Breathing Sorrows
by Rachael Sabotini


This story rates NC-17 for graphic violence, explicit language, and adult content, including depiction of a sexual relationship between two men and the portrayal of a rape. If you are under the age of majority in your hometown -- or if you are uncomfortable with any of these concepts -- please delete this story or use your 'BACK' key now. But if it is legal and you do choose to read this story, feedback is always appreciated.

Lies written in ink can never disguise facts written in blood. Blood debts must be repaid in kind. The longer the delay, the greater the interest.

The alarm clock clicked on, and the sound of Pachelbel's Canon filled the loft. Duncan rolled over and swatted the snooze button, silencing the music for ten minutes more. He collapsed face down on his pillow, pulling the comforter tightly around his ears to keep out the morning chill. With luck, he could get a few more moments of sleep.

A warm, dry hand swept down his back to the cleft of his ass, pulled the covers aside, then moved up again to rest on the back of his neck.

Or not, Duncan thought as he ground himself against the mattress, squirming under Methos' attentions. Sleep was overrated anyway.

The mattress shifted, and Methos' chest pressed against his bared back, warm against the cool morning air. Lips ghosted over his skin and then Methos' tongue darted out, licking at creases left from the sheets.

Duncan opened his mouth, and a sound between a groan and a yawn emerged. Turning to his head to the side, he looked up at Methos through strands of unruly hair. "You want something before I go to work?"

Methos grinned unrepentantly at him. "I was thinking of your ass," he replied, kneading at Duncan's cheeks. "It's been a while."

"Yeah, hours." Hours seemed like a record for them this visit. Methos had shown up out of nowhere, and they'd fallen into bed as if he'd never left-well, more like some combination of he'd never left and the embodiment of sex-starved teenagers.

Duncan shifted himself, pressing back against Methos' assault and then into the mattress, his cock more than willing to agree to Methos' master plan. Maybe he should make some plans of his own.

He had to lecture this morning, but there was no rule that said he had to be well-groomed to do it.

Six days. Methos had been in town for six days, close to a week, and still hadn't made it back to his own apartment. Smiling faintly, Duncan wondered if he should ask Methos to start paying rent. Of course, Methos would probably offer some alternative compensation.

The darker portion of his mind whispered another idea at him-that Methos would probably run. Too much commitment wasn't healthy for an Immortal, and Methos always put his own safety first. The unspoken arrangement between them implied no attachments, no commitments, no ties; for once, Duncan was trying to learn from his elders.

He yelped in sudden pain as Methos swatted his ass. He rolled over to glare accusingly and, not coincidentally, protect his vulnerable rump. "What was that about?"

"You didn't seem to be participating. I thought I needed to get your attention."

Not participating? Duncan lunged up and pushed him back onto the bed, covering Methos' lithe body with his own. "Well, now you've got it." He leaned down so that he physically loomed over Methos, exaggerating the slight difference in their sizes. He stared into sparkling eyes, then let his gaze drift to Methos' lips. He brushed them with his own, then delved into the warm, willing mouth. Methos was hungry under him, mouth and body both twisting deliciously.

He felt Methos' erection nudge his hip and ground his own against Methos' groin, sending sparks across his nerves. The radio clicked on again, diverting him, and he reached over to turn the damned thing off.

The second he had the electronics under control, he found himself flipped on his back and pinned against the mattress with a predatory Methos hovering over him, grinning indecently. Smaller, right. Methos was now the solid center of Duncan's attention, the room seeming to fade into the distance.

"You do seem distractible this morning, Highlander." Methos pinned Duncan's arms over his head and against the bed. "Perhaps you need to be taught a lesson in how to focus on essentials."

Duncan groaned to himself. He was always in trouble when Methos called him "Highlander" anymore. Fortunately, it was usually trouble he ended up enjoying.

Methos wouldn't let him move-Duncan did struggle half-heartedly just to check-and took complete control of the situation. He kissed and caressed Duncan's nipples and chest, biting whenever Duncan twitched. He entwined his legs with Duncan's, shifting himself so that his entire body was in contact with Duncan's, his cock between Duncan's thighs, Duncan's cock twitching against his hip. Had he really thought the morning chill? The warmth between them brought a sheen of sweat to their skin, and the delightful friction tempted Duncan into one small motion. He closed his legs, gripping Methos tightly, feeling the hard cock slide against his balls, his own shaft sliding against Methos' skin, leaving slickness in its wake.

Methos kissed Duncan again as he released his wrists, leaving it up to Duncan to make sure they stayed in place. He wrapped his fingers through Duncan's hair, holding onto it like a pair of reins, and began to thrust.

His cock slid between Duncan's thighs, and Methos groaned. "Yes..." One hand dropped away from Duncan's hair, leaving Duncan feeling unbalanced, only to steady him moments later when the hand wrapped firmly around his cock. He surged up to meet it, and Methos thrust down against him again, pushing him into place. Duncan breathed deeply, tossing his head to the right and left, trying to maintain some control.

Methos fisted Duncan's cock with his hand, the physical connection providing the channel for a more essential rapport as their gazes fused together. Sharp, sweet sounds of flesh slapping against flesh filled the air, punctuated by a few moans, groans, and the occasional decipherable word: "Harder," "Faster," "More."

When Duncan couldn't stand any more, he wrapped his arms around Methos' back, increasing the pressure on his balls and the force of the thrusts. Methos arched into him and froze, burying a fiercely whispered word in Duncan's shoulder-gone before Duncan could grasp it-and Methos' body jerked as he flooded Duncan's thighs.

Duncan mewled unintentionally as the hand around his cock froze as well. So close...then the hand was moving again, sweeping moisture up from between Duncan's thighs to slicken his shaft. Methos' hands tightened around him, sliding over the head and down to the base, gripping him. Owning him. Taking him.

Duncan came with a deep groan, spattering his chest and abdomen as well as Methos' hands. He lay against the sheets, suddenly drained, oddly grateful when Methos rose, abandoning him and the bed. His skin cooled rapidly, and he was reaching for the covers when Methos returned with a damp washcloth.

With intense concentration, Methos wiped away most of the mess and dropped the cloth on the floor. His fingers lingered, gracefully following the planes of Duncan's body, across his stomach, chest, and neck, until they finally rested on his lips. Then the fingers vanished, replaced by Methos' lips, kissing him thoroughly. He sat back and stared at MacLeod, a Cheshire cat grin on his face. "You have seventeen minutes to get to class."

With a curse, Duncan rolled out of bed and pulled on jeans and the shirt he'd worn last night, while Methos stretched out and pulled the covers up over his head.

The cool, moist air caressed Duncan's skin as he emerged from the dojo, raising a few goosebumps on his arms. Puddles reflected the newly revealed sun, hissing and splashing under the tires of the sparse midmorning traffic. He smiled up at the loft window, sure that Methos had rolled over and gone back to sleep after their morning exertions. Bastard, Duncan thought gently.

He was only steps from the T-Bird, keys in one hand, briefcase in the other, when he felt the sudden sensory assault of another Immortal.


Dropping both bag and key ring, he scanned the empty roadway carefully as he reached for his sword. He spun, katana in hand, afraid someone had managed to get behind him.

Nothing. He opened his mouth to announce his name, but didn't get a sound out.

Duncan had been shot too many times to mistake the sudden, sharp blows for anything else. Multiple impacts knocked him back and down, pummeling his body and shocking him into hyperawareness. He lost the katana when his wrist hit the curb-sprained or broken, no way to tell right now.

Probably the least of his concerns for the next few seconds. He rolled desperately for nonexistent cover, still searching for his attacker. He heard several pairs of footsteps running, echoing off the brick walls, coming toward him.

Still rolling, every part of his body that contacted the rough pavement communicated agony to his brain; every gasp of breath was a searing battle to force air into collapsing lungs. Salvation presented itself in the form of the dark, gaping maw of the storm drain. Wriggling painfully, he dropped heavily into the blackness, scraping cloth and skin, the icy storm runoff soaking him as he fell about ten feet into the concrete pit.

Duncan tried to catch his breath, to calm his body into awareness that even if he did die, it wasn't going to be final. No use; he choked on each attempt, sputtering and gagging as his body tried to clear the airway of blood, the damage too massive to heal quickly.

No matter how often he'd been killed, each time his body responded with its best-adrenalized effort to survive. There was no reasoning with the primal force that drove him toward life. His heart was pounding desperately, trying to circulate enough blood to keep his brain alive, even as that brain knew it was no use. He tasted blood in his mouth, gasping hard now, trying to draw in enough oxygen to hold on to consciousness-to life.

His brain processed the futility of the effort, and it offered him a task to keep him occupied.

Warn Methos.

Methos was dozing upstairs, unaware of the silent ambush, and Duncan's hypercautious lover might just this once assume that the Immortal approaching was Duncan, perhaps returning for forgotten lecture notes.

There was no way he could get there in time; he probably couldn't even get himself out of the storm sewer for an hour yet. But, oh, the joys of modern technology! Duncan fumbled for the cell phone, mumbling curses at hands that were clumsy and numb, the darkness of the tunnel creeping in on the edge of his vision. His third awkward try managed to get the phone out and open.

He knew a moment of terror when there was no comforting LED glow, but a desperate glance at the drain opening communicated that his eyes, rather than his electronics, were failing him. He was panting sharply now, each breath like a saw through his chest, fighting to maintain enough consciousness for this one task.

Warn Methos.

How much time had gone by? Could it have been only seconds? Minutes? Was Methos dead already? Was there any point to this effort at all?

Warn Methos.

