|In Darkness, Truth
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to R/P/D.
Thank you to Kamil for once again providing support, encouragement and information. Thank you to Annie Devlin for once again playing spot the missing comma.
Duncan looked around him. Perhaps Joe had been right, perhaps he should have let the movers pack up the loft. It was just stuff, after all. Stuff that was part of the space he had once shared with people he cared about. He finished taping a box, labeled it "Charity." He reached for another box.
He had almost emptied one set of shelves of its assorted books when he felt it. Presence. He went to the door and opened it before the newcomer had a chance to knock. "Methos."
The other Immortal had boxes tucked under his arm and a clear plastic bag containing packing tape in one hand and a portable CD player in the other. "One Immortal packing company at your service."
Duncan stepped back, ushering him into the room. If Methos had offered to help Duncan would have refused, believing he needed to do this alone, but now that the other man was here he was relieved.
"So would you like to hear the conditions of my employment?" Methos asked as he sat down the boxes.
"Do I have a choice?"
Methos grinned. "Music. I choose it. No opera, no classical, and no bagpipes."
"I do not listen to bagpipes."
"I've seen your CD collection, MacLeod."
"They were a gift."
"Uh-huh." Methos held up the CD player. "What do you say I plug this in and we get started?"
"There's an outlet above the kitchen counter."
"Perfect." Methos plugged in the CD player. "I thought this would be a good opportunity to broaden your musical horizons."
"Let me guess rap, or maybe punk?"
Methos pushed play, and Marvin Gaye's sensual tenor filled the room. "Motown. It's perfect packing music."
Duncan stood staring out the window. Nothing much to see, just some street lights and buildings. It was four AM, too early for most, including the garbage workers, and too late for everyone else, even the hookers. Duncan knew he should be asleep; he wanted to be asleep, but every time he closed his eyes...
Mac didn't answer.
"Talk to me."
"Offering to be my analyst?"
"No, your friend, if you'll let me."
Duncan stood silently for another minute before beginning. "I thought I was better. I haven't been up all night in months. Then I came here."
"We never truly get better, Duncan; we just adjust, accept, learn to live with the loss."
"How do you do it? Keep falling in love, keep making friends?"
"Come and sit."
Duncan left the window, went to sit next to Methos on the couch. The only light came from the street lights outside, and it seemed that the whole world was quiet except for the sound of their voices, which was fortunate because when Methos spoke his was barely audible. "I do it because the alternative is unthinkable." He looked at Duncan, searching his face as best he could in the dark room. "There was a time when I did stop, when I let the pain drive out everything except anger," he paused, "and hate." Methos looked away. "I hated Death, so I became him. Because if I was Death then Death could take nothing from me."
They sat in silence as Duncan digested his friend's words. They hadn't spoken openly about the Horsemen since Bordeaux and it seemed an odd time to start, but Duncan still felt compelled to ask. "How did you stop?"
"Kronos pushed too far." Methos looked into the darkness, his voice sounding oddly distant. "It was strange. The crazier he became, the more my sanity returned. One day he demanded something I couldn't, didn't want to do. Soon afterward, I was gone."
"How do you live with it?"
"It was a long time ago; I'm not that man anymore. Mostly I just focus on the present, keep my mind on the here and now. If I ever let myself start living in the past, I'd never return to the present." Duncan could sense the smile he couldn't quite see. "Of course, staying focused on the present became a lot easier after I met you."
Duncan snorted. "I think I'd prefer it if my life were a little less exciting for awhile."
"It will be."
"How do you..." Duncan started, then stopped.
"How do I what, Duncan?"
"Live with the loss?"
"The same way you do. I muddle through." He paused for a moment. "Even though I was only with her for a few months, I still miss Alexa, the sound of her laugh. Making her laugh became the sole reason for my existence, for a short time." Duncan barely heard him when he added, "Too short a time."
"And you'd do it again, love like that?"
"Yes, I would. Wouldn't you?"
"I..." Duncan took a deep breath, "I'm just tired of the hurt. I'm tired of grieving, tired of having the loss drown out everything else. That's why I came here. I wanted closure. I thought..." His voice cracked and Duncan shut his eyes tightly, trying to hold back the tears.
Methos reached for him, pulling Duncan's head to his shoulder and holding him tightly. Duncan returned the embrace, letting himself be comforted.
When Duncan's sobs subsided Methos lay back on the couch, bringing Duncan with him and settling Duncan's head on his shoulder.
"Hush, Highlander, sleep."
It had been a long time since anyone had held him solely to comfort. Knowing he needed what Methos was offering, Duncan acquiesced.
Duncan sat up upon waking and Methos smiled at him. Unable to think of anything to say, Duncan settled for, "Thank you."
"You're welcome." The smile turned devilish. "But there is a price."
"I knew there would be."
Methos pulled his legs up, turning to sit. "Bagels. I don't work well on an empty stomach." He rose. "Cinnamon raisin, cream cheese and butter."
Methos grinned. "It's not like I have to worry about cholesterol." He continued to the bathroom, but paused in the doorway. "Don't forget the coffee, extra large, cream and sugar. And none of that frothy cappuccino stuff."
The day passed much as the previous one had. They finished packing the loft with Methos limiting himself to just two snide comments about the size of Duncan's wardrobe. For dinner they retreated to a local restaurant known more for the quality of its pizza than its ambiance.
Returning to the loft, Duncan found himself more relaxed and content than he could remember feeling in a long time.
"So what's left?" Methos asked as he sat on the couch.
"The movers will take care of the furniture. We just have to pack the dojo. I want to go through the files and we need to take care of the weapons." He hesitated. "I was thinking about going to the island when I was done here, checking on the cabin." He fought back sudden nervousness. "Would you like to come?"
"Does it have indoor plumbing?"
"No, and I should warn you that I don't know what kind of shape it's in. We might need to do some maintenance."
