Sheathing Fate
by Maygra de Rhema

continued from chapter one, part two...

Part Two

"Here," Methos said, handing Mac a cup of coffee before settling on the steps in front of him with his own. A few moments of adjustment had him leaning back between Mac' thighs, back to his lover's chest as they watched the dawn move into morning. Mac had calmed down, his terror finally giving way to belief that Methos would try nothing so drastic again. Nevertheless, Mac's hand closed reassuringly over his shoulder, unconsciously kneading the tension from Methos' muscles.

"You haven't said," Methos commented, titling his head back to see Mac's face. "Stay or go?"

"We have enough food and supplies for a day or so," Mac said, voice still slightly husky and raw sounding although he was calm and in control once more. "But I don't like the idea of us being so far from town if something--"

"Mac!" Methos stopped him, turning quickly to face his lover and almost spilling both their coffees. "I am not going to drop dead on you in the next five minutes!" he said sternly. "It does take some adjustment, for me as well. I promise to let you chop all the firewood," he added.

The faintest of smiles appeared on Mac's face, breaking the tense lines. "I think there's enough firewood for awhile, yet," he said and reached out to thread his fingers through the short, dark hair of his lover's head. "This...this caution will pass, Methos. Just give me some time...a couple of hours, at least," he said with a shine to his dark eyes just before he pulled Methos closer. Mac's mouth warmed Methos' and he spent a long moment just savoring the taste and feel of his lover -- the coffee, the velvet texture of the Highlander's lips and flesh.

Mac pulled away first, leaning his forehead against Methos' for a moment before releasing him. Satisfied Mac was doing his best to cope, Methos moved back into his position between the muscled thighs, leaning into his lover's embrace and strength.

Mac's gaze shifted upward. Whatever the cause of the storm the night before, the day was coming out clear, and promised to be warmer as well. He set his cup aside and slid both arms across Methos' chest, not saying anything and unwilling to voice his need to keep in some sort of physical contact with his lover. Unreasonable as it was, he was terrified that Methos might very well vanish before his eyes -- or die. He had lost Tessa so quickly, and others. It bothered him that he had taken Methos' presence for granted because he was -- had been -- Immortal; as if that Immortality was an insurance policy of sorts. What other things might he have missed thinking they had time?

"Mac, don't do this to yourself," Methos' voice was a murmur, his fingers closing around Mac's hands tightly.

"Don't what?" Mac asked.

"Brood. Berate yourself -- whatever it is that makes you sigh like a weak-willed adolescent."

"Become a mind reader, have you?"

"No. I just am very attuned to a certain overwrought Scot," Methos quipped to take the sting out of his words. "Cut it out or I will be forced to drastic measures," he added.

MacLeod made the effort, shrugging off the vague depression dogging him at the resolve in his lover's tone. "And what drastic measures might that include?" he asked spreading his fingers to feel the hard muscles of his lover's stomach beneath the heavy sweater he wore.

Methos pressed back, dropping his head back again to tease his lover with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "We could do a test run on my stamina," he offered and Mac chuckled.

"I might like you better with less -- I might not be exhausted all the time."

"Complaining?" Methos asked as Mac's hands slipped under the heavy knit to skim across his stomach.

"Not at the moment. I'm sure I'll get back to it though," Mac said and captured the waiting mouth once more. It was nice to know some things had not changed. Methos twisted in his arms, turning to face him, quite ready to demand and Mac was willing to be demanded of for the moment. There was a certain desperate relief that they had survived at all. His hand slipped from the warm flesh at Methos' waist to hard, tight muscles of his lover's ass, firmer to his touch under the denim. Methos was already tugging at his sweatshirt and Mac pulled back, pulling the cotton free and skin pebbling as the cool air hit it.

