This Sword Unbroken
by Maygra de Rhema

THIS IS NC-17/ R RATED: Sexual Situations (Male/Male Sex) Language. If any of this offends you, do not proceed.

And so ends the Shield Brothers Arc -- or so I expect. I hope the resolution put forth in this is satisfying to all who have spent the past year following the progression of this Alternate Universe. I am a great believer in happy endings and in the idea that anyone can begin again with out the burdens of their past. May your futures be as bright.

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; to be sent to Maygra at

Blacksburg, Virginia,  2022 A.D. 

"How can you stand to look at him?" Joe asked quietly, his own eyes cutting away from the slender form so fascinated by the wind chimes MacLeod had brought.

Mac smiled faintly, a softness easing the usually hard lines of his face. "How can I not?" he said as Tray pushed at one long tube to set it swinging, cocking his head at the sound. Gently the young man blew air across the tubes, setting off a musical dance of sound. He stood absolutely still, listening.

Joe looked back again, following MacLeod's gaze. He was all too aware of the bitter mix of pain and joy the Highlander felt on seeing the youth. The resemblance was uncanny: a slight difference in hair color, the eyes greener, but it was in attitude that the biggest change revealed itself. There were no haunted shadows in the beautiful eyes, no wariness to tense the mobile mouth. The body was willowy and strong: Tray given to frenetic bursts that would have him running round and round his parent's backyard for an hour or more at times.

Then he would stop. His whole life had been a pattern of fits and starts. Total absorption in a thing or a moment only to move on to the next as if the previous had never happened.

Clinically, he was still diagnosed as autistic, severely disenfranchised from the world around him. It had seemed worse when he was younger, maybe better. Joe couldn't decide any longer and tried not to think about it. He looked so like the man who had fathered him, a man whose capacity for hate had been far overshadowed by his capacity to love.

Tray was capable of neither. The switch leading to his emotions had been broken off early. He had a certain intelligence, an idiot savant who could copy down perfectly the long lines of ancient text Claire brought from her work...mimicry at its photographic best. Twenty-six years old and he had never laughed, never spoken, the rare smiles never meant or directed at the people who moved like shadows around the edges of his life.

Joe looked around, admiring the large yard. Holy Ground. Tray had never shown any inclination to stray from the carefully fenced perimeter...the converted church his home and playground and whole world since the age of four. He knew no where else. The only other world to the eternal child existed in his mind where no one could intrude.

Or share or participate. Had Joe's old heart not already been broken so many times that it seemed the constant and normal state for the organ, Tray would surely have broken it again.

He was pre-Immortal. MacLeod had confirmed it shortly after the boy hit puberty. What to do about it was still open for debate. A clean death to keep him eternally as he was or let the years claim him and discover if the theory that pre-Immortals who never reached first death would indeed, die in a normal span of mortal years.

With many tears and arguments, Claire and Angela had left the decision to Duncan. In all matters legal, they were the boy's parents, Tradere Adam Ramsey, was their responsibility, their son. But Claire, like Joe, was past seventy, spry and alert as ever, still Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, active and involved in the academic world. Angela was past fifty.

Painful as it was, their ability to protect Tray was limited.

MacLeod's was as well, but not as limited. Nor his wealth. A couple had been hired, a man and wife, in their late forties, occupying Joe's old home in the converted vicarage and tasked with the day to day care of not only their young charge but his aging parents. Recruited from the Watchers, who had found the scope of their mission changing in the last near quarter century as they tried to explain, if only to themselves, the dirth of new Immortals appearing in the game. Less than half a dozen had been identified, and Tray among them. It was a compromise, the best they could come up with.

Joe's eyes jerked as Tray began one of those fitful starts, his present held out before him as he ran, movement making the chimes bounce and sing and then clang together discordantly and he stopped, going still, utterly, entirely still. In his stillness he might have been some fey creature, transforming into a tree for camouflage. In movement he was breathtakingly graceful, a wild creature, easily startled and just as easily escaping, like a deer avoiding a hunter.

"Here," Angela murmured behind them, Melinda Richart following, bearing a tray with drinks and sandwiches and setting it down between them. "Claire will be out in a moment," she said and smiled at where Tray was once more setting the chimes to singing. "He loves it, Duncan," she said giving the Highlander a hug. "He...listens to everything."