"Maintenance? As in climbing a ladder and wielding a hammer?"
"Same terms of employment as before and you supply the batteries."
"For the CD player."
Methos shook his head. "Garage bands."
"They're loud, the tempo doesn't change, and it puts you in the mood to hit small metal objects."
"So they're sea chanteys with percussion."
Methos chuckled. "And guitar solos."
Duncan smiled. "We should be able to finish the packing tomorrow morning and then we can leave after the closing."
Methos picked up his book and settled deeper into the couch. "Just don't forget the batteries."
"I won't. I'm going to turn in."
Methos looked up. "Yeah, I suppose I should too."
"Only if you want to. It won't bother me if you read."
Duncan turned over. In the past year he had come to hate the night. Those things which could be pushed to the back of the mind during the day's activities took advantage of the dark to push their way forward again. For some reason it was Fitz who haunted him tonight. He couldn't remember Fitz ever coming to the loft, but for some unknown reason Fitz was haunting him.
Maybe it was because of Methos. He smiled at the thought of the two of them. They'd have ganged up on him, he knew. The teasing would have been relentless. He could almost hear them, Methos and Fitz playing off each other with him as their target. His smile faded, but it would never happen. Fitzcairn was gone and it was his fault. Kalas had only wanted Fitz because of Duncan.
The ghost Fitz of his imagination might claim that he would have died sooner without Duncan, and part of him believed it. Still, there was no escaping the fact that those who got close to him died. He turned over again.
"Would it help if I turned out the light?" Methos asked quietly.
"Yeah, sort of," he sighed.
"Would you like me to read to you?"
The question startled him. "Think it'll help?"
"It might. There's a reason parents read to children, you know. It's distracting, soothes the mind."
"Sure," Duncan agreed. Despite his surprise he didn't say a word when Methos rose and joined him on the bed. The old man reclined against the headboard, stretching out his long legs in front of him, and began to read. Duncan closed his eyes, letting the sound of Methos' voice soothe him.
He wasn't registering the words, just the sound, just the other man's presence, comforting and protective. He moved closer, extending a hand to rest on Methos' chest. Methos settled a hand on his shoulder. Feeling welcome, he edged closer and lifted his head to rest on Methos.
Methos stroked his hair then moved his hand in slow circles between Duncan's shoulder blades.
Duncan drifted into a dreamless sleep.
He'd done it. The dojo now had a new owner. The closing had run late and they were driving through darkness into the mountains. Duncan wasn't looking forward to crossing to the island in the dead of night with a man who claimed to hate the water, but it couldn't be avoided. It was that or sleep in the SUV. Somehow, he doubted Methos would agree to that. Despite the griping he knew was coming, he was grateful for the other man's presence. He glanced at the man in the passenger seat, perhaps he should tell him that.
"Thank you for coming. I needed a friend." Duncan said, his soft words loud in the silence.
"You're very good at that, showing up when I need you."
Duncan had expected the slight, sardonic nod with which Methos usually acknowledged compliments. The sincerity of Methos' reply surprised him. "Isn't that what friends are for?"
His own words reminded Duncan of the one time Methos hadn't been there. He studied his friend's profile as much as the darkness and the need to drive allowed. He wanted to know. No, he needed to know, he realized, and this was quite probably the only chance he would ever have to ask. "Why did you leave Paris? Why weren't you there when I got back from Malaysia?"
Again Methos surprised him, answering immediately. "Because you didn't need me. I make you doubt yourself and the last thing you needed was more self-doubt."
"You don't make me..." The protest earned him one of the old man's patented 'yeah, right' looks. Duncan flashed onto all of the times Methos had pushed him, challenged him, questioned his methods, his motives... Despite his best efforts to brush the challenges off, he had doubted. "Why did you push so hard?"
"Because I wanted you to live. You were like some modern day Galahad, utterly convinced that your skill, and more importantly, the rightness of your cause would bring victory. I wanted to temper the arrogance, teach you a little caution."
"The arrogance has been tempered." The words were said softly.
"I know." The self-accusation in Methos' tone was unmistakable.
"There was nothing you could've done."
"I could have listened."
"Let it go, Methos. You have enough guilt to carry around without shouldering mine."
"I don't do guilt, remember?"
"Silly me, I forgot."
Methos smiled. "What do you suppose it is about the darkness which loosens tongues?"
"I don't know, but I think we should spend more time together in the dark."
"Ever hear the expression 'be careful what you ask for?'"
"I have, and I always am."
Duncan held up the gas lantern, looking around the cabin. They definitely had some cleaning to do tomorrow. He'd turn on the gas then, too.
"Did you ever hear of these things called rooms, MacLeod?" Methos walked to the bed and dropped his pack beside it. "How old were you before you stopped sleeping with the cows?"
"Sheep. And we didn't bring them inside the house, not unless it was really cold." Duncan moved to join him. "It's a cabin, Methos. It's not supposed to have extra rooms."
"You could have more than one."
"I do. There's a bathroom."
Shaking his head, Methos began to untie the mattress rolled up at the end of the bed. Dust soon had them both coughing. "Maybe we should sleep on the floor," Duncan suggested. The look he received in response made it perfectly clear what Methos thought of that idea.
Methos unrolled one of the sleeping bags. Duncan didn't say a word when he also unzipped it and spread it across the bed. Reaching for the second bag, he followed Methos example.
"Where is that bathroom you're so proud of?"
Duncan pointed to a narrow door behind the other man. Methos opened his pack and pulled out a toothbrush. Picking up a flashlight, he left the room. Duncan stared after him for a moment before turning his attention to the bed. Pillows, they needed pillows. He pulled two from the cedar chest at the foot of the bed. Beneath them, neatly folded, were clean sheets. He glanced at the bed. They could wait until tomorrow.
