With My Shield
by Maygra de Rhema

NC-17: The Highlander characters: Duncan, Methos and Cassandra, et al, are the property of Rysher: Panzer/Davis and I am ruthlessly exploiting their characters for no monetary gain and for my own (and now your) enjoyment but I will return them unharmed and no worse for the wear. This material may not be copied or distributed without my permission--I don't want R:P/D hunting me down--I have enough problems. Do not link, publish or post this material without permission. Much thanks to Kevin for all encouragement--tongue in cheek or not. Input appreciated, despite all commas and comments.

The Seacouver International Airport had an oddly unpleasant feeling of home as Methos stepped onto the concourse. Flight was a marvelous thing but he was heartily sick of airplanes, jet lag, and time zone changes. He had left Paris when the morning was breaking only to find himself not too many hours from dawn on the U.S. West coast. It was disconcerting.

His general poor mood altered as he felt/heard the approaching presence of another Immortal. A moment later he relaxed perceptibly when he recognized the signature, actually closing his eyes to let the familiar presence wash over him for a long moment. He had missed that familiarity, experienced its loss like a dull ache for the past month.

Business, personal and otherwise, had forced Duncan MacLeod to return to the states. Similar reasons had kept Methos in Paris. Longer than he wanted. Longer than he intended, and he would have to return because there was still unfinished business, loose ends to clean up.

He had severed his ties with the Watchers. The official ones anyway. Turned in his modified and altered Chronicles and stripped his wrist of its tattoo. But he was bound by the rules of the organization he had served and used for ten years to keep them apprised of his whereabouts. Voluntarily would be better. If not, they would find him. They thought. The rest of the details: how to either keep the Watchers oblivious to his identity as an Immortal or how to devise an accident so his Immortality could be openly known; were still arranging themselves in his mind, avenues being explored and tested. The layers and layers of deceit were weighing heavily on him, wearing him down. He found himself desperately looking for something to ground himself on, something to keep his true self from disappearing into the lies he maintained to mask his real identity; that of the oldest living Immortal. A secret which was becoming harder to keep.

His recent reacquaintance with his old comrade Kronos had left some nasty after shocks. Some were settling. Some were not. The existence of Methos, the oldest of the old, was definitely on the Immortal card table as open speculation. He had found that out the hard way and there were two of his kind dead in Paris because of it.

And Methos was having a hard time convincing himself that the secret needed to be kept at all. Being who he was openly would bring challenges--his very existence a magnet to every power hungry Immortal on the planet. But it had some benefits as well. Such as shifting the attention away from another Immortal who had been held up as the most likely winner of the Prize for the past decade or more.

And Methos knew the power MacLeod held intimately, more intimately than any of their friends or acquaintances could possibly realize. Knew it and knew that he might be the only Immortal alive who harbored absolutely no desire to gain it for himself.

But it stirred him, moved through him as time had, as the Highlander approached. Methos had not expected MacLeod to meet his red-eye flight but he couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face as the charismatic man approached him. The smile remained but Methos' green-gold gaze softened. All else aside, MacLeod was a good looking son of a bitch. He was a man who could move into a crowded room and immediately draw attention to himself without effort and be singularly unaffected by that regard. Comfortable enough with his form and figure and sense of self not to need the accolades of others to reassure him of his place in the scheme of things.

"I'd have gotten a cab," Methos said and extended his hand, a greeting between friends. The hand was caught and he was pulled forward, the muscular arms gripping him gently but firmly as MacLeod bent his head, mouth capturing Methos' without preamble or hesitation.

After his initial shock, Methos surrendered, smile returning as he met the demanding kiss with a few requests of his own. He let the backpack he carried drop, for one blinding moment forgetting they were in a public place--however unpopulated so early in the morning. Forgetting what they were and that every move of MacLeod's was most likely monitored. It was a risky memory lapse but Methos hadn't gotten to the grand old age of five thousand without some risks, despite his best efforts to minimize them.

MacLeod's body was hard and steady as Methos returned the kiss and the embrace and the older Immortal felt another bit of tension release inside him. More than a friend. Even more than a lover, although he couldn't, even with five thousand years of language and experience, define exactly how deeply and what that bond was.

But the immediate response was purely physical and emotional--more barriers the Highlander had been steadily dismantling since their first meeting.

They parted slowly, MacLeod blushing slightly as a couple waiting for a departing plane applauded the display with huge grins and clapping hands.

"Newlyweds, no doubt," MacLeod muttered.

"Nice to see you too, Mac," Methos commented wryly, reaching for his pack. The Highlander took it from him, arm sliding comfortably around the slender waist and resisting Methos' efforts to recapture the bag. "Perhaps not wise, but nice," he said more softly as they headed down the concourse.

Duncan grinned. "Acceptable risk. Ditched my watcher. Hardly an audience. And well worth it to knock you off your stride a bit," he chuckled, dark eyes dancing with humor. "I might have gone further but Seacouver does have decency laws." His eyes narrowed slightly as he observed his friend more critically.

Methos had lost weight; more weight, which he really couldn't afford. Though nearly MacLeod's height, the older Immortal's build was much more slight, and every fluctuation in weight was obvious on the long frame, in the well defined planes of his face. The face which had a tendency to look younger the thinner Methos got. Exactly what age the older Immortal had been when he met death the first time was unknown. Methos didn't remember. MacLeod had always thought it his late twenties or early thirties, but his first impression of the older man had put him at a much younger age. Acquaintance had upped the estimate as MacLeod was allowed to see more and more of the age carried on the broad slim shoulders. But now....

He swallowed against the idea that Methos might only have been a few years older than Richie when he died. Methos' youth swallowed up as Richie's had been, into the deadly, brutal rules of the Game. His arm tightened slightly around the slim waist, fingers seeking an anchor in the pocket of Methos' jeans.

"What?" Methos asked, attuned to the sudden shift in MacLeod's mood as they walked toward the baggage area. The hazel eyes watched him mildly, his own arm resting on MacLeod's shoulder, the slender fingers occasionally catching the long dark hair or brushing the tanned cheek unconsciously.

It took MacLeod a moment to put his finger on the change he sensed in his friend. Methos' presence had sung through him almost upon stepping onto the concourse; familiar, elongated. Stronger. That combined with his accentuated leanness, a vague shadow of exhaustion in his face that was not entirely due to the long flight, brought MacLeod to a disquieting conclusion.

