by 'Tilla


Standard disclaimers apply. The boys aren't mine; they belong to the lucky folks at Rysher & Company, Mr. Panzer and Mr. Davis. I own no part of them; I am merely borrowing them and will return them unharmed when I'm through playing with them. Once again, this is PG13, mild m/m implications, a little 'fooling around', but nothing explicit. A bit of angst in this one, but it all works out in the end. I'm much more comfortable with happy endings.

The Oldest Living Immortal straggled up the stairs to the loft-- their loft --feeling less like a 5000-year-old man and more like road-kill with every step. He was cold, wet, tired and furious-- with himself, MacLeod, Dawson and the whole bloody world. He stood on the landing, wringing out his coat and squeezing the water from his tennis shoes, waiting for the feeling of Presence that would tell him MacLeod was still waiting for his return. There was nothing.

Not Methos fault he'd been held up at Joes. Not Methos fault either, the heavens had decided to open up practically the minute he left the bar and had not ceased for the entire sixty minutes it took him to trudge home. The bar had been crowded beyond belief and MacLeod had totally forgotten to call Joe and remind him of the 'occasion', whatever Mac had meant by that. Joe had been gone, off running errands so Mike said, and Mike had no idea what Adam had dropped by to pick up. For that matter, neither did 'Adam', MacLeod having forgotten to tell him what special 'ingredients' were required for this oh-so-special dish he was cooking up. Instead, he'd sent his lover out into the pouring rain, though admittedly there had not been a cloud in the sky when he left the loft, with instructions only to 'pick up something at Joe's -- he'll know what we need'.

To top it off, his Explorer had broken down and was in the shop and Mac had 'needed' his T-bird for some errand running of his own. "Take a walk, Methos," the Scot had said lightly, giving his lover a swift kiss. "It'll do you good to get out in the fresh air and sunshine." Fresh air and sunshine was not what he'd gotten, however.

Instead, he'd barely started the shopping at the open-air market where Mac had assigned him 'reconnaissance' and 'procurement and conveyance of resources' duty before clouds had swept through what had been a clear blue sky and dumped an amazing lot of 'damp' on one extremely irritated Immortal. The brown paper bags holding the fresh produce, which the rain didn't bother, and the whole grains, beans and paper goods, which it did, were almost as soggy as the man carrying them. It was a good thing, Methos decided, the market had been situated on his way home and not in some gods-forsaken out-of-the-way corner of the town.'

Methos stared at the heavens, from whence still fell something heavier than mere mist and cursed the day he was born. His hair was plastered to his head, his nose was running, his head ached as did his feet, and, gods help him, he thought he might be coming down with something truly evil. His skin felt hot yet he here he was shivering as though he stood in an icebox.

He stumbled across the threshold of the loft he'd shared with Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod for the last several months and crawled out of his heavy duster, dropping it and the bags of groceries on the floor. His sword made a dull clanging sound as it struck and he grabbed at his head; then bent, very slowly, to pick it up, the sword, not his head though it felt as though he might have dropped that too. Who knew? It might come in handy when MacLeod actually made it home, if he made it home. He wondered, vaguely, if it were possible for one of his kind to actually die of the flu or whatever ailment he might be coming down with and almost wished for a positive answer. At least then he wouldn't feel quite so miserable.

He stripped off his clothes, leaving a trail of sodden garments all the way from the door to the bed, and tumbled face down on the mattress. He knew he should probably shower before crawling under the covers but he really didn't have the strength to move. In fact, he didn't have the energy required to pull the covers up either, so lay there shivering pitifully instead until he fell into a fevered 'sleep'.

Downstairs, in the dojo, a small group gathered, arms laden with decorations and refreshments, wrapping paper, ribbons and dozens of boxes in varying sizes. "Now be quiet, everyone," Joe Dawson instructed his band of co-conspirators. "Mac wants this to be a surprise."

"What about the elevator, Joe?" Richie was all too familiar with the noise the lift could make; he'd been startled out of a sound sleep often enough when he'd been living in the loft. The clanging and banging had sounded then like some rusty old freight train rumbling through his bedroom and he doubted things had improved much just because 'Adam' was living there instead of himself. He might have been surprised to discover just how much had changed, but the elevator's noise was not one of them.

