been pulling his feelings inside and allowing himself to isolate from his friends. He felt it was time to move outward again, but it would have to be a slow process. He was not willing to let go of the control he had established over himself.

The bungalow was all white cloth and wicker furniture inside, very suitable for the tropical climate. The main room was a combination sitting/dining room. The kitchen was on one side of the building and the bedroom and bath off the other. MacLeod dug into his duffel and pulled out jogging shorts and a tank top and went into the bathroom to change. When he came out, Methos handed him another beer and led the way toward the beach.

Stretching as he walked, Methos tilted his head up and smiled at the sun. Then he looked at MacLeod and pointed upward. "That's our sunshine." He stopped on the sand and wiggled his toes and pointed downward. "And this is the beach." He walked on to the edge of the surf and pointed at the clear blue water. "That's the lagoon. The fish live in there." He looked back at MacLeod and grinned. "End of tour."

The absurdity of the tour and the big smile on Methos' face started to unravel some of the tension MacLeod had brought with him. A soft chuckle worked its way through him and finally out of his mouth. It felt good, as did the little smile that came with it. He walked slowly to the water's edge and stood as the surf lapped at his toes, staring across the water.

Methos moved up to stand next to him. "So why did you come?"

"I needed to talk to you." He continued to stare at the horizon as he spoke. "Paris was empty. I was empty. I'd made a decision that I had no business making alone."

"What decision was that?"

He took another step into the lagoon. "That we couldn't be together. That we'd hurt each other too much to be anything more than friends, if we could even manage that."

Methos moved forward to stand next to him again. "What changed your mind?"

"There was a woman."

"There often is."

"She was hurting, empty. I did what I could to help ease her pain, to show her that she didn't always have to feel the hole in her soul." He turned to look at Methos. "And as I did, I fell into the hole in my own. That was when I understood the arrogance of thinking I could make that decision for both of us. And here I am."

Methos stood for a long moment, then looked at MacLeod. "What do you want from me?"

He took a deep breath. "I need to know if there can ever be an 'us' again for you and me."

More minutes passed as Methos stood, staring at the surf that came and went around his ankles. He finally met MacLeod's gaze. "I think there can. And I think this is a good place to work on it."

"How do we start?"

Methos shifted his beer bottle to his left hand and held out his right and smiled. "Hi. You must be new here. My name is Methos. What's yours?"

A slow smile spread across MacLeod's face as he grasped Methos' hand. "Duncan MacLeod. You come here often?"

"Not too often in the last hundred years. Can I buy you a drink? My bungalow's right over there."

"I'd like that. Thanks." He was still smiling as he followed Methos back to the bungalow.

Once inside, Methos pulled another beer from the fridge, then turned to MacLeod. "Beer OK? Or would you rather have something else?"

"Beer's fine." He took the bottle that was handed to him, then followed Methos back onto the porch.

"So, now that we're past the awkward introductions, what do you want for dinner?" Methos had settled into the lounge chair and was looking across the lagoon toward the setting sun.

"I haven't been eating meat lately." He glanced at Methos. "I hope that's not a problem."

Methos nodded. "That's fine. Fish OK?"

"Fish is good." The chatter about food seemed almost surreal to him. He sat lost in his own thoughts for a few moments as he watched the sky turn red with the sunset. Then one thought came to him that he knew needed sharing. "Joe was still in Paris when I got back. He asked about you. He was pretty pissed at both of us for leaving."

"I don't see what else we could have done. How is he?"

He smiled. "He's fine. Opened a blues bar. And he got over being pissed."

"I'm glad." Methos swatted at a bug on his arm. "Dusk. Now all the mosquitoes are out. Why don't we go inside?" He stood without waiting for an answer and went in, grabbing another beer from the fridge and handing one to MacLeod.

"You know," MacLeod continued, "after he got over being pissed, he helped me all he could to stop the demon."

Methos settled in a large, well cushioned chair. "He's a good friend."

"One of the best," MacLeod agreed, getting comfortable on a small couch.

After a short silence, Methos looked at MacLeod. "What finally stopped the demon?"

"Doing nothing." He chuckled at Methos' disbelieving look. "Really. What sent the evil away was simply to accept that we all have evil in us and that to fight that would be to deny who we are." He smiled as he met Methos' gaze. "I remember that a year ago you told me that seeking vengeance might not be the way to defeat it. I wasn't ready to accept that idea then. But it turned out to be right."

A tiny smile pulled at Methos' mouth. "All I was doing was playing devil's advocate, trying to get you to think of all the possibilities."

