Dancing Through the Night
by Maxine Mayer

 

1/1/98


"It's time, MacLeod."

His voice was imperative, dark and dangerous. Brooking no contradiction or refusal. But it was the sword in his hand that prompted my actions as I moved backward into my Bordeaux hotel room, away from the door I'd opened to the oldest Immortal, Methos, my sometime friend and recent partner in the grim task of destroying the Horsemen - each of them except Methos himself.

"Time?" I asked, my hand gripping the back of an upholstered chair, behind which I'd taken refuge, only to move again, away from the chair, as Methos followed me into my room and across it, inexorably driving my backward steps towards the bed a few scant feet away.

"Yes, time. Time to murder and create*," he added, quoting from a source I recognized but couldn't recall, at that moment. Unconscious that he was quoting, I think. His choice of that phrase, however, did not come from nowhere, by some unexpected trick of his memory. It was deliberately menacing. I was terrified. The look on his face and the tone of his voice were terrifying too, and so was the sword in his hand. I responded instinctively, with fear. I'd seen what he could do with a sword.

"What's wrong, Methos?" I asked, talking for time. "It's over now. They're dead, all of them, and Cassandra's gone. They won't come back to haunt you now. What's troubling you?"

"You are, Highlander," he responded, slowly shrugging out of his long coat as he approached, shifting his sword from one hand to the other but never taking his eyes from my face. He dropped his coat on the floor and closed the distance between us as I shrank back, my calves hitting the edge of the bed. I sat heavily, falling onto my back across the bedspread.

"We - we can talk about it," I told him, thinking to roll away, but I wasn't fast enough. He dropped his sword on the floor as he straddled my chest and grabbed my wrists, pulling them away from my face, where I'd instinctively held them up to protect my head, jerking my hands and arms above my head, and to either side of me, holding them against the mattress with a grip of steel.

His kiss shocked me. It was brutal and passionate, without any of the more tender emotions I associated with lovemaking. And it was sudden - coming from nowhere, except from a depth of rage I'd seen in him only once - when he'd told me that Cassandra hadn't been lying about him, that he'd been a Horseman.

Then he loosed his grip on one of my wrists and swung his arm across his body, in front of my face, then jabbed back with his elbow, smashing back into my jaw with a blow of such force that it knocked me out cold. When I revived, I was bound to the headboard, my wrists manacled together above my head. My legs were pinned to the mattress by his body as he straddled me again, this time at the hips.

His expression was hard, angry, as he shifted a bit to rest his full weight on my thighs, his hands by his sides, knuckles pressed into the mattress.

"Sorry, MacLeod. Knew I'd get only one chance." An apology for the ferocious blow but no explanation of the purpose behind what he'd done.

"Please, Methos, you don't need to do this, just talk to me, tell me what you want -"

"There's nothing to talk about, MacLeod," he told me coldly, "no words. No more words. Except these. Payback time."

I was truly frightened. Whatever was on Methos' mind, it wasn't likely to be pleasant, after such a beginning. I doubted he'd take my head - not like this, while I was unable to defend myself - but he could injure me badly, kill me, even, without proceeding to the further, final cut.

"Whatever you think I owe you, we're quits now. This - this makes us quits."

He laughed. "Oh no, we're not quits, MacLeod. You forget so quickly. So easily. Anything. Everything. Whatever you wish to forget. Whatever's unpleasant or unpalatable, you forget."

I said desperately, "I didn't do anything to you! I know I didn't! Payback for what?"

"Everything. Nothing. Rape, betrayal - but I forgot, you don't remember the rape, and you'd never admit you'd betray a friend. Isn't that right, MacLeod?"

His drawling, nasty use of my entire last name grated on me. I couldn't think what he was talking about. What rape?

I asked him, "What rape? You're the rapist!"

He cocked his head. "Oh no, MacLeod, not the only one. Think back. Not so long ago, either. Cast your mind back -"

I buckled under him, twisting away as the truth hit me, when I might have done whatever he was talking about. It could only be something I'd done during my Dark Quickening. There were long hours of those months - time on the ship, time after we'd docked in Le Havre - that I couldn't remember at all, or at all clearly, with certainty of what atrocities I might have committed. What I did remember was bad enough.

"I know I raped the woman, Dominique. What's it to you?" I asked, frowning, genuinely puzzled. Why, after so much time, after he'd helped me through those dark days, would he seek revenge for something I'd done in my madness? A madness from which he'd saved me.

"Nothing. She's nothing to me." He smiled. "I'm not talking about her."

"Then what the hell are you talking about, Methos?" I struggled against the manacles, finally shouting, "Take these damn things off me, for God's sake!"

"Oh no. I can't do that. You're too strong for me to subdue, hand to hand."

"Why do you need to subdue me? We can talk. I won't leave until whatever we've gotta discuss is talked out to your satisfaction," I replied, again trying to reason with him. "I promise."

"Your promises are worth nothing, MacLeod," he spat back. "Nothing."

"I'm a man of my word, Methos -"

"Nothing!"

He shifted his body again, very slightly, and took out a stiletto from the lining of his jacket. I shrank against the bed in anticipation of something awful, inconceivable.

But he didn't cut me - he cut off my sweater, cut it away from my body. I shivered in the cold air of the drafty hotel room. I wondered what was next.

He unbuckled my belt, drawing it out from its loops quickly and tossing it aside. I frowned. What the hell was he doing? What rape?

He unsnapped the closure of my slacks, unzipped them, shifted his body off mine and quickly stripped me of my clothing, including my briefs, pulling them passed my legs and my feet which I realized were already unshod. I was stunned, shocked. Completely unable to figure out why he'd rendered me naked. Before I could react - kick him, do something to shore my position, retaliate at least - he was back on me, sitting on my thighs, again effectively pinning me down. He was nowhere near as heavy as me, but his full weight was on me and it was painful.

He stared at my body, at my groin, and covered my cock with his hand. I was not erect. "You want to know who you raped, MacLeod?"

I bit out, from between clenched lips, "Yes!"

"You raped me!"

My heart began to pound, in shock, dismay, disbelief. I swallowed hard, pushed down the bile that rose in my throat. Tried to push away his words. But the truth of what he'd told me struck me with force. Because he couldn't be lying. I swallowed again, incapable of feeling anything but the sinking, the sinking, the dizziness and nausea, and the horror. I didn't say a word.

"But I'll do better than you, Highlander. Rape you better. I won't come at you unawares, in your bed, while you sleep, exhausted and frightened, worried about a friend. A loved one," he added mockingly. "I won't wake you in the middle of the night with a blow to your head! I won't ram you with the strength of a bull, again and again - without warning, without care!"

"Methos!" I was incapable of thinking of any words beyond his name.

