Willows Bend
by Lillian Wolfe

 

continued from part one...


Methos leaned over the sink, cupping cold water in his hands and splashing it on his face. His emotions were torn between want and fear. Yes, he wanted Mac. Yes, he wanted to crawl into bed with him and stay there forever, to let every pent up desire he'd ever had for the man run free. He wanted to make love to him, to fuck him in ways the Scot couldn't even begin to imagine and to ravish that perfect body until he cried out for mercy. In guarded moments, he'd watched the Highlander, imagining what it would be like to touch that tight, flat stomach and to run his hands over the firm buttocks.

And now... Now when the offer was there, when the man wanted it as much as he did, now he wasn't able to do it! He straightened and stared at his face in the mirror. He looked okay, no panic in the eyes, but his stomach felt like a hive of angry bees had taken up residence. He suddenly felt nauseous. Bad analogy, he thought grimly. His stomach felt like a volcano with molten lava pouring down the sides. Better.

He plunged his hand into his pocket and pulled out his bottle of pills, deftly opened it and poured a few into his hand. He selected a sedative, broke the pill in half with his thumbnail and dumped the rest back. Half would suffice, he reasoned. It would be enough to calm him without putting him to sleep. He leaned back against the wall and waited for the anxiety to abate. //I could just walk away,// he told himself. //Make an excuse to Mac and leave. And have Mac believe I don't want him… No! I have to do this.//

As the drug took effect, his emotions calmed as well. Now he could handle it. He would have to handle it. Unbuttoning his shirt the rest of the way, Methos opened the door and stepped back into the lion's den. Not ready to tame the eager creature but to sacrifice himself.

Duncan had poured another drink for him and handed it to him as he passed him, making his way back to the bed. He turned to face the Highlander, offering himself with open arms, a clear invitation. In response, Mac closed the distance and slid the shirt off his shoulders. A moment later, his mouth roved over his chest, hungry lips tasting and teasing him. Methos heard a deep groan as Duncan's thigh pushed against his erection and realized it came from his throat.

Senses dulled, Methos was only half aware of Duncan removing his trousers and tossing them over the chair. He only vaguely registered when Mac had lowered him onto the bed and had covered him hungrily with his own body. He knew he was responding, knew he was kissing him back and that his body was reacting to the touching and gentle pinching like a whore's. He was on auto-pilot and he knew it.

Thousands of years of trained instincts took over. He knew how to give pleasure, how to make a man or a woman respond to his touch and he did it now. He heard Duncan's voice moaning as his mouth caressed the strong body, covering it with rounded suckle marks that faded rapidly. A deep groan, followed by sharp rapid breaths punctuated his assault on the Scot's groin after which Duncan came into his hand as he caressed him.

Afterwards, they dozed for a half hour or so, Mac holding him in his arms, his head nestled against Methos' neck. It was suddenly too much for Methos. He felt restrained, unable to breathe. He pulled away from Mac, sitting up and gasping for air.

Blearily, the Scot raised on an arm and asked, "Are you okay?"

Methos nodded. "Yeah. I need to get some fresh air." He reached for his trousers, tugging them off the chair, unaware that the bottle of pills rolled out and under the bed.

"A walk sounds good," Mac agreed, sitting up.

Methos glanced at him, added a mental picture of Duncan all tousled and barely covered with the sheets, the still drowsy look in eyes, then shook his head. "No, I really need to go, Duncan." He put on his socks and shoes in silence, but as he reached for his shirt, MacLeod spoke.

"Back to Portugal, then? Can I at least call?"

Methos froze for a heartbeat before his vocal cords worked again. "No phone. I'll call you." He stood, suddenly very anxious to leave. But he looked back at Mac. "I'll be in touch, I promise. Mac… Thanks… for everything."

He grabbed his coat and was out the door before Mac could say anything else. //Oh, dammit! Have I fucked everything up,// he thought miserably as he hailed a passing cab. //The sooner I get out of Paris the better.//


Dec. 30th - Mac's Barge - 9:29 a.m.

Absent-mindedly humming a tune from a recent Paris show that simply refused to vacate his mind, Mac ran the vacuum around the barge. He had relatively few places to actually vacuum since he'd removed most of the carpeting and replaced the floor with new hardwood. But he did have the big throw rug around the sofa and the one next to the bed, places where he liked to put bare feet into some warmth.

The cleaning was a distraction, something to divert his pent up energy and annoyance that Methos had left Paris. He'd expected it, but it still bothered him. It wasn't that it was anything different from the man, but after this last extended disappearance and the obvious changes in his friend, Mac was uneasy about it. Yes, he promised to visit when he was in Paris again, if Mac could rely on that promise. For Joe's sake, Mac certainly hoped Methos would keep it. Then, annoyed that he was willing to lie to himself, Mac amended that. For his sake as well.

In spite of Methos' desire to be left alone to work out whatever was bothering him, Mac wanted to be with him. He wanted Methos here-- in Paris, if not at the barge. Maybe he couldn't help Methos, but at least he could be close if he needed support. Need? Ha! Did Methos need anyone? It seemed not.

Annoyance getting the better of him, Mac shoved the vacuum nozzle violently against the bed, sliding it under at a sharp angle. With a wheeze and whir, the nozzle choked on an edge of the sheet as it tried to gobble it. Irritated, Mac flipped the switch off on the old machine and got to his knees to remove the wad of cloth. As he pulled at the sheet, he glimpsed an object under the bed, tubular and brownish colored. He laid the nozzle down and reached to pick up a bottle. Turning it in his hand, he read the prescription label - Miguel Avilar, Prozanimine3 and the chemist's name in Lisbon. Surprised, Mac sat back on his haunches and stared at the bottle. Tranquilizers? Methos was using tranquilizers? A slight queasiness rumbled through Mac's stomach. "Shit, Methos. What are you doing?" he mumbled as he climbed to the edge of the bed, gazing at the bottle as if it might somehow answer him.

Then he noticed that there was another type of pill in the bottle. He twisted the lid off and shook a few pills into his hand. Just the two types, tranquilizers and what else? Sleeping pills? Stimulants? What the hell was going on with his friend? What was so bad that he had to resort to this?

