Tant Que Je Vive 2

The first time MacLeod faced a challenge since they’d become lovers was after they had been in Paris for a couple of months. Until then all the Immortals they’d met had been--relatively--benign. It was a pleasant change, a rare moment of calm in the turbulent life that had been MacLeod’s and by association Methos’ for the past few years.

MacLeod had taken Methos along to meet Marcus Constantine. The Highlander’s disgust when he realised that the two of them already knew one another had amused Methos for days. In his turn Methos had introduced MacLeod to a friend of his, He Xian-gu, who had emailed him to let him know that she would be in Paris. Methos had not told her precisely where he was, but she had contacted him on the off-chance that he would be around for one of her increasingly rare trips to Europe, as she seldom left China nowadays.

The two male Immortals met her at the tastefully understated bar of the hotel where she was staying--the extremely luxurious Relais Christine, which occupied some former cloisters built in the 16th century and was situated on the Left Bank in the 6th arrondissement. He Xian-gu explained that she had come to Paris on business. With the reforms in China she had set up an import business that was, so she said, doing very nicely and was investigating the possibility of a joint venture with a French exporter. Methos could tell that Duncan was initially impressed with her fragile femininity, but he soon learned that that concealed the heart of a viper and the cunning of a fox. She had not survived for thirteen hundred years by accident. Although her personality was vitriolic Methos had always enjoyed her company; he found her caustic wit amusing.

He and MacLeod had argued over her. Methos wanted to invite her to the barge for dinner the next evening. MacLeod had spluttered that that would be over his dead body, to which the older man had acidly commented that that could be arranged. After a session of Gaelic brooding (by MacLeod) and sulking disguised as intense sarcasm (Methos) they had eventually made up the argument, in bed. They later met He Xian-gu for dinner--in a restaurant.

It was, perhaps, inevitable that two such diverse personalities would have their problems but in fact there were remarkably little of these. He Xian-gu was about the worst of it.

Methos was, as he came to realise with no little astonishment, happy. The argument over He Xian-gu merely solidified it for him. Whatever happened, at least they had this time together.

The first warning they had came in early winter. Methos had been out at one of his regular haunts, the Left Bank, an area filled with good bookshops. He had found a signed first edition copy of A la recherché du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust there once--although sadly one volume was missing--in a small, wooden fronted bookshop in a back street near the church of Saint Sulpice. He always hoped to find another such treasure there again; so far he had not been successful but had managed to find a battered edition of one of Mrs Radcliffe’s most delightfully melodramatic gothic romances, badly translated into French, which had succeeded in amusing him for several hours.

When he walked into the barge, to find MacLeod sitting talking with Dawson, he noticed the grave faces of lover and friend with a feeling of foreboding.

“Something up, guys?”

Joe looked at MacLeod, then rose to his feet. “I’ll let Mac tell you all about it. Catch you later.” With that he made his way up the stairs and was gone.

Methos settled himself comfortably on the couch, any tension hidden by his deliberately relaxed posture. “Something I should know about?”

“An Immortal called Fabian is in town.”

Methos knew the name but not much about its owner. “And I suppose it’s too much to ask that this Fabian is an old friend?”

MacLeod nodded grimly. “I ran into him at the university, but there were too many people around for him to challenge me. However, Joe says that Fabian’s Watcher had earlier followed him to the barge, but I wasn’t here at the time. It looks like he’s after me.”

There was a brief silence.

“Well, I hear that Alaska is very nice this time of year,” Methos spoke brightly.

MacLeod glared at him, brows drawn tight together with exasperation. “Methos, it’s the middle of the sodding winter, or hadn’t you noticed.”

“Exactly! And because it’s so bloody cold, no one in their right mind would go there. So, that makes it a good place to hide. Although on second thoughts...”

“What?” There was a wealth of resignation in the other man’s voice.

“It’s probably the perfect place for someone to go looking for a Highland barbarian. Lots of snow, alcohol, wide-open spaces, not much by way of civilisation, all those hairy-arsed men. Not that many sheep though,” he finished thoughtfully. He watched MacLeod’s struggle not to betray his unwilling amusement, anticipating that the other man would lose this one.

“Very funny,” MacLeod mock-growled. But he sobered abruptly. “Methos--“

“I know. You’re not going to run, blah, blah, blah. Your Highland honour won’t allow it. Have I ever told you,” Methos continued in a conversation tone, “how sick I am of your blasted honour!”

“Several times.” MacLeod sighed. “It’s what--“

“I know, it’s who you are. I’ve met quite a few Immortals like you in my time, Mac. Clinging desperately to an outmoded way of life. And they all have one thing in common.” He waited, expectantly, for the other man to take the bait. But MacLeod remained silent, forcing Methos to speak first. “Want to know what it is? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. They’re all fucking *dead*!”

With that, he got to his feet, surprising himself with the sudden, intemperate rush of anger he felt. Where had that come from? He took a couple of steps towards the stairs, preparing to stalk out of the barge but MacLeod got to him first.

Methos felt Duncan’s arms enfold him hugging him back against the other man’s body, the familiar scent filling his nostrils, sandalwood and MacLeod’s own fragrance, a mixture of freshly fallen leaves and wild heather. For a moment he was stiff in the other man’s arms, then with a sigh he surrendered, leaning back against the larger body and rubbing himself sinuously, like a cat, against MacLeod. He felt the almost immediate response, the soft exhalation of breath and the beginnings of arousal in his lover. Nice to know he hadn’t lost his touch.

“I’m sorry Methos. Really I am. But I won’t run.”

“Why not? It seems sensible to me.”

There was silence for a while then MacLeod let him go, leaving Methos feeling cold and empty. He turned to face the younger man, raising an eyebrow in inquiry, but saying nothing more.

“I had a friend once, Brian Cullen.”

Methos knew the name. The man had been a formidable swordsman, with quite a reputation as such. Until he had been killed by Duncan MacLeod. He said nothing as MacLeod hesitated, merely keeping an inquiring expression on his face.

“You may have heard of him.”

Methos nodded.

“I--“ MacLeod swallowed hard then continued. “I saw what running away did to him, what it made of him. He’d been the best swordsman in Europe and there he was, reduced to drink and drugs to keep the fear away.” He gave a short, bitter laugh. “It didn’t work, of course. Then, he came after me. We’d been friends for a long time, even lovers on occasion, but that didn’t stop him. But he was too afraid to fight fair, came after me with a truck, tried to run me over so he could take my head without having to fight.”

“You’re not him,” Methos said gently.

“No. But I’m not so different either. I have a certain...reputation, not unlike him. And you’re wrong if you think I’m not afraid. I am. Every time I go out to fight. I don’t *want* to die, to leave you, or any of my other friends. And...”


MacLeod sighed heavily and tugged impatiently at his ponytail. “If I ran, word would get out and there’d be even more challengers after me than now. That’s what happened with Brian you know. It was like a vicious spiral downwards, the more afraid he was, the more he ran, the more Immortals came after him.”

Methos could think of nothing to say; he had no snappy rejoinder. Because Duncan had a point. For him, leaving to avoid a challenge probably would be a mistake, sensible though it was for Methos. But then most Immortals didn’t know who he was; he, as opposed to ‘the oldest living Immortal’, didn’t have a reputation to uphold. The reasons why MacLeod had a reputation were some of the things that had attracted him to the younger man in the first place--his sense of honour, his loyalty, his willingness to fight to uphold his ideals and to protect those he held dear. It was really just good luck that MacLeod was such a superb fighter, otherwise he would probably have died centuries before. Perhaps if Duncan did what he did, hid, stopped being ‘Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod’ he could avoid challenges. But of course he never would. Duncan would be difficult to make disappear into safe anonymity in any event. His presence and charisma compelled attention, whatever he called himself.

“So, living to fight another day--“ Methos said, slowly.

“Is good advice, of course it is. I see that. But not always, sometimes you have to stand and fight.”

“Even when it’s hopeless?” Methos questioned softly.

MacLeod nodded slowly. “Sometimes even then.”

Methos shook his head in despair. He didn’t know why he bothered. He had known what Duncan was going to say before he said it. Being who he was, he would--could--say nothing different.

“Besides, I think I can take him.”

Well that was a comfort of sorts. Duncan was an experienced enough swordsman to know his own strengths and weaknesses intimately.

“What is it between you and this Fabian anyway?” he said, tacitly conceding MacLeod’s point.

He watched as MacLeod blinked a little in surprise, obviously expecting Methos to put up more of a fight. But Methos had given up praying to the god of futility millennia ago.

MacLeod shook his head impatiently. “Everything and nothing.”

“That makes it clear,” Methos said sardonically.

“I mean that it’s stupid.”

“Challenges very often are.” Methos said equably.

“But this one...it’s one of those stupidly macho things. If I met him now, we might even end up as friends, we probably wouldn’t be enemies anyway.”

“So, it’s your fault that you aren’t friends.”

“Not exactly. I was young...”

He ignored Methos’ muttered, “You still are.”

“...and full of self importance. We met about three, three hundred and twenty years ago. I’d taken a few heads by then, enough to give me delusions of grandeur. It wasn’t until I met--“ He broke off abruptly, then continued, “But that’s not relevant now.”

Methos was intrigued as to what Duncan had been about to say. MacLeod didn’t keep secrets, not like he did. For him to change tack was unusual. Methos would worm it out of him--later.

“I went to a brothel, in Venice, one which had a particularly good reputation in the City. Fitz had recommended it to me and he’d waxed lyrical about the whores there, so I decided to try it. Fabian was there when I arrived. He was a friend of the owner. We were polite enough at first, although I was wary of him.” MacLeod laughed without humour. “I was too afraid that he was going to be competition, I think. He was very charming, you see, good looking and we both had our eye on the same woman. She was incredibly beautiful. We circled each other like a couple of posturing fools and while we did so, another customer scooped up the prize, bruising both our egos at the time.

“What we *should* have done--what I wish we had done--is laugh about it, have a drink together. But I had too much pride, maybe he did too. He left, and shortly afterwards so did I. We ran into one another a few times after that and each time our antipathy grew worse, little things, not worth talking about. But we went from acquaintances--to enemies; I’m not sure why looking back. It’s all so stupid!” MacLeod burst out in frustration. “We ended up fighting of course, but were interrupted. Every time we’ve seen one another since then, we’ve fought, or come close to it.”

“If that’s the case, why not try and make up now?”

“Do you think I haven’t tried?”

“Have you?”

“*Yes*! But not until after I rejected his attempts first. I told you it was stupid, *I* was stupid. And now it’s too late. He’s come looking for me. Time to end it, one way or another.” He shrugged. “It’s all in the Game after all. And Fabian does at least fight fair.”

“I see. So, you’re risking your head over some dispute over a whore that took place three hundred years ago.”

MacLeod flinched infinitesimally, at the disdain in Methos’ voice. “No.” His voice as he spoke was even, betraying nothing. “I’m meeting a challenge, one which if circumstances had been different I might have been able to avoid. But I’ve already told you why I won’t run. I *can’t*.”

“Okay.” Methos spoke tightly. He made a conscious effort to relax. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known that this would happen. Challenges were a regular feature of MacLeod’s life and he’d have to get used to that. This Fabian was good, true, but Duncan was better. Probably. “You’re a stupid bugger sometimes MacLeod. What’s for dinner?”

He saw MacLeod blink in surprise at the apparent non sequitur, then his shoulders sagged slightly in relief or maybe just in release of tension with Methos’ changing of the subject.

“Nothing. It’s your turn to cook.”

“So it is. What do you fancy? Fish, pasta? Or maybe some chicken. Haven’t we got in some of the free range stuff from that butchers on Rue Clarise?” Methos set out deliberately to create a more relaxed mood with his inconsequential chatter as he walked to the barge’s small, but well stocked galley. If Duncan was going to fight--and it looked like he was--he might as well try to put him in the best frame of mind for it.

It was never easy facing a challenge. No matter how many times he fought Methos never lost that awful sick feeling of anticipation, the knowledge that this might be it, the end, suffusing him. It was a totally different emotion from that which overtook him in battle, as opposed to one on one combat. In a battle he could lose himself, living purely for the moment. He had fought in wars where, Immortal memory notwithstanding, he could remember very little of each engagement, sometimes he had fought for whole days which lived in his memory only as a confused blur.

But every Immortal challenge was fixed in his mind, the smallest detail clear and precise. Afterwards he would analyse each movement, what he could have done better, what would have been a more effective parry to a particular thrust. It was not until he was satisfied with his dissection of the fight that he would put it aside, storing his ideas for use in the next challenge or utilising them on the practice floor, trying an action out, over and over, until he perfected it. It was part of what had kept him alive.

During dinner the telephone rang. MacLeod, who had only picked at his food, got up and answered it. The conversation was short. His expression controlled, MacLeod came back to the table and sat down silently.

“When?” Methos asked. At MacLeod’s look of enquiry, he continued, “That was Fabian I take it.”

MacLeod nodded. “Tonight. Twenty one hundred.”


MacLeod’s gaze sharpened in alarm. “You’re not thinking of coming with me? Methos--“

“No. Don’t worry, I’m not planning on interfering. God forbid anything should prevent the great Duncan MacLeod from meeting a challenge.”


“No,” he continued, riding roughshod over MacLeod’s attempted protestation. “I just want to know where I have to go to, in case I have to pick up your corpse.”

MacLeod inhaled sharply. “Jesus, that’s cold,” he whispered.

Methos closed his eyes. “I know. I’m sorry.” He reached out blindly and gripped the other man’s hand, tightly. “It’s just...”

“The waiting is hard.”

“How would you know?” Methos snapped, eyes flying open.

“I *have* had Immortal lovers who’ve gone out to face challenges you know.”

“Really?” Methos made his scepticism plain. “And you never interfered at all, I suppose.”

MacLeod had the grace to lower his gaze sheepishly. “Once or twice. When I knew they couldn’t win. But, more often I had to wait. Look, I’m meeting him at the Egouts de Paris.”

The older man raised his eyebrows. “Interesting choice,” he murmured.

MacLeod shrugged. “His choice, not mine. Promise me that you won’t come along, no bullets in the back this time,” he said, referring to the time Methos had shot him in an attempt to prevent him from fighting Keane.

There was a pause, then Methos nodded. “You have my word.” He released MacLeod’s hand and stood up, preparatory to clearing the dinner plates away but MacLeod held out a hand to prevent him.

“Let me. You cooked.”

Forty minutes later MacLeod strode out of the barge, long grey coat swirling around him, leaving Methos sitting in ostensible comfort on the couch. He had to admire Duncan’s composure. That he was nervous was plain to Methos but the younger man had carried on as normal, washing up with brisk efficiency. If he was more sombre than usual, that was understandable. When he was ready to go he had turned to Methos, who was sitting watching him silently.

“I’ll see you later then,” Methos said.

MacLeod nodded. “Later.”

Methos had intended to reach out but found that he was only capable of sitting on the couch, frozen. He tried to make himself say something but the words stuck in his throat. He was afraid and he did not know how to deal with it, without betraying himself. So he said nothing.

MacLeod smiled at him, a sweet, wistful smile. Then he left.

Methos jumped to his feet and inserted a CD into his laptop computer. He called up the entry on Fabian from the copy of the Watcher CD he’d made, which he had been careful to take with him when he left the group. He scanned the entry on Fabian quickly. The man was reputed to be a fierce fighter. He was reasonably experienced too, about fifteen hundred years old. Immortals did not often last that long unless skilled with a sword--or unless they had some other talents that would keep them alive.

He noted with a raised eyebrow that Fabian’s teacher was an Immortal familiar to him. Isat, whose name in Amharic meant fire. She would have taught him well. Fabian was reported as being an intractable enemy but as Duncan had said he fought fair.

