Gulf of Desire
by Rachael Sabotini


CYA: All standard disclaimers apply, whatever they might be. I don't own these guys, but I do like to have fun with them. I make no money off this; I mean no harm.

Part One

Experience, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The damning entry glared at him from the transcription screen, the latest update to MacLeod's chronicle, the words 'male lover' like a knife thrust in his side. Methos steadied himself, re-reading the notation once again.

Apparently, MacLeod has taken a male lover, identity unknown, and Ryan was upset about it.

He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. 'Identity unknown.' That was one small comfort, and the lack of the word 'immortal' was another -- but what was watched and what was reported were often two different things.

His eyes flashed open. Joe had given Duncan MacLeod information on a fellow Watcher, had actually sent MacLeod to another Watcher's home.

That wasn't an act of strangers; MacLeod and Dawson were obviously friends.

So, did Joe know that Adam was the 'unidentified lover?' Was he hiding that information because Adam was a Watcher?

Or did he know Adam was immortal?

Did he know Adam was Methos?

Chills settled along his spine and Methos glanced at the clock. So many questions. If he called now, he'd catch Joe in bed...completely unaware.

And Methos wanted to know how much of a secret he had left to keep.

He pulled the phone in close and closed his eyes, centering himself. He'd needed to call Joe anyway, and tell him about the bookstore; might as well do it now. If Joe knew anything, he'd surely betray such knowledge in his reaction to his friend 'Adam Pierson's' call.

He opened his eyes and dialed, listening intently as it rang through, pulling on the mask of vulnerability with practiced ease.

Someone picked up the receiver.


The damn phone was ringing. There was nothing worse than a good dream interrupted by a bad phone call, and at this time of day, it had to be bad news. He fumbled for the phone, if only to stop its incessant squeal. "Joe Dawson," he muttered. Whoever this was, it had damn well better be worth it.

"Joe! It's Adam Pierson. Don't you just love these middle of the night phone calls?"

Joe managed not to yell 'fuck no'. Instead he gritted his teeth and tried to be polite. "It's not midnight. It's"--he looked at the clock--"7 a.m. What's up?"

Pierson sounded like a cat with a bowl of cream. "Congratulations. It looks like you're the proud owner of an American bookstore in Paris, Joe."

"What?" Joe pushed himself upright and braced himself against the headboard.

"Well, co-owner, anyway. After Darius died, Don changed his will. It seems Ian didn't want to be in Paris anymore, therefore, you and I are the proud owners of the local branch of Shakespeare and Company."

Dawson ran his hand across his face and scratched under his chin, noticing the stubble. Man, he needed a shave. Adam's words finally penetrated the fog in his brain. This had to be some sort of weird joke. "You're kidding, right?"

"Oh, no, I'm not. I'm quite serious, Joe. We own a bookstore. Well, at least we will once the lawyers finish all of the paperwork."

Joe groaned, the image of the IRS breathing down his neck trying to get a share of his foreign income looming large in his imagination. Great, another tax headache he didn't need. "Is there anything we can do?"

Adam cleared his throat. "I was wondering if you might be interested in selling your share."

"To you?"

"No, I've got another buyer lined up."

"Who? Someone we know?" He frowned, somewhat concerned. Don liked to squirrel information away like nuts for winter; there was no telling how much Watcher-related material was actually on-site.

"Let's just say they represent a small society interested in preserving the past."

Joe relaxed against the headboard again. "Why do you have to be so mysterious? Can't you just say 'The Watchers will buy it?'"

"What would be the fun in that?"

Sometimes, Pierson's sense of humor left a lot to be desired. "Hell, yes, sell it," Joe grunted. He didn't want any more headaches. The bar was bad enough.

"Great. It'll take a while for everything to get straightened out, but I'll give you a call when it's ready. You may need to come to Paris to sign the paperwork. Will that be a problem?"

Mac was in Paris right now. It might actually be a good time to visit. He shook his head. "Nah, no problem at all."

"Thanks, Joe. I'll let you know as soon as I can."

As Dawson hung up the phone, he remembered what Duncan had said: Adam Pierson was Methos. He and the world's oldest living immortal owned a bookstore together. Joe had to smile. That had to be an even more incestuous relationship than the one he enjoyed with MacLeod. It was certainly one for the books -- too bad he couldn't write it down.

Joe didn't know.

With a sigh of relief, Methos hung up the phone, but left his hand still resting on the receiver.

Despite the reason for the call, it had been good to hear Joe's voice, even though it set memories in stark relief: Darius' death, Don's murder, the Kalas affair, and Duncan MacLeod.

He knew he should not continue to read the Highlander's chronicles, but the temptation had been too much to resist; he'd hadn't really had anything else to do while waiting for Kalas' trial. Everyone tiptoed around him, making tut-tut noises everytime he showed in the library stacks.

It was a bit unnerving, to be the focus of so many stares. He stopped going to work, and took off some 'personal time', hoping everything would quiet down by the time he got back ...if he got back.

Methos knew he should have been long gone by now; he should have already left Paris for parts unknown, far away from either Kalas or MacLeod.

But he found he couldn't abandon the Watchers; strangely, they had become a constant through centuries of change. When he felt weak and tired, the Watchers provided him with a wonderful haven, a sanctuary where no one bothered him or his books. Ten years was almost too long to stay in one place, but the incessant need to adapt had worn a little thin again, and somehow, he could not bring himself to leave. Instead, Methos had simply chosen to rest.

Ever since that night on the barge, though, he'd not been able to do that. Thoughts of MacLeod wormed their way under his carefully-engineered defenses, and Methos felt the rhythm of the Highlander's fire as vividly as he felt the pulse of his own heart.

Which was why he never went anywhere in Paris where Duncan MacLeod could find him. So, between Duncan and Kalas, he was trapped in his new apartment in the City of Lights. His sanctuary was not his home; it had become a prison, a cage of complex desires, and Methos craved his freedom.

He pulled his hand off the phone and paced into the living room, looking around the flat. It wasn't even a place of his own choosing -- the Watchers had found it for him after Kalas came for Adam Pierson -- and Methos could not feel comfortable here. The 'newness' of the building got to him, and every inch of the room reminded him of the life he had so recently built, and the impermanence of this existence.

He wanted something in this world to be as immortal as himself -- even the stars had changed their positions since the time of his birth -- and he could feel the world dying with each second that passed, each breath he took. He needed to know that there was something -- someone -- who wasn't self-destructive and full of hate when life went on too long, who still had the strength to embrace life, despite omnipresent death.

He needed to have faith.

And no matter how deserved or undeserved, he had faith in Duncan MacLeod.

Methos shook his head at his own folly, knowing he'd already swallowed the lure. Despite the promises he'd made to himself over a century ago, Methos wanted MacLeod. He wanted to feel Duncan press against him, and allow himself be consumed by their mutual desire...