"Not to worry, Rich,"Dawson replied. "Mac's sent him on errands that should keep him busy long enough to get set up. Adam shouldn't be home until party time is pretty well under way." The rest of the gathering exchanged uneasy chuckles, none too comfortable with the turn things had taken in the life of the Clansman. Only Dawson and Amanda seemed really at ease with the idea that Duncan MacLeod might have fallen for a skinny, sarcastic, snot-nosed grad-student and former Watcher instead of any one of dozens of beautiful women who regularly threw themselves at the handsome Scot. The fact that the skinny, sarcastic, snot-nosed grad-student was male might have bothered some of them more than others, but they were careful not to say so in the Highlander's presence.

Ever since the Community Service Awards banquet, when Duncan had publicly acknowledged the 'generous support', at which point Methos had nearly choked on his salad, of his 'friend' Adam Pierson, the other individuals, Immortal and otherwise, in his circle had suspected something was up. They were not all sure exactly what was up or with whom, but they were pretty sure it did not bode well for either the Highlander or young Dr. Pierson. Two more dissimilar personalities could not have been found on the face of the planet and both MacLeod's friends and Pierson's former co-workers, had they but known, would have agreed the two did not have a snowball's chance in hell of making it through the first three months.

That they had, in another few hours, made it through twice that span of time was cause for celebration and celebrate they would. MacLeod had decreed it and Adam, who had no idea what his lover had planned, would simply have to put up with it. Richie snickered, thinking of Methos' surprise when he walked through the door to find streamers and balloons hanging from the rafters, floral arrangements on every table and a dozen people shouting "Surprise!!" in his face before he got halfway into the loft. He wanted a picture of that look so he'd remember it always-- the first time, to hear him tell it, in the history of civilization Methos, a.k.a. Adam Pierson had been caught completely off-guard.

The elevator made just as much noise as he'd remembered, but the surprise was for someone else entirely than the Oldest Living Immortal. Seven individuals stepped off the lift, four of them immediately sensing the Presence of another of their kind, even before they spotted the slender figure curled up on the bed, fair skin even paler than its usual Welsh cream. 'Adam' was shivering, his dark hair still damp, his arms clutched tightly about himself and he hadn't even noticed them.

Bad sign, that, Richie thought with a slight chill. Nobody lived 5000 years by getting caught unawares. He dropped the packages and tiptoed over to the bed. Bending down, he tapped the old guy on the shoulder and was startled to find a pair of very bleary hazel eyes staring back at him.

"Back off, Ryan," a raspy baritone ordered and Richie nearly jumped out of his skin. The other man struggled to his feet, clutching his sword in one hand and the bed sheet in the other, mumbling curses in some strange harsh tongue. The pale eyes had gone hard and cold as chipped glass and the sword wavered dangerously close to the younger man's throat. "What are you doing here?" The dark head swung up, briefly, on the long slim neck as Methos finally noticed the other people standing in front of the lift. "Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on?"

Richie gulped and moved back another step, then another and another until he was convinced he was no longer within easy reach of that damned sword. "It's O.K., Me... Adam," he coaxed remembering his foster parents' instructions on how to approach a strange dog. Stay calm, don't make any sudden moves and above all, don't let 'em know you're afraid. He was scared shitless, but he wasn't about to let this piss-head know it. "It's a surprise," he finally managed to squeak and forced a small smile.

"A surprise?" Methos collapsed on the bed again, sword dropping to the floor with a crash as though he couldn't hold it anymore. He winced and looked at Dawson, waiting for a better explanation. The Watcher shrugged and Methos tried again. "A surprise for whom? MacLeod? You don't barge in on a dying man," he coughed and began again. "You don't barge in on a dying man and claim it's a surprise of any kind. You at least wait until the poor sot is dead and then you celebrate." He knew his voice sounded whiney, but he didn't much care at this point. They'd planned a party for Mac's birthday which, Methos realized dully, would be in just another few hours and hadn't thought, or worse hadn't wanted, to include him in the preparations? Hadn't even asked if he'd like to help set things up or get his friend a little gift.

