|Into the Light
by Kellie Matthews & Julia Kosatka
WARNING! THIS STORY IS NC-17 Rated!
This story is a sequel to our X-Files/Highlander/Star Trek: Next Generation story "In the Dark". It begins a couple of weeks after "In the Dark" ends.
There is explicit SEX (including bisexuality) contained 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 erotica to black out all the juicy parts for you before you read it. If you're underage, 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. 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
Copyright 1995 KM and JK
"What's wrong with him?" Methos asked, nodding toward Duncan where he stood looking out at the rain. "I asked him if he was hungry and he just about took my head off," he smiled, ". . . figuratively, that is."
Guinan smiled. "He's just going through parental angst, don't worry. He'll get over it."
Methos studied his friend's back, clearly puzzled. "But they're on that camping trip."
"Precisely," Guinan said, eying her friend with amusement. He was a good-looking man, tall, slim, with fair skin and dark hair. His mouth always seemed curved with some secret enjoyment denied the rest of the world. Her gaze ranged past him to Duncan, and she wondered if Deanna would envy her this place with two such men.
Methos looked at her, still puzzled. "I don't understand."
"All parents go through this the first few times their kids are gone for any appreciable length of time. It's separation anxiety. You worry about where they are, what they're doing, are they safe, warm, and fed. It's perfectly natural."
Methos frowned. "Why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to that?"
She chuckled. "It's not exactly voluntary."
"For him it is. He wanted children."
"True. He needs someone to care for. He always has. Its in his nature."
"He has you. He has me."
"We're not quite the same. You're a friend, I'm a lover."
Methos turned away and muttered something under his breath, something she wasn't supposed to hear, but she did. He didn't know about her hearing.
"Is that so?" she asked quietly.
He turned back, startled, and clearly disconcerted. "You. . ."
"I heard. I didn't know, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to rub it in."
"No, I know that." His eyes slid toward the figure silhouetted against the window, then back to her, and a faint tinge of red touched his face.
"Does he know?" she asked gently.
Methos shook his head vehemently. "No!"
"He's not-- he wasn't socialized the way I was. I grew up in a culture where it was perfectly normal. He grew up in a culture that killed anyone who expressed such thoughts."
"Methos my friend, that's foolish and you know it. He's been socialized by scores of different cultures, not just the one he was born into. He's no more the same person he was then than you are the same person you were then. You should tell him. I think it's important that he know how you feel."
"No!" Methos snapped, a touch of anger in his voice.
She spread her hands placatingly. "It's your call. I'm going to go start some dinner. Do whatever you want."
He followed her as she walked toward the kitchen. "I'm hungry, let me help."
"Sure, what sounds good?"
"On a night like this? Stew, I think. And fresh bread."
"Sounds perfect. I'll start the bread, you start chopping vegetables."
He nodded and headed for the refrigerator. She got out a bowl and the flour.
"Toss me the jar of yeast, would you?"
He nodded, and complied. "I don't know why he doesn't put in a replicator," he grumbled.
"Yes you do. He doesn't believe in them."
"He owns half the god-damned company that created them!"
"So he's a contradictory sort. You knew that too."
"True," Methos grinned. "He tells me you knew Joe Dawson."
She put down the measuring cup she'd just filled with warm water, and stood for a moment staring blankly at the countertop. Finally she sighed. "Yes, I did."
He studied her for a moment, then nodded. "I see. I didn't realize."
"It was a long time ago. It doesn't matter now."
"It does. He was a good man. I'm glad to know you cared for him."
She looked up, suddenly curious. "Were you and he. . . ?"
"Friends," Methos said firmly. "Just friends. I've had a lot of them. Some I'd like to be more to, but that can't always be, and I know that."
"That's true," Guinan echoed, thinking of a certain starship captain. "All too true."
They worked in silence for a few minutes, then Methos looked up.
"Does it bother you?"
Guinan looked at him blankly. "Does what bother me?"
"What I-- the way I feel."
She chuckled. "What, that you have great taste? Nope, not at all. Really, Methos, you should know better than that."
He looked relieved. "Well, I wasn't sure what your socialization was like. You're not from Earth, I've no idea what your people believe in."
"We believe in love, in whatever form it takes."
"That's reassuring," he smiled. "May I say that I'm not the only one with good taste, Duncan clearly has it as well."
She didn't pretend not to realize he was praising her. "Thank you. Coming from you, that's quite a compliment."
"Well, I'm not immune to the charms of a good woman. I'm a strong believer in equality."
There were many meanings tangled in his words. She sorted them out, and lifted an eyebrow. "I am complimented, Methos. Thank you."
He nodded and turned back to peeling carrots. She noted that the yeast had proofed, and began to mix the liquid and dry ingredients together. Memories of a long-ago conversation between herself, Joe, and Duncan occupied her as she worked. Memories, and regrets. She studied the long, lean figure at the sink, and wondered what Duncan would say to what she was thinking.
As if on cue, she heard Duncan coming down the hall toward the kitchen. He stood in the doorway, watching them.
The other man looked up, a little warily."Yes?"
"Sorry I snapped at you. You didn't deserve it. I don't know why I did."
Methos smiled forgivingly."Guinan explained it to me. You're worrying about the children."
"Is it that obvious?" Duncan asked sheepishly.
Guinan nodded, and saw Methos do the same.
Duncan shook his head. "Sorry. I had no idea. Intellectually I know they're fine, but when it started to rain, well, I. . ."
"We understand, Duncan. It's all right."
He gestured toward the cluttered counter top. "What are you making? Can I help?"
"Certainly," Methos handed him the bag of potatoes and a knife. "Wash, and cut."
Duncan chuckled, and headed for the sink. "What am I cutting them for?"
"Great idea. You know, with the wet and chill tonight, it would be nice to have a fire in the library and eat there, wouldn't it? Eat, and play Go or Klingon Chess around the hearth?"
"It does sound lovely," Guinan said, turning the dough out onto the floured countertop to knead. "But you can't get out of your share of the cooking by going out to light it. Take care of it after you're done with those."
Duncan pretended offense. "As if I'd shirk!"
Guinan snorted derisively and Methos just smiled.
Duncan dumped the potatoes into the sink and started scrubbing them. "I can cook, you know."
"I should hope so." Methos said, snagging a large pot from the hanging rack above the center island. He nudged Duncan aside so he could get water from the tap, and when he'd finished they moved back into their places like two dancers in an intricate ballet.
Guinan watched their easy interaction, and a delicate shiver traced its way down her spine. She smiled, and turned her attention back to her kneading.
Guinan watched Methos and Duncan as they lounged in front of the hearth, both intent on the game board between them. The small glass pieces glowed like gems in the firelight. The room was warm and she was deliciously content after dinner, and several glasses of one of Duncan's imported wines. The rich red had been rather intense, and at the moment she was, as the saying went, `feeling no pain. ' She didn't indulge in the real thing often, but this had been too good to pass up. Something in it also affected her in a way she hadn't anticipated. Her body felt sensitized, warm, pliant. She watched the two men, absorbed in their game, and found herself wondering if they were distractable. What would Duncan do? What would Methos do, presented with the opportunity he'd waited for nearly as long as Guinan had. However, how to go about it? Well, first she needed to be more in proximity. She stood up and walked over to where they sat.
"Can I get you two anything?"
Duncan looked up. "Such as?"
She grinned. Perfect opening. "Coffee, tea, or me?"
Duncan chuckled and reached up, grabbing her hand. "You." He tugged and she sat down between them as he leaned over and kissed her.
"Um. . . I think I'll take a walk. . ." Methos began.
She reached back and found Methos' hand. He tried to pull away at first, but she refused to let go and drew him toward her. She could feel his misgivings, feel the tension in his body where it touched hers. Duncan started to lift his head, and she curled a hand around his neck, holding him in place as she deepened the kiss. She could sense that he was a little surprised, and a little intrigued. She released Duncan, and took a deep breath, then turned her face toward Methos, touching his lips gently with hers. He turned away, not meeting her gaze.
"I won't be a pity fuck, Guinan," he said flatly.
"No, you won't," she agreed.
Duncan opened his mouth to speak and she shook her head minutely. He hesitated for a moment, the shrugged, as if to say it was her game and he'd let her play it out. She reached out and turned Methos' face back toward her.
"Once before I let an opportunity pass untaken, and regretted it for centuries. I won't let that happen again. I want you. . . both of you. Will you share yourselves with me?"
She looked from one man to the other, her gaze steady and serious. Duncan looked from her to Methos, and back. Methos refused to look at Duncan though she knew he wanted to. Small muscles worked along his jaw, as he clenched his teeth.
"I told you I couldn't. . ." he began, then broke off abruptly, shaking his head, a flush darkening his face.
"I'll go, if you want to be alone." Duncan said quietly.
Guinan turned to him, saw the shadows in his eyes, and quickly shook her head. "No, you don't understand. It's not one or the other of you right now. It's both of you. If there's one thing I've learned, its that we all have an infinite capacity for love. I want to express that here, with you both; and I hope that the two of you have enough love for me, and for each other, to allow that."
She saw them mulling that over. She held her breath, waiting for a reaction. She was starting to get dizzy when Duncan moved, reaching over to put his hand over hers, and by default, Methos' as well.
"I wouldn't deny you this, love."
He looked from her to Methos, who shook his head, turning away.
"I'm sorry, I can't. Not like this."
"Not like what?" Duncan asked, perplexed. "I know you and Amanda and Michelle. . ."
Before he could finish that interesting revelation, Methos interrupted.
"It's not that. I can't lie about this. Duncan if I do this, it's as much because I want to make love to you as I do to Guinan. Can you accept that ?"
Duncan looked completely stunned. "Me?" he asked after a moment.
Methos nodded, his eyes glued to the game board, his mien that of a condemned man awaiting execution. . . or reprieve.
Because he was looking down he missed what Guinan saw. A variety of expressions chased themselves across Duncan's face. Surprise, dismay, amusement, interest. Finally he took a deep breath.
"I had no idea."
Methos nodded, still staring at the game. "I know."
Methos laughed ruefully. "Good question. I guess I was worried that it might affect our friendship."
That clearly took Duncan aback. "Methos! For God's sake! Have I ever given you reason to believe I was that kind of person?"
Methos looked up finally. "I. . . no. But it seemed logical, knowing where and when you were born, how you were raised."
Duncan sighed. "No wonder you couldn't hack it on Vulcan, with that sort of logic."
Methos bridled, then realized he was being teased and smiled tentatively. "You're not upset?"
Duncan shook his head. "I'm flattered, and surprised, and a little. . . embarrassed."
Guinan lifted a nonexistent eyebrow. "Embarrassed?"
Duncan nodded, and his answer was directed more toward Methos than to her. "I wish I'd known you felt this way a long time ago."
Methos' eyes narrowed. "What?"
"I've. . . felt things, sometimes. In some ways you're right about early upbringing. It's harder to overcome than one realizes. I just wasn't ready then for what I was feeling. Besides, you've always been with women! You even took on Amanda and Michelle, so how was I supposed to know?"
Guinan looked at Methos with interest. "Amanda and Michelle?"
Methos smiled playfully. "I told you I believe in equality."
Duncan snorted and reached for the wine bottle to refill his glass. He refilled Methos' as well, and looked at Guinan with eyebrows raised. She shook her head.
"I think I've had enough. I want to be able to remember this."
Duncan's gaze grew intent, and she sensed the sudden impact her words brought. The situation had just gone from hypothetical to real in his mind, and it showed in his expression. He slowly put down the wine bottle, stared at his glass, then lifted it and tossed down the contents in a single gulp. He set the glass down with deliberation, and looked up at them ruefully.
"I have to admit, it feels a bit, ah-- strange to be doing something for the first time at my age."
Guinan looked at Methos, and read his amusement, found herself grinning as the older immortal spoke.
"Don't tell me you've never shared a woman before."
Duncan looked at him mockingly. "I've shared women before, yes," his expression changed, growing serious. "But I've never shared. . . me."
Methos gazed at him, that slightly annoying, secretive smile curving his mouth. "A virgin? How fascinating."
Duncan laughed, shaking his head. "Oh, God, I should never have told you."
Methos chuckled. "I think I would probably have figured it out."
Duncan looked embarrassed, and he reached for his glass, then stopped as he remembered it was empty. Methos picked up his own glass, and moved closer, his back to the fire as he took a sip, turned the glass to present the same spot he'd just drunk from to Duncan. His gaze was level and his expression serious as he waited. Duncan hesitated a moment, then accepted the glass and sipped. Guinan shivered.
"I'll do nothing you don't want me to. Would I have offered to let you take my head so you could fight Kalas if I ever meant you harm?"
Duncan looked a bit rattled at that. Guinan reached out and took Methos' hand, and Duncan's, and placed them palm-to-palm, then drew back to move the game board out of the way.