"You've been fighting," he stated, part of him regretting the need, the other part regretting the fact he had not been there. Methos, he had discovered, did not handle Quickenings very well. Too many lives trapped in the slender, strong body. Locked behind the inquisitive hazel eyes. The oldest living Immortal was having a little space problem in the far reaches of his soul.

Methos remained silent. His re-entry into the game was a point of contention between them. Not damaging but uneasy. MacLeod had gotten it into his head that Methos' long life should not be risked to the chance of the Game. The fact that Methos felt similarly about MacLeod was a rub. Except Methos accepted that the Highlander's presence in the competition was both necessary and natural, and the Highlander was having a hard time rationalizing the necessity of Methos rejoining..

"And winning," Methos said at last. A reassurance.

"How many?" The voice was soft but tense.

"Two. One old. One...young. Very, very young," Methos said with a sigh and stopped, drawing away a little. "I'm fine, Mac."

"Are you? You look....you look worn."

Methos had to smile at the parental concern in the Highlander's voice. "And I am. But more from trying to pack up my things than the challenges, Mac. Get me into a hot shower and I'll look better. Not my nursemaid, MacLeod. Remember?"

Duncan nodded, acquiescing the point for the moment. "A shower I can provide. You are staying at the Loft, I presume?" he asked, eyebrows raising mockingly.

"Until I can find a place...if you have no objection?"

Feeling protective and bold and very glad to see his lover, MacLeod reached out and snagged two fingers into the waistband of Methos' jeans, pulling him close once more. Closer than Seacouver's decency laws might understand. "I would have a lot of objections if you stayed anywhere else," he murmured and grinned as the hazel eyes darkened, the lips parting slightly at the very palpable heat being generated between them.

"Well. The gods know I would hate to disappoint Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," Methos breathed softly, their lips just that far apart.

The Highlander's dark eyes softened with humor. "Bright boy," he said with a heart stopping smile.

I'm an idiot, Methos thought as he let himself be kissed thoroughly and deciding that being smart wasn't all it was cracked up to be. And then deciding there were times when thinking at all was neither necessary nor desirable.

A week later

Duncan entered the loft to find Methos tensed on the sofa, sword in hand. The older Immortal relaxed as he recognized the Highlander. MacLeod hesitated, studying the other man, noting the paleness of his cheeks, the slightly mussed hair. Methos must have been dozing. Usually the older Immortal knew when he was close by.

"Maybe we should come up with a signal, " Duncan said sitting on the back of the sofa and leaning down. Methos met his mouth in a swift greeting kiss and then chuckled, leaning back against the cushions.

"What? Knock three times on the ceiling? Rock through the window?" Methos asked and set his sword on the floor next to the couch before tucking his hands behind his head once more. Hazel eyes regarded MacLeod with amusement as the Highlander made a face. "Well, it's official," He said holding up a sheaf of papers which had been laying on his stomach. "Adam Pierson is officially resigned from the Watchers...All oaths still in force, however," he added wryly, setting the papers on the coffee table.

"And how do they feel about it?" Duncan asked, not entirely pleased with the announcement. It was not a surprise, but it made him anxious.

"My supervisor is a little annoyed. She kept hoping I would change my mind. Now we just need to decide if Adam Pierson is going to meet a nasty accident."

"As opposed to what? Suddenly announcing to the world that Methos is alive and well and living in Seacouver?" MacLeod said, his voice going brittle.

Methos closed his eyes, the corners of his mouth tightening. They kept dancing around this argument and he was tired of it. "It doesn't matter, Mac. Too many people already know. Being Adam Pierson the new Immortal or Methos the oldest isn't going to change anything. Some won't believe, others will. There's no way of knowing. And even if I did try to maintain my cover as a mortal, it wouldn't change anything," he added earnestly, the annoyance fading in the face of MacLeod's distress. "Mac, you knew it was going to be this way before I left Paris."

MacLeod nodded, shrugging out of his coat and laying it up carefully on a stool in front of the kitchen island before returning to lean over the back of the couch. The threat to Methos was really no more or no less than it had been, but his cover in the Watcher's had given at least a semblance of safety. Of obscurity.

Methos regarded him silently, then pushed himself upward, folding his long arms across the sofa back and resting his chin on his forearm. He waited patiently for the Scot to shift his thoughts away from his worries. It took somewhat less time than he expected, a faint smile gracing the strong mouth, but it reached the dark eyes.

"All right then," Duncan murmured and turned his head, erasing the few short inches between them to capture the waiting mouth gently. "So what's next?" He asked forcing a brighter tone into his rich voice then grinned and slid over the back of the sofa. Methos lay back with a smile, willing to let the subject rest. Again. He lifted his long legs to give the Highlander room at the other end of the couch before laying his legs across Duncan's lap.

"I've been looking for a place to live all day," he added. "Found one about four blocks over--renovated house. You live in a lousy neighborhood, Mac."

"Not lousy, just poor. Good thing I don't make a living off the dojo...not that I could."

"I am going to need to go back to Paris for a week or so to finish packing up my stuff. Have my things shipped," Methos informed him, watching MacLeod carefully but the Highlander only nodded.

"How long?"

"Couple of weeks. No rush. Until then I'm claiming a Holiday," the older Immortal grinned.

"Any ideas on how to spend it?" Duncan asked, catching one of his bare feet and massaging it.

"A few," Methos chuckled, letting his foot flex against MacLeod's hand. "A couple of them don't even include you," he added slyly, enjoying the feel of the Highlander's hands against his skin. He hadn't intended for them to become lovers, but it had happened anyway. Probably not for the long term but for now. Nor was he inclined to question too deeply how quickly and intimately his and Duncan's lives had become entangled. They had issues yet to resolve, things Methos didn't really want to anticipate, but he couldn't help himself. It was second nature after five millennia to have an ace in his pocket. Or a second blade. Chance and he were not on the best of terms.

He had planned his return trip to Paris to allow things to settle, but he did not want to rush it. The last thing he wanted was for MacLeod to think he was running again. He wanted the Highlander to have time to adjust both to Methos' reintroduced presence in his life, in his trust, and in his bed. So far, the latter had become the least of the concerns between them and therefore the most pleasurable and easiest to rely on. A pressure valve for the far more serious subjects they kept having to deal with.

"Oh, no?" Duncan said grabbing his calf and rising up to place a knee between his parted thighs, the dark eyes regarded him with a mix of amusement and challenge.