"Nobody's dying here, Adam," Amanda pointed out and Methos glared.

"Oh no? Would you care to put a small wager on that?"

He drew his knees up to his chest, and wrapped his arms tightly around his legs. His chest felt tight, his throat hurt and his eyes burned. He blinked and stared blindly up at Dawson and the others. He cleared his throat before trying to continue. "Shall I leave so you can get things set up? I'm not sure when Mac will be home, Joe. He was supposed to be here when I got back, but he wasn't." He had to clear his throat again. Damn the cold! "It started to rain, you see and I came home early. You have really dreadful weather here. I'm thinking of heading back to Paris in a week or two. The weather is miserable there, too, but at least I'm used to it." He was rambling, but couldn't seem to help himself. "Or maybe I'll try Egypt or Greece, somewhere warmer and sunnier. This constant drizzle is really depressing."

He slid off the bed and staggered over to the dresser, pulling out clean jeans, a tee shirt and heavy cable-knit fisherman's sweater. His sneakers were still wet, so he grabbed a pair of heavy socks and his hiking boots instead. That, and the leather jacket Mac had insisted on buying for him, should keep him warm enough while they got things ready for Mac's party. Perhaps he could take in a movie.

He wondered vaguely if he should perhaps find a hotel room for the night and if he did would Mac be willing to join him there after the party. The celebration could quite likely go on until late and he had no desire to barge in while it was still in full swing. He looked at the others, almost wanting to ask what time he should plan on coming home, but decided against it. They did not need a reminder that this was his home, too. Most of them seemed uncomfortable enough with the idea as it was.

Dawson, Richie and Amanda were looking embarrassed. Gregor, Cory and the two female mortals, whom he didn't know, were looking confused. Oh, gods, he thought in a panic, he hadn't brought back the other items Mac wanted either. "Shit!" He slapped the flat of his hand against his forehead. "Shit! Shit! Shit!" The words exploded out of him in a rush and six heads jerked up in surprise. "Sorry," he apologized. "Just remembered some errands I forgot to run."

He dashed down the stairs. The rain had let up some, though the ground was still wet and the sky overcast. If it just didn't pour again, he should be all right.

"Think we should have told him, Joe?" Amanda sounded worried.

"Told him what? Gee, Adam, the party is for you? It's not his birthday Amanda and it's plain bad luck their six-month anniversary happens to fall on Mac's." He rubbed his hand through his thick gray hair and sighed. The course of true love never ran smooth, but with these two the bumps just seemed to get rougher all the time. He knew they cared about each other; hell, that much was obvious. And Adam, Methos, was good for Mac. Despite the Old Man's tendency toward sarcasm and witty putdowns, he had brought a good degree of humor and self-acceptance back into Mac's life, brought some tolerance for other people into it, too, thank goodness. The humor might be biting, but at least it was there. Mac had started to laugh again, something Joe and everybody else who knew him had missed since Tessa died.

Mac was good for Methos, too. He'd dragged him out of his self-imposed exile and forced him to join the living. Methos still wasn't entirely comfortable with that, but he was learning.

"All right, people," Joe said, shaking off the gloom that threatened to spoil this cheery occasion even before it started. "We've got a party to set up, so let's get busy."

Cory snorted. "If the professor out there is goin' back to Paris and Mac's staying here, what are we having a party for? Celebrate his leaving?" He didn't much like Dr. Adam Pierson; the guy was too sharp-tongued and way too quick-witted for him. Cory preferred his jokes on a more physical plane. Somehow, he didn't' think the good doctor would appreciate being blown to bits even as much as MacLeod had. He still got a laugh out of that one.

"Cool it, Cory," Richie's tone wasn't exactly threatening, but the scowl he turned on Cory was definitely unfriendly. Methos hadn't looked at all well when he'd barreled out of the loft and the young redhead wondered if the guy really might be sick or if something they'd done had upset him somehow. Immortals didn't get sick, did they? He hadn't had a sick day since he'd gotten killed three, nearly four years ago. Oh, sure, he'd gotten hurt plenty of times, but never sick.