Duncan stared at his friend's hand, realizing for the first time just how many layers there were to his relationship with Methos. He found himself tracing his thumb across the calluses on his palm. A swordsman's calluses.
"You've been fighting again," he said, surprised.
Methos nodded. "I can't hide, I can't be unprepared, I can't let the evil ones have their way without trying to help those they hurt. You taught me that." He lifted their hands, and placed a kiss in Duncan's palm. "Thank you."
Duncan felt an odd mixture of discomfort and arousal at the touch of the other man's lips on his skin. He didn't tug his hand away, but was relieved when Guinan came back into the firelight and sat down where the game board had been. She placed one hand on Duncan's thigh, stroking with an innocent intimacy. Her other hand slid behind Methos' neck to thread her fingers through his hair. Duncan knew that were Methos of her race, that would be an unmistakable sexual signal. He slid an arm around her waist and placed a kiss behind her ear. She sighed, her hand tightening on his thigh, and then she leaned forward and kissed Methos, very thoroughly. The sound of their kiss was powerfully erotic, the soft, moist sounds of lips and tongues meshing.
Methos hand spanned her back, moved upward to her neck, tilting her head. Duncan heard the change in Guinan's breathing as Methos' hand moved on her most sensitive area, and he smiled, knowing that he knew something the other man didn't. After a moment Guinan drew back from Methos, and turned without a pause to Duncan. He took her mouth with his, tasting her, realizing he was also tasting Methos. He felt a touch at the back of his head, felt hands moving, then his hair fell free of the clasp that held it. Methos' fingers combed through the strands, fanning them from the crimp the clasp had left. He couldn't believe how erotic such a simple touch could be. He felt the warmth of Guinan against his chest, felt the warmth of Methos against his shoulder and head as the other man held both him and Guinan in his arms.
On his thigh, Guinan's hand stole higher, moving to cup his burgeoning erection through the fabric of his slacks. He groaned into her mouth, pushing into her touch. A hand moved down his back, stroking, moving lower, over the curve of hip and then toward the back. He suddenly realized whose hand it was and stiffened, breaking the kiss. Guinan made a soft sound of disappointment.
"Duncan?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Sorry, it just startled me."
Methos' hand lifted instantly. "Is this too fast?" he asked quietly.
Duncan thought about it for a moment, and slowly shook his head. "I don't know. I don't think so. But it will take me a little while to get. . . used to it."
"It's not like we need to rush," Guinan said. "We have all the time in the world." She reached up and unfastened one of the shoulder clasps on her chiton, and shrugged the garment off. That done, she stretched out on her belly, her skin gleaming smooth and sable in the firelight. The deep maroon carpet gave an odd redness to the shadows of her curves. Red, like blood. It dawned on him that blood was life. Blood accompanied birth as well as death. Blood made a woman fertile. He pushed that thought aside. Why torment himself?
Duncan moved to sit beside her. Methos grabbed a throw-pillow off the couch and offered it to Guinan. She accepted it and tucked it comfortably under her shoulder and head. Duncan stroked a hand down her back and she arched, making a soft purring sound.
Methos shifted a bit uncomfortably, and Guinan lifted her head. "All right you two, no fair."
"What?" Duncan asked, puzzled.
"You get to look at me, but all I get to look at is clothes ."
Methos grinned, and started on the fastening of his shirt. Clearly he was not uncomfortable with this. Duncan had taken his clothes off in front of Methos many times before, but this time was. . . different. He hesitated, and Guinan sat up, sliding her hands beneath his sweater to push it up and off. She went for the fastening of his slacks, and he stopped her.
"No, let me."
She gazed at him a moment, then nodded. He took a deep, slightly unsteady breath. This was the last point at which he could turn back. After this, he was committed, fully. He felt awkward and adolescent as he got to his knees to unfasten his trousers, sliding them down, then sat back and kicked them the rest of the way off. When he looked up, Methos was kneeling beside Guinan, his fair skin a stark contrast to the darkness of carpet and woman.
It was a shock, seeing his friend for the first time as a sexual being, rather than just. . . Methos. He saw long, lean musculature; so different from his own compact curves. He was almost as hairless as Guinan, just a dusting of darkness on chest and legs, though elsewhere it was more profuse. He was surprised to realize that he found Methos beautiful, in the way he would appreciate a fine statue or painting.
Guinan, lounging on the floor, made a sound of approval. "Now that's better." Her gaze swept Duncan, then Methos, then she sighed and rolled onto her belly again.
Duncan focused on her, on the familiar. He moved closer and swept her hair aside, leaning down to tease the vulnerable nape of her neck with his teeth. She whimpered, her hips tucking forward as a shudder ran the length of her. This wasn't intimidating. Together they could give her more than separately. He rained kisses and nips down the length of her body, on the sensitive spots on either side of her spine just above the curve of her buttocks.
"Her back?" Methos whispered, curious.
Duncan nodded, reaching forward to find her hand. Threading his fingers through hers he began to lick the inside of her wrist, laving his way up to just below the crease of her elbow. She tossed her head, her breath fast and ragged. Her response was so quick, so fiery. He remembered how hot she was, how slick, and tight. His own breathing speeded up and he grew harder thinking about the way her body closed around him as she peaked.
Methos lay down beside her, stroking and kissing her back. Duncan moved to lie next to her on the other side, and set to work as well, nipping the responsive area just behind her arm where the skin was fine and silky. He had a few self-conscious moments when he touched Methos instead of Guinan as they worked, but after a while the discomfort faded away to nothing. The soft sounds Guinan made as they stroked her encouraged him to deepen the intimacy with which he touched her. He urged her onto her side, which left her back available to Methos, while giving him access to her less sensitive areas. With Methos helping, there was no need to neglect anything.
He brought her uppermost knee forward over his hip, then bent to taste her breasts as his fingers eased between her thighs. A tremor shook her as he gently opened her, insinuating a finger deep into her velvet depths. As always, he was surprised by how small she felt, how tight. Her hips began to move, her body riding his fingers. She grabbed his hair and pulled his mouth up to hers, kissing him almost frantically. As she did, another hand moved between her thighs, and he relinquished that position to Methos, shifting his fingers up to circle around and around the nerve-center at the top of her cleft, his fingers slick with her body's natural moisture. It amazed him that it didn't seem to evaporate like a human woman's would, instead remaining as sleekly wet after ten minutes as it had been after one. Another of those `little differences' she'd spoken of.
"It smells like incense in here," Methos said softly, looking around, clearly puzzled.
"That's me," Guinan said, sounding amused.
"Nice perfume," Methos commented.
Duncan grinned, shaking his head. "Not perfume, her." He withdrew his fingers, holding out his hand. Methos sniffed, then reached out and caught Duncan by the wrist, pulling his hand closer. Duncan resisted for a moment, then yielded, allowing Methos to draw his fingers to his lips. Leisurely, he sucked each finger in turn, and Duncan found himself responding as fully as he would to Guinan. The delicate touch of tongue and teeth against his skin sent sparks through him. Methos released him finally, and sighed.
"God, you taste good. Both of you." He moved away, and motioned for Duncan to sit up. Warily, he complied, then relaxed again as Methos turned Guinan onto her back and lifted her so she was half-sitting in his lap, her shoulders supported by Duncan's thighs. She let her head fall back against his abdomen as Methos pushed her knees up and apart, then lay between her thighs, his hands holding her open for his mouth. She moaned as he began to taste her, lifting her hands to pull Duncan's mouth down to hers again. She kissed him, then let him go, her eyes shining.
"You have the most sensual mouth."
Methos lifted his head. "He does, doesn't he? That was practically the first thing I noticed about him."
Duncan knew he was blushing, and was glad of the firelight that hid it from them.
"Cut it out, you two," he complained.
Guinan chuckled. "He does hate to be told how gorgeous he is. How about you?"
"Me?" Methos asked, his gaze intent on what he was doing as he touched her. "I don't think I'd mind. Of course, I don't get that much."
Guinan reached down to trail her fingers down Methos' cheek, and then trace the outline of his lips. "You're both stunning. Not at all alike, but very beautiful. . . ah!" she caught her breath, her hips arching, then she relaxed as Methos withdrew his fingers.
Methos looked up, frowning. "This is going to sound awfully stupid, but you're not a virgin, are you?"
She laughed out loud. "Not hardly. Especially not after giving birth. No, I've done just about everything there is to do in my six hundred years, except that Gorn, and a Tellarite. I'll admit that I prefer truly humanoid lovers to your anthropomorphic lizards and warthogs."
"But you're so damned small. . ." Methos said, still frowning.
Duncan chuckled. "I remember thinking that exact same thing. Don't worry, we've had no problems so far."
Methos studied him speculatively. "Well, that's reassuring. If she can take you, then she should certainly have no trouble with me."
Duncan rolled his eyes. "Oh for God's sake, don't you start on my size too!"
Methos grinned. "Why not? You blush so beautifully."
Duncan opened his mouth to reply to that, but fortunately before he could, Guinan spoke, sounding quite amused.
"Enough, Methos, before he decides this isn't worth the abuse. Besides, you have better things to do with your mouth than talking."
Methos lifted an eyebrow. "Yes, ma'am."
He returned to the task at hand, leaving both Guinan and Duncan laughing. After a moment she looked up at him, and surprisingly her eyes were serious.
"You're not doing this just for me, are you?"
He shook his head, slowly. "No, I'm not."
"Good, because that's not what I want." She reached up and drew him down, her lips against his ear as she whispered, "I know you're secure enough that this won't be a problem. He's waited a long time for this."
Duncan hoped Methos couldn't hear him as he whispered against her ear in return. "Aye, I know it."
He couldn't keep pretending that this was just for Guinan. Not only would it be a lie, it would hurt Methos, and he didn't want that. He reached down and began to stroke his fingers through Methos hair. Though it wasn't very different from his own in color, the texture was quite unlike; very fine, and soft, almost no weight at all. He traced a finger around the outer edge of Methos' ear, and let his fingers stroke the soft skin of his neck. He was surprisingly smooth, not a trace of stubble. His own hand looked nearly as dark as Guinan's would against the milky paleness of the other man's throat. Methos turned his head, pressing a kiss into his palm. Duncan touched his lips, feeling their warmth, their softness. What would it be like to kiss him? He wanted to ask, but his voice didn't work.
"Methos. . ." Guinan's voice took the place of his own.
He lifted his head. She beckoned him, and he sat up, reaching out to cup her face in one palm, then he was kissing her. Duncan watched them, jealous for a moment. He wanted to do that. . . with both of them. When they parted, Methos drew back, breathing as if he'd run a marathon. His fists were clenched on his thighs, and he looked painfully erect. Duncan was no stranger to that sensation himself, though he was not quite to that state yet.
"Duncan, can I. . ." Methos began, then he shook his head sharply, and cut himself off. He turned to look at Guinan where she knelt, watching them, looking a bit dazed. "Guinan love, will you be our bridge?"
She looked from Methos to Duncan and back, and nodded. "You know I will."
Methos sighed, as if a weight had been removed, and levered himself down onto his elbow, lounging like some Greek statue come to life
"Come then, here against, me, I know this role better than he does."
She nodded and spooned against him, her back against his belly, then extended her hand to Duncan. He allowed her to draw him down, and they lay facing with only inches between them. She bent her knee and eased it over his hip, assuming the same position they had been in just minutes earlier. Methos began to kiss the back of her neck again. She shivered, and he watched her nipples tighten from smooth cones to tight points. He leaned down to taste first one, then the other. He slid his hand down to her sex again, opening her, finding her even hotter and wetter than before. Methos already had two fingers deep inside her, so as before he concentrated on other areas until she was shivering in their arms.
She arched backward a little, and her knee lifted, and between her thighs he felt a shifting, a swelling, then the brush of soft curls against his fingers. He realized Methos had entered her. She broke their kiss as the other man penetrated her, only to return her lips to his seconds later, even wilder than before. One of her hands drifted between them to cup his shaft, her fingers caressing in rhythm with the thrust and withdrawal of Methos' inside her. Curious, he let his own fingers move down to where they merged, feeling the hot, damp slide of flesh in flesh. He shuddered, fighting the urge to pull her away from him and take her himself. Her fingers were sweet, but not the same as her body. She gasped suddenly, her hands tightening in his hair, her body taut.
"Easy, love," Methos whispered. "Easy, is that all right?"
She nodded, her eyes closed, breathing ragged. "Yes. . . just give me a moment. . ." after a little bit she sighed. "All right. Go on."
"You're sure? There are other ways. . ."
"No, this is right. I want this."