"Just a couple," Methos shot back, eyes darkening as Duncan reached for the snap on his jeans. "You know, maybe I should just wear sweats all the time. You're going to get a permanent callous on your thumb for the number of times you do that."

MacLeod ignored him, popping the metal. "Let me guess; The herbarium at the conservatory?" He muttered.

"Clever lad," Methos growled at him, shifting slightly on the leather to give his tormentor more room.

"Museum of Natural History--Egyptian exhibit. " The zipper was pulled down.

"I like mummies," Methos rasped as Duncan's knuckle grazed his skin.

"Hard Rock Cafe?" Duncan's hand slid under the fabric to stroke the silken flesh.

"Music and good food," Methos said on a breath, hips raising slightly to meet the caress.

"University library." The dark head dipped down as a hand pulled the worn T-shirt upward, exposing the flat abdomen. Moist, full lips pressed against the pale skin.

"You are good..." Methos said breathlessly.

"You're right. That would all bore me to death," Duncan said wickedly, pulling back as if to leave. Methos caught his shirt, twisting the fabric in his fist and pulled the larger man down, gasping again as MacLeod's knee pressed more firmly against his groin.

"Then I'll just have to make sure you're too tired to be bored, won't I?" Methos grated out, gold-green eyes glittering as he lifted his head to capture the expectant mouth firmly, not even having to coax the Highlander's lips apart. He found the other man's tongue waiting for capture. He complied; felt MacLeod tense in pleasure. One of MacLeod's hands gripped the back of the sofa, the other took his weight as he leaned in, bracing his body against the cushion's edge, just next to Methos' ribs. Methos' mouth demanded acquiescence, hot and sweet and fierce. MacLeod was ready to surrender every breath in his body to that insistent request, all too aware of the heat below him, surrounding him, the subtle strength of the man who was robbing him of the ability to think with anything but his mouth.

The solid body pressed down on Methos, Duncan yielding to him with an unrestrained passion. The older Immortal could barely think. He had started the kiss but now Duncan's body touched his in places that fit against him like they were made for the Scot. He could feel the hard-muscled length of the Highlander against him like a second skin. One thigh fit snugly between his own, the full broad expanse of MacLeod's pectorals fitting the hollow marked by his sternum with a comfortable pressure. The hollows of his hips were also filled by the other man's body, by the swell of flesh trapped beneath the soft fabric of his slacks. This was what he had missed in the last few centuries, the reassurance of his own strength, his own identity as it was revealed through another person's eyes...through MacLeod's eyes, his body and his soul.

MacLeod caught his hands, drawing them up and over his head, forcing Methos to arch into him, to meet the pressure of his mouth, his body. The movement causing friction between two already heated surfaces. Then MacLeod drew away slowly, lifting his chest from Methos' by bracing his hands on either side of his partner's head, dark eyes growing darker still at the intense regard in the hazel eyes. His leg shifted as he levered himself upward, snickering as the movement sent a shudder through Methos, followed quickly by another as MacLeod slid his hands under the tee-shirt to push it upward, palms sliding along the muscles of the older man's sides slowly as he allowed the fabric to bunch up over his wrists.

Methos had to move when he lifted the fabric over his head. Hands freed, he reached for MacLeod's shirt, while the Scot slid his hands under the waistband of his slacks to release the button and zipper, stopping as Methos unhurriedly unbuttoned his shirt, fingers sliding over his chest as each additional expanse of darkly tanned skin was uncovered. Methos was already measuring his breaths and MacLeod fought for the same control as his lover leaned in to press his lips against his skin, fingers sliding through the silken mat of dark hair, the sensitive mouth finding even more sensitive skin. The clever mouth that had stolen his ability to think now concentrating all it's not inconsiderable skill on reducing MacLeod's entire existence to one small circle of dark flesh. His skin already hardening, growing, nursed to fullness by a moist warmth. MacLeod moved cautiously, not wanting the sensation to end as he pulled his shirt off, then caught the dark head gently with one hand, sliding his fingers through the short, cropped silk.

He almost groaned aloud as Methos gave up his pursuit, the same mouth and tongue sliding up his chest to his throat as the supple body rose, flexed, stretched against him as Methos came to his knees. His chest brushed against MacLeod's, firmed, pressed closer as that mouth sought his again, the wildness tempered for a moment by the desire for a softer exploration, tongue retreating, begging MacLeod to follow and he did, fingers tightening in Methos' hair to hold his head still before he could move to another target.

Duncan swallowed a moan as he pressed his groin against Methos', the dual rasp of still trapped flesh tearing through him like a welcome pain but infinitely more pervasive. Methos extended his body in pleasure, lifting his mouth, throat exposed to MacLeod's exploration as the Scot slipped his hand along the curve of Methos' lower back, fingers sliding under the loosened denim to grip the firm, tight muscles of his partner's buttocks. The smooth skin of the older Immortal's chest sliding against his, further distinguishing the differences and similarities between them in texture and composition. Silk and satin, ivory and bronze, strength and grace. Methos murmuring his appreciation of the well toned bulk of the Highlander's body with words that might seem trite and out of place had not MacLeod felt the same admiration for the deceptive strength of the slender body pressed so intimately against his own.

The long slender fingers captured the fabric at Mac's hips, pushing it down, tracing the curve of his hip, freeing the swollen flesh and encouraging it to press against his abdomen.

"Sofa?" Duncan questioned in a unsteady voice, suddenly ready to feel the rest of Methos' hard body against his.

"Bed," Methos responded, reaching down to stroke the full length of Duncan's cock.

"Floor," Duncan groaned, catching the hand and moving it away and behind Methos' back, trapping it there where it could do no more damage to his self-control. But that movement pressed his partner even closer.

"Bed," the older Immortal said with certainty, the hazel eyes twinkling. "I've had all the carpet burns I can stand for one century," he added and then moaned as Duncan released his head to push the denim away, freeing the hardened length of flesh and stroking it.

"Shower," Duncan chuckled.

"What? Do you have this thing about drowning?" Methos gasped, then shuddered as the Highlander gave him a wicked grin and wet his fingers, sliding his thumb across the tight buttocks, then between, gentling the entry but not letting Methos resist, grin widening as the slim body went taut and still, breath coming in short harsh gasps as he surrendered to the invasion.

"Bed?" Duncan murmured, mouth against his throat.

"Damn you. Floor," Methos grated out, so close to the edge he almost gave in to the sensation before the words were out.

