|Demons at the Gate
by Lillian Wolfe
This story is a labor of love based on the characters in the Davis Panzer Productions "Highlander The Series". The characters of Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Joe Dawson and Amanda all slipped away to do a little moonlighting and we beg their bosses to be understanding. None of us are profiting from this, but Methos just had to tell me a story. They are returning to their regular jobs with no permanent damage.
My thanks to Tiffany and Dianne for proofing, critiquing and being great beta readers. If there are mistakes left, they are my own. There is a reference in one sequence that refers to "Ceallach." If you want to know more about this fella, check out "The Causes Remain" by Tiffany, soon to find its way to the 'net.
Please do not copy, publish or repost without permission from the author. I don't want any legal problems.
All warnings are in effect! This story contains torture, sex, implied slash and if you're not legal age, please come back when you are. You have been WARNED!
Time: Following Archangel - Spring Paris
Dry, hot sand burned his feet and the insistent bright sun would soon do the same to his bare back, shoulders and chest- if he lived that long. His hands were tied in front of him with thin, wet leather strips and the man who pulled them forward roughly to secure them to a much longer leather line was no longer angry. He grinned cruelly at him.
"You will learn, young friend, you will learn. You will do as I tell you or you will pay."
He followed the line back to where it was wrapped around the pommel on the saddle of his excited horse. Kronos paused before mounting to gaze back at the defiant young man who glared back at him. He was tall, slender with longish dark hair and intense hazel eyes. The set of Kronos' jaw clearly conveyed that he would break him- whatever it took. Kronos vaulted onto the horse, turned it to face the rolling dunes and spurred the animal forward.
Within seconds, Methos was jerked forward, arms almost yanked out of their sockets and he was sliding across the hot, coarse sand at a gallop. Unable to control the motion, his body rolled, flopped and bumped with each stride. Skin tore from his back and shoulders, then he rolled and it ripped from his stomach and chest even as dirt flew up his nostrils and into his mouth. He choked, coughed and spit out what he could as he twisted again. The fabric of his breeches tore exposing hip and buttocks to the same torture. He might have screamed if he'd had enough breath, but the constant flipping forced him to fight for air.
He hurt all over, felt like he was being pulled apart and shredded all at once. His body worked to recover but couldn't begin to keep up with the damage. More sand ground into already raw wounds and a trail of blood began to mark his passage across the sands. Above it all, he could hear the maniacal laughter of Kronos...
With a jerk, Methos bolted upright in his bed in Paris, out of breath and gasping, the pain and laughter still dominant in his mind. It took more than a few moments before he realized it wasn't desert but a cold night and without the heater on, his room was chilled - a completely disorienting sensation after the nightmare. He took long, deep breaths, trying to slow his wildly-beating heart to normal. His hand pressed against his eyes as he propped his elbow against his thighs and waited. There was a nightmare he'd not had in a long time- one he'd thought he'd shoved to the deepest corner of his soul so that his unconscious mind couldn't find it. Not far enough evidently, he thought.
He climbed out of his bed, poured himself a double Scotch and tossed it down. As he felt the reassuring warmth pass into his stomach, he poured another shot into the glass and sipped more slowly. He picked up his warm corduroy robe and shrugged it on, then stood by the window gazing out at the wet Paris street below.
He wasn't sure what had brought that particular memory to the surface tonight, but it was only one of several recent nightmares. Kronos- would he ever be free of that part of his life? The man was dead, no longer a threat. None of the horsemen were- not Kronos, not Caspian, not Silas. He'd seen to that. So why this nightmare now?
He glanced at the luminous face of his clock radio- two-forty-eight- way too early to get up, yet he was reluctant to try sleep again. He didn't want to recall more of those past events. It had been a time of extreme physical and emotional pain, a time before he was a horseman, when he barely knew Kronos and had erred in allowing the man to see the intricacies of his mind. Erred? No, Kronos would have taken his head if he hadn't known it housed such a devious mind. It was what Methos the survivor did to stay alive.
There'd be no more rest tonight, not the way his mind was working.
As he finished off a Guinness, Joe Dawson unconsciously kept rhythm with the blues band that was playing a familiar number. Methos plunked down the francs for another round, the Immortal's fourth beer in an hour. Dawson had just finished a set when Methos had come in and would be doing another shortly. He wasn't sure he wanted another beer just yet, but he could always take it on stage with him. Dawson had been doing this gig for a couple of months now and was glad to be able to stay in Paris even though he had to rely on others to try to keep tabs on MacLeod a task that was proving more difficult daily.
."This guy has a really good mouth on the reed- nice and even. No harshness, just a smooth transition and listen to that vibrato. Sidney Bechet was like that. You could tell his style by the vibrato and the incredibly melodic improvisations when he played. I heard him a few times in Paris and it was-- it was just amazing, Joe." Methos enthused as he continued his commentary on the style of the alto saxophone player in the band.
"I didn't know you were an expert on the saxophone."
"I've dabbled a bit, a couple of years playing in USO bands in the forties- that kind of thing. Mostly swing bands."
"You play the sax?" Joe's surprise was evident as he prodded, "You should sit in with us some time."
Methos smiled ruefully, "Oh, no. I don't think so. I'm way out of practice."
With eyes that noted everything, Dawson watched the young-looking Immortal who perched on the bar stool next to him. In spite of the lightness of the conversation, Methos seemed tense, worried - not his usual self at all. His body was pulled tight into himself rather than the open attitude he usually adopted. And he was evasive. Not that it was all that unusual for Methos to avoid certain subjects, but he seemed to more so than usual.
And he was losing weight - something that lean frame didn't need. The planes of his face were stronger, sharper with the weight loss. Joe was frankly concerned.
"So, do ya' want to tell me what's on your mind, Adam?"
Methos turned his head to face Joe, a bit amused that the Watcher was the only one who still called him "Adam" with any consistency. Old habits died hard, or else he was still trying to keep his true identity quiet in public. "What d'ya mean?"
