|Matter & Antimatter
MacLeod made a circuit of the shadowed loft. He seemed fascinated by the odd assortment of artifacts, antiques, and modern miscellany, as if collectively they could give him an answer to some question he wouldn't ask aloud. Methos noted with some dismay that the Highlander took his coat off, laying it over a chair as if planning to stay a while.
His own coat felt unbalanced and he remembered the bottle of Jameson.
"I'm going to have a drink. You want one?" He moved to the narrow sideboard that passed for a bar.
"It's five-thirty in the morning."
"And this is relevant because...?"
There was a pause, and Methos heard the heavy tread move toward him. "All right then. Why not."
Methos fixed the drinks without hurrying, needing the reprieve to get himself together. You didn't live as long as he had without learning how to switch gears on the fly, but having struggled so to find the strength to run it was hard, very hard to stay and face MacLeod again. He could do it, though. He didn't know what it was Mac thought they could possibly have to talk about at this late date, but it didn't matter. He would be on the other side of the world in a few short hours, and they wouldn't be able to do each other any more damage.
But when he turned at last with the two glasses of ice and whiskey in his hands, the Highlander was only a few feet away, watching him with the most comical, heart-wrenching astonishment written all over his face. And then the astonishment gave way to something else. Something hurt and angry that made the sable eyes glisten just before MacLeod controlled his expression, the defenses going up.
"You were leaving," he said, accusing.
Oh, Duncan. Methos might have laughed, if he hadn't been afraid it might turn into something else. He only looked at MacLeod, saying nothing.
"Just like that?" The burr was thick in the Scot's demand.
"Well, I was going to leave a note." He was unable to keep the laughter entirely out of his voice. It felt a little hysterical.
"A note." The inflection was flat, disbelieving. "Really. Tell me, I want to know--what would it have said?"
"Oh, the usual." Methos turned and put a little distance between them, faking nonchalance while his heart sped up steadily, dangerously. "You know, 'it's been real, thanks for the memories,' that sort of thing. Whatever it took."
"Whatever it took to keep me away, you mean."
Yes. We're through. Fuck off. You're destroying me. Whatever it took.
"That was the general idea."
MacLeod took one step toward him. "So you... what? Go off into the night and let me wonder what happened to you for the rest of my life?" He sounded genuinely hurt, as if he really might have.
It pushed Methos past the precarious edge of control. He spun, sloshing liquor onto the floor. "Oh, come off it, MacLeod! Do I have to paint you a picture? Haven't you had enough? I bloody well have."
MacLeod's anger rose to meet his, the dark eyes full of thunder. "You'd throw away everything we've been through--over this? I couldn't let him kill again. I had no choice!"
"According to what law?" Methos bit out. "Yours?" If MacLeod wanted to think this was only about Byron, Methos would oblige him. He saw the words strike home.
"Damn you, Methos, you of all people have no right--"
Methos set the drinks down very deliberately, and without another word, he turned for the door. Get out, the voice of survival cried, get out, get out--last chance or there will be no turning back, not for either of you, not if you don't get out right now.
He didn't make it. Three steps from the door, strong hands closed on his arms from behind, warm even through the layers of wool and twill. He could feel the imprint of those hands as if he were naked.
"I'm sorry," MacLeod whispered, so gently it was almost a caress.
Frozen in place, Methos shuddered against the urge to turn on him, the fight or flight panic that had his hand flexing toward the blade he still wore tucked in his coat, an instinct so powerful that resisting it made him break out in a sweat. A wave of chills sluiced over him. It is happening, he thought, with a mixture of dread and profound relief. Finally, it is happening. No running after all, old man.
Methos was having trouble breathing again. He pressed his lips together but could not seem to calm the heaving of his chest. With effort he forced the words out.
"Get. Your hands. Off. Of me."
But MacLeod didn't. He was moving, circling so he could see Methos' eyes. Methos stared straight ahead, holding himself so tightly he thought he might shatter. Whatever MacLeod saw in his face, it stopped him; the iron grip tightened.
His nearness was intolerable. Methos jerked out of his grasp. "No. Enough, Highlander. Judge me or let me go, but I will not play this game with you any longer!"
"I didn't mean what I said."
