A Heart For Any Fate
by Maygra de Rhema

THIS IS NC-17 RATED: Lovingly Graphic Male/Male Sex.

This piece has nothing to do with anything else I have written and takes place approximately one month after The Modern Prometheus

As always, The Highlander characters: Duncan, Methos, Joe, et al, are the property of Rysher: Panzer/Davis and I am ruthlessly exploiting their characters for no monetary gain and for my own (and now your) enjoyment but I will return them unharmed and no worse for the wear. This material may not be copied or distributed without my permission--I don't want R:P/D hunting me down--I have enough problems. Do not link, publish or post this material without permission.

Much thanks to my beta's The Goddess Atilla, Merry Lynne, C.C. Deas, Eng, W.A. Johnston & The Gang {in their never ending permutations} & V. Watts. And Kevin, the True Prince of the Universe, for all encouragement--tongue in cheek or not. Input appreciated, despite all commas and comments: Send comments to Maygra c/o maygra@bellsouth.net

This is the one for Atilla the HuNee, who has and always will have the kind of heart it takes to make the rest worthwhile. 

"Here's a sigh to those who love me,
And a smile to those who hate;
And, whatever sky's above,
Here's a heart for any fate."

--Byron, To Thomas More


It was an Irish custom, this wake, and scarce a Leprechaun present save Joe Dawson who was doing his best to change nationality with the help of a bottle of good Irish. It was barely enough.

Getting drunk was the plan; but it was barely enough.

MacLeod watched the elder Watcher, noticing his age again. It had shown up more and more in the last few months. Immortals were given time to inure themselves to the deaths of friends, or so the theory ran. It was not entirely true; but, if time healed, then Immortals generally had an edge over the rest of the planet's population.

Mike's death had hit the Watcher hard. It had hit MacLeod hard as well: Hard enough to kill the man responsible; hard enough to wrap justice and mercy up in the same deadly package because Byron had been ready to die. Past ready--he had wanted it. In his darker moments, Mac wondered if Mike's death had not been the last desperate invitation Byron had made to end his life. A life bereft of the soul which had inspired millions.

The poet whose words had been treasured by generations had been lost centuries ago. The rock star had affected the same amount of people in a shorter time due to the affects of mass media. The real loss was that when Byron finally had access to the world, he had nothing left to say.

Only one person the Highlander knew disagreed with that view.

Methos had shown up, surprisingly.

The rest of Joe's band knew him without knowing of the depth and length of his friendship with Lord Byron. They accepted his presence as natural. Adam was, after all, friend to Joe and MacLeod and to the talented young musician they had all lost.

MacLeod watched him from across the barge's open floor plan, not surprised when the older Immortal went directly to Joe. Mac was more surprised when after a few words the blues man wrapped his arms around the slender form in both forgiveness and grief. Upon parting, the hazel eyes searched the room and came to rest on MacLeod's face. The expression was neither damning nor forgiving. Methos had done his best to talk Mac out of challenging the poet. No doubt he had also done his best to convince Byron to take an extended vacation.

When his arguments fell on two sets of deaf ears, he had backed off. It didn't make the pain of losing a friend, a student any less painful, but Methos had a capacity for acceptance the Highlander did not. A capacity the younger Immortal sometimes envied. What if it had been Richie who had gone wildly, badly wrong? If it had been Methos who stepped in to curb the destructive urges permanently?

It didn't bear thinking about. Or it did, but not for long. Mac was depressed enough. Not just about Mike, or even about Byron really--wishing he could share that Quickening with Methos just to assure his...friend...how very tired Byron had been of living, of life. Of the emptiness his life had come to personify. It might make Methos' grief easier, Methos, who was mourning two losses.

The papers said only that Mike had been found dead of an overdose in Lord Byron's swanky hotel room. There was no way to hide it with the press forever lurking outside the rock star's suites. That fact revealed, all anyone else knew was that Byron had vanished. A massive manhunt was on for the man to see what involvement he might have had in the youth's death.

A manhunt that would go unresolved; a murder or accidental death unsolved.

There had been no words of recrimination when Mac had found both Methos and Joe at Maurice's. One look at the Highlander's face had told Joe Dawson what he wanted to know. What he needed to know. It had been the same for Methos, who never harbored any real doubts about the outcome.

That had been over a month ago. Thirty days while the Parisian police refused to release Mike's body until the investigation was put on the back files. Once the body was discharged, Joe made the arrangements and Mac paid the fees to have Mike's body returned to London. Dawson would be leaving to escort Mike to the boy's parents in the next day or so, thus the wake.

A month for MacLeod to re-examine his relationship with Methos and find no accusations in the gold-green eyes, no censure. Barely a comment, save that while Methos had not been avoiding him, he had not actively sought out the Highlander's company either.

MacLeod missed him.

That had been as much of a shock as the rest of what he felt untangled itself in his heart and mind. Byron's death had put many things in perspective and MacLeod had literally, to his shame, found that at least part of the antagonism he had felt toward the poet-turned-musician had stemmed from jealously.

He had suspected that Methos and Byron had been intimate at times in their mutual pasts. Byron's death had confirmed it when one of the last impressions Mac received from that transferred life force was a deep affection and some sorrow for the man Byron had called 'Doc'. Upon returning to the bar, Mac had kept his silence as much from fatigue and dismay as apology that he had killed not only Methos' student, but an ex-lover as well.

There had been no accusations, no recriminations. Methos had not so many friends that he could afford to lose them.

As he watched him move through the barge, Mac was surprised to see how the older Immortal seemed a natural extension of his living space, despite the subdued tension between them. Except the tension between them wasn't over Byron's death, but over something lying unresolved.

Methos got himself a beer and found a place to sit, out of the way. Joe talked to him until the band began an impromptu session of songs. Even then, the older Immortal remained separate. He sat, tapping his foot to the music and sipping his beer, but apart, alone.

MacLeod pulled a beer from the fridge and went to him, offering the bottle in exchange for the near empty one in the slender hands.

"Thanks," Methos murmured, with the faintest of smiles on his face.

"I'm glad you came," MacLeod said quietly, leaning against the wall next to the older man, letting the soft blues sound wash over him.

"Me too. He did appreciate Mike's talent," Methos said softly.

"I know. Appreciated it too much maybe. Methos, I'm sor--"

"Don't. You did what you had to, Mac," Methos said a little tightly. "Don't think I don't know it. I don't have to like it, but I know it. Some candles burn too bright and some too short," he added sipping at his beer.

"But Byron was more to you than just a friend," Mac pressed gently.

Silence stretched between them for a few moments. "Did you know before?"

"I suspected, but no. I didn't know."

"Would it have made a difference?"

"Probably not," MacLeod admitted.

"We should stay away from each other's ex-lovers, Mac. Not healthy for them."

It stung a little, Mac mentally stepping back for a moment to wonder if Methos thought he had challenged Byron because of Kristin. "Kristin was--"

"--a menace," Methos said evenly. "So was Gordon," he added softly. "It's all right, Mac. Or it will be. I just...miss his brilliance. Him."

Common ground. MacLeod regretted the brilliance that might have been Mike's. But then, Methos felt that loss as well. Defend Byron as he had tried, he had known the Immortal had robbed another of his right to shine for a brief moment.

In that unguarded moment, MacLeod recognized the depth of loss his friend experienced. Realized that Methos had far outlived almost everyone he knew...that he might not have other past acquaintances, friends or lovers who might appear. God knew MacLeod's own list was growing shorter with each passing year. Without thinking about it, Mac slid his arms around slender shoulders and felt Methos return the embrace. "No matter the reason or that it might need to be done. I'm sorry I killed your friend," he murmured against the short dark hair.

"I'm sorry you had to," Methos said, voice slightly muffled against MacLeod's shoulder. When they parted, both sets of eyes were suspiciously bright.

The wake broke up about two a.m., Mac ensuring that all the more inebriated participants and mourners were seen safely into cabs, cars with designated drivers or off on foot. Methos offered Joe a ride, but the Watcher declined, easing himself into a cab with two other members of the band. After everyone else had left, Mac found Methos still sitting quietly in the corner, an empty beer bottle and the songbook collection of Byron's music in his lap. When he noticed Mac cleaning up he got to his feet again, searching for his coat.

"It's late. Why don't you stay?" MacLeod asked as Methos got his coat.

