Joie de Vivre

by whitecrow


Disclaimer: No money is being made from this effort, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Warning: This story contains consensual sex between two men, aka slash. If you are underage for this sort of thing where you live, then please press your back button now. Rated NC-17 for acts of love.

Any and all feedback is welcomed at to my long suffering beta arachne for trawling through this several times and adding lovely sentences to make it immeasurably better than it was, to John Blonde for copious hand-holding, and to all the flame-throwers of SaB.


Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter, Sermons and soda-water the day after. Don Juan, Byron

Soft music from the stereo curled out through the open doorway along with a warmth from the room that prevented him from feeling the chill that marked the winter season. Duncan leaned against the balcony railing and took a sip of his wine. Wine and song. Only the woman was missing. The twinkling lights might be provided by buildings rather than stars, but for all that, the evening was made for lovers. Wine and song on Amanda's balcony, but no Amanda.

Duncan sighed and kicked the low concrete wall as petulantly as any child. God, he missed her. She had been gone five weeks now, following her own whims and fancies, leaving behind an uncharacteristically morose and self-pitying Highlander.

And without Amanda there was no one to run interference between him and his enigmatic companion.

At least Amanda's highly visible charms had the effect of keeping his attentions firmly fixed on her. But without her, the uneasy friendship he was trying to repair with Methos threatened to transmute into something entirely different, something he wasn't at all sure that Methos had in mind. Hell, he wasn't even sure that he had it in mind. The attraction between them had always been there but Kronos and Byron combined had given him a heightened physical awareness of his companion. Duncan neither sought to, nor could, dispel the feeling, tangled as it was with the lingering emotions of animosity and regret.

He turned slightly at a sound and watched Methos shake the last drops from the beer bottle into his open mouth, then place it neatly on the coffee table beside the other five that were beginning to resemble a set of ninepins. With an obvious and theatrical sigh of his own, Methos heaved himself up from the couch and wandered out onto the balcony.

"Penny for them," he said, looking across the Seine and out towards the 19th arrondissement.

MacLeod turned to look at him, glad of the distraction. "What, you think they're only worth a penny?"

"Well, something else then. A quarter, maybe, or a farthing. Perhaps a pfennig or a shekel, a stater or a joachimsthaler, a florin or a tetradrachm. Even a ..."

"That'll do, thank you," replied MacLeod, and silence settled once more on the balcony.

"Fine, Highlander, I'll bite. What is up with you now?" Methos enunciated each word carefully and with a slightly over-dramatised air clearly calculated to annoy his companion.

"Nothing," said Duncan.

"Please." And now the voice became contrite. "If I say I'm sorry? If I say I'll start this conversation again?"

There was another short silence, and Duncan knew that if Methos waited long enough, prodded long enough, that he would eventually give in and confess -- the trick would be in whether he could outwait Methos. But in the end he tired of the game.

"It's stupid really, but today's Amanda's birthday. And I'd planned to do something special with her, planned it for months. We'd arranged to be together, and I was going to surprise her with --" abruptly he caught himself, then continued. "It's not like her to forget an occasion where she's the guest of honour. I'm worried that...."

He stopped, conscious that Methos would once again, and justifiably, remind him that Amanda was a big girl and had been looking after herself since before Mac was even a fleeting fumble in a dark and damp castle. "I guess nothing stays the same," he said at last, unwilling to vocalise further the sweeping changes that the last half dozen years had brought into his life. Tessa. Richie. Even Amanda's restless wanderings. Whenever he sought for roots, some sort of permanence, it seemed to vanish as he reached for it, intangible and transient as smoke.

Methos looked at him sharply then without speaking turned and walked through the narrow doors back into the apartment. He was gone for several minutes, reappearing with two opened bottles of Stella Artois.

He removed Duncan's empty glass of wine and handed a bottle to MacLeod with a flourish and a small bow. "Then let us by all means celebrate Amanda's birthday. I'm sure she'd be delighted. She's always one for a party, that girl, as I'm sure you can vouch for. And how old would she be tonight? Do you know, exactly?"