MacLeod had a chance then, a good one knowing his lover, of beating Fabian. This thought should have comforted him. But it did not. He got to his feet, unable to sit still and inserted a CD into the stereo. The plaintive sound of the Manic Street Preachers filled the air.

He prowled around restlessly, unable to settle, his fear gnawing at him. He was annoyed with himself. There had been enough times previously when he’d been in a similar situation and he really ought to be able to deal with it by now.

He seized on the knocking at the door with relief.

It was Joe. The Watcher was carrying a crate of beer, of which Methos swiftly relieved him.

“Thought you might like a beer,” Joe said as he settled himself on the couch.

“It would be a surprise if I didn’t,” Methos agreed, sitting beside Joe and opening a beer as he did so. “I take it you heard then?”

“That Mac’s fighting Fabian? Yeah. Fabian’s Watcher called me about twenty minutes ago.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t go along.”

“Wouldn’t’ve got there in time. Besides, I thought maybe you could use the company.”

Methos shrugged. He was grateful to Dawson, even if he wasn’t going to admit it. Having the other man here was a welcome distraction. It did not make the empty feeling of nausea inside him disappear but his presence helped to make it recede, even if only a little. “I have done this type of thing before you know,” he said tartly.

“Yeah. So’ve I. I tell you pal, it ain’t easy. And it don’t it get any easier. Even if you don’t want the company, I could use some.”

“Yeah,” Methos sighed, slightly abashed that in his preoccupation he’d overlooked the very real affection Joe had for MacLeod. “Sorry.”

Joe accepted his apology with a nod and settled back into his seat. “Who’s this? No, don’t tell me. The Manic Street Preachers, right?”

Methos recognised what Joe was trying to do and picked up on it smartly. “Right. I didn’t think this was your type of stuff.”

“Oh, I like pretty much anything that’s good. And this qualifies. I was just surprised because I thought they were a little modern for you.”

“I’m not MacLeod, you know! My musical tastes have progressed beyond the eighteenth century.”

Joe shrugged. “Sure,” he said amiably. “I know that. But this is pretty cutting edge stuff.”

Methos shook his head. “Was. But they’ve been awarded a few prizes in recent years. And yes, I’ll admit that’s how I got to hear about them, okay.”

Joe grinned at him and took a swig from his beer. As he did so Methos stiffened in his seat, the fingers of one hand clenching around the arm of the couch until all the blood left them under the pressure of the force he applied, leaving them looking like white talons splayed against the cream material.

“What is it?”

But Methos did not hear him, as he felt resonating through his bones the unmistakable sensation of a quickening. Duncan. For a long moment he was lost, able to feel nothing, think of nothing save the overwhelming feeling that coursed through him.

“Methos. *Methos!*” Joe was yelling at him.

He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to compose himself enough to face the Watcher. “It’s all right. Mac just won.”

He looked around to find that Joe was grinning, in relief and delight. Then, Joe’s gaze sharpened as he fixed him with a penetrating stare. “You know that. How d’you know? I didn’t think that you guys could sense-- Wait. That dual quickening you and Mac took, in Bordeaux. I’m right, aren’t I?”

Methos nodded. There was little point in trying to hide it now.

“You know, we wondered at that. As you probably know, you and Mac aren’t the first that’s happened to but we were never quite sure of the effects. So, what kind of range does it have? What’s it like? How--“


“Sorry. I, um, let my enthusiasm get the better of me.”

“It’s okay,” Methos said weakly. He was trembling, the aftermath of the release of tension coupled with the feel of the quickening and abject relief. Since Bordeaux, every time MacLeod had taken a head he had been able to feel it, no matter how far away he was. The nearer he was the stronger the sensation, but he suspected that even if he was on the other side of the world he would still know. As he would know if, some day, Duncan should lose.

He felt a glass thrust into his hand. “Here, take this,” Joe said. “You look like you could use it.”

He looked down to see that Joe had given him a large pure malt whisky. Fittingly it was a glass of Talisker. He downed it in one, feeling the alcohol warming him inside, steadying him.

“Methos, I’m sorry, but I gotta ask. Is it always like that, when Mac takes a head I mean?”

He nodded.

“Shit! That’s tough, man.”

“Yes. But it works both ways, you know.”

“You mean, Mac knows when you...”

“Yep.” He smiled wryly. “Of course, that happens a lot less often than Mac fighting.”

“Yeah. Still, that’s just amazing, y’know. That you can both sense it.”

“Amazing isn’t quite the way I would put it.”

“No. I see what you mean. Um, would you like me to leave?”

“No. It’s fine. Stay. We’ve got all this beer to get through, remember.”

When later MacLeod returned to the barge Methos wondered what he thought as he met the sight of his Immortal lover and Watcher friend sitting on his couch, laughing together. Methos smiled at him, letting him know with his eyes how very glad he was to see him. He had known from the feel of the approaching Immortal that it was Duncan of course. He always knew. Joe excused himself tactfully, with a hearty thump on MacLeod’s back by way of welcome and relief.

As MacLeod stripped off his overcoat Methos could see from the rents in his blood stained clothing that it had not been an easy fight. “It looks like it was a hard one,” he said.

MacLeod nodded wordlessly. His expression was difficult to read, tightly controlled as it was.

“Want to talk about it?” Methos offered carefully.

MacLeod closed his eyes, slumping wearily onto the couch. He smelled of sweat--and old blood, together with the unmistakable stench of sewage. What Fabian’s choice of meeting place, the Egouts de Paris which was a working museum devoted to sewage disposal, meant Methos did not care to imagine. “What’s there to say?” The underlying note of bitterness in MacLeod’s voice disturbed Methos. Duncan did not take heads lightly, no. But he didn’t usually react like this. “We met, we fought. I won.”


“And what? You are pleased I won, I take it?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Methos said shortly. “Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong.”

“Why? So you can tell me yet again how stupid I’ve been, how young I am, how naive?”

Methos was uncharacteristically momentarily lost for words. Was this how Duncan thought he thought of him? He dismissed the thought impatiently. “No. So that as your...friend I can help you with this, whatever this is.”

“Sorry,” the other man muttered.

Methos said nothing but reached out and took MacLeod’s hand gently, cradling it in his. They sat there in silence for a long moment.

Then MacLeod sighed and began to speak. “Fabian had a student with him.”

Methos inhaled sharply. “He didn’t--“

“No, he didn’t. Fabian told the man not to interfere, said that if he lost he wasn’t to attempt to take my head while I was down after the quickening, that it wasn’t honourable to do so and that he trusted me to not go after Daniel--that’s the name of the student. He looked to be about thirty, thirty five, but I could feel that he doesn’t have much power as yet.”

“What did you say?”

“I confirmed that I didn’t have any quarrel with Daniel, of course.”

“Of course,” Methos said quietly, buttoning down tightly any hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“Then we fought, Fabian and I. Well, not until after I’d asked him whether we couldn’t just forget it, both walk away.”

“But he refused.”

“Yes. Said that it’s what we do.” MacLeod started to laugh. “That’s a line I’ve used myself, once or twice, when I’ve really wanted to fight someone. I guess I must’ve qualified for Fabian.” He paused, closing his eyes and leant his head against the back of the couch, leaving a streak of old blood and dirt behind when he sat up, opening his eyes as he did so. Methos said nothing, although his hand tightened on MacLeod’s. “Then we fought. He was good, I thought I’d had it a couple of times. But he made a mistake, slipped and I took him.” MacLeod stopped and swallowed heavily. “When the quickening hit me, it was powerful--“

“I know,” Methos murmured.

MacLeod looked at him sharply. “Yeah. You would. Christ, Methos,” MacLeod said, his gaze burning with remorse, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t think. With you being so close, it would’ve affected you, too.”

“Stop it Mac! This isn’t your fault. I won’t have you taking this onto yourself as well. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine.”


“No! You know I’m right. We’ll talk about it later if you want. But you were telling me about Fabian,” Methos prompted.

MacLeod shook his head slightly, but continued. “Right. I saw Daniel watching me.”

“*What*! You mean you let him stay, when he could’ve taken your head? You’re right, you are stupid!”

Expecting a stinging rebuttal from MacLeod, Methos was a little disconcerted when he said merely, “You may be right. But I trusted him to not interfere, like I haven’t interfered in challenges in the past. I thought that Fabian had taught him that much at least, that he would heed his words. I was right. But...”


“Daniel watched me, the whole time. I think it may have been the first quickening he’d seen, that he’s that new. He looked shocked. He didn’t say anything, but when it ended he turned and ran. When I recovered I looked for him, but couldn’t find him. He’s a young Immortal and I killed his teacher, making him easy prey for the next Immortal who comes along.”

“And of course that’s your fault.”

“Yes.” MacLeod’s voice was level as he spoke, but misery was edged in his face.

“I was right. You are stupid.” The words were trenchant but the tone was gentle. “Duncan, ask yourself this. What else could you have done? Let Fabian take your head? He came after you, not you him. You didn’t want to fight him, tried not to fight him. What’s the alternative? That you let him take your head?”

“You’re right. I know you’re right. It’s just--“

“That you’re a guilt ridden Scottish barbarian who takes too much on himself. You do, you know. You have to let go occasionally. Stop being the world’s saviour all the time. Just be.”

MacLeod sighed. “Yeah. Again you’re right. But...it’s just that I ask myself, what’s the difference between him and me? He told his student what I would have said, fought fair like I do.”

“I know you like to wallow in guilt, but this is ridiculous. You know bloody well what the difference is. He came hunting you, remember.”

“I’ve gone hunting in the past.”

“Yes, but you’re not hunting now. And did you ever go hunting for such a trivial reason as Fabian did?”

There was a long pause, then MacLeod spoke in a low voice. “I’d like to say no, but the truth is I have.”

“How long ago?”

“What? Oh, two, three hundred years ago.”

“So, why don’t you hunt now?”

MacLeod shrugged. “Because it’s wrong. I suppose I think that it’s stupid, to go looking for trouble like that. It’s different if you challenge someone to protect someone else, or yourself.”

“Exactly. You were just a kid when you went hunting. Fabian is a lot older than you. He made a mistake. And those who don’t learn from their mistakes, die.”

MacLeod sighed. “I suppose.” He smiled bitterly. “So, does this amuse you? Yet another of my moral dilemmas.” He laughed. There was nothing of humour in the sound. “I know, you’ve seen it all before. The same old mistakes. No wonder you laugh.”

Methos shook his head. “I find nothing amusing in this.” He spoke the simple truth as he looked at MacLeod in compassion. It was sometimes hard enough to kill, without taking on a world of guilt while you did it. Yet it was what Duncan did, unable to escape his Highland tanist roots that dictated he was the responsible one, the leader.

“You know, it used to be so much simpler,” MacLeod said ruminatively. “Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. But it isn’t any more. It’s all so blurred now. But I’m still having to make that decision. Who to kill, who not to kill. When not to kill. Only the chances of knowing I’ve made a mistake are greater now.”

Methos listened to this speech with mounting alarm. He remembered Amanda’s words when she had been trying to persuade him to convince MacLeod not to let Keane kill him. She had said that Mac had gone up against Immortals older than him, some better than him. But he’d always won, because he never gave up, not when he thought he was right. Is this what he had done? Taken that sense of being right away from MacLeod. So that by trying to convince him to survive he’d actually decreased MacLeod’s chances. He opened his mouth, not certain what he would say, but the other man was continuing.

“Of course, it never was that simple. I’ve been coming to that realisation for a long time now. Maybe you speeded up the process a little, but even before I met you I’d come to see that people change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I remember lecturing Richie on the subject, even before he knew that he was Immortal, that no one’s wholly good or bad.

Methos felt the knot of tension within him relax. Duncan had surprised him, not just by what he had said--although that would teach him to overestimate his influence on another person--but also by his mentioning of Richie. Maybe that wound was starting to heal, albeit that the scar would always be there, the memory of anguish forever lingering within Duncan.

MacLeod smiled sadly. “That poor kid. I was always lecturing him, you know.”

Time for a change of subject. Methos cleared his throat. “How about if I call Joe, see if he can find Daniel?”

MacLeod looked at him searchingly. What he saw in the older man’s face must have reassured him, because his strained expression eased. “Yeah. Thanks. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because you’re tired, cranky and over stressed?”

MacLeod laughed. “I can always rely on you for the truth about my failings.” Before Methos could attempt a riposte MacLeod spoke again, “I think I’ll go for a shower. God knows I could use one.” With that he got to his feet and walked to the shower, stripping off his ruined clothing as he went, leaving Methos staring after him.

Swiftly Methos picked up the phone and called Joe. The Watcher was initially reluctant to get involved but after Methos had pointed out that Mac was feeling guilty about this and Joe knew what happened when Mac had guilt pangs... Joe had promised to do what he could.

Methos grinned to himself. In some ways Dawson was even easier to manipulate than Duncan was. Knowing someone’s vulnerabilities was always a good start. Take Duncan for example. His sense of responsibility so easily turned to guilt. Maybe one day Methos would be able to wean Duncan away from his over-developed guilt complex, but it wouldn’t be any time soon.

Methos sighed. MacLeod was an intelligent man he knew. Yet he was capable of what Methos could only classify as wilful blindness at times. Maybe there were some similarities in the way he and Fabian thought but Methos had no doubt that by the light of most moral codes, including his, MacLeod would be classified as the better man. But he recognised with an inward grimace that even if Fabian had been a latter day saint, he wouldn’t have cared. He wanted Duncan to live. It was that simple. Not only because he was ‘Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod’, one of the best prospects to win the prize, although that was part of it but primarily because he was what he was.

Methos still wasn’t quite sure when in all his enormously long life--a life devoted for the most part primarily to his own survival--he had decided that the fate of humanity was of importance to him. Perhaps the seeds had been sown during the plague of the fourteenth century, when he had realised what a bleak place the world would be without mortals. Or maybe it was earlier, when he had left the other Horsemen as he had come to realise that more than anything else he wanted to learn, to study. When he had finally sickened of the killing.

It was with this in mind that he had first wanted Duncan MacLeod, the legendary Highland Immortal, to survive. Later, he had wanted him to survive because he couldn’t--

He looked around, disturbed from his reverie by the sound of the bathroom door opening.

MacLeod was dressed in a red silk robe, his damp hair cascaded down his back and Methos was unable to avoid staring at him. He looked like the embodiment of the magnificent warrior that he was, large dark eyes shining, lips parted. His arousal was obvious, eyes all huge, dark pupils with desire, teeth worrying at his full lower lip.

Their eyes met. With slow deliberation, Methos pulled off his sweater and then his T-shirt, noticing with pleasure the way Duncan’s breathing quickened harshly at the sight of his naked torso. Not taking his eyes from MacLeod’s for a moment, he peeled off his jeans revealing that he too was excited, erection straining, affected by the feeling of raw lust in the air, pure and unrestrained. With a final flourish he removed his boxer shorts and naked, walked slowly across to his lover, who stood near the bed. He rejoiced in the way Duncan’s gaze remained on him, feeling for this fleeting moment that he was infinitely desirable.


“Shhh. Talk later.” As he spoke, Methos slid the robe off the broad, bronzed shoulders with grave intent. He could feel that MacLeod was trembling, desire tightly held in check. He spoke deliberately. “I’m not fragile, Duncan. I won’t break. Hurry up and fuck me.”

There was a moment’s hesitation, then the storm broke over him. With a growl, he was thrown onto the bed pinned there by the heavier, more powerful body, hot and demanding upon him. He trembled as fierce lips bit at his neck, marking him, branding him as MacLeod’s. Methos moaned and arched back, offering himself up completely to MacLeod’s dominance. Duncan’s lips seized his, forcing his mouth open, tongue ravaging his mouth. A low thrumming beat drummed through his body, a burning, pulsating ache that sent him spiralling into deepest need. He whimpered as the mouth left his aching and empty, to lay damp, heated kisses down his torso. MacLeod bit ferociously at a nipple and Methos cried out, at the pain and the searing bolt of pleasure that spiralled through his body straight to his groin.