Gregor had watched the lanky dark-haired Immortal, Mac's lover, stumble down the stairs and start walking quickly down the street. Nearly 150 years he'd known the guy and he never would have guessed. Especially not after a dish like Tessa or a woman like Amanda. He glanced at the female Immortal. Mac must be out of his mind. What could he possibly see in that skinny, hawk-beaked intellectually superior snob that could possibly compare to Amanda or any other reasonably attractive female?

"Try depth, Greg," Amanda said quietly and Gregor jumped.


"I said 'try depth', loyalty, faith." Gregor went scarlet. He hadn't realized he'd been thinking out loud, but Amanda wasn't paying any attention. "You know all that boy-scout stuff Mac is so big on? Well, Adam's like that, too. He just doesn't try to ram it down other people's throats. Hell, let's just say it, shall we? Love. That's what Mac sees in him." She paused for a moment to look the three other Immortals squarely in the eyes. "Can we accept that? Can we accept they love each other and just wish for them to be happy?"

The three males blushed, though Cory had to make a joke of 'Manda's impassioned speech, saying the whole thing was just an attempt to make up for being jealous of Adam. She skewered him with a glance, before admitting she was, at least partly, jealous of the couple. She'd known Mac for over 300 years and he'd never asked her to 'move in' with him. Of course, she told herself, he probably figured she'd steal him blind if he ever did and the poor darling was right. She was compulsive that way.

They spent the next half-hour arguing about who was going to do what with which and how exactly everything was supposed to look until Mr. Dawson blew some sort of coach's whistle and told them to shut up and get to work. Mr. Dawson supervising, of course.

By the time Mac got home, though, the decorations were up, the loft looking as bright and festive as a gypsy campfire. Mac was pleased. He stayed pleased until the other guests arrived and 'Adam' had not returned. The decorators were careful not to mention 'Adam' had been there when they arrived; there was, after all, no sense antagonizing the Highlander over a little misunderstanding. They had offered no explanation for the sodden garments Mac had found strewn over his nicely polished hardwood floors or for the still soggy tennis shoes stowed under the bed and Mac had assumed Methos had gotten caught in the rain and come home to change. When that might have occurred and none of the decorating crew seen him, MacLeod could not begin to guess but he refused to hound them for an answer. Methos had told him, several times, 'never ask questions unless you're sure you want the answers'. He was not entirely sure he wanted the answers. The idea that his friend could come and go and no one be the wiser, as though he were wearing the Cloak of Invisibility, unsettled him more than a little. He grew less pleased as the elegant dinner he had planned grew cold, the guests grew irritated and 'Adam' still had not put in an appearance.

Methos had wandered about for a bit, ambling through the shops in the mall, picking over small trinkets in an import shop, nosing through old books in an antique bookstore. He'd sat through an incredibly boring movie, not the one he'd wanted to see but that had been 'sold out', stopped at an herbalist's shop for chamomile tea with lemon-and-honey and eucalyptus for his stuffy head and sore throat, then gotten busy and actually done some 'procuring'. What he couldn't decide was whether or not to do the 'conveying' before or after Mac's little 'gathering'.

He opted, at last, for staying the hell away from Mac's friends until the party was over, not their friends, mind you, but Mac's. They'd made it pretty clear he wasn't included in their plans and he felt enough of a wet-blanket already without throwing one over the entire outpouring of 'love and affection' for his beloved Highlander.

His gift for the Highlander, the one that could be shared with everyone else anyway, was tucked well back in the closet, out of sight. The other 'gift', the one Mac seemed to want more than any other of late, was something Methos had planned to give him tonight in their own private 'celebration' of MacLeod's nativity. He wasn't so sure he'd be able to do that now.

He hadn't lied exactly when he'd said he was thinking of going back to Paris. He was thinking of it, now. He felt hollow and empty and very, very lonely. Now there was a redundant thought.

Seeing Mac's friends eagerly planning their surprise for the Highlander should have filled him with joy and it did. He did, after all want MacLeod to be happy, didn't he? And there was nothing that could make a sociable fellow like MacLeod happier than celebrating a special occasion with his friends. But, it also filled him with an unfamiliar longing to be a part of a group of people who were friends, not brothers-in-blood, not co-workers, fellow academics or anything else, but friends.

