A Roof Against the Rain
by Taselby


This story is rated NC-17 for adult themes and sexual content of the m/m variety. You know if you should be here or not.

Standard disclaimers apply. The characters of Methos and Duncan MacLeod belong to others more wealthy and powerful than myself, and I humbly beg their tolerance for this little jaunt.

Many thanks to those who have helped this story along its path, most especially elynross, Killashandra, and all the folks at Futures Without End, where it first appeared way back in February 99.

This is a direct sequel to "The Stonecutters."

Late afternoon, and I'm halfway to Methos' apartment when the sky opens up as if someone has sliced the bellies of the clouds, and the rain comes down. It's appropriate somehow, the air and road both the color of dirty gray mopwater, the color of my mood. The sounds of traffic are pounded down by the roar of the rain, drowned. There is only the steady wet sizzle, and the murky air, and the thudding of my heart. It's like driving through a dream; even the car's motion is unreal, unconfirmed by outside landmarks.

I'm moving on instinct, flying blind in more than one sense of the word.

I waited as long as I could for him to return, to call, to make any acknowledgement of what happened last night. For him to offer some explanation for why he left me alone.

It's almost like a vivid dream. Even now, reaching for any tiny ache, any lingering trace of our lovemaking in my body... The memory is ghostly and evanescent, the details skittering from my grasp. The hunger in his eyes, the heat of his mouth... they are like early stars at dusk: vanishing under direct scrutiny, they can only be viewed askance, only stalked successfully from the corners of my vision. This morning I woke, hopeful and afraid to find him there, wanting and needing and shamefully relieved that he was gone. The only remnants of the night being the stale goblet of kvass and the tang of rosemary and sex in the air.

My body has forgotten him.

Before I can... brood on that thought as much as I'd like, I'm standing at his door, the song of his Immortality rich and provocative in the back of my head, seething like the ocean. It's harmony, without a melody to cling to.

I'm dripping on his doormat, pounding on his door without thought of the consequences, shouting for admittance.

"Open up! I know you're home; open the damn door!"

The door opens, and I suddenly feel like Ali Baba, surprised that 'open sesame' really works, that magic is more than a faerie tale.

Methos is beautiful, pale and lean under his dark sweater, his hair uncombed, his face gaunt, eyes shadowed. It would be funny under other circumstances, might even be worth a smile now, if it weren't so true. He looks like he died three days ago, and all I can think of is how beautiful he is. He stares at me with resignation in the set of his mouth, as if I'm the reaper come to collect his soul. But no, Death was his role to play. I am, at best, an understudy to him, the undisputed master of this game.

He stands aside to let me in. We're both aware that he hasn't spoken.

Uncertainty makes me hesitate at the threshold. Now that I'm here, I realize that this was as far as I'd thought, not that I'd thought much about this at all. Flying blind, running on reaction, feeding on adrenalin. Thinking? Not much of that at all in the past couple of days. What am I doing here? Chasing the wind, looking for stars at twilight.

He snorts and gestures theatrically. "Enter freely and of your own will."

"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

Something dark moves across his expression, thunderheads among the more gentle rainclouds.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" he demands, as if I've burst in on him at 4 am.

"Daytime?" I can't help the smile. As mysterious as he likes to be, his irritation is utterly predictable. There is a rhythm to it that's irresistible and charming. Sometimes I'll provoke him just to see what he'll do, how far he'll let me push. Once or twice he's let me in farther than I meant to go, but not just now. Now he is all hard edges, bristling defenses. Keep away.

"What do you want?"

I would have thought that was obvious after last night. "You're the one who said we should talk."

He turns away, stalking back into the dark cave of his apartment. "So talk."

I'm not sure whether I don't know what to say, or if there is so much to say that I have trouble knowing where to begin. "Why did you leave?"

Lost in the shadows, he is a disembodied voice, a wandering spirit. "That's not talk, MacLeod, that's interrogation." Wary, snide, distancing. All of the old shields are in place, and a few of the new ones, too.

Sarcasm is a comfortable refuge. We've played this game before, too. "Fine, where would you like to begin? Lovely apartment, Methos. You've done so much with it since I saw it last... Oh, wait. I've never seen this apartment before, have I? But I do admire the bold decorating choices, the way you cunningly disguise the room's flaws by not turning on any lights. Shall we have a sherry and look at fabric swatches?"

"You are such an ass."

I can feel his glare cutting through the gloom. I suddenly hope he doesn't have a pistol handy.

"Why did you leave?" My mouth is dry. I'm not sure I want the answers to my questions, but I started this. I'll finish it, even if it kills me. I'm tired of the games, the avoidance, the acidic derision he retreats behind. The rain roars outside the windows, strangely louder in the dark. I wish he'd turn a light on, or open the blinds.

