by Maygra de Rhema
THIS IS PG-13 RATED, MILD REFERENCES TO M/M SEX.
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.
Input appreciated, despite all commas and comments: sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
"A very nice workout, MacLeod-san," Methos said bowing, a little breathless, but the grin on his face lightened the gold-green of his eyes with humor.
"My privilege," MacLeod said returning the bow. And it had been. He had suspected Methos was a far better swordsman than he let on and he got to be right. Their techniques were different and Methos was not above a few dirty tricks, but his command of the short blade he'd chosen to match against the katana was handled skillfully. In a real fight, it would be deadly.
He scooped up a couple of towels, tossing one to Methos before wiping his own sweating face. The older Immortal was sitting on one of the weight benches, the T-shirt and sweats he'd worn clinging to his slender frame like a second skin with the moisture generated from the strenuous workout.
MacLeod let his gaze slide over the hard, muscled frame in blatant appreciation. Methos' usual garb was loose clothing, the extraneous fabric obscuring what was really a body pared to the razor's edge of strength and flexibility. The chameleon-like nature of the oldest Immortal still amazed MacLeod even after months of exposure. The usual graceless stance could be abandoned in a moment, casual posture cast off quickly to reveal a body as well-honed and weighted for battle as the blade he held.
His eyes met the hazel ones for a brief moment, heat of another kind sparking between them as he realized he wasn't alone in his assessment of his partner's physique. Methos' attention had apparently been on a similar excursion and MacLeod laughed at wry humor on the other man's face and continued to dry off. There were other people in the dojo and as much as he wanted to touch and test his visual assessment of Methos' body, now was neither the time nor the place..
And Methos silently agreed, dropping his gaze to the blade he held across his knees. It surprised him not at all to catch Mac looking at him, knowing his own desire had been banked carefully during the spar and afterward. They were still early enough in their relationship for the physical to have as much if not more appeal than the other aspects of their deepening commitment. And it was easier to sate those desires than the details that came with any new relationship. He was still a little awed that MacLeod had so readily accepted him as a lover. Not that the Highlander was narrow-minded but his preferences for women had always been obvious. That he would deny those inclinations and invite, no, almost demand Methos share his life and his bed made the older Immortal feel more loved and special than he had in centuries...possibly millennia.
It was all far more than physical, something Methos had hoped for but never dared voice. He had begun this tentative relationship with an oath of brotherhood, offering a kind of friendship he wasn't sure MacLeod would or could understand. That the Highlander had understood had left Methos shaken and uncertain. Until the broad dark hand reached out again and steadied him, literally and figuratively, pulling him out of a solitary existence and into life.
Not bad for a mere child of four hundred.
"Backtracking again?" MacLeod's voice was close and Methos looked up to find the Highlander next to him, one foot braced against the bench as he leaned against his knee. The dark, earth-brown eyes searched and held his gaze calmly, patiently.
"A bit," Methos admitted and straightened up, flexing tight muscles in his shoulders. Without a word, MacLeod stepped over the bench, hands sliding gently across the broad shoulders to begin easing the strain. The massage looked impersonal, nothing the Highlander wouldn't do for any of the students in the dojo that might over-work tendons. But the touch was infinitely more, accomplishing its purpose but suggesting other things as Methos was pulled against him, back pressed against the hard flat stomach. Fingers worked deep into the tissue, thumbs easing the tight tendons along the slender throat. Methos let his head drop back, looking up, another smile playing on his lips.
The older Immortal closed his eyes, letting his thoughts stray for a moment away from the massage and to the thought of those hands pressing elsewhere, of the sight of MacLeod's abdomen not obscured by a sweat shirt but exposed and waiting for a touch or a caress. His visual imagination was rather too good and he heard Mac chuckle.
"You're going to need a cold shower before a hot one," the Highlander murmured softly so only Methos could hear.
"I can think of other ways...." Methos returned, opening his eyes to the heated gaze, but he drew a deep breath, stilling the reaction in his body, letting it ease off with a series of deep breaths and pulled away a bit to wipe the edge of his blade with his towel to clear of some droplets of sweat that rested on the dark metal. "However, if we are going to indeed meet Mr. Dawson for dinner, I suppose a shower will have to do...."
MacLeod gave his shoulders one last squeeze and sat beside him, eyes shifting from his partner's profile to the blade. He reached across, palm out. "May I?"
Methos surrendered the blade with a smile, watching MacLeod as he tested the heft and balance. "It weighs a ton," the Highlander commented.
"Iron. Some nickel for tempering, but mostly iron," Methos said.