"You didn't come down here to talk about blues. If it's MacLeod, there's nothing any of us can do until he's willing to see us."
"Yeah. I really mucked that one."
"You mucked it?! You didn't tell MacLeod to go dashing off after an evil vision he thought he saw, to draw his sword and swing at anyone."
Methos looked away. That was only part of it. He'd attached himself to MacLeod with the intent of guiding him, shaping him to be the winner of the Game. In reality, it was a game he never wanted to see end because it meant one of them would die. And he was afraid that at the end, he would take MacLeod's head - no matter how much he'd prepared himself for that final encounter. He was still the ultimate survivor.
So many times since he'd met MacLeod, he'd been there to help with the decisions that were hard, to prod him into doing what was necessary, to ease the pain when his moral dilemmas forced an unhappy judgment- Hell, even to fight his battles for him if he needed to do it.
But at the one moment when he most required watching, he wasn't there. Part of it was that Joe needed him right then. Between MacLeod's intervention at the airport when Joe was trying to ship Horton back to the United States and the irrationality of what MacLeod was doing, Joe was in need of a friend. Truth to tell, Methos and Joe's friendship went back quite a few years - far longer than the friendship with MacLeod.
"Remember when Don Saltzer introduced us?" Methos asked softly. "I was so edgy meeting MacLeod's Watcher- so nervous that you might somehow detect what I was."
Joe smiled at the memory. "Hell, all I saw was a personable young grad student, kind of shy and very bright. I thought to myself that Don had found just the right guy to research Methos. I didn't have any idea of how true that was."
"You treated me like a son. Between you and Don, I began to feel like I had a family- or rather, Adam did. Then I met MacLeod and there was this acceptance I hadn't expected." He paused, searching for words that usually didn't elude him.
Seeing the root of the problem beneath Methos' words, Joe laid a hand on his arm. "You can't do anything about what happened."
"I know that, Joe. But I should have done something. I was ticked at MacLeod. Annoyed that I couldn't really seem to talk to him. I should have listened more. I should have been there- Should have gone with Mac to find Richie. Should have-"
"Lost your head, too?" Joe finished.
Methos looked at him, an expression on his face that spoke of frustration and helplessness. At that moment Joe saw again that earlier Adam Pierson, a bit unsure and vulnerable. A person who was very much not Methos. And the Watcher was inexplicably concerned for the mental health of the oldest Immortal.
"I'm tellin' ya, Amanda- between MacLeod and Methos, I'm beginning to feel we're losing both of them." Joe Dawson sat at the bar next to the pretty Immortal woman in the club. "Mac flat won't talk to anybody since-" His voice caught, still unable to say the words. "-well, since that day. He's too busy running away from himself to even consider anyone else is in pain. And Methos- well, he looks like crap and won't talk about it. At least, he drops by now and again and pretends to be sociable. But he's not the same."
Amanda looked concerned but she wasn't sure what she could do. Of course she was worried about Duncan, too. He wouldn't even see her, wouldn't talk to her. Didn't even tell her where he was going. "Duncan won't talk to me either, Joe. He doesn't want anyone he cares about anywhere near him. He doesn't trust himself. But sooner or later he'll work through this."
Joe looked doubtful. "Maybe. Can you at least try to talk to Methos? He may be Immortal, but that doesn't make him immune to a mental breakdown and that's where he looks like he's heading."
"Not Methos," Amanda replied with certainty. He wasn't the type. He was, she knew, a lot tougher than he looked. No one lasted as long as he had without being tough.
"Just talk to him, Amanda. Please."
She nodded. "All right. But I can't promise anything. He's almost as stubborn as Duncan."
So Amanda found herself outside Methos' door at 11:15 that evening ready to give him a sob story. She pounded on the door, put on her lost waif expression and waited. The door opened a bit and he peered out at her, then swung it open.
"Hello, Amanda. Little late to come calling, isn't it?"
"I know and I'm really sorry. But I just got into town and I can't stay with Duncan. Could I please crash out here tonight?"
"Does this look like a hotel?"
"Please, Methos. Just the one night. It's so late and I promise I'll get a room tomorrow."
"What's wrong with your place?"
"You know very well I had to sublet it. There are still police hanging around the place looking for me. I don't have any other place to go. Pretty please?" Her eyes widened a little more with the pleading. She thought she detected the hint of amusement in his face.
"One night. You have the sofa."
Even as she flashed a grateful smile at him, Amanda took in the dark crescents under his eyes and the general tiredness in his face that said he hadn't been sleeping much. And he looked thinner, at least a few pounds leaner than the last time she'd seen him.
"Help yourself to coffee, tea, whatever." He ambled to a closet, pulled out sheets and a blanket and tossed them on the sofa.
Amanda set about making the sofa- Sofa? That was a misnomer. Loveseat was more the word- into a cozy nest for the night as she watched him go back to his desk where he was making notes in his journal. When she'd completed that, she started for the kitchen. "Can I get you anything, Methos? A coffee? Or maybe a beer?"
"No, thanks." He didn't even look up from his journal. She frowned.
"So how have you been doing?"
"Anything new since I last saw you?"
"Have you seen Duncan? Talked to him?"
"Nope and nope."
This was going to be a stimulating conversation. "What do think is going on with him? Is he really possessed or is it all in his head?"
"I don't know, Amanda. He doesn't want me around any more than he wants you or Joe. He's made that really clear." Methos shut the journal, locked it in the desk drawer. "I've never experienced real demons, but the psychological ones are as good as they get. Until Mac wants help, there's nothing to be done." He rose from the desk and turned his bed back.
Amanda took the hint. She set her tea on the table and slipped quickly into the bathroom to change into her silk pajamas. As she rinsed her face, she gazed at the wide-eyed countenance in the mirror. What am I doing here? she asked herself. Trying to talk to Methos was one thing; spending the night was another altogether. She patted her face dry and tied her robe around her.