Methos met his eyes without mercy and enunciated carefully, wanting there to be no mistake. "You meant every word."
Methos advanced on him, and MacLeod fell back a step before his fury. "Yes!" Methos hissed, knowing he was finally out of control, and unable to care. "Yes, MacLeod, you meant it. Just like you meant to kill Kronos. Just like you meant to kill Byron. It's time you accepted it because I have had enough. You can judge them. You can kill them." He seized hold of Duncan's shirt, red fistfuls of silk. "Why do you deny me?"
"You know why!" MacLeod cried, and planted his feet, grabbing Methos by the arms. The dark eyes were blazing with something fierce, something too bright to look at. "You are not like them!"
Methos shuddered, catching himself against the Highlander's broad frame. "MacLeod--" There was a thickness in his throat, blocking the words. "MacLeod, I am them." The room was spinning. "Nothing I've done is going to go away because you pretend it's so--you cannot have it both ways. You can't forgive the things I've done. If you couldn't kill me, you should have let Cassandra finish the job." He cursed his body for betraying him. It took every ounce of will he possessed to shove Duncan away from him, denying that support; the absence of those hands was like longing for the sun in an endless night. He backed toward the center of the room.
MacLeod didn't follow this time. His eyes were watchful, his voice dangerously quiet. "What are you doing, old man?"
Only then did Methos realize his hand had found the hilt of his sword. Yes, a voice said within him, layers of civilization falling away, making him feel suddenly light. It is fit.
A kind of calm fell over him then. Two years ago he'd known what the outcome of their meeting must be. He'd let himself be seduced by the promise of the Highlander's friendship, but he had always known in his heart that one day it would come back to that moment of truth under the bridge. It had come again in Bordeaux, and again MacLeod had turned from it, taunting him with the hope of forgiveness, acceptance, absolution that had never come.
Well, third time's the charm.
He drew his sword, a long, deadly gleam of silver in the shadows.. "Trial by combat. Trust the fates to decide the winner, isn't that how the song goes, Duncan-MacLeod-of-the-Clan-MacLeod?"
The instinctive reaction to that challenge was unmistakable. He saw MacLeod's stance shift, saw him take two prowling steps forward, the deadly grace making the hair stand up on Methos' arms. But MacLeod shook his head slowly, his hands deliberately open, empty. "I will not fight you."
"Oh, but you have to. Your own code tells you so. Isn't that what you told Amanda and me?"
"It's not the same thing, and you know it!"
"Sorry, the philosophical distinction eludes me." Methos was grinning ferally now, circling him. The space was far too small; the flat would be laid waste by the time they were finished. It wouldn't matter--chances were good the entire block would get scorched shortly thereafter.
"Methos, please." The expressive face was drawn with betrayal and grief, the look that haunted his memories. "It doesn't have to be like this."
It enraged him as nothing else could have. He hated that look; it had power over him, frightening in its intensity. "Don't look so surprised, Highlander. You knew it would come to this. You must have known."
"I don't want to fight you!"
"Suit yourself," Methos said, and lunged.
It was a tribute to MacLeod's reflexes that he instinctively stepped inside the blow, the flat of the Ivanhoe's blade glancing off his shoulder, slicing open fabric but missing flesh. Even so, the power Methos had put behind his swing drove the Highlander staggering to one side. MacLeod turned it into a roll, putting enough distance between them to go for the katana. It whistled from its hidden sheath, blade humming faintly.
He wouldn't use it. Methos pressed the attack but Mac kept falling back, putting furniture between them, using his sword only when he couldn't block the furious blows any other way. MacLeod had snagged his coat as well and used it now to advantage, entangling his attacker's weapon and buying himself a few seconds.
Damn you, Highlander, fight! Methos fumed, but his soul was light, singing in harmony with the steel of his blade. He knew it couldn't go on. The man would have to fight back, sooner or later. MacLeod shoved a chair in his path and he vaulted over it, seeing the dark eyes widen in surprise at his agility. Sweet rage and grim pleasure soared through him. Now, Highlander. Now. He had MacLeod in an awkward spot, dangerously close to being pinned against the windows. For an instant he feared MacLeod would try to go through the glass, and his sword whipped upward, driving the other man back and back again, toward the wall.