The rhythm resumed, Guinan's responses became more vocal, a soft, dark moaning deep in her throat. She kissed him again, her tongue slicking over his, her lips soft and moist. He alternated his caresses between her thighs, stroking her clit, then moving lower to feel her body yield to Methos'. After a while he felt Methos withdraw, the length of him sliding across Duncan's fingers as he did. It was a strange feeling, to feel that unmistakable silky hardness, and know it was not himself . He wanted to explore further, but before he could, it was gone, and Guinan was shaking in his arms, her body bowing away from his hand. A slight whimper broke from her lips, and he thought he heard pain in it.
"Don't hurt her," he hissed, eyes narrowed angrily. He reached across Guinan to put a hand around Methos' throat, the pressure gentle, but enough to let him know that could easily change.
"Shhhhh," Guinan whispered. "It's all right. I'm fine. Let him go."
Reluctantly he did as she asked, his gaze locked with hers. Her eyes were so dark she looked almost drugged, but she was smiling. "Don't worry, Duncan. I'm a little out of practice, but he's not."
Duncan looked past her to Methos. The other man's eyes were closed, a slight frown creasing his forehead, his jaw tight. His lips were slightly parted, revealing clenched teeth. He looked like he was the one in pain now. Guinan began to stroke him again, her hand curled around his shaft.
"Your turn now, Duncan. Come into me."
He let her draw him forward and felt the radiant heat of her body. He spread the soft, shielding lips and began to enter her. He was instantly aware of the unfamiliar hardness and pressure against him, he stopped, a shudder coursing through him, knowing that was Methos he felt. They were both inside her, separated by only the fragile tissues of her body, could the distance between them even be measured? The feeling was staggering.
"Oh god!" his hands clenched as he fought the dark urge to abandon nearly a thousand years of civilizing veneer. Unable to resist, he pushed deeper. Guinan gasped, and he felt Methos' hand close almost painfully on his shoulder.
"Let her control this, Duncan. Only she can know when she's ready."
He nodded, forcing himself to stillness. For excruciatingly long moments she didn't move, then she began to rock, her hips moving in a slow undulation, a wave that encompassed both of them in each surge and withdrawal. Duncan found himself reaching around her to hold Methos as well, to stroke the sculptured length of his flank and hip. Guinan was holding him so tightly she was probably leaving bruises on his ribs, but he didn't care. Nothing mattered except the dangerous pleasure of sharing her; of feeling her, and Methos both with every tiny movement either of them made. He knew he couldn't stand this much longer, he desperately wanted to move, but he had to just lie there and let her set the pace. It was maddening, and incredibly arousing.
Her movements began to quicken, growing more fluid. The world narrowed to symphony of gasps and soft, wordless sounds of pleasure; to heat, and wet and pressure. Suddenly she shook, a low cry escaping her as her body tightened nearly unbearably around him. That set him off, the pulsing explosion ripping through him with an intensity that left him utterly drained, and replete with pleasure. She went limp in their embrace, and for a moment he was afraid she'd fainted, but then she sighed so he knew she hadn't. Methos was relaxing as well, his breathing slowing. Duncan felt the pressure against him lessening and knew all three of them had reached their peak, nearly simultaneously. When he'd agreed to the threesome, he hadn't thought that this might be the result, but it was without a doubt the most powerful sexual experience he'd ever had.
"Guinan?" Methos said quietly.
"Mmm?" she responded sleepily. Duncan knew just how she felt. It was tempting just to doze off right now, but somehow though he was tired, there were too many thoughts running through his mind for him to indulge.
Methos chuckled. "Good. Just wanted to make sure."
"Mmmm." She took a deep breath and turned her head, nestling closer to Duncan, her arms sliding around his neck. Duncan grinned. It was amazing how many things one sound could mean. For a little while there was nothing but silence, then Methos started to speak again. "Duncan. . ."
"Shhh, I think she's asleep."
"And women complain about us ," Methos whispered, grinning. Duncan smiled, holding back a laugh that might disturb her. Methos moved his hand a little, stretching his fingers, and only then did Duncan realize they were holding hands. He had no idea how long they had been linked. Strange, how comfortable he was feeling about all of this. "Regrets?" Methos asked quietly.
"No, no regrets." He squeezed Methos' hand gently, to make sure he knew he meant it. Methos squeezed, back, then freed his hand to reach across and stroke Duncan's hair out of his face.
"It need go no further than this, if you choose. Like she said, we have plenty of time."
"As long as we keep our heads," Duncan put in, smiling.
Methos grinned, but he didn't say anything. After a little while he sighed. "I'm going to go run a bath. Let her sleep till it's filled. You must've been psychic when you installed that sunken tub."
Duncan grinned. "No, that's her prerogative; I just like big tubs, but you're right, it'll come in rather handy."
As Methos moved away and sat up, Guinan stirred sleepily. "Whazzup?" she asked sleepily.
"Methos is going to go run a bath for us. Go back to sleep."
She nodded and snuggled against him. He shook his head, grinning at Methos, who grinned back. "How long does it take for that tub to fill?"
"About fifteen minutes."
"See you then."
Duncan nodded, and watched Methos leave the room, completely unselfconscious in his nudity. He rolled onto his back to provide a more comfortable pillow for Guinan, and lay there listening to her breathe, musing over what had just happened. Her calm seemed to be infectious. He knew he would never have thought of doing this on his own, but it felt oddly right. How had she known it would work? Another of her supposedly minor psychic abilities, or just an adventurous spirit?
A sound from overhead made him tense, until he realized it was just the wind. The kids were still away on their camping trip. His pulse began to slow, and he thanked whatever powers there were for that. He wasn't really up for trying to explain this at the moment. Hell, he could barely explain it to himself. He remembered how Methos had looked, kneeling, aroused, and felt a sudden stirring. He thought of how many times the other man had saved his neck, or just been there when he was needed, and shook his head in amazement that he'd gone all these years so blind. Suddenly a lot of things began to make more sense.
He glanced at the clock and realized it had been nearly half an hour. He tickled a finger around Guinan's ear until she woke up, then slid his arms beneath her knees and back and stood up with her. She yelped in surprise, her arms locking around his neck for balance as he carried her down the darkened hallway. After a moment her grip eased a little. "I always wanted someone to carry me somewhere. How'd you know?" she asked, tucking her head under his chin.
"I read the book."
"The handbook on what women like. You know."
"Oh, that book. Right," she laughed. "You're incorrigible."
Duncan nudged the door open with his elbow, and they both gasped a little in surprise. Candles burned along the edges of the platform that surrounded the tub, reflecting in the mirror, throwing shadows on the walls, their flickering golden light turning the cream and blue Etruscan tiles to maize and ash. The air was thick with steam and the scent of warm beeswax. Methos was in the tub, his head back, eyes closed, but as they came into the room he rose, smiling. "I wondered what was taking you so long."
Duncan watched water cascade off Methos' long, lithe body, his skin as golden as honey in the candlelight. Just yesterday he could have seen the same scene and never even noticed how beautiful he was, but not anymore. "I lost track of time," he said truthfully, and walked over to the tub, Methos held out his arms and Duncan transferred Guinan to him. As he lowered her into the water, she made a little purr of satisfaction. "You'd never know you two didn't do this for a living. Remind me to hire you guys on as my retinue next time I go to Ishtar."
Methos laughed, and she poked him in the chest with a finger. "I'm serious."
"I'd go, I've always wanted to go to Ishtar. How about you Duncan?"
He made a disappointed face and shook his head. "Someone has to be responsible and stay home with the kids."
Both Guinan and Methos burst out laughing as he stepped into the tub and sank down with a sigh. Wonderful. He ducked under the water and felt it bubble through his hair, felt the sting of capillaries blooming in the heat. He heard splashing, and came up to find Methos and Guinan out of the tub, standing in the soaping area. Duncan crossed his arms on the platform, resting his chin against them as he watched Methos wash her back, raising a thick, silky lather with the sponge in his hand. His movements seemed extraordinarily gentle, especially as he moved lower. Duncan winced, thinking about why that might be. It might have been as exciting as hell, but it might not have been particularly comfortable for her. He frowned, suddenly wondering if she had enjoyed it. He could swear he'd felt her come, but what if he'd been too distracted by his own pleasure to really notice? Why would she do something. . . "Duncan MacLeod!"
Her tone made her sound like an irate librarian. He looked up to find Guinan had turned and was looking at him, shaking her head, with an expression as exasperated as it was possible for her to look while naked and covered with soap. "Stop brooding this instant or I'll have to come over there and make you stop."
He chuckled. "God, I'm paralyzed with fear. You wouldn't do that to me, would you?"
She made a face. "If you say one word about briar patches I swear I'll beat you!"
"Would you?" he asked hopefully. She groaned. Methos tugged her back under the spray of the shower.
"Hey, that's cold !" She protested, twisting away.
He grinned. "I know. It's good for the circulation. Finish rinsing, we don't want to get soap in the tub."
"Why not? That's what it's for."
"No, that's not what it's for."
She ducked under the spray quickly and came out with a shiver. "Then what is it for?"
"Soaking," Duncan told her, doing exactly that.
Methos watched Duncan submerge again, and sighed. "Thanks," he said quietly to Guinan. She looked up at him and smiled."You're welcome, but I didn't exactly do it for you."
"I know, but thank you anyway. You have no idea how long I've been trying to put something like this together."
She laughed. "Oh, I think I have a pretty good idea."
He eyed her narrowly, and nodded. "You might just, at that." He studied her a moment, concerned. He'd been careful, but she was a small woman. "Are you all right?"
She looked up again, reading his expression, and nodded. "Never better. And don't you start with the brooding stuff now, one of you's enough!"
He chuckled. "I'm not a brooder, honest. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, burned it and scattered the ashes."
She laughed, and shivered. "I'm getting back in there, I'm freezing."
He followed her into the water just as Duncan came up for air. "Showoff," she said.
"What?" Duncan was obviously puzzled.
"Holding your breath that long!" she explained.
"It's something we're good at," Duncan said, exchanging an amused glance with Methos.
"Isn't there anything you guys aren't good at?" she asked plaintively.
Methos looked at Duncan, who was wearing the most amazingly smug expression. Disgusted with himself for being attracted to that, Methos splashed water at him, and Duncan ducked, laughing. "You do not want to hear him sing," Methos told Guinan.
Duncan crossed his arms, looking petulant. "Well, at least I can whistle."
Guinan rolled her eyes. "You two can cut out the courtship displays now. The deed's done."
Methos looked at Duncan, deliberately letting his gaze soften into a near-caress. "I'd say its one down, and one to go."
Methos waited tensely for Duncan's reaction, and was surprised and pleased when he didn't look away, or make a joke. He held Methos' gaze for a moment, looking thoughtful, then reached under the water to lift one of Guinan's feet to massage it. She sighed and leaned back with her head against him for support. Her braids swayed into his lap with every little wave that traversed the water, tickling erotically. He held her while Duncan massaged both her feet, and by the time he'd finished she was three-quarters asleep again, then she pushed herself upright, yawning.
"I'm going to fall asleep and drown if I stay in here, and unlike you two, that's not healthy for me." She got out and grabbed a towel from the stack next to the tub, laying it out on the platform. She followed it with herself, pillowed her head on her arms, and closed her eyes, leaving Methos alone in the tub with Duncan. They looked at each other, and Methos grinned, lifting his eyebrows suggestively. Duncan shook his head, laughing. "Don't get pushy."
"I wouldn't dream of it! Not now."
"Not now?" Duncan asked, curious.
"I ah . . . tried once before. It didn't work."
Duncan stared at him blankly. "Why don't I remember that? It's not the sort of thing I'd be likely to forget, and I can't have been that plowed!"
Methos studied him, startled. "I guess it wasn't as obvious as I thought. When you mentioned Amanda and Michelle earlier, I thought that's what you meant."
Duncan's eyes widened. "Amanda and Michelle? You were trying to setup a quartet?"
Methos nodded, half flinching away from the expected roar. Duncan did not like to be manipulated. To his surprise, Duncan started to laugh, shaking his head. "If you knew me half as well as you think you do, you'd know that would never have worked. I wouldn't give those two the opportunity to dissect my performance for the next thousand years for any price!"
Methos smiled ruefully. "Smart man."
They sat there for a moment, just staring at each other, then Duncan shook his head with an oddly shy smile. "This is ridiculous, let's get this over with, shall we?"
He leaned forward, and Methos met him halfway. Their lips met, clung, held. He lifted his hands to cup Duncan's face, turning him slightly so the kiss came more naturally. Faintly, he could taste Guinan's mulled-cider spiciness on Duncan's lips, as well as other, more human flavors. Methos deepened the kiss, his breathing harsh. Duncan resisted for a moment, then opened his mouth, accepting his kiss, the touch of his tongue. He felt Duncan's arms go around him, felt his body against his own.