"Already, I've done better. You're prepared now. You know what's coming. Lay back, Highlander, enjoy it! There are men all over the world who'd be happy for a chance at this! Relax!"

His smile was feral, his insinuating voice made my skin crawl. I couldn't imagine reaching him now, in the state he was in. Talking him passed this, whatever it was. I focused on his hand still holding my cock without pressure, willing myself to relax. My cock stirred and I realized he'd begun to move his hand quite gently, pulling and prodding me, his fingers flexing as he pushed them through the curls that surrounded my sex. He shifted his fingers and handled my testicles, lifting the sacs and the lumpy stuff inside them with gentle motions. I gasped, my tongue darting out to wet my lips, my teeth biting my lips as I reacted to the stimulation.

"You enjoying this, MacLeod?" he asked casually.

"Obviously, you want me to," I muttered, then gasped again, clenching my buttocks against the slow motion of his hand along my shaft as he gripped my cock tightly this time, tugging the sheath with every stroke.

"Enjoy it while you can, Highlander," he replied. "When it's over, and you remember, you'll be sick with despair, that you loved it. And that you want it again!"

I didn't reply, and I didn't resist further, accepting my vulnerability as my eyes closed and my body accepted his caresses, responded totally to the hand squeezing and stroking my cock, to the other hand lightly passing - palm, then fingers, then palm again - over my chest, my stomach, my hips.

My mind wasn't telling me to resist. If I'd raped him - and I didn't remember - he was kinder than I'd been. If I'd hurt him, he wasn't returning the favor. At least, not yet. If he wanted me to desire this again, he was doing everything necessary to insure that I would. But if he thought I'd be despairing about enjoying it, he was wrong. I don't work that way. I don't hate my body. I don't turn away from my senses. He was very wrong. I wouldn't be sick with despair though I'd be desperate for more. In that, he was right.

When suddenly he stopped fondling me I opened my eyes, shocked. But I relaxed with a sigh when I saw he was only undoing his own slacks. The expression on my face must have been relief that he wasn't finished with me, because he laughed out loud, a hollow, mocking noise, like a hyena's cackle.

"It gets worse," he remarked, taking his own cock from its place and exhibiting its length, width, and engorged state for my inspection. "It gets better. You'll regret it."

"If you say so," I managed to retort, my eyes on his organ, unable to shift my gaze from it, or close my eyes again. In what appeared to be an afterthought, or something triggered by my response to his cock, he stripped off his own sweater and the t-shirt he'd been wearing beneath it, no doubt to keep warm in the bone-chilling dungeon he'd called home for a while, with the Horsemen.

I stared at him, enthralled. His body was white as the clouds, without hint of color. Bloodless. Hairless, except for a few fine hairs at his nipples and the fine wisps that began at his navel and grew more thickly as they approached his cock. I couldn't see all of him, not his thighs - he still wore his trousers. But when he'd taken off his upper garments, for a moment I'd hoped he'd strip completely.

What I could see stunned me. The lean form, without fat, but firmly muscled. The broad shoulders, unimaginable in the loose, outsized clothing he always wore. The long arms, beautifully sculpted at the biceps, narrow from elbow to wrist. The hands, broad-palmed and long-fingered, perfectly relaxed and slightly flexed. The fingers.... I drew a breath. How was it I'd never looked at his hands before?

He laughed again, the laugh of a madman. But he spoke quietly and calmly, with his own brand of inexorable logic.

"Frightening, isn't it, MacLeod?" I said nothing and he prompted, "Frightening for the Game. But you weren't thinking about that, about my power, were you?" He grinned. "Not even about sex," he added, amused and contemptuous both.

I shook my head. "No," I admitted, and wondered whether he was mesmerizing me into talking when I should be keeping silence.

"You love great art, MacLeod," he told me with simple conviction and I didn't demur. "You'll remember my body," he went on in a serious, almost analytical tone. "I'm told it's perfect - been told by artists from every century. Sculptors, painters, dancers, wrestlers, acrobats. But no one of them loved my beauty for itself - only for their art, or craft, or skill. To use the perfection of my body as inspiration, that they might create the illusion of beauty in their own bodies, or their works of art. They studied and admired, for that. But you, Highlander, you love it for itself. It gives you pleasure just to look at it." He nodded and smiled. Again, the feral cruelty returned to his voice and eyes. "You, Highlander, love my body for itself," he repeated. "And you'll remember."

"I don't deny it," I told him, chilled by the hatred behind his words, and the evidence of something else, something more.

I was shaken and frightened by what I learned about Methos, slowly and incredibly, from his last words. He loved me. Not as I'd believed - as a man loves a friend he can respect, feel comfortable with, teach, assist, champion. Not as I'd believed I loved him - not at all. He loved me as a man loves a woman. Tortured me as a woman might torture a man whose power she could overcome only through subterfuge and manacles. By imprisoning him.

Methos couldn't find my love in me. Couldn't locate it in my heart. A returning, reciprocal love for him. So he'd turned against me. I'd raped him, so he sought revenge. Sure, if he said so, it was true. I didn't remember it. For him, that was worse than my doing it. But that I hadn't made love to him, taken him with joy and gentle possessiveness, with love, that was the worst. That was unforgivable.

I couldn't really know what triggered this desperate revenge. Possibly, total despair, when I'd rejected him in Seacouver, told him we were through. It was a desperate revenge, but it was also an ancient knowing, hidden even from himself, that what he was doing would bring about what no words and no amount of time could elicit from me. Acknowledgement of my own love for him. Ah, Methos, I thought, you're right. I'll remember! As long as I live, I'll remember you, my tormented beloved friend, my love!

Finally I closed my eyes once more, tearing my gaze from his body, and it was like a signal to him to begin again. Taking my prick firmly in his hand he began to move his hand along the shaft with long, languorous strokes, his body falling forward on mine, his head just above mine, his knees holding him away at the groin. He supported his weight on one elbow to give himself enough leverage so one hand would be free to caress my cock. The other hand found my hair and tightened on a clump of it, loose around my neck and shoulders.

When his mouth fell upon mine with a fierce brutal pressure, the breath releasing from his nostrils on my face, I opened my mouth, parted my teeth, moved my tongue against his closed lips, responding to the sexual excitement building in my groin. I wanted to take him, merge with him in the ways I was familiar with - kissing, caressing, touching to excite, to pleasure, penetrating and giving myself - but my hands were manacled and my body was imprisoned. Only my mouth was my own to do with as I needed to do. So I responded to his brutal kiss by kissing him in return, as passionately as I could, forcing his mouth open, searching for his tongue with my own, sucking and savoring his tongue, laving his lips. Straining for union.

I was unhappy when he pulled away, but not surprised.

