Phoenix
by Kellie Matthews

© 1996

Warning! This Story Is Rated NC-17! Contains graphic homoerotic (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 direct sequel to As Long As You Burn. It deals with issues of non-consensual sex, though not in a graphic manner. It does not contain any non-consensual sex, only deals with the emotional aftermath.
--Kellie Matthews


It was chilly and someone had taken his covers, but a line of kisses was being trailed down his back. Warm, soft, moist. . . Duncan smiled sleepily, without opening his eyes, and shifted his thigh outward to accommodate his growing erection. God, what a nice way to wake up. The kisses began to move back upward, gentle fingers brushed aside his tangled hair to bare the nape of his neck and the lips moved across there, making him shiver.

Teeth bit into his shoulder, not so hard as to hurt, just hard enough to make him draw a sharp breath. A moment later he registered the rough texture of morning stubble against his skin, and tensed. Stubble? Who the hell was he in bed with? For just a moment the only connection he could make was Russia, and Alexei Voshin. He tensed, ready to shove the other man away, then his gaze registered his surroundings and he relaxed. Paris. The barge. Methos. He relaxed, but it was too late. Methos had felt him tense, and the lips left his skin.

"Duncan?" Methos' voice sounded uncertain.

Feeling badly, Duncan turned over and smiled. "Good morning."

Uncertainty turned to confusion. "I thought-- is anything wrong?"

Duncan shook his head. "Not really, just an unpleasant memory."

Methos looked at him for a long moment, then nodded slowly. "I see. How bad?"

"Not that bad," Duncan said, then realized it sounded like a brush off and hastily added something more reassuring, ". . .now. Don't worry about it."

Methos studied him a moment, and shook his head. "I'm not buying it, MacLeod. Give."

Duncan sighed. There would be no getting around it now. Methos was like a dog with a bone when he got fixated. "Just one of those previous experiences I mentioned."

"Involving. . .?"

Duncan tried to think of a delicate way to put it, and finally did. "The price of freedom."

Methos winced, understanding immediately. "Yours?"

"No, not mine. A shipload of mortals, in Russia."

"You never learn, do you?" Methos asked with a sigh.

Duncan looked at him with one eyebrow raised in ironic appraisal. "I know you want me to believe you wouldn't have done the same thing, but I know better. You, Mr. Oldest Immortal, are a pussycat."

"I am not!" Methos exclaimed, looking offended.

"Are too." Duncan reached to trail a finger down behind Methos' ear, making him shiver. "Bet I can make you purr."

Methos stared at him for a moment, his gaze gone hot with desire. "Bet you could, too. However, we haven't finished with this subject."

"Are you sure about that?" Duncan asked, his fingers sliding over the long curve of one thigh.

Methos grabbed his hand and held it away firmly. "Yes, I'm sure."

Duncan shrugged. "Methos, I said not to worry about it and I meant it. It doesn't matter now, not when I know who you are. I was just half asleep before."

"Please?"

"What are you, some kind of voyeur?" Duncan snapped irritably. "I said I didn't want to talk about it."

"No you didn't." Methos pointed out stubbornly.

"Well I have now."

"Fine." Methos turned away, grabbing Duncan's robe and shrugging into it. It hung on him like a sack until he stood up and belted it. Wordlessly he went into the kitchen and began making coffee.

Duncan watched him, feeling somehow in the wrong. Why couldn't Methos just take "no" for an answer? He lay there thinking irritably about the past few minutes. Things had started out so promisingly! Damn Alexei anyway. Duncan closed his eyes and could almost feel his presence. It was strange, last night he had remembered only his half-drunken, rather fumbling explorations with Brian Cullen, and hadn't once thought of Voshin. Now that seemed like all he could think about.

"This is stupid." Methos announced, setting down the bag of coffee. "Duncan, please, if you don't tell me, how can I know what not to do?"

Duncan opened his eyes and stared across the room at him. "What do you mean?"

As Methos padded back over, Duncan stared at his bare feet, thinking that they made Methos look absurdly vulnerable. He squatted down beside the bed and put a hand on Duncan's shoulder.

"Look, it's clear to me that something bad happened to you, something you equate with what I was doing this morning. I don't want to stir up bad memories, I know what that's like. Just tell me so I can do whatever I can to keep it from happening. Were you raped?"

Duncan felt as though Methos had just slapped him, his breath left him in a gasp. He'd never hinted, never said a word. How did he know? After a moment he got his wits together enough to shake his head. "No, not. . . not exactly."

Methos stared at him, his gaze steady and troubled. "There is no maybe, Duncan, either you were or you weren't."

Duncan flopped back against the pillows and put an arm across his eyes. "It's not that simple. I can't call it rape. It might have been coerced, but I didn't exactly. . . hate it."

There was dead silence for a moment, then he felt fingers against his cheek. "Duncan, if it was coerced, it was rape. It doesn't matter if he was able to make you feel something. . . that's just a matter of involuntary responses. Do you know how many rape victims say exactly what you just said? That it wasn't rape just because the rapist knew how to make the nerves work?"

Duncan made a shrugging motion, unable to trust his voice. Methos might call it rape, but he knew better. Damn, he could almost hear that rough, insinuating voice instructing him, he could almost feel the shameful arousal that had risen in him as he had executed those instructions. He'd kept telling himself that it was for a good cause, that he didn't really want to do it, that he wasn't enjoying it--

"Damn it, Duncan! Stop it. Do you hear me?" Methos was shaking him by the shoulders. "Look at me!"

Duncan broke his grip and rolled away, sitting up again, rubbing his face with both hands, which conveniently hid his expression as he got his emotions under control. Finally he took a deep breath and looked up. "You don't understand, Methos. Until I realized he had betrayed me-- us, I almost still wanted him. If things had been different, well, like I said, it was coerced, but only partly. He was very charismatic, and damn it, I was attracted to him even though at the same time I was repelled. In a weird way it's kind of flattering, to have someone want you enough to blackmail you for it."

Methos stared at him, shaking his head. "My God, MacLeod. . . how long have you been running around thinking this was your fault? When did this happen?"

"Nineteen-thirty-eight." The year was very clear in his mind. Too clear.

"Shit," Methos said, disgustedly. "Nearly sixty years, and I bet you've never told a soul, have you?" Duncan shook his head, and Methos moved around to grab both his hands, staring earnestly into his face. "Duncan, what happened to you was no different from -- I think they call it date rape these days. Just because you were interested doesn't mean that what he did was right, or that you somehow asked for it!"

"How the hell would you know?" Duncan snapped. "You've never been there!" Duncan flung at him, yanking his hands from Methos' grip. Standing up, he drew the sheet around himself as he stomped over to stare out of the port at the gray, dreary winter day as if he held it personally responsible for his discomfort.

Methos was quiet for a long time, long enough that Duncan began to get uneasy, then finally he spoke, his voice peculiarly flat. "Oh, yes, I have. Too many times." He stood up, and dropped the robe onto the bed. "You remember when I told you I didn't remember my life before my first Quickening? Well, that was a lie. I remember it all too well, though I wish to God I didn't. Look at me, MacLeod, and imagine what I looked like when I was a boy. Gods, I lost my virginity to a man nearly a quarter century before I lost it to a woman, and nobody asked me if I wanted to. I was born a slave, and for those of my class, asking was a nicety not much bothered with."

Duncan turned, stricken to the core. "Methos. . ."

In a hard voice, the other Immortal cut him off. "After awhile, you learn to enjoy it, because it's better than the fear and the pain. I know exactly what you felt, I know exactly what you feel. Do you want to know how I died the first time?"

Horror flooded Duncan at the implication, he crossed the room in two strides, placing his hand on the bare, goose-fleshed arm. "Methos, I. . . ." he began, trying to find some way to express what he was feeling.

Methos jerked his arm out of Duncan's grip. "Leave me the hell alone, MacLeod! And don't ever assume that I don't know what I'm talking about."

He stalked over to where his duffle bag lay and grabbed clothes, seemingly at random. He pulled his jeans on without bothering with briefs, and yanked a sweatshirt over his head. He stopped and looked blankly around the room for a moment, then shook his head and stuffed a few trailing items back into the bag and cinched it closed.

Duncan watched, shocked into immobility, as Methos' shouldered the bag and his long strides covered the distance to the door. Then he was gone, not even bothering to close the door behind him. Duncan started to sit down, still dazed, and his eyes lit on the worn running shoes next to the bed. Methos had gone out barefoot, and there was snow on the ground. Somehow that broke through his paralysis. Clutching the sheet around himself, he ran after Methos, and made it to the boarding ramp before he hit a patch of ice and went down like a ton of bricks. His head hit the deck and he blacked out for a moment, only to come back to himself with a sensation of flying.

"Damn it, MacLeod! You need a keeper!"

He opened his eyes, flailing, just as he came into contact with a firm surface. After a moment he realized that Methos had just pulled him back from where he'd been about to slide off the ramp into the river. Methos lifted Duncan's head to inspect the point of impact.

Duncan winced and tried to pull away. "Ouch, that hurts!"

"I'm sure it does, but you'll live." Methos let him go, but carefully, easing his head back down.

"Of course I'll live, I'm an Immortal!" Duncan snapped, then fell silent, staring up at Methos, who stared back down at him.

Slowly one corner of the older Immortal's mouth began to turn up, and he shook his head. "Gods, we're quite a pair, aren't we? Which one's Laurel and which one's Hardy?"

Duncan chuckled, intense relief washing through him as he realized he'd been forgiven, without even having asked for it. "Methos, I'm sorry. I just didn't think."

"One of your many failings, MacLeod, but as they are legion I've given up trying to fix them all. Besides, I'm afraid I overreacted a bit myself."

"I really am sorry."

"So am I."

Duncan reached up and grabbed the strings that cinched the hood of Methos' sweatshirt, and pulled him down for a kiss. Methos gave it, then straightened. "Come on, it's freezing out here. You may be a masochist, but I'm not. Oh, bloody hell. . . ."

"What?" Duncan demanded, trying to follow the other man's gaze.

Methos nodded at a figure who stood, staring at them from the embankment. "I just hope to God that's not a Watcher, or I'm going to have a devil of a time explaining what I was doing here! Especially with you in a sheet, and me in bare feet, not to mention that kiss."

Duncan chuckled. "It would certainly spice up my chronicle, that's for sure."

"Trust me, MacLeod, it's spicy enough as it is," Methos said drily as he helped him to his feet. "However, I was more concerned with not losing my place in the Watchers than with enhancing your reputation as a Don Juan."