"Thought so," Duncan chuckled and withdrew his persuasion, steadying Methos as they both got a foot on the floor and rose to finish stripping. MacLeod shoved the coffee table back away from the soft piled carpet as Methos found the lubricant in the end table. MacLeod stealing it away from him, turning his back to the older Immortal.

Methos moved behind him, not at all surprised by the younger man's choice of position. Not any longer. He had suspected and been ready to acquiesce to the more dominant side of MacLeod's nature, but as in most things, Duncan surprised him, exchanging roles easily and without thought, keeping the equality in the relationship as it quickly grew deeper than friendship, expanding beyond the first heated explorations prompted by passion and curiosity and emotion.

Methos shuddered in pleasure as MacLeod twisted, hands slicked as he applied the lubricant to his partner's cock, making the application as much a part of the joining as the actual act. Methos stopped him before he went too far, drawing a ragged breath as he slid his hand along the strong muscles of Duncan's lower back, slim hands slipping gracefully over the sculpted buttocks to ready the passage, testing his entry gently with one finger, then a second, lips curving in pleasure as Duncan gave up any restraint and every response, the broad back and shoulders tensing then relaxing at the gentle probe, Methos' own arousal growing painfully as the solid grace of the Highlander translated into the simple act of being touched. Duncan settled back against him, muscled thighs spread across the older Immortal's knees as Methos leaned in, the press of flesh against his back prompting MacLeod to lean forward, to brace them as his partner pressed against him, with him, into him; Methos resting his long strong hands on the Highlander's hips.

But Methos didn't want to hurry the sensations, telegraphing his intentions as he pulled Duncan back up, breath whooshing out softly as the younger Immortal settled more firmly on him, body taut in anticipation. Methos slid his hand around the firm waist to hold him, lips pressed against the back of his throat, his other hand grasping the hard thigh and parting Mac's legs further, positioning him before rising, slowly.

Duncan's breath caught and held at the press of that hand on his leg, so close but not seeking to further excite the point of arousal. He knew this feel, this studied hesitancy, meeting and agreeing to Methos' restraint as he rose to his knees as well.. He reached back to catch the dark head, forced to measure his breaths, one after the other as Methos kissed his throat, nuzzled his neck under the thick hair. Cooling his skin then heating it again as the mobile mouth moved across his shoulder, fingers fanning out across his belly, again only inches from the hard, trembling length of him.

"Christ..." he murmured, despising and loving the anticipatory game they played...desire caught between each subtle movement of Methos' hands against his skin, a battle between the slow exquisite torture of sensation and the strength in his thighs, his back, his will.

He felt Methos shift slightly, the flex of the slender body driving a lance of pleasure through him and up his spine as the hard length of flesh moved slightly deeper then shallowed again and went still.

Methos' chin was tucked against his shoulder, both of them pacing their breathing so they inhaled together, air released with another subtle shift of Methos' hips against his buttocks. Duncan caught the hand at his waist, lacing his fingers through the slimmer ones and driving the touch to the base of his cock, breath catching again as the flesh was encircled. He could feel Methos smile as the older man kissed his throat, the slender body trembling with strain but willing to bear it as they drew out the arousal, the pleasure, the intimate press of flesh to flesh, even the sweat of their bodies adding to the overall sensation they were trying to capture and hold onto.

Methos' hand rode up his flesh slowly, timing it with a deeper thrust, the dual sensation breaking the pattern of breathing MacLeod had been trying to maintain, his thoughts frantically wondering if a Lamaze course wouldn't help if they were going to attempt this on a regular basis. Methos murmured into his ear, gentled his stimulation as the shallow, harsh breaths evened out...then fell apart again when Methos began a long, slow withdrawal.

Duncan fought to regain his control, feeling it slipping away with every short breath he took, with every moment of the intense friction caused by the feeling of Methos within him, his hand surrounding him. His pulse rate leapt again as his lover sheathed himself deep; the heat, the pulse of the other man's body filling something hidden and primal and irresistible. He was barely conscious of the murmured encouragement in his ear. His body had become a creature separate from himself under the skilled loving of the man who held him--different needs, different thresholds created every moment. It was like being reborn every time they made love. And the rebirth began again as Methos shifted, withdrew slightly and returned in small, certain increments as if seeking to find and touch every nerve ending in the Highlander's body.

He felt the forces build within him, muttering his denial and plea in his mother tongue as that control slipped away. Trusting his partner to understand what he said, what he meant. What he felt.

That articulate and restless moan signaled the older Immortal that MacLeod had reached his threshold. No sense of loss or disappointment occurred to Methos as he sought to catch up to his partner, hand firming around Duncan's cock as the Highlander's pelvis began to shift forward. He rose up, driving himself deeper into the tight, silken channel, catching MacLeod's head and pulling it back to cover and capture the soft sounds of surrender, ears attuned to the moist noises they were making, his own moan surrendered to MacLeod's kiss. Warmth slid over his hand and he released the straining flesh, bracing his hands on the muscled hips once more as he sought his own release, thighs and back burning but not enough to remove the pleasure of his flesh sliding within Duncan's in long smooth strokes, pace increasing as he dropped his head back, his spine stretching as he pressed himself more deeply into the sheath of MacLeod's body.

He hissed harshly as a spasm of pain and the searing heat of release came simultaneously, caught in throes of both, his fingers digging into MacLeod's muscles as the twin spasms ripped through him. MacLeod caught him, drew him forward, recognizing the sound if not the source of his pain and the sudden surcease of agony brought Methos to a convulsive orgasm, his whole body taut with the release as he strained against his partner until it passed, body shaking with his reaction to both release and absence of pain.

Duncan twisted, pulling them apart, his own reaction still running its spirited course. He caught Methos and eased him to the floor on his back. Broad hand already stroking the overtaxed muscle of Methos' thigh as the older Immortal lay back, the leg drawn up.

"That'll teach me to try that without a good long stretch in advance," Methos murmured as the burn faded, the spasms in his leg and back easing as MacLeod lay down next to him, dark head on his partner's stomach, hand still stroking the tight muscle.

Methos laid his hand on the back of Mac's head, letting the Highlander help ease the cramp while he calmed his blood and breathing with a steady stroking of the thick mane of hair. The older Immortal sighed in contentment as the pain finally passed out of reach, his body still flushed from exertion, adrenaline and something far deeper. And found himself rousing again from the steady stroke of MacLeod's hand, the scent of him and the feel of him against his abdomen.