"If you say so." MacLeod's face echoed his skepticism. "All I know is that you are also ... have always been ... a good friend. A friend I don't want to lose."

Methos stared at the beer in his hand, saying nothing. When he finally looked up, his face was unreadable. "I think I'll start dinner." He stood abruptly and went to the kitchen.

MacLeod got up and followed him. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Methos turned away from the stove to face MacLeod. "That's just not a conversation people have who are trying to start over."

"I don't think we can just start over. I don't want to ignore what we had before, both the good and the bad."

He stood still as Methos' eyes searched his own. "You really have changed."

MacLeod felt the slight chill of an irrational fear knot in his gut. Had he changed too much? Had Methos come to a decision of his own that would keep them apart? He closed his eyes against those thoughts, then opened them to look at Methos. "Maybe I should leave. I'll go find a hotel and we can talk tomorrow." He turned and started closing up his duffel.

"No." He was stopped by the one word. Methos was standing next to him. "I don't want you to go." MacLeod rocked back on his heels and looked up as Methos went on. "Not to mention that there aren't any hotels on this island."

A little smile touched MacLeod's face as he stood up. "I guess you're stuck with me, then."

"Glad that's settled." Methos headed back toward the kitchen. "You want wine with dinner or is beer OK?"

He followed Methos back to the kitchen. "Beer's fine. Anything I can do?"

"No, I've got it under control." Methos held up one of the fish he was preparing. "I caught these myself."

"So there's a few less living in the lagoon now?" He looked at the fish critically. "You could have gone after the big brother to that one, though."

"If you like, tomorrow you can hunt down dinner."

"Point taken." MacLeod smiled. "I'll shut up and take what I'm offered."

What he was offered turned out to be a good dinner with quiet conversation. Afterwards, relaxing on the couch, MacLeod found his thoughts wandering sleepily. He remembered the apprehension and anticipation he'd felt during his search. The moment he'd come so close to letting fear win and abandoning the hunt. The lump in his throat as he'd rounded the corner of the porch and seen Methos sitting there. He realized he could barely keep his eyes open. He wasn't surprised, the tension that had built as he hunted for Methos the last few days hadn't let him rest much, and now that he'd found him and they seemed to be heading toward a reconciliation, the knots and tightness he'd felt were easing, leaving him drained.

"Don't try to stay awake on my account."

He looked at Methos sheepishly. "Sorry. I guess I've been drifting."

"Why don't you go to bed? Get some sleep and we can talk more tomorrow."

MacLeod had seen enough of the bungalow to know there was only one bedroom and in it was only one large bed. "What about you?"

"I'll be in after a bit. I have a few things to do."

He nodded as he stood and picked up his duffel. The bedroom faced the front of the bungalow and had a window that allowed moonlight and the sound of the surf to fill the room. He dropped the duffel on the floor and stood looking out the window for a few moments. This was a peaceful place, in its own way as isolated as the cottage they'd been in over a year ago, before ... before they'd parted. But now, instead of moving apart, they were headed toward each other. A little smile softened his face as he turned away from the window. Stripping down to his briefs, MacLeod settled into the bed, pulling a light sheet over himself. He was relaxed, but didn't sleep until he felt the shift as Methos joined him in bed, then fell into a deep, dreamless slumber.

The light morning breeze touched MacLeod's face and he breathed in deeply. But the scent he was seeking wasn't of the ocean or the local flora, it was of the warm skin he was nuzzled against. There was no better way to wake up than this, his face buried in Methos' neck, his arm possessively across his chest, legs tangled together. He remembered the last time they'd awakened like this and had come to the conclusion that it wasn't a good idea. With a sigh, he realized it still might not be a good idea and started to move away, only to be held in place by the tightening of Methos' arm around his body. Another sigh, this one a wordless affirmative as he settled against Methos, again breathing in the warm scent of the man next to him.

This, the smell and feel of Methos, had been missing from him for too long. He wanted the imprint of this man on all his senses. Turning his head, he reached out with tongue and lips to taste the place where neck and shoulder joined. Not a kiss, an exploration, wanting to remember every inch. There was salt from the ocean and the different salt of sweat and the wonderfully masculine flavor that was unique to Methos. This was a reacquaintance, and it had to be complete. He brought his hand to Methos' neck, his fingers finding and following the tendons and muscles up to his jaw. His mouth followed, touching the warm pulse point, his tongue molding around the narrow tendons as they swept upward to the strong jaw.