Methos came out of the bathroom and Duncan took his place. When he returned, Methos was in bed, reading by the light of the lantern. He was wearing a T-shirt and Duncan wondered if it was because of the chilly mountain air or out of deference to him. Quickly stripping off everything but his boxers, he slipped between the sleeping bags. He wished Methos good-night and then turned onto his side away from the other man.
"Good-night, Duncan," Methos answered before turning off the lamp and plunging the room into darkness.
Hours later he was still awake, glad there was no clock to torment him with its slowly changing, glow in the dark numbers.
Part of his mind insisted that if he wanted to sleep he knew exactly what he needed to do. Methos was less than a foot away, all he had to do was turn over and he could be in the old man's arms with Methos' heartbeat thumping solidly in his ear.
He wanted to be stronger than that. He was a grown man. He could face his own demons, quite literally.
"So are you going to talk about it, or are you too much of a man for that?" Methos asked quietly.
'God damn him,' Duncan thought.
"Who is it tonight?"
"Men I killed."
'Bastard,' Duncan said silently. "After Little Deer and her people were killed I went a little crazy." He fell silent for a moment. "I was hunting Kern, the Immortal who led the Blue Coats to them." He paused and Methos waited silently. "And I came across this camp of Blue Coats, all bragging about the Indians they'd killed. I... None of them lived, Methos."
"Would they have killed again?"
"They were soldiers."
"Soldiers who were slaughtering children."
"I crossed the line. I didn't want justice, I wanted vengeance."
"Would they have killed again?"
Methos said nothing, clearly believing his point had been made.
"Are you ever..." Duncan started, "Do you ever..."
"Do my victims haunt me?"
"Yes," he whispered.
"If they didn't I'd begin to worry."
Duncan rolled over, he was on his side with almost no space between his chest and Methos. "Why?"
"Because then I'll have lost my conscience. I fought hard to acquire it, I'm not about to let it go."
"You always claimed you spent centuries trying to lose it."
Duncan reached out, resting a hand on Methos' chest. Methos lifted his own hand and for a moment he thought Methos was going to remove his, but instead the other man merely entwined their fingers.
"Go to sleep, Highlander."
Within minutes, he had.
He woke to discover he'd done it again. His head was on Methos' chest and Methos' arms were holding him. Worse, the old man was awake. Duncan supposed this was something he should be accustomed to by now.
"Good morning," he muttered without lifting his head.
He could hear Methos' smile. "What are you making for breakfast?" Despite the question, Methos made no move to release him.
"Who said I was making breakfast?"
"I'm the guest, you're the host. Therefore, you make breakfast."
"What do you want?"
"What do you have?"
"You bought the supplies."
"So I did. How about blueberry muffins?"
"You bought muffins?"
"Would I ask for them if I hadn't?"
Methos chuckled, squeezed him tightly for a moment, and then released him. "Come on, MacLeod. Let's get up, or did you plan on lounging in bed all day?"
Duncan moved to the side of the bed and pulled on his jeans. He walked to the kitchen.
Methos followed. "So what do you do for hot water around this place?"
"There's a gas powered hot water heater. I'll go out and turn it on."
"The stove and refrigerator are gas as well, I assume. Nice setup."
"Except for the lack of rooms."
They spent the day cleaning the cabin. Since they were not doing any actual repairs Methos skipped the garage bands in favor of a mixture of more or less contemporary rock. When Duncan suggested something else, Methos shook his head, claiming he needed a strong backbeat to keep him moving. Duncan kept quiet after that, perhaps because he found himself watching whenever the beat got so strong Methos apparently couldn't prevent his hips from moving with it.
That night when they laid down to sleep, between actual sheets this time, Duncan again rolled onto his side away from the old man.
"Nothing, good night."
"Good night." Duncan lay still, staring into the darkness. He was being foolish, he knew, but dependence galled him. He shouldn't need someone else to keep the ghosts away.
He hadn't said a word to Methos, but all day, barring those times he'd been watching Methos' hips, he had been thinking about Richie.
"I brought Richie here once," he heard himself say.
"When was that?" Methos asked softly.
"When I was preparing to fight Grayson. I wasn't very good company."
"You had other things to focus on. Grayson was an unrelenting bastard, and he was good."
"You never liked him much, did you?"
Methos evidently knew he wasn't asking about Grayson.
"He was very young, and his chances of surviving..."
"You avoided the question."
"No, I didn't like him, but you and Joe did."
"So you put up with him."
A hand squeezed his shoulder. "I am sorry. I know you loved him. I know you miss him."
Duncan rolled over and they were both on their sides, facing one another. "He could be a real pain in the ass sometimes, but so could I at that age. Maybe that's why I liked him."
"Don't fool yourself, you're still a pain in the ass."
"What? Do I remind you of yourself forty-six hundred years ago?"
"No, you're nothing like I was."
"What were you like?"
Methos didn't answer immediately and Duncan thought perhaps he wasn't going to.
"You're always at the center of things, surrounded by people. I kept to myself, stayed on the margins."
"I don't know. It's who I am, I suppose."
"I like who you are," Duncan said softly.
Methos was quiet for a moment, before answering, "Go to sleep, Highlander."
Duncan smiled. He'd actually flustered the old guy. "I can't."
Methos rolled onto his back and extended an arm in invitation. Duncan settled into position beside him.
"Good night, Methos."
Duncan woke alone. He couldn't sense the other Immortal and Methos' side of the bed was no longer warm. Fighting back panic, he dressed quickly and went to search.
He was only a few feet from the cabin door when he felt it, Methos' presence, tickling the edge of his awareness. He used it as a beacon, following the presence to its source. The path led away from the boathouse and into the woods, much to Duncan's relief. Although he couldn't imagine what Methos would find of interest there.