It wouldn't be that hard to find him, Mac reasoned. He had a name and the chemist could probably tell him which way to go to find the lighthouse. There couldn't be that many on the Portuguese coast. One thing was certain: he couldn't just sit back and watch on this one. If Methos was taking pills, then his life could be in serious danger if another immortal came around. Mac couldn't take the chance, couldn't risk losing him now.

Decision made, he cast away any thoughts about the consequences. If Methos had a problem with it, then they'd deal with it when he got there. With a quick flip, he opened the portable computer at the bedside and was on to the airline booking line to get a flight to Lisbon as soon as possible. Within a few minutes the flight was confirmed and he began throwing a few things into a backpack.


Dec. 31st - Ponta do Diabo  lighthouse - 10:22 a.m.

The coastal road wound its way south from Lisbon, cutting very near the edge of the ocean in some places while turning inland where it was too difficult to cut a path. It dipped gradually, then rose again toward the high cliff that jutted out into the ocean like a stubby, pointing finger.

As Mac pulled his rental car up to the dirt roadway that lead toward the fenced-off promontory that a small, hand-lettered sign proclaimed as Ponta do Diabo , he was surprised. Even from that distance, the lighthouse looked to be reasonably modern, not at all what he'd pictured when Methos had talked about it. In his mind's eye, Mac had conjured a tall white tower with a small house at the base. This structure was a steel frame, like a radio tower, rising about 40 feet from the ground to a pair of huge lights on the top. A narrow walkway circled the lights. About ten yards away from the tower, there was a small white-washed cottage.

He'd had no problem getting directions to the lighthouse. A quick visit to the chemist in Lisbon who had filled the prescription for Miguel Avilar and he'd easily discovered where his errant friend lived. He'd also learned that the prescription was on an indefinite refill notice and that the chemist had been supplying Miguel for more than a couple of years. Mac's concern for Methos' welfare was only slightly above the disappointment and pain of knowing that the man had been so close for over two years. He'd probably been to Paris several times before coming to see him and even that had been unplanned.

But now, simply put, Duncan MacLeod was a man with a mission. He turned the car up the road toward the steel tower, noting as he bounced over bump after bump, that it was not a road well-traveled. Yet, perversely, he refused to switch the car to grav-cushion that would elevate it a few feet above the ground and smooth out the ride. It was a little over two miles to the cottage and Mac now spotted the older model jeep that was parked almost behind it.

As he shut the car door, Mac pulled his coat a little snugger to his body, then turned slowly to survey Ponta do Diabo . //Devil's Point,// Mac thought, if his rusty Spanish served him well. //A colorful name for what seems a peaceful enough place.// But Mac knew the slightly sloping, grassy cliff hid the danger that required a lighthouse on the point. In spite of all advances in travel, many ships, both commercial and private, still covered the sea lanes. Mankind's union with the sea was something that couldn't be easily broken, no matter how fast or safe planes, hovercraft and bullet trains traveled.

As his appraising gaze rotated back to the light structure, he noticed the shadowy figure leaning forward against the railing next to the light, watching him. Methos… there was no mistaking that lanky build. Mac waved and started forward a little nervously, not certain what the reception would be.

He'd covered half the distance to the tower before Methos straightened and, using the steel braces of the structure as a ladder, started down to meet him. Mac was keenly aware of the surroundings, hearing the crash of the water against the rocks just a short distance away, feeling the dampness of the ground and the air, and smelling the salt spray, the moist dirt and a hint of crude oil. It had a surreal feel, as if he were returning to a place he hadn't been in a long time.

Methos reached the bottom and waited silently until Mac stood only a few feet in front of him. He was tousled, hair blown by the wind, and sweaty from working on the light. His warm fisherman's sweater was streaked with dirt and damp. The hazel eyes seemed to narrow a bit - or was that only in Mac's mind - then Methos spoke. "So you found me. Bit out of your way, isn't it?"

In reply, Mac withdrew the pill bottle from his pocked and held it up between his thumb and forefinger for display. His eyes asked the question his voice could not. //Why, Methos? Why are you taking pills?//

For a moment, Methos gazed dispassionately at the bottle, then he held out his hand, palm up. Mac released the bottle, letting it drop into the waiting hand. But no words of explanation were forthcoming. Methos silently tucked the bottle into his jeans pocket, then said, "So, would you like the grand tour?"

//Dammit, Methos! Talk to me!// Mac's inner voice screamed in frustration while his head nodded dutifully in agreement. Methos motioned for him to follow, then started back up the tower.

"I just finished cleaning the light," he announced, "but you get a great view from the top. Be careful of the metal bars. They tend to get a bit slippery."

Taking the caution to heart after his foot skidded a little about half-way up, Mac followed Methos to the top. The older man had made it up much quicker and waited patiently for his guest to catch up. It was breezy, Mac noted as he climbed over the low railing onto the narrow platform walkway that surrounded the light. The light itself was about six feet across, a domed central feature surrounded by eight-foot high panels of mirrors spaced at intervals around it.

"The panels rotate around the light," his tour guide explained, having to almost shout over the sound of the ocean. "The spacing provides a break in the signal so that it identifies the light. Anyone seeing it from the ocean- or the air for that matter - can tell by the pattern that this is Puenta del Diablo. This cliff is a result of the Shift and is even more treacherous under the ocean than what you see. The headland itself is misleading to air traffic, so the light provides a guide to air craft as well."

Methos lead the way to the cliff side of the platform and pointed out toward the sea. "On a foggy night, the light can project about three miles in all directions, far enough for any approaching traffic to be warned."

Mac's eyes followed the pointing arm and he caught his breath at the view. The point jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean, but was surrounded on all sides by sharp rocks that rose like needles out of the water, and boulders that perched against each other, seeming to support the taller spires. It was magnificently beautiful and equally as lethal to any ship that happened to venture on it.

Without another word, Methos started back down the tower again. With a sigh, Mac followed, wondering what had happened to the charming spiral stairs that used to be a lighthouse feature? For that matter, when had lighthouses all been replaced by tall towers, unfeeling steel structures that lacked any of the quaint characteristics that had once spawned romantic dreams? Okay, he'd been hoping for one of those picture-perfect buildings to help him seduce Methos.

