Days Falling Backward
by Rachael Sabotini


CYA: All standard disclaimers apply, whatever they might be. I don't own these guys, but I love having them around. I make no money off this; I mean no harm. This story is rated NC-17 for graphic depiction of M/M sexuality.

Warm air whispered against his skin in the night, teasing his hair with its murmurings. Methos responded, shuddering in his dreams as the siren's song called, singing of times long gone, pleasures long forgotten. The scent of fire and smoke wove through the moonlit air, the rustle and creak of burning wood akin to the sound of breaking bones. Methos convulsed in his sleep, his muscles jerking against each other in their fear. The vibration woke him, but not to the reality of his burning room. A fire crept along curtains and yet he lay still, trying to fight his way past the memories, untangling the reality of night from the illusion of day. Unmarked, the siren's songs had turned to emergency sirens. His skin and his mind replayed old memories, while his apartment continued to burn, and the fire crept down the window frame toward his bed.

Once again, dank air filled his lungs like thick syrup, the oil of death filling every pore in his skin, coating him inside and out. Screams still filled the air, but they meant little. One more villager dead; another soul given over to the service of the new gods. Methos assumed he would be next; he had lost the battle, after all, and the destruction of his village was all that Methos could smell.

He knelt next to the altar, his body oiled and perfumed for the gods' feast. He shifted position, trying to find some way to sit comfortably while his broken ribs healed. The raiders clapped each other on the back, ignoring him as the shaven-head priests dribbled the last of the sacred oil in his hair. He tried not to sigh, tried to maintain the image of the vanquished village chieftain, but the rivulets of scented oil mixed with bits of dirt, sweat and blood, matting his hair and running into his eyes. Methos blinked, trying to clear his vision; he felt disgusting. He let himself go limp as two other priests lifted him onto the stone altar, arranging his limbs and hair as they wished, and bound him in place. It amused Methos to think that their gods were probably younger than he was; it made what was coming next a little more palatable.

Someone pressed the alabaster cup to his mouth, and Methos drank deep, not caring that it would kill him. Poison was an easy death, and the dark spiced liquid eased his pain for the moment. He could not understand the words that the priests proclaimed, but it did not matter. Soon, he would die, and they would forget him.

The high priest turned away from the crowd to where Methos lay. He drew an obsidian blade across Methos' stomach, blood immediately pooling in the hollow of Methos' chest, right above his heart. The blood paused a moment, then ran down the line between the lowest of his ribs. Methos felt its trail, but not its meaning. His head swam and his body felt hot, and he could barely keep his eyes open. A tingling developed in his neck and spine, a sensation of danger, but it was overridden by poison-induced numbness. He thought that the priest was coming for him with a lighted torch, but another of the men--a mercenary by the looks of it, and the source of the strange tingling sensation--strode through the crowd and stopped the torch-bearer with a violent backhand. The priest stumbled and fell; both priests and raiders drew away from the newcomer, and the mercenaries that followed him onto the plateau. An argument began, but Methos grew too weary to care. He closed his eyes, listening to the sounds around him. The last thing he heard before he died was the snick of metal on metal, a muffled groan and a shouted word: "Kronos!"

In the dark of night, just after Methos' gasped his first breath of new life, the man he'd seen strike the priest cut the ropes that bound Methos to the altar. He smiled at Methos, rubbing the circulation back into his limbs. "I have saved you, my brother. Come with me."

Head pounding and vision blurred, Methos levered himself off the stone and upright, then nearly collapsed. Returning to life was always painful, and the feeling of cold blood circulating through his veins made Methos shiver. The dark-haired man caught him around the shoulders, holding him up, while Methos bent heavily over the altar, his face pressing against the cold stone.

In turn, Kronos pressed his face against the back of Methos' neck. His breath against the naked skin was seduction itself, and Methos found himself pressing into the other's warmth.

"I am Kronos," the man whispered, "And we are alike, you and I." He gently moved Methos' hair out of the way, and pressed his lips to the back of Methos' ear. The warmth of his breath coaxed some interest out of Methos' cock, though the rest of him was still remembering what it was to be alive.

"I had heard of you, and I need your mind." The strong voice continued its coaxing. "I couldn't let the priest burn you, once I knew what you were." Methos had no idea whether he could have survived the fire or not; Kronos had probably saved him from true death after all. Kronos slid his hands down Methos' ribs to his hips, and with a quick jerk, pulled him upright, Methos' ass cupped against his groin.

"I have been searching for another like me," Kronos said. "One who can help me grab the world in my fist." His hands moved slowly over Methos' body-shoulder, back, arms, and thighs-while Methos gradually took more of his own weight. "Your mind, your experience will give me what I want." His hands roamed down to Methos' groin and wisped through his pubic hair. "You would have won had you had been fighting only mortals."

Methos could not make sense of Kronos' words; his body couldn't seem to coordinate with his mind. He knew he should feel alarm, but he felt nothing. It went far beyond the lassitude of death; Methos felt empty and defeated, unable to raise a hand in his own defense. If Kronos wanted him, so be it. He had been a slave before.

Soon, Methos was able to stand without Kronos' help, but the man refused to let him go. He kept running his hands over Methos' oiled skin, toying with whatever part his hands rested on. All the while, he kept up his litany of need, his voice almost hypnotic in its seductiveness. "Together we will walk the land and take what we wish." Kronos' hands stilled, then leapt for Methos' nipples, claw-like nails sinking into the flesh, drawing blood. "But first, I'm going to take you."

Methos gasped in shock, and Kronos smiled. "There are many things more painful than true death. Should you try to kill me, I will make sure you experience every one of them." He turned Methos and pulled him flat against his chest, saying, "Your life is mine. The day I die, you die as well. Never forget that."

Methos looked over Kronos' shoulder and away from the mountain for the first time since his death. The plateau was covered in blood, and in bodies. All of the priests lay dead, their heads cut off and arranged by size at the base of the altar. The raiders lay dead as well, along with Kronos' mercenaries. It would seem that it did not pay to be Kronos' enemy. He looked back at the dead mercenaries. Or even his friend, it appeared.

Kronos grabbed Methos' arm and twisted it, turning it palm-up. Kronos braced it at the elbow with his own arm, and forced down on the open palm with his other hand. Methos thought his arm would break.

"Are you with me?" Kronos levered Methos' elbow almost to the breaking point.

Methos nodded. The pain was good; it helped drive the residue of death from his system. He felt awake again, and his mind gathered in all that had been said. A different chill descended as Methos finally read the unpredictable danger in Kronos eyes.

