Parallels II:
Double Take

Orithain

February 2000

Disclaimer: We all know that they don't belong to me, and I promise to put them back when I'm done. Highlander belongs to Rysher Panzer/Davis, and I'm not quite sure who owns Sliders, but I know it's not me. Just let me win the lottery though.... No copyright infringement is intended.

Cory and Ryan broke down their campsite, making sure not to leave any sign of their presence aside from the remnants of their fire. While this normally would not have taken very long, the process was drawn out since they kept getting distracted by each other. In fact, at one point, rather than rolling up the sleeping bag, they rolled around on it, then had to go to the stream to clean up, of course. And then seeing each other naked in the water... well, they had originally intended to go back to town the previous day.

They piled Cory's belongings into his jeep and climbed in for the drive back to Los Angeles. Cory's home was in the San Bernardino hills, but he'd already told Ryan that he had to go into LA to pick up some things before they went home. Ryan was actually looking forward to seeing this universe's version of Los Angeles. After everything Wade and the others had told him about the differences they'd encountered in their travels, he was curious whether this one was anything like the city he knew.

When they finally got close to LA and came to a bend in the road that overlooked the city, Ryan realized that he had not been prepared for this. He stared in dumbfounded amazement at the sprawling, haze-shrouded megalopolis. He'd traveled to every corner of his world, and he'd never seen anything like this in his entire life.

"My God," he gasped, "how many people live here?"

Cory shrugged. "About ten million, I guess."

"In one city?! The population of my entire world is only 500 million!"

It was Cory's turn to be startled. "Are you ever in for a dose of culture shock! The population of this world is over 5 billion... or maybe it's six by now. Who knows?"

"Five billion? How? Where?" Ryan stuttered.

"Everywhere. I guess you're probably used to a lot of wide-open spaces. You're not going to find too many of those here."

Ryan was still stunned. "What's that haze over the city?"

Cory looked at him uneasily. "You don't have smog either?"

"Smog?"

"Shit," Cory groaned, wondering if Ryan was going to be able to breathe in the city. Well, there was only one way to find out, and he was going to be keeping a close watch on the mortal. If he had any trouble, Cory would get him out of the city and take him to his castle in England. He'd managed to con the widowed lady of the keep into marrying him back in the 14th century, and he'd held onto the building and all the surrounding land ever since. There was definitely no smog there. Lots of sheep, but no smog.

He explained what smog was to Ryan, who couldn't understand why people would harm their world like that. He started to feel a little superior, then remembered the lottery. Somehow, he didn't think the lives of all those people were a fair price for an unpolluted world, no matter how idyllic. When Cory started describing racial tension, prejudice against same sex couples, serial killers, gang wars, famine, and the Third World, Ryan suddenly wished that he'd gone with Wade and Quinn after all. Then again, they'd mentioned horrific worlds, and if they came from one like this, as he suspected, he didn't want to know what they would consider worse. He glanced over at the man by his side and smiled. At least this one had Cory.

Ryan smiled. He'd never expected to find happiness with another man, particularly one who could be his reflection, but it seemed to have found him regardless.

Whoa there, Ryan. He suddenly realized what he was thinking. You've only known this guy for a few days, in a situation completely outside his normal life. You don't know him. And you sure as hell don't know if he's interested in anything more than a casual relationship. Just because he felt sorry for you and offered to let you stay with him until you get used to this world doesn't mean he's planning to take you home to mother. Assuming that he had a mother of course. And that she wouldn't have been dead for several centuries. Ryan groaned and let his head fall back against the rest. He was startled to feel a hand gently stroke his hair, soothing him delicately.

Ryan turned his head, meeting an oddly knowing green gaze. For the first time since he'd met Cory, the Immortal's showed his true age. Every one of his several centuries showed in his eyes.

"It's okay, Ryan," Cory said quietly. He'd been able to follow every thought just by watching the expressions flit across the mobile face of the young man beside him. He remembered that when he was young, before his first death, his best friend, his blood brother, had once told him that his own face was just that expressive, that every thought he had showed upon it. Alwyn, my dear old friend, I hope you are truly resting in peace. Staid, honorable Duncan MacLeod would be surprised to know that Cory Raines was more than a prankster, but the Highlander had never learned to look beneath the surface. And Cory was more difficult than most. To know him, a person had not only to delve beneath his facade, they also had to navigate a labyrinth of funhouse mirrors reflecting only what he wanted them to see.