Methos waited patiently at the base as Mac took a little more time getting down. He wrapped his arms across his chest as if they might protect him against the chill breeze. Mac watched him for a few moments as they started to walk toward the cliff. "You look cold. Where's your coat?"

"Inside."

"And your sword?" The concern in the Scot's voice was obvious.

"Same place."

A slight break in Mac's voice betrayed his worry. "Methos, is that wise? To have it so far away?"

Halting, Methos turned to face him. "Mac, no one comes here. Other than the fuel truck driver, you're the first person to visit me. No immortal is going to come looking for a lighthouse keeper."

"You don't know that," Mac argued. "Maybe someone might spot you in town or happen to get a lead on you."

"And most likely, I would know one was coming before he got close. Either I would see him approaching from the tower, or I'd be in the house where the sword is. I'm fine, MacLeod. Really."

Mac nodded, then stepped beside Methos as they resumed walking. They came to the edge of the cliff, turning to stroll along it. It looked no less dangerous from this view. In fact, Mac could clearly see how sharp and lethal some of the rocks were. The sheers had left splinters of stone that could easily pierce a ship or a body. As if a cold hand had landed on his shoulder, Mac shivered and took a step away from the cliff's edge.

He turned his attention away from the sea, looking back toward the cottage and the road leading back to the land. Apart from the moist, chill air that cut into the bones, it was a beautiful winter day. The grass along the coast was still a deep, rich green, not killed by the winter's snow and frost as the parks and fields around Paris had been. Above them , the skies were barely dotted with puffs of white. As his gaze shifted back toward the cliff, he could see a growing contingent of dark clouds that hinted that the light might be useful by dusk

"There's a storm coming," Methos confirmed Mac's thoughts. "It'll probably be here by late afternoon. You'll want to head back before it hits."

Mac hesitated a moment, then took the leap. "Actually, I was thinking about staying the night. You know, seeing what it is about the lighthouse that keeps you here." The Highlander watched the other man's face closely for reaction. Was that a hint of annoyance behind the eyes or was Mac imagining it?

With a shrug of his shoulders, Methos accepted Mac's declaration, but added, "You get the couch. The bed is too small to share."

//Well, that set the tone,// Mac thought, but there was nothing to do except go along with it. If Methos was going to put space between them, then he would agree to it - for now. As it there was no more to say, Methos started away toward the building that housed the generator. Mac fell into step behind him, not sure if he was welcome or not.

The generator building was made of stone and leaned against the small cottage. Within it was the six-foot long unit that provided power to both the light and the house. The actual tank for the fuel was about a hundred yards away, toward the road. A safe distance in case of emergency, Mac realized. At least, no matter what had changed, Methos was still cautious.

While Methos ran a series of checks on the generator, Mac looked around the small building. Along one side of the wall, Methos had arranged a shelf of tools and supplies. He even had coiled up ropes, flares and electric torches, in case of emergencies. "Ready for anything…" Mac murmured as he looked around.

Methos barely glanced his way. "Never know when a boat might crash on the rocks. At least I might have a chance to save a few people if it happens." He flipped a switch on the generator and the unit resumed its thunderous roar.

Mac grimaced. "Isn't that annoying?"

"It's not so bad inside the house. You get used to it… kind of like white noise. Sometimes it's a comfort, almost a companion." Methos' voice grew softer, as if he was reflecting on the oddity of the statement.

It concerned the Scot. In spite of Methos' status as a loner, he knew the older man enjoyed company and conversation. As near as Mac could tell, there wasn't another soul within a fifty-mile radius of this lighthouse. Living in isolation like this wasn't good, not for his friend.

Inside the cottage, the place was as small as it looked from the outside. It was scarcely more than a utility apartment in Paris, with a living room large enough to accommodate a small sofa, a chair and a bookcase. In front was a little coffee table with a few magazines stacked on it. The equally small kitchen had barely enough room to turn around in it, but it did have a modern convection oven and a microwave built into the walls. In the utilitarian design, a tiled bar with a pair of tall stools provided the eating surface. Behind the bar was the sink and the refrigerator, neither one of luxurious proportions.

Just behind the kitchen was the bathroom, the door slightly ajar so that Mac could easily see into the dimly lighted room. Basic bathroom, he acknowledged, and his gaze moved to the closed door at the left end of the living room. No doubt the equally intimate bedroom. But Methos was right, the sound of the generator was muted considerably within the thick walls of the building and it was little more than a low drone in the background.

As Mac gazed around the room and sparse furnishings, what struck him was how little of Methos was in the visible rooms. There was nothing there to reflect his history, none of the treasured items that everyone tends to have around them. Even Methos had some of those personal items that he usually kept close. But this-This was as clean and as impersonal as a hotel room.

Methos had gone to a narrow closet next to the bathroom where a furnace was housed and was lighting the pilot on it. As he secured the door on it, the unit roared to life, throwing out a wave of warm air in the chilly rooms.

"How often do you do that?" Mac asked.

"Weekly. I've gotten pretty good at getting the pilot lit. I can do it in under a minute now. Took me about twenty-five minutes the first time I did it." He laughed softly, a genuine, unforced sound that had become unfamiliar to Mac.

Straightening, Methos headed toward the refrigerator, pulled out a couple of beers and handed one to MacLeod just as he settled into the comfortable sofa. Methos took the chair, draping a long leg over one arm while the other stretched out in parallel along the floor and his shoulders angled into the back. He looked, Mac decided, totally inviting and it was all the Scot could do to remain in place on the couch, sipping slowly at the beer.

With an effort, he cleared his throat and tried to initiate a harmless conversation. He didn't want Methos to go on the defensive immediately, but he wanted to work his way around to the issue of the pills. "So, how long have you been living here?"

Methos gave him a curious look. "At the lighthouse? Let's see. It was May, almost June… About seven months."

"How did you end up here? I mean, did someone advertise for a keeper?"

"No, it sort of fell my way. I met someone who told me about it. But you're not interested in that, Mac. Why are you here?"

"I think you know."

Methos took a long sip of beer, leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "I think it's none of your business, MacLeod." In the long pause, Mac considered what he might reply to that, then Methos continued. "But I had wanted to explain what happened Christmas night. Why I left so suddenly." He stopped again and the silence ran longer.