"Aren't you getting a little tired of playing the eternal graduate student anyway?"

Methos shrugged as he picked up his duffel. "Some days yes, some days no. I find it useful camouflage. Watch it there, you're going to give the lady an eyeful. . . or was that your intention?"

Duncan settled the sheet more securely around himself, feeling grateful that years of kilt-wearing had taught him how to move in a wrapped garment without giving the audience any more of a show than necessary. Besides, If there was a Watcher around, this whole incident could have been captured on film. The thought of his bare behind being pinned up on some Watcher's bulletin board, or worse yet, scanned in and posted to some website on the Internet was a bit disconcerting.

They made their way back inside the barge, and Methos set about lighting a fire in the fireplace while Duncan dressed. As he buttoned his jeans, he glanced at Methos who had sat down and was rubbing his feet.

"So, my chronicle's spicy?" he asked nosily. "Joe's never let me look at them. . . . well, except for one."

"Spicy compared to some, tame compared to others," Methos equivocated.

"Like whose?"

"Oh, I'd rather not say."

"Why not?"

"Because, I'd be giving away the source of all the romance novels I've been writing. You didn't really think that being a lowly researcher for the Watchers paid all the bills, did you?"

Duncan stared at him, not sure for a moment if he was joking or not. "You're not serious!"

Methos widened his eyes innocently. "Oh, but I am."

"But Methos, you can't do that!" Duncan exclaimed, aghast.

Methos shrugged. "Why not? What's the worst that could happen? Someone sue me for plagiarism?"

"Methos, those are people's lives!"

"So? They're all dead anyhow. Come on, MacLeod, you're as bad as Joe! I promise I won't write about you. . . anymore."

Duncan was about to give his friend a very large helping of his mind when he realized that this time he was joking. He wadded up his erstwhile toga and threw it at him. "Considering your long history, I'm surprised you're not writing about you."

Methos fielded the wet linen deftly. "Oh, I did that for awhile. Reincarnation novels were big in the sixties and early seventies. But I got bored with me."

"I know, I know. You're 'just a guy.'" Duncan said, remembering something Joe had told him.

Methos shrugged. "Well, I am."

Duncan snorted. "Weren't you going to make coffee?"

Methos tugged a nonexistent forelock. "Yes sir, I will, sir. After my feet are no longer in danger of frostbite, that is."

Duncan knelt in front of him and picked up one foot, placing the sole against his chest. Methos hadn't been kidding, his feet were ice-cold. He felt disoriented as he thought about what Methos had revealed to him. Seeing him as a boy, as a victim, he shuddered. "I don't understand how you can be so casual about what happened to you," he said as he chafed cold flesh between his hands.

Methos sighed. "Like I said, you can learn to find pleasure in just about anything, in order to keep from feeling pain. It's the same way with acceptance. You learn it because you have to."

Duncan shuddered, imagining what this man must have gone through in his life. It made him sick, especially after last night. "Methos, God. . . how could you let me?"

Methos pulled his foot away and leaned down to frame Duncan's face in his hands. "You did nothing that I didn't desire, Highlander. Feel no guilt, don't make it ugly. It was too beautiful to be ugly. Duncan, it's not the same! I know that, and you have to know it too! What we gave each other has nothing at all to do with what others might have taken from us by force."

Duncan took a deep breath and nodded, taking that into himself, accepting it, part of it, anyway. The nausea cleared. "Methos, what happened to me was nothing. I can't even believe I was complaining about it!"

Methos rolled his eyes with a sigh of disgust. "Damn it, Duncan, haven't you heard a word I've been saying to you?" I didn't tell you that to make you feel sorry for me! I did it so you would realize that I understand! Don't you get it? Degree doesn't matter! If you were coerced into having sex, it was rape. Period. The end."

"It wasn't even sex, really. . . not. . . ." he stopped, suddenly embarrassed. "It was just fooling around. You know. "

"It doesn't matter if it was a hand job, a blow job, or full out penetration, it was still sexual assault."

Duncan sighed, frustrated by his inability to make Methos understand. Methos looked just as frustrated. They sat in silence for a moment, then suddenly Methos looked up, his eyes narrowed.

"I know who it was."

"Who what was?"

"It was Voshin, wasn't it?"

"How did you know that?" Duncan asked, amazed.

"You said Russia, 1938, who else would it be?"

"Did you know him?"

"Not directly, but I know his patterns, and I just remembered what he did to you, the public version, anyway. You weren't the first or last to fall into his trap. It felt good, didn't it?"

"What?" Duncan gasped, rattled. He'd already admitted that, but it sounded so different on Methos' lips.

"Killing him. It felt good." Methos' eyes grew distant, and a chilling smile curved his mouth. "Revenge, and quickening, rolled into one. God, it was like coming, only a million times better. I'd never felt anything half as good."

It had taken only seconds for Duncan to realize that Methos wasn't talking about Alexei Voshin. He was talking about something else, something much farther in the past. His own past.

"For years, more than I could count, I kept looking for that, only to be disappointed. Finally, thank the Gods, I realized I never would find it, that I didn't want to find it, because it the only way to get it would be to put myself in the hands of someone like him, and let it happen all over again. What I felt was the power of hate. I never want to feel that again."

Duncan shivered, knowing exactly what Methos was talking about, not only from Voshin, but from much more recently. There had been elements of that same vengeful erotic madness in the Dark Quickening. No wonder Methos had understood, had known what to do. Duncan wanted to take his friend, his lover, into his arms and soothe away the horrific memory of that time, but Methos seemed too far away. It was as if all the millennia that separated their births had built an impenetrable wall between them. For all of Methos' assurances that it was behind him, Duncan knew that Methos' was suffering from more than the cold.

"Methos," Duncan said his name quietly, and with a depth of feeling that surprised him.

Methos started as if he'd been asleep, and went white as his eyes met Duncan's. "I just got lost, didn't I?"

Duncan nodded. "It's okay, it happens sometimes. It's not like I've never done it"

"I'm sorry."

Duncan shook his head, smiling. "Enough's enough, Methos! If we don't put a stop to this now, we're going to spend all day apologizing to each other!"

The twinkle was back suddenly. "Well, I can think of some good ways to make up."

Duncan stared at him, amazed at the transition. How did he manage it? From hell to heaven in three seconds. Zero to sixty in five had nothing on Methos.

"After you 'fooled around' as you put it, he wasn't satisfied, was he? He waited for you to fall asleep and tried to take you from behind." Methos asked, out of the blue. "That's why you reacted like you did."

The shock stole Duncan's breath. When he finally recovered it, he swore. "Damn it, Methos! Can you read my mind? You can't tell me you read that in my chronicle! There was no Watcher there!"

Methos shook his head. "I'm not reading your mind. Just human. . . or should I say Immortal, nature."

Duncan suddenly became aware that Methos was shivering almost uncontrollably. Concerned, he pulled him to his feet. "Get back in bed, you're half frozen. I'll make the coffee."

"What, no beer?" Methos joked as he headed for the bed.

"I'll put a shot of brandy in the coffee," Duncan said, rolling his eyes. "Have you ever considered joining one of those twelve-step groups?"

"I don't need a twelve-step group. In fact, I don't need beer, or brandy, or coffee either."

Duncan stopped on his way to the kitchen and looked back at Methos. His back was turned as he stripped off his clothes, then he sat down and started to slide under the covers. As he did, he looked up at Duncan in a quick, almost shy motion. What Duncan saw on his friend's face went straight to his gut like a sword thrust. He knew what he needed, and it had nothing to do with food. He didn't hesitate. He was in the bed in seconds, reaching to hold Methos, to try to still the shivers that racked him, to give him his own warmth. As he cradled the long, lean form against him, he let his fingers stroke soothingly across his face. When the shudders began to ease, he spoke.

"You were upset that I had never talked to anyone about what happened, but you haven't either, have you?"

Methos shook his head. "Who could I tell?" he whispered. "Who would have believed me?"

"I would, tell me."

Methos ducked his head closer into the hollow of Duncan's shoulder. "Not now, I can't right now. Maybe sometime when I'm not such a wreck."

Duncan nodded, knowing that need. "I'll be there, just let me know."

Methos sighed, and settled in closer, burrowing in search of the heat Duncan radiated. "You know, you're the only person I've ever met who really means that when they say it."

"I always mean what I say," Duncan said, not really grasping his implication.

Methos pulled back a little to look at his face, and he shook his head in apparent incredulity. "I know, and what amazes me is that you don't have the slightest idea how rare that is!" He was quiet for a moment, then he spoke again. "I still want to get through this with you, Duncan. I want you to tell me what happened. Can you?"

Duncan thought about it for a moment, and finally sighed. "I guess so. It just seems so damned insignificant. I needed help, Alexei was in a position to supply it. His price for helping me was sex. It seemed like a pretty trivial price to pay for saving so many lives, so I agreed-- with some reservations. I did make it clear that there were some things I wouldn't do."

He stopped talking for a moment, trying to remember the exact actions and emotions that night had held, and a sudden understanding came to him. "You know, it wasn't so much the sex that was the problem. If it had just been fucking, I could have handled it. Hell, I've been paid for my services before, it's not that big a deal. But that wasn't it at all. He didn't just want to have me, he wanted to own me, to control me. Worse, he really thought I would want him, when all I wanted was to be out of there. He treated me like a thing, instead of like a person, and honestly thought I would enjoy it! It was. . . ." Duncan closed his eyes, controlled his rising nausea, and groped for a lighter ending. "Well, let's just say that I certainly held different views about the lot of women from that night on."

"Earlier, when I guessed about Voshin, you asked if I'd read your mind. He did try to go past your boundaries, didn't he?"

Duncan nodded. "Exactly like you said. Fortunately he hadn't expected me to put up a fight, and I was stronger than he was. When he met me at the docks later, I thought he must have blown it off and decided to help me anyway. After all, he did know the rules going in, and I thought he must have been embarrassed to have tried to break them."

With a humorless laugh, Duncan shook his head. "Talk about projection! I still thought everyone had a sense of honor, even though I'd had the opposite lesson beaten into me a hundred times already. For a few moments I thought it would be all right, but as soon as he kissed me I knew. Like the kiss of Judas, he betrayed me with it, and there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it. That was the worst thing, Methos. Those people died because of me. Because I was too damned selfish to just give him what he wanted."