Amanda knew him, but despite what they'd told Mac, they'd known each other since before he'd died the first time. Even then, they'd conned and stolen together. Both of them were quite convinced that they were the basis of the Robin Hood and Marion legends, though well leavened with pagan aspects. Cory thought the two of them were a much more likely source than that boring, mortal thief most people assumed had been.

"What are you thinking about?" Ryan asked quietly.

Cory smiled openly. "That as nice as it is to have a lover, it's even better to have a friend. I'm glad I found both in you. It's been a very long time."

Ryan watched him quietly. "You're going to have to spell it out for me, Cory. What do you want from me?"

Cory smiled, the familiar, wide, reckless grin. "'Come live me with me and be my love,'" he recited, placing a hand on Ryan's thigh when the other man looked away in disappointment at his apparent mockery. "I mean that seriously, Ryan. I think we'd make a great team, and I want you to stay with me as long as you can."

Ryan frowned. "As long as I can. Planning for the ending is not a good way to start a relationship."

"Oh. No, that's not what I meant." He looked away for a moment, then turned back to Ryan. "I meant that I'm an Immortal and you're not. I meant that I want you to be with me until age or sickness or some stupid accident takes you away from me. 'Come live with me and be my love,'" he repeated, his heart in his eyes.

All the logical reasons why this was insane raced through Ryan's mind, but in the end whether he'd known Cory three days or three centuries didn't matter. He wanted this man. "Yes," he said simply.

Cory reached for his hand and held it the rest of the drive.

Downtown, it seemed that Cory's fears about Ryan's ability to breathe the polluted air of Los Angeles were groundless. He didn't experience any distress, although his nose did wrinkle at the first smell, making Cory lean over to smooth away the expression of distaste with kisses. He looked around curiously, taking note of the bars on the store windows; the scantily clad, heavily made up young women and men standing at the ends of alleys; the packs of young people clearly carrying knives and other assorted weaponry, and he turned to Cory in dismay.

"Is the whole world like this?"

"No," Cory was quick to reassure him. "Not even the whole city is. But the friend I need to see likes living in this kind of setting - you should have seen the neighborhood he chose to live in in 16th century London! This is about as bad an area as I'm likely to take you."

Ryan looked at him curiously. "It sounds like there are worse places, but you're... protecting... me from them."

Cory shrugged. "A little. But I don't have any particular desire to stroll around downtown Kosovo or to see people dying of famine myself, so I think we'll just skip the war zones and Third World if it's all the same to you."

Ryan frowned slightly. "All right. Just... keep in mind that I want to get to know this world. I'm going to be spending the rest of my life here, after all."

"I know. But I'd like to show you some of the good as well. We do have good too, you know."

Ryan raked his eyes along the length of Cory's body. "I thought you'd already shown me the best?"

Cory snickered. "Back to the immodesty, are we, o' mirror image mine?"

They shared identical smirks.

"Just admiring what I see," Ryan grinned.

"Well, if you think you've seen the best I have to offer, just wait till I get you in my bed. I may never let you out again."

Ryan shivered faintly as tremors of arousal raced along his spine. "Promises, promises. Put your money where your mouth is, pal."

Instead, Cory pulled over, put on the emergency brake, and put his mouth where Ryan's was.

The sound of applause and catcalls made them pull apart. Ryan blushed when he saw the hookers laughing at them, but Cory just bowed mockingly and pulled back out into traffic. After picking up the proceeds of the sale of the items he'd left with his friend before getting out of LA for a while until interest died down, Cory took Ryan to his home. It felt odd, seeing his mirror image walking around his home. Ryan was even wearing his clothes since all he'd had was the remnants of the tuxedo he'd been wearing when this all started back at the Lottery winners' ball on his own world.

Watching him, Cory suddenly knew how Alice had felt when she stepped through the looking glass. It, he, was the same, but... not. Cory kept expecting Ryan to react to things the way he would, but, of course, he didn't. The differences between were more than simply a result of being from different worlds, although that alone created a gap of experience. Several centuries' difference in age, all of them spent in the certain knowledge that others of his kind would like nothing better than to cut his head off, had made Cory wary and honed his reflexes and sense of self-preservation to a hair trigger.

At heart, as well as on the surface, Cory was still the same reckless, feckless outlaw he'd been in Medieval England, and he still loved to play games, especially with someone as straitlaced as Duncan MacLeod, but he was instinctively suspicious of other people. Ryan was not. Except for the results of winning the Lottery, which was a unique set of circumstances, he'd never in his life had to worry about anyone trying to harm him. The very idea was foreign to him. Cory shuddered to think what could have happened to him if he'd run into someone else in those hills.

