|Hearth and Home
by Rachael Sabotini and Andrea Drummond
CYA: All standard disclaimers apply. We don't own these guys; We just like to have fun with them. No one made no money off this. We do it for love, and we mean no harm.
WARNING: This story contains Methos/Joe NC-17 Romance stuff. You have been warned.
Methos had studiously avoided MacLeod for the last hour, sipping his drink and listening to the mournful sound of Joe's guitar. Eventually, Duncan had taken the hint, bidding them both farewell before he left.
Methos sighed, knowing that Mac was right and also knowing it was something he himself could never have done. Despite Byron's madness, some part of him hoped that the poetry would return, and give Byron a reason to live, yet knowing it was a pipe dream. Byron had never been totally sane. Methos knew he could never have silenced the poet's voice, not unless Byron had killed someone he loved. Things had become much more personal for him lately; it was hard to get excited about an ideal.
Joe played on, obviously lost in his own thoughts, just as Methos was. Mac had turned off most of the lights when he left, leaving the two friends sitting in a man-made twilight, feeling empty and alone. As he watched Joe play, Methos could not stand the silence and the distance between them. With bottle and two glasses in hand, he moved closer to the stage, holding up an empty glass to Joe, and mouthing silently "do you want some?"
Joe nodded, not looking up or missing a note in the song he was playing.
Methos poured a healthy shot of scotch into the glass and, without saying a word, placed it by Joe's elbow before returning to his seat. Slouching comfortably, he draped one leg over an adjacent chair, letting the music wash over him.
The soul of Joe's smooth blues poured through him, working at the pain of Byron's death, massaging the tight knots in his spirit, easing some of the strain of the last few days. In its way, Joe's music was every bit as brilliant as Byron's poetry, and Methos clung to the thought, wondering why he had never recognized it before.
Grudgingly, he finally accepted that MacLeod's reasons were valid, and that Byron wanted to die, even as he himself rued the necessity. No one seemed to understand his attraction to the mad poet, his need to surround himself with the beautiful things in life, to know that there was something more lasting than his version of immortality. Perhaps it was because he felt that he had never created anything, but he couldn't explain it even to himself. Without that belief in the beauty of the world, he didn't think he'd be interested in living.
Byron had been a fire and Methos had felt himself inexorably drown to the heat. MacLeod drew him in much the same way, scaring him with how easily he allowed himself to be drawn so close to the flames. With a sigh, he closed his eyes and leaned his head against the chair back, feeling again the charm of Joe's music caressing him.
Joe wasn't like Byron. Thankfully, he wasn't like MacLeod either, and for once, Methos had found himself drawn to a cooler fire, a calmer spirit. If Immortals were bright flames, wildfires that destroyed everything in their path, then Joe was a hearth fire, the kind that drew you in from the cold and made you feel safe against the howling winter.
Methos felt a thread of anxiety gnawing in the pit of his stomach as he thought about how close Byron had made him come to losing Joe. When he thought about it, Byron wasn't worth it, wasn't worth one mortal's life, let alone his friendship with Joe. Methos opened his eyes, letting his gaze roam over Joe's face and form, trying to fathom how he could argue that Byron was more important than Joe's young protégé. He remembered the look of disbelief and anger on his friend's face, and had realized, as he looked into Joe's clear eyes, that he didn't believe his own words. Now he was faced with the need to explain it to Joe. To get his friend to understand what had happened, to accept and to forgive. Methos knew he could not stand another rift between himself and one of the few people he loved.
Seemingly oblivious to Methos' internal dialogue, Joe kept playing, his fingers moving artfully, lovingly across the strings. Of course, Methos had heard him play before, but he had never really stopped to listen -- not until tonight.
As Joe's husky voice began to sing quietly, ending the silence of the dim and empty bar, Methos shuddered. The feelings the music evoked were just too painful. "Joe, please. Stop."
Joe looked up, his hand stilling the vibration of the strings. His face was inquiring, but guarded. "What? You got a request?" Joe asked gruffly.
Methos swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat, trying to master his emotions and respond in his normal witty and sardonic way, but, for once, nothing came to mind. Awkwardly, he stood up and reached for his coat, turning his face away from Joe. "Sorry. Go on. I'll leave."
As he walked toward the door, Joe's voice carried across the room. "Wait."
Methos stopped, but didn't turn around.
"You want a drink?" Joe's voice was deliberately light, but he could hear the strain and something else -- a peace offering.
Methos nodded and turned around, forcing a weak smile as he walked back toward the stage, his voice a pale shadow of his normal insouciant tone. "You buying?"
