Feet of Clay
by Kellie Matthews

© 1996

Rated NC-17 for graphic heteroerotic and homoerotic (m/f & m/m) sexual content written in loving detail. If you can't handle that, don't read it. If you can't handle that and you read it anyway, don't complain to me. Highlander is a trademark of Rysher Entertainment, characters not used by permission. No infringement is intended. This work is not to be marketed for profit. Note: This story is a sequel to both the Firebird Suite stories and to Everything Must Change.
--Kellie Matthews

Nira studied her old friend, trying to figure out what seemed different about him. Perhaps it was only time, or the shock of finding out that her Petros was really Methos, the oldest living Immortal. She was still dealing with the ramifications of that idea, a little awed, and a little angry that he'd never told her before, and might not have now, save that his friends here knew. She and Methos had known each other for millennia and he had not told her his secret, yet these newcomers, even a mortal knew it. Why now? What was different now? Why let them in and not. . . .

That was it. That was what was different. Petros had never let anyone in before. Not her, not anyone. Not until now. Ever since she'd known him he had kept everyone at arm's length, and she had learned from his example. Even the best of her friends had never been really close, and neither had his. What had changed for him that had made such a difference? Thinking back on what had changed for her recently, she drew a startling conclusion.

"Who is she?" she asked, certain her supposition was correct.

Methos looked at her, eyebrows lifted. "She who?"

"The woman you're in love with," Nira said, smiling. "Don't tell me you're not in love. I'm familiar with the symptoms."

To her surprise instead of the impish delight she expected to find in his face, his gaze was unexpectedly serious. Instinctively she put her hand on his arm.

"Petya? What is it?"

He smiled suddenly, and shook his head. "Nothing important, love, just my insecurities showing. Don't fret. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but there is no woman."

Nira studied him a moment longer, but he seemed fine, his mask once more in place. Whatever he'd felt was hidden once more. Clearly he didn't want to discuss the subject, and she knew from long experience it would do no good to try to draw him out. Acquiescing to his wishes, she changed the subject.

"So, Joe tells me you have friends here, besides him. Friends like us."

Methos nodded. "A couple, though Ryan might not acknowledge that, at least we're not enemies. But Mac and I are definitely friends."

The look on his face was clearly anticipatory, like a child on Christmas Eve. Nira was glad to see that. She had been pleased that he seemed to have a firm friendship with Joe, and from his expression it appeared that this 'Mac' must be as close. Methos was the kind of person who needed attachment, yet their lives so rarely allowed that.

"Mac-- that would be the one Joseph spoke of? The one with the 'penchant for getting in trouble?'"

Methos chuckled. "That sounds like MacLeod all right. The boy's a disaster magnet, and too damned noble for his own good."

Nira smiled. "I know the type." She was looking at one, no matter how pragmatic he claimed to be. "Do you think I could meet them, this Ryan, and MacLeod?" she asked tentatively.

Methos pointed to a building a couple of blocks away, a sturdy, inelegant three-story construction of red brick and stone. "That's where we're headed. I wanted you to meet them."

They covered the remaining distance to the building in a few moments. As they ascended the stairs Nira stopped to read the sign, and frowned, puzzled. "DeSalvo? I thought his name was MacLeod-- or is that the other one, Ryan?"

Petros (Methos, she corrected herself mentally. It was hard to remember) shook his head. "DeSalvo was the name of a friend of MacLeod's, a mortal who used to run the Dojo. I think Mac keeps the name as a kind of memorial for him. He was killed by one of us."

Nira sighed, a little depressed by that. As they came to the top of the stairs she stopped suddenly, momentarily overwhelmed by the Presence of another Immortal. Methos grinned.

"Well, at least one of them is here, anyway. Come on, let's go find out which one." He led her to a set of glass-windowed doors and into an open, wooden-floored room that smelled of sweat. Nira tried not to wrinkle her nose as she perused the muscular men using various pieces of athletic equipment. None of them paid the slightest attention to the pair who had just walked in, which told her none of them was the Immortal she sensed. Petya also was ignoring them, his gaze fastened expectantly on the old freight elevator in the corner.

Something about his expression gave her a momentary pause, something almost-- tender? Before she had time to identify it, the elevator cage rose and a man stepped out. His stance was wary until his gaze settled on Methos, then he smiled, and the impact of his charisma hit her like an almost tangible thing. She tensed, instinctively drawing back. Sylvanus had been like this man, almost too beautiful, his attraction nearly irresistible. Her gaze flew to Methos, seeking reassurance, and was stunned by what she saw. There was no woman, he hadn't lied to her, but he was in love. She'd seen it flash in his eyes before he had lowered them and replaced the longing on his face with a mocking smile.

"MacLeod." he said evenly.

"Me... Adam!" the other Immortal said warmly as he came toward them. Nira didn't miss the quick change of name. "It's good to see you! What are you doing here?" For just a moment Nira thought they would embrace, but the movement became a handshake instead.

"Watcher business, nothing important," Methos said, shrugging.