His flesh was almost immediately warmed again by the press of his lover's hands and mouth. But there was a hesitancy as well. What more might be summoned by the familiar demands of passion? The restraint was as natural as the need to overcome it but Mac was acutely aware of the electric thrum between them, that seemingly ever-present connection. It neither abated nor increased as his lover began demanding more of him but his passive acceptance.

His body was willing but Mac found his will suddenly recoiling at the thought of echoing those demands. His eyes were already caught by the bruised upper arms of his lover as Methos stripped off his sweater and his hands sought the marks gently, willfully holding Methos away.

Hazel eyes searched his in confusion before following the dark eyed gaze to the bruises and Methos groaned deep in his throat and wrenched away. There was nothing Mac could say, nor needed to, his gaze unerringly following the smooth line of his lover's back as it was turned to him. Methos crossed his arms over his chest to stare blindly at the water.

It was on the tip of Mac's tongue to ask his lover again for time, but the irony was too sharp, too bitter. Without a word, Mac rose and came to stand behind his lover, the tentative embrace extended. Methos did not pull away but neither did he turn, accepting the token for what it was.

"There seems no point in staying, does there?" Methos said at last and softly. "No reason to deny the luxury of hot water and refrigeration, modern transportation, libraries..." he stopped as Mac pressed his lips to his temple. "Give me some reason to think there's hope in any of this, Mac." The words were softly spoken and flat.

"There is. I am not giving up so easily," Mac swore and Methos turned, finally, to meet his gaze. "But I cannot act like nothing has happened. What was normal for us is not any longer, Methos. Not now."

"So we start over?" Methos demanded, eyes narrowing. "Lose what ground we have won? I can't do that, Mac. I have changed to you -- but to myself, I am the same, mostly."

"And somewhere between the two is someplace we can both live with," Mac said evenly. "Will have to live with."

"You broke no bones yesterday, Mac," Methos said harshly.

"No, but I damn well left you bloody!" Mac exploded. "Hard enough for me to let you see that part of myself, knowing I couldn't really hurt you permanently!"

"You still can't! Don't you trust yourself enough to know that, MacLeod? I do," Methos said, counterpointing the anger and fear with hard-won calm. Without a word he gripped Mac's hand tightly, pressing the fingers together until Mac flinched. "I have not lost strength or wit or the solidity of humanity, Mac. I will not shatter if you touch me."

"If you ask me to prove it, we'll find out whether you have a glass jaw," Mac said dark eyes stormy.

"Is that what this is about, Mac? Do you need to lash out at something? Rail at the fates?" Methos demanded and his own anger was rising. "Or just me? Because I brought us to this, didn't I? Is that all you found attractive in me after all -- my Immortality?"

Mac stared at him in shock. "You cannae' believe that!"

Methos fought his anger back, shoving it down and deep. "No," he said more calmly. "No, I know there is more to it than that, Mac. I'm sorry. That was...uncalled for," he finished lamely.

"I am treating you...differently," Mac admitted. "Because you are. I can't ignore it, Methos. I don't know that I will ever be able to. But touching you is not the problem. Losing you is," he said and reached, pulling his lover close into an embrace that might well have cracked ribs. Methos cared not at all as he returned the embrace. Too much, too fast, and Mac did not adapt quickly to change -- but he did adapt. It was a consoling thought.

"Lets go home, Mac. Maybe some distance will settle our nerves," he suggested. Mac nodded and released him, hands remaining on his shoulders as they went inside to gather their things.

The ride back was swift, belongings sorted into the two vehicles and they made it back before the dojo opened. Mac checked messages while Methos showered and changed, their normal morning routine settling them somewhat. By the time Mac emerged, Methos had pulled together a meal but evinced as little interest as Mac in actually eating it.

There was no need for Mac to go downstairs -- Matt was scheduled to open it for him, but he went anyway, seeking to continue the routine. The tension eased noticeably and Methos all but gave a huge gasp of relief. Occupying his own time seemed the thing to do and he sought the study and his computer, accessing his own link into the Watcher files and found nothing...not that he had expected to. There were calls he could make, but the one to Joe he put off. He was undecided on whether the Watcher should know of this development.