"I think not, Mac," the older Immortal said, hazel eyes meeting darker ones with a smile echoing on his lips. "As comfortable as your couches are, I think a bed would be nice and I could use a change of clothes."

"You could borrow some sweats," MacLeod suggested and Methos stared at him oddly.

"Are you all right? Do you want to talk about something?" he asked, suddenly concerned.

"Yes," The answer came softly, but MacLeod wouldn't look at him directly. His dark eyes hidden as he placed glasses into the sink.

Methos set his coat down and came back to the galley-island, crossing his arms as he leaned against the granite top. "What is it, Mac? What's wrong?"

"We are," MacLeod said. He lifted his eyes at last to meet the gold-green gaze cast so anxiously at him.

Methos tensed a little at the even phrasing. MacLeod, it seemed, had come to a decision of sorts. "We are wrong? Are you going to explain this to me or am I supposed to guess?" he asked, a trace of sarcasm entering his voice. Had they not settled this already? Had not Mac's earlier comfort and apology been honestly meant? The combination of a few too many beers, the depressing reason for the gathering, and the lingering brilliance of Byron's words as the poet had set them to music had left Methos over-sensitive and vulnerable. Neither was a feeling he relished or was well acquainted with any longer.

"Don't," the Highlander said and then fell silent again.

"Don't what, Mac? What have I done this time? Or is this a long term decision you've been working on?" he demanded softly, not willing to take another round of guilt from the Highlander. He wasn't strong enough at the moment to counter more of the Scot's brooding morality and veiled judgments.

"Don't jump to conclusions and don't..." MacLeod closed his hand around Methos' wrist lightly. "And don't throw up a barrier of cynicism. This is hard enough for me as it is..."

Methos drew a slow breath, eyes closing as if expecting a blow.

He felt a pair of soft lips against his instead. His mouth and eyes opened in surprise, then his eyes closed again as the Highlander took the parted lips as an invitation and made a thorough exploration of his mouth. A broad strong hand caught the back of his neck and pulled him closer, hip nudging him away from the counter so MacLeod could slide his body against the older Immortal's.

The initial shock faded quickly as Methos responded, arms slipping to the Highlander's waist to steady himself, a low moan escaping him as MacLeod brushed his groin against Methos' in a gentle suggestion.

They parted reluctantly, Methos a little glassy eyed. He hadn't expected this...not in a million years.

"Mac--" he breathed, trying to still his pounding heart.

"Be quiet. Just for a moment and listen," MacLeod said, his hands resting lightly on Methos' shoulders, thumbs gently stroking his jaw line. "I started this badly. When I said we were wrong I meant we were wrong to keep dancing around each other like adolescents. I'm not and you certainly aren't. I have...felt...for a long time, known for a long time that there was more than a friendship building between us. And I don't think I'm such an egomaniac that I misread the signs from you. Did I? I want you, Methos, in my bed, in my arms, but most especially in my life. I keep thinking I'm driving you away because I won't acknowledge that there is something more here. Am I wrong?"

"About which part?" Methos countered a little breathlessly, trying for clarity of thought, trying to buy himself some time. "No. No, Mac, you weren't...wrong. But I'm not so sure this is right either."

"That's an answer?"

"No," Methos chuckled and drew back a little. "It's a stall," he said and MacLeod smiled faintly, a little wonder in his dark eyes.

"Here's a first. I think I just found a way to render you speechless."

"Bloody close," Methos admitted and drew another breath. "Mac. You aren't wrong...I do...and have wanted you for a long time...but I want your friendship much more, that's first. And this may not be right...for you...for us...."

"It wasn't a marriage proposal," MacLeod said with a chuckle.

"I almost wished it had been. Saying no then would have been much easier," Methos said seriously.

MacLeod studied him, watched the emotions shift through the hazel eyes. He hadn't imagined the response in the slender body. He hadn't really been prepared for the depth of his own. He reached up to cup his hand around Methos' neck, pulling him closer. Methos caught his wrist, pulling away. A look of near pain crossed his face and MacLeod stopped, concerned.

"Are you saying 'no'?" he asked softly. "Tell me what's wrong."

"I'm saying..." Methos began and wrenched away. He took a few short steps away, putting his back to MacLeod and his long arms folded tightly across his chest. "I'm saying that thinking about this before doing anything about it may be a really, really good idea," he finished and turned, once more in control of his feelings and his face, but not his body. MacLeod saw it and Methos knew it. There was no hiding the straining bulge beneath his jeans and no embarrassment or explanation. MacLeod suddenly realized what a raw need he'd unleashed with his kiss; one that spoke of a man who had been alone for far too long.

By choice, MacLeod was certain, and the struggle in his friend was suddenly clear.

"Nothing casual," MacLeod said quietly.

"Not for me, not any more, Mac. It's happened. But mortal lives are too...too fragile to treat as more fleeting than they are. And sex without emotion, even with another Immortal, is just an exercise."

"How long?"


Nearly two years. Two years in which MacLeod had watched the man in front of him be torn apart by his past. Two years in which MacLeod had been torn apart by Methos' past--but he'd not been alone. Amanda had been there to ease the worst of it.

"And you think I'm offering something casual."

"I don't know what you're offering, MacLeod. Do you?"

"I thought so. Methos, are you in love with me?"

The slender body went even more still, if that were possible, but the lips twitched. "It's very likely. I haven't thought about it much because it seemed impossible. I didn't seem your type."

"Not female."

"Among other things," Methos said with a chuckle, body relaxing slightly.

MacLeod nodded and turned away to reach into the refrigerator for a couple of beers. When he returned the older Immortal had relaxed considerably more. The need was not quite so blatant as he accepted the beer and sat down. He sought the corner of the sofa, folding his long frame up against the arm while MacLeod sat on the coffee table.

"Thank you. I'm not sure I'm up to this sober," Methos said.

"Maybe I'm trying to get you drunk to take advantage of you," MacLeod said, half in jest.

"It might not be a bad idea," Methos replied and rubbed his face with the heel of his hand. Fatigue was evident on his features and his figure. He shook his head and studied his host. "Why now, Mac? Does this have to do with Byron? Is this sympathy or regret?"

"No!" Mac said firmly but he had to think about why it had suddenly become important. He had been thrown off his stride as well. In his own arrogance, once he'd come to the decision it never occurred to him that Methos might say no, that the offer might not be enough. "Maybe because I know more about him...about you through him, but it's not guilt and I'm not looking for some kind of absolution."

"Is it just curiosity?" The soft baritone interrupted his thoughts. Mac looked up, startled. The gold-green eyes were fixed on him without accusation.

"No! No. I...I don't think so."

"It would be easier to handle if it were, Mac, for you and for me," Methos said. He stared down at the bottle in his hands, slender fingers patiently peeling the label off in a single sheet.

"Is it so easy for you to shut down everything you feel?" MacLeod asked, watching him. His gaze unflinching when Methos glanced at him sharply.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that if this were curiosity, you would say yes. No matter what you felt."

"I might," Methos murmured. "I'd still want to know how you felt about it, Mac. Homosexuality isn't in your repertoire as far as I know. Or did some Watcher miss something somewhere?"

"Very likely," Mac said cryptically. "Is it inconceivable to you that I could be attracted to a man? To you?" he asked, a little annoyed. Growing more so when Methos wouldn't answer. "You think I'm that narrow-minded?"

"Mac, I don't know what to think!" Methos said with a sudden outrush of air and got to his feet, eyes wide and face strained. "You want a quick tumble in bed to find out what it's like? Fine! You want to make this some kind of acid test for our friendship? Fine! But if it's something else--if it's something more...." He stopped and turned away again, his shoulders shaking slightly.

MacLeod rose more slowly, uncertain. What had he said? He had the distinct impression Methos was fighting back grief and searched his mind for the last few words to find out what he could have said to hurt his friend so.

"Methos...?" he said softly, reaching out to touch one shoulder gently. The older Immortal turned and MacLeod stared, face going stormy again when he realized Methos was fighting laughter not tears.

"Glad you're amused," he said coolly.

"Would you rather I burst into tears?" Methos said, drawing in a shaky breath. "Mac, you have to see the irony of this. Here we are: me--getting an offer from you that I have thought about for months, masturbated over for months--and I'm acting like a Victorian schoolgirl. And you--who women practically faint over if you so much as glance at them--are getting angry because I turned you down!"

