by Kellie Matthews & Julia Kosatka



This story is a sequel to our X-Files/Highlander/Star Trek: Next Generation stories "In the Dark" and "Into the Light" Though time-wise it actually fits into "Into the Light" before the epilogue, we felt that it works better as a separate story so we are presenting it as such.

Additional Warning!!! There is explicit homoerotic content herein, which some may find disturbing, so if you are among those people who find the loving depiction of human sexuality offensive, either do NOT read this story, or get someone who doesn't mind to black out all the juicy parts for you before you read it. If you're under age, get parental permission to read it. Don't flame us if you're silly enough to go ahead and read it after we warned you, and then get offended by it.

This story copyright 1995 by the authors. Highlander is a trademark of Rysher Entertainment, characters not used by permission. Star Trek: The Next Generation is a trademark of Paramount, Inc., characters not used by permission.

--Kellie Matthews, Julia Kosatka

Duncan opened the oven and peered inside to check on the cassoulet he'd put in half-an-hour earlier. He couldn't see it very well so he leaned closer, and managed to burn his forearm on the rack. Reflexively he yanked his arm away and knocked the skillet off the stove. The mushrooms he'd been sauteing went everywhere. With a sigh, he cleaned up the mess and wondered why he was even bothering to fix dinner. It had been nearly six hours since Methos had left the house. He'd missed lunch, was about to missdinner, and he had the kind of metabolism that demanded frequent maintenance. Duncan was starting to worry. He knew it was silly, really. It wasn't likely that an Immortal could be harmed by wind or weather, but still, it was his fault Methos was gone, and he knew it.

It had been a stupid argument to begin with, but his stubborn streak had manifested and he'd been utterly pigheaded, refusing to acknowledge Methos' point of view. Without Guinan's moderating influence, the argument had escalated into a full-fledged fight, ending with Methos storming out of the house in frustration. The instant the door had slammed shut behind him, Duncan had regretted the whole thing, but his pride had kept him from going after Methos to apologize. He figured he'd just wait until he got back. But now with the storm gathering, he was feeling guilty, and worried. He suspected that Methos would probably be amused that he was worrying about him, but that didn't stop him from doing it.

The rumble of thunder from overhead spurred him to action. He was pretty sure he knew where Methos had gone. There was a shepherd's shelter up on The Cailleach where he went when he wanted to be alone. It was difficult to reach, virtually assuring privacy, but Duncan knew the place well enough to get there. He made his decision, grabbed his cloak and stepped outside, hoping the rain would hold off long enough for him to make it over the talus field.

His luck held true to the day's pattern. He was halfway across the steep gradient of rock and gravel when the sky let loose with a vengeance. His cloak soaked through in a matter of moments, becoming astonishingly heavy, the wool acting as a sort of sponge. He discarded it so it wouldn't throw him off balance on the wet, slick rocks. He kept on, doggedly,slipping several times, gashing his palms and knees. Fortunately they healed quickly enough that they didn't hinder him. The twisted ankle did slow him down a bit, deep-tissue injuries took longer to heal than superficial cuts. He was also getting cold, cold enough to shiver. He hated that. Hypothermia was not a pleasant experience.

As he finally left the rocks behind, he felt Presence and knew he'd been right, Methos was near. A moment later he sensed an electric tingle that had nothing to do with another immortal. Realizing he was the tallest object in sight, he flung himself flat seconds before the world exploded into searing brilliance around him.

Pain. God... everything hurt, from his toes to his teeth. Even his eyelashes hurt. He groaned, but no sound came out. Something was dripping on his face, though apparently not on the rest of him. Puzzled, he opened his eyes to find Methos staring down at him. His hair was soaking wet, which explained what was dripping onto Duncan's face. His expression was as thunderous as the sky had been, but he looked like a hologram on mute. His lips were moving but no sound emerged. After a moment Duncan realized that Methos was speaking, he just couldn't hear him. The thunderclap must have temporarily deafened him. He wondered how long that would take to heal. He shook his head gingerly, hoping his skull would stay in one piece.

"I can't hear you," he said. At least, he thought he had. It felt odd to speak, to feel the vibration of sound in his throat and on his lips, yet to hear nothing.

Methos scowled, but his lips stopped moving. It must have been at least marginally intelligible. Duncan stifled another groan. He'd rarely felt this bad. The last time he could recall feeling this bad, he'd fallen off a cliff. Coming back from that one had been hell. Coming back... struggling a little, he lifted his head and looked down at himself. His clothing bore scorch marks. It dawned on him suddenly that the lightning might not have missed. He looked questioningly at Methos and read confirmation in his gaze, and in his nod. Shit. No wonder he felt so bad. He closed his eyes and lay as still as humanly possible, trying to breathe shallowly so it didn't hurt. After a little while, a painful popping sensation seared first one ear,then the other, and suddenly he could hear again. He heard water. A lot of it, rushing... probably the rain. He heard an almost continuous grumble of thunder. He heard Methos muttering.

"... damned stupid moron. Idiot."

"Yeah," Duncan agreed, his voice sounding raw even to his own ears. "That's me."

Methos turned and looked at him. "You heard me?"

"Hearing's back on-line. The rest of me is another story."

"What the hell did you think you were doing, out on a mountainside in a thunderstorm?" Methos snapped, still fuming.

"Looking for you."

"What for?" Methos asked suspiciously.

"I wanted to apologize, and I was worried about you."

Methos stared at him, mouth open, looking rather stunned.

"Well, I do occasionally, you know," he muttered, a little annoyed by Methos' response.

"What, worry, or apologize?" Methos asked.

Duncan lifted an eyebrow and Methos' trademark smile dented one corner of his mouth. "Well, you're not exactly known for your apologies," he said drily.

"Maybe I shouldn't have bothered."

"No, no, sorry! It just surprised me. I shouldn't be surly."

"Why not? I was."

Methos mouth curved in a slight smile. "Yeah, but surly looks better on you. You've got the face for it."

Duncan eyed him sourly. "Well, I'd say you do a pretty good job of it yourself on occasion." Feeling at a disadvantage, he struggled to sit up. Methos put a hand behind his back and helped him maneuver into a sitting position. Once he'd attained it, Methos' hand lingered on his shoulder a moment.

"You scared me," he said quietly, staring into his eyes. "Some forms of lightning are pretty close to the same thing as a phaser-blast. It could have killed you. Permanently."

Duncan stared back, shaken. "God, you're right! That never even occurred to me!"

"How did you ever get to be the age you are being that thoughtless?"

Duncan shrugged and grinned sheepishly. "Just lucky, I guess. It was pretty stupid, wasn't it? I didn't want to leave things like they were. I was just being stubborn."

"When aren't you stubborn?" Methos asked, shaking his head. He stood up and walked over to the open door of the cabin where he stared out at the rain in silence.

Duncan didn't quite know what to do or say at that point. He'd apologized, but Methos hadn't actually accepted it. He could push the point, but that might do more harm than good. Maybe he should just leave it as it was. The aches and soreness in his muscles were beginning to abate, probably in a few more minutes he'd be fine again and he could leave Methos in peace. But then, that would involve going out in the thunderstorm again, and he suspected that Methos would physically bar him from leaving the cabin before the storm ended. He was stuck. As Methos had said, he hadn't been thinking very clearly when he'd come up.

He watched Methos' back with an internal sigh of resignation. Somehow he'd thought that once he apologized, everything would be fine and back to normal again. Though, come to think of it, things hadn't been normal for awhile. He'd noticed Methos' increasing irritability, and when Guinan had taken the kids to the reunion it had gotten much worse, as if her presence had been the only stabilizing factor. In fact, things were starting to remind him of the period just before the last big fight he'd had with Methos, two hundred years earlier.