"We will leave you to visit," Melinda said with a friendly smile. She was a small, slightly plump red head, with a degree in sociology and a doctorate in psychology, and a simple approach to dealing with her charge. Watch but don't interfere unless he requires assistance.

Angela picked up a glass and moved toward her son, coming at him head-on, nearly the only way to get his attention if he was occupied and sometimes it didn't work even then. Angela reached out a hand to restart the chimes, holding out the glass with her other hand. Without looking at it Tray took it, drinking the whole glass in one long, slow swallow, his eyes never leaving the chimes.

Claire's raspy chuckle drove Mac to his feet, offering his hand to the elderly woman as she made her way down the shallow steps on Carl Richart's arm. "Angela will have to chase him at dark." She eased herself down into the seat next to

Joe's wheelchair, brushing the lined cheek with a kiss. "It's very good to see you, Joe. You know Carl."

"Very well, " Joe said with a grin, his voice thick with age and humor as he shook his successor's hand. Carl had taken Joe's place as Duncan MacLeod's watcher after Dawson had retired some fifteen years before. Had remained in that position for nine years until the concern for Tradere's continued care came up. For the past year he and his wife had shifted their lives and their priorities, keeping tabs on both MacLeod and young master Ramsey.

"You are sure this is no imposition?" Carl asked.

"No," Mac said with a grin watching as Tradere watched Claire make his chimes sing against his now-empty glass. "No imposition at all. You only get to have one first grandchild."

Carl laughed and nodded, his excitement and joy clear in his weathered face and grey eyes. "This is true...We'll be back by next Tuesday."

"Carl," Mac said. "We will be fine. It won't be the first time I've looked after him and if he needs it, I am sure his Uncle Joe can soothe him with a few old tunes. You did bring your guitar?"

"I always bring my guitar Mac." Joe assured him.

"All right, then," Carl said. "Mel has left dinner in the oven and the instructions are--"

"Taped to the refrigerator--!!" Four voices sang out and laughter followed, including Carl's.

Less than thirty minutes later, Mac saw the couple to their car, laden with gifts from himself and Joe and the Ramsey's for the newborn -- including a small set of windchimes from Tray. He had not chosen it, but Carl and Melinda's daughter and son-in-law were well aware of the man-child the couple now devoted their life to.

It was growing dark, fireflies beginning their dance and dinner was ready and waiting. Ramps eased the way for Joe who had finally been forced to give up his prostheses most days, even with the advances of the last twenty years, but the chair was light and sleek and less a stigma than it might once have been.

His meals scheduled to the last minute, Tray resisted not at all when Angela took his hand to lead him inside. She spoke softly to him as she always did, watching the fluttering of his graceful hands as he reached out to touch the elusive sparks of greenish-yellow light as they flitted about the yard.

A very fine roasted chicken and a bottle of wine later, the four sat down to continue their discussions and play catch-up, primarily with Joe since Duncan was in-town more than out. Claire had papers to work on but she could talk and write, glasses perched on her nose and Tray seated at the end of the table . He had gained the coordination to hold a pencil or stylus and write, although at best he was a fine copyist. A gift, as Claire called it, for he could reproduce the ancient symbols of her study as other idiot-savants could reproduce concertos on a piano by hearing it one time. Unspoken was the thought that perhaps that gift of life twice given by Tray sire had found some expression in his ability to so perfectly reproduce the language of peoples and civilizations long dead.

Unspoken even between the four of them in any way. MacLeod had never spoken to Claire or Angela of the cost to save their son, he had left the tale to Joe to tell. It was, in Mac's opinion, the single most cowardly act of his life. The second was his failure to sell the cabin and land where he had buried his own future even as he salvaged some portion of Methos' in the small body he had carried back to the arms waiting for him.

He had returned to the killing fields and tried to recall what had followed after he gave into his grief. It was hazy at best and probably a blessing. There had been a bonfire he knew, and gentle hands that guided him through the confusion to a place where he could rest - to soothe him as he woke shaking and confused. Claire and Angela had been there he knew, their gratitude and sorrow as blurred as the rest. He could recall the actual events, the challenges that had burned again and again across his consciousness, his final understanding of the oath between he and Methos and the ring that even now rested on with its mate on his finger. But it all seemed to have happened to someone else and the emotions he thought should attend such a loss were oddly absent.