It took a moment, MacLeod trying to hold onto his annoyance and hurt, but he glanced once too often at the dancing hazel eyes and felt his lips twitch. The grin on Methos' face got wider and the laughter began all over again, involving every inch of the finely featured face.

MacLeod couldn't help himself, the chuckle started in his throat but after a few moments it had slipped deeper into his stomach. He had to sit down, leaning against his knees as the laughter died away. Part of it, he knew, was a release of grief, of tension, but most of it was sheer irony.

"So much for being suave and debonair," MacLeod said, drawing a deep breath, grinning as he saw the amusement still sparkling in the hazel eyes.

"Finesse, Highlander. It's called finesse and right now neither your experience nor mine seems to be of any use. Gods..." Methos let his frame collapse against the couch once more, boneless sprawl reassuring MacLeod that the tension between them had indeed eased.

"So now what?" Mac asked still smiling. "Shall we try a more traditional approach? I could send you flowers."

"Take you to a Bruce Springsteen concert?" Methos offered with a smirk.

"Dinner then dancing?" The Highlander suggested which sent Methos off into another paroxysm of laughter.

"I'm sure there are places in Paris but...dancing?"

"Maybe not," MacLeod assented with a chuckle and shifted to the coffee table once more. He gazed steadily at his friend, trying desperately not to let his eyes slide across the slender form. Even relaxed and with the laughter, MacLeod couldn't ever recall having been so fascinated or having such a response to another man's body. Which indicated that it wasn't a part of himself he'd overlooked but rather something Methos evoked. He had experimented, he knew the mechanics, but this was so utterly different from his prior limited experiences, which had always been about opportunistic release, he barely knew where to begin. He didn't want to just have sex with Methos. He wanted to make love to him. "Methos, I have no idea what I'm doing. All I know is that half of the strain...the frustration between us stems from me and I don't have any other solution."

"Are you open to one?" Methos asked seriously, shifting his weight upward as he reclined half on his side against the leather, long legs tangled against the arm of the sofa, propped up on one elbow so he could see Mac's face.

"I'm open to about anything you want to suggest...."

"Gods, Mac. Don't leave me an opening like that. I might surprise us both and take you up on it."

"You've already surprised me," MacLeod murmured.

"How so?"

"What you said...I didn't figure you would turn me down. I mean, I understand...I think...but it just..." MacLeod covered his face with his hands briefly, then pulled them away. "I watched you all evening. Saw you pull back from everyone but Joe...and I couldn't stand seeing you...alone..." MacLeod said quietly and dropped his gaze, studying his fingers as he bridged his hands together. "Not when you didn't need to be--when I didn't want to be...."

Methos sighed and moved his elbow, dropping back onto the sofa to stare at the ceiling. MacLeod's concern warmed him a bit, scared him more, and irritated him that he might be considered a pity case of some sort, after all.

Methos didn't move as MacLeod shifted to sit next to him on the edge of the sofa. He concentrated on breathing and on not tensing, but it was a losing battle as MacLeod's hand reached out, hesitating, not sure where to touch. The Highlander finally settled on his face, the fingers spreading to brush across the high arch of his cheek, feeling the hard bone just beneath the skin.

"You're not going to help me out here at all, are you?" MacLeod asked softly and the hazel eyes fixed on darker ones.

"Is that what you want, Mac? You want me to take the lead here, be the one to drive this to whatever end it has to meet?" His reply was harsh but his tone was not. He closed his eyes and went tense, then moved, shoving himself back as he struggled to sit up.

He got his hands under him as MacLeod pulled back, startled, extended hand moving to press against the sofa back. "Methos..."

"I can't do this, MacLeod. I can be a teacher in many things but not this. Not when I want it so badly...want you so badly. Don't ask me..." he murmured and started to swing his legs off the sofa.

MacLeod's hand moved quickly, surprising both of them when his fingers reached out to hook into the waistband of Methos' jeans to keep him from leaving. For one brief moment, both sets of eyes went to where the Highlander's broad hand had found purchase. Both of them aware of the exchange of heated skin, separated only by the thin cotton of Methos' T-shirt.

The younger Immortal caught his breath, feeling the older man's stomach tighten against the backs of his fingers.

MacLeod's eyes lifted first, the hazel ones a moment later as the Highlander slid his fingers along the reinforced band toward the snap. He tugged gently as he shifted his weight onto the sofa more securely, hip to hip. His hand slipped from the back of the couch to settle between the cushions and the slender waist of the man watching him.

The fingers tightened, closing over the snap without undoing it but twisting the fabric and a small flash of...something...skated across Methos' face. The eyelashes falling for a brief second before he lifted them again, lips slightly parted as the denim was drawn tightly across his hips and groin.

Not releasing his hold on the fabric MacLeod moved his other hand. He slid it behind the taut neck and moved his fingers through the short silken strands before pressing the other man's head forward as he leaned in.

As before, he took the parted lips as an invitation, felt Methos duck his head ever so slightly as their lips brushed, then come up again. The older man yielded slowly, allowing himself to be coaxed, lips parting further as MacLeod's tongue delicately traced the inside of his lips.

The warmth of MacLeod's mouth seared through Methos like the sudden warmth of the sun after a rain. He concentrated on it, not trying to steal it, only to feel it, to savor it. Mac smelled faintly of beer and soap and sweat and the taste of him was just as subtle. It reminded Methos of cold days spent curled in front of a fire with something warm and aromatic and comforting in his hands. The urge to touch was almost overwhelming. He wanted to lift his hands to the dark hair and feel it slide through his fingers.

Suddenly he was. He didn't recall lifting his hands but they were buried in MacLeod's hair, pulling strands gently from the clasp that bound the thick stuff. His back was pressed into the leather, the Highlander lying half on top of him. MacLeod's hand still supported his neck, but the other hand was lower, broad palm sliding along his thigh.

Methos pulled back from the kiss, breathing unsteady, almost harsh, gold-green eyes meeting the earth-brown ones, now darker with something other than the relatively dim light. He closed his own, letting his head fall back into the supporting hand, breath catching again when lips pressed against his throat, following the tendon in his neck. He wanted to protest, deny the surge and rush of blood in his ears, through his body. His increased heart rate was sending much needed oxygen to his limbs, making them tingle as every nerve ending came alive. A shudder took him from the overload of sensation, forcing a soft moan.

MacLeod stopped his steady advance along Methos' neck when he heard the sound. He could feel Methos' groin beneath him, flesh hardening, filling out and pressing the denim against his abdomen. It was both erotic and slightly frightening. Not because of the seduction he was initiating but because Methos so badly needed what MacLeod offered. A need Mac hadn't really thought much about.

The body beneath him was hard and taut, both from that need and from his obvious renewal with exercise to keep himself fit.. Their spars, of late, had become far more evenly matched and MacLeod had come to appreciate the subtle, quick strength in his friend. Glimpses of him in the shower had given MacLeod enough of a view to spend a few sleepless nights. Unable to banish those thoughts or images he had finally given them free rein...examining and re-examining his relationship to the older Immortal.

How much of this was curiosity? It had been a legitimate question. It startled MacLeod more that Methos would hesitate even after admitting his own desires. It was not as if MacLeod were a man in the first passionate blush of youth answering to a hormonal urge. And the reaction in the slight, strong body underneath him spoke volumes of urges Methos had chosen not to act on for whatever reason.

MacLeod had prepared for this encounter, studied, as much as was possible, the practices between men. Variations on techniques mostly--nothing he couldn't have already figured out from the few rough, fast mutual couplings of his experience, and yes, some curiosity about other practices. But how much damage could be wrought if the emotional involvement didn't run deep enough on his side? How much of Methos' friendship was he willing to risk should his interpretation of what might cement their friendship be entirely off?

Was it just casual sex? There wasn't anything casual about his relationship with Methos. Nothing fleeting, nothing haphazard or off-hand. It had been the problem from the beginning. Their lives twisting together as if they had somehow found some part of themselves, long lost, and were answering a desperate need to reattach the missing part. He wanted Methos, wanted to feel that incredibly strong and graceful body next his own, but wanting wasn't enough and there was too much else that needed to be answered for first.

Like friendship....