The newcomer turned to Nira, eyebrows raised. "And this is?"

"This is an old friend of mine," Petya said. "Nira Groves, this is Duncan MacLeod."

Nira saw recognition flare in the man's dark gaze as he caught her hand in his and bent over it, brushing his lips softly across her skin. "An honor and a delight to make your acquaintance, my lady." Duncan murmured, charm threaded through every syllable.

Methos rolled his eyes. "Knock it off, MacLeod, she's taken."

MacLeod's gaze flashed to Methos as he released Nira's hand, and his eyebrows lifted. "Yours?" he asked with a hint of an edge in his voice.

Methos shook his head, amusement flickering in his eyes. "To my great sorrow, no. She's Joe's."

"Joe?" MacLeod asked blankly. "Joe who. . . Joe Dawson?" His voice sounded incredulous and his gaze swung back to Nira, who was getting a little annoyed.

"I am a friend of Joseph's, yes, but I do not belong to anyone." she looked directly at Methos as she issued the admonishment, and he had the grace to look embarrassed.

"Sorry, I didn't mean it that way."

"Good. I thought better of you." She turned back to MacLeod and smiled. "I'm pleased to meet any friend of Petya's. And you don't have to watch your words, I know who he is so you may call him by his real name, though I'm afraid it may take me awhile to get used to using it. Until very recently. . ." she looked meaningfully at Methos. ". . . I had always known him as Petros."

MacLeod looked amused. "Ah, just told you, did he? Well, I can't say as I blame him for wanting to stay anonymous. Methos is a far more intriguing target than some youngling nonentity."

"But he knows that he has never been in danger from me."

Methos sighed. "Okay, I admit it. I screwed up, okay? It's just that secrecy gets to be kind of a habit."

MacLeod sighed. "It does, doesn't it? Come on upstairs, I've got beer in the fridge, and other things if the lady prefers."

Nira chuckled. "Something non-alcoholic, please. I think I learned my lesson at Joe's the other night."

"I sense a story here," MacLeod said as he led them to the elevator.

Nira, watching Methos, followed his gaze, and hid a smile. The man did have a very nice posterior, the kind with a curve that looked as if it would fit nicely in the palm of one's hand. Duncan lowered the elevator cage and pushed the button for the third floor. The noisy mechanism ruled out conversation until the lift reached its destination and they stepped into a large, open loft. It was comfortably furnished and looked very homey. She could tell the Scot was a man who enjoyed his creature comforts. The wide, low bed in the back of the room caught her eye, and she couldn't help but wonder if Methos had ever shared it with MacLeod. She felt herself blush in response to the thought and was grateful to be distracted a moment later by MacLeod's voice.

"So, what happened at Joe's?" MacLeod asked as he moved into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. "Orange juice okay?" he asked, waving a container at Nira.

"That would be fine. As for Joe's, well, let us simply say that five shots of Sambuca in quick succession was too much for me. But I can't say that I regret it, because otherwise things might not have turned out as they did."

Duncan nodded knowingly as he handed her the glass of juice. Behind him, Methos pulled two beers from the refrigerator and opened them, handing one to MacLeod. Their fingers met briefly for a moment before Methos turned away and MacLeod gestured her toward the sitting area. Did she imagine that they had seemed reluctant to move apart? She took a seat on the couch, sipping her juice as MacLeod settled at the other end.

"Joe Dawson and an Immortal," MacLeod said, shaking his head. "That comes as a bit of a surprise."

"I don't know why, considering the fact that he's a Watcher, and has several Immortal friends. It was almost inevitable," Methos told him.

"Speaking of Watchers, I wonder what they'll have to say about this?"

"They won't say anything, because they won't find out." Methos said quietly; coming over to sit in the rocking chair opposite MacLeod and Nira on the couch.

"Come on, Methos, they probably already know. Her Watcher would have reported it."

Nira shook her head. "No, he couldn't have. He's dead, and they have not yet assigned me a new one."

"Doesn't it ever bother you? The idea that they're watching you all the time?" His glance at Methos told her this was a conversation they'd had before.

She shrugged. "It never has before, though it might now. I suppose if I ever did anything I would not want them to watch, it might have bothered me before. I am more concerned for the impact they might have on Joseph than their influence on myself. I would not want him to. . . get in trouble."

Duncan snorted. "Believe me, Joe's been in more trouble with the Watchers than you can shake a stick at."

Nira stared at him, puzzled. "Why would I wish to shake a stick at. . ."

Methos cut in. "It's a metaphor, love."

"Oh," she said, a little exasperated. "English has so many, it's hard to know them all."

Duncan chuckled and picked up his beer, taking a drink before lounging back, his gaze on Methos. With an awareness she wouldn't have had a week earlier, she watched his fingers encircle the neck of the bottle and slide slowly up and down it. Her eyes widened, then she quickly looked away, trying to pretend she hadn't noticed. Methos had. She watched his eyes dilate, then he looked away almost as quickly as she had, a faint flush on his fair skin. Suddenly feeling very de trop, she glanced around the room for something to save her, and found it.