That thought sent a shock through him, and he realized he couldn't afford to just ignore the symptoms any more. He had to act.

"What's wrong?" he asked quietly.

"Nothing's wrong." Methos replied, without turning around.

"Yes, there is, and you know it."

"I don't want to talk about it."

Duncan clenched his teeth, and managed to get to his feet. A little shakily he made his way over to where Methos stood, and put a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm not letting this slide, Methos. We are going to talk about this."

At that Methos finally turned around, and Duncan was surprised bythe pain he saw in his friend's normally untroubled gaze. There was some anger there as well, but mostly what he saw was a bone-deep unhappiness.

"Fine, you want to know what's wrong? I am."

"What do you mean?"

"I've been thinking about leaving."

Duncan felt as if he'd just been poleaxed. He stared at Methos for what felt like forever, and finally found his voice.

"What? For God's sake, why?"

Methos sighed and shook his head, turning away again. "I don't belong here. I'm not needed, I'm in the way. The classic third wheel."

"No you're not!"

"Yes, I am, and even if I weren't, I wouldn't stay. I'm just not happy."

That came as a shock. Duncan had been happy, almost too happy, he had things he'd never dreamed he'd really have. It had never occurred to him that Methos might not be equally content. Immediately he began to wonder if it was something he'd done. As if reading his mind, Methos spoke again.

"It's not you, or Guinan, not really. It's me. I thought I could be content with things as they stood, but as time goes on I find I can't. I find myself getting jealous, getting petty... and I don't like it."

Duncan shook off his paralysis. "You can't leave, Methos! What would we do without you?"

"You'll be fine without me. I don't really belong here anyway, I'm an afterthought."

Duncan was stunned to find out that Methos felt this way. He felt a bit panicked at the thought of him leaving. Perhaps he hadn't made it clear enough how much he meant to him. "Methos, you're not an afterthought! You're part of us!"

Methos gave a derisive snort as a reply.

Duncan felt his temper rising and caught Methos by the arm. "Damnit! You're part of us, you can't just leave! It would be like cutting off an arm!"

"No, it wouldn't. I'm not that important to any of you."

"Methos, you are! You're important to me!"

Methos looked away. "Not important enough."

Duncan thought about that, and slowly he began to realize what might lie at the heart of this. The same thing that had lain at the heart of their last fight, had he but known it then. Something he had thought didn't matter, but he was beginning to realize that it did. He remembered their first night together, remembered Methos words; "If I do this, it's as much because Iwant to make love to you as I do to Guinan. Can you accept that?"

As it had turned out, he hadn't quite been able to... nor had they ever dealt with that. Methos had said he'd wait, but he couldn't be expected to wait forever. That had been five years ago. Duncan had gotten close, many times, but had never quite been able to make that move. He'd never been able to admit that half his reluctance stemmed from sheer ignorance. Clearly, it was time to stop procrastinating.

"Methos, you mean a lot to me. More, perhaps, than I had realized until faced with losing you. Please, don't go. I want you to stay with us...with me."

Methos turned and studied him, eyes narrowed. He read the invitation in Duncan's eyes and his mouth hardened.

"Fuck that, Duncan! I don't need you to do this out of some misguided sense of nobility!"

"What makes you think that's what it is?"

"I know you. It's your nature."

Duncan drew a breath, trying to calm himself. Two could play at this. "Just like it's yours to run and hide whenever things don't go quite right?"

Methos flinched from the truth in Duncan's words, but didn't speak.

"What about Daria?" Duncan asked quietly. "She needs you."

Methos looked at him steadily. "No, she doesn't need me. She goes to you or to Guinan when she wants anything. To be honest, I've never been quite sure what to do with her. It's not that I don't love her, I'd give my life for her if it were needed, I just don't have the same way with her that you two do."

Duncan couldn't really argue with that. It was true that Daria tended to favor him or Guinan over Methos when she scraped her knee, or wanted cuddling. But that was irrelevant.

"She loves you Methos, she'll miss you."

Methos' mouth thinned. "At first, perhaps. She'll get used to not having me here. It's more... usual."

"Methos! She's your daughter! She needs you."

"Don't, Duncan." Methos said warningly.

"You can't just leave her..." in his mind he was saying `You can't leave us,' but he thought Daria would work better as emotional blackmail.

"I'd come back to visit, of course, but I just can't handle this anymore!"

Feeling slightly desperate, Duncan tried another tactic. "Why should you be the one who leaves? I was always the one who moved around. You like to stay put, you like security. If anyone should leave, it should be me."

"Bullshit! Don't give me that crap, Duncan! You're a born parent!"

"Maybe I am, but I know I wouldn't have been able to get through the last five years without you."

"Yes, you would have. You always rise to the occasion, Duncan. Sometimes it's damned hard living in your shadow." Methos sighed, and turned away again, looking back out into the rain. When he spoke again his voice was softer, laced with resignation. "No, it's best if I leave. Perhaps some distance will let me deal with my own emotions."

Duncan sensed the sudden change from anger to sadness, and put a hand on his shoulder, trying to convey his own pain, his own need. Touching him felt right. He'd done it for years. Why hadn't he ever taken that last step, crossed that last bridge? Now it was too late. He increased the pressure on Methos' shoulder, forcing him to turn toward him, and he saw the shimmer of tears in his eyes. He couldn't think of anything to do that would convince him, anything that would convey his sincerity. If it were Guinan, he would...

The thought stopped him. What difference was there? Guinan, Methos, they were both his partners. He loved both of them. Slowly he moved his hand upward from Methos' shoulder to his jaw, then he leaned forward to claim his lips. Methos turned away so Duncan's lips grazed his jaw instead. His stiffly-held shoulders and set mouth told Duncan he was angry, and his words confirmed it.

"Don't do me any favors, MacLeod, I know your heart's not in it."

MacLeod? How many years had it been since Methos had last referred to him that way? Duncan's anger torqued itself tighter.

"So you've become an empath after all this time, have you? Where the hell do you get off telling me what I feel?"

"If you were interested, you'd have done something about it before this."

Duncan couldn't think of a good answer for that... nothing except the truth. Perhaps it was time for that. Looking at his partner steadily, he said what he'd never been able to say before. "Maybe I didn't know how, damnit!"

Methos' eyes narrowed as he studied Duncan's face searchingly. He'd gotten very good at reading Duncan over the years, and he knew what to look for to catch him in a lie. He wasn't lying. His eyebrows lifted.

"You're telling the truth!"

Duncan nodded, a faint flush on his face. God, if there was anything in the world Duncan hated, it was revealing ignorance, about anything. Methos felt a smile lift one corner of his mouth.

"It's pretty much the same, you know."

Duncan thought about that, and nodded finally. "Ah, yeah, I guess so, but..."

"Exactly," Methos interrupted, his smile becoming a grin.

Duncan groaned and shook his head. "Methos!"

"Sorry, couldn't resist. Duncan... you know I'd be happy to teach you."

"I'm kind of an experiential learner." Duncan shot back. "I'd rather learn by doing."

"No! Really?" Methos chuckled. "God, Duncan, you're so damned `butch,' as they'd have put it a couple of centuries ago. That's what it really boils down to, isn't it? You don't know how to make the first move, but you're not willing to be the passive partner either?"

Duncan looked a little sheepish. "Um... that about sums it up, yes."

Methos shook his head, this was so Duncan. "Well, there's a solution for that." Duncan lifted his eyebrows, waiting, and Methos reached out to touch the curve of his cheekbone, fingers rasping on stubble. "You just need someone who's willing to let you take that role. I will be whatever you need me to be, Duncan."

He couldn't look Methos in the face. "I know," he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. "But I don't know if I can be what you need me to be. I'm afraid I'd hurt you."