"So?" he said finally. "What do you think?"

Ryan smiled over his shoulder at him, immediately turning his attention back to the Kandinsky that engrossed him. "It's beautiful. I could spend years here, just looking at all the works of art you have."

Cory chuckled softly. "Just wait till you see my other homes. You'd be amazed what you can amass over eight centuries." He paused a beat, then couldn't resist. "Wanna see my etchings?"

Ryan burst into laughter, turning around to face him. "That line's gotta be older than you are, Cory!"

"If it ain't broken, don't fix it," Cory intoned, with the air of one imparting a great pearl of wisdom.

Ryan picked up a cushion of a couch and threw it at him, laughing so hard he could barely see to aim. "Lunatic!"

Cory launched himself at the younger man, gauging it perfectly so that he knocked Ryan flat on his back on a nearby couch and landed on top of him. Ryan oophed, the air knocked out of him by the impact, but Cory's mouth on his soon made him indifferent to minor difficulties like lack of oxygen. Cory pulled away with a chuckle after a moment.

"The blue clashes with your eyes, sweetheart. Breathe, Ryan." As an inducement, he lowered his mouth to Ryan's throat, suckling on the tender skin and making Ryan gasp. He smirked against the purpling flesh when he felt Ryan hardening against him, and he rubbed their groins together. This time the sound Ryan made could only be called a needy whine.

Cory went to pull away, intending to get their clothes off and move this to the bedroom and his nice, comfortable, king size bed, but Ryan snarled and yanked him back down, arching off the sofa to thrust his aching cock against Cory's, and all thought flew out of his head. Cory groaned, grinding against Ryan, and covered Ryan's mouth with his own once again, plunging his tongue inside as they twisted together.

Ryan suddenly grabbed Cory's ass and pulled him tightly against himself, groaning Cory's name as he came. Even in the midst of his own pleasure, he kneaded Cory's ass and writhed beneath him to bring him to the same joy, and he collapsed, panting, when Cory's moan and shudder told him that he'd come as well.

Cory lay draped over his lover, catching his breath, content to remain there until the cooling wetness at his groin reminded him that they should clean up. He levered himself upright, plucking the cold, damp denim away from himself with a grimace of distaste. "Yech!" he muttered. "I'd much rather be sticky than soggy."

Ryan couldn't help the giggle fit that overcame him. Cory'd gone from passionate lover to disgruntled, cranky little boy in the blink of an eye, and it struck him as funny.

Cory stared down at him, hands on naked hips - he'd already peeled off the offending jeans - shaking his head. "Poor lad, he's gone mad." He licked his lips, letting a lascivious smile play over his face. "So there'll be none to stop me from having my wicked way with him."

Ryan snorted. "I'll kill anyone who tries! Please, have your wicked way with me, sirrah." He tried to keep a straight face.

"Already?" Cory was impressed.

"Well, you keep telling me about Immortal recuperative powers. Are you saying that they don't apply to this?"

"Hardly... and I use the term advisedly." Cory grinned. "I just didn't think you could go again so soon."

Ryan smiled a sleepy half smile. "I want you inside me."

Cory's breath drew in sharply. "Ah. I think I can manage that for you."

Ryan reached over and petted him. "I'm sure you can."

"Up," Cory said abruptly, hauling Ryan to his feet.

Momentarily dizzy at the abrupt change in position, Ryan clutched at him to remain upright. "Hey, what was that for?"

"Because it's insane to be contorting ourselves into all kinds of bizarre and uncomfortable positions on the damned couch when I have a nice, comfy bed in the bedroom. Come on." Cory shifted his grip to Ryan's hand and drew him toward the bedroom, pushing him down on the bed when they got there.

Ryan stretched out, his hands behind his head and the damp patch at the front of his jeans prominently displayed. He looked up at Cory challengingly.

"So, what are you going to do with me now that you've got me here?"

Cory leaned back against the wall, crossed his ankles and smiled down at him. "Well, first I'm going to slowly undress you, then I'm going to make sure that you're clean and comfortable by licking and massaging every inch of you. I'm going to taste every bit of you, learn you until I could recognize you blindfolded and deaf, just by smelling you. I'll make you relax into a warm puddle, then arouse you till you don't think you can stand it. And then I'll just make you even hotter.