"I'd like to hear that, Methos," Mac prompted gently.

"I don't know if you'll understand this, Mac." Methos gave him a crooked, shy smile. "I'm not even sure I can explain. But when the shift happened, it set off a chain of events that I couldn't stop. That I couldn't control. Intellectually, I know that I'm okay and that being with you is safe. But on a different level, there's still a fear of contact - with anyone. The pills help me cope with the un--"

"How long have you been taking them?" Mac interrupted.

He shot a look at the Scot with that was purely the old Methos, the one that Mac knew so well, that clearly said, //Don't judge me.// "Do you want to hear this or not? Or are you only concerned with what you perceive as another failing of mine?"

"I'm sorry, Methos. I'm just concerned about you. It's not like you-"

"How would you know what's like me?" he snapped, "You don't know me that well, MacLeod. You only know what I was like for a few years out of a very long life."

"Have you done drugs before, Methos? I mean, really been hooked on them? Not just some recreational drugs in the sixties or cocaine with Byron." The sharpness in Mac's voice stemmed from worry, not accusation, but it didn't sound any different to his friend.

Abruptly, Methos swung from his semi-reclining position to his feet like a cat, anger evident in his every move. "Why did you ask? You've already made up your mind." He spun and was out the door, overcoat in hand, before Mac could reply.

"Well, I blew that one," Mac murmured softly, a sinking feeling in his stomach. He'd probably just done more damage than he could repair in the amount of time Methos would let him stay. It was already growing dark outside,  a wind-driven rain was coming up and he'd just managed to drive the person he came here to help out into it.


//Damn him!// Methos fumed as he marched determinedly along the edge of the cliff. His anger had carried him out the door and across the open grass in less than ten minutes, but now he was slowing and coping with the emotions. The anger was something he hadn't felt with this intensity in a long time. Not since the first few days after the Shift when anger had been the primary emotion that had kept him going. Eventually, that gave way to fear, dread and desperation.

He paused. The anger was a good feeling, reminding him that there was something much deeper within him than this timid shell he now wore. Something that he was having a hard time finding again. Leave it to MacLeod to stir it up. He tossed his head back, face turned up to the now-dark sky and felt the cold raindrops splash against his face. Crap! Why did the Highlander always make him feel like he'd disappointed him? Like no matter what he did, it would never be up to MacLeod standards. Worse, why did he care so much what the man thought? Why couldn't he just let go?

He scrubbed a hand across his face and gazed back at the house with a surly leer. He was staying the night… MacLeod had invited himself to stay the bloody night! And with this storm, there was no way he could evict him until it was over. He didn't need this added pressure right now. Resolutely, he turned back to the edge of the cliff and resumed walking along it. He concentrated on the waves crashing against the rocks below, pushing everything else out of his mind. He wanted to be only in this moment, to be free of any other thoughts or concerns. He was indifferent to the cold rain, to the growing darkness, to the wind that was picking up. Methos feared the coming storm was only a prelude to the hurricane that was Duncan MacLeod and that was the one he didn't think he was ready to face.


Portugal - Punta Diablo Lighthouse - December 31st, 2014 - 10:28 p.m.

A flash of light burst through the front window and illuminated Methos' tired-looking face. The lighthouse had fired to life just before the sky had gone completely dark and had kept MacLeod company the three or so hours he'd waited for Methos to return.

Supper had been a quiet meal. Mac had cooked. He'd found himself with plenty of time to do it since Methos hadn't returned for several hours. In fact, the larder had held more food than Mac had expected when he started hunting through it. He'd found rice, dried beans, flour, and onions. The 'fridge had yielded a chicken and cheese. By the time Methos had returned, the meal was almost done.

Methos had said nothing when he returned. He'd merely glanced toward the kitchen area where the smell of cooked food permeated the air, then shrugged and gone, dripping, to the bathroom to get dry.

So here they were, dinner done and barely speaking at all. Uneasily, Mac cleared his throat and leaned forward. "Methos, I'm sorry about what happened earlier. I'm not judging you…" He paused as Methos shot a hard-faced glance at him, but the old man didn't say anything. He didn't need to. The look was as cold as any MacLeod had ever seen. With a nervous swallow, he continued, "I'm just concerned about you. What you're doing is dangerous. If you're not alert, you're at risk."

"I don't use them all the time, MacLeod," Methos countered. His voice was strained, as if he was fighting for the calm response. "Just when I can't sleep or I have bad dreams."

Mac nodded in sympathy, knowing full well that some dreams could be worse than nightmares. "How long have you used them, Methos? A year? Two? Isn't it time to stop?"

A tiny, self-deprecating smile tugged at Methos' lips. "You know, I've spent years, decades, working through problems, MacLeod. Do you think it was easy after I left Kronos? I was looking over my shoulder for over a century, waiting for him to pop up unexpectedly. After a few centuries, I began to believe I was safe. There have been other things in my life that have left me in a not-too-stable mental state and I've always managed to work through them, in time. This isn't the first instance where I've used drugs of some sort to get through. Some of them have been much worse than this. I'll be fine."

"Maybe. But you can't stay dependent on pills," Mac stated firmly. "Try sleeping without them."

Methos frowned. "You saw what happened, Mac. The dreams take over. I'm not ready to stop yet. I don't have them under control."

The Scot nodded in sympathy but was unwilling to let it go. "I know. But I'll be here. If the dreams are too intense, I'll wake you. As long as you use the drugs as a crutch, you won't learn to control them."

Tucked up tightly on the thickly padded sofa, Methos didn't look quite as tense as Mac knew he was. MacLeod was asking a lot and he knew it. He was asking Methos to trust him, to put his faith in him against what was obviously the ancient immortal's better judgment. "Please, Methos."

Silently encouraging him to agree, Mac watched as the long fingers picked up the pull bottle and turned it around, elongated sleeping pills bumping against the wafer-like disks of the sedatives. Drugs that numbed the nightmares but also blunted awareness of other immortals. Mac was more worried about that than he was about the bad dreams. At the same time, it told him how horrible the nightmares were if Methos was willing to risk his reaction time… his life… in order to blot out his subconscious.