But once he touched MacLeod's fire, he wasn't sure he could ever get free; he'd ridden that road to self-destruction too many times not to recognize the open gate.

His thoughts drifted for a moment, away to another time. Byron had been the last immortal he'd taken as a lover, other than those few hours with MacLeod. After that brief affair in the early 1800's, Methos had sworn: never again. No students, no immortal lovers, and few immortal friends.

Yet a traitorous part of him whispered, "It would be different with MacLeod."

As student or as lover, he wondered at himself.

Methos jerked away from his thoughts, and sprawled back against his almost-couch, pulling his laptop onto his stomach. There were so many things to do, now that Don was gone. A new Head Researcher had been chosen, and 'Adam Pierson' was suddenly faced with the reality of updating his files. He laid his head back against the cushioned arm of the couch and thought for a moment, then opened a new file.

Computerized and compartmentalized, Methos tried to decide which lie to tell. Almost of their own volition, his hands washed over the keyboard, the re-telling of his first encounter with Lord Byron pulling his attention away from what had happened with MacLeod that night.

"Doctor, come quickly. Lord Byron has been shot!"

Methos gathered up his bag, and rushed out, of his small office to the stables, and quickly hitched the horse and wagon, in case he needed to bring the injured man back to the surgery. At least the fools had chosen a pleasant day for it, Methos thought as the buggy lurched in the rutted road toward the manor.

Just outside the gate, Methos pulled the horses to an abrupt halt, feeling the fading remnants of a pre-immortal quickening on the challenge field. He glanced quickly around, a half-dozen people wringing their hands ineffectually around him, and finally focused on the prone, bloody figure of the man he'd been brought here to treat: George Gordon, Lord Byron. The poet's legendary excesses had gotten him into trouble again, and obviously this duel had been the result.

Even from here, Methos could tell that he had been called too late, but the song of a pre-immortal meant constructing a quick lie. He pushed the gawkers out of the way, shoving everyone aside to get to the body before Byron actually expired.

He quickly pulled a cloth over the seeping wound as Byron's eyes rolled back into his head; within a minute, the poet died.

The crowd was still at first, then the air was rent with screams and cries of despair. "He's dead! Lord Byron is dead."

Methos held up his hand, and raised his voice to be heard over the growing cacophony. "He's not dead. Just passed out from the pain, that's all. I'll need someone to help me get him into the wagon."

A large man in brown tweed stepped out of the crowd, and Methos gestured at him to take Byron's legs. The man hesitated a moment, and Methos barked at him. "For gods' sake, man. He won't bite."

The man steeled himself, and together they laid the injured man into the back of the cart, and Methos checked for signs of a pulse. Thankfully, healing had not yet started; with a nod toward his helper to thank him, Methos nimbly hopped into the driver's seat and sped away toward town.

The surge of the new-immortal pulsed through him halfway there, and Methos stopped the horses, and twisted around to look into the cart. Byron lay on a pallet of straw, flexing his hands like he had never seen them before, holding them up before his face.

Methos nodded. "They're still yours. Nothing happened to them."

"But something should have." Byron looked up at him. "I died."

Methos turned completely around and threw his legs over the wooden bench so that they dangled into the cart, carefully watching Byron's reaction. "You did die, yes. But you're not dead now."

The poet seemed to be handling this rather well, leering up between Methos' knees as he spoke. "Sorcery?"

"Of a sort." Methos felt his pulse quicken in response to the smile, and quickly clamped down his thought. He held out his hand, offering Byron a lift up, the brief touch encouraging the flicker of desire. He immediately dampened the flame, picking up the teacher role once again. "Come sit beside me while we drive. There is much to talk about."

For possibly the last time in their relationship, Byron did as he was told; Methos clicked to the horses to speed them on their way.

Methos renamed the file and saved it -- there was no need for the Watchers to know that story. He'd stayed with Byron for two years, before the man's obsession with death drove Methos away. It was the longest stretch of time he'd had with a student in recent memory, yet one of the shortest for any of his lovers.

Methos had never been good at killing old lovers, a flaw he knew would someday end his life. Kronos still walked the earth because of his failure; the same could be said of Byron as well, and a dozen others, if he thought about it. How many more demons did Methos need to set free?

And what would it be like with MacLeod? What demons did the Highlander have hiding under his skin, like Byron's death obsession or Kronos' sadism, that Methos would eventually see? Could the two of them actually survive one another, or would it all be destroyed in some cataclysmic event?

He knew, someday, if his back was against it, or the Gathering truly arrived, he could kill his old lovers, but he had prided himself at keeping that last wolf at bay for so long. He had survived five thousand years without killing someone he'd once loved; he ran a hell of a lot, for one thing; avoided fights for another -- and stopped taking immortals as lovers.

He set the computer down onto the floor and stood, stretching his cramped muscles, rolling his shoulders and neck. He drifted through the room, his hand reflexively touching each of the new pieces of furniture, memorizing them, cataloging them for future reference. He ended up at the window overlooking the Seine, the one with the view down onto Notre Dame, and pressed his forehead against the glass. He felt the heat from his body escape, and the cold of the night air penetrate his skin.

As he stared at his own reflection, he wondered if MacLeod felt as lost as he did right now, like an old ship in a new harbor, or a bear driven out of his own woods. He still had one month until Kalas' trial; one month living in the Watchers' version of protective custody; one more month until the cage would open and he would be free --

Yet he would still be trapped by his need for Duncan MacLeod.

A vivid tactile memory surged through him, momentarily wiping away the view. He felt Duncan's chest pressed tightly against his own, felt the strong beat of the big heart inside that broad chest, felt the glide of their tongues sliding together, breathed the smell of their bodies as they made love on the salon floor. The intense image suddenly fled, leaving Methos panting, his cock hard, and his breath misting against the glass.

Methos pressed his hands against the cold windowpane, pushed himself away, and pulled the curtain closed for the night.

"Ceredwyn, don't do this." Mac's voice carried into the room as he watched her from the doorway; she stood silently, blade-down, readying herself for the kill.

Police sirens echoed in the background, unnoticed by the three caught in the deadly tableau: Ceredwyn, looming over one of the men responsible for her husband's death, and the man's younger brother, a near-child, pleading for his life. Mac tried to push sanity into the moment, even though he understood the depth of her rage. "Leave him to the police."

She looked at Duncan, her eyes demanding that he remember, remember the days when he had sought justice after Culloden, remember the day Tessa had died and what he would have done to her murderer.

Duncan's lips thinned as he denied her unspoken cry for justice. This was a matter for the police. The transgressions of mortals required mortal laws, and immortals ought not be involved, any more than mortals should judge immortal affairs.

At that thought Mac remembered the last time police had been involved in his immortal affairs. Methos' image flashed in his mind, Methos wrapped in his trench coat, hunched against the rain, turning away from the police van, Methos, naked in the low light of the barge, turning toward him...