She emerged to find Methos already in bed, lights on that side of the room turned off. Only the little one by the couch still burned. As she crawled into the couch, she called, "Thanks, Methos. I really appreciate this."
"Good night, Amanda." His warm baritone resonated around the room. She liked the comfortable feeling his voice provided. Things had been shaky lately. She turned off the light.
Methos lay awake, amused that Amanda would actually do this. She was going to be a bit cramped for the night, but that was her problem if she insisted on playing this game. He was certain Joe put her up to it, but he was surprised she'd agreed to it. Of course, he knew Joe was worried about him as much as he was about MacLeod. Hell, he was concerned about these damn dreams himself, but it wasn't something Amanda or Joe could do anything about. This was his problem to work through.
The dreams had been coming consistently. Almost every time he closed his eyes, he ended up waking up in a cold sweat or screaming with his heart-pounding. Most were from the early days with Kronos- those first few weeks he'd been resisting Kronos' demands. A few had been later, when he'd actually started killing wholesale. Dreams that left him feeling sick and angry and had, on at least two occasions, sent him headlong to the bathroom to throw up.
What he didn't understand was why it was happening now. When he'd first left the horsemen, the dreams were a constant companion. Every time he left his mind unguarded, they would play themselves out. They kept him on the run from Kronos for at least fifty years, kept him looking over his shoulder and hiding in the least conspicuous places. He'd gone across Mongolia and ended up in China. Meditation techniques had eventually enabled him to control them, to tame them.
He'd moved on to Tibet, hidden out there for quite a few years, studying and gaining control. He'd come to terms with that horrific episode in his life, put it in perspective and learned to move on. He'd accepted the blame and the guilt and dealt with it. Over the years, he'd done penance for it several times, put himself in harm's way to try to even the score. Eventually, the pain and the anger of three thousand years had been put to an uneasy rest. Yes, occasionally an episode would visit him at night, but not often. He could deal with that.
Methos blinked his eyes, feeling them growing heavy. He forced them back open. He didn't want to attempt sleep with Amanda here, didn't want to come out of a bad dream in front of her. Mostly he didn't want to try to explain any of it. He felt the one person who could help him with it was Mac. Maybe that's why the nightmares were back, as a reminder of all that had happened- an answer to Mac's question of why. He'd avoided the real answer, knowing it was only an explanation, not an excuse, and neither he nor Mac would benefit from the painful emotions it would cost. But it seemed he was going to pay for it anyway- and now he couldn't talk to Mac about it.
In spite of his determination, Methos' eyes flickered closed and refused to open again. The exhausted Immortal drifted off to a restless sleep.
Methos lay face down in the sand, a bloody, beaten mass of flesh but still alive. In spite of being barely conscious, the sound of the horse shifting his hooves restlessly as Kronos swung down and the soft thud of footsteps as his torturer covered the distance to him in a few long strides telegraphed to Methos through the ground. Kronos knelt, rolled him over and lifted his head and shoulders up. His dark eyelashes barely fluttered in an effort to open sand encrusted eyes that stung with every twitch. He was, at that moment, beyond additional pain, not reacting to any increased stimuli on already raw nerves. He wanted to die, wanted the relief from the agony it would give him while his body healed. But Kronos wouldn't let him.
He hauled Methos to his feet, cut the leather line that connected him to the horse and carried him over his shoulder back to the animal who now waited patiently. It didn't like the smell of blood but was used to it by now. Unlike Methos, the horse knew when to accept Kronos' instructions to avoid pain. With little concern for the injuries of his burden, Kronos dumped Methos over the horse and mounted up behind him. The ride back was less enthusiastic, the horse taking a slower pace. Even so, after a few bumps, Methos blissfully passed out.
When Methos half-pried his eyes open again, he saw ground moving below him, felt the rolling motion of the horse and thought he would throw up. But the movement ceased as the horse reined to a halt and the ground settled. Kronos slapped him hard against his blood raw butt and thigh before jumping down. Methos fought back the scream, reducing the sound to a soft whimper.
Kronos glanced back, met his eyes and snorted a laugh. "Still holding out? You can't even lift your head, Methos, but you won't yield. You're a fool." Kronos paused and shouted for Silas, waited as the big man came running. "Take him to my yurt and clean him up a bit."
Silas nodded and turned to lift Methos off the horse as Kronos strode off toward the wine and a pair of women who waited nervously for him. As gently as possible, Silas carried his charge to the largest of the tents in the encampment and placed him on a woven rug inside.
Careful fingers probed the battered ribs as Silas shook his head at the injuries he detected. "Feels like three ribs are broken. Your shoulder is out. Let me get that back into place before it heals." He didn't wait for an answer, but took Methos' body in a strong embrace with one arm and twisted his shoulder back into the socket. A gasp of pain was the only sound Methos made but a few tears pushed through the grit in his eyes. Silas eased him down. "Lie still while I fetch water."
Like I could move, Methos thought through the red waves of pain. He struggled to speak and his voice was raspy, "Kill me, Silas."
The big man gazed sympathetically at him. "I can't. Just do what he wants, Methos."
Almost imperceptibly, Methos shook his head. "I can't."
Silas pushed the tent flap aside and disappeared.
Methos closed his eyes, willing his body to heal faster, but there was only so much it could repair at a time. He expected Kronos to arrive at any minute and was relieved when Silas returned with a bowl of water and a cloth.
As Silas washed his face, almost gently, flushing the sand from his swollen eyes, he asked. "Why are you holding out, Methos? Kronos will give you anything you want if you join us."
"Join you?" he echoed thickly.
"Become our brother."
"Hell of a fraternal organization," Methos murmured.
Silas chucked as he began washing blood off the injured man's chest, surveying the damage. Healing was in progress, but some of the cuts were very deep and they were numerous all over his body. As gentle as Silas tried to be, it still hurt Methos as he washed out the wounds, carefully rolled him onto his stomach and cleaned the cuts and abrasions that covered most of his backside.