"I'm going to lick and suck and bite you until you scream, and then I'll start all over again. I'm going to make you forget your own name, and you're going to love every second of it." He regarded his victim assessingly. "I think I'll start at the top, stroking my fingers through the soft silk of your hair until you purr for me. Then I'll notice your ears, small, neat... sensitive." He smiled. "I'll lick one softly at first, then suck on the lobe, then when you moan for me, I'll bite it, and the small pain mixed with the pleasure will make you wild." Cory paused to savor the moan Ryan emitted and to watch him squirm.

Ryan fumbled at the fastening on his jeans, and Cory barked, "No!" making him freeze and stare up with big green eyes. "Hands back behind your head. You don't touch yourself in any way."

Ryan's breath hitched, but he obeyed, staring avidly at the suddenly dominant Immortal. Pleasure shuddered through him at the idea of giving himself up to Cory, and he relaxed as much as he could in his state of renewed arousal.

Cory rewarded him for playing along by unfastening his jeans and pulling them off while Ryan helped by raising his hips. He briefly stroked the semi-hard cock, then lowered his head to give it a quick lick, chuckling when Ryan's hips rose, trying to maintain the contact as he pulled away.

"Not yet, sweetheart. You're not nearly as desperate as I want you."

Ryan whimpered.

"Now then, where was I? Oh yes... well, after I've played with your ear, I'll move on to your throat. I'll lick it like a cat, feeling the stubble there rasp over my tongue, then when I find the right spot, I'll bite down lightly and suck on it until I've left my mark on you. Have I told you how much I love being able to do that? You can't mark Immortals, you know. I think I'll put several marks on you, so every time you look at your own body you'll be reminded of me, that you belong to me."

"To each other," Ryan argued.

Cory nodded slowly. Yes, they did belong to each other. "I wish you could mark me," he whispered.

Ryan smiled at him. "I don't need to. Wearing my face is enough of a mark, I think."

Cory laughed, his momentary melancholy banished. "It was mine first, youngster. Now then, don't interrupt.

"I'll mark you and slowly work my way across your chest, nibbling on the firm muscles, letting my teeth sink in just enough to feel the resistance, to make you squirm. I'll do that for a long time, staying away from your nipples no matter how much you beg. I'll watch them harden without any direct stimulation, and I'll imagine how they'll taste when I finally take them in my mouth.

"Eventually, imagining won't be enough, and I'll lick one nipple lightly, teasingly. Do you want more, harder? I'll keep it soft and gentle until you scream my name desperately, pleading with me to give you what you need. Then I'll bite you, scrape my teeth over your aching nipples, first one, then the other, over and over until they're nearly raw and you're still begging for more.

"But I'm still not done with you. I'll nibble my way down your belly, following the faint trail of hair, and I'll nip at your navel. You're ticklish and so sensitized now that that tiny bite makes you arch off the bed and yelp. God, you look gorgeous, all hot and needy, wanting me. I do it again, and I get the same reaction again. Your cock brushes against my chin, and I feel the thin strand of precome connecting us. I scoop it up with one finger and taste it, taste you, while I look into your eyes. You're almost where I want you, almost desperate enough... but not quite. You're not hurting yet-"

"Oh yes, I am!" Ryan interrupted with a wail, and Cory chuckled.

"You don't want me more than your next breath yet. But you will. You'll do anything I tell you to, won't you, sweetheart?"

Ryan whimpered.

"I bypass that gorgeous cock, knowing that it'll taste even better when I do get there, and turn my attention to your legs. They're so sensitive. I love seeing you squirm when I nip at your inner thigh and how your legs spread wide for me when I lick behind your knees." Cory smothered a chuckle when Ryan's legs parted just at the thought of it.

"I could spend hours on your legs, but I won't do that to you... this time. You're still too impatient, and if I'm being honest, I don't want to wait that long either. You burst into laughter when I drag my tongue along the arch of your foot; you're so damn ticklish. I love the sound of your laughter even more than the way you gasp my name when you come.

"But we're both past the point of playing like that, so I work my way back up your legs, letting my teeth sink into the heavy muscle of your thigh briefly, and you grab my hair, trying to pull me to your dripping cock. I pry your hands free and take advantage of their proximity to suck on your fingers, showing you what I'll be doing to other parts of you soon. I wonder if you even realize that you're moaning continuously, whimpering and begging, and I'm certain that you can't begin to imagine how hot that makes me.

"I draw your arms up to the headboard and place your hands against the bars. You get the message and grip them tightly, your back arching slightly to offer yourself to me, trying to tease me. Holy Mother, I love to watch you. I have to taste you now. That one little lick earlier only whetted my appetite, and it's time.