"Don't, Mac! Don't!" he said, opening his eyes and letting go of my cock as if it were a fiery pot handle he'd grabbed without a protective pot holder. He was off me in a moment, shoving his own erect cock into his jeans and zipping them closed, snapping the top snap.

He took a quick look at me and threw his hands up in despair. He ran one hand through his short hair, then looked around wildly, patting his jeans' pockets and taking out a key. In an instant he'd unlocked the manacles and removed them, releasing my hands. He grabbed up his shirt and sweater and pulled them on over his head, then bent and found my sweater, in shreds, on the rug. He held it up, an expression of disbelief on his face, then dropped it and grabbed my jacket from a chair, tossing it to me. Then my trousers, again throwing them at me haphazardly. They landed in a heap on my groin. "Cover yourself," he said curtly. He put on his raincoat, secured his sword in its folds and made for the door.

I let my jacket and pants fall to the bed around my naked body and got up as fast as I could, moving to the door to block Methos' exit, knocking him to the floor on my way.

He got up and came toward me. "Let me out, Mac!" he said quietly, dangerously. "I'm not apologizing, and you won't be able to turn the tables. I don't get raped twice by the same man, believe me. Let me out."

I kept my back to the door, prying his fingers off the doorknob. Without raising my voice I asked, "Why'd you stop?"

"Because what I was doing was stupid. Criminally stupid. There's no payback for rape. And no satisfaction in payback, if there were such a thing. I'm outta here. Get away from the door."

"Did you stop because I was enjoying it too much, or because you were?" I asked him softly, not to needle him or anger him further, just to know.

"Were you enjoying it, Mac? Or pretending to? I have no illusions about my body, or my technique - they're good enough, for most purposes. But the circumstances - I'm sure you'll remember them, when I'm gone."

His voice was like ice, without affect again, and my heart sank. I despaired of reaching him now but I swallowed and tried again, unable, unwilling, to give up. "You didn't answer the question. Don't you know the answer?"

His cheeks flushed, the only color I'd seen in him since he'd arrived at my door. Clearly, the question was one he didn't care to think about, or give me an answer to, if he had one. But he lifted his chin and told me, "I find you attractive, MacLeod. I like your body. I like your body a great deal. Clearly, you feel the same about mine. So - we both were enjoying what can be described in one word - sex."

"So - why'd you stop?"

"I don't want to share anything more with you. Not even that. I've already shared too much," he replied bluntly. "We're as much of a mistake today as we've always been. Now - let me out."

"Okay," I said, stepping away from the door and going to the center of the room. I was trembling as I picked up my trousers and put them on, reaching for my belt on the far side of the bed. I had a few sweaters in my suitcase, and I picked one and pulled it on too, with my back turned to the door, away from Methos, but my mind was focused only on him, and I waited for the sounds that would tell me he was leaving.

Because he'd lied to me again and I knew it wouldn't please him that he'd been driven to lie.

I knew why he'd stopped. He'd stopped because he couldn't hide the love he felt for me - not while he made love to me, not when I'd responded. He couldn't hide it from himself or me. I was sure he'd leave before I could call him on his deceit.

He still hadn't left after the couple minutes that I spent not looking at him, pretending to be fully occupied with dressing, putting on my socks and shoes, running a brush through my hair. In the end, I looked up and saw that he was leaning back against the door, his hand on the knob, his head down, but not crying. Simply, wasted. Exhausted. Wiped.

I went to the bathroom and rinsed out two glasses, came back into the bedroom and poured some scotch from a bottle I'd picked up when Cassandra and I first arrived in Bordeaux. Cheap scotch, not the good stuff, but it would do. I needed a drink and I supposed Methos did too. He certainly wouldn't give a damn about the quality of the liquor.

I went to hand him the glass but when he didn't take it I realized his eyes were closed. I took his hand and put it around the glass. He opened his eyes, looked at the drink, then at me, then downed the scotch in one gulp. "Thanks," he said. "More, please." I filled the glass again and he finished that too.

Then he walked over to a chest of drawers and put the glass down. He drew a deep breath. "I'm tired," he told me. "Mind if I rest a while? I'll leave in the morning."

His voice and tone and demeanor were completely without expression or affect. Matter of fact. Dry and dispassionate. Like what'd just happened between us was wiped from his mind as completely as it was branded on mine.

"I'll wash up," he added when I didn't refuse him the use of my room. He looked at his hands and an expression finally crossed his features. Distaste. I could tell he was remembering where those hands had been. On my cock. I could tell he couldn't wait to wash off whatever mess from my thwarted ejaculation remained on his fingers. Whatever fluid had seeped from my shaft onto his fingers, when he was manipulating me. He went into the bathroom quickly and I heard the water running in the sink with full force.

It struck me with blinding clarity that his request to sleep in my hotel room was incredible, insane, and that he didn't realize it. Simply expected me to accept it without question or dismay. I realized that he assumed I'd be as matter-of-fact as he was, that I wouldn't judge him, complain, condemn, or be angry after the aborted rape, and his subsequent ugly remarks. That he expected from me precisely what he'd received - concern and a drink. And permission to stay the night.

What possible twist of logic made him expect the reaction he'd actually received from me, I wondered. How could he be so crazy and so right?

I started to sit down in the chair I'd claimed as mine when I'd shared this room with Cassandra, who was long gone. But I noticed the manacles on the floor and quickly scooped them up and threw them into my overnight case, to get them out of sight. I picked up my shredded sweater and hid that too, under a magazine in the wastebasket. I looked around for more evidence of what had transpired in the last hour. Going to the bed, smoothing the sheets and bedspread, puffing up the pillows, I scanned again for anything additional that was out of place. Methos' stiletto was on the end table. I grabbed it and turned, looking for a place to put it, finally deciding to throw it into my overnight case as well.

Methos came out of the bathroom, his hair slicked down, his face still damp. He was drying his hands on a towel. He tossed it back into the bathroom when he'd finished using it and glanced at the bed. There was only one. "Maybe I should get my own room," he speculated aloud. "Would you advance me something, MacLeod? I seem to have misplaced all my credit cards and I don't have enough cash with me to cover a night in this place."

"You can sleep here, the bed's big enough for both of us. Cassandra and I managed without breaking one another's noses."

Methos laughed mirthlessly, his face crinkling up in a grimace. "I'm sure. But I didn't have that in mind. I think we've gone about as far as we ought, in that direction."

I stuck out my jaw, stuck to my guns. "Cass and I didn't do anything in that direction. We slept like babies."

"Really. Well, if you're too cheap to get me my own room -" He left the thought hanging, but I can't believe he actually imagined I'd be stung by the remark and change my mind. He had to know me better than that.

"Who knows when I'll see you again, to get my money back?" I retorted, a jibe intended to lighten his mood but it had the opposite effect.