And decided against it for the moment. There were, no doubt, aspects to his situation he had not thought through and he would need to if he were to keep any semblance of control on his own sanity, not to mention MacLeod's.

He had not lied when he told Mac he felt the same. He did. His memories were intact with a few additions but he felt the same. He had even managed to finally ignore the lingering pains in his body -- centuries of practice could not be banished so easily. But he understood Mac's fears a little more readily having seen his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. He'd nearly scared himself to death.

His own fair skin was familiar to him, but not the pallor that now attended his features, nor the rather spectacularly colorful bruises on his arms when held against the rest of his body. The small indentations of Mac's fingernails looked angry and swollen and they were tender should he give a moment to contemplate them, transmitting a dull ache along the length of his arms.

For his own peace of mind he had donned one of his long sleeved sweaters to hide them from easy view and flushed at the thought of how many women he had known in his life that had used similar tactics to hide the abuses of their partners or spouses. Only it was not abuse and Methos knew it as did Mac. Defiantly he almost changed into something that would not hide them but there were other reasons rather than a bitter reminder to keep his...weakness...a secret.

He would very likely drive himself mad pursuing the line of thought and he grabbed up his coat to go, a half dozen errands springing to mind. The feel of his sword in the long duster stopped him again. There was no need to carry it. No other Immortal would know him for what he was -- what he had been -- but habit won out over reality and he slipped the coat on as it was.

Mac was in his office, doing not much of anything but staring at the open account books blindly. But he did look up when Methos approached, rising to his feet with anxiety all over his face at the coat and pack.

"The store, Mac. I am going to the store," Methos said soothingly, gritting his teeth internally. Much more of Mac's over-solicitousness would make him mad. Perhaps a good fight was what they needed but he wasn't willing to press the point just yet.

"I'll come with you--" Mac began and stopped at the expression on his lover's face. The Scot's face altered, closing off, tensing but his tone was even. "Whatever. We need milk and juice."

Methos nodded. "An hour...and then...and then we need to talk," he added softly and Mac nodded, looking already uncomfortable with the idea.

It was all Methos could stand and he left, unable to deny the urge to climb in his truck and leave. Permanently.

Watching Methos leave Mac had a definite impression that one of them had become a stranger. He just wasn't sure which one of them it was. He knew what Methos wanted -- Mac desperately wanted things to remain as they had be the same, but they weren't and no amount of talking was likely to convince him of that. But he needed to talk to someone...someone other than Methos. The most likely candidate was Joe but revealing the suddenly vulnerable state of Methos' existence was something Mac had as much reluctance to discuss with outsiders as his lover did.

Not talking was making things decidedly worse. Worse because Mac had barely been aware of Methos' presence at the door to the office...worse because even that tentative grip on a remedy seemed to be slipping away from them.

Worse because Mac hadn't felt so empty and broken inside since Tessa's death. Only Methos was still alive and like to stay that way for some time. Mac knew it in his mind but the message had not quite wormed its way to his soul yet. And his lover deserved nothing less than all Mac had to offer still.

Were Mac not so blatantly terrified. Terrified to touch him, to let him out of his sight, of losing him or of keeping him close. He had not been able to protect Tessa and while Methos might be in less need of his protections, Mac knew his own psyche well enough to recognize his need to protect the mortals in his life.

Even the new ones -- especially the new ones.

He closed the account books. His brooding presence was distracting both patrons and his manager and he headed upstairs, briefly contemplating getting drunk despite the early hour of the day. It occurred to him in one of the rather ironic quirks of humor that assailed him from time to time, to wonder if Methos would be quite so able to cope with his previous intake of beer.