"Do you mind if I use your telephone?" she asked MacLeod brightly. "I promised Joseph I would call and see when we should meet for lunch."

Methos looked at her oddly, but MacLeod waved a hand toward the kitchen. "Be my guest."

She nodded and got up, hurrying over pick up the handset and dial. The number rang several times, and she was about to give up when someone finally picked up. "Joe's, what can I do ya for?"

"Joseph? It's Nira."

"Nira? What's up, darlin'?"

"I wanted to check and see when we should meet for lunch." she said carefully , aware that both men could hear her.

"Lunch?" There was a momentary pause. "I thought you were with Methos."

"We're over at MacLeod's now, and I nearly forgot that I had promised I would call you."

There was another pause as Joe absorbed her out-of-the blue statement, then he chuckled softly. "Oh-ho, I think I get it. Well, they have been apart for quite awhile, I guess I can understand. I'll be right over to get you love, and don't worry, I'd be happy to take you to lunch. That's the nice thing about bein' the boss. I can set my own hours. I'll be over in about fifteen minutes, okay?"

"That soon? Well, yes, I suppose I could, if that's the only time you can make it."

Joe laughed again. "Think they can keep their hands off each other for that long?"

"I think so," she smiled, imagining the grin on his face. "And thank you."

"No problem. Always happy to help out, especially you."

Behind her she heard Methos make a low-voiced comment about hiding Duncan's beer bottle if he didn't stop fondling it, and was puzzled by MacLeod's shout of laughter in response. She made a mental note to ask Joe about that particular metaphor, she was sure it had to be one. She hung up the phone and turned back toward them, hoping she looked appropriately downcast. "I'm sorry, Methos, but Joseph can only go to lunch if we leave right away. He's on his way to pick me up."

Methos lifted an eyebrow in a way that told her he knew she was lying, but he didn't call her on it. "I'm sorry too. I had thought we might have more time to reminisce."

She smiled. "We'll still have plenty of time for that, I'm not leaving soon, and I think you are not either, am I right?" She flickered a glance toward MacLeod, then back.

Methos looked at her thoughtfully. "I'd like to hang around for a few days, at least, so I guess I'd better find a place to stay. I won't be staying at Joe's, will I?"

She shot him a dark look. "Not if you wish to remain friends."

"You can always bunk here, I don't mind." MacLeod said nonchalantly.

"That's awfully generous of you. I may just do that. Living on a graduate student's budget isn't always easy."

"Especially when you have to do international research," Duncan said, grinning. "The airfare'll kill you."

"Fortunately I always come back to life immediately afterward," Methos retorted drily. "Nira, shall I escort you downstairs?"

"I think I can find my. . ."

"Please, I'd like to," he said, before she could finish her statement. He stood and took her arm, steering her not toward the elevator but to the door around the corner from it. Duncan made a move to join them but at Methos' head-shake, he sat back down as Methos ushered Nira out the door. He waited until they were down the steps and on the sidewalk before he stepped back and studied her. "What was that all about? You didn't have any plans for lunch with Joe."

Nira felt a flush creep up her face. "No, but I. . . wanted to see him."

"Don't lie to me, I've known you too long. I can always catch you. Tell me the real reason."

She looked at him helplessly. "You. . . he. . ." she started, then stopped again, at a loss for how to explain.

Methos' eyes widened and he pulled back a little. "Oh, hell. I had no idea we were that obvious."

"You were not, it's just that I'm a little-- sensitized to it at the moment."

Methos smiled. "Ah, well, that I understand." He shook his head, smiling a little as he reached out to touch her face with gentle fingers. "Love, it was sweet of you, but not necessary, we could have waited. You're important to me."

She bit her lip and nodded. "I know that, but now that I've been there, I understand the-- urgency a little more." She smiled, shaking her head. "Actually, I understand it a lot more. He wants you, you want him. I am, at the moment, in the way. Please believe I'm not offended or hurt. I just want you to be happy. Look, there's Joseph now. Go on, go back to your Scot."

Methos leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, his lips warm against her skin. "Thank you. I don't deserve such friends."

She scowled at him. "Yes, you do. Don't say such a thing to me again. Now go and, how do they say it? 'Get it out of your system.'"

He chuckled and waved at Joe as he turned and walked back up the stairs and into the building. Nira opened the car door and got in, leaning across to greet Joe with a kiss before she sat back and began to buckle her seatbelt. As Joe signalled and turned to check traffic, she remembered the metaphor she'd meant to ask about.

"Joseph, what does it mean when someone says they will put something 'where the sun does not shine?'"

Methos took the stairs up to the loft, and tried the door, suspecting it would be unlocked, and it was. Closing and locking it behind him, he stepped into the room. As he passed the elevator, he turned the key that shut off loft access from the elevator. Duncan was standing at the window looking out as Methos came up behind him.

