|Warmth of the Sun
by Rachael Sabotini
CYA: All standard disclaimers apply, whatever they might be. I make no money off this; I mean no harm.This story is rated NC-17 for what might be considered graphic sex between consenting adult males. Deal or Bail; it's your choice.
This story takes place sometime after the end of the series.
The morning sun wrapped itself around Mac's wide-brimmed straw hat, a gentle touch that left his face and neck in shade. By noon the spring air would almost shimmer with heat, but for now, the morning's cool breeze embraced the hillside. Carefully, he clipped the joint of the grapevine and tied it into place on the wooden frame. When he finished, he stood and straightened, his spine crackling as the bones shifted back into place, and surveyed the vineyard.
50 rows down, 50 left to do. With luck, he would be finished with these next week, before the weather turned.
Mac flexed his fingers, hearing them fall into place the same way his spine had, and noticed the calluses. He stared at his palms and shook his head -- as a child, he had worked the land along with everyone else in the village, but he had never built up calluses from his labors.
No, the chieftain's son was a warrior first and foremost, and the calluses he'd earned then had come from wielding a sword. He curled his fingers over his palms and looked across the little vineyard, seeing where the morning fog had settled, waiting for the sun to burn it away.
Even in his morning katas he no longer carried a sword. He had none with him now.
His thoughts shattered as the feeling of immortality struck him, and he instinctively turned to look.
Backpack in hand, Methos stood at the edge of the field, his own version of the wide-brimmed straw hat shading his face as well. Their eyes caught and locked, and Mac's mouth suddenly went dry.
He wanted to cry out, to shout his friend's name and welcome him, but his throat wouldn't work. Mac could not recall the last time he'd actually spoken to someone, other than his yearly trip into the village to pick up supplies. He had to think about how to talk.
He could still recall clearly the last time he'd spoken to this man, drinking champagne with him that last night on the barge. /I know you don't want to hear this, Methos.../ Every word was etched somewhere deeply within him, along with the need to keep this man safe, even when that meant leaving him behind. At least this place was holy ground and self-sufficient; as long as he stayed here his friends were safe -- as safe as an Immortal could ever be -- even if he was alone.
Embarrassed by the lengthening silence, Mac strode across the furrowed earth. He grabbed for the backpack and slung it over his own shoulder, letting his joy be seen in his eyes and his huge smile. Then he cleared his throat, finally remembering how to talk. "Methos."
The word was croaked out, harsh and hard, like dry-packed earth, yet warm and full of life.
Methos smiled in return. "MacLeod," he whispered, the name falling from lips cracked from exposure, skin burnished by the sun. As reverently as a supplicant in a temple, he reached out and gripped MacLeod's arm. "It's good to see you, Duncan. It's been too long."
Forearm to forearm they held the grasp, strong fingers wrapping around lean muscles, tightening, reassuring, creating a physical reminder of their shared past. Connected, their breathing synchronized as they searched each other's eyes, looking for some hint of where they stood, but seeing only their own reflections.
Mac nodded his welcome and dropped Methos' arm, then froze, unsure of where to go or what to do. He'd been away from people for too long, and the need for casual pleasantry left him feeling bewildered. He literally couldn't talk right now, his throat still dry, conversation a lost art form. He just stared at Methos, drinking in the sculpted features like a fine wine, wanting to speak and yet finding himself without anything to say.
How to explain? He shifted Methos' pack more comfortably against his shoulder, trying to explain with his eyes. He wanted Methos' company, yet couldn't give up the day's work. Crops had a rhythm to them, a pattern of birth and rebirth that had become the pattern of Mac's life, the force that got him up in the morning and put him to bed at night. He could not change that pattern now any more than he could stop breathing, as if he were tied to the earth itself.
Some of his conflict must have been written on his face, to be read by Methos' searching gaze. His hand dropped and his tone gentled, like that of a man to a child. "I understand, MacLeod. I've worked the fields myself." He gestured at the clippers still gripped in Mac's hand. "There are only so many days to do what needs to be done."
Mac relaxed and flashed a smile at Methos, croaking out a monosyllabic "Aye," thankful for his friend's understanding. He strode back among the vines and slung the pack on the ground near the start of the new row, gesturing at Methos to sit. He then walked up a row and was picking up his own tools and the water bottle when he was stopped by an unusual sound. He looked back at where he had left Methos, and found the other Immortal standing at the head of the row, clippers in hand, working to prune the vines and tie them into place.
Methos was singing as he worked something probably heard in a similar vineyard a thousand years ago. Silently Mac joined him on the other side of the row, the sound of his own clippers falling into the rhythm of Methos' song, soothing and caressing him, his mind finding peace in the meditative repetitions of tying up the vines.
