Simple Gifts
by Maygra de Rhema

THIS IS R RATED for adult situations.

VARIATIONS: This could rightfully be considered a variation on a theme since I seem captivated by three things in my little corner of the slash world: Methos' distant past, his physical appeal (what a surprise!) and the issue of trust in a relationship that could potentially last for centuries. (At least if I have anything to say about it!) So if some of the event horizons in Simple Gifts sound familiar, they probably are - I know they are in my own work. But sometimes, things are worth repeating.

As always, The Highlander character Duncan, Methos, 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. No beta's. All mistakes are my own...

Winter had settled over Seacouver with the intensity of an ice age and Methos was irrationally glad that his lover had proved to be more of a sybarite than he could ever dream. Faced with the a new and apparently long-term partnership, Mac had spent the fall remodeling the loft to accommodate two males, breaking through a side wall to add another room. He had never said it was for his lover but once the carpenters arrived to install the in-built shelving, Methos had no doubt that the silent generosity of the Highlander had emerged to provide the older Immortal with some space and privacy of his own -- a part of Mac's home that suddenly made it their home.

Mac had still said nothing when Methos returned home one evening from delivering a series of lectures at the university -- a diversion and a cover for Adam Pierson's continued presence in Seacouver -- to find that the things he had left in storage at Mac's place in Paris been delivered and installed into the graciously spacious den and guest room. Methos had been stunned and gratified but had kept his tone light, determined not to let Mac know how deeply the gesture had touched him and for no rational reason other than he hoped to be able to return the gift in kind. He was contemplating how and what he would do when the Scot slipped up behind him as he studied the room from the doorway.

The broad hands closed over his shoulders, Mac pulling him back slightly. "Better place to prepare your lectures than Joe's and the beer is free," Mac said softly.

"Quieter too. Is this a bribe, Mac? To get me to stay?"

MacLeod chuckled. "Of course. You didn't think I'd trust you to stay of your own free will, did you? Or simply because I'm here. I figured you'd be more content where your books are."

The gentle teasing seared through Methos' heart and he turned, meeting the dark eyes watching him with both affection and humor. "It's been a long time since anyone tried to take care of me, Mac. I am very much out of practice."

"It will come back to you," Mac said with a grin, one which faltered when the hazel eyes dropped and Methos turned once more to study the room. Mac's grip tightened on his lover's shoulders. "Won't it?"

"Sure," Methos said huskily, throat tight. He was not averse to tears or displays of emotion but this one was too tight and too hard to release easily. To his great relief Mac did not press the issue, simply enfolded him in his arms and held him until he could breathe again.

The thank you had been said later and not with words.

Mac's bribery had not ended there. Over the course of the fall he had the bath remodeled as well, something he said he had always intended but it had been redone to accommodate two adults -- or more, Methos thought with amused irony when the oversized spa arrived. Along with an oversized hot water heater.

There was no reciprocation expected but short of buying Mac a house (which he could easily afford), Methos had struck on nothing that could equal his lover's generosity. Until he saw Mac struggling over the dojo's accounts. The gym was not close to breaking even, and while adding to his income and wealth was not Mac's chief concern, it did wear on him as a necessary part of his cover in the community. Pouring funds into a losing business was likely to cause some interest in the business community -- especially when MacLeod did nothing to keep a low profile. Was, in fact, regarded as one of the community leaders.

A little research brought Methos the answers he wanted and the rest was easily achieved with a few careful calls and not a little European charm. The packet arrived for Mac during one of his classes and later that evening he greeted Methos with a speculative look. "Did you know that this building is one of the oldest in Seacouver?" he asked as Methos slid backpack and books onto the counter.

"Is it?"

"Old enough to be declared a historical building. Old enough to qualify for tax breaks on everything from rewiring to renovation," Mac said dryly. "Someone apparently made some inquiries."

"Now why would anyone care enough to do that?" Methos asked, sprawling bonelessly on the sofa with a sigh as he stretched.

"Which means that not only will the dojo break even this month, it will probably show a profit," Mac pressed, leaning over the back of the sofa to watch his lover's face.