Duncan took the proffered bottle, then pushed it back towards Methos as if to tip it over him. "Cut it out, Methos. You know a lady never reveals her age."

"Hmm, a lady." Methos' raised eyebrow disputed the accuracy of the term. "Well, I *think*, she's--and remember, I've been out of it for some centuries now, but I think, well, maybe I'm wrong, but she must be about--you know, MacLeod, I keep forgetting whether she was born in 930 or 830--" Swiftly he ducked as MacLeod took another swipe at him using the bottle.

Drops of fizzy amber liquid splashed on the balcony between them. "Hey, careful, that stuff's not cheap, even in Paris," Methos warned, jumping back in mock alarm.

"Like you paid for any of it anyway," scoffed Duncan, and turned back to the view of the city at his feet.

Six floors below the traffic snarled and curved around the Pont Neuf, heading to Sante Chappelle on the left side of the river, and up the Rue de Rivoli through Chatelais and L'Opera towards the city proper. The street lights had won the battle with the last of afternoon light some time ago, and crawling red and white patterns indicated the twisting streets. On its island in the middle of the river the beautiful flying buttresses of Notre Dame caught the incandescent rays of spotlights in their pale brick, swallowing the harsh white light and reflecting it back as rich cream.

Methos was flatsitting, minding Amanda's apartment while she was globe-trotting. Free electricity and free beer. The oldest immortal had officially declared his hopes that Amanda might never return. MacLeod was here more or less to fulfil a promise to Amanda to keep his eye on the ancient one. "Make sure he's putting coasters under the beer bottles," was what she had actually said, but Duncan knew on another level that she was hoping that time and neutral territory would do something to heal the rifts of their sorely-stretched friendship. "Knock their stubborn heads together, won't you Joe?" she had advised slipping her Gucci bag over one shoulder and preparing to board her taxi to the airport.

Joe should have been here now but at the last minute had cancelled, saying Amy had called, which left Duncan, Methos, beer without coasters, and all the awkwardness of unresolved conflict. Not that a casual observer would have been able to tell. Even with just the two of them Methos had slipped easily into the role of court jester to Duncan's brooding monarch.

"Well, whatever her age, Duncan MacLeod, it appears that your fancy for older women has raised its ugly head again. What is it with you--this attraction you have for old things? Outdated books and paintings, outdated codes like honour and chivalry, outdated people like Amanda and me...." Methos tried again to lift the mood.

Duncan refused to be lifted, although he had the grace to look slightly apologetic. "Sorry to be such lousy company tonight, Methos. I know you didn't invite me over so I could bend your ear about Amanda." He looked quickly at his companion, unsure how much to indulge in self-pity, when he knew firsthand that Methos' tolerance for it was extremely short. "It's just that I thought she'd want to be with me, celebrate it with me. Maybe when you've had centuries and centuries of celebrations they're no longer important, or special. You tell me. Is that what it's like?" He looked back down at the traffic, as if the answer was inscribed in its ebb and flow. "I would have thought that you'd--she'd want some sort of permanence in her life, after all this time...." He trailed off, uncertain where the thought really led.

"Ah-hah! I know what your trouble is!" Methos made a half-pirouette as enlightenment struck, turning towards Duncan at the culmination of his pas seul. "You were hoping to get laid!! A royal and righteous birthday f--umm, festival!! Oh-ho! Now I spot the trouble! A case of blue--"

"Do you have to be so crude?" winced Duncan, disconcerted at being so transparent. "I am capable of just wanting to be with Amanda for her scintillating conversation and sparkling wit, you know."