What grief there was he kept to himself after his initial exhaustion, but he made no effort to ban the sound of Methos' name from his presence. He and Joe spoke of Methos often as did he and Amanda or any of his other friends who knew the name of the eldest Immortal. MacLeod had no desire to forget his lover, nor have him be forgotten. No memorial stone was needed.

It had not been grief that had forced him to absent himself for the majority of the next two years but wonder. Specific knowledge had not been the last gift to him, but here was a curiosity and an altering of MacLeod's ability to perceive the world. He gained no greater appreciation for beer, although Joe teased him about it, but he gained a greater appreciation for living -- for the why of it.

Perhaps indirectly he was also given the time to explore the new patterns his mind took. MacLeod could count on the fingers of both hands the number of challenges he had met and won in the past twenty or so years. Either Cierwyddyn's prayers had been true or it was the attrition rate that allowed more time and distance to lapse between Immortals meeting

Immortals. The savagery of the encounters was in no way lessened but the frequency of encounters dropped.

Or perhaps, MacLeod thought in darker moments, it was only because most of the Immortals he once knew as friends or enemies were mostly dead. Those he did know and still called friend, he could now count on the same fingers of both hands. He made every effort to contact his kinsman, Connor, run into Amanda more frequently than others...but his life had returned to much the same quiet state he had enjoyed while with Tessa. Or perhaps the cycle of challenges had simply reached the end of its current run. MacLeod didn't know and since the Watchers were so fascinated by the current lull, he let them test and badger the theories about. For himself, he enjoyed the respite. He made a new life for himself in the small college town, kept a low profile and watched Tray grow up, Claire and Angela grow old and Joe Dawson grow older.

It had taken a decade for Mac to finally not keep glancing up at sounds in the cabin, expecting the familiar soft tread of a foot, to see shadows as shadows and not the ghost of someone leaving a room. He wondered, occasionally, why he stayed, why Methos journals remained untouched until he could gather the his courage or his curiosity enough to read them...or give them to Joe.

Save that he liked the cabin for the same reason Methos had. The closeness of the wilderness had always been MacLeod's comfort and the cabin itself was comforting in its own stillness and isolation.

The threat to Tray settled, MacLeod had traveled. He returned home every month or so but he was driven to see places he hadn't ever visited. He stood on Bora Bora's pale shores at sunset and decided Methos would have loved the weather but detested the beer - which made him laugh, then cry, then laugh again. He wondered then if he were chasing ghosts or running from them.

But his ghosts stayed quiet until the day Mac realized his grief had settled into the constant it would always be as his grief for Tessa had, or Darius or Richie, and he came home to take up his guardianship in full. It was a strange kind of joy he found watching Tray, unable to blame the child for anything and lay a great deal of his own healing at the small feet as they ran and danced and stumbled through childhood and adolescence. Tray grew but changed little - an eerie constancy in the boy as he matured, explored the limited confines of his world, and neither asked for nor gave anything to his caretakers save his presence.

He learned the basics of his own care, to feed himself, to dress (although with little concern as to his appearance), following limited commands and gestures without resistance but left alone was capable of entertaining himself for hours with a single object of focus.

He watched him now, watching the ring of condensation left on the table from his glass, dragging a finger through it and watching the thin line of moisture contract and bead up. His hair was in his eyes and Angela reached out unconsciously to push it back behind his ears and off his forehead.

"He needs a haircut. Short, I think," she commented and Mac nodded smiling at her. He had been coerced into the task of taking Tray for a few hours in the morning to buy clothes while Angela took Claire to the doctor.

"We can do that at the mall," Mac commented as Angela glanced at the clock; nearing their charge's bedtime.

"Not too much," Claire warned from her desk. "Twenty years ago these buzz cuts were all the rage -- silliest damn thing I've ever seen. What 's the use of God giving a person a lovely head of hair only to have it shaved off?" she asked, smiling as Angela stroked Tray's head affectionately.