Methos straddled the line between mortal and immortal, and right now, Duncan envied him that. At the time, he'd found the ambiguity disturbing, in some primal way distinctly unsettling, seductive, and tantalizing at the same time.

Mac knew he wanted to spend at least one more night with the man, to taste and discover who Methos really was: Adam Pierson, mortal and Watcher, or Immortal Methos, world's oldest man.

Brutally, Mac shoved away the clawing images of his past and re-focused in the present, on Ceredwyn's needs. The police poured out of the van, and up the short stair; Ceredwyn growled in frustration, lowering her sword. She left the mortals to the gendarmes and stalked off into the main part of the house.

Duncan watched the police a moment, taking the time to pull his scattered thoughts together.

He'd told Ceredwyn about his relationship with Anne Lindsey, yet as much as he tried to hold the image of Anne in his mind, thoughts of Methos intruded. Methos' disappearance seemed to have left almost as big a hole in Mac's life as having to leave Anne.

In fact, Anne and Methos seemed linked in his mind, despite their differences, perhaps because Kalas had forced his hand in both cases.

From his own thoughts, Mac couldn't tell which one he wanted more. Maybe he was just using the memory of Methos as a way of distancing himself from Anne's pain at his false death, from his own pain at her inevitable death.

They all knew mortals died; how long did it take before the ache went away? Duncan grew still in wonder. After five thousand years, did Methos still feel the pain when mortals died? Did he still mourn for some lover, dead now for a millennium or more? Hard to imagine how he had the strength to carry on.

Mac reset his shoulders and followed Ceredwyn, gently taking her arm once he caught up with her on the stairs.

"You gonna be okay?" The moment he said it, he knew the pointlessness of the question. Had he been okay when Tessa died?

"No." She wrapped her arm around Duncan as they continued up the stairs. "Not for a long time. I'm not gonna forget him, Mac, you know...but the fifteen years was worth it...I'd trade it for fifteen years of pain." She dropped her arms from Mac as they got to the landing and hugged herself instead, her voice more confident than it had been when they'd started the climb. "I'd trade a hundred."

But would you trade it for a thousand, or five thousand, or ten? Is that brief moment of time ever really enough?

Mac wasn't sure he could say that about himself. He'd loved Tessa deeply; she'd provided him with an anchor for close to fifteen years. She'd given his heart a home.

And in return, he'd taken away everything she had known, and traded himself for her dreams of generations. It seemed an unfair exchange. "But what about the price they pay? No family, living in secrecy, waiting for the night you never come back."

He knew, eventually, that he'd find a new lover, as he'd found Anne. Immortals always moved on, found new loves and new lives, or else they just closed up and died. Someday, maybe, he'd find someone else like Tessa, someone who could give him that sense of place and home she had created, someone who would accept him completely for who and what he was.

And if they were mortal, he would watch them die, as Deborah had died, the way Little Deer had died, and the way Tessa had died, each time his home vanishing once again. He would always end up rootless and alone.

Duncan's voice dropped to a near-whisper, "What if we're not supposed to be with them?" What if immortals were supposed to live their lives alone?

His gut tightened into a knot, denial a ready weapon. It could not be. He had no desire to survive for centuries living alone and apart from life. He craved it; he needed to be surrounded by life, by color and light and love.

But what was the alternative? An immortal lover? His liaisons with Amanda barely lasted long enough for the milk they bought to sour; she had no interest in a permanent home.

Some days, Mac thought her wanderlust greater than his own.

There was a pull, and a tug deep within him, and the memory of an insouciant smile. Duncan squashed the image of Methos, knowing that that was just a different route to pain. There was no respite, no sanctuary for their loneliness. A moment, an instant lasting as long as fifty years, was the best they could hope to have.

Duncan had tried to imagine what it would be like to live with someone and watch the centuries change around them; Gina and Robert were the only ones he knew of that had even attempted to. The game always got in the way.

Mac just could not envision being forced to kill someone he had loved, yet that's what would happen when the gathering finally came. He would have to kill students, friends and lovers; how could he kill Richie, his almost-son?

Would he ever be able to kill his own wife?

The pain of Tessa's death was still sharp, but Mac knew it would fade in time, as the others had. Could the same be said of the day he had to kill one of his own?

Mac could not imagine a larger hell.

Suddenly, loving mortals seemed a much better choice than it had minutes ago; if they didn't have to give up so much, it might even be worth it.

"They're not children." Ceredwyn spoke with sincerity, the truth of her words shoring up his fragmented thoughts. "They make their own decisions. Stephen knew what I was and he chose to be with me." She stroked her hands down MacLeod's face, and left her palms resting on his shoulders, reinforcing her words with touch. "Are you sure Anne wouldn't do the same thing? If you love her, don't make that choice for her."

Duncan nodded, her words a lifeline now as they had been a lifeline in the past, when he had been drowning within himself, submerged in his demonic passion for revenge. Anne was a compassionate and intelligent career-oriented woman who seemed to have little interest in a family of her own. Maybe children wouldn't be that much to miss; her career would come first. She had only wanted Duncan to open up to her, to share his life with her. That wasn't such a large task.

Tessa had wanted children and gave that dream up for him; Anne seemed to have already made that choice.

And Mac thought he and Anne got along rather well.

The police took their statements before Mac left Ceredwyn's house. Part of him still didn't believe that mortals and immortals belonged together, but there was really no other choice. Without love, an eternity of loneliness awaited, and Mac knew he could not survive that.

As he walked out to the car, he made his decision. He'd call Joe tomorrow and get him to set up something with Anne. He slid behind the wheel and grinned to himself; Richie would like that. He'd thought Mac crazy for leaving her in the first place, ragging on him about how much she loved him, and why he shouldn't let her go.

Now Rich would have a chance to crow about how right he'd been all the time; the kid was going to be insufferable for the next few weeks.

As he drove home, Duncan made plans for what would happen: he would talk with Anne, explaining to her what had happened, and why he had had to leave. He would charm her and offer to bring her to Paris, invite her to share the mystery of his life, and discover if she were willing to ease some of the loneliness he felt inside.

And in return, he'd try to ease her loneliness as well.

Richard Ryan died the day Kalas went to trial, a coincidence that was laced with irony. Methos laid the paper down on the glass-topped table, not really interested in the rest of the news. Two minutes was the entire length of time he'd seen the young immortal; two minutes that had shifted the path of his life, changing the very nature of his relationship with MacLeod. Over the course of the last month, Methos couldn't help but wonder what would have happened had he stayed. Would they be friends, now? Lovers?

Or would one of them have taken the other's head?

It was better not to know.

He picked up the paper again and stared at it, the obituary already memorized, the facts as vague as most other immortals' "mortal obituaries", other than the passing reference to Duncan MacLeod.

Where Ryan would go now was anybody's guess, but he couldn't stay in Paris. Methos glanced at the headlines again, reading of the tragedy on the race track. How would MacLeod take it? Richie'd been with Mac for three years now, off and on; MacLeod treated the kid like family.