Seeing the looks on their faces at finding him curled up on Mac's bed had only served to remind the Ancient Immortal how far outside MacLeod's little circle of friends he really was. They'd looked surprised; no, shocked was a better word. Though, he thought glumly, Joe at least might have suspected he'd be holed up there with the weather as dismal as it had been. Joe had to know there was something between Duncan and himself; he was Duncan's Watcher for god's sake which made him, unofficially, Methos' Watcher as well. At least until the rest of that lot found out 'Adam Pierson' was Immortal. The future of Dr. Pierson once that little bit of news got 'round was not something he wanted to contemplate at this point.

He left the mall while it was still quite light. The sky had cleared and the air was fresh and clean, a perfect evening for a leisurely stroll. His head felt better, though his mood was still, not despondent exactly but uneasy. He settled the packages under his arms and set off toward one of Seacouver's numerous parks. It would be much nicer out there, than in some dark bar or theatre and he could do some serious thinking. There was a quiet spot on a hillock overlooking the water he liked, a place he could be alone for a bit with just his thoughts for company.

The guests, for the most part, had left, leaving gifts for the couple and vague apologies for not staying longer. MacLeod understood. Methos had probably found something interesting to do and had forgotten entirely the significance of the date. Methos was not good with dates; he tended to lose track of even the most important ones. Probably something to do with being so old. There was that movie he'd expressed an interest in seeing -- some science fiction thing about giant termites and space cadets -- and Mac had made it abundantly clear he had no intention of going with him. Bugs did not interest him in the least.

MacLeod paced for a while, his thoughts knotting up like socks in a washing machine's spin cycle. The man could at least have left a note or called. He should have known Mac would be worried, frantic more like, and taken that into consideration before wandering off with no word as to where he was going nor any indication as to when he'd be back.

He stared at the food on the table, now cold and totally unappetizing. Salmon mousse, crab souffle gone flat, a nice lobster bisque congealing in a pot on the stove and fourteen lovely salads now limp and faded. He took a bite of salad -- not nearly as interesting as what Methos would have prepared, but Mac preferred plain when it came to raw vegetables. Methos liked to doctor them up, adding strange herbs, oils and truly lunatic ingredients to make something that was exotic and, to Mac's way of thinking, not quite a salad.

The more he thought about it, the more upset he became. His stomach was churning with worry and the remains of the Chocolate Suicide he'd polished off. He felt like he might have committed suicide by eating it, but there was no sense letting it go to waste. He tossed the rest of the food in the garbage.

He called the police, the hospitals, and news services -- inquiring as to any unexpected shows of lightning in the immediate vicinity over the last several hours. The weather person laughed at him. He called Joe just to make sure none of the Watchers, currently in town for some convention or other, hadn't dragged their former compatriot off for a little bar hopping. Joe swore they hadn't done any such thing.

He fussed and fretted some more, working himself into a near frenzy and taking out his frustration on anything within reach. It was good, he realized when he came to his senses, that dear Methos had not decided to come home in the last half an hour or he might have been much the worse for wear.

He called Richie to verify Methos hadn't called before he got home and left a message saying when he'd be back. Methos might have called and in the excitement his friends simply have forgotten. Richie hemmed and hawed, finally admitting Methos had said something about forgetting some errands and bolted out the door.

"When was this, Rich?" Duncan's voice was smooth as butter and Richie got a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knew, from past experience, Duncan only used that particular tone when he was really upset and he was suddenly very glad he hadn't eaten any of the rich dishes Mac had concocted.

"Ah, right after we got there, Mac," the young Immortal stammered. "He didn't look too good, though." The younger man paused, then decided to 'come clean' as it were. "I think he knew something was up, Mac."

MacLeod groaned. "What makes you say that, Richard?" This was like pulling hen's teeth he decided. Pry for every answer and each answer only led to more questions.