He felt his way through his own phone number, terrified who would answer. Terrified that no one would. The first ring brought both hope and despair. What if he'd misdialed? What if Duncan's cold, awkward fingers had dashed Methos' one chance? The phone rang a second time, and Duncan gasped again, sobbing at the horrible suspense of it.

Answer the phone, Methos, you lazy sonofabitch! Get the fuck out of bed!

As if he'd heard Duncan's desperate abuse, the line clicked open, and Duncan heard his lover's sleepy voice offer the last four digits of the number as greeting.

"Methos, get out!" he gasped, not enough air in his lungs to project the urgency. He had to do this. He had to!

"Duncan?" The quiet concern stabbed at him. He wasn't getting through. "What's wrong?"

Duncan sucked air in, feeling it burn through him, and knew it was absolutely the last chance he had to warn Methos. He calmed his mind, speaking as slowly and powerfully as shredded lungs would allow. "Hunters. Downstairs. With an Immortal. Get out. Now."

A coughing fit took him then, and he couldn't hear whether Methos said anything more. Hopefully not, Duncan thought, the phone dropping from his useless fingers as his body spasmed involuntarily, and the cold concrete curve of the storm drain ceased to support him. He hoped that Methos would slide out the back and be long gone before the bastard even felt him.

Please. The thought comforted him as the cold storm water caressed his face, filling his mouth and nose and eyes, chilling him into silence.


Adrenaline spiked his mind, and Methos had a plan half-formed before he started to dress. He grabbed the phone book and flipped it to the right page, buttoning his fly while finding a number. The Red-and-Gray Cab Company promised to be at the loft in ten minutes, giving Methos a chance to gather his things.

His single-minded focus was paradoxically broad: all awareness that served the goal of escape, and thereby survival, was instantly available and diamond-sharp. Hunters hated witnesses, and the taxi driver counted as one. Surviving until the driver arrived would be the big problem.

He pulled on his gray henley, stuffed his wallet into his jeans, and his feet into his shoes. He picked up his coat with his sword, his gun, and his keys.

An Immortal lurked at the edge of his awareness, the sensation pricking at his spine and quickly growing stronger, pumping urgency through his veins until his body screamed to flee.

Which way?

The elevator hadn't moved, which meant that they were on the stairs.

Damn MacLeod for not constructing a back way out of this trap. He'd even walled off the rooftop exit at the top of the spiral stairs.

A guard would undoubtedly be posted in the dojo, so Methos would have to make his own path.

He dumped Mac's toolbox on the floor, searching through the pile left from the remodeling of Anne's house for what he needed. Luck ran with him, and he pulled a crowbar out of the mess. He stepped into the cage and slammed the door, then pushed the down button. He had no keys to halt the lift on the intervening floors, had never needed them. But necessity was a mother. Halfway between the dojo and the loft, he pulled out his gun and shot the electrical panel, and the elevator jerked to a halt.

Above him, he heard the door to the loft shatter, and indistinct shouts filled the air. He didn't bother to listen, first forcing the cage open with skilled application of the crowbar and then the door to the unfinished mezzanine. He dragged himself through the gap, collecting dust and oil on his way, and then pulled his sword and his coat after him. Five and a half minutes past, and an impossibly long four and a half more to live through. He set fear aside, leaving the running counter in his head to mark his progress.

The showers and the dressing rooms were on the left in the finished portion of the building; Methos stuck to the right, loping across the subfloor to the windows beyond. He used the pommel of his sword to shatter the first window that overlooked the alley rather than the main road. Two stories down to the asphalt; not a bad drop if he could avoid the metal trash cans, though he would undoubtedly sprain something.

He checked the street below carefully-no point in jumping into the fire. Any street-level lookouts must have been posted on the more conventional exits; there was no one in sight.

Eight minutes gone, now. He wrapped his coat around his sword and chucked it out the window before going over the ledge himself, tearing hands, jeans, and skin in the process.

He rolled to his feet and into the shadow of a dumpster, ignoring the throb in his ankle. He took a second to collect himself, letting his ankle heal a bit, enough that he could put some weight on it. He pulled on his coat and shoved his sword into the hidden harness, glancing up at the windows of the loft; he couldn't see anyone looking for him. A scan of the alley showed no one near, so Methos sauntered out to the street.

The cab was waiting for him at the curb-he was two minutes late. Methos took one final glance around before getting into the car, freezing momentarily as he spotted Duncan's katana under the wheels of the T-Bird.

Mac would never intentionally abandon his sword. He had to be around here somewhere.

As if in answer to his prayer, awareness of another tore into him, and Methos, still framed in the open door of the taxi, jerked around to look. Hope cried out its betrayal as he realized it wasn't MacLeod. Pinpointing the sensation, Methos could make out someone in the shadow of the dojo, but the form was too slight to be Mac. The figure clutched some sort of gun under his arm. Without a backward glance, Methos dropped into the taxi and slammed the door shut.

"Airport, please," he said, and the driver took off. Taking a deep breath, Methos drew the threads of attention back into himself, trusting for the moment that his survival was secure, opening the higher brain functions to consider the whole scene, to try to comprehend the larger forces at work. An ambush at the dojo was an audacious plot and well outside the accepted Rules of the Game. MacLeod would be incensed. The man's ideals would be the death of him yet.

But not today, Methos prayed. Just not today.

He pulled out his cellular and punched in Mac's number, pausing when it clicked over into voicemail, considering whether leaving a message-word of his plans-would do more good or harm. Harm, he decided and cut the connection. Cellular, even digital, was not nearly as secure as people might think. If the hunters or the Watchers had been listening they would have heard...what? Methos' name on tape, thanks to MacLeod's desperate warning-a warning that kept Methos alive. Given the results, he decided he could cut Mac some slack this time.

The humor worked a little, wedging some distance between him and the feelings that churned inside him. He would not think of MacLeod, could not think of MacLeod, until he himself was safe.

His own survival was always the most important goal; it was good that Duncan accepted that-even though it was a loyalty Methos knew he didn't deserve.

The call itself was a conundrum: fewer than a dozen words. Enough to spark action, to save Methos' life, and yet no clue in them how or why Mac had been able to deliver the warning without being able to come through like a knight in shining armor.

Methos replayed the call endlessly in his mind, believing some clue would emerge. Duncan had been obviously distressed, and Methos had barely recognized his voice. Logic said that Mac had to have been physically incapacitated in some way, but not completely disabled. And someone-bastard-had been foolish enough to turn his back on the Highlander long enough for him to phone. All Methos needed to do was figure out a way to get MacLeod a message, and then they could have a little rendezvous and figure this whole puzzle out. Methos was all too aware of the denial inherent in his own thoughts. Hard to believe that whoever had planned this raid hadn't taken the opportunity to whack MacLeod.

Methos' breath caught sharply at the thought that his Highlander might have lost his head this rainy morning, but he quickly calmed himself. He'd heard no Quickening near the dojo, and the hunters had arrived too quickly after Mac's call for them to have come very far. Therefore, Methos could assume that at the moment he had entered the taxi, MacLeod had been alive.

Two targets are safer than one, he thought, wondering if he were more a cockroach scuttling away from the light, or a mother bird faking a broken wing.

Methos smiled grimly and decided he really ought to get a passport as Gregor Samsa.

Misdirection was the key element in any disappearing act and long since second nature. Methos got out of the cab at the airport, and Adam Pierson bought tickets on the next three international hub flights. Tokyo looked most promising, and he picked up a phrase book, a new set of clothes, and a backpack from the expensive airport specialty shops; the paper trail would verify a long trip. Then he pulled his limit out of the cash machine, knowing it would have to sustain him for awhile.

Squirming awkwardly in the hard plastic chair that characterized departure lounges the world over, Methos kicked the neutral-tone backpack under his feet. It was nearly identical to the one he'd abandoned in the loft this morning, another in a miles-long line of disposable belongings: things that he'd owned in one way or another, but which in no way defined him. From art to real estate to money, he had owned many possessions, but there were few things in the world he called "mine."

Mine. He'd whispered it fiercely not long ago against a strong shoulder and felt it resonate in that powerful body trapped so willingly beneath his.


Anger drove Methos out of the chair and down the concourse. He shed his torn, stained clothing in the men's room, emerged a preppy young businessman, and tried to be surprised at himself when he curtly directed a different taxi back to the loft.

Rain blanketed the roadways, making it difficult to see, and twice the taxi slowed to a crawl while traffic backed up around an accident. Methos kept shifting his weight, trying to get comfortable enough to focus his thoughts. Thunder rumbled in the distant mountains and every lightning flash made his heart stop.

Mac would be safe, he promised himself. He was not going to let this one go.

The storm softened right as they left the freeway and turned onto the side street that led to the dojo. Methos paid his fare and stepped uncertainly out of the cab; he wasn't really sure if he should be here or not. He had been gone for about four hours, but it already seemed like a lifetime; the cab left as he scanned the area for some evidence of the morning's events.

Puddles and mud, and the shimmer of oil on the roadway-nothing to indicate that anything odd had happened, just the peaceful sounds of the city returning to life, now that the storm had passed. Methos caught a glimpse of the T-Bird out of the corner of his eye, and in horrified fascination, he walked slowly over to the car, his eyes searching for the sword. He finally crawled under the car to look for it, snagging his new suit in the process, but the dry, featureless asphalt sheltered there held no answers-and no sword.


He pushed himself off the ground, trying to convince himself that MacLeod could have recovered the well-loved blade, or failing that, a compassionate Watcher had retrieved it. But the one person to whom Methos couldn't convincingly lie stared out from the shadowed reflection in the windshield. It was the same face he'd always worn, unchanged by the centuries, by his experiences. Unmarked, as his spirit was not, by loss after loss.