"Yes, you're right," Methos told me seriously, shaking his head in agreement. "I don't think we'll be seeing much of each other after tonight. Quite right. I wouldn't trust me for the money, either, if I were you."

Without blinking an eye or saying anything more, he took off his coat and jacket, removing his sword from the lining of the coat and placing the weapon on the floor on the far side of the bed. Still dressed in his sweater and jeans, he lifted the bedspread on that side, wrenched the blanket and sheet out from their tight fold around the mattress, kicked off his shoes and got in. He turned his back to me, stretched out his hand to grasp the hilt of his sword, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

I waited to see if he was really sleeping, if he could sleep, after what had gone on earlier. Apparently, he could. He did.

As if all he'd done was throw a plate at the wall, broken some dishes. Incredible. Probably explained how he'd survived fifty centuries - man could sleep through anything or in the wake of anything.

I poured myself another drink, sipping it while I sat tensely in my chair. After a few minutes I relaxed a little. I put my glass next to me on the floor and slumped in the chair, letting my head fall forward. I was knocked out, myself, as drained by the past few days of travel and tension and fighting and Quickenings as I imagined Methos was. I was absolutely beyond thought regarding what had transpired between Methos and me earlier that evening. And I still ached with unreleased sexual tension, ached in my groin, my mouth, my arms. Ached all over my body with a longing I recognized was for him, for Methos. The longing to take him in my arms and hold him. Maybe more. Maybe much more. Too much more.

I knew I couldn't get into that bed with him, turn my back as he'd done, and go to sleep. That was pretty clear. In the chair I stayed because there was no place more comfortable I could go. Chair or floor - those were the choices. I chose chair.

My exhaustion was strong enough to let me drift into sleep even in that uncomfortable seat, in that awkward position. But I was awake within the hour, the edge off my tiredness, unable to fall off again.

Methos, however, seemed completely at ease and comfortable. He continued to sleep, his breathing even and strong, his mouth slightly open, his body still. He didn't even twitch. No nightmares, no dreams. So it seemed, at any rate. Probably, I considered, he's too tired to dream. And nothing we'd done was so strange to him, after all he's experienced in five thousand years, that it could give him nightmares.

I grinned, wondering whether the curse he'd put on me - that I'd always remember his body - would fall on him in the same way, to the same degree. Wondered whether he'd managed to cut off his nose to spite his face. Made himself a memory, an image, a picture he'd never forget. Which couldn't be a good thing, in his mind, since he clearly had no intention of seeing me again. Which meant he'd never be able to make love to me again - rape me, as he called what he'd started to do - no matter how much he might want to.

Methos had raped before, I knew. He'd told me himself that he'd raped Cassandra. I also knew that Cassandra had loved him. She didn't tell me so, or recognize the truth herself. But she'd loved him, despite the rape. Only love - and betrayal by the beloved - could inspire the will to kill a man, as she'd wanted to kill Methos. Still wanted to kill him, after so much time. No other emotion held a soul in its grip like that. Only love.

I wondered how many of his other victims had loved him. I wondered if he was even capable of raping someone. In truth, his appreciation of other people was so strong, I couldn't imagine him abusing anyone, not for an instant. He'd manacled me - because I was stronger than he was - but he hadn't injured me, except for the blow to my jaw. And he hadn't raped me, for all his good intentions. Maybe he'd been capable of rape three thousand years ago, I didn't know. But now it was a contradiction in terms - Methos and rape. The assurance of that grew in my mind, and I grinned again.

I saw his lovely body, his arms, his hands, in my mind's eye, and wondered when it'd happened - when he'd taken me over. Taken my heart. When I'd fallen in love with him. Because I had no illusions whatever about that. I was in love with him, else his body wouldn't move me, however beautiful he was.

I'd seen more naked men than I could remember, in my long life. Maybe not as many as he'd seen, but enough. I'd never wanted another man, lusted for another man. Others had tried. Touched me. Held my cock in their hands and stroked. Sometimes I'd responded, sometimes not. But I never thought about them afterwards, imagined what we'd shared was anything but lust, at least on my side. I'd never dreamed about them as I did about women I'd known, seen, bedded, or wanted to bed.

Was it friendship, I wondered, that made the difference? Not entirely. I'd experienced sexual response to men I'd befriended, in the past. Not many, but again, enough. Attractive men with whom I'd been friends, whose company I'd enjoyed. Never in all those encounters had I initiated the sex. Nor had I sought to repeat it. I considered carefully. Methos was a friend, a good friend. But what I was feeling and thinking was well beyond friendship and different from it.

I missed my friends when we were apart. Sometimes, when I thought about them I wished they would return. But always, I'd been complacent about it. Neither sought them out nor followed them, content to wait. Content never to see them again, if it turned out that way.

In all my life, I'd never been afraid, terrified, that a friend might leave me.

I was terrified that Methos would leave me. Disappear. Forever. Terrified. A reaction to a lover, not a friend.

I was in love with him. And I wanted to make love with him. The thought alone made me happy. Without anything more - no act, no word, no touch, just thinking how much I loved him and wanted him - I was happy.

What a lucky bastard I was!


I fell asleep in the chair again, after a while, only waking when the cold gray light of dawn seeped through the curtains. I went to the bathroom making as little noise as I could, because Methos was still sleeping, restlessly now, his breathing still shallow but his snores loud and erratic. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, shaved. I thought I should eat something because I was very cold and the room was chilly as well, but it was too early to order breakfast from room service. That much I knew from experience, having wakened early the day before, and called down. I'd been told in no uncertain terms that breakfast wasn't served before six. If I wanted to eat I'd need to go out. I shivered. I didn't want to go out into the cold of dawn.

The bed looked so inviting. Methos slept as he'd lay down - in the same spot, using less than half the wide mattress. He hadn't moved during the night. True, I was very cold but I didn't try to convince myself that was the reason I was thinking of joining him under the covers. I'd wakened with an erection that was unusually insistent, even for me, and I hoped that if I woke him with love and gentle caresses Methos would not be averse to sex in the morning.

More than that, I desperately needed to put the ugliness of what had passed between us, our thoughts and words and acts about sex, behind us. Replace them with something we'd both want to remember with pleasure.

I considered that I might be making a mistake, approaching him when he was so raw, erratic, out of control. But I pushed the consideration aside, thinking he'd respond with his body and his mind would follow. If we pleasured each other, I hoped, we'd be that much closer to forgiving each other.

I knew I was being foolhardy but I didn't think I was being a fool. Or that my grasp of things was wrong.

So I slipped out of my clothes and into the bed, glad when my weight on the mattress didn't wake Methos. Carefully, I put my arms around him and slid close, drawing him to me, my chest against his back. I bent my head and kissed his neck and he woke. He didn't react violently - that was something I'd worried about, he was so quick to defend against another Immortal - but he didn't react sexually either.