"I slide between your legs, which immediately hook over my shoulders, you gorgeous slut, and I get a good grip on your hips to hold you down, then lick the head of your cock. You taste so fucking good that I have to do it again and again, rubbing my tongue over you until you scream. That makes me do it again, and you twist so hard I almost lose my grip on you. I lightly press a trail of kisses along your length until I reach the base, where I pause to inhale the musky smell of your arousal.

"Do you have any idea how good you smell? I want to keep you permanently aroused just so I can smell that whenever I want. I press my cheek against your balls, nuzzling you, and you moan when my stubble rakes over the sensitive flesh. You can't tell pleasure from pain anymore, and I love every second of it. I suck a ball into my mouth, and you actually scream. I want to keep doing it to hear that again, but you're too close. I don't want you to come yet."

Cory paused to take a deep breath. Sweat was beading on his face, and he ached. Between imagining everything he was describing and seeing and hearing Ryan's reactions, he wasn't sure which of them he was torturing more. He wanted Ryan so badly he hurt, but he was determined to finish this.

"I wrap my fist around your cock and pump up and down a few times, then take my hand away, ignoring your wails of protest. You bite me in frustration, and I just laugh. I start to suck you, a couple of inches inside my mouth and the nails of one hand scraping ever so lightly along the rest. At the same moment, I slip a finger inside you. It goes in easily, all covered in your precome from me stroking you, and I pull it out and slide two in. I hook them over your prostate and suck hard, and it's too much for you. You explode in my mouth, and I swallow every drop of your come, loving it.

"When you're done, I sit up and look down at you, sprawled boneless over my bed, totally wiped by what I've done to you, what I've given you, and I know that you're mine." Cory stopped talking when Ryan whined desperately, then came, brought off by nothing more than the erotic power of his voice and the sensual images he created. He watched greedily as the creamy liquid spurted over Ryan's belly, and he knelt on the bed between Ryan's widespread legs, just as he'd described, and leaned down to lap it up.

Ryan moaned wildly at the first touch since Cory'd pulled his jeans off when he lay down on the bed, and another pulse of pleasure ran through him, Cory catching the resulting fluid in his mouth this time. Cory took his mouth then, sharing his taste with him, and they both moaned.

"Fuck me, damn you," Ryan rasped. "I need to feel you inside me."

"If you insist," Cory managed to laugh harshly. He hastily prepared the other man, no difficult task as relaxed as he was just then, positioned himself, and slid inside. Ryan responded to the long-awaited satisfaction with a long, hoarse sigh, and Cory found himself wanting to yell his pleasure aloud. He remained motionless, not daring to move or it would all be over, and Ryan seemed to sense his precarious control, for he lay quietly, just looking up at him.

Finally, Cory felt his orgasm was no longer imminent, and he started to move, long, luxurious strokes into his lover. He laced his fingers with Ryan's, holding on as he slowly glided in and out, feeling Ryan move into his thrusts despite his languor. Cory gritted his teeth, trying to hang on, but his prolonged tease had affected him as well, and he couldn't maintain the easy pace. Almost against his will, his hips began to pump more rapidly, and he drove into Ryan's tight heat, moaning softly at the incredible sensations. His eyes, which had fallen closed as the pleasure began to overwhelm him, fluttered open again, and he looked straight into Ryan's gaze, seeing the affection there. Cory smiled and shifted slightly to kiss him, his cry of completion lost in the moist warmth of Ryan's kiss.

He slumped over Ryan, nearly limp in the aftermath of his intense climax, then carefully withdrew to lie beside him and draw him close. They lay together, snuggling drowsily, for what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes. Finally, the lingering stickiness urged Cory to his feet, and he vanished briefly, reappearing with a warm, damp cloth that he used to clean them up.

"Come on," he said, holding out a hand to Ryan to pull him to his feet. "Shower."

That sounded good to Ryan, who hadn't seen hot water since he'd gotten ready for the Lottery winners' ball, a week and one universe back. He was used to going for long periods with only cold washups from his days exploring the most remote areas of his world, but nothing felt as good as a hot shower. He followed Cory to the bathroom, barely sparing a glance for the objets d'art and dimestore trinkets mixed together eclectically. Clearly, Cory acquired possessions that appealed to him, regardless of their intrinsic value. Ryan knew he'd be fascinated by the peek inside Cory's head afforded by his belongings... later. Just then, his whole focus was on getting a shower.

Once inside the washroom, Ryan made a beeline for the huge, glassed in shower stall. He was sure that five or six people could have fit comfortably inside. He grinned over his shoulder at Cory, who wasn't any slower in heading in that direction.