A shaft of light through the clouds glinted sharply off the glass, and Methos blinked against the glare. When he looked back the face was subtly changed, its lines sharper, its eyes colder.

It was an older, angrier face, but no less familiar.

He looked away quickly.

Taking refuge in what action was available, he swapped his cell phone for the old-fashioned pay phone on the corner. He used the remainder of his change to place a few discreet calls; Mac's on-site Watcher's line gave a busy whine. No answer on Mac's cellular; no answer on Joe's. Each dead end gave strength to the frustration coiled like a snake in his belly. It ate at him, tormenting him, gnawing through his stomach as the machine ate the last of his coins.

The phone in the loft offered a polite "out of service" recording that made Methos ache to investigate. Instead, he waited, watching the windows futilely for any sign of movement. Churning uncertainty about Mac's whereabouts washed through him.

His careful inquiries through Watcher channels had turned up no more evidence than Methos' own eyes. Mac was gone: no mention of a Quickening, and no trail of breadcrumbs to follow either. Methos would have settled for a trail of blood if it would lead him to MacLeod or the hunters, but any traces had washed away in the noontime thunderstorm.

He hung up rather than leave a message at Joe's bar-he could not afford to leave a trail. The latte stand on the corner gave him a plentiful supply of coffee, and Methos stood in the shadows of the apartment complex across from the dojo, waiting to see what would happen-but the police never arrived.

An hour passed, then two. Heads tucked down against the constant drizzle, the small but steady stream of dojo patrons never seemed to look up from their own feet.

Methos ached with his forced stillness, alone with his swirling thoughts. For the one-billionth time in his life, he wished he had some damn control over the ability to sense an Immortal, some sort of psychic ability that he could focus and know that MacLeod was alive.

He was as helpless as any mortal, knowing nothing except fear and doubt, mentally bargaining with gods so dead even their names were dust, uncaring what it cost if it would only secure Mac's safety.

Closing his eyes, he sought some inner revelation, some hidden knowledge that would give him the advantage in this situation. As usual, only silence greeted his prayers.

Involuntarily, Methos' lip curled in a harsh smile as he quickly assessed his strengths:

He was alive.

And alone.

It was cold comfort, but the chill steadied him, slowed his pulse to a near-normal calm; a familiar detachment seemed almost within his grasp. At least he wouldn't have to apologize for what he was going to do should he find out MacLeod was dead. He'd learned a lot about pain in his lifetime, and Methos knew that he would teach Mac's killers everything he knew before they finally died.

Light was fading. Methos drew back into the alley's shadows as the last stream of people exited the building. Steve, the dojo manager, followed, locking up. He seemed amazingly, infuriatingly unaware of the morning's events. Yeah, you go on, Steve, maybe he left a will. Methos shook out the wrath he couldn't afford right now; it was misdirected anyway.

After dodging through traffic and across the road, Methos took the back stairs to the loft two at a time, his heart pounding all out of proportion to the effort.

He carefully opened the outer door onto the landing, startled to see how normal the hallway looked, until he realized that there was no door leading into Duncan's apartment-only shattered bits of wood. Suddenly he was in the elevator again, listening to the crash of the wood being sundered, feeling the burn of fear in every breath.

Shards of glass crunched under his feet as he stepped forward, drawing him abruptly back to the present.

The loft was a mess. Rain still sporadically dripped from the broken skylights, soaking the priceless rug; the sound quietly overlaid the background rumble of the traffic below. Bookcases had been upended, tables smashed, strewn about the room like the twisted remains of a storm-stricken trailer park. Papers littered every corner of the loft, receipts and bills-of-sale mixed haphazardly with the morning's junk mail, like drifts of wet, confetti-colored snow. Antiques were scattered across the floor, the desk torn apart, the bed shredded with careless abandon. Closer scrutiny revealed a precision that belied the haphazard appearance.

"Surgical" was the first word that sprang to mind, followed by "targeted" and "methodical." I ought to put "search-and-destroy expert with centuries of experience" on my résumé, he thought in a moment of bitter humor.

He wasn't sure whether he should hope they'd found what they wanted or not, and wondered which option offered Mac a better chance of survival.

He surveyed the destruction again, his eyes not resting anywhere for too long, trying to divine some clue from what he saw. No scorch marks, which implied no Quickening, a plus in the 'MacLeod could be alive' column. But if he had been kidnapped, he could have been taken anywhere before someone decided to finish the job. There was absolutely no way to be sure.

Methos balled his hands into fists and curled his arms around his chest. He hugged himself as tightly as he could, trying to focus on the room, to ignore his internal balance sheet.

Since when had he kept such a tally for MacLeod? When had Methos invested his happiness in Mac's bottom line?

Energy that had been building, twisting tighter and tighter over the past hours, burst suddenly from his body. The movement was rapture, the power flowing out of him sating his appetite for action. Crashing noise, the chaotic destruction of man-made objects, feeling wood breaking under his hands, his hands breaking in their turn. He channeled pain and rage until he collapsed, panting, near the remains of the armoire.

Sweat dripped from his face, splashing messily on the floor where a smiling face, stained with his own bloody fingerprints, stared up at him. Methos picked up the shattered frame with Tessa's picture in it, cradling it gently. Another mortal lover lost to the ages; images of Alexa briefly flitted through his mind, tugging at him, pulling him away from this moment to a brighter time, rather than letting him see the devastation he faced. Then the ache of Alexa's loss surfaced, mixing with regret at Duncan's loss as well, honing the familiar pain of loneliness to a sharp point.

He'd been helpless then, their days together numbered even without her illness. Methos had allowed himself to hope for something different with MacLeod, had been seduced into caring for one of his own kind. He should have known better...hell, he did know better.

And yet, some visceral part of him was not willing to give up this time. He'd deferred, defended, and fled the field once too often.

Bursting to his feet, he paced to the end of the loft, slapping the switch that flooded the room with soft lighting, and looked at the wreckage again. Methos let his anger at this violation of his and MacLeod's life feed upon him, refining some of the humanity from his soul. He closed his eyes, running his hands through his sweaty hair and harshly down his face, letting the fury intensify, certain that he would not let it end this way.

When he opened his eyes, he knew his purpose: he'd find MacLeod and the hunters, and when he did, he would make them pay. He had once been a pale rider upon a pale horse. Although the technology had changed in three thousand years, Methos could be Death once again.

And he would be, for MacLeod.

Kronos' dagger, the one he'd kept for Cassandra, winked reflected light at him from the pile near Mac's old trunk. Duncan had planned on putting it into storage with the rest of his stuff from Paris, but had never had the chance. The bronze knife fit into Methos' hand like it belonged there-which it had several millennia ago. Kronos had kept it with him, warming it with thoughts of revenge, a revenge Methos had always understood.

Methos held the blade up for a moment, testing the edge, then slid it into the inside pocket of his coat. Its memories of vengeance would keep him warm as well, until he brought Duncan MacLeod back whole and alive.

And if not...the blade had other uses.

A grim smile on his face, Methos packed up the last of what he needed from the litter of the apartment, then made his way back out the door.

After he left the loft, Methos spent some time walking, struggling to control the animal part of himself that wanted to fight or run. When the rain started up again, he randomly boarded a bus and eased back against the torn cushion, the scent of too much humanity hanging heavily, despite the lack of passengers. Rather than think, he read the ads, admiring the bits and pieces of poetry scrawled by other passengers.

Finally, after he'd read every distraction he could find, Methos tucked into himself and focused on his immediate future: he needed facts. The wreckage of the apartment had masked the keys to two large storage lockers, but all the safe deposit information was gone, along with Mac's papers regarding sales this past year. Every jewelry box had been torn open, the liquor cabinet was a mess, and even the frozen food had been slit open.

Whatever they had been looking for had to be relatively small. The Maltese Falcon would have been too big for what they'd left behind.

The bus slowed to a stop. Methos glanced out at the park-and-ride, realizing with a sharp pang where he'd been drawn. He clattered out of the dry interior and into the damp without a backward glance, staring around the campus lot.

If he wanted answers, this was as good a place as any to start looking. MacLeod had been on his way here to teach before he made the call; maybe his office held a few more answers than the loft.

Tricking the locks and slipping in was easy; the building was deserted at this hour. However, trying to find meaningful information amidst Mac's carefully filed lecture notes was a trial to Methos' barely held calm, yielding no clues as to what had happened.

Methos ended up grabbing MacLeod's Daytimer and every non-history-related paper on which he could lay his hands. He tidied the desk as best he could, then looked both ways before entering the corridor. He had to duck into a stairwell to avoid a campus security guard, but he was soon outside again. The cool night air, with a hint of the morning mist to it, soothed the tension from his muscles as he walked the dark campus. Safety lamps were nearly defeated by the light fog, defining pools of silvery light, but leaving plenty of shadow for Methos to melt into.

He wandered as aimlessly as he could, hoping to catch sight of anyone who might be tailing him. He gazed sharply into each face he passed, searching for some hint of recognition, of secret knowledge. But no one gave him more than a dismissive smile, and his senses offered no hint of anyone, Immortal or not, watching or following him.

Eventually he ended up in an old-fashioned coffee shop not too far from the University campus. Students flowed through the place easily, taking over booths to spread out papers and books, cramming for the next exam, paying him no attention. In the world of insomniac students he must have seemed as unremarkable as ever. The coffee was cheap and plentiful, if not particularly good, and Methos blended into the decor with practiced ease.

Attention to detail sedated the part of himself that he didn't even want to acknowledge. He made notes of everything he could think of, assessing the minutia from both loft and office. He wrote lists of every Immortal who might have tracked them, either for MacLeod's head or his own. He added to that every Watcher who had ever associated with Horton and might be trying to put the Hunters together again. By the time dawn broke he had a pretty extensive list. He set the last notebook down and glanced cursorily through the piles to make sure he had not missed anything. Satisfied, he sat back and closed his eyes, letting his mind sort and catalogue the information and draw the final conclusion.