Scorching heat shot through him, as Duncan flayed him alive. Barbed hands held him down, so that Duncan might take his pleasure as he wished, devouring Methos’ body fiercely, with primeval lust. Methos moaned, tormented with want, as passion smouldered into incandescence. He burned, raw with need. Oh *please*. Duncan, please.

Pinned by the Highlander’s fever-hot body, all flushed skin and hard muscle, Methos struggled to move, needing to touch, to taste, dizzy with longing, but found with a thrill tight-fused with fear that he was clasped firm, held with implacable force.

“No,” MacLeod snarled, his eyes blazing with power, shining with pure, unabashed desire. “You’re mine.” Methos moaned as MacLeod bit wildly at his neck, drawing blood. “Mine,” MacLeod whispered. With that he roughly pulled Methos’ legs apart and impaled him, ravaging him, tearing him asunder, possessing him totally.

Methos cried out, a long wild note of surrender, as his body arched helplessly in agony steel-edged with passion. He quivered, blistered with pleasure, as pain transmuted into dark rapture. It had been too long since he had been taken so, with nothing held back. The force of Duncan’s thrusts savage within him, he responded helplessly with uncontrolled abandonment, yielding completely.

Yet even as he looked up at the sweat-damp bronzed face contorted above him, rapturous with agonised pleasure, MacLeod hesitated...slowed...stopped.

Methos cried out in protest. “Don’t stop!”

“I’m hurting you.”

“No, you’re not! Fuck me, damn it. *Now*!”

A seconds hesitation and then he was lost. Oh, god, *yes*! MacLeod responded to his demand, thrusting into him ferociously with implacable force and totally unrestrained power. He was feral in his possession of the long, supple body beneath his as Methos clung to him tightly, his anchor in a conflagration of desire.

Storm tossed, Methos gave himself up to MacLeod, surrendering completely, body raw, quivering and defenceless. MacLeod devoured him greedily, pounding into him ruthlessly as Methos cried out, a high keening sound, rearing up, clinging tight, grasping thick handfuls of silky-fine strands of hair, as he came and came and came, molten heat flooding him, MacLeod roaring in triumph as his possession reached its climax.

They clung together for long minutes, the only sound their tormented gasps for air. MacLeod lay fully on top of Methos, the sweat-damp weight of him Methos’ whole world as he buried his face in Duncan’s neck, revelling in the male-musk smell, licking at the skin, tasting sweat and MacLeod. As the moments passed he could feel the tingling of Immortal healing, all the cuts and bruises caused by MacLeod’s wild possession fading, leaving drying blood as their only memento. He shifted and sighed, knowing from the small, convulsive movements of MacLeod against him that he also felt the tiny bolts of blue lightning. Finally MacLeod made to move away but Methos stopped him, holding him in place.

“I’m squashing you,” MacLeod muttered.

“No you’re not. Although you could stand to lose a little weight,” Methos said judiciously.

At that MacLeod reared back, insult etched in his expression. He stared at Methos, then reluctantly started to smile. “You...”

Methos pulled down his head and kissed him, deeply. He could feel MacLeod’s erection start to stir within him, quick to recover as part of the post-quickening frenzy, the echoes of which washed over him, down the shared link, feeding his own desire.

“Wait a moment,” MacLeod groaned. Withdrawing from Methos, he groped by the side of the bed for one of the towels that were usually kept there. Gently he wiped Methos down, with long smooth strokes, careful of any areas where trails of blood marked the pale skin, grinning as Methos rolled his eyes at him impatiently, signalling that he was long since healed. He then towelled himself briskly, tossing the towel aside carelessly.

A second later and he was bending over Methos, fingers caressing his skin as he bit lightly at Methos’ earlobe, teeth tugging at the flesh. “I want you again,” he whispered low in his ear.

Methos pulled away slightly and met the intense dark eyes above him solemnly. He knew well that the urge to possess, to dominate, often most clearly manifested itself after a quickening. There had been times after his Immortal lover of the day had freshly taken a head when this had irritated him, when he had felt a need to contest supremacy. But not with Duncan. He was keen to recapture that almost transcendental ecstasy in surrender he had felt earlier. He nodded.

Slowly, MacLeod smiled. “Turn over,” he demanded.

Silently, Methos complied.

For a long moment, nothing happened and Methos shifted a little, minutely, on the bed, then he felt a light touch upon him as MacLeod reached out a finger and trailed it down the long bones of Methos’ back, lingering slowly along the spine. Methos trembled at the delicate sensation, legs moving restlessly, a deep aching need echoing hollowly within.

Touch was followed by taste, as slowly, oh so slowly, MacLeod pressed gentle kisses along the strong, clean lines of Methos’ shoulders, then with a swift, sudden movement bit at the back of his neck, pouncing upon him like a dark-furred panther. Methos’ breathing quickened and caught as budding excitement kindled into full-blown arousal, consuming him, fever bright, burning hot. For a second Methos felt MacLeod’s full weight atop him as the Highlander rested his body on Methos, a taste of what was to come, then MacLeod pulled back, leaving him shivering in the suddenly cold air.

“Oh Christ, Methos,” Duncan’s low voice breathed in his ear. “You’re so fucking beautiful like this, did you know that? I’ll bet you did. Jesus, I want you. No, no, don’t move.” As he spoke he seized Methos, preventing his sudden abortive movement. “I want you here, like this, just like this.” MacLeod seized Methos’ hands, pulling them above his head, pinning them there with one strong hand held firmly around each wire-cord wrist. He kneaded down Methos’ back with firm, even strokes, hard enough to be on the cusp of pleasure-pain, once more establishing his dominance as Methos groaned helplessly.

A second later, MacLeod pressed deep, wet kisses on the back of his neck, blowing gently on the raised flesh. Methos shuddered in abject response, pressing his engorged erection deep into the bedclothes. “Ma--ac...”

“No, not yet.” MacLeod’s voice was muffled between kisses. “You’re not ready yet, Methos.”

“Nooo,” Methos moaned. “I am ready. I am.”

MacLeod laughed, his voice a wild blaze of excitement firmly held in control. “Oh no, you’re nowhere near ready yet.”

“Yes, I am,” Methos growled. “Get on with it! Fuck me.”

MacLeod’s hair tickled the back of Methos’ neck as he took an earlobe gently in his teeth and tugged. “Not until you ask me nicely,” he whispered in honeyed tones, laughter trembling in his voice.

“Sod off!”

“Not nice, Methos. Just for that, I think I’ll make you beg.” MacLeod’s voice was cloyingly sweet.

Outraged, Methos attempted to rear back, with a quick, sharp motion pulling his hands free, heaving up, trying to throw off the heavy body, damp above him. If MacLeod thought for one second that he’d have Methos begging, he could think again. He wasn’t the one who had taken a quickening, he could wait. If that...that *child* thought he could make the oldest man in the world dance to his tune, he could think again. He was Methos and he didn’t beg anyone, no matter--oh *fuck*!

He whimpered as MacLeod delicately licked at his neck, teeth scraping the surface and collapsed back down onto the bed bonelessly, his arms trapped underneath him. Damn the boy. He knew, all too well, what got to Methos and obviously had no hesitation in using it. Strong hands seized his head, turning it to meet MacLeod’s kiss, Methos’ lips parting helplessly against MacLeod’s invading mouth.

MacLeod kissed him for a long time, deep, silkily possessive kisses, leaving Methos panting and breathless, aching with need. He was so hard that he hurt and was unable to prevent a moan, deep in the back of his throat, as Duncan’s mouth left his.

“Do you want me?” MacLeod whispered.

“I would’ve thought that was bloody obvious!”

“Say please.” MacLeod punctuated his words with a hand sliding underneath Methos to grasp his rampant erection.

Methos scraped together every ounce of self-discipline that he possessed and gritted his teeth in an attempt to prevent himself from groaning in abject need. He failed.

“Say please, Methos.” MacLeod’s voice was implacable.

“Fuck off!”

“That’s the general idea.” There was a breathless note of laughter in MacLeod’s voice, as he slowly caressed Methos’ shaft, running his fingers teasingly around the head. “Come on, Methos. Say please. You can do that, can’t you? Just one little word...”

Oh no. He was *not* going to beg! No way.

Again, he reared up, careless of the flash of pain as MacLeod’s hand tightened around him momentarily, before letting go to grab his body, both hands forcibly holding him in place.

There was a long, breathless moment as they struggled. Every muscle Methos possessed strained, reached, sought...failed.

For a second, he even considered using a move on Duncan that would do serious damage, as he panted and struggled underneath him, but ended up sinking back down to the bed again, held firm by the larger torso. His hands were seized and once more pinned firmly over his head. “Kurnos! You--fuck you, you bastard! I’ll kill you, I swear. You fuck me now, MacLeod, or--“

“Or what?” MacLeod’s voice was raw in his ear.

“Fuck me this instant. Do it. *Now*!”

“No,” MacLeod’s voice was implacable. “Not until you say please.”

“Póg mo thón, báltái!” Methos spat, then pressed his lips together and turned his head stubbornly to one side.

MacLeod laughed. “Tsk, tsk. Such language. Oh, and Methos...I intend to.” His voice deepened to a growl as he spoke. “Getting to you am I, Old Man? Have it your way. You’ll be begging me soon enough and you know it.” The voice was now deep, utterly confident and possessive.

He unleashed a maelstrom of passion on Methos’ body once more, licking, kissing and biting his way down Methos’ neck and shoulders, one large hand pinning his wrists, the other pressing him down, controlling his movements. MacLeod’s perversely rough delicacy soon had Methos writhing desperately underneath him, pressing his aching erection into the bedclothes in frantic, inadequate hope of obtaining relief.

But it was not enough, not nearly enough. His whole body was a suffocating ache of want, liquid desire running through his veins, molten need deep within him. If Duncan did not take him, he would die. He was whimpering continuously now, long slow shudders running ceaselessly through him, deep, dark waves of pure hunger,

An instant later and he heard his own voice, thin in his ears, gasping out. “Please, Duncan, please.”

He cried out bitterly as the burning, *hot* weight above him left him. But only for an instant, a moment later he was pulled to his knees, both hands clasped in front of him, held firm by one of MacLeod’s large, warrior hands. Strong thighs parted his and a hard silken warmth slid within him. He moaned, welcoming the invader as it possessed him, assuaging the emptiness within.

MacLeod shifted, kneeling back on his heels, pulling Methos back to rest on top of him, bodies joined together, as MacLeod rested his head on the back of Methos’ neck. Both men were panting, slick with sweat, but save for their gasps for breath there was no other movement until Methos wiggled impatiently atop MacLeod, grinning in triumph at the immediate moan that followed. Deliberately, he tightened his inner muscles, craving the hard, fast thrusting that would surely follow but instead he felt strong hands seize his hips, clasping him tightly, preventing all movement.

“That’s better.” MacLeod’s voice was all self-satisfaction, as he pulled Methos even more tightly towards him, until Methos could feel every inch of MacLeod’s powerful, sweat-damp torso against his back. He quivered as MacLeod shifted minutely within him, unable to subdue a helpless whimper in response. “You have no idea,” MacLeod murmured,” how it feels, having you like this. All that you are, all that power, mine...to do with...as I please. Oh fuck, *yes*!”

As he spoke he was moving within Methos, in gentle increments, sending sweet stabs of pleasure coursing through him. MacLeod’s strong thighs flexed, as they took both his own weight and that of Methos, who sighed, dissolved with pleasure, as his body relaxed back into MacLeod’s, head falling back onto MacLeod’s damp shoulder, surrendering to his control.

For long moments, they rocked backwards and forwards together and it was sweet, so sweet. Methos drifted, body heavy with lassitude, but gradually the pace quickened as MacLeod surged within him in increasingly deep strokes, the intensity of his possession swelling with each lunge into overwhelming ardour. Every nerve ending tingled as deep within his belly Methos felt the pleasure move inside him, molten with passion. His breath quickened, as MacLeod’s came increasingly harsh in his ears, body moving faster and faster until, with a sudden powerful lunge, he threw Methos face down onto the bed, his possession never ceasing as he pistoned in and out of him ruthlessly.

Overwhelmed, overpowered, giddily acquiescent, Methos screamed in helpless response as MacLeod took him, utterly defenceless against MacLeod’s possession of him. All that he was belonged to Duncan now, offered to him in complete, total surrender. Great, shuddery waves of sensation, thick and molten, took him, ruled him, held him helpless in their thrall as he came, head thrown back, muscles locked in rapture. And MacLeod was pouring into him, filling him utterly and collapsing on top of him as Methos dissolved bonelessly into the bed.

It was a long moment later when MacLeod finally withdrew from Methos’ body and he was unable to bite back a small moan of protest, rolling sluggishly over to meet MacLeod’s heavy lidded, dusky eyes, as Duncan brushed back a strand of hair from Methos’ forehead. Methos lazily threaded his arms around MacLeod’s strong neck, pulling him down to lie beside him, then took Duncan’s hand in his.

They lay there for a long time, saying nothing, simply breathing, fingers linked together. Although MacLeod was ostensibly satiated Methos could sense that a fine thread of tension still ran through his body. Duncan was always quick to recover after sex, even for an Immortal, but the quickening coursing through him had not yet dissipated and was still showing its effects. It would, Methos thought with a shudder of anticipation, be a while yet before Duncan was exhausted.

At that thought he moved a little, rubbing his leg against MacLeod’s. “Possessive today aren’t we,” he commented lightly. “Not to mention controlling. All that, ‘say please, Methos’.”

MacLeod stiffened slightly. “You didn’t like it?”

Methos shook his head. “Oh no,” he said in a soft voice. “On the contrary. With you, I love it.” His voice deepened huskily as he spoke.

MacLeod raised himself onto one elbow, staring down at Methos gravely. Methos wondered for a second just what he saw, pondered whether he had a particularly imbecilic expression on his face. “You do, don’t you,” MacLeod said in wonder.

“And you don’t?”

“Love possessing you, or being possessed by you?”


MacLeod was silent for a moment, then he spoke slowly. “I guess...with you, both.”

Methos recognised this for the gift it was and kissed Duncan gently. “Thank you,” he said simply. Then he seized MacLeod by the back of the neck and drew him close. “But for tonight...”


Methos let go of MacLeod and stretched sinuously, aware that this movement showed off his lithe form to its full advantage. “I think I’ll let you do all the work.” He drew even closer to MacLeod and whispered in his ear, “Fuck me again.”

MacLeod swallowed heavily, obviously affected by Methos’ open sensuality. “Typical,” he said, in a voice that strove for but did not quite reach normality. “Just lie back, why don’t you?”

Methos grinned at him. “You’ve got a quickening to work off remember.”

“Hmm. Just remember, you asked for it.”

Methos laughed; there was a brilliant edge of excitement in his voice, matched by the glitter in his lover’s eyes. He stretched again, lazily, leaving his arms outflung above his head. “Do your worst.”

MacLeod’s smile was feral, sending a delicious shiver of fear coursing down Methos’ spine. “Oh, I intend to,” he said silkily, moving as he spoke to kneel over Methos’ prone form. In one swift move he grasped Methos’ wrists, pinning them above his head. “Ah ha,” he mock leered. “Now you’re mine.”

Methos looked him straight in the eyes. “Oh, yeah.” His voice caught as he spoke, raw with anticipation.

At that the tempest of MacLeod’s passion broke over him once more, as Duncan seized him, clasping him close, leaving Methos gasping in tremulous delight as he held fast to Duncan, the centre of his universe. Everything else faded away.

