by FF Calliope
This story is chock full of sex and violence - more violence than usual for my stories, actually. One particular scene involves rape and torture, so if you find that sort of thing too disturbing, please go no further. If you are a minor (under 18 years of age) or are squeamish about sexual content, drop this like a hot potato.
You don't have to read the first four Methos/Delphyne stories in order to understand this one, but it would probably help.
The Other Legalities: Highlander is the property of Gaumont Television and Rysher TPE, based on the character created by Gregory Widen and the underlying characters and concept of Davis/Panzer Productions, Inc. I just like playing in their sandbox; no copyright infringement is intended. Delphyne is my own creation.
Many thanks to Emma B., Ann Stephens, and Cindy Deas for their beta-reading, and of course to my writing partner, JakeStone. They all helped me to improve the story immensely. Any errors, grammatical or otherwise, are my own damned fault and none of theirs.
Constructive criticism welcomed. Destructive criticism ignored. Send either, or just general comments, to my email address: email@example.com
(Historical Note: this story is set after "Revelations 6:8" and before "Forgive Us Our Trespasses.")
Delphyne stared at the door.
She knew that he was there; the sensation of immortal presence thrummed through every cell in her body. Taking a deep breath, she raised her fist and knocked.
Silence stretched out, putting her nerves on edge. <I should have called,> she chided herself. <I should have waited until later in the day, instead of showing up at the crack of dawn. I should have - >
Oh, gods. Maybe he was... entertaining. Why had she acted so impetuously? Of all the stupid, hare-brained ideas, to come here the minute she'd stepped off the plane. Cursing her foolishness, she started to walk back to her rental car, then stopped. <No.> If she didn't go through with this now, she'd end up on the next flight home without ever knowing what might have happened. She had to do it while she still possessed the courage.
Going back, she knocked again.
"It's six in the morning! Can't you challenge me later in the day?" The door swung open, and his sword greeted her first, stopping just short of thrusting into her abdomen. Delphyne jumped back instinctively, adrenaline rushing through her.
"Fine," she snapped, unnerved by the close call. "I'll come back in another two thousand years."
Then she really looked at him.
There were remarkably few changes. His hair was fashionably short, which somehow made him look older, though, of course, he hadn't truly aged. Covered by nothing more than a pair of boxer shorts, his lean body was exactly as she remembered.
What was he thinking? It had to be a shock - assuming he recognized her, of course. She'd cut her hair, too, and without the length to weigh it down it was naturally curly, a nest of auburn elf-locks around her face and throat. Modern cosmetics had their part to play, as well, and when she considered the amount of time involved, it would be more of a surprise if he did recognize her than if he didn't. Under her anxious gaze, his expression flickered with thoughts and emotions, but they went by too fast for her to read.
"All right," he said. "Come in."
Resting the sword against his shoulder, he turned and walked away without a backwards glance.
Delphyne's heart sank. Hardly a warm welcome. Swallowing a lump of disappointment, she followed him into the flat and closed and locked the door.
"Can you make coffee?" he called out.
She found him in the bedroom, face-down on his bed, one arm hanging off the side, sword still in hand.
Picking up right where we left off, she thought, amused in spite of herself. Delphyne slipped out of her coat and hung it on a rack by the door, then went to the kitchen, where she nosed around until she found coffee, filters, and a machine. She'd used similar brewers before, so it wasn't too difficult to figure out, and the mundane task soothed her nerves. When she had enough to fill a mug, she poured, and carried it into the bedroom.
Methos stood by the bed, yawning widely. He'd put the sword away. Thinking to tease him, she crossed the room and knelt at his feet before holding up the mug. Her lips quirked with laughter as she said, "Your coffee, Master."
He didn't answer, didn't even look at her, just took the coffee.
Delphyne's smile wavered. After a moment of hesitation, she got up to wander around the flat, trying to collect her thoughts as she looked the place over. Not for the first time, she wondered why she had come. Did she really think there was a chance for them to start again?
"So..." she said, to fill the silence, "How have you been?"
<Two thousand years, and that's the best I can come up with? Brilliant,> she told herself. Getting no response, she turned to find him sitting in a huge throne of a chair, his head tipped back as he finished off the coffee. The muscles of his throat seemed to dance, a ballet unto themselves. Half-hypnotized, she said, "You look good."
"And you haven't aged a day." Methos put the empty mug aside and gave her his mocking attention.
Tears stung in her eyes, but didn't overflow. What had she expected? "I - I shouldn't have come. Silly of me."
He let her get as far as the coat rack before stopping her with a single word. "Coward."
"What?" Her fingers tightened around the sleeve of her long silk trench coat. He had no idea what it had cost her to come to him.
"Take the easy way. Walk out."
Damn him. Did he really want her to stay, or was he just punishing her? He had always known how to manipulate people.
"I'm the one who came to you," she said. The silk wrinkled in her tense grasp. "If you don't want me to leave, try acting like it."
"I never wanted you to leave."
He was punishing her. If he only knew... but that was long ago, and telling him wouldn't help anything.
"No," she said softly, "But you needed me to."
"Still full of wisdom."
"Still full of shit."
"Same thing." A hint of laughter lightened his tone. "After two thousand years, you'd think a guy would get a kiss."
Startled, she looked over her shoulder. Methos stood and cocked his head to one side, waiting, and in spite of her irritation, she couldn't help but smile as she went to him. Sliding her arms around his neck, she tipped her chin up, and answered, "You used to take them."
Strong hands grasped her waist, pulling her close. The touch of his lips called up memories of all the other kisses they'd shared. Delphyne tensed, afraid that other, less sweet memories would intrude, and when they didn't, relief swept through her with such power that she had to cling to him for support. There was hope. If not for the two of them, at least for her own damaged soul. She wanted it to go on forever, but all too soon he drew back, his expression closing off to her once again. "Now, suppose you tell me why you are here. Not just to see me, I'm sure."
He gazed at her with eyes that saw too much, making her feel like a specimen under a microscope. Unable to bear that scrutiny, she looked down at his chest as she searched for the right words. "I'm a therapist now. Had the pleasure of working with Sean Burns for a while, until he was killed." The arms around her stiffened. Not sure what she'd said to upset him, she hurried on. "I guess it got around that I was carrying on his work. Other immortals came to me, one, in particular, quite recently. Cassandra."
Beautiful, wounded, bitter Cassandra. How devastated she'd been to learn that the devil who'd haunted her dreams for centuries was really only a man, as confused and hurt as Cassandra herself. Delphyne had debated whether to confess her own relationship with him, knowing that it was unethical to treat her with that secret between them, but who else could the woman turn to? There were no other immortals in this field. The truth would drive her away from her one chance to heal, and surely that was the greater of two evils.
How arrogant she'd been, thinking she could remain detached. The long sessions of talking about the Horsemen, especially Kronos and Methos, hearing the pain and rage that shook Cassandra's voice, had chipped away Delphyne's defenses until her own pain, submerged in the bottomless ocean of her subconscious, surfaced like some monster in a sailor's yarn. Delphyne looked up at Methos, but his face was as much of a mask as ever. When she didn't go on, he prompted her. "And?"
"And... I decided it was time to see you again." To see if she could feel the love without the fear, now that Kronos was dead. To try and defeat the monster before it ate her alive.
"Did you come here to give me therapy, or to take my head?"
"I came because I... missed you."
"Give a girl a few roses and she follows you around forever." He smirked. Sarcastic son of a bitch.
"You had a unique way of giving a girl roses, as I recall."
Methos let go of her and spread his arms wide. "Well, it's no island off the coast of Spain, but you're welcome to stay as long as you like."
"I hate to impose."
"You're not. The couch folds out into a bed."
"I have a room booked at the Hyatt. I don't need your couch, Methos."
Something flickered in his eyes. When she started to turn away, he spoke quickly, stopping her. "It needs you."
"Your couch needs me?" Delphyne snorted.
"Look at it."
Folding her arms, she contemplated the object in question, and he moved to stand behind her, looking at it over her shoulder. "It's lovely."
"Doesn't it look lonely?"
"No, actually, it doesn't."
"I could make it look lonely. Maybe take away a few pillows?"
Delphyne sighed. "If you want me here, say so. Don't dance around it."
Behind her, she felt his body heat, and then the warm velvet of his breath against her ear.
For a moment, she couldn't speak. Her eyes closed as she remembered the first time he'd said that to her, commanding and begging all at once. Swallowing past the tightness in her throat, she gave him the same answer she had so many centuries ago.
His next comment broke the mood, making her laugh. "It's been too long since I've had a slave."
"I imagine so, there being laws against it now."
"Not against willing slavery."
Delphyne's heart began to beat faster. She had never forgotten how sweet it felt to submit herself to him. At first, she had done it to manipulate the relationship, but later... later, the reasons weren't important. Giving herself to him became an end in itself. No other relationship had ever satisfied her half as much, but her ability to trust had been destroyed by what happened afterwards. After she left him.
<No, I can't dwell on that,> she thought, and forced the memory away from her. It had ruled her life for too long.