"Say it." The force was nearing the point of tearing the bone from the joint.

Methos groaned. "Yes."

Kronos dropped his bracing arm, and before Methos could react, he shoved the sacrificial knife into Methos' thin forearm, and ripped sideways with all his force. Methos gasped for breath through the pain; he could not speak, even to cry out. Kronos laughed, and brought the knife to his lips for a quick taste of the blood then slid the knife down his own arm as well. He grabbed Methos' bloody arm and shoved it against his own, mingling their lives. "This will be our bond, brother, a sacrament of blood. Just as your blood spills now, soon others shall spill their blood in your name."

Methos' mind churned on the facts around him, trying to determine a plan. Kronos had fought with the priests and killed them; now he wanted Methos for his prize.

His prize.

Methos swallowed. No time for plans; the time had come for action. He twisted away from Kronos, ducking under his arm and the ledge near the altar's dais.

Kronos slammed a fist into his stomach, making Methos double over in pain. He circled around Methos like a hyena around a kill, waiting while the other immortal gasped for breath. Methos tried to dodge the next blow, but Kronos grabbed him easily, gripping him tightly by the upper arms. "You are soft, my brother," he hissed at Methos, "and your blood tastes sweet. I'm sure the rest of you will be as soft and as sweet as well."

Methos had been prepared as a sacrifice for the gods, and now the scented oil he was covered in made it impossible for him to get purchase against his attacker. Kronos threw him against the altar, and wrapped an arm around his neck while the other worked the thong lacing of his own breeches. The heat of Kronos' body taunted his cold skin. Methos could feel Kronos' cock pressing against his ass, and a groan escaped his lips as teeth sank into his flesh. The arm across his neck loosened as the hand came up to cover his mouth. He knew exactly what was going to happen, but was powerless to prevent it.

Gasping for breath, Methos tore himself from the memories as the fire reached for him. He struggled back, falling out of the bed in his haste to get away. He grabbed for his wallet and his coat, and felt the steel underneath. He backed toward the door, still seeing Kronos' face in the fire and hearing his voice whisper "We are one. When I die, you die. Never forget that." He turned and fled down the hall, passing the firefighters on their way up, collapsing on the street as soon as he left the building. His stomach rebelled, and he barely noticed when one of the paramedics threw a blanket around his shoulders.

"When you're ready," the EMT said while handing him a wet cloth, "I'll need to check you out in the ambulance."

Methos nodded, more as a matter of form than anything else. The sooner it was over, the sooner he could find somewhere else to hide. He wiped his face and stood, "Let's go."

As the medic led him to the rescue van, Methos overheard the fire investigators talking. "The whole effect was localized to that one apartment, yet the couple in the apartment below swear they saw some sort of flash and smelled something just before the fire erupted."

"We'll get the arson specialists in tomorrow and see what they come up with."

While he was listening, Methos crawled in the ambulance and let the medic--R. Jensen, from the nametag-- take his pulse and blood pressure. His hair was singed in places, but nothing that wouldn't grow back in a few days.

The Fire Marshall moved on while Jensen insisted on a trip to the hospital, and Methos decided it wasn't worth the effort to dissuade him. The EMT strapped Methos onto a gurney and attached the oxygen clip under his nose. "Comfortable?"

"Would you be comfortable with a green plastic tube stuck up your nose?" Methos lay back against the gurney and stared up at the ambulance's bright white ceiling. "Honestly, I don't need any of this. I'm feeling fine."

The paramedic ignored him and took out his clipboard to take down the vital information. Name. Address. Next of Kin. "Do you have anyone that will need to be contacted? Is there someplace you can stay for a couple of days while they check out your place?"

Immediately, Methos thought of Duncan, of his muscular forearms and lazy smile. Then he remembered the way they parted the last time; formal names on holy ground. No, Duncan wouldn't want to see him yet, not for a while. "I have a couple of friends I can call." he said, thinking that the number was a bit of an overstatement. "I'll be fine."

The medic nodded, satisfied, and closed the ambulance doors.

Duncan picked up the morning paper from the newsstand near the Dojo after his morning's run. He glanced at the headlines, then stopped, hurriedly reading through the main local article. There had been a fire last night at Methos' old place; the cause was listed as suspected arson.

Duncan MacLeod read the report in more detail, a feeling of unease making itself at home in his stomach. He unconsciously heeled off his shoes as he entered the Dojo and shoved them aside, his attention fully focused on what he read. The tenant, Adam Pierson, had been treated for minor smoke inhalation and released.

Methos had been in town; there was no telling where he was now. Duncan dropped the paper next to his shoes, pulled off his shirt, and started in on the morning's katas. Several things bugged him about the article, and he found it hard to center himself and focus on his work. He slowed his breathing, and gathered his energy around him, his breath falling into the familiar, steady rhythm. With his first movement came the first question: why had Methos returned to Seacouver?

Duncan compressed the chi between his hands, and stepped left, turning as he did so. Second movement, second question: why hadn't Methos called when he got into town?

While a forceful exhalation, he punched open-handed into the energy around him, the last question ringing in his mind: what the hell had happened to Methos last night? Duncan pushed his chi out with his hands, moving it hard against the window, then pulled it back toward his center: too many immortals had gone missing in such a manner. A notice in the paper, and then nothing more.

He continued to move; focusing his body helped him focus his mind. The mention of Adam Pierson was a small bit of solace; it meant that he had not died in the fire itself. But what if some other immortal had started the fire and used it to force Methos out of his den? What if they'd been waiting when he had been released?

A sharp twist, countering the rhythm that he'd set so easily into place. What if Methos had lost his head? How many enemies could a man acquire in five thousand years, anyway? He stepped left, and slid his right foot along the floor, stretching muscles in his thighs. He shifted his weight to the right, matching the stretch on the other side. Duncan couldn't count the number of immortals who wanted his head; there were probably ten times that number wanting Methos'.

If there was trouble, why hadn't Methos called him?

He pulled himself upright and dropped his hands, staring at the ceiling. That one was easy. He had driven Methos away, just as he had often sent Richie, Amanda, and Joe away for their own good, or when something went wrong, or.. or...or when he was angry with what they had done.

His body stilled as remembering took over: the last time he'd felt this betrayed had been Sullivan. Sullivan had been his friend: a warm, sunny guy with a hell of a temper, and as strong a sense of right and wrong as Duncan. His 'right' though had been different than MacLeod's; Sullivan had killed the fighter he was training when the guy tried to switch to a new manager. Duncan could no longer ignore the mortals Sullivan had killed; the veneer of 'they were evil, MacLeod' had worn too thin. He'd traced Sullivan to the coliseum, and there they had battled it out.