"So sorry, was there more? Dinner, wine, sex. No, that seems to cover it." He moves across the room, oozing false conciliation, the sound of his footsteps guiding my eyes. "Oh, were you waiting for the part where we break down and declare our undying love for one another? You know, fall to our knees weeping, buy roses and diamonds, write sonnets, feed each other chocolates and take out full-page ads in the Times and the Bay Guardian to announce the nuptials?"

Now he turns on a lamp, the sudden flare of light from below making him look alien and remote. He's so pale, his lips compressed in a cold, angry line. But his eyes are fire. I swallow against the sudden tightness in my throat, feeling young and foolish. I'm a boy with his first woman, convinced that it's true love.

I'm an idiot. He knows it; we both do. So I have nothing left to lose by acting the part. "New York Times or Los Angeles?"

"Why not both."

He doesn't have his pistol on him; I know that now. If he did, I'd be dead already.

"Why not," I agree. But I can't let it go so easily. "So what was the matter? Wasn't it... I thought..."

"You thought what? Why the hell are you here?"

My hands are shaking, and I want nothing more than to run, to go out that door and never see him again. Either that or grab him and kiss him, throw him to the floor and force him to admit how... special it was. But some dark, masochistic part of me keeps me rooted. After all the judgments I've laid on him, all the times I felt he didn't measure up, or was somehow 'less-than,' I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at his rejection-- but I am. This is projection, some quiet, ignored corner of reason whispers to me. But it's too late to stop now. If I leave, I'll never forgive myself, and if I stay, he may never forgive me.

Either way, we both lose, so I might as well stay and stubborn this out. If he is going to do this, I want to do it all the way. I want it to hurt for a hundred years. Anger is a good substitute for shame.

I'm ashamed that it was so much more to me than it was to him. I'm ashamed that I was relieved when he was gone this morning. And I'm ashamed that despite his rejection, I still want him.

I know what's coming next, what barb he'll turn against me, and I scramble to beat him to the punch. This, too, is an old game I've played before. Kristin's face looms uncomfortably close in my mind, mocking me. Just as sharp to my memory is the scent of ozone and wind, the ear-splitting crackle and groan as Methos took her Quickening. Shoving that image away, I embrace the hurt I know is coming. The truth or falsehood of it is irrelevant. It's a weapon for him to use, so I use it first.

"Isn't this the part of tonight's program where you tell me what a lousy lay I was? Call me a fool for thinking it was more than a casual fuck? Are you listening? As trite as it sounds, it was good for me. Wasn't it good for you?" A hundred details rush to my attention, fueling my embarrassment. I know now how I must look to him in my wet coat, hair sticking to my face and neck, water still dripping on his carpet. Pleading for reassurance. Yes, Duncan. It was wonderful, Duncan. It meant something, Duncan.

Come here and fuck me, Duncan.

"What do you want me to say? Did you come here for an apology? Fine." His voice takes on an elevated sing-song quality. "I'm sorry, Mac. It shouldn't have happened. I should never have taken adva..."

"So help me, Methos, if you say you took advantage of me..."

"...advantage of your curiosity like that. It was wrong of me, please forgive me. I never meant to hurt your... feelings." The last word rolls off his tongue like poison, potent enough to kill.

"Fuck you." Oh, that's clever. Points for me there, a comeback like that is one for the record books.

"Not tonight, dear. I have a headache."

His heart isn't in it. If he were really out to hurt me, I'd be bleeding from a hundred places, each one an acidic, burning, cutting word. Sometimes I think he could reduce a wall to rubble by the force of his words alone; they are that powerful. Come on, Methos, don't go soft on me now; either let me in, or hurt me so badly I never want to come back. I don't know how to get to him, and I can't fight this battle alone; it takes two to make war. The anger runs out of me like water, leaving me disappointed, without momentum. "I really hate you sometimes."

"Well, that makes two of us. Go home, Mac."

I'm halfway to the door when I stop, noticing his tone and the slope of his shoulders. "Two of us that what?"

He is all age and weariness, the shadows under his eyes more pronounced than I have seen them since Alexa died. "Two of us that hate me."

That's what turns me, makes me stay. I look, really look at him again for the first time since I arrived. A strong wind could knock him over. Damn him. He's Methos, the Eldest, strong and cynical and jaded. He can be as cruel as a hook-pointed knife, caustic as salt in a cut. He plots like he breathes, betrays with scarce more effort than that. Even his kindnesses are two-edged. I don't want to see him like this: vulnerable, grieving like he lost his best friend.