Methos sighed deeply. "Duncan, have you ever heard of blaming the victim?"

"Of course, but I wasn't. . . ."

"Oh yes you were. Absolutely."

"Those people were the victims, Methos! They trusted me, and I betrayed them!"

Methos stared directly into his eyes. "No, they trusted you and you did your damnedest to try to help them!" Every word was precise, bitten off. "You did everything, right down to sacrificing your own integrity and selling your body! Voshin betrayed them! Not you!"

"If I had just done what he asked. . . ."

"If you had just done what he asked, the outcome would have been the same. Voshin didn't care about them, he just used them to get what he wanted from you!"

"You can't know that!" Duncan said, desperately trying to hold onto his certainty. "How do you know that he wouldn't just have let them go?"

"Because it wasn't in his nature. He would have killed them anyway, just to see the look on your face."

Duncan closed his eyes and turned away, unable to accept Methos' words.

Methos swore softly, and muttered something under his breath. "Duncan, do you remember Loren Gale?"

Duncan racked his brains. The name sounded vaguely familiar, yet didn't stir enough of a memory for him to place it. Finally shook his head. "No, should I?"

"Not really, I don't think you ever met."

Duncan waited, puzzled, but sure that there was some reason why Methos would have brought her up. Finally his patience was rewarded.

"She was Joe's lady. Durgan killed her."

That was it! The connection was made instantly. "Yes, I remember now. What about her?"

"Joe stood outside her door and watched her die."

Duncan flinched from that image, but was still perplexed. "And. . . ?"

"How do you think he felt?"

"Helpless, angry, and afraid." Duncan didn't have to imagine. He remembered.

"And maybe guilty?" Methos prompted.

"It wasn't his fault!" Duncan said, leaping to Joe's defense. "Besides, even if he had been able to break through the door in time, Durgan would just have killed him too!"

"Exactly," Methos said, sounding smug.

Duncan refrained from smacking Methos a good one, and lay there silently, trying hard not to absorb what he'd just said. Several minutes passed without either of them speaking, then Methos finally broke the silence.

"Duncan?" He sounded like a kid trying to wheedle an ice cream cone out of an adult.

"What?" Duncan snapped irritably, not wanting to hear any more on the subject at the moment.

"I'm cold."

Despite himself, he felt a grin trying to form. Methos was almost as good at pseudo-petulance as Amanda. "What, still?"

"Mmmhmm."

He feigned a deep sigh. "I suppose you expect me to do something about it."

"It's only fair, since it's your fault."

"My fault!" Duncan exclaimed, wondering what happened to "we."

"Isn't everything your fault?" Methos said with perfect innocence. "Acid rain, global warming, the last election, Middle-Eastern terrorism, war in Eastern Europe, you name it. All Duncan MacLeod's fault."

Duncan could feel something building inside him. . . he wasn't too sure if it was rage or amusement, or maybe a bizarre combination of both. "That's enough, Methos."

"I don't think so. What else can we blame on you? Inflation? British cooking?"

"Methos. . . ." he said warningly.

"High cholesterol, bell-bottoms, platform shoes. . . ."

"Methos!" Amusement was beginning to get the upper hand.

". . . .leisure suits, day-timers, the stock-market. . . ."

"Enough!" Duncan roared, trying desperately not to giggle. It would ruin his image. "You've made your point!"

Methos peered at him. "Have I?"

"Yes."

"It's about time. God, you are one stubborn Scot, Highlander!"

"I am, aren't I?"

"You don't have to sound so bloody proud of it! It's a serious character flaw."

"And you wouldn't have me any other way."

Methos looked thoughtful. "Well, just a touch less might be nice, but you're right, I wouldn't want it to go away completely. If you weren't stubborn you wouldn't get yourself into scrapes you need my help to get out of, and then what would I do for entertainment?"

Duncan grinned. "I can think of a few things."

Methos grinned back, but suddenly his grin faded. "Duncan, I don't ever want to remind you of Alexei."

"God, what a thing to say! You don't, not at all, not in any way."

"And you'll let me know if anything I do bothers you?"

Duncan reached over and touched his face lightly. "Nothing you could do would bother me, Methos. This is different."

Methos sagged a little against the bed, closed his eyes and let his breath out in a long, soft whistle. "Thank God."

"No, thank you."

Methos smiled, but didn't open his eyes. "Well, I know I'm good but don't you think calling me 'god' might be seen as a bit presumptuous?"

Duncan wondered if killing Methos for that would be considered justifiable homicide, and decided against it. After all, he'd just come back and be as insufferable as ever. Perhaps playing along was a better solution.

"Actually, before I assign you godhood, I'd like to see you prove it."

His riposte was met with silence, and startled, he had to look to see why. Methos was staring at him with a speculative look on his face. A slow, sensual smile began to form, and Duncan wondered what he was thinking. He didn't have to wait long for the answer.

"It's been a very long time since I was given that title, but I do remember how I earned it, and it was only partially due to someone having seen me take a Quickening. Care for a demonstration?"

"Ah. . . what exactly does it involve?"

"Don't worry, you'll survive."

"Yeah, but will I enjoy it?" Duncan asked, only mostly joking.

"Oh, yes. I'll make sure of that." Methos' words were a silky promise.

Duncan had no problem believing that at some point in the past, Methos might have been regarded as a god. Probably a lot of Immortals had been considered such. However, there were an awful lot of potential candidates for Methos to have been an avatar of. With any luck, whichever one it was had been one of the nice ones, few though they were. It wouldn't hurt to ask. "Would you mind telling me just what they called you?"

He smiled. "I had many names."

"Any that I would recognize?"

"Probably. "

"Did any of them happen to have 'The Destroyer' as part of the title?"

Methos laughed out loud, a fairly rare occurrence. "Not a single one. Relax, Duncan. You know I would never hurt you."

Duncan did know that. Even under the most extreme provocation, Methos had never hurt him, though he had scared the hell out of him a couple of times. He nodded to let Methos know that he agreed, and was rewarded by a smile as the other man rolled away and sat up.

"Is there anything at all you don't want me to do, any touch, any place, any action, anything you have even the slightest doubt about? This won't work unless you trust me, completely."

Duncan shook his head.

"I need to hear the words, Duncan," Methos said gravely.

Duncan realized why he needed that, and thought it over carefully before replying. "I trust you. There's nothing you can do that I wouldn't accept."

The look of relief on Methos face was shattering. Without a word, he reached down and began to unfasten Duncan's jeans, his movements deft and surprisingly non-erotic. Duncan lifted his hips so he could slide them off, then lay back. Methos got up, walked into the bathroom, and returned a few moments later with a towel-wrapped bundle under his arm. He spread the towel on the bed and gestured toward it.

"Turn over, on that. Just lie there, as relaxed as you can be, as comfortable as possible. let your mind go blank. You might even try to sleep, if you can."

Duncan complied as well as he could, still wondering what Methos was up to. A dozen possibilities crossed his mind, all of them new to him, and all of them as arousing as hell. He pillowed his face on his arm, and tried not to think of anything. He heard Methos moving around a bit, then after a dozen breaths, Duncan felt him settle onto the bed. For several long moments he waited in tense anticipation. Nothing happened. He glanced back over his shoulder, and saw his friend sitting cross-legged, his hands resting on his knees, cupped upward, his eyes closed. His lips were moving silently as if he chanted some inaudible mantra. With a little surprise, Duncan realized his pose was indeed a yogic one. Interesting. He put his head back down on his arm, and settled in to wait.

Some time later, he wasn't sure how long, he came slowly up from a light doze to feel the warmth of a hand against his lower back, a flat, gentle pressure just at the tailbone. The touch was so light as to almost be nonexistent, yet the warmth that hand radiated was astonishing. Gradually, the sensation became more of a tingle. No, not a tingle. He had no words for it. He felt as if he were being filled with light. Glowing golden threads were sliding into his skin, penetrating deep into his body, seeking out something-- something-- what? They didn't hurt, in fact, the sensation was so far from pain as to be ecstatic.

Duncan's whole body felt incredibly warm, though he knew the air in the barge was chilly. A bead of sweat slid down his side, leaving a trail of coolness behind it. Another. It tickled. He suddenly wanted to laugh, but didn't dare move for fear of interrupting the experience. Instead, he held the laughter inside himself, and somehow it wove itself through the golden threads, sparkling iridescent and silver. He was sure if he opened his eyes, his skin would be glowing from the inside, but part of him was afraid to look. The threads became roots spreading throughout his body, and a vine that ran along his spine. It was the strangest sensation he'd ever felt.

Methos moved his hand a few inches higher, and then he felt lips against the base of his spine. Somewhere inside him, directly below that kiss, it seemed that a flower of scarlet fire bloomed. Duncan was instantly erect, achingly aroused. Scents were suddenly more acute, he could smell the fire in the fireplace across the room, the open bag of coffee on the counter, the subtle complexity of Methos, and his own excitement. Where Methos' hand rested, a new sensation unfurled, brilliant, acidic, and confusing. Methos' hand again moved upward a few inches so his lips could touch the spot where his hand had been. Duncan's mouth flooded with tastes. He could actually taste the scent of the coffee he'd smelled moments earlier, and the subtle tang of woodsmoke in the air. He remembered the sea-bitter flavor of Methos' surrender as if it were fresh on his tongue.

Touch-then-kiss became a pattern, moving higher each time. When the touch centered above his waist Duncan found his eyes opening to a world of intense colors, as if everything were highlighted by brilliant golden sunlight, though he knew the day was overcast and the room dim. As the center of his back was marked with a kiss, his body exploded with perception, every nerve ending excruciatingly sensitized. The intensity was almost painful until the touch moved to the back of his neck. He had begun to expect some change with each shift of Methos' hand, so this time he wasn't surprised when he realized he could hear the subtle creak of the barge as it rode the moving water, the sound of Methos' breathing and heartbeat, steady and utterly even, though his own heartbeat was like thunder in his ears.

The next caress nearly undid him. As Methos hand moved to the top of his head and his lips settled against the base of his skull, he was suddenly filled with such a sense of loneliness and aching need that it literally, physically hurt. He felt tears burning on his face, heard them slide down his skin, tasted them on his lips, even smelled the salt in them, yet strangely it seemed only to increase his arousal. Finally, Methos' hand lifted and his lips touched the crown of his head, an incredible wave of connection and love swept through him.