"I should have known you'd be into S&M. Do you like it better this way, with the woman consenting?"
Methos placed a hand on her shoulder and turned her to look at him. His expression was dark as he studied her face, and she realized that she had struck a nerve.
"Those were different times," he said.
"Yes. They were."
"I never made you stay. Only at first."
A lopsided smile tugged at her lips. "Even at first, I chose to stay. Don't tell Gloria Steinem, but I rather enjoyed serving you." His face crinkled into an infectious grin. She grinned back, and punched him in the arm. "You don't have to look so damned pleased with yourself!"
"Come with me. I have something to show you." Without waiting for her, he turned and headed down a narrow flight of stairs half-hidden around a corner.
Curious, she followed him into the basement. The lights flicked on, and her eyes widened at what she saw.
The comment about S&M had been only half-serious, but this was no joke. Moving through the room as if in a dream, she ran her fingers over one piece of equipment after another, feeling smooth polished wood, supple leather, cold steel chains.... Conflicting emotions dueled within her. Fear. Desire.
His teasing, sing-song call broke through the fog of thoughts, and she turned to look at him.
"It's time for show and tell."
Her eyes widened. Was he suggesting...? Pulse racing, she backed up a few steps. Was this what she wanted? He was, quite possibly, the only person in the world who could teach her how to trust once again. Her assumptions shattered as he drew a sword down from the wall and stalked towards her. "Have you gotten any better?
Dear gods. She had left her sword upstairs, sheathed in her coat, like a complete fool.
With lethal grace, he lunged towards her, and she leapt to one side, eyes darting this way and that, searching for a weapon.
"How is it you are still alive?" he mocked. The huge sword swung towards her again, and this time she ducked under it, sweeping her leg in a wide, horizontal arc to knock him off his feet. He recovered quickly, but the move bought her the precious seconds she needed to grab a spreader-bar. Not a sword, but it was better than nothing.
The wooden bar wouldn't hold up to a direct hit from a sword, so instead of blocking, she used it against the flat of his blade, redirecting the momentum of the swings to guide them away from her. She'd learned a thing or two over the years, thank the gods.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a loose chain, and plucked it up with her free hand. The metal flashed as she whirled it in the air, creating an additional barrier between them. Disappointment and betrayal clenched her gut, but she ruthlessly suppressed her emotions, intent only on surviving.
Methos swung back-handed at her throat, and she ducked, simultaneously using the spreader bar to push the blade up and away. It gave him the opening he sought. With a twist of his slim body, he moved in and wrapped his free arm around the bar. Completing the spin, he tore it out of her hand, and his sword again raced towards her throat. Delphyne flicked her wrist to send the chain rattling around the blade, just above the handle, and jerked back hard to tear it from his hand.
Immediately, his knee came up into her unprotected stomach, barely missing the solar plexus. Nausea swam through her, but she yanked the chain free of the sword and brought it up to twine around his slender throat. Before it could do any damage, he grabbed hold of it and her arm, and used both to throw her to the floor. Delphyne rolled with the throw, her arm twisting painfully out of his grasp, her hand spasming open to release the chain.
She landed just in front of his sword.
Snatching it up, she sprang to her feet and bared her teeth at him in a feral grin. His eyes widened in shock, then narrowed dangerously. "How have you managed to survive so long?" she taunted.
It was bigger than her own weapon, at least two pounds heavier, but with adrenaline pumping through her system, she had no trouble handling it. Knees bent, she spun a web of steel around him, and he floated away from each swing with the fluid grace of a cat. When he gave ground, she followed, pressing her advantage, turning to keep the sword between them.
This was his territory, though, and he had the advantage of knowing it as well as his own body. She didn't see the low bench behind her before he dropped under her swinging arms to thrust a side-kick into her chest. Delphyne flipped backwards over the bench, and heard an audible crack as her spine snapped.
Just like that, it was over. She lay in a heap, paralyzed, unable to move her limbs, and the only saving grace was that she couldn't feel anything either.
"Shit!" she hissed.
Methos took the sword from her limp hand, and she looked up at him, waiting. Slowly, he brought the blade to rest against her throat. "Well, you spared my life once," she said. Bitterness thickened her voice. "I suppose I owe you a quickening."
"Did you read my mind, Delphyne? Is that why you thought it was safe to relax your guard?"
"I didn't. I ... can't, anymore."
"Then how do you know I haven't changed?"
"I guess I don't." Her eyes closed. She could actually feel the vein in her throat pulsing against the cold metal, ticking off the remaining seconds of her life. At least it would be quick.
The sword left her throat, and she wondered if she would feel anything when it struck - but then she heard the weapon fall to the floor with a thud, and gentle fingers brushed her hair out of her face.
Opening her eyes, she found Methos kneeling beside her. What game was he playing now? Expression unreadable, she watched him, trying to understand what shadows moved behind his eyes.
An electric charge crackled down her injured spine, and feeling returned, making her gasp at the pain. Quickly, he stretched her out and aligned her body with knowing hands. Then he turned her head so that she looked across the dungeon.
"Every time I bought a new piece, I thought of you. Some of them I've had for centuries. Every time I use them, every time I touch them... I see and hear and feel you." He spoke hesitantly, as though each sentence peeled away a layer of armor, exposing more of himself to her. Delphyne opened her mouth to answer, but nothing came out. The room blurred as water filmed her eyes. Methos bent over her, and placed a warm kiss upon her forehead, then licked away the few tears that overflowed. "It's true, I have changed in the last two thousand years... but I think you'll approve."
Smiling crookedly, she tested her arms and legs, and found that mobility had returned. Methos helped her sit up. "Feeling better?"
"Yes, damn you."
"It was a hell of a fight." He grinned.
"Yes, it was. I won't leave my sword behind again."
"Still protective of me?"
"A few decades on a deserted island can make for hard habits to break." His grin twisted in self-deprecation.
She couldn't help but grin back, but had to shift her gaze down to his lips before speaking. "You know... when I told you that I rather enjoyed serving you... that wasn't quite true."
"I loved serving you." One long arm slipped under her legs, and the other around her back, and with surprising strength, he picked her up. Delphyne curled her arms around his neck and held on. "Leaving was the hardest thing I had ever done."
"Why did you?" His casual tone didn't fool her. This was important.
"You had things to do, Methos. We both did. Sooner or later, we had to part ways and remember our individual identities, and I wanted it to be a clean break. I didn't want us to end up hating each other." She buried her face against his shoulder as he carried her up the stairs and into his bedroom, to stop herself from saying more. She wanted him to know that she would have come back sooner, that she never planned to stay away for so many centuries, but how could she, without revealing the rest? Telling him about what happened after she left would serve no good purpose.
He seemed to accept her explanation, nor did he ask for anything more. Setting her down on his bed, he stepped back and looked at her. "Take off your clothes... slave."
Her breath caught. As if in a dream, she raised her eyes to his, to be trapped like a fly in the amber of his gaze. Slowly, she shifted onto her knees and stripped off her shirt, letting it float to the floor. Piece by piece, the rest of her clothing followed, and his stare never once wavered.
Two thousand years vanished. Always, she was naked before him, in her dreams and memories, naked in body, heart, and soul. If he wanted to punish her for leaving him, she would have no defense against it. Sitting back on her heels, she trembled.
"Lay down," he commanded.
The therapist in her watched, detached and curious, as she obeyed. It wasn't that she had no will of her own, or that he had brainwashed her. She knew exactly what she was doing, and it was her own need that drove her headlong over the abyss. Laying face-up, her gaze followed him as he moved to the closet and knelt, fishing something out from the back corner. When he turned around, he kept a hand behind his back. "Now we're going to play a game."
"What sort of game?" she asked, half-expecting him to again draw a sword and teach her another lesson in trusting too easily.
"It's simple. If you do anything I don't tell you to..." The hidden hand came up suddenly, and he stepped forward, all in one motion, to bring a whip down across her thighs. Delphyne jumped, as much from shock as from the sudden blaze of pain. <No!> she thought, <you don't understand, I'm not the same as I was back then, I don't have the same defenses. I am... afraid.>
For two thousand years, she had been afraid, and never defeated it. She had lived with it, avoided it, crammed it into the deepest, blackest corners of her heart until she did not have to look at it, and now it fought to get out, to take control of her.
<He's dead,> she reminded herself, <dead, and I'll be damned if I let him come between me and Methos now. He can't hurt either of us. Not if I don't let him.>
"First rule: don't move."
The detached part of her realized what he was doing. A good Master took command right away, so that the slave knew who was in charge, and felt safe giving up control. She knew the world of S&M well enough to understand the process, and that knowledge helped her to give in, to trust. Surely he wouldn't do this if she were not important to him. Standing just beside the bed, he trailed the whip over her body.
Braided leather tickled her skin, raising goosebumps, making her nipples stand up hard. His gaze followed, and at her obvious response, he grinned. Pleasure and fear tugged her in two different directions until she began to shake, her breasts rising and falling visibly with each shallow breath.
"You may speak," he told her, "but only in the submissive."
"Yes, Master." The answer came easily, though she had not said those words for two millennia.