"Have you ever hurt Guinan? Have you ever hurt a woman you were with?"

Duncan looked up. "I don't think so, not intentionally, anyway. But it's not the same."

Methos suppressed a sigh. "Yes, it is. It's exactly the same! Duncan, I've been with you more times than I can count, and I know you better than that! You're far too careful a lover to hurt your partner. You told me once that you'd wondered what it would be like, I'm offering you the chance to find out."

Duncan closed his eyes. "I know, Methos, I know. And part of me wants to, but part of me's asking what the hell I think I'm doing! You're..." he stopped suddenly, an odd look on his face.

"What?" Methos prompted, suspecting that whatever Duncan was thinking, it was at the heart of the problem.

"I just realized the strangest thing. Every time I look at you, my protective instincts kick in!"

"Why?" Methos asked, puzzled.

"Because you look so damned young! Logically I know you're older than I am, but somehow I can't seem to convince my emotions of that. And if you're `younger' then what you want me to do would be wrong, it would be taking advantage of you."

Methos just stared for a moment, then he started to laugh. He kept on laughing until there were tears running down his face and his abdomen ached. Duncan regarded him sourly.

"It wasn't that funny, Methos."

Methos waved a hand in his direction and gasped for air, finally managing to catch his breath enough to reply.

"Oh God, Duncan. If only you knew how many times I've thought almost the exact same thing about you! Comparatively, you're just a baby."

Duncan scowled. "I'm not a..." he began.

Methos interrupted him before he could get it out. "I know that, but think about it. I'm nearly forty-four hundred years older than you are. Talk about robbing the cradle! Hell, with you, even Amanda would be run up for corrupting a minor!"

"All right, Methos! I get the point!"

"Do you? Duncan, I've done things you could never even imagine..."

"I don't know, I have a pretty good imagination."

Methos grinned, knowing exactly where to slide the blade in. "Yeah, you talk a good game."

Duncan was blank for a moment, then a flash of indignation chased across his face, followed by a narrowing of his eyes.

Methos resisted the urge to grin, knowing Duncan had just picked up the figurative gauntlet he'd thrown. It felt good to have finally told Duncan what was wrong. Guinan knew, she had to. How could she not, as an empath? But she hadn't tried to interfere, knowing this was something they would have to work out between the two of them. He wondered if her trip had been planned with this confrontation in mind.

A particularly brilliant sheet of lightning turned everything an incandescent purple, and the cabin shook with the report of the thunder. Methos took a step back from the door, blinking to clear his vision.

"Looks like neither of us is going anywhere anytime soon. I guess we might as well get comfortable."

He crossed the room to the hearth and added a couple of small logs to the fire, then snagged his wineskin from where it lay and tossed it to Duncan. Unsurprisingly, he caught it, and before Methos thought to warn him, he'd drawn the cap and upended the skin. A stream of cobalt-blue liquid splashed into his open mouth and Methos winced, waiting for the inevitable. Duncan swallowed, his eyes widened, he gasped, then coughed. It took him several seconds to recover, wheezing slightly as the liquor burned its way down his esophagus into his stomach. Finally he managed to take a complete breath again.

"Where the hell did you get Romulan Ale?"

Methos smiled. "I have my sources. You do learn a few things after a couple of millennia."

More carefully this time, Duncan took another shot, savoring it this time, rolling it over his tongue. Methos closed his eyes, imagining what it would be like to taste him now... he shook the vision from his head. He couldn't stay, not with what he wanted so tantalizingly at hand, yet so out of reach. Sitting back on the floor, he stretched his legs out and leaned against the rough frame of the couch-bed that was almost the only furniture in thecabin, soaking up the fire's warmth. He hadn't realized how cold he was until the heat touched his skin. He felt as if the cold went all the way inside, isolating him, cutting him off.

Over the centuries he'd gotten used to this feeling. It was an old, though not cherished, companion. For the past few years he'd dared to hope that it was gone, never to return. A futile hope. Damn, he shouldn't have had so much of that ale, it was making him maudlin. Of course, he'd expected to be alone. That made a big difference. It was okay to be overemotional when one was alone.

He let his eyes go unfocused as he stared at the flames, trying to hypnotize himself into calm. He felt the futon frame shift as Duncan sat down on it, heard the other man sigh, heard the tiny creak of muscles lengthened to full extension as he stretched. His depression deepened as he realized Duncan wouldn't even sit next to him. With him up there, they weren't touching, not even a chance brush of hand or shoulder. A half-remembered stanza of a poem sprang to mind, and thoughtlessly he whispered it more to himself than to Duncan.

"`Desires, and adorations, winged persuasions and veiled destinies, splendours and glooms, and glimmering incarnations of hope and fear, and twilight phantasies; and Sorrow, with her family of Sighs.'"

There was silence for a moment, then a slight chuckle from above him. "Shelley, Methos? You never struck me as the Shelley type. I often wondered if he figured out about us. I knew him, and he never asked, but there's a poem I've speculated about. `I am the daughter of Earth and Water, and the nursling of the Sky. I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores; I change, but I cannot die.' Later, there's a line `I silently laugh at my own cenotaph, and out of the caverns of rain, like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb, I arise, and unbuild it again.' Sounds rather suspicious, don't you think?"

Methos couldn't think of a reply, so he let the crackle of the fire speak for him. After a moment, Duncan spoke again.

"`He sought, for his lost heart was tender, things to love, but found them not, alas! Nor was there aught the world contains, the which he could approve. Through the unheeding many he did move, a splendour among shadows..."

Fingers slid down his neck, beneath his jaw, urging him to look up. He did, and found Duncan looking down at him, his eyes shadowed, his mouth bare inches away. Duncan closed the gap between them, his full lips soft and open. They'd kissed many times before, but never before like this. Always before it had been an aside, an accompaniment. Not now. This was for him alone. He tipped his head back, taking the upside-down kiss, no awkwardness in it, no strain, just the fully accepting kiss of a friend, and a lover.

Sometime later, it ended, as softly as it had begun. He opened his eyes, taking in the dark spirals that curtained Duncan's face, taking in the pleasure in his eyes, the tempo of his breathing. An invisible blade unsheathed itself from his heart, and he felt the ecstatic pain of healing. He reached up and touched the lips that had begun that convalescence.

"`Dreams and the light imaginings of men, and all that faith creates,or love desires, terrible, strange, sublime, and beauteous shapes.'"

Duncan closed his eyes. "Methos, don't leave me," he whispered as he reached down and framed Methos' face in his palms, brushing his mouth across lips, then eyelids. "Would you... come up here?" he asked, with curious uncertainty.

"I have a better idea, you come down here."

Duncan eyed the irregular stone flooring dubiously, then stood up, tugging the light futon off its frame as he did. Methos understood instantly,and shoved the frame out of the way, making room to spread it on the floor. There was an odd sense of commitment in laying the mattress out, unspoken, but powerfully present. Finished, Duncan knelt, staring into the fire for amoment.

"What is it about thunderstorms?" he asked after a moment.

"What do you mean?"

He looked up, smiling. "For some odd reason, my firsts always seem to involve rain."

"That's very Freudian of you."

Duncan chuckled. "I know." He reached for the laces on his shirt and they crumbled in his fingers, victim of the lightning. He looked at the ashes on his skin and shook his head. "Damned lucky."

"Thank God, if you believe in one," Methos said, reaching over to brush away the ashes.

Duncan caught his hand, and tugged him closer, leaning in for another kiss. This time was less tender, more clearly sexual, and he responded to the invitation like a starving man at a banquet. He sensed no hesitation in Duncan's response, no pulling away. Desire shot through him, spreading like wildfire. He threaded his fingers into Duncan's hair, feeling the weight of it, still damp from the rain. He tasted the generosity of his mouth; the subtle, stealing touch of his tongue; the moistness, the pressure, the hint ofRomulan ale that lingered... he shuddered, surrendering to the moment.