Joe's lips quirked in a wry smile. "Sure."
They spent the next few hours getting drunk together, talking about poetry, and art, and music, slowly moving toward more personal issues, and finally much later, after finishing what MacLeod had left in the bottle of scotch, to Byron and to Mike.
"What was he to you, anyway?" Joe asked, sloppily topping off their glasses with a fresh infusion of scotch from a new bottle.
Methos was quiet for a moment, blearily appraising Joe before replying. "Duncan has old friends. I have old lovers."
Joe nodded sagely and picked up his drink, taking a long sip. "Thought so."
Methos chuckled and leaned forward, resting his chin in his hand as he appraised Joe. "Is there anything that you don't notice?"
"Occupational hazard." His voice broke in a quick laugh, forestalled by hiccups. "Does Mac know?"
Methos shook his head with exaggerated movement. "I imagine he guesses, but he never asked" He laughed. "With everything that's happened, he doesn't ask about anything that he can't accept the answer to."
"Hmm. That's probably smart." Joe took a long swallow of scotch and reached for the bottle. "Maybe he'll pull the stick out of his ass yet."
"I doubt it." Methos responded as he lifted his glass to his lips.
"Me, too." Joe shot Methos a smile of pure evil. "Yeah, that's our Highlander, judgmental, rigid --"
"A right pain in the ass." Methos chuckled and sprawled indolently in his chair, sipping at his drink and shaking his head at Joe.
"Gotta love him though." Joe's brow furrowed thoughtfully, as he finished his current drink.
"If we didn't, who would?" Methos voice drifted off as he watched Joe, trying to figure out what he was thinking. Joe's body gave no hints, so Methos grabbed the bottle and poured them both another round.
Their easy banter drifted and their conversation faded, leaving each of them sitting in silence, alone with their thoughts, numbed by the alcohol and the tragedy of the last few days.
Eventually, Joe sighed. "Well, I guess it's time to call it a night."
Methos reached for the bottle and theatrically measured out the last few drops between each of their glasses. "One more for the road?"
Joe snorted and picked up his glass containing the few milliliters of scotch. "Sure." He killed the last few dregs in one small sip. "See you later. I gotta catch up on my beauty sleep."
"I'll say." Methos traced the rim of the glass, not quite ready to ask for this, yet wanting to keep the connection for a little bit longer. "You, uh, want to meet for breakfast? Say about ten or so."
Joe finished putting way his gear. "That would be great."
As he watched Joe head for the door, struggling with his cane and the guitar case, Methos realized how frail Joe looked. He wasn't used to thinking of Joe that way -- the mortal was usually the rock that both he and MacLeod anchored themselves to -- but Mike's death had stripped that away. The emptiness of the bar pressed into him the moment Joe walked out the door, and Methos gathered his things to hurry after the retreating Watcher.
Methos caught up with Joe less than a block from the bar. The Watcher was obviously shit-faced, but he was moving confidently and capably -- in the wrong direction for his car. Laughing softly, Methos set off after him, knowing that they were heading toward his own apartment. Joe could sleep at his place. He didn't think Joe was in any condition to drive anyway.
"You know, my place isn't far. Why don't you spend the night with me at my flat?" Methos said calmly as they got to the corner and stood, waiting for the street light to change. There were no cars, but for some reason that Methos found hysterical, they waited for the walk sign anyway.
Unreadable emotions flickered across Joe's face before he gave his measured reply. "I wasn't planning on driving. I didn't think you wanted to be alone." The emotion of the statement was shattered by a hiccup to which they both laughed.
Methos gently took the guitar case away from Joe and rested his other hand on Joe's shoulder for a moment, but was spared further reply by the changing light. They crossed the street, still giggling like schoolboys, drunk ones.
They walked in companionable silence toward Methos' apartment. The night was cool and Methos drew shoulder to shoulder with Joe, deliberately slowing his own loose gait to match Joe's more thoughtful pace. Just standing near Joe felt good, soothing him in a way Methos would never have imagined. They accidentally brushed shoulders and Methos was almost overcome with the urge to prolong the contact, to keep them together for the night.
He opened the door to his apartment building and looked in concern at the staircase, but Joe was nonplused and slowly, with exaggerated care, negotiated the stairs. Shrugging, Methos passed him and opened the flat, setting the guitar case just inside the door.
Joe arrived and closed the door a few moments later, then settled himself heavily on the sofa. He closed his eyes briefly and said, "I am so drunk." When he opened his eyes, he continued conversationally, "Don't blame Mac for what he did. I'm the one that set him up."