When they finally broke, he drew back, a little stunned by the profound intimacy of the kiss. He had somehow expected it to be a little more . . . ordinary. He lifted his gaze and saw confusion in Duncan's dark gaze. He sat back abruptly with a quick exhalation. "Well," he said, meaninglessly.
Duncan nodded. "You said it."
Methos watched a drop of water trickle down Duncan's throat, catching candlelight like a tiny gold bead, to eventually disappear into the sheen of water on his chest. He watched the play of muscles in that chest as Duncan moved in the water, leaning back into its warmth with a sigh. A sudden attack of insecurity rattled him. Duncan was so damned beautiful, and he was so ordinary, always had been and always would be. "Methos?" Duncan's voice was puzzled. "Is something wrong?"
He looked up to find his friend staring at him with concern. Friend. That brought him out of it. He shook his head. "Sorry, I was just having a little anxiety attack."
"You?" The word dripped disbelief.
Methos nodded, smiling wryly. "I do that every now and then."
"And here I thought I was the only one," Duncan said, looking sheepish. Bolstered by the knowledge that Duncan was as fallible as he, Methos reached to touch him, his fingers sliding beneath the wet silk of his hair, over satin-skinned musculature. He was as wonderful to touch as he was to look at. He let a hand follow the path that bead of water had taken; down his throat, down his chest, beneath the water to find where he was the same, yet so different. When his hand curled around the half-erect shaft, Duncan tensed. He relaxed a moment later, but not completely, there was still a strong current of underlying tension in his body. Getting the feeling that things weren't quite as relaxed as they seemed, Methos let his hand drift away again and sat back, studying his friend.
Duncan looked flustered and embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I. . . guess that's just a little too much too soon."
Methos nodded. He'd suspected all along that Duncan was just too far toward the heterosexual end of the continuum to be comfortable with exclusively male contact. With Guinan between them to absorb that edge of disquiet, it had been different, but now it was back full-force. He mentally regrouped, knowing he had to let Duncan know it was all right. He lounged back against the side of the tub, and stretched out, letting the water close warmly around his shoulders, trying to show with body-language that he was completely relaxed and accepting. "Do you remember the first time we met?" he asked casually.
Duncan grinned. "How could I forget? First you ignored me, then you threw a can of beer at me. I remember thinking you seemed strangely unconcerned that another Immortal had just entered your house. What if I'd been after your head?"
Methos chuckled, remembering. "Joe had called to warn me you were on your way, so I knew it was you. I guess that was stupid on my part, if it had been Kalas, I'd have been caught sitting there like a fool with my beer and walkman! I did think seriously about leaving, I wasn't quite ready to give up my life as a Watcher, and Joe's call gave me plenty of warning, but I wanted to meet you so I just waited. I'd been hearing about you for quite a while by that point, and frankly, you fascinated me."
He cupped water in his hand and idly let it splash back into the tub before continuing. "Guinan mentioned that when she knew you back then that she felt drawn to you, like a `moth to a flame, ' she said. I knew exactly what she meant. You have such fire in you, such passion, it's nearly irresistible. When Kalas came after me, all I could think was that if I had that passion, I could beat him, but I don't and I knew I never would. However I realized that if you had my quickening, you could beat him. I also thought about what it might do to you to absorb his quickening without a lighter one to balance it. His darkness might have killed that fire in you, or you could have been killed outright because he was very much your equal. That's when I knew that I would die to stop him, to keep that from happening. Besides, far better to die at the hands of a friend than to become part of what Kalas was, and aid him in killing others."
Duncan was staring at him, his expression troubled. "Methos . . ."
Methos cut him off, not wanting to hear the sympathy in his voice, not wanting to get sidetracked. "Wait, let me finish. You know how it is for us, we fall in and out of love so many times in our lives, and in and out of lust. It always passes. But friendship is different, especially between us. We're so rarely given that gift. You're my friend, and I don't want that to change. If we make love, we risk losing agape for eros; the love of friends for the love of lovers; and we both know how fleeting that can be. I want you, but I want your friendship more than I want your body and I will not lose that friendship for a night's pleasure. Pleasure comes in many forms and we'll just have to find the form that we can both share . . . even if it's just Klingon chess."
Duncan stared at him for a long time, then finally he sighed. "I think I believe you."
"I'm being utterly honest with you. I would jump your bones in a minute if I thought you'd enjoy it, but I won't touch you as long as there is the slightest doubt in your mind. And I know there is, don't tell me there isn't."
Duncan looked at him ruefully. "I can't, I'd be lying."
"I know. You're just not. . . inclined. I can accept that. Not everyone is."
"Methos," Duncan said, looking worried. "I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you."
"I'm not hurt, Duncan." He met the other man's gaze steadily. "The fact that you were even willing to try is enough."
"But I have wondered, sometimes. . ." Duncan confessed, still obviously confused.
Methos shook his head. "Wondering about something and doing it are vastly different things. Which of us hasn't wondered about some secret desire at some time in our lives? You might wonder what it's like to rape someone, or to be raped, that doesn't mean you'd actually do it or want it to be done."
Duncan shuddered. "God, I should hope not! But this is nothing like--"
"I know," Methos interrupted. "It was just an example, a bad one. I will admit to hoping that one day you'll change your mind. I want to make love to you, I just know tonight's not the right time and place. I could tell that the moment I touched you."
"It was that obvious?" Duncan asked ruefully. "To me, yes. I've had many, many lovers, Duncan, male and female, I know when someone's responding to me and when they're not. You know what I'm talking about."
Duncan stared off into space for a moment, then looked back, his gaze narrowed, speculative. "I didn't mind kissing you."
Methos nodded, serious. "That surprised me. Most primarily heterosexual men would've let me bring them off with my hands or mouth before they'd let me kiss them. A kiss is so much more intimate than a touch, something reserved for expressing love, not just sex. An orgasm is simple release, a kiss-- so much more. You know that's why prostitutes don't kiss. It's too personal, too revealing."
Duncan frowned thoughtfully. "Maybe that's why I didn't mind, then."
Methos stared at him, startled. "What?"
"Like you said before. We're friends, we have a lot of intimacy between us, just not sexual intimacy. It somehow felt right, where this-- just doesn't. Yet."
Methos struggled not to smile triumphantly at the word `yet. '
A soft sound brought his attention to Guinan, who was stirring on the platform, stretching like a cat as she awoke from her nap. He admired the way the candlelight sheened her dark skin, remembering how velvety it had felt under his hands. She was a very sensual creature, with surprising depths. She sighed deeply, then opened her eyes, eying them with amused curiosity. "So, does being an immortal keep your fingers and toes from getting all pruney in the water?" she queried, looking interested.
Methos chuckled. "No, it doesn't." He held out a hand, showing her the proof.
She touched a fingertip to one of his, feeling where the water had drawn the skin up into ridges, then turned onto her side, frowning at the hard surface on which she lay. "You know, this really isn't very comfortable. Why don't we go someplace that is? That monster bed Duncan has in the master bedroom is plenty big enough for three."
Methos thought about the conversation he'd just had with Duncan, and shook his head. "I think I'll stay here awhile. Why don't you two go?"
"Because we want you with us," Duncan said from behind him. "Don't be a martyr, Methos."
He turned, a little confused. "But . . ."
Duncan shook his head, smiling. "Just because I'm not ready for this, doesn't mean we can't enjoy your company."
Guinan raised an eyebrow. "Not ready for what?"
"For me," Methos said, shrugging.
"Ah," she said knowingly. "I see. Well, he's right. Come with us. We want you."
He looked at Duncan for confirmation. The other man nodded, his gaze steady and open. "I. . . well . . ." he began, still trying to find a graceful way to let them finish the night alone.
"Please?" Guinan asked in a wheedling tone.
How could he resist that? He spread his hands in surrender. "I'm yours."
"You will be," she said softly, with a predatorial smile. He chuckled and stepped out of the tub, reaching for a towel. She moved to her knees and put a hand on his hip, turning him toward her. "Wait," she said, her gaze ranging over him admiringly. "You really are beautiful. Why do you hide all the time?"
He looked at her, puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"You're like I was for a long time, you hide behind your clothes so no one sees you as you really are. Everything you have is designed to camouflage, to disguise, to make you ordinary."
She wasn't just sensual, she was astonishingly perceptive. But then, he already knew that. He didn't bother to dissemble. "You're right. It's quite deliberate. I learned long ago that it's dangerous to standout in a crowd. Ask Duncan, he knows what I mean."
"I don't have to ask him, I know. We're three of a kind, aren't we?" she said. "All of us hiding, running. But not here. Here we don't hide, not from each other. We just are who we are."
She leaned forward and placed a kiss on his flank, in the indentation where thigh met hip. He shivered in unexpected response, and she noticed, drawing back, looking up at him with those dark, dark eyes. Leaning forward again, her hands came to rest on his hips, and her mouth lowered to brush the dusting of dark hair that arrowed downward from his navel, following it to where it broadened. Her tongue licked delicately at the water droplets caught in the curls there.
His response was immediate and instinctive, his hands reaching for her to draw her closer. He stopped himself just a breath short of her head, his hands closing on the air instead. He'd never yet met a woman who wanted, or needed, help in this. Slowly the startling heat of her tongue moved past curls to skin which moments before had been relaxed with heat, but now was taut and sensitive. He moaned as her lips closed around him. How could he not? She was silk and fire. "Hot. . ." he said, somewhat less than coherently.
"She is," Duncan said, his voice husky. "Like a volcano."
Trying to put images of eruptions out of his mind, Methos looked past her to Duncan, who was watching with heavy-lidded interest. That sent as much sensation through him as Guinan's lips and tongue. It might not be quite what he'd wanted, but having him watch them right now was achingly erotic; and proof that Duncan also found it so was teasingly visible through the water.
He watched Duncan's hand move, stroking his hardening penis, and only long experience kept him from exploding into Guinan's welcoming mouth. He wanted Duncan closer. `Come to us, ' he thought.
As if he'd heard, Duncan looked up at him, and nodded. Wordlessly he climbed out of the tub and, dripping, knelt behind Guinan. He pushed aside her hair so he could kiss and caress her sensitive neck and back.
Methos moaned again as her ministrations grew more decisive, and he could no longer resist the urge to cup her head in his palms. Her hair was cool and wet against his palms, a shocking contrast to the heat of her mouth on his cock. She made a soft sound low in her throat as Duncan began to make love to her. The vibration of the sound seemed to go right through her tongue and into him. He started to feel a little dizzy, but this was too good to stop.
She shifted a little, spreading her thighs. Duncan put his hands on her hips, angling her back toward him a little, then reached beneath her. She lifted her head with a little sigh, her mouth leaving him as Duncan worked on her. Methos could almost feel him opening her, almost feel fingers spreading hot, slick flesh, then Duncan was moving between her thighs, his engorged shaft slowly disappearing as it entered her. As it did, her mouth engulfed him again, a slow, hot, wet flood of sensation.
He thrust his fingers through her hair to hold her still but it was too late. A moan of pure pleasure broke from him as his body won the battle against his will. The flood tore through him, leaving him gasping with tortured delight as she coaxed every last drop of sensation from him. After what seemed like hours, she finally released him, and he sank to his knees, his forehead resting on her shoulder. The sharp, spicy scent of her surrounded him, and he wondered vaguely if he tasted half as good to her as she did to him.
He became aware of movement, the wavelike ebb and flow of lovemaking. He lifted his head and found himself staring directly at Duncan, whose eyes were closed, his lashes dark spikes against his cheeks. His lips were parted, their sensual fullness emphasized by the gleam of teeth, a hint of tongue. Without even thinking, Methos leaned across and took his mouth with his own. Duncan didn't open his eyes, but he did open his mouth, the kiss rapidly becoming an intimate meshing of lips and tongues. Guinan slid a hand behind Methos' neck, toying with the short-cropped hairs at the back of his neck. A larger, broader hand rested at his waist, lightly, but still unhesitatingly there.
Before he could really think about that, a discreet tremor coursed through her, and she breathed a sound that could have been "Yes." Her arms closed tight around him, drawing him against her warmth and softness. A moment later Duncan growled against his mouth and pushed hard into her, hard enough to lift her completely off the floor. Only then did Duncan break the kiss, pulling away to gulp air into overtaxed lungs. After a few moments he slowly relaxed, easing back, letting her knees find the platform again.
Guinan laughed softly, a dark, throaty sound that sent shivers of remembered pleasure through him. Duncan bit her ear teasingly. "Are you laughing at us?"
"Never. I was laughing because I feel good." She shivered again, and Methos wondered if it was another orgasm. After a moment she sighed. "You fellas sure know how to show a lady a good time."
Methos touched her lips with his index finger, outlining their full curves. "The good time was entirely mutual."
She smiled. "I certainly hope so. What good is pleasure unless it's shared?"