Duncan had felt so angry, so betrayed that the man he had trusted had murdered an innocent mortal, that he had refused Sullivan's quickening. And so Sullivan was lost: his essence, his experience, his power. Just like Darius had been lost, but this time due to MacLeod's temper.

He ran his hand behind his neck. It made him no better than the hunters who killed immortals, and in some ways worse. Duncan had sworn never to take a friend's head in anger again, and so he'd started sending everyone away: Richie, Amanda, and Joe, whenever his anger became too strong.

There was no point to continuing to work out; his mind refused to cooperate. He picked up his shirt, shoes and the paper and headed into the elevator, closing the cage behind him. His friends always came back, though. They knew he didn't really mean it. They knew it was just a matter of time before they needed him or he needed them.

The elevator stopped and MacLeod opened the cage, only to pull up short as he entered the loft, staring at the brick wall in front of him. Methos hadn't waited to be thrown out; he'd walked out on Mac first. What if that meant that Methos was never coming back? Duncan made a bee-line for the shower. Methos wasn't the type to sit around waiting for MacLeod to take him back again. What if he went back to being what he once was? What if Duncan had to take his head?

Duncan hated killing his friends, and he really hated killing his lovers.

He shook his head, trying to clear his mind as he stepped out of the shower. Methos wasn't his lover; Methos never became involved with other immortals. It was too big of a risk. What had he said that time Kristen came to Seacouver? Something about how "For most of us, it's easier to take the head of someone you once loved, than it is to lose your own." Methos had liked Silas.

And Methos had killed Silas.

In fact, Methos had chosen Duncan's side and risked his head.

Methos had gotten involved.

Duncan pulled on his clothes, grabbed his coat and bolted for the door. He'd see Joe. They, at least, were still talking to each other.

Joe paused before answering Duncan, obviously trying to decide how much to say. "Sorry, MacLeod. Not even his watcher has seen him."

Duncan's blood raced. "His watcher?" So, Methos had lost even that bit of camouflage as well.

"Yeah, his watcher." Joe put the glass he was working on aside and stared at his friend. "No one's that dense, Mac. When Cassandra's watcher saw you, her and Methos leave the sub base, they immediately assigned a watcher to him. Word is he's a fairly new immortal who's your new student, just like Richie was. And before you ask, no one will tell me who his watcher is."

MacLeod leaned into the counter, a wave of apprehension washing over him. Methos had been a myth, an immortal missing for so long that only those who knew him on sight still looked for him. Now he couldn't even go to the grocery store without someone transcribing his purchases in meticulous detail. "What about his time as a researcher? Won't they recognize him?" The unspoken question was more chilling: would the Watchers realize that Adam Pierson was Methos?

"Strange thing about that. The research organization had a major restructuring when Adam Pierson disappeared during the mess with Jack. I don't think there's anybody left in the group who knew him on sight." Joe put the glass away and unloaded another six from the dishwasher rack. "I've kept tabs on things and so far, no one's connected a missing Methos researcher in France with your new immortal protégé in Seacouver." Dawson shrugged. "I couldn't find any indication that your student had been pegged as Methos, either. Most of the Watchers still think he's a legend."

A controlled breath, and MacLeod forced himself to relax. That, at least, was a small blessing. There would be no hunter chasing Adam for betraying the tribunal; there would be no new gunslingers trying to make a name for themselves by taking Methos' head.

Joe bent down and put away the last of the glasses, then looked up at Duncan, who was still forcing himself to relax. "Don't worry about him, Mac. He's been around a long time. He can take care of himself."

The concern he'd so carefully channeled into his breathing exploded and MacLeod pounded his fists against the bar. "He's been out of the game too long, Joe. He still doesn't have the instincts." He scrubbed at his face, rubbing his cheeks and eyes. "He's better than he was two years ago, but Silas nearly killed him." He put his hands back down at the bar and looked over at Joe. "There doesn't have to be anyone new looking for him. Who's to say that there's not another Kronos or Cassandra out there, ready to take his head when he lets down his guard?"

Joe shook his head and spoke softly. "Mac, there's always gonna be someone after his head. That's the way it is, my friend. You know that." He picked up the empty rack to carry it back to the kitchen, but Duncan came around and pulled it away from him.

"Let me do it." Duncan strode into the harshly lit kitchen, leaving Joe to follow a pace behind. "Yeah, that's the way it is, but different immortals have different ways of facin' it. He's lived as long as he has by not taking chances, by blendin' in and letting others do his fighting." He stood with his back to the kitchen door, holding it open for Joe. "He called Kronos his brother, for Christ sake. What sort of man would call Kronos his brother?"

"Cord was my brother, Mac." A statement of fact, nothing more.

Immediately, MacLeod became lost in the labyrinth of memories: Dawson telling him about Cord saving his life in Vietnam; Mac's promise to leave Cord alone; Cord killing Charlie DeSalvo. Those final moments when he told Charlie the truth he'd hidden through two years of uneasy friendship, the truth about not being able to die.

Charlie had, bleeding to death in his arms.

Dawson's whiskey-hued voice pulled MacLeod back to the present. "In a dirty war, the man who guards your back is your brother, no matter who he is or what he has done." Joe's gaze was unflinching as he stared at Mac. "I've told you that before. It might do you some good to start thinking of Methos as your brother, since he's the one who's pulled your ass out of the fire."

Joe didn't even have to mention the Dark Quickening, and how Methos had risked his life to put Duncan back together. MacLeod would always owe him for that.

Duncan set the rack down in the kitchen and turned back to face Joe, his arms crossed in front of his chest. He would not remember what had happened; instead, he gave free rein to the mild feelings of anxiety he'd had over the newspaper article to prey on his mind. Maybe some other immortal was in town; not even Methos could disappear into thin air. "Well, maybe I can pay him back for pulling my ass out of the fire. Do you know if there are any immortals I don't know about in town?"

Joe leaned against the kitchen counter. "Mac, I couldn't tell you that even if I did know."

Duncan rounded on him. "So you don't know."

"No, I don't know," Dawson practically yelled back.

Mac strode out into the dimly lit main room and grabbed the paper off the bar, stalked back into the kitchen and shoved it in Dawson's face. "Did you ever think that this fire might be a set-up? That someone was waiting to take his head?"