Once the blood was wiped away, Silas lifted Methos onto the pallet of piled up furs that was Kronos' bed and provided a soft cushion against his sore body. Methos knew the big man had been fond of him from the moment Kronos had first brought him into the camp a little over two months earlier. Unlike Caspian, Methos had been civil to him, treating him as an equal. Methos could see how much Silas hated to see him enduring so much agony when he could end it so easily. He watched through tired eyes as Silas turned away and poured a generous portion of sweet wine into a goblet.
Behind the big man, Kronos reached across and took the goblet. "You've done well, Silas. I will take it from here." Silas nodded at him, cast a last sad glance at Methos before leaving without another word. Kronos knelt beside the other Immortal, lifted his head and held the goblet to his lips. "Drink, Methos. It will ease some of the pain."
"What do you care?" Even though he wanted to ignore the gesture and refuse the liquid, Methos desperately wanted moisture in his mouth. His lips and tongue still felt gritty and he was sure he'd swallowed a bucket of sand.
"The intent is not specifically to hurt you but to get you to see reason," Kronos said matter-of-factly. "Why fight me? What has humanity done for you? You were living in a hovel when I found you in that village. Those people didn't care about you. What were you- little more than a freed slave? And before that, you were a slave, weren't you? And when they found out you could endure more than other men, they worked you even harder, didn't they?"
Methos squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he could shut his ears as easily. Yes, Kronos was telling the truth, but did that give him a right to plan destruction, to be judge and executioner of mortals? Wasn't there some good in humanity?
"I know you, Methos," Kronos said mildly. "I've been you, a victim of what I am. I know how humans treat out kind. Or for that matter, their own kind. Do they value life? No. So why should we value their lives? Join me. With your planning, we can be invincible." He pulled a fur skin over Methos against the night's chill. "Think about it, young friend. You owe them nothing."
Methos felt Kronos rise and relaxed a little, grateful this particular ordeal was over. He'd heard it before, said a dozen different ways. He had to ask himself why he kept fighting Kronos when he knew it could only end one of two ways- him joining the band or losing his head. But a small part of him insisted the alternative was unthinkable and escape was still a possibility.
A slight rustling of clothing warned him that Kronos was readying for bed. The lantern was extinguished bringing total darkness to the tent. Moments later, Kronos crawled onto the pallet beside him, shifting the fur cover to include him. Methos bit his lip, praying to every deity he'd ever known that Kronos wouldn't touch him tonight. A hand slide slowly down his chest and halted at his hip, making velvet touch spirals over the planes of his flesh. Although he was mostly healed, the movement still stung even as it stimulated nerve endings. The gods weren't listening.
Kronos shifted closer, moving his body next to Methos. His hand moved across his hip, down his thigh and he urgently turned Methos onto his side, back facing him. Methos tensed, knowing what was coming and he desperately wished for a dagger-
-A different time. A different place. A dark, dreary cave in the hills. A teenage boy with wide hazel eyes cowered back against the wall as the big, hairy man cornered him. The boy balled his fists, ready to fight. The man merely laughed and lunged for him.
It was a short struggle before the big man had the slender boy's arms pinioned behind him and held him easily with one hand and arm. His free hand began to explore the naked youth, working its way down between his legs and foundling him. The boy fought against him, trying to break free only to have the man grab the sensitive organs between his legs and squeeze them until he gasped with the pain.
Abruptly, the boy was spun around, his face shoved against the wall and the man took his exploring fingers up, searching the crevices-
Amanda had been awakened by soft grunting noises from across the room, glanced over to where a faint light from the street showed Methos tossing restlessly in his sleep. Just like Duncan, she thought. Haunted by the past These men both seemed to carry guilt. She punched the pillow on the couch and plunged her head back down when the cry brought her fully awake.
What the hell? It was like a wounded animal, a pained howl and it came from Methos who was half out of bed and clawing at the floor. She moved, covering the room as fast as her long legs could take her, and vaulted over his bed. Kneeling on the floor beside him, she caught his arms and shoulders and pulled him tightly to her. As he fought her, she realized he wasn't awake. Whatever nightmare he was in still held him. He gasped and cried out as she hugged him closer, trying to get through. "Methos! Methos... it's okay. You're safe. It's okay now."
Suddenly his head arched back, then he dropped against her in deep sobs. She held on, rocking him against her. This wasn't a guilt dream; this was a first class nightmare. This was what had him looking exhausted and haggard and had Joe worried. She laid her chin against his head and spoke soothingly, "It's okay, baby. You're okay. It was a dream."
His breathing became less ragged and the gasping slowed. He opened his eyes to Amanda's breasts just in front of his nose and nearly had a heart attack. "Amanda!"
He tried to pull away, but with surprising strength, the female Immortal continued to hold him close. "It's okay."
"Okay?" he croaked. "Mac will kill me!"
"Duncan's not here," she purred. "Besides, we haven't done anything-" Yet, she added mentally. Methos had always held an attraction for her, but Duncan was a long time love. Now with Duncan not wanting any of his friends around, she felt free to explore a little with his best friend. But not tonight. Tonight, Methos needed to rest- really rest.
The oldest Immortal laid his head against her uneasily, still not convinced Mac wouldn't burst through his door ready to remove his head, but then he, too, remembered Mac's self-isolation. At least it distracted him from the nightmare- and the terrible other memory that nightmare had conjured up. God, he didn't think he could remember anything as vividly from those pre-Immortal years. He hadn't lied when he told Mac things before he took his first head were a blur, but this memory had broken through in tact- the frightened, painful experience of a fourteen year old boy he could barely identify as ever being him.
He caught his breath trying to shove the unwanted memory away and let Amanda hold him. He concentrated instead on the softness of her silk pajamas, the smooth white stem of her throat and the subtle sweet scent of jasmine perfume. Probably not the best course either, he thought wryly.
Amanda ran her hand soothingly against his head, stroking the short dark brown hair and smooth, surprisingly soft skin of his face. Her lips pressed against his forehead, a sweet almost motherly kiss. He tilted his head to meet her luminous dark eyes gazing affectionately at him.