"You know it's pretty stupid to leave your door unlocked, and not even turn around when someone comes in." Methos said, looking over Duncan's shoulder to see Joe's car moving off down the street.

"I suppose it might be, under some circumstances. But I knew it was you."


"I. . . just knew. I can't quite tell you how. I knew it was you downstairs, too, though Nira's presence confused me a bit. I wonder what it was she said to Joe? I could see him laughing, hell, I could almost hear him laughing! It took him a good five minutes before he could drive."

"She was probably commenting on what sluts we are."

Duncan turned finally, eyebrows lifted. "Sluts?"

Methos grinned and nodded. "Apparently so. She didn't think we'd be able to keep our hands off each other all afternoon, so she called Joe for a rescue."

Duncan turned, looking surprised. "What? Why? We weren't even doing anything!"

"Oh, like that bit with the bottle wasn't obvious?" Methos scoffed good-naturedly.

"That was a joke!" Duncan protested.

"Oh, partly, yes. But it was also real, wasn't it? All the way up the elevator, all I could think of was the way you greeted me last time I was here." Duncan's eyes darkened. Methos knew he was remembering too, remembering pushing him up against the wall, yanking his jeans down, and putting that luscious mouth on him. "I want you, Duncan. I need you."

Without a word Duncan reached out and pulled him close, just holding him for a moment, before his mouth found Methos'. The kiss was gentle, welcoming, undemanding, and Methos felt the sting of tears. 'God, I love you,' he thought, wishing he were brave enough to say it aloud. 'I love you.' Three small words, too vast to speak. Unable to say them aloud, he had let his actions speak for him and would continue to do so as long as he was able, as long as he lived. He no longer feared his own death, he feared Duncan's. Could he live if the Highlander did not?

With a mental sneer at his own melodramatic musings, Methos pushed away the morbid thoughts and answered the mouth on his, putting the passion he felt into their kiss. His tongue stroked the silky warmth that fused with his, his teeth caught the full pad of Duncan's lower lip, gently, only hinting at the savagery he knew they were both capable of. To be with him, Methos would take whatever he could, give all he could, and be content.

Duncan broke their kiss, lifting his head, his rapid breathing betraying his excitement. His fingers moved to the buttons on the worn shirt Methos wore, the fabric so old it was nearly translucent. The buttons gave easily, and Duncan's hand slid inside, his broad palm warm and gentle as he touched the taut nipple the fabric hid. The contrast between the honey-gold of Duncan's skin and his own paleness seemed strangely erotic. Methos put his hand on Duncan's shoulder and felt the rich texture of silk like cream beneath his fingers. The Highlander's sensual nature expressed itself even in his clothing.

He found himself stroking his fingers up and down Duncan's chest just to indulge his own need for sensation. A peculiar curiosity took him, and he leaned down, and licked the hard curve of pectoral muscle, the silk between his tongue and Duncan's skin. Silk tasted. . . like silk. A little dusty, like a moth's wings looked. Just barely he could taste the familiar salt of Duncan through it. He saw the rise of nipple through damp silk and with shaking fingers pushed aside the fabric so he could taste flesh instead.

Duncan pulled away. "Not here, not now, not this time. Come to bed."

Somehow they made it all the way across the room. Methos was about to lie down when Duncan stopped him and slowly removed Methos' clothing before he pushed him back onto the bed and moved over him, his body a broad, solid barrier against loneliness. He seemed determined to make this reunion as slow and drawn-out as the last one had been fast and wild. His hedonistic side was in full force as he used his lips and tongue and fingers to wreak havoc on the self-control Methos was trying to retain. When Methos reached to reciprocate, Duncan caught his wrists in one hand and held them above his head while he continued the ecstatic torment. Methos gave up then, letting him do as he pleased, and what he pleased was devastation.

Lips touching him, feather-light, never the same place twice, random grazes of hot satin. Touches of tongue, a bare flicker of moisture that left cool trails behind initial fire. Fingers smoothing down skin that ached like a fever-dream after so long a separation. Finally the teasing began to concentrate, moving lower and lower. Just when he expected Duncan to take him in his mouth, he placed a hand under his calf, gently adjusting his leg to expose the sensitive area behind his knee, and placed a kiss there. The touch was so unexpected that it was nearly as erotic as the kiss he had anticipated. Methos moaned and couldn't keep his hips from lifting as Duncan slid his mouth down the back of his leg to his ankle, where he nipped at the tendon there before continuing on. No... he wasn't, he wouldn't. . . not his toes, no, oh God!

"No! Don't please. . ." was as far as he got before he exploded in a fit of giggles, frantically trying to tug his foot out of Duncan's grasp. The hand on his ankle tightened, and a finger drew a line firmly down the sole of his foot, and the unbearable tickle suddenly stopped as if someone had thrown a switch. He gasped until he caught his breath, and then lifted his head so he could see his torturer. Duncan was sitting at his feet, one hand still wrapped around his ankle, but his gaze was on Methos' face and he looked amused.

"Ticklish?" he queried drily.