Richie thought furiously. How to tell Mac what had transpired without letting him know what idiots his friends had been. Why they hadn't noticed more in Methos' reaction to the news of their surprise he couldn't say, except maybe they had been so intent on not spoiling it for Mac they hadn't thought how it would sound to Methos. He gulped. What if something terrible had happened to the Old Guy? Mac would never forgive any of them.

MacLeod listened to Richie's attempt at an explanation for a full 15 minutes, growing more annoyed with himself, with them and with Methos by the minute. The boy never actually said Methos had suspected anything, but Duncan was getting rather adept at reading between the lines. He thought Methos might have decided to disappear for a bit to avoid being conscripted for clean-up duty or as a means of avoiding dealing with Cory and Greg's rather obvious hang-ups.

Then, he decided to go and hunt the wily Immortal up. There were not that many places in Seacouver the man could hide where Duncan MacLeod, former scout and surveillance expert, could not find him, eventually.

Methos lay the packages down on the short-cropped grass and drew his knees up to his chin. It was quiet here and peaceful; the only sounds the chirping of crickets, the croaking of frogs and the rustling of the occasional lizard as it passed. His head was feeling much better, although he began to wish he'd eaten something besides that tuna-melt and soda at the café earlier. His stomach could do with something a bit more substantial right about now and he was still a bit stuffy. He chewed another eucalyptus tablet and let the vapors wind their way through his sinuses. Interesting effect, he thought cryptically.

He sat staring out at the water for a long time. The sun had set, pale purple and orange highlighting the water as it lapped against the shore and the moon shone like the silver ornaments on Mac's tree in the loft. He leaned back on his elbows and stared at the night. Gods, it was beautiful, almost as beautiful as his Highlander. 'His Highlander?' The thought startled him for a moment. He had never thought of Mac as particularly his; not in the way he thought of himself as belonging to MacLeod. He was Mac's because he willed it so and because MacLeod seemed to wish it so as well. MacLeod, on the other hand, did not belong to anyone. His friends, acquaintances, lovers, whatever all belonged to him. He was the Clan Chieftain, even without a clan except the one he made for himself.

"Methos?" The voice was so soft, so hesitant he almost missed it entirely, glancing up almost by accident as one bright light shot across the sky and his eye tracked it until it disappeared from view.

"MacLeod!" He sat up quickly and stared around. It had grown dark while he sat there and the dampness was beginning to settle in. "I'm sorry Mac," he nearly stammered in his haste to put things right. MacLeod had a strange look on his face. "Look, I picked up the things you said you needed but . . ." Mac shushed him, laying one finger across his lips as gently as a kiss.

"Been up here long have you?" The Highlander eased down beside him and leaned close.

"Long enough, I guess. Shall we head back?" He was edgy and uncertain, wondering what exactly was on Mac's mind. Was he angry because Methos hadn't cared enough to show up for his party? Hurt? Resentful perhaps, that his lover should prefer to be alone rather than with his friends? Disappointed that Methos should be so unsociable? He forced a smile and held out his hand. "Come on, MacLeod. It's turning chilly and I forgot my coat."

Duncan put his arm around the slighter man and held on tight. "I'll keep ye warm then. There's something we need to discuss Methos and here is as good a place as any."

Methos swallowed, hard. "What might that be, MacLeod? I realize I'm a bit late, but there's no rule is there about curfew? Nothing that says I have to be in by dark?" Damn, he would keep this light if it killed him. Whatever Mac wanted to discuss, Methos was not sure he wanted any part of it.

"I thought we might start with the reason you came up here, Methos," Duncan replied quietly, trying not to press. This was not going to be easy, but getting information out of Methos never was unless, of course, you didn't particularly want the information. In that case, the old man practically beat you over the head with it. This did not look to be one of those occasions though. The man in his arms was far too stiff and silent. Of all the times for Methos to choose to ignore him, why tonight?

Methos shrugged and tried moving away slightly. He didn't want to actually remove himself from the Highlander's presence; he just didn't want to feel quite so overwhelmed by it. MacLeod refused to let go. "No, Methos," he declared. "Whatever is bothering you, we're going to talk about it."

"Nothing's bothering me, Highlander." Evasion used to be second nature to him; why was it so difficult now? "I just felt the need to get away for a bit, be alone. It's something I'm used to after all and I found I'd been missing it. By the way, how'd the party go?"