"What do you mean, you set him up?" Methos stopped in the middle of pouring a snifter of brandy and looked at Joe.
Joe opened his eyes and met Methos' gaze. "I think he did it as a favor to me. Mike was my kid. I found him, I brought him here. I'm the one that was responsible for his behavior--"
"Mike was responsible for his own behavior." Methos finished pouring the two drinks and handed one to Joe before relaxing on the couch and putting his feet up on the coffee table.
"Yeah, well, maybe. But I'm the one who wanted Byron dead." He took a drink from his glass. "Mac did what I wanted to do, that's all. So hate me, not him."
Methos caught the hint of restrained emotion in Joe's voice, the small hint of very real fear. He met Joe's gray eyes with his own, trying to let some of his emotion come through without revealing too much. "I don't hate you Joe, and I don't hate MacLeod, either. I just can't put up with him anymore. He's too committed, or something, I don't know. When I'm around him, I do things I haven't thought about in hundreds of years."
"Like what?" Joe put his arm along the back of the couch, his fingertips only a few inches from Methos' shoulder.
Methos slouched down further, simultaneously kicking off his shoes and getting comfortable in the cushions, rubbing Joe's fingers with the back of his head. "Tell people the truth, for one thing. Rescue them, for another. I care about what happens." He gave a short laugh. "Mac's a bad influence on me Joe, and I'm afraid I'm going to get burned." He paused, letting his voice drift. "It's one of the reasons I never stay with other immortals for too long. I find myself getting lost in their lives instead of living my own."
"You feel that way about me?"
"You, Joe? Never." He sat up a bit and moved even closer to Joe. "You're not Immortal."
Joe winced. "You say that like it's a disease."
Methos laid his head down Joe's shoulder, enjoying feel of solid strength an warmth against his cheek. "No, Joe. Don't ever regret that you're not one of us." He stroked the Watcher's arm casually. "You can have a real life. Being around you makes me think I have one, too. Sometimes."
He could feel Joe's slight embarrassment in the way he held his arm and Methos pulled away, realizing that they were both drunk and just a bit maudlin. He'd almost done something else that he'd promised himself not to do. He knew that Joe wasn't interested, but the worse things became, the harder it was to remember that. Five thousand years of living had taught him a couple of things, including that love was love, no matter how you dissected it. He just wished that Joe believed that as well.
Methos stood up more quickly than was good for him and the room shifted and spun alarmingly. Catching himself on the arm of the sofa, he tried to make the pass into something less than it was. "Sorry, Joe. I'm pretty drunk. Don't pay any attention to me." It hurt to say that, but it was what he thought Joe needed to hear. It gave the Watcher an out, something he could use to salvage his pride.
Right now, Methos really hated 20th century American culture. If Joe had been born in Roman times, the two of them would be curled up in Methos' bed, spending the night making love to each other, rather than talking about somebody who wasn't even there.
Joe's voice cut through his thoughts. "Don't worry about it. In case you missed it, I'm drunk too. " Joe said seriously and burst into a laugh, rubbing his face. "In fact, I can't remember the last time I was this drunk." He smiled. "I don't even know where my fucking hotel *is* anymore. If you hadn't asked me to stay, I'd've spent the night wandering the streets of Paris looking for the damn thing."
Methos waved his arm dramatically. "Mi casa is su casa." He chuckled at the memory of MacLeod's face when he had first said that, after tossing Duncan the beer. Hell, Mac wasn't all that bad. He'd known worse. He'd just stay away from the bloody Scot for awhile, a few months maybe, and give things a chance to work themselves out.
That decision out of the way, Methos moved on to the next problem, putting some distance between himself and Joe. He turned to the Watcher, holding up his hand to forestall any argument. "You take the bed. I'll take the couch. I'm going to stay up for awhile and do some reading."
Joe looked at him suspiciously. "Not..."
Methos took a deep breath. "It's fine, Joe. But I'd like to read some of Byron's work. It's fitting somehow."
He was sobering rapidly, mildly cursing his metabolism that made even the oblivion of a good drunk virtually impossible. He read for awhile until his eyes became bleary and he'd had his third cup of coffee. He heard Joe moan in his sleep, then went to stand beside the bed, amazed that one more time that he'd let another mortal come so close, but this one, he wasn't going to tell. He didn't think he needed to say anything. Joe was the kind of friend who would just know and never presume. It would never go anywhere beyond that.