Methos was slow to wake the next morning, drugged from the effects of the night before. Even so he woke before MacLeod and leaned over to examine gravely the sleeping face of his lover as he lay on his front, turned towards Methos. Duncan looked beautiful even now, with his back still marked with remains of dried blood inflicted by the scratches from Methos’ nails, hair a tangled, tousled mess. But then he was one of those people who simply was incapable of looking anything less than lovely. Unlike Methos, who have good days though he might, was no match for the stunning beauty of a Duncan MacLeod. He brushed a finger gently over MacLeod’s full lips, slightly parted in slumber.

Last night had been a revelation to him. He had recognised that Duncan was capable of unbridled sensuality, had had it turned on him often enough. Their love play had at times been fierce and wild. But last night had transcended that. Duncan had been ferocious, an untamed elemental being and he had loved it, finding an ecstasy in surrender that he had not known for many centuries. Perhaps never.

Certainly, he had not surrendered so deeply, so terrifyingly quickly to anyone since Kronos.

Once he had left his brothers he had clung grimly to his hard-won control, never daring to abandon himself completely. But his capitulation to Duncan was different, without the edge of pain that had always been present in his encounters with Kronos. Methos had thought that he would miss that, but had found that he was wrong. Duncan was enough--more than enough.

Yet for all that what affected him most, caught at his heart causing a queer, unformed pain, was the knowledge that for all of Duncan’s savagery in the extremity of his need, underneath there were still the remains of caring and generosity and grace. Even at the height of MacLeod’s urgency to possess Methos, stamp him as his, at the moment when most Immortals were completely self-absorbed in the urgency of the post-quickening compulsion, he betrayed a generosity of spirit that Methos found to be breathtaking.

Methos blinked fiercely, more affected than he wanted to be. Stupid sentimental idiot.

Immortals--if they wanted to survive--of necessity had to adopt a certain attitude, harden themselves to the vagaries of fate lest they go mad. Immortals like Duncan MacLeod were rare indeed. Perhaps fortunately for the rest of them, he acknowledged wryly.

At that moment MacLeod opened his eyes. Methos leaned down to brush the full lips with his. “Good morning.”

MacLeod grunted, a shadow of anxiety in his dark eyes. “Methos--“

“No, you didn’t hurt me. Yes, I enjoyed it.” He smiled deliberately, holding Duncan’s eyes with his. “As I told you last night, I loved it.”

“You really mean that, don’t you?” MacLeod said in wonder.

“I really mean it,” Methos affirmed gravely. He grinned at the bemused expression on MacLeod’s face. “Come on Mac, this can’t be the first time you’ve had sex with an Immortal after a quickening.”

“No. But it’s the first time I’ve ever let *go* like that.” He shook his head. “With mortals you always have to be so careful, not to hurt them. And even with other Immortals...I don’t know, it’s...different somehow, with you.”

Deep within, Methos’ heart missed a beat. He drew a breath to speak, then simply smiled. He didn’t know what his expression revealed, but MacLeod seized his head gently and pulled him down into a soft kiss.

Then in a lightning change of mood Duncan released Methos and sat up. “I need a shower,” he said, glancing down at himself, nose wrinkled. He climbed out of bed, looking like some magnificent statue cast in bronze. He grinned at the other man. “Coming?”

“What, *again*!” Methos said in mock horror.

“You,” MacLeod told his lover severely, “have a dirty mind.”

“Fortunately for you.”

Laughing MacLeod called out, “Race you to the shower.”

Methos rose to the challenge, managing to trip the younger man on his way so that he reached the bathroom first. They made love with a playfulness as far removed from last night’s intensity as was possible. But Methos remembered, as did MacLeod. It was there in the tenderness with which Methos prepared Duncan for his possession, with the care in which MacLeod kissed the older man, delicately, as though he might break even though he knew full well that he would not.

The next few days were relatively peaceful, although MacLeod’s strained expression when Joe told him that the Watchers had not been able to locate Daniel never quite eased. Methos was gentler with the Highlander than normal, not turning the less attractive aspects of his personality on Duncan. His jokes were softer than usual, less cutting, recognising that the other man was in no shape to bear his more frequent abrasive manner. He saw that MacLeod recognised what he was trying to do for him by the gratitude in the fine dark eyes. This made him feel uneasy; he didn’t want MacLeod’s gratitude.

At the same time Methos was unable to wholly dampen down his impatience, even recognising as he did that Duncan’s feelings were inextricably bound up with his guilt over Richie’s death. But all this agonising over some child Immortal, who MacLeod didn’t even know and who would probably die before he even reached two hundred. He sighed, resigned to the fact that he would have to spend some time chivvying MacLeod along until his remorse eased. The situation was tedious but inescapable; MacLeod was being typically MacLeod. He said nothing to him about it, waiting to see if MacLeod raised the subject. But he did not.

Then Joe told Methos about Isat.

Methos had been meditating, although that might not be apparent to the casual observer, sitting on the couch as he was, feet up, head resting on a carelessly out-flung arm. He failed to see why he should be physically uncomfortable while he sent his mind spiralling back in time. It was a pastime with which he sometimes amused himself. Pick a time, any time within the past five thousand years or so and try to figure out how much he could actually remember, as opposed to knowledge he had picked up from quickenings he had taken. He was lost in a reverie of China during the late Sui dynasty, when he heard Dawson’s voice calling out to see if anyone was there.

He did not bother to sit up, merely calling to the Watcher to come in. He looked at the mortal enquiringly once Joe was standing in front of the couch, having refused Methos’ offer of a coffee. To his experienced eyes Joe looked uneasy.

“Well,” Methos prompted.

“I was looking for Mac.”

“He’s out shopping, but’ll probably be back soon if you want to wait.”

“Yeah, okay.” As he spoke Joe looked at Methos disapprovingly. “Shift over would you.”

Methos obligingly made room for Dawson on the couch, the younger man lowering himself down with a grunt.

“Why don’t you tell me what the problem is?” Methos asked.

“How did you know there’s a problem?”

“Because I am very old and wise.”

Joe snorted. “Well, you’re half right.”

Methos grinned at him fondly. He could always rely on Joe. “Thanks!”

“Anytime, buddy.”

“You were saying...” Methos prompted.

“I wasn’t. But since you ask...there’s trouble.”

“Involving Mac?”

Joe nodded.

“Nothing new there then. What kind of trouble?”

“Remember Fabian’s student Daniel?”

“I’m not likely to forget,” Methos assured him dryly.

“Yeah, probably not. Well, we found him.”


“No, he turned up at Isat’s place, in Harare.”

“Hmm, Fabian must have told Daniel about her, told him to go there if anything happened to him,” Methos mused out loud.

“Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, word is that when he told her about Fabian, she vowed vengeance.”

Methos went cold.

“And now she’s here, in Paris. We think she’s looking for Mac.”

“How did you find this out?” Methos surprised himself by how steady his voice was, betraying none of the fear twisting inside him.

“Her Watcher overheard them talking about it.”

“So, you’ve come to warn MacLeod?”

“Yeah.” Joe hesitated, then burst out, “She’s good Methos. Very good.”

“I know,” he said softly.

“Yeah. I guess you would.”

“Do you know where I can contact her?”

The other man’s gaze sharpened as he stared at Methos. “Why? What’re you going to do?”

“Talk to her,” Methos said dryly. “You don’t have any objections to that I take it?”

“No, of course not. You know her?”


“Do you mind if I ask how?”

“Yes, I do mind, Joe,” Methos said in exasperation. “This isn’t the time for an instalment of my life history, don’t you think!”

But the Watcher was unabashed. “I’ll take what I can get.”

“Hmm. Where is she?”

“She’s at Le Bristol,” the other man replied unhesitatingly.

Methos supposed that any qualms Dawson might have had about telling Methos where she was had been stilled long since, before Joe had come to visit Methos in order to manipulate him into dealing with Isat.

His thoughts were confirmed when Joe asked, “Do you think she’ll listen to you?”

Methos shrugged. “We won’t know until I try. What name is she using?”

“Judith, Judith M’delbe”

Methos recognised Judith. It was one of her older names.

He picked up the phone and asked to speak to her when the hotel reception answered the call. Luckily, she was in her room.

“Isat? Methos. Indemin allesh.” He spoke to her in careful, precise Amharic. It had been a few centuries since he’d last spoken that language and no doubt it had shifted with the passage of time, but she would remember it, of that he had no doubt.

There was a moment’s hesitation, then her deep voice came down the phone line, answering him in the same language, but faster, more colloquial. “Indeehu indeehu, Dhena.”

“Can we talk?” he asked.

There was a pause, then he heard her say cautiously, “How did you know I was here?”

“Does it matter?”

“It might.”

“If you agree to talk to me, I’ll tell you.”

“Very well. Be at the Bois de Boulogne, near the Café Richelieu, in an hour.”

At that, the phone was replaced, with a decisive click, leaving him staring at the receiver. Well, okay then. She had always been like that, he remembered, a woman of fast decisions. It was one reason why she had always been such an effective military leader. She had, for example, overthrown the old Christian Aksumite Empire in Ethiopia about a thousand years ago. Subsequently she had founded the Zagwe dynasty, which had ruled Ethiopia for several hundred years following her supposed death.

But Methos had met her long before then. She was to his certain knowledge over four thousand years old.

Fierce, implacable warrior. She was all of that and more. And she was after Duncan. MacLeod was undoubtedly the best four centuries old Immortal Methos had ever seen. He was capable of taking on most Immortals and beating them, without question. For sheer potential Methos had never met anyone to rival him. However for all his skill and talent, he did not--yet--in Methos’ estimation have the experience to beat every challenger he might face. There were few, even now, who were capable of beating him but those few were out there. One of them was now hunting him.

There had been times during his as yet short acquaintance with MacLeod when Methos had seen him face opponents who were capable of beating him. Methos had not, for example, honestly known whether MacLeod would prove to be capable of winning against any of his fellow Horsemen. He was almost certain that both Caspian’s and Kronos’ overweening pride had contributed as much to their downfall as Duncan’s skill. They had underestimated him. And paid the ultimate price.

Isat was not likely to make the same mistake.

But Duncan was. He would underestimate her, of that Methos was certain. MacLeod could not help but do so. In spite of his more than four hundred years of life, MacLeod was still a product of the time and place of his upbringing. Methos had taunted him more than once about his chivalrous impulses, but those taunts had a purpose, to try and make Duncan realise how foolish, how potentially deadly it was to underestimate a woman, simply because she was a woman. That Duncan had killed female Immortals Methos knew. But he also knew that MacLeod was far more likely to let a woman live than a man, forgive a woman when he would not forgive a man.

Kristin was proof of that.

Methos could tell Duncan how superb a fighter Isat was, point out that she had not survived four thousand years by being weak, or a fool. Mac would nod and say that he understood. And intellectually no doubt he would, Duncan was too intelligent not to heed Methos’ warnings. But deep within him, where it really mattered, in his heart not his intellect Duncan would fail to understand. Isat was a woman and therefore to be cherished and protected by a man. That was the code by which MacLeod had grown up by and it still held him in its thrall.

Thus, he would go up against one of the best Immortal warriors who had ever lived and he would lose.

Methos did not desire Isat’s head. And he certainly did not want to fight her. For one thing he was by no means certain that he would win. She was, as Joe had said, very good. She was one of the few Immortals who Methos genuinely did not know if he was capable of beating. But if he could not persuade her to abandon her hunt of MacLeod--and realistically he knew there was little chance of that--then if he did not kill her she would kill Duncan. It was that simple.

He turned to Joe. “Do me a favour would you?”

“Depends on what it is,” the other man said cautiously.

“Keep the Watchers away when I meet Isat. Both mine and hers.”

He watched with a tinge of amusement as chagrin was visible in Dawson’s expression. “You know then?”

“That the Watchers know I’m Immortal? Of course. It was pretty damn obvious once I fought Keane. What I don’t know is whether you guys know *which* Immortal I am.”

He looked at Joe closely as the Watcher replied, “That you’re Methos, you mean?”

He nodded.

Dawson hesitated and then said. “No, it’s not generally known.”

He was, Methos thought, probably telling the truth. “What do you mean by generally?”

“That so far as I’m aware, I’m the only one who knows. You know, I haven’t even told Amy. She thinks you’re Adam Pierson. But I can’t be certain. Things are different now, after what happened with Jacob Galati. There’s more secrecy than there was.”

“Okay. Thanks Joe.” He smiled at the Watcher with genuine gratitude. Joe had kept his secret even now. Hopefully his identity was safe, but there were no guarantees. For example, Cassandra’s Watcher, or Kronos’ could have overheard him being identified as Methos, the other Immortals had not exactly been discreet. But as he could not be certain that the Watchers knew, he would try and preserve the fiction of his Adam Pierson, not-very-old Immortal persona for as long as he could.

“You’re going to fight her, aren’t you?” Joe asked softly.

“What makes you say that?”

“Because it’d be obvious that you have to be older, or better, than is generally thought to take on Isat. That’s why you want the Watchers out of the way. Plus, she knows you’re Methos,” Joe said matter of factly. “You are going to aren’t you?”

Methos shrugged. “I hope I don’t have to.”

“But you will if necessary. Not exactly the best survival strategy.”

Methos glared at Dawson, who was grinning at him in triumph.

“I knew it,” Joe exclaimed happily. “Look after number one, my ass!”

Methos chose to say nothing.

Joe placed his hand on the Immortal’s arm. “Be careful.”

“I always am.”

“Yeah. Except when you fight ass-kicking female Immortals to protect your...friend.”

Methos smiled at the hesitation as Joe said the word friend. “It’s okay, you know, you can say lover.”

The younger man shrugged, clearly embarrassed. “Yeah, well, I didn’t know if it was meant to be a big secret or something,” he muttered.

“No secret.”

“Oh. Okay then.”

“You’re not going to tell MacLeod? That I’m meeting Isat?” Methos asked with some alarm. That was all he needed, the Highlander breathing fire down his neck.

Joe shook his head. “We don’t interfere, remember.”

Methos blinked at him incredulously. Surely the man wasn’t serious? The Watchers in general might not interfere, but the same could hardly be said of Joseph Dawson. As he stared, Joe lost control of his solemn expression and began to laugh.

“You bastard,” Methos said without heat.

“Not true. My mama would be scandalised to hear you say that,” Joe grinned. He got to his feet. “I’ll do what I can to keep the Watchers off your back. Where are you meeting Isat?”


“So I can misdirect the Watchers away from there, of course.”

“Right. We’re meeting at the Bois de Boulogne in an hour.”

“Okay. See you. Take care, my friend.”

Joe walked slowly up the stairs. Once at the top, he stood and looked at Methos for a long moment, but said nothing. Then he turned and was gone.

Left alone, Methos turned and methodically made his preparations for what he feared would be the forthcoming fight. He tried hard to keep his emotions under control, but was unable to wholly subdue the cold nausea of fear. He had not been so afraid on a personal level since he had felt Kronos’ dagger entering his chest in Seacouver, perhaps not even then. He had thought at the time that provided Kronos did not take his head before he recovered, he had a good chance of talking the man round. They had, after all, been brothers for centuries.

Isat was a different matter. He did not know her well, but he knew her to be resolute once she had decided on a course of action. Woe betide anyone who got between her and her stated aim. Of course, that was exactly what he was planning on doing.

He grimaced as he placed a small handgun into its holster around his ankle. Subsequently he checked the smoothness of the pull of the daggers from their sheath strapped to each wrist. The extra, short, sword was already nestled snugly in its place in the lining of his coat, on the opposite side to that which sheathed his broadsword. He was as ready as he would ever be.