"This is an unusual design. No guard....I know it forces you to fight close." MacLeod said. It was short, less than the length of his arm--too long to be a dagger or a rapier. And thick, the edge was fine but not a razor, not a cutting weapon, but one used to gouge. But it was heavy enough to break bones as well, and MacLeod had found it an equally effective defense during their spar--at least used as Methos used it. But it also had a vague aura of familiarity.
"Nor will you. It was...made... for me by a friend. A long time..." Methos stopped and grinned, "A relatively long time ago. 'Bout three hundred years. Blacksmith. The first swords I ever used were short, Mac. The metals then were too weak to support much length or be hammered too thin. It's not my first choice but it's easier to carry when a long coat is definitely de trop," he added.
MacLeod nodded. He'd seen the harness Methos wore--another reason for the loose bulky sweaters. The blade hidden easily against the older man's back.
"I wish I could find a craftsman to make another. This one's about been honed past its use," Methos murmured, sliding his hand against the edge. "I take it down much more and it won't hold an edge at all."
"Who made it?"
"An Immortal blacksmith named Tiernan," Methos said softly as MacLeod handed the blade back to him. "Only Immortal I knew who never took a head. Or not many. He came to America just before the revolution. I lost track of him," he said, a wistful fondness in his voice.
"You said a friend," Duncan said, face tightening a bit but Methos wasn't looking at him, the older Immortal lost in another memory.
"He was. I met him just after I discovered Quickenings left me with a little more of my opponents that I could or wanted to handle," Methos said. "I'd just come out of a challenge outside of Amsterdam. It didn't go very well and I was...vulnerable. And the man I'd fought had friends," Methos said and didn't notice MacLeod tense, lips tightening. "Tiernan happened by and found me. I'm not sure I could have gotten my sword off the ground at that point. I thought it was over. He backed the other two off, picked me up, tossed me into his wagon and took me home. Took care of me while I ...recovered. And took me on as an apprentice to give me a cover. In some ways, you remind me a lot of him, Mac. He was...a good friend. An honorable man. I checked the Chronicles but never found a mention of him. Maybe because he would do anything rather than kill. That as much as anything else convinced me to stop taking heads. He was a hell of a swordsman. I learned more about disarments from him than anyone I'd ever studied under. When we parted he gave me this...a birthday present, he said. Even if I didn't know when my birthday was. He said it would never fail me and it never has." The hazel eyes shifted to take in MacLeod's face again, narrowing slightly in regard. "You'd have liked him, Duncan. He was a good man. I wonder if he's still alive?"
"I know," MacLeod said softly. "And he's not."
Methos went still and then dropped his gaze. "You took his head," he said softly.
"American Civil War. I didn't have a choice, Methos."
The older Immortal nodded, laying his long slender fingers reassuringly on MacLeod's arm. "I know that, Highlander. Too much to hope that Tiernan could stay unaffected...to remain as good as I'd known him. It's all right, Mac. I know you did whatever you felt necessary. I'm going to shower." He added and rose, heading for the locker room.
MacLeod stared after him, the rest of the story on his lips but he hesitated, gazing thoughtfully after his lover before rising himself and heading for the loft.
He showered quickly then cleared off the top of the massive chest he used as a side table and opened it. Layers of items came out carefully, books, mementos, things his fingers and eyes and mind lingered over...would have lingered over longer had he not been looking for something important.
Something of significance only he hadn't realized it at the time.
A bundle, canvas wrapped and worn. A promise MacLeod had made without really knowing why or how he would ever fulfill it.
And Tiernan had known. It gave MacLeod a chill to think of it. More so when he realized how much movement between chance and fate had to occur for this package to be delivered. He pulled it free, untying the smaller packet from the first and sliding it into his pocket.
The elevator sounded and MacLeod slipped the bundle back into the chest and closed it. Methos met his eyes with a smile, no recriminations or accusations. "Let me change and we'll go meet Joe," he said and MacLeod nodded but said nothing.
Methos sighed and came closer. "Please don't brood over this, Mac. People change. What ever went between you two doesn't change the memories I have of him," he added softly, fingers sliding over the Highlander's cheek and down to spread against his neck.
"Then tell me, because I want to know," MacLeod said.
"Tell you what? He was a good man. He laughed easily. Would fight but wouldn't kill. Was strong as an ox and had a plump, sassy wife whom he loved madly," Methos said with a genuine smile, fingers filtering through the dark hair behind MacLeod's ears, encouraging him to relax as he moved in closer. "He moved like you do...sure, quick, graceful. He would dance Ella around in the yard when he returned from selling. Treated me like a son and a friend. Nothing after we parted can change that."
"Then you don't want to know?"