Angela was calm enough, pressing a cloth to the cut on Claire's forehead. Checking the injury carefully, Mac was relieved to see it wasn't that serious, just messy. Claire gripped at his arm, fear in her dark eyes, but not for herself or Angela.

"He has never been so ...he's never been violent...even when frightened. What's happened?"

"Don't know. Where is he?"

"In the study. He was still raging a few minutes ago. Breaking things and screaming. It stopped when you pulled up."

Duncan rose, pulling off his coat and drawing his sword.

"Duncan, no!" Claire surged and Mac restrained her, laying the sword down carefully on the hall table, then reaching down to help Claire up and settle her in a chair before going to the study.

The door opened easily and a quick survey showed the room in shambles. Bookshelves, chairs, tables, Claire's computer, pictures on the wall...all scattered and broken as if a cyclone had hit the room and in the center of it Tray crouched, slim frame trembling as he stared at the floor and systematically continued to break the huge antique mirror that had hung on one wall into tiny pieces with his fists.

Fists that were a ragged bloody mess, his arms and shirt and legs spattered with his own blood and from the amount of blood on the floor, MacLeod could see that more than one sliver had found deep enough lodging in the flesh to nick an artery.

Tray was dying, bleeding to death before him and yet all the youth's concentration was still focused on reducing the mirror bits to the smallest fragments he could with the same single minded determination that had marked his entire life.

Mac approached carefully, crouching in front of the bent form and reaching out to lift the drooping chin.

The familiar face was ashen, tortured, fear and anger and confusion etched into the features that had never before known such strong emotions, accented by his pallor and the eyes, though full of a myriad of things, no more saw MacLeod now than they ever had. Blood pooled beneath his hands, spreading out to create its own crimson mirror. Even had MacLeod been able to stop the bleeding it would not have been enough as the tortured eyes slid closed and the pounding of the ruined hands ceased, Tray falling forward as the last of the blood he could have held onto and lived spilled onto the floor.

MacLeod caught him, held him, staring at the destruction of the room, his heart numb. He no more understood than Claire had what had triggered this seemingly sudden psychotic break although he knew the likely root cause. Trying to allow this precious innocent the opportunity to live out a more or less normal life was no longer an option and MacLeod could do nothing but wait, turning the limp body gently in his arms to trace the now relaxed features.

So like Methos, Mac noted, certainly not for the first time. There was a certain irony in the fact that Tray had grown up wholly innocent as his father had not been. Save for the one legacy of his mother, Methos' son had never had to face the horror and fear that had so molded his father's life. But neither had he known the great joys and triumphs or loves that in the end, had given Methos the peace he sought.

If anything, Tray looked more like Methos now that he was relaxed. Memories of waking to see that same untroubled face asleep beside him coming unbidden and unchecked to MacLeod's mind.

He could never escape the loss of his lover, of his best friend, the brother that had not only loved him more than life but had managed to give MacLeod another life to love, albeit not in the same way.

Shifting to get more comfortable, ignoring the blood soaking into his own clothes, MacLeod tried to move the shards of glass, cutting himself on a half hidden fragment Tray had not managed to find and pulverize.

The memory of Methos' first and only encounter with his son came to mind as Mac looked at his own miniaturized reflection. What had Tray seen. A glance at the still face and MacLeod thought he had the pieces.

Had he not already cursed Cassandra a thousand times, his oath would certainly have given her to hell.

Tray had been, as Methos once put it, his silver bullet. His 'autism', his life wasted, obliterated under his mother's need for revenge. In her madness she had set the events in motion, robbed her child, Methos' child, of any life he might have claimed.

And then, from her grave, her plans had robbed her son of his one purpose in life. His father was dead, buried and yet his mother's compulsion to destroy the man remained, untapped, unnoticed, almost forgotten.

Until Tray had managed to see the face of the man he was destined to destroy in the reflection of a mirror.

MacLeod hugged the body to him, unashamed tears falling. Having fulfilled or tried to fulfill that imperative., what would be left of Tray now? Would he have to be kept from mirrors, from the visage of his own face forever lest this compulsive madness overtake him again?

Without any question, MacLeod knew he would never let it happen. He would not chain this beloved life to an existence that was more torment than living. He had but to find the strength to do again, what had nearly ripped his soul in half the first time.