Methos toyed with the idea of visiting the barge, see if he could do anything to help, make some arrangements for Ryan, perhaps.

He stood and piled the dishes together, grabbed his coat from the hook. The weight of the sword pulled down the fabric as he swung it onto his shoulders, the sheer heaviness of it shocking him like a severe blow.

He'd wanted to do the same for Christine when he'd first learned of Don's death, but Kalas had interfered. He was thinking of MacLeod as if they were already friends.

Chills ghosted over his arms, making his hair stand on end. If this was his reaction after only one night, what would he be like if they spent more time together?

How much of his life would the Highlander own?

Methos gently removed the coat and replaced it on the coat rack, running his hand down the woolen sleeve. He had no reason to see MacLeod. The Highlander was completely capable of handling any problems around Ryan's death; he faced that sort of thing often enough himself. Foolishness, really, to get so worked up over a man he'd known so briefly.

A man who wasn't even his friend.

Grabbing his coat like that, just as he would have if MacLeod had been a mortal lover, simply pointed out how long he'd been living a mortal life, and how long he'd been hiding his true nature from himself.

Really, after ten years, it was time to move on. Time he started making plans for Adam Pierson to shuffle off this mortal coil, and for Methos to find himself a new situation.

And once Kalas was in prison, the timing would be right for 'Adam' to vanish. The Watchers wouldn't question his resignation after 'that ghastly incident with Don.'

First, though, he needed to make sure that every trace of their special project was destroyed. It would be embarrassing if a standard inventory assessment turned up a copy of a secret database.

Something inside him ached as he started the water running to fill the dish tub, the echo of a single set of china briskly being scrubbed the only sound in the room, his mind repeating its mantra in many languages, time to move on.

When the silence got too loud, Methos turned on the CD player, cranked up the volume almost too high, and lost himself in the synthetic sounds of life.

Despite his profound doubts and Anne's initial disbelief, they seemed to have worked past the uncomfortable impossibility of his existence and moved into their familiar, comforting, intimate foreplay.

Duncan lounged on his bed, propping himself up on one arm, playfully nipping at Anne's fingers as she laughed and fed him bits of cheese and grapes from a plate. He bathed himself in her presence, letting her warmth drive the sense of loneliness from his mind and body.

She slid the plate onto the bedstand, and turned into his insistent caress, her desperation almost as tangible as his own.

Fascination and desire lit her voice as she talked. "I can't believe this. I'm actually in bed with an older man, a man who came over on the Mayflower."

Duncan quietly laughed, his voice heated with desire. "Impossible. I'd never make it as a Puritan." He gently pushed her down on the bed, nipping at her throat, letting the feel of her long, slim legs, the rapid beat of her heart, and the softness of her breath generate the sexual energy to fill up the ache within him.

From the moment he'd seen her at the airport, he had questioned his decision. Ceredwyn had been so convincing, advising him to let mortals choose their own lives, that he'd thought this was what he wanted.

But as he'd watched her sorting through his treasures and mementos in the storage room, clinically discussing his DNA and turning his life into a genetics lesson, Mac had wondered if he'd made a fundamental mistake. She was a scientist; her life was made of objective, quantifiable pieces of data, rather than the mysteries that surrounded immortal life. How could she be happy living with riddles?

Pressing himself between her legs, feeling her strong thighs grip his torso, laughing as they teased one another with gentle kisses, he felt confident that calling her had been the right thing to do. Their awkwardness and desperation came from being separated for so long, rather than inconsolable loneliness. Just having her here was enough; they would grow used to each other in time.

He nibbled her neck, feeling their passion build again, when the signature bolt of an immortal made him raise his head and look to the door. "Ah, no." He closed his eyes and dropped his head in defeat; the irony of the moment almost overwhelming. It had to be Richie; the kid had developed a talent for discovering Duncan in compromising situations.

He steeled himself for the inevitable discovery when the door would open without announcement, just like the last time. At least instead of the strong, spare form of another man, this time Richie would find him wrapped around the soft curves of a woman; Mac wasn't really sure why that difference mattered so much.

"What?" Anne's voice and the warmth of her body pulled him back from the brink of memory. She kissed him, trying to re-start their play, not understanding that another immortal was near.

"Duncan?" she whispered, his lack of response obviously unsettling. Her face held more puzzlement than fear, but MacLeod pulled away, mentally preparing himself just in case he was wrong...and to make certain there wasn't a big scene for Richie to walk in on this time.

Miracles happen: Rich actually knocked and shouted "Mac!" without opening the door. Maybe he had learned something from the last time.

"Go away!" Duncan looked at Anne, trying to hide the weight of sadness around his heart, to recapture the security he'd felt just minutes before with her, knowing he could not.

Rich's voice came from just outside the door. "Please, it's important. I'm sorry."

It would have to be important, wouldn't it, for Rich to come between Anne and him right now.

Richie had been almost more excited by Anne's visit than Mac had been, using every opportunity to play up her charms in Duncan's presence. "She's smart. She's charming, and she has know."

Mac had nodded, a smile creeping onto his face. "Yeah, I know."

It was the first time they'd really joked in quite a while. Not since Richie had 'died' and moved in with Mac. Maybe not since the night Methos had disappeared.

"Anyway," Rich had continued, "I'm going to look for a new place. Give you guys a chance to bond with each other."

Duncan shook his head. "It's not safe."

"It's never safe, Mac. Besides, you two will stay up all night, making enough noise to wake the dead, and trust me, I need to get my beauty sleep."

"Yeah, you obviously aren't getting enough."

So Rich had moved out into a new place, the same day Anne had arrived. They hadn't had a chance to even say hello to each other yet.

Anne giggled, pulling Mac back from his brooding thoughts. "It's okay."

Like hell it was. But it was something that needed to be dealt with.

They pulled apart, each of them retying their robes. Anne couldn't seem to stop laughing, whether at the situation or at the look on Duncan's face, it was hard to say.

Richie stuck his head in the door, but quickly pulled back when he noticed Anne wasn't completely dressed. "Mac?"

Mac remembered the horror in Richie's eyes at the sight of Methos and Duncan standing naked in the barge salon. "Okay, yeah, come in."

Rich fully opened the door and stood there, letting in the cold morning air and the sound of the seagulls.

Kneeling on the bed, Duncan beckoned at him reluctantly. "Come in." Mac glanced at Anne; she seemed more amused than horrified, still laughing as she looked over her shoulder at Richie before fixing her belt.

Rich closed the door behind him and took off his sunglasses. "I'm sorry." He slowly walked down the steps, his helmet clutched in his left hand. "Somebody recognized me."

"I knew this would happen." Mac cinched his own belt tighter, as if he could armor himself with the scant bit of cloth.