"Turn over." The whip hissed as he twitched it away to dangle at his side. Delphyne hesitated for an instant, then rolled onto her belly. She wanted this. Wanted to let down the walls and trust someone again, someone worthy of it.
The whip came down across her ass, not as hard as she knew it could have, but hard enough to hurt. Delphyne concentrated on her breathing, trying to keep it deep and even, to relax into the pain and ride it, but it had been too long. She no longer remembered how. If he had gone slowly, she might have managed, but Methos whipped her the way she had loved so long ago, building the intensity rapidly until her skin turned red and felt as though it were on fire. Clutching at the bedcovers, she hid her face in them to muffle her cries.
By the time he stopped, she was sobbing, her shoulders shaking. After a moment of silence, his fingers touched her thigh, and she flinched away before she realized that he was only spreading a soothing ointment onto her skin. She wondered why he bothered - she was an immortal. The wounds were light, and would heal within moments. It felt good, all the same. A sense of security gradually filled her, and the tears subsided. Climbing onto the bed, he pressed his knee between her legs and worked them apart. She was too shell-shocked from the whipping, though, and her muscles stiffened in protest when they should have softened in welcome. Methos paused. After a moment, his long fingers stroked her back, soothing her, waiting patiently for her to relax.
"Master?" she whispered.
The concern in his voice gave her enough courage to continue.
"Please... hold me?"
His knee moved away, and he lay down beside her. Warm breath stirred her hair as he leaned close to say into her ear, "Turn over."
Delphyne eased herself onto her side, then her back, moving gingerly, even though her immortal flesh had already healed. Rolling on top of her, he wrapped his long arms around her to make a haven of strength and tenderness.
Close contact was exactly what she needed. The long-ago trauma crept away into its dark corner in her heart, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yes. I - I'm sorry. It's been too long."
"No, I'm sorry. It seems I should have listened to my own advice. I'm not the only one who's changed."
"You couldn't have known."
"I should have asked. Hurting you wasn't my intention."
"Do you?" Lifting up onto his elbows, he looked down at her, searching her face.
Her lips curved into a ghost of a smile, and she reached up to trace her fingertips over his cheekbone, then his jaw. "Yes. You wanted to stake a claim. To own me again."
"Not like before," he said quickly. "It's different now."
"Women's liberation has revolutionized the world." Delphyne's smile widened, and he grinned down at her briefly before turning thoughtful once more. Her breath caught at the swift play of emotions. She had never seen him this expressive, had never even imagined it.
"Yes. What we had before, I know it became mutual, but I never admitted it. I don't want it to be that way this time."
"The world was different, then."
"Yes, it was. I like it better now." The corners of his eyes creased again, and her fingertips itched to trace the deep grooves.
"So do I."
Dark eyes watched hers carefully, seeking permission as he resumed his lovemaking, and she gazed steadily back, letting him see her acceptance. A gentle nudge was all it took to urge her thighs apart. Methos bent his head to brush his lips over hers. The head of his cock burrowed into the moist opening of her sex, just enough for her to feel it, and all thoughts of pain fled before a rush of desire.
Warm air tickled her face, punctuated by light kisses. She started to curl her arms around him, but Methos caught hold of her wrists and pinned them together above her head, powerful hands holding her prisoner. Fear whispered somewhere deep inside. She had always been safe with him, though, and in the end memories triumphed over fear, letting her relax into tender, trusting submission.
Methos pressed inwards, and she felt the excruciatingly slow movement of his cock working its way into her an inch at a time, awakening nerve endings she'd forgotten she possessed. Moaning softly, Delphyne wrapped her legs around his hips and lifted upwards, trying to drive him deeper into her, but he pulled back, not allowing it.
Thin, sensual lips returned to hers, resting delicately against them, and she felt them curve into a smile.
"Who is your Master?" His whisper caressed her mouth.
"You are," she breathed back, and a wave of melting sweetness flowed through her soul, so beautiful she nearly wept.
The smile deepened, then his mouth opened to devour hers in a passionate kiss. No longer teasing, now, he thrust into her again and again, the intensity of his movements revealing the depth of his emotion. When he released her wrists, she wrapped her arms around him, hands roving almost frantically as she re-learned all of the planes and curves of his body. Strong arms tunneled under her, squeezing so tightly that she could hardly draw breath. The thick base of his shaft ground against her clit, relentless, building pleasure until she trembled right on the verge of coming.
"Not without permission," he growled, breaking off the kiss.
She wanted to crawl out of her skin. He must be joking. But... what if he wasn't? What would he do if she ignored his warning? Disobedient slaves, even willing ones, were punished... Damn the man! Raking her nails over his muscular shoulders, she hissed through clenched teeth, "Please!"
Long fingers tangled into her hair and yanked her head back to expose her throat to him. Methos opened his mouth wide and gripped it in his teeth, like a wolf claiming dominance. Dear gods, yes, this was what she wanted, what she had missed all these many years, this feeling of being owned body and soul, of giving everything to someone who demanded all.
"Please what, slave?" Ruthlessly, he continued to thrust into her.
"Please...." she hesitated, a pang of embarrassment choking off the words. Inner muscles tried to spasm, and she struggled to hold back, but knew she wouldn't last long. Desperation loosened her tongue. "Please, may I come?"
Finally, he had pity on her. Mouth grazing over her skin, he traced a path to her ear, and gasped, "Come."
The word unleashed her orgasm all at once, as if it had been his to control, his to bestow as he pleased. It ripped through her without warning and without mercy, making her buck and jerk beneath him. Grunting, he spread his legs wider for leverage and thrust down, pinning her to the bed with his hips and absorbing her shudders.
"Yes," he groaned, savoring her orgasm as though it were more precious than a quickening.
Gradually, it faded, and as her muscles relaxed, Methos tensed, thrusting harder, letting go of his own control. He fell still for one long moment, buried deep inside her, then let out a guttural cry as he came, jetting into her until she overflowed with sticky warmth.
Delphyne cradled his hard body against her and relished every tremor. For a long time, neither of them moved. She felt raw, as if he'd sliced her open and laid bare her heart so that it quivered, bloody and terrified, right up against his chest.
How easily he could destroy her.
At last he stirred, muscles shifting beneath his skin. Fear stung her eyes and tightened her throat, threatening to burst out in a sob, but somehow she held it back. Soft lips caressed her ear as he spoke. "Welcome home."
Methos rolled onto his side, arms tightening to carry her with him. He had to feel the tears when she pressed her face against his shoulder, had to feel the trembling that she couldn't control, but he said nothing more, just held her and stroked her hair. Home. She'd finally found her way home.
Cooking naked was a sexy idea, but it just wasn't practical. Not when you were frying bacon.
It took a bit of searching before she finally found a white chef's apron crammed into the back of one of the kitchen drawers. At least it didn't have the big mushroom-hat to go with it, she thought, amused. Delphyne slipped it on, and returned to what she'd been doing.
"This brings back some memories."
Methos had left the bed, and stood only a few feet away, dressed in nothing but his boxer shorts. His hair stood up like a little boy's, but his eyes moved over her with unmistakably adult approval.
"I was naked, until the bacon..."
"I hope your cooking has improved over the last two thousand years."
Delphyne raised her eyebrows and held out the spatula to him. "Perhaps you'd like to take over?"
"Oh, no, I wouldn't dream of it. Cooking is the slave's job." He grinned, but when she didn't respond, it faded into a questioning frown. "What is it?"
The sudden vulnerability she felt had nothing to do with being naked. Unable to meet his eyes, she asked, "Did you mean it - what you said earlier? About - about owning me again."
Methos went to her, and took her chin in his hand, lifting it until she had to meet his gaze. The spatula trembled in her grasp as she fought the urge to pull away and hide. It surprised her to see her own uncertainty mirrored in the splintered green and gold of his eyes. "Did you?" he asked.
"Yes." The truth snuck out before she even knew she was going to answer. She opened her mouth to take it back, to make it sound like a joke, but he didn't give her the chance. Methos kissed her hard, then pulled her into his arms and held her close to him.
"I meant every word."
The sudden burst of tears caught them both off-guard. She sagged against him, calling herself a fool in half a dozen languages while he stroked her hair. An instant later, she pulled back and blew her nose on the apron while she apologized.
"Don't." His big hands closed over her shoulders and gave her a shake. "What are you holding back, Delphyne? What are you not telling me?"
She felt the color drain from her face. "The bacon's burning. I - "
"Forget the bloody bacon. Talk to me."
"No, you'll never let me live it down if I ruin your breakfast." She laughed weakly and turned back to the stove. It took all of her concentration to lay the crisp strips onto a folded paper towel.
"Delphyne - "
"Maybe you were right, last night, when you called me a coward."
Not looking at him, she busied herself with a skillet, melting some butter and adding a handful of chopped vegetables to saute for a little while before mixing in some eggs.
"Like hell. I said that to piss you off, and you know it. You're one of the bravest people I know."
"Yes, well, people change. You said it yourself."
Methos sighed. "Fine. Have it your way. Did you make fresh coffee?"