Methos was a friend to me when no one else was, when I came after him with a sword. And here I am, ready to walk away over a few hard words. The next thought is entirely unexpected: Maybe I am his best friend. Doesn't say much about either of us if I am. I sigh, setting aside my own churning feelings.

"Have you eaten?" I didn't come here to mother him, as if he'd ever let me be his caretaker, but it's an urge that's never very far away when we're together. Something in him begs to be nurtured, when it's not begging to be punched in the jaw. Right now it's not much of a contest. Later, I might be compelled to wipe the cynicism off his face with a fast right cross, but now... I'm exhausted, he's exhausted. Without the kinetic drive of the argument to support us, inertia takes its toll. The moment is heavy, easy to fall into. A gravity well of mood. He shakes his head.

"Have you slept?" Another shake. "Not at all?"


"Why?" There is only curiosity in me, all strong emotion fled with my anger. He gestures abortively to the windows, still shuttered against the gray light.

"A watched pot never boils," he offers cryptically, then laughs mirthlessly at some private joke.

"Would you like to come for dinner?" His eyes narrow at some perceived subtext, but there is none. Only concern, harder to display than rage. Why does the tenderness hurt so?

"I don't think so. We pretty much exhausted that scenario last night, wouldn't you say?"

"We can go out, if you rather. It's a meal, not a seduction. I'm hungry."

There's something sad in his eyes. "Your tame witch forget to brew you another potion?"

"Would I need one?"

He's so close. There is no thought, only reaction to his nearness, to the sense-memory of his skin, the warmth of his body, the intimacy of his touch. I thought I'd forgotten, but no, my body remembers with shocking clarity. Surprising, almost overwhelming, the intensity with which the recollection floods through me. I reach out a hand to trace the familiar line of his brow... And he flinches. Something low in my chest twists coldly, painfully at his reaction. He expected me to hit him.

The rest of his shields slam into place with a deep, metallic clang, and his face becomes as expressive as a wall.

"Go home, MacLeod." His eyes are flat and unreadable, but his voice betrays him. Weariness, resignation, grief. Damn him! And damn me, too, for not leaving when I had the chance. Why does he show me this, these flashes of... need? His anger, his curiosity, his hunger I can handle, but not his need. Not this tenderness that slices at me like a sword. Fight with me!! It hurts to want to hold him, crush him to my chest and take away whatever is driving him to do this. If I concentrate on the sound of his voice, the words don't matter so much anymore.

"Only if you come with me." Out of this place, this dark lair. There is too much of him here.

"I believe I already declined that invitation."

"All right, we can stay here. Is that sandalwood I smell?" I can play on his turf, by his rules. Taking off my coat, I suddenly realize I never made it past the entryway.

He steps closer into my body space, crowding me in a threat display. "What part of 'get out' don't you understand?"

If his intention is to drive me out, the warm proximity of his body is a poor way to go about it. His eyes are wide and deep, green and brown and black, like agates set in the pale face. Shallow and fast, his breath whistles in the sharp nose. It's a strange picture of anger, but a telling portrait of fear. Fear... It's so simple, I don't know why I didn't see it before. Methos is afraid.

"The part that's got you so scared. What are you so afraid of?" The realization of his fear strangely makes my own easier to deal with. This is familiar, if only in the outline. Both of us uncertain, confused, afraid. I confront, he avoids; I keep pushing until he pushes back. I know he won't answer the question; he's maybe given me three straight answers in the whole time I've known him.

"Damn you." Predictably, he turns away, abandoning the tiny oasis of light here in the dark room, circling in the shadows. There is a certain comfort in the gloom.

"There's beer in the 'fridge. What do you like on your pizza?"

Score one for me.

We eat in darkness, gray light seeping in under the blinds, the one yellow lamp an island of illumination on the far side of the room. Methos and I are adrift in a sea of shadow, listening to the drone of the rain. Reality keeps a toe-hold on us with lukewarm slices of pepperoni and mushroom pizza that we eat too slowly and cold beer that we drink too fast.

I'm a little fuzzy around the edges, and I suspect that he is too. Good. Some things are easier said when numb. I smile at the newly-empty bottle in my hand.

"In vino veritas."

He shakes his head. "In cervesio felicitas."

The rain sounds like bacon frying.

It smells good in here, sandalwood and garlic. Warm and peaceful, everything I decided that Methos wasn't. "Was it all a lie?" I give him the opportunity to try and evade.

Encouragingly, he takes it, his head coming up like a startled deer, wary and ready to bolt. "Was what a lie?"