Duncan froze and groaned inwardly. Richie had been right. "Party?" The thought Methos might not wish to be around for a celebration with their friends had never really occurred to him before this.

"Yes, MacLeod, the party, for your birthday." Was MacLeod trying to spare his feelings for god's sake? Surely even Mac couldn't believe he'd buy the ignorant act.

Duncan made a slight noise, deep in his throat. It sounded almost as though the Highlander was choking on a bone. "A total disaster Methos. Over almost before it started."

"Oh." Methos didn't know quite what to say. "I'm sorry, Mac. It looked like your friends had gone to quite a lot of trouble. What happened?"

MacLeod choked again. "The guest of honor never showed up." His hands stroked up and down Methos' arms until the older man could hardly think.

Methos jerked in surprise, nearly tumbling them both into the grass. "What? But MacLeod . . ."

Mac kissed him lightly and pushed him the rest of the way down onto the cool green growth. "Good idea this," he murmured stroking Methos' hair and cuddling closer. "Coming up here away from the noise and the lights and the foolishness. Bright boy." He kissed him again, deeper this time, his tongue searching Methos' mouth and finding an answer in the soft sighs of his slender partner.

"MacLeod," Methos gasped, pushing at the strong body that held him but with little success and even less real determination. "Your birthday! Your friends!"

"Our semi-anniversary, you dolt," the Highlander retorted clutching him tighter and pulling him atop his hips. Methos stared down at him, a mixture of shock, anger and embarrassment on that expressive face and Mac roared with laughter. "Surprise!" The other man's words registered suddenly and MacLeod tried to sit up.

Methos leaned forward, elbows digging into the Highlander's sternum. "What's that?" Hazel eyes gazed deeply into coffee-brown ones as Methos edged his weight forward. MacLeod could hardly breath. Methos dug in a little deeper. "Come on, MacLeod. Say again?"

Duncan gasped. "All right, Methos. The party was noh for me. It was for us, for putting up with each other for six whole months." His partner leaned back, looking put upon, and MacLeod sucked air like a drowned man who'd only just returned to the living.

"Whose idea was that, MacLeod?" Methos' voice was wary and the Highlander tensed.

"Mine," he admitted finally.

"And why would you want to do something like that, Highlander?"

"We thought it might be nice, Methos." Mac was starting to feel like that guy Methos had mentioned some months back, the one who'd been questioned by the Spanish Inquisition and thought briefly of asking if Methos might have had some first-hand experience along that line -- as the interrogator most likely.

His lover leaned back, resting his hands on Mac's knees, and cocked his head. "Your friends went along with this little plan? They gave you no arguments? Made no comments about it being silly or ridiculous to be celebrating something so 'trivial'? Somehow, MacLeod, I find that difficult to believe."

"Joe and Amanda thought it was a great idea," Mac declared, heartily offended that Methos should think his friends would think it anything less than brilliant. "And it is noh trivial. Some marriages don't last six months."

Methos nodded. "True enough, MacLeod, true enough. I suppose we should be grateful we've been able to put up with each other this long, shouldn't we? Is that what your friends think?" He swung his long legs off MacLeod's torso and stood up only to find himself pulled down once more.

"Methos, please," Duncan urged, clutching his arm. "It was meant as a celebration, not a slight. They're your friends, too, after all." What the hell was wrong? Methos lay still for a moment, staring at him, hazel eyes shadowed and unsure.

"I'm fully aware whose friends they are, MacLeod and with the exceptions of Joe, whom I've known longer than you have I think, and Amanda, they are not mine. The rest of them barely tolerate me, seem to think I've corrupted you somehow." He sat up, wrapping his arms about himself and trying to control his temper. "Have I corrupted you, Highlander?"

Mac's lips pressed firmly into his, the Highlander's hands tangled in his hair as he pushed him down once more, hips doing a slow grind that might have toppled them both over the edge if only Methos had not been so confused. "Does this answer your question at all, Methos," Duncan murmured against the other man's throat, hands skimming up and under the bulky sweater and over the soft cool skin of his lover.