"What are you doing?" he asked calmly, not moving away or pushing against me to make me distance myself. "I was sleeping."

"I know," I whispered. "I was cold."

"Oh. All right then." He was quiet for a moment, settling his head back on the pillow, but when I renewed my kisses on his neck and tightened my grasp around his belly he told me, "Don't do that, MacLeod. Go to sleep."

"You can sleep. You don't need to do anything. I'll do everything."

"You're daft. Go to sleep." His voice was a little louder now. Not angry but very firm.

"You don't like it?" I asked.

"Does it matter?" he replied wearily.

"I want you."

"So I gather."

"You stopped. It's not fair." I heard myself say that, couldn't believe I'd said it, but it had the desired effect, unjust though I knew the remark had been.

"All right," he said with a heavy sigh. Resigned, as if he were giving in to a small child, letting him have an ice cream, just to stop him from wailing.

He shifted a bit, pulling out of my embrace, and stood. He took off his clothes. Again, I marveled at the beauty of his body in the soft dawn light. Just as I'd imagined but hadn't seen before, his thighs matched the rest. They were lean, long, muscled. Magnificent. I couldn't see his legs because the bed was in the way, but his broad shoulders, lovely long torso and arms, his symmetrically defined chest and ribcage, his flat belly and erect cock were as I remembered them. Perfect and perfectly desirable. I stretched out my hand and grabbed his, pulling him onto the bed and into my embrace. Already I was nearly out of control, needing to touch him and stroke him, kiss him on the mouth, on the skin of his neck, his arms, his belly, everywhere.

It was scary, almost more than when I'd come to and found myself manacled. Scary to touch him. Scary to feel my own overwhelming response to his body alone. To experience such a lack of control.

I attacked him, grabbing and sucking and biting and touching him in such a disordered, undisciplined, unschooled way, it was as if I was a boy again, making love for the first time. I know he must have been surprised - more, shocked - by my uncultivated assault. I didn't hurt him, I know, but I did nothing but satisfy myself, my desire, my needs. I shifted about quickly from one end of him to the other, turning and moving him as if he was a rag doll, first kissing his mouth, then his belly, stroking his cock, then leaving off there and taking him in my mouth, my hands kneading his buttocks. I found myself upside down, my head at his groin, my feet banging against the headboard, and I righted myself, shoved him around, onto his stomach, and plunged my fingers into his anus. He clung to the headboard, consciously relaxing and visibly readying himself for me to penetrate him without any lubricant. He was correct in assuming that was what I'd do next.

I removed my fingers, replacing them with the head of my swollen cock and I pushed. He bucked but he didn't scream and I continued the assault, moving in and out rapidly, and coming in him within moments. I fell forward onto his back and he collapsed under my weight. I didn't even have the presence of mind to shift off him. After a minute, when he realized I wasn't going to get off of my own accord he placed his hands on the mattress and pushed up, throwing me off and to his left, toward the middle of the bed. I lay there looking up at the ceiling, completely spent.

"Well," he said after a moment, turning his head to glance at me. "That's that. Will you let me get some sleep now, MacLeod? You've finished your business, although I can't for the life of me think why you didn't simply masturbate in the toilet, if you wanted to make love by yourself."

I could hear he wasn't angry, simply irritated and a little amused by me. For a moment, though, I was angry with him. Then I thought about what I'd done and realized the justice of his jibe. "I - I was carried away," I said quietly.

"Shame you weren't carried away by a storm at sea," he retorted. "I'm surprised you've survived this long, if that's the way you treat all your lovers. Amanda must be a saint."

"Methos, you should be flattered -"

"By what? By the gropings of a schoolboy? My God, MacLeod, an experience like that could send me back to the monastery! I'm not one to complain, but don't fuck a real Watcher - your Chronicles will never recover!"

I blushed, but I wasn't really embarrassed or sorry. Because he wasn't really angry. He was flattered, as well he should be. I hadn't fucked so inexpertly, with so little control, in over three hundred years. I'd approached even Kristin with greater skill and some semblance of a technique aimed to please.

Finally, he laughed, a chuckle that thrilled me with its implications. I'd driven away the hurt, years of it, with my enthusiastic fumbling. It hadn't been my aim, to make him laugh or feel lighter of heart. My only purpose had been to relieve my own desire and give him pleasure. I'd accomplished half of that - relieved myself. But the pleasure - only someone who loved me beyond reason could find any pleasure in this debacle. Methos found it, though, in his amusement at being used with such relish and total disregard for his own satisfaction the way a boy of sixteen fucks a girl in the back seat of a car. If he hadn't been in love with me, it would have been insulting. As it was, he'd got more than he could have expected or dreamed of. Proof of how much I wanted him. Proof that I loved him enough to lose myself like a boy in his body and my desire for him.

"Teach me, then," I replied, a smile on my lips. I was asking for more, more sex, more of him, more in general. If he made love to me as I'd made love to him - without rage but with passion - we'd be healed, have a future.

I didn't know if Methos wanted us to be healed. To have a future. To live again in friendship and trust, in the gentle embrace of time.

I was aware he was still sore of heart, still smarting from our recent clashes. My matter-of-factness earlier, in the face of his assault, had been salve dabbed on his wounds. My idiotic uncalculating incompetent lovemaking now had helped too. But Methos was old, very old. Wary. Brittle, sometimes. Fragile. Not for nothing did he come complete with a joke or a barb for every occasion. He needed the protection, the defense of humor, wit, fury, and sometimes numbness. I didn't know all of his heart, what depths of vulnerability he protected. But I did know that he loved me, which made him ready to come down in my favor - always - a prejudice that worked against his better judgment, keeping him near me, bringing him back to me, making him stay.

But I wasn't sure he'd let his love for me take him passed this week of trauma and betrayal. The fear, the rage, the killing, the Quickenings, the memories - they were powerful stuff, perhaps more powerful than his love for me. I hoped but I wasn't sure that he wanted us to be healed. To have a future. I waited.

He'd been laying on his back, facing the ceiling, when he'd teased me and criticized my lovemaking. Now, when he heard my request, he pushed up on his elbows and turned his head to get a good look at my face. He didn't answer at first, just stared at me for a while, his eyes roaming over my body, then up to my eyes again, and my hair, then down to my hands. In a way, his darting glances at every part of me in no remotely ordered fashion echoed my undisciplined assault on his body. He groaned, said, "Oh, Mac," and moved onto his side on one elbow, placing his free hand on my heart.

For a moment I wondered if I'd be given the joy of returning the teasing and criticisms, if he'd make love to me with the same passion and loss of control, devour me as I had him. But that wasn't in him. Not now, if it ever was part of his nature to be completely unaware of his lover's needs. Even what he'd called rape earlier had been calculated in every detail, right up until I'd responded with love to his brutal kiss and he'd stopped the whole thing.