Rich had been stupid to stay in Paris at all, with his death happening in such a public way. Duncan had warned him against racing in the first place, but the kid refused to listen. Mac had finally dropped it, rather than force the issue. The kid could dig his own way out if something happened -- and it looked like something had.

"I was in a cafe." Somehow, Rich sounded simultaneously apologetic and defiant as he stumbled through his explanation, "a little place in the middle of nowhere, you'd never think anyone would know me in a million years..." His voice trailed off and he looked down from the steps at Duncan, who was still kneeling on the bed.

Mac couldn't keep the anger from his voice. "Yeah, but some one did?" This whole discussion was pointless. Why the hell had the kid come running back here? What did he expect Duncan to do about it?

"Well, it turns out that a couple of the mechanics from the track hang out there, saw me crash, the whole nine yards." Richie seemed to have lost about ten years somewhere, sounding closer to twelve than twenty.

MacLeod looked away, angry with himself for not trying harder to push Rich out of the country. "But you talked them out of it," he insisted. They had merely postponed what should have already been done -- Richie would have find a new identity and leave the country, just like any other immortal. The kid would be on his own again -- they both would.

Rich seemed to realize the inevitable as well. "I tried to, but I don't think they heard me over the shouting."

Anne interrupted them, obviously confused by their conversation. "'Scuze me, but could somebody clue me in, please?" She was laughing and smiling, running her fingers through her hair.

Duncan stared at her for a moment. What the hell had possessed him to ask her back? To reveal his immortality to her?

Mac clamped down on that resentment as well as his anger at Richie, automatically making excuses for them both.

Anne had no idea what was going on, and Rich was just a little freaked. He'd never had to deal with anyone knowing he was immortal before.

At the thought, Duncan shot a look at Richie, a look that told him to lay it on the line, not caring how uncomfortable it made the young immortal feel. This wasn't about comfort; this was about life. "Go ahead." Let *him* see what it felt like to tell someone about immortality.

Richie was obviously at sea, searching for the right words to say, before finally settling on a blunt statement of fact. "I died."

Startled, Anne sat up straighter, lost her smile and turned to Duncan for reassurance. "He's a...?"

Mac nodded, translating her words into emotions. "Yeah." Richie's one of "them", Anne, just like I am. Someone who lives a secret life, who deals in death and lies and furtive meetings.

Is that really what you want?

He could tell his smile was tight and forced, but he couldn't change it. He could hear Anne's voice, echoing in the hollow place in his heart, talking about experiments and DNA, and his doubts redoubled themselves.

He glanced back at Rich, and then to turned to Anne. "But this is a little different this time." Mac grimaced at the stupidity of the situation, of the kid in front of him, of the man inside him. "He did it in front of thousands of people." The enormity of the facts hit Duncan again, and he jerked away from Anne. "This isn't good, Rich."

Richie shrugged, the chip obviously back on his shoulder. "I got out of it okay."

"Yeah, but what about next time?"

"Yeah, I know, I should get out of town."

Duncan knew he was overreacting, but he couldn't stop himself. Part of it was his own anger at himself, for letting this happen; part of it was anger with Anne, for her inability to just accept him; part of it was anger with Rich, for just being so young. The kid was in too much danger right now, and he couldn't even see it. Any immortal in the world could have heard of Richard Ryan's death. Once rumors surfaced that the racer was still alive and in town, a headhunter could easily put the pieces together and track him down.

Or some hotshot mortal reporter might decide to investigate Ryan's death. A dogged enough search might even expose the existence of immortals, putting "them" all at risk.

Rich might not realize it yet, but the rules for his survival meant the survival of all the immortals -- good and bad -- when it came to the possibility of mortals finding the truth. Neither witch hunts, nor the slaughter of all immortals was beyond the realm of imagination, and Duncan didn't want anyone burned at the stake. "No, you better get out of the country."

Richie refused to look at MacLeod, preferring his view of the floor.

Mac dropped his voice, trying to ease up a bit. "I know someone who can get you a new passport."

Richie looked pointedly at him, and Mac flushed. The last time something like this had happened, with Grace a couple of years ago, Mac had taken care of it himself. But Richie needed to learn how do this for himself, needed to learn how and why to blend in.

He needed to learn how to keep his head.

Rich looked away from him, anger seeping through his pores. He obviously thought this whole thing was pretty well fucked.

Anne broke in on their silent communication. "So that's it? He just disappears, just like that?"

Duncan nodded. "Just like that." He looked directly into Anne's eyes, reinforcing his point, before he saw the question in hers.

Would Mac disappear on her again?

Embarrassed, he looked away. He had stolen out of Seacouver the same way Richie was leaving Paris, with no notice and no intent to return. She had seen him fall from the balcony in his fight with Kalas; she had seen him die.

He was never supposed to see her again.

With sudden clarity, he realized he'd been trying to make Anne into another Tessa, trying to use her to ground his own life, rather than letting her be who she really was, and loving her for herself.

He needed to do what he was forcing Richie to do: make his own life, his own place in the world, without anyone mortal involved. His anger vanished once his decision was reached, every rationalization sluicing away like ice in a spring thaw.

He looked at Richie, and Mac realized just how hard he'd been on the kid. He tried to offer an olive branch and make amends. "Richie, you can stay here until you find a place."

Rich wasn't quite willing to let it go, not that Duncan blamed him. "No, that's okay, I'm all right where I am."

Anne couldn't seem to make up her mind about where to look, her gaze bouncing between them and the room. "So...I don't know what to say."

Richie shrugged, slapping his helmet with his hand, disappointment almost palpable. "Hey, made the record book: most promising rookie who ever died. How many guys can say that?"

The phone rang, and Richie waved his good-bye. Mac lunged across the bed to get it, glad to have the distraction from his turbulent thoughts.

The smell of ozone lingered in the chill night air, a remnant of the Quickening Rich had so recently taken. Duncan, his hands shoved deep in his coat pockets, escorted his still-trembling student to the car, slowly winding down the tree-lined walkway at the back of Kristov's estate.

"Mac." Richie groaned, pressing a fist into his stomach and doubling over. "I don't think I can walk."

Duncan turned around, and rested his hand on Rich's back. "Come on, it's not far. Just the other side of the gate."

Rich was sweating in the moonlight and mist; he gulped heavily, as if trying to keep his dinner down. His initial glee at having beheaded the drug-smuggling Cossack had abruptly changed to agony. "It's a...bad one...Mac." He crumpled to the ground, his body heaving into the grass. "I can't get him out of my mind!"

Damn Kristov. The kid shouldn't have to deal with that bastard's quickening; Mac should have taken Kristov's head. "Here, let me help you."

He leaned over Richie, offering him a hand and a lift up, but Rich scrabbled away through the grass, almost rolling in his haste to get away.

"Don't touch me!" His eyes were wild as he looked up at Duncan, with fear...and desire.

Damn. Kristov's memories were flooding through Richie's mind right now, tearing away any semblance of control.