And now he had roused a long banked need and desire in the man and had no idea what to do about it.

"It's all right, Mac," Methos murmured, his lips close to MacLeod's ear as he pushed the younger man gently away. The hazel eyes were still a little glazed, breathing coming under control slowly. "You don't necessarily, in this case, have to finish what you started."

The Highlander lifted himself away, eyes locked with the older Immortal, wide in mute apology.

"I don't think I've ever been called a prick-tease," MacLeod said. "I don't much care for the title."

Methos chuckled and struggled to sit up once more, coming up on his elbows again. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, I can tell you that you are one of the best I've ever encountered," the older man said.

"Not really," was the terse reply and Methos did sit up. MacLeod found his neck caught by the incredibly strong, long fingers, his head dragged forward. The same mouth that had yielded so completely under his only moments before was now demanding. MacLeod responded without thinking, his own heart speeding up under the erotic assault on his senses. Osculation was obviously something Methos had studied extensively over the centuries. The kiss affected him all the way to his toes, and worse, in his groin. The image of that clever mouth touching a more intimate part of his anatomy was enough to bring his own needs to an aching desire for attention.

Methos broke the kiss a moment later, eyes dancing with mischief. Too clever, the old man was. "There. Now we're even," he said with a chuckle glancing down at the obvious evidence of his skill.

MacLeod groaned, head dropping forward to rest on his friend's shoulder. "I didn't realize you were comparing me to yourself," he said tensely but he could feel the laughter building in his chest. He lifted his head to meet the teasing grin.

"Only the best for you," Methos said with a chuckle but there was more to his words than a joke.

"If I pressed this, you would say yes, wouldn't you?" MacLeod asked suddenly serious. His hand came up to brush the sharp cheek, then cup the face in his hand.

Shyness was such an unexpected response, he was caught completely off guard. The hazel eyes dropped, Methos' hand coming up to clasp Mac's wrist once more. "Yes," he murmured. "But I wish you wouldn't."

"There's more to this than a reluctance for casual sex or even more than casual sex. Explain this to me, Methos, because I don't know what you want from me."

"Don't you? I want you, Mac. I want you more than anyone I have ever wanted in my life and I can't tell you why. All I know is that I would rather go on wanting you and never having you than have you and lose you and spend the rest of my life wanting what I lost."

MacLeod's breath caught in his throat. He had been closer to the truth earlier than he realized. Methos was in love with him He had just managed to offer Mac a rare glimpse of all the forms of love there were to be had; the kind of love Mac usually associated with small children and animals: Unconditional. Undemanding. Unwavering.


He pulled back and saw the flicker of emotion in the eyes, quickly masked, hidden. Swiftly he turned his hand to lace his fingers through Methos', seeing the surprise replace the flash of hurt.

"I need a moment for this...You are talking about forever?"

"Maybe," Methos' voice was a whisper. "Things change. People change--I know that, better than anyone. I can only deal with...with us...as we are now. As I am now. But as much as I would like to have you in my arms or have your body possess mine or mine yours--it...it's not enough. I need to know that walking away won't...hurt...more than staying away does."

"Are you that afraid?" Mac asked gently.

"After Alexa? Yes, Mac. I am that afraid. This came too fast---started before I met her. She wasn't a substitute for you. I think she came into my life at exactly the right time because I hadn't loved anyone like that for...centuries." Methos shifted away to sit beside him, their hands still clasped but he wouldn't look at MacLeod yet. "It's not that I won't survive--I will. Despite your, oh, so obvious charms." A faint twitching of the mobile lips. "Before I met her, I would have tumbled you into bed in a heartbeat, if I'd any idea you were so inclined. But you weren't; not then, and I was too ...jaded ...to think pursuit held any fascination. Until I met Alexa. Now it is worth it, but I want...I need all of it, Mac. And if I can't have that, then friendship is the next best thing. Does this make any sense at all or have I lost my mind?"

"No. It makes sense..." MacLeod said squeezing his hand. "Damned if you aren't making this more complicated than any relationship I've ever had with a woman, though," he added honestly.

Methos sighed and leaned back against the couch arm. "I probably am. You would think at my age I could keep sex and love separate but I can't...but I would. I won't say 'no' again, Mac. Not unless you agree to the other first."

"Great. Put it on me."

"There isn't any other choice. I know what I want. But do you know what you want?" The last was said softly.

"I want you," MacLeod said roughly.

There was no sigh or any further argument, no discussion. "Then I'm all yours," Methos said simply. That same heart wrenching feeling came again along with the surge of desire. Without tricks or artifice Methos had granted him what he wanted. MacLeod did want it but it came back again to the price paid. Could he test their fragile friendship this way? He almost felt like he must or forever wonder. He twisted on the sofa and met the steady gaze.

"Come here," he said softly and Methos moved. MacLeod pulled him close, feeling the muscles yield, the body against him as close as clothing would allow. Methos had asked only for time to see if there was more than desire to be sated. There was, but MacLeod honestly didn't know how deeply his feelings ran. The kiss that followed was searching, probing, but it was a promise only. Mac broke it first, taking the beloved face in his hands again. "We do it your way, because suddenly I need to know as well," he said huskily and felt the cost lessen at the sight of the shining eyes that met his own.

"But," he cautioned because the intensity of that gaze was too much to bear. "You have to buy your own beer."

"Deal," Methos said with a chuckle and lay back again, fingers catching Mac's and pulling the younger man down against him with a contented sigh.

"Please tell me you are kidding," MacLeod said staring at Methos. The older Immortal had an absolutely maddened grin on his face. Mac wiped the sweat from his face. He had been working out when Methos appeared, mischief in his eyes.

"It will be fun," Methos promised.

"I can't believe you actually want to do this. There are limits you know," Mac said with a vague threat in his tone.

"And you need to push them more often. Come on, MacLeod," Methos teased, the corner of his mouth twitching in a familiar precursor to laughter. It was an expression Mac had a hard time resisting.

"Fine. But if I go see this Jackie Chan silliness with you, you owe me a night of something a little more--"

"Refined? Elegant? Cultural?" Methos was laughing now, the hazel eyes glinting in amusement at MacLeod's sense of outrage. "Fine. I'll take you to an opera."

"My choice," Mac said suspiciously but more because it was a game they had fallen into rather than lack of trust.

"Your choice," Methos agreed and stepped close to deliver a quick kiss on the still set lips before glancing down at the sweat-stained clothes. "You might want to change," he added raising an eyebrow.

"For Jackie Chan? Nah, I'll go as I am," Mac said nonchalantly, glancing down at himself but watching Methos from under his lashes. He saw the mouth quirk again and hid his own grin.

"Whatever, Mac. Just make sure you sit downwind," Methos said. "Or better yet on another row."

"And then who will you talk to?" Mac asked. "Come on. Do I smell that bad?" he asked and pressed closer, his own eyes dancing as both laughter and disgust chased themselves across the finely planed face. "You know, I could get cleaner faster with a little help," he suggested, one arm creeping around Methos' waist.

"But I am clean and ready," Methos said as Mac's mouth hovered an inch from his own.

"Are you?"

"Am I what?"


"Oh, no, you don't--" Methos protested and then was silent as Mac's mouth closed over his own. He resisted for a heartbeat before opening his mouth, inviting the deep exploration. Mac pulled him closer, groins and bellies pressed tightly. MacLeod was not quite aroused but it was a beginning. Methos marveled at the quick readiness his partner could summon, giving in for just a moment to the carefully checked fantasy of having the man who held him now take him with all the power in the familiar body.

Methos was achingly familiar with Mac's body. It had been three weeks since they had come together in a decision that could change their lives--had changed their lives in a variety of unexpected ways. They were learning to adjust to one another, to give and take. Discovering new interests in common everyday things as well as a multitude of likes and dislikes they did not share. They had adjusted to those as well.

The physical chemistry was no less potent but MacLeod had let Methos set the pace. The younger man allowing the older immortal be the one to say when they would take their relationship to the next level.

They were close. Methos knew it, even as he groaned against MacLeod's mouth as he was nearly unmanned by the kiss Mac was lavishing on him. They had made it well past this point already. Methos had not moved in, yet, but he might as well have done so for as little time as he spent at his own apartment rather than the barge. Nearly every night found them twined together on the sofa or bed talking or reading or seeking at least a partial release from their imposed celibacy.