She let go of Methos, and he moved away, not far, just enough to sit comfortably cross-legged on the platform. Duncan settled back on his heels and massaged his knees, which were imprinted with a grid pattern from the tiles they'd knelt on. "So much for going someplace comfortable," he said, amused.
"Sorry," Guinan said, looking a bit apologetic. "I guess I got a bit carried away."
"I wasn't complaining," Duncan said, chuckling. "But maybe now would be a good time to change rooms?"
Guinan nodded forcefully. "Before I get those. . ." she indicated the marks on Duncan's knees, ". . . on my butt."
Duncan laughed, and Methos leaned over to blow out the candles nearest him. Duncan got up and went around the room, extinguishing candles until only one was left. He picked it up and turned to them, his face underlit by the flickering flame. "Coming?"
"Not at the moment. . ." Guinan said, with a grin. "But I suspect I will be before too long."
Methos smacked her on her rump in retaliation for the pun. She squealed and shot him a mock-dirty look as she followed Duncan. He grabbed a couple of extra towels on his way out. It never hurt to have a few towels around. Ford Prefect would approve. As he accompanied them down the hall, he reflected that it was nice to be with people who would probably know what the hell he was talking about if he mentioned that.
Guinan shivered a little as the night air licked at her damp body. The cool felt welcome after the heat of the bathroom, and her lovers. She had pretended to sleep, to give them a chance to be alone together, but it hadn't worked out the way she'd hoped it might. Duncan was very much a ladies man, he obviously needed a bit more time to get used to the idea that his sexuality might be more complex than that. Fortunately, there was time, and Methos was clearly willing to wait. He was sweet, that one.
He'd been part of a rescue team sent to help after the Enterprise had been destroyed by Soran during the Nexus debacle. She'd sensed him before she'd seen him and thought at first he was Duncan, his lambent presence had flooded her Other senses in much the same way. Her disappointment at finding it wasn't Duncan had been mitigated by her deep curiosity about Methos himself. He `felt' far more intense than Duncan to her, which she suspected indicated that he was older, much older.
She hadn't been the only one to sense his presence. Deanna Troi had almost been beside herself with curiosity, and attraction. If she hadn't been so caught up with the aftermath of the crash, not to mention Worf and Alexander, Guinan suspected that a romance might have blossomed there. Methos was just the type Deanna usually liked. Gentle, quiet, cerebral, and possessed of a great sense of humor. She rather liked those qualities herself. Finally, after three days of wondering, she'd managed to arrange things so that they were alone together, and then she'd hit him with it flat out.
"So, Michael Pryce. . . how old are you? I know you're an Immortal, and I suspect you're a very old one. Tell me."
He'd gaped at her, stunned. "H. . . how did you know?" he'd asked, betraying himself instantly. She'd smiled.
"I've met a couple of your kind over the years. You've a very unique mental signature. Which side are you on?"
He'd stared at her, still muzzy with surprise. "Which side? What do you mean?"
"Are you a good guy or a bad guy?"
He'd grinned at that. "I suppose that all depends on which side you're on. Who did you know?"
"Tanner Dane," she had said, testing him.
His face darkened. "Then I'll leave you now."
"And Duncan MacLeod," she'd added quietly.
He'd turned back to her at that, his expression guarded. "Duncan?"
She had nodded. "Duncan and I are very old friends, and recently a bit more than that."
His face had gone positively radiant. "Duncan's alive ?" he'd asked, astonished. "I haven't seen him in so long that I'd assumed he'd been taken. So few of us old ones are left now." He'd shaken his head at that, amused. "He'd think that was funny, me calling him an old one, but though he's young compared to me, even he'd be one now. I'm glad to know that he's survived. I always thought he would. Please, will you remember me to him when next you speak?"
She'd eyed him, knowing her first instinct had been right. He was on the right side. "I'll do better than that, if you like. I'll take you to him. I have nowhere else to go now, anyway."
He had frowned then. "You're too trusting. What if I were after his head?"
She'd shaken her head. "I would know it. Besides, you'll give me your weapons before we see him, just in case you're better at fooling me than I think you are."
She had been right to bring him. They needed each other, these two. She needed them too. Duncan opened the door to the bedroom and stood aside to let her enter. She'd gotten used to the peculiar mix of hedonism and asceticism the room represented, but Methos hadn't seen it before. He stood for a moment taking in the stark barrenness of the room and the huge, sybaritic bed, then whistled softly.
Duncan set his candle down on the mantle over the fireplace, and knelt to build a fire, taking logs from the stack next to the hearth, kindling from a box, and arranging it carefully on the firedogs. Guinan slid into the bed and pulled the comforter up around herself. "We don't need that, Duncan. Come to bed!"
"We'll need it before the night's out, and besides," he grinned, "the light does wonderful things for you."
He was probably right about needing it later, it was a chilly night for this early in the fall. She held out a hand to Methos.
"You come then, keep me warm."
He slid in next to her, his body as cold as her own, and they moved close so their body heat began to warm the hollow in which they lay. After a little while the fire in the hearth took hold and began to burn brightly, and Duncan turned toward them, his body a dusky silhouette between them and the blaze. She wished she had an imager to capture that sight forever, but she would have to settle for a memory instead.
"Join us?" Methos asked.
Duncan nodded, and moved to the bed, easing beneath the covers and into their nest. He lay on his stomach, propped on his elbows, carefully not touching them. For a moment Guinan worried, but he seemed to sense it and spoke to set her at ease.
"Give me a minute, I'm cold and I don't want to chill you."
Guinan snickered. "Fat chance." She rolled over, snugging her body tightly up against his, and discovered he was right. He was cold. She soothed a hand up and down his back, taking the chill off.
Methos snagged a towel from beside the bed and began to dry Duncan's hair. Duncan started to take the towel to do it himself, then he stopped, and just relaxed, letting his head fall forward with a sigh. When Methos stopped, he looked up, his eyes oddly shadowed.
"Do you have any idea how long it's been since anyone did that for me?"
Methos shook his head, eyebrows lifted in query.
"I was a boy. . . probably eight or so. My mother used to do that."
Methos looked surprised. "You bathed?"
Duncan laughed, and he couldn't stop for a moment or two. When he finally could speak, his voice was rich with humor. "God, you certainly pegged that one! No, we didn't bathe. But we occasionally couldn't avoid getting wet."
"How old were you before you had your first real bath?"
"You mean with hot water, in a tub? Not in a loch or burn?"
"In a tub, with hot water," Methos confirmed.
Duncan looked thoughtful. "God, I must've been at least twenty-five or thirty, maybe older. I honestly don't remember. After this long, the early years start to. . ."
"Blur?" Methos asked with a grin.
"Blur," Duncan agreed, grinning back.
Guinan knew an inside joke when she heard one. She didn't have to read minds to guess the context, either. "I take it you two have had this conversation before."
"The day we met," Methos said, looking a bit faraway.
"In Paris. It wasn't long after I met you, Guinan." Duncan added.
Methos perked up at that. "How did you two meet, anyway? I mean, what were you doing on Earth, Guinan? You told me your people were destroyed by the Borg."
"That was much later. When I met Duncan, I was a student, an anthropologist of sorts. I was learning about Earth cultures, and in the course of researching I happened to run into Joe and Duncan, and got mixed up in a mess with Tanner Dane."
Methos looked grim. "I think I remember that mess. A lot of good Watchers, and Immortals died because of him."
They all were silent a moment, thinking about that, then Duncan broke the quiet.
"But thanks to Guinan we don't need to worry about him any more. Did she tell you what she did?"
Methos looked at her curiously. "No, what did you do?"
Guinan shifted uncomfortably, she still felt odd about that. Not about killing Dane, he'd deserved that, but about the fact that she still didn't know how she'd done what she did afterward.
"I just evened the odds a little, that's all."
Duncan snorted derisively. "That's all? She killed him for me, and then she took his Quickening so I wouldn't have to."
Methos jaw dropped. "She did what ?" he asked, looking from one to the other in stunned surprise.
"She took his quickening."
"But she's not one of us!"
Duncan shrugged. "I know. We don't quite know how she did it. But she did."
Methos sat up, dragging a hand through his hair. "Why didn't you tell me about this before?"
"Why does it matter?" Guinan asked.
"What riddle?" Duncan asked, sounding a bit exasperated.
"I heard it from an old immortal when I was still very young myself, I never gave it much thought, because it didn't make sense. Let me see if I can remember it, I learned it so long ago that I barely even remember what language I spoke at the time, and it's been nearly that long since I even thought about it." He deliberated for a moment, then began to recite. "`When one not one takes quickening, the game will then be ended. When one is three the new day dawns, we change beyond all knowing. When three are four, the prize refused, our end is our beginning.'"
Guinan mulled the words over in her mind, and finally shrugged. "I never was good at riddles."
"And the meter's terrible," Duncan added, grimacing.
Methos caught her hand. "Don't you see, though? You're the `one not one. ' You're not an Immortal, yet you took a quickening."
She sighed, hating to burst his bubble. "I suspect that had more to do with my species' mental talents than with any ancient riddle, Methos. For some reason, my kind is able to handle the energy in a far less wasteful fashion than you are. Maybe we're on the right frequency or something."
Methos frowned. "I suppose. It just seems so oddly premonitory."
"What does the riddle mean, anyway?"
He shrugged, lying back. "I haven't the faintest idea. Arkel didn't know either. He just passed it along, telling me it was important. His mentor had told it to him, saying it `held the second key', but he died the true death before telling Arkel what that meant."
"Second key to what?" Duncan asked, intrigued.
"Who knows? It's lost to us now. Whatever it meant will have to keep its own council."
"The prize refused," Duncan said, thoughtfully. "Interesting wording. Can the Prize be refused?"
"In a way, haven't we refused it already? By leaving Earth, we've effectively taken ourselves out of the Game."
"Except when it follows us." Duncan's tone was grim. Guinan suspected he was thinking of Dane.
"There is that," Methos sighed. He stared at the ceiling for a moment, then started to smile a little, that oddly quirky smile that made Guinan wonder what he was thinking.
"What?" she asked, prodding him in the ribs.
"I was just thinking that it's so typical. . ."
"Here I am naked in bed with you two, and what am I doing? Lying here talking about moldy old myths!"
Guinan nodded, and traced the laugh-lines around his mouth with a fingertip. "I have an idea how to shut you up."
He laughed. "I'll bet you do."
She leaned over and kissed him while he was laughing, enjoying the feel of his smile. She wondered what it would be like to leave her Othersense engaged while making love with these two. Overwhelming, she suspected. It might blow every nerve in her body. . . and it might just be worth it. Tentatively she relaxed the nearly-unconscious control she held over those faculties, and was immediately flooded with their Presence. Energy seemed to dance through her body, passing from one of them to the other and back again. It was a strangely familiar feeling, yet she knew it couldn't possibly be familiar. Duncan shifted against her, his hand curving over her hip, fingers dipping down to fan out over her belly.
"What did you do?" he asked. "That feels. . . ah. . . very unusual"
She lifted her mouth from Methos'. "You can feel it too?"
Duncan nodded. So did Methos.
"Well, now isn't that interesting?" she asked, intrigued. "What does it feel like to you?"
Duncan thought a moment, and laughed a little oddly. "You may think I'm nuts."
"I won't. What?"
"It feels a lot like a quickening. . . only much softer, less intense."
"Exactly what I was thinking." Methos agreed.
That was what had seemed familiar! It was a very similar feeling! Having only experienced a quickening once, the memory hadn't surfaced immediately. Guinan looked from one to the other.
"This is weird. Why should opening up my Othersense make either of you feel anything different? It should only affect me."
"What's othersense?" Duncan asked.
She sighed. "It's kind of hard to explain. Its kind of a catchall term for the psychic abilities my kind has. Mine are very minimal, not much to brag about. I can tell when someone's lying to me, I can tell that you two aren't quite what you appear to be. I have very sketchy precognitive abilities. I usually keep my othersense closed off when I'm around either of you, because your presence is so strong that it's distracting."
"Why did you open it now?" Methos asked, curious. "Did you sense that something's wrong?"
She felt her skin warm as she shook her head. "Um, no. I was just um. . . curious what it would feel like in these. . . ah. . . circumstances."
Duncan chuckled his breath warm against her ear. "Little witch," he said. "You're full of surprises, aren't you? Whatever you did, I like it. It's very interesting."
"One might say arousing," Methos added, reaching out to cup her face in his palm. Sparks seemed to merge into her skin from his to dissolve with a scintillating rush of pleasure. She felt like a glass of champagne, full of bursting bubbles.
"Wow. . ." she said weakly.