"Everything. Last night, Alexa, Joe, me. When you offered me your... strength to defeat Kalas. When you tried to save me from Keane. When you killed Kristin, and Silas. Everyone you've ever been gentle with, every kindness you've ever done, everyone you've ever... loved. Was it all lies?"

For an instant, the bland facade cracks, and there is a glimpse of something raw, deeply wounded. "No, Duncan. It wasn't all lies, but don't try to make me more than I am. I'm not some tragic hero in a paperback book."

"No," I agree, "you'd be leather-bound."

His eyes narrow again, looking for the barb, the insult. He can look all night; there isn't one. My bottle is still empty, so I get up to look for more. This is good; he and I should do this more often, getting drunk together. "More beer?"

"There isn't any more. Get the whisky off the bar."

"No more beer? That isn't like you." I have to walk past the lamp and the narrow circle of yellow light. I skim the edge of it like it will burn me, show too many truths that neither one of us is ready for. We'll get there, but at our own pace.

"Sue me. I wasn't expecting company."

A bark of genuine laughter escapes me. "Liar. You knew I'd come." I grab the big bottle of Jameson's and two glasses.

"Yes, I did." There's nothing in his tone to tell me where to go, so I pour for us both. Triples.

"So why did you leave?" I'm not half as drunk as I'd like to be, nor nearly as sober as I need to be for this talk. So that probably means it's time.

He tosses his drink back in a single gulp and holds his glass out for more. "I didn't want to see your face when you woke up and realized who you were in bed with."

That hurts, hitting too close to my own shameful relief at waking in an empty bed. I take a tiny sip, staring down into the amber liquid as if I can scry the future there. "Methos..." He starts at the use of his name. "You said last night that we didn't have to do anything that I didn't want to."

The silence is filled with the static hiss of rain and the warm smell of whisky. "That's right."

My hands are cold. I take a deep breath and lie to him for the first time tonight. "I didn't want to wake up alone."

It's a small lie, told because I don't want to hurt him. I was only glad of his absence after the fact.


His glass is empty again. With exaggerated caution I lift it from his hand and reach for his face, tracing the line of his jaw with the barest touch, afraid to go too far. This time, he doesn't pull away. The faint stubble under my fingers is strange and wonderful.

"I thought we covered this, too, Methos. 'Duncan.' I like my lovers to call me Duncan."

"I can't do this..."

He smells good, light and spicy, rich and dark like tea or loam. Earthy. He smells like home. I'm not even kissing him yet, just nuzzling, breathing the comforting scent of him. It doesn't matter that he's a man; it never mattered, even when I expected it to. It's not his maleness that attracts me. It's him. Contrary, irritating, arrogant, cunning, delightful bastard that he is, it's him. I want him, want to touch and hold, press against him and set him on fire the way he made me burn last night.

"If you really want me to go, say so, and I will. I won't do anything you don't want me to..."

His breathing is ragged, small steps from becoming sobs. "Duncan... We're going to be the death of each other."

I smile and pull him to me. "Maybe, but not today."

This kiss is better than the last, the scent and taste of him still new enough to be exciting and exotic, familiar enough to be like coming home. Will it be like this every time? Like electricity, like fire; no thought but how to please, no restraint but the avoidance of pain...

Whatever thought I had in me about elaborate seduction, elegant lovemaking, vanishes in the instant our lips meet. Suddenly, I am all hunger, one giant quivering nerve screaming for his touch. We're wearing far too many clothes.

It's a physical strain to pull myself away from his mouth, an effort of will. "You like that sweater?"

"Yeah..." he agrees absently. His hands are already busy tugging at my own clothes. Great minds thinking alike.

"Then get out of it before I rip it off."

Oh... He's almost luminous, a broad expanse of hard muscle and white skin. The couch is too small, so I pull us down on the floor, roughly jerking his pants off. I need to touch him, need to taste and feel and show him everything I don't have the words for yet. I want to show him the empty place inside me and how wonderful, how painfully ecstatic it was to have it filled. I want him to fill it again, to push out the loneliness.

"Hey!" He complains mildly at the cold floor or the rough treatment, but I don't stop to see which. Soon enough, he's nude. I fill my mouth with the edge of his ribs and tear at my own clothing. I have to touch him; I need to touch him.

My shirt comes off with the dusty sound of ripping silk. I'm trying to figure out how to balance so I can have some part of him in my mouth and get my pants off at the same time, when he's there, pushing me back, pulling at my belt, his tongue on my belly.

"Please..." I'm begging, and I don't care.