Methos' buzz became stronger and he slowed. Maybe he should allow his friend some privacy. They had very little of that in a one room cabin. But he needed to see Methos. It was completely, utterly irrational, but he needed to see Methos' face, needed proof the old man was okay. Rationally he knew there was no way Methos could have come to harm, the entire island was holy ground. Still...
Distracted, he unconsciously picked up his pace.
The clearing was unexpected and he stumbled into it, causing Methos to look up at him. The old man was sitting cross-legged in the center of the clearing. "Good morning, Duncan."
"Good morning," he answered awkwardly, embarrassed at having disturbed Methos' meditations.
Duncan walked to Methos and dropped to the ground beside him. Methos said nothing further and after a few minutes Duncan relaxed, becoming truly aware of his surroundings for the first time that morning. Leaves were rustling and the morning birds were singing. Light played among the trees and decaying leaves combined with wildflowers to scent the air. And Methos was beside him, his presence washing over and through Duncan.
"Some mornings," Methos said quietly, "it's good to be alive."
Duncan turned to look at him. "Yeah, it is." He fought back the urge to cup a stubbled cheek in his hand, to brush his thumb across a high cheekbone.
Methos must have shared his urge to touch because he squeezed one of Duncan's hands quickly. "Come on, I'll make breakfast." Then he was on his feet and Duncan was following him.
It rained for most of the afternoon, forcing them to stay inside. They'd settled at opposite ends of the couch, each with a book in hand, long legs tangling in the space between them. The room was quiet, except for Methos' occasional chuckle. Duncan was tempted to ask him what was so amusing, but he didn't want to disturb the peace which had settled over them. It was, he decided, a pleasant way to pass the day.
The rain stopped after dinner and Duncan was unsurprised when Methos slipped outside. This time he resisted the urge to follow. Instead he returned to the couch and his book. It failed to hold his attention, however, and Duncan found his mind drifting, sliding into that state between wakefulness and sleep.
Methos returned and Duncan heard him prepare for bed. Wordlessly, he followed the old man's example. Tonight, he dispensed with the pretense of sleeping anywhere but in Methos' arms. His head settled onto the familiar shoulder, long arms wrapped around him, and he fell almost instantly asleep.
He awoke a few hours later. Methos was still asleep and they were still in the same position, except... except Duncan's hand was underneath Methos' shirt. He started to pull it away, but curiosity stopped him. He wanted to know what Methos felt like. Slowly, carefully he moved his hand across the other man's abdomen. His skin was warm and smooth, muscles slack with sleep. Duncan's hand began to inch upward. He stopped. This was not something he could do, steal touches from someone who was unable to refuse. Reluctantly, he withdrew his hand. Draping an arm across Methos' torso, he snuggled closer.
It was a long time before he fell back asleep, but the man haunting him this time was very much alive.
Nice weather had allowed them to spend some time outside and Duncan had somehow managed to persuade his friend to go canoeing. Methos had complained at first, but about ten yards from shore they had spotted a family of raccoons playing. To Duncan's surprise Methos had actually laughed aloud at their antics. After that the rest of the trip had been tranquil. There was something very soothing about being on the lake, with the mountains rising around you. Methos had felt it too, and the quiet mood had followed them the rest of the day. They had barely spoken a word as they prepared dinner, choosing instead to listen to the birds. Dinner conversation had been equally sparse.
Duncan replayed the afternoon in his mind as he put away the last of the dinner dishes.
Methos had gone outside after dinner and, cleanup complete, Duncan followed him without a second thought. He found Methos on the beach, watching the sunset over the lake. Without saying a word, Duncan joined him.
He let himself simply be. Before coming to the island he'd managed to be fully present only during his meditations. The rest of the time his mind had skittered to and fro, seeking to avoid those subjects which brought pain, and trying to avoid them led inevitably to the opposite. But here, with Methos, he could just sit, let the sights and sounds and smells of the world around them push everything else aside. Here, with Methos, there could be a few minutes with no guilt, or fear, or regrets, or grief.
The last bit of red sky disappeared behind the mountains, leaving the beach in semi-darkness. Standing, Duncan offered Methos a hand. It was accepted and Duncan pulled his friend to his feet. Methos was mere inches away, all Duncan had to do was lean forward. Unable to stop himself, he did just that.
Methos didn't seem the least bit startled by the press of Duncan's lips against his. Duncan kept the kiss light, easy, no challenges and no demands, just a simple, straightforward kiss. While he succeeded in keeping the kiss free of demands, he could not keep it free of desire. The longing which had been building since Methos had shown up at his door, packing materials in hand, refused to be contained any longer. It slipped into the kiss, leaving Duncan utterly transparent.
Methos broke the kiss, brushing Duncan's lips briefly with his own before taking a step back. "Why?"
Duncan could have sworn that was obvious, but he knew his friend's need for words. "Because it feels right." Because nothing else has felt right in a long time, he added silently. Because I need you. Because I need to feel good. Because I need to trust.
Methos didn't say anything for a long moment. Duncan knew the old man could see all of the things he hadn't said. He hated it, hated feeling so exposed. Still, it was strangely comforting, to know you were seen and accepted and understood. He wondered if anyone had ever given Methos that. Had Kronos? Hastily, Duncan shut that line of thought off.
Long fingers touched his cheek. "Very well."
They walked back to the cabin in silence.
Duncan lay awake, watching his sleeping lover. Lover, Methos, who would have thought it?
He traced the edges of a pectoral with his fingertips. He could touch all he wanted to now, and look. The differences between their bodies fascinated him. They were the same height, the same gender, and still very different. Methos was all long lines. He was sleek, but with an almost awkwardness to his movements that Duncan found endearing. Endearing, he could just imagine what Methos would say to that.
He loved the way it felt when those long limbs were wrapped around him. Methos didn't so much embrace others as enfold them. Methos enfolding him, firm lips teasing his own, desire passing between them, Duncan smiled to himself. For the first time in a long time his instincts had been right.