Methos groaned. He had to think. If the party had been for him as well as for MacLeod, why had Dawson and the others looked so upset upon finding him in the loft? Why the evasions when he'd asked their purpose there? Surely they must have known he would suspect something. He flinched, remembering he had not been in the best of moods when they'd arrived either. Richie had said it was a surprise and he'd assumed they meant for Mac. It had never occurred to him that Mac's friends might mean a surprise for him as well.

He twitched free of MacLeod's embrace and scrabbled to his feet. "No, MacLeod, a demonstration of your vaunted sexual prowess does not answer my question." He almost laughed at the expression on the Highlander's face but restrained himself. It would not do to upset the Scot anymore than he'd done already, but it was Mac who had brought the subject up. "In fact," he continued wryly, "it might very well lend credence to their suspicions." He put a wary distance between himself and his friend. If Duncan wanted to kill him after this, Methos could make sure he got a good head start. He was faster after all and had a good deal more experience at running, dodging and hiding.

"Methos," Duncan said softly, "they do noh think you've corrupted me. Maybe Cory and Greg need a little time to get accustomed to the idea of you in my bed instead of Amanda, but they will get over it." Methos still did not look convinced and Duncan almost groaned in frustration. What more could he say? The Old Man was truly impossible -- bull-headed, stubborn, and unreasonable. "The ladies are half in love with you already, if you could only see it."

He watched carefully as the lithe figure stepped a little closer. "Are you sure, MacLeod? Not some trick to get me into your evil clutches this?"

Mac shrugged as the fine mouth quirked up in what was almost a smile. "You'll just have to come over here and find out, won't you," he said and held his breath, waiting.

Methos nodded and slid closer. "What about the party, Mac," he said in a near whisper. "I didn't mean to ruin it, for you or for them. It just seemed, it seemed they didn't want me there. They looked so shocked and all."

Mac did groan then. "Oh, Methos," he caught the slender figure around the waist and squeezed for all he was worth drawing a slightly distracted 'Woof' from his partner. "Shocked? I would guess so. I'd told them I'd sent you off on errands to keep you out of the way while they got the loft ready and there you were. How were they to surprise you under those circumstances?"

Methos sighed, wrapping his arms around Duncan's neck and held on tight, burying his face in the long dark hair. "I hate surprises," he whispered. "Promise me no more surprises?" He sighed again and snuggled closer. "I hate surprises MacLeod almost as much as I hate crowds. Can we do without crowds for a bit, too?" His fingers began a slow exploration along his favorite Scot's ribcage and Mac nodded, weakly, breath coming in short gasps as the cool fingers slipped lower.

"Methos," Mac moaned, beginning a thorough exploration of his own. "Shall we go home and celebrate my birthday? I know exactly what I want from you." He pressed his lips to the soft throat and trailed gentle kisses along his lover's shoulders, getting a sly chuckle in response.

"Our anniversary," Methos replied, swift fingers sliding sensuously along the other man's body, enjoying the feeling of Mac's hands on him as much as he enjoyed touching Mac. "Semi-anniversary," he corrected. "Shall we celebrate both events together MacLeod or do them up separately? Two small intimate celebrations," the silky voice purred, "or one long bout of uninhibited revelry; a Bacchanal to end all?"

"How about," Duncan whispered, sliding his hands under the heavy knit sweater. "We celebrate our anniversary, semi-anniversary that is, intimately, just the two of us? I'll start a fire. . ."

"Fire's already started, Mac."

"We'll order out, put on some music . . ."

"No opera, MacLeod," Methos begged.

"No opera," Mac promised letting his fingers glide over the smooth skin. "And then," he continued, nuzzling the hollow of Methos' throat.

"Then what, Mac? Come on, what'll we do then?" It was getting hard to concentrate, but he did want to hear what Mac had planned.

"What would you like to do, Methos? Tonight, we do whatever you want."

"Well, MacLeod," Methos said slowly, grinning at his mate. "What say we go home, get a bite of something besides each other as I'm famished, and 'discuss' the first thing that comes up."

MacLeod nodded, kissing his partner soundly. "Aye, Methos, a gud plan that, a very gud plan."

The End