Only it was not truly imposed. Methos had made that clear with Mac from the first. Physical urges need not be denied entirely, only between them. Methos had sincerely hoped Mac was taking advantage of the loophole. Not being the jealous type, Methos would not have minded Mac finding fulfillment in the arms of someone else. It was unlikely, however, since they had spent nearly every day and most nights together.

MacLeod had not asked once why they were waiting and Methos was just as glad because he was not certain he could explain it. Methos wanted more from Mac than the pleasure of his magnificent body, although at times like these, it was difficult for him to remember why as well. Nor did he want Mac to think it was some kind of bizarre test of fidelity and commitment. So far Mac had not asked again and Methos was grateful. Grateful too, and touched, that when things began heating up between them all he needed do was pull back a bit for Mac to get the hint.

Like now.

Mac's mouth had moved to his throat, seeking that sensitive spot under Methos' ear again, the one that made Methos absolutely ache with desire. Hands that had been pressed to his back had slid lower, cupping his buttocks and pressing him tightly against Mac's groin.

A light pressure on Mac's shoulders was enough to still the larger man. A deep breath later, Mac lifted his head and stepped back slightly. The dark eyes were glazed, face flushed, but the fingers that caressed Methos' lips were gentle and the gaze regretful.

"I think I'll have that shower after all," he said raggedly but his lips curved faintly in a smile as he turned away.

As soon as Mac's back was turned Methos closed his eyes and held himself, not moving until he heard the bathroom door close. He sat down on the back of the sofa, willing his body back under control and desperately wondering if Mac had any idea how little it would take to push Methos right over the edge of control and into his bed.

Either answer was a little frightening. If Mac did realize the affect he had on his reluctant lover, he showed a greater depth of sensitivity to the confusion Methos was experiencing than Methos would have thought possible. If Mac were unaware, he was showing a great deal more self-restraint than Methos had at his age; or for a couple of thousand years afterward.

And so what are you waiting for? A sign from heaven? Methos demanded of his nagging subconscious while he waited for Mac to finish his shower. He has tried to take nothing from you. Demanded nothing. Which is exactly what he has gotten, save the rather doubtful pleasure of your company. Serve you right if he had turned you down flat before agreeing to go to something he probably won't even find funny.

Actually, MacLeod probably would find the film funny. Not something he would have chosen to do on his own, but Methos had discovered that however reluctant Mac might be in agreeing to one of his plans, once he'd said yes, he relaxed and enjoyed himself.

The hesitancy still existed though. Methos was quite willing to blame the whole thing on Alexa for having met needs in him that went far beyond the physical. Their relationship had possessed a physical side but it had been brief and what had supplanted it had made Methos feel more alive than he had in centuries. He hesitated calling it a spiritual connection--his absolute pained amusement at the so called new age movement shying away from calling his relationship with Alexa by anything so trite and overused. Instead it was very much like seeing the world through someone else's eyes rather than through his own jaded eyes.

He felt the same sense of wonder the more time he spent with MacLeod. That sense of kinship, of companionship was not something he was willing to lose again--or even attempt finding a substitute for in a physical relationship, unless he could have both.

But denying Mac what he wanted was beginning to feel wrong, and being wrong was not something Methos had either patience or tolerance for. Yet, Mac was not really pushing. Not in words, anyway. However, there was a growing sense of frustration in the dark eyes occasionally, although it was quickly hidden away. That Mac was willing to hide his needs was heartening but not necessarily any easier on the conscience Methos claimed not to have.

"Ready?" Mac asked, speaking before Methos even realized he had emerged from the bath. Mac was clean, dressed--tight jeans and a white shirt thatset off every nuance of his physique--and Methos was reminded again that it was not just Mac's urges he was trying to settle, but his own.

"Yeah," Methos replied and grabbed up his coat only to be stopped as he joined Mac at the door.

"Are you all right?" Mac asked him, dark eyes a little wide and questioning. "You were really gone off somewhere there, weren't you?"

"Not far," Methos promised with a faint smile. He had been caught woolgathering, but not off guard. "Just something I'm trying to work out."

"About us?" Mac asked seriously and Methos was surprised. Surprised that he was so easy to read and surprised to find that it was very likely that Mac's own thoughts had not been far from his own.

"What do you mean?"

The dark eyes flickered downward and then up again, the devastating smile appearing. "Nothing. Let's go," Mac said.

"No, wait," Methos said. "What did you mean, Mac?"

"Nothing. I said I wouldn't press and I won't. It will keep. For as long as you want or need," Mac said, not losing his smile.

"And what about your needs?" Methos asked quietly, his own recent thoughts leaping up to jeer at him. "Am I being unfair to you, Mac? It was never my intention to cause you pain."

"Pain? Where did that come from? Methos, any physical discomfort I may have from being around you is entirely my own doing," Mac said, concerned. "I can and will wait."

"But should you have to? What are you gaining?"

Mac drew in a harsh breath. "You," he said simply. "I haven't made any secret of letting you know how badly I want you. But I won't treat your wants as secondary to mine. I can jack off in the shower from now until doomsday if that's what it takes."

"Is that what you were doing?" Methos asked, his face going still.

"Just now? No. But the water was chilly," Mac admitted studying the suddenly expressionless face of the man in front of him. "Why is this sounding like you are having regrets?"

"Because I am," Methos said quietly. "Not about our time together, but about what I'm forcing you to go through to know it's worth it. I've always known it would be worth it," Methos said leaning against the companionway wall. "Maybe I am asking too much. Of you. Maybe even of myself. To deny ourselves the physical side of what we have--"

"I'm being denied nothing," Mac said, cutting him off. "I meant it when I told you I also want to be sure there is more here for us than sex. There is, isn't there?" Mac asked and suddenly there was doubt in the rich voice. Doubt Methos had helped place there. Doubt that matched Methos' own.

"I think....yes," Methos amended and nodded his head. "Yes. There's more here. More than I could have hoped for--did hope for, but--"

"But you are still not sure it's enough," Mac finished for him and sighed. "Then we wait."

"That's not fair--not to you," Methos said.

"Maybe not, but whatever hoops my body may be jumping through from not having you are no doubt, equally matched by whatever is tracking through that complex brain of yours. You said to give it time and see where it leads us," Mac said. "I can do that."

"For how long?"

"As long as it takes. It changes nothing, Methos. I want to make love to you. You can't tell me you don't feel the same way."

"What I want and what I feel are not necessarily the same thing," Methos said evenly. "If all I wanted was sex, I could get it from any whore in Paris. So could you."

"Probably. But I don't want any whore in Paris. I want you," Mac said gently, moving closer. "What do you want?"

"I don't know," Methos murmured, lifting his eyes to the dark ones regarding him quietly. "All I know is that lately, every time you get close to me, you get a hard on. I'm not willing to cause you torment, Mac. I've been on the other side too often," he said and Mac looked shocked. "So maybe it is simple desire. Lust," Methos said, decision coming to him swiftly. Without another word he stripped off his sweater and T-shirt, kicked off his shoes and undid his jeans, stripping before Mac's startled gaze. "Maybe I am wrong. If we get past this, maybe there is something more..." he added quietly, not quite resignedly and not reluctantly.

He moved toward MacLeod, the Highlander unable to make any movement of his own. Methos hands came up to frame the tanned face and pulled the younger man's mouth to his, coaxing the lips apart slowly, pressing his body close then unfastening the buttons of Mac's shirt and pulling the fabric back until skin pressed skin. He could feel MacLeod's erection against his groin and shifted his hips to brush his own against the hard, denim covered flesh to let Mac know he wasn't alone in his needs. Mac moaned softly against his mouth, arms moving to envelop him in a close embrace. Methos stepped back, pulling Mac toward him. He stopped when his back was against the wall. Methos broke the kiss, meeting Mac's eyes briefly before turning slowly, to cross his arms against the wall and part his legs slightly, offering MacLeod what he said he wanted.

Methos closed his eyes, trying to still the trembling that ran through him. Tried to calm the burning need in his own groin as the broad hands slid across his shoulders, the soft lips brushing his skin with moist heat. Mac pressed close and Methos released a shuddering breath at the warmth across his back and buttocks, tensing slightly as a hand slipped across his ass with a gentle caress.