"Not to mention her delicious cleavage and her more than shapely gluteus maximus. Or should that be maximi? And what's wrong with wanting to celebrate her birthday in the traditional manner, the 'leap over the burning bonfire' as it were, the commencement of your own Beltane feast? I, for one, can only heartily commend you for wanting a return to the old ways, a single-handed--not to mention single-minded--attempt to overturn the-- "

"Do you ever stop blathering? I mention that I'm missing Amanda and that instantly brings out the psychoanalyst in you. Did anyone ever tell you, Methos, that your particular combination of Freud and the Witch of the Blasted Heath is neither becoming nor apposite? You sound like a--"

"Apposite! Duncan! Do I really know what that means? I don't think they use it in 'Green Eggs and Ham'. You'll have to watch your language, Highlander, else risk losing me--"

"Never mind. I'm sorry I bought it up. Forget I said anything." MacLeod turned away from the grinning visage of the Oldest Immortal and stared moodily back down into the traffic.

Methos allowed the silence to settle once more, and Duncan took the time to contemplate his own silliness. More than the physical release he needed Amanda's joie de vivre, her ability to pluck happiness out of the most unpromising situations. Still, Methos was trying. And, thought Mac with an inner smile, what he lacked in 'joie' he certainly made up for in 'vivre'.

Methos abruptly leaned over and flung a conspiratorial arm around the Highlander's shoulders. "Let's go out and celebrate Amanda's birthday, without Amanda. Dinner on me, and I'll do my very best to help you find a shapely and intelligent wench whose birthday it is, so you can celebrate with her the way you planned to do with Amanda. Do we have a deal?"

Duncan turned his head towards the impish face so close to his own. Methos' golden eyes sparkled with amusement, his spiky hair standing up with the same exuberance that flooded his features. He looked like a particularly happy devil. MacLeod sighed, and wondered what he was letting himself in for. It was difficult to refuse Methos when he looked so young and carefree, and it happened so rarely that he capitulated almost without thinking. Almost. He nodded. "Deal."


Dinner had been superb. Methos had managed to cajole a table at Le Livre Jaune, by a combination of fast talking and a large bribe obtained from Duncan. The food had more than lived up to its reputation. Methos had chosen a Fume Blanc with the entree, then a Chateau Neuf du Pape to accompany his own magret and MacLeod's confit.

The smooth mellowness of the wine had been a wonderful counterpoint to the crisp, salty duck. Potatoes Dauphinoise, ordered because Methos loved them, rounded out a meal completed by a salad with walnuts and blue cheese. Now they sat contemplating the dessert menu, and Methos was waxing lyrical on the delights of the creme brulee as practised by the Brothers Pierpont, and its ability to complement the aphrodisiac qualities of the oysters they'd started with.

Duncan was feeling cosseted, and spoiled, and somewhat full. He doubted he'd be able to add anything else to the food and wine he'd consumed so far, but it required almost no effort at all to listen to the soothing rise and fall of Methos' voice. "You know, I ate so many oysters when that was all there was to eat that I never thought I'd ever be able to look one in the face again. But a few hundred years without, and it surprises one what one actually misses. But to have to pay good money to eat them again --"

Duncan chuckled, remembering his first experience with an oyster. "I know what you mean. When I first came to America, I lived on the coast for a while with the Wompanoag, and oysters were as much a staple as fish. The first time I ate one I actually chewed it. Ugggh! Back then, I had to learn to like them, or starve. But I never thought that I'd willingly order them for dinner."

"And you know what they say about oysters, don't you?" mused Methos in return. "But in my experience, a good bottle of wine has much the same effect on the female of the species, whereas a velvety soft creme brulee, slipping like cold magic down one's throat, is a more aphrodisiac experience than an oyster, any day."

This last drew Duncan up with a start, having forgotten their ostensible reason for eating out. He remembered now, and as he did so wondered why he had let Methos choose this restaurant of all restaurants, reflecting that it was highly unlikely that one of the most expensive eateries in Paris could be regarded as a pick-up spot.

He tossed back the final glass of wine and turned to Methos, cutting directly across his conversation. "What on earth possessed you to think that we would find company here? Really, Methos, surely you must have realised that this was the last place we could find interested available women? Everyone's too busy eating to pay attention to us..." he trailed off struck by a sudden unwelcome thought. "Unless this is some devious plan to get me to buy you dinner in a restaurant that Adam Pierson could never afford to patronise?"