In a whisper he replied, "I don't think I've got anything to teach you, Mac. All appearances to the contrary. But I don't mind giving it a whirl."

I whispered, "Yes."

"Yes," he replied, as he bent to kiss my forehead, his hand going up to my hair, touching it gently, rubbing a few strands between his fingers like he was testing the texture of silk threads. I sighed as he moved his mouth from my brow to my lips, placing a kiss there that was lighter than a sleeping cat's breath.

"Yes," he repeated, moving lower, to my throat, as he shifted his body so his other hand was released and he could touch me again, without letting go of my hair.

But his hand, free to touch, didn't move after that. His head resting on my chest, his arms trapping mine, the fingers of his newly freed hand on my shoulder, his other hand in my hair, he simply lay there, his body, all the weight of him, on mine.

I felt his breath on my skin. I could smell his hair. It had a fresh damp smell like an infant's. I could feel his heartbeat, strong and steady as the pounding of some great machine.

The moment grew into minutes, and the quiet in the hotel room became palpable.

I heard waking city noises, odd banging sounds from the old-fashioned radiator. The shrill morning hunger cries of birds.

More. I heard the air move, the blood running in his veins, his arteries. I heard the stirring of the hair at his groin, when he shivered in the morning chill and his cock jerked fractionally against my thighs.

Still he lay there, body warm against mine, and I knew he was savoring the feel of me with every inch of him, flesh and muscle, bone and soul, with all his senses at once, save his eyes.

And when he began to rock, imperceptibly at first, I could hear the blood rushing into my own organ, and the saliva swirling in my mouth. I heard myself swallow and I heard myself crying silently. Each hot tear that streaked down my temples and seeped into my ears had its own melodic line.

And still he didn't move beyond the rocking motion.

I moved then, carefully freeing my arms and embracing him, turning him gently onto his back beside me.

I moved, half covering him with my body, and kissing his closed eyes - first the left, then the right.

I moved my hand down his shoulder past his biceps to his wrist, then took his hand, brought it up to my mouth and kissed the palm.

"Yes," he said again, and that was all.

"Teach me, then," I repeated, placing his hand back on the sheet and stroking his body, throat to belly, slowly, lightly, without pressing anywhere.

"Yes," he told me, without moving.

"Teach me, then," I said again, insisting, moving my hand lower, to his groin, gently covering his sex with my palm, then holding it tightly, waiting and watching while his cock firmed and grew in my hand, without a stroke or a motion.

I bent my head and kissed his mouth, then went lower, taking his sex in my mouth and sucking carefully, pulling along the swollen shaft with my hand in a matching rhythm. I listened to his breathing, the intake of breath that accompanied each pull of my mouth on his cock, listened with my eyes closed for the sound of the sheets rustling in response to his involuntary movements. I could hear the noise his stomach muscles made as they tensed and tensed again. And the simple drumbeat of his buttocks clenching and trembling with his mounting pleasure.

In the silence I grew bolder, stroking more firmly, quickly, tasting and savoring the fullness of his cock in my mouth, my lips and tongue straining to memorize the feel of him, and bring him great joy.

And I listened more closely because now I wanted to hear only one thing, one sound to match the increasing tempo of my sucking and his buckling, ejaculation, and afterspasms. Only one sound, to make my own joy complete.

I heard it, on a sigh. The sound I listened for. The word. He hissed it, hissed "Yes," so I knew he'd taught me well, and I was happy.

I'd lived so long, made love so many times. Never had I made love with so much passion, to someone whose responses were ineffable, nearly invisible. Never had I been so positive I'd achieved the responses I sought.

And never had I made love with expectation of no return whatever, and received none, not even an attempt at taking his turn. Not a hint that he imagined it was his turn.

I'd lived so long, made love so many times. This was the first time I was truly satisfied, didn't feel the tristesse, the little death, that always accompanied sex, however much I loved my partner, however much they loved me in return.

I didn't know how Methos happened upon me, why he fixed on me, chose me for his own. For his own brand of love, humor, and anguish. I only knew I could never deserve him, or the joy I felt enveloped in, when he was with me. Or the pain that drove me mad when he wasn't there. I didn't know why I got to hear the music, only that it was the best music, the music I'd listened for all my long life.

My questions had no answers I'd ever be wise enough to discover. But I was a lucky bastard, that much I knew. It was enough.


I awoke to the feel of his hands in my hair and his body on mine, energetically moving now, lively. I smiled without speaking and drew his head down, kissing his mouth. He responded with passion then moved further down, to my neck, licking my throat like a cat, his tongue pressing roughly against my skin, then sucking the spot with a sloppy wet noise. I smiled again, putting my hands behind my head under the pillow, settling in for a treat, because I knew one was coming.

He traveled down my body as if he was riding a train from Paris to Rome, slowly, a bumpy ride, from throat to chest, nipple to nipple, sniffing and licking, using his tongue like a rapier, expertly, with aplomb. I couldn't stop grinning when I realized he'd reached my belly with his kisses without removing his hands from my hair to touch me elsewhere.

"Look, ma, no hands?" I asked, teasing him happily.

"Shut up, MacLeod. I've been wanting to fiddle with your hair for as long as I've known you. Give a guy a chance."

"I'm not complaining," I replied, bringing my arms around and holding my hands up high over his head. "May I participate, or is this a one-man affair?"

"For now, one at a time," he said seriously, looking into my eyes.

"You can't mean it!" I exclaimed, close to being dismayed.

"I do. One conductor per trip, otherwise it gets too complicated." When I didn't agree, he said gently, "It's a learning experience. How to give with some semblance of success. For me too," he added, "I'm learning too."

I took a deep breath and expelled it, nodding. "You're right, I guess."

"You'll have your chance, MacLeod, never fear! When I get someone in, it'll be you!"

I laughed out loud and put my hands back behind my head, but I was determined to stay alert and keep my eyes and ears open since it went without saying that what he'd do to me for my pleasure must be at least something like what he enjoyed himself.

He extricated his fingers from their grip on my hair and moved them down my body slowly, following the path he'd earlier taken with his mouth. When his hands reached my belly he placed his head lower down, by my groin, kissing my cock, licking it, as he'd done higher up. I gasped.

My arousal was so quick, almost unexpected - from nothing to full engorgement - that I was shocked. He'd done nothing, or virtually nothing. Only kissed me, without a hand or a finger to assist him, even merely to hold me in place. His hands still warm on my stomach, he continued the gentle laving of my erect cock, which jumped and jerked unfettered and free. I was already seeping, my groin afire, my throat tight, and my body buckling. I came immediately, and Methos pressed my stomach, licking the milky white discharge. When I was finished he rested his head on my flaccid cock.