Oh, God... His mouth is on me, soft heat and swirling tongue, lips and teeth nipping... I feel so exposed, my pants bunched down around my thighs, Methos' mouth on my cock, his hands pulling at me, fingers digging into the flesh of my ass. The perceived nakedness is incredibly erotic, even more so than being totally nude. I comb gently through his hair, panting. The insistent demand of my body, the pressure in my chest and groin, is tight and coiled inside me, straining for release as I kneel here with my pants down, watching him suck me.

"Yes... like that, like that..." One of his fingers dips between my cheeks, stroking lightly. It's a reminder, not a request. Pleasure, both real and remembered, surges through me, and I clutch at the back of his head... and come.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." I pant apologies for my urgency, for my lack of control. It should have lasted longer. I should have been strong enough to wait and bring him with me.

"Shh... It's ok; it's all right," he soothes me, as if I deserve it after all this, kissing me softly, coaxing me back to the small couch. I can taste myself on him. I want to claim him, mark him with my scent, want us to crawl inside each other's presence like shelter. I feel like I'll never get enough. He tugs my pants and shoes off for me, tossing them aside with the rest of our clothing. It's warm in here, but I'm suddenly chilled, gooseflesh creeping up the backs of my arms.

"Tell me what I can do for you," I breathe, reaching for him. His arousal is still obvious. Again, it was more to me than it was to him. Again, I let him make love to me and gave nothing back.

He guides my hands away. "It's not important right now. Why are you doing this, Duncan?" The changeable eyes are bright, even in the dim light, serious and intense. His erection pleads for attention, but going by the rest of his body language, we might as well be sitting at an outdoor cafe, sipping chablis.

A feeling swells inside me, sharp and citrusy, fresh and alive as ripe oranges. I know why I'm here: because I can't not be. But I don't know if he will accept that. The gentle feelings, compassion, kindness, caring... they always cost so much more. I want to be flip, casual, deny the unforgiving intensity of the moment. If he felt like this last night, I can understand why he ran. Sometimes, though, the best path is the simplest. I tell him the truth, or part of it, the part I have words for.

"This is where I need to be." I say it, and it makes me bleed.

He shakes his head, ancient eyes never leaving mine. "Not good enough. Why?"

My heart pounds like a drum. I don't know what he wants, what he needs to hear from me. I could lie again, and he would know it, but he might let me stay anyway, never letting me in past his defenses. No, there are enough lies between us; or, if not lies, then incomplete truths. Quotes taken out of context. Last night I told the truth; I want to rebuild the friendship we have, and I'm afraid that we've destroyed it by being lovers.

"Damn it, Methos! Do we have to talk now? I didn't want it to be so complicated!"

"A little late for that. Yes, we need to talk, now. What do you want? What did you think would happen, that you could be flip and... and dismissive last night and still come here today looking for meaning? Make up your mind!" His voice is raw, abrasive, angry. Hurt. Oh, God, I was wrong. I thought it was nothing to him, and I was so wrong...

"Methos, I--"

"Quit calling me by my name!!" Control slips, and he shouts at me, voice ringing like a slap.

"What?" What else am I supposed to do? He's not even looking at me, panting, bemused and frustrated, like he can't believe we're here. He sounds like he's trying to explain calculus to a draft horse.

"Mac... You feed me dinner, pour me a love potion, and ask me to make love to you. Then you treat me like persona non grata. Do you honestly think you're the only one with any feelings? Did you ever stop to think what it might mean to me? Did you ever ask?"

"No. You're right, I didn't think about that. Is it too late to ask you now?" Please don't let it be too late. He looks away again.

"Just... just tell me what you want. If you want it to be a one-time casual fuck to satisfy your curiosity, I can do that. I can come over for a beer in a few days, and we can pretend it never happened. If you want it to mean something, I can do that, too. But you have to tell me, Duncan. I'm not going to guess."

"I'm not sure yet what it was, or what I want it to be, but it's not something I want to forget about."

He doesn't speak right away, reaching for the Jameson's. He pours for us both. "We're too sober."

"Are we still friends?" I have to know. With Methos, the direct path isn't always the best one, but it's all I have right now. He won't fight with me, and he won't let me in. Strange relationship we have, that conflict is our main way of interacting... No, that's not fair. The arguing is my comfort zone, not his.

"Do you want to be?"

"Yes." Easy enough, to find this one solid thing to cling to, this one immutable desire: to have him in my life.

"Then we are." He says it so matter-of-fact that I believe him, believe that he's mine for the asking. Maybe he always was.

"Is it that simple?"

"It can be." He takes a deep breath and tosses back the whisky with a faint grimace. Somehow, I don't think the expression is for the liquor. "Are we lovers?"

My heart begins to pound again at the straightforwardness of the question. I recognize the rhythm of this discussion: simple, primal, like the call and response of animals on the veldt. Give and take. Marking boundaries, defining territory. "Do you want to be?"