MacLeod's fingertips threaded into the fine silkiness of Methos' hair, the short strands soft against his palm. Again, he followed his hand with nose and mouth, taking in the fresh clean scent, the feel on his tongue that of a fine pelt, the taste a hint of shampoo mingled with salt air. Gently, he stroked Methos' face, then placed soft kisses over his eyes, cheekbones, nose, and finally on his lips. That kiss didn't linger, but left with a promise to return, drawing a little sigh of disappointment from Methos at the separation.

His hand slid down Methos' jaw and neck and he propped himself on an elbow to just look at the beautiful body next to him. Noticing that his view was obstructed by Methos' underwear, he moved enough to slide them off, then almost as an afterthought, removed his own as well. Now there was nothing to interrupt the sweep of skin and muscle before him. Leaning again on his elbow, MacLeod laid his hand flat on Methos' jaw and neck, then slowly slid his palm down the narrow column to where it joined broad shoulders. He felt the ridges and valleys that marked muscle and collar bone, then moved on across the flat expanse of chest and abdomen. He followed the definition of muscles with his fingers, marveling at the softness and smoothness of the skin that covered them. The warm ivory of Methos' body was decorated by a few hairs in the center of his chest and enhanced by dark nipples that stood at attention on his pectorals.

The almost purr that came from Methos as MacLeod's palm caressed the tight nubs drew his attention, and he looked at Methos' face. He'd seldom seen anything that made him as happy as what he saw there. Methos' expression was open and soft, his eyes closed, his head pressed back into the pillow as he let himself respond to MacLeod's touch. His mouth was open slightly and his lips curled back in a little smile. MacLeod's own mouth curled in a matching smile.

Returning his attention to his hand on the body before him, he moved his touch down along the rippled abdomen, his smile broadening at the shudder of ticklishness. Fingers dipped into the hollows above the hipbones that marked the narrow waist. Never had he studied this body without appreciating the economy of it. Lean, spare, strong, perfectly suited to its owner's purpose. Five thousand years it had served Methos and now he was sharing it with him, Duncan MacLeod. It was a gift he wasn't always sure he deserved, but neither would he question its giving.

Again, he needed more than to touch. Leaning down, his lips and tongue reached into the hollow at the base of Methos' throat, tasting and gathering the bit of perspiration there, then followed the ridge of collar bone to his shoulder. An impulse, and he was burrowing his face into Methos' armpit, seeking out the strong male odor there. He lingered, breathing in the sweat and heat, then drifted down along his rib cage, letting the ribs guide him back to Methos' chest. His mouth located a nipple, a sweet morsel that he licked and nibbled, then moved to its twin, that no part would be neglected. He felt the beating of the heart beneath his lips and wanted more. Laying his head on Methos' chest, he listened to the steady rhythm, urging his own body to synchronize with that tempo. Nothing would be more perfect than to have their two bodies act as one.

Methos' hand reached to his face, fingers softly stroking his cheek. He took the hand in his own, kissing the palm, then held the wrist against his mouth, feeling the counterpoint that pulse played to the stronger beat sounding in his ear. Moments passed as his body attuned to the one under him, until they were breathing as one, hearts working to the same purpose.

He wanted to taste more of their body. Lips and tongue crossed the flat abdomen, stopping to tickle his navel with soft breaths, soothing the resulting shudders with a caressing hand. He followed the fine line of dark hair that led from the navel to the nest of dark curls surrounding his half-hard cock. What he wanted was below that, and he buried his face in the bush, inhaling the ripe musky scent of Methos' balls. He licked and sucked each one, filling his senses with the taste and smell of them, the feel of the wiry curls covering the wrinkled sac. As he worked, he could also feel the filling and hardening of Methos' cock and the slight increase in the rate of their breathing.

A touch to his head, a gentle request he gladly granted as he drew his tongue along the hardened shaft to the head, gathering the thick nectar oozing from the slit, the salty bitterness a contrast to the sweetness of the flesh. He took Methos deep in his throat, holding, sucking, waiting for the deep shuddering sigh as he gave in to the feeling and started thrusting into MacLeod's mouth. He urged Methos onward with hands and mouth, holding and squeezing his balls as he swallowed his cock. The hand that had gently touched his head now dug into his shoulder, and he took it in his own, twining their fingers together and gripping it strongly.