He walked steadily out of the barge, got into his Range Rover and drove off, towards the western part of the city aiming for the area known as the Bois de Boulogne. It was a part of the city endowed with forested areas, meandering paths, belle epoque cafés and was a hang out at night for prostitutes catering for all types of sexual tastes. He arrived early and sat in his car for a moment, head bowed over the steering wheel, before he took a deep breath, pushing down dread, forcibly calming his racing heartbeat and stepped out of the car.

He set off towards the Café Richelieu at a steady pace. The café was, as Isat was obviously aware, closed for refurbishment and its location in the heart of a thickly wooded area meant that they were not likely to be disturbed.

It was, as he had once told MacLeod, a fine day for it. The sun shone down from a cloudless sky, although the cold had placed a hoarfrost on the ground, which caused Methos’ footsteps to crunch under his feet. The frost also rimmed the leafless branches of the trees, their colours all brown and white.

It was not long before he felt Isat’s presence. She, too, was early for their meeting. A few moments later and he could glimpse her through the trees.

Methos drew nearer, squinting a little against the winter sunshine, as Isat’s form became plain in his sight. She stood poised, her tall, slim figure with its straight, strong shoulders, turned to face him. She was dressed all in shades of cream, from long cashmere coat to suede ankle boots. Her face was all angles and planes, high cheekbones above full lips, strong curving nose and shining, ebony skin. Her hair was a fall of plaits of blackest indigo, each ending in a blue-tipped bead. He stared at her, for a moment she looked plain to him, even ugly. Then he blinked and once more he realised that she was beautiful, so much so that almost every other vision of beauty he had seen was sent skittering away, wailing, into the night.

It never ceased to shock him, that first sight of her after an interval of time. Hers was not an easy beauty; there was nothing soft, or pretty, about it. She transcended mere prettiness. Legends had been written about her, she was legend, a goddess made flesh.

It was possible to still see women now who looked much like her, in Ethiopia in particular. Tall, lissom women. But she was the archetype, most beautiful of all.

She inclined her head towards him gracefully. “You wanted to talk to me.” Her voice was deep and low. The sound of it vibrated through him. She spoke in fluent French, accented with the sound of the Amharic and Shona languages.

He smiled at her, she merely watched him, her face serene and unmoved. “Yes, it’s good to see you.”

“And you. But you did not, I think, bring me here to exchange pleasantries.”

“No. I did not.” Without conscious volition, he matched her more formal pattern of speech. “I understand that you are hunting.”

“Your understanding is correct.”

“He’s my lover, Isat.”

Her gaze sharpened. She said nothing for a long moment. “Then, I am sorry.”


“No, Methos. I will not be dissuaded.”

“It was a fair fight. And Fabian challenged MacLeod.”

“This is known to me.”

“Then why? I don’t understand. When I last knew you, your honour was important to you.”

“As yours has never been to you,” she said sardonically.

He shook his head impatiently, old hurts, best forgotten. “Maybe so. But we were never enemies.”

“That is true,” she acknowledged.

“Even friends,” he coaxed hopefully.

For the first time, a smile hovered around her mouth. “You were always amusing, Methos.”

He smiled wryly. That had been all he ever was to her, an amusement. He had wanted to be more, but had come to realise, to his profound regret, that he was not to her tastes. Over the millennia she had had, he knew, a few male lovers, but far more of her lovers had been women.

“One of my many talents,” he said lightly. “But you still haven’t told me why.”

“Because I loved him,” she said softly. “He was my finest student, my son.”

For the first time, Methos saw the depths of desolation in her eyes. Fabian had not, then, been just another student to her, but rather one of the rare ones who worked their way into one’s heart, to lodge there, fixed and immovable. Richie had been that to MacLeod. There had been a few who had been such to Methos, too. Most were now dead.

He swallowed heavily. “It won’t bring him back.”

She regarded him fitting scorn. He knew that she knew that, of course. How could she not? She was one of the ancient ones and that was the first thing an Immortal learned. “I gave him my word, that should he fall, I would avenge him.”

He shook his head, in profound sorrow. “Mac’s my lover,” he repeated, an edge of desperation in his voice. “I can’t let you kill him. I *won’t*.”

Her eyes glittered with unshed tears, but there was nothing yielding about her as she replied, “Then, so be it.”

She drew her sword, a scimitar, the blade graceful in its beauty, but deadly, like its mistress. Methos took hold of the hilt of his broadsword and unsheathed it, holding it in front of him in preparation. She was adamant then. As well attempt to prevent Mosi-Oa-Tunya from thundering over the edge of the Zambesi Gorge as to persuade her not to pursue Duncan MacLeod. He knew her well enough to know that she would not, as she had said, be dissuaded. There was no choice but to fight her. Because otherwise Duncan would die.

He tried to centre himself. Calm, calm. Heartbeat slow, hands steady. He was ready.

“Take off your clothes.”


She smiled at him sardonically. “Do you think I’m a fool? I know your reputation. I want there to be no concealed weapons with which you can surprise me.”

He glared at her. “If I was going to do that, I could’ve just shot you.”

She shook her head. “No. That is not your style. You do have *some* honour, after all. But a second sword, or a concealed dagger? Now, that is your style, Methos.”

His heart sank, his plan should he be losing of shooting or stabbing her fading into dust. “Very well,” he snapped. “But if I’m going to strip off, so are you.”

 “Of course,” she conceded gracefully.

Once Methos had divested himself of all clothing but white T-shirt and blue boxer shorts, she spoke. “That is sufficient, I think.” Isat herself was now attired in only bra and panties, their cream colour startling against her gleaming skin.

Methos was shivering in the chilly air, with anticipation--and fear. It had returned, sitting gelid and cold within him. “It is all right if I put my boots back on?” he asked sarcastically.

She inclined her head at him, watching him carefully to check that there was no stiletto knife hidden in his boots. She also pulled her boots on. She ought to have made a ridiculous figure, dressed as she was only in boots and underwear. But she did not. Nothing could dent her dignity, dim her beauty, or mar her ferocious air of purpose. By contrast, he suspected that he cut a clown like figure.

With no formalities, she attacked. But Methos had anticipated this and parried sharply. Sparks flew. He felt the finely tempered strength behind her blows. She was strong for a woman, also terrifyingly fast. Her scimitar was a blur of movement in her hand, appearing as an extension of her arm. The steel seemed to be alive so swift were her actions.

He fell back before her onslaught, immediately on the defensive. They parried back and forth but all of Methos’ attempts to attack were futile--each was smartly met with formidable skill. He was panting, lungs tearing as he gasped for air.

Isat’s face was expressionless; the result of long centuries of self-discipline. He watched instead the long, black diamonds of her eyes. Even now, for all her experience in schooling her face, she was still not wholly able to avoid signalling her moves with minute shifts in the shape and depth and colour of her eyes. When she was going to attack they became flat black obsidian, when merely parrying they were more liquid, deep sable.

She showed no sign of tiring. Even as some part of his mind noted this, he had to twist desperately to avoid a blow that would have eviscerated him had it landed with its intended force. As it was, it slashed along his belly, leaving a thin trail of blood to mark the pristine whiteness of his T-shirt. There was a hot suffocating edge of panic in his mouth. He smelt the acrid tang of his fear, sweating in the frigid air, as he leapt back further to avoid the next attack.

She would grant him no respite.

Even as he had that thought, her eyes shifted to pure blank ebony. She swung at his neck. Forewarned, by some miracle he was able to swing his sword to meet her scimitar and block the blow, but only just. Steel screeched and clanged as with desperate strength he held her off. But, off balance, he staggered back and nearly lost his footing, gravel slipping under his feet.

She had nearly, oh so nearly, taken his head.

With a bone-deep chill he realised that he was losing. Choking nausea rose. All the advantages so far had been hers. Her strategy, to force him on the defensive, was working. She was quite possibly the best fighter he had ever met. His skill was sufficient to hold her off for now and he could hope that she tired first. But there was no guarantee and the odds were against it. She had a woman’s stamina, greater than that of a man.

There was no choice then. Not if he was to stay alive.

Skin crawling with reluctance, he let a part of himself that he usually kept buried deep within rise up. A part that he had finally learned to control millennia ago. The part that was a killer, that revelled in death, lived for it, loved it. The imperative to survive fell away, as ashes in the wind. What was left wanted blood.

Fresh strength infused him as he smiled at her. He noted with gloating satisfaction the flicker of alarm in her eyes.

Then he attacked.

The blows landed with telling force. For the first time, she fell back. He smiled with twisted delight as his sword broke through her guard, revelling in her gasp of pain as he pricked her sword arm. Blood welled. He relished the scent, salty iron-tang. Screams rang in his memory, the sound of voices pleading in a dozen different languages for mercy. It had never been granted.

He pressed forwards, keen to hear once more the sweet music of pain, but she did not lose control, leaping back and switching her scimitar to her left hand. She defended well, meeting his sword with fine disciplined strokes, even throwing him back a step as she shifted her scimitar to her now healed right arm. But the knowledge that he had broken through her guard once showed in her stance, in the wariness with which she hugged her right arm close to her body, to make of it less of a target.

Methos grinned at her. He had inflicted damage on her once, could--and would--do so again. As she knew.

Her swordplay was no less skilled, but he knew that her determination to win was weak. She fought him merely because he stood in her way of seeking vengeance. But he wanted her to die, wanted her blood, her pain, her *death*. He lusted for her quickening; it sang to him enticingly, the siren song of an old Immortal. He craved it, demanded it, *needed* it. And was going to have it.

Absorbed in bloodlust, instinct made him twist fast, avoiding her flashing scimitar by a hairsbreadth. At the same time he thrust--hard. The blade struck true and the thrust rammed home. Isat choked on the blade inserted neatly through her rib cage. Blood welled up around the sword, clear red in colour, emanating from her damaged lung. Her hand opened convulsively and the scimitar fell from suddenly strengthless fingers, landing on the ground with an audible clang. She swayed and fell to her knees as Methos withdrew his sword, scraping it on the bones of her rib cage and placed it firmly against her neck.

The clear light of sanity strove to return as he stared down at her, her dark face upturned to his. Her breath came in harsh, agonised gasps as her Immortal body strove to repair the damage he had inflicted on it. It would be too late--he could take her head before she had a chance to recover. She knew it; the knowledge was edged inexorably in her expression, eyes deep and dark.

Methos too gasped for breath, partly the aftermath of exertion, but mainly because of his battle for control. He wanted her head. He wanted her to live. He wanted MacLeod to live even more. He teetered on a knife-edge of conflicting impulses, paralysed in a paroxysm of indecision.

The bloodlust within him was strong, the temptation of her quickening almost irresistible in its allure. But should he give in to it once, he might do so again and again, until he became what he had been once millennia ago--Death on a horse. And that he would not be again.

But, oh, he so wanted her death, to experience the thrill, the *power* of knowing that he was the one who had brought her to this, to see the realisation once again, irreversibly etched in her face. That he would be the last thing she would ever see.

He struggled, not knowing that his conflicting emotions showed clearly on his face, his usual control for once entirely absent in the rawness of the moment. She must die--there was no choice. Not unless she foreswore vengeance against Duncan. Even then...could he really trust her to keep her word? But to kill because he had to was one thing, to kill because he wanted it, that he had done too often and for too long. And like the addict that he was, the craving had never entirely gone away.

To kill, ah yes, to kill. See the pain, smell the blood, experience the *power*.

*No*. Not because he wanted it.

He writhed.





“Finish it.”

He barely recognised the rasping sound of Isat’s voice, its normally mellifluous beauty destroyed by the sword-thrust through her lung. She coughed up bright blood, staining her mouth deepest crimson.

He stared at her. For a moment he had almost forgotten that she was there, so lost within himself had he been.

“Finish it,” she said again. She paused, choked, gulped for breath. “I will not stop you know. I will not agree not to fight your lover.”

“I did not ask you for that.” His voice was cold.

“No,” she agreed. “You did not.”

“You are so keen to die then?”

She shrugged as best she could with her wound, then bit off an involuntary cry of pain at the agony of the movement. “Not keen, no. But I have lived for more than four thousand years. It is enough.”

He shook his head. How could she say that? When five thousand years was not enough, not nearly enough, for him.

“End it!” she demanded. “Or I will finish you.”

She was healing fast, that he could see. Even down as she was, vulnerable to the sword at her neck, it would not do to underestimate her. She must die, so that Duncan would live.

With a yell of anguish he drew back the broadsword, his eyes never once leaving hers. Her mouth was set in a queerly triumphant line as he swung the broadsword hard--and cut clean.

Her head rolled neatly from her shoulders, the blood that fountained up from the arteries immediately cauterised by the Immortal fire. The head came to rest a few feet away, eyes open, mouth slightly ajar. The torso toppled slowly forwards to land with a thud on the frosted earth.

Methos braced himself, feet apart, broadsword pointed to the ground.

From the headless torso the mist rose. It swirled over the body for a moment, seeking. Then it arrowed towards him--and struck deep. Lightning smote him. The fire sliced through him, the agony of it mixed inescapably with a deep, dark tinge of ecstasy. He groaned, voicing his anguish and his rapture as he rocked back with the force of the bolts of pure energy that went through him, travelling up him to escape into the sky, setting the surrounding trees alight.

With the lightning came a jumble of memories, images, tastes and sounds that Isat had experienced in her long life. Most were too fleeting for him to make sense of, disappearing before he could grasp them and assimilate them. But there was one clear overriding impression, of the depth of her despair and anguish at Fabian’s death. She had been telling nothing less than the truth when she said she would not stop until she avenged his death. She could not. So deep had been the wound that she had desired nothing other than vengeance or, failing that, her own death. She had loved Fabian with such maternal intensity that the life force that had fought for survival for millennia had surrendered at last, unable to bear the loss of the man she had loved as if she had birthed him herself.

He shuddered convulsively as that realisation came to him. A final bolt of energy struck him. It was so great that the force of it threw him backward off his feet, to lie, the breath knocked out of him, arms outspread upon the scorched and frosted ground. Around him the trees burned, blackened branches limned with bright fire. He lay there for what seemed an endless moment then slowly, painfully, scrambled to his knees.

There he remained for a long time. He was trembling uncontrollably, partly the aftermath of the fight and the quickening, the adrenaline rush leaving him cold and shaky, sweat drying chilled on his body. But he was also painfully aware of just how close he had come to dying. He had nearly lost the fight; it had been the closest battle he had had for centuries. Not even Silas had come so close to taking his head. There, too, he had chosen to risk himself, but here the choice had been even more plain. He had chosen to risk himself for the Highlander--yet again.

How many more times would he have to do so if he remained with MacLeod? Since he had met him, he had come closer to dying--on several occasions--than he had for almost a millennium previously. How long could even his undoubted skill hold out? If he stayed, sooner or later, he would die.

How long could he deny what he had known from the beginning, but chosen not to acknowledge? He had placed himself in danger by simply being around MacLeod. He had buried the knowledge, pushed it to the back of his mind in his eagerness to warm himself at Duncan’s fire. But now it could no longer be denied.

The frigid cold seeped into him as the surrounding fires finally guttered and went out, unable to sustain themselves in the chilled air. His half-naked form was shivering, fingertips edged blue and lips numb and unfeeling. But greater by far was the ice inside, as he came to the inescapable conclusion that he must leave Duncan. He had no choice, not if he wanted to survive. And he did. Not for him was Isat’s acquiescence at the end. He would never relinquish his hold on life. Never.

Not even for Duncan MacLeod.

Leaving him was the sensible thing to do, what a prudent man, a survivor would do. That was what he was. Kronos had been right when he had classified Methos as the survivor. Whatever it took, he would do.

Duncan, too, had what it took to survive. He might grieve a little, at Methos’ desertion, but he would get over it, move on with his life. After all, he had endured both Tessa’s death and Richie’s in recent years and Methos would be flattering himself if he ever imagined that his leaving would wound MacLeod more deeply than that.