All evidence of his workout removed, Duncan hung up his towel and entered the main room. Methos wasn't there.
He'd been unable to convince the old man to workout with him. He'd tried the first time a few days after their arrival. He had very logically pointed out that they wouldn't be remaining on holy ground forever and should try to keep in fighting condition. Methos had given him a disdainful look and replied, "I am in condition, or hadn't you noticed?"
Embarrassed by the fact that he had indeed noticed, Duncan had gone outside without responding. He should have realized that Methos would notice him noticing.
It had been the same day he'd gotten out the hammock, and said hammock was undoubtedly where he would find his lover.
He sat on the bottom step in front of the cabin. The hammock was stretched between two trees a few feet away. Methos was stretched out atop it, a book in his hand. He glanced up at Duncan and smiled briefly.
Duncan opened his own book.
Feeling eyes upon him, he looked up. Methos was watching him with that expression, the one filled with tenderness and caring and which Methos usually hid as soon as he realized he was wearing it.
Duncan let his own emotions show in his face, the ones that look created. Gratitude, longing...
Methos rose and walked slowly toward him, desire seeping into his face. He knelt and Duncan leaned forward, meeting halfway the lips descending toward his own.
He hadn't expected Methos' concentrated gentleness. Now, he craved it, craved Methos' touch, craved the way it made him feel cherished and safe. When Methos fucked him that feeling suffused him from the inside out. It made him ache. Sometimes the ache was sweet and he never wanted it to stop and sometimes it was more than he could bear. When that happened he would beg Methos for more: harder, faster, deeper; and the pounding of his lover's hips would drive everything else out, everything except the craving. Duncan often wondered if he had made his lovers feel this way, if Tessa had felt about his cock the way he felt about Methos'. He hoped so.
Today the ache was sweet and he groaned as Methos' cock slid over his prostate. He was leaning on his forearms and he clutched fistfuls of the sheet in his hands.
Duncan gave into the ache, let it fill him, along with its source, Methos' cock. Long and slender, Duncan was convinced it had been designed for his ass. There were moments when he would believe that it had been designed for his hand, or his mouth, or for the sole purpose of being rubbed against Duncan's own. Then he would recall how it felt to be fucked by Methos and there would be no question in his mind. Methos' cock had been designed for fucking his ass.
How else could he explain it? The ease with which Methos slid into him, as though he belonged there. The exquisite pleasure which followed.
His ass and Methos' cock: the perfect couple.
Sometimes he would imagine himself Methos' whore, there solely to be used for the other man's pleasure. The fantasy never lasted. Methos would touch him and the reality of that touch would shatter any illusion that he was not loved. It terrified him, that love. It was too much, it offered too much and didn't ask enough in return.
Auden had once written something like 'let me be the one who loves more.' Duncan struggled to love equally, to love Methos as much as he was loved. Except when Methos fucked him, when Methos fucked him Duncan would give him anything, give him any part of himself for which the older immortal asked. But Methos didn't ask. He simply slid into Duncan's body with his concentrated gentleness and made Duncan ache.
The ache filled every part of him now and Duncan couldn't help it, he begged. "Methos, please."
Methos altered the angle of his thrusts slightly, going a little bit deeper, and Duncan shuddered. Their lovemaking ceased being languorous as Methos' movements became more exacting.
"Please," Duncan begged again.
Methos held himself partially out of Duncan's body, moving only a couple of inches back and forth over Duncan's prostate.
"Methos!" Duncan tried to move, to force the old man deeper, but Methos' hands on his hips held him still. He struggled for a moment in the other man's grip and then surrendered. He dropped his head, whimpering.
Suddenly, Methos thrust deep and hard, once, twice, and Duncan came. The ache eased with each pulse of his cock. He could feel Methos coming inside him and the fluid his lover was leaving in his body was a balm to his ravaged soul.
Methos. He would always have Methos. Nothing, no one, would ever take the old man from him. Not while he still breathed.
A long blade slicing through tender flesh; hazel eyes open but unseeing, staring up at him.
Duncan bolted upright, sleep left far behind. His heart was pounding and he inhaled deeply, searching for calm.
A hand squeezed his shoulder.
He turned toward the source of the offered comfort, his lips seeking and finding those of his lover.
Despite having initiated the sexual part of their relationship Duncan rarely took control during their lovemaking. Tonight he needed to, needed to prove his love for the other man to himself, needed to know he could never harm him. Lengthy caresses alternated with even lengthier kisses. He brought Methos to the brink again and again, each time easing him slowly down again.
Methos acquiesced, moving into his touch, silently encouraging him.
Gradually soft sighs gave way to whimpers and encouragement became pleading. Duncan held out until the ache filling him began to transmute into pain. Then he lowered himself between his lover's legs, his mouth latching onto Methos' opening.
"Duncan." Methos gasped the first word either of them had spoken since waking.
Mac pulled himself away, reaching for the lubricant. He paused as he coated his fingers; Methos was spread out before him, legs splayed, hands clenching the sheets. It was one of the most startlingly erotic things Duncan had ever seen. Methos caught him staring and smiled shyly. Warmth, affection, acceptance, the smile held it all.
His eyes still on his lover's face, Duncan slipped his hand into place. Methos opened to his touch, accepting the penetration, his flesh closing smoothly around Duncan's fingers.
Methos was completely open to him. The expressive face reflected a vulnerability that tore at Duncan. Methos trusted him. For all his protestations that he did whatever was necessary for survival, Methos, in truth, rarely surrendered control. But he was willing to surrender to Duncan, willing to let Duncan take him wherever it was the Highlander needed to go.
The old man had done it again, made him feel safe.
Duncan moved his fingers slowly, enjoying the glide of Methos' flesh over his own. His fingers grazed Methos' prostate and the old man's cock jerked. Unwilling to leave it untouched any longer, Duncan lowered his mouth.