And at the end of the day, he could not imagine Methos being anywhere else.
The trek back from the field was hot and muggy, the path worn to bare, hard-packed earth over time. Mac carried Methos' pack and Methos shouldered MacLeod's tools across the tiny creek at the bottom of the hill, up the steep rise past the terraced olive trees to the ancient stone house. The well in front invited them, and the two dirty men stopped to dip the bucket in the cold cistern water.
When Methos handed the battered metal dipper to Mac, the water spilled, splashing over MacLeod's callused hands. With a slightly amused glare, Mac shook the water off his fingers, then scooped a dipperful and drank at bit, before pouring most of it over Methos' head.
Sputtering, Methos grabbed the bucket and upended it, just as the Highlander tried to move out of the way. Half of Mac's body was drenched -- as were the pack and the tools -- the cool liquid welcome after the heat of the day. MacLeod laughed, his booming voice filling up the silence, his eyes glittering with joy and mischief as he dipped another bucketful and threw it at Methos.
They were soaked when they were done, laughter filling the air as they collapsed onto the ground, panting from their exertions.
Mac smiled. It really had been too long.
Barely dry from the sun, Mac opened the louvered doors in the center of the single story building, slinging the pack neatly into a corner under one of the closed windows. He stood and stretched, flexing the muscles in his back, letting everything click into place while Methos dropped the tools on a heavy claw-footed table. MacLeod opened the windows on either side of the door; the evening sun flooded through them and the open doorway, illuminating the central room. Clean and cool, the terra-cotta floor tiles and soft yellow stuccoed walls glowed in the light. To the right, a simple yet functional kitchen waited for the evening meal to be prepared; on the other side, a sparse bedroom could be glimpsed through the open archway. Not a lot of privacy, but more space than he had had on the barge.
MacLeod opened the top of a low, dark oak chest and pulled out the other set of towels, the set he hadn't used today, and frowned. He wasn't really set up for visitors -- there were no spares to be had. He shrugged and closed the chest, then turned and pulled the used towel off the drying rack, holding the clean one out behind him. It would just mean doing an extra bit of laundry until Methos left.
The thought chilled him, turning into a tight ball of ice in his stomach and raising the hair on his arms. He didn't want to think of Methos leaving, not now, not when the man had just arrived, when they had fallen together like spoons nestled in a drawer. He wanted Methos to stay.
Methos didn't take the towel. Mac slowly turned around to face him, holding both towels crumpled against his chest like some sort of shield.
Methos was in investigation mode. He leaned back against the table, his arms folded across his chest, his eyes almost devouring MacLeod. The light from the doorway filtered around him, enrobing him with a shimmering halo, an angelic effect at odds with the man's life and his hungry, sensual expression. Damnation and salvation wrapped in a lithe package, and Mac could not move to open it.
Methos visibly shook himself and uncrossed his arms, gripping the edge of the table in his hands. His voice was soft yet staccato, full of force and energy. "How long have you been here?"
Mac swallowed twice at the image before him before he felt he could speak. "Years. I keep track of seasons, because of the land and the growth of the vines. I don't know how much time has really passed in the outside world."
"What about..." Methos gestured at the shortband radio sitting on a table at the end of the room. "Don't you listen to that?"
"No." The radio had become almost a dare -- how long could he go before turning it on? Mac wasn't even sure it worked anymore.
The flat answer hung in the air between them and then Methos smiled. "My god, you really did become a hermit after all." He stretched his legs out in front of him. "You honestly mean to say that no one has visited you since --"
"Since I left Paris. Yeah, that's right." The more he talked, the stronger Mac's voice became. He threw the towels on the table behind Methos and leaned back against the wall. Seeing Methos brought a hundred things to mind, things he'd forgotten about for as long as he'd stayed in his sanctuary, questions to which he suddenly needed the answers. He blurted out the first safe one that came to mind. "How's Joe?"
Methos closed his eyes and swallowed. His voice, when he finally spoke, held grief and resignation. "Joe's dead, MacLeod. He's been gone for the last five years."
Mac clenched his hands into fists, and then relaxed them. Ah, god, it still hurt. Even after all this time, the polished sorrow he carried was almost more than he could bear. But at least this time, he had not caused a friend's death.
A trace of sadness flavored Methos' voice. "He loved you, MacLeod. You were his inspiration. And you couldn't--"
"I did not want to put him in danger again. I couldn't do it anymore." Mac turned away, unwilling to let Methos see how close the tears were. He picked up a towel from the table and headed through the bedroom for the bathroom. He reached out automatically and released the wooden shutters, letting warm light into the room. However many years it had been, it still wasn't enough to heal all the anguish he held inside. Maybe centuries would need to pass before he felt whole.