"Not unless you need to tell it, Mac. You may kill but it doesn't come easy for you. I know that as well as you do," Methos said seriously and pulled the younger man forward to kiss him lightly. "There's nothing to forgive but you've got it if it matters."
It did. It mattered more that Methos offered it without question. The older Immortal didn't have, had never had that many friends. Close friends that he trusted as he had obviously trusted Tiernan. As he trusted MacLeod. MacLeod caught his waist and held him, deepening the kiss, tasting sweet forgiveness and understanding. A total acceptance of any decision MacLeod made, past, present or future. He felt Methos' hips press to his warmly for a long moment before drawing back with a chuckle. "I either need to dress or we need to call Joe and cancel," the older Immortal said.
MacLeod grinned. "Not fair to Joe. Methos, just one more question about Tiernan. Did he...was he... was there anything odd about him? Aside from the fact that he wouldn't kill," he added only half in jest. "You said he just happened by...?"
Methos gave him searching look and nodded slowly. "Strange question, Mac. Yes. There were times I thought he knew things he shouldn't have. He told me that he didn't usually go home that way. It took him longer, the track harder on the horses. Said he just knew he was supposed to be there. I asked him about it later and he told me that he believed there were times when certain people were supposed to meet--that those meetings would change things. Would affect other people and other lives and that sometimes he knew when it was supposed to happen. Most of the time he just treated every person he met like there was a difference to be made. He certainly made me feel that way...made me think...again... about what the probable outcome of the game would be like..." he said and his voice and eyes went soft again.
"Did you...were you and he...?" MacLeod began, not jealous, only curious.
Methos grinned. "No. But I'd have said yes if he asked. No, he was very much in love with his plump wife, " he laughed, baritone rich with honest amusement at the memory. "So was I for awhile but it went nowhere. Tiernan was glad I was there, because he could leave and not worry so much about Ella. Trusting both she and I not to ...push his trust or at least to keep him ignorant of it. We never did. Ella kept tossing eligible wenches at me for a couple of years, though. What is it? Do you want to talk about it?" he asked the gold-green eyes growing concerned.
"Yes. But not why you might think. Sit down."
The tone was gentle but compelling and Methos complied, watching the Highlander anxiously. His attention shifted as the younger immortal opened the trunk again and drew out the bundle.
"Let me tell you..." MacLeod began sitting on the coffee table in front of Methos, letting his hands dangle loosely between his knees, the bundle across his lap. "I met him during the Civil War," He began and locked eyes with the older man, voice going soft and earnest. "He stayed a good man, love. To the end. His shop was one of the points we used to get slaves out of the south prior to and during the war. He built a false floor under the smithy, put the damn anvil right on top. The war was nearly over. Sherman was starting his sweep and I went to find him. Convince him to leave. He was living outside of Atlanta. I found him. The area had been mortared. When I found him he was missing an arm and a leg, Methos. Healing but...we hid out for a few day while he did heal. But the spirit was gone. He'd never do the work he loved again. Couldn't walk...not much chance if another Immortal found him."
"You took his head for mercy's sake," Methos said reaching out to catch the broad hands and lacing his fingers through the Highlander's, a bittersweet smile on the finely featured face. "I should say thank you then for that, Mac. I'm glad."
MacLeod squeezed his hands. "There's more," he said. "While we were still examining our options he asked me to get a few things from the smithy...what was left of it. This was one," he patted the bundle in his lap and pulled the smaller packet from his pocket. "This was the other. He gave them to me. I thought he was fevered or delirious. This," he began opening the larger of the two. "He told me he had made this for someone. That the person would need it. He couldn't tell me the name, didn't know what name that Immortal would be using. And he couldn't describe him save that he would match the blade and that I would know when I met him," MacLeod said and pulled the canvas back to reveal a short sword, black metal gleaming under its oil coat, the near twin of the blade Methos had used earlier. The older Immortal took it slowly when MacLeod offered it still wrapped in its canvas sheath.
"I'd forgotten about the sword," MacLeod said. "I've thought about Tiernan several times. He saved the lives of a lot of slaves and no too few sympathetic southerners. But he wouldn't tell me anything about who the sword was meant for. He didn't describe you, give me a name. Nothing. He just said I would know when it was time. I've nearly tossed it out a dozen times and I haven't looked at it for over a century," he paused, his fingers tightening around the older Immortal's. Felt the strong grip returned. "Methos, he knew you and I would meet. He had to have known."