He nearly lost himself in the taste and feel of his lover and he struggled to hold back his climax. Methos' orgasm was nearly his undoing. Duncan held on, swallowing desperately, his fingers continuing their easy movements.
He covered Methos' mouth with his own, and the other man's lips parted willingly. Duncan groaned. Everywhere he touched Methos yielded, molding his body to Duncan's.
He had to be inside, had to surround himself with Methos. He pulled back, hastily coating himself, avoiding the heated look in Methos' eyes lest he lose control. He pushed inside awkwardly, need stripping his movements of their usual grace.
Methos welcomed him, drawing his legs up and resting them on Duncan's shoulders, deepening the contact.
Duncan was trembling, the trembling the only movement he could make. He was lost in sensation: Methos' ass pressed against his hipbones; the heat from Methos' legs burning into his chest; Methos' hands quiet on his back; Methos' cock beneath his belly; Methos' breath on his cheek.
He moved slowly, pressing more than thrusting and it felt as though he were sliding deeper into his lover with every press. Part of his mind pointed out that it wasn't anatomically possible. Still, he slid deeper. Methos' body drew him in, wrapping him in warmth, cherishing him.
Orgasm struck, hitting every part of his body at once, filling him momentarily, before emptying him completely.
He was curled over, his forehead pressed into Methos' chest.
He lifted his head, smiled softly. Methos' fingers brushed his cheek.
Carefully, he withdrew from the other man's body and Methos' legs dropped to either side of his hips. Duncan didn't bother to move further, he simply lay down, his head on Methos' chest just below his chin.
Strong arms circled his shoulders and Duncan relaxed still further. Reassured and comforted he began to drift almost immediately back to sleep.
"Duncan? Will you tell me?"
"I dreamt you died."
"I thought it might be something like that." Methos brushed his lips against the top of Duncan's head.
"I killed you."
"Not that long ago I would have said the same thing about Richie."
"I'm not Richie. I'm older, and stronger, and meaner."
"Yeah, you are," Duncan agreed, turning his head to place a soft kiss on the flesh serving as his pillow. "Go to sleep, Methos."
Methos could protect himself. Methos could protect them both.
Duncan lost track of the days. One day slid into another, time passing in a haze of sex and companionship. Their weekly trips across the lake for supplies were the only marker of the summer's progress.
The strengthening sense of presence alerted him to Methos' return.
"Hey, MacLeod, look who I found." The use of his last name startled him and he halted his kata. Methos hadn't called him anything but Duncan, or occasionally Highlander, in weeks.
"Joe." Duncan walked toward them, hand extended. It was accepted and the two men embraced briefly. "It's good to see you."
"You, too," Joe answered.
"Checking up on me?" Duncan asked lightly.
Joe shrugged. "It's a living."
"Come on in. There's coffee on."
They settled around the small table. Joe took a drink, smiled. "So what have you two been doing all summer?"
"Not much," Methos answered.
Joe looked at Duncan. "That pretty much covers it," Duncan said. "When did you come back to the States?"
The Watcher filled them in on his recent activities and other news from the outside world. After that the conversation drifted, as it often did when Joe and Methos got together.
It was almost time for dinner when Duncan asked Joe if he'd like to stay the night.
Joe looked around the cabin. "Thanks for the invite, but you're not exactly set up to accommodate guests."
"You can have the bed. Methos and I have sleeping bags."
"Sleeping bags?" Methos echoed. "I think I'll take the couch."
"You don't fancy a night under the stars?" Duncan asked.
"A night with the mosquitoes, you mean."
"We can set up a tent." The corners of Duncan's mouth turned up slightly. "What's wrong, Methos? Afraid you won't be able to sleep without a mattress to cushion your bony ass?"
"I have a great ass."
"According to who?" Joe asked.
"Would you like a list?"
Joe and Duncan exchanged looks. "Yeah, we would," Duncan answered.
"There was this librarian in Alexandria."
"A librarian?" Joe asked.
"Don't knock it. This ass got me access to the private collections."
"I'm sure it did." Duncan managed to keep a straight face, but it was a struggle.
"And Plato, of course."
"Of course." Duncan agreed.
"Although I was a little old for his taste."
"If he only knew," Joe commented, and Methos grinned at him.
"Richelieu," Methos said, continuing his list.
"Richelieu?" Duncan repeated, clearly unbelieving.
"Few priests were actually celibate in those days."
"Richelieu," Duncan said again.
"It's not like I returned his interest. I was much too busy with D'Artagnan."
"I'm sure you were."
"He was an excellent swordsman."
"Undoubtedly a result of private tutoring."
Methos smirked, inclining his head slightly.
"That's quite a list," Joe observed. "Anyone in this century?"
Joe raised an eyebrow and looked at Duncan.
The Highlander couldn't stop the flush which was creeping up his cheeks. "What do you say, Joe? You gonna stay?"
Joe shrugged. "Sure."
Duncan turned to his lover. "So, old man, tent?"
Methos cast a longing look at the couch. "Yeah, tent."
"I'll build you a fire," Duncan offered.
The fire sputtered, then caught. Duncan watched it for a moment before joining his seated lover. "I've always liked camp fires."
Duncan smiled. "I doubt the Boy Scouts would approve of my current lifestyle."
"Probably not." Methos had his knees drawn up with his arms wrapped around them. His chin rested on one knee, and he was gazing into the fire.
"No, just feeling a little pensive."
Methos looked up at the sky. "Fall's coming."
Duncan understood. The cabin wasn't suitable for winter inhabitance, at least not by Methos' standards. "Have you," he hated the hesitancy in his own voice, "been happy here?"
Methos waited several moments before answering and Duncan felt his heart begin to tighten. "Yes, Duncan, I have." Methos turned his head, resting it on his knees, his face toward Duncan. "It's been almost unreal, a sojourn outside of time, like being in a monastery, only better."