Methos' voice stopped him. "Amanda says it took you over three hundred years to be able to say 'I love you' to her." Methos came up behind Mac and gently squeezed his shoulder. "Joe never begrudged that you couldn't say it to him."
/But Joe hadn't had three hundred years./ Mac's mind whispered at him.
Methos' voice was emphatic, underscoring the words with a plea for understanding, dragging Mac back to the room in Tuscany. "He knew how you felt, why you couldn't say anything, and why you left. He accepted everything about you, including your need to be alone." His hand dropped away. "I thought I did as well."
Mac closed his eyes, breathing carefully as if his lungs were filled with broken glass. He should have gone back. He should have seen Joe one last time, checked on how things were going. But then he would have found other responsibilities, other reasons to stay...and he would have been drawn back into the hurricane without an instant's notice, and more friends would have died. "I wanted you all to live. I didn't ask anyone to understand."
"I invented that particular hell, MacLeod. Did I tell you could visit?" Methos turned Mac and looked into his eyes, Methos' gaze shifting steadily from right to left, from nose to cheek and lip, almost like a snake charmer's dance.
Mac pulled his head away, refusing to look at him, and Methos let his hands drop.
"Joe found this place, you know, and kept it from the Watchers." He picked up Mac's hand and turned it, then laced his fingers through MacLeod's, his touch reassuring and anchoring MacLeod to the here-and-now. "No one else knows about this."
Mac swallowed, knowing an answer was expected, but unsure of what to say. /You once said I was too important to lose. When did I first know I felt the same way about you?/ "Joe always did try to take care of me." He reached up and laid his fingers against Methos' lips. "He knew me better than almost anyone." He let his hand fall away, his fingers burning from the intimate touch he'd allowed himself, and he turned away again.
Methos' hand pressed against MacLeod's chin, turning Mac's face back to his own, his fingers dropping away in a near-caress. His voice was softer when he spoke. "While everyone else was looking for you up near Glenfinnan, sure you would return to your native home, Joe looked elsewhere. He figured that you would want to stay away from your recent past, which narrowed the choices considerably."
"Fitz loved Italy." MacLeod's voice softened. "We had some good times here, and I wanted to remember that." He tried to keep his voice soft, to keep the darkness at bay, but he knew he should have been there for Joe, knew he should never have indulged his grief this way.
Methos gently drew Mac toward the bed. "Joe just wanted to make sure you were still alive." He pushed Mac to sit on the bed, and dropped onto the cool floor tiles himself, his back pressed against the wall. "Tuscany. At least you had the sense to pick someplace warm."
Mac breathed raggedly, glad to have some distance between himself and Methos, yet hating every square inch of it. The lanky form huddled on the floor looked more lost than anything else. MacLeod found himself sliding off the bed onto the floor, trying to keep them connected. He ended up sitting on his heels between Methos' drawn-up knees, his hand resting on Methos' thighs, trying to catch Methos' gaze.
But Methos closed his eyes, thwarting the intent. "Joe even knew that you'd finally changed your name, something no one else thought you would ever do." The hazel eyes shot open again, but Methos turned quickly away, looking at the wall rather than the bed, as if it hurt to look at MacLeod. "And so Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod has become a Watcher myth, just as Methos is. Joe thought it was fitting, used to imitate me. 'It's good to be a myth....'"
Mac drew his hands back onto his knees. It wasn't until that last day on the barge, when Amanda and Joe were safe, that he realized what a burden he possessed and how badly it all could have gone. O'Rourke could easily have received a Dark Quickening had he taken MacLeod's head; who knew how much evil Mac really contained? He still had a demon hidden in his soul
Ahriman would be back in another thousand years, and the next Champion would need the power and information MacLeod possessed in order to defeat it, a power that seemed to attract other Immortals beyond the strictures of the game. If he stayed, those Immortals would seek him out, using whatever means necessary to get the power, including killing all of Mac's friends. And he could not live with that.
Methos seemed to gather strength from the darkness gathering around MacLeod in the fading sunlight. "The day Joe died, he asked me to take care of you, said you couldn't look after yourself."
"Joe could be a mother-hen at times." Mac tried to smile, to keep it light, but he could not.
Methos dropped his hand and his voice turned soft. "I just wanted you to be there, to have a chance to say good-bye, the way I had with Alexa. It made it easier for me, and I hoped it would for you."
Mac couldn't say anything, his voice a knot in his throat. He didn't want to be alone. He wanted Methos to stay, yet he could not demand it. He had no claim on the other Immortal, who had his own burden to carry.
Death and the Champion. They made quite a pair.