Relieved, Delphyne poured a mug of coffee for him, and finished cooking breakfast. Slouching in a chair at the table, he studied her every move, but that was all right, as long as he didn't keep asking questions.
"I didn't realize I had so much food," he said when she set down two plates piled high with scrambled eggs, bacon, and bisquits drowning in gravy.
"It was hiding behind a pile of beer."
"Are you trying to make me fat, so I'll be too slow and you can take my head?" Scooping up a forkful of eggs, he eyed it warily.
"You used to eat as much as your horse. I just want you to keep your strength up."
"It's been a long time since I was served naked. You're keeping more than my strength up."
Delphyne grinned. "I guess some things don't change."
Methos made the eggs disappear, and his eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Nice to see your cooking isn't one of them. This is good."
Sitting opposite him, she kicked him under the table. Long legs stretched out and captured hers between them. She could have broken their hold easily enough, but she didn't want to.
"Eat," he commanded between mouthfuls.
"Yes, Master." A smirk ruined the meek tone, but she obeyed readily enough. Her stomach had been growling for hours.
Despite his complaints, Methos made short work of the plateful of food. She was still savoring the last few bites of her own when he excused himself and went down into the basement.
"Domestic slave wasn't really what I had in mind," Delphyne muttered, surveying the dirty dishes. "I like women's lib. Sex slave, now that would be fun..."
Sighing, she got up and cleared the table, and began filling the sink with soapy water. At least it wouldn't be as much work as burnt barley-meal.
Methos finally returned, and came to stand behind her, so close that she could feel the warm skin of his chest brushing against her shoulder blades. Reaching around her, he turned off the water.
"The dishes can wait. Come downstairs."
Delphyne smiled and tipped her head back to rest on his broad shoulder. "Should I bring my sword?"
"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary." He chuckled. His fingertips skimmed up her arms, not quite touching, just brushing over the fine hairs. Goosebumps rose in their wake. Over her shoulders and down her back they moved, until they reached the ties of the apron, which he paused to un-knot. The thing bagged loose, hanging by the strap around her neck. Methos tunneled his hands under it to cup her breasts, and the baritone of his voice purred in her ear. "Take that thing off first."
Delphyne fumbled it off over her head and let it fall to the floor as she reached back further to slide her hands into Methos' hair. Her spine arched, pushing her breasts into his palms. Gods, how she'd missed his touch.
"Downstairs," he reminded her, and stepped away.
Her breath caught in a shaky laugh. Downstairs. Right.
Methos led the way into the dungeon, and it finally occurred to her to wonder just what he had in mind. He knew that she couldn't take pain like she used to, but there was so much more that he didn't know. <I can handle this,> she told herself. <It'll be okay.>
When she hesitated at the foot of the stairs, he turned to look at her, his intelligent gaze taking in the mixed signals she gave off. A hint of a frown marked his forehead. Stepping closer, he brushed a stray strand of hair back from her cheek. "What happened to you, Del? What made you fear this? I need to know."
She should tell him. It was dangerous to hold back, and stupid to think that he could help her heal when he didn't even know the nature of the wound. But she couldn't.
"Please don't push me."
Taking his hand, she deliberately captured one long finger in her mouth and sucked. His gaze turned hot as it shifted down to her lips. "Not fair," he groaned.
The corners of her eyes creased into a knowing smile. <Fair? Of course not. But effective.> Tightening her lips around it, she slid them down to the knuckle, then back up, making his finger gleam wetly. Methos hissed in a breath. An instant later, he pulled his hand free and grabbed a fistful of hair at the nape of her neck, using it to steer her across the room. Excitement flooded her, making her heart beat double-time.
They stopped in front of a giant X-frame made of polished wood, and she saw what he'd been doing down here earlier. Wrist and ankle restraints dangled from the four corners of the thing. Ready to be used.
"You know what this is?"
"A St. Andrew's Cross." Her skin turned cold. He knew. He had to. But would he be so cruel? No - no, it must be a coincidence. The St. Andrew's Cross was a favorite toy of modern-day Masters and slaves. Abruptly, she felt angry with herself. It was two thousand years ago, damn it! Those were fur-lined restraints, not metal spikes, and this was Methos, who cared about her. Not Kronos.
Letting go of his grip on her hair, he turned her around to face him. The icy fear thawed, turned to passion, and blood rushed back to her face to stain her cheeks with a rosy blush. Methos loomed over her. His expression hardened, and he took a step forward, forcing her to back up. Another step. The wood of the cross bumped at her back, and she could go no further, trapped between it and his body.
"Wrists," he commanded.
A shiver waltzed down her spine. Mesmerized by his intent stare, she raised her arms up over her head in a V, placing her wrists next to the restraints. He buckled them on with cool efficiency, but the hard bulge at the front of his boxers gave away her effect on him. Memories surfaced like bubbles, half-forgotten pleasures and intimacies shared, and she relaxed into the feeling of helplessness, smiling faintly. Yes. It was going to be all right.
Without warning, Methos kicked her legs apart. The controlled violence of it startled her, and fear sliced into the delicate fabric of her desire. She was more nervous than she'd realized. Eyes wide, she looked up at him, and saw a hint of cruelty in his smile.
"Ankles," he breathed.
Delphyne swallowed hard and moved her feet further apart until her ankles were next to the leather cuffs at the bottom of the X. His lean body brushed down the length of hers as he knelt, and he paused to kiss her belly, her hip, the inside of one thigh... then bent to fasten the restraints.
She was completely defenseless, now, spread-eagled and bound, his to play with. The vulnerability both terrified and aroused her. Warm, moist lips nuzzled their way up her body, from knee to neck, at last settling over her ear as he growled, "Now you pay, slave. Now you pay for that breakfast."
Delphyne's eyes opened wide. Kronos stood before her, his grin vicious, his blue eyes glittering like shards of glass.
"Now you pay," he said. "Now you pay for stealing him from me, you bitch."
Dimly, she remembered the warning sensation of another immortal's approach an instant before the bandits attacked. Something had struck the center of her chest, and the last thing she saw was the feathered shaft of an arrow trembling from its impact with her flesh and bone. She had left Methos only a few weeks before, without saying good-bye except for a note explaining that she needed to get away for a while, to remember who she was when she wasn't with him. The years together, the two of them alone on a small island off the coast of Iberia, had been the best of her life, but no one could live that way forever. She was losing her identity, being absorbed into her union with Methos, and suspected that the same was happening to him. They needed some time apart.
So she went, planning to find him again after a year or two. Hiring her sword out to a trade caravan, she headed towards Eleusis, thinking to attend the great festival there, the Mysteries of Demeter. The caravan never made it over the mountains.
And now, she had revived.
"What irony, that you walked right into my arms. I could scarcely believe the luck. Though I s'pose you don't find it as amusing, now do you?" Kronos chuckled.
Pain consumed her. She hung from a rough wooden frame, a variation of the cross used in Roman executions, pinned to it by thick metal spikes driven through her wrists and feet. He'd done it well, she reflected bitterly, stabbing them through the points of the body guaranteed to produce gut-wrenching agony with even the slightest of movements. She couldn't answer right away. With her weight hanging on her arms at this angle, the muscles seized up and would not allow her to breathe. The only way to get any air was to ease the strain on those muscles by pushing herself up. Up on the iron spikes that pierced her feet. That was the true horror of crucifixion - the constant struggle between the need to breathe and the instinct to avoid pain. Eventually, she became desperate enough for air that she had to lift up, to endure the blazing agony that shot through her feet to suffuse her entire body, just to exhale the bad air and suck in a new breath. As soon as the body stopped demanding air, it demanded to escape the pain of the spikes, and she sagged back down to hang from her wrists, starting the whole cycle over again.
Curse the Romans and their genius for torture.
"Maggot," she snarled at him.
Kronos stared at her, his smile fading. Out of nowhere, a knife appeared in his hand, and he pressed the tip into the center of her throat. "Did I tell you to speak, slut?"
Her teeth bared in a grimace.
The sharp point twisted, carving a tiny circle in her skin. The sensation was nothing compared to what the rest of her body was experiencing, but then he said, "I could cut your voice out. Did you know that? You'd survive it, but you'd never speak again. That's the funny thing about wounds to the neck - they never heal properly. So, if I were you, I'd shut up. Do we have an understanding?"
The blood in her veins turned to ice. She knew that he probably intended to take her head, that he would do whatever he wanted to her no matter what she said or did, but logic held no power over the pure, animal terror at the thought of a chunk of her throat being torn out. Delphyne nodded.
"Good." Kronos' lip curled in a parody of a smile. Stepping back, he wiped the knife on his shirt, leaving a small red stain which would soon dry and blend in with the rest of the battle-spatterings he'd collected. The knife disappeared into a sheath inside his sleeve.