The sense of melding was at once painful and ecstatic. On a purely physical level he felt Methos stroking between his buttocks, fingers slick with some kind of lubricant. It never even occurred to him to object. A finger slid inside, and he moaned at the unfamiliar sensation, and the delight. He waited, breathless and needy, as Methos simultaneously prepared and pleasured him, then to his dismay the fingers were withdrawn. Before he could object, another pressure began. He had no thought other than surrender as he was gently but irresistably invaded. In his ear he heard Methos voice, the barest whisper;

"We are one."

The words sent him hurtling over the edge of control and into the abyss of desire. He knew he was sobbing, panting, his body filled and overflowing with pleasure; streaming light and liquid, and it didn't matter at all. He felt cocooned, surrounded, engulfed and pervaded; his sense of self nearly lost in the entirely new being he had just become.


Hold on, hold on. . . Methos thought, desperately trying not to follow Duncan's lead. There was so much more possible if he could just stay in control, but the temptation was overwhelming as he felt Duncan come in his arms. It had been too long since he'd practiced any kind of discipline in sex. For that matter, it had been too long since he'd had sex, period. Alexa had been too fragile for much of anything, though she had loved to have him hold her. Between the extended abstinence and the intensity of what he had just given, he couldn't help himself. As Duncan peaked, so did he.

It was as good as he'd remembered, no, better. There was so much more pleasure when love was involved. For so long now, it seemed that for him love and sex were completely divorced from each other. He could have one, or the other, not both. But not anymore. Gradually the tremors slowed, then ceased, and his breathing slowed to something like a normal level. Finally Duncan took a deep breath and let it out in a shuddering sigh. Methos tensed, filled with the almost overpowering fear that as soon as Duncan was fully cognizant, he would start to fight.

He didn't. Methos could feel it the moment full realization came, because a single shiver went through the body beneath his. But Duncan didn't fight. He didn't even really tense up. Methos waited for him to speak, and when he didn't, he got concerned.

"Are you all right?" he asked softly.

Duncan shivered again, and Methos was so close he could hear him swallow. "Fine," he finally said. "I'm fine."

Methos wasn't convinced. A sudden sinking feeling made him withdraw, though he took care to do it gently. Usually there were two points at which pain could outweigh pleasure. He'd passed the first easily, this was the second. To his relief, Duncan didn't flinch as their bodies separated, but as he started to sit up, Duncan turned and caught his hand.

"No, don't. Stay here, just give me a minute, things are still kind of wild. What the hell did you just do to me?"

Methos felt suddenly insecure. "I'm sorry! I just wanted to give you something to replace your fear. I didn't mean to hurt. . . ."

"Methos." Duncan cut his babbling off firmly but gently.

"What?"

"It was incredible."

He sounded almost awestruck. Pleasure replaced insecurity instantly. "Oh. Good."

"You could say that. What about you?"

"No less."

Duncan smiled wryly. "Give me a break, Methos. I don't know anything like that. It can't possibly have been as good for you."

Methos shook his head. "No, you're wrong. To give what I gave, I had to be in the same state at each step. We were one, in all ways."

Duncan absorbed that, and nodded. After a little bit, he spoke again. "Are you going to tell me what that was?"

"Just a little something I picked up in the East. A bit like tantric yoga, a bit like shiatsu."

Duncan snorted. "Methos, I've done yoga, and I've had shiatsu. That was neither."

"True, it's much older than either, but elements of it survive in both disciplines."

Duncan lifted a hand and stared at it, eyes still slightly dilated. "Things are still. . . different, more intense. How long does it last?"

"It depends on the individual. With practice it can stay with you for days."

"With practice? I can't imagine doing that again, it would kill me!"

"So?" Methos asked in amusement. "What's the problem?"

Duncan chuckled, shaking his head. "Okay, you've earned it." His voice was warm with amusement, and something else. "What exactly would you like me to call you? 'God' seems kind of impersonal."

For a moment Methos was completely blank, unable to figure out what the hell Duncan was talking about. Finally it came to him, exactly what had made him attempt something that he hadn't done in centuries. That challenge. He grinned. "The first name they used would mean nothing to you, but much later he became Dionysus. I'd rather you just call me Methos, though. I like the way you say it."

There was a short silence, then Duncan shook his head, laughing again. "Dionysus? No wonder you have a thing about alcohol!"

Enjoying Duncan's amusement, Methos risked more dignity for his sense of humor. "So, I suppose I shouldn't tell you the other god I was occasionally called upon to impersonate?"

"Oh, this should be good. Who was it?"

"Are you up on your mythology?"

"Just tell me!"

"All right, all right! Don't get your knickers in a twist! It was Hymen."

Duncan's gaze went distant as he mentally reviewed a list of classical deities. Methos knew the minute he made the connection, because his eyes widened, then his grin did as well. Seconds later he was laughing full-out, no stops, clutching the towel against his stomach as he attempted to remember how to breathe. Methos had expected that reaction, so he just waited patiently for the younger man to get himself under control. Finally he managed it, and he held up his hands, fingers forming a small rectangle in the air.

'"I'm going to have business cards made up for you. 'Methos the Immortal, aka Dionysus, offering Drunken Revelling and Debauchery, aka Hymen, God of the Marriage Bed, specializing in Defloration of Virgins.'"

Methos pretended to polish his nails on his chest. "Well, I am rather good at it."

"Oh, and modest too!"

He shrugged. "Who needs modesty when you have talent?"

"Well, I suppose there's no arguing that, you certainly did well with me. But wait a minute. . . last night you told me that playing god wasn't your thing."

"Well, it all depends on the god," Methos temporized. "The one you were asking about wasn't any fun. Those virgins stay virgins."

"Good point." Duncan allowed, grinning.

There was a moment of quiet, and Methos found himself wondering if this could possibly last. Could they stay this comfortable with each other, or would their respective pasts eventually come back to haunt them? He'd never had a relationship like this with another Immortal. The affairs he had indulged with other Immortals had been just that, affairs. All his true lovers had been mortals, like Alexa. Oddly, it didn't hurt so much to think of her now. The abyss of despair seemed to be closing, at last. Duncan, or rather, Sean, had been right. There was something healing about loving again after loss.

It certainly leant an interesting undercurrent to things, knowing that this lover might outlive him. After centuries of always being the one left behind, it was a strange feeling to realize that the tables could turn at any time.

"You know, I just realized something," Duncan said quietly, his voice very serious.

"What?"

"I didn't think about Alexei, not once. In fact, I didn't think of anyone else, not even Tessa, or Little Deer. It was just you, and me, and for a few moments not even that. It was like there was something, no, someone else, someone that was both of us."

Methos smiled. "That is the point of the ritual. To become one."

"I don't know how you can do that, open yourself up like that to just anyone."

Methos studied him for a moment, eyes narrowed slightly as he thought about how to respond without showing just how much that had hurt. Finally he lifted his eyebrows. "What makes you think I would do that with just anyone?"

"I. . . ." Duncan stopped. "I guess I just figured if you could do that, you would."

Methos shook his head. "Duncan, what I did was a sacrament. I've done it only a few times in my life. The first time with the master who taught it to me, after that only as part of a ritual, until you. I would have shared it with Alexa if she had been stronger, but I knew she. . . ." he closed his eyes, suddenly grief-stricken again.

Duncan looked shaken. "Methos, I'm sorry."

The words were like a balm, soothing the hurt. "It's all right."

"No, it's not! I've been trying to make things better, to help you through this like I wanted someone to help me get over Tessa, and instead I just stir up even more painful memories, and I hurt you."

"Memories are a hazard of our existence, Duncan. As for hurting me, it was only a little. Besides. . . sometimes, with some people, even pain is pleasure."

Duncan flinched. "Don't say that!"

"It's true."

"I don't want to hear it."

"Why?"

Duncan turned onto his back and stared at the ceiling, his face set and hard. "You've seen the monster I can become and you have to ask that? I'm still not sure what kept me from hurting you before. I wanted to, badly. You wouldn't believe the things I wanted to do to you, just because you were trying to help me!"

"Oh, I do know. Remember, I've been where you were. I was that lost once, and I didn't have anyone to show me the way back. It took far longer, and with far more cost. You've known some of the worst of our kind, but believe me I have no less blood on my hands. I've done things I should have been damned for, things I can't even bear to think about now." Waiting for a reaction, he saw disbelief on his lover's face and shook his head.

"I am not lying to you," he said urgently. "You wanted to know why I got involved with Alexa, even though I knew she was dying? She was special, the kind of special we find so rarely in our lives, and I loved her, and that would have been enough, but even more than that, she was good. I need that, I need goodness around me to remind me what it is, and to remind me how to be it. I needed her honesty to pull me out of all my lies. You've asked me why I don't talk about my past. Frankly, it's because I'm ashamed of so many things. Not because of what was done to me, those are things I've learned to deal with. What I'm ashamed of are the things I did myself."

Duncan reached over and pulled him close, hugging him fiercely. "Methos, who you were doesn't matter. Who you are now is what matters."

Methos tried to squirm out of his embrace, almost fighting to get free, suddenly panic-stricken by the thought that somehow that person he had once been might return. "That's just it! Sometimes. . . sometimes I'm not sure who I am anymore! I've been so many people that it blurs. I have nightmares sometimes. I'm wandering through a city as it changes year by year, asking the empty buildings 'Who am I?'"

MacLeod rolled over on top of him, holding him with his weight. "Stop fighting me, I'm trying to help!"

Methos fought harder, panting a little, and Duncan had to let him go before he hurt him. Methos lay back with a strange expression on his face, but not fighting any more.

"That's better," Duncan said. "Who are you? Whoever you are at this moment is who you are. You may be different twenty seconds later, but that person is you too. You're like a phoenix, dying each moment, and being reborn from your own ashes. Methos, this is something everyone has to deal with, mortal or immortal. It's the most basic question of our lives."

Methos put his hands over his face, hiding behind them. "Most people don't have five thousand years of personality changes to deal with."

Duncan chuckled. "True. But a god should be able to deal with something that trivial, right?"

Despite himself, Methos laughed, then resented it. "Don't try to cheer me up!" he snapped.

"Why? You like being miserable? Brooding is my forte, not yours."

That made him laugh again, as well as posing a good question. He thought about it, and decided he'd been stupid enough for one day.

"It take it back. Make me laugh whenever you feel like it." His shoulders ached where Mac had pinned him down, and he reached to rub the rising bruises with a little wince. Duncan touched one apologetically.

"Sorry, but you were the one who said pain was pleasure."