I opened my eyes to look at him and saw that his own eyes were closed.

"Methos?"

"What?" he murmured, brushing his lips against the hair at my groin.

"May I touch you now?"

"Nope. I'm not done."

"You're not done? What more can there be?"

"The rest of my pleasure. Then I'll pleasure you."

"What?" I couldn't follow. "You've already pleasured me."

"Nope. That was for me. Your turn next. But give me a chance to enjoy this first."

I shook my head. It was like talking to an alien, or listening to words from one of the language groups that didn't have the same basic roots as the Romance languages. Unintelligible.

After a while he slid up my body and rested his head on my chest, drawing my arms around him and pulling the sheet over us.

I risked a question trying hard to keep my voice neutral, and not sound facetious. "Is there anything else you want - that might give you pleasure?"

He looked up then, startled, a flush rising in his cheeks and brightening his throat. His cock was caught between us, against my thighs, and it was rock hard and seeping.

He began to reply, then shook his head and lay it down on my breast again.

I whispered into his hair, "I want everything. All of it. Don't waste it, my friend."

I hoped I hadn't been too blunt, said too much. Whatever the reason, he hadn't gone as far as he could go. Didn't even expect the minimum - relief of sexual tension. Or want it, maybe. But he was a man, not a woman. No matter how many centuries he'd lived, I couldn't believe he'd actually want to carry a hard-on like that around without attempting to relieve it. It was impossible, not just unthinkable. Men didn't savor things quite that way.

Still, he hadn't accepted my offer, in any form.

I wanted to touch his cock, hold him, stroke and suck him. But there was something I wanted more. For him to take me - holding nothing back - as I'd taken him before.

I wanted to belong to him.

But I was afraid to do anything to get it across. To speak more bluntly or move a muscle. Afraid.

I was so lost in my own thoughts and he spoke so quietly that I almost didn't hear him until he was half-way through his sentence.

"- then I won't be able to give you up."

Frantically I said, "What?"

"I said, if I once possess you I won't be able to give you up."

"I don't want you to give me up. Ever."

"You're very sincere."

"I'm telling the truth," I replied with conviction. "Believe it."

He sighed and lifted himself off me, his torso straightening, his cock springing free of its confinement between us. He was gloriously beautiful. I prevented myself from crying out, weeping at the sight of him, by an act of will wrenched from the deepest part of me. If I wept I knew he'd never take me. So I smiled instead.

He reached one hand down and touched my shoulder. I tore my eyes from him and turned onto my belly, my heart pounding so loudly I couldn't believe he didn't hear it. Maybe he did. Hands on my hips he lifted my buttocks, his shaft resting in the cleft. Spreading my cheeks, he inserted a finger gently. I closed my eyes. I couldn't breathe. The touch of his other fingers was gentle but the pain of the finger within me was exquisite, and the pleasure of just that much was greater than anything I remembered.

I must have flinched, or tightened up, I don't know, because he murmured, "Mac?"

"More," was all I could manage, but the sound of his voice had the peculiar effect of making my own cock harden and grow and I wondered what else there could be, what beyond this moment there could be, that was better, more pleasurable.

He pressed his finger further in, then removed it carefully, and my opening spasmed as he stroked my buttocks. Then he was in me again, more than one finger, perhaps two, maybe three, I wasn't sure. I moved into the penetration, forcing his fingers farther into me, and I lifted my chest off the mattress, holding myself steady with straightened arms.

He pushed his fingers in and out, rotating them gently when they were farthest inside me, until I thought I'd go mad with the sensation and I'd come without touching myself.

When he removed his fingers I dropped my head down, collapsing on my elbows, bereft. I whimpered, pleaded, "More."

"Oh God," he uttered with a groan, and entered me more forcefully than I expected, and farther in than I could take without pain, his cock thick and hard.

I bit my lip and strangled a cry and he went deeper still, his nails biting into my hips, his thighs slapping against my mine with a sound I'll remember all my life, like the waves against rocks, like the sea.

I whimpered again, tears flowing freely now, and I pulled away, pushed back, setting the rhythm myself, since he didn't do it.

But he picked up my rhythm and plunged in and out with a wildness I matched but never expected. He clung to my hips, bracing himself against me, using my body as a bulwark which permitted him to ride without falling.

I couldn't get enough and I wanted him never to stop. I wished fervently for him never to stop, cried out over and over again, "More!"

Until he spasmed against me, spurting his seed, the essence of his body into me, his nails making holes in my hips.

And there was no more.

And he pulled out, falling backwards and sideways, not on me, flopping onto his back, his eyes shut tight and his fists clenched.

After a few minutes I shifted around on the mattress and sat next to him, my engorged cock resting on my crossed legs. I ran my fingers through his hair absently, then traced the sharp curve of his cheek with one nail. But it wasn't until I placed a kiss on his lips that he opened his eyes.

I reached for his hands and he didn't resist my touch but his fists remained closed.

His eyes shifted from my face to my legs and he noticed my erection.

"Oh my God," he exclaimed, "I don't think I've got the strength -"

"Shush. It'll subside. It's nothing. Don't worry."

He relaxed then, accepting my assurances without further protest and closed his eyes again. For a while I sat there looking at him, my groin tingling with unspent pleasure, and I knew for a moment what he'd meant earlier on. I didn't need to relieve the pressure or the pain. I loved the feel of it, the knowing that his pleasure had evoked this raging hard-on, his penetration and possession of me had left behind this evidence of my joy in his taking.

"What is it, Mac?" he asked, opening his eyes when he realized I'd gone still as well as silent.

"For the first time, I understand how they feel."

"Who?"

"Women."

He narrowed his eyes and asked, "How'd you mean?"

"They're telling the truth, women, when they say it doesn't matter. Orgasm."

"Oh, Mac, don't be fooled. It matters!"

"I know it does. But not always. When a woman says that her release doesn't matter, it's not a lie."

"How do you figure?" he asked, curious.

"Because the unrelieved - excitement - she feels is like evidence of her joy in my pleasure when I take her. Being possessed, taken, penetrated by someone you love, simply for the joy of experiencing his joy, can be enough. At least sometimes, nothing more is needed or even wanted. The release isn't necessary. Sometimes, you want to hang on to the unrelieved - stirring."

"I suppose you've got a point there, Mac, but I wouldn't make a habit of taking it literally!"

I laughed. "Don't worry, I won't. But it's good to know that they're not lying."

"Makes you feel like God's in his heaven, all's right with the world, Mac?" he remarked with a grin.

"Yes, it does. But it's not important anymore," I replied seriously.

"Don't let Amanda hear you say that."

"It's not important anymore because I won't be with a woman. I'll be with you. But it's good to know it's true about all of us - both sexes."