Mac closed his eyes against the feel of the silken skin under his hands, against the heat radiating from the slender body. He explored by touch and taste and smell alone. Savoring the tang of sweat soaked skin, the scent like some ocean fragrance mixed with the lingering smell of the wool sweater Methos had been wearing. He felt the muscles of the other man's back flex, his buttocks tense under his hand and then relax as Methos let out an uneven breath. God above, he wanted this. Needed this--needed Methos like he needed to breathe. And he had him. All he had to do was shed the tight, binding fabric of his jeans and take him.

Take him. He stopped, hands still touching, lips pressed against the rounded shoulder. Take him like he was a thing, an offering. An olive branch offered to ease the physical deprivation and the emotional confusion.

Only Mac wasn't feeling deprived. Frustrated, yes, if only because he knew Methos was desperately searching for something in their relationship that would make him feel safe and loved. That MacLeod would make no more demands on him than he was willing to answer.

Seeing him, feeling Methos against him, Mac was suddenly struck by how readily Methos reacted to him. Even when he found the control to pull away, there had never been any doubt in Mac's mind that the older Immortal was opening himself to the same kind of physical needs that Mac was experiencing. Denying his own release or the simple comfort of touch. And why? What had Methos lost along the way that would make both their frustration and thwarted desires worth whatever he might regain?

What had started this? His mind went unerringly back to the conversation they'd had at Mike's wake. Back to Byron's death. Back to Byron. He had known at the moment of that death that Byron and Methos had been lovers. But what had ended their relationship when Byron was still alive?

It came to him more in a flash of insight than true memory but there were enough of those vaguely filtered memories to fill in the gaps. Mac had assumed that Methos had been the initiator and leaver in the relationship, but he had been wrong. Everything Methos had said about the poet had been an echo of what he had once told Mac. Seeking out the passions and fires of life that burned brightest to supplant his which had faded over the millennia. Methos would have been attracted to Byron for the same reasons he had been first attracted to MacLeod, and Byron, capricious spirit that he had been, had taken what was offered and then sought brighter spirits than his own.

Shortly after that, Methos had vanished from the world. Not emerging until another bright spirit came close.

No wonder then Methos was afraid of being burned again.

"Oh, God," Mac whispered against the sweet scented skin. Methos would let him do this and never a word of recrimination. It was Methos' decision but he'd made it for all the wrong reasons. At least in Mac's mind.

He managed a fast apology before wrenching himself away, snatching up his coat on his way up the stairs and outside.

I'm sorry, was all Methos heard before the warmth was gone. Before he realized Mac was leaving. Before he could even acknowledge the need that still burned through him. He turned in time to see Mac disappear up the steps and out onto the deck.

Sorry for what, he wondered. For all of it? For pushing the issue? For what? His mind and body were screaming at him as he slid along the wall to crouch, hands covering his face for a brief moment. No tears, not for this abandonment, this rejection--this failure. Not for what wasn't meant to be. Not for MacLeod.

Not ever again, Methos thought to himself, erecting another little wall around the aching hole in his heart and soul that said, "MacLeod."

Mac flung his coat onto the roof of the cabin, torn between rage and despair. The anger was unexpected but understandable. He had calmed somewhat by the time Methos emerged which was good thing because the face that greeted him showed neither anger nor despair nor even confusion. There was little expression on the face at all.

"You should have told me..." Mac started and then stopped. He hadn't meant to begin this with an accusation.

Methos stared at him blankly. "Told you what, MacLeod? That reality rarely meets the expectation of the fantasy? You're not a child. You should know that already."

Now it was Mac's turn to stare blankly, so blankly he almost missed the fact that Methos had his coat and was heading down the gangplank. He swore and followed him. One of them had misunderstood something and MacLeod was fairly certain it wasn't him. He caught up to Methos on the quay. "We need to talk about this."

Methos wrenched his arm free of MacLeod's grip. "You apologized. Apology accepted. I don't think there's anything left to say after that." The hazel eyes were dangerously bright.

"I apologized for not understanding."

"What was there to understand, MacLeod? Was the pursuit more interesting than the conquest? Or were you just waiting for me get tired of the game?"

"Methos, I never meant to push you into anything. I would have waited. I still will. There is more here than a physical attraction--you have to know that by now," Mac said a little desperately when the emotionless mask remained in place. "If what we have now is all you do want, I can live with that too."

He could. Losing this man now was not worth contemplating and he saw the shadow of indecision cross the expressive eyes.

"What I want? I just offered you what I wanted and you turned me down flat. What am I not understanding here, MacLeod?"

Turned him down? Mac's mind went into a tailspin as he realized he'd just done exactly what he'd been trying to avoid. Every muscle in Methos' body screamed defensive--his posture, his expression, the clenched hands. Mac took a step forward and saw Methos tense, almost step back but the older Immortal held his ground.

"I didn't turn you down because I no longer want you, Methos," Mac said softly, using the same tone he might to soothe a skittish horse. "I turned you down because I'm not Byron. I won't take what you are offering and then walk away. Until you are sure of that, I won't take what you are offering at all. But I will wait until you are sure."

Methos stared at him for a long moment. His chest heaved sharply once, the face paling slightly as his fists unclenched. The pain that crossed the handsome face ripped at MacLeod's heart.

Methos hadn't known. He hadn't realized until this moment what it was he was trying to avoid by not giving in to simple carnal urges. Part of him recognized the pain Byron had caused, but his devotion to the vital, creative genius had overshadowed the tangled threads of their early relationship. Byron had died knowing the pain he had caused his former teacher but only Mac knew the poet had any regrets. Byron had never offered an apology or even acknowledged that his rejection had cut deep into the older Immortal.

"You would think after five thousand years, I would be better at this," Methos murmured dropping his coat and then his body onto the gangplank and looking up at MacLeod. "You would think I would know my own heart better."

"You do know your own heart. Nobody can understand all their motivations, all the time," Mac said, crouching in front of him. "He did care about you, Methos, just...just not enough. But I do. I just don't know how to convince you of that."

"I'm sorry," Methos said quietly. "I am sorry I put you through this." His eyes were on his hands, unable or unwilling to meet MacLeod's eyes.

Mac reached out and caught one of the hands, threading his fingers through the slender digits and squeezing them lightly.

"I'm not. Every moment has been worth it. Every cold shower, every bad movie," Mac said and he was rewarded with a choked laugh. "All of it. None of it was wasted time, Methos. Friends first. You said it yourself."

"How did you get to know me better than I know myself?" Methos asked, eyes fixed on their joined hands.

"I've been spending a lot of time with you lately, remember?" Mac said with a chuckle. "Methos," he said and maneuvered himself up onto the gangplank to sit beside him. "I will take what you offer when you are ready, not before."

Wordlessly, Methos nodded then glanced up at MacLeod, a hopeful, nearly shy expression on his face. Mac had seen the look before, his mouth curving when he recognized the same rather bemused expression on the older man's face when Alexa had finally acquiesced to his persistent requests.

Mac moved again, settling behind Methos and pulling the slender body against him. He enfolded Methos in his arms comfortably, smile widening as Methos relaxed against him in increments.

"We've missed the movie," Methos murmured, hands coming to grip Mac's forearm.

"Pity that," Mac chuckled against his hair, pressing a gentle kiss on Methos' temple. Suddenly Methos twisted in his arms, mouth seeking MacLeod's and Mac met the kiss, welcoming the passion and trying to soothe the faint hint of desperation and apology that he felt accompanying the gesture. He let Methos drive the exchange, not pulling away until his lover did, then smiled at the endearment that had skittered through his brain. Lover. Close enough to count.

"Now," Methos said simply, the gold green eyes steady and unflinching.

"It doesn't have to be--" Mac began. His words were cut off as Methos went after his mouth again, the other man rising to his knees between Mac's legs, the slender hands stroking upward along his thighs. Mac felt the moan build deep in his chest under the determined assault.

"I know it doesn't have to be now," Methos said a little raggedly. "But there isn't really any reason to wait, is there? I want you, Mac. You want me. The rest will still be here in the morning." Methos got to his feet and offered his hand, pulling MacLeod up smoothly, the strength in the slender frame obvious and just as erotic and arousing as the kiss had been.