The air was chill and Methos covered Joe up, all ready regretting their one lost chance. Joe was a good man, solid and earthy, and part of Methos ached to feel his touch. He turned away from the sleeping form, settling down in the chair by the bed and picked up his book again, stroking the leather cover with his hand.
Byron had been a genius all right, just had he'd said, but he'd also been deranged, a dangerous sociopath who felt rules didn't apply to him. Methos looked over at where Joe slept peacefully in his bed. How different they were -- more than the difference between mortal and immortal. Byron was egocentric, a megalomaniac where Joe was selfless, and loyal. He put the book down and watched Joe sleep, listening to the faint snores, letting the noise lull him to sleep.
Methos woke up sometime in the middle of the night, cold, and stiff from sitting in the chair.
Joe was watching him silently. "You're not drunk anymore, are you?"
Methos shook his head. "Not really."
"I'd bitch about the Immortal metabolism, but neither am I. Why don't you get in bed?" Joe asked quietly, moving over.
It was a deliberate offer.
Methos was stunned. Too tired to resist or to think of a good reason not to acquiesce, he stripped off his sweater and jeans, sliding into the bed and next to Joe's body, his chill rapidly dissipating from the residual heat left from Joe's imprint. Despite the warmth, he began to shake uncontrollably as a mixture of emotions passed though him: desire and the need for restraint, longing coupled with fear, hope and intimate dread.
Joe moved closer, wrapping his arms around the immortal. "Methos?" Joe's voice was strained with concern, an his breath pooled at the back of the immortal's neck.
"I'm just cold." But his words fooled neither of them, and Methos pulled away.
Joe was quiet, and Methos heard the pounding of both their hearts, wanting--no, needing -- Joe to be the one to start this.
Death always made him think of making love, maybe out of a frustrated need to create, to hold Death at bay. And he wanted Joe, wanted to feel the passion he knew was in the Watcher just below the surface, wanted to feel their bodies press against each other and take away the pain.
"Hey, you okay?" Joe put reached out and touched his shoulder, shaking him gently.
"Go to sleep." Methos said more roughly than he intended.
The touch turned into a caress. "It makes me feel the same way."
Methos was quiet, letting the mortal lead. Joe had always struck him as thoroughly heterosexual, but the hand that was gliding across his body, reaching inside his boxer shorts for his straining shaft, didn't seem to have that same belief. He relaxed against the strong body, feeling the soft chest hair along his back and Joe's own need pressing against him.
Joe stroked him, his large and callused palm gently sliding across the foreskin and the sensitive glans, gripping him firmly.
Methos luxuriated in the feeling for a moment, rolling over into Joe's arms, looking up at the mortal. "How...?"
"You have a problem with this?" Joe murmured, lowering his face to rub his beard across Methos' neck and cheek.
Methos sighed and pressed himself into the caress. "No, not really. Just checking." With a lustful sigh, he cupped Joe's face, bringing their lips together. The kiss started off soft and as their lips parted, Joe's tongue made bold, playful forays. Methos groaned, opening his mouth wider, allowing Joe's tongue to penetrate further, encouraging the deepening touch. At the same time, Joe pulled him closer, stroking his hard length and pulling the shorts away.
Closing his eyes, Methos arched his back, thrusting himself into Joe's grip, letting himself get lost in the sensation, his language reduced to the mere utterance of soft moans. Joe increased the pressure on his cock, and then suddenly stopped.
Methos' eyes flickered open, and he looked at the Watcher with some concern. "Joe?" He shifted position to lean over his friend. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Joe turned away slightly.
Methos sighed, silently cursing to himself. He should have known; he should never have let it go this far. Sex wasn't worth the loss of a friend. He forced a light tone, but his words still sounded harsh." I'd like to be able to manipulate you into telling me what's wrong, but I'm not really as Machiavellian as Mac pretends I am. You don't owe me any explanations." His voice dropped. "It's okay. I've been turned down before."
Joe groaned, rolled over, and grabbed him, pulling him down into a firm embrace and a passionate kiss. Surprised at the depth of the passion, Methos pulled back sharply, momentarily off balance. He stared at Joe, who looked away.
"It's not that. I just thought, just thought" Joe's voice drifted off.
Inspiration struck. "That I was substituting you for MacLeod?"