Duncan's lips grazed the back of her neck, and the acuteness of the sensation was nearly orgasmic. She moaned, unable to form a word, and Methos covered her mouth with his, stealing her breath and giving her passion in return. If their earlier lovemaking had been pleasurable, what words could she use to describe this? There were none intense enough. This complete convergence of self and other-self. It was hard to tell where she left off and they began; they became each other. Each touch of skin-to-skin seemed to sink inside, to go past the surface into unexplored depths. It was excruciatingly ecstatic, and dizzyingly confusing at the same time.
Vaguely she sensed a shifting, as they moved in tandem to a more accommodating position. She felt a body yield to the insistence of someone's flesh, absorbing it into themselves. Who was she, who were they? She couldn't tell any more. She felt entered, and at the same time it was she who was entering. She felt the harsh excitement of waiting even as the fuller pleasure of not-waiting flooded her. She was lips, hands, bellies, thighs, teeth, tongues and mingled breath. She dissolved into them and they into her.
Someone climaxed, a dark, secret pulse of liquid emptying out of and into her. Someone else took that place, and both of them were her. The familiar pleasure of her own culmination braided itself into the unfamiliar ecstasy of a man's peak, and the pleasure was tripled as it echoed between them; flashing and sparking and searing itself through each of them with the power of a lightning-strike. There was a moment of complete unity, then finally they were dividing once more, falling away through a vast darkness. She felt tears come as the sense of separation overwhelmed her, and she wrapped herself around whoever it was in front of her, and slid into the welcome haven of sleep.
Something was different. She woke feeling aware, and utterly certain. Something was different. She sorted out the external sensations. She was wrapped around her lovers in an awkward tangle of arms and legs and torsos that was surprisingly comfortable. She opened an eye and saw Duncan bare inches from her nose, his eyes closed in the deceptive innocence of sleep. Last she remembered, he'd been behind her. The warm length against her back must be Methos, then, spooned into the curve of her buttocks. Duncan's hips were still between her thighs, a moist meshing of quiet flesh. It was hard to think with them so close, and she felt peculiarly sensitive and over-warm.
Cautiously, she nudged Methos with a gentle elbow. He stirred, and rolled away enough that she could disengage from Duncan. She froze as he almost woke, then relaxed as he slipped back into sleep. She managed to work her way out from under the covers. The air was cool, but not cold, thanks to the heat radiating from the glowing embers of the fire Duncan had kindled some unknown time earlier. She stood and went over to the hearth, laying more kindling and wood, and blowing gently on the embers until the fire caught again. She stared into it, and was overwhelmed again by that knowledge. Something was different.
She sat down in front of the fireplace, centered herself, and went deep, searching out the change. What had it done to her, that possibly ill- advised experiment in psychic sex? Just thinking about what she'd experienced sent a tiny quake through her abdomen, and she had to force herself to stop remembering it. She wondered if she really had burned outher Othersense. Everything seemed so dulled, muted. . . but was that just an apparency because they were no longer three-become-one?
Methos' riddle suddenly flashed through her mind. `When one is three the new day dawns, we change beyond all knowing. ' Had they changed? She had. Something was different, something in her body, but it was a strangely familiar difference. Whatever it was, she'd experienced it before. She sifted through the sensations her body gave her, looking forthe source, but irritatingly the next line of Methos' riddle kept insinuating itself into her thoughts and distracting her. `When three are four, the prize refused, our end is our beginning.' Stupid.
One not one; Methos thought that was her. One is three-- they'd done that, too. She sat with her hands folded across her stomach, rocking slightly as she concentrated, narrowing it down to. . . three are four, the prize refused, our end is our beginning. Damn riddle. She felt something like a soap- bubble breaking inside her, and gasped in sudden recognition of the delicate sensation. Life. That was life. After having experienced that once, she would never again mistake it for anything else.
"Damn it all!" she swore, jumping to her feet. "Damn, damn, damn!"
There was a sudden thrashing from the bed as Duncan and Methos both woke and attempted to disentangle themselves from the covers enough to meet whatever threatened. She waited until both of them had managed to work their way out and to their feet.
"Guinan! What's wrong?" Duncan managed, looking rather silly as he stood there in a defensive stance, stark naked and wild-eyed. Methos was staring around, clearly searching for the source of her distress, looking just as idiotic as Duncan. She didn't let herself be amused, and observed them both with a jaundiced look.
"All right. Which one of you lied to me?
They both stared at her, bewildered.
She folded her arms across her chest and glared at them. "One or the other of you lied to me. I suspect it's you, Methos, because you're the only new factor in this equation."
He looked offended. "I haven't lied to you about anything! What the hell are you talking about?"
She regarded him narrowly. "`When three are four, the prize refused, our end is our beginning.' That's what I'm talking about."
Duncan looked at her, clearly puzzled. "The riddle? What has that got to do with anything?"
She walked over to where they stood, and took Duncan's hand in her left, and Methos' hand in her right. As she'd expected, the sense of merging was there. Without the intense closeness of sex it was somewhat lessened, but it was definitely still there. Linked, she opened herself to them, letting them feel what she felt, letting them know what she knew. Would they be able to feel it? Would they understand?
"Oh my God. . ." Duncan gasped, letting go of her hand, his palm flattening on his own abdomen as if he touched her instead.
That answered that question. Methos let go as well, and stepped back, staring at her in disbelief.
She sensed no lie from either of them. They were as surprised as she was.
"Guinan, how can it be? That's not what it feels like, is it?" Methos asked.
She nodded."Oh, yes it is. I've been through this enough times to know. It's just a spark as yet, smaller than small, but life. Which means one or the other of you is not sterile."
Methos stared, and then suddenly he began to smile, shaking his head in amazement. "That's it! My God, I had the answer all this time and I never knew it! The prize refused! Of course! The game is death, to refuse it means the beginning of life! When three is one! The quickening energy must be what does it!"
They both stared at him as if he'd lost his mind, and he laughed. "I know, I sound like a raving lunatic, but I think I know how this happened. Have you ever had a complete fertility work-up, Duncan?"
Duncan looked away."What for? I know I'm sterile."
"Yes, but do you know why?"
He shook his head. "Well, no. Not really."
"I didn't either, but I'd always wondered, and so I had one done. What they found out makes sense now. You see, if you're like me, your sperm carries only half as many chromosomes as that of a normal human male."
Guinan understood. "So, that means it takes two males of your species to supply the necessary number of chromosomes."
"Our species?" Duncan questioned sharply. "We're human! Born and raised on earth!"
"Being born and raised there doesn't make you a homo sapiens sapiens, Duncan. It just makes you a native. What if. . . what if you were something else?"
"Like. . . oh, I don't know. Some other experiment of the Preservers. Something similar enough to crop up in the gene pool now and then under just the right circumstances, but too different to crossbreed without another special set of circumstances."
"Like knowing that it takes three to tango!" Methos said, ironically.
She shook her head. "No, I think there's more to it than just that. That quickening-like energy has something to do with it," She laughed. "Maybe that's why it's called a quickening! It's a term used most commonly to indicate conception. One of the parties must have to have the ability to serve as a kind of conduit for it. Maybe it has to do with how the fertilization actually occurs. Normally an ovum will reject a second penetration, so something must turn off that function."
Methos nodded. "I don't claim to understand the mechanics, we'd probably need a genetic engineer to do that, but it seems like that would be the only way this could possibly have happened. I don't understand, though why this wasn't discovered by accident years ago! This can't be the first time two immortals ever took a lover together, either a human or another immortal."
Duncan nodded. "I find that surprising too, but what's even odder is that Guinan's not. . . whatever we are. She's not even from Earth! What sense does it make that we'd be able to crossbreed with someone from halfway across the galaxy, but not someone from our own world?"
Guinan eyed him speculatively. "Of all the Preserver-seeded humanoids in the galaxy, Terrans and El-Aurians are genetically the most similar, and I'd be willing to be that you're even more similar to us than you are to Terrans. But that still begs the question of why you're sterile with each other. You'd think that you should be inter-species fertile, if not intra- species. Maybe it's as simple as a coding error on the part of whoever engineered the Preserver's seeding program.
"Or maybe it wasn't a mistake at all," Duncan said grimly. "Maybe it was deliberate. Think about it, if we were able to breed as easily as humans, we'd have over run the planet within a matter of generations. It couldn't support us. But then, why do we exist at all? Are we just a random mutation, or were we intended to serve some purpose?"
"I don't know. I wouldn't think you could be explained as a random mutation. Your kind appears too regularly for that. The odds against that must be astronomical! Logic says you must have served some purpose."
"Perhaps we did once," Methos said softly.
"In between killing each other?" Duncan asked snidely.
"No, before we started killing each other."
"I always thought so. Now I'm not so sure. Arkel told me that we were meant for a higher purpose, but that there were too many of us who had either lost that knowledge, or never had it to begin with. He said we killed each other because we didn't understand what we were."
"But Arkel didn't bother to tell you exactly what that was?"
Methos shook his head, looking frustrated. "I'd known him less than a year when he was killed, and he was one who felt that knowledge was best gained at a slow, steady pace. He was never able to finish teaching me."
"An argument for flash learning if ever I heard one," Duncan said drily. "It's too bad they didn't have DNA-drip technology. It might have come in handy."
Methos answered him but Guinan had stopped listening. It had just started to sink in exactly what this would mean to her. She had never expected to have more children. Not because she couldn't, her race remained fertile for a very long time, but because she just hadn't thought she would ever want to do it again after having so much trouble with Jahn. She hadn't wanted to risk making all those mistakes again. She also knew that even if she avoided the one's she'd made before, there was always a slew of new ones waiting to surface. All that paled, however, before the prospect of having this child. This-- this was like becoming Eve!
She didn't even know what species this child would be! Would there be compatibility problems? Would she need medical intervention to carry to term? What exactly was term, anyway? Humans gestation was close to ten months, her own people went more than fourteen. She had no idea what to expect with a child of a species which for all intents and purposes had never before existed. Maybe she ought to call Bev and see if she would...
Mid-thought, she suddenly became aware of the silence in the room. She looked up to find both Duncan and Methos staring at her. Methos looked curious, Duncan concerned, and something more. Something that hurt just to look, let alone to feel with the enhanced perceptions of her Othersense. What had she missed?
"Guinan. . ." Duncan began, then stopped, shaking his head. "I. . . I don't know what to say to you. I've never been in this situation before, never expected to ever be in this situation, but it's got to be much, much harder for you," he swallowed heavily, his gaze ranging past her to stare at something distant rather than meeting hers. "I would understand if you-- I mean, I know that it's possible you might not--" He sighed. "I wouldn't hold it against you if---"
He stopped again, and she could feel the pain in him as if she were a full empath. What could he be trying to say to her that would hurt that much? Suddenly she knew. She remembered past conversations, she knew the way his mind worked, and there was only one conclusion to draw. He was telling her that it was her decision, that he would not try to influence whether she carried the child, or not. Knowing how he felt about it, that had to be one of the hardest things he'd ever said. She put her fingers against his lips to stop him from trying again, shaking her head.
"Shhh, Duncan. Don't. You don't need to say it, I understand. This is quite a surprise, and I'll admit I never expected to become a mother again, especially not at this stage of my life. I can't say I'm not a little scared by the prospect, my last attempt wasn't exactly a shining example of success, but if you two are willing to help," she looked from Duncan to Methos,". . . I would like to try."
"You know I'll be there," Duncan said quietly."I would never expect you to do this on your own."
"How could I not?" Methos said."This is the most interesting thing that's happened to me in centuries. Besides," he grinned,". . . a quarter of those chromosomes are mine . I ought to take a hand in things."
He was clearly trying to lighten the mood, but then Duncan brought it firmly back down to earth again.
"Guinan, I think the first thing we should do is have someone take a look at you and make sure this isn't going to be dangerous for you. If there's some reason why Immortals are always foundlings, I want to know it before you get far enough along to be at risk."
She stared at him, shaken. She hadn't thought of that aspect. It was something to take into consideration. They needed a good xenobiologist, a geneticist, a doctor. . . she really did need to put a call in to Beverly Crusher. It would be months before the Enterprise-D was ready for her christening, and Bev probably wouldn't mind coming out to Valhalla.
"I'll call Beverly Crusher. I suspect she'd jump at the chance to come help, and perhaps she can get Tarana Ortiz-S'dalai to come too. She's a hell of a xeno. Between the two of them they could probably scare up a good geneticist too."
Duncan looked relieved. "I would feel better about it if we had some expert help. Neither Methos or I would be much help."
Methos grinned. "I don' know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies, Miz Scarlett!"
Guinan groaned, shaking her head. "Okay, okay, that's enough! I think right now it's time to get some sleep . We'll deal with the details in the morning."
"Sleep?" Methos asked, looking disappointed.
She smacked him on the hand in exasperation. "You're incorrigible!"
He grinned. "I know."
Duncan didn't look up from the screen of his computer where he was entering columns of figures. She wondered which of his many business enterprises he was working on.