"Duncan?" Angel's timid voice rang out.

"Don't come in, Angela. Not yet," he called out, not wanting to distress her. "It will be all right." Reassurance punctuated his answer and he could almost hear her silent debate. Knowing Tray was an Immortal, hell, knowing Duncan was Immortal, was still not enough to prepare the woman for seeing her son dead in his guardian's arms. "Could you get some juice and coffee ready...we'll be out in a bit."

As if to keep his words the truth, he felt the first fluttering heartbeat under his hands, a pulse at the slender throat.

MacLeod lay his fingers against the artery there, waiting, noting as his fingers grazed the pale skin that there was no scar at the throat. Nor should there be. He was so used to thinking of Tray as Methos' physical twin, he forgot there were differences.

You never let me see your hair so long, he thought with a faint smile, sweeping the dark, silky hair off Tray's forehead.

The faint escape of air crossed the bluing lips, warming them, bringing color back to the soft skin. MacLeod could almost feel the energy, that Immortal signature beginning, strengthening, so much fuller than the pre-Immortal signature Tray had carried.

And grew stronger. For a long moment MacLeod wasn't sure he was sensing correctly, watching the gashes and cuts heal on the wrists and arms, the hands, still bloodied but only stained now with none of the torn flesh or exposed bone he had seen before.

Stronger still as the pulse quickened. Stronger than it should be were MacLeod a judge at all. Stronger and...familiar.

A sob sent pain through his chest as he caught just the barest edge of a song he thought never to hear or feel again, resonating against his own signature. Tray moved feebly, curling slightly, snuggling almost, had he understood the concept and Mac could not stop himself from curling around the body briefly, murmuring softly in the curved shell of Tray's ear. "It will be all right. You are safe. Don't be afraid." He said it over and over as the long fingers made to grab his shirt, rubbing the fabric between his fingers as he did each new texture that came within reach.  MacLeod pulled back, the signature settling, becoming more subliminal now that it had been acknowledged, shifting Tray once more in his arms and trying not to hold him too tightly.

A shudder passed through the slim body and then a gasp as the fingers went still.

"You are all right," MacLeod murmured stroking the youth's shoulders, watching him as he saw the eyes flutter and open, the green of his eyes almost obliterated by the enlarged pupils. Tray stared at him, eyes fixed, unblinking for a long moment before he lifted a hand to touch Duncan's face, exploring the contours, pushing into his cheeks and barely touching his eyelashes.

Slowly, not wanting to startle Tray, Mac moved again, getting his knees under him as he propelled both of them up, only to have Tray almost fall. A firm grip and MacLeod had him in his arms, slight body somewhat heavier than a child's, but no more of a burden as he held Tray close and picked his way over the wreckage, almost chuckling when he felt his charge sniffing at his neck, fingers still exploring.

Those hands were so rarely still anyway. It took some maneuvering to get the door open and then Mac was faced with Angela's pale face when she saw the blood covering both of them.

"He's fine, or he will be," Mac said and even her shock and fear could not keep Angela back as she came to reassure herself that her son was all right if filthy. "He's Immortal, Angela," Mac added. There was no easier way to say it. "Let's get him cleaned up, but do me a favor. Cover any mirrors in the bathroom."

"What happened? Why?"

"I'll try to explain what I think, but one thing at a time," Mac said then chuckled again as Tray began the same intent exploration of Angela's hair and face.

They chose the guest bath which had the advantage of only a small medicine cabinet mirror rather than the wall to wall version in the master bath. For an indecisive moment Mac thought to bathe Tray himself but gave in to Angela's insistence that she would be fine and would leave if there were any repeat of violence.

MacLeod made his shower fast, putting on the oversized robe Angela laid out for him then making his way to the laundry to dump his soiled clothes. He checked on Claire who gave him a wan but coherent smile, an ice pack to her head and a cup of strong coffee in front of her. Back to the bath to find Angela sitting on the edge of the bathtub and Tray skimming the bubbles from the fragrant mass obscuring his body. All traces of blood were gone.

"It's like nothing happened." She reached out with a washcloth to wipe at the emotionless face before pulling the plug and reaching for a towel.