"Amanda-" he breathed her name like a whisper of a breeze through a fern and his hand moved to caress her cheek.
Long narrow fingers on slender aristocratic hands. Nothing base, nothing coarse about this elegant man. Where did you come from, Methos? she wondered.
As his mouth moved toward hers, Amanda retreated. She briskly swept his hand away and urged him to move. "Come on. Get back to bed. We both need sleep."
Methos was mildly disappointed but not discouraged. He'd seen wanting in Amanda's eyes. He sat up, letting the long-legged woman get to her feet. "I don't want to sleep."
She cast a seductive look at him. "Well, at least get into bed while I pour us drinks."
"That, I'll do." He grinned at her and tidied up the bed a bit as she sauntered across the room. Kind of a small bed for two, he reflected, but then he hadn't planned on bringing a woman to his flat. It would be cozy anyway.
"Make mine a double," Methos called, climbing into bed and snuggling under the blanket. He watched as Amanda glanced back at him with a frown and poured a short glass into a larger glass, then added more Scotch. With a devilish grin, he commented, "You know, there's a bottle of excellent Irish whiskey in the cupboard. I've had it for years-"
"Too late. The Scotch is poured." Amanda smiled as she made her way back and handed him the tall glass. "Drink up. It'll relax you."
"I dunno. I'm pretty relaxed now." He patted the bed, inviting her in.
Amanda sat, tipped her glass to him. Pushing up on one elbow, he leaned across and kissed her, a gentle introductory kiss promising much, much more. She felt a tingle all the way to her toes. Wide-eyed, she sipped at her drink, waiting for him to do the same.
Finally, he took a big swallow of the amber liquid, but his eyes never left her. Some part of him wondered if he was insane. This was MacLeod's girlfriend- although estranged at the moment. But he wanted her. He'd wanted her since he first met her, even knowing she was off limits so long as she was with the Highlander.
He poured down another big gulp of Scotch as he speculated whether Amanda would go through with this. That's when he began to feel tired, and very relaxed. Frowning, he sipped at the Scotch, really tasting it and noted the attentive look on Amanda's face. "What did you put in it?"
"Put in it?" she repeated innocently.
"Amanda?" His velvet baritone went to new depths. The hand holding the Scotch was becoming unsteady. She caught it, took the glass.
"It's just a sedative. You really need to sleep, Methos. You look terrible." Actually, at that moment, he looked really cross.
"MacLeod is right. You need to mind your own business," he growled and started to get up. Amanda made a grab, caught his shoulder. He glared at her. "Amanda-"
"If I have to wrestle you into bed, I will."
Under other circumstances, that could be fun, he thought. But right now, he was too aggravated to consider it. What on earth made her think she could do this? Anger barely under control, he shrugged her hand off. "I'm fine. I just had a couple of bad dreams, that's all. And you come along and drug me. I can't- I can't be unconscious-"
"I'll be here until you wake up. No big bad Immortal is going to take your head-"
The oldest Immortal shot a look that definitely disputed that assertion. She dropped her hand. He got up, started toward the bathroom, made it four unsteady steps before he passed out, face down.
Amanda shook her head. "I really wish you'd have stayed in bed." With a deep sigh, she crossed the room and started lugging the dead weight back to his bed.
Methos opened his eyes to a dull gray light outside his window. It could have been morning or night. His mind mildly registered the presence of another Immortal, the dullness of the awareness telling him the other one had been there a while. Blearily, he looked at his clock- 7:08. Slowly, he recalled Amanda and the drugged Scotch. He chuckled a bit. All right, maybe he did need a few solid hours of sleep. It was still a sneaky trick, one he could appreciate.
"Welcome back," Amanda's cheery voice said from behind his shoulder. "How do you feel?"
Startled, his eyes flew open wide and he flipped over to find Amanda stretched out next to him, leaning comfortably on one elbow. She wore a pale blue angora sweater and matching leggings and that sight brought a sigh of relief from Methos. For a wild moment he was afraid more had transpired than he remembered.
"What are you doing?"
"Guarding your head. I told you I would."
He sat up. "Is it morning or night?"
"I slept over sixteen hours?" he asked incredulously.
Amanda looked sheepish, "Uh, try adding another twenty-four to that figure."
His mouth fell open. "You're kidding! How much-"
"The sedative wasn't that strong. Honest! You just really needed to sleep." She looked earnestly at him, all the innocence she could possibly muster in her look.
Slowly he nodded his head. "Yeah. You're probably right. I haven't been sleeping too well lately. But-" he paused and looked sternly at her, "-don't ever do that again."
Unexpectedly Amanda brushed her hand against his cheek, running it down to the almost two-day stubble on his jaw. "I won't... unless you get into an exhausted state again. Then I wouldn't hesitate."
He laughed at that. "No. I bet you wouldn't."
She grinned at him, relieved. "You hungry?"
"Believe it or not, I can cook. You get cleaned up and I'll prove it."
"Deal." As Methos slipped his long legs out of bed, Amanda came across the bed, slid her hand behind his neck and her mouth locked on his in an intense kiss. Surprised at first, he quickly adapted and turned to put his arm around her, leaning into the kiss. Her mouth opened against his and she proceeded with enthusiasm, touching her tongue against his lips, tasting him. Amanda broke it off slowly, reluctantly. He brought his hand under her chin, guiding it back and kissed her gently.
"And I thought it was an act."
She shook her head. "No. I've wanted to do that for a long time."
"And I'm not going to tell you." She ducked away, hopping off the bed to go to the kitchen.
A sly grin spread across his face. She liked it- a lot. He got up and strutted to the bathroom. He didn't need to look back to know Amanda watched him. And the rising bulge in his boxers made him glad she had a back view.
And indeed, Amanda watched. Her eyes lingered on, appreciating the way his lean, hard muscles rippled as he walked. Her hands trembled as she broke open eggs for an omelet.