When Duncan finally lifted his mouth, Methos was on his back. Oddly, he couldn't quite remember how he'd gotten there. Duncan was half-lying above him, leaning on one hand. The wet fabric of his shirt clung tothe solid curves of biceps and forearm, and drooped off his shoulder, the open vee revealing a wide swath of gleaming olive-gold skin dusted with darkhair. Methos swallowed, trying to summon saliva to a suddenly dry mouth.

Duncan was studying him, eyes sleepy-lidded and feline in the fireglow. After a moment he lifted his free hand and traced a finger down the tendon on the side of Methos' throat, followed it down to his collar-bone, then to the fastening of his tunic. Methos didn't follow Valhallan fashions, he knew he looked all knees and elbows in a kilt. The closure-strip opened easily, and Duncan's fingers slipped beneath the fabric, lightly, almost hesitantly, stroking, following the slight indentation where muscles meshed down the center of his body, stopping at the waistband of his trousers, which as usual had ridden down a little on his narrow hips.

Methos found himself breathing shallowly, almost panting. He stared at the broad, dark hand resting on his belly, and resisted the urge to grab itand push it lower. Duncan had to do this his own way, in his own time. But God, how he wanted to help! After a moment the hand retraced its route back up, this time moving sideways to skim lightly across a nipple. Methos gasped, feeling the lash of pleasure tighten already taut flesh and send blood rushing into already gorged capillaries. A little sound escaped him, and Duncan looked up, a cheshire grin curving his mouth.

"You're easy," he said, his voice husky.

"Under certain circumstances," Methos agreed.

"Including these?" Duncan asked, his fingers moving downward again.

"Especially these," he sighed as a warm palm cupped him. He tried not to move, but couldn't resist a push into that hand, like a cat butting against the hand that petted it. Duncan didn't seem to mind. His fingers tightened gently, only a scant millimeter of cloth separating skin from skin. Methos moaned, shivering with pleasure. Duncan began to stroke him in a firm, but irregular rhythm that tantalized without bringing him too close to the edge.

"Interesting," Duncan said.

"What?" Methos managed, somehow, to ask.

"It seems rather-- familiar."

Methos laughed. "Yes, it does, doesn't it?"

"This should be natural, then."

"It is, believe me. And you are."

"I am what?"

"A natural... God, that feels good!" He couldn't help moving now, just a little, in response to the incredible pleasure of the caress. He'd wanted this for so long that even being touched through clothing was almost more than he could bear. He ached to touch Duncan in return, but was afraid to push it, afraid he might back off. He clenched his fists against the need to reach out.

"Methos, it's okay, you can touch me too."

There. He'd done it again. Sometimes they knew each other just a little too well, it was disconcerting, almost like mind-reading. He reached down and covered Duncan's hand with his own, stilling the motion. After a moment he relaxed with a sigh.

"There, now maybe I can think."

Duncan chuckled. "Think? Are we supposed to be thinking?"

Methos grinned. "Good point." He reached up and let his hand slide into the gap where Duncan's shirt opened, fanning his fingers over the warm,satin curve of muscle, feeling the slight, pebbled rise of a nipple beneath his palm. A heartbeat ticked against his fingers, steady, but fast. His other hand found the firm arch of a thigh and rested there, feeling Duncan's warmth even through the cold, wet wool of his kilt. His own clothing, made of synthetics, was already almost dry, but Duncan's natural-fiber garments were still soaking wet. He rolled to his knees and reached to unfasten the penannular which held the kilt at his shoulder.

"Let's get you out of these wet things," he said, ulterior motives transparent in his face.

Duncan lifted an expressive eyebrow. "Before I catch cold?"

Methos smiled minutely. "Something like that."

"Let's do this right, then."

Duncan sat down and unlaced his moccasins, tossing them aside, then reached over and slid Methos' tunic off. Methos helped Duncan divest himself of his shirt. Methos' shoes and trousers came next, then Duncan unpleated his kilt and draped it across the futon frame to dry. Methos watched him with held breath, still as affected by his beauty as he had been the first time he'd seen it. Of Earth-born artists, only DaVinci, Michelangelo, or Taylor could possibly do him justice; of non-humans...perhaps T'arat of Vulcan or Daim of Borsz, but few others. The firelight sheened every convex and shadowed every concave, making him even more sculptural than usual. He resumed his former place on the futon, kneeling, his gaze wary but curious at the same time. Methos knew his own excitement was evident, and there was a suggestion of arousal in Duncan's body, though as yet it was not complete.

Knowing the mood had been slightly disturbed by taking the time to undress, he picked up the wineskin and swallowed a mouthful, then offered the skin to Duncan. He took it, drank some, then a mischievous smile twitched his lips and he took a second mouthful. Moments later he pounced,agile as a cat, tipping Methos onto his back.

"Duncan! What the hell?" he protested, attempting to sit back up only to be pinned in place. "What are you... God!"

He didn't have to wonder any longer. He collapsed back with a moan of pleasure as liquid fire surrounded him. He was stunned. Completely, and utterly stunned. Never, not in a million years, would he have guessed Duncan's first move would be this bold; though in truth, perhaps he should have. The man did nothing by half-measures.

He felt the touch of lips and tongue, the stinging cold-heat of the ale as it swirled around his straining flesh. A hand cupped him, stroking; another rested lightly on his thigh. He felt teeth, hard and sharp, and careful as they skimmed taut surfaces. A tightening, then all that surrounded him was human, not chemical warmth. Duncan must have swallowed the ale. Thinking of him swallowing made him crazy. Every muscle in his body went rigid with the effort of control. He reached down and stroked the satin thickness of Duncan's hair, following each movement, wanting to kiss him, wanting so much more. He tangled his fingers in the strands and tugged upward.

"Don't, it's too soon for that."

With apparent reluctance, Duncan released him, and looked up. "You're sure?"

Methos nodded.

"Did I... was that okay?" Duncan asked.

"More than okay, but you knew that already so stop fishing for compliments."

"I wasn't!" Duncan protested, trying out his choirboy look.

Methos laughed. "God, I really am robbing the cradle!" He pulled Duncan to him and kissed him, reveling in the feel of him, all solid, heavy warmth and silk. The embrace deepened, the only sound in the room the crackle and hiss of the fire, and the soft, moist sounds of their kiss. Holding him, their bodies entwined, he felt the hard fullness of Duncan's sex against his thigh, and fought down a shout of victory.

Duncan slid a hand down Methos' back, to the scant curve of buttock and pulled him close, firm against firm, hard against hard, like against like. It was simultaneously arousing, disconcerting, and so, so familiar. He'd never before admitted to himself how much he had enjoyed touching Methos in their many sessions with Guinan. He'd always assumed that his arousal had been mostly due to her presence, yet she wasn't here, and he was as fiercely hard as he'd ever been. He thought of feeling Methos yield to him as Guinan did sent a streak of anticipation went through him. He wanted him.

He couldn't imagine ever feeling this with anyone else, this was something that had grown over their years together, in the bond they shared through their daughter. He loved Methos in every way it was possible to love. He'd just never realized it before. He drew back a little, gasping for breath, and looked at his partner's face. Any doubts he'd harbored slipped away at that. He could not see the utter trust there and have any doubt left. He reached out, cupping a hand behind his head, feeling the brush of short-cropped hair against his palm. He lowered his head, kissing a path along the side of his throat, down to the hollow at his collarbone, and shivered, remembering.