"Better stick close. I'd hate to lose you in there."

"Ha ha." Cory obviously needed to develop a better appreciation for Ryan's sense of humor.

They stepped in, standing under the hot jets of water coming from the dual showerheads, relaxing under the water's massage. They slowly soaped and washed one another with their hands, enjoying being able to touch each other without the edge of arousal. Cory traced Ryan's body curiously, for the first time really looking at him without the haze of passion. It was odd to Cory to see what looked like his own body with scars, the visible signs of Ryan's adventuresome past. Cory had been lucky enough to die young and attractive and without any disfiguring marks, something of a rarity for a man of his time and social class. Seeing the few scars Ryan carried made him realize how different his life would have been had he been homely or older at his first death.

Eventually they tired of playing in the water and toweled off. Cory loaned Ryan a pair of sweats, and they went into the kitchen to find something to eat. They discovered that they shared an interest in cooking, undoubtedly due to a common love of eating well. They worked well together, preparing the meal without any of the awkwardness usually found the first time two people try to share a kitchen, but they each seemed to know what the other wanted without having to speak.

For the first few days, they stayed close to home. Cory took Ryan for short drives to different places, letting him slowly get accustomed to this new world he found himself in. Ryan adapted intellectually to the idea of the vastly larger population, but it was the little things that threw him, things like locking a door or needing a key to start a car, prices, rude taxi drivers.

As he grew easier in his surroundings, they gradually went further afield, expanding his horizons. While it was still something of a shock to him, Ryan found that he enjoyed the faster pace of life here. He wondered what it would be like to be part of it, so he broached the subject of getting a job to Cory.

Cory, who'd never worked a day of honest labor in eight centuries, was appalled. "Why would you want to do that?" he demanded in amazement.

"Because I'm not used to leeching off of someone!"

Cory blinked in surprise at the vehemence of the response. "You're not leeching, Ryan. I asked you to stay with me. I want you with me, but, sweetheart, if you get a job, that won't be possible."

"You'd dump me if I worked?" Ryan asked, wondering if he'd completely misjudged the other man.

"No. Of course not. But I move around a lot, even for an Immortal, and none of us can stay more than a few years in any one location by our very nature. Add to that that I'm restless, and I don't think I've ever stayed put for more than a few months... and that, infrequently."

Ryan frowned. He hadn't considered that. He couldn't ask Cory to change or to risk his life. He sighed. He'd have liked to become a more active participant in this society, but he had to admit that he, too, was accustomed to being able to pick up and go whenever he wanted.

"Okay," he said quietly. "We'll do it your way."

It was Cory's turn to frown. He wanted to keep Ryan with him, but not at the cost of making him miserable. He'd think about it and discreetly question Ryan, and he'd come up with something that would keep Ryan busy without tying him down. Maybe he'd like to learn about computing and start his own consulting firm. He'd have to find out Ryan's interests and skills.

That made Cory remember Ryan's particularly skillful method of waking him up, and his breathing quickened. For someone who'd never been involved with another man before, Ryan was a fast learner. Cory wondered if he was being fair to the other man in keeping him with him. Ryan might have mistaken feelings of gratitude to the person who'd helped him and an interest piqued by their uncanny similarity for something more. It wasn't like he'd had a chance to meet and get to know many other people. Cory decided that he had to give Ryan a chance to make up his own mind.

He considered telling Ryan that he had to go away on business, but Ryan didn't have an independent source of income, and Cory wasn't certain that his pride would allow him to take anything of Cory's if he wasn't there. Besides which, he didn't want to leave Ryan or chance making him feel rejected. Ryan'd mentioned that he spoke French, so Paris seemed an ideal change of location.

Cory's apartment there was more centrally located than he was in LA, so Ryan would be around other people constantly. It had the added advantage of being the current home of Cory's old friend Amanda. He'd be able to spend some time with her, and she would comfort him if Ryan did leave him. He'd heard that she had a new student, and knowing Amanda, he was probably her lover as well, but Cory knew she'd make time for him.

His decision made, Cory set about convincing Ryan to go along, which involved hauling him back to bed, fucking him nearly unconscious, and telling him about the trip while he was still floating in a post orgasmic haze. He'd already noticed that, like him, Ryan would agree to almost anything in that state.

Ryan knew something was up, but he didn't mind. He'd been to France many times, hiking in the Pyrenees and seeing the Lascoux caves, but he'd never visited Paris. He was looking forward to seeing it for the first time with Cory.