He sat up then, and after a moment swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood. He picked up his jeans from the floor and put them on quickly. Then he looked at me and said, "You're not serious, I hope."

"Perfectly serious," I replied calmly, but frowning now. "I hope to be with you. If you'll have me."

"That's absurd."

"What's absurd?" I asked, standing myself and grabbing for my robe. Already I knew what he meant and the dread clutched at my heart like the fingers of death. I asked the question only to give myself time to think. But I couldn't think.

"That we'd be together. Just because we fucked, we're not joined at the hip."

I was angry. "We didn't fuck."

"No? What would you call it?"

"We made love," I replied defiantly. "Whether you want to admit it or not."

"Okay, we made love. So what. It's still true that we're not joined at the hip."

"I want more, to make love to you again."

"Sure - anytime. Whenever it strikes your fancy, Mac. I'm in the book." He found his sweater and t-shirt, separated them, turned them rightside out and put them on. Then he traveled around the hotel room - looking for his shoes and socks, I supposed.

I tried to remain calm, clamp down on my fury, but it wasn't easy. I asked quietly, "What is it now, Methos? What's eating you?"

"Nothing."

"Something. It's something. Or don't you want to admit you love me?"

"I admit it. Changes nothing."

"That I love you and you love me changes nothing?" I asked in a rising tone of incredulity. "How could you consider leaving me?"

"I'm not 'leaving you,' MacLeod. I'm just leaving Bordeaux. You are too. We'll go back to Paris. It's time." When I didn't reply he continued earnestly, "Nothing's changed, Mac. I just made a mistake when I thought we couldn't go farther. We could. We have. We're still friends."

"Friends."

Exasperatedly, running his hands through his hair in a characteristic gesture, he repeated it. "Yes, friends! What more can there be?"

"I don't know. I was hoping to find out."

"Well, I do know. There's nothing more."

"You sure about that?" I replied with a question, taking another breath, possibly the second one I'd taken since he'd gotten out of bed.

"What more can there be? It was bad enough before. Two male Immortals running around Paris together, running around Seacouver together, like a couple of morons with bull's-eyes painted on their chests! You think Cass could have tracked me if I hadn't come to you? She wasn't even looking! You think I'd have hung around with Kronos if it hadn't been for you? We're targets, Mac, and we double the target area every time we walk down the street together! If we lived together - I don't even want to think about the implications!"

"You're telling me we can't be together because you're afraid for us, because of the Game?"

He didn't reply.

"Methos?"

He sighed. "Only partly."

"So what's the rest of it?"

"I can't do it, Mac. I can't live with you. With an Immortal. It's impossible."

"Why? You lived with Alexa."

"That was different."

"How? Because she was dying? Because you knew it wouldn't be for long?"

"No! I'd have given anything to keep her alive - you know it!"

"So? What is it?" I waited. "Is it that you don't love me? Did I make a mistake about that?"

"No," he replied wearily, "no mistake. I've loved you forever, it seems. Too long." He shook his head. "I can't live with an Immortal, Mac. I can't do it. I've gotta be alone. Free. It's a tie I can't make. Never could. I'm sorry."

"You don't believe it'll last?" I ventured the question, remembering what he'd said about Gina and Robert, how he couldn't imagine loving someone for three hundred years.

"That's not it."

"I'm not letting you leave this room without hearing the truth from you," I told him. I meant it.

He finally answered me. "I can't protect you, Mac. Can't fight your battles for you. And I can't bear to watch you fight." He paused. "I don't want you to lose your head and I certainly don't want to be around when you do, with my hands tied! I'd rather hear about it through the grapevine," he told me, his voice low, serious and terribly strained.

I flinched. "Twice that I can remember, you stopped a fight, or took it on yourself -"

"That's right. Kalas and Kronos. For all the good it did me."

"Methos, you've survived five thousand years. Don't tell me you're not used to the Game." When he didn't answer I pleaded, "Please - don't leave me for that! I won't lose! I'm the best there is, even you think so -"

"Mac, it could go either way. I can't live with you and watch it, day after day, year after year. I can't. It's bad enough the way it used to be - any closer in and I'll lose my sanity completely. Such as it is," he added with a shrug.

"'If I gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned, dancing through the night with you,'" I replied, quoting a song I knew he loved.

"Meat Loaf. 'Bat Out Of Hell.' Right," he responded automatically.

"I mean it, Methos. I don't want to lose my head and I don't want you to lose yours either. It would drive me mad. I don't have very far to go, and I haven't been around anything like as long as you have. But I understand how you feel."

"But you don't understand, Mac. That's a song, not a guide for living! I don't want to be damned, dancing through the night with you or any other way! I want to live!"

"So do I."

"I want to live!" he repeated desperately, shouting, "not die and be damned!"

"I do too! But not without the person who makes my life worth living!"

For a moment he just stared at me. Then he took a deep breath, expelled it, and replied calmly, "Well, so, we disagree." There was a stubborn set to his shoulders, one I recognized.

I knew I couldn't talk him around now. Or wheedle him around either. The harder I'd try, the deeper he'd sink his heels in.

But he loved me. I knew what that meant. It meant he couldn't resist the pull. He wouldn't be able to resist it, especially now that we'd made love. Even before, he spent so much time sleeping on my couch that I only found out that he had his own flat from Joe, when I wanted to ask him whether what Cassandra told me about the Horsemen was true.

"Okay," I said at last, "whatever you want. Like you say, you're in the book. And there's always Joe's joint. We'll see each other like we always have. Nothing needs to change."

He perked up immediately, giving me a sweet relaxed smile. "That's right," he told me enthusiastically. "We can meet at Joe's. You've got a phone and so do I. It'll be the same as it always was -"

"Only better," I interrupted, smiling.

"Yeah, better," he agreed with a sheepish grin.

I started to throw my things into my overnight bag. "You left your stuff at the marine base?" I asked over my shoulder. "You want to go back and get your gear?"

"Nothing there I need."

"Your wallet with your credit cards?" I reminded him.

"Oh, I've got them with me," he remarked, reaching into his pocket and bringing his case out. He wiggled it in front of me.

"You said -" Then I stopped. Damn his eyes! All right. I was flattered. And impressed. In the midst of that insanity, when he was scarcely able to stand on his feet or utter a coherent sentence, he'd summoned the presence of mind to tell a little white lie, so he didn't need to leave me. Incredible.

I turned away to hide my grin. Game or no, he'd be living on my barge in no time, no time at all. "Bat Out Of Hell" was a really long song, with a lot of lyrics. I knew them all.


End

*Quote from T.S. Eliot's poem, "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" (I'm not certain whether Eliot himself is quoting back from another source - possibly Shakespeare - he often does.)