His eyes lingered on the counter. The beer that they had wrestled for only forty-eight hours before had been disposed of but it and what its presence had led up to burned brightly in Mac's memories. That playfulness was a sharp reminder of what he might be losing. He didn't want to lose it. He couldn't bear the loss of that -- of either Methos' extravagant moods or his cynical humor or the tight hard feel of that body against his own either in play or lovemaking.

"You do have brooding down to an art form," he chided himself, then started as he heard the elevator. Seeking determinedly he caught the edge of that faint presence and relaxed, reassured even when the impassive expression on Methos' face boded little good or welcome. Methos slid the single bag of groceries onto the counter before shedding coat and pack.

Mac emptied the bag, slipping the purchases into the refrigerator and hesitating over the small first aid kit at the bottom of the sack. Wordlessly, Methos picked it up and headed toward the bathroom.

Mac stopped him, not even sure why, but stop him he did, blocking his access and shifting when Methos tried to move past him.

"I am really not in the mood for games, Mac," Methos said flatly.

"No games," Mac agreed, meeting the flash in the green-gold eyes unflinchingly. "And no more excuses and no fears," he said and watch the expression change from anger to confusion then to something else as Mac slipped his hands to either side of his lover's face and tilted the tense face slightly to better angle his mouth over his lover's.

It took long moments before Methos would allow himself to be coaxed, to part his lips under Mac's to accept tongue and taste and feel.

"Are you trying to avoid our talk, Mac?" Methos asked pulling back to search his face.

"Not exactly. Just trying to put it in perspective," Mac responded, moving his mouth along the tense jaw to the sensitive spot below Methos' ear. He felt his lover swallow, the slightest give in the body as Methos leaned into the moist caress along his throat.

"Don't start something you can't finish." The tone was brittle, uncertain and Mac winced inwardly at what further damage he might have wrought. Methos could and would retreat behind remarkable strength if wounded -- physically or emotionally.

"I won't," he said softly into the shell of his lover's ear. "And I won't hold back and if you bruise, you bruise. I'll let you get even later," he promised and was rewarded by a shaky chuckle followed by a rather desperate and successful attempt by Methos to recapture his mouth. There was no contest and no resistance as Methos pressed him back, fingers already working at the buttons of Mac's shirt while Mac pulled his sweater up. Torso bared, Mac's hands did seek the bruises, fingers stroking across them gently before abandoning them for the sleek, hard muscles of his lover's chest, their hands and arms tangled as they sought the reassurance of hard flesh, alternately trying to unclothe one another and touch the exposed skin. The bed came up behind Mac rather suddenly and he stumbled and fell, Methos following, legs straddling Mac's thigh, one knee pressed tightly against the Highlander's groin.

Mac squirmed against the joint, grinning as the graceful fingers slid across his waist to pull open the snaps on his jeans. The flesh beneath was already starting to swell, to harden, and the light touch propelled the reaction further, but Mac wanted nothing fast, nothing desperate. His own hands came up, watching Methos' eyes darken as he pulled himself up into a sitting position. He gripped his lover's hips for leverage, and pulled at the closure of Methos' jeans until the silken length of his lover's cock was exposed, rising against the dark nest of curls. Mac pulled at the denim, mouth seeking the shallow hollow of Methos' hip, smiling as he felt the strong fingers thread through his hair, dragging his head gently toward the trembling length of flesh.

There was no stopping the gasp that escaped Methos' lungs as Mac's lips and tongue began a slow caress against his flesh. Heat began to build, sensation coalescing and focusing in his groin. Mac's fingers dug into the flesh of his buttocks, pulling him closer as the full length of his cock was suckled, kissed, and stimulated until Methos became aware of nothing except the press and friction of Mac's mouth against him, surrounding him. His fingers dug into the thick mane of hair, hips beginning to flex, to thrust against the warm and familiar mouth.