"Just a little," Methos admitted weakly.

"All this time and I never knew," Duncan said with an evil grin.

Methos put the back of his hand to his forehead in a classic silent-movie gesture of despair. "You've found my Achilles Heel, I'm doomed."

Duncan laughed. "Somehow I don't think you're going to be fighting many battles barefoot."

"I can think of better things to do barefoot," Methos said, moving his free foot down the outside of Duncan's thigh. "Like what we were doing."

Duncan eyed him with a sigh. "Looks like I have to start over."

Methos chuckled. "What a hardship."

Nira glanced at Joe, he was still grinning. She blushed, remembering the explanation he'd just supplied for that "metaphor" she'd asked about. Though she knew it had been a joke, it had brought home to her exactly what it was Methos and Duncan were up to. Up to. . . oh Lady, now she was making double-entendres. She giggled, and Joe looked over at her as he slowed for the stoplight ahead.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

Her face got even hotter and she shook her head. "Nothing."

He lifted an eyebrow in patent disbelief. "Hon, I think you'd better open a window and cool things off in here before that 'nothing' sets you on fire. What's got to you this time?"

She twisted her fingers in her lap and avoided his eyes. "I was just thinking."


She knew he wasn't going to give up. "That metaphor!" she answered with an aggravated huff.

He eyed her for a moment longer, then began to chuckle. "I see. A little shocked, are we?"

She bit her lip. "Not shocked, exactly. I just never thought about such things in any detail before."

He made a wry face. "I know that feeling. Your reaction's about what mine was the first time I realized what was going on there. I almost fell outta my chair."

Nira laughed. "Well, then we're even. You know, I've known Petya. . . I mean, Methos, nearly my whole life and I've never seen him look at anyone like he looked at your MacLeod."

"He's not my MacLeod." Joe said, sounding amused.

She made a face. "You know what I meant."

He chuckled. "Yeah, I know. Where do you want to have lunch?"

She looked at him from beneath her eyelashes, as she'd seen other women do. "Well, I'm not really hungry."

He took his eyes off the road long enough to read her expression, and a broad grin spread across his face. "Is that right?"


"Well, then, I don't suppose you have any ideas on how to kill some time?"

"I might be able to think of something," she said, trying not to smile.

"I didn't know it worked that way for women too."

"Didn't know what worked what way for women?" Nira asked, puzzled.

"Well, most men find the idea of two women together to be a turn on, I just didn't know it worked in reverse."

The blush that had finally faded returned in a heated rush. "Joseph! I didn't say. . ."

He laughed. "You didn't have to. Let's go home, sweetheart. I think I know some ways to kill time, myself."

True to his word, Duncan did start over, but from the bottom this time. Studiously avoiding Methos's toes, he worked his way back upward, very slowly, touching, tasting, tormenting, until all sensation coalesced at his victim's groin. Realizing what he was going to do, Methos finally found voice to protest.

"Oh, God, I don't think I can take that!"

Duncan's only answer was a low laugh as his mouth closed around the aching length of Methos' cock, his tongue hot and silky against pulsing flesh. A moan of pleasure slid from Methos lips. There was almost nothing better than this in the world. Not just sex, though that had never lost its lustre, but sex with love was so much more. Only the incredible conflagration of a Quickening surpassed it. The melding of bodies, almost of minds, the sense being subsumed by intimacy. . . it was something he'd lived without for far too much of his life, something he both feared and craved. Love was almost an addiction and he knew it, but somehow he couldn't fight it either.

He reached down and cupped Duncan's head in his hands, stroking the sleek, dark hair, feeling the brush of eyelashes as he traced the prominent contours of cheekbones, felt the flex of muscle in his cheeks with his fingers, echoed by the suction around him. He was close, the urgency harsh and irresistible. Give in a voice in his head urged. Give in

Was that his own voice or Duncan's? It didn't matter. He obeyed, his body arched, taut, as pleasure ripped through him. Each pulse seemed to leave him suspended until the next one chased the sensation away only to leave him hanging again, slow and hot and overwhelming. He sagged, finally drained, and Duncan pushed himself up, leaning on one arm, looking like a pin-up, the smile on his face smugly sensual and self-assured. He was still mostly dressed, his smoke-blue shirt hanging open to frame his hard-muscled torso, his slacks strained by the erection they contained. Methos sighed and reached lazily to run a finger down the inside of Duncan's thigh, feeling the soft-harsh prickle of finely-woven wool.

"You're dressed up today, got a hot date?" he queried idly.

Duncan grinned. "I do now."

Methos smiled and studied him curiously. Duncan wasn't in the habit of dressing this well, at least not since Methos had known him. A slow smile came to the surface. "Is this your way of coming out?"

Duncan frowned, puzzled. "Hunh?" he asked eloquently.

Methos' grin widened. "You know what they say, gay men always dress better than straight men."

Duncan rolled his eyes and chuckled. "I had meeting to go to this morning, I hadn't had time to change yet when you showed up."