The faint, sweet smile on the Highlander's lips went straight through Methos, turning his caress even gentler, his breath catching again, not from pleasure precisely but from the visual picture MacLeod presented. The dark earth brown eyes watched him with a mix of humor and banked desire, a glance that could stop Methos' heart were it ever given free rein. Relaxed, body still glistening with a sheen of sweat from sex, MacLeod was a stunning example of masculinity. Bronzed skin accented well toned muscles, his whole body a precise example of why the human body was designed just so. Add to that the sculpted face--cheeks marking the strength of his jaw, the long line of his nose and the full lips--MacLeod could have made a living in any century as an artist's model. Blood still moving quickly, just looking at him made Methos ache with a longing he'd thought well under control for centuries.

"There is something very unnatural about your recovery time," Duncan said lazily, shifting his weight upward even as he drew his fingers along the firming swell of flesh at Methos' groin.

"Are you complaining?" Methos chuckled.

"No. Just an observation," Duncan said, as he sought Methos' mouth, angling the older man's head back as he delivered a deep, drawn out kiss, fingers tracing the hard line of Methos' cock from base to tip.

"Your fault," Methos said, almost a moan as his blood quickened, nerves unrecovered from the last orgasm hurriedly reset themselves in anticipation of another frenzy of activity. "I don't have this problem with anyone else."

"So it's a problem now is it?" Duncan said, shifting once more and Methos gasped as Mac's lips followed the line his fingers had taken moments ago.

"Being in a constant state of physical exhaustion can be....." Methos choked softly on the words, the thought; unable to finish either as his brain and body flooded with entirely different signals than those used for language. The ability to speak failed him at the exquisite pleasure that suffused his body as Duncan's mouth slid over him, lips closing around him in a cocoon of liquid fire and silken caresses. Breath and body were frozen in abject pleasure as he was suckled with long, slow strokes, teeth barely grating against his skin. His fingers dug into the pile of the carpet, spine arching without his control and his throat tightened as the urgency built deep inside him. He tried to contain the thrust of his hips against MacLeod's mouth, afraid of releasing too soon, afraid the pleasure would stop, and some small part of him truly afraid it would not stop until it had crossed beyond pleasure and into pain. He nearly sobbed with the loss as MacLeod pulled back. Breath catching again when a steady, warm hand took over.

Duncan raised his head to watch his lover's face and body as he brought him to the very edge of ecstasy. His partner on the brink of release, MacLeod slowed his assault, fondling the full sacks at the base of the trembling shaft, tip already glistening with pre-orgasmic fluid. He dragged his thumb over the moisture, eyes never leaving the face or tightly stretched muscles of the slim body. The dark head moved restlessly, lips parted as Methos gasped for breath, for control and found none, a moan escaping him. 

The abdomen fluttered, the spasms rippling through the slender body like a rushing tide, the moan escalating to a soft cry as his body bucked, cock pumping against Duncan's hand. The Highlander shifted, mouth taking in the harsh thrust for a moment, capturing a taste of the thick fluid before releasing him and moving upward, straddling the helpless body as it rode out the fire burning through the veins.

MacLeod felt his own body respond not to a touch or a caress but to the absolute surrender in Methos' form. He bent down to capture the open mouth, sliding his body along his partner's so he could feel the shift in Methos' muscles, ease the cry, taste the sweat and tears and hold his partner as he gave in to whatever primal force had possessed him, cradling the slender strength as Methos clung to him until the shudders subsided and the body went lax, nearly insensate.

There was no way for MacLeod to describe how Methos' response to his lovemaking made him feel. He knew Methos worried that what the younger Immortal felt might border on an obsession and in this one respect it might. But only to the extent that MacLeod felt both humbled and awed by the display he was occasionally witness to. It was evocative of a Quickening, of eternity, of a dozen things the Highlander could not express or even understand.

He moved to sit, bracing his back against the sofa, drawing the unresisting, spent body closer, Methos moving without even realizing he had done so and relaxing into the embrace with a soft murmur of sound, arms still wrapped around MacLeod's neck, long legs tangled with the younger man's as the Highlander held him, one arm at his back the other across his waist as his body went limper still, the hazel eyes obscured behind the satin lashes, lips parted and flushed from where he had bitten into the tender flesh.

MacLeod had never been moved to call any man beautiful, not even the doe eyed models with soft feminine looks that graced many magazines. And studying the still, quiet face turned up to his as Methos leaned against his shoulder, he could not apply that description to Methos' face. He was handsome, in a sharp planed, completely masculine way, but beauty had a way of transcending the obvious attributes and taken together: the face, the lithe body, the supple grace and the way Methos gave himself to the touch and regard of a lover, there was no other word MacLeod could use. But he didn't need to say it, he had only to feel it as his eyes softened watching Methos recover. He bent to kiss him; the thin, mobile mouth responding with no resistance or effort to stir his blood.

"You wear me out, youngling," Methos murmured against Duncan's jaw as the Highlander pulled back to gauge his friend's recovery. He pressed the damp hair back as the gold-green eyes opened with an odd mixture of fatigue and contentment. Duncan brushed his flank lightly, cooling the skin.

"Getting tired, old man?" Duncan asked tenderly.

"Of this? No. But sleepy, yes." Methos said a faint smile curving his lips as he found the strength to slide his hand along Duncan's cheek and jaw. "Shall I tuck you in, child?"

"Please," Duncan murmured as the soft lips found his again, belying fatigue, age or any doubt they would be sleeping soon.

MacLeod woke slowly, his senses shifting into clarity within moments of his acknowledgment that he was awake. He shifted, rolled onto his stomach to see the clock and couldn't. Its face obscured by the other occupant of the bed.

He smiled faintly, reaching a hand out to pull the bundled blankets back carefully. Methos was on his stomach, face absurdly young looking in repose, dark hair tousled and spiked. MacLeod reached out to smooth the mussed hair and found his hand gripped in a steely vise.

The hazel eyes regarded him for a moment before releasing his grip and closing his eyes again.

Unperturbed, MacLeod slid his fingers through the silken strands. Methos sighed softly and opened his eyes once more, drawing his arms up and crossing them under his head, resting his cheek on them so he could stare at MacLeod.

"Have I mentioned how much I hate mornings?" he asked, baritone made deeper by its recent acquaintance with sleep.

"Every morning for the last week," MacLeod chuckled and rolled to his side, pushing the blankets down further to expose his bed partner's back. Methos shuddered faintly as MacLeod's hand stroked down his skin, but whether from chill or sensation, the Highlander couldn't tell. "Of course, if you weren't so jumpy, I could probably find a more pleasant way to wake you."