When he was ready, he opened his eyes and stared at the mounds of paper arrayed on the table in front of him.

Mac was gone, and Methos had no idea what had happened.

His next steps were logistical, and mind-numbingly familiar. He needed a car and a place to stay, identification and credit, a shower and a change of clothes. He packed up everything he could stuff into the backpack, tossed the rest, and walked out into the rain again.

He picked up the phone more than once, but couldn't convince himself that the risk of contacting Joe wouldn't outweigh any potential benefits.

Risks? Or fears?

Joe would be looking for Mac, no doubt about that. And if Joe found him alive, Mac would find Methos. No doubt about it. On the other hand, if Joe found proof that Mac had lost his head. He jumped tracks to avoid that train of thought; instead, he promised himself a long visit to the public library's computer room and a good attempt at hacking his way into whatever files he needed.

He glanced at the sun-now low in the cloudy sky-and decided it would wait until tomorrow.

You and me, Scarlett, you and me.

Choking as his mouth filled with water again, Duncan rolled over and opened his eyes, his body heavy with the retreat of death. He quickly catalogued his body and position: he was covered in a layer of cold mud, his clothing was torn, and he had no idea where he was, or how much time had passed. He pulled himself up onto his knees and ran a hand through his hair to get it out of his eyes.

A marsh. He was kneeling in a marsh; the fine layer of crusty salt on his skin and the parched dryness of his mouth made it a saltwater marsh, likely not far from the bay. He took a quick glance at the pale sun; he was west of Seacouver. He looked around and saw a large concrete storm drain thirty feet away, probably on the flood abatement drainage route. He pushed himself upright as his body quickly regained its power. He stumbled awkwardly at first, but his footing quickly grew solid. He had no idea how much time had passed, but he knew he had to find Methos.

The gunshot caught him dead center in his stomach and threw him back into the brackish water. Only after his guts turned to fire did he feel the Immortal signature or hear the rifle crack

This is not a survival trait, MacLeod.

He had only a moment to wonder exactly when Methos had become the voice of his subconscious. His vision dimming quickly, Duncan found himself staring stupidly at the blood filling his cupped hands-must have hit an artery, the calm voice observed-before everything faded to black.

Research was a comfort all its own, a way for Methos to set aside the fiends that had ridden him since he'd received Mac's desperate call. The repeated, tedious steps of phoning and digging through Watcher files for suspicious Immortals, along with the occasional trip to case a potential hideout, provided enough distraction to keep him moving and raise his spirits, despite the speed with which time passed.

With mild curiosity, Methos noted a gnawing sensation in his stomach that he decided was probably hunger. He pulled into a parking space and scanned the storefronts for a likely restaurant. The Asian neighborhood offered several hole-in-the-wall eateries; a quick stop into the busiest and he was on his to way to the park across the street where he carefully laid out the Styrofoam containers. He tried hard to ignore the piercing voices of the schoolchildren-why weren't they in school? -playing on the aged jungle-gym.

He shoveled food in, nearly burning his mouth on one deep-fried vegetable, until he was satisfied that his body would continue to perform. Gathering his rubbish, he dumped it into the overflowing bin, and leaned down to drink from a child-height water fountain.

Get out.

Methos jerked upright. The auditory hallucination shouldn't have surprised him; after all, he'd run through Mac's final words a thousand times, searching for a clue. But something here, there was something different, something new. It kept spinning round and round in his head-the phone conversation, the shattering wood, the tiny echo behind Mac's voice-


Methos' head turned slowly, his body utterly still, not even his breath stirring the air. He cocked his head to one side, scanning for the sound that had so suddenly evoked MacLeod for him. He ended up staring across the playground, into the face of a young boy peeking out of a culvert. Not really a culvert, but a hollow concrete cylinder, painted what had once been Day-Glo pink and was now a faded and mottled flesh tone, reminiscent of a three-day-old corpse. The child must have felt Methos' gaze, for he looked up, froze suddenly, then ran screaming for his mother.

He ignored the child, listening instead to the resonance of that wail against the concrete, hearing again Mac's voice, hollow and distant. There had been an echo, which meant a large open space not far from the loft.

He walked briskly to his car, the motion feeling completely different when moving toward something, rather than away. As he drove swiftly toward the dojo, hope blossomed for the first time since Mac's disappearance.

His mind felt fuzzy, as if he'd spent too much time drinking and hadn't yet gotten to the headache part of the hangover. The lights in the room irritated his eyes, and Duncan had to squint to see. He was bound and lying on a concrete floor, the cold surface rough where his skin touched it. At least two men in the room: one right next to him and one by the door, maybe more-he wasn't sure of the number, just that they were all mortal. Duncan's mouth felt as dry as a desert, his lips cracking as he tried to speak. He managed to croak out "How long...?" and then he was slapped.

His face stung; the man next to him glanced upward and smiled, his sharp profile silhouetted by the bright lights, then turned to look at Duncan. "Let's just say the little fishes were having quite a feast."

Mac twisted around to look at himself, taking in the shredded and partially decomposed condition of his clothes, unable to gauge the time. Days, maybe weeks from what he could see. Then a boot landed, and Duncan jerked against the combination of straightjacket, ropes, and hospital restraints that held him immobile. Someone spoke to him then; a question, he thought, but he couldn't make out the words. A throbbing pain shot through his groin, and then someone else landed a kick to his head, and the room started to spin.

A hand twisted into his hair, dragging Duncan's head up into the man's face. He spoke again, and this time Duncan managed to catch part of it. "Pierson...much fun as this." He was released suddenly, and the impact of his skull on concrete knocked both vision and thought out of reach. Vaguely, he heard footsteps, the sound of a door shutting, and the resonant thud of a deadbolt lock being set.

The trail was cold and didn't offer any instant insights, but Methos didn't let that stop him. Instead, he reviewed the area that had become so familiar he hardly saw it anymore. Mac's antique car was parked where he'd left it, miraculously untouched, except for a parking ticket for the weekly street sweeping. Methos got down on his hands and knees, and looked under the car. The katana did not magically appear in the position he remembered, but once he was down, a dark opening at the junction of road and curb presented itself. His heart picked up its pace.

A storm drain.

Looking at the opening, Methos wasn't sure MacLeod could have fit, but it was the only likely possibility. Methos barely made it himself, leaving a smidgen of skin and cloth behind as he slid through.

He splashed down into a few inches of stagnant water, though the high-water line attested to previous floods. He felt the promise of answers pulling him forward: this had to be it. "Mac," he called softly, not really expecting a reply, except the one he got in the soft echo. Light from the street struggled through the small opening above him, illuminating a waving circle around him, the darkness of the tunnels to his left and right greedily feasting at its edge. The water was cold and filthy, but Methos knelt to run his hands along the bottom, searching for a portent.

He came up with three malt-liquor bottles, a hubcap, and a handful of change. Two quarters, six pennies, and a button. A silver filigree button off the shirt MacLeod had worn that morning.

Mac had come this way.

He drew in a deep breath and released it in a sigh that was nearly a sob, clutching the button tightly. He stared in frustration at the dark walls that offered no clue as to where Duncan had gone, or how. There had to be something, or this teasing hint would be too cruel to bear.

Further searching turned up only the ruined cellular phone that had been the agent of his own salvation, and Methos carefully stowed it away before leaping up and chinning himself on the rim of the drain. He heaved a leg up toward the concrete ledge and missed, nearly dropping back into the base of the drain. Two more tries made it abundantly clear the opening was too narrow; he wasn't going out the way he'd come in, and if he wasn't, it was a sure bet that MacLeod, injured and hunted, hadn't made it out that way, either.

Duncan gasped as life returned and with it, the realization that this was not the first time, nor the second, nor even the third. The pain was all too familiar as his heart haltingly pushed blood through his veins. His eyes refused to open, but his mind worked on establishing the facts: he was cold, he was naked, and now he was tied to a chair in some sort of warehouse. A moment of struggle proved that his bonds were well-secured, holding him completely still. Shivers wracked his body as his muscles tried to conserve what little heat they'd retained.

He was trapped.

He jerked back involuntarily, his entire body spasming like a fire getting started, and his head crashed against the back of a wooden chair. He found he could turn his head, though. He opened his eyes to a harsh, bright light that blurred most of the room, except for a few concrete pillars defined by their shadows. There was no sign of the latest bully-boy mortal who'd been his tormentor, but somewhere beyond the light, Duncan could feel an Immortal-

An Immortal who had not yet taken his head.

"Good morning, Mr. MacLeod. Did you have a pleasant rest?"

The voice was low, the accent cultured but indeterminately European. Neither was familiar, for which he was perversely thankful; Duncan was tired of killing old friends. The words bounced and echoed in the huge, empty space, but Duncan thought he could pinpoint the source. He turned to where he thought the voice originated. "Fine, thanks. How was yours?"

"Oh, my evening was pleasant enough. Finding your body was quite a relief for all of us. Although your recent stubbornness has been a bit of a disappointment."

A single set of footsteps snapped crisply against the concrete floor of the room; a tall, lanky man stepped out of the darkness, barely at the edge of Duncan's vision. Startled, Duncan could only stare, for one instant hope pounding thought his breast. Methos? The name was on his lips, but it died there as reason returned. The form was similar, but the voice dead wrong, the clothes tailored by a European designer. Not Methos, then, but someone else.