Her lungs burned, the air in them used up and worthless. It would be so much easier if she just passed out, but the body's instincts for survival overcame everything else, and seemingly of their own accord her legs straightened, pushing against the spikes to lift her up for another breath. The spikes bit right through the median points in her feet, their positioning obviously done with care. Trust Kronos to know how to get the most out of the torture. She had learned the art of making pain her friend, but this was utterly beyond control, beyond acceptance. As soon as the constriction around her lungs eased, she exhaled and sucked in a new breath, then lowered herself once again. Tears bled freely down her face.
As Kronos backed away, she got a better look at her surroundings. The glow of firelight lent false warmth to the rough limestone blocks that enclosed them. It was an old place, abandoned, with rubble and refuse choking the shadows, the stone blocks mortared together in the shape of a giant bee-hive. The wooden X-frame from which she hung had been wedged against the sloping wall.
The dull clang of metal on stone jerked her attention back to her tormentor. Rising from a crouch beside the fire, he favored her with his mad grin.
"Is it hot enough, do you think?" he asked, and held up a short iron pike. The tip glowed orange.
Her eyes went wide with panic. Delphyne felt her heart fluttering like a bird in the cage of her ribs as he stalked closer. Her lips moved, pleading, but the muscles that clenched around her lungs would allow no air to escape, not even enough voice to a single word. "What's that?" Kronos sneered. "I can't hear you."
Again she forced herself up, sobbing as she managed to say, "Please, don't - "
His hand closed over her shoulder and ruthlessly shoved her back down, cutting off both words and air. The red-hot iron hovered in front of her face, so close that its heat toasted the surface layers of skin, and she went still, unable to look away from it. "Begging won't save you. Nothing will. You are going to pay, do you hear me? Are you listening? Now you pay for ruining everything I'd built. I don't want to hear you plead, I want to hear you scream."
The intensity of his emotions battered at her mental defenses. Laughter rippled deep within her, echoes of her own cruel response to the pleas of her victims, so long ago. It was their turn, now. Thousands of eyes glowed in the darkness of her soul, watching eagerly as she suffered. The voices of her curse whispered in triumph. Justice, they said. You deserve this. The driving force of Kronos' personality called to them, fracturing the weakened shields around her mind. Glimpses of him leaked through to torment her - a sliver of hatred, a flash of insane glee. If she let down her walls, would the curse's madness save her from the living hell Kronos had planned? Or would it only be worse?
Almost tenderly, he laid the glowing metal against her cheek.
She was screaming before she even realized that she'd thrust herself up, overcoming his grip on her shoulder. Delphyne thrashed desperately, jerking her head to one side, but that only made it worse, for now it rolled over her nose, her lips, brushed against her eye -
She woke to find herself dripping with cold water, and Kronos standing in front of her with a half-empty bucket. The smell of cooked flesh made her stomach heave. He'd burned her to the bone. She could only see out of one eye, and the salty tears that leaked from it set her wounds on fire all over again. The quickening within her worked to heal them, and even that added to her agony.
"You scream beautifully. There's nothing quite like that sound. You see the effect it has on me?" Setting the bucket down, he unfastened his leather pants and opened them to show her the hard length of his cock. "I do so love a good torture. Shall I taste what drew Methos away from his brothers after all these years?"
Sex? He actually wanted her like this, bleeding, her face a mask of oozing burns? But, of course, he did. She felt it, a twisted mockery of desire, invading her senses like the smell of rotting flesh. Thank the gods Methos was no longer like him. If this was to be the end of her life, at least she knew she'd accomplished one good thing.
With careless efficiency, Kronos snatched away the remains of her clothes. Callused fingers disappeared between her legs and tore into her, ripping the delicate skin so that blood lubricated her passage. His hard body pressed against her, pushing her up high enough that she could breathe, no doubt wanting to be sure she didn't pass out in the middle of this humiliation.
"You're wet, slave." He laughed, and pulled his fingers out of her to suck the blood off of them. "I think you want it. Don't you? Tell me, slut, tell me you do. Beg me to fuck you."
She couldn't hold him off. More and more of him crept into her skull until she saw her own ravaged face overlaying his leer. It should be impossible to feel both her own agony and at the same time her torturer's pleasure in it; even the gods could not be so vicious! The dual realities flowed together until she felt arousal at the taste of her own blood.
The mewling sound she made was hardly human. Delphyne closed her one eye and shook her head faintly, but he pressed a thumb to her eyelid and peeled it up, forcing her to look at him. One brutal thrust buried him to the hilt. Kronos' excitement became her own, tangled up in the horror of her devastating violation. Insanity.
"Scream for me again. Show me how much you like it. Maybe, if you're good, I'll let you go." His hips ground against her, spearing his cock into her over and over, each movement sending jolts of pain from the spikes in her feet and wrists to blaze through every part of her mind and body. Yet, at the same time, she knew the power that surged through him and felt the blood-slick pleasure stroking up and down his cock. He didn't have to tell her to scream; she couldn't help it.
Grunting, he quickened his movements, and within moments her thighs were smeared with a mixture of his seed and her own blood. Still buried inside her, he pressed his lips to her ear. "You felt the kiss of my iron; would you like to feel it fuck you, as well?"
"No..." she keened, too weak to scream any more, too maddened to even hate him. All of the demons in her past combined could not equal this. Through his ears she heard her voice as she babbled, begging him to take her head and end it.
Kronos laughed. "So soon? You've only begun to pay. The price is far from met."
Methos' shout finally penetrated the nightmare. Her screams echoed through the basement, and she couldn't stop pulling at the leather restraints, even though he was trying to unfasten them, to let her loose. Her rational mind told her to be still, that she'd be free faster that way, but her body paid no attention. The panic had full control.
Methos finally snatched up a knife from one of the shelves, and cut the leather bindings. Mindlessly scrambling, Delphyne ended up in a corner, curled in as tight a ball as she could manage. Her teeth chattered, and she shook so hard it seemed she'd tear her bones apart. Carefully, Methos eased down beside her and smoothed her hair back from her face.
"What happened?" he demanded, worry making his voice harsh. "Talk to me, damnit!"
She opened her mouth to answer, but only a sob came out, followed by another and another, until she wrapped her arms over her head and gave in to them, crying brokenly. Methos drew her to him and held her against his chest. Dimly, she heard him whispering to her, meaningless words of comfort, as he rocked her like a child.
The storm eventually subsided into sniffles. Methos shifted his hold and lifted her, carrying her easily up the stairs and into his room, where he tucked her into the bed and heaped extra blankets over her. Still, she couldn't stop shivering, nor could she unbend herself.
"I'll be right back," he said. He hesitated, waiting for her to answer, but the best she could manage was a tiny nod of her head. The sound of his bare feet on the floor was all that broke the silence.
When he returned, it was to lift her head with one hand and press a glass to her lips. The smell warned her what to expect - brandy, strong and warm. Delphyne shuddered, but forced herself to drink it. Not until she'd drained every drop did he set the glass aside.
The alcohol worked as it was intended to, relaxing her muscles and dulling the edge of emotion. At last she eased out of her tight little ball, and sat up to press close to him. Strong arms came around her, blankets and all, and he simply held her for a long time while she listened to the steady beat of his heart.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"It's all right."
"No, it's not. I should have known I couldn't handle it, or at least should have warned you - "
"What's done is done." His lips touched her forehead. "But you'll tell me everything now, Delphyne, no holding back. I don't want any more surprises."
He was right, of course. It had been utter folly to think she could avoid this. Taking a deep breath, she began to talk.
"How long did he keep you there?" Methos asked. The rasp in his voice almost made her forget her own pain.
"I don't know. Weeks, perhaps - it's all jumbled now, just one long nightmare."
"Do you know why he let you go?"
Delphyne closed her eyes and shuddered, not wanting to remember the rest of it. "He... didn't, exactly."
"Go on." The words sounded forced, as though he barely got them out at all.
She couldn't look at him. Couldn't watch his face as she told him the rest. Keeping her eyes shut, Delphyne stumbled through it, trying in vain to describe without reliving.
"I don't know how long I was there. It took a long time for him to tire of the games, but when he finally did..."
"I don't know how you held Methos' interest for so long," Kronos sneered. "I'm already bored."
Delphyne stared dully into space, hardly able to comprehend anything beyond the continuous pain. She had no idea how many times she had died, only to revive to further torture, until it seemed as if this were the only existence she had ever known. His thoughts and feelings were so tangled up with her own that she had lost all concept of who she was. There was only chaos, and soul-sickness.
She no longer bothered to struggle. The will to live was gone, leaving her a silent and unresponsive husk, unable to care what he did to her.
Or so she thought.
"There's only one more thing that interests me. Can you guess what it is?"
Light winked at the corner of her eye - firelight reflected on an iron knife-blade. Kronos tossed it lazily and caught it as he moved closer to her. His intent leapt into her head, and she prayed that it was only an hallucination, or his idea of a joke.
"I've always wondered..." His scarred face filled her vision, the cruel blue eyes growing larger until they seemed to swallow her whole. "...if an immortal could survive having their heart cut out."
The knife touched her chest.
No hallucination. No joke. Sheer terror tore away her numbness, and Delphyne thrashed wildly. In her panic, she actually loostened one of the metal spikes. It didn't matter that she was ripping holes in her own limbs; she would have done anything to escape that knife, relentlessly carving its way into her flesh, around bone, severing arteries like so many threads. But there was no escape for her.