And Kristov had always preferred men. Duncan raised his hands, palms out, as non-threatening a gesture as he knew how to make. "It's okay, Rich. I understand --"

"The fuck you do! I don't need a helping hand, and I don't need you to roll over for me simply because some god-damn quickening makes me horny." Richie looked away, pushing himself up from the grass to stand in front of MacLeod. "Maybe that's the way it works with some of your 'old friends', Mac, but it doesn't work that way with me."

With deliberate care, MacLeod dropped his hands and framed his next set of words. "Do you want me to leave? I can wait in the car."

Richie just stared at him and Mac sighed, looking away. "Rich --"

"I think that would be best."

Duncan nodded, and turned, only to be caught by the whispered voice following him.

"Kristov wanted you bad, Mac. He...he...remembered..." Richie audibly swallowed. "It wasn't an obsession, but it was something close."

Duncan froze and the words continued to spill across the frozen ground.

"At least, with his memories, I can see why that other guy was with you, Mac." Rich's voice had softened a bit, and a subtle accent gave it an eastern European quality; it reminded Duncan of Kristov. "He really was one lucky sonofabitch."

His hand stole to his sword at the odd turn of phase, more startled than wary, but Rich quickly took control over the mental remains of Kristov's existence. Richie's own voice reasserted itself, and trembled a bit as he spoke. "Heck, give me a few hundred years, and I might be willing to try it on my own."

Richie's attempted olive branch made tears prick in Duncan's eyes and Mac blinked them away, dropping his hand from his sword. Without turning, he nodded his acceptance, then walked unseeingly down the path to the car, Richie's voice a faded echo as unbidden memories swamped his mind, but they weren't memories of the Ukrainian steppes.

Mac could almost feel the press of Methos' body against his own, see the vague shimmer of Methos' naked form outlined in the moonlight. With a shiver, Mac pulled his coat tight around him and hurried on down the drive to wait in the car.

Part Two

It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing alien has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.

John-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

Jean-Claude's entries on MacLeod were much drier than Joe's, but the Highlander's European chronicler wrote incredibly detailed reports. Facts and notes without a hint of emotion, almost chilling in their scientific tone, described the return of Dr. Anne Lindsey to Duncan's life. He was careful to give the couple their privacy, but Methos still felt like a voyeur, reading the details of their daily lives.

Some things, the Watchers really didn't need to know.

His report of Ryan's kidnapping and Kristov's beheading were just as detailed; Methos wondered about what would have been reported had Claude -- rather than Rich's much younger, and less observant, Watcher -- seen the "incident at the barge", as Methos had come to think of it .

At least with both Anne and Rich in town, he no longer needed to think about Duncan being alone.

He closed the file and turned the computer off, swearing to himself that he would not look at the transcription files again, yet knowing, as he always did, the flavor of his own lies.

Good-byes were always awkward.

The flat gray sky seemed to match his mood as MacLeod drove into the huge parking lot at Orly. Richie was polite with Anne, saying good-bye while Duncan unloaded his bag from the trunk of the Citroen.

Mac looked at them a moment, then away again. Damn it, he didn't want Rich to leave right now, given what had happened with Kristov. But that was the way it had to be; they both needed to get on with their lives.

Mac glanced back at the car. At least Anne was still with him. Rich would have no one once he left Paris; he needed to do some traveling, he had said, "see more of the world, not just Seacouver and France."

Duncan smiled a bit as Richie walked over, his hands thrust deep in his pockets.

MacLeod tried to keep it casual, tried to find something light to say. "Looks like we've done this before."

"Yeah, this time I might make it out of the country." Rich smiled. "Thanks, Mac."

Duncan looked away a moment. "Aw, what for?"

"For not letting Kristov use me."

Duncan looked at Richie, seeing glimpses of the man he might yet become. "He thought you were a kid. He was wrong."

"Look, I just want you to know, that wherever I go, I - aw, hell, you know."

"I know."

Richie grabbed him, both arms tight around Duncan's shoulders.

Duncan uneasily returned the embrace, first his right arm, then his left slipping around Richie's torso, and patted him on the back.

Whatever had happened with Kristov's memories seemed to have changed Richie somehow; he wasn't the ball of anger that he'd been even two weeks ago.

Maybe the kid really was growing up.

When things between them seemed comfortable, Rich stepped back. "I'd kiss ya, but people might talk."

"They might." Duncan laid a hand on Rich's arm, a small smile creeping onto his face as he realized that Richie was joking about what had happened.

He turned back to Anne; she took the cue and got into the car. He opened the door and stole one last chance to watch as Richie walked away.

The cheerful little bell tinkled as Methos stepped inside the bookstore for the first time in two months. They'd had to close the place down for a few weeks while the police investigated the crime site, and then they'd just left it closed while all the legal stuff worked its way out. And through it all, Christine had bitched and moaned, still pissed that Don had left the place to Adam and Joe, rather than to her.

Grief transformed to anger, Methos thought; he'd ridden down that path himself.

He closed the door behind him and slid the book bag onto the floor. Shit! The amount of work needed to get the shop ready was almost overwhelming. There was simply so much to do...

And so much to hide as well.

Best start in the office.

Methos shoved his hair out of the way, as beads of sweat collected across his brow. Hard to imagine how much stuff Don had made copies of 'for safekeeping.' It would take months to sort everything out.

And that was just Don's stuff. He picked up the picture of him and Don off the desk and studied it, remembering Christine taking the picture after a football game. It was funny -- ironic, really -- to call Don his mentor, but it had suited the man -- often better than it suited Methos himself.

Darius and Don had both been good teachers, instructing with a light touch where Methos felt he needed a heavy hand...

"I cannot do it."

The sword clattered to the ground, and Methos looked to the heavens for guidance, before shaking his head and turning to stare at Darius. "There is no option. You either do, or you die." Methos stood and picked up the sword, sliding it into its sheath. "Personally, I don't care either way."

"That's a lie, old friend. I've known you too long for these games to sit between us." Darius was breathing heavily, sweat dripping in runnels off his hair, his rough-spun tunic torn and bunched from the fight. "You don't want me to die."

Methos turned, refusing to look at his one-time student, afraid of what might be seen in his eyes. He really did care if Darius lived, but ignored it. Either the student died or the teacher died; that was the nature of the game.

"And somehow, you think this," Darius held the broadsword aloft, "is going to change that."

"Isn't it?" Methos shot a glance at him out of the corner of his eyes, his barely-controlled anger lacing his voice.


Silence graced the glen, their breathing and the ruffle of wind in the trees the only noise, their eyes fused together with the power of their unspoken battle.

Then it was over; Darius looked away first. "You are not my teacher, Methos, not anymore. I can take care of myself."

Methos snorted. "And how will you stop anyone if you won't pick up a sword? Do you want to die?"