"Mac, I-"

Duncan threw the paper across the room. "No, you didn't, did you? That's because you haven't had someone after your head for the last few hundred years." Duncan took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, deliberately straightening and pressing his arms down to his sides. The movement gave him something to focus on, and Duncan was able to bring his frustration back under control.

"I thought you two weren't speaking."

"You know that doesn't matter. How many times have I stopped speaking to you?" Mac couldn't look at Joe's steady gaze, and dropped his eyes to the floor. "Just because your relationship changes doesn't mean you can't still be friends." Then he slowly looked up, meeting Dawson's eyes straight on. In the barest of whispers he said, "He is my brother, Joe. I just need to see him, that's all. I need to know he's okay."

Dawson shook his head and sighed. "Mac, I don't know what to say. I can't tell you he's okay, because I don't know. You'll have to find him yourself."

"I will, Joe. Methos has lived for 5000 years, it would be pointless for him to die now." Pulling on his trenchcoat, he blasted out of the kitchen, barreling on through the main door.

Outside in the clear morning air, things still looked bleak. If this had been the mountains, he could have tracked Methos quite easily. But concrete holds no tracks, and, unlike leaves, brick doesn't crush when someone passes by. Still, everything eventually comes to food, water, and shelter. Methos' apartment was a probable crime scene, which implied police lines and arson investigators. So Methos would need shelter. He was also a man who liked his comforts, so he probably wouldn't be sleeping in the 4-by-4. Therefore, Methos would need to find a comfortable hotel, and probably one close to whichever hospital he'd been taken to.

Duncan grabbed his own copy of the paper out of his car and re-read the article. Pierson had been taken to Bayview Trauma center, just east of the business district. MacLeod decided to go there and see what tracks he could find.

In the morning, Methos realized two things: one, that even four star hotels had lumpy mattresses, and two, that he had nothing to wear other than proper flasher attire--slippers, underwear, and trenchcoat. He was faced with a choice between a rather embarrassing trip to a department store or having to call someone and ask them to bring over a few things.

All right, he would have to call MacLeod and ask him to bring over a few things. Not that he could fit Duncan's clothing, most of it would bag in all sorts of interesting ways and probably get him arrested, but Duncan might be willing to buy him underwear, jeans and a shirt. Maybe there was some of Richie's old stuff that might fit, in that standard 'medium build' sort of way.

He reached for the phone, only to stop half-way through the dial. That's right. MacLeod and he weren't speaking to each other right now. He hung up the phone, wondering why was it so easy to turn to MacLeod, anyway. He'd managed quite well by himself for the past millennia or two; this was no time to get an attack of the vapors. The right combination of phone calls and messenger services would get him what he needed, probably faster than MacLeod could, and no tittering comments either. He picked up the phone book and began thumbing through the hundreds of entries in the retail-men's clothing section, looking for Nordstroms' personal shopper service.

He smiled wryly as he dialed the number and waited for an answer. Ah, the wonders of the modern age, he thought as the operator took his order.

Duncan stood lost in thought outside the emergency entrance of Bayview. The mild apprehension he felt was fast becoming anxiety. The longer he thought about it, the more certain he'd become that some immortal was behind the fire. He looked down the hill. Adam Pierson had been brought here sometime last night, and released early this morning. His apartment was gutted, so he couldn't go home. MacLeod frowned. Methos would have been tired leaving the hospital. There was a good possibility that he'd simply try to find something to eat and someplace to sleep for the moment, and worry about the rest of things in the morning.

Duncan looked up and scanned the area. Even though this part of town was fairly seedy, the skyscrapers of the business district were nearby. There had to be some sort of hotel nearby that Methos could find from here. As he glanced down the hill toward the bay, he saw the large red Sheraton S, no more than a mile away. He smiled: he'd start there.

Exasperated, Methos tore the sweater off his shoulders and threw it on the bed. Every sweater he'd order itched, or didn't fit, or looked rather bizarre. He sighed. He'd keep the best two and return the rest. The jeans were fine--not a lot to fix with standard 501s--though a bit stiff. Shoes, socks, and underwear, all standard. So which of the sweaters wouldn't embarrass him in public?

Well, the mesh was right out. Hadn't even bothered to try that one on. One of the three solid grays felt okay, if a bit short in the arms; the other two had too much wool in them to be comfortable. That left the one that was less gray and more sapphire blue. While not actually bizarre, it wasn't his usual style. The colors were vibrant, not muted, with a loose, nubby weave. It attracted the eye, subtle diamond shapes shimmering a bit in the evening light. He picked it up, kneading the fabric against his palms.

It wasn't scratchy at all; it felt quite soft , actually, very warm, and sensual. He stroked it against his check. It felt like ...

He lay against the furs, a warm barrier to the cold winter air, watching Darius hone his blade in the firelight. "It's stupid, you know," Methos said. "You don't have to meet him for one-on-one combat. You have an entire army ready to die for you."

"I know." Darius refused to look up from his work. "Did it ever occur to you that I might want to fight him? That I might want to take the head of the world's oldest immortal? That I might want his quickening?" He put down the sword and sprawled on the furs next to Methos. He reached under the heavy blanket, and grabbed Methos' cock. "I am sure that would be something we both could enjoy."

Methos pressed himself against the touch. "Take off your clothes," he whispered, "and come to bed."

Darius stood, unlaced his tunic and drew it off over his head. Methos turned on his side and propped himself up on his elbow. Somedays, he was very glad Darius had decided not to kill him. He felt a bit like Sheharazade, recounting a new tale of military strategy each night, in return for Darius' favor. It really wasn't that big of a price to pay, not compared to some.

Darius paused, frowning, then picked up his knife. Methos managed to get to his knees, but could not scrabble to his feet before Darius loomed over him. Is this how their relationship would end, Darius finally deciding that the quickening was of more value than his knowledge or sex?

Darius knelt down and grabbed his left wrist, sawing through the wide leather bracelet he wore. Then he did the same to the right. He threw the knife to the far side of the tent and sat back on his heels. "Now you are free."

"Why?" Methos rubbed his wrists. He'd been a slave any number of times in the last three thousand years, and Darius had been a good master, probably the best. He knew that Darius would have eventually freed him; that was part of the game. He was concerned; it was unexpected for Darius to free him now. Anticipated-yes, someday when Methos had acquired enough power-but not now.

Methos did not like the unexpected.

Darius shrugged, then lay down on the bed next to Methos. "It seemed for the best. You do not need to be someone else's prize." He leaned into Methos and cupped his hand under Methos chin. "Besides, I have decided that I do not want you to lose your head." He licked his own lips and kissed the other immortal.