"Thank God I didn't take you up on your offer," he said, stroking a finger lightly across the base of his throat.

"What offer was that?" Methos asked, looking puzzled.

"The first one you ever made me, the one in Paris. When you offered me your head."

Methos' eyes went distant for a moment, then he nodded. "Everything I have now is because of that moment. Had you not refused me--" he shook his head. "It would have been such a waste."

"And I would have killed another friend. That was always the worst thing. Watching people I'd once loved, or could love, become enemies."

"I know, believe me, I know."

They shared a moment of silence for those that had gone that way,then Duncan lowered his head again, and brushed his lips across Methos' mouth. As the kiss deepened, Methos turned onto his side, taking Duncan with him, and he shifted a thigh over Duncan's hip, so their bodies could fit more closely together. Like against like, Duncan thought again, surprised that it felt so right. It was very different, but no less sensual. His pulse picked up speed, his breathing shallowed. He trailed a hand down Methos' spine, seeking, and Methos sighed, his whole body curving into the touch. Duncan explored, hoping what he'd read on the subject would stand him ingood stead. The shuddering response he coaxed from the lean body against his own told him he must be doing something right, so he continued, growing bolder, until Methos pulled away from him with a gasp.

"Damn, wait, I need to find something..." he rolled away and Duncan watched him go over to one of the storage units and start pawing through it. He was puzzled until, with an exclamation of satisfaction, Methos pulled out a tube of skin moisturizer. Duncan didn't need an explanation anymore. He knew exactly why that was needed. He grinned.

"Good thing this shelter's well equipped. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

Methos grinned back. "Not at all, you're a good Scottish boy, Duncan. You know shepherding can be a lonely business."

It took a minute for the comment to sink in, then he hid a grin and bristled with mock indignation. "I'll no' have ye castin' aspersions on ma ancestors, Methos," he said, deliberately thickening his accent. "I seem to remember you Greeks were rather partial to fleece yourselves!"

Methos smiled his endearingly annoying smile. "Nice try, Duncan, but what makes you think I'm Greek?" he asked slyly.

Duncan lifted an eyebrow. "I can't imagine."

Methos chuckled at that, acknowledging the hit, and Duncan moved to one side, making room, then held out a hand. Methos came and knelt beside him, hands on his thighs, waiting. Duncan suddenly felt a little unsure.

"What now?" he asked, finally.

Methos eyes lifted, his gaze full of firelight and desire. "Whatever you want."

He was giving Duncan leave to explore, and he knew it. It was a role he knew well in another context. This one was as alien to him as the planet he now called home, yet as familiar as his own body. He took a deep breath, and put a hand on Methos' back, gently urging him down. Methos slowly stretched out full-length on his stomach, legs slightly apart, head pillowed on his arm. Duncan found himself staring at the way Methos' short-cropped hair exposed the milk-pale nape of his neck. Somehow, he looked so damned vulnerable. Leaning down, Duncan kissed the skin behind one ear, letting his teeth graze lightly. Methos turned his head slightly,facilitating his survey, and Duncan could see the curve of his mouth as he smiled.

Lightly he trailed a hand down the long, muscular line of his back, fingers learning this new territory. Methos sighed and shivered as Duncan's mouth moved to where neck flowed into shoulder and his teeth nipped harder, coaxing a startled gasp from his quarry. He tasted of salt, a hint of rainwater, and the distinctive savor of Methos himself. His hand moved lower still to cup the slight rise of buttock. Under his mouth and hand he felt the tiny flexes and shifts of muscles under strict control, and it occurred to him that Methos was almost as nervous as he was. That surprised him.

"I know why I'm nervous, but what's your excuse?"

Methos ducked his head beneath his arm, and said something muffled. All Duncan caught was "afraid" and "enjoy".

He fit himself against his partner's body and put his lips against Methos' ear. "I can't hear you," he whispered, then traced his tongue around the outer edge, and nibbled softly on the lobe. That earned a soft whimper. When Methos spoke again, it was without looking up.

"I said I'm afraid that you won't enjoy this as much as I want you to."

Duncan soothed a hand across his shoulders, cupping tense muscles, releasing. "How could I not enjoy being with you?"

Methos looked up at that, shaking his head in disbelief. "Do you always know exactly the right thing to say?"

Duncan grinned. "It's a remarkable talent, I know."

"And you're modest, too!" Methos said, miming amazement. Duncan leaned around to kiss him again, and shifted his hips forward, letting the heat and hardness of his erection slide between Methos thighs, not trying to enter yet, just using his body in an intimate caress. Methos eyes' closed and he moaned into Duncan's mouth. Duncan repeated the motion, stunned by the raw need he felt, wanting to complete the connection, now. The urgency was almost irresistible, yet something stopped him, there was something he needed to do... if only he could remember what it was.

Methos hand found his, a cool, slick substance puddled into his palm. For half a second he was tempted to yank his hand away and shake it off,then he realized what it was. Reluctant to move, yet knowing he had to, he shifted away and moved his hand down, parting the firm mounds, smoothing the slick stuff over tender flesh, fingers sliding inside just a little. He knew how to do this, he'd had women this way, but never another man. Methos' soft gasps and encouraging whimpers urged him on. His own sex was rock-hard and his whole body shaking with need. As he spread the stuff on himself, his own touch nearly set him off.

He drew back to let himself calm down, and let his fingers return to stroking Methos; gently, repetitively, each time pressing deeper. He watched Methos' hands clench, heard the little sounds he made, watched him rocking his hips in cadence with his touch. He wondered what it felt like. Was it pleasure or pain? Both? He didn't want to hurt him, the thought was repugnant. He needed to know.

"Methos, are you... am I doing this right? Is this good?"

"God... you have no idea how good!" Methos rasped. "Duncan, if you don't finish this soon I'll... I'll... hell, I don't know what I'll do but it won't be pretty."

"Believe me, I want to finish it, I just don't want to hurt you."

Methos pushed himself up on his elbows and looked at Duncan rather wildly. "Damn it, Duncan, I don't care if you hurt me!"

There was no arguing with that. Knowing from experience how uncomfortable it was to lie on an erection and realizing that he'd been that way for quite awhile, he put a hand on Methos' hip urging him onto his side, then he curled close behind him, reaching around him to stroke the span of his torso. Resting one hand on Methos' shoulder, Duncan's other hand moved from the hard, muscular curve of chest, down the path formed by ribcage and abdomen into the amazingly soft hollow below the hipbone, learning the textures of him. His response was measured in the way his skin tightened, and his breathing changed. All the while Duncan rocked gently against, between, again not trying to enter, just accustoming himself and Methos to the feeling.

He skimmed his fingers further down, teasing the rough curls where they began, straying downward, but not touching his final goal until Methos' hand finally covered his and urged it down to circle the rigid length of his sex. He caressed there for a while, and Methos moved as well, thrusting into his hand, pushing back against him with each teasing stroke. He let his hand move lower to cup the full weight, to feel the lift and tension which told him it was time, and he began to press his entry.

Methos moaned assent, and pushed back against Duncan until the pressure was intense enough that Duncan was about to pull back, thinking it wasn't going to work; when Methos body finally yielded to his and he slid home with surprising ease. He gasped in startled pleasure, and Methos echoed the sound, shuddering. Duncan stilled with his lips against Methos' neck, waiting for the tension he sensed in his partner to ease. After a few moments, it did, and with that relaxation, Duncan was able to really feel instead of worrying.

Hot. Silky. Tight, so damned tight. He moved minutely, closing his eyes against the incredible delight that even the slightest motion brought. He could feel Methos pulse beat in his hand, against his lips, and all around him. Though he surrounded Methos, he had the oddest sensation that he was the one being held. They fit like interlocking puzzle pieces, as perfect a fit as any he'd ever felt. He began to rock, gently at first, then with growing abandon as Methos encouraged him. Nothing else mattered as Methos thrust into his hand, giving voice to his pleasure in rough-edged moans and velvet whispers.