But MacLeod wasn't looking for escape. He was looking at Methos, their eyes locked, unwavering, and Methos saw it the moment that it happened, the fury sparking in that storm-dark gaze. The katana lashed out, faster than thought. Somehow Methos blocked it, but MacLeod's blade slid along his, slicing his hand viciously.
Methos did not feel it, except as a flame in his blood, urging him on. Now, Duncan, his heart cried, and he could feel the katana coming for him, knew that it was coming for him, and for that one instant he felt nothing but sheer, blessed freedom. One more parry, and one more, and then--
"No," Duncan whispered, going to one knee.
The katana was flung aside, ringing against the hardwood floor.
Methos snarled, thwarted. His sword came down, level with MacLeod's heart. "Pick it up!" he hissed, pressing the point against red silk, drawing blood.
"No," MacLeod said more forcefully, eyes never wavering. He rose to his feet, and took a step forward, heedless of the blade pressing at his heart. Methos was forced to step back. "I told you before the answer is no."
"You owe me!" Methos cried, knuckles white where they gripped the hilt.
"Yes," MacLeod agreed. "But not this, Methos. I cannot judge you."
He took another step and again Methos retreated, his rage incendiary, burning him up from the inside out. "You deny me still?"
MacLeod only looked at him, a look full of compassion, layers and levels of tenderness and sadness and pain. The Highlander took another step and to Methos' horror he let his blade waver fractionally, permitting it. He felt himself shaking with a reaction he could not name. "Can you forgive, then?" Methos whispered, voice breaking, not really daring to hope.
Duncan's lips, those sweet lips that fueled his dreams and dealt such beautiful pain, parted. Dark eyes shone with tears he didn't shed. "Oh, Methos. You know I can't."
Despair flooded Methos in a dark rush, and when his sword arm fell, unbalancing him, he was only distantly aware of it.
Duncan caught him by the shoulders, disarming him, taking the sword and his defenses. "Methos, listen to me. You're asking for something that cannot be given, not by me nor any man. How do I absolve the man who was Death--when that man died two thousand years before I was born? He does not exist. Let him go. I have."
Methos felt himself fragmenting, and didn't think he could take much more. "That's a lie," he whispered.
MacLeod's honesty radiated from him, undeniable. "I have never lied to you."
Impossible to think with those strong hands holding him captive. Methos broke free of his grip. "You would have fought me for the right to face Keane--for things you did centuries ago! How can you stand there and tell me you can just let it go?"
Something snapped in MacLeod. He flung a hand outward, gesturing at Methos' sword on the floor. "And how can you think I would ever do such a thing? You told me the only forgiveness that mattered was my own. You were right. You were right about every single thing you said to me that day. Why have you forgotten?"
"What makes you think I have?"
MacLeod moved a step closer, his eyes darkening with unnamable emotion. "Then why do you ask me to judge you?"
"It's what you wanted, isn't it?"
"Answer the question!"
"Because it isn't enough!" Methos snapped. He caught himself, too late. The expectant silence defeated him. His lips thinned, bitterness simmering beneath the words he bit out. "A long time ago I decided I wanted to live, and I turned my back on the past. But then I met you." His mouth twisted with something that wasn't a smile, the mocking directed at himself. "Now I think of what you see when you look at me, and suddenly it isn't enough any more, just to live."
"And?" MacLeod prompted, inexorable. "What else, Methos?"
Involuntarily, his eyes went to Mac's.
Those eyes, dark-fringed and liquid and asking for the world. Inescapable. Something vital in Methos broke open with a hairline crack.
"Because you couldn't forgive," he whispered at last, averting his face. "Because I thought judgment was the only thing you could give me."
A long, astonished silence. Then MacLeod swallowed, drawing a deep breath. "You asked me once if I could accept. I didn't know the answer then. But I do now."
Methos wanted so badly to believe him. But it was too much, to let go of so much hurt and fear all at once. He started to pull away, but MacLeod touched him, brushing fingertips along the side of his face, his neck, freezing him to shocked stillness. The low voice wrapped itself around his heart.
"Listen to me. That day, when Kronos came, I let you convince me that the trust we had was a lie. I should have believed in you no matter what you told me."