"Yes." Unvarnished hope.

"Then we are." Useless to point out that we're sitting here naked, and I can still taste my own orgasm fresh from his lips. That's old history now. The path we're carving this moment is new, dark and treacherous. We are groping in the night to find our way, searching for the significance of our actions.

He looks up at me with a kind of hunger I've never seen before, like a trapped, wild thing glimpsing freedom beyond the cage door, sniffing for the trick. "Is it that simple?"

"Yes, Methos. It can be that simple." His for the asking. Maybe I always was. Easy, giving this to him, to me. Filling empty places, being where I need to be. Vulnerable and bleeding in a hundred different places, all because I care. It can be simple.

And for tonight at least, it is.

I'm nervous, still worried about my welcome as I reach a hand out to him for the third time, but he takes it, lacing his long fingers into mine, gripping like he's afraid to fall. Me, too. "Tell me what I can do for you, tell me what you like."

Again, tiny glimpses of that wounded spirit in him, that need that makes him look ancient and young at the same time, makes him seem so much more exposed than mere nudity accounts for. A tug on my hand, pulling me to him on the little sofa. "Kiss me."

So I do, gently at first, then with growing desire, conscious of giving something back. He groans and leans into it, not yielding softly like a woman would, but meeting me equally, hunger to hunger, tangling his fingers in my hair to guide me in the angles and approaches that are easiest, that please best. Teeth and tongues, noses and lips and abrasive chins... It's strange only in its familiarity. There's never any sense of the forbidden, no shocking realization that this is Methos with his mouth on mine, his hands in my hair, aroused and needy.

I feel like I've been here all my life.

I pull back for a moment. "This couch is too small."

A nod. "Come on, then," and he rises, taking my hand and leading me across the room to his bed. He walks like a king, tall and straight, impossibly confident. He could walk the same way, with the same bearing, nude through a midday crowd. No hesitation, no doubt, no fear. I can't say he's unselfconscious; he's completely aware of himself and how his body moves. He just doesn't care who observes him.

At the low, frameless bed I stop behind him, a hand on his shoulder. "Wait."

He stops, indulging me as my hands drift over his back, his hips, around to his belly. His stance opens a bit, inviting me to continue as I stroke down across the lean thighs. I close my eyes to the minimal light, learning by touch, knowing the places that please him by the increasingly sharp sounds he makes, the taste of him, sweet and salt and arousal and dust, the texture of tiny hairs under my tongue, the scent of him...

Oh, God...

I know I'm holding him too hard, my fingers digging into the soft skin, pulling him to me. Kissing, tasting, biting softly at that in-between place, the no-man's-land that is neither buttock nor hip, I'm on my knees and I don't know how I got here. I glance up, and he's watching me, a kind of muted desperation in his face. Over the hip and around... Nuzzling, nipping, breathing the warm, clean traces of his soap, the faint, pungent musk of his arousal...

A hand on my head. "You don't have to."

"I want to. Lay down."

And he does, offering himself, a sacrifice to my curiosity. It's too easy to do this, to touch him, to feel him gasp under my hands...

I'm so hard, so excited, the nubby texture of his duvet is like sandpaper against me. He's not far behind me, trembling with the force of his restraint; I can feel the power in his clenched muscles. A breath against his hipbone, and he jerks.


"I can't... Gods, Duncan... Please..."

It's both easier and more difficult like this, to be the one giving, the one in control, even when that control is pushed to its limit, a hair's breadth from snapping. Easier to give, to hear the deep, breathy responses he makes, the half-articulated words, and know that I'm the cause of it, that I am the one driving him to this; harder, because now, even in my own mind, there are no more excuses. I'm no passive participant swept away by his seduction, overwhelmed by his skill. I'm here because I want to be, because I want to be with him. I wish he'd relax, but there's something gratifying in the knowledge that he can't. If possible, the tension in him only rises as I push his knees apart and ease my mouth over the straining erection.

Hot, salty, slick... I remember the taste of him from last night, the feel of him between my lips, strange and familiar. Like me, but different. Same and not-same. The shape, the size of him, so close to my own it's like loving myself. I never thought it would be this easy... this good.

He's still moaning in English, so I know he's holding to some shred of control. A tender, cruel part of me wants to break him completely, to make him into a creature of pure response, to know what language he uses then. What does he cry out when he doesn't know the noise he's making?

He's close, his cock leaking like a sieve. I pull hard on the soft underside of it, milking him for that slick fluid, wetting my fingers. I remember what he did for me, what stripped me to the essence of reaction, what blotted out all thought but him and what he was doing. So careful... so slow. He goes very still as I insert one finger, pressing gently, reaching... waiting for the response that will tell me if I have the right spot.