Methos leaned into the kiss and opened his mouth, returning Darius' passion with his own. He reached out and laced his fingers through Darius' hair, as the kiss deepened, each man fighting for some element of control. Then Darius opened his mouth and let Methos' inside, allowing Methos to taste and touch and suck as much as he wanted.

Methos pulled back and stared at his former master. Darius was breathing as heavily as he was, his sex hard and insistent against Methos own. It was the first time they had kissed like that, like old friends and long-time lovers, rather than making the bed a battlefield. As Methos looked at Darius, he knew it was over, no matter who won tomorrow's fight.

He could see in those blue eyes that Darius knew it, too.

Methos blurted out, "If he kills you, I won't seek revenge."

"You will not have to; Grayson will." Darius rolled over, away from his companion. "He takes his role as my aide very seriously. If I die, he will come after you."

Now Methos looked away. "I know. I hadn't planned to stay past the moment you freed me, anyway."

Darius nodded. "It is best you leave. I have noticed some of my men listening to you for their orders, rather than to Grayson or myself. Some days, even I have forgotten that you were a slave." He stood and poured himself a drink, not looking at Methos. "I have plans that do not include you, Methos. I will kill their champion and take Paris tomorrow, and from then on to the sea. You can come back in a few centuries and find me; my rule will be an age of wonders." He drained his glass and set it down on the wooden table in the center of the tent. "If you stayed, eventually your men would challenge my men, and one of us would end up dead. There cannot be two emperors."

Methos had gotten dressed and gathered his things quietly while Darius spoke. "There can be only one," he said softly, his eyes misting with tears as he left the tent.

Methos stared at the more-blue-than-gray sweater and shrugged. He'd stand out in a crowd wearing it, but really, wasn't it time he stopped hiding behind the student mask? He'd already moved most of the important things from Seacouver to Paris; the rest was in storage. With everything that had happened to the Watchers, and with Kronos and the rest of the horsemen, it would be impossible for him to return to Adam Pierson's life.

Duncan had been right: he could have either live as an immortal or live as a Watcher, but not both. So, he'd left the Watchers and moved to Seacouver, only to be tracked down by Kronos. It was time to start something new again. He needed to live life as an immortal, stop hiding behind cloistered walls. Darius had done that for over a thousand years, to no avail. Methos pulled on the sweater and looked at himself in the mirror. Not his old self, but presentable. Standing out would take some getting used to. He decided to leave the hotel and find something to eat.

Panic had turned to desperation as Duncan jabbed the off button on his cellular, and the waiter quickly veered away from his table. How many hotels were in the downtown district anyway? Twenty hotels, twenty no 'Adam Pierson' registered. Maybe Methos was gone. He looked out the windows at the front of the restaurant. The sun was setting now, a brilliant reddish-purple glow skittering over the bay. He'd spent all day looking and still no luck. There had to be something he hadn't yet thought of.

Maybe Methos had used another name.

He tried to think, tried to remember the name Methos had used when he played Duncan's lawyer, but the name just wouldn't come. The feeling of immediate danger slammed into him, jerking his attention away from the phone and toward the plate-glass windows. Silhouetted against the setting sun stood another immortal. Duncan pulled his coat in tighter, unsure of what the silhouetted figure would do. The man stared at him, then turned and ran within an instant, before the feeling of presence had a chance to fade. Duncan lurched after the man as his identity penetrated his brain: it was Methos. Methos, who'd said he would leave him alone, just as Duncan had asked.

Methos stopped about a block away from where he'd seen Duncan in the restaurant. This was stupid. He couldn't keep avoiding Duncan for the rest of eternity. He'd wait here for MacLeod to find him if he wanted. Maybe he had spent as much time as Methos had trying to find a way to salvage their friendship.

And maybe pigs would fly, too. What he'd done, MacLeod could not forgive. It was as simple as that. Good thing Methos didn't want forgiveness or absolution from MacLeod. Just acceptance, and some sort of recognition that Methos had changed.

His stomach dropped three floors, and Methos smiled wryly. He was becoming familiar with the nuances of the Highlander's quickening; for it to hit him this fast, Duncan must have run as well.

Sure enough, MacLeod barreled up to where he stood, and grabbed him, wrapping his arms around Methos in an giant bearhug. "Methos. It's good to see you."

As soon as Duncan set him down, Methos stepped back a pace, a bit stunned. What the hell was going on? "What do you want, MacLeod."

Duncan looked a little nonplused at his reaction; he looked liked he had expected a different welcome. "Look we can't talk here; let's go back to the restaurant." Duncan smiled. "Besides, they're probably thinkin' I ran out on the check."

Something had happened; Methos was sure of it. He just needed to figure out what it was. "Actually," Methos said, stalling for time, "I'd prefer a beer."

"You'd always prefer a beer." Duncan had the strangest smile on his face, one Methos couldn't place.

"Most centuries, it's better than the water."

"So I've noticed," replied Duncan, as he laid his arm solidly around Methos' shoulders.

"Although anything's better than that short beer stuff we used to brew in Egypt. Used to have to strain out the grain husks to make it drinkable." Methos took a deep breath. Damn, but Duncan felt good. The Highlander's arm acted like a shepherd's crook, steering him toward the restaurant. Where had this guy come from? In Bordeaux, MacLeod couldn't get far enough away from Methos and his past. So what had changed?

Methos pulled up short, near a small courtyard next to the restaurant. The fire. Duncan must have heard about it from Joe. Then again, it had been on the front page of the newspaper. All it took was for MacLeod to find a reason to be needed and suddenly, he wasn't angry at Methos any more. He didn't need to think about anything; he didn't need to accept anything. So the next time Methos disappointed him, the next time he failed to meet the Highlander's expectations, they'd go through this whole bloody business all over again. The very thought of that gave Methos a headache.

Methos' eyes narrowed as he looked over at Duncan, who was grinning wildly back at him. That's the look that he couldn't place. It was the look he'd seen sometimes when Duncan looked at Amanda, Joe, Richie - Richie! Now that was a disgusting thought. He pulled Duncan's arm off of his shoulder. "MacLeod, I don't need a protector. Whatever you've made up in your mind about me is wrong."

Duncan seemed genuinely confused. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about you, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Chieftain's son. The protector of his people," Methos spat at him.

"Aye, that's who I am." Duncan crossed his arms in front of his chest, walked over to the courtyard wall, turned around and faced Methos again. "I have never claimed to be anything else.