"That's nice, Mac. Could you get me a beer, please?"

Methos was not surprised when he got something far more stimulating than a beer.

The holidays came quickly; Methos indoctrinated into the American custom of Thanksgiving from an unlikely source when Joe Dawson said he was cooking. It turned out to be quite the party and impromptu jam session with Joe's band -- a gathering of adults without other family to share their holidays with but more than willing to take a moment to think about their lives with good food and good company. Methos found himself rather warming to the concept. Most of the people attending had known Alexa and some had even known Tessa. If any of them thought it odd that the two men left behind should be sharing their lives, there was no sign of it during the teasing and silliness that ensued.

Such a gathering reminded Methos that Christmas was also approaching and likely to be awkward. Richie was expected back and for his own reasons, Mac had said nothing to his former student. It was something Mac wanted to do face to face and Methos left it to him. Both he and Mac felt little need to explain themselves to anyone, but Richie had been born in a different age and his relationship with Mac was far more familial than most Immortals ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

And there was no use in worrying about with the youth's arrival still weeks away. But his reacquaintance with tradition did prompt the older Immortal toward the idea of gifts once more. He and Mac had been rebuilding their trust over their months together; both surprised at how easily it had come once the decision was made. Methos' past was still and unsteady topic but Mac had gotten well past the initial shock and had actually become quite philosophical about the idea that his lover's past should stay where it was unless it intruded in their lives. He would deal with it then. It was quite a bit more than Methos had expected.

Domesticity was not something Methos had experienced much in that past few centuries but it was growing on him. A bachelor's life had left the older Immortal with a sense of tidiness unexpected by his lover, given Methos' previous habit of drifting into the Highlander's home and leaving the scattered remains of his wayfarer lifestyle all over the loft.

A month or so of having a live-in, sleep-in roommate convinced the Scot that the previous behavior had been a deliberate act on Methos' part to make his presence felt. Unable to voice his concerns, Mac found himself checking each day to make sure that belongings which had made their way into the loft were still there. It bothered him a bit that the apartment in Paris had not yet been surrendered, either.

He kept his worries to himself. Capturing the older Immortal had required some well-planned patience. Keeping him would require more guile than Mac was sure he possessed. But he hoped and prayed and woke up every morning with a smile on his face. Finding his partner sprawled gracelessly beside him reassured him that it was not some wild and improbable dream. But by the time the first snows hit the Northwest he felt more confident, though not complacent. There was still too much of the hunted, wounded animal in Methos that Mac had seen after the near disaster in Bordeaux and more recently after Byron's death.

A heart for any fate was what Methos had asked of him and that fate included the possibility that Methos might vanish without explanation. For now, though, the older Immortal seemed content: quickly settling into Mac's life with an unobtrusive ease born over years of experience at blending into the scenery with the skill of a chameleon. Except that very ease wrenched at Mac's heart every time he saw his lover's smile. Love could be a dizzying feeling and to have Methos blend into his life as if they had been lovers for years rather than months was more overwhelming still.

Winter brought the evening darkness quickly as Mac finished his last class of the day, turning the keys over to his part-time manager to close up in a few hours while he headed upstairs only to meet Methos in the elevator coming down. Home early Mac realized, knowing Methos preferred to use the outside entrance while the dojo was open. There was not an ounce of shame in the slender form but he felt no need to advertise either his presence or his relationship with the gym's owner.

"Power outage at the University," Methos offered by way of explanation. He was dressed in sweats, hazel eyes dancing in appreciation at Mac's similarly sweat clad body, albeit the Highlander was a trifle more damp. "Came to see if you were up for a spar."

Mac glanced around. Except for a few regulars, the dojo was nearly empty. Sword practice was a common enough occurrence at DeSalvo's but such practice required room, and he and Methos had fallen into the habit of practicing after the dojo closed.

Grinning, Mac nodded. Practice now meant more time later for other pursuits and from the anticipatory gleam in the older Immortal's eyes; Methos was harboring the same thought. Psychologists would most likely have a field day with the idea that arms practice could be denoted an aphrodisiac, but Mac knew it to be true -- especially with Methos -- who had a tendency to fight with wits as well as blades and whose favorite game, it seemed, was to see how quickly he could knock the Highlander on his ass.