"Oh but haven't we had a nice dinner?" replied Methos with a satisfied smirk, deftly switching the conversation. "Have I mentioned the souffle? Or perhaps the mille feuille? You really should try--"

"I'm not interested in any more food. I think we should leave and try somewhere else." Even to his own ears he sounded petulant. He wondered with some surprise where that had come from; he had been enjoying the easy banter with Methos, and his new attitude was poor thanks for the effort Methos had been making. Suddenly the wine was not quite so smooth and dinner lay heavy on his stomach.

Methos considered him through lowered lashes, then heaved the sigh of the greatly put-upon. "Well, if you think so..." He raised his hand slightly, and a waiter appeared instantly. "L'addition, s'il vous plait," he said, and the waiter bowed and hurried away.

Duncan automatically reached for his credit card. A warm hand pushed the plastic aside.

"Relax. I meant it. My treat, Highlander. After all, we don't celebrate Amanda's birthday every day."

"But, Methos, Adam can't afford a restaurant like this."

"So he's been saving."

Some good natured wrangling of a highly civilised nature took place, filling in the space between requesting and receiving the bill. But finally it was paid and tipped and the two men left the restaurant.

Methos insisted that he knew a place where they could get decent coffee and an Armagnac, together with some company. He led MacLeod through the streets of Paris, deep into Les Halles, ending up at a tiny bistro hidden in a back lane. Gratefully they ordered coffee and marc. Methos ostentatiously blew on his fingers to warm them before wrapping them round the tiny cup. They drank coffee companionably and then settled back to inspect the local talent on offer.


And so the night wore on, with beer or marc or pernod at various cafes, combined with coffee, conversation, and more than a few women. The girls were eager to talk and drink, sometimes at their own expense, sometimes at Duncan's, since somewhere along the way Methos had obviously decided that Adam had run out of savings. But neither he nor his companion seemed able to make a firm commitment with any of them. Duncan hinted occasionally that the hour was late, feeling the effects of so much alcohol of so many varieties, but he was never taken up on it.

It was well past one, and they were sitting at yet another cafe somewhere in Parc Monceau. Duncan watched the wisps of steam rise from his cup, feeling the heat of the coffee as it flowed down his throat counterpointed by the ice-like fire of the cheap marc that accompanied it. He drifted with the steam, feeling a contentment in Methos' company that he hadn't experienced with the changeable immortal for some months. Idly he wondered if his attempts to snare a nubile partner were less than enthusiastic, given the obvious charms of his companion. When Methos exerted himself he could be witty, interesting, charming, learned, funny - the list went on. Not to mention the way his smile lit his face, the way his eyes danced with merriment when he thought he'd won some arcane point, the way his silk shirt draped the thin body, moving as he breathed.

And the shirt was actually Duncan's own, he recalled idly. It was one that Amanda had lifted from him, claiming that the colour was more suited to her pale skin. Duncan had argued, to no avail, but he was not sorry now as Methos shifted again and the silk briefly outlined the nub of one tiny nipple. He could reach out and-- Duncan stopped his runaway imagination with an effort. Women, MacLeod, women. That was the prey tonight. Fantasies of stalking Methos were best kept for late and lonely nights, not brought to the surface in Methos' company, for Christ's sake.

He leaned over and tapped Methos on the arm. "We're not having any luck, you know." His words were almost clear. "We've been drinking and wandering all over Paris and not found a single lass to take home. What's up with us?"

"Don't know, Highlander. Must be a distinct lack of taste amongst the female population of Paris."

"Well, I guess that leaves just you and me, Methos. What say we call it a night and go home, just the two of us?"

Methos looked around the cafe, then leaned forward conspiratorially, placing his mouth near MacLeod's ear. "It may have escaped your attention, and I don't want to appear a total wet blanket, but, you know, I'm the wrong sex. I'm not female. In fact, I'm a guy."