He did not know how long he remained there on his knees, silent, unmoving save for the involuntary tremors that were his body’s futile attempts to keep warm against the unrelenting chill of the air. But eventually he realised that the sound he had been hearing, becoming ever louder, was that of the slow dragging footsteps of Joe Dawson.

He stubbornly refused to look up, until he felt the Watcher’s form blocking out the sun. Then he raised his head. Joe loomed large above him, grey hair shining silver in the sunlight.

“You saw,” Methos said flatly. It was not a question.

Joe nodded, his brows knit tight with anxiety, deep groves indented on either side of his mouth. “Come on Methos, buddy. You need to get out of here.”

“In a minute.”

“No, now. Look at you, you look like something the cat dragged in--after it’s finished playing with it. Please,” Joe coaxed, “get up.”

Slowly, Methos got to his feet, wincing against the pain of abused muscles, clumsy and stiff with cold. He looked around for his clothes, then realised that Joe was wordlessly holding them out to him. Dressing as quickly as his numb fingers would allow, he slotted his weapons back into their hiding places.

He had been *such* an idiot. What had he been thinking, remaining here where anyone could come along and find him kneeling alongside the corpse of the woman he had killed?

He looked at Isat’s body with regret, yet also with gratitude. In the end, by her insistence that he finish it she had forced him to act, to decide. He had killed her, but because he had to, not because he had wanted to. In that, at least, he had triumphed.

It would not be long now before her body crumbled into dust. The process was quicker for the ancient ones, whereas new Immortals decayed almost as slowly as mortals. He picked up her scimitar absently admiring its workmanship as he did so.

Through it all, Joe had remained silent, although Methos was conscious that his anxious gaze had not left him once. “Ready to go?” Methos asked.

“Uh huh. Listen, are you okay?”

Methos opened his mouth to make a sarcastic reply, but closed it again. He felt unutterably weary, the kind of tiredness that left nothing in its wake save a sense of futility. There was no satisfaction in it, no sense of a job well done. “It was a big quickening, that’s all.”

“You sure?”

He controlled his rising irritation with some effort, conscious that his emotions in the aftermath of the quickening were near the surface, too raw for him to wholly master them. “I’m fine.”

“I mean, she was a friend, right, so--“

“Leave it, will you!” he snapped. “And what are you doing here anyway? So much for your promise to keep the Watchers away!”

“I did!” the other man protested hotly. “I kept your Watcher and Isat’s off your back. But did you *really* expect me to stay away, too? Fuck it, Methos! You’re my friend and I had to know, had to see, whether you...”

“Lived or died?”

“Yeah. As I told you before, it’s not easy.”

Methos stared at the other man. There was a shine of tears in Joe’s eyes.

“I suppose not,” Methos said quietly.

“Besides, you knew I’d come, didn’t you? You weren’t exactly surprised to see me, after all.”

He shrugged, acknowledging that Joe was right.

“Maybe I shouldn’t say this,” Joe said slowly, “but does Mac know how good you are? Really know, I mean?”

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at.”

“Yes you are. The fight...I’ve never seen anything like that. Man, you and Isat...Wow!” Joe shook his head in admiration. “Mac’s good. I know that. But I don’t know if he could’ve won that fight like you did.”

“Mac’s seen me fight before,” Methos said, deliberately not responding to the point Joe had just made.

“Yeah. But as he was fighting Kronos at the time, I doubt he had time to give you points for style, y’know,” Joe said sarcastically.

“It’s not just then. He saw me kill Kristin, too.”

“But she wasn’t much of a challenge was she?”

Methos shrugged.

“He doesn’t know, does he?”

Silence was his only answer.

“Just how good is he? Mac, I mean?” Joe persisted.

Methos glared at him, and for the second time opened his mouth, preparatory to blasting Joe with an unforgivable reply. But, catching the anxiety in the other man’s eyes, he sighed and relented. “He’s very good, you know he is.”

“Yes. But if it came down to you and him--“

“It won’t. I’m not planning on fighting him.”

“Yeah. Sorry. I’m just doing my job, y’know.”

“I know. Now, can we get out of here?”

“Sure.” With that, the Watcher turned to go back from where he had come.

The two men walked silently side by side for a while, but Methos was conscious that Joe kept shooting him anxious, fleeting glances. If he had not been so tired, emotionally numb, he supposed that the other man’s concern might have touched him, warmed him. But as it was he felt that nothing could break the frozen ice that was all he was inside.

When Methos reached his car, the Range Rover parked side by side to Joe’s anonymous Citroen, he turned to the Watcher. “Will you do me a favour?”

Joe raised an eyebrow. “Another one, huh?”

“If you like. Let me tell Mac about Isat. Who she was, I mean.”

“Okay. No problem. Must be difficult, huh, Mac always knowing when you fight.”

“Let’s just say that it makes for honesty,” Methos said dryly.

“Shit! That must hurt!”

Against his will, Methos felt himself smiling. “Spot on, as always, Joseph.”

Dawson grinned at him. “I try.”

With that parting comment he climbed into his car, as Methos opened the door to his Range Rover. Both cars departed at the same time.

It was dark when Methos finally arrived back at the barge, having been caught up in rush hour traffic. There he found MacLeod, as he had expected, waiting for him. The younger man was poised at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at him with relief and a hint of trepidation. MacLeod wordlessly enfolded Methos in a hug, holding him tight. As he did so Methos found the ice within begin to melt, enough for him to feel the beginning of anguish.

“What happened?” Duncan said, his voice low in Methos’ ear. He could feel the rumble of his lover’s voice against him, so tightly was he held in the other man’s embrace.

“It’s not obvious?”

He felt Duncan’s slight recoil, as his grip loosened, enough for Methos to pull free.

“Don’t do this Methos, please. Not now.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

The dark eyes opposite his were serious, but not distressed. “Yes, you do. I know you don’t like...that you need your secrets, but this thing between us...You know and I know when it happens.”

Methos exhaled heavily. He dropped onto the couch gracelessly, as the physical fatigue he felt threatened to overwhelm him. “Okay, well, as you already know, there was a fight. I won.”

MacLeod sat down beside him. His body was ostensibly relaxed but Methos could see that a fine thread of tension ran through him, demonstrated by the slight rigidity of his posture and the folded mouth. “And?”

“And what?”

“Who was it? Come on Methos. Was it anyone I know?” MacLeod made no attempt to hide his trepidation and Methos realised that he was genuinely afraid that it might be a friend of his. For an instant he felt insulted, what, did MacLeod think that he would go around deliberately killing his friends? Then he realised that the other man had a point. It might have been someone Duncan knew, that was always possible with the Game.

“Her name was Judith,” he said quietly.


“Did you know her?”

MacLeod shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. So, what happened?” he persisted. “I know how much you hate to fight. So, why her?”

“Sometimes you have no choice.”

“I thought you believe that there’s always a choice.”

“Usually there is.”

“But not this time?”


“Jesus, Methos! Don’t tell me anything then!” MacLeod’s exasperation, edged with the beginnings of anger, was plain.

“Sorry. I didn’t realise that you wanted my life history.”

“A snippet of it would be nice,” MacLeod muttered.

Methos sighed heavily in aggravation. “Look, I’m sorry. It was a hard fight and I’m tired. Forgive me if I’m not in the mood for baring my soul to you right after I’ve taken a head will you!”

Now it was MacLeod’s turn to sigh, but there was a note of chagrin in the sound. “You’re right. But...”

“I never tell you anything?”

The younger man’s mouth quirked upwards. “Not exactly. Sometimes it’s hard to get you to shut up. But other times, when it’s important, you clam up.”



“All right. How about, I tell you all about it--later. But now...” He deliberately reached out and ran his hand caressingly up Duncan’s thigh, resting it on the bulge at the other man’s groin, feeling to his pleasure the swelling there in response to the stimulus he provided. The post-quickening arousal was finally setting in. It had been delayed by the cold, both outside him and within. But now, blessedly, an avid hunger was beginning to take hold of him, the heat of it warming him.

He watched as MacLeod shifted in his seat, tongue darting out to moisten his lips. The mahogany eyes darkened with arousal, as Methos deliberately increased his caresses. Then MacLeod placed his hand over that of Methos, stilling it. Methos looked at him enquiringly.

“Whatever you want, Methos. Whatever you need.”

Methos shivered at the realisation that Duncan meant what he said. That was apparent from the sincerity of his voice and expression. There were times when he hated the desire induced by the quickening and the lack of control it represented, but this time he welcomed it, the longing, the need, the hunger. Now, he would not have to think but could let himself simply feel, knowing that Duncan would understand, that he could trust the other Immortal to catch him no matter how far he fell.

“I need you.”

“You’ve got me,” MacLeod said quietly.

Methos moved swiftly, enfolding Duncan in a tight embrace feeling the fine, strong body against his, warm through the covering clothes. At that, his burgeoning arousal burst into bright-edged flame, a need that was suddenly so deep, so all encompassing that it hovered on the cusp of agony. His desire seemed to him to be almost a thing apart, a ravening hunger, gluttonous and greedy, desperate to bury itself in hot, yielding flesh.

He groaned and ground his mouth fiercely down on the willing mouth of his lover, rejoicing as moist lips parted readily for him, gorging himself on unmistakable flavour of Duncan MacLeod. He could also taste whisky and dimly realised that, just as he had sat waiting whilst MacLeod fought Fabian, Duncan too had turned to whisky.

Biting ferociously at MacLeod’s full lower lip, tasting hot blood, he fumbled blindly with the buttons of his shirt. Impatient with the time it would take to undress MacLeod, he gripped cotton and tore, buttons popping to skitter along the wooden floor as he greedily touched hot, damp skin, satin smooth. He pressed MacLeod back onto the couch, grinding his erection into that of the other man, feeling hard, smooth flesh even through hampering layers of cloth.

MacLeod was moaning into his mouth, pulling at his sweater and T-shirt and Methos shivered as strong caressing hands ran along his back, clasping him tightly. He panted raggedly, his arousal painful, frightening in its intensity. He needed to take Duncan. *Now*

“Duncan. Sorry. Can’t wait,” he gasped.

He felt Duncan’s smile against him as MacLeod buried his face in Methos’ neck, licking delicately at the skin. Oh fuck! Methos choked as his erection leaped. He fought hard to prevent himself from coming where he lay, clamping down on his body’s reaction ruthlessly, fighting a burgeoning desperation to ease the aching tension thrumming through him. He should, he really should, take the time to prepare Duncan, ensure he was ready for him--but all he could think about was burying himself inside him, feel the clasp of heated flesh surrounding him.

“I’m not fragile, Methos. I won’t break. Hurry up and fuck me.”

With a ragged sob, Methos recognised with gratitude that Duncan’s words were a deliberate echo of what he had said after Duncan took Fabian’s head. His lover’s way of assuring him.

He ripped eagerly at MacLeod’s trousers, pulling them down and kicking them to the floor with feverish impatience, baring MacLeod’s naked body to his devouring eyes. Methos reached for the zipper of his jeans, shoving them and his boxer shorts to his knees, freeing his erection, rampant and rock-hard, too frantic to take the time to undress completely. He spit once, twice into his hand, anointed himself, then hesitated. This would hurt Duncan, he wasn’t ready and even in the grip of ravenous sexual hunger he didn’t, he really didn’t, want to--

MacLeod reached out and slowly, deliberately ran a gentle finger along his straining shaft. At the touch, Methos gasped as the last vestiges of his fragile control snapped.

With a growl he pounced on the strong body beneath him, his full weight descending on top of the Highlander’s sweat-slick skin. MacLeod grunted as the breath was knocked out of him. Methos roughly pulled apart MacLeod’s thighs with shaking hands and positioned himself. He needed this so much, the denial of it was agony, intolerable, unbearable--

Oh, fuck, *yes*! He thrust sharply into Duncan’s welcoming body, burrowing into velvety-smooth heated flesh, held tight-clasped within. MacLeod convulsed, his cock an iron bar against Methos’ belly as he rocked up against Methos, grasping hold of strong, damp shoulders. The feel of his nails digging into Methos’ skin was almost unbearably erotic. Each small indent of pain racketed thrillingly through Methos, going straight to his groin.

Oh *god*! He was there, sheathed firm, held and it was tight, so tight and oh god, he was going to come from it, he was going to--

With a cry, he felt it crash over him, overwhelming, pitiless, unstoppable. He twisted desperately in the thrall of a desperate climax, sobbing, flayed with pleasure, deluged with heat.


The whispered word brought him back to himself, to the realisation that he was still buried within Duncan’s body, held close. He opened his mouth to apologise for his intemperate orgasm but Duncan smiled at him sweetly and forestalled him by pulling him down for a long, tender kiss.

At the realisation of Duncan’s generous understanding, Methos felt himself harden again, desire stirring as, enveloped within his lover’s body, plastered close to every precious inch, he felt that he had come home. Here was where he belonged. At that thought the last of the frozen ice inside him finally melted, allowing the full force of his anguish to strike him.

He would never do this again.

At that he cried out, wretchedly, but Duncan mistook the cry as a sound of erotic pleasure and smiled at him sweetly. He felt an almost overwhelming impulse to weep but forced the tears down, sternly, clenching his eyes tight closed.

Then Duncan rocked against him gently, deliberately tightening his body around him, sending ripples of muscle against his shaft. MacLeod groaned low in the back of his throat. The sound vibrated through Methos, setting every nerve ending on fire. He gasped, no longer able to restrain himself, every part of his body singing with desire, brilliant with lust. A long, slow withdrawal, feeling shudders of pleasure undulate through Duncan as he did so and then... He slammed into Duncan as hard as he could, going deep, so deep that he thought he might never find his way out again.

His. Duncan was his, all his. His to possess, to slake his hunger, ravenous with need, famished for the taste of him, the feel of him, all there, his for the taking, never let him go, never, never, never...

Drowning. He was drowning, flailing in the overwhelming sensation of fucking Duncan MacLeod. Passion arched through him, molten and white-hot, the searing heat of it scorching every nerve end. Power surged through him, his own and MacLeod’s given willingly into his possession, offered up for his delight. He pounded into MacLeod ruthlessly and every thrust was met by MacLeod who surged to meet him eagerly, muscles bunching as they moved together in brutal, desperate urgency, striving, gasping for air, damp skin slick with sweat.

Methos felt it rise up within him, in great, glittering, electric pulses. He reached desperately for MacLeod, holding tight, burrowing his face into a hotly wet neck, sucking open mouthed at the salty flesh. Not yet, not yet. It was too soon, it was--oh!

MacLeod was convulsing around him helplessly, muscles tightening, as Duncan yelled and bucked with pleasure beneath him, hot liquid spilling against his skin. At that Methos let go, his own release overwhelming him in great, shuddery molten waves of heat as he exploded into incandescence, burning into ash.

He came back to the realisation that he was resting his full weight atop Duncan, who was holding him close, wordlessly caressing his hair gently as his face rested in the hollow of Duncan’s sweat-damp shoulder. Hot, thin trails of moisture made their way down his face as he recognised with a dull, blunted sense of surprise that he was weeping soundlessly, the sense of impending loss overflowing from his eyes.

He lay there unmoving for several minutes willing himself to stop crying, but realised to his dismay that, with his emotions still raw in the aftermath of the quickening, his ability to stop was outside his control.

“Methos.” There was a note of concern in Duncan’s voice and he shook his head wordlessly, clinging to MacLeod tightly.

A few moments later he spoke, the hoarse, roughened sound of his own voice shocking in his ears. Where had all his fine sense of detachment gone? Even taking into account the quickening, he ought to be able to control himself better than this. “I’m all right. It’s the quickening that’s all. Gets to me sometimes. You know how it is.”

There was a long pause, then Duncan spoke. “I know. If you’re sure that’s all it is...?”