"I revived eventually, of course. Still hanging on that damned cross, trapped. I'm lucky that wild animals didn't get at me, but he'd sealed the place shut like a tomb before he left. Water leaked in and rotted the wood, and that's how I finally got down - the wood softened until the weight of my body tore the spikes out. I was able to breathe freely then, so even though I was starving to death, at least I didn't die regularly of asphyxiation. The mortar he'd used to seal the place shut was crumbling, or else I'd never have gotten out, I was so weak." She hesitated, then added, "There is one good thing that came of it. My... curse... was gone when I revived. Maybe the gods decided I'd finally been punished enough, or maybe the experience just blew a few mental fuses, I don't know. Whatever the reason, I have been alone in my own skull ever since."
Silence fell between them. There. It was done. The memories still hurt, but it felt different now, cleaner, like a boil that had been lanced. Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes and eased back to look at Methos.
The angles of his face seemed sharper. He remained silent, distant from her, resolutely staring off into space.
"What.. what are you thinking?" she asked.
"I'm wondering why you are here. What do you want from me, Delphyne? I can't fix what happened. I can't even kill Kronos - he's already dead."
"You can kill him, though."
Methos threw an angry look at her, and his voice dripped with sarcasm. "And just how do you propose that I do that?"
"I don't mean the Kronos you knew. I mean the one that's inside me, the monster that's lived in my nightmares all these centuries. It has a life of its own, Methos, and I can't kill it. Not by myself."
"I can't even kill my own demons." Running a hand through his short hair, he stood and paced. "How am I supposed to help you?"
"Put me back on that cross, and make love to me." The moment she said it, she knew it was the right thing to do, no matter how crazy it sounded.
Methos whirled around to stare at her, his eyes wide with what she could only describe as panic. "You're out of your mind."
"It - it doesn't make sense! What do you think this will accomplish?"
"I'm not sure! Maybe nothing. I'm improvising, damn it, haven't you ever done that?"
"What you're suggesting is dangerous. I can't believe Sean Burns would have endorsed it." With a snort, he hunched his shoulders and turned away.
"Do you think I didn't try working through this with him?" she cried. Still shivering, she wrapped one of the blankets around her and wriggled off the bed to stand in front of him, demanding that he look at her. "He could only help me up to a point, and after that.... Yes, this is a far cry from traditional therapy, but sometimes you have to go on instinct. I want to lay this ghost to rest for once and for all, and you're the only person I can turn to for help."
"So that's why you're here."
"Methos - "
"Listen to me, Delphyne," he snarled, "and listen well. I cannot change the past. I am not anyone's knight in shining armor."
The sheer fury in his voice staggered her, and for a moment she was too shocked to move. Then her hand lashed out to hit his face with a loud crack.
"You listen to me, now. This is not about your guilt. I am not interested in mea culpa's, so you can drop that defensive sarcasm. I love you. I have always loved you. That is why I am here. Everything else is purely secondary."
"You don't even know me any more! You're in love with a memory, a fantasy - "
"You always were an arrogant bastard. How dare you tell me what I feel as if I hadn't the mental capacity to decide for myself! Or is that just another defense? A way to avoid dealing with your own feelings?"
"Oh, no, you don't. I'm not a patient for you to analyze, Doctor."
His sarcastic emphasis on the word Doctor startled her, and she stared at him. "I never told you I had a doctorate."
"I - you must have. Or I just assumed, because you were working with Burns - "
"You're lying." Delphyne backed away, mind reeling. "How long have you known where I was?"
He started to deny it, but something in her expression stopped him. Methos crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at his feet. "About ten years now."
Ten years. He'd known where to find her all that time, and never once - "I've been a fool, haven't I." Shaken, she turned to look for her clothes.
"Delphyne, you don't understand."
The blankets fell away as she sat down on the edge of the bed and began dressing. "You've known where I was for ten years. You could have come to me at any time, but you didn't. What's not to understand?"
"You're the one who left me. Remember? I had no reason to think you ever wanted to see me again."
"You weren't even interested enough to find out." No wonder he'd shown so little reaction when she appeared on his doorstep. No wonder he'd been so cool. He didn't want her. Too hurt to think straight, she fumbled with her blouse, which had somehow gotten turned inside-out. <But,> a little voice nagged in the back of her mind, <what about the rest of it? The love-making, the way he'd whispered "stay" in her ear, the effort to dominate her and to establish a new relationship based on the memories of the old?>
"It wasn't like that. Would you listen for a minute? Just - stop it!" Crouching down in front of her, he captured her wrists and held them still. "Look at me."
Delphyne wanted to hide, but he wouldn't allow it. Holding her wrists with one large hand, he grasped her chin with the other and lifted until she couldn't help but meet his gaze. For a long moment, they stared at each other.
She needed him. The emptiness inside her was unmasked and impossible for either of them to ignore. Slowly, his long fingers released her chin and moved up to caress her cheek. Was this pity? This softening in his expression, this tenderness in his eyes?
"You do love me."
"Yes." Her voice sounded strange, and she had to clear her throat before she could go on. "I don't need you to slay any dragons for me, Methos. I just need you to love me back."
Fool. Loving her wasn't his responsibility. She had no right to even ask. Unable to meet his eyes any longer, she turned her head to the side and struggled to regain some measure of dignity.
Taking her hand, he placed it over his chest.
The beating of his heart vibrated against her palm, slow and steady. She wanted to pull away; she wanted to move closer. Conflicted, she was unable to do either, and could only nod.
"Every one is for you."
It took a moment for the words to sink in, and even then she was afraid to believe. Fresh tears blurred her vision.
"You - you just feel sorry for me."
Sighing, Methos pulled her into his arms and guided her head to his shoulder. "We've always been insecure with each other, haven't we?" he mused. "Same song, different verse. I'm telling you the truth, Del. You're the one who taught me how to love, how to feel again, after a thousand years of shutting myself off. Whenever someone touches my heart, it's because you made it possible."
"Then this is... gratitude?"
His wry laugh surprised her. "Listen to us. Just like we were two thousand years ago, each of us afraid to believe we're worth loving. Don't you remember what we put each other through? For the record: I loved you then, and I love you now."
Bit by bit, the tension drained out of her. The blouse fell from her hands, forgotten, as she curled her arms around his broad shoulders. "I'm not the woman I was before. I'm... damaged."
"We all have scars."
"No. I mean... I mean, there's a part of me that hasn't ever recovered, a part that just... doesn't work any more." Feeling his body tense, she quickly said, "I'm sorry. You're right, it isn't your job to fix me."
"Tell me why you want me to put you back on the St. Andrew's cross."
How could she explain what she didn't understand, herself? Keeping her head on his shoulder, she closed her eyes and tried to find the words.
"I need to - to transform what he did to me. To counter the hate with love, replace the pain with pleasure. I need to trust again, and I don't think I can with anyone else, not like I can with you." The more she talked, the crazier it sounded. Abandoning the instinctive approach, she turned to her training and tried to reason her way through it. "Victims of trauma tend to recreate the trauma in one of two ways. They either identify with the role of the abused, or with the abuser - in other words, they get into situations where they are abused in the same way again, or else they abuse someone else. Why?"
"Subconsciously, they're trying to come to terms with it."
"Exactly." She might have guessed he'd be familiar with the subject. Methos had always absorbed knowledge like a sponge, and the workings of the mind particularly interested him. Emotions receded as intellect took over, and she raised her head from his shoulder and sat back as she went on. "Now, you know the role-playing techniques used in family and couples therapy?"
"A scenario is set up and the two parties play it out, right? To vent emotions."
"That's one of the purposes. Another is to give them practise in new ways of interacting. To take an old script and re-write it into something more positive."
Letting go of her, Methos stood up and kneaded the back of his neck as if it ached. "You want to role-play?"
"Why not consciously re-create the traumatic event, instead of letting the subconscious run the show?"
"And you want me to make love to you."
"Yes. Re-write the script."
"What if it backfires? I could do more harm than good."
"That's a risk I'm willing to take." She saw that he wanted to refuse, and really, she couldn't blame him. Delphyne took his hand and pressed her lips to the back. Rubbed her cheek against the knuckles. Smiling crookedly, she said, "It's probably a stupid idea. Forget about it."
"It isn't stupid." Methos hesitated a moment longer, as if gathering his courage. Then, turning his hand to clasp hers, he tugged her to her feet. "Are you sure you are ready for this?"
Delphyne took a deep breath and thought it over. They could wait, but what purpose would that serve? There was no way to prepare for something like this, and the longer she delayed the more likely she was to lose her nerve.
"As ready as it's possible for me to be," she answered finally.
"Then let's go slay your dragon."
"Good thing I have extra restraints." Methos took the ruined ones down and attached a new set to the metal rings at the four corners of the X-frame. "These aren't fur-lined, but I don't think they'll chafe too badly."