Still, Methos hesitated, troubled face frowning as he wrestled with the problem. Mac sensed that one part of him agreed with the Highlander while the other part was fearful of releasing his security blanket. Swallowing nervously, Methos extended his hand toward MacLeod, holding out the bottle and letting it go reluctantly as the Scot's fingers wrapped possessively around it. The unsteady intake of breath conveyed to Mac how difficult this was for Methos.

"It'll be all right. I promise," Mac said softly as he tucked the bottle into his pocket.

Silently, Methos nodded, then unfolded to turn his attention to getting out a spare blanket, pillow and sheets. These he handed to Mac, then started for the small bedroom. "If you need a towel or anything, there are extras in the bathroom. The shower's a bit cramped but the pressure is good and there's plenty of hot water. 'Night, Mac."

"Happy new year, Methos," MacLeod replied. Although Methos hesitated a moment, his hand on the doorknob to the bedroom, he didn't even glance back, Mac noted, as he silently closed the door. //It will be all right,// he repeated silently to reassure himself that this was the right thing to do then he turned tï make the couch into a comfortable nest for the night. As he turned off the light and crawled under the blankets, the distant pattern of the light and the steady droning of the generator offered a peculiar comfort.


Portugal - Punta Diablo Lighthouse - January 1st, 2015 - 01:32 a.m.

//Cold… hard… stone… Pain… Gods, PAIN! Back again. Open eyes.// He was struggling for life, fighting against the debilitating pain that still wracked his body as it continued to heal. How long had he been dead? Did it matter? It was all one endless cycle. Awake. Heal. Eat. Die horribly. He rolled on the flat-topped stone, levered an elbow underneath him to push up. He gazed across the open pyramid top, looking for the guard he knew the priest had posted. Not there. With effort, he turned to look the other way. Still no sign.

//Forcing himself to move… Gods, it was painful!! … he slid his bruised, naked body off the stone, scraping his hip and buttock against the rough edges of the granite. He slid to the ground, more stone, and, panting with the effort, he closed his eyes for a few moments. He glanced down, aware of the mass of bruises across his stomach and torso, dark lines of partly-healed cuts marking the morbid pattern of the ceremony. Determined, he climbed to his knees and began crawling across the open mesa of stone toward the nearest edge of the pyramid... //


Thunk!

//What was that?// Mac's tired mind asked as the sound registered slowly. He forced his eyes open, taking a moment to orient. //Not the barge? No. The lighthouse. Methos?// He sat up and stumbled to the doorway to the small bedroom. He could barely make out anything in the dark room, but he thought the bed looked a little too flat. Alarmed now, he turned on the light. No Methos, only the covers thrown back in a heap as he'd tossed them off.

Mac remained calm as he grabbed his jeans and shirt and began pulling them on even as he checked the other two rooms of the small house. The bathroom was dark and empty, as was the kitchen. Quickly Mac slipped into his boots, grabbed his coat and ran out the door. It wasn't locked, which only confirmed what Mac already knew. Methos had gone outside.

He was greeted with a chill, hard wind from the northwest that carried almost frozen droplets of water. The ground and grass were moist and lightly frosted with the sleet. Anxiously, Mac looked around the open expanse, eyes going automatically toward the sea. At first, he didn't see Methos, then there was a flash of pale skin in the darkness. Mac swore. His charge was almost to the edge of the cliff! What the hell was he doing?

Running on the slick grass, he sprinted toward Methos, calling his name over and over even as the wind blew it back into his face. Whether the other man even heard him or was just ignoring him, Mac couldn't tell. But he wasn't stopping. Mac squinted ahead and ran as fast as he could.

Methos was buck naked, sleet melting against his warm body as it made contact so that he glistened with the moisture. He seemed indifferent to the elements, body bent as if he was in pain, but his head focused straight ahead. As he reached the edge of the cliff, he halted, toes of his right foot dangling partially over the precipice. Below, driven by the storm, the sea throttled the coast with an angry roar that made Mac gasp.

"Methos!" MacLeod screamed from a few feet behind him. "Turn around, dammit! Methos!"

Pale arms rose out to the sides and Methos rolled up onto the balls of his feet. //Shit! He's going to jump!// Mac realized and made a lunge for him, throwing his full body across the short distance that separated them. He hoped to grab his legs, but Methos had toppled over the edge before he could get his arms around them. His hands closed instead on a wet, cold right ankle. A moment of relief that he'd caught at least that much, then panic set in as the Scot felt himself pulled along on the grass. He tried to dig his heels in, struggled to force a knee to break the motion. His legs spread out wide, seeking something to block the movement.

"OW!"

The cry might have been vocalized or not as his leg connected with a rock, but he flexed his ankle immediately, hoping it would hold him. For a moment, he wasn't certain, but the sharp pull on his arms told him he now bore the full weight of the other man. He was almost out over the cliff's edge himself, stretched full out as both hands gripped Methos' ankle and his foot was hooked awkwardly around a rock that may or may not hold. Apart from the wind and the roar of the ocean, there were no other sounds. No panic or yelling from Methos. No struggling against his hold.


//Free fall.

Air moving over my body. No pain now and the landing will probably kill me. They won't find me in the lake. I "hate" drowning but it's escape. How far down is it? Five hundred feet? A thousand? How long? Did the guard see? Too long… //

Even through the dream state, Methos registered that he'd been in free fall too long. He should have hit the water already. With the knowledge came sound into his mind, someone yelling his name. Someone? Mac? The transition was like being thrown into an icy river. Suddenly he was staring down at jagged rocks and crashing waves nearly 300 feet below him. A curl of wave rolled in, pounding against a needle-nosed rock, throwing spray into the air high enough that beads of it touched his face, calling him on.

"Methos! Wake up!" Mac screamed above him.

"Shit!" Galvanized, Methos tore his eyes from the rocks and twisted to see what the rest of his situation was. His heart lurched as he realized the full extent of the danger. He felt MacLeod's hands trying to keep their grip on his ankle. With exertion, he managed to flex his ankle into an angle to make it harder for the hands to slip free, then he forced his body to move, trying to swing it enough that his hands could explore the face of the cliff. He scrunched up against the rock, scraping his shoulder and his fingers tried to grip the slick wet surface of stone. They slipped away and he rolled from it, twisting a different direction, coming back into the stone with his hip in the lead.