Cool air moved across his heated flesh and he shuddered, opening his eyes to find Mac looking up at him. He bent, body still taut but answering the longing and need he saw in the dark eyes. Their tongues and lips met in a slow duel as Mac pulled him down, both of them twisting as they tumbled to the bed, moving to shed the rest of their clothes. Mac's hands fondled him, stroked him and he returned the caresses, mouth seeking the dark nipples buried beneath the fine mat of hair on Mac's chest, fingers tracing the hard lines of his lover's stomach and sides.

It was gentle, patient, a rediscovery of sorts and Methos gave in to it, not complaining. Time enough later for Mac to realize he was not that fragile -- for the moment it was enough that the fear had given way slightly, or more, Methos thought with a grin as Mac nipped playfully at his lips then along his jaw. The strength in his hands increasing as Mac pushed him to his side, once more gripping at his buttocks, pressing and seeking. Fingers were pressed to Methos' lips and he kissed them then suckled them, leaving them wet and warm before they were withdrawn to seek a new warmth. Another moan escaped Methos, spine bowing as Mac pressed the slickened fingers between the cleft in his buttocks, first one, then the second, nuzzling his lover's throat as he sought the sensitive gland and stroked it.

The release of tension as much as passion prompted Methos' response as he pushed back against the tormenting hand, body twisting as Mac pressed closer, sliding his leg between Methos' to shift the angle, his chest pressing against Methos' back. Mac's other hand slid under the pillow to emerge with the tube of lubricant, still moving slowly as he opened it with teeth and one hand. Methos was already shuddering, too aware of the hard length of Mac's cock against his back.

The fingers were withdrawn and Methos lurched, jerking slightly as Mac's hand closed around his cock once more. Warm lips moistened his shoulder, the grate of teeth across his flesh followed and he pressed back, then again as the aching loss of Mac's fingers was replaced by a far more satisfying pressure.

The pain was minor enough for Methos not to notice it, the pleasure so sudden he almost came at the first thrust. Any painful or frightening memory of their last joining was wiped from his mind with the onset of the present, with the feel of Mac buried deep inside him, filling him, the strong hand surrounding him and the press of Mac's lips against the base of his neck. At just this moment he had lost nothing and gained everything that mattered at all in the world.

For all his promises Mac was more intently aware of the responses in his lover's body than he ever had been before in their relationship. Every soft moan or sigh he catalogued, the press of Methos' body hastening his entry. Fear made him want to pull back but he held still, relaxing as he heard a moaning sigh as his flesh filled the empty cavity of his lover's body, Then tensing again in his own awareness as the flesh and muscle tightened around him, driving his own pleasure higher. He had to move, to feel the slide of flesh and muscle. Without thinking his teeth closed over the stretched tendon in Methos' shoulder, his grip tightening around the pulsing shaft of flesh, Methos' fingers closing around his as they stroked together.

Mac's grip tightened, his arm coming across Methos' upper chest and throat as he suckled and nipped at his lover's neck, his body beginning its rhythmic drive inward. Methos' fingers dug into his forearm, The dark head dropping back against Mac's as the soft murmurs of sound began, the small pleas, the soft commands and Mac answered each one with a word or a movement until he was lost in the sound and sensation, his body finally shuddering through its release, Methos giving in to the stimulation a moment later to warm their joined hands with the spill from his orgasm.

Mac felt the thrum begin, almost tensing, stopping until he realized it had been with them all along, that vibration that was not quite sound or feeling, It skimmed across his skin, set his flesh tingling until every cell was sensitized then felt it travel deep in his loins, across his thighs and pass through him into his lover's body. Methos caught his breath then moaned, their mutual pleasure suddenly heightened. Almost unbearably.

Mac bore down, felt the coil and launch of the spasm that racked his body, sending a second release deep and hot to warm and slicken the passage, then Methos was shuddering, their joined hands slick and hot. The thrum built and he heard Methos swear as the second wave took them both. Mac cried out, the orgasm so powerful he felt his muscles strain as he wrapped himself around his lover, both of them curling inward, shaking with a dual release that seemed to go on forever.