When he'd finished, he crooked a finger at her, and Delphyne went to him. Already, she'd begun to tremble. He was nervous, too, but trying not to show it. Methos guided her into place, his body sandwiching her against the polished wood of the St. Andrew's cross, and he paused to kiss her with a tenderness that bordered on reverence. Long fingers smoothed over her face, through her curling hair, then down, over her shoulders, along her arms, at last stopping to grasp her wrists. Then he lifted his head and looked steadily into her eyes as he raised her arms up.
Memories shimmered like a mirage in the back of her mind. Delphyne shivered, but let him move her as he wished, fastening the leather cuffs around her wrists.
"Test them," he commanded. She obeyed. "Harder. You can do better than that."
Her heart gave a nervous little flutter as she strained against the cuffs, muscles standing out with the effort.
"Do they hurt? At all?"
She shook her head.
"Good. You can relax now." Warm palms massaged her arms, helping her muscles to unclench. "Remember that feeling. Those cuffs are my hands, holding you in place, keeping you safe. For pleasure, not pain."
Bending his knees, he moved down, his lips brushing over her bare skin until they rested just below her belly button. A light pat to her thigh signaled her to move her legs apart so that he could fasten the bottom pair of cuffs around her ankles. Her breath faltered as she willingly opened herself to him.
"Breathe." Looking up from where he crouched at her feet, Methos watched as she inhaled deeply and exhaled. Delphyne smiled to show that she understood.
"When did you get so smart?" she asked.
"I always was. It just took you this long to notice."
Using the very tips of his fingers, he traced delicate patterns from her ankles to her inner thighs. The nerve endings along the surface of her skin sparkled to life. Cool breath fanned over her belly, softly at first, then harder as he pursed his lips to narrow the stream. Down it moved, stirring the wiry curls of her pubic hair. Tickling. When at last it flowed along the folds of her sex, she gave an involuntary shudder and arched her hips towards him.
"Patience." The corners of his eyes creased in a wicked smile, and Methos dropped a single kiss to her lower lips before standing. She'd barely recovered from that teasing little kiss when he began a new assault on her senses, this time drawing circles around her nipples with a feather-light touch. The flesh stiffened into peaks, begging for attention, but he just kept circling until she moaned in frustration. Methos chuckled, but his eyes were serious, watching her intently for any sign of fear. "Who's in charge?"
Muscles shifted as she pulled at the restraints. "You are."
"Do you trust me?"
"You have to ask?" She laughed, nervous. "Look at me!"
A grin flashed across his face, immediately replaced by an intense stare. Seeing his emotions so clearly, so easily expressed, took her breath away. She felt as though she could watch him for hours. "Yes. I have to ask. Do you trust me?"
The look in his eyes stilled her laughter. Delphyne faltered for a moment as fear murmured just below the surface of conscious thought, but she pushed it away. With a determined lift of her chin, she answered, "Yes. I trust you."
A gentle pinch to each nipple rewarded her. Sensation burst through them to flood her body with arousal, making her clit swell and her skin flush pink, and she leaned towards him in a silent plea, but to no avail.
Stepping back, Methos hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his boxers and slid them off. Her lips parted as she watched him, admiring the lean, hard form, the play of muscles beneath pale skin, the grace of perfect balance. An instant later, that body rested lightly against hers. She felt his cock stir at her abdomen.
"Do you know what this is for?" he asked, pressing his boxer shorts into her right hand.
A puzzled frown lined her forehead. Then she made the connection. "You're going to gag me?"
"That's right." She must have looked frightened, because his other hand moved to caress her hair and face, offering reassurance. "You have to be completely helpless for this to work. You know that."
Swallowing hard, she nodded agreement. Her fingers tightened to clutch the boxers.
Methos kissed the tip of her nose, and moved away, this time to pick up a couple of things from one of the shelves. He held up the first one. A blindfold.
"Bend your head forward."
She began to tremble again. Delphyne reminded herself that she wanted this, she'd asked him to do it. Closing her eyes, she bowed her head and let him fasten the blindfold into place.
"Open your mouth."
Deep within, she felt the monster awaken. Kronos. Mocking laughter echoed in the dark caverns of her mind. Her jaw tightened, and it took an effort of will to obey Methos, but she managed it. Firmly, he pressed a ball-gag into her mouth, then fastened a strap around the back of her head to hold it in place.
Her mouth watered around the smooth leather of the gag, and she swallowed convulsively a few times before she got used to the feel of the thing. She hated being helpless. Yet she also loved it. Fear and arousal struggled for control, making her heart beat faster. Blind, she listened closely to hear what Methos was doing, and jumped in surprise when his baritone voice sounded near her ear.
"You can stop this any time. All you have to do is let go of the boxers. The minute they fall to the floor, I'll stop everything and take you down. You are in control. Do you understand?"
The tendons in her wrist stood out as she clutched the boxers more tightly. Delphyne nodded her head. Yes. She understood.
Cool air whispered over her, telling her that he had moved away. The man was quiet as a cat, damn him. What was he doing? The monster began to rise. Currents of doubt stirred in its wake, rippling outwards and up, and they became Kronos' voice, taunting her. _He was mine once. Maybe he still is._
A whimper of protest vibrated in her throat. Immediately, Methos returned, his hands caressing her shoulders and arms, his deep voice soothing her. "Sh, it's all right. I'm here. I won't leave you alone again."
Gradually, she relaxed. Kronos was still there, though, the monster moving inexorably up from the blackest depths of her memory, swimming towards the surface. <Concentrate,> she told herself. <Concentrate on Methos.>
Warmth touched the sensitive underside of her upper arm, then moved away, leaving behind a moist spot which cooled and slowly dried. The warmth touched her jaw, her throat, and she identified it as his mouth. His hands eased back until she could scarcely feel them, just the barest hint of sensation skimming down her arms, over her ribs, around her breasts. Arousal triumphed over fear.
"Yes," Methos coaxed. "Pleasure."
Wet heat surrounded one nipple. Delphyne arched reflexively into the sweet sucking. His tongue flicked at the hard bit of flesh in a quick rhythm, teasing it, making it swell even more, and then his teeth scraped over the sensitive tip. Golden warmth spread through her like honey, flowing from her nipple straight down to her sex.
His mouth left her, and she cried out in protest, but the cry turned into a moan of relief when she felt him at her other nipple, giving it the same careful attention. Fingertips hissed over her belly, around her sex, along her inner thighs. The muscles in her legs tensed as she strained towards him.
_Do you think I give up so easily?_ Kronos sneered. _I marked you as mine. Forever. He can't erase it. That's me touching you, whore, using you for my pleasure._
One finger gently parted the folds of her sex. Memories flickered through her - the way Kronos had teased her with the glowing tip of iron, caressing her with it like a lover. His laughter mingling with her screams as the pike sizzled against her entrance. Panic surged through her, and she jerked against the leather restraints, stiffening from head to toe.
"It's me." Methos' voice broke the spell, returning her to the present. "Stay with me, Del. Feel. Just let yourself feel."
Methos. Not Kronos. Pleasure instead of pain.
Still murmuring gently, his lips worked their way down the middle of her stomach. The sinuous wet velvet of his tongue replaced his finger. Delphyne's bones turned to liquid as desire flooded her body, bringing sweet cream to the surface to coat his tongue and slick his skin.
Thoughts of Kronos fled. Methos left room for nothing but this moment, this luscious instant of pleasure.
Knowing fingers drew back the hood of skin that covered her clit, and she felt it throb in response. The faint flow of his breath sent chimes of sensation through the swollen flesh. Easing his tongue out of her, he glided the tip up to touch her there, and she groaned aloud, her head spinning. She could smell her own arousal, a musky-dark animal scent.
Gently at first, he pinched her nipples, and his tongue began to dance over her clit. The sensations fed each other, combining into a pleasure exponentially more powerful than the sum of its parts. Bit by bit, his fingers tightened, tugging and twisting, torturing her nipples, and his tongue stroked harder, lashing without mercy, until she writhed helplessly, making incoherent sounds around the gag. He took her to the very edge, then backed off, leaving her panting for breath.
One hand rested on her hip, but she could tell by the moving currents of air that he'd leaned away from her. A moment later she felt something cold brush against her sex. Metal. Small.
"Do you recognize this?" he asked.
Delphyne shook her head. Her nervousness returned full force. What was it? Would it hurt? Dozens of possibilities leapt to mind, and even though she knew they were ridiculous, she couldn't stop them. Needles, pliers, scissors, sword... iron pike....
"It's a clit-clamp." The cold metal brushed over her aching clit, stroking sensuously. "Have you ever tried one?"
She answered him with another shake of her head. Clamps weren't unfamiliar - she'd tried them on her nipples once, and found them mildly erotic - but on her clit? It sounded painful. Tensing, she fingered the boxers. If it hurt too much, she could always drop them, and he'd stop everything. She didn't want to quit, though, not now.
Fingers pinched her clit, stretching it, and the metal closed around the little bundle of nerves. Slowly, he tightened it. Delphyne felt herself throb against the coldness, but it wasn't unpleasant, in fact it felt rather ... interesting. The pressure increased. Her clit pulsed harder as the tiny prison tightened around it, squeezing, until she felt every beat of her heart go through that one miniscule bit of flesh. She'd never felt anything like it. Incredible.