"Fine. I'll close my eyes and pretend I'm asleep and you can practice," Methos said huskily, hazel eyes darkening just before they were hidden by the fall of soft lashes.

Duncan grinned and moved closer, pulling the blankets back completely to expose the long hard lines of Methos' body. The shudder returned as MacLeod's hand traced the entire length of him from the lean curve of his shoulder to the faint hollow of his lower back and over the rise of muscled buttocks. He had begun working his way back up when the phone rang. He placed a kiss just above Methos' hip in apology before sliding across him to get to the phone in the kitchen.

"I hate morning people," Methos mumbled crossly then drew a deep breath to cool the heat MacLeod had stirred. It did him no good. He was well and thoroughly, and almost painfully, awake. Giving in to the inevitable, he shifted upward, letting the extension of his arms work out any lingering tension in his spine before slipping out of the bed.

"Give me about an hour," MacLeod was saying, consternation in the voice and on the handsome face as he hung up the phone.

"Not good news I take it?" Methos asked.

"Could have been worse, I suppose. Fire last night at one of the warehouses I use for storage. Not much damage apparently, but I need to make an assessment." MacLeod said, meeting the hazel eyes with real regret.

"So, you want company?" Methos offered but MacLeod shook his head.

"Don't really need it. You're welcome to come but most of it is going to be paperwork."

Methos thought about it and shook his head. "No. But I probably ought to make arrangements for a vehicle of my own."

"Drop you off? Meet back here for lunch?" Duncan suggested.

"Joe's. I need to talk to him anyway...." Methos said and caught MacLeod's carefully hidden curiosity. He chuckled. "Some of it's Watcher business but the reality is, Joe and I are talking about becoming business partners."

"At the bar?" MacLeod asked, the idea making him grin.

Methos nodded. "Until I decide what to do with Adam Pierson, I have a persona to maintain. Not too much a stretch to think Adam might go into business with an old friend. I don't need the money...but Joe..." he hesitated.

"Joe does?" MacLeod said. "Why didn't he come to me?"

Methos made a face. "Mac, you're his friend. But he is also your primary Watcher. He's in an awkward enough position with you as it is."

"But he came to you?" MacLeod said, trying to decide if he should be hurt or not.

"No. I went to him. Partially to secure my cover, but more because...I've always enjoyed being a barkeep," Methos said with a completely boyish grin. "Meet the most interesting people. And before you get your Scottish sensibilities twisted up, I had to do some fair, fast talking to sell him on the idea. The man has more pride than you, Highlander, and can be just as piggishly stubborn."

MacLeod gave him a sour smile but his concerns for the aging Watcher were obvious. His relationship with MacLeod had put Joe Dawson in danger too many times during their three year friendship. But he had a tendency to forget that outside the Watchers Joe had another life, one with mortal concerns and problems. It was shortsighted on his part and it made him angry at himself. Angrier still that Methos had seen it when he had not.

"Mac, this isn't a competition," Methos said softly. "And we...you and I ...need to put some distance into this relationship."

It was true, but MacLeod didn't like it. Living with Tessa had been dangerous--for her. For him. And love hadn't been able to ease the threat, only make it bearable. As much as he wanted it, living with an Immortal who wasn't his student increased the threat ten fold. Living with Methos, the oldest of them all, upped the ante several hundred points. And not just on MacLeod's part. Methos maintained so few close relationships. Himself. Joe. There might be one or two more, but MacLeod doubted it.

Too few lines of support. He was too well acquainted with the aching loneliness Methos had inflicted on himself. He could and had survived it for millennia. But that made those supports all the more precious. And the more precious, the greater the threat. Methos had been willing to die to give a mortal woman a chance at life but it had been a desperate, vain hope. A risk.

What more might he gamble if the safety of MacLeod or Joe were put on the line for the simple price of his head?

I didn't bear thinking about. "I know we do," he said at last. "But I don't have to like it."

"Nor do I," Methos said, extending his hand to the set jaw to caress it with his thumb. The gold-green eyes burning intensely to show MacLeod just how desperately he regretted the necessity. MacLeod turned his head into the slender palm, tongue and lips stroking the skin in a kiss. Apology accepted.

But just to make sure he was completely forgiven, Methos moved in to stretch his body along the length of the Highlander's, hands resting on the smooth hips as MacLeod brought his hands to Methos' shoulders. MacLeod's open mouth met his, reiterating the absolution, surrendering to the sweet exploration of Methos' tongue, soaking in the heat, the taste and the promise as MacLeod's hands tightened on the slender shoulders.

The Highlander pulled away first with a regretful sigh. "I have to go," he murmured. "You want to shower first or shall I?"

A wicked glint came into hazel eyes. "I think we should save water."

MacLeod smiled slowly. "What about drowning? And it will have to be fast...?"

"I've drowned before. And fast? I can do fast..." Methos said, voice and gaze turning smoky and dark, a little predatory, and MacLeod had to catch his breath under the force of that suggestion.

"I guess we won't need to worry about running out of hot water then, will we?" He murmured.

Methos' throaty chuckle gave him all the answer...and encouragement.... he needed.

The contents of the warehouse had lost all importance for MacLeod by the time their bath was done. They had not used all the hot water but by the end of it MacLeod wasn't sure he would have noticed--there had been enough heat generated elsewhere. And it had not been fast. He felt a dull flush creep into his face as he dropped Methos off at the auto leasing office, the T-shirt and jean-clad body retreating into the office evoking a different image of water and soap slicked skin, muscles yielding under his touch.

He shook it off as he pulled out of the lot, deciding obsession was too mild a word for what had happened to him. The passion would burn itself out...he hoped. But he doubted it. Twelve years with Tessa had found no surcease in his love for the feel of her body and spirit.

But it was other memories, softer, sweeter memories of the woman he'd loved, that supplanted the raw desire Methos elicited. The two able to exist side by side without pain or effort. Tessa's loss still left him hollow in places, at times. But the hollows were being filled slowly as memory and time took the edge off her death. Maybe because Methos understood that loss as acutely as MacLeod ever had. Twelve months versus twelve years. Whole lifetimes measured against centuries.

Like MacLeod's neighborhood, the warehouse district near the docks showed signs of neglect, the abandoned structures mute testimony to the transition from ground and water to air travel. But he had reasons for keeping his rather impressive collection of art and fine antiques in the aging buildings. They were secure enough, his own money had gone into the security system that protected them, and they were close at hand.