Methos shot him a dirty look. "I didn't mean it literally."

"Yes you did. And that's the other reason I didn't want to hear it. You told me that 'after awhile, you learn to enjoy it, because it's better than the fear.' That's what bothered me. I never want that to happen between us."

"It won't." Methos said with absolute certainty.

"I know that, I just wanted to make sure you did." Duncan sighed, and stretched. "I don't know about you, but I think that's about all the tough emotional issues I can deal with in one day. Shower?"

He sat up, and Methos followed suit, shaking his head. "What was it Amanda said that one time? 'Women have PMS once a month, men have it every twenty minutes?' Sometimes I think she might be right."

Duncan looked offended. "Speak for yourself!"

Methos grinned. "I was."

He stood up and headed for the bathroom. "Coming?"

Duncan nodded, following. "So, were you any other gods I should know about?"

Methos chuckled. "That information is given on a need-to-know basis only."

Duncan laughed, leaning against the wall as Methos started the shower and adjusted the temperature. He seemed to be studying him thoughtfully. "You know, you're not bad looking, for 'just a guy.'"

Methos lifted his head. "Gee, thanks, MacLeod." he said acerbically.

Duncan winked and shook his head. "After all this time I'd have thought you would have learned how to take a compliment."

"Is that what that was? I'll remember that next time."

"Do."

"Oh, and MacLeod?"

"What?"

"Do not, under any circumstances, tell Amanda anything about what we just did."

Duncan laughed, and drew an X on his chest with a finger. "Cross my heart, you have my word of honor. I wouldn't have anyway. I'm not very good at sharing."

Methos grinned, and held open the shower curtain. "Get in there, and hand me the soap."


They remade the bed after their shower, then crawled back in it, just loafing. Methos sighed and lay back, punching a pillow into a more comfortable shape behind his head. "I must be out of my mind."

"Why?" Duncan asked, only moderately curious. He knew better than most that Immortals had at least one reason to say such things.

"Do you really have to ask? God, I've gone centuries without letting anyone close, and now here I am getting involved again. First Alexa, now you. I've lost it. I'm getting senile or something."

Duncan smiled. "Methos, Immortals don't get senile."

"How do you know? Maybe we do, and it makes us easy prey so before too long we lose our heads?"

Duncan rolled over and eyed him curiously. "Given this a lot of thought, have you?"

"Some." Methos admitted. "When you're as old as I am, you sometimes wonder if there's not an upper threshold. You know, kind of like a computer-- there's only so much disk space, and once that's used up, you have to start deleting files or the machine is useless."

Duncan shook his head, laughing. "So what does a quickening do, reformat our hard-drives? Come on, Methos, I don't think wanting to be close to someone is a sign of mental deterioration."

"Considering how it usually ends up, I think I do."

"And how does it usually end up?"

"With someone dead."

Apparently he was determined to be depressed. Duncan reached over to turn Methos face toward him so he could look him in the eyes. "I know this is going to sound cliche, but death is part of living. You can't keep it away by keeping people away."

Methos closed his eyes, shuttering his gaze from Duncan's. "I know, damn it, I know."

"Then stop being maudlin." Duncan studied him, waiting for him to open his eyes so he could see his true feelings in their clear olivine depths. Methos didn't oblige him. Duncan propped himself on his elbows and studied the fair, angular face opposite him. What had Methos seen, and done, in his five millennia? Once again he found himself wondering what possible interest Duncan could hold for him, what drew someone with such vast experience? He had nothing to offer, nothing to teach, nothing to give, except what he'd already given. Hopefully that was enough. The question got him thinking, though, and curiosity got the better of him.

"Methos?"

"Hmmm?"

"Is there anything you haven't done?"

That got a laugh, and he opened his eyes. "In what context?"

Duncan grinned. "What context do you think I'd be asking about while we're lounging around in bed?"

"I thought that might be what you meant. Not much. To be honest, I'm not really sure, but I suspect there are very few things I haven't done."

Duncan sighed. "I was afraid of that."

"What do you mean?"

"I guess I'm just not used to being the less experienced one."

"Be glad of it." Methos said flatly, then at Duncan's curious look, he elaborated. "There are a lot of things I've experienced that I wish I hadn't. It's too bad we can't just hibernate."

"We can."

Methos looked at him sharply. "What?"

"I met a woman who was close to your age once. She'd been in a mummy case since the time of Cleopatra. Her name was Nefertiri."

Methos looked at him as if trying to judge his sincerity. "That must be in one of your more recent chronicles. When was this?"

"Just a couple of years ago. I sensed her inside the sarcophagus and got her out."

Methos shuddered. "She'd been in a bloody box all those centuries? I'd've gone stark raving mad. Well, actually, I probably wouldn't. They suck your brains out through your nose when they put you in one of those things, so she might not have had much to go mad with!"

Duncan rolled his eyes. "Well, she certainly had all her brains, though your first guess wasn't far off," Duncan said ruefully. "Even if I didn't realize it at first."

"Nefertiri. . . Nefertiri. . . ." Methos turned the name over with his voice as if examining it. Suddenly his eyes widened and he snapped his fingers. "She was with Marcus!"

"You know Marcus?"

"Of course! We had many a campaign together, he and I, and I remember the little Egyptian bitch, too. She seduced him, then tried to gut him. She's still around?"

Duncan shook his head slowly. "No. She's not."

Methos nodded. "Marcus had to take care of her? Probably just as well. Gorgeous, but one of the most vicious people I've ever met. Reminded me a lot of Sunna."

"Who's Sunna?"

Methos shuddered, and an odd, closed-off look came over his face. "Never mind. So Marcus killed her?"

"No." Duncan said flatly. "I did."

That got his attention. He stared, stunned. "You? You killed her?"

Duncan nodded tersely, his jaw set.

"You killed a woman?" Methos said again, incredulously.

"She gave me no choice."

Methos narrowed his eyes. "You must not have slept with her."

"Oh, yes, I did."

"And you took her head?"

"Cut it out, Methos," Duncan said warningly.

"No, I want to understand this. You killed Nefertiri, but you couldn't kill Kristen? I don't get it. I just don't get it. I thought I understood you but I guess I didn't. I didn't think you could kill anyone you'd fucked. Guess I'd better watch my head," Methos said jokingly.

Thoughts of Nefertiri, Alexei, and Brian flashed through Duncan's mind. Three people he'd had sex with, three people he'd killed. Each one of them more difficult than the last. Methos' jest was too much. He lunged, pinning Methos beneath him, holding his wrists against the bed. "Don't even joke about that!"

Beneath him, Methos struggled wildly. It took Duncan several seconds to realize that the fury and terror in his eyes wasn't faked, but was very, very real. As soon as that realization hit, Duncan released him. Methos rolled away to curl up in an almost fetal position, one hand shielding his face as he struggled to bring his breathing under control.

"Methos?" Duncan asked cautiously. "You okay?"

The older Immortal nodded, drawing a deep, shaky breath. "Fine."

"No, you're not fine." Duncan paused a moment, noting the tremors that shook Methos' lean frame. "My God, are you afraid of me?"

"No!" Methos exclaimed, looking at Duncan finally. "Not you."

"What then?"

Methos sat up and pulled the comforter around himself. "I don't like being restrained."

Duncan absorbed that, and tried to put it together with what he knew of Methos, and got an answer that made him sick. "That's how you died, wasn't it. The first time?"

A long pause, followed by a sharp, jerky nod.

"I'm sorry." Duncan said, smoothing a hand over Methos hair. "I didn't know."

"You couldn't have." Methos shuddered again, and drew the blanket tighter. "I know it's stupid, I should be over it by now. I mean, this is pretty ridiculous-- how long does it take? But I'm not. I can't stand to be under any kind of restraint."

"It doesn't sound stupid to me." He paused a moment, feeling awkward. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No, I don't."

Methos was quiet then, and Duncan didn't pry. He would talk when it was time. He moved over to sit where he could hold Methos, just communicating his support with his body. After a long silence, Methos spoke again.

"It wasn't just the first time. Or the first couple of times."

"What?" Duncan didn't understand. . . or perhaps didn't want to understand. Something nagged at him, trying to catch his attention.

"You'll hate me," Methos said bleakly.

"I won't hate you, Methos, I couldn't."

"You will. I'm a coward, I let him do it."

"You didn't let anyone do anything. I know you well enough to know that if something bad happened to you, it was because they had superior force. Please, tell me."

"I said it wasn't the first time, or even two. I don't even know how many times it was. I know it was four God-damned years, because I figured it out, a long, long time afterward. He was one of us, you see, and so he knew what I was long before I did. He knew that no matter what he did to me, I'd still be there for him to play with in the morning."

Duncan literally went cold. He had no illusions as to what Methos was saying. Whoever this man was, he'd killed him, over and over again, for four years. Apparently there had been some sort of sexual component to the torture as well. The idea that one of his kind could do that to another was almost beyond comprehension. His arms tightened around Methos, then he worried that he would interpret it as restraint. When there was no adverse reaction, Duncan almost sighed with relief.

"I was always a slave, but until him I'd been treated comparatively well. I knew what was expected of me, and it wasn't so bad, sometimes it was even enjoyable, Methos continued in a bizarrely conversational tone. "Unfortunately, as I got older and lost some of my boyish charm I was sold into field work. I'd been at that for about three years when Sunna sensed me and bought me. For a while he just played with me, games he made sure I would survive without. . . crossing over. I had no idea what I was. The stupid thing was that I didn't catch on even after he started killing me. I honestly thought he was responsible for bringing me back, and I worshipped him for it, even while I hated him for it. I thought he was at the least a magician, and possibly even a god!"

"That's not something to be ashamed of! How could you know any different?"

"I should have figured it out. I was a grown man, I should have been able to figure it out long before I did!"

"Don't be ridiculous, Methos! Why? What possible clues could you have had? The only information you had was what he gave you. You know what it's like for our kind! We have no idea that something like us actually exists until it happens, and even then it's hard to believe. You were deliberately misled!" He shook Methos a little in frustration. "Damn it, you tell me not to take responsibility for things that aren't my fault, and then you turn around and do the same thing?"

"All I had to do was have a little courage and I would have known sooner."

"And how do you figure that?"

"I finally found out by killing myself while he was away for several days. When I came back without his help, I knew it wasn't his doing, it was something about me. If I'd had the courage to take my own life earlier, I would have known."

Duncan made a sound of protest, but Methos went on, inexorably.