Which, much to Mac's chagrin, was more often than not. He was beginning to understand Richie's reluctance for working out. Not to mention the fact that watching Methos work out with blade or the simple exercises he preferred to Mac's more complicated katas was pure visual pleasure. He had also discovered that for speed, Methos was very likely his better. The older Immortal used an engage and withdraw method of encounter that left Mac breathless.

Blade to blade Mac was the better swordsman, had greater strength and stamina and if he could get Methos close in, the contest was over. The trick was getting him close in.

He allowed Methos a few moments to get loosened up while he wiped himself down and stretched to keep his muscles from going cold but soon enough Methos was ready and they began as they always did with practiced disarments. Patrons of the dojo preparing to go home paused to watch, the audience a little unnerving for Mac but Methos paid no attention to them and with in minutes the katana was on the floor as was its owner.

"Pay attention, MacLeod." Methos grinned, offering him an arm up. "Paying customers."

"I never took you for such an exhibitionist," Mac growled back, embarrassed and amused by the ease with which he had been put down.

"It's all about focus," came the smug reply and Mac smiled at the challenge.

It was not as easy as he'd hoped. Some winter spirit had obviously invaded his lover's body, giving Methos a boost of energy and a carefree attitude Mac cherished as much as he was baffled by it. He managed to get his lover's sword arm trapped for a brief moment before Methos twisted away still retaining his blade.

On the next pass, however, Mac did not lose him but they did both lose their footing, scattered laughter sounded throughout the dojo as they both went down, Mac ending up on top of his lover in what could have been an incredibly embarrassing and revealing position had Methos not been laughing as well as their audience.

"So much for focus," Mac said, dropping his head to hide his own grin as he levered himself off his lover and pulled him to his feet. The two of them took their bows but Mac would not re-engage. "Enough," he cautioned. "I am obviously having problems concentrating and one of us is going to get hurt."

"We could wrestle," Methos suggested with a glint in his eye.

"The only place I'm going to wrestle you is into bed," Mac murmured, smiling more when Methos surrendered to the sudden and unexpected shyness that came over him occasionally. That facet of the older Immortal's personality had come as a shock to Mac, even though Joe had told him of Methos' rather awed and less than assured wooing of Alexa. Mac had seen it himself during his own courtship but it never ceased to amaze him that a man who had seen five thousand years of the rise and fall of whole civilizations and cultures might be so uncertain of his own appeal.

"I might even let you win," Methos returned, overcoming the fit quickly and heading for the elevator.

The wrestling match was postponed for the other needs of daily life, food and showers and some of the ardor was burned away as they moved together to fix the meal. The intricate dance of preparing food with two cooks almost choreographed as were the light touches exchanged with the familiarity of long-time lovers and companions. It had turned cold and despite the renovations, the loft grew chilly, Mac aware when Methos seemed to notice it, ready to slip into one of his bulky sweaters. More clothing was not what Mac wanted between he and his lover and the offer of a fire was enough to stop the plan cold.

No further plans were made but they ended up on the floor in front of the blaze on pillows, comfortably intimate without demand. Mac surrendering the idea of seduction to the simple pleasure of having his lover's head in his lap while they listened to music and read.

A shiver from Methos interrupted Mac's bliss and he moved to add more wood to the fire, glancing back to see his lover stretching like a cat. The move was purely unconscious and Mac found his breath caught at the simple grace in the movement.

"I love it when you do that," he murmured, sitting back on his heels. Methos stared at him blankly, a faint, confused smile on his lips.

"What? Pop my back? Remind you how much older I am than you?" Methos said chuckling before settling back on his elbows.

Mac shook his head with a grin. "No, It's just the your body moves. It's so fluid and your face as the tightness gives way..." Methos was still faintly amused, but his cheeks were tinged with a blush even as he lifted one eyebrow.