Methos looked straight at MacLeod. "I kept looking for you at the funeral, even though I knew there was no way you could have known about Joe's death. I kept remembering all the others who had died and been buried, and the ones who had been left to go on alone." He swallowed. "I didn't go to Richie's funeral, Mac, and I know you didn't either. I should have known then that I couldn't deal with the pain anymore." He looked down at his hands, and MacLeod reached out and covered them with his own.
The words poured out of him like melted steel, "I'm...I'm not leaving, Mac." Methos' voice echoed the same need, the same desire that filled his own soul. "Over my lifetime, I've realized that I need people, but I can't live with any more death." His voice trailed off, echoing oddly in the room. "I need you."
Three hundred and fifty years to tell Amanda, and not enough time to tell Joe. Surely it couldn't be that difficult, surely he could allow himself this one small comfort. Breathing slowly and deeply, Mac centered himself, and found the words to answer. "I love you, too."
His fingertips brushed against the nape of Methos' neck, and slid down his chest to rest against the hands that still lay curled in Methos' lap. As their fingers touched again, the warmth of skin-against-skin outshone the sun that had beat down on them. Mac looked up...and caught Methos looking back.
And then it was easy, oh so easy, to fall. Methos' eyes were like water, pools of trust mixed with want, yielding and forgiving in one. He leaned forward, brushing his lips against Methos' mouth, only to have the back of his own neck caught by questing hands and drawn forward, deepening the experience.
Mac trembled in response as a wave of emotion poured over him -- he had not touched a lover for longer than he had not spoken. He physically hurt as every nerve ending in his body awakened with a burst of energy, overloading his mind and his senses. He moaned loud and low into the kiss, his body demanding, dragging him on.
Cloth parted like the Red Sea, and both men sought refuge, finding the bed in the middle of the wilderness. Mac pulled Methos down on top of him, and opened his legs wide, moaning and panting his desire, not needing or wanting any preliminaries. He wanted -- needed -- Methos inside him, touching him, rebuilding him and soothing away this fever-bright pain that threatened to consume him. He had not realized how starved he was until the banquet was laid before him, and all he wanted to do was eat.
Methos, though, seemed to want something else. He rolled over to lie next to Mac, his touch demanding yet gentle at first, fingertips lingering over the nubs of Mac's nipples, teasing them higher. He nipped and suckled each taut point, listening to Mac's heart-felt groans. Long fingers traced a path down Mac's chest and stomach, carding through the thick, curly hair, searching blindly for Mac's hard cock.
They wrapped around their prize, and Methos stroked his palm over the head, smearing fluid over the tip and dragging it down to the base. He smiled down at MacLeod. "My, we are excited, aren't we?"
Mac could only moan in supplication, his body tingling as sharp desire prickled his skin. He pulled Methos' hand over to his mouth and sucked the long fingers, showing what he wanted right now.
Methos, his eyes wide and dilated, climbed on top of Mac and let the Highlander take his full weight, rocking hard against Mac's balls and ass. "I think that makes two of us." He pulled back and thrust again. "Don't you?"
Mac groaned, his mind melting at the sensuous feel of Methos sliding against him, the moisture from his cock pooling against his own skin.
Methos wet his fingers and reached for Mac, pressing three of them into him at once. Hot searing pain spiked through him, and was gone again, leaving some slickness behind. And then pain was back as he was completely filled by his lover's cock, Methos gasping a request for forgiveness where none was required. Mac arched back, taking Methos into him, and found a workable rhythm, their voices keening like banshees in ecstasy as lost pleasures were found.
And when the first harsh coupling was over, they lay panting, their bodies slicked with the day's sweat and the scent of musk...and then they did it again.
Dawn stroked Mac's cheek. He rolled over drowsily, only to start awake as he felt the chill of the bed next to him. Then a new noise filtered into his mind and he sat up, resting his back against the headboard he'd crafted.
Pots and pans gently clanged together as Methos searched the kitchen, finally finding whatever it was he wanted. He stood at the wood stove, naked, a mixing bowl in hand, the distinct scent of breakfast winding its way into the bedroom.
A plate of cut fruit already sat on the table, along with a place setting for two.
With a smile Mac threw off the duvet, padded into the kitchen, and wrapped his arms around Methos' waist. He nuzzled the skin at the base of Methos' neck then kissed it, feeling Methos arch back in response.
"If you keep that up, breakfast will burn."
"Okay, but you get to clean up later." Methos tossed the pottery bowl he'd been holding onto the counter, where it clattered to rest without spilling a drop.
He turned in the circle of Mac's arms and wrapped his arms around Mac's neck, pulling him in close. Their lips brushed, and the kiss deepened, everything sliding into place, as home re-defined itself within the circle of each other's arms.