"Don't ever change, Highlander." Duncan groaned in pain at the pun and dropped his head into his hand. Methos slid his hand back up Duncan's thigh to cup the rigid shape beneath the fabric. "I can help with that," he said, pretending to misunderstand the source of the groan.

"I thought you'd never offer," Duncan said, his gaze sleepy and inviting.

"Stop that," Methos said, disconcerted.

"Stop what?"

"The male-model routine. It's making me wonder where you've got the video-camera stashed."

Duncan laughed, falling back on the bed. "Now there's a thought. Don't mention that to Amanda. She'd do it."

Methos chuckled and reached for the button on MacLeod's slacks. "She would. Speaking of our lovely companion, where is she? I thought she was still here." Finishing with the button, he opened the zipper and began to work the beautifully-tailored slacks down sleek hips and muscular thighs.

"Your information network isn't as efficient as usual. You just missed her, she left a week ago, for Monaco, she was going to an abbey there," Duncan said, lifting his hips to facilitate Methos' work.

Methos stopped in mid-tug, startled. "An abbey?" he asked incredulously.

Duncan grinned. "Well, it used to be. I think it's a spa these days."

Methos relaxed and started tugging again. "You had me going for a minute there. The thought of Amanda in an abbey. . . heaven help the nuns!" He finally got the slacks past Duncan's knees and the rest was easy. Socks followed a moment later, and he thought briefly about seeing if Duncan's toes were as vulnerable as his own. No doubt they wouldn't be. No Highland warrior worth his salt would be ticklish. When he looked up Duncan was lounging back, watching him, a slight, expectant smile hovering on his lips. On the other hand-- Methos reached for a foot.

Methos had never seen Duncan move so fast. One moment he was draped over the bed like some sheik in a harem, the next he was sitting with both feet tucked under him, looking distinctly wary. Methos grinned evilly.

"Never tell me that my idol has feet of clay! A Highland Chieftan who's ticklish? Don't you know better than to reveal your weak spot to your opponent, MacLeod!"

"Who's revealing it? I'm protecting it!" he countered.

Methos sighed. "Relax, I won't touch them, you have my word."

Duncan eyed him for a moment, probably looking to see if his fingers were crossed, and then nodded. "Thanks. I've always hated that. My cousins used to hold me down and tickle me when I was a boy."

Methos' stared at him, surprised. "You?" He had a hard time imagining anyone getting the best of Duncan, even as a boy. Duncan nodded, and Methos studied him a moment longer, then lifted an eyebrow. "So, how'd you get even?"

Duncan grinned. "Stinging nettles in their pallets. For whatever reason, I don't react to the things so they couldn't even catch me proverbially red-handed."

Methos whistled softly. "Remind me not to get on your bad side, Highlander. I suspect you've got a mean streak."

"You've already seen me at my worst," Duncan said softly, unexpectedly serious.

"And your best." Methos responded, not willing to get into that discussion again. "Now shut up. Hasn't anyone ever told you that you talk to much?"

Duncan looked offended and opened his mouth to object. Methos leaned forward and occupied it with better things. At least, he thought so.

Nira's fingers clenched into the sheets, tightening on the fabric in lieu of Joe's more vulnerable skin. He parted her with incredible delicacy, and his tongue dipped into the damp heat of her body, unerringly finding the exact spot where she was most sensitive. She gasped, fingers and toes curling at the exquisite torture, her hips lifting her harder against the too-gentle touch.

"Take it easy," Joe urged, lifting his head.

She put a hand on his head and pushed him back down. "I don't want to take it easy!" she wailed. "Joseph, please!"

He laughed, the vibration maddening against her sensitized skin. "Yes ma'am. Whatever you say."

The touch against her firmed and quickened. She moaned, her eyes closing, seeing blue stars against the darkness. Goddess above, it was lovely, perfect, wonderful. . . and not enough. Dragging herself back from the brink of implosion, she pushed herself up onto her elbows which moved her away from him. He looked up, eyebrows lifted. She smiled.

"Turn over," she said suggestively, letting him know exactly what she wanted.


Nira was taken aback, he'd never said 'no' to her before. "No?"

He shook his head. "No, not this time."

"But I. . ."

"I think it's time we tried something different."

Her eyes widened. "Different?" A thought occurred to her and she gazed at him worriedly. "Joseph, just because I was a little aroused by the idea of Petya and his friend. . ."

Joe laughed, shaking his head. "Not that different. I know you're not quite ready for the advanced classes yet." He moved backward a bit, then pushed himself up on his arms. "Scoot down here."

Warily, she complied. "Like this?"

"Just like that, only keep comin' all the way down."

She was puzzled until she started to comply, and ended up beneath him, her thighs outside of his, knees bent and feet flat because the end of the bed was too close for her to stretch out her legs. When she realized that he had braced himself against the footboard the light dawned, and she started to smile as she wiggled the last bit, bringing the damp warmth of her sex against the hard length of his.

"I think I may like this different."

"I sure hope so."