It passed before Mac was quite sure he was still conscious. Methos was still clutching at his arm, shaken, dragging harsh gulps of air into his lungs. They were both sweat covered and flushed still as Mac eased himself from his lover's body, spreading his fingers to lift their hands away from the tight grip they still held on the softening flesh at Methos' groin.

His mouth eased the new mark he had left on the pale shoulder and Methos gradually began to stretch, still trying to calm his breathing.

Mac eased him back, his head pounding from the lack of blood and oxygen reaching his brain. his fingers traced his lover's lips gently and Methos opened his eyes, the glazed look fading slowly.

His expression was uncertain, reflecting Mac's confusion but his hand came up to pull Mac's head down, to kiss him slowly, then shift up on his elbows, still shaky.

Watching him anxiously, Mac followed the stretch Methos gave his long body, hand automatically reaching to massage the closest thigh.

"I didn't imagine that, did I?" Methos asked, sounding none too sure.

"The...the last?" Mac said startled to find his own voice breaking and his hands trembling. "No. I thought I...I was done..." he said, trying to recall that last sudden release of pleasure that nearly robbed him of his senses.

Mac rubbed his lover's leg more to reassure himself of the contact only to have Methos stop him, hand covering Mac's where it lay on his skin, eyes narrowed. It took a moment for Mac to realize why. The thrum had begun again, he could feel it like an increased sense of heat. He tried to pull away, recalling the pain it had caused the night before but Methos held his hand still in a steel grip.

"Methos...?" Mac's voice came out a whisper.

"It doesn't hurt, Mac. Be still," Methos murmured, eyes unwavering then widening as Mac felt the current change, alter.

It felt vaguely familiar to Mac -- not the familiarity of the night before but something he should recognize. Not quite a sound or a feeling but some of both. Still confused he lifted his eyes to Methos', startled to find the hazel eyes blurred and the tight lips relaxed in an almost joyous smile.

"It's your signature, Mac. That part of you that alerts your Immortal presence to other Immortals," Methos murmured, almost laughing. "I can feel you!"

Mac started to echo the grin and concentrated. Was that the registry of Methos' presence? He couldn't tell. It did feel familiar but a solid recognition eluded him still.

Methos moved his hand away almost hesitantly, fighting to retain the connection without the contact. It faded away quickly and he bit back at the bitter disappointment. Some part of him was still thinking this was a temporary aberration.

"It's gone, isn't it?" Mac asked watching his face.

"Yes." The tone was flat, the hazel eyes shuttered.

Mac suddenly stiffened and it took Methos a moment to recognize the Look. The elevator was moving. Mac had locked it as he usually did which meant their visitor had a key. Methos moved first, lunging for his coat as Mac sought his own sword and both of them realizing they were naked. Methos snatched at his clothes as Mac hesitated only to catch the sweats Methos tossed at him once the older man had his jeans on. Despite the tension Methos had to chuckle. They were both stretched tight as bow strings. Whoever it was had best be a very good friend.

The grate slid up and the lanky, familiar figure entered all grins until he saw two very sharp swords leveled at him. Mac dropped his first as Richie's eyes widened. "Hey! I'd a called first..." Richie said holding his hands up, gaze shifting between the two men.

"That's the problem with the youth of today," Methos said with a not-so-welcoming smile. "No manners." He tossed his sword down and reached for his sweater, slipping into it before Richie noticed anything out of the ordinary -- like the sheets. Without a word, Methos jerked them free of the mattress. "Anything else you need washed, Mac?" he asked in the most casual voice he could muster and then rolled his eyes as the flush in Mac's face undid any subterfuge Methos might have managed to salvage from the meeting.

"You're early, Rich," Mac said and then amended and smiled -- a genuine one Methos noticed. "But I'm glad to see you." He came forward to greet his former student, Methos slipping past him to the laundry closet, maneuvering to pick up a few more items that did, indeed, need washing as well.