"I think I was a little insane already, and that realization put me fully over the edge."

Duncan knew that edge all too well. He now understood the full ramifications of the term "psychotic break."

"I don't remember a lot after that, not for a long time, except for killing him. That I remember." He laughed bitterly. "I didn't even know I had to take his head to really kill him. I found that out by accident. You probably don't want to know what I was doing."

Duncan could imagine. He knew what he wanted to do to the man, though he was thousands of years dead already, and it involved a degree of savagery he had only recently discovered himself capable of. Since the Dark Quickening, a smoky red haze still filled his mind when he was really angry. It took a tremendous effort of will to battle it down, and nothing he'd faced was as horrible as what Methos had gone through. He could feel it now, trying to slip out of all the hidden places in his mind to take over, to prompt him to battle-fury though he had nothing to fight.

"Methos, God. . . I know there's nothing I can do now, except tell you that I don't hate you. How could I? You managed to survive it not only sane, but a good person."

Methos shook his head and pushed Duncan away, crawling over to huddle against the headboard where Duncan couldn't easily reach him. "You don't know the things I've done. My next clear memory after killing Sunna is finding myself in a battle, or perhaps a slaughter would be a better word. I was in a small settlement, only a few buildings, huts really. There were bodies everywhere, men, women, even children. I stood over an old woman, she'd had only the grinding stone of a grain mill as a defense against the sword and dagger I carried.

"I've often wondered if she might have been an Immortal, and that her Quickening was what brought me to myself again, but I've never been sure. All I know is that I had taken her head, but then, I'd done that to most of the others too. I thought I must be part of an army, some attacking force, but finally I realized it was just me. Just me. I had done that. I had killed them all, even. . . ." his voice broke. "Even the little ones."

Duncan heard the soul-sickness in his voice, and wondered that he didn't feel it himself. Yet, for all the horror in the tale, the only thing he could think of was what Methos had told him in the aftermath of his recovery from the Dark Quickening. Over and over he had emphasized that the being of darkness had not been Duncan, not the real Duncan, but a separate personalty construct created by his mind as a response to the evil he'd absorbed. When Methos had taken Sunna's head, the other Immortal's evil had locked into all the awful things that had been done to him, and created a new being, someone as alien to Methos as that other Duncan had been to him. Alien, and yet, a part of him. There was no denying that, yet he'd kept it subdued for thousands of years, and he'd taught Duncan to do the same.

"Methos, that wasn't you," he said gently, laying a hand on Methos's shoulder, the only part of him not covered by the blanket.

"It was," Methos replied, his voice rough with sorrow.

"It wasn't you any more than the Duncan who tried to kill Richie, and beat up that man, raped his wife, and killed Sean was me. You taught me that yourself, and if you deny it, you deny me the only thing that's kept me going since then."

His words were met with silence. The silence lengthened, attenuated, became like a living thing between them, strands of silver webbing, waiting for something to become entangled in its sticky threads. Methos turned toward him, his eyes like night.

"Duncan. . . ." he said, but no more.

Duncan stared at him, willing him to see the truth, to understand, to accept.

Methos closed his eyes, swallowed, bit his lip. "I. . . ." he said, then stopped.

"It wasn't you." Duncan insisted again.

"It wasn. . . ." he couldn't finish.

"Wasn't you." Duncan finished for him. "It wasn't you. It wasn't the real you, not the Methos you created out of the ashes of the old. Why can't you see it's as true for you as it is for me?"

"To paraphrase an old saying, it's easier to give than to receive," Methos said finally. "I can forgive you much more easily than I can forgive myself."

"How long has it been since you did those things, or anything like that, for that matter? Was that the last time?"

Methos nodded.

"And that was, what. . . four thousand nine-hundred and some-odd years ago?"

The older Immortal nodded again.

Duncan sighed, frustrated, and leaned forward to frame Methos' face between his hands, their noses nearly touching as he spoke evenly, and carefully. "You don't need to forgive yourself Methos. It. Wasn't. You. Do you understand? If it was anyone, it was Sunna. It was your first Quickening, and what he'd already done to you would have driven anyone out of their mind. With those two things in combination. . . well, it's a wonder that you recovered at all!"

Methos glared at him. "Damn you, Duncan, do you have any idea how irritating it is to have you always be right?"

Duncan grinned. "Ha! So you admit it!"

Methos sighed. "I can admit it from now till doomsday, but that doesn't change how I feel about it."

"I know. Believe me, I know. What I did. . . ." he shook his head. "Well, suffice it to say I have as hard a time forgiving myself as you do. So we're both broken. I guess as the saying goes, it takes one to know one. How old were you?"

Methos blinked, looking puzzled. "When?"

"When Sunna bought you."

"Ah."

Methos' tone told Duncan he understood exactly what he was really asking. It wasn't an uncommon question for an Immortal. How old were you when you died the first time?

"I was twenty-three when he bought me. I think I'd been with him a few months when he. . . ." Methos swallowed. "When I became what we are."

Duncan was surprised. "Twenty three? You look older."

"Why, thank you." Methos smiled ironically. "But you're right, I do look older. I always did, at least from pretty early on. Part of it was growing up the way I did, part is having fair skin and living my mortal years long before sunscreen was invented. Other things probably contributed as well."

Other things. . . like being tortured, Duncan thought. That was long known to accelerate the aging process. He shuddered, wishing he could have been there to help, to kill Sunna and ease the hurt. He thought again of the panic in Methos' eyes as he'd held him down, and it was as if a light switched on in his head. Trust. They had talked so much about it. That was what he could offer.

"Methos, do you trust me?"

The question obviously took the other Immortal by surprise. He looked stunned, and it took him several seconds to reply. But when he finally did, the answer was a relief.

"With my life," he said, his voice quietly intense.

"Will you trust me with your fear as well?"

Methos studied him suspiciously. "What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said. Will you trust me with your fear?"

"I don't know, I don't understand."

Duncan nodded. "I know. Just a minute." He got out of bed and went over to his trunk. He dug around inside and came up with the long coil of narrow chamois thong which he normally used to bind the wrappings on his sword in place while travelling. He cut four lengths, and carrying them openly, returned to the bed.

"Will you trust me with your fear?" he asked again, and wrapped one of the cords around his own wrist.

Methos' eyes dilated until they were nearly all pupil, and his face went dead white. "I. . . can't."

"Why?"

"I'm afraid!"

"I know. Do you trust me?"

"You know I do!"

"Then trust me with this too."

"It's not you I don't trust, it's me! I don't think I could live with myself if I hurt you!"

"You won't hurt me. If you trust me, you won't hurt me, because there will be no need for it. I'd never hurt you."

Methos looked at the thongs. "Those wouldn't hold a cat, let alone me, MacLeod!"

Duncan grinned. "That's the point."

"Explain!"

Duncan shook his head. "Either you trust me or you don't."

He waited, watching the play of emotions across Methos' face. Some of what he saw there hurt, made him want to forget all about the stupid idea, but the thought of being able to really help was too seductive. He forced himself to be patient while Methos weighed fear against trust. Finally, trust won, but rather than replying aloud, he simply extended his wrists to Duncan like an offering .

"You don't have to lie there like some sacrificial virgin, Methos. We both know you're neither."

A scant curving of Methos' mouth told Duncan that the humor had worked, a little bit. He was still excruciatingly taut. Duncan took his hands and pressed them gently down against the pillows on either side of his head, then he lay one of the leather straps across each wrist, just letting them rest against his skin. That done, he nudged Methos' thighs apart with one knee, positioning him with his feet about two feet apart, and placed a strip of chamois across each ankle. Methos got tenser, his eyes tightly closed. Duncan soothed a hand down one flank and leaned over him, lips next to his ear.

"This might be easier if you paid attention to me instead of your memories."

Methos didn't respond, and Duncan sighed and sat up, wondering he was going to be able to pull this off. Four-thousand and some-odd years of conditioning was not going to be easy to change. Suddenly reminded of a joke, he grinned.

"How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light-bulb?" he asked.

Methos' eyes snapped open and he stared up at Duncan with an expression of utter disbelief. "What?"

Duncan repeated the question. "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light-bulb?"

Methos shook his head. "I have no idea."

Duncan leaned down again to whisper the answer. "Only one, but the light-bulb really has to want to change."

Methos chuckled wryly. "MacLeod, I'm not a light-bulb."

"That's right." Duncan drew out the words into a sing-song drawl. Carefully, he closed a hand around one wrist. "Is this too much?"

Methos drew a deep, shuddering breath. "No."

"Good." Duncan lifted his hand again. "Now, I want you to imagine that this. . . ." he tugged lightly at the thong, moving it against Methos' wrist, ". . . is tied to the headboard."

Instantly the relaxation his joke had induced was gone. Duncan shook his finger scoldingly. "Bad, Methos, bad. You're going to give yourself muscle cramps if you're not careful."

Methos laughed, a sound that was almost a sob. "I can't help it. Mac, what if the light-bulb doesn't think it can change?"

"The operative word is want, not think. Stop thinking." He waited a minute, observing, and saw no change. It wasn't going to work. There was too much trauma. With a sigh he reached over and picked up one of the thongs, giving up. Methos' hand shot out and he grabbed the trailing end of the one in Duncan's hand.

"Stop! Leave it, I want to try."

Duncan stared at him, gazing into his shadowed eyes. "Are you sure?"

Methos nodded. "I'm sure but, well, it's going to be a little. . . hard."

Duncan's sense of humor got the best of him, and his gaze flickered downward, checking. "Not at the moment, but hopefully soon."

Methos groaned. "A pun? Now?"

"Why not now? Laughter and loving should go hand in hand."

"I wasn't laughing, I was moaning."

"That works too." Duncan said, grinning. "I'll be right back, I'm going to go work on the atmosphere."

Hoping some distraction might make things easier, Duncan got up and put a stack of cd's in the player, grabbing almost at random. He saw several he didn't recognize, and assumed they must be Methos', since he'd objected to the amount of classical music in Duncan's collection. He put those on first and started the player. Silky instrumental jazz drifted from the speakers, evocative of dark corner tables and whiskey. Nice. He wondered if he could swipe it without Methos noticing. He spent a few moments in the kitchen assembling various goodies before he returned to the bed.

Methos was noticeably more relaxed. His eyes were half-closed, and in one hand he held the thong he'd taken from Duncan. He was trailing the end of it back and forth across his arm. Duncan thought that was a good sign. He set his plunder down next to the bed and decided to go for a more direct distraction. Leaning over, he put his lips against the pale, silky hollow of Methos' hip. Methos reacted, reaching for him.