Methos closed his eyes. "I needed you," he said in a rush, not knowing until it was past his lips that he was going to say it. Breathing hard, his heart clenched like a fist, he wished he could snatch the words back. Too late.
"I know." The grief was heavy in MacLeod's voice. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I failed you. But I do believe in you, Methos. Anything you need, all you have to do is ask. All you ever have to do is ask." He leaned forward until their foreheads were touching. His hand slipped up the side of Methos' throat, cupping the vulnerable nape in his warm, callused palm. "Only please, not this. It would kill me."
The gesture threatened to break down some last line of defense. Between one breath and the next, Methos felt the taut thing in his chest start to unravel, spilling light into places that had been dark for a very, very long time. It was nothing he had ever expected. Not judgment or forgiveness, but much more than either of those. Acceptance. Faith. That voice saying his name. "Who are you," he managed, "and what have you done with Duncan MacLeod?"
MacLeod's breath caught in something like a laugh, low and sweet and suspiciously unsteady. "Don't worry. I'm sure I'll manage to do something pig-headed or judgmental before long."
The man's nearness was a drug, making Methos a little crazy. Pulling away, he struggled to find the gallows humor that had always been a refuge between them. "You've been in such a snit, I was more than half convinced you wanted my head for a doorstop."
"You can take mine if it'll make you feel better." The tone was light, but underscored with a deep current of sorrow. "Methos, I--"
Methos looked hard into MacLeod's eyes. "Don't," he said harshly, before MacLeod could say anything else. He couldn't bear it, to think that Byron should come between them now. "It's done. No regrets."
MacLeod shook his head gravely. "No. Not for him. But I regret more than you can know that I had to kill your friend. Can you..." MacLeod hesitated, as if considering what he asked. "Can you accept it?"
Methos chuckled softly, the relief a heady lightness inside of him. "Oh, Highlander." For just an instant, he curled the back of his hand into the warm curve of the muscular throat. "What do you think?"
He meant to keep it light, an acknowledgment of the hurt healed between them, only that. But something shifted in the fleeting touch, the moment when their eyes met and held--something that washed over both of them, like pale sunlight after a storm--much more than Methos had ever meant to tell him. Methos froze, as the realization came: as easily as that, he had given everything away.
A chill squeezed his heart as MacLeod's eyes went wide. The seconds drew out, a small forever.
At last MacLeod gave a breathless, choked off laugh. "I think we've both been idiots. Methos--" He shook his head helplessly. "You broke my heart, you know. That day by the car, you broke my heart. Did you not know that?"
The words took Methos' breath and shot like strong liqueur through his blood, flooding him with a deep, overpowering ache of need. He started to pull away.
But strong arms caught him, drew him close.
"Enough, old man," Duncan whispered harshly. "Enough." And any protests Methos might have made died swiftly, forgotten in the uncontrolled heat of those hands in his hair, that body pressing against his, that mouth claiming his in a silencing kiss.
One rough, sweet caress, like coming home, Duncan's mouth, lips parting, tongue tasting him intimately. Oh god. More poignant than Methos had imagined, more all-consuming, more devastating.
Distantly Methos knew that MacLeod had backed him up against something--a bookshelf? A cabinet? He grabbed for something to hold on to and his hand found purchase on smooth wood. His other hand laced in dark hair, releasing a faint scent that was nothing from any shampoo, but just Duncan, overwhelming. He groaned and pulled the other's head down in spite of himself. Duncan kissed as if he could not bear the separation of any part of their mouths for long, as if Methos were a part of his own soul he could reclaim with the voluptuous invasion of his tongue.
Maybe that was true, Methos thought incoherently, the flood of his own response shaking him to his core. Knowing him like this, tasting him, feasting on his mouth, holding on to each other like this, frantic for more closeness... there had been dreams. Fantasy paled; the reality unraveled him. A thousand reasons why this should not be and not one of them that could stand against the slide of Duncan's hair through his fingers, the slide of that sweet tongue in his mouth. Whatever else comes, I will have had this. And it will have been worth it.