"I know. You are the only immortal who hasn't changed his name at least once in four hundred years. But I am not you." Methos stepped in close to the other immortal, forcing the Highlander to step back against the courtyard wall. "You treat me like I'm a member of you're father's tribe. One moment I'm part of the clan, the next I'm not, because you've discovered I've done something you don't like." Methos face was scant inches from the Highlander's as he added, "Well, you have no authority over me, Duncan MacLeod. I am no slave, no prize of conquest for you to order here and there. I am your friend, and there is not a bloody thing you can do about it." Methos pivoted and stepped away, giving MacLeod some breathing room, his own body trembling with suppressed tension.

"No, there's not, is there." Duncan's voice was quiet, almost accepting in its tone.

Methos spun around to stare at MacLeod.

Again, that stupid grin. He watched as Duncan shook himself, tension visibly leaving his body, his manner changing slightly. "I'm relieved to see you with your head, Methos, that's all." MacLeod shrugged, a deliberate casual gesture. "That and I would like you to have dinner with me."

Methos sighed. The Highlander was beyond infuriating at times. "Well, at least this time it's not holy ground," he muttered, falling in easily beside Duncan as they entered the restaurant.

The tension between them remained

They sat on opposite sides of the booth, the table between them. Methos lounged with his back against the solid wall, and one leg stretched out on the wooden bench in front of him. Duncan sat at an angle, his back to the wall as well. Their waiter brought them both beers, and then left them alone.

"You remember the barge?" Methos said abruptly.

"I should. I still live there on occasion."

"You remember the time I said I wanted you to give it to me?"

Duncan shrugged and swigged his beer. "Yeah, so?"

"Actually, I wanted you to ask me to move in with you." Methos took a gulp from his bitter. "I never really wanted the bloody barge."

"Oh." Duncan toyed with his glass, running his fingers up and down the condensation, leaving little swirls behind. "Why didn't you just ask?"

"I don't know. I guess it's not in my nature."

They lapsed into silence.

"So why didn't you call when you got to town," Duncan asked quietly.

Methos shrugged. "I thought you despised me, and I don't like to associate with people who hate me. It's bad for my health."

"I don't hate you, Methos. I hate what you've done."

"Yeah, well, me too. But we can't all be boy scouts, and it's part of what I am."

"I know. You can change your name, but not who you are," Duncan said softly, staring off into the mid-distance.

Methos nudged him under the table. "Did I say that?"

Duncan shook his head. "No, Grace did."

"Grace." Methos closed his eyes and lounged back against the wooden walls of their booth. "Short woman, about yea tall, trying to save the world?"

Duncan nodded.

Methos opened his eyes. "I think I knew her. She was a priestess of some goddess whose name I can't remember. Nice lady."

"Yeah, she is." Something in his voice hinted at more.

"Another old flame?"

Duncan nodded.

"I swear MacLeod, you've bedded more immortal women in four hundred years than I ever saw during the first two thousand years I was alive. Back then, I didn't know there were any immortal women."

Duncan grinned. "So what did you do for fun?"

"There were mortals aplenty MacLeod, men and women both-" Methos caught himself too late.

Duncan's voice was stone. "Cassandra," he said.

Methos glanced at Duncan's dour glare and swallowed. He could very well end up without a head tonight. "Like I said, back then I didn't know there were any immortal women." He scraped at a piece of food stuck at the table's edge. "I liked her, MacLeod. She was different from anyone I'd ever known before. She may have started off as a science project-"

"A Science Project!"

In sharp contrast to Duncan's shout, Methos' voice dropped to near whisper. "I didn't know anything about immortals at the time; I had a very poor teacher. " He sat up and turned back to Duncan, willing him to understand. "She ended up a person to me, one of the first. I never loved her, not the way she loved me. Not the way I loved Alexa." He took a drink from his beer and rolled the glass in his hands, scrying its depths. "Yet in a way, they were the same."

Dazed, Duncan pushed himself back from the table. "Cassandra is like Alexa?"

Methos turned to look at Duncan straight-on. "No, they weren't alike, but the way they affected me was similar." He looked down at the table. "They both wanted me to feel, MacLeod." He looked up and spread his hand apart, palms upright and fingers curled, trying to find a way to express what he was thinking. "Both women were with me for such a relatively short period of time, yet both knew more about living than I did at the time." He dropped his hands and sank back against the booth. "It just took me a few hundred years to put Cassandra's lessons to use." Methos became self-conscious and stopped talking as he realized Duncan was staring intently at him.

Passion burned in Duncan's voice as he said, "I hope it's not that long before you can put Alexa's lessons to use." He took a drink of his own beer, then asked in a gentle voice, "What exactly were those lessons about?"

Methos knew it was some sort of test, but he couldn't find it in himself to figure out the correct response. Instead, he tried to be truthful, something he really wasn't all that good at. "Lessons about how it's okay to feel. Lessons about caring for other people. Lessons about becoming involved." He took another sip of his beer. "It's something I seem to forget every thousand years or so."

"It's easy to forget how to love; it's easy to give in to hate." A shadow crossed Duncan's face, startling Methos with its intensity. He stilled himself, tensing for action, but the moment -and the shadow-passed

Time stretched; they finished their drinks in silence. Methos caught the waiter's eye and ordered another round. The bottles arrived at the same time as their food, and both men turned their attention to the blackened salmon with lemon-hazelnut sauce.

Picking at his food, Duncan finally broke the silence. "That's a nice sweater," he said, nodding at Methos' chest. "It's new, right?"

Methos looked at him suspiciously. "Since when have you been interested in my clothing, MacLeod?"

"Since you started lookin' so good." Duncan looked at him, and, oh my lady, his eyes sparkled with hidden thoughts. Duncan was the master of the smoldering look; Methos felt his body ignite. He didn't know where, he didn't know why, but Duncan MacLeod wanted him.

Methos closed his eyes and centered himself. Ask and ye shall receive, isn't that how it went? "My hotel room isn't far if you'd rather talk there." Methos pushed aside his still-full plate and drained the last of his beer.

Duncan pushed aside his own plate. He nodded slowly, his gaze never leaving Methos' face, nailing Methos in place. MacLeod leaned forward across the table. "I do want to go to your room, Methos," he said quietly "but I don't wanna talk."

Methos knocked Duncan's beer over in his haste to stand. "Don't play games with me, MacLeod." He picked up his napkin and tried to wipe up the beer. "I'm better at it than you are, and I've had centuries-."


Duncan's voice stopped him mid-swipe. He stood frozen as Duncan pulled the cloth out of his hands. "I don't play games-outside of bed." Duncan smiled as he set aside the beer-laden cloth, mopping up the rest with his own napkin.