"I think we brought reality with us."
"Yes, I suppose we did at that." Methos turned his face back to the fire. "And now it's coming to an end."
"It doesn't have to."
"It already has. No matter what we do when we leave here, the dream is over, to borrow a phrase."
"Dream with me a little longer, Methos," Duncan asked softly.
Methos turned toward him, and his lips curled into a sad smile for just a moment before connecting with Duncan's.
Cool morning air combined with the increasing sunlight to pull Duncan into wakefulness. He was draped in Methos. An arm was slung over his chest; a leg covered both of his, and at least half of the old man was atop him. His own arms were wrapped around Methos shoulders. Smiling, he held his lover more tightly.
"Good mornin,'" Methos muttered sleepily.
"Good morning," Duncan answered, kissing the top of the head resting on his chest. "Cold?"
"Nah." Methos wiggled, trying to snuggle more deeply into Duncan. "I have my very own Highland blanket."
"I feel more like a mattress."
Methos pushed against the erection nestled into his hip. "A lumpy one at that."
"You expect original at this hour?"
"You think we should tell Joe?"
"I'm sure he knows." Methos lifted his head. "He's your Watcher; it's his job to know."
"How? We haven't seen him, and no one else has been on the island."
"He knows you, knows the way you look at your lovers, the way you interact with them. Between us we probably gave the game away a dozen times yesterday."
"I do not look at all of my lovers the same way."
"Not precisely, but there are similarities. We all do it; you don't need to feel badly."
"I won't. It's not as if I don't have other things to fret about."
Methos smiled, and Duncan saw both his amusement and his approval.
He began to stroke Methos' back, spreading his hands wide, his touch playful. Methos' stern look served only to encourage him, and he slipped a hand lower, brushing a buttock. "That librarian was right, you do have a great ass."
"And you think you're going to get a piece of it."
"Or give you a piece of mine, whichever you prefer."
"Did anyone ever tell you that you have the sex drive of an adolescent?"
Duncan replied with his mouth, applying it to the one spot on the other man's neck he knew would get results.
"Duncan," Methos protested half-heartedly.
"I crave you," Duncan said, his mouth still against his lover's neck. "Did you know that?" More nuzzling of Methos' neck elicited a groan. "Your mouth, your hands, your cock. It's beyond want, Methos, beyond need. They're essential, you're essential, necessary for survival." Duncan pulled back and looked into his partner's face. "Fuck me, Methos, please."
Methos' hand was already moving between their bodies, seeking the place where Duncan's cravings would be met.
Joe was already awake when they entered the cabin. He glanced up from his Palm Pilot. "Sleep well?"
Methos gave him a dirty look.
"I made coffee," Joe offered.
"Thanks, Joe." Duncan poured himself a cup, held up the pot.
Methos shook his head. "I'm going to shower."
Duncan nodded and carried his coffee to the table, joining his Watcher. "Can I make you some breakfast?"
"Not yet. I wanna let the coffee kick in first."
"Sure." Duncan drank his coffee in silence, unable to think of anything else to say. It was awkward and he cast about for a safe topic of conversation.
"You and the old guy seem to be getting along pretty well these days," Joe observed.
Duncan was startled by the sudden sound and it took him a moment to respond. "Yeah, we are."
"I never would have imagined the two of you spending this much time alone together without making each other crazy."
"Methos is good company. Things are never dull when he's around."
"Even in a one room cabin?"
"At the very least he has a lot of stories to tell."
Duncan rose and brought the pot of coffee to the table. "I suppose he does."
"What do you guys do all day?"
"Read, canoe, the kind of things one does in a one room cabin in the middle of nowhere."
The look on Joe's face indicated he had a very good idea what those things were, and Duncan looked away, not wanting to see the knowledge in his face. It seemed a violation somehow.
Joe must have noticed, because he changed the topic of conversation. "When are you planning on returning to the real world?"
Methos emerged just in time to hear the question and Duncan's eyes locked on his damp lover as he answered. "I don't know."
Methos walked past them into the kitchen and snagged a mug. "Before winter," he said, approaching the table and picking up the coffee pot.
"Winter's not so bad here," Duncan replied.
"Sure it's not. How deep does the snow get?"
"A few feet."
"Depends, some winters it's barely three feet."
"And other winters?"
"Four." Methos looked at him with disbelief. "Sometimes six."
"You want me to spend the winter on a remote island, in a lake in the mountains, where the snow drifts will be almost as tall as I am?"
"Forget I mentioned it."
"There's other holy ground, Duncan. Other places we can go."
"I'm gonna grab a shower."
That did not go well, Duncan thought as he covered his arms with lather. Methos, agreeing to stay the winter in a place like this? He should have known better than to think it was even a remote possibility. It was a surprise he had lasted this long. Methos valued technology and the comfort it brought. Duncan could understand that. He'd had enough of outhouses and bringing the livestock into the house at night because it was warmer that way himself.
In truth, he didn't especially want to spend the winter here. He didn't want to spend it without Methos.
They walked Joe to the boathouse. Duncan resisted the impulse to offer to take Joe across the lake. He was a grown man, he could handle a rowboat.
"Don't forget your life jacket," Methos admonished as Joe settled into the center of the boat.
Joe made no move to put it on.
"I'm serious. Going out on a boat without one is just plain stupid." He climbed onto the boat and tugged the life preserver over Joe's head. "Are you going to buckle it, or am I?"
"D'Artagnan is a fictional character, you know," Joe answered.
"I wouldn't tell him that." Methos reached for the buckle. "He was pretty life like when I knew him."
Joe pushed his hand away and buckled it himself. "I know, you didn't get to be five thousand years old by taking unnecessary chances."
"At least not for the last three thousand or so." Evidently satisfied that Joe's safety had been secured, Methos returned to the dock.