Duncan's strength asked no permission and needed none, for Methos didn't resist any more. Strong hands pulled his coat off and let it fall, possessing his hips; Duncan pressed into the space between his thighs. A shock of current leaped between them. Methos sucked in a sharp breath, feeling the heat, the hardness of that body all along his. The feel of him--steel and softness under thin silk--was so incredible Methos instantly had to have more. He pulled Duncan closer, pleasure soaring from the friction where his sex found a fervent, answering hardness.
Duncan moaned softly, his hips surging of their own accord. In another moment that knowing mouth was at Methos' throat. Shivering a little, Methos arched back in his arms. "Mac--" Duncan's hands seized him, stroking down his waist, hips, cupping his buttocks, pulling him even tighter. Methos had to widen his stance for balance. He felt the touch of Duncan's tongue, tasting him, the graze of teeth stabbing electric pleasure down his throat, straight through his belly and groin, making him throb against Duncan's thigh. A short cry escaped him, breathless and pleading.
That mouth, warm, consuming, the hollow at his throat, under his jaw, behind his ear, at his temple. The sweet jolts of pleasure intoxicated him; the pulse of energy generated by each caress soared through him. Methos felt it looping back and forth, a kind of euphoric ecstasy singing through the nerves, concentrated at the base of the spine like being fucked by an electric pulse. "Mac, I--" He'd never felt anything like it, not with any Immortal, not with anyone. Quickening, he thought incoherently. Something to do with his quickening, mine---he tried to remember the question but no words came.
"No," Duncan murmured against his neck, "no more. Not talking is what got us to swords and bloodshed. Say it, Methos, tell me what you want. Tell me what you need."
Methos shuddered. His head fell back, exposing the length of his throat to Duncan's mouth. "More. I need more. Your mouth. Your hands--" He barely recognized the sound of his own voice hoarse with need, asking for those things from this man. He rubbed himself helplessly against the other man's insistent arousal. Blood surged to MacLeod's sex and his own with the friction.
Duncan pulled Methos' shirt out of his jeans, even the drag of fabric across his belly almost more stimulation than he could stand. And when those hands touched him there, cupping taut muscle, slipping over his flanks and up his sides, he shuddered again, hissing in a breath. God yes, better than he'd imagined, warmer, more possessive. He had to bite his lip against a totally unexpected, uncontrolled sob. You have me, Duncan. You can have me. The other man swept broad thumbs across his nipples, not hurrying, and the surge of pleasure brought him close to orgasm. "Duncan," he gasped out, a warning.
"Methos," the other man answered, his voice raw and edged with need. So beautiful, Methos thought, he is so beautiful, his voice and his mouth and the way he says my name...
Dark eyes focused, found his, the look of glazed arousal intoxicating. "Will you tell me what you need?" The big hands spread against the bare skin at his waist and slipped to the small of his back, beneath his jeans, cupping bare flesh. As if Duncan could not hold the words back, he confessed, "I want so badly to be inside of you."
Methos closed his eyes, just the suggestion enough to push him to the edge. "Yes," he groaned. "God, yes." The pressure of denim against his desperate arousal threatened to send him over. "But you'd better make it soon."
Those hands squeezed his ass and pulled him up against MacLeod's body, one muscled thigh pressing between his legs. The flushed mouth took possession of him again, a wet, ravaging assault. It ended before his shocked body could find release and he was left without breath, trembling just short of coming. For an instant it was on his lips to beg for mercy. He bit it back, his hand snaking between them to ease his own throbbing need.
But before he could MacLeod's hands were pulling his shirt off, palms roughly skimming the contours of his body. "Not yet. I want to look at you. I've dreamed about having you like this, about you letting me touch you like this. Tell me what you want. Anything."
Out of self-preservation Methos struggled to focus on something besides the demanding pressure between his thighs. His fingers found the rent in Duncan's shirt, where his sword had sliced through. "This. Off. Now." Together, not bothering with buttons, they pulled the garment over Duncan's head and off. "And these." Methos felt him hungrily through his trousers. He felt like heaven, hot and stiff and responsive. Duncan moaned aloud and had to put a hand out to steady himself against Methos' shoulder. Getting the pants off was torture for both of them; when they were off, his dusky skin gleamed in the silvered light of dawn, putting imagination to shame.