He felt Methos build toward his orgasm, hips driving harder, hands grasping desperately, whimpers and moans announcing the impending explosion. The cock in his mouth swelled even more and the balls in his hand pulled up tight against Methos' body as it began. Long rocking spasms that filled his mouth and throat with his thick stuff. He sucked and swallowed until Methos was empty and his body was reduced to small twitching aftershocks. Still he didn't move, holding Methos as they learned to breathe again, until the hand grasping his relaxed its hold. Only then did he move, slowly letting Methos' cock slip from his mouth, looking up at the body that now glistened with a sheen of sweat. The morning light gleamed off the planes and angles, showing every motion of breathing, every twitch of muscle.

Magnificent. Nothing else could describe what was before him. He reached up to touch the parted lips, and as he did, Methos' tongue darted out to touch them, encourage them, draw them into his mouth. His eyes opened, gold flecked green almost obscured by huge black pupils. Slowly, MacLeod moved over him, replacing the fingers in Methos' mouth with his lips, his kiss soft at first, then deepening as tongues met and merged. His body touched Methos' along their entire length, the sweat slick skin sliding against his making him almost painfully aware of his hard cock between their bellies. His hips thrust in small involuntary movements, seeking the release his body craved.

A quick squeeze of his hand and a reach beside the bed, and Methos was pressing a tube into his hand. He shifted enough to be able to prepare them both, then slid between Methos' thighs, meeting upturned hips with his slick cock, pushing carefully into the tight opening, gasping as he made his entry, steadying himself, not wanting to come too soon. Long legs wrapped around him as he began his slow motion, sheathing himself completely inside Methos, then pulling back so he could do it again. His body trembled with the excitement of this feeling that he had denied himself for so long. Methos reached and pulled his mouth down to meet his again, thrusting his tongue into MacLeod's mouth just as MacLeod's cock was thrusting into Methos.

It was his undoing. He was so close. He moved faster, pressing deeper, moaning and crying into Methos' mouth, finally giving up when Methos' hands pulled hard on his ass, holding him tight against him as he felt the spasms of Methos' second orgasm. He curled hard into his lover, pumping his hot fluid into him for what seemed forever. The trembling of his body increased, his muscles threatening to collapse, and he tried to ease his weight off Methos without losing contact. He felt hot moisture on his cheek and realized he was crying. Unashamed of tears after all he had shed in the past year, he knew this time these were tears of joy. Methos pulled him into a tight embrace, kissing the cheeks where his tears were falling. He wrapped his arms around Methos, completing their entanglement, and they lay there for a long time, a hot, wet, sticky, sated tangle of limbs.

Methos was the first to move, gently stroking his fingers across MacLeod's face. "You OK?" MacLeod simply nodded. "Shower?" Another nod, then a slow move to start sorting themselves out. Eventually they ended up under the warm spray together, soaping and touching each other, only stopping when the water started to chill. They toweled dry and dressed, then went to the kitchen.

"Sustenance," Methos said. "We can't keep putting out energy like that without eating." MacLeod grinned at him and watched as he started coffee, then grabbed him and pulled him into a hug. "Was there something else you needed?"

"I was just wondering," he said softly, "about us. I mean, I know this is a good start, but I don't want to use sex to avoid what we may need to do to make everything right."

Methos stared at him for a moment. "I was right when I said you'd changed. In some ways you're more contained, but you've learned things about yourself. Hard lessons, to be sure, but they've shifted your outlook." He threaded his fingers into MacLeod's hair, pushing it off his forehead. "We need to explore that in relation to what we want to be to each other."

MacLeod took Methos' hand out of his hair and held it. "When you first said I'd changed, I was terrified that I had changed too much. That you would say there was no more chance for us."

"Never." Methos pulled his hand away from MacLeod and laid it on his chest, over his heart. "In here, you will always be Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. For better or worse, that's the man I want to be with. You will learn and grow, but the essence that is you will always be there."

"So what now?"

"Breakfast. Fishing for dinner. Walking on the beach. Talking." He reached a hand and squeezed MacLeod's crotch. "Good sex."

MacLeod nodded. "Symmetry. We parted after spending time in a peaceful isolated cottage. It's only fitting that we come together spending time in another isolated peaceful spot. Will you come back to Paris?"

"Probably. Eventually. Are you in a rush to get back?"

"No. No rush. How long did you want to stay here?"

He looked at MacLeod very seriously. "As long as it takes. This is too important to hurry." He let his expression soften. "I was thinking we'd stay at least long enough to celebrate a couple of birthdays."

"I'd like that. A lot." This felt right. To stay there, to explore who they were now and make it work and have a little fun along the way. Contentment started to fill the gaping hole he'd felt for the last year as he thought of the old cliché. Love will find a way. It had. He was not going to lose this friend.

The End
December 1997