"Stay in touch." Joe positioned the oars above the water.
"We will," Duncan promised as he pushed the boat toward open water.
"Take care of yourself, Joe," Methos added.
They watched until Joe was a few hundred yards out and then began the walk back to the cabin. "I almost went with him, " Methos said.
"I need a haircut. I'm starting to look like a geeky Oxford student."
After Joe left the silence returned. It was only after it returned that Duncan realized how much he'd missed it. Methos, he'd learned, talked as a way of creating distance, his banter established limits and maintained them while creating the illusion of intimacy. He hadn't noticed how much the intimacy that had grown between them was connected to the silence until Joe's presence had caused them to resume their former patterns of interaction. He'd tired of the incessant banter quickly, wanting the honesty he'd found in their silence.
He put away the last of the breakfast dishes and left the cabin. He knew precisely where Methos was, the clearing he had discovered soon after their arrival. The morning light played among the trees there, creating a feeling of airiness and isolation that drew Duncan's lover morning after morning.
Duncan had teased him at first, before the silence had descended, about going there to practice ancient rituals and worship gods only he remembered. Methos had merely smiled.
Duncan's steps halted as he reached the clearing. He remained on the edge, watching. Methos was moving through a series of movements that resembled both hatha yoga and tai chi and probably predated both.
Before, he would have found it odd to find his oh-so-modern and oh-so-cynical friend engrossed in a pursuit with even the slightest hint of spirituality attached to it, despite knowing that Methos meditated, despite knowing he'd spent a great deal of time in Asian monasteries.
But he knew Methos better now, knew the man beneath the layers. It was amazing how much he'd learned once they'd stopped talking.
Methos sank slowly to the ground, his eyes falling shut and his breath settling into a meditative pattern. Duncan continued to watch. Methos knew he was there, was choosing to let Duncan see him like this and Duncan took advantage of the opportunity. The usually animated face was slack with relaxation, almost expressionless. Methos was right, Duncan noted with amusement, his hair was getting puffy as it grew out, and he did, indeed, look like a geeky nineteen year old with an overlarge nose, jutting ears, and whiskers that were thicker over his upper lip than anywhere else.
The loose shirt only accentuated the leanness of the body beneath it. No extraneous flesh there, Duncan knew. Joe had once commented that the first time he'd met Adam Pierson he'd had to resist the urge to take him home and feed him.
Methos' alter ego did that, called to the protective instincts of others. Duncan wondered if it was deliberate on the old man's part or if some of Methos' vulnerability had slipped, unbeknownst, into Adam.
It was that vulnerability which had drawn MacLeod, even when Methos had pointed out that at five thousand years old he could take care of himself, his existence itself proof of that fact.
Then he'd seen the other side of Methos. He'd opened his door to find Methos standing there, legs spread, his presence filling the frame. No vulnerability there, just presence. A powerful, masculine presence that spoke of power and experience of a kind Duncan hadn't wanted to think about. It was then that Duncan's infatuation with the other man had begun.
"Can you imagine him killing innocent women and children for pleasure?" He'd answered Joe's question in the negative, but the truth was that he could. He had seen the power within Methos, the carefully restrained capacity for violence. It drew him. Methos had been a mystery in so many ways, but learning that he was once called Death had cleared up one or two, even as it created a dozen more.
The mysteries were gone now. They had vanished when Duncan had accepted Methos for the bundle of contradictions that he was. The old man could not be understood with the mind; it was like trying to reduce movement to a series of linear equations. The complexity was lost, along with the beauty, and the subtlety. Compassion and cruelty, strength and fragility, an astonishing ability both to love and to let people go without so much as a backward glance. He had a past that stretched back for millennia and yet he lived each moment with focused intensity.
Duncan walked to where Methos sat and stood in front of him for a heartbeat before sinking cross-legged to the ground. The other man's eyes remained closed, but his hands reached out to clasp Duncan's.
Duncan sat on the steps, looking at the stars. It was getting dark earlier now and the sun had disappeared while they were still eating dinner.
He heard the door open and a moment later Methos was sitting beside him. "Do you really want to pass the winter on holy ground?" he asked quietly.
Duncan nodded, but didn't turn toward him. "Yeah, I do."
"I have a little refuge in Greece. It's not quite as remote as this place, but it's beautiful there. I think you'd like it."
"I'm sure I would."
"I should warn you: it has rooms."
"I can handle rooms, Methos."
"Yeah, twenty-seven, I have a lot of books."
Duncan chuckled. "One room per language?"
"I don't have enough rooms for that."
"So I won't run out of reading material."
"Not at the rate you read."
Duncan glared at him.
"Don't worry, some of them have pictures." Methos smiled, "I'll go into town and make the arrangements tomorrow."
Duncan didn't bother to answer. He simply reached for Methos' hand and entwined their fingers. "You said you borrowed the phrase, 'the dream is over.' Where from?"
"John Lennon. The Plastic Ono Band Album. The song 'God.' It's about disillusionment and loss of faith."
"I think you'd like it." Methos answered. Then he sang softly:
He paused for a moment before continuing:
After a moment's silence Duncan asked, "Who's Zimmerman?"
"Will you play the song for me sometime?"
"I'll play you the whole album." Methos tugged on his hand. "Let's go in. It's getting cold out here."
"It isn't much warmer inside."
"There are blankets inside."
"Ready for bed already?" Duncan teased as he rose.
Methos stood. "I just like being warm."
"I've noticed." Duncan smiled. "It'll be warmer in Greece."
"Now that you mention it, the nights there can get a little chilly."
"Good thing you have blankets."
Methos returned the smile. "Yeah, it is."
Duncan waited until the old man was almost asleep before he asked. "Methos, what do you believe in?"
"Isn't it obvious? I believe in you, Highlander. Now, go to sleep."