Methos had meant to distract himself with Duncan's nakedness under his hands, the feel of his heated curves and hollows, sheened with sweat and heady musk. But his hands closed around that elegant, heavy sex, felt it leap to his touch--and the throb of wanting laced down his spine and straight through his insides.
Duncan caught him at the back of the neck, an embrace of unexpected, devastating tenderness. "Tell me." He made it a plea, asking for the world again, for Methos to trust him after everything that had happened, all the hurt they had caused and all the chances they had missed. His eyes were wide and full.
Methos was undone. "Be with me, Duncan. Don't make me wait any more."
He didn't know how they made it to the bed. The pressure of those hands at the buttons of his jeans reduced him to harsh panting, his body arching against cool cotton-sheathed down. Silver raindrops painted tall windows and golden skin and the jeans were down, were off; he made a sound of relief and wanting, pulling that magnificent body down between his thighs. A hot hardness pushed into his hip. A low moan escaped him, anticipating that heat inside of him.
Fingers laced in his, pressing his hands down against the duvet. "Do you have anything...?"
"No." He shook his head, consciously relaxing the muscles, unable to bear any more waiting. "It's all right. You won't hurt me."
"Ah, Methos." Duncan's cock caressed his roughly, the pleasure almost unbearable, making Methos moan and shiver in the other man's grip as slippery fluid surged fresh from his overstimulated sex. At last Duncan shuddered, shifting down between his thighs until Methos felt a blunt pressure, slick with his own fluid, pushing against him. "Methos." One hand let go and tilted his hips up, steadying him. The pressure was uncomfortable, delicious, terrifying. Duncan inside me. Pressure became a slow, sweet invasion, and Methos buried his helpless sob of need against the corded neck, trying to breathe. He squeezed Duncan's fingers like a lifeline and pushed against him.
Duncan slid roughly into him, their voices groaning a duet of utter ecstasy.
One long, unbearable moment of shocked pleasure--then a high, profound plateau of dizzying height. So sweet. Duncan, you are so sweet in me, I could die like this. I would die like this. And then, bracing a hand against Methos' hip, Duncan thrust deeply, drawing a hoarse cry from someplace deep within him.
They moved together, and there was no room for mercy, no quarter given or asked. Methos heard himself making those deep, wordless cries. They were nothing he could have controlled. There was pain and he couldn't breathe because he was coming apart, but he didn't care because the pleasure was devastating. Duncan's muscles worked against the back of his thighs. He could feel their rhythmic slide driving that throbbing heat inside of him, the grip of strong fingers in his. It was hard, and fast, and wonderful.
"Look at me," Duncan panted. "Methos, look at me."
For a second Methos didn't think he could. The rough friction, pressure, fullness were too much, the throb where Duncan was hitting the bundle of nerves within him again and again a thick sweet pleasure taking thought and breath.
But to deny him was unthinkable, and he found he had opened his eyes, found Duncan's, and there was no hurt now, no pretense, no refuge in anger or any of the other shields they had held between them for so long.
"Feel me inside of you."
"Yes," Methos gasped.
"This is real. Don't doubt it. Believe it."
"Yes," he whispered fiercely, for that one moment, believing.
And then Methos became aware that the rhythm had changed, that he was soaring on a knife-edge of pleasure so sharp it was akin to pain, that he was sobbing softly because Duncan was stroking himself inside him with exquisite slowness and it was so perfect, so beautiful. The salt wetness on his lips was his own, because there had to be some outlet, some release for how perfect this was.
Duncan was making exposed, breathless cries with each slow advance, arching above him, face transcendent with his pleasure. In one motion he took Methos' cock in his hand and leaned forward. And pressing his hand and Methos' sex against his belly, he kissed Methos, capturing his keening sob of pleasure with his mouth, rocking deep in Methos' body.
No thought then, just their cries and the long, helpless slide down the face of the cresting wave into the undertow. Just the orgasm rolling over them in great swells of release as quenching, as uncontrollable, as deep and strong and infinite as the sea. Just Duncan gasping his name against his neck, over and over as the tremors shook him. "Methos. Methos."
Just that beautiful voice saying his name, taking him apart and remaking him into something rare and incandescent, something innocent as the morning... something newborn.