There. He makes a noise, a broken sound halfway between a keening and a groan that almost makes me come right there on the comforter, and pulls on me with his hands and feet, wrapping his legs around me, pushing me further down on his erection. Fascinated, impossibly aroused, I add another finger and touch it again. And again...

"Wait... Duncan, wait..." He's asking me to stop, but I don't want to. He doesn't really want me to, either, legs and arms still urging me closer, deeper, harder... I give it to him. The urge to rise up and take him, sheathe myself in his heat is almost overwhelming, but it's so good just like this, to feel him yielding in my mouth and hands. He's panting, mumbling half in broken English and half in languages I've never heard. I press into him again, not stopping, not caring about anything but his responses and the sweet sympathetic ache of my own body.

"Please... wait. Not yet... Oh, gods..." He touches my face so softly, and I look up into his eyes, huge and black. Gazes locked, I touch him there again, my mouth still sliding wetly over his cock. And he comes.

It goes on and on, deep spasms rolling through him, over my tongue, clenching at my fingers... and his eyes never leave me. It's an incredible gift, this trust, this release that he allowed me to give him, to share with him... a gift that I don't feel quite worthy of. Still holding the bitter fluid of his release in my mouth, I savor the taste of him, warm and slippery.

"Come here," he commands me, pulling me to him for a deep kiss, urging me to share the scant mouthful of liquid.

Oh, God... I've tasted myself before on a lover's lips, but never like this, never to take back into myself what was surrendered at orgasm. I hurt, the arousal and need for him so sharp inside that it cuts. I want him to touch me, even his hand would be enough, but he just holds my head and kisses me... Deep, hungry kisses, eating at me, eating at each other, long after the taste of him is cleaned from my tongue.

"You..." he pants, searching my eyes, surprise and amusement competing for dominance in his expression. "Are you sure you'd never done this before?"

"Mmm..." I pretend to think about it, inexplicably pleased. "Pretty sure, yeah."

"Gods..." With one deceptively smooth motion I'm pinned to the mattress, Methos leaning over me. His eyes are still dark and wicked-looking. Arousal, fear, and a shameful hope that he will take me again flare through me. "You are one Hell of a surprise, Duncan, and a very fast learner." He laughs briefly, looking down at my legs, already spreading in invitation. "Oh, no. If that's what you wanted, you should've quit when I told you to."

I can feel the heat rise to my face, but I brazen my way through the chagrin. "I don't hear any serious complaints."

"Quit fishing for compliments. And I didn't say I was complaining. I'm sure we can find... ah... something you'll like."

He leans over, fumbling in the nightstand for something. I expect a tube of lubricating gel, not the plain plastic bottle he produces. He pours it over me, coating my erection with light strokes, as if he can sense how close to the edge I am. "What is it?"

A wry smile. "Mineral oil. Heavier than massage oil, flavorless, odorless. K-Y has its uses, but it's not my first choice. Dries out too fast on the skin."

Oh. And then, abruptly, thought is gone again, swept away by the light, frictionless glide of his hand across my groin. Between my legs, over my balls, around and under and ghosting just so along my cock... It doesn't feel like there's enough air in here. Please let me come, I want to come... He won't let me come.

What's he doing? Pushing my legs together, straddling me... Is he...? No. Disappointment spikes as I realize he's not going to take me into himself. I want him to, I want to feel him around me. Oh, God, I want him, want to bury myself in him, want to fuck him until we come together... Reflexively, my hips buck up against him.

"Shh... relax. You'll like this." Hardening again, he spreads his legs wider around me and presses our groins together in a slow, oily tease. He shifts, and presses, repeating the pattern until I'm breathless, clinging to control by ever-reducing margins; he looks satisfied at the alignment, and lays himself down over my chest. What?

His voice is so low, even against my neck, that I have to strain to hear him. "Shh... lay still for a second. I've wanted to do this for so long, just touch you... hold still, Duncan, please."

After a long minute he begins to move, sliding his arms around me and rocking, so slow. Heat and pressure, the weight of his body, the abrasion of the hair... My arms come over him, crushing him to me as I push back. He feels so good; I never want to let go, never want to stop...

Kisses on my face and neck, hot and wet, filled with the promise of teeth as they turn into soft bites on my shoulder; he clings to me, we cling to each other in this sea of darkness... looking for safe haven, shelter from the storm. A roof against the rain.