Methos grunted as he hit, but still explored the face, finding a crevice here and a slight jut of rock there but not enough to grip. He rolled out again, came back in as the wind caught him and pelted him into the stone. His head met the immovable cliff, crunching as he made contact. Pain shot through him, then dizziness and nausea and he closed his eyes against the swinging. He felt Mac slip a little and thought the hands were going to slide off his foot. Somehow, the Highlander held on.

"To your left.. There's a shelf. Can you reach it?" Mac's voice bellowed above him.

He tried to look, but couldn't actually see it. Forcing himself to move again, he rocked to the left, reaching out his hand in anticipation. If he missed it and Mac couldn't hold on, he'd die on those rocks then be swept out to sea. It could be days - hell, years if he caught a current -- before he could get back to shore! Motivated, he stretched as far as he could, fingertips feeling the lip of the rock. He couldn't hold it, but he swung back harder, reaching for it and felt Mac's hands slip. Falling resumed, he grabbed desperately, his long fingers wrapping around a scraggly bush that clung to the cliff. The bush gave way, then held, its roots evidently anchored in the stone itself. Letting out a sharp breath, Methos scrambled to pull himself to the cliff face and find another hold before the plant gave out. His left fingers jabbed into the first fissure in the rock they found, giving him enough grip for his foot to search for anything to support him. He found a jut of stone, narrow but enough that he could get the edge of his foot on it.

Finally, he dared to look up. The narrow ledge of rock was about three feet above him. And above that, only six or so feet away, Duncan MacLeod kneeled at the edge, watching him. Methos forced his other foot to work along the rock, to find a purchase where he could wedge it in. Taking a deep breath, he pressed tightly to the rock and released the plant to reach his right arm up to stone.

He had a grip on it, but he'd still need to inch up until he could get his other hand on it to pull himself up.

"I'm going for a rope, Methos," Mac shouted down. "Do you hear me?"

Methos looked up, tried to nod and hoped the little movement was enough for Mac to know he'd acknowledged. Then he concentrated on getting onto the narrow shelf of rock. It took an eternity, or so it felt, although in reality it was probably only a few minutes, to finally get both arms onto the rock and lever first his chest, then his hip onto it. He scraped his skin, tore it open in places but he was on. Breathing heavily, he lay on his side facing the cliff and closed his eyes. He was cold, naked and banged up. What the hell was he doing here?


MacLeod's hands tugged at the rope, hauling it free of the box that sat on top of it. He was thankful he'd seen it in the storage shed next to the lighthouse as it saved him the time of hunting for it. Moments later, he was running back across the rain-slicked grass to the cliff, praying as he went that Methos had managed to get to the relative stability of the narrow shelf of stone. He shuddered to think of the alternative and unwillingly pictured the lanky body smashed on the rocks, with the icy water tugging at him until it pulled him out to sea.

With relief, he peered over the edge and saw the white figure huddled against the black of the cliff. Methos had tucked in as tightly as he could and he could see the hands still clinging tightly to the rock, not trusting his precarious position. Quickly, Mac made a lasso in the rope, his own hands trembling with the combination of icy, wet cold and the fear that still shook him. He wrapped his end of the line around a boulder, hauling against it to insure it was secure, then dropped the other end as straight as possible over the edge.

The wind blew it away and Methos couldn't make a grab for it. He didn't have enough room to maneuver. Mac tried again, watching as the light rope danced out of reach. He shifted down the cliff a few feet, dropped the line again and watched in satisfaction as his nemesis blew the loop directly into Methos.

In a matter of a few minutes, Methos had the loop under his arms and had grabbed the knot about it securely. Carefully, he got to his feet and began climbing up as Mac strained to keep the rope tight and help pull him up. As soon as his hand emerged over the top, Mac reached out a hand to grasp it, hauling him over the edge. Methos tried to crawl onto the grass even as Mac grabbed his arms and pulled him further away from the edge until he'd put several feet between them and the drop. Gasping, they both collapsed, fear and exertion leaving them breathless.

Mac threw his arm over his face to block the rain and waited for his strength to come back. Gradually, his heart resumed its normal pace and he could breathe easier. He rolled to face Methos and caught his breath sharply at the unexpected sight. The older man was curled away from him, knees tucked up and his wrists locked tightly between them as his head bent in for protection. The long back curved toward Mac, naked paleness broken only by over a dozen scrapes and bruises in various stages of healing.

Getting to his feet, Mac pulled off his coat, then gently forced Methos to move, unfolding him so that he could wrap the coat around him. Shivering uncontrollably, Methos jerked back as Mac touched him. With careful persistence, Mac got the wet coat on him and hauled him to his feet, then pointed him back to the lighthouse.

There was no mistaking the unease in his companion, the tension that held Methos' body tightly between the waves of shivers as MacLeod guided him across the soaked, cold grass. He wasn't exactly steady himself, but he knew it was more than the freezing cold and a near disastrous fall that had left Methos so shaken.

Perversely, Mac held him a little tighter. //He could just damn well get used to it,// he thought fiercely. //Whatever had happened to him, they could work through it, but Methos had better adapt quickly to my touch 'cause I don't intend to leave him alone.//

"Shower," Mac ordered firmly as soon as they were back in the house and he urged Methos that direction, offering him no chance to resist. Not that it appeared the ancient immortal was inclined to object.

He said nothing as Mac shoved him into the shower and turned the water to as hot as the skin could stand. Methos turned to face the back wall of the small stall, bracing his arms against the tile and allowing the water to cascade down his back. Mac quickly stripped his own clothes off and stepped into the shower behind his friend, intercepting some of the hot water that poured in an endless stream from the instant heat shower box.