Cory and Ryan spent a few weeks playing tourist, visiting the museums and churches and famous landmarks. Eventually though, Cory felt it was time to see Amanda, and he decided to surprise her. Amanda was running a club, and Corey thought it would be fun to just show up with Ryan. The club was on holy ground, so the unexpected sensation of another Immortal shouldn't bother her too much. He was looking forward to seeing her face when she saw the two of them together.

They headed over to the club around 10:00 that night, Cory having just told Ryan that it was owned by an old friend of his. When they went inside, the strong sense of other Immortals told Cory that Amanda wasn't alone. It appeared that he was going to meet her lover in addition to introducing her to his.

He led Ryan toward the bar as soon as he spotted Amanda. He saw that she'd bleached her hair platinum blonde again, and he wondered why she kept doing that when her natural dark color suited her so much better. He could see her tension and that of the man sitting beside her, and he watched it melt away when she spotted him.

"Cory!" she called, smiling widely despite the continued tension of the man at her side. Her eyes widened, and her smile faltered when he got closer and she saw Ryan behind him.

"Hi, Amanda," he greeted, pulling her into a kiss. He released her, intending to introduce her to Ryan, only to falter when he found himself the focus of two jealous glares.

"An old friend?" Ryan demanded, arms crossed and anger fairly radiating from him. This was starting to feel like Wade and Quinn all over again.

Nick didn't say anything, but he didn't look any happier than Ryan. Amanda moved back to his side, slipping an arm around his waist.

"What's going on, Cory?" she demanded in bewilderment, her eyes flickering from Cory to Ryan and back again.

"Long story, love. I'll tell you all about it sometime, but for now, let me introduce you to my lover, Ryan Simms." As he spoke, Cory moved so that he was in front of Ryan and leaned back against him. He felt a tension he hadn't even been consciously aware of vanish when Ryan's arms came around him in an embrace.

Amanda blinked at the sight of the two identical men, but before she could introduce Nick in return, another voice interrupted.

"Dear God, two of them!"

"MacLeod," Cory exclaimed in delight. The oh-so-honorable Highlander was such fun to torment. It was his turn to be distracted as an attractive man with incredible eyes and a memorable nose peered over MacLeod's shoulder at them.

"Adam Pierson," he introduced himself.

Introductions were made all around, but Cory and Ryan were definitely the main focus of attention. The Immortals all stared that the young man, who began to fidget uneasily. Cory came to his rescue.

"Would you stop staring at Ryan like he's some weird new species of bug?!" he demanded in exasperation. "Yes, he looks like me, and no, he's not Immortal."

Methos chuckled. He'd heard a lot about this Cory Raines, and he had a feeling that he was going to like him. The fact that it would irritate the hell out of his Highlander just made it better. He was still mad at the man for disappearing for the better part of a year... again. Thinking about that made Methos make a mental note to get a collar and leash for his errant lover. Now that he had him, he was damned if he'd let him get away again.

Although everyone was curious about the various developments in their lives, this obviously wasn't the place to discuss them. With that in mind, they spent the night dancing, Cory and Ryan garnering some startled looks from strangers who clearly thought they were twins.

"This could be a problem," Cory sighed, intercepting yet another hostile glare.

Ryan raised his head from Cory's shoulder, where he'd been nuzzling his lover's throat. "Huh? What?"

"People think we're brothers. Even people who don't blink at homosexuality will usually object to incest."

"But we're not related," Ryan protested. "We're not even from the same world."

"You know that, and I know that, but they don't know that. And let's face it. If you saw two guys who looked alike, would you say, 'Oh look, there are two total strangers from different dimensions,' or would you assume they were twin brothers?"

Ryan groaned. "Well, what can we do about it? It's not like we can change our faces..." He paused, then said slowly, "Well, I suppose I could."

"No!" Cory snapped immediately. "You're not going through that pain and having to get used to a different face than the one you've had all your life."

"Well, what would you suggest then? Big buttons that say 'We are NOT brothers'?"

Cory sighed. "I honestly don't know. But we'll think of something." He laughed suddenly. "Pity we don't look like Elvis. We could say we were impersonators and met at a convention."

"Who?" Ryan asked blankly.

"Your world didn't have Elvis? Wow. Music must be really different then."

Ryan shrugged. "Not that I've noticed. This Elvis was a musician then?"

"Uh, yeah. He was - and still is - known as the King of Rock and Roll. You know, this makes me realize that we're going to have to sit down and go over history and pop culture, sweetheart. It hadn't occurred to me till now that with such a significantly smaller population, there'll be a lot of famous people and events that never existed in your world." He thought about it for a moment. "You were probably lucky enough to miss most or all of the major wars of this century. We'll have to figure out where the universes diverged and get you familiarized with this world's history."