He knew what Mac meant, wondering if his lover had any idea how often Methos had watched him, attention similarly caught by the power and grace that shadowed MacLeod's every breath. He had to continuously remind himself that Mac showed every sign of wanting him...wanting to be with him. There were times when he felt all the self-assurance of an adolescent boy around the Highlander. His own first death had come when he was some years younger than Mac, though not as young as Richie was. Poor food and a harsh lifestyle had left him thin and gangly -- or so he thought. Exercise kept him fit and strong but he would never be able to acquire the bulk or smooth curve of muscle his lover possessed. Methos was rarely self-conscious about his body except when compared to someone like Mac, which he tried desperately not to do. He and Mac had enough problems without adding unreasonable envy and jealousy into the mix.

He'd had enough compliments over his multi-millennia life span to know he was attractive but Mac was dazzling to look at when Methos though about it. Physical attraction had not been the first reason he had been drawn to the Scotsman, nor even the third or fifth. It had come later and rather unexpectedly. Then Methos had shoved it down. There had been no indication that Duncan MacLeod was interested at all in men, and certainly not a too thin, bookish, scholar with a nasty temper and a worse attitude. Mac's pursuit of him had taken him completely by surprise. Still did.

Oblivious to his lover's thoughts, MacLeod moved closer, eyes raking over the slender form stretched out in front of him. Even clothed, Methos' body fascinated him. Perhaps because it was so different from his own, the angles and planes both alluring and deceptive. There was nothing even slightly fragile looking in the lean body. Mac attributed Methos with the same clean lines and strength he attributed to the ancient's sword: economical, pared down, and deadly or devastating depending on where you stood. Uncomfortable suddenly under Mac's gaze, Methos shifted to lie on his side, still propped up on one elbow.

Mac slid his hand over the finely planed cheek, fascinated by the fall of the dark lashes against the flushed skin and moved by a certain tenderness as he closed the distance between them, mouth following the path of his thumb over suddenly moistened lips. As usual Methos opened under his kiss without reservation, that single exchange more intimate than any coupling of their bodies.

Methos' heart was pounding in time with Mac's own as the older Immortal lay back, pulling gently at Mac's shirt to draw him down. A slow caress and the slender body arched upward into Mac's hands, arousal growing so quickly for both of them they were left breathless. So it had been from the beginning; the need and the desire so sharp sometimes it was painful. Their reactions to one another so attuned they might have been one person.

Methos' fingers pulled once more at Mac's shirt, this time upward, and the Highlander pulled back a bit to accommodate the silent request. He stripped off his shirt and leaned in again with a soft release of air as Methos' slender fingers fanned across his chest lightly, sorting the dark mat of hair and tracing the well defined muscle. Mac let him explore but caught one hand for himself, moist kisses laid across the ivory skin at the wrist, along the palm, while his other hand skimmed under the loose sweater to feel the tight muscles of Methos' abdomen flutter under his touch. His eyes closed briefly as his lover's probing finger traced a circle around his left nipple, the hazel eyes darkening when Mac opened his own to see the pure desire in his lover's eyes.

Mac let his hand rove lower, a moan escaping him as the body once more arched against him and he felt the rising need beneath the constraining denim as Methos' hands went still on his flesh. This was what Mac loved most of all in their lovemaking; the response in the long body, the utter surrender that spoke nothing of submission, only delight.

"It's like witnessing something sacred," Mac murmured, gaze shifting to his lover's face. "When you move..."

Methos smiled faintly, beginning his caresses once more as Mac's stilled, giving him room to think. "Nice to know I haven't lost my gift," he said softly.

"What gift?" Mac asked and Methos went quiet, a troubled shadow haunting the gold-green eyes for just a moment before it cleared.

But the changing mood alerted Mac to something more and he moved to sit up, tucking himself against his lover's hip, one hand within easy reach of the short silken hair and the fingers of his other hand tangled with Methos'.

"Something someone told me once...taught me. About being able to receive pleasure and show it. It was a gift from the gods, she said," Methos began hesitantly.