Methos cringed as the cold water hit him, caught his breath sharply and turned full into the icy spray. He must've lost his senses to even consider touching Amanda. Not that he didn't want to, but he rationalized it would be a betrayal to MacLeod. Even without him around, Amanda was still his woman - no matter what either of them thought.
Head clearer and body under control, he added hot water to the mix and finished his shower. As he gazed at his reflection in the mirror, he noted his eyes seemed greener - the amber flakes confined to the center of the iris - than they had in weeks. That was a sure sign he'd gotten in a good sleep. The growth of beard confirmed it was a lengthy one. He soaked his beard with shaving cream, then picked up the straight edge shaver, still his shaving preference. As he shaved, he thought again about how the Highlander was doing. Oh sure, Joe had Watchers on him, trying to dog him, but that didn't tell him anything about his friend's emotional state - only that he was surviving. MacLeod had effectively cut him out of his life after Richie's death.
Maybe he deserved it. God knows what he was thinking while MacLeod was going through whatever it was that had possessed him. He still didn't have a word for it. He didn't give it enough credence - was more concerned with Joe at the time. He was still annoyed with MacLeod about Byron, about not being able to talk to him about the past, about being shut out when he really needed him. God, he was feeling more guilt all the time. That was what caring about people got you!
He slammed the razor into his hand, cutting it deeply. He bit his lip and closed his eyes against the pain, feeling nothing but the physical hurt, letting it override the emotional hurt he was feeling. His body tensed and trembled, breath coming harshly.
Dully, he opened his eyes and watched his hand heal, cut closing and fading within a matter of seconds - only a stinging reminder lingering to say it was ever sliced open. Too bad the soul didn't heal as easily.
A knock on the door startled him and he dropped the razor in the sink.
"Methos? Are you all right?" Amanda's voice called. "Food's ready."
"Yeah. Be out in a few minutes." He looked back at his face. "Fool," he mouthed to himself. He grabbed his slacks and quickly dressed.
Amanda had set a pleasantly attractive table, complete with candles and a bud vase with a trio of red carnations in it. She'd had to have picked that up somewhere - it wasn't something that Methos kept in his flat. He stepped into his small kitchen to find her dumping an overdone omelet onto a plate. She turned and flashed an apologetic smile at him. "It cooked a little longer than it should have... I can start over."
"It'll be fine, Amanda."
"Mine looks even worse."
He glanced around her shoulder to the dark brown mess sitting on another plate. Another glance past that to the garbage revealed another blob of burnt something. He nodded as he prodded the mass on the plate with a fork and had it almost bounce back. "I see. Look, Amanda, why don't I take you to dinner?"
An objection hovered on her lips, but she fought it down, not really wanting to eat the disgusting mess she'd made. It seems she was way out of practice on culinary skills. In fact, the last time she'd done dinner for Duncan, it had been picnic-style. No cooking. She nodded.
Methos grabbed his duster and handed Amanda her short leather coat, then paused to blow out the candles on the table. He caught Amanda's gaze. "It looks lovely, Amanda." Pulling one of the carnations out of the vase, he carefully pushed Amanda's hair back on one side and slipped the flower behind her ear, twisting the stem to secure it a little. His mouth brushed against her cheek as he murmured, "We should have met centuries ago, Amanda."
A shiver ran down Amanda's spine and she caught her breath as he slid his arm around her waist to urge her to the door. If only we had, she thought, but she said nothing. Did she really want to go out? Were those omelets really inedible? At that moment, all she wanted was to explore Methos' body- every inch, every rise, every dimple and crevice.
Methos sat in a lotus position on the floor, his favorite mantra reverberating around his flat. He sought to maintain his focus, to center his soul and mind so that he could control the nightmares.
It wasn't working too well, fragments of his past broke through every time he let his mind drift. Most of them were Kronos, Caspian and Silas, some more alarming than others, but many were repeats of ones that had already visited.
He was also seeing Mac again- sword raised to him in offering and himself turning away, refusing to grant him the absolution he wished. And he still felt the guilt for allowing Mac to be in that position. At the very least, he should have gone with him to find Richie.
Methos shook his head, forced himself to focus again. A sharp memory broke through, Kronos raking him up and down with eyes that screamed desire. ..
He'd been dragged out of his hovel in the village that Kronos and his flea-bitten band of marauders had attacked. Many of the villagers had escaped into the hills at the onslaught. The band was unorganized, unskilled and uncontrolled. It bore no resemblance to the terror that only four would become. Kronos was little more than a desert raider then.
When Methos had detected the presence of more than one Immortal in that band, he'd retreated to his poor hut, not to hide, but to arm himself the best he could.
And Methos was an almost unarmed Immortal. He'd barely escaped slavery a short time before and had settled into the village as a tailor. He'd hoped he would soon barter a garment for a crude sword. But as the man he came to know as Caspian pulled him roughly out to the open, his left hand moved secretly to the knife at the inside of his tunic.
Then Kronos strode forward and his gaze ran up the insolent young Immortal before him. Slim, lithe body- reasonably attractive under the dirt and grime. He might be good for amusement before he killed him. All that was very clear to Methos in his look.
Methos stayed his hand, seeing a better opportunity to escape this group. One that wasn't so risky...
Sharp rapping at the door broke the unwanted chain of thought and he painfully unfolded his legs and got stiffly to his feet. The buzz of presence gave him a pretty good idea who it was. He'd seen Amanda a couple of times in the past week, but he reached for his sword anyway.
"Methos. It's Amanda," she called in a reasonably quiet voice. At least she wasn't screaming his name in the middle of the night.
He opened the door to her cheery face. She held up a shopping bag. "I brought food tonight. I still owe you a dinner."
"You're going to cook again?" he asked as he let her past him.
"No, it's precooked. All I have to do is serve it." She paused to look at him, didn't like what she saw. "You're not sleeping well."
"No. But I'll deal with it. Or are you going to drug the food this time?"