The return to the interior of the barge was slow. Kisses were exchanged that were soft and promising until Mac closed the door and turned to his lover, searching the face carefully. There seemed to be no doubt or hesitation in the steady gaze. Mac moved closer and slid his hand along the sharp cheekbone, inexplicably moved when Methos turned his head to place a kiss on the broad dark palm. Mac's other hand came up to capture the face, beginning another slow exploration of the familiar mouth, concentrating on the taste and feel of the man he held. The kiss rapidly moved from rousing to demanding, the give and take of tongues and taste not nearly enough and Mac pulled away slowly.

"You are sure?" He asked. He was all too aware that to stop now would take more self-control than anything he had ever attempted.

"Absolutely positive," Methos murmured.

"I want...." Mac hesitated and then found his courage bolstered by his desire. "I want to see you."

There was the hint of a smile, slightly impish. No reminders that Mac had definitely seen him before. It wasn't the same--it was never the same to be seen naked in a glimpse during the heat of passion as it was to have a lover's body bared for observation alone. It required trust and faith. Confidence.

Shame wasn't something Methos trafficked in much. Mac's request gave him only a moment's pause before he stepped away, hearing Mac stifle a moan as the heat between their bodies was dissipated. He pulled his shirt off, then sat down on the arm of the sofa to pull off his shoes and rose again to drop his jeans.

He simply stood. No posing, no blushing or fidgeting and Mac felt his breath catch. He had seen Methos naked before--but not like this--not for him and him alone. The urge to touch drove hard and fast to the forefront of his needs but he held back. He had heard people describe Methos as skinny, as thin. The loose shapeless clothes and haphazard posture all an act. There was nothing 'skinny' about the long sleek lines of the other man's body. Slender, yes, and spare, certainly, but only to the extent that there was not a single inch of unnecessary flesh covering the muscles. Even MacLeod carried some extra soft muscle, enough to curve his body and give him bulk but Methos....

That urge would no longer be denied as he reached out to spread his palm across the flattened breast, his thumb skimming the dusky rose colored nipple that marked the pale flesh. The curve of the muscle did not give under his hand. It was hard, solid and supple as his touch elicited a tremor. The skin, he knew already, was smooth, silky. The lack of significant body hair added to the illusion of sculpted flesh. Hands and eyes raked over the planes and angles, shallow curves and hollows of the lean body. His hand fit exactly into the curve of Methos' lower back.

"Mac..." Methos' voice was husky, a slight strain.

"If you say, 'look, don't touch', one of us is going to be in serious trouble," Mac said breathily, Methos' eyes closing as that breath warmed the soft curve of his shoulder.

"No. You can touch. Please touch, but I..."

Reluctantly, Mac moved away, barely. Reluctant, not because he was embarrassed but because he had not yet had his fill--visual or tactile.

"Just...wait," MacLeod said and fought to fulfill at least half his desire. Methos met his gaze again, unconsciously lifting his chin under the steady gaze. MacLeod could barely stand the wait himself but he wanted to memorize the body before him. He wanted to know, with his eyes closed, where the flesh dipped and curved, how it rose and joined at the throat and shoulder, at the hip and groin. How Methos' waist curved so slightly there, smoothing out to meet the flat planed hips. To anticipate before touching how the powerful muscles of Methos' thighs would feel clasped around him. How those slender hands, held now loosely at his sides could be so graceful and strong, the thought of those hands on his skin....

It was too much and he had not the words--if there were words--beautiful, sensual, masculine? Methos was all those and more. Not a statue, but a living, breathing work of art, a man with flaws, not handsome by modern standards perhaps but in the agelessness of forms that endure...

"Please..." a whisper and MacLeod had sworn he would not make Methos beg or have to ask or ever again feel that Mac would deny him anything. He stripped quickly, barely acknowledging Methos' sigh as Mac returned to him. Catching the older Immortal's face in his hands, Mac kissed him, savoring the moist feel of Methos' lips thoroughly before delving deeper for the richer tastes beyond. The older man's hands came to rest on Mac's hips. His earlier thoughts rushing back under the touch of those strong fingers as they spread against his skin in a caress and subtle grip of possession. The word mine hung in the air for both of them.

This is mine! Mac thought fiercely. Not taken but offered. Not demanded but given. His fingers threaded through the dark, silken hair, aware of similar explorations as Methos angled his head perfectly, opening himself under Mac's probe, inviting the invasion of tongue and teeth.

Their bodies pressed close, the full-length press of flesh to flesh suddenly overriding the gentle, slow explorations they had planned; that touch drove blood, oxygen and desire lower. Methos' breath caught as he felt Mac's flesh rise against him, hand seeking the heated surface instantly. He felt the length of MacLeod's cock, the width and weight of it. Mac's tongue plunged into his mouth and the image of MacLeod's body driving into his with the same mastery was almost more than Methos could bear.

"Now..." Methos breathed against Mac's mouth. He was trembling, unable to stop himself. Mac was gasping and still trying to enter him totally through his mouth. It was a slow dance to the bed. Hands that had explored slowly now clutched and stroked with a growing urgency: a press there to draw their bodies closer, a brush there to excite and arouse or to coax out a gasp or a sigh or a moan.

Methos suddenly found his legs against the bed and faltered. Mac caught him, twisting as they tumbled, taking his weight and then rolling him onto his back. Mac was poised above him. His face was flushed and a there was wildness in his eyes. The excitement in his dark eyes echoed by the burn through Methos' veins.

Awkward fumbling in the bedside table produced a lubricant. Less awkward was the application. Methos' spine arching the moment MacLeod's fingers slid across his groin, passing along his cock, causing it to tremble as well. The fingers did not linger anywhere but their target, Methos lifting his hips to facilitate the gentle probe.

MacLeod's glistening cock waited, Methos wanting it almost as much as he wanted the lips suddenly covering his. MacLeod's weight pressed between his legs, welcome and warm. The muscles of his thighs bracing the heavier body pressed against him. Their groins met--the thrusts unavoidable. The rough rasp of flesh, the cushioning mats of coarse hair and the subtle tensing of their bodies to urge this merger driving the breath from them both, unrecoverable, and they moved together.

Dark eyes were glazed above his own as Methos strained upward, guiding the heavy shaft within him, a sharp gasp escaping him as the tip pressed against him. A wicked glint appeared in the olivine eyes.

"Sheathe your sword," he murmured, saw the shock and then the humor skitter across Mac's face, followed by a softer gaze, a more gentle look, but no less urgent, as Mac pressed inward.

"Oh, gods..." The moan escaped Methos without conscious thought as the penetration began. He pressed his hips upward and would have screamed in pleasure if there were enough oxygen getting to his lungs. All he could do was gasp and choke on his pleasure. His fingers dug into Mac's buttocks, urging his lover onward, inward. His body stretched to accommodate the invasion and he moaned in response to the sweet pressure of being filled, possessed, loved.

Mac panted as he held back. His concentration was agonizingly split between the incredible need to finish his pleasure and the absolute necessity of watching his lover. The slender body surged against him, the tendons in Methos' neck standing out as he tried to force their joining to be fast and hard. Mac wanted it slow. He wanted Methos to feel every inch of his length, to drag the pleasure out beyond reason. The body beneath him was writhing, hot, and demanding. Methos' hips closed around him as the long legs tangled with his and rose up to force him inward with incredible strength.

It was more than Mac could resist and he let his strength and Methos' mingle, driving into the willing body with far more force than he had intended. The cry wrenched from both of them as their bodies joined violently was enough to urge the next movement. Methos clung to him briefly, panting harshly, eyes closed and face strained with pleasure and pain, with the first shock of union, deep muscles clenching around Mac's cock like a vise. Then Methos arched away, raising his hips again to better the angle, the access. Mac lost control. Completely.

Methos encouraged him vocally, with his body, with his soul and Mac poured his soul into the rough coupling. Every thrust drove him close to oneness with his lover. Every cry made him think they could, just possibly, become part of each other.

Whatever Mac had expected from making love to Methos, the reality far outpaced the fantasy. With fingers laced together, mouths fixed against each other, breathing became superfluous. The world vanished for a few brief moments until there was only the heat between them, the ecstasy of being nested deep within one another, and the ageless sensation of tides and waves and the crashing and pounding of eternity onto timeless shores.