Methos stood, his hands resting on her hips, his breath cool in her hair. Gradually, she became accustomed to the new sensation, and her heartbeat slowed. As if this were what he had been waiting for, he leaned closer, letting the tip of his cock nudge her sex.
The blaze of pleasure evoked a startled cry, muffled by her gag. She heard a smile in his voice as he said, "Do you want it? Do you want my cock?"
The voice of another drowned him out as he unwittingly echoed words intended to hurt. The monster was close now, visible just beneath the surface. Kronos. Laughing, taunting her. _You see? I was right. You want it._
<No!> she argued. <I want him, not you. Never you.>
_Then why is it me you hear and feel as he touches you? Say yes to him, and I am the one who will take you. Go ahead. Beg him to fuck you. You're really begging me._
A despairing moan vibrated around her gag. Delphyne shook her head back and forth in denial, tears gathering behind the blindfold. It wasn't working, she couldn't escape him.
"It's me. Methos. Listen to me. Focus on my voice. Do you remember what to do if you want this to stop?"
<What to do? The boxers. Yes. Drop the boxers, and he'll release me, and this will be over.>
And Kronos would win.
Breathing heavily, she forced herself to calm down. Nodded her head. "You're in control," he assured her. "Are you certain you want to go on?"
Soft kisses warmed her skin, grazing over cheek and earlobe, nuzzling into her hair. Methos. His voice murmured to her, the sound more comforting than the words themselves, and his broad hands stroked up her arms to close around the restraints at her wrists, reminding her that he held her safe. Desire returned as she surrendered to trust. Ephemeral, at first, it grew stronger as the monster retreated.
One hand moved higher, and long fingers twined with hers. The other drifted down to coax her senses back to the here and now, each touch a note of music leading to the next in a melody Mozart would have envied. When his cock again tapped at her sex, she shuddered with renewed desire.
"Are you ready?"
Fear and need. The struggle between them intensified as she nodded her head once again.
The lips of her sex opened around the sleek head of his cock, wetting it as he slowly eased his way inside. She'd never been so intensely aware of every inch, every texture, so conscious of the width and hardness. Deeper he burrowed, taking his time about it. With the clamp squeezing her clit, she felt even the slightest movement there as well, delicious beyond description, demanding her concentration lest some fleeting sensation sweep past before she'd fully appreciated it.
The body pressed against hers trembled. A hiss stirred the curls at her brow, communicating the pleasure she gave him, and she wanted to hold him to her, to cradle him in her arms, but the restraints held her back.
_What pretty lies you tell yourself!_ The monster broke the surface at last, and the darkness of her blindfold became a firelit room in which Kronos held sway. Blue eyes met hers, dancing with mad laughter. _There is no Methos, there is nothing but me. Inside you. Can't you feel me, whore? I OWN YOU!_
Present and past merged, twisting her pleasure into a foul travesty. Delphyne threw her head back and screamed, trying to force the monster away from her, but there was no escape this time. He would not be silenced.
_You never escaped me! For the last two thousand years I have held you prisoner. You are still here. Everything else was hallucination, dreams, mere tricks of the mind. Wake up and see the truth. You are still on my cross._
No... no, it couldn't be true... but there he was, so real... had the last two thousand years been a fantasy? An escape created by a mind unable to face reality any longer? She had hallucinated before, only to awaken and find herself still upon that cross. How did she know it wasn't happening again?
A familiar voice commanded her attention, breaking through the fog, shouting, "Use the fear!"
Bewilderment seeped into her panic. Methos. He was real. Wasn't he? What was he saying... Use it? How?
"Fear increases the heart rate, fills the body with adrenaline. Use it - turn that surge to pleasure," Methos ordered. The intensity of his tone, so focused, nearly desperate, gave her something to hold on to. His cock slid along the walls of her passage, pulling out a ways, then gently pressing back in. Pleasure. Methos was real. Kronos never gave her pleasure, only pain. With this scrap of reason, Delphyne clung to her sanity.
Sanity held no power over panic, though, which reduced her to the most basic human response.
Fight or flight.
She could do neither. Bound, impaled, helpless.
"Like a man in free fall." Methos seemed to scramble for the words, his voice frantic. "Feel it! I will be your parachute."
Let go... let the helplessness force her to experience the fear instead of hiding from it....
Concentrating, she focused on the responses of her body. The thundering pace of her heart, the adrenaline that screamed through her veins, the wild roller coaster of emotion. Terror and excitement, so similar. Could she transform one into the other?
Methos pushed against her, making her feel the warm reality of his body.
Love, not fear.
Something seemed to snap inside her, and Delphyne cried out, arching into him. Faster than conscious thought, her panic flared into passion, fueling her desire and pleasure beyond anything she'd ever known or dreamt.
Strong arms curled around her, around the back of the X-frame, crushing her between it and his lean form as he answered her urgency. The passion drove her against him in a frenzy, hips grinding, riding the hard pole of his cock. The violence of her movements knocked the clamp off of her clit. Pain twinged through her, only to be absorbed into the maelstrom of pleasure. Methos pulled out far enough to let the clamp fall to the floor, then plunged into her again, withholding nothing now. A tug to her hair drew her head back. Teeth nipped at her throat. If it had been a sword, she would have come - the ultimate fear experienced as ecstasy. Even so, his attention to that vulnerable area set her spinning, caught up in a tornado of emotion and sensation that threatened to tear her limb from limb. Delphyne's hips rammed against him wildly, and he met them with the full force of his body. Fingers clutching her thick curls held her head still as he bent down to press his angular cheek against hers. The hot wind of his breath roared in her ear.
"Are you ready?" he grated. "Come with me!"
Shuddering on the verge of climax, the jaws of her monster gaped wide. Delphyne stared, transfixed, into the black center of annihilation.
"Now!" he shouted, and every muscle in his body froze as his cock jetted its fountain of life into her very heart.
With a maddened scream, she took a leap of faith straight into the nightmare, and the monster swallowed her whole.
Delphyne exploded into orgasm. The atoms of her body blossomed outwards, motes of golden light that expanded and grew, penetrating the darkness, merging, until she was the monster. No longer separate, but whole, its power hers to command.
Gradually, she became aware of the gag being unfastened and removed. The instant it was gone, Methos' mouth covered hers in a long, sweet kiss, his tongue stroking deep. He tasted of salt. Gentle fingers slid the blindfold up and off, and she blinked as he drew back, her eyes readjusting to the light. His tear-streaked face filling her vision. She realized, with a shock, that he was shaking.
Methos searched her eyes. "Are you all right?"
A giggle bubbled up in her chest and escaped, making him frown in surprise. Delphyne felt as though she were flying, dancing on currents of air far above the earth, her body a vessel of pure joy. The giggles grew into velvety rich laugher, and all she could do was nod her head to tell him that yes, she was fine.
"You're high." A tentative smile spread across his face. "Does that mean it worked?"
"Yes!" she shouted.
Methos threw his arms around her and held her so tightly her ribs creaked. His face burrowed into her hair, and a shudder went through him that she felt from head to toe. A sob vibrated against her neck. Delphyne ached to hold him, but all she could do was rub her face against his and sooth him with her voice.
She hadn't gone to hell alone. He'd been there with her.
Gradually, his trembling subsided. Methos drew a ragged breath, and eased his hold on her as he sought her lips for a heart-wrenchingly sweet kiss. When he ended it, he rested his forehead against hers, their noses rubbing together, nuzzling like kittens.
"Now get me down from here," she whispered, "so I can thank you properly... Master."
"Is that an order, slave?"
Delphyne's voice lowered into a seductive purr. "Please, Master?"
"Since you put it that way...."
He unfastened the wrist restraints first, then the ankles, and for a moment she thought her legs were going to give out. Grabbing onto him for support, she began to giggle again. Methos shook his head and swung her up into his arms.
Carrying her upstairs, he put her down on the bed and stretched out beside her, propping his head on one hand. When the giggles finally subsided, Delphyne reached up to caress his angular face. She was too giddy to sort out everything just now, but something inside her had been profoundly changed. She knew that there were no instant cures, that she still had a long road to travel, but the most important hurdle had been cleared. Healing had begun.
"You have no idea what you've done for me."
"I did it for myself."
"Still... how can I ever - "
"Shh." One long finger touched her lips, silencing her. "Just... just promise me one thing."
He smiled briefly, but it faded into an expression of vulnerability so naked that she almost couldn't bear to look at him. "Promise that you won't ever ... disappear... again."
Delphyne took his hand and clasped it tightly. "Before all the gods, old and new, I swear it."
His eyes closed for a moment. Tension drained out of him, and he drew her hand up to seal her vow, pressing his lips against the pulse in her wrist. Then he cradled her palm over the sharp curve of his cheekbone and held it there as he opened his eyes to gaze down into hers.
A warm blanket of silence settled over them. They had no more need for words.