Whispers, low and rhythmic, obscure chants in languages I've never heard. I wonder what he's saying. Is he murmuring endearments, promises, prayers to forgotten gods? I feel lost and small, blanketed by his presence, rocking against him in a slow rhythm. It is the last, nearly silent exhalation that undoes me, that catapults me over the edge.


The release is like a drop into the abyss. I pull him harder against me, desperate and needy and fearing the end, holding fast to him as if he alone can save me from it. Not yet...

I'm awake before him, like I usually am. That sounds strange, the words acquiring new weight since... since we became lovers. It's hard to say the words, even to myself. I don't know if it's the title, the label that seems to diminish the relationship, or if it implies a permanence I'm not ready to consider. I'm still not entirely sure what's happening here or what it might lead to. Maybe it's just that Methos is... more than that. More to me than just my lover. I'm ashamed of my ignorance. Methos' curiosity I was well aware of, but the depth of his desire and my reaction... Well, I have a lot of making up to do.

The thought makes me smile, a pleasant, warm tingle spreading through me as I close my eyes, inwardly searching out the faintly lingering aches of our lovemaking. Even if I could have dismissed his feelings and lied to myself beforehand, claiming that it was just sex, just a convenient outlet for curiosity, pleasantly distracting but ultimately meaningless, there was no way to deny the depth of it afterward. The feel of him against me, breathless, sweaty, still trembling in the aftermath of orgasm... Feeling his heart pounding with mine, so close, the rhythms almost the same. Like and unlike. The lonely places slowly filling.

We didn't make love again; we didn't really need to. And by some strange, silent agreement, again we didn't talk about it, holding ourselves to topics no more weighty than good wine and music, old poets and new books. Of course, to him, Shakespeare is new. The conversation touched "us" not at all, not even when we'd break off mid-sentence, unable to bear another moment of not kissing, touching, holding. The small gestures so easy, little touches, intimate looks, casual kisses. Not-so-casual kisses.

Maybe we said all we need to say for now. We want to be friends; we want to be lovers. I hope that it's really as easy as we're pretending it can be, because God knows we've had enough conflict to last us.

That brings another smile. Us. I like thinking of us in plurals.

This morning I want to touch him, my fingers yearning for the feel of his skin, but I can't bring myself to disturb his sleep. For all his plotting, Methos craves simplicity in his life, and even the best relationships are messy. Like sex, if it isn't messy, you aren't doing it right. Will he eventually resent me for complicating our lives this way? There was a certain safety in what we had before. The rituals of our strained friendship had become time-worn and familiar, easy to walk the paces of. It was predictable. Now, everything is changed. I wouldn't be surprised to look out the window and see the sky turn green or the sun rise in the south. The world is different, exciting, frightening...

I'm a coward, afraid to see what will happen. I'm Schroedinger, unable to look inside the box and see if the cat still lives. While Methos sleeps, all possibilities are equally valid. We want each other now, but I can't help wondering if he'll ultimately hate me for this. So I'm careful not to move, not to change the rhythm of my breathing. Looking at him, I feel so young, like a green shoot on a damp hillside, verdantly ecstatic at the touch of the sun.

He looks so innocent when he sleeps. He'd laugh at me for thinking so, or mock me, sniping at my ignorance with sharp words. I know it's not true, that he is old beyond my comprehension of the word, but I can't help it. I'm so torn. Part of me still wants to hate him for his lies, for the things he's done. The rest of me... It's a little more complicated.

I've seen the man kill and still somehow can't think of those elegant hands inflicting harm. I've felt his betrayal like a sharp knife in my belly, and I still trust him. What's wrong with me?

I can't be in love with him, that's the one word I can't use yet. Desire, craving, hunger, need ...I don't want to think of the void his absence would leave in my life. I'm selfish: I want him to live. Beyond that, I just want him.

Maybe it is love. But there again is a word that implies more permanence than I can think about right now. This moment will have to be enough. And the next, and the next. To want more than that, to plan for more than tomorrow... The future is like a basket holding all the eggs. Reaching for it is the worst kind of conceit. It tempts fate.

Methos is a pale shadow in the bed beside me, warm and solid, a lighter patch amid the richer blacks and grays of the lightless room. He would laugh at me again if he knew I thought of him that way, as a lesser darkness. Right now, his presence is as pervasive as the night, like the dull roar of the ocean in the back of my mind. I'm amazed he can sleep through it. Can't he hear it, feel it making me vibrate in places I can't reach?

The urge to touch him is overpowering. I make a mental note to thank Nathan's wife, Mian, for the bottle of kvass, and to ask her for another.

And then I reach for Methos, opening the box. Schroedinger's box, Pandora's box. Selim's box.

"Good morning."



Sonnet XXX
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.