Tray rose up, unashamed, seemingly oblivious to the man who watched him momentarily before MacLeod had to turn away. Not lust rushing over him but loss, the pain freshened again. When he was sure his face showed nothing, he turned to find Tray watching him as Angela dried his body.

Watching him. Not the vacant, unfocused gaze that usually accompanied the young man's looks, lighting on whatever happened to be in the path of his sight.

The expression was gone a moment later as Angela took him back to his room.

MacLeod was shaken, joining Claire in the kitchen to wait. It took only a few moments before the pair re-entered.

Angela's hands were shaking as she placed a glass of juice in front of her son.

Claire reached for her hands.

"He dressed himself..." Angela said, voice wavering as she stared at the young man who suddenly seemed a stranger. "I mean, he can dress himself...but...he went to the dresser and picked out his own clothes...chose between two shirts."

Blue...bright colors were Tray's favorites. The loose jeans that made him look thinner for their bagginess.

Explanations were needed and MacLeod found his own voice faltering. "He...I told you about...what we suspected Cassandra to have done. I think...he saw himself in the mirror...really looked...he saw..." How long since he had said his dead lover's name out loud? "I think he saw Methos....I'll clean the study...there is a lot of blood and its..."

"He tried to kill himself?" Claire looked decidedly paler and Mac gripped her other hand.

"Not exactly...he didn't see himself... just..." he hesitated. He was guessing at best. The answers were still locked in the mind so carefully guarded by the perceptions of a child. Or was it?

Tray was watching him again, watching all of them. Other than the direct gaze there was no other expression on the face but he was...Mac was certain...aware of what he was looking at. Even as Mac watched, Tray cocked his head a little to the side to peer at Claire. No recognition but seeing her for the first time, as he might first see a bright flash of color or light in the garden where his chimes and pinwheels danced with sound and light.

"Duncan, there is no reason for you to leave," Claire said, settling on the bed.

"Yes, there is," he said thickly. "For awhile anyway. I won't stay out of touch."

"But out of reach?" She smiled. "Because you want him?" she chuckled at the Highlander's expression. "Duncan, I am neither young nor naive nor inexperienced. He wants you as well."

"He's a child," Mac said desperately.

"No, he's not," Claire said seriously. "Inexperienced, yes. Naive, probably, but he has most of what is left over of Methos rattling around in his twenty-five year old soul -- and a goodly portion of that is Methos' love for you. You do love him. Not just as a child, as Methos' child, but for himself. Where is the shame in that?"

"It's not right. He...he has lived in a different world, one of his own making for twenty-six years, Claire. Don't you think he deserves, needs to see life a bit before he gets dragged into mine?" Savagely, Duncan secured the bag.

"I doubt you would have to drag him. What bothers you more, Duncan? Playing a variation on Svengali or the fact that while he isn't Tray any longer, he isn't Methos either?"

"He's your son!" Mac snapped at her, face flushed. "Are you telling me you would rather I have him, bring him into a relationship a quarter of a century dead rather than let him live his own life?"

"He is my son. I love him more than I can say and he has been a precious gift to both Angela and I for most of his life," she lay a frail hand on MacLeod's wrist. "But the best gifts are those that are shared, Duncan. We will lose nothing in having you love him, or in his loving you. But he will lose us. You can't or won't be his teacher. I understand that, but you will see that he is taught, that he knows what he needs to know and he will still be loved. He will love -- does already."

She dropped her hand. "You said it yourself, this Gathering has been averted, delayed for a time. But it could start up again and I would rather he know love than face it without ever knowing."

"Wouldn't you rather he find his own life, a wife perhaps--"

"Duncan, if he fell in love tomorrow with some young woman, I would be delighted. If he loves you now and falls out of love in a decade and meets a woman he can love or another man, would you stop him? Keep him from leaving?"

She smiled as he dropped his eyes. "Why is this so hard for you? You don't even have to ask for his hand," she said and grinned as a faint smile touched his lips. "Duncan, even if this were only a physical attraction, a memory or a need to once more be with Methos as he was, I would still approve. So does Angela. I am not much of a believer in fate or destiny...but the child you brought to me, for all his sweetness, for all the joy he brought us over the years, was lost and his fate abandoned years ago. His mother saw to that. Do you know how great a fear I had that my beautiful, angelic innocent child would face the centuries without a thought in his head or any connection to this world? It seemed cruel and harsh. I have my wish. My son is himself, however tangled who he is has become with what was or could have been. And if age were the only consideration, correct me if I am wrong, but there was quite a discrepancy between yourself and Methos, I believe...several thousand years worth."