"Maybe. Or maybe he thought it likely. I never told him who I was, Mac. Not Methos. To him I was just Michel Pierson," Methos said, long fingers curling around the blade and handle. " But to have made this ...I designed this blade, Mac. The weight and feel of it, the length to fit ....maybe. He was.. a remarkable man...insightful. Thank you for this. For remembering and for telling me what happened to him," he leaned forward and kissed MacLeod gently. "I need to change," he murmured and Duncan nodded a faint smile on his lips. He had seen the shadows ease in the golden eyes, felt something loosen in himself. A part of Methos' past that was not painful to recall. He was getting his desire to better know the enigmatic man he loved in small pieces. But the discovery was worth it. And they had time.
He watched the older Immortal set the blade down on the kitchen counter., and slid his hands into his pockets to wait while Methos stripped off his shirt to exchange it for something a little dressier. His fingers closed over the other packet, fingering it with a small smile. A thank you from Tiernan. He might even start wearing it.
Methos turned to face him, buttoning the gray oxford and MacLeod got to his feet in a rush, eyes narrowing as he reached out and stopped his lover from buttoning the last two button at the neck. He reached inside the shirt, fingers skimming the smooth, warm skin and sliding under the small amulet Methos wore on a leather thong at his throat.
It was a circle of filigreed iron, one edge smooth, the other jagged like a small crown.
"Tiernan made this," MacLeod said.
"Yes," Methos said catching his wrist gently, watching him in confusion. "It was Ella's. He gave it to me when she died. Two halves of a whole. He made the rings. His fit into hers. What is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."
MacLeod drew out the smaller packet and opened it, exposing the mate of the ring. "Payment for bringing you the sword. To remind me that everyone searches for the other half of their heart. He told me the mate was his wife's. He didn't tell me he had given it to you. I'm not a great believer in chance, Methos."
"Mac, even if he somehow knew that we would meet, that we would become this important to each other, what difference does it make?" Methos said seriously. "Does it frighten you that fate might take a bigger interest in us than she already has? Maybe Tiernan did know something but he didn't engineer it. Maybe he was prescient, but he didn't bring us together," he paused and drew back a bit, the mobile face going incredibly still, a shadow of hurt in his eyes. "Unless you're looking for some kind of justification for us to be together....permission from something or someone other than ourselves. Is that it, Mac?"
It took MacLeod a moment to realize how his insistence must have sounded... how his lover could come to such a question. Methos' worries about the Highlander's reaction to having a deep romantic and physical relationship with another man had been voiced before and glossed over. But not banished obviously. The uncertainty still there, the insecurity MacLeod found so incongruous in a man who'd seen five thousand years roll by still shadowing the olivine eyes.
He reached for the tense shoulders, the small packet clasped in his fingers. "No. No, Methos, I'm not looking for nor do I need any justification for us, for you...not as a friend, not as a lover, not as my partner for the rest of our lives. But with so many things trying to tear us apart...so many ways we could lose one another... It's exactly the opposite of what you were thinking," MacLeod said and braced his hands along the other man's jaw. Felt the fingers slide over his hips and flex convulsively against his skin as Methos swallowed, watching him, listening intently.
"To think that Tiernan might have known means that maybe, just maybe he knew something about eternity that we don't. Not justification, hope. An idea that maybe he saw a better future for us than we see for ourselves. Only we had to find it. He couldn't give it to us." He caught the ring around his lover's neck and held it up. "Two halves of a whole, Methos. That's exactly what I feel when I'm with you," he added softly, the dark eyes holding lighter ones until Methos relaxed and nodded.
"Maybe," he breathed, and a faint smile further eased the lines of his face. "It is kind of nice to think that someone is pulling for us."
MacLeod grinned and tilted his chin up just so. "Sometimes I think a lot of someone's are. I've just never been able to put names to them." he said with a chuckle.
"Aye. An eternity together." MacLeod said, the brogue getting more pronounced the closer Methos fitted his body to the Highlander's. "It may gra' on us yet. Maybe we should call Joe?"
"And tell him what, Mac? Gee, we're sorry we stood you up again?" Methos said and kissed him soundly. "No. This can wait. Joe, like Ella...does not have all the time in the world," Methos murmured and MacLeod agreed, finishing buttoning his shirt for him.
"You're right," he said, slipping his arms around the slender waist. "Besides, what's say we give Joe a new Chronicle to write? One about a good man. A blacksmith."
The gold green eyes softened again and Methos nodded. "I think that an excellent way to remember Tiernan. And a better way to thank him." Methos said and pulled the leather from around his neck, slipping it over MacLeod's. "For the other half of my heart," he murmured.
The Highlander fingered the ring, still warm from Methos' body heat and caught his hand, slipping the second ring out of its packet and fit it around the center finger of Methos' right hand, kissing the pad of his finger in a promise.
"For the other half of my soul," he said softly.