He felt his own pleasure rising, he was so close. The tightness wasincredible, as was the edge of the forbidden. He'd grown up thinking this a sin. The years had given him more perspective than that yet somewhere deep in his subconscious that boy still existed, and that lent a kind of guilty delight to his lovemaking. Despite everything, he'd somehow not quite expected to enjoy this, yet he did, every bit at much as he enjoyed loving a woman.

He kissed the smooth shoulder beneath his lips. Next time he should spend more time using his mouth. He knew Methos had a thing about his mouth. How much could he stand? Thinking of it made him even harder, took him a step closer to coming. Knowing he wasn't going to last much longer, he increased the tempo of his hand on Methos sex, and in response to Methos' whispered instruction, he slid a knee between Methos thighs, changing the angle of his entry. Methos went still, and then he was shivering, shuddering, and Duncan's hand over his sex filled with heat and wetness, the proof of his completion. It was enough to send Duncan over the edge to join him, his body pulsing with waves of release. Panting, he wrapped himself closer around Methos and held him as the last of the sensation faded, leaving behind a feeling of profound satisfaction.

Several minute passed in silence, finally Methos shifted slightly, disengaging, and turned his head and look at Duncan. The expression on his face and in his eyes went through Duncan like a knife, yet the pain was only in realizing he could have given him that so much sooner, had he been a little braver. He let his hand move from Methos' shoulder to brush the back of his fingers down Methos' cheek, skimming his mouth with a fingertip.

"I'm sorry it took me so long," he said quietly.

Methos smiled. "Some things are worth waiting for. I..." he hesitated, and the fear was back in his eyes. "Did you..."

"I loved it," Duncan said, interrupting him, not wanting him to have to finish asking. As he said it, he realized it was glib, meaningless. The physical pleasure was such a small part of what they'd just done. The whole symbolized so much more. He shook his head, and cupped Methos face in his palm.

"No, it's more than that, much more. I love you." He was amazed at how easily those words came to him now. He'd been able to speak of need before, but never love. Why should the physical act of making love have broken that barrier? He didn't know, but it was so.

Methos went strangely still, his gaze wide, and stunned, then he pulled Duncan close, his arms going around him so tightly it almost hurt.

"Methos?" he queried, hoping everything was all right, afraid he'd somehow managed to say the wrong thing.

"You have no idea how long I've wanted to hear you say that, Duncan." Methos said, his voice slightly muffled against Duncan's shoulder. "I've been in love with you forever, it seems."

"I just never quite knew how to say it. I took you for granted, and I'm sorry."

Methos lifted his head, his eyes suspiciously moist. "No, Duncan, don't apologize. The past is the past, we can't change it, and we can't spend our time regretting it. We start over from now."

Duncan nodded, and lifted his other hand to smooth it through Methos' hair, then stopped, realizing that hand was still sticky. He wiggled his fingers a little embarrassedly.

"I, ah... think it's time to use the 'fresher. I'm assuming there is one?" he looked around the small cabin, there weren't many places to hide one, but there was a curtained-off corner that looked promising.

Methos grinned back. "There is, it's behind that curtain. Thankfully we don't have to do the outhouse thing."

Duncan thought of making a forty-yard dash in the driving rain and nodded vehemently. "You've got that right. At least the Valhallans are practical about some things!"

Methos lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling beams as he waited for Duncan to finish in the 'fresher. He couldn't keep a grin off his face, he felt too good. Of all the possible outcomes of their earlier argument, this had not been one he'd considered. He really had expected that he'd be leaving as soon as Guinan and the others returned, but that option was no longer possible. There was no way he could leave now. Still not quite believing it, he reached down and pinched himself on the inner thigh, and winced. Yep, it hurt. He was awake.

The curtain moved, and Duncan stepped out, still gloriously nude. Methos wished he were an artist, to capture that on canvas or in stone for others to share. He came and knelt next to Methos, dropped a warm cloth from his cupped hands onto Methos' belly and began to gently bathe him. Methos closed his eyes, enjoying the damp warmth and slight roughness of the cloth against his skin. At some point the cloth cooled and was set aside, yet the touching didn't stop, turning from ablution to caresses, lips, andfingers, and tongue, and teeth... oh god, those teeth. Duncan knew exactly how much was enough, how much was too much, and how to walk the tightrope between them. It was as if he'd been doing this for years. Of course, he had, just with a partner of a different gender.

For once Methos was able to think of that without feeling the dark scrabblings of jealousy. He thought about Duncan taking him again, and though it excited him, he knew he ought to wait, to give his body a chance to recover first. Duncan was, as Guinan had said on more than one occasion, a lot to handle. With reluctance, he reached down and took Duncan's hands in his own.

"It might be a good idea for you to give me a little while before we do this again."

Duncan freed his hands, and brought them up to cup Methos' face, holding him still for a kiss that rapidly went from gentle pressure to an intimate dance of tongues. When he lifted his head, Methos caught the gleam of mischief in his eyes.

"I don't think you need to worry," Duncan said, grinning. "There are other paths to pleasure."

Even though Methos didn't really think Duncan meant what it sounded like he might mean, his body still reacted to the prospect. Duncan glanced down at the unmistakable proof, and smiled.

Duncan let his hand trail down to Methos' erection, and followed his hand with his mouth, but only for a moment. His tongue forged a path down the inside of one thigh, then bit, hard enough to hurt. Before Methos could protest, Duncan soothed the spot with his tongue, sending fire rocketing through him. For a few seconds Duncan made a pattern of gentle nips all over the sensitive inner surface of his thigh, then he bit again, and soothed again, before starting the whole cycle over.

It was torture, but a damned erotic one. Methos couldn't help the instinctive arching response, the need to be buried inside the warm welcome of a body, or a mouth, dying with the aching pleasure of frustration. Where the hell had he learned that? Methos had more than four millennia on Duncan, and no one had ever tantalized him like this before. Maybe it was the emotional involvement, maybe it was just the fact that Duncan was a complete and utter sensualist at heart. Whatever it was, Methos was beginning to feel like a plate of hors d'oeuvres. The thought made him laugh, and Duncan raised his head, his hair tickling like mad as it trailed over highly sensitized skin.

"What?" he asked, inviting Methos to share the joke.

Methos grinned. "I was just wondering how long it's been since you last ate."

Duncan grinned back at him evilly. "Too long," he said huskily, as he bent his head once more. Methos watched, bemused, as the mouth he'd fantasized about for years touched him lightly. He clenched his fists, his stomach, his thighs, even his sex, in an agony of effort. He wanted this to go on as long as humanly-- or inhumanly-- possible. He would not come. Hands cupped him, lifting; a finger stroked, then humid warmth surrounded him. Pressure... the swirling caress of tongue, the startling skim of teeth. He arched, panting his mantra. "I won't, I won't, I won't!"

He realized he'd said it aloud when Duncan laughed, and lifted his head again. The relief Methos felt was tempered by the desire to have that luscious touch back, to feel that dreamed-of mouth on him again. Duncan moved up until he was lying full against Methos, their bodies skin-to-skin,a faint sheen of moisture gathering where they touched. He looked into Duncan's dark gaze and read a question there. He stared, stunned, wondering if he were misreading, surely he was misreading?

"Methos, show me," Duncan said, and the slight tension in his body betrayed the truth. Methos hadn't misunderstood.

"Duncan? You...?"

"Why should you have all the fun?" he asked, a little flippant, trying to hide his uncertainty.

"Don't do this just for me," Methos said gravely. "It can wait."