Methos sank onto the bench, his eyes never leaving Duncan's face. Sweet lady, mother-of-god, what should he do now? He wasn't used to miracles.

"Methos, you're staring," Duncan said softly.

"Sorry?" He shook himself. What had Duncan said?

"You're staring at me." Duncan sat back down, and dropped his head back against the bench. He wouldn't even look at Methos as he said, "Here I thought that was a pretty good pickup line."

"Actually, it was a pretty good one." The words popped out of Methos' mouth before he could stop them.

Duncan looked at him questioningly.

Methos shrugged. "Well, it worked on me, didn't it?" He took out his hotel key and laid it on the table. It wasn't holy ground, it wasn't neutral ground, it wasn't Duncan's ground, but it was as close as Methos ever got to home ground. "I'm on the 29th floor."

Duncan started to laugh as he picked up the white plastic card emblazoned with a huge red Sheraton S.

The hotel room was a hotel room, but it had a great view of the city. As Duncan placed their coats strategically near the bed-just in case something unexpected happened-Methos opened the curtains in front of the picture window. Even with the sheers closed, it was a spectacular sight. The moon was hidden by clouds, but the city sparkled with nightlife. Neon blinked and glittered, advertising restaurants, music, and theater. Seacouver was a city of a thousand distractions, if one knew where to look.

He stood there, drinking in the night, as Duncan came up behind him and gently ran his hands down Methos' arms, sending a shiver though his body. He leaned back against the Highlander, enjoying the feeling of his strength, stretching his arms up and around Duncan's neck. There were other types of distractions that seemed far more intriguing at the moment than the latest revival of "Deathtrap."

Duncan ran his hands back up Methos' ribs, encircling his chest. He leaned forward and licked at the tip of Methos' ear, then nibbled at the lobe. "Did I tell you how much I like this sweater?" he whispered. "Your body demands to be touched in it."

Methos immediately dropped his arms and turned to face Duncan. "Enough of the Harlequin dialogue, already. I'm no hothouse flower."

"Whatever you say, petal." MacLeod batted his eyes.

Methos ignored the jibe and grabbed Duncan's chin. He found MacLeod's lips, and the gentle kiss quickly deepened into one with a sense of urgency and power all its own. Tongues clashed as Duncan's hands roamed over Methos' body. Methos slid his hands into MacLeod's hair, pulling it out of its restrained ponytail and tossing the silver tie to the table. He carded his hands through Duncan's hair, reveling in the silky texture. With his hair down, MacLeod lost much of the aura of civility he'd acquired over the last four hundred years, reminding Methos of the Highland warrior that he'd been raised to be. The fantasy aroused Methos even more, the image of MacLeod taking him on the grass in the hills almost as seductive as the feel of the man pressed against him in a modern hotel.

Methos leaned into MacLeod, whose hands caressed their way down Methos' back , and sank deep into his ass, forcing Methos' groin demandingly against his own. Their erections crushed almost painfully together before the Highlander relented, letting Methos step back a bit so that he could breathe.

Methos wasn't sure he wanted that much space. He kissed his way down MacLeod's jawline and neck, running his hands up under Duncan's black T-shirt, and caressing his firm chest. The hairs pricked at his fingertips, coaxing him to do more. Methos' hands roamed over to Duncan's nipples, and he swirled around the tips with the gentlest of touches.

MacLeod snapped, "Don't tease," and tore his own shirt off over his head. He stood there, breathing hard, a cascade of hair down his back. Tonight, he looked every inch the chieftain's son, raw power rippling around him with each breath. Methos wanted to climb up his body and impale himself on the Highlander's cock.

He spread his hand's up over Duncan's chest and down his arms, marveling at the strength of the man. Finding a man larger than he was still a small fascination for him, since he had spent much of his life as the largest man in any group. It was one of the reasons he'd come to like Silas so much; to Methos, size mattered. He cupped MacLeod's groin with his hand, massaging MacLeod's cock, and watched as the Highlander rolled his head backward with a small moan.

Duncan retaliated by grabbing at Methos' sweater and haphazardly jerking it off in a tangle of arms while Methos tried to work at the fly on MacLeod's pants. Duncan heeled off his shoes and slid his pants off; Methos' quickly worked on his own jeans. They stood in the center of their pile of clothing and ran hands over one another, kissing and sucking whatever they encountered. Methos groaned as Duncan tasted his nipples, biting one then the other, watching them come to neat points. 5000 years of desire had shaped them, and they responded to the slightest whisper of MacLeod's breath, let alone the feral sucking that the Highlander seemed fixated upon. Methos felt his butt slammed into the wall, and pulled Duncan's head up in order to deter his interest.

"Don't end it too soon." He kissed Duncan again, just as fiercely as before. He stroked down the length of Duncan's back to the firm ass, and gave it a sharp slap.

MacLeod jumped. "Hey, what was that for?" he said, rubbing his butt.

Methos shrugged. "To get your attention. I'd like to be fucked in the bed instead of against the wall."

MacLeod's gaze softened, and he ran his tongue over his lips, leaving them glistening in the faint moonlight. "I think that I'd like that." He grabbed Methos and gently propelled him toward the bed.

Methos' knees caught at the edge of the mattress, and he landed flat on his back, his legs dangling over the side. Duncan stalked toward him, a vengeful barbarian god. A shiver went through his groin, and he could feel his limbs trembling. The power that man possessed! He swallowed as Duncan straddled him, his legs tight against Methos' hips, their erections not yet touching.

Fascinated, Duncan grabbed Methos' lengthening shaft, rolling the head back with his fingers; Methos arched in response, another moan escaping his lips. Duncan grinned, then swung his legs so that his feet were lying on the bed near Methos' head. MacLeod bent down and licked Methos' engorged cock, sucking it deep into his mouth, sliding his tongue over sensitive skin. His hand gently cupped Methos' balls, urging him closer to climax.

Methos leaned over and urged Duncan on top of him. Duncan's cock was almost as thick as his wrist, and the sight of it made Methos' mouth water. He guided it into his mouth, grazing the tip with his teeth, rolling the taste and feel of Duncan around on his tongue. He thought he felt Duncan moan deep in his throat, the vibration resonating though Methos' cock and deep into his balls. He felt himself harden and lengthen, and knew it would be soon.

"Just a minute," he said, setting aside Duncan's cock with a final lick. Duncan looked over his shoulder at him, "yeah, okay," he said and swallowed. His breath came in great gasps, and Methos knew he'd been close as well.