"No." Darius' blue eyes glimmered with warmth and humor as they held onto Methos' gaze. "I have decided to become a priest."

Astonishment crept into Methos' voice. "You'd spend the rest of your life as a monk?"

Darius nodded and handed him the sword. "I want to do some good with my life."

Methos hefted the weight of the blade, then slid it back into its sheath, smiling wearily. "Doesn't everyone?"

Methos set the picture down with a sigh. Darius had been right after all; he'd done more good as a priest than he would have as just another immortal. Without him, more of their kind would be gone.

He booted up the computer. There were a lot of sensitive files that needed to be removed, some spreadsheets, other documents...and the database.

Chills nested at the base of Methos' spine, turning his body to ice as the splash page came up. He and Don had spent two years assembling this -- their personal project to centralize Watcher data.

But it had been more than that. Methos had used it to trace down old enemies -- and old friends -- along with the killers of some *very* old friends.

Don had been so supportive of the idea; focused purely on the research potential without understanding Methos' real intent. Don had mused once, "Just think, if something happens, we won't lose any more data."

But to Methos, the database meant something more entirely. He'd used it to find a pattern in certain recent immortal deaths. And when he found the answers...

If Horton hadn't already been dead, Methos would have killed him himself.

Idly, Methos clicked through the files, remembering how much time he and Don had put into collecting the data, designing the layout, and coding the criteria. Destroying it would be like burning a set of books, a practice he thought barbaric well over three-thousand years ago.

He pulled up his own file -- Don had insisted that they start with their own information -- and then he moved on to Don's.

Then Ian.

Then Joe.

A quick jump took him to the immortal section -- his intent was to look up Darius' entry one last time -- but his hands caught on a single name -- Duncan MacLeod.

He could no more stop himself from opening the file than he could prevent the flooding of the Nile. Wide brown eyes stared at him from a face framed by the hair and dress of a hundred years ago, adventures and facts recorded willy-nilly by whomever came along.

But Methos didn't stop to read. He stared at the image, the long brown hair, the strong features caught with a flicker of a smile. He frowned. This picture didn't really do MacLeod justice; he was much more magnetic than that.

So magnetic that Methos was still in town.

Grimly determined, he jerked out the CD. Don hadn't wanted to spend the money to make more than one copy, no matter how hard Adam pressed him about the need for backups. Methos considered shoving it in his backpack, keeping it for posterity -- or, more accurately -- hoarding it against the time when he would need this sort of data.

The mirror-like surface burned him as Methos scryed its depths, and reflected eyes only 400 years old, rather than his own familiar features. He knew his response bordered on obsession, but Methos could not destroy the disk.

Instead, he found a box for it, and gently eased the package into his backpack, his mind moving on to other plans. He needed to dump the 'Adam Pierson' persona as reasonably as plausible, given that he'd spent ten years in Paris, as a Watcher and a University student. Though that was but a blink of an eye compared with the rest of his life, a decade's worth of time mattered to mortals. Someone was bound to get suspicious if Adam just disappeared.

He'd need a slow withdrawal, a chance to work out what his next life would be and set everything up.

He'd take his time, a year or two in fact. Adam could graduate, finally, and take his degree to foreign lands -- perhaps Africa or the Mid-East; it would be nice to be warm again -- and then he would die, and Methos would move on.

In the meantime, though, he had a dozen hidden files to clean out, and several bookcases to move.

He also needed to clean up the computer.

Methos spent hours swapping floppies, backing up what he considered important, yet not sensitive files. Then he systematically re-formatted the hard drive, leaving nothing to chance.

The work-lights were on in the bar as prep-work started for the lunch crowd. Although best known for its weekend Blues sessions, lunch was still a pretty popular time, packing in some of the locals that just wanted to get away for awhile and grab some decent grub.

Joe had finished re-stocking the booze on the shelves when the phone rang. "Joe's bar. Dawson speaking." Damn! he loved saying that.


"Mac!" Now that was a shocker. Last he knew, Duncan MacLeod should have been cosying up with Dr. Lindsey right about now. "What's up? Somethin' gone wrong?"

"Joe, does something have to be wrong for me to give you a call?"

Well, that was a loaded question. The normal answer was 'Hell, yes.' Joe tried to pull his thoughts away from the bar life for a moment and listen to Mac's voice for clues.

He guessed his silence must have been enough of a response, because Mac finally chimed in with a "Wait a minute. Don't answer that."

Got it! "This is about Kalas, isn't it?"

Mac sounded startled. "Kalas?! I was callin' about Daimler. What happened with Kalas?"

"He's finally been sentenced, Mac. He was convicted of Don's murder and got life imprisonment." His voice softened. "I thought you knew."

A pause. "When?"

"A few days ago. I'm sure it was in the paper."

"What about..." Duncan swallowed audibly. "Adam?"

Joe forced himself to relax, forced the lie to sound natural. "He vanished again, right after the trial. No one's seen him, and I couldn't find a trace of where he might have gone." Joe's heart pounded hard against his chest; maybe Duncan had heard something, and that was the reason for the call. "Unless you've turned up something you think I should know about...?"

"I haven't really looked." Mac's voice was flat, almost emotionless. "I was...busy."

"With Daimler?"

"And others."

There was more to it than Mac wanted to tell right now, but he obviously wanted to have the story coaxed out. Joe nodded to himself. Whatever it was, it sounded serious enough that Mac had missed all references to Kalas' trial. "What happened?"

"Daimler killed a couple of friends..." His voice drifted off.

"And you went after him."

"He almost killed Anne and the baby."

Joe pulled up a stool and used it to help prop himself up. "Baby? What baby?"

"Anne's. She's pregnant, Joe."


"After I left. She needed someone after seeing me die, and she turned to an old friend. It just went a little further than either of them expected it to..." Duncan's voice drifted off, and Joe could practically hear the guilt through the line.

If she hadn't seen Mac die, Anne wouldn't be pregnant. She would have never have been in Paris, would never have met Daimler, would never have almost died. This had to be one of Mac's worst nightmares.

"So is she okay? What happened, exactly? Did Daimler do anything..?"

Mac interrupted the flow of words streaming down the line. "No, she's fine. At least, physically." Joe could barely hear his voice. "She left Paris this morning."

Joe winced at the pain in the too-quiet voice.

"Aw, Mac, I'm sorry. I know how important she was to you." He swallowed, hoping his friend could hear the sympathy in his voice. "I really hoped things would work out."

"So did I." The line was silent a long time, and Joe tried to find something else to say.

Duncan finally came back. "Listen, Joe, can you do me a favor?"

"Anything, just name it. What do you need?"

"Make sure Anne arrives safely, and let me know if something goes wrong? You know...just...keep an eye on her from time to time."

Joe closed his eyes, emotion welling up from within him, pride that Duncan trusted him enough to place Anne in his care. "Sure, Mac. I'll watch out for her. I'll see she gets what she needs."