Methos trailed his hand down Joe's chest, softly caressing the tangle of dark hair mixed with gray. He would never confuse this warm, wonderful mortal with MacLeod. Pushing further downward, he slid his hand underneath the waistband of Joe's shorts, gripping the thickened cock. He leaned inward, kissing along the bearded neck and continued stroking, watching as Joe's eyes closed in pleasure. "No substitute, Joe. I meant what I said before -- I don't like being involved with Immortals. MacLeod is part of the Game and I can't avoid him or it, but with you" He kissed Joe lightly on the lips, teasing them with his tongue. "I think about Life." He laughed softly. "And about this." He squeezed Joe playfully, reveling in the connection of skin against skin, feeling his own cock harden in response.
Their voices changed to the sighs and moans of pleasure as they explored each other with their hands and mouth, feeling each other, and learning how to love.
Methos gasped as Joe inexpertly, but enthusiastically, engulfed the head of his cock, sucking it eagerly, drawing as much of it as he could into his mouth. The swirl of tongue and the firm pressure felt incredible, bringing him closer and closer to climax. He wanted more than this, though, more than just the casualness of a blow job. He forced Joe gently away, taking deep gulping breaths to calm the runaway pounding of his heart. As much as he craved the release, he wanted something more intimate and emphatic.
Joe's face was questioning, but Methos reached to the drawer of the night stand, wordlessly extracting a small tube and squeezing a dollop of cool lubricant into his palm. He rubbed his palms together to warm it and brought them forward to stroke Joe's softened erection back to fullness, but Joe shook his head.
"I want you in me." Joe's voice was rough with emotion, and Methos felt his stomach drop at this demonstration of trust.
"Have you ever...?"
"A long time ago."
"So we're even. It's probably been twenty years for me too." He smiled.
Joe's eyes glinted with humor. "Actually, I think it's more like thirty for me."
Methos stroked the slick lubricant on to his rigid shaft, amused at Joe's reverent gaze. He reached back for the tube and handed it to Joe.
Joe questioningly squeezed a small amount into his palm. Methos reached out and gave the tube a healthier squeeze. "You'll need more."
Methos' arched upward into the talented musician's hands, feeling the first desperate clenching deep within his balls and wondered how long he would be able to last. With a groan he pulled Joe against him, almost bruising the soft lips in a frantic kiss that was all heat and urgency.
As they rubbed against each other, Methos pushed Joe against the bed, their cocks bumping against one another. He prepared Joe as gently and as quickly as possible. He wanted...needed to be inside...yearned to fill the void he knew that both of them had felt for so long.
Just before he began his slow penetration, their eyes met and Methos saw the same need, the same desire in Joe's gray eyes. He slid into Joe, merging with him, feeling the first quick reflexive rejection of his intrusion give way to passionate acceptance as Joe moaned and begged Methos to take him.
Joe's legs were spread wide as Methos slowly and steadily played with their passions, building it into a frenzy of ecstasy. He thrust deeper and deeper into Joe, each moan he pulled from Joe sending a tingle through his own spine. Joe was wrapped around him, holding him tightly, a delicious agony that wasn't quite enough for Methos to reach completion. Suddenly, Joe gave a deep and powerful groan, a note so low it felt that the wooden floor shook with its energy. Shuddering, clenching waves deep within Joe's ass pulled Methos over the edge, and he could no longer contain himself, pounding harder into Joe until he at last spilled his own seed.
They lay there a moment, enjoying the feeling of release, then Methos gently disengaged himself from Joe and kissed him deeply.
Before he could go, Joe ran his hands through Methos close cropped hair, pulling him gently, but insistently back. "I don't care how sticky we are. Come back to bed."
Methos hesitated a moment, then crawled back into bed, kissed Joe on the corner of the mouth, delighted with the feel of the soft beard against his clean shaven face and the smell of their mutual release. "The sheets were almost disgusting yesterday. I suppose a little more sweat won't matter."
"Or a little more lube."
"You have something in mind?"
"Maybe in the morning. Right now, my fantasies are more than my body can manage. " Joe yawned and lay back against the bed. "I really do need to get some sleep."
Methos snuggled down against the mortal, letting the banked fire warm him. "So we're still on for breakfast at ten?"
"Yeah, provided you're cooking." Joe kissed the nape of Methos' neck, and Methos involuntarily jerked in response. "I'll have to remember that for later." His voice drifted sleepily off, to be replaced with a couple of soft snores.
Methos managed to get Joe to turn on his side, and the snoring stopped. He leaned over the slumbering Watcher, whispering in his ear. "Anytime you want, Joe. Anything you want. For as long as you want."
It was as much of a declaration of love as he ever gave. Methos laid back against the sheets and smiled to himself in the darkness. Over the next few months, he knew he would miss the heat of Mac's fire and passion for justice, but Joe's calmer flame was more than enough to keep him warm.