He had expected one of the guards to meet him at the door to the solid looking metal structure, but the area seemed devoid of people and the huge rolling door was securely locked. The oddity of it immediately set him into a calm suspicion as he circled the building, heading for the tiny office on the backside where the guards stayed.

And was met by an unfamiliar slide of sound and feeling as another Immortal's presence made itself known. Then a second as the katana was brought out, his gut tightening as one more signature added itself to the mix.

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," a deeply timbered voice hailed him as the first of his challengers presented himself. "Abraham Holly. It's a real pleasure to meet you."

"You could have just dropped me a note," MacLeod said. The man was his size but looked older, frame nicely muscled and held casually as he leaned against the side of the building. Fair hair stirred under the morning breeze.

"And deprived myself of meeting you in person? I think not," Holly said and made a gesture with his hand. Behind him the two other Immortals emerged, both younger, hardly more than boys. They flanked Holly like an honor guard. "Besides, we need you for an introduction. You know someone I would like my boys to meet."

"And who might that be?" MacLeod asked evenly, keeping his attention on Holly even as he studied the other two. They were competent by appearance but inexperienced. The oldest of the pair was dark-haired, almost Italian in appearance, handsome, slim. Dark eyes cold and bright with anticipation. The youngest was fair-haired and looked no more than sixteen. He held his sword easily, stance correct but the predatory tension MacLeod noted in the other two was missing.

"An old friend, Highlander. A very, very old friend," Holly said coldly, the greedy smile on his face cementing the purpose of the encounter. Holly was after Methos. His concerns of the morning became a blinding source of precognition only MacLeod hadn't known it.

And no point in denying he knew the older Immortal. If Holly had been able to lure him here, there was probably very little he didn't know about both Methos and MacLeod's comings and goings.

"Challenge me to get to him? Why not challenge him directly?"

"And risk facing you both? Not very wise of me," Holly said. "Oh, we'll have both. Never fear. But on my terms," he sneered . "Can't risk my boys, you know," he added and MacLeod had a brief second to acknowledge the gun in Holly's hand before it was fired. It caught him in the chest, a near perfect heart shot and MacLeod dropped, unable to stop or fend off the hands that wrenched the katana from him or the other hand that caught and twisted the length of his hair as steel slid up the back of his neck. He was dead before the blade moved.

"So, when do you make the move final?" Joe asked, the Watcher supplying his visitor with a cup of coffee before he poured his own. The bar was not open yet, officially, but the door was as the staff set up for the small but consistent lunch crowd.

"End of the month. A few loose ends to clear. Most of my things should arrive before the end of the week," Methos said. He and Joe had cleared up and settled the details of their business transaction. On paper and off.

It bothered the Watcher less when he could deal with the man in front of him as Adam Pierson, mild mannered ex-Methos Chronicler. Ten years had given Dawson a pretty good knowledge of the man he had befriended. Or so he'd thought. The last year or two had given him a less solid grip on the oldest Living Immortal. In truth, it had established only one thing. Joe Dawson was extremely fond of both of them. He found Methos more than intriguing. Dawson had a deep sense of history, of continuity, and right now, sitting at his bar, about to become his partner in the blues club, was living proof of that continuity.

It was a heady feeling to have a wish fulfilled.

"What about the rest? Am I going to lose my partner to an accident?"

Methos smiled, regarding the elder man with amused affection. "Haven't decided. Even if you do, it's still not much of a stretch to think that Adam Pierson the Immortal would stick around."

Both men were keeping their voices low, conference held at the far end of the bar. "And become a student of Duncan MacLeod?"

"Now there's a thought."

Dawson laughed, the rich timbre rolling over Methos like a welcome hug. "You can't tell me you haven't thought of that yourself?"

Methos shook his head, still grinning as he crossed his arms and leaned against the bar to rest his chin on the folded limbs, body stretched out like a cat's. "I had. Might not be the best idea."

"For you? Or for him?"

"For either of us, Joe."

Dawson settled his weight on his own arms, spreading them against the solid wood of the bar. "Mac told me you two had settled the ....business.... with the Horsemen," he said softly. "Is that not entirely true?"

"No! I mean, yes. We've settled it. We're fine...." Methos murmured, meeting Dawson's gray eyes, wondering how much MacLeod had said. How much he should say. He didn't want to exclude Joe, but the man was still a Watcher.

"And sharing living quarters...." Dawson's voice was rough and low, and gave no hint of his opinion. Methos dropped his gaze, uncertainty creeping into the hazel depths. "Is that it?" Dawson asked, concerned. "I'm neither a prude nor your conscience, Adam."

The gentle acceptance was both a shock and a balm. It had been harder, so much harder to get MacLeod to see what Joe understood naturally.

"Been indiscreet, have we?" Methos responded, straightening up.

"Not about that," Dawson said. "But you.... Courser's Watcher saw you take him. Saw you with MacLeod. He didn't recognize you and was not one of the Watchers that carries a camera. Then there were the other two. You've become quite a source of speculation amid the Watchers. A mystery Immortal, so to speak. It didn't take me too long to figure out who was being so active in Paris. And you were in and out of that apartment so fast the change of address never made it through the office." he added.

Methos sighed and buried his face in his hands for a long moment. "Thank you," he said at last, regarding his friend with open gratitude.

Dawson grinned. "You're welcome. You're not usually this sloppy, Methos. Unless you want to be?" The question was pointed and probing and far too accurate. "What game have you started this time, my friend, and is it going to get you killed?"

"I hope not," Methos said earnestly. "Methos needs to be wherever Adam Pierson is not," he said slowly. "A continent and an ocean between us seemed like a good idea. Courser....wasn't planned and I didn't handle it very well. What else did Courser's Watcher see?"

"He wasn't sure. He thought you'd been injured. Were you?" The question was one of pure concern and Methos wasn't quite sure how to answer it. The recuperative healing ability of Immortals was not something Joe Dawson would question which meant his friend was fishing for information on a non-physical injury--the nature of which Methos found himself shying away from with an uneasy vengeance.

But Dawson was not so easily put off, answering the question for him. "You know, there was a Chronicle about a certain Immortal who stopped taking heads. Partly because he got religion. But his Watcher told tales that indicated there might just be a limit to how many heads an Immortal can take in a lifetime....and stay sane."

Methos remained silent. Eyes fixed on the smooth wood under his hands.