"Pretty domestic for you, Methos," Richie commented with a grin and it faltered under the glare Methos shot him.

"If I am going to be a guest, Ryan, the least I can do is offer to clean a bit..." Methos grated out and refused to meet the look Mac gave him.

Savaging linens and towels was about the only way Methos could work out his frustrations, shoving the whole bundle into the washer without regard to color or fabric. Once started, he remained, leaning against the washer, allowing the vibration from the machine to act like a focus for his raging emotions.

"Methos," Mac's voice broke through his rigid concentration.

"I can't handle this on top of the rest, Mac.." Methos said, letting his breath out slowly.

"You don't have to. I told him. About us. Not about what happened yesterday," Mac said softly. "Not with the finesse I would have liked, but..."


Mac chuckled as his lover finally turned to face him. "But he'll get over it...used to it...he is planning on making quite a dent in our beer supply, though. So he says."

"I may help him..." Methos muttered. "Would it be melodramatic to say I don't know how much more of this I can handle gracefully?"

"Probably, but since I feel the same way, I'll allow it," Mac said and reached out to cup his hand at the base of his lover's neck and pull him close. Methos went, hooking his arms under Mac's, each leaning into the other's strength.

"Maybe Ryan has the right idea," Methos said into Mac's shoulders.

"It's as good a plan as any...Do you want to tell him? At some point he is going to realize you don't have--"

"No. Let's deal with it when it comes...Maybe there is something there that you can't feel," Methos said and pulled back. The kiss he sought was as much for thanks as a reassurance. "Best finish shocking the poor boy," he murmured and Mac nodded.

Richie was working on a beer, face flushing as his mentor and his mentor's....Methos emerged. Methos was in front, Mac standing slightly behind him, hands resting lightly on the broad shoulders. Not possessively but comfortably.

"I refuse to say anything until I am sure I won't make an ass out of myself," Richie proclaimed.

"Bright boy," Methos commented and pulled away, heading for the refrigerator. The idea of getting drunk was sounding better and better. "But feel free. Might as well get all of this nonsense out of the way early on," he said and opened his own beer and then a second when Mac nodded. Drinks distributed, Methos levered himself up onto the counter. Mac took up a perch on the sofa arm, a triangle with Richie at the center point.

"None of my business..." Richie murmured unable to look at either of them. The flush in his cheeks had faded and now he looked rather pale. He did finally lift his head and glanced at Methos then again, eyes widening

"Jeez. You look like shit!" Richie blurted out and then flushed again at the look of shock on Methos' face.

"Not manners, a lack of tact. That's what's wrong," Methos growled but his eyes were dancing. "I had a bad night."

"Or two..." Richie said and halted his mouth once more. Methos looked like he had taken a bad Quickening -- a really bad Quickening and on second glance, Mac was looking none too chipper himself. But the physical effects were more apparent on Methos' paler skin. The older Immortal looked like he needed a week's sleep.

Sleeping. "I guess I'd better find a place to stay," Richie said. His mind was still reeling. Mac's announcement that he and Methos were lovers had taken him completely by surprise. It hadn't settled yet and Richie was not quite willing to give into the vague distaste the idea left in his mind. Mac's choices -- and Methos' for that matter -- were their own. No one could accuse either man of not being old enough to make those choices or care what anyone thought.

"You can stay here, Rich," Mac said. "We have a guest room," he added and Richie was pulled out his thoughts again, his eyes following Mac's to where the new addition was barely visible.

"Touch my computer and I'll take off both hands at the elbows," Methos muttered and Richie had to laugh. He pushed himself to his feet, going to check out the new room. He was impressed and the futon looked comfortable.

"You added this for hi...for Methos?" Richie asked and regretted it when Mac's mouth thinned. He should have stuck to his original plan and kept his mouth shut.

"No. I added it for us," Mac said. "We live here, Rich."