"She was right," Mac said, not pressing for the details, allowing the story to come out on its own. Who 'she' was, Mac could not even begin to guess, nor how long ago. He had promised himself -- and Methos as well without ever speaking the oath -- that he would not demand the past from his love, nor try to deny when it came out, as it inevitably must. Too much of it was obscured by both time and pain. What was not, Methos joked about easily enough. The rest, like the Horseman, had reason enough to stay hidden until Methos could trust Mac enough with the truth. Mac desperately wanted that trust but knew he had failed to earn it yet. "I don't see it all the time, but sometimes," Mac murmured, stroking the dark hair gently. "Sometimes I catch glimpses or hear you..." he continued, trying to put into words just how moved he was by Methos' responses to his lovemaking. "It makes me feel..."

"Powerful?" Methos said bitterly and Mac stopped his caresses to study the tight face and set lips.

"No." Mac said, certain he had stumbled onto some old pain but not sure whether he should pursue it. "Humble."

The hazel eyes darted up at him in surprise, some of the tension leaving the face to be replaced by a studied thoughtfulness. He moved and Mac shifted away, wanting to reassure his lover but Methos looked less in need of reassurance than in the midst of a decision.

The older Immortal searched Mac's face, coming to his knees. There was a warm glow to the bronzed skin, something almost tingeing on sadness haunting the dark eyes and Methos knew the look was for him. This was his pain and it hurt Mac to know he could not erase it.

But he could. Did. Every time he touched Methos the past, painful or not, faded and was replaced and filled with the present. It was gift Mac had been given -- the gift of presence -- to make each moment important and eternal. He had done so for Methos without hesitation, waited patiently for Methos accept that gift.

Simple gifts. Not fancy ones or objects, but moments -- enough moments to erase pains and regrets far older than Mac was. Asking nothing in return and seemingly overwhelmed by the fact that Methos had remained. The older Immortal was not oblivious to Mac's fears. He had retrieved useless things long held in storage into use again to give Mac a signal that he would stay for as long as the Highlander wanted him. Hoping the actions would speak more loudly than words.

"I had no idea..." Methos murmured, hand reaching out to touch the strong jaw. "I had forgotten."

"Forgotten what?" Mac asked, still not pressing but intent on his lover.

"How a simple look, a movement, could...can move a soul," Methos said quietly. He had searched for weeks for a gift to express the depth of his feeling for his lover only to find it was already in his grasp -- or nearly so. It was early for Christmas, but the moment was here, now. He smiled and was gratified to have the expression returned, rising to his knees he stripped off his shirt and jeans, shivering only slightly. "There was a position... It came to be called Diana's bow, I believe. I learned it when..." he hesitated, unwilling to tread too heavily on his own past. "When I was being taught the joys of sex," he finished with a smile not quite forced.

"A position for sex we haven't tried yet?" Mac chuckled, willing to let Methos set the mood.

"There are lots of positions we haven't tried yet, Mac," Methos said wryly, glad Mac was willing to be diverted. "It was a favorite of... one of my lovers. Of course," Methos hurried past the memories vying for his attention. "I was younger and more limber then." he said, not quite paying attention to Mac any longer as he stretched a bit before turning sideways to Mac, aware that the Highlander was sitting up, confusion on the handsome features.

Not entirely certain Mac would understand this, Methos, nevertheless, crossed one ankle over the other and parted his thighs. He stretched his arms back until he caught his ankles and drew a deep breath, releasing it slowly, his head and shoulders dropping back.

It's not so different from yoga, Methos told himself, but the simple relaxation had opened a floodgate of memories. There is nothing quite so appealing as a well displayed slave, Varellus' voice echoed hollowly across the millennia, a voice he had not heeded in so long he could barely summon her face. She had been right of course, but then it was her business to be right and his to be obedient. He sank into the memory and those that followed, no longer sure why or for whom the display was needed. Not his place to question.

Mac's confusion mounted and was joined by a burn in his blood at the sight of his lover's body stretched tightly before him. The muscles of Methos' chest and shoulders were taut, stretching the flat abdomen, groin presented appealingly and completely accessible between the hard thighs. Mac moved without thinking, swallowing dryly in something akin to awe, eyes darting to Methos' throat and face. The older Immortal had his eyes closed, relaxing into the stretch, head back and lips parted.