"No, it can't." Duncan lowered his mouth to Methos' and kissed him slowly, unhurriedly. When he lifted his head, some of the tension had ebbed. "Show me, I want to know. Teach me."

"Are you sure?"

"More sure than I've ever been."

Methos was still hesitant. "For someone who's waited eight-hundred years to get around to doing this, you're certainly in a hurry all of the sudden. You don't have to do everything in one fell swoop."

Duncan shook his head. "I know that. I also know I want to. I've wanted to for a lot longer than you might think. Methos, please?"

It was almost too much to comprehend. The fulfillment of so many fantasies, all in one night? How could he refuse? Slowly, he nodded, and was rewarded by that mouth again, this time on his own, all velvet and fire. For just a moment Methos wished Guinan were here to share this with them, then he decided that there was nothing wrong with being selfish, just this once. She'd had Duncan to herself on occasion, but he never had.

Methos let himself move gradually from passive to active. He let his arms tighten around Duncan, fingers splaying over the sleek, solid breadth of his back, kneading slightly. Duncan made a soft "mmmm" against his lips and rolled his shoulders. Methos knew a hint when he felt one, even if itwas subconscious. Realizing that a massage would be a good place to start, Methos ended the kiss and gently pushed Duncan away, sliding out from beneath him. Duncan started to turn, and Methos put a hand on his back, urging him to stay, following that with a firm, two-handed attack on his shoulders.

They were tight. Despite his conviction, Duncan was clearly still tense about his decision. Not surprising. Making the first attempt at anything was always nerve-wracking, no matter how much you wanted it. He'd probably been equally nervous before his first time with a woman. Slowly Methos expanded the scope of his massage from shoulders, to upper arms, then down the back. He picked up the tube of moisturizer and squirted some onto Duncan's back, laughing at his gasp as the cool substance hit warm skin. Then he started to work in earnest, digging the heels of his hands into the taut muscle beneath silky flesh. Duncan began to relax,sighing, pillowing his head on one arm, his hair obscuring most of his face, leaving only his nose and slightly parted lips visible.

Trying to ignore the urge to lift his hair and claim his mouth again, Methos worked his way down Duncan's back to the densely muscled rise of buttocks, then thighs, calves, and finally feet. He began to massage them with firm pressure, feeling the little bones shift and settle under his fingers. Duncan groaned, and he stopped, unsure.

"Is that a good or a bad groan?"

"Good," Duncan said, sighing, his voice slightly muffled against hisarm. "Very good. You should go into business."

That brought back some old, or more accurately ancient, memories. "I have, actually, on several occasions. In fact, it was one of the things I did before my first death."


"Mmmhmm, for a time, I was a body-slave." He felt Duncan tense, and pressed harder with his fingers. "Relax, it was a long time ago."

"I don't like the idea of you being a slave."

Methos smiled. "Neither did I, but that's life. Turn over."

Duncan obliged, still thinking about Methos, wondering about his early life. He managed not to scream a protest at the thought, trying to accept it with the same nonchalance his lover had. He thought of him as a young boy, perhaps a teen, thought of those hands with their long, beautiful wrists ringed with iron, thought of the stroke of a lash against that milky skin instead of the caress of lips or fingers. Iron? No, his chains would have been bronze... or would they have simply been rope? Methos predated even bronze!

It suddenly dawned on him what a small percentage of Methos' life they had known each other, and how little of that time they had actually spent together. It was a slightly staggering realization. Was this what a human felt when confronted with the knowledge of immortality? Gods... no wonder they got weird! He started to feel like the infant Methos had teased him about being.

"Duncan, stop it," Methos said softly.

Duncan looked up at him where he sat, his hands warm and sure as they worked the muscles of one calf. There was understanding in his clear hazel gaze, in the secret curve of his mouth.

"You know the truth of living, Duncan. You can't change what was,only what is to be."

He turned his attention back to Duncan's body and began to work his way up Duncan's legs. Midway up the long arch of thigh, his touch lightened, became more sensual, both more and less than a massage. Duncan closed his eyes, trying to let sensation sweep through him and take with it the grief, but it didn't assuage his dark thoughts. With his eyes closed, the sound of the storm outside seemed to increase, the howl of wind and the vicious slash of rain against the shelter seemed somehow appropriate, echoing the storm of emotions that scourged him. He wanted to give, to keep giving until there was nothing left of him. Only in giving did he become whole. He reached down and found one of Methos' hands, linking their fingers, tugging him upward to wind his arms around him and hold him as if he thought the wind might tear him away.

Methos soothed him, hands and mouth and body; caging the fear, replacing it with passion. Duncan felt lips claim his mouth, move down his neck, a tongue touched the hollow of his throat, then traced a fiery trail to first one astonishingly sensitized nipple, then the other. He shivered, moaning as hands stroked him, slippery with the first tears of desire and sweat, and other, less earthy essences. It went easy, far easier than he'd imagined, that gentle insinuation of fingers into untried territories. The touch he had feared became craved instead, and when he would have turned, yielding and eager, Methos laughed and held him as he was, teaching him the secret behind his smile.

Any other time the slick, subtle heat of Methos' mouth on him and the velvet insistence of his tongue, accompanied by the unaccustomed ecstasy of his deep touch would have sent him over the edge, but not now. Now he wanted to wait, to have it all. He rode the pleasure, balancing on the edge of the cliff, trying not to fall in and drown. As if sensing how hard he was trying, Methos let him go. The air cooled his moist, hot skin as Methos curled around him, tucking his hips behind Duncan's, sliding one thigh between his, bending a knee to open him. Gently, very gently, he took Duncan's hips in his hands and drew him back until their bodies merged.

Duncan moaned, fists clenched, as the pleasure-pain fountained in him, then the pain faded and nothing was left but pleasure. He opened his eyes, briefly registering the flicker of firelight across the ceiling as Methos' hands slid forward to encircle him, and the touch was so intense he had to close them again. He arched forward into Methos' hands, and gasped as his movement changed everything. Methos gentled him again, holding him still and moving with the smallest of movements, until it seemed right, and natural, and the urgency took over and Duncan lost himself in the moment, letting himself fall into the wave. He heard his own voice, and moments later, Methos', and then there was nothing left except for the harsh rasp oftheir breathing and the twinned pounding of their hearts, gradually slowing as the storm waned around them.

"Good God, what a mess!" Methos said, looking around at the devastation the previous night's storm had wrought. Tree-branches were strewn everywhere, the grounds looked as though a herd of elephants had been playing tag across them. On the terrace a shattered window gaped, tattered cloth dangling from it where the wind had sucked the drapes through and shredded them on the jagged glass. He shifted his gaze from the broken window to Duncan, and looked smug.

"I told you to use transparent aluminum in the windows instead ofglass."

Duncan rolled his eyes. "That is your one and only `I told you so' for the day. Come on, we've got our work cut out for us."

"Why don't you just hire someone to come clean this up?" Methos asked a little plaintively, following Duncan as he strode toward the house, each step squishing noisily in the mud. "Do you have to do everything yourself?"

Duncan stopped and turned, amusement gleaming in his dark eyes. "Why Methos, don't you agree that some things are best done personally?"

Methos eyes widened, and he chuckled. "Oh, aye, Highlander, very much so. However, there's a time and a place for everything."

Duncan looked at the house, then around at the grounds, and sighed. "So there is. I suppose it wouldn't be such a bad thing to get help, after all, last night was quite an experience."

Methos amusement softened into something else, and he smiled. "So it was, and for that I thank you."

Duncan shook his head. "No, Methos, please. There's no place for thanks here. There just is what is."

Methos nodded, accepting that. "I'll go down to the Glenfinnan and see if I can round up some workers... after breakfast."