Rolling onto his stomach, Methos lifted his ass into the air. Duncan came up behind him and nudged at the small opening. "You sure?"

"Oh yeah." Methos pushed himself to his knees and awkwardly grabbed the little bottle of hotel-supplied hand lotion off of the night stand. "Use this if it makes you feel better." He tossed it to MacLeod, who looked grateful.

Methos clutched a pillow to his chest and sighed. Virgins. Well, probably not; just a lack of experience with male immortals.

He grunted as one lotion-slick finger tentatively penetrated his ass, then two. "MacLeod, hurry up." As far as Methos was concerned, Duncan could have shoved his fist straight up his bum, no lubricant required. Just that incredible feeling of fullness-oh yeah, like that.

Duncan's cock felt like a bloody tree branch as it pushed in, pulling and stretching him open. And it felt so damn good, too. Duncan was gentle, easing in to him, when all Methos really wanted was for Duncan to grab him by the hips and slam himself home. He heard a long shuddering moan, but he wasn't sure if it was Duncan's voice or his own. Then Duncan began to pump, slowly at first, then faster as Methos rose up to meet him, their balls crashing together with each thrust. Duncan wrapped himself around Methos' body, moaning his lust. Methos shook his head, fighting for breath as the thrusting became almost too intense. Duncan grabbed Methos' shaft, masturbating him with firm, even strokes. The rhythm increased, and suddenly Duncan froze for one brief moment, before pouring himself into Methos. The feeling of Duncan's hand moving against him, sliding over his slickened cock was the main course in a feast of sensation. Duncan's cock still filled him, the scent of sex filled the air, and the feeling of Duncan's hands overloaded his senses, and Methos levered up himself upright, reaching back and grabbing his arms around Duncan's ass, shoving Duncan into him as deep and hard as possible as he came.

Duncan wrapped his arms around Methos and pulled him in tight to his chest, his head resting on Methos' shoulder. Whispering into Methos' neck, MacLeod gentled him like a horse. "Shh, it's okay , Methos. It's over," Concern etched his voice, as he eased himself out of his partner and laid him upon the bed. "Did you need anything?" he whispered anxiously as he settled down beside Methos.

"One," Methos replied, still panting a bit, "I am an immortal," he swallowed, "so you didn't hurt me. And two," he ran his hand over his friend's chest to his slippery and wet thighs, and patted him. "That was incredible. Soon as I catch my breath, we can do it again."

Duncan laughed, and pushed his hair back from his face. "Maybe later. You want a warm cloth or something?"

Methos nodded and lay back against the pillows. "That would be great."

He woke up in the middle of the night, Duncan still solidly asleep beside him. Light from the full moon pooled on their bed, accentuating Duncan's length with its shadows. Methos sighed and eased himself out of bed. He pulled on the hotel-supplied white terry cloth robe and belted it. He walked to the window and stared out at the city. It would be easy to leave; it was something he was used to. It was just that he didn't have any role for this: no master, no slave, no puppet, no puppeteer, no husband, no wife. He pulled his arms in close, hugging the robe to him.

He turned his back to the window and looked down at Duncan. The Highlander sighed in his sleep and rolled onto his back, hair splayed about his head like a dark halo. It reminded him of those statues in Darius' church...

Methos stood in Darius' office, staring up at the icon of Mary. "MacLeod's fine Darius, let him be. He has a lover, and a good life. Don't take it away from him."

"I'm not going to be taking away anyone's life, Methos, I want to save it. Duncan is unprepared. They will be coming after him soon."

"There will be other Gatherings, Darius, you know that. It's our version of the millennium. Every thousand years or so some religious fanatic decides it's the end time, and the whole bloody business starts back up for awhile. Let it go. I'm tired of the killing, Darius, just like MacLeod, just like you. Why drag him back into the whole mess?"

Darius responded with a single word: "Silas."

"Silas?" Methos paused in front of Darius. "You can't be serious." He turned and paced to the end of the room. "Why, he hasn't stepped outside of his forest in a thousand years."

Darius moved behind Methos and breathed another name. "Caspian."

"Ah." Methos stopped his pacing.


Methos sat down.

Darius moved to the right of Methos. "The Kurgan." Methos looked up at him "Kalas. Any number of others, of course. One of them will come after MacLeod and take his head, and the rest of us will follow. The Gathering will become a reality, and we shall all end up dead."

Methos stood and stared out the window into the moonlight. "Damn you, Darius, I said I didn't want to be involved."

Darius rested his hand on Methos shoulder. "We must all become involved in some fashion, old friend. I'm not asking you to fight, merely to help me find a way to shape our champion into what we need." He drew a up two chairs and gestured for Methos to sit. "You are the master at this, tell me your plan."

He turned to look at Darius, and saw the old warrior he knew sitting there, rather than the priest. "To make MacLeod into what we want means others must die."

Darius looked over at the chessboard. "It is a sacrifice that must be made."

Methos followed his gaze. "Not according to the pawn."

He should have known that getting Duncan involved would mean that he would become involved. The irony of that was too beautiful for the universe to pass by. Methos closed the curtains and the room darkened enough so that he would be able to sleep. He removed his robe and slid into bed. The game was still not over; hopefully, it would never be over. Otherwise, pawn or planner, one of them would be dead. Methos reached out and stroked the Highlander's chest, then nestled down under MacLeod's outstretched arm. Methos had loved each of his mortal wives passionately, remembering them long after the day they died. He could do no less with Duncan MacLeod, no matter what the future held.

The morning's paper arrived with their room service breakfast. They pulled the Sunday paper apart, Methos taking Travel, Duncan taking local, and snuggled back into bed with coffee, juice, and rolls. On page twelve, in the local police blotter section, the results of the investigation into Methos' apartment fire was listed. The Fire Marshall was quoted as saying that the fire was due to the improper disposal of linseed oil-laden rags used to finish the apartment floor while the owner had been away on vacation. The rags had undergone spontaneous combustion in the night, and that no evidence of arson existed.

Methos laid the paper back against the sheets. "Well, that's good. I'd hate to wake up one morning and find I'd set fire to myself in my sleep."

"You think you're worried. I'm the one with all the hair, and I'd hate to have it burned off one night."

Methos laced his fingers though Duncan's hair. "So would I, MacLeod."

Duncan smiled, "That's not to say I'm against lighting a few fires of our own."

"Oh? And what did you have in mind?"

Duncan reached under the blankets and massaged Methos' cock. "How bout we start with some kindling?"

Methos groaned. "That's one way to do it."

Duncan laughed, and kissed him.