Sacred. An offering. A gift of rare grace and beauty wrapped in the flesh and blood and muscle of human form. Tessa's eye as an artist had taught Mac to appreciate simplicity in form, grace in line and beauty in the combination of both. To see it so displayed, in the living, breathing body of his lover was indescribable.

Mac reached out to touch the taut flesh of Methos' abdomen, felt the muscles ripple as he slid his hand lower. His mouth found the smooth flesh of his lover's throat, Methos trembling but Mac could not tell if it were from strain or passion. He moved his mouth upward and the parted lips yielded under his with a moan, then a gasp as Mac's fingers traced the rising rigidity of his lover's cock. Reassured, he trailed kisses long the arched chest and belly, hand trailing along the stress-hardened thighs before returning to stroke the firm flesh at Methos' groin again, careful not to place any weight on the arched body..

Methos made a sound between a whimper and a moan, limbs rigid as he trembled under the light touches; hips flexing in a response so quick it took Mac's breath away. He shifted his gaze, going still as he noted the pale set features and ragged breaths, fingers white clenched around the ankles, Methos' grip on his own flesh tight enough to have begun bruising the skin.

Something wasn't right. Whatever Methos' reason for showing Mac this, he could not imagine his lover thinking Mac would want to see him in pain or even close to it. Methos was beautiful to look at and the graceful display had aroused Mac with a suddenness he had not expected. But his lover's body was too rigid, too tight, as if there were something else involved, some anticipated unpleasantness.

Alarmed, Mac slipped one arm underneath Methos' neck, loosening the tight fingers and pulling him upward. Methos moaned and swayed, almost fainting as he came erect, blood rushing to his brain, into his face. Mac caught him, pulled him close, his own arousal forgotten in the wash of fear and anxiety.

"Methos? What is it?" he asked, rubbing the stiff back. It took long moments before the dreadful rigidity faded, before some measure of relaxation occurred.

"Just... memories," Methos murmured finally, softly -- almost a whisper. He leaned into the embrace, cheek against Mac's shoulder and gripping the muscled arm supporting him. The color in his face evened out and he breathed deeply through his nose, letting the breath out slowly through his mouth before opening his eyes to find terrified brown ones watching him.

"What memories? What the hell just happened?" Mac demanded, his fear turning to anger. His hands remained gentle, however, stroking the silken hair and rubbing Methos' arm.

"Nothing. Just a reaction," Methos said, voice stronger, less lost in himself and aware he had scared Mac badly -- perhaps more than he had scared himself. "I am not that young or that limber anymore," Methos said, trying to reassure his lover.

"Nothing? One minute you looked caught by ecstasy the next..." Mac drew a sharp breath. "The next you looked like you were dying!" His grip tightened to a painful intensity. Methos did not resist, that fierce embrace grounding him further in the present.

"I'm sorry, Mac. I didn't expect to react like that. I just..." The brown eyes were fierce as well, demanding an explanation. Methos swallowed. He had wanted to share something with MacLeod, to give him a gift -- not drag up dissension or fears. But Mac would not drop his queries. He was frightened and uncertain. Methos pulled away, just a little, glad when Mac eased his hold but did not relinquish it entirely. "What you said about how I looked? I ...I was told...I was taught a slave, in the the brothels..." he stopped at the darkening gaze in his lover's face.

Mac pulled away then, gripping Methos' shoulders but the anger was fading, the confusion returning. He was caught by a glimmer of understanding, mind following his own words, spoken, asking -- not realizing what he was asking or with any idea that Methos would answer him Or blatantly.

"And you thought I would enjoy seeing what...people once paid to see? Paid to touch?" Mac asked, keeping his voice steady. He had suspected some of this but had never had Methos voiced it. The older Immortal preferred to keep his past a silent one. Time enough later, Mac prayed, to get the rest of it from his lover. One shock at a time was all he could handle.