"What, you mean those ration bars didn't fill you up?" Duncan asked mockingly.

Methos grimaced. "I was afraid I'd break a tooth so I didn't finish mine. Come on, I'm starving."

Shedding their muddy shoes outside the kitchen door, they stepped inside. Methos sniffed and lifted his eyebrows.

"Smells like Amanda's cooking."

Duncan nodded, puzzled, then enlightenment flooded his face. "Oh damn! The cassoulet!"

Methos watched with amusement as Duncan went to the oven and opened the door, using a towel to shield his hands from the heat as he lifted out a ceramic baking dish which contained some blackened, unrecognizable mess. He set it on the counter, scowling as if personally affronted, and picked up a fork with which he vainly tried to chip at the carbonized contents. Nothing budged.

"I'm in for it now," he said gloomily, shaking his head.

"Why? Because you burned dinner?"

"No, because I burned dinner in Guinan's heirloom El-Aurian baking dish."

Methos studied the unprepossessing item in question critically. "Do you think she'd notice if we just replicated it?"

That drew a chuckle, and Duncan nodded. "It's a thought, but as a matter of fact, she probably would. `I feel a fluctuation in the force...'" he quipped.

Methos grinned, recognizing the quote. "You're right, she probably would. I guess we'll have to try to get that stuff out of there."

Duncan nodded, wrapped the towel around it and carried it to the sink, where he carefully added water, watching it runnel into all the cracks in the lava-like surface. After a moment, he managed to work a fork tine into one of the cracks, and lever out an ossified chunk. Methos came up behind him and looked over his shoulder as he picked up the dish and tilted it back and forth, trying to get water into all the crevices so he could repeat the process. Duncan glanced back at him, lifting an eyebrow.


"Who, me?" Methos asked, sliding his fingers under the edge of his kilt. Duncan jumped and yelped in surprise as they closed rather firmly on one cheek. Sooty water splashed all over him as he dropped the dish, and somehow managed to catch it before it hit the counter and broke. He eased it back to a resting place in the sink and turned, his expression thunderous.

"Damn it, Methos..."

Whatever he'd meant to say was lost as Methos kissed him, his hand stealing beneath the kilt again, this time from the front. Duncan resisted for a moment, then yielded, one hand curving around the back of Methos' head,fingers stroking the soft, short hair there.

"What is that awful smell?" a familiar, husky alto voice asked amusedly.

They jumped apart guiltily, like teenagers caught necking by their parents.

"Guinan!" Duncan managed. "It's... uh... " he broke off, at a loss.

"Um... I... thought you were you due back day after tomorrow?" Methos asked, recovering a tad bit faster.

She looked from one of them to the other, a nonexistent eyebrow lifting. "Yes, we were, but Daria made life so miserable for the rest of us that we thought we'd better come home."

"Daria? What's wrong? Where is she?" Methos demanded anxiously.

"Richie took the kids upstairs to check on their rooms, and nothing's wrong, not according to her, anyway. She just spent the entire trip insisting that something was wrong and we needed to come home. Until last night, when we were three quarters of the way home, that is. That's when she suddenly decided that everything was all right again. I have no idea what's going on in that complex little brain of hers." Guinan looked out the window that framed some of the external devastation.

"Well, we had a hell of a storm last night, but I think we came through it without too much damage," Duncan said, puzzled.

"She didn't mean the weather," Guinan said softly. "To be honest, I've been a bit concerned myself lately." Her shrewd gaze lingered on them,taking in their flushed faces. "Okay, out with it, what is going on here?"

"Hey, guys?" Richie's voice sounded from the hallway. "Guys?" The younger immortal stepped into the room. "No damage upstairs from what I can tell. Everything's all..." his voice trailed off as he sensed the almost tangible tension in the room. "What's up?"

"Richie, would you give us a minute?" Guinan asked.

"Richie, out for a few." Duncan snapped, virtually simultaneously.

Richie took one last glance at each of them, and nodded. "Uh.. sure. I'll go check out that broken window."

There was silence after he left, Guinan looking expectantly from one to the other of them. Duncan looked at Methos, who shrugged, and tried his hand at `spin control'.

"It's not like it's a major disaster or anything. So you burned dinner. It'll come out, eventually."

Clearly, whatever Guinan had been expecting him to say, that wasn't it. She looked confused. "What?"

Methos stepped aside and pointed into the sink. "Duncan's afraid you'll be mad because he messed up your dish."

She followed his gesture and looked, wrinkling her nose expressively. "Well, it is quite a mess, but it's not..." she stopped, and looked at them again, taking in their wrinkled clothes, their unshaven state, their proximity and their expressions, and began to chuckle.

"Well it's about time! I thought you two were never going to get around to it!"

Duncan looked relieved. Methos felt the same way, and it must have shown on his face, because Guinan shook her head in amused exasperation.

"For heaven's sake, did you really think I'd mind?"

"Well, I..." Duncan began, and then he smiled too. "Honestly, I didn't really think about it. I just kinda... reacted."

"Well, I don't, so stop acting like you just got caught with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar." She stepped forward and caught each of them around the waist, pulling them close. There was a moment of merging, as she opened her Othersense and shared her delight, and theirs; then it was gone, fading, and they just stood, entwined.

"Is it safe yet?" Richie asked from the doorway, looking wary.

Duncan waved him in. "Come on in, we don't bite."

Richie, clearly not sure he was welcome, hesitated for a moment, then took a step into the room just as Methos turned to Duncan, grinning.

"Yes, you do."

"What?" Duncan asked.

"Bite," Methos returned, grinning.

Duncan looked at him, and grinned back. "Well, just a little and you weren't complaining before."

Methos spread his hands. "I'm not complaining now, just a statement of fact."

Richie, walking toward them stopped and looked from one to the other, and they could almost see the light dawning. A wash of color swept his fair skin, and his gaze darted back and forth between them like a spectator at a tennis match. After a minute of rather stunned silence, he took a deep breath, and with studied nonchalance attempted to affirm his suspicions.

"So you two... uh..."

Duncan's broad grin got even broader. "Uh-huh."

Richie's face was a study in consternation. He wore the expression of a man whose world just expanded to include something he'd never imagined. As he gaped at them, Duncan nudged Methos with an elbow.

"Methos?" Mischief practically dripped from his voice.

Methos turned to him. "Yes, Duncan?"

"Weren't you saying something about cradle robbing?" The muscles around Duncan's mouth fluttered as he tried manfully to keep from breaking up.

Methos turned his gaze to Richie again, his eyes narrowed, speculatively. "Hummmmm..."

Richie took a step backward. "Uh..." he looked to Guinan as if pleading for intervention, and when none was forthcoming his gaze flew around the room like a trapped bird looking for an escape "Oh! I just remembered! Darn! I was supposed to go see.. uh... Rachel and help her with her... uh... with her horses. Yeah, I promised I come by just as soon as I got back so I'd, uh, I'd better be going now." Backing toward the door, Richie bumped into the wine rack, nearly overturning both it and himself.

"But Richie, you just got back!" Methos said sulkily as he watched the younger man steady the rack.

Duncan took a step toward him. "Really! We haven't seen nearly enough of you yet."

Richie stood their combined intensity for about three seconds, then he bolted for the door as if the Borg had just invaded the kitchen.

Duncan and Methos broke down completely, roaring with laughter as Guinan looked from one to the other, shaking her head, though her expression was more fond than furious.

"You two are terrible, you know that?" she said after a moment.

"Yes," Duncan grinned cheekily, "but you love us," he said, in the tone of voice he usually reserved for dogs and small children.

Guinan smiled back, reaching for Methos with one hand as she drew Duncan close with the other. "Yes, I do."