"Then there was this other Immortal. Duncan MacLeod, who took a few too many nasty personalities at once...."

"I get it," Methos said calmly. "You are too damn perceptive sometimes, Joseph. It's really annoying."

"I don't want to have to write the final chapter on you or MacLeod because you went over the edge," Dawson said, laying his hand over Methos' and squeezing it gently. Methos turned his hand up and returned the pressure briefly.

"I don't want that either, my friend," The voice was a whisper as the gold-green eyes met gray for a long moment. "It's not quite that bad."

The unspoken passed between them in silence. But it hung there, a threat, a concern. "MacLeod knows about this, right?"

A strained chuckle escaped Methos' throat, fighting past the lump of anxiety. "Oh, he knows," he said swallowing. "Knows more than I wish he did, but I can't say I'm sorry. How much of this is going into your Chronicle, Joe?"

"Some. Not all. I can only stretch the facts so far, Adam. Most of it is in my private journals though," Dawson said. The lies could not be kept forever but they would be kept for the present. "I don't want the sloppy details, Adam, but this thing with you and Mac--is this wise? I'd feel better if you told me there's just a little extra testosterone you two are trying to get rid of."

"You have such a delicate way of putting things, Joe," Methos murmured with a wry smile. "No. It's not wise. It's probably one of the more foolish things I've ever done in my life."

Dawson wasn't sure he agreed with the assessment but he let it slide. It had surprised him when he figured out MacLeod and Methos had become lovers and he had spent an anxious night or two worrying about the implications and examining his own feelings about the situation. Not that it was any of his concern--except it was. And not just because he was the Highlander's senior Watcher, but because these two men, these Immortals, had become important to him for their own sakes.

But despite Methos' words, there had been a subtle change in the Immortal standing before him. A portion of the cynical aloofness had vanished revealing something Dawson would never have suspected in a man who had survived five thousand years.

Vulnerability. A certain fragility that had not been apparent earlier.

"Just couldn't stop yourself," Dawson said, joking and probing at the same time "Or just couldn't say no?"

Methos looked at the Watcher sharply, eyes narrowing. Dawson returned his gaze mildly, gray eyes waiting patiently and with amusement as awareness dawned on the Immortal.

"Shit," Methos said in amazement. "Good thing I wasn't a field agent. I obviously am not nearly as observant as I like to think."

"You have a few blind spots. If he hadn't cared, Adam, the betrayal with the Horsemen wouldn't have cut so deep," he said softly, and his tone turned somber. "And the Dark Quickening might have ended differently."

Methos went still, certain his heart would leap out of his chest of its own volition. Dawson reached out to encircle his wrist gently, bringing him back to himself. "Easy," Joe murmured, concerned when the older Immortal closed his eyes, blood draining from his face.

"Maybe you should be the new Methos Chronicler, Joe," Methos said at last, staring at the hands beginning to tremble against the bar. He had forgiven MacLeod for the rape, in his heart. It hadn't been a difficult thing to do. But he hadn't lied when he told the Highlander it wasn't forgotten. Being familiar with the psychology of rape didn't make the memories any less terrible. Any of them.

Joe turned and pulled down a bottle and two glasses, pouring out a generous measure of MacAllan. "There are people who care about you for yourself, you know," Dawson said as Methos lifted the glass to his lips, trembling stilled at the thought of spilling good Scotch. "MacLeod's not alone."

"Dangerous person to care about, Joe," Methos said calmly. "What did Mac tell you?"

"Nearly all of it as far as I can tell. Between nearly taking Richie's head, killing Sean and .....what he did to you, he was pretty much a mess when he got back. The incident in LeHavre, Burns' death, all made it into the Chronicle. What happened in the church didn't or what happened after you turned up on the scene except for your....edited version."

"You should have told me he was a mess."

Now it was Joe's turn to shake. The deep, rough voice breaking. "Tell you? Christ, Adam, I sent you after him!"

"Joe, it doesn't matter. It wasn't MacLeod."

"Maybe not. But it was you," The grief in the Watcher's voice accentuated his age and worse, his mortality. That, more than anything, sent Methos around the bar, oblivious to anyone who might see, to pull the elder man into his arms. The times when Methos might have walked away from the raw pain in the other man's face and voice had passed without him really noticing.

"You didn't really have any choice, did you, Joseph?" he asked. "There was no way you could have known it would turn out the way it did. And all in all it didn't turn out too badly. Got Mac off his high moral horse for a bit anyway," he added with a small grin as the Watcher looked up at him, pulling back slowly from the embrace.

"You can joke..."

"Or I can cry...I'd much rather joke," Methos said, lips twitching. "Regardless of how Mac and I got to this point, Joe, nothing short of clairvoyance could have prevented it. And hindsight won't undo any of it--nor do I want it to. What I have now, is worth it," he said softly, making certain Joe understood he was included in the wealth Methos felt he held. "If you need to blame someone, blame Alexa."

Joe's eyes widened a little at the mocking expression on the thin face. But the mockery didn't reach the steady gaze of the gold-green eyes. Slowly, he nodded, the strain in his face easing at the thought of the strong, lovely young woman Methos had loved and lost. Methos' obvious love for the dying mortal woman had done much to convince Joe, and later MacLeod, that the man who rode with the Horseman as Death had changed past recognition.

"So, you go on from here. You and Mac?"

"I haven't figured that out yet," the oldest Immortal said. "Not as we are--too dangerous. The one thing we agree on at this point. And that the sex is great," he added with a wicked twinkle.

Joe smirked, unfazed by the comment. "Well, between your combined ages, I would hope you'd get that part right at least," he said.

"Hey, Joe!" Mike, Joe's assistant manager and backup barkeep called and both men turned to see Mike directing a kid toward them; a teen actually, in bicycle helmet and pads.

"Supposed to ask for a Joe Dawson or a Mar...Mr. Methos?" The kid said, staring at the scrawled handwriting on the box he held.

"I'm Dawson," Joe said and signed for the package, passing the boy a tip and aware the man beside him had gone absolutely still. The boy thanked him and took off.

"Not Mac's handwriting," Methos said, voice devoid of any expression. He made no move to touch the box so Joe did, carefully. It was light, something loose but solid rattling inside. He opened it with caution, then swore, gripping the edge of the bar tightly.

Methos put a hand out to steady the Watcher, his other hand reaching inside the box to lightly touch the thick, heavy mane of dark hair, strands gathered together in a familiar silver clasp of Celtic design.