For a few moments, the bigger man savored the heat, letting it roll off his shoulders and turning to face the spray. He slid to one side so that the water still reached Methos, then turned to inspect the compact, slightly-worse-for-the- night's-events body. Mud and blood still clung to the skin although the cuts beneath them were undoubtedly healed. Mac grabbed the bath sponge, lathered soap into it and began washing the broad shoulders and back. Methos' shoulders tightened perceptibly at the first touch, then with an almost palpable effort, relaxed some. As the coating on the skin washed away, Mac confirmed that the scrapes were minor and mostly healed, although a considerable amount of bruising still discolored the pale skin. He worked his way carefully down over the hips, exertion tempered by the degree of tension he felt as he touched his friend, then he extended the washing down each leg. Firmly, he turned Methos to face him, applied more soap, and repeated the cleaning on his chest. Methos tolerated it, his expression stoic as he allowed MacLeod to clean his body, but when the Scot started to apply the sponge to his face, the smaller man pulled his head back.

Mac paused, sponge in hand, an imploring look on his face. "Let me get your face, Methos."

"I can do it, Mac. I don't need a maid," he replied steadily, extending his hand for the sponge, his limit of tolerance obviously breached.

After a moment of hesitation, Mac handed the soapy item over, then added, "I'm not a maid. I expect you to do my back."

The hazel eyes darted to him as if to ascertain if he was joking, then Methos managed a half-smile before he closed his eyes and buried his face in the sponge.

"Better get your hair," Mac added, pouring a glob of shampoo into his hand and applying it to his own head, then thumping out another glob that he quickly rubbed into the top of Methos' hair. Eyes glared at him through soapy lashes and Mac grinned, finding the whole vision enticing. He turned away, concentrating on getting his own somewhat muddy hair cleaned so he was caught a bit off guard as Methos spun him the rest of the way toward the shower spray. Mac put out an arm to steady himself, uncertain what the old man intended. But a moment later, Methos was scrubbing down his back, just as he'd told him he expected.

It could have been a wonderfully erotic moment. It could have been about passion and caring. But it wasn't. Methos was quick and methodical as he soaped the broad Scotland-bred back and rubbed it with the sponge. Task done, he set the sponge down and tonelessly murmured, "Rinse off." Even as Mac started to turn, Methos opened the stall door and stepped out, closing it quickly behind him.

Mac's mouth tightened slightly in disappointment. The last time he'd bathed Methos, the older man had been in much worse condition, oblivious to his touch or even his presence. His own concerns had been for the physical well-being of the man and at that time, he hadn't experienced even one erotic dream that involved him. Over the years since then Duncan had both dreamed and imagined moments like this with Methos, wanted to touch his wet body and hair and make love with him as the warm water beat down on them. Frustrated, he turned the shower off with a sharp twist of his wrist and exited to find the small bathroom empty and only a single damp towel on the rack.

He lightly dried off, wrapped the towel around him and stepped out into the living room. Methos was perched on the sofa, wrapped in a warm terry robe, knees pulled up to his chest and staring into the distance. Mac dug a pair of sweat pants out of his bag and pulled them on, then sat next to the other man. "You okay?" he asked civilly, not yielding to his annoyance. The man was acting as if he'd mistreated him by saving him from a nasty fall.

Methos nodded, then brought deeply concerned eyes to meet MacLeod's. He spoke hesitantly, as if he were still framing the words. "You risked your life for me tonight."

"Not really," Mac answered, uncertain where Methos was going with this. "It wouldn't have killed either of us if we went over the edge. Just made it a miserable time getting out of the mess… and the ocean."

"The point is that you risked that kind of situation. That you put yourself in danger… for me."

"Yeah…?"

Methos sighed, expression very unhappy. "It's bad enough I've maneuvered you there once or twice, but it's very worrying to think you might put yourself into a potentially fatal position because of me."

"You've done it," MacLeod answered bluntly. "You've put yourself in harm's way for me more than once. Can't I return the favor?"

Exasperation showing, Methos closed his eyes, then opened them again, a hint of fire blazing in them. "No! Don't you understand? You're the important one. You have to stay alive."

Shaking his head in dismissal, Mac replied, "Methos, you're blowing this out of proportion. Would you have rather I let you fall to the rocks, be broken up on them and probably pulled into the ocean where I'd have to go looking for you?"

"Yes! No… I don't know," Methos sounded as confused as Mac felt, although the Scot was beginning to get the picture.

The bigger man laid a comforting hand on Methos' shoulder and spoke with understanding. "Did it ever occur to you that you might be valuable, my friend? That five thousand years of knowledge and experience is not something to let go of lightly? Or that the person I've come to know is very important to me personally? I couldn't knowingly let anything happen to you without trying to intervene."

"That's a very dangerous attitude, Mac."

He chuckled softly, somewhat touched by Methos' concern. "Could be. Speaking of dangerous, when did you start sleepwalking?"

"I haven't… before. Not to my knowledge, anyway." He looked uneasy, not happy to discuss this. "I guess that's what happened tonight. A dream was a little too vivid…"

"What was it about?" Mac's fingers gently rubbed at the slim shoulder, but Duncan wanted to pull him in to his arms and hold him. He wanted to make whatever nightmare that had sent his companion out on a cliff in the middle of the night vanish forever from his memory, or at least recede back into the depths where Methos relegated the rest of the unbearable ones.

With a shake of denial, he answered, "I don't want to talk about, Mac. Okay? Just let it lie."

"It might help--"

"No, it doesn't help to talk. As I said, there are some things you can't fix… no matter how hard you try. Just accept that." His voice was fierce, determined, yet when he looked at Mac, his eyes were pleading with him.

Seeing more than that, Mac realized Methos looked exhausted with the stress of the night's events taking its toll. "Look, we both need sleep. We can talk about this more tomorrow."

Accepting that without any argument, Methos hesitated, then asked, "Mac… could I… a pill?" His expression reflected uncertainty and maybe a touch of apprehension.

Getting to his feet, he offered a hand to pull Methos up. "I'll bring it. Go on to bed." He didn't miss the almost imperceptible look of relief as his friend passed him to go to the bedroom.

As MacLeod shook two of the sleeping pills into his hand, he reflected on the situation. Whatever had happened, it had been severe enough that Methos couldn't block it out sufficiently without help. Okay, he'd been tortured and what people could do to other people was enough to drive a sane person over the edge, but Methos was a strong immortal. He couldn't help but feel the key rested in getting the old man to talk about it, to confront it. The pills were only delaying the inevitable. Yet, he got a glass of water and headed to the bedroom to allow him that escape.