Methos jerked, bucked and came, pulsing completion between them and still asking for more until Mac released. His thrusts became short and uncontrollable. Had it not felt so much like heaven Mac might have been disappointed that the frenzied jointure could not go on forever.

But it couldn't and Mac collapsed against the slender body, Methos wrapping his arms around him to hold on tightly as his orgasm finished its cycle. Sweat drenched them both. Their faces and bodies flushed with exertion, with release.

Their bodies remained twined together even as Mac sought to roll them onto their sides. He tried to part them and Methos clung to him fiercely. His dark head was tucked against Mac's shoulder, hands still cupping his buttocks denying MacLeod his freedom. It was a captivity Mac welcomed without complaint as he tightened his arms around the broad back, lips pressed to the damp temple while he concentrated on stockpiling oxygen against whatever was to follow.

Certain Mac would not escape, Methos eased his grip to ply gentle strokes along MacLeod's back and lifted his head. He shifted oh, so slightly and felt his lover stir, a soft gasp of surprise escaping MacLeod as Methos tightened his muscles around flesh that had been spent a moment before. "Wait," Methos breathed softly, lips skimming across Mac's jaw.

"Am I about to find out what five thousand years of experience taught you?" Mac murmured against his lover's hair.

Methos chuckled. The rumble in his chest transmitted to Mac's immediately. "You might," he said and moved them carefully, easing Mac onto his back and flexing hips and knees to keep them joined. "But right now, I'm more interested in what four hundred years have taught you," he added and rose upward, eyes darkening as he stretched his arms, fingers kneading the solid muscle of Mac's shoulders. His mouth descended, warming over MacLeod's as he began a soft rocking motion, the subtle movement sending tiny spikes of pleasure up MacLeod's spine.

Not possible. Mac thought, but it was. He lost track of where Methos' mouth moved, how the hands teased and tweaked, probed and rubbed. A flush rose in the pale cheeks again as the sharp planed face hovered above his. Hips and buttocks shifted and tightened. His cock was swelling and hardening deep within his lover and Mac knew Methos was aware as well by the soft moan escaping the parted lips. Mac pressed in and up. His body sheathed by heat, by the living silken flesh of his partner. Methos' cock lay against his belly and he stroked it, felt it gain life under his touch, watched the slender body curl around his caresses but never cease the internal strokes he was generating.

"Duncan..." his name, so rarely used, fell from Methos' lips in its own kind of caress. Mac reached up to stroke the parted lips. His finger was captured and suckled. The drawing of his flesh into Methos' mouth summoning another image and his arousal grew. Then it was Mac's turn to moan. The tightening of muscles, the sharp hardness of his cock cushioned within his lover was unlike anything he had ever experienced. His arousal encouraged as Methos braced himself against Mac's hips. The feel of his swelling flesh filling the tight, hot recesses of Methos' body was as erotic a feeling as the sight of the dark head falling back. Methos rose and descended above him, driving Mac deeper into him than had been possible before.

Release came far too quickly for both of them as Mac continued to stroke the silken shaft, increasing the pace as Methos did. His shout was echoed by his lover's as their bodies jerked and spasmed again, spilling into each other, onto each other until the strength was gone and Methos collapsed against him, panting harshly. When they did part it was with a murmur of protest and a sigh of resignation.

"Should I apologize for making us wait?" Methos asked when Mac had him securely cradled against his chest.

"No, no apologies. Not for anything," Mac returned, easing his broad hand along the pale skin of his lover's back and arm. "Except that the shower is small," he chuckled.

"Big enough for two?" Methos queried, his lips curving against the skin of Mac's chest.

"If we stand very close."

"You would be amazed at how close I intend to be to you, Mac," Methos said with a husky promise as they moved to get cleaned.

Mac was.

Watching Methos contemplate the dawn from the fore-deck, MacLeod made no effort to hide the broad grin stretching his face. The night had been--well, it was definitely one to remember. Seeing Methos clothed was as enticing as holding him naked in his arms. This morning the bulky sweater was gone, the slender, muscular body marvelously revealed by tight jeans and a simple, well-fitting T-shirt.

Mac had wakened to find Methos was gone from their bed but he could feel the unique presence of his lover. He had dressed quickly hoping to forestall any doubts that might linger--or if there were none, to share the simple pleasure of seeing the world through eyes now colored by love.

Mac slipped up behind Methos, swinging his arms around his waist to hold him, dropping a kiss on the jointure of his neck and shoulder. Methos smiled, leaning back, his hands coming over Mac's to lace their fingers together.

"Hi," he murmured.

"And to you," Mac said softly. "Cold?"

"Chilly, but okay," Methos said.

"Dawn isn't really your time of day. Couldn't sleep?" There was just a hint of concern, of anxiety in Mac's tenor.

"No. I slept, very well. Not enough," Methos chuckled, "but very well. You?"

"Great until I realized you weren't there anymore. I get used to having someone in my bed very quickly--someone permanent," he added.

"Gods, Mac. You'll be talking wedding bells next."

"Maybe or a near equivalent. Would you want that?"

"I don't know," Methos said, mouth twitching. "Would that make me Mr. or Mrs. Duncan MacLeod?"

"I might end up being Mrs. Methos--or maybe Mrs. Pierson," Mac chuckled softly and kissed his throat, again. "It's not the titles--"

"I know and to answer your question, no. I don't need a wedding or a hand-fasting or anything that symbolic. But I won't say no if you do."

"My, but we are both being incredibly conciliatory this morning," Mac commented dryly and Methos laughed again and turned to face him, hands and arms slipping around the Highlander's waist

"It seems we're fated to either both be reasonable or unreasonable at the same time," he said. He covered Mac's smile with his own, felt the full lips part and invite, tongues dancing slowly against each other as Mac's arms tightened around him.

"You know there's probably somebody watching us," Methos murmured when the kiss ended and he pressed his lips against the strong column of Mac's tanned throat.

"Probably," Mac said with a grin. "Want to give them something to write about? A little spice for my chronicle... 'MacLeod seen today with ex-Watcher researcher, Adam Pierson engaging in...' lessee...what would send up more howls at Watcher Headquarters? Sodomy or a blow job?"

Methos couldn't answer. He was laughing too hard. His face was buried against Mac's chest as the younger Immortal rubbed his back, chuckling with him.

"Or we could just go inside and let them wonder," Mac offered, dark eyes dancing with mischief.

"It would almost be worth it to then waltz into HQ after the report has been filed and see what reactions I get," Methos said, lifting his head.

"Maybe not the ones you want," Mac said, face suddenly serious. "I suppose at some point we need to talk about that as well--the repercussions. This isn't going to be easy."

"Life isn't easy, Mac. It's what keeps it interesting," Methos said and slipped his arms around the Highlander's neck. "Is it going to bother you? You may have had male lovers before, but you were pretty discrete and they were..."

"Short encounters. I know," Mac said with a sigh. "No. I don't really care what the Watchers think, or anyone else for that matter. I am concerned about you..."

"So Duncan MacLeod took a researcher, an ex-Watcher, as a lover. Won't be the first time a Watcher has been intimately involved with an Immortal...ex or otherwise. I'm out of it, Mac. The only thing I swore was not to reveal names or the mission...and you already know all that. There won't be any repercussions. Not from the Watchers anyway."

Mac's hands rubbed his lover's upper arms thoughtfully. "True. Are you ready for this? Nothing casual--it's not, Methos. I'm not sure it ever was. But I don't want casual either. I want you. Here. Now. Tomorrow. Forever--or until we both decide it's over."

"Do you have a heart for any fate, Mac?" Methos asked quietly. "Easy isn't part of the deal."

"A heart for any fate? That's Byron, isn't it?" Mac asked softly, studying the intent gaze in the olivine eyes.

"Yes. He understood that--he didn't have the heart for it, Mac. Not when I met him and not at the end. Do you?"

Any fate? It was frightening but the fate was waiting for him regardless. Facing it, rushing to meet it--he could manage that on his own if necessary but much easier with a companion, a lover, a friend.

"Yes. 'Whatever sky is above me.' As long as you see it too," Mac said softly and Methos nodded, eyes softening as his lips curved upward.

"Then here's my heart, Mac," Methos said and kissed him. Passion was carefully banked. Desire shunted aside. From now on, this was the kiss Mac would wake up to in joy. The one that would linger long after lips had parted.

A heart for any fate. It would be enough.