Duncan clenched his fists and released them, the small movement all his bonds allowed him. Since he wasn't yet dead, this man must still want something from him. Now the game began. What, or who, was he after? All the questions so far had concerned ex-Watcher Adam Pierson. Duncan felt himself go cold: another headhunter after the world's oldest Immortal.

His lover's name burned in his stomach, and Duncan froze the thought. He instinctively sought the feel of Methos' presence, momentarily wondering if they'd both been taken.

There was nothing-just the hollow ache in his chest where Methos' presence should be. Either Methos was dead, or he was safe, and Duncan's next choice of action would depend on which one it was.

Homicidal rage was not entirely out of the question. He could probably wiggle out if he dislocated a shoulder, but he'd need time for that. "How long...?" Duncan swallowed. He always asked that question, and no one ever answered. At this point, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

The other came closer, and Duncan got a good look at him: tall and thin, his body muscled like a greyhound, his skin browned from the sun. His dark eyes were haunted by a wild-eyed look of madness, and his craving for power was written in the folds and creases of his leathery skin; he looked like he was used to being obeyed. "Actually, I shot you several days ago. I'm sure your lover is worried about you."

"Who?" Duncan stalled. His memory sputtered to life, giving him flashes of the morning: Methos' face smiling exultantly down at him, the storm drain's dark opening, the sudden fading of light and life. It was hard to imagine the time as lost; it felt as clear as if it had happened today.

"Your lover. Adam Pierson. The man I've come here to find."

'Come to find.' Hadn't found yet. If Duncan had felt the freedom to sigh in relief, he would have. Methos was free.

And would stay that way. He knew Methos cared for him, whether or not he liked to admit it, as much as he could care for anyone; certainly enough to exhaust Duncan whenever he was in town. Enough to risk his life more than once to save Duncan's. However, it seemed likely that this would be the time Methos figured the risk just wasn't worth it, and though Duncan wanted to believe that Methos might come for him, deep down he suspected that the old man would always put his own survival first, and devil take the rest.

The solidity of that truth dropped heavily in Duncan's stomach. Methos knew how to cut his losses, as his break with the Watchers certainly demonstrated.

Then the second clue registered, the name "Adam Pierson." Duncan felt shocked as the bolt slipped into place. This man wasn't looking for Methos, the world's oldest Immortal; he was looking for a new Immortal, or maybe a renegade Watcher.

The man wanted information, which was why Duncan still had his head. Duncan felt strength flow back into him, nearly as strong as a wave of healing. As long as he kept the knowledge of who Adam was secret and safe from this Immortal, and Methos kept his distance, the bastard would keep Duncan alive. The possibility that as long as Duncan lived, the Immortal would be searching for Adam in the wasteland of Duncan's mind, rather than dredging Seacouver or the rest of the world for his lover, gave Duncan a purpose.

Alive, Duncan could find his own way out, waiting for the moment when someone made a mistake. He centered himself and removed his consciousness from the present, taking Methos' name and burying it deep in his mind where he knew this bastard would never find it. A small victory, but Duncan treasured it nonetheless, because Duncan didn't know where 'Adam' was, had no way of knowing how far he'd flown in response to the desperate phone call. Far enough, Duncan hoped.

The man reached into his jacket-Duncan steeled himself for a sword-and drew out a package of Camel filters. He tapped one out and lit it, cradling the cigarette, and letting the smoke swirl around his hands rather than inhaling it. "Now, we both know you're Immortal, so my threatening death isn't going to do any good." He stuck his hand out straight and looked down at the glowing red tip. "But I've always found pain to be an excellent motivator." He strode over to Duncan's side and placed the hot end of the cigarette just above the web between the thumb and index finger of Duncan's right hand. "Where is Adam Pierson?"

Heat from the cigarette danced across his skin, and Duncan clenched his fists. "Go to hell."

"Tsk. Not a good answer."

The man bent forward, his eyes level with Duncan's, and moved the cigarette slowly, letting Duncan's eyes track its progress until it was poised over the crook of his elbow. "Let's dispense with the preliminaries, shall we? We both know this will take a while." He pushed the tip against the inner crease of Duncan's elbow as he placed his lips on the other end and drew in a breath, turning the tip of the cigarette as hot and as red as a blacksmith's forge. He left the fire there for a moment, burning the flesh and filling the air with the smell of charred meat, while he watched Duncan.

Duncan inhaled sharply at the searing pain, smelled the bitter scent of his own flesh cooking, and reflexively tried to jerk away. He stared into the man's gray-blue eyes, forcing himself to remain still, forcing himself to ignore the burn. The wound healed the moment the man pulled the cigarette away.

Graceful, long-fingered hands ran over the now-whole flesh. "Hmm...pity about that." He frowned, tucking his longish dark hair behind an ear, then straightened. Duncan watched carefully as he paced back to the edge of the light.

The man's reaction indicated that he was unfamiliar with the way Immortals healed, but very familiar with intimidation and torment. Duncan guessed he was a new Immortal, possibly a terrorist. Since no name had been supplied, Duncan tagged him with one: Felix, after the cat with the bag of tricks.

The reek of seared flesh hung in the air while Duncan's tormentor thought, but the echo of pain was already fading. Duncan knew it wouldn't be long before the next round started; his experience said the pattern was always the same, no matter who was in charge. He'd been lucky enough to avoid the worst of the inquisitions and witch-hunts that destroyed Immortals, but he'd once fallen prey to a doctor who'd tried to vivisect him in the interests of science. He told himself that he could survive just about anything, as long as he had time. He could afford to wait until Felix made a mistake.

He hid his smile. As long as Felix was working on him here, it meant that Methos was still out there somewhere, hopefully safe. Besides, he couldn't answer this man's questions even if he wanted to. He had no idea where Adam Pierson might be.

The librarian chased him out unceremoniously at half-past closing, but Methos had his final hard copy, though he barely needed it. He'd almost memorized all possible exits from that branch of the sewer system in twelve hours of digging through old construction and permit records. He recognized at least half of them from his sodden explorations of the day before, so that left only half to go. Each one offered a minuscule chance of a clue, some hint of what might have happened to the man who'd so subtly wormed his way into Methos' life, gotten so far inside that Methos refused to accept the loss.

Duncan could have laughed as the mortals worked him over-body blows and broken bones, mostly-injuries that Duncan had sustained too many times to count, while they interspersed the blows with questions about Adam's habits and friends. What was he going to say? Adam likes to toss bottle caps behind my fridge?

Instead, Duncan used the opportunity to let go vocally, screaming and crying out whenever a strike connected; his vocality seemed to disturb them more than his silence. They obviously had expected Duncan to be the strong, stalwart kind.

That was one thing he'd learned from Methos: results often mattered more than pride.

The beating escalated, and Duncan blithely pushed the men to hit harder, his voice the one he used on beginners at the dojo. "Come on, that one was as weak as a kitten. You can do better."

The blows came harder and faster, and the questions stopped. Even in pain, Duncan smiled; he'd won this round.

A man's ability to lie to himself should never be underestimated. Methos beat himself with the thought, because the only alternative was beating his fists against the cold metal of the manhole cover, and he'd already tried that.

Seventy-three openings in the sewer system between the dojo and the bay, eight inches of rain in the last week, and not a shred of evidence of MacLeod's fate beyond a single silver button that nearly burned Methos' skin every time he touched it. He dropped silently into the cab of the rental truck-the better to blend in while messing around in sewers-and tried to measure whether the cold clamminess of the damp coverall against his skin could compare to the chill of long-term despair.

He briefly considered calling Joe; maybe something had developed on the Watcher front. Contacting Joe at this late date would only generate more questions than it would answer. So he turned the truck back toward the docks, feeling his body beginning to tremble as if his muscles would vibrate their way out through his skin.

Duncan was left lying on the floor of the warehouse, his ear torn off, his wrist shattered, and his lungs punctured and near collapse. He had screamed a lot that day, and his throat was raw. Every inch of his body hurt, and he lay there naked, feeling his heartbeat and trying to pull air into his lungs, when Felix returned.

The man stared at him a moment, his eyes hardening, if that was possible in such a cold man, then turned and left. Two of Felix's henchmen grabbed Duncan's arms and dragged him back to an old storage room, chaining him to the wall with recently installed leg irons. A plate of food was dropped in front of him, along with a cup of water. He was kicked in the ribs for good measure, rebreaking the ones that had started to set.

One of the men crouched at Duncan's side, pressing his lips close to the gasping Immortal's ear. "This was just the start, love. I'm sure we'll have a long time to play."

Duncan would have rolled his eyes if he had had the energy, the intimidation having little effect. He'd been worked over by worse than these in his life-beaten to death by the SS for his work in the resistance, in fact-and the physical pain would fade soon enough.

He tried yet again to center himself, breathing deeply through his mouth as the last of the guards filtered out, leaving him alone for the first time in what seemed like days.

The silent, still peace gave his mind too much freedom, and Duncan's thoughts drifted away from his confinement.

The ache he felt over his lover's whereabouts tore at him, the uncertainty a gnawing fear in the pit of his stomach. Duncan quickly shoved those thoughts away, trying to be happy that Adam was gone; hoping he was safe somewhere, preferably warm. Joe would have an idea where he might have gone-

Duncan brutally cut off that line of thought; Joe was another name to be buried. From this moment on, he was alone.

When it was possible to sit up, he managed to find a position that didn't hurt too badly and eagerly drank the water. The food looked like leftovers from the 'quick fix' section of the supermarket-instant stew and biscuits, a five-minute meal-and it was obvious that Felix and his friends weren't great cooks. The hunks of meat and congealed gravy tasted off, as if it had been sitting around awhile, but Duncan really didn't care. It was enough to keep him going.