"It was what I had to offer then..." Methos breathed, gaze dropping, unable to meet the pain in the dark eyes. Not willing to see rejection or pity.

"Methos..." Mac's voice was patient, his hand coming to lift the older Immortal's chin. "You have always had more to offer me than your body. Don't you know that?"

"Yes..." Methos said steadily, but he was not sure he was hearing or seeing correctly. "I wasn't thinking about then when I started...not really. This was entirely different. The place, the circumstances -- you," he said, gaining confidence when Mac nodded, listening, fighting for understanding. "Mac, good or bad, half of what I know about the art of love, of lovemaking, I learned in those market -- in the brothels. The techniques, the positions -- they aren't anymore...evil...than a sword is evil.'s the circumstance of their use. Those that trained me were as moved, as pleased by what you saw as you are. They taught me to let those responses show. I'm not sure what just happened. How you touched me was pure pleasure and I knew I wasn't bound or purchased."

"Dear God..." Mac breathed, face paling. He closed his eyes against the image those impassive words wrenched into his mind's eye. His fingers crept around the back of the slender neck, pulling Methos forward until his lover was pressed against his chest, lips at Mac's throat. The tension in the slim body had eased and Methos lifted his head to meet his lover's eyes.

"And I knew you wouldn't hurt me," Methos went on more calmly. He couldn't take it back now. "But it built so quickly -- the sensations, the memories -- I forgot for a moment who I was and where and who I was with. It won't happen again now that I know it can."

"No, it won't," Mac grated out, eyes fierce in denial.

"Mac, can you honestly say you weren't aroused? I was. Powerfully and not because of any half-forgotten memories. The fear came later -- my fear. Not of you." Methos gripped Mac's wrists tightly, hazel eyes locking with brown. "There is nothing wrong in your reaction to me. I watch you as well, Mac. I delight in bringing you to the edge, just to see your face. Don't deny yourself or me those pleasures out of fear of what is long past."

Mac heard the words, heard the desperate need for understanding. He did understand, but it was more of a gift than he thought he could accept. "I don't want you to be afraid of me," he said, calming his rapidly beating heart, forcing his way past the fear and anger to see the man in front of him.

"I am afraid of you, Mac," Methos said quietly. "I fear this power you have over me --and trust you to use it carefully. Implicitly or I would never have had the courage to try that at all."

Mac stared at him, wondering if Methos had any idea what he had just given him. Not what he intended, Mac thought. Having battered Methos' trust and faith over and over, MacLeod had not been sure he would ever be able to win it back entirely. And Methos had given it to him without asking. Had apparently given it to him quite some time ago without Mac noticing.

Methos had prayed that in time Mac would be able to process what he was saying. He was unprepared for the sudden fierce grab the Highlander made for him, startled into reacting, responding as Mac's mouth bruised his in a passion so desperate it made Methos ache. Not a rejection -- not even partially. The acceptance was so immediate it made him dizzy as Mac pressed him down, hands and mouth saying what words could not, dark eyes warm with enough heat to reach the coldest depths of Methos' soul, to banish doubts with a love so intense it was as if those doubts had never been.

"You are right," Mac murmured, body pinning him down with a tender, gentle warmth. "It did move me, arouse me, frighten me. But not because of what was, but because you offered it."

"I ...I wanted to give you something..." Methos said, heart threatening to stop under the searching gaze, under the gentle caresses, under the admission that came straight from Mac's soul.

"Every moment. Every breath," Mac said kissing him thoroughly. "I don't need gifts when I have you," he whispered.

"That simple?" Methos answered, feeling something tight loosen in his chest.

"There is nothing simple about loving you," Mac said earnestly. "And I wouldn't have it any other way," he added with a smile, shifting his thigh between his lover's parted legs and feeling the familiar body respond, his own arousal growing once more under the sheer pleasure of expression that crossed the beloved face.

"Simply loving," Methos murmured and lifted his head to capture the smiling mouth, hands already moving to take possession of the gift offered. "That's all I want."

"That's all there is..." Mac agreed and gave over to a passion that left no doubt in either mind that they understood each other perfectly.