"It's not the same..."

"No, it's not. But as Angela and I discovered, it is not the span of years that separated us that were important, just the years we have been together."

She rose, kissing him on the cheek. "Love my son," she whispered, not knowing or even seeing how those words affected him.

Methos had laid such a charge upon him, referring, Mac thought, to a toddler who would need to be protected and cherished.

"They have been plotting behind your back," Adam said softly when Mac did not move. Just shadows, bare light skimming off pale skin as Adam crouched beside him.

Adam... Tray... Methos...

Fingers came out to trace his cheek and MacLeod closed his eyes. "Go to bed, Adam."

"Okay," came the laughing answer and MacLeod yelped as the covers were drawn back swiftly and the warm pressure of a naked body covered him, the blankets jerked back to cover them haphazardly. Adam's arms came around him, the slim body snuggling closer to his bare chest, long legs sinking between his cloth covered thighs. Arousal was the last thing he wanted and yet there it was and Mac almost moaned at the sudden ache in his loins. Instead he gripped Adam's shoulders, trying to lever the young man off him.

Adam, single minded as he was, had other ideas. Memory or instinct guided him as he twisted, hands threading through MacLeod's hair, mouth coming down firmly on Duncan's. Inexpert but persistent, Adam's tongue reaching out to lick at his lips and Mac started to voice a protest, only to find that moist warmth invading his mouth.

He pushed harder, but with restraint. "Tray, don't ..." he pleaded and slowly the youth pulled back.

"Don't what? Don't kiss you? Don't want you? Don't love you? Too late," he whispered and rose up, straddling Duncan's hips, fingers playing with the drawstrings. "Other than throwing me out of this room, hurting me, I won't give up on this. Do you think..." he drew a sharp breath, voice cracking, on the edge of tears. "They aren't my memories...or they are...but I know what I feel...what he felt...what we feel. Wishing I were one or the other won't change it...can't change it. If you...if you want...I will...I will find a life, a wife, I will try...but it will come back to you. I am so much more than Tray ever had hope to be, and less than what Methos was. I have...I am a man with no past. What I know..." there were tears now and despite himself, MacLeod reached up to wipe the glistening moisture from the pale cheek, heart aching as the man above him turned his cheek into his palm. "Tell me you don't want me or don't love me and I will..."

"I do love you," Mac said quietly. "Don't ever doubt it. But you barely know who you are. I cannot be your whole world."

"But you can be part of it, part of me. You waited...for me," The last was so soft, MacLeod almost didn't hear it.

Live. Grow Stronger.

Wait for me.

"I am more Methos now, the Methos who might have been, than you will ever know."

MacLeod froze, not sure if the voice was deepened by emotion or something else.

The hands at his waist had undone the drawstring and Mac could not deny the surge of heat and desire as the hands skimmed over his bare flesh.

The dark head bent down, fingers still grazing over his pelvis, tangling in the coarse curls, barely touching the hardening flesh and MacLeod could hardly breathe. Moist lips kissed his chest, nuzzled and tasted, inexpert explorations and all the more sensual for their innocence.

He did not move, nor protest, mind circling the point of confusion. Who made love to him. One or all? The body, even after twenty-five years, was achingly familiar, the scent bringing to mind endless nights of sweat covered passion, of painful tenderness and life affirming urgency. Of a hotel in Bordeaux where he first really and truly tasted love and passion as a tangible thing, more intense then any relationship before or since...

There had been no one since. Nothing to compare, only brief moments with others, mere echoes of what he had shared with a man who had surrendered body and soul to him and claimed Duncan's heart and soul without ever asking for it.

Wait for me.

I will.

A promise. A plea, not asking MacLeod to wait for him but swearing if there were a way, Methos would find his way back to him. That same ruthless, open hearted love that had brought MacLeod to take his lover's head, his life, his Quickening -- the essence and memory of who Methos was and had been given without regret, without reservation.