She slid a hand behind his neck, pulled him closer and kissed him, her mouth pressing hard against his, then she whispered, "I don't think so. I have other things in mind. "
"I thought we'd discussed this, Amanda. Agreed it wasn't a good idea." He followed her to the kitchen.
"I never agreed to it. " She pulled out plates and began scooping a tantalizing Greek salad onto it, topping it off with crumbled feta. "Do you have a nice red wine to go with this, sweetie? Or even a blush?"
A small smile touched Methos' lips. He wouldn't let anyone else address him with such a saccharine endearment, but this was Amanda and somehow, it seemed okay when she said it. "I have a wonderful red, Amanda. "
"Henry really was the best of the line, Amanda. He was a strong king and the time of peace gave him a chance to advance the cause of his people. He was able to sit in judgment and make laws- bring a sense of order to people who'd lived with chaos." Methos refilled the wine glass for her and himself. Dinner had been magnificent- moussaka made just the way Methos liked it, from one of the best Greek restaurants in Paris.
Following the excellent repast, they'd been discussing the merits of the Plantagenet line for the past half hour or so as they killed the second bottle of wine. They were arguing, for the most part, from different perspectives. Amanda hadn't been a noble in Henry's army- had never seen him as a battle chieftain, nor been privy to the improvements in laws he'd enacted.
"I can't say he did a lot for the English, but then I don't have first hand experience with him. Were you with him long, Methos?" Amanda sipped cautiously at the wine.
Methos felt very relaxed. He'd had two more glasses of wine than Amanda, aware that she was lagging behind. As if she thought she could get him drunk... "A few years. Until I was killed in- of all things- a hunting accident. So I disappeared to France, being careful to avoid Henry. By the time I saw him again, he was an old man and I probably looked like a bastard off-spring of myself. That wouldn't have surprised Henry any. Being part of the entourage of the French king would only have added to the suggestion."
"Ah, Philip Augustus. Known for his great good looks, as I recall. And was he--?"
Methos narrowed his eyes at her, answering before she finished the question. "Yes, he was."
"So-uh-is that first hand knowledge?" Amanda probed, finding this whole conversation a fascinating insight into Methos.
He set his glass down, thought about how beautiful Philip had been when he'd first come into his company. Philip was passionate, devious and an absolute delight. Yes, Methos had known him well and in many ways. Instead of answering Amanda, he reached forward and ran long fingers against her cheek, sliding them lightly, delicately down her throat.
Suddenly Amanda found it difficult to swallow, her breath catching at the sensation. His touch was a gentle tease as the exploring fingertips moved down across her throat and hovered just above her right breast. She could almost feel them, anxiously wanted them to touch her. Her eyes met his, aware of the growing intensity of his gaze. Beautiful eyes, she realized. Expressive eyes, even more than Duncan's, she admitted. She'd seen those eyes go cold, lock out communication totally, but now they were open, inviting- expressing a longing his voice couldn't seem to say. Eyes she could get lost in so deep were the varied hues of a summer forest in them. The eyes moved closer, filling her vision, then blanked out as he brought his lips to hers, kissing her lips as if they were delicate rose petals. His mouth slid down to take her lower lip between his teeth, capturing it and biting down gently. Amanda shivered, barely managed to set her glass upright on the table. She wrapped an arm around his neck and pulled him tighter to her, her body aching for this long-desired moment.
His hand moved down past her blouse, easing in to fondle the firmness it found there. Amanda pressed harder against him, a silent plead for his touch. She dug her fingers into his shoulder as his tongue brushed against her lips, tasting and demanding entrance. She yielded, providing the opening and the sensitive intruder made a first foray, exploring her mouth to the fullest. His free hand slid around her back pulling her into a secure embrace and sliding her blouse out of the slacks.
Amanda's body responded to the touch, her breasts growing fuller as his roving mouth kissed each nipple in turn. She ran her fingers In his hair, enjoying the almost silk feel of the short strands. His head lifted against her hand and he moved his mouth up to her throat. She caught the scent of the shampoo on his hair, a light fragrance not familiar, followed by the distinct odor of garlic on his skin.
Her breath grew shallow, catching each time his tongue found a particularly sensitive spot on her throat. She languished in his touch, her eyes closed, head pushed back against the loveseat cushions. One hand tugged insistently at his hair, wrapping the short strands in her fingers as the other dug into the fabric of his shirt, pulling him closer to her. His breath was hot against her throat and totally electric. Her hands slipped away, bracing her against the couch when she felt like she was about to melt to the floor. Amanda wanted him more than she'd wanted anyone for a long time, found his touch more desirable than she'd imagined.
Then the touch withdrew, the heat against her throat no longer present. She waited, anxious for its return or whatever he would do next. And waited. "Methos?" A plaintive query. She opened her eyes.
He hovered over her, leaning over the back of the sofa, hands braced on the cushions on each side of her head. His green-gold eyes twinkled mischievously, the long lashes half-covering them as he gazed down at her. "This really isn't a good idea, Amanda." His tone didn't exactly say regret; it was more like caution.
She turned, tucked her knees under her to face him. She was almost nose to nose with him as she placed a hand on his. "I think we're both pretty mature adults, Methos. Now, I don't have any ties to anyone- including Duncan. And I don't notice any rings, strings or other ties on you. So I don't see what the problem is."
His eyes searched her for a few moments, as if looking for any contradictions. She slid her other hand behind his neck, gazed intently at him. "Sweetie, I want to make love with you."
He leaned two inches closer and brushed his lips against hers. "Just wanted to allow time to consider regrets."
"I won't regret this- or feel guilty. Will you?"
"Regret, no. Guilt... possibly. It's been popping up a lot lately." He caught her hand, turned her around to help her off the sofa, then lead the way to the intimate bed near the windows.
Guilt. Amanda's mind echoed the word as she followed him. Guilt is a dangerous emotion. But not about this, sweetie. This feels too right to have guilt about.