"Ah-ah, no, remember you're tied up."

For a moment Methos looked confused, glancing from his hands back to Duncan. "I'm not. . . oh." Realization came. His gaze narrowed, his expression thoughtful. "I see."

"One step at a time," Duncan whispered, reaching for the thong displaced by Methos' movements. He pressed his hand back down to the pillow and lay the strand of leather across his wrist again. This time Methos didn't tense up as much as the last time. He tugged the bit of chamois from Methos' hand and repeated the procedure with his other arm.

"You can't move."

Methos nodded, silent, an odd, watchful expression on his face. Duncan reached down next to the bed and chose something at random from his assortment of goodies.

"Close your eyes," he instructed. Methos obeyed, and Duncan brushed the small candy across his lips. His nostrils flared and he automatically licked his lips.

"What is it?" Duncan asked him.

Methos smiled confidently. "Chocolate."

"And?"

The smile faded a bit. "And. . . what?"

"Exactly. Chocolate and what?" He held the candy close enough for Methos to smell it.

A slight frown creased the other Immortal's forehead as he struggled to identify it from its scent alone. "Orange?" he ventured finally.

"Bingo. A Grand Marnier truffle from Le Coq D'Or. Appropriate, no?" Duncan asked as he put the chocolate between Methos' lips. Once that distraction was in place, he lowered his head and fixed another kiss in the same spot he'd touched before. Once again Methos started to reach for him, but this time he stopped the movement before it really started, letting his arms settle back against the pillows, hardly disturbing the placement of the chamois strips. Duncan grinned, and swirled his tongue against the sensitive skin of Methos's abdomen. Methos choked momentarily on his confection, then managed to swallow it.

"You're not playing fair," he complained.

"I never said I would," Duncan said, lifting his head. A quick glance told him that nothing was stirring yet. He knew from experience that was unusual, and realized that despite his seeming acceptance, Methos had a long way to go. A few choice tidbits of food weren't going to be enough. He needed more. Mentally he ran through the contents of his liquor cabinet and smiled. That would work. He got up and padded across the room to the bar, and proceeded to fill an old-fashioned glass with Cointreau.

"I wish you wouldn't go away without telling me," Methos said quietly when he felt Duncan settle back on the bed.

Duncan knew this was something important, or he wouldn't have mentioned it. "I'm sorry, I thought maybe some alcohol might help." He indicated the glass he'd set on the bedstand, paused a moment, then pried. "Did he leave you alone?"

Methos nodded. "All the time. He'd tie me up and leave me, sometimes for days."

Duncan found his hands were clenched into fists, and he forced them open again. "I won't ever do that."

"I know, but I can't help remembering."

"No, you can't. I'll tell you next time, if there is a next time."

"I hate this." Methos said, out of the blue.

"I know you do," Duncan said, taking him seriously, and put a hand against his face to comfort him. Methos flinched from his touch.

"Damn him," Duncan swore quietly. "I wish I'd been there. I'd love to have killed him for you." He swept the make-believe bonds aside and took Methos in his arms. "That's it, I can't do this. I'm sorry I even tried."

Methos returned his embrace, face hidden in the tangle of Duncan's hair. After a moment, he muttered something.

"What?" Duncan prompted.

"Don't be sorry. I meant what I told you, I want this."

"I just can't. Not after seeing you react, and imagining what he did to you."

"If I could bear it then, I can bear this now. This is a thousand times easier."

Duncan laughed dryly. "You can bear it, but what if I can't?"

"You can. You know you can."

All of Duncan's instincts told him to refuse. "Methos, I'm afraid I'll end up doing more harm than good. "

"There's no more harm that can be done, believe me."

There was that. He couldn't argue the point. "Methos. . . ." he began.

Methos pushed away, glaring at him. "Shut up, MacLeod! Not one more word! You started this, now you finish it!" There was a touch of real anger in Methos' words.

Startled, Duncan stared at him. Anger was better than fear, though. He picked up one of the thongs from the bed and snared Methos' left wrist in its loop. Methos lay back, letting his hand fall back against the pillow, seemingly relaxed.

"That's better. It's easier when you don't look like you're posing for an effigy."

Methos colored a little. "Did I?"

"If you'd been any stiffer I'd have checked for a pulse."

"Sorry."

"Oh for God's sake, it's not like you could help it! Just try to remember, this is me, not him."

Methos gazed at him for a long moment, then nodded silently. Duncan wrapped the second thong around his other wrist, and then repositioned his feet. Methos was still slightly tense, but nothing like before.

"Close your eyes," he said again. When Methos complied, Duncan picked up the glass of Cointreau and dipped a finger in it, then traced it across his lover's lips. Automatically Methos licked the residue off, and made a startled 'mmm' of pleasure.

"Nice," he commented.

Duncan put a hand behind his head and lifted him up a little as he pressed the glass to his lips. Methos took a mouthful and swallowed it slowly, then at Duncan's prompting took a second. Only then did Duncan let him go. He'd get more down him in a few. Bit by bit, he'd get him drunk enough to relax completely.

"You're trying to get me intoxicated so you can take advantage of me, aren't you?" Methos asked amusedly.

Duncan chuckled. "Seen through my nefarious plot, have you?" he asked, pretending to twirl a nonexistent moustache.

"It wasn't difficult."

"Have some more then." Duncan held the glass for him to take another swallow.

After he drank it, he lay back with a sigh of pleasure, licking his lips. "Well, I suppose if one's going to be taken advantage of, it's best to have it done in style. Gourmet chocolates, expensive liqueurs-- you know Adam can't afford the good stuff, so it's been a long time. You know how to live well, MacLeod, it's nice to have a sugar daddy."

Duncan winced at the image. "Sugar daddy?" he echoed distastefully. "Tell you what. You be good and I'll forget you ever said that."

"Yes, sir."

"And don't call me that either!"

"Certainly, oh my mas. . . ."

Duncan shut him up in the most efficient manner he could think of. Methos' mouth tasted of orange, and fire and faintly of chocolate. He felt him start to reach for him, felt the lightest skimming of fingers against his hair, then sensed hands being lowered again to the bed. Methos' response didn't alter, though. His lips were as yielding and his tongue as welcoming as before. Duncan felt himself smile against Methos' mouth, a feeling of triumph surging through him. Maybe this would work. Just maybe. He lifted his head.

"I don't think I can keep myself from touching you," Methos said huskily.

"Sure you can. Just remember you're really tied up."

"But I know I'm not," Methos complained.

"Ever heard of suspension of disbelief? You have to try, or this won't work."

"There is another option." Methos said after a moment.

Duncan studied him narrowly. "That being?"

Methos moved his wrist deliberately toward the strut that braced the left side of the headboard. "Do it."

Duncan studied him. He seemed calm, his color was good, his breathing steady if a bit fast, and his eyes held Duncan's without fear. Slowly, Duncan reached for the dangling ends of the thong and slowly fastened them around the strut, feeling fumble-fingered as he tried to sense the slightest adverse reaction from Methos. None came. He finally finished and sat back. Methos gave an experimental tug, not hard, and nodded, then positioned his other wrist. Duncan tied that one in place as well. When he finished, Methos was noticeably paler. Duncan drew his fingers down Methos' cheek comfortingly.

"If you need to be free, just say it, or just break them."

Methos nodded, his gaze incredibly focused. "Do the rest."

"It's not necessary."

"It is."

Duncan hesitated, but Methos seemed determined. He complied, though it was more difficult without a footboard to use as an anchor. He ended up stringing the thongs around the feet of the bed, and though it was awkward, it worked. When he resumed his place on the bed next to Methos, he saw the muscles in his belly and thighs were taut and hard. Slowly he stroked a hand up and down the long lean length of one of his thighs, then feathered his fingers across his belly. Methos had his eyes closed again. That was bad.

"Methos, stop closing your eyes."

Methos opened his eyes, a regretful expression on his face. "I can't seem to help it."

"Was he better looking than me?"

Methos looked appalled. "What? No!"

"Was he a better lover?" Duncan asked with deliberate petulance.

"Hell no!" Methos responded emphatically.

Duncan leaned down and traced a line from Methos' collarbone to his ear with his tongue. "Then why would you want to fantasize about him instead of me?" Duncan asked, finishing his exploration with a flick of his tongue in the cup of his ear.

"I don't! I. . . ."

Duncan hushed him, tracing the tip of his finger back and forth across the curve of his lower lip. "Then look at me. Watch me. Don't close your eyes."

Methos nodded silently. Duncan moved his finger and replaced it with his lips. The faint fire of Cointreau was still present, reminding him of his earlier plan to relax his partner. He lifted his mouth and reached for the glass, taking a mouthful before replacing it on the bedstand. Kneeling astride Methos' narrow waist he reached down with both hands and lifted his head as far as the restraints allowed, then bent and kissed him again, close-mouthed at first, then opening just enough to let a bead of liqueur seep onto Methos' questing tongue. Methos understood his intent at once, and went after it, a drop at a time, until they'd shared all of the sweet, sharp intoxicant. He lifted his head and let Methos relax back onto the pillows, his breathing shallow and quick.

Methos' gaze slid admiringly down Duncan's torso, and he shook his head. "God, you're beautiful," he sighed, as his gaze travelled farther downward, to his cock, which had hardened in response to their kiss. He licked his lips in blatant invitation.

Duncan smiled, but shook his head. "No, not yet," he said and leaned down again. This time he worked downward from Methos' other ear, to the hollow of his throat, down his chest to the little hollow below the sternum before moving to a taut nipple. Methos gasped, his whole body tightening in response. Duncan could feel Methos' pulse pounding, and against the back of one thigh he felt the stirring of his cock as it began to firm. He felt moved beyond measure at that sign of trust. He'd expected to have to work much harder for that reaction. He lifted his head, and looked into Methos' eyes. "Thank you."

Methos' gaze went from dreamy to puzzled. "What for?"

Duncan reached back and cupped his growing erection. "For trusting me."

Methos closed his eyes almost as if he were in pain, but it was only a moment before he opened them again. "Another thing I can't seem to help. I don't understand it sometimes."

"Neither do I," Duncan said as he began to stroke the velvety shaft beneath his fingers, feeling the familiar-yet-strange hardness. "I never have, I don't feel special."

"Oh, yes, you do," Methos said, twisting his meaning as he arched into his hand. "Very special. Duncan, move back?"