He closed his eyes, staring into the blank grayness, trying to feel what was happening within his body. His muscles ached, and his breathing was labored, but he could feel the bones re-knitting themselves, generating a tiny amount of heat as the power worked. Wounds took time to heal, and each bone snapping into place was almost as painful as the original break.

He rested his head back against the wall, letting the pain wash over him, ignoring the sound as his ear grew back. He tried to keep himself detached from it, knowing that it might take a day or so for that to be back to normal; he hadn't received that type of injury since the War to End All Wars.

"Down, MacLeod!"

The mortar hit about ten feet from where Duncan pressed himself against the side of the trench. Rocks struck everywhere, raining down on him and the rest of the men pressed against the wall, waiting for orders. His back and arms took the worst of it, then his ass and thighs. One even clocked him in the head pretty well, turning the world white and tearing his face; Duncan thought he might pass out.

"Oh, Christ, mate. What happened to you?"

The words were muffled and strange; the mortar concussion must have affected his hearing. The soldier kept staring at his face, and Duncan reached up, pressing his hand against the side of his face where he felt blood.

Where he should have felt his ear, there was nothing except for a few awkward scraps of flesh. He pulled his hand away and stared at the blood covering his palm, not really sure of its meaning.

The soldier shook himself and grabbed Duncan's arm, dragging him into a bunker. "Come on, you can't patch that one yourself."

Duncan let himself be fussed over; it was easier than protesting. He eased himself into a ladder-backed chair while the other man pawed through his first aid kit.

"Lucky thing, you being with the Red Cross." He pulled out a needle and a small bottle from Duncan's pack. "Roll up your sleeve. The morphine will help take the edge off, 'til we can get you fixed." He leaned down and whispered in Duncan's good ear. "If you wear your hair long, no one will notice." The words were accompanied by a fatherly squeeze on his shoulder as Duncan's arm was laid bare.

And then the needle pierced his skin.

The sting in his thigh pulled him back to the present, and a needle glinted in the light as the syringe was pulled out. "Get up."

Duncan blinked in the light streaming in from the hallway and tried to roll onto his side and push himself up off the floor. His body felt heavy and leaden; he had a hard time making it respond. He struggled against himself, his mind quick and his body slow, the whole process taking much longer than it should. His arms lacked strength, and he had only managed to get halfway upright before they collapsed under him. He tried to get his legs underneath him, scooting along the floor minutely, suddenly aware that the chains were gone.

Frustration bit at him; this should have been his chance. Instead, he'd let them catch him unaware, and there would be a new game to play. He wanted to scream his anger, or do something that would make him stop feeling so damn helpless, but his body refused to react. Duncan tried to figure out how long it had been since he'd eaten, which would have been their first opportunity to drug him, but his mind refused to stay on task.

He drifted a moment before a kick brought him back. The pain in his ribs clarified his thoughts; he tried to speak, to taunt the bully-boys the way he had before, but it felt like too much work right now. His intended jibe-didn't you bring your boss today?-came out as a series of mumbling, garbled consonants, completely without impact.

"Not so tough now, are you?" The jeering voice only echoed Duncan's thoughts. "You'll roll over like a trained dog by the time we're though."

Hating the helplessness of lying naked on the floor while the men loomed above him, Duncan reached for his reserve of stamina, pressing up to his knees, trying to even the power struggle a bit.

He didn't make it. His body betrayed him, no longer able to support his weight. Duncan stifled a groan as he dropped back, the chill of the cement floor penetrating deeper, freezing him in ways far beyond the physical. He just didn't have the energy to stand up and fight.

Maybe it's time to simply accept.

Methos' voice, practical yet passionate, resonated again in his mind, its warmth filling him with a sense of loss that Duncan could barely turn away. He knew that if he accepted this and allowed them to take what they wanted without struggle, he was lost.

He simply didn't have the old man's strength at adapting to anything that came along; he would shatter if he let go of the fight.

Laughter filled the room, and then his hair was grabbed and his head jerked back, the pain a blessed relief from his tormented thoughts. One of the men stared at him, his eyes bright. "This'll be fine, mate." He let go of the hair, and Duncan's head dropped to a more comfortable position. The guy then grabbed Duncan's hips. "I don't care about your face anyway."

His hips were lifted and his ass cheeks spread open. Without much more care than that he felt a man's cock probing the tender flesh. He gritted his teeth and tried to relax, readying himself for the invasion he knew was coming. He couldn't stop the groan that leaked out of his mouth as his head slammed against the cold concrete floor, the rough texture scraping his skin. Duncan closed his eyes and swallowed, readying himself for what would happen, yet knowing that he could never be ready.

Hands pulled at him, prodded him, moving his ass up and his thighs wide; then, with a yell, his tormentor split Duncan open, thrusting deep into the dry hole.

With the hand pressing against the middle of his back, holding him down, Duncan could barely move. He tried to find a way to ease the searing pain, but his body refused to obey him; even his fear seemed a distant, abstract thing.

The drugs had been effective, whatever they were, separating his mind from his body while making sure he could still feel pain. Duncan cursed with each thrust he received from his rapist, the thick cock moving with agonizing slowness as it turned and twisted within him. He should have realized what would be next, but somehow he hadn't been prepared. He should have been more aware.

Nails gripped and tore into his ass as the hard invader filled him. Duncan grimaced and swallowed, finally letting the litany of 'no's' free into room, the word giving him something to focus on.

His head was yanked back by the hair and his face slammed into the concrete; they must want him silent.

Duncan shifted his weight, trying to get his arms underneath him, to find some leverage to push the man away, but nothing seemed to work. All he could do was lie there, hearing the slap of flesh against his bare cheeks, feeling the grinding pain as he was pounded into the floor, his back bitten and scratched while he listened to the grunts of other men waiting their turn in line.

He tried to crawl into himself and distance his mind from his body, but even that escape was denied him. Too many aches echoed within him: his skin had been bitten, his body bruised, and constant thrusting kept drawing his attention back to the moment.

Duncan groaned and trembled, hating the feeling of helplessness. Unable to control himself, his unwilling cries of agony only intensified the strength and frequency of the thrusts as his rapist pounded into his ass. Duncan felt something tear deep inside him, and knew he was bleeding.

Either his tormentor did not care, or the sight of blood on his cock excited him; seconds later, Duncan felt himself filled with warmth.

His ass was given a hard slap as the man withdrew. The drugs were wearing off, and he was able to move enough to roll onto his side. Another man came for him, and Duncan managed a couple of good kicks before someone landed a blow.

His head slammed against the concrete floor with a particularly vicious crack, and for a merciful moment, everything went black.

In three thousand years, Methos had not forgotten the smell. The charnel houses after the plague or the still-lingering scent of the gas chambers came close to what he remembered now, but this memory was more livid than those were.

Bodies in the sun, rotting after a raid, no one left alive to bury their dead. Still and all, through the dark, faceless destruction, he felt the signature of one he loved well.

"Mac?" He whispered it in the darkness.

Caspian had found MacLeod first, and there wasn't much left of the Highlander. The man still lived, but his eyes were gone, and the rest was a mass of slowly healing scars.

Caspian had botched the beheading, leaving it to Methos to finish the stroke.

Knowing it was necessary, Methos pulled back his sword, delivering the fatal blow....

"No, Methos!"

The scream in his dream merged with the scream from his past, Cassandra and Mac unified in Methos' betrayal. A knife was in his hand abruptly, left palm laid open to the bone. Instant, dazzling pain was nearly enough to mask the dull, burning ache of his failure, to bring the world into sudden, sharp focus.

He stanched the blood with the hem of his roughly woven tunic, watching in dismay as the skin knit before his eyes. He wanted to cut-again and again-to make some permanent physical brand, to forever remind himself of his failure, of his destiny, and he knew his own helplessness once more.

Methos woke to the sound of his own voice; one hand going to his sword-pommel, the other to his pistol, he glanced quickly around the dingy motel room. Heart pounding, he took a moment to place himself in both space and time, grimacing at the half-empty coffee cup at his elbow and the scattered power-bar wrappings, taking small comfort in finding his pack by the door, ready for a quick exit.

Exhaustion had overtaken him; even Immortal healing couldn't sustain him past seventy-two hours of wakefulness. However, the restless, unknowing fear and anger hadn't allowed him to stop driving himself, both mentally and physically, until he almost literally could not move. He'd finally allowed himself to nap in the lumpy recliner, with MTV running at low volume in the background.

Snapping off the late-night rap extravaganza, he moved cautiously to the window and looked out. It was pitch black; he'd slept less than three hours. It would have to do. The docks across the road were active, even at 3:30 a.m., large containers disappearing into massive cargo ships like children's blocks into a toy chest.

Methos yawned, stretching hard against the tightly wound tension in his back. He knew he needed more rest. Tomorrow, or the next, he'd get a full night's sleep. A man could only go so long on meditation exercises, caffeine, and artificially balanced, sterilely engineered food products. Scowling, he stretched out on top of the bedspread. At least his muscles would be rested.

He left the motel on foot before first light, caught the local bus, and then transferred to the downtown express with a herd of commuters. Still watching his backtrail carefully, now he found himself perversely wishing someone would follow him. Then he'd at least have a clue where to start.

Duncan had been missing almost two weeks, and Methos had no more idea now what was going on than when he'd hung up on him. Damn you, MacLeod, you'd better not be dead!

A screech of brakes brought the horror of the nightmare back, complete with nausea and cold sweat. He dragged in a deep breath of diesel-scented air, tried desperately for a calm center...and failed.

Memory swept over him, seemingly every death Methos had ever dealt-a slide-show of horror-visited on his lover instead.

This had to end.

At least the dreams were pleasant; Duncan took some comfort in them, until that refuge was taken from him as well.