Claire didn't believe in Destiny. MacLeod had never wanted to, thinking it too cruel a jest to offer him a glimpse of heaven only to have it severed forever by his own hand.

"Don't cry, love." Whispered against his cheek, a kiss laid to take away the tears that fell steadily in silence and hope.

Denial served no one. Not himself, not the young man pressed so close against him, not even Methos' memory if that's all there truly was. Moisture fell against his face, on his lips, salty and precious. His hands came up to frame the shadowed face, contours familiar, the hard press of bone under the sharp cheek, the rich fall of lashes across the moon-kissed skin. The taste of lips sweeter than any honey or wine or fresh spring.

Bodies could not melt together, but souls could as MacLeod finally gave himself permission to take what was being offered, to give what was being asked. Doubts still clouded his mind but not his heart and not his soul.

"I am not your son," the husky voice whispered against his lips, speaking the truth that MacLeod had tried to deny for twenty five years. Not his son, precious to him for the child, for being the son of the man he loved, but not his. Not at inception, not now and only his own grief had forced him to place the boy named Tradere in that spot he never really occupied. Tradere, whose very name meant betrayer, but who had been betrayed by his mother before he had a chance to know or be anything. Not his student either, for MacLeod had never taught the boy anything -- had only loved him, ached for him, cherished him for the bond he was to another and then for himself.

As he was now. It had felt wrong the whole of Tray's life to place him in the slot marked 'son' and yet MacLeod had not know where else to put him. Perhaps because his inheritance had been bought at the price of his father's life, or because MacLeod felt he had betrayed Methos, or would, in loving his son.

I am more Methos now.

The Methos who might have been.

Without a past, without the burden of five millennia across his strong shoulders, but with that history, that knowledge...but none of the pain. Methos had found love but rarely in his long life, Tradere had known nothing but love save for one blinding moment of hate that had died when he did.

"Are you Methos?" MacLeod had to ask, breathlessly, wondering if he would believe the lie or deny the truth.

"Mostly. Adam as well," came the answer, "And Tray because everything is new. Always..." A sigh fell against MacLeod's skin as his hands swept up the long curve of back.

"Should I call..."

Laughter, husky and sweet. "How about Fred?"

MacLeod woke to warmth and the scent of his lover's hair in his nostrils. He kept his eyes closed, hands exploring the smooth textures and sharp planes, feeling his bedmate move against him.  He opened his eyes to see an oh, so familiar face, green-gold eyes peering at him under the tousled length of dark hair. A smile curved the mobile mouth and the body stretched, arousing sleepy passion and a few doubts.

"Morning, Fred," Duncan murmured.

The smile widened to a grin. "So it is. Want to make it better?"

MacLeod groaned as a muscled thigh pressed between his. He had taken an innocent to bed and woke to a wanton. And a quick learner, as his companion pressed hard against him, rolling him onto his back, mouth seeking a first kiss, body seeking much, much more.

Unfortunately, nature had first dibs. He moved, shifting his partner as he rose and then catching his breath as the lean form stretched again, even more unconcerned about his bared body than MacLeod was.

Duncan tried desperately not too think too hard. The night before had been...he almost blushed at his own recollections.

Abandoned was close, enthusiastic was an understatement, bruising...he eased a stiff muscle in his back....well, strenuous anyway. And sweet and funny...silly to the point of hysteria at times.

Revealing of how deeply he had buried his own passions until he had lover who had no such armor to remove.

But there was still doubt, niggling senses of what was right and wrong. There could be no blame laid at his lover's feet, on his hands or mouth or on his heart.

Nor would Duncan quash the joy in that face for anything in this world or the next. Heaven had seen fit to bless him twice.

Or curse you with another love you will lose. His fear rose up and he exited the bathroom unable to face his own reflection.

His lover was sitting in the window seat, still naked, one leg bent, hands clasped around the knee, face in partial profile as he looked out the window.

Blessed and yet he needed to know...still needed to know.


The head turned immediately, joy in the beloved face, laughter on the flushed lips and an all too familiar glint of mischief in the hazel eyes.

"Always and forever, Duncan."

Doubts could be dealt with. They had time. They had forever.