Duncan eyed him askance. "What?"

"Just move back a little, please? God, it's been so long. . . ."

Not quite understanding, but willing to do anything to help Methos overcome his phobia, Duncan edged backward a few inches until he was straddling his upper thighs rather than his waist.

"There, yes, now down."

Duncan smiled, amused. "Something's wrong with this picture. I thought I was supposed to be giving the orders around here," he said drily.

Methos grinned. "I didn't say 'Simon says.'"

Duncan laughed. "No, you didn't, but I'll do it anyway. It would help if I knew exactly what it was it you were after."

"Something that went out of style three thousand years before you were born. . . though if you'd been there, Socrates, Athenaeus, Xenophon. . . they'd all have been vying for your favors. Just ease down, and take me between your thighs."

That made things much clearer. Duncan had recently read up on the sexual practices of ancient peoples specifically so he would be less ignorant of what Methos might enjoy, though he wasn't about to admit that fact to the older immortal. This was a variation on a technique popular in ancient Athens, most common between older men and younger ones. Their relationship mirrored the classical one in many ways. Though he was no boy, he was the much younger partner, and in some ways he regarded Methos as a mentor and teacher. No wonder Methos had thought of this now.

Duncan tucked Methos' cock carefully between his thighs, feeling its arc against his balls, and the base of his own erection. Carefully he eased his backward until he was almost sitting against Methos' knees. The amount of control it took to not let his weight settle fully onto Methos' legs kept his quads taut, and though the unaccustomed pulsing of Methos' penis against his own was strange, it was also stunningly erotic.

"It's a good thing I'm in decent shape, or this would never work." Duncan said huskily.

"There are easier ways, but this is heaven. . . ah, yeah. . . ." Methos moaned as Duncan started to move, swaying to ease the strain on his muscles a little. He reached for Duncan, but his bonds allowed him only an inch of movement. He looked startled for a moment, then fear flashed in his eyes. Duncan let him go instantly and sat forward, cupping his face between his palms.

"It's all right, I won't hurt you."

Methos nodded, drawing a deep, shuddering breath. "I know, I know. I'm sorry."

Duncan kissed him. "Don't be sorry, there's nothing to be sorry for. Just let me take care of you. Trust me."

He slid an exploratory hand down Methos' flank to the silky thatch between his thighs, and his fingers searched, found. Good, he hadn't entirely lost his erection. He started stroking again, a single finger teasing as the silk-skinned length filled and hardened. On the CD player, the CD had changed, and now a man sang, the lyrics strangely sensual and appropriate. Duncan shivered, he didn't know the name of the singer, had never even heard the song before, but at this moment, of all moments, the song spoke of trust.*

Methos opened his eyes. "I do trust you," he echoed in a whisper. "I wish I could touch you."

"You touch me," Duncan told him. "Every time you look at me, I feel it." He touched his lips. "Here," he touched his chest. "and here," he touched his own aching cock, "and here."

Methos shifted beneath him, arching his hips as Duncan continued to arouse him, his body strong and beautiful, held only by his own consent. As he had said, the chamois thongs wouldn't even bind a cat for long. He was there only because he chose to be, and because he trusted Duncan.

Duncan moved back into the position Methos had requested, and began to rock above him, slowly and gently enough that it was a tease. Methos arched again, thrusting between his thighs, hard flesh against hard flesh, tight together. Duncan dropped his hand to stroke himself, adding a new dimension of sensuality to their play. He looked up to find Methos watching him, smoky-eyed and nearly panting, his bound hands curling and flexing as if he held Duncan, not air.

"Tell me what you want," he ordered in a hoarse whisper.

"I want to taste you," Methos answered, brutally honest.

Duncan kissed him, that would have to be taste enough for now, he was finding this new position too much fun to end just yet. He could see why it had been so popular. He let his fingers slide down his own shaft to find the blunt head of Methos' cock where it lay surrounded by the taut skin of his thighs. As he teased the pearly moisture that beaded Methos' cock back and forth over the straining tip, a sudden revelation took him. He grabbed awkwardly for the drawer in the bedstand and managed to get it open, digging around one-handed until he came up with the bottle of massage oil he knew was there.

Flicking it open with his thumb, he drizzled some over his groin. The scent of sandalwood filled the air, as he closed the bottle and dropped it. He slid his fingers through the oil, then down to Methos, who sobbed audibly, wordlessly. His eyes were closed again, but this time Duncan knew he wasn't thinking of Sunna, not anymore. Using fingers, thighs, cock, and lips, Duncan drove Methos ruthlessly. The oil took away some of the friction, yet added a slick, irresistible voluptuousness. Methos started to pump beneath Duncan, arching as Duncan's fingers stroked the straining underside of his rigid shaft, and his mouth stole his breath and coherence.

Suddenly Methos went tense, shuddering as his release came, pulsing liquid fire into Duncan's hand, across his thighs. Duncan continued to stroke him until the last tremble stilled, until his breathing eased to sighs instead of sobs. Yanking the top sheet free, Duncan used it to clean up, then moved to lie beside Methos, one hand stroking his chest reassuringly as he continued to come down, ignoring his own unappeased arousal. He had to make sure Methos was okay. Methos shivered, and Duncan drew him close, willing his erection to subside so he could stop feeling that overwhelming need to find release. He just wanted to hold him, to reassure him.

Methos shivered again. Duncan pushed up onto his elbows, studying him intently. He saw no fear, but knew instinctively that Methos had reached his threshold. He took Methos' hand and moved it toward him until the thong parted with a snap. He repeated the procedure with the other thong, and hooked a foot through the ones binding his feet, sundering them as easily. Methos reached for him instantly, both hands threading through his hair to pull his mouth down in a hard, fierce kiss. Duncan turned toward him, returning his kiss, not caring that his fingers were wound so tight in his hair that it hurt, not noticing that there was a length of chamois caught between their lips.

Methos let him go finally, and pushed him down onto the bed, one hand still tangled in his hair, holding Duncan in place while the other meandered lazily down his torso until he reached the stiff upthrust of his cock. Curling his fingers around the straining flesh, he stroked firmly as placed kisses down the same path his hand had just taken, ending up in the same place.

Duncan tensed in anticipation as the slick fire of Methos' tongue flickered across him, tracing intricate designs, following every ridge and indentation, suckling, biting. Duncan would have reached to touch, but a warning tug on his hair kept him still. It was clearly his turn to be passive. He shifted a little, wanting more, wanting the rhythm Methos denied him, wanting the driving force of consummation.

His movements must have given away his need, for within seconds that need was answered. Methos took him, his hand setting the cadence, the sweet heat of his mouth compelling him to buck and gasp. He tried to lift his head to watch, and again Methos pulled back down, none too gently. He subsided, amused, annoyed and aroused half out of his mind, all at the same time. The urge to touch was almost too strong to resist. To keep himself from doing so, he reached up and wrapped his fingers around the headboard supports.

The act conjured a unexpected surge of excitement in him, as he couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be bound, as Methos had been. Someday. Feelings were too strong now, he was too far gone to stop this. He moved beneath the tormenting ministrations of hand and mouth, arching rhythmically, pleasure spreading through every nerve, borne on his blood, in his breath, in every aching pulsebeat. Methos' mouth spoke of lust and passion all wordlessly, and his giving unchained Duncan's own desire. He felt it rising through him, and for a moment tried to hold it back. Methos finally let go of his hair, and his hand slid between Duncan's thighs, down to gently cup the heavy weight of his testicles, then further down, pressing in and deep, to a place Duncan hadn't even known he possessed until the past few days. Ecstasy ripped through him, an explosion of delight, relief, and belonging. He felt the touch of tongue and the movement of lips as Methos drank him. That sent a secondary shudder of bliss rocketing through him, and forced a moan from him as every sensation in his body seemed to concentrate in the spill of completion. His hands tightened on the headboard, and one of the supports gave with a sharp crack. He let go, startled and a little embarrassed, as Methos lifted his head to see what the noise had been. He took in the cracked wood, and a grin spread across his secretive mouth.

"It's convenient that you're good with your hands," he commented, then leaned back down for a final lick.

Duncan shuddered with reaction, laughing, and caught Methos by an ear. "It is, isn't it? Stop that and get up here."

Methos slid up next to him, rubbing his ear. "That's not a handle you know."

"I know, but it was handy." Duncan untied the remaining thongs from around his wrists as they lay there, just relaxing, listening to the music that was once again eerily appropriate.**

Duncan tossed aside the broken pieces of leather and half-sat, so he could see Methos' face. "Are you all right with what we did?" he asked, seriously.

Methos nodded. "I never thought I would ever be able to trust anyone like that again, especially not another Immortal."

Duncan grinned. "I'm not just another Immortal."

Methos groaned. "I asked for that didn't I?"

Duncan nodded. "You did."

"Well, you're right, you aren't. You're favored of the gods, Duncan MacLeod."

That wasn't the reaction he'd expected, and Duncan was embarrassed. "I was joking, Methos."

"I know, but I'm not."

"I wish you'd stop. It's embarrassing."

"Oh all right. Pansy," he accused.

"Fag." Duncan retorted with a wink.

Methos grinned. "I don't smoke, nasty habit."

Duncan grinned back. "You know I was using that in the American sense, not the Brit."

"Oh?" Methos asked innocently. "What's the difference?"

Duncan gave up. "Spoil my joke, why don't you?"

"Okay," Methos said agreeably.

They fell quiet for a moment, relaxing, and Methos sighed deeply, and tucked his head against the pillow with a yawn. Duncan felt himself drifting off as well, and he reached over to put a hand on Methos hip, not wanting anything but to touch. The last thing he heard as his eyes drifted closed was Methos speaking softly along with the music, just three words.

"I will be there. . . ."


Finis

These lyrics used to be in the body of the story, but so many people seem to hate "songfic" that I took them out and moved them down here so you can read them or not, as you like. --KM

* "Trust In Me"
c. 1995 by Paul Brady, from the CD "Spirits Colliding".

Rain clatter on a window pane

Make a love shape easy
Salt tang on a scented skin
Heat come and you whisper out
I trust in you
Don't you know that I trust in you.

**"I Will Be There" ibid.

When morning comes
and nothing's changed
and the world outside
plays the same old game
when everyone
still lets you down
I will be there
when time are hard
and friends are few
and you need someone
to help you through
I will be there,
don't be afraid, don't be afraid. . . "