Guessing that he needed both hands for leverage, Nira reached down and found the hard length of his cock. She stroked him gently, feeling him harden further under her touch, feeling the rapid beat of his pulse in her palm, the heat and solidity of him. She tilted her hips upward and tucked him into the cleft between her thighs, using her other hand to guide him to the entrance. He held there for a moment, until her gaze lifted to his, then he curled forward, and slid home. His eyes held hers rapt as his body began to move within her. Different, yes, but also the same. They fit as if she were sculpted to contain him.

"Joe," Nira breathed his name softly, "Oh, yes."

She liked the way the corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled. The tenderness in his gaze sent a shiver through her, as deep as the merging of their bodies. She hadn't realized this was possible, this feeling, this unity that she'd spent millennia years avoiding. This was how one understood all the foolishness and foibles of the world, and what sheltered against the all of life's pain and despair. Not sex, that was just an aspect, but the act of sharing oneself, be it body, mind, or soul. Finally she had learned the lesson that two-thousand year's lip-service had failed to teach her. Love was all. Love, in any of its myriad forms, whether that of friend, lover, parent, child. . . it didn't matter. Love is all. What she felt for Joe was different from what she felt for Petya, which in turn was different from what he felt for MacLeod, and again different from what Joe felt for Petya. Yet, all were aspects of the same thing. Love.

She reached up to frame Joe's face between her hands and draw his mouth down to hers. He closed his eyes and brushed his lips across hers, gently, then claimed her more fully, his tongue echoing the movements he made in her welcoming flesh. He gasped, and shuddered, she felt warmth flood her and she wrapped her arms around him as a gentle swell of pleasure overwhelmed her. Stroking his back, she felt his heartbeat gradually slowing, and put her lips against his throat, silently absorbing the pleasure of just holding him.

"Oh, God. . ." Duncan moaned, burying his face in a pillow, five thousand years of technique nearly overwhelming him. "Methos, you're killing me!"

A hand lifted the pillow off his face as his tormenter took pity on him and let him slip from his far-too-talented mouth. "What was that? I couldn't quite hear you."

"Never mind," Duncan managed, panting, trying to dredge up some semblance of control. It was embarrassing to be so damned easy. He stared down at himself to avoid looking at the smug amusement he knew he'd find on Methos' face, wondering if his own face was as flushed as what he stared at. If so, he must nearly match the maroon sheets on the bed. He hadn't been this randy since he'd passed puberty. Methos knew tricks that somehow kept him going far past the point at which he would normally have lost it. A slight pressure here, a touch there, and what had been the last pulsebeat before explosion was suddenly the beginning of a new climb upward toward a completion the oldest Immortal seemed determined not to let him reach.

Finally catching his breath, Duncan pushed himself up onto his elbows and let his head fall back, shaking out his hair, feeling air braid through the sweat-soaked tangles. Methos regarded him quizzically for a moment, then he took a corner of the sheet and fanned Duncan with it. The air felt almost cold against his overheated flesh, and he couldn't suppress a shiver. Methos lifted an eyebrow.

"Make up your mind, MacLeod, are you too hot or too cold?"

"I'm too everything," Duncan admitted ruefully.

Methos chuckled. "Now that, my friend, is very true." He stared at Duncan for a moment, and his gaze softened. "I've been too hard on you, haven't I?" he asked gently.

"I'm-- " he started, then stopped. How the hell did he reply to that? Say yes, and he'd admit to being overwhelmed, say no, and risk having it start all over. "I don't--" he began again, only to come up wordless again.

Methos reached out and pressed his fingers to Duncan's lips. "Never mind. I know the answer." He stretched out, his lean body only inches away, his head resting on the pillow that had muffled Duncan's moans only moments earlier. He reached down, running a finger over the still-engorged shaft between Duncan's thighs. "You're so damned beautiful, MacLeod. So perfect." He sighed. "I. . ."

Whatever he'd meant to say was cut off suddenly as he moved, planting a kiss in the shallow well of Duncan's navel before using his tongue to demarcate a line down Duncan's abdomen. Duncan moaned before he got past the thicket of dark ringlets.

"Methos, please! No more!"

Methos sighed heavily. "You've got to work on your stamina, MacLeod."

"My stamina's fine, yours is unnatural!"

Methos shook his head. "Not where you're concerned. There I have none, nor willpower either." With that he moved, coming over Duncan, lowering his body until they were touching full-length. His eyes drifted closed as he rocked his hips, a low growl of pleasure escaping his throat as their bodies strained together. He cupped Duncan's face in his hands and found his mouth, tongue sliding along the seam of his lips, urging them open, then drinking deep when they did.

Duncan arched upward, straining for closer contact, for a faster rhythm. He'd had enough teasing, enough almost-climaxes. Duncan kissed him again, almost desperately, then broke the kiss and reached for something on the nightstand. When he turned back, he reached for Methos' hand and dropped the bottle of lubricant into his open palm.

"Finish it," he growled, his voice harsh with need.