"Thanks." He was quiet again, and then Joe heard a long sigh. "Sorry. I guess I'm just not good company right now. I'll talk to you later."

"Take care, my friend."

"Thanks, Joe. That means a lot to me right now."

The connection dropped and Joe carefully hung up the phone. Mac must be feeling really lonely right now, to give Joe a call. He shook his head. That thing with Anne must have really hit him hard.

He tightened his grip on his cane and headed back to the office. Richie was out of town, too, come to think of it. He searched through his thoughts, trying to remember, someone, anyone, who Mac might know who would be in town.

Only Adam came up.

Letting Mac know that would open up one hell of a Pandora's box, and Joe really wasn't up to dealing with that right now. He shook himself and rolled his shoulders carefully, listening to the crackles as his spine set itself back to rights. Mac would be fine. A few lonely nights, and someone would turn up; someone always did for Mac.

He ran his hand through his hair, and opened the door to the office, his notebook waiting for another notation in Duncan's chronicles.

Talking with Joe had felt good, but the information on Kalas wasn't particularly welcome. MacLeod knew it was only a matter of time before Kalas figured a way to 'die' in jail and set himself free. Immortals did it regularly; hell, Mac had done it himself.

And when Kalas did find his way out of prison, he would come straight for MacLeod, to take care of the blood debt --

Or The Watchers, for their information --

Or Methos, for his Quickening.

Huh. Duncan shook his head. No one knew where Methos was; so why did he keep popping up in Duncan's mind?

He turned away from the phone and paced to the end of the barge. At least he wouldn't have to hunt Kalas himself; there was no doubt the immortal would come after him. At least he could finally find a reason to be glad that both Richie and Anne had left; he wouldn't have to protect them once Kalas got free.

Lucky, too, that Methos was gone as well.

Duncan froze, kicking himself. This was getting a little ridiculous. It was a one-night-stand, nothing more, and that's all it would ever be.

He sighed. Time to call it a night before something else happened.

Duncan knocked back the last of his most-recent drink and turned out the lights on the barge. He set the bottle back on the shelf under the bar and climbed into bed, but relaxing under the lightweight wool blanket didn't seem to help.

He turned in the bed to stare at the chest-of-drawers. He still wasn't sure exactly what had happened that night, or if it meant anything. Allowing himself to be fucked by a man -- not just a man, but an immortal, one he had met only that day -- was so far from his usual behavior that it disturbed him deeply.

Yet at the same time, it had felt so right.

Rolling over to stare at the ceiling provided little insight into his life, only the knowledge that he'd never had such a relationship with a male immortal before. The slatted window cast bands of shadows across the room, reminding Duncan of each single instance that he'd been with an immortal, letting him catalogue and compare them with his time with mortals.

His mortal lovers had mostly been women, and most of his immortal lovers as well; there had only been one woman for whom he'd had as immediate and overwhelming a desire as he'd had for Methos.

And it hadn't been Amanda.

Duncan smiled at the memory of Kyra, her lean, blonde beauty and skill with a sword; he had been such an innocent when they met, shyly determined to pretend they were discussing the relative merits of various 'swords,' instead of talking about sex.

His grin faded. Three hundred years had done a lot to disabuse him of instant trust...until the day he ran into Methos.

He rose from the bed and pulled a chair in close to the fire and sat down, letting the flames warm him. He leaned forward and stirred the embers, the fire growing hotter with the influx of air. His robe fell open as he put the iron poker back in its place, and the direct heat on his cock startled him.

In an instant, he misplaced time, becoming lost in the swirl of memories. Physically, he was peripherally aware of leaning back against the chair, and closing his eyes. But his mind was back in time, remembering the way Methos had looked, with his hair falling in his eyes, lips parted and trembling, long, lean limbs and elegant fingers; remembering the way Methos made him feel, excited and wanting, eager to be loved.

The fire's warmth seeped through the robe, and MacLeod opened it a bit, spreading his thighs. He let his right hand wander down to his hardening cock while his left hand absently tugged at his nipples. He had wanted Methos inside him, filling him, possessing him. Even now, his body tingled with remembered pleasures, and MacLeod rolled the head of his shaft between his fingers, pulling back the foreskin and smearing the tip with the small amount of fluid weeping from the end. He grabbed the shaft and pulled, sliding his hand up and down the length. Oh yeah, Methos had made him feel very, very good.

One of the wonders of an immortal nature was a body that re-lived its memories. He could feel Methos press into him, feel the slide of their skin against each other, enjoy the taste and scent of each other as if they were both in the same room.

His body reacted now as it had then, but this time there was no interruption. He pulled at himself, stroking his swollen flesh, cupping his balls in his hand. He slid lower in the chair and spread his legs, feeling Methos' cock deep inside, urging him on to higher and stronger need.

The fine line between memory and fantasy blurred, and Duncan felt himself taken; he groaned and swayed, not caring whose hand touched him, playing the scene out to its fullest extent.

With a hard, exultant cry, he threw his head back and arched into his hand, light flicking red at the fringes of his sight. A cascade of warm liquid poured over his hand and onto his chest and thighs, and as the pool of semen cooled, the reality of the barge salon reasserted itself.

MacLeod sat in the firelit emptiness of the room, feeling the hull gently rock beneath him. He rolled the thick fluid around between his fingers, its slickness and his own heartbeat the only reminders of life. The fire popped, startling him, and Mac pulled his robe closed. He turned off the lights, then carefully settled himself into bed.

Methos returned to his flat and booted the laptop without even checking the time. He was tired and sore from being hunched over the bookstore's computer for so long, and he wanted to crawl into bed.

Instead, he fed the CD into his machine, and looked at MacLeod again. He stepped through the entries and frowned; a lot of detail needed to be added to this. The latest notation was six months out-of-date.

He opened a connection to the mainframe, and his hands froze on the keyboard. He stared at his reflection in the window across from the desk, suddenly shocked by his thoughts.

He wasn't going to leave.

It was insane, he knew, but there was simply too much information available for him to walk out now -- information not just about MacLeod, but about every immortal ever tracked across the planet. Sitting here, in his apartment, with his dial-in connection, he was like a spider in its web. Whenever a thread vibrated, he'd know the reason, and more, he could do something about it, if he wanted to.

Why should he give that up? With Kalas' trial over, Methos wasn't caged anymore; he could walk away at any time. The only things imprisoning him were his own needs, his own thoughts, his own desires. Unless he could think of a better reason to leave than being scared of himself -- not a particularly flattering thought after five thousand years of life -- he would be served best by staying with the Watchers.

Tension he'd not realized he held vanished, and Methos fell back against his chair in a boneless sprawl. He casually shut the laptop down and tucked the CD and its case away in a hidden drawer for safekeeping. He stood, stretched, and turned out the lights in the room, only to notice the lights glittering outside, leading down the canal to the Seine.

Methos smiled.

He was in no mood to run anymore.

The End