"Time for what?" he asked absently.
"You know, time ." Guinan said, with deliberate emphasis.
He looked up, finally, curious but still not understanding, until he saw her face, then he was on his feet so fast that his chair went flying.
"Now," she confirmed.
"Have you called Beverly?"
"Not yet, I wanted to tell you two first. Where's Methos?"
"Oh god. . . he took the kids to the village!"
She smiled at the utter panic in his voice. "That's okay, it'll be awhile."
"But you said. . ."
"Duncan, settle down. You know these things don't happen instantaneously. It'll probably be hours."
He swallowed hard, and nodded, looking a little sheepish. "Right. Sorry, I guess I panicked a little."
She grinned. "Just a little." She massaged her lower back, trying to ease the ache that seemed to bracket her spine."I'll be glad to get this over with, you know. I didn't bargain on having an elephant's child."
He chuckled. "I guess it just takes time to make a quality product."
She glared at him. "You try being pregnant for sixteen months and tell me how you like it!"
He spread his hands in a conciliatory gesture. "No thanks, watching you do it has been bad enough."
"It wasn't so bad until she started doing katas in there. . . ouch!" Guinan winced as a contraction took her. She relaxed into it, feeling unusually weary for it being so early in the process. She shouldn't have stayed up late the night before. When the pain eased a few seconds later she sighed. "Guess it's time to call Bev. You remember what we planned?"
"How could I forget?" Duncan asked, smiling."We've only gone over it a hundred times. You want me to run the tub?"
"No, let Bev do that, you know what a perfectionist she is. If we get the temperature off we'll never hear the end of it! Just stay with me for now, I'm feeling a little. . . I don't know, just a bit odd."
He looked at her, his eyes dark with concern."Odd? How?"
She shrugged, shaking her head."I can't explain it. Just odd. This doesn't feel quite the same as I remember."
"Is something wrong?"
"I don't think so. Just different."
Duncan stared at her a moment longer, then looked away and reached down to right the chair he'd knocked over. He pointed to her, then to it.
"Sit, I'll call Bev."
Guinan sat and watched him put through the call, not wanting to argue over something that small. Besides, he needed to feel like he was in control of something. As she had found herself doing more and more often of late, she focused inward, to the child she carried, sharing wordless communication, projecting reassurance and love. She could sense the eagerness of the baby. She was ready to be born. . . had been for sometime. She was as tired of the cramped, tight environment as Guinan was of being the cramped, tight environment. She wanted out, to experience the things she could vaguely sense through her mother's perceptions, and her own fledgling faculties. She moved, pushing a hand against the prison of flesh that surrounded her, protesting this new tightness. It had never been this tight before.
Guinan winced, and soothed mentally, sharing a visualization with her of what was happening. She might not be able to completely understand, having never been outside , but still, it couldn't hurt. The hand drew back, and Guinan relaxed a little. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up into Duncan's worried gaze.
"Are you all right?"
She smiled and nodded. "Just trying to explain a little to her. She doesn't understand."
He shook his head in amazement. "I still can't get over that. I mean, I've heard of talking to babies before they're born, but not like that."
"It's customary in cultures like mine where psi skills are common. Though the concepts are pretty foreign to a baby, they understand a lot more than you'd expect."
"Hello? Anybody home?" Beverly Crusher called from the hallway.
"In here," Duncan called back, opening the door.
The petite red-haired doctor stepped into the room looking coolly efficient, her medical satchel slung over her shoulder.
"So, this little girl's finally decided it's time to see daylight, has she?"
"It seems so." Guinan acknowledged, smiling.
"Well, all I can say is that it's about time! I wouldn't trade places with you for anything. At least she's not as big as she is old."
"I'd never have made it to term if she were! Can you imagine?"
They shared a moment of completely feminine sympathy, and then another contraction came. Guinan focused on it, riding the wave of sensation, and Beverly lifted her tricorder, scanning. Her eyebrows drew down; she adjusted the device, scanned again, and her mouth twitched in irritation.
"Hmmm, that's odd. I'm getting some sort of interference. Maybe it's the computer. Let's go down to the birthing room and I'll see if it persists. If it does, I may have to get a more powerful tricorder. Has your water broken? How long have you been having contractions and what's the timing?"
"My water broke about an hour ago. I've been having regular contractions for around three hours. They're about eight minutes apart now."
Guinan saw a look of indignation flash over Duncan's face and chuckled. "Oh, settle down, you didn't need to know until it got to this point."
"What do you mean I didn't need to know, damn it?"
Bev patted him on the shoulder comfortingly. "She's right. You didn't need to know. You'd just have gotten all worked up for no good reason. First stage labor is just plain boring."
Beverly took Guinan's arm and steadied her as she got up. Guinan wondered if she should mention the odd lassitude she'd been feeling, and decided not to. Being tired wasn't a medical condition. Duncan hovered close by on her other side as they walked to the erstwhile "birthing room." They'd decided to do a water birth, it being the most comfortable. Guinan was heavily prejudiced in favor of comfort. Beverly aimed her tricorder again, looking happier this time.
"It's working here. It must have been the computer." She studied the readings and her eyebrows shot up. "Well, you certainly took your time about calling me, didn't you? You're already nearly at full dilation. This may not take long at all!" She looked around, suddenly, as if just realizing something. "Where's our other daddy?"
"Methos took the kids to the village a couple of hours ago," Guinan told her. "He should be back soon."
"He'd better be, or he'll miss out on all the fun!"
"Should I call down to the com-station?" Duncan asked. "I'm sure someone would be happy to find him and tell him."
"It wouldn't be a bad idea. You never can tell how a delivery will go, and this one seems to be proceeding apace."
Duncan nodded and excused himself to go make his call. Beverly studied the readings again, and frowned.
"There are some odd things going on here. . . but then, there have been some odd things going on all along, haven't there? For all I know, this is normal. Why don't we get this show on the road before you deliver that baby on the bare tile?"
"Sounds like a plan to me." Guinan began to unfasten her tunic. It was funny how the same clothing she'd worn for years on the Enterprise had served her well as maternity clothing. She'd never realized how loose they'd been. Beverly busied herself with her satchel, laying out her equipment, then stripped down to a one-piece swimming suit that clung to her slim form like a second skin. Guinan eyed her sourly.
"Oh, fine! Here I am, the beached whale, and you show up in that !"
Beverly chuckled. "You know they won't be paying a bit of attention to me, so you've got nothing to worry about. Any way, what was I supposed to do, wear my street-clothes in the tub? Just consider this the latest in delivery gear."
"If you say so."
"I do." She ran her decontam unit over the tub, added the saline pack, and then started the water. "This is a really great bathroom."
Guinan smiled, reminiscing. "Yes, it is."
Beverly must have picked up on the tone in her voice, because she suddenly looked intrigued. "Oh, really? Do tell?"
Guinan chuckled. "Well, suffice it to say it's an appropriate place for her to be born, since she was practically conceived here."
Beverly giggled a little, and grinned."You wild woman, you!"
"That's me, a real feral. . ." she gasped as another contraction rolled through her, cutting off her words. For the first time she felt the need to breathe with it, felt the urge to push. Beverly was right, all of the sudden things seemed to be speeding up. As the contraction reached its height, a wave of dizziness swept through her, and she felt sudden fear. It took her a moment to realize it wasn't her own. She spread her hands over her abdomen and thought soothing thoughts.
"It's all right, hon, I know it's scary, but it has to be this way. It'll be over soon, and you'll get to meet everyone."
She sensed negation in the response to her own projection, and distinct reluctance. She smiled.
"You can't change your mind, little one. Once you're on the way, there's no stopping it."
"That's for sure," Bev's voice sounded oddly tight, and Guinan looked up, seeing concern in her friend's eyes.
"I just tried to scan you while you were having that contraction, and got that damned interference again. And I don't like the readings I'm getting now."
"What sort of readings?"
"All your neural activity indicators are much lower than they were a few minutes ago. They're coming up again, slowly, but the drop was quite noticeable."
"Well, that explains why I've been feeling tired."
"Why didn't you mention that to me?"
"It didn't seem important."
Beverly sighed. "Please let me decide what's important, okay? You tell me everything. This is a bit worrisome."
"Look, don't mention it to Duncan, okay?"
Beverly eyed her narrowly for a moment, then slowly nodded. "I won't, for now, but I reserve the right to tell him if I think it's necessary."
Guinan nodded. "That's fair, but I don't think it will be."
"Who's the doctor here? You, or me?"
"You, but I'm just having a baby, not major surgery."
"Yes, you're just having a baby. . . a baby with an entirely new genotype and we don't have a clue about any possible complications! I wish you'd let me do this delivery at the medical center. I don't like not having the proper facilities available!"
"I don't like hospitals," Guinan said, knowing she was being stubborn, and not particularly caring. She just knew she wanted this baby born in the house, in a place where Duncan and Methos were safe. There was no holy ground in a medical center. Granted, it was highly unlikely that another Immortal would show up at this particularly inauspicious moment, but she didn't like taking chances.
"What are you two arguing about?" Duncan asked, coming into the room. Guinan watched him glance at Bev and waited for the double-take. He didn't do it, instead he turned directly to face her. She almost smiled, realizing Bev had been right. He hadn't paid a bit of attention to her. For Duncan, that was nearly unheard of, and it made her feel a little better.
Beverly took advantage of her silence to jump in and reply. "We were discussing her refusal to have this baby at the medical center where I have access to better equipment, instead of this home-birth boil-the-water-and-get-the-towels nonsense."
Duncan looked from one to the other. "Um. . . is there a problem?" he asked, torn, wanting to support Guinan's decision yet obviously concerned
Guinan shook her head. "No there is not. I am not going to the medical center and that's final."
Beverly stared at Duncan. He looked at Guinan, then back to Beverly. "I'm sorry, but it's her decision."
Beverly sighed. "All right, I'll see what I can do with stone knives and bearskins. Time to undress, big guy."
Duncan raised an eyebrow, then grinned. "God, you're as pushy as she is!"
"You better believe it," Beverly said, winking.
"I'd better get to it, then," Duncan said, and left again tochange into something he could wear in the tub.
Duncan watched Beverly Crusher check the tricorder readings again and frown, clearly not liking what she saw. With every contraction Guinan grew noticeably weaker, and as the contractions got closer together she was less able to recover before the next one hit. He kept looking at the doctor questioningly, and felt a growing fear when she didn't reassure him. She seemed to make some sort of decision after checking the tricorder, and she put a hand on Guinan's arm.
"Guinan, I need to talk to Duncan, will you be alright here for a minute by yourself?"
Guinan nodded. "'Course I will. Go on, but don' tell him 'bout the icky parts, or he won' stay."
Duncan was glad to hear her joking, but her slurred speech worried him a lot.
"Not a word about the icky parts," Bev assured her as she stepped out of the tub and motioned for Duncan to accompany her. He followed her out into the hallway where they stood, dripping on the wooden floor, mindless of the possible damage.
"Something's wrong," Duncan stated flatly as soon as the door was closed behind them.
"Yes, there is," Beverly admitted, her voice tight with worry.
"I don't know. Each time she has a contraction, something drains off more of her neural energy. It's starting to affect her motor responses and it's getting worse."
"Which means?" Duncan prompted, though he suspected he knew what she was going to say.
"Which means. . ." she took a deep breath. "If it continues at this rate, within an hour she won't be able to sustain autonomic functions."
He felt momentarily dizzy, as if all the blood in his body were pooling around his heart in an icy shield. "She'll die ?"
"She could , if we don't do something about it, but I don't plan to let that happen."
Duncan grabbed her arm, yanking her toward him. "Damn it! We asked you time and again! You said she was safe, that she wouldn't be endangered by bearing this child!"
"I thought she would be! We all did! No lethal projections showed up on any of our simulations, and she's shown no problematic symptoms up to this point, nothing at all! She's been perfectly healthy, so has the baby, there was nothing to indicate any problem! We need to get her to someplace with more sophisticated equipment so I can figure out what the hell is going on!"
Duncan didn't waste time arguing. At this point, Guinan's well-being was far more important than her desire to deliver the child at home. "I'll call in our coordinates and arrange for us to be transported immediately."
"No, we can't do that! This interference I keep getting might disrupt the transporter's pattern buffers like it does my tricorder."
He absorbed her words, and his jaw clenched in frustration, but he worked through it, and seconds later he nodded."Right. . . the aerosled, then, I'll go get it."
Beverly nodded."That will do fine. I'll get her out of the tub and into some clothes."
Duncan headed for the door, but before he reached it, it opened, and Methos stepped inside, grinning.
"Hello you two! I'm told I'm needed here. . ." His voice trailed off as he took a good look at Duncan, and his smile faded. "Duncan?" He gazed past him and saw Beverly. "Dr. Crusher? What's wrong?"