"That could take forever!"

"No, not really," Cory explained. "You have a United States, so we can be pretty sure that the split occurred sometime after the Revolution. That narrows it down to about two centuries."

"Why couldn't it have happened earlier and just not affected the Revolution?" Ryan questioned, not following Cory's reasoning.

"Because of the nature of your society as you've described it to me, the utopian elements combined with a sort of Big Brother run amok legalized control of life and death. That's contrary to the spirit of our revolutionary forefathers. Besides," he grinned, "you knew what I meant by the Revolution, so it's a common event." He stopped and thought about it. "I'll bet it was probably around the time of the Depression. Your society's methods could have grown out of some kind of attempt to stabilize the population and end the Great Depression."

Ryan nodded. "Yes, the initial Lottery did start up back then, though not in the same vein as it is now."

Cory nodded. "I thought as much. So it's not so bad, just about 70 years to cover. And now, enough of this seriousness. We can figure everything out tomorrow. Tonight, I just want to hold you and dance."

"Works for me," Ryan replied, nestling close again.

When the club closed, MacLeod invited everyone back to the barge so they could talk. Remembering how Mac seemed to be a magnet for every unfriendly or deranged Immortal, Cory suggested going to his apartment rather than Mac's place. Amanda, who knew that he wasn't the penniless crook he pretended to be, grinned at the thought of Mac's reaction to Cory's home.

MacLeod reacted as expected, staring around at Cory's belongings in disbelief. "What? How?" he sputtered, somewhat incoherently.

Cory chuckled. "You've known Amanda for centuries, and you still haven't figured out that crime does, in fact, pay, and pay well? Come on, Mac!"

Methos laughed from where he was sprawled bonelessly across the couch. "Mac only sees what he wants to."

Mac glared at his lover. "Which must be why I can manage to put up with you, old man!"

Methos only grinned while Cory looked curious at Mac's nickname for Adam. Methos saw and understood the reaction, but he wasn't ready to trust this particular Immortal with his real identity, or Amanda's lover either for that matter. He didn't know either of them well enough to decide whether they were trustworthy, and 5000 years of survival instincts argued for caution.

"It certainly seems that crime does pay," Methos noted, ignoring the snort of disdain from the Highlander and Cory and Amanda's grins. He had observed that Mac was far more forgiving of Amanda's foibles than of Cory's, and it couldn't be entirely because Cory had embroiled him in one of his schemes the first time they met. Amanda had, after all, done the same on several occasions and had even freed Kalas in one of her more spectacular disasters. He eyed Mac curiously but didn't push the matter since he didn't want Cory's mortal lover to get caught in the fallout. One of these days though....

It took a few hours, but they managed to get everyone caught up on the various developments in their lives, aside from Methos's true identity. Ryan was startled by the range of ages from Nick's mere months as an Immortal to Amanda's eleven centuries. He was awed by the history they had lived and said so. Methos snorted, and Ryan turned to him.

"How old are you? You didn't say."

Amanda and Mac tensed, but Methos merely smirked. "No, I didn't, did I."

"Well? Are you the youngest or something and embarrassed by it?" Ryan didn't understand what the problem was.

Amanda and Mac couldn't help it. They burst into laughter. Methos sighed. After that reaction he had to say something, or the others would pry out of simple curiosity. The only question was whether to tell the truth or lie.

"As you can probably tell, that's not true," he finally said dryly. "In fact, I'm the oldest."

"Older than eleven hundred years?" Ryan gasped.

Methos simply nodded and changed the subject back to Cory and Ryan's problem. "I really don't see any solution. You do look alike, and people are going to assume you're brothers. Or related in some way later on when you start to age. You're just going to have to deal with it."

"Great," Cory grumbled. "We get to deal with two prejudices for the price of one." Ryan leaned closer supportively.

The Immortals left not long afterward, and Ryan turned to Cory. "Are you sure you really want to do this? It sounds like it's going to cause you a lot of trouble."

Cory wrapped his arms around Ryan's waist, pulling him close. "I should be asking you that. I'm Immortal, but you could get hurt. It's a big world out there, and you could find someone who doesn't come with all the baggage."

Ryan shrugged. "I suppose that's true, but I happen to want you. I'm willing to weather all the rest if you are."

Cory grinned at him happily. "We are going to have so much fun. Let me tell you about how I like to tease MacLeod...."

END

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