His flat was small, still an Adam Pierson budget consideration. The furnishings were sparse, but generally reflected his taste. There was nothing to tie him to this place. What he valued could be packed and moved in less than an hour. He'd lived that way most of his long life. But he could wish for a larger bed just now.
Methos turned to her, ran his thumb gently along her chin, stopping just at her mouth. She is lovely, he thought, noting her wide brown eyes in an almost translucent elfin face. She'd had a tough life before her first death, before Rebecca, but like him, the pain and hardships of their mortal lives hadn't left permanent marks. Although she'd been a little older than him at her death, Amanda still possessed youthful beauty, always would- until someone took her beautiful head. He'd had his sword at her throat once, holding it there in hurt and anger that had nothing to do with Amanda. He swallowed hard against that thought.
Amanda almost swayed to the gentle rubbing of his thumb at her mouth as she watched his eyes. She caught his thumb with her lips, moved it lightly between her teeth and bit down just enough to trap it.
He closed his eyes, sucked his breath in. Such was his desire that even a simple act could produce a response. He felt Amanda's fingers touch his throat then move to undo the top buttons of his shirt. One button, two buttons. Then the third and her warm, slim hand slipped beneath the fabric to touch his chest, rubbing against his skin and sliding along his ribs. Her mouth followed part of the course, touching his chest with bits of moisture. His breath shook and he found it hard to not move, to let her set this slow pace when he wanted to explore her body as much as she did his.
Her fingers came back to his shirt, undid the other two buttons and her mouth slid down to anoint his stomach with kisses as she pulled the shirt out of his jeans. His knees were slowly turning to jelly, electric tingles of excitement running along his nerves. He groaned as his growing erection pressed against the confining fabric of his slacks.
She stepped back, heart leaping at the sight of him. How could anyone his age look so damned innocent? So completely desirable? Amanda slipped her blouse off, opening herself to his exploration. Methos shrugged his shirt the rest of the way off, then pressed his naked chest against her, pulling her tightly to him.
His mouth met hers, pushing insistently against her lips, tasting the sweetness of the wine on them, wanting more. She moaned, opened her lips, extended her tongue to him, searching. He lowered his hands down her back, savoring the smoothness of her back and the long supple lines of her muscles. He halted at the waistband of her slacks, moved to the front and undid the clasp at the top, sliding the zipper down. As the loose-fitting fabric dropped easily from her, she lifted her hips a little higher against him, fitting herself to the corresponding bulge she felt at his groin.
A low groan escaped through his lips as she broke off the kiss. She was tormenting and he relished every moment. Amanda- beautiful, impulsive Amanda. He'd curbed his feelings for her ever since he'd met her, insisting she was out of reach as long as she was with the Highlander. He'd kept her at bay with sarcasm, annoyance and distance so he wouldn't feel tempted. He'd shut out the twinge of pain when he'd watched her with MacLeod. But the barriers were down, the whole picture changed- maybe for this one night, but changed nonetheless.
Amanda lowered herself to the bed, stretched out and a offered a hand. "The room is chilly."
Methos stripped off his jeans and eased his body next to her. Amanda gazed hazy-eyed at him, letting her eyes rove over the smooth muscular planes of his body, enjoying the lean lines as her fingers and mouth explored. A light touch there, a little nip there just below his hip. He let her make the moves, allowing her to indulge her need to control this encounter. Facing this honestly, he preferred it this way, feeling that somehow he wasn't really with MacLeod's woman if she was initiating it. And to continue the truth, he needed this, needed to be with her, to make love. Her lips touched his navel, skimming just around it and he gasped as his body shuddered. He was on fire, each sensitive point reacting with hunger to her caresses, wanting- needing- growing. He shifted to reciprocate, saw the same need and desire in Amanda's face. Her eyes were darker than ever, a glow seeming to rise from deep within them. Her lips were parted, inviting him to touch. His mouth moved to hers, the contact firm and hard, his tongue meeting hers with an urgent need to touch, taste and tangle together.
His hands touched her , easing to between her legs and finding a welcoming moisture there. Her hips shifted with his touch, encouraging him. Methos could barely breathe, his lungs struggled to keep up with the racing of his heart. He'd wanted this moment from the first time he'd seen Amanda, but he'd put that thought aside - marking her off-limits. More than a few times he'd had to witness the teasing and closeness of Mac and Amanda, had to pick up his coat and simply leave to find companionship in a beer or a Scotch, then to head home alone. Alone with only curious thoughts of how she felt in Mac's arms, of how sweet she might taste, of how much he ached to know her.
"Now, Methos," she moaned breathlessly, her voice deep with desire. "I want you now."
Want you... The words echoed in his mind as he pressed against her, his own need as great as hers. Her hand stroked him, guided him to her moist well and she rocked up, making it easier. Her muscles tensed and pulled against him, then relaxed and repeated as they found a rhythm together. It was as basic as the tide against the shore, gentle rocking wave giving way to the pounding surf. He fell into the depths of it, a primal need that consumed him until his body surged. Amanda dug her fingers into back, flexing them and driving him on with sharp gasps and cries of pleasure. Her mouth found his, pulling them tightly to her, trying to complete the merge as her stomach and legs compressed against him in a series of waves.
Afterwards, Methos held her trembling body close, kissed her forehead affectionately as Amanda kneaded his shoulders. "Thank you," he murmured, his voice barely audible.
"Me, too, honey. No regrets." She settled her head against his shoulder, contented for the moment. She'd begun to know Methos in this past few days, know him as more than MacLeod's friend, more than the passionate man who'd risked his life for a mortal woman, as more than the enigmatic old Immortal- and she liked the man she was discovering. She closed her eyes, tried to snuggle closer.
Methos' mouth formed a pleased smile, glad for everything that had transpired this evening, no matter the consequences. And there would be consequences. Like it or not, his relationship with Amanda had just been altered. "No regrets," he whispered, more to himself than Amanda before he drifted off to sleep.