He ran out of the house and down into the street, collapsing to his knees on the asphalt as the punk-kid aimed at Methos and fired. Duncan watched in stunned, freeze-frame agony as Methos fell backward, landing sprawled in Duncan's lap, bits of bone and blood covering them both. The kid melted away, not even leaving footsteps behind, as Duncan clumsily pulled the suddenly limp body tight to his chest. He curled around the still form like a child with a favorite doll, rocking and keening at the devastation he felt, each individual realization choking in his throat. He looked down at the body he held, trying to assess the damage, but his mind kept replaying one thought-Methos had been shot. His vision cleared, and Duncan was finally able to see what had happened-half of Methos' head was blown away, one eye sightless, the other missing. That would explain the bone fragments, Duncan thought. His skull had shattered, leaving blood and brains spattered across both of them.

Despair lashed him as the pieces fell into place: Methos was truly dead.

Interminable seconds passed in horrified silence, and the bright mist rose about them, mercifully hiding some of the gore. Then the first shaft of energy impaled Duncan, burning along every nerve ending. He screamed his denial as the Quickening took him.

He jerked awake-grateful for the vicious bite of the taser.

Methos spent the day watching-skills long known and not recently used-and coldly appreciating the irony of secretly observing someone whose life calling was surveillance. Now, when having someone spying on him could actually help, they'd fallen down on the job.

He'd been looking so long, and he had nothing, nothing, to show that MacLeod wasn't dead. The conclusion was obvious. The fact that no one had stumbled upon MacLeod's headless corpse yet just meant that this murdering bastard was a little more careful than most.

So, Methos had finally come here. Good old Joe, who'd betrayed his solemn oaths for his friend Duncan MacLeod too many times now to count. Joe, who'd been a friend to Adam Pierson long before he'd come to know Methos.

Methos had given himself a million reasons why he hadn't been willing to talk to Joe, but now he had to face the truth. He was here for an answer he didn't want, and he trusted no one but Dawson to give it to him. If Joe told him that Duncan was dead, if Methos saw the truth in eyes that were far too weary to have seen a mere half-century of life, he'd have no choice but to believe it.

It had taken him days to get to this place, where not knowing was finally more painful than knowing. At least, once he knew, it would be over. And if by some miracle, Mac were still alive, Methos could restart his hunt.

Joe's daily routine was remarkably unchanged by the crisis, a fact that should not have angered Methos as much as it did. He followed discreetly, paying less attention to the Watcher than to signs that someone else was also observing. By early afternoon, he was relatively certain that there was no physical tail; that still left wiretaps and hidden microphones in Joe's home or the bar. Someplace public, then.

The produce aisle in the market presented the opportunity, and when he saw Joe struggle with the awkwardly mounted plastic bag dispenser, he dredged up an Adam-smile and offered quietly, "Allow me."

He didn't want to, he knew it for a mistake, and still he forced himself to watch the shock hit. It was followed quickly by anger and curiosity, and then caution as Joe realized their exposed position. Thoughts flashed over Joe's face, catching quickly but painfully, like barbed fishhooks, in emotions Methos hadn't let himself acknowledge. Now, here he was, struggling to breathe against the enormous weight on his chest, feeling his body quake under that empathetic gaze.

"Adam!" A warm hand rested on his arm, the first time he'd been touched since. He stifled a groan and turned his head away from that too-perceptive gaze. "Where have you been? What happened?"

Questions he should have expected, but somehow hadn't. All he knew was he didn't want to take the time to answer, that he couldn't answer. He shook his head sharply to dismiss them and, with them, his own crippling response.

"Joe, please." It was closer to begging than demand, and he paused to gather himself, watching his friend set aside his own concerns and fears to take care of another. Quickly, before Joe punctured him with some caring response, Methos spat out the words he'd come to say: "I need to know." As near certain as he was, Methos forced himself to look deeply into the shadowed eyes, asking for the answer that he least wanted to hear. "Is MacLeod dead?"

The eyes were the key: windows to the soul and all that. And Joe's eyes were expressive: confusion first, then concern, but no attempt to hide, to protect him from something Joe thought was too terrible to relate, no poor-Adam consolation.

It wasn't true.

Methos dragged in one sip of air, then another, squeezing his eyes tightly shut to contain the fierce burn of hope and anger. The chance that MacLeod would be his again was so fine it was painful.

"Adam?" Joe's voice was uncertain and full of questions he managed to express without speaking them.

Methos looked once more into the concerned gaze. "I don't know, Joe. I just don't know"

"Excuse me." A heavy-set woman in a floral-print raincoat reached between them, reeling off a long string of plastic baggies.

When she stepped back, the space next to Joe was empty, as if Adam had been a figment of his over-stressed imagination. He scanned the aisle quickly, and saw no sign of his friend. Of course not. Methos: quick exits a specialty.

But Joe knew that he could not have imagined the pain and need on that youthful face.

When Duncan's vision returned, the men were gone, and blood mixed with semen crusted the back of his thighs, though he thought the healing was complete. He shifted his weight, and the muscles in his ass lurched and twitched, sending sparks of agony into his spine. Duncan took a deep breath-his ribs still hurt-and released it slowly. The trembling calmed, and the pain eased; he wasn't as whole as he had first thought. Maybe the rape had damaged him more than the beating, but that didn't seem possible. "Raped to Death" was a line found in penny dreadfuls, not in reality, he admonished himself. When his breathing started to seize up, it was easier to blame broken ribs than an emotional reaction he couldn't afford. It must be taking longer for the injuries to heal completely.

He needed to get some rest-a little sleep should put things to right. More food had been set out. Duncan ate and drank what he was given, preferring the taste of the food to the feel of hunger. The drugs would keep his mind busy, helping him to distance himself from what happened to his body.

A thought slipped though the barriers he had wrought, a flicker of memory from the last time that he and Methos had made love.

For a moment, he could not breathe as his body gave itself over to feeling the slide of skin under his hands, his spirit centering as they made love, anchoring him to that moment, that reality shaping itself around him again. He savored the memory, a psychic laying on of hands that might erase the bruising and the degradation.

Duncan knew he had to push it away, had to try and keep those thoughts buried deep inside, where Felix could not find them, but he didn't have the strength right now.

He found some comfort thinking of Methos, the image of his lover waiting patiently for him too much to resist. He imagined Methos lazing around some tropical island with warm-water beaches, plenty of books, and a beautiful islander or two plying him with beer. The image cheered Duncan a little, picturing his lover's long legs warmed by the sun, while the cold of the concrete floor stole the heat from his own skin.

And he was certain now Methos was not coming for him. The old man had survived for five thousand years on his own; he expected MacLeod to do the same. Anger bubbled within him for a moment-he would have walked into hell itself to save Methos-and this place could easily be hell. The anger warmed him briefly, but then it too burned out, needing too much energy to keep it alive.

Duncan shivered, his body jerking as it tried to warm itself, until it finally gave up the attempt.

Pragmatism prescribed sleep, and Methos settled fully clothed into the too-pliant bed, knowing that its squishy embrace was ultimately more comfortable than the recliner. He reached to turn out the light, praying for a dreamless night, yet he knew it was far too much to ask.

The sudden relief of challenge averted seemed to dump nearly as much adrenaline into his bloodstream as fear had two minutes before, and the result was sudden, obvious, and absolutely sexual. Methos wanted to grab Duncan, pull him down on the hard earth, and get the fucking of his life. He didn't think he'd have too much trouble convincing MacLeod. He reached out and dragged him into an embrace, making no secret of his arousal as he pressed their bodies together, his tongue delving deep into Mac's hot mouth, feeling the tingling of excitement-both physical and emotional-in every cell of his body.

"What, here?" Mac pulled back slightly, scanning the shadowy plaza, tugging at Methos to lead him away.

Waiting-moving-was not an option. "Yes, Mac. Here. Now." Methos fit action to words, sliding his hands up under MacLeod's sweater, feeling the sweat break out on his lover's smooth skin, savoring the power of this vibrant, living body, and skillful, loving soul. He pushed Duncan back against one of the neo-classical roman columns and ground himself between Duncan's parted thighs, a low moan escaping Mac's lips.

He was right; Mac was nearly as quick off the mark as Methos was, tightening his arms, then releasing to tug desperately at Methos' jeans.

Methos gasped at the sudden chill air against his skin, and again when he was warmed by Mac's palm, stroking urgently. He retaliated, dipping his hands under Mac's waistband, cupping the round cheeks, sliding a teasing finger under the silk thong to trace the hot, damp crevice, pressing gently inward. The result was instantaneous. MacLeod stiffened, gripping him tightly, almost painfully.


"I want you, Duncan."

"Yessss." The breath hissed against his ear, stirring Methos' hair, sending another shiver down his spine.

They wrapped around each other like vines on a tree, clinging and pushing into a tighter embrace. Methos threaded his thighs between Duncan's, and ground their cocks into each other. "Is this what you want, Mac?" he whispered, his hands sliding between them to pump the hardening shafts. "You want to do it like this, a quick hand job standing in the square?" Lips brushing lightly on the Highlander's cheek, he could feel the tremble of Mac's muscles under the skin. Methos pulled back for a moment to look at Duncan, at the way his eyes were nearly shut with passion, and felt the large hands roam over his back and squeeze his ass. "Too bad, because I think I want something a little bit more."

MacLeod groaned his agreement as Methos eased him down to the pavement, pulling the tweed trousers and silk underwear down and away, pausing briefly as Mac likewise divested him of his jeans.

The cool moonlight spread shadows across Mac's reclining form; Methos stroked through them gently, then harder, loving the instantaneous physical response.