"Ease off, Mac," Methos said softly, and met the stung look Mac shot him evenly. "We are all a bit...tense," he added and Mac took a breath.

He had known Richie would be in for a shock. He actually was not too worried about his former student's eventual acceptance but perhaps he was pushing too hard. Methos was right -- his other concerns were riding too close to the surface. He reached out to grip Richie's shoulder, squeezing the corded muscle in a familiar gesture and smiled his apology.

"We needed the space and place for friends to stay when they drop in. For you. For Amanda. Whoever."

"Why do I not believe Amanda would be satisfied with the guest room?" Richie said and grinned in spite of himself when he heard Methos laugh behind him.

Mac had the grace to blush but the comment eased the very palpable tension. "I'll dive off that bridge when I get to it," Mac agreed and released his shoulder.

Richie nodded and got his bag, hefting it and depositing it into the guest room with another self-conscious smile. "Appreciate the hospitality," he said, directing the comment at both men. "Look, I need a shower and some food," Richie began and rolled his eyes at Mac's expression. "And I have some friends I'd like to catch up with. Other friends. What ever makes you..." He shifted his gaze to Methos' face, making sure the older man knew his words were for both of them. This is definitely going to take some adjustment. "...Makes you happy. No argument here. Shock. But no argument," he finished and was rewarded by the grateful smile on Mac's face. It warmed Richie someplace deep that his opinion meant so much to the Highlander. Nice to know his regard was returned.

An uncomfortable silence fell for a moment before Richie moved, pulling clean clothes from his bag and heading for the bath. His startled exclamation of surprise was greeted by laughter from Mac and Methos both.

"Jeez, Mac! When you renovate, you renovate!" Richie called approvingly just before the water started running.

"That went ...well," Mac observed, joining his lover at the counter and leaning in between his spread legs to grab a kiss.

"Shock can be useful," Methos answered pulling back. "Too much shock may send him running for the hills," he cautioned.

"Then he runs. Ours, Methos," Mac reminded him seriously. Methos hesitated then nodded and gave Mac the opportunity to claim his mouth after all. "As for the rest..."

"We'll deal," Methos said, threading his fingers through Mac's hair. "He didn't seem to notice anything wrong."

"No, except he's right. You do look like shit."

"You are so flattering, Mac. No wonder the ladies can't resist. Little sleep, less food and a very rough couple of days do nothing for my complexion," he said wryly. "We'll feed our house guest and see if food doesn't make a difference."

"Maybe you should see a doctor. I could call Anne," Mac suggested.

Methos gave it serious consideration, then nodded. "Your lady doctor may be just the answer. She doesn't know me and what we don't tell her may reveal more than what we can tell her. Which isn't much. It'll wait until Monday though," he said and shoved himself off the counter. "I'll make lunch. You need to shower," he added with a grin.

Richie emerged while Mac was still gone, his comments to his remaining host carefully neutral as Methos followed his lover's example and grabbed a shower. By the time he finished, Mac and Richie were just starting to eat. Sandwiches actually looked good and Methos ate silently, listening to Richie catch Mac up on his doings over the last few months. Teacher and student settled into something approaching a normal bantering before Richie begged off to catch up with them later at Joe's for dinner. He did have friends in town and a few phone calls had his afternoon pretty much laid out.

"We haven't had our talk yet," Mac reminded his lover after bringing the books up from the office and checking on the gym.

"Got diverted," Methos said stretching out on the freshly made bed. "To be honest, Mac, I am beat," he added, and he was. The stress was playing havoc with his system. That and the depression hovering just barely out of reach. "It can wait."

Mac didn't argue with him, just settled at his desk, unable to really concentrate but making the best effort he could. When he looked up again, Methos was asleep, the strain in his face having eased finally.

Mac moved to the sofa, still working but eventually he felt the need for sleep as well. Unwilling to disturb his partner he stretched out on the sofa and soon gave over to the lure himself.