Methos had curled into a crescent on the mattress, back pressed against the wall for security. He'd pulled the covers up for warmth, but he was nowhere near sleep. His eyes were alert and anxious as he waited for MacLeod and the promised pill.

//Now, he's seen,// Methos thought. //Maybe he'll understand why I need the pills. Why can't he just leave me alone… let me work through this in my own time?// He'd only been working this problem for three years. For an immortal, a dozen or so years to deal with a problem was nothing. He'd taken several hundred years to work through the guilt after he'd left Kronos, after he'd realized what he had been and had done.

If there was any remorse in him, it had to do with Joe Dawson. MacLeod had time to wait for him, but Joe didn't. That was why he hadn't left Paris immediately after Christmas. And even though MacLeod had been the one he'd gone to first, the need to see Joe was the reason he'd not just stayed in his hotel room until the plane could get out. He knew he couldn't continue to hide here indefinitely and he had promised Joe he would be back to see him frequently. But he needed to ease into this at his own pace.

He heard MacLeod at the door and sat up. He didn't like taking the pills, but at the moment, it was necessary. He didn't require them all the time, just when he'd had a restless day or when he'd tried to drift off and his mind had wandered on its own to terrible memories or if he'd wakened, sweat-drenched, from another nightmare. And having Mac around made it worse, making him more anxious.

Mac came in without a word and handed him a pair of pills and water. He'd only expected one, but he took both, tossing them back quickly, then handing the glass back. Mac set it on the bedside table, then sat on the side of the bed. Methos frowned as he slid back under the covers.

A moment later, Mac's robe slid off his shoulders and he tossed it onto the chair. Naked, he lifted the covers and slid into the narrow bed next to Methos. Unconsciously, the older man contracted as much as he could and pressed tightly against the wall.

"Mac, what are you doing?" Methos asked, his voice a bit uneven.

As he pulled the covers up again and settled himself on his side to face Methos, Mac answered, "What does it look like? I'm coming to bed with you."

"Uhmm, don't take this wrong, MacLeod, but I would rather sleep alone." He sounded as edgy as he looked.

"I know. But I'm not going to let you. You are not getting out this bed without me knowing about it." His voice was firm, uncompromising.

With an exasperated sigh, Methos objected, "You don't need to do this. The pills will--"

"Maybe. Maybe not. I can't take the chance and I don't intend to scrape you off the rocks." He turned his warm gaze on Methos and brought his hand over to lightly brush the hair back from the uncertain, anxious face. "It will be all right, Methos."

At the touch, Methos caught his breath as he felt his body burning in the light of Mac's attention. //Oh gods, the man expects me to sleep with him right beside me! I hope the pills are that good.//

He edged down into the blankets a little deeper and closed his eyes to shut out the vision. While the image was gone, the scent of the clean, damp body beside him assaulted his nostrils as the sound of his steady breathing settled in. His spirit ached to touch him, to have Mac touch him as he had only a few days earlier. But as much as his soul craved Mac's touch, his flesh trembled with anxiety at the prospect.

//Sleep,// he told himself, feeling the effect of the drugs on his mind and his limbs. Yet still he fought it and shifted uneasily.

"Relax," MacLeod's voice said softly, a hint of amusement in it. "I won't take advantage of a drugged body."

//Damn! The man's watching! Seeing what he does to me.// He twisted and rolled so he faced the wall and tucked tightly against it. Thankfully, he didn't have to contend with the problem long before the drugs gained full control and he slipped under.

MacLeod was relieved when the tense body finally relaxed into sleep. Although Methos still huddled against the wall, he was no longer wound like a spring and his breathing was deep and even. As he turned off the light, Mac settled more comfortably and blocked out thoughts of the man next to him, forcing himself to not think about how much he wanted to make love to Methos.


Portugal - Punta Diablo Lighthouse - January 1st, 2015 - 06:44 a.m.

It was just after dawn, the soft winter glow of light through the small window barely illuminating the bedroom when mumbled sounds penetrated into Duncan's sleep. He thought he was dreaming and someone was talking to him, then with a start he registered the mutterings were external. He woke instantly, orienting as soon as he opened his eyes.

Beside him, Methos had rolled onto his back and was mumbling incoherently, his ravings sounding almost like a frightened prayer. But his body was rigid, every muscle strained tightly and he looked as if he was in pain. Shocked, Mac caught a sharp breath and reached to shake him, barely stopping himself before his hand met the tight shoulder. He knew he shouldn't do it, so he withdrew the hand and perched up on one elbow to get a better look at Methos. His friend's face was twisted in pain and fear as the mutterings increased in tempo.

"Methos, it's okay. You're safe," he said firmly, voice loud enough to be heard easily. "You're dreaming. Come on, wake up."

At first it didn't seem like he heard him, but as Mac repeated the words, Methos responded, falling silent and his face freezing as if he were listening. Mac bit at his lip, struggling with the desire, the need, to pull Methos into his arms and soothe him, to stroke that strong back, until he relaxed in his grasp. He wanted to pull that frightened face into his hands and allay the pain and anxiety with gentle love and caresses. It hurt him more than he could have believed to see Methos like this and not be allowed to touch him.

He forced himself to speak encouragement instead. "Methos, it's Mac. I'm right here and no one's hurting you. It's only a dream, okay? Do you hear me?"

Whatever else he had expected, he wasn't prepared for Methos to roll toward him and he was caught off guard when the uneasy body literally fell into his arms. This was asking far too much of one man, Mac decided, and yielded to the desire to wrap his arms gently around the shoulders that rested in them. He felt Methos tremble slightly at the caress, but he didn't recoil and, in fact, snuggled in tighter against MacLeod's chest.

With a touch of trepidation, Duncan lightly began stroking the smooth back and shoulders, fingers gently caressing the warm flesh. Methos relaxed against him, one arm sliding over Mac's waist to settle comfortably. Encouraged, Mac leaned forward to press his lips affectionately against his friend's pale cheek. Methos sighed and seemed to settle even deeper into Mac's embrace, soundly asleep.

Mac closed his eyes contentedly. For now, this would do.


To Be Continued in
...But Immortals Break - coming Soon!