He leaned down, cradling his arm across Mac's stomach, and nuzzled the thick, semi-hard cock still sheltered in foreskin. He inhaled the musky scent and lipped the tip of the shaft, dragging an appreciative 'uhm' from Mac. He levered himself up onto his knees, and slowly consumed the silken treasure. He worked it until Mac's cock was dripping, and Methos could feel the tension in his thighs. He pulled back and smiled, pleased with Mac's frustrated cry.

"Not quite yet, love. Hang on a moment." He straddled the powerful body, savoring the feel of the powerful muscles beneath him. He pulled the tip back on the wet shaft until it pressed against his opening, then, with a deep sigh that mixed anticipation of pain and pleasure, he thrust himself down, deliberately opening himself and taking MacLeod as deeply as possible.

Mac groaned again, and it echoed off the stone walls, vibrating through Methos nearly as powerfully as the throbbing shaft. "Yes" he hissed as Mac shifted, stretching him, touching off a shower of sparks through his nerves. Methos' heart pounded again, still, the fear/relief/thrill/pleasure spinning into one indistinguishable sensation.

He leaned down to kiss Mac's parted lips, wanting to pass the feeling along, but Mac was there already, ready to suck Methos' tongue, tasting vigorously hot and alive. Then Mac's mouth moved downward to lave Methos' neck, trading off less-than-gentle nips and soothing kisses. The tiny pains, counterpointed by the alternating pain and pleasure at his center, only drove him higher, until Methos' heartbeat drowned even his own gasps and whimpers.

His knees ached where pebbles had pressed into the skin, his thighs trembled from exertion, and sweat tumbled down his skin, but it wasn't quite enough. At the edge of awareness, he sought that final bit of sensation, that last push that would send him over the edge. In mindless desperation, he ground himself hard onto Mac's cock, taking Duncan as deep into himself as was humanly possible, finding his release in that final, searing pleasure that ripped through him.

He clutched Mac's hands as he came, spilling himself onto the firm, well-muscled abdomen, and feeling himself filled, in turn, by Duncan's seed. He vaguely heard the deep groans his partner made-the rush of blood in his own ears drowning out most other sound-and Methos collapsed onto Mac's chest, rubbing the sweat and semen between them, refusing to break contact as he carefully sought his partner's lips.

Duncan pulled him closer, deepening the kiss, his eyes sparkling. "I was wrong. This was a great idea."

Methos looked at him, and their eyes met, need transforming itself into laughter as they eased themselves apart. He grinned. "Yes, I think it was one of my better ones."

His grin was wiped from his face as Methos felt a surge of Immortal presence, but he was too slow to draw his sword. Kronos ignored him and grabbed the Highlander by the hair, pulling him to his feet; his body frozen, Methos could only stare as Kronos dragged MacLeod away.

The taunting voice floated toward him in the night, and Methos closed his eyes to try and manage the pain. "You must learn to share, brother. There is nothing you can own that I cannot take. You will enjoy whatever is left."

And then the dream shifted-now he watched Kronos, hands twisted in the Highlander's thick hair, slice MacLeod open with his favorite bronze knife. Blood pooled on the ground as MacLeod screamed. Paralyzed, Methos watched Duncan healthen he watched Kronos do it again. And again. No effort of Methos' could stop the inexorable torture, and no denial wiped out the sense of helplessness that washed through him.

The echo of MacLeod's screams and Kronos' laughter was consumed by a sudden convulsive gasp as Methos opened his eyes and found himself once again alone.

He stumbled to the tiny lavatory to splash cold water on his face. Staring fiercely at the bathroom mirror, Methos felt his breathing begin to seize, watching angrily as his body began to jerk and sway, muscles nearly convulsing. Fury transmuted to terror at this final betrayal. As he struggled for breath and the world began to blur, he fumbled for an anchor...and found it in the inside pocket of his coat.

As he caressed the metal, feeling its warmth and its strength, a voice in his head whispered at him, Sometimes the old ways are best.

He held the bronze knife like a talisman, gathering strength from its age and its visceral memory of his past life. The metal was warm, warmer than his skin but not so hot as the blood he remembered flowing down his chest, not so sharp as the bright, biting pain of what once-had-been.

But the dagger felt only half-alive in his hands, as half-asleep as his own mind, waiting for something to drag it back into use, give it purpose.

With deliberate care, he turned his palm upright and set the tip to his lifeline, focusing on making the cut as neat as possible. He traced its length from finger to wrist, letting the pain focus him, carry him from the nebulous terror of the present to the complete certainty of the past, where no doubts existed in his life. The blood was smooth, like silk on his skin, the pulse beating powerfully in his wrist, pumping out feeling that seemed too harsh to bear, leaving him hollow, a vessel for the will that flowed into him now, a trickle of dark power that was Methos' only addiction.

He watched the blood course fiercely into the wooden bowl, restaining the once brightly painted designs, now marked from years of sacrifices. He willed the blood to flow freely, enough to sate the goddess. But the lightning came quickly, remaking him in the form he'd always held.

When it was done, she-the woman's name was lost to him, except that in this moment she was the vessel of the goddess-she gently rubbed his breast, smoothing the last of the blood into his skin, tracing the old/new perfection there.

She drank first, lightly, then offered the bowl to his lips with small, sure hands. He sipped, the salty, sharp taste a familiar promise of life to come. The remainder would be turned into the earth, the offering of life for life that would assure the next harvest.

A rattling, rushing flush that had no place in the prehistoric world jolted Methos back to his dingy bathroom, now smelling sharply of blood. He heaved a breath to steady himself, then stared down at the bloody blade, letting it clatter harshly to the spattered floor.

The now-cool dampness-the taint of offering refused-sent a sudden shiver through him, and Methos tore at his sodden shirt frantically, popping buttons and splitting seams in his haste to get away from the reminder of what he'd just done to himself.

Duncan was given clothes, but they didn't last long. Felix seemed to enjoy slicing the pants from Duncan's legs, the knife slitting the skin, leaving behind rivulets of blood. He gave, and he took away-Duncan had seen that game before. Intellectually, he knew it was a way of creating dependency, yet he found himself reacting just the same. Having his clothes cut off made him feel more vulnerable than he'd felt just being naked, and the pain inflicted only reinforced that fact.

Yet overall, Felix was surprisingly gentle as he took his pleasure in hurting MacLeod. At one point, after he'd sliced deep into Duncan's groin and listened to the screams, his face had taken on a beatific expression, the kind reserved for saints. He'd cradled Duncan's head between his hands, stroking the flesh tenderly, and then kissed him deeply.

"You are beautiful," he whispered. Then he cut Duncan again, drinking in the next scream.

Was this how it had been for Kronos' victims?

And Methos? Had Methos played these games as well?

The revulsion he'd felt when Methos' bloody past had been revealed to him, and the betrayal he'd felt at Methos' deception-reactions he'd long since put to rest-rushed suddenly in. Cassandra's bitter hatred seemed righteously justified in light of Duncan's current circumstances.

He wasn't sure if he would have forgiven Methos either, no matter how much he insisted he'd changed.

Duncan pulled away from the thought as he felt Felix's hand slide across his thigh, interrupting the sparks of light from the healing wounds.

Felix seemed to purr. "Fascinating."

Duncan wanted to yell, to tell the asshole that he was no science experiment, but he couldn't get his mouth to work.

Felix stroked his chest, and Duncan saw what was coming. Before it could get any worse, before he lost the chance to separate himself from his body, Duncan pulled his mind tight into himself. He concentrated, imagining his flesh a shield wrapped tightly around him, a shield that let nothing else in...Duncan's physical awareness slowly turned numb.

He wasn't sure if he was face down or face up, or if Felix had played more with the knife. Duncan only knew that he could survive.

At that moment he realized the Other was with him as well. His dark half laughed at his current predicament, his voice echoing within Duncan's mind, obliterating thought.

Nice of you to make room for me, the feral voice growled. I haven't had a chance to play in a long time.

The voice in his mind grew stronger, and Duncan grew colder, the sensation of his body going from numb to nonexistent. He couldn't even feel the pressure of air on his skin, he was that dead inside.

And the voice simply laughed.

Duncan wanted to yell, to force himself back to the present, but he had done too good a job. He'd locked away speech along with everything else, and his body was no longer willing to respond-at least, not to his conscious thoughts.

The evil glided over him, using his own withdrawal as its chance to escape.

He soon found himself a passenger on this voyage, as the Other took control of the ship. It kneed Felix in the groin and used the chance to flip the man onto his stomach.

"It's party time." Duncan's low voice rattled the room, more intent on enjoying the helplessness of the man beneath him than on escape. "Let me hear you scream."

Felix did, and Duncan felt his lips pull back in a grim smile as he picked up the knife Felix had just used on him. "I've always enjoyed these myself."

He slid the edge of the blade across Felix's neck, leaving a trace of blood behind. "Fuck or die, little man. Which will it be?" He ground his groin against Felix's, his cock hard and insistent. "Fuck and die, perhaps? Sounds good to me."

From far away, Duncan noticed the bullets strike his chest, knew that he had lost this chance as well. The blood welled up from his punctured lungs, the sharp noise sounding more like soap bubbles breaking than air escaping. Startled, he felt the other Duncan withdraw from the physical form and wondered that evil so feared its own demise. But the door was momentarily open, and he grabbed his chance. He surged through his own body, wresting it back from the Other, deliberately wearing the pain of another death.

He could not afford to withdraw like that again; too many others shared his soul right now, and he needed to keep himself focused if he was to keep his dark half in line.

The agony was welcome, the connection complete, and the Other locked away once again. Duncan shivered as he put the memories aside, the power of his demon-half far too tempting in this fight.

concluded in part two...