Methos' eyes widened, clearly a little startled. Since they'd started sleeping together they had settled into sort of a routine, and Duncan knew this broke tradition. Methos seemed to have accepted that Duncan had that alpha-male need for dominance that was as much a part of him as his skin. Even so, he clearly wasn't about to question Duncan's offer. With one last stroke against the hard form beneath him, he moved away. Duncan rolled onto his belly, but Methos cupped a hand over his shoulder and pulled him back until he was on his side instead. He moved a knee forward, between Duncan's thighs, angling it upward so it opened him. Duncan's pulse rocketed, his breathing harsh and fast as he waited.

Methos didn't tease him this time. His fingers were sure as they applied the slick film that would ease their coming together, and then Methos hand was on Duncan's hip, steadying him against the firm, steady pressure. For a moment Duncan tensed, instinctively resisting. Methos drew back slightly, and kissed the back of his neck.

"Let me in," he whispered in Duncan's ear. "Let me love you."

Fingers stroked, opened, pressed inward. He moaned as they slid into him, his hips moving involuntarily. God, how could he have forgotten how good this was? What part of him resisted this? Whatever idiotic scruple held him back, he renounced it. With a shiver, Duncan deliberately relaxed, willing himself into receptivity. He wanted this. There were many other paths to pleasure, but something in him said this was what he needed now. Fingers moved, gentle but irresistible, searching out his deepest, most primitive responses. Another hand covered his aching cock, fingers slick with residual lubricant. He shuddered with pleasure, and before he could even think to resist, he was entered.

Duncan clenched his fists, but not against any pain. This time it was against the almost overwhelming pleasure. He'd been brought to the brink too many times already, he had nothing left in him with which to resist. As Methos began to move, he pumped into the fingers that surrounded him. Methos made a sound, almost a sob, moving faster, driving Duncan hard. This time there would be no trick, Methos' thrusts held the same urgency that he felt himself. Words Duncan could not translate spilled from the older man's lips, their tone longing, pleading, then Methos shuddered and cried out, a sound that had no language, yet was all languages. As he felt Methos' heat flood him, Duncan moaned, abandoning any pretense of control. His body clenched and pulsed, his hot slickness caught in Methos' hand and used to stroke him over and over until he begged to be released.

They lay spooned together, breathing slowing, replete with pleasure. Methos sighed, and nuzzled the back of Duncan's neck. Duncan reached back and stroked his face, wanting to say something, but uncertain of its reception. After a moment, he sighed as well. What was the point in trying to hide it? They both knew the truth.



He sounded half-asleep already. He shouldn't have said anything. "I. . ." Duncan stopped. Why was it so hard? Not just with Methos, but with anyone. Why could he never say it? What was he so afraid of? He knew, really. Admitting it was like opening his soul. It left him bared and vulnerable. He felt Methos waiting, patient, quiet. "I. . ." he tried again, and stopped again. Fear burned cold in his throat. If he admitted it, he would lose him. That was why he couldn't say it, he could barely even think it. He had lost everyone he admitted loving. It was almost as if something dark waited at his shoulder, listening for the words, so it could identify its next victim.

"It's hard, isn't it?" Methos said into the silence.

"Yes," Duncan said hoarsely, his throat taut with unshed tears. "I'm afraid." That was somehow easier to admit.

"So am I," Methos voice betrayed the truth of that. "We shouldn't tempt fate, Highlander. Let it go. Let's not draw the jealousy of the gods by saying it aloud."

Duncan shivered. "As long as you know. I want you to know."

"I do." he stroked Duncan's hair, then let his hand rest, warm, on his shoulder. "I know. And you know, too."

Duncan nodded. "I know, too."



"Do you believe in love?"

He rolled over and looked at her for a long moment, then he nodded, slowly. "I do. What would life be without love?"

"Empty," Nira said softly, the certainty of personal knowledge in her voice. "Very empty. Do you fear it?"

"Fear what?" Joe asked, confused.


"Ah." He lay there for a moment longer, staring thoughtfully at the ceiling. "Sometimes. It's a powerful thing, love, and power can be scary."

She sighed. "How is it you know that, when you're so young?"

He smiled wryly. "We short-timer's don't have a choice, we gotta learn fast. What's got you thinking about love?"

"Petya," she said. He looked surprised, and she explained. "What I saw in his face today wasn't just desire, it was love. I think he would die for his friend, if it were needed."

"He's already tried."

She looked at him, eyes narrowed. "What?"

Joe sighed. "I shouldn't have said that. Forget I did."

She studied him a moment longer, and slowly began to smile. "No, I won't, I can't, but I won't press you. Still, I am relieved."


"Because it means the offer was made, and refused. That tells me all I needed to know." She settled in against him, and pillowed her head on the curve of his chest. "Thank you."

His arm tightened around her, his hand idly stroking. "Don't tell them I told you."

"I won't, I promise."

He yawned widely, his eyes drifting closed. Nira smiled against his skin, and closed her own eyes.