“Yes. Try not to worry Highlander, I assure you this isn’t going to happen every time we have sex in the future.” With a Herculean effort, Methos managed to summon up something like his normal dry tone.

“Well, that’s a relief.” There was a teasing note in MacLeod’s voice, that almost, but not quite masked his unease.

“Thought you’d see it that way,” Methos muttered, scrubbing at his face as he spoke, wiping away the betraying tear tracks. He took his hands away to see Duncan watching him, anxiety clear in his expression. Methos sighed. “I really am okay Duncan. I just...as you get older some quickenings can be a little...overwhelming,” he lied. “It doesn’t happen all the time, but, well, you saw how it was, with Silas.”

A sudden memory, of the smell of salt-water and old, rusted iron, the damp air frigid against his skin as he rested helplessly on his hands and knees, sobbing defencelessly, the force of it tearing him apart.

Then he came back, to MacLeod’s hesitant voice in his ears. “Yes.” A heaving sigh, then, obviously struck by a sudden thought, “Was that why you stayed out of the Game for so long?”

“Partly.” Another lie. He had experienced bad quickenings in the past; any Immortal who lived for a reasonable length of time could not realistically avoid that. However Isat’s had not been one of them. In spite of her great age and power, she had been almost grateful at the last when he had taken her head and her quickening was settling within him relatively easily. No, he had stayed out of the Game because the fires had been burning low within him and he had known that if he fought he might well lose, out of nothing better than sheer ennui. And in the end, despite his fatigue, he still did not want to die.

There was a brief silence then, obviously having decided that now was not the best time to further discuss the issue, for which Methos gave heartfelt thanks, MacLeod suggested, “How about a shower?”

“Um.” Methos determined to try for normality. “You know, that’s the worse thing about the barge.”


“No bath.” Methos raised his head, looking at MacLeod. He smiled at him, seeing Duncan’s bewildered look give way to one of reluctant amusement.

“You’re in a mood to wallow then?”

He shook his head. “Oh no,” he said softly. “I’m in the mood for you--again and again and again--“

“I get the picture,” MacLeod laughed. Then he sobered. “It’s as I felt then? It was a big quickening?”

Methos nodded slowly. “But that’s not why.” He touched his lips to those of his lover. “I can’t get enough of you.”

MacLeod blinked, obviously a little disconcerted. Methos was not given much to tender utterances. “I--“

“Never could. Duncan...”


He shook his head. “Nothing.” He firmly squashed the impulse to tell Duncan how much he meant to him, how he loved being with him. Now was not the time to alert MacLeod by speaking an epitaph. “Just that, I want you.”

“That can be arranged.”

“In the shower.” Methos rolled off the couch and got to his feet, holding out a hand to pull Duncan up.

The two men took their time in the shower, soaping one another slowly. Methos revelled in the steamy heat, loving the way Duncan’s wet hair streamed down his back as drops of water rolled down his smooth brown skinned torso, pooling in the dark hair around his genitals and then along the powerful legs.

Sometimes he almost forgot how beautiful Duncan was, as the day to day familiarity of living together blunted the impact of his splendour. But then at odd moments something so simple as the turn of MacLeod’s head would bring it back to him and he would be momentarily struck dumb, able only to stare in admiration. At those times he would often feel Duncan’s quizzical gaze upon him and he would shake himself, make some smart comment so that MacLeod did not suspect the effect he had on him. But this time he was determined to look his fill, storing up the memories for the centuries to come.

What?” MacLeod asked, a puzzled look on his face.

Methos smiled. “Just this,” he replied, seizing Duncan and pulling him to him, arousal stirring within him again as he did so. MacLeod came willingly, sliding his arms smoothly around Methos.

For an instant they simply stood, clasped in each other’s arms, as the warm water rained down upon them, the steam of it coiling around their bodies. Methos savoured the moment even as a small corner of his mind whispered insistently, ‘Last time, last time.’ He ran his hands slowly, caressingly down the clean lines of his lover’s back, feeling with his fingertips the sleek muscles move and shift as MacLeod shivered in response to the stimulus.

Methos pulled back a little, smiling into the warm brown eyes opposite his. He licked at MacLeod’s full lips delicately, then deepened the kiss, falling into the welcoming heat he knew so well. MacLeod shuddered and Methos smiled secretively against his lover’s mouth, then nibbled at the strong column of the younger man’s neck, savouring the musky taste, as he slid his hand down MacLeod’s body in a slow, teasing caress.

An audible catch, as Duncan’s breath caught in his throat. At the sound, Methos stepped back and dropped to his knees, in a fluid, graceful movement, the result of long practice millennia ago. He looked up at MacLeod with his best inviting expression, arching his neck and torso with a slow, sensuous provocative motion, knowing that this particular action never failed to drive MacLeod wild. Relishing the sight of the deep brown eyes, smoky with lust, gazing down upon him, he bent his head and slowly, oh so slowly nuzzled at Duncan’s erection with his cheek, feeling silky satin skin, hot and smooth against him. MacLeod moaned, a low sound, vibrating deep in the back of his throat.

Methos felt his heart leap at the sound, proof of Duncan’s helpless response. Oh, he wanted this, wanted to taste him, pleasure him, feel him come. Desire shivered through him, sweet and liquid.

He took MacLeod’s erect cock in his mouth, luxuriating in the texture of velvety-smooth hardness against his tongue as he opened his throat, liquid with lust and swallowed him whole. Duncan’s hands convulsively clutched at Methos’ shoulders as his wet hair brushed against Methos’ face, the strands warm against his skin.

The taste of him, oh god, the taste of him. Addictive, amazingly erotic, no matter how many times he experienced it he could never get enough of it. He loved this, *loved* it, feeling Duncan shudder and tremble with every gentle movement of his tongue, every caress of his lips.

“Oh *Christ* Methos,” Duncan gasped, as Methos pulled back, swirling his tongue around the head, licking along the rigid, hot shaft. “Fucking hell! Yes, there, just like that. So good, don’t stop. Just...don’t...stop!”

Methos nibbled, licked and sucked, the pleasure of it throbbing in him, breathing in the taste of desire, the sound of MacLeod’s voice sending visceral shivers through him. But it was not enough, every gasp, sigh and moan that MacLeod made served only to feed his raging hunger. He wanted--needed--to know that what he was doing was driving MacLeod beyond gentleness, beyond restraint. He was going to drive him out of his mind.

He grinned to himself, as MacLeod groaned. “Fuck! Methos, you’re killing me. Finish it, please.”

A slight shake of his head, as he licked teasingly at MacLeod’s balls, rolling one in his mouth, feeling it move, heated and alive.

“Methos...” There was a definite warning note in MacLeod’s voice now.

Nearly there, but not...quite...yet. Methos nibbled tormentingly at the head of MacLeod’s shaft, light feather strokes, enough to stimulate, to tease. Enough to bait MacLeod into taking what he needed.

“Methos! Do it. *Now!*”

He raised his eyes to meet the hot, glowering gaze above him. Minutely he shook his head as best he could as he licked slowly, agonisingly along the throbbing shaft.

MacLeod snapped. With a growl, he seized Methos’ head in his large, strong hands, forcing his mouth open as he plunged within.

Oh god, the *feel* of him, it was intoxicating, dizzying. Yes, yes, just like that. Duncan, Duncan, don’t stop, don’t ever stop. Duncan. Take me, fuck me. Just don’t ever stop...

Methos’ was trembling uncontrollably, on his knees, clamped in place, head held still by ruthless hands as MacLeod mercilessly, greedily fucked his throat. His body felt liquefied, boneless with desire as MacLeod plunged down his opened throat, taking him, using him for his pleasure, forgetting all else in the driving urgency of his passion

He had done this, driven MacLeod to this, to a place where he was helpless against overwhelming need, where he had no choice but to take him, devour him whole. At that thought his heart clenched and scorching heat surged through him as he erupted in searing, electric pulses, blind and deaf to anything but molten, fevered delight as the warm water rained ceaselessly down upon him from above.

And Duncan too was coming, at the vibration of Methos’ throat around him with the force of his orgasm, spilling himself in Methos mouth with a choking, gasping howl as Methos drank deeply of the fluid, bitter as tears, that burned through him in scalding, pulsating waves.

MacLeod collapsed to the shower cubicle floor, sliding limply down the wall, panting. “Jesus, Methos!” he gasped, pulling the older man against him as he did so, wrapping his arms and legs around him from behind. “What happened to a nice, gentle little blow job then.” He kissed Methos’ ear tenderly.

“You’ve got it all wrong, Mac.”


“Whinging is my role, not yours.” Methos felt the vibration of MacLeod’s laughter against his body, as Duncan kissed his neck, Methos turning his head to give him better access. They remained so for long moments, sitting in the steamy atmosphere, with MacLeod nibbling on Methos’ neck as he sighed with delight at the Highlander’s ministrations, held cradled by his body and wrapped in brawny arms as he took MacLeod’s hands in his, caressing the palms with long, slender fingers.

Bliss. It was bliss. He could stay here forever, never move again, never have to leave, never let reality intrude again. In centuries to come, mankind’s descendants would find them here, just like this; Methos wrapped in Duncan’s arms...

Yet minutes later he felt his arousal return once more, quickening enhanced and something more. The knowledge that this night would have to sustain him for all the centuries to come.

Sternly he tried to resist his body’s demands, not wanting to end this moment and lose the feeling of warmth and security, illusion though he knew it to be, but his erection would not be dissuaded. He shifted restlessly against MacLeod, who could not help but notice his returning excitement. His voice was all amused incredulity. “Again?”

“Look at it as a compliment,” Methos suggested, loving the rumbling feel MacLeod’s deep laughter against him in response to his comment.


Methos shook his head. “Bedroom,” he said firmly, rising somewhat shakily to his feet and shutting off the shower spray. A moment later he felt himself being enfolded in a soft warm towel, followed by strong arms wrapping around him. He felt an impulse to tears once more, at the understanding tenderness Duncan was showing him and bent his head so that the other man would not see his overly bright eyes. He blinked rapidly, then looked up into his lover’s eyes. For an instant time stopped, then Methos grinned, breaking the moment.

“Bed,” he challenged, dropping the towel and running for the bed, the younger man hard on his heels. They tumbled onto the bed together, laughing, wrestling each other, vying for supremacy. But MacLeod’s greater height and weight won in the end, leaving him kneeling in triumph across Methos’ more slender form, knees pinning Methos’ arms to his sides.

“I have you now,” Duncan uttered gleefully.

Methos arched his head back in surrender, exposing his long neck to the other man. “So you have.” Then, in mock dramatic fashion, “Do with me as you will.”

MacLeod’s voice lowered to a growl. “Oh, I intend to.”

Methos looked up at him, “Well,” he said tartly, “What are you waiting for?”

At that MacLeod bent his head and kissed him passionately. Methos moaned at the back of his throat, revelling in the feel of soft lips and silken tongue. He wanted this, as much as he had wanted to take MacLeod earlier now he sought his lover’s possession, so that he could store up the memories for the long years to come.

MacLeod deepened the kiss, a precursor of what was to come, tongue plunging into Methos’ mouth with deliberate, powerful strokes as Methos whimpered and shivered beneath him. MacLeod broke the kiss to nibble teasingly down his neck. He arched back with a hiss as Duncan bit at his collarbone, hard, then licked down his torso to fasten his wet, warm mouth upon a nipple, sucking greedily. Crying out at the stimulus, Methos felt an electric current course through him, straight to his groin, body seared with desire.

“Duncan,” he moaned, a rising imperative in his voice.

MacLeod shook his head. “Soon,” he soothed.

“No, no.” As he spoke, Methos was moving under MacLeod, struggling wildly beneath him, to pull his hands free, craving, *needing* to touch, caress the satin-smooth skin.

Alarm flashed in MacLeod’s eyes. “Methos!”

“Need you,” Methos panted. “Need to touch you.” With a cry of triumph, he pulled his hands free and reached up to pull MacLeod against him, capturing his mouth, ravaging his lips, sucking greedily at his tongue, tangling his fingers in thick, silky hair, then reaching for broad, strong shoulders, grasping hard enough to bruise.

Now it was MacLeod’s turn to struggle, pulling his mouth free, wincing at Methos’ grip on his shoulders. “Easy, easy.”

“Not enough,” Methos moaned. “Need you.” The fever was burning bright, hot desperation consuming him. He was on fire, need eating him alive, insatiable for the touch of Duncan, the taste of Duncan, the feel of him inside him, filling him.

“Jesus, Methos, “ MacLeod whispered shakily, staring down at him, eyes huge and sable as he bent his head once more, taking Methos’ mouth as his lover surged up eagerly to meet him.

Lost, he was lost in the taste of Duncan’s passionate mouth, wet kisses, honey sweet and dark. Methos bit at MacLeod’s lips, tasting blood as he whimpered incoherently. MacLeod broke the kiss, chest heaving, as he bit bruisingly hard at Methos’ neck, feasting on the pale skin. Methos writhed under him, desperate for Duncan to take him, for the sweet feel as he thrust in and out of him, for release. *Anything*.

Then MacLeod was moving, pulling his thighs apart, fingers slick with fluid entering him, twisting inside him, preparing him for his possession. Methos cried out, oh god *yes*, shivering as the fingers scraped inside him, touching him just *there* where he most needed it. An instant later and he felt a blunt hardness, slick and steel hard nudging at the entrance to his body. He shifted to meet it, lifting up, wrapping his legs fiercely around MacLeod’s waist to force him deep inside.

Aaah. A long, drawn out moan of satisfaction as he was penetrated, possessed. Duncan was inside him, all hot, satin-smooth strength. And any second now he going to take him, plunge into him, subject him to exquisite friction, make him come. But--a sudden, unwelcome thought--this might be the last time. And if so...

“Methos, are you all right. Methos!”

His eyes flew open, to see through a blurred haze Duncan’s worried face above him. He smiled at him, reached up to caress his cheek and then with a swift, deliberate heave of muscle rolled them over until MacLeod was lying flat on his back, Methos astride him, panting.

“I’m fine,” he gasped. “Better...than...fine.” As he spoke he deliberately squeezed his inner muscles, causing his lover to gasp and then moan his name. He bent forward and kissed Duncan, drinking deep from his lush mouth, a kiss eagerly met and returned. With a supple twist of his torso, he sat back up and slowly raised and lowered himself on the instrument of his impalement, as Duncan shuddered beneath him.

He shivered with delight at the feel of Duncan’s cock within him, at the blissful feeling of it sliding against that most sensitive part inside him, at the sight of Duncan beneath him, hair fanned out like a sliding fall of water against the pillow. And Duncan’s eyes, velvet-dark, so deep he could fall into them forever, never left his. They compelled him. No matter how he gasped and moaned at each movement Methos made, those eyes never left his. There was lust in them and want and--

He bent forward, hastily, to steal a kiss. It lasted much, much longer than he had intended, as MacLeod seized the opportunity to pull him close, delving into his mouth with a supple flick of his tongue. Their mouths mingled hungrily, long slow kisses until both were breathless. Slowly, Methos straightened, arching backwards sensuously, relishing Duncan’s long moan at his unabashed eroticism.

MacLeod reached up and settled his hands on Methos’ hips, bending him back and back and back. For a long moment, he held him so, suspended, body bent as a bow, gracefully. Then, he was brought crashing down. Oh! He cried out, at the feel of Duncan inside him, the penetration deep, so deep, he could feel him, all of him, joining them, filling him, loving him...

Caught fast--held--but a moment later he was rising up, setting the rhythm, twisting and sliding and dying on top of Duncan, faster and faster, consumed by pleasure, devoured by it, every sound Duncan made, every whisper, gasp and moan almost unbearably erotic, as he approached the abyss.