"She's dying, that's what's wrong," Duncan replied flatly. "We've killed her."
Methos flinched as if Duncan had hit him. "What?"
"I think we just found out why Immortals are always foundlings. It seems that something about Immortal physiology apparently kills the women who bear them."
He reached for the door again, and Methos grabbed his arm. "How, damn it? What's going on?"
Duncan was unable to find his voice, and Dr. Crusher spoke for him.
"I'm sorry, Methos. I don't know what's causing it, but something is draining off her neural energy each time she has a contraction. There's also some sort of weird interference during contractions that renders my tricorder virtually useless. The two events may be related, but my equipment here just isn't advanced enough for me to really figure out what's happening. We've got to get her to the medical center where Ihave access to better tools. We're probably going to have to do a caesarian section. If she continues with a natural delivery, she may die."
Duncan flinched from that, and moved toward the door. Methos put out a hand.
"What about the baby?"
Beverly nodded, "She's fine. In fact, she seem to be getting stronger as her mother grows weaker."
Duncan looked up, her words settling into his consciousness as if they were written in fire. "What did you say?"
"I said she's fine."
"You said she's getting stronger?" Methos asked, and when he did Duncan knew he was thinking along the same lines.
"Literally? As in, her neural energy levels are increasing?" Duncan queried, his gaze intent on her face.
"Yes, literally. But why?"
Duncan looked at Methos, reading the confirmation of his own realization in his gaze, and without a word both of them headed for the birthing room. The doctor hurried after them.
"Wait! What are you doing?"
"Saving her life." Duncan said, stepping back into the water as Methos peeled off clothing. He sat down and pulled Guinan into his arms.
"Guinan, open to us. You have to open your Othersense and bring us in, like you did the night you conceived."
She looked up at him, blinking owlishly. "Can't. Not now. . . would hurt you."
He shook his head in frustration. "We don't care if it hurts us, love. We want to share the pain, we have to do it."
Methos slid into the water and settled beside her, taking her hand. "Please, Guinan, you need us for this. Let us in."
"'Might hurt the baby. . ."
"No, sweetheart, it won't. She needs it. You need it. Let us in."
"What is going on here?" Beverly demanded, clearly annoyed at the delay."We need to get her out of there, you need to get that sled!"
"Shut up," Duncan snapped, unwilling to take the time to explain, and hoping she'd forgive him later. "Guinan, damn it, open to us!"
Methos put a hand on his shoulder. "Wait, let's try another way."
He leaned forward and kissed Guinan lightly, his finger tracing up and down the back of her neck. She shivered, her head falling forward, her shoulders lifting. Taking his cue from Methos, Duncan kissed her behind the ear, and her head snapped back, a soft moan breaking from her lips as Methos released them. It was working. If they could just distract her from the present for a few seconds, long enough to convince her. . .
"That's it love," Methos whispered. "Let us in. Let us join you, let us be strong for you."
"Now?" she asked, shaking her head as if to clear it.
"Now, yes, now. Can't you feel it? She needs us, and you need us."
"But. . ."
Guinan began to speak, only to be silenced when Methos kissed her again. Duncan stroked the back of her neck with the back of one finger.
"For god's sake, this is not the time for this!" Beverly snapped. "What the hell do you two think you're doing?"
Ignoring her, Methos kept on, and hesitantly Guinan reached out and put her hand in his. Her other hand found Duncan's and their fingers laced together. Duncan reached across and took Methos' hand in his, completing the circuit, and pain exploded through his body. He moaned in surprise, hearing Methos do the same. The second sensation to register was a feeling of complete exhaustion. He realized after a moment that both the pain, and the lassitude were Guinan's, and shook it off. Drawing on his own reserves, he offered her his strength, knowing Methos did the same. Tendrils of light lifted from the water and swirled around, and through them. A blue-white glow suffused the room, spreading outward from their bodies. The feeling of depletion eased noticeably.
He heard Beverly gasp in amazement and he looked up to find her staring in stunned surprise at the tableaux they made, then she seemed to snap out of it and grabbed her tricorder. Her eyes widened as she read its report.
"What on earth? Whatever you're doing, keep doing it! It's working!"
Guinan opened her eyes. "You're right, it is." Her voice was solid, her words unslurred. "Duncan, Methos. . . how did you know what to do?"
"It was just obvious, once we thought about it," Duncan said, unutterably relieved. "It took three to create her, how could it take less to bring her into the world?"
Guinan laughed. "I suppose it does make sense, at that. Hey!" she sounded surprised. "It doesn't hurt any more!"
"Oh yes it does," Methos muttered, shifting restlessly."It just hurts less because we're sharing it."
Beverly touched a finger gingerly to the water, as if expecting to be shocked. When nothing of the sort happened, she stepped into the water, and seemed relieved when she felt only the soft lap of warm water around her calves. She moved closer, reached out, and wrapped her fingers around Guinan's wrist, feeling for her pulse. It was a little rapid, but steady and strong. An energy tentacle snaked over her fingers, licking at them, and she gasped but managed not to yank her hand away.
"Some sort of plasma. . ." she muttered under her breath, then she was turning Guinan's face toward her, looking into her eyes. "Guinan, are you all right?"
Guinan nodded. "I'm fine now, Beverly. I hadn't realized how far gone I was, I'm glad you figured out what to do."
"I didn't," Beverly admitted. "This is way out of my experience. Thank heaven these two were able to figure it out! But enough talk, we've got a baby to deliver."
"That we do," Guinan agreed. "She's nearly here now."
"What?" Beverly asked, startled."But it's only been a little while since I last checked! Have you been pushing?" she asked indignantly.
"Of course I have! I've done this before, and my body knows what to do even if I was half out of my mind at the time."
"Well, hell!" Bev said huffily. "I never said you could!"
"You never said not to, either."
"I need to check. . ." the doctor knelt in the tub, reaching down between Guinan's thighs. Duncan winced in sudden pain, and Methos gasped, sharing Guinan's discomfort at the examination.
"I'm sorry," Beverly said apologetically, "it's unavoidable. I just need to. . . damn, you weren't kidding! She's crowning!"
"She wants to be born," Guinan said softly.
"So much so that she nearly killed you!" Duncan said harshly.
Guinan shook her head. "No, Duncan, she didn't mean to harm me. She just needed the energy. It's instinctive, like breathing. If we'd thought about it we might have realized she would need it, and been more prepared. Don't be angry with her, she'll sense it."
Duncan looked away, feeling the sting of tears. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to. . . damn it! I thought we were going to lose you!"
"But you didn't, so let go of your anger so you can give her a proper welcome."
"Already done, love," he whispered.
Another contraction came, stronger, much stronger. Her hand clenched on his, her grip amazingly strong for the small size of her fingers. He felt only a third of what she felt, the tension, pressure, and pain, and wondered why any woman would ever willingly go through this more than once. He let her pain flow into him and gave back the energy she needed, feeling the steady current of it feeding her. The pain intensified, became incandescent, then suddenly there was a sensation of incredible relief. He heard three voices sob aloud.
"That's it, perfect!" Beverly crowed. "I've got her!"
He opened his eyes, only then realizing he'd had them closed. It was difficult to see well through the water, but he could see the doctor's slim, pale hands clasping a small form whose tawny skin was darker than his own or Methos', but fairer than her mother's. Two-inch-long dark hair haloed her head, drifting slightly in the water. More than that he couldn't really tell until Beverly lifted her, dripping, from the water, to place her in Guinan's waiting arms. He stared, open-mouthed, realizing that he could see the pulse beating in her umbilical cord. She was unmistakably, unbelievably, alive. Until that moment he hadn't quite believed it was possible, but there she was. His child. His, and hers, and. . . he lifted his gaze to Methos, and saw his own awe reflected there.
"Congratulations," Beverly said softly. "And welcome, little one."
"Um. . . isn't she supposed to cry? Aren't you supposed to spank her?" Duncan asked inanely, saying the first thing that came into his head as he reached out hesitantly to touch the back of her head with one finger. She felt as silky and warm as a seal pup. Real. She was real . Touching her sent a wave of emotion through him, he felt the hot wetness of tears on his face and welcomed them, for they were joyful, not the sorrow he'd feared not so long before.
Beverly chuckled at his question. "She'll cry soon enough, believe me! Give her a few minutes to get used to the world without being smacked. She's breathing just fine. As soon as her system takes over fully from the placenta, I'll cut the cord and she'll be on her own."
Guinan shifted her slightly in her arms, so her face was turned outward.
"She has your mouth, Duncan," she said quietly.
"And your eyes," Methos said, looking at Guinan.
Duncan studied the small being who seemed to be regarding the world with a slight, almost puzzled frown. They were right. Her eyes held the same liquid darkness and fathomless depths as her mother's, and her mouth was shaped rather remarkably like his own.
"And your build, Methos," Beverly put in. "At fifty-two centimeters and a bit under four kilos, she's destined to be long and slim, like you. Have you chosen a name?"
Methos nodded, smiling. "We decided to name her after one of the best and brightest of us, one who would have given much to be here, to see our kind grow past the Game."
"So. . . what is it?" Bev prompted.
Duncan looked at Guinan for approval. Her people had a superstition that it was bad luck to say a child's name before it was born. They had scrupulously avoided doing so, just in case. As he'd once told her, how could he be what he was and not believe in magic?
"Is it all right to say it now?"
Guinan nodded. "Yes, it's all right to say it now."
"It's Daria. Her name is Daria."
The slim figure poised on the threshold paused, looking over her shoulder questioningly.
"What?" she asked, a long-suffering sigh quite apparent in her voice.
Duncan stepped closer, looking into her face. "What did you do to Stefan?"
Daria widened her eyes innocently. "Me? I didn't do anything to Stefan."
Duncan sighed. "Tell me another one. I saw you two go off together an hour ago, and now he's nowhere to be found and your mother says he's very angry, and very frustrated. Now where is he?"
Daria pouted. He wondered if he looked as amusing when he did it. She put her hands on her hips and tossed her hair back over her shoulder with a sharp nod. "He's in the gym."
"And. . ?"
"And can he get out on his own or did you tie him up like last time?"
"You told me not to do that any more, so I didn't."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing, really." She grinned, her teeth gleaming white against her dusky skin. "He's just pouting because I beat him. He said he's going to practice until he can take my head next time."
Duncan winced. "I wish you wouldn't make a game out of it."
"But that's what you've always called it. The Game."
"The Game is over!" he said forcefully. "I don't want you even playing at it."
She regarded him with sudden seriousness, her mood changing, chameleon-like. "But it's not, you know. You may have forsaken it, but there are those who haven't."
"I'm aware of that, and you know it. Why else would I have trained you since you were old enough to hold a bo-ken? But I still don't want you playing at it with Stefan."
"But we need to be able to defend ourselves, if one of them comes for us! You've even told me so yourself!"
He sighed. "I know, Daria. But you and Stefan are. . ." he stopped himself, knowing how much she hated it when he lectured. "Please, just humor me. From now on, if you want to practice, find one of the old ones. Myself, Methos, Amanda, Richie or Michelle, even Kya or Daniel. There are more than enough choices, and any of us would be happy to spar with you. I don't want you and Stefan, or any of the other young ones, sparring with each other."
Daria gazed at him with narrowed eyes, and he felt the slick tingle of her mental probe. She gasped as she read his unspoken fear.
"We wouldn't! You can't seriously think we would. . ."
"I don't even want you tempted to find out," he interrupted her disclaimer. "Not you, not Stefan, not any of the others."
She nodded soberly. "I understand. I'll do as you ask. I'm sorryI worried you, I didn't understand."
He pulled her close and hugged her, startled to realize she was only a little shorter than he was. When had that happened? That wasn't the only change, either. Her silhouette was more subtly rounded now, as well, softer with the curves of fast-blooming womanhood. Time ran so fast, so incredibly fast. It seemed only a day ago he'd held her tiny, naked form in his arms as Beverly tended to Guinan after her birth. She gave him a preemptory hug in return.
"Gotta go, I'm meeting E'lan."
He nodded and watched her run off down the drive. She always ran. She never walked anywhere. Perpetually in a hurry. He sighed. She'd learn, eventually, that she had all the time in the world.
"Feeling nostalgic, are you?" Guinan asked, stepping out of the library.
He nodded. "A bit, you could tell?"
"I recognize those vibes," she replied, slipping an arm around his waist. "I get them every once in awhile."
He slid his hand up the back of her neck, fingers idly tracing a pattern there until she shivered in response. "Wanna do something about it?"
She grinned."Where's Methos?"
"I think he's in the kitchen."
"Of course, where else would he be? Do you think we can tempt him away?"
Duncan chuckled."Oh, I suspect he might be. . . temptable."