Duncan was gasping wordlessly underneath him now, lungs heaving, body aglow, slippery with sweat, beautifully wet, utterly abandoned to pleasure.

Oh god, Duncan! The sight of him, the feel, damp and warm and hard sent Methos crashing over the edge, screaming. And beneath him Duncan was bucking and howling, thrusting up, lifting him with his great strength, as he came and came.

Body limp, muscles liquid, Methos collapsed onto MacLeod’s broad chest, their bodies still joined, panting, reaching for air. MacLeod’s arms went round him, holding him close.

He closed his eyes. Duncan. Don’t let me go.

“Wow,” MacLeod panted. “That was...intense.”

Against his body Methos smiled a little, sadly. “Yes,” he agreed.

He felt MacLeod shift a little, his softening erection starting to slip outside of Methos’ body.



“Not yet.”

MacLeod said nothing, but rolled them over, until they lay cheek to cheek, wrapping his arms around Methos. They were silent for a long, long time.

But eventually MacLeod seized Methos’ head in both large hands, lifting his head gently, giving Methos no choice but to look at him. He smiled at Methos, then lifted a finger to run it gently along his nose. “So, are you satisfied yet?”

Methos swallowed. Easy, easy, he doesn’t know. “You didn’t enjoy it?”

MacLeod shook his head emphatically. “You know better than that. No, I’m just wondering whether I’ve got the strength to keep up with you tonight.”

Keep it light, you can do that. That you can do. He grinned at MacLeod. “Mac, no Immortal ever died of exhaustion.”

“I don’t know, I think I might be the first.”

“Yeah, but think what fun you’ll have in the meantime.”

“Christ,” MacLeod said in mock-horror. “You’re insatiable. You weren’t kidding when you said you wanted me over and over again were you.”

“Nope. And I think I should warn you that the evening is just beginning...”

Methos laughed at MacLeod’s groan as he bent down to kiss him once more.

They made love that night with almost tireless fervour, MacLeod evidently almost as affected by Methos’ passionate ardour as the older man was himself. He was relentless in his eagerness for MacLeod, knowing that Duncan would think that his desire arose only from the quickening he had taken. MacLeod met his passion enthusiastically, receiving all that Methos had to give and reciprocating unselfishly. But eventually both men had to admit defeat; not even their Immortal bodies could recoup indefinitely.

MacLeod then slept almost immediately but Methos lay awake all night, holding onto the man he was going to leave. Each time MacLeod stirred and murmured in his arms, Methos would loosen his grip, preparatory to letting the other man go but MacLeod would soon subside again into deep sleep. When finally he moved sufficiently that Methos had to release him from his hold, Duncan muttered in his sleep, moving around restlessly until he found what he was looking for, even in the throes of slumber. He wrapped his arms around Methos, buried his face in his neck, sighed and relapsed into unmoving sleep, his hold possessive around his lover, as Methos lay there, awash in a tearing sense of loneliness.

As he counted the long, slow hours till morning an unceasing litany ran through Methos’ mind, ‘Last time, last time’. Each second was an eternity, yet was over all too soon as the light in the room brightened uncompromisingly, with the coming of dawn.

MacLeod slept late, eventually stirring sluggishly. Methos knew that Duncan was finally awake when his arms tightened around Methos as he muttered, “Good morning,” into the other man’s hair.

“You too,” Methos said quietly, as he stirred a little, feeling an aching loss as MacLeod’s embrace loosened around him. Never again.

He rolled to the side of the bed, preparatory to getting up.

“Where are you going?” MacLeod muttered sleepily.


Duncan reached out towards him. “Stay.”

“Mac, I have to pee.”

“Then come back afterwards.”

“Do you know what time it is?”

MacLeod smiled at him sensually. Methos’ heart caught at the sight. “No, what?” the younger man asked.

“It’s after ten thirty.”

“What!” MacLeod sat upright, examining the clock by the side of the bed in disbelief. “Shit! I can’t believe we slept so late.” Then he grinned at Methos. “I guess you must’ve worn me out.”

“I guess I did,” Methos agreed dryly.

“You’re looking pretty tired yourself.”

“Really. Must’ve been all that mutual wearing out we did.”

MacLeod smiled at him, then pulled him down for a swift kiss. “Must be,” he agreed, then studied his lover more closely, cocking his head to one side as he did so. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re sure? It was a large quickening you took, I know that. Was she a friend of yours, this Judith?”

Methos glanced pointedly at the clock. “Aren’t you going to be late getting to that antiques auction you’re meant to be going to this morning? The one you promised Gina de Valicourt you’d attend on her behalf.”

The other man groaned and threw back the covers. “Yes, if I don’t hurry up.” As he spoke he climbed out of the bed and walked to the bathroom, a study in grace. “But Methos,” he glanced back as he spoke, “don’t think that this discussion is over.”

Methos favoured him with one of his better innocent looks. “What discussion?”

A shake of MacLeod’s unkempt head was the only response he received as the younger man shut the bathroom door behind him.

Shortly afterwards a showered and shaved MacLeod emerged. He dressed swiftly, taking the cup of coffee Methos wordlessly held out to him with a nod of thanks. He gulped down the drink then turned for the door bestowing Methos with a quick, coffee-flavoured kiss as he did so. “Oh,” he turned back to look at Methos. “I’m meeting Joe for lunch.”

“Yes, I know. You told me that yesterday.”

“So, d’you want to come?”

Methos shook his head. “I’ve got things I need to do. I’ll see you later.”

As Methos expected, MacLeod, used to his lover’s habit of disappearing for hours on end with not much by way of explanation, did not query him. He merely nodded, “Okay, I’ll see you later then.”

With that he was gone, leaving Methos standing alone in the barge which was suddenly much larger and emptier than it had been a moment before. He shivered and wrapped the dressing gown he wore--one of MacLeod’s--more tightly around him. This was it then. He would not see Duncan again.

Yet in spite of his resolve to leave he found his movements were curiously slow that morning. It took him what seemed to be an age to complete his morning ablutions. He decided to forgo breakfast, knowing that he would not be able to keep any food down so clenched tight was his stomach.

Eventually he pulled his suitcase out from where it was stored under the bed and reluctantly started to pack, surprised as he realised just how many of his things had become entwined with those of MacLeod. Several times he had to stop and ponder what belonged to him and what to MacLeod. That cream sweater, for example, was it his? With an inward shrug he threw it into the case. After all, he liked the sweater.

He decided to try and clear the barge of all his belongings, leaving nothing behind. It would be better if he did not leave any mementoes for Duncan to brood over. He also wanted there to be no mistake. He was not coming back. However he realised that, in spite of his habit of travelling light and borrowing Duncan’s clothes as necessary, he had accumulated too many possessions to fit easily into one suitcase. He muttered to himself in annoyance as he packed and re-packed several times, in an effort to fit everything in.

But even as he did so he was aware at the back of his mind that he was focussing on the trivial, the mundane, in order to avoid thinking about the real issue. That he would never see Duncan MacLeod again. Or at least, should their paths cross in the future, that they would never be intimate, never be lovers again. He forcibly held the desolation at bay, pushing it to the back of his mind with practised discipline. Later, there would be time to mourn.

But in spite of his intention to be long gone before MacLeod returned to the barge, as he was re-packing the suitcase for what he was determined would be the last time, he stiffened as he felt an Immortal presence. With a sense of inevitability he realised that it was MacLeod. He hastily flung a pair of jeans into the suitcase, but there was no time to hide the case.

The Highlander burst into the barge, the scent of wet wool preceding him though the door. It was raining.


“You yelled,” Methos said coolly.

“What the *hell* did you think you were doing?”

Methos raised a quizzical eyebrow, but said nothing.

“Don’t play the innocent with me,” Mac growled. “I’ve just seen Joe.”


“Ah what? Ah, yes, I killed Isat, Judith, whatever she called herself, because she was coming after me, or ah, I really killed Isat because she was coming after you.”

“Ah yes, I killed Isat because she was coming after me.”


“Actually, I’m not lying. Semantically--“

“Don’t play word games with me Methos!” MacLeod stalked nearer to Methos, close enough so that the older man could feel his body heat, smell his aftershave, mixed with the dank odour of his coat. Methos swallowed heavily, unable to wholly control his instinctive reaction to MacLeod’s nearness. “I do *not* need anyone’s protection, yours included.”

“Of course you don’t,” Methos agreed mildly.

“Oh really. If that’s so, why did you do it?”

“Maybe I felt like the exercise.”


“What if I told you it was for revenge?” Methos said, carefully.

“I wouldn’t believe you. You gave it up, remember. Or so you told Joe.”

“You two have been discussing me behind my back. Not nice, Mac.”

“Stop trying to change the subject! You killed Isat because she was after my head. I don’t like it, Methos. I’m not some child that you have to protect.”

“No. You’re an overgrown boy-scout, with a terminal case of chivalry,” Methos said pleasantly.

“You--“ MacLeod growled, then stopped abruptly and stared down at the open suitcase. He looked up to meet Methos’ wary eyes. “Going somewhere?”


MacLeod stepped back and stared at the man who was his lover. His expression was a mixture of pain and shock. “You’re leaving,” he almost whispered, voice a painful rasp. “Without telling me.”

Methos parted dry lips. “I--“ he began, then stopped and shook his head. He said no more.

“So, were you even going to leave me a note?” MacLeod must have read the answer in Methos’ face, because he nodded. “I see. No note. Just tell me one thing, you can do that much can’t you?” MacLeod tried to sound angry, but the underlying note of hurt bewilderment came through clearly. Methos found it painful to hear. “Why? Just tell me why.”

Methos slammed shut the suitcase. “Sometimes there isn’t a reason.” He picked up the suitcase and moved to the stairs. He got as far as the door.

MacLeod sprang into action. “No!” He halted in front of Methos, arms spread wide, cornering him between the stairs and the wall so that there was no escape. “Why are you leaving, at least tell me that. Was it something I did? Tell me!”

Methos simply shook his head and made as if to move around the other man. MacLeod grabbed hold of his arm as he did so. “You have to tell me what I did,” he said urgently.

“Nothing. You did nothing.” Methos felt a suffocating mantle of panic envelope him, making it hard to breathe. He had to get out, now. He pulled free of the other man and smiled. “Come on MacLeod, what did you expect, protestations of eternal love, promises never to leave you, that type of thing. We’re Immortals, it doesn’t work like that, you know that.”

MacLeod shook his head in confusion. “I never expected anything like that. But I thought that when we did part, it would be as friends, at least, to meet again. I didn’t expect you to go running off like a thief in the night. I know that what we have isn’t mortal love, but I thought...Damn it, Methos, I thought I meant more to you than this,” he finished angrily.

“Your mistake then.”

MacLeod recoiled as if he’d been slapped. “Fuck you!”

Methos laughed, a light, scornful sound. “You already did. Last night. Twice.”

That should do it, Duncan would be too angry to question him further. Now he could escape.

But he had underestimated the Highlander.

Contrary to his expectations MacLeod’s expression steadied, the look of hurt anger giving way to one of concern instead. He shook his head. “No. Whatever the problem is, Methos, please. Let me help.” He took the suitcase from Methos’ unprotesting hand and set it on the floor.


“You’re in some kind of trouble. I know you are.”

The feeling of suffocation increased. “What do you mean?”

“I know you. You’re deliberately setting out to drive me away.”

Methos shook his head. “You’re wrong.”

“I don’t think so. We’ve had our problems in the past, I’m not denying that, but these past few months have been wonderful.”

“For you, maybe.”

MacLeod sparked into anger again. He grabbed Methos and pushed him against the wall--hard. Methos gasped as pain shot through him, but perversely he actually welcomed it, concentrating fiercely on the physical.

“Don’t give me that. You wouldn’t have stayed if you weren’t enjoying yourself. What would be the point?”

“So I could take advantage of your protection. Did you never think of *that* MacLeod?” Methos spat defiantly.

Surprising Methos, the other man laughed. “That one won’t work Methos. You killed Isat to protect me last night, remember.”

He hadn’t. All his fine strategy, his grasp of tactics, seemed to have deserted him. He shook his head and once more pulled free. “I’m out of here.”

But the other man seized him by the arms, hands biting into his muscles, forcibly prevented him from moving. “You’re not leaving.”

“What! Am I your prisoner now? Going to feed me on bread and water until I confess all.”

“Don’t be stupid. But if you think I’m going to let you walk off into whatever trouble you’re in, forget it. Didn’t you tell me that sometimes you have to let your friends help you?”

“Wasn’t me.”

“Oh. Must’ve been Amanda then. But you know what, she was right. And I’m not just your friend, I’m your lover. I care about you. Please, Methos let me help.”

He had not thought that it would be so hard. The feeling of suffocation increased, leaving him light-headed, blood thrumming in his ears, heartbeat racing, breathing ragged. He wanted to stay, so much, so terribly much. The temptation pulled at him, seductive as a siren’s song. But if he did he would never leave.

With a swift, sudden movement Methos pulled free from MacLeod’s grip and reversing their positions slammed him against the wall, MacLeod’s head snapping back as he did so. “When will you get it through that thick Scottish head of yours,” Methos spat at him. “I’m not in trouble. Contrary to what you seem to believe I can get along just fine without you. I managed to look after myself for five thousand years before you came along and, guess what, I can do so again. I’m leaving because it’s time for me to go.”

“I don’t believe you.” MacLeod’s gaze was steady on his. He crumpled under that unflinching perusal, eyes skittering around the room.

“All right. You want the truth. I’m bored. I’m bored of Paris and I’m bored of you.”

MacLeod shook his head. There was pain in his dark eyes, but he remained stalwart. He pulled himself free from Methos’ slackened grip. “I don’t believe you,” he said again. “Whatever is between us, boredom isn’t it.” He moved around Methos, reaching out to either side of him and trapping the other man in the corner with the bulk of his body, looming close to him.

Methos bit the inside of his mouth, hard. He swallowed blood. “Let me pass.”

“No. Not until you tell me what’s wrong.”

It was increasingly hard to breathe. He had to leave. Now. In desperation he opted for the truth. “Nothing’s wrong. No rampaging Immortals after my head, if that’s what you mean. It’s just that it’s too hard, being your lover. I can’t do this anymore.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You... what you are, it’s too much. You put yourself in danger unnecessarily, have this compulsion to protect all and sundry. And it’s dangerous. Don’t you see, one day you’ll lose, or I will, trying to protect you. That’s why I’m going.” He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the hurt look that would be on Mac’s face. But like Petros, the boy in Aesop’s fable, though he spoke true, he was not believed.

“Nice try. But you’ve always known that about me, Methos. Please, stop this. Just for once, tell me what’s really happening.” As he spoke, he felt MacLeod’s arms go round him, ensnaring him in his embrace.

His eyes flew open to see Mac looking at him worriedly. He felt an absurd impulse to laugh and had to forcibly restrain himself, knowing that he was on the edge of hysteria. “I’ve told you why. I’m leaving.”

“No, you’re not.” MacLeod’s grasp tightened around Methos as he spoke.

“How’re you going to stop me?”

MacLeod inhaled sharply. “You’d fight me then?”

Methos laughed mockingly. “I won’t need to. Unless you let me go, now, I’m going to describe--to every last detail--*exactly* what it was like being fucked by Kronos.”

MacLeod recoiled as if he’d taken a sword-thrust through the belly. His grasp slackened, in an instant Methos was free. MacLeod’s face was stark, bones delineated under the skin. For an instant he actually looked old, every one of his four hundred years and more. Wordlessly he whirled and strode out the door, leaving it gaping behind him. Rain blew in, together with old leaves.

Methos picked up his suitcase. His hands were shaking. He clenched his right hand tightly around the handle of the suitcase. Without a backward glance he left, shutting the door behind him, gently.


Part Three