Duncan looked at Methos for a few minutes, then drew back slightly. He suddenly didn't feel so drunk. The wine and spirits he'd drunk earlier seemed to have evaporated leaving a clarity of vision combined with a certain recklessness. Since when did Methos read his mind?

"Oh, that hasn't escaped me, Methos," he replied softly. "I'm very much aware that you're a man. Very much aware."

Methos sat back in his chair and looked at MacLeod. He didn't say anything for a while, then remarked inconsequentially. "I know a great jazz bar in Miromesnil - I'm sure that'll have what you're looking for. Let's go." And he stood abruptly.

The bar in Miromesnil was noisy and smoky, and they left after poking their heads in. Duncan suggested going home, but Methos was on a mission, and cajoled and joked him up the hill to Montparnasse, and a cafe in the square outside the church. They drank, chatted up some likely women, who kissed them gaily goodbye and walked off together. Duncan's relief confused him. Wasn't this why they were here? Wasn't the point of the evening to go home with a willing companion, rather than alone? Why was it becoming more obvious, to him at least, that going home with a woman was no longer his first and most urgent agenda? And was it as obvious to anyone and everyone else? He camouflaged his wayward thoughts with the smokescreen of conversation.

"What *is* it with us? Are we giving off some sort of signal 'Don't come near us'? Did you shower, Methos?" Duncan added, hoping his afterthought would be interpreted as having the beauty of originality at this stage of the night.

"Mmmm, dunno. Maybe you sprayed on 'girl away' before you left."

"What?! Me? *I'm* the one that's trying to get laid here. You don't appear to be taking this seriously at all."

Methos leaned back and looked at the colourless marc still remaining in his glass. "Well you know, two men out together, maybe they're assuming the worst instead of the best..."

Duncan swung around in his chair so that he was looking straight at Methos. Here it was, finally what he really wanted, out in the open. He could ignore the gambit, pretend that he had misunderstood Methos' meaning, or he could acknowledge it and move forward. He wondered again just how obvious he had been, how easily Methos had seen through the pick-up ruse, which now seemed artificial and heavy-handed. Just how much was Methos truly unaware of MacLeod's new agenda and how much was he just playing hard to get?

He was conscious of standing on a precipice. One road led back to safety and familiarity, as much as his life was ever safe and familiar, the other road vanished in the mists rising up from the bottom of the cliff. Which road to take? His mouth made the decision for him. "Well," he said softly, "we could always go home and try my suggestion."

Methos was silent, studying the glass again. When he spoke it was to the glass, rather than MacLeod. "MacLeod, I've got a bit of advice for you. You're always going on about how much wisdom I should have accumulated in 5000 years, well, listen carefully, child, because I'm about to give you a bit of it." He paused and took a sip of his drink, closing his eyes briefly as it burned its way down. He tipped the glass a little, studying the viscosity of the liquid as it smeared up the side.

"We've been friends, well, sort of friends, for some years now, yes?" He waited for MacLeod's nod before continuing. "What do you think is the fastest way to ruin a friendship? Let me tell you, MacLeod, with the benefit of my thousands of years of experience. It's confusing sex and love and friendship. They just don't go together. Look at Rachel and Hugo; look at you and Amanda. Sex is one thing, a fabulous way to pass the time, but friends remain, friends are the strength you need to get you through the next thousand years, not waking up day after day beside the same old boring body. This myth that the ruling classes have been pedalling for a couple of thousand years of love moving into pleasant companionship is just that, a myth. A tool to promote the ideal of marital fidelity and thus keep the masses safely boxed and happy. Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes, and believe me I know. From first hand. It's as ridiculous to assume that a friend can be a lover as to assume that a lover can be a friend. You should accept a friend as a friend, with all the values that brings, and a lover as a lover, with the excitement that brings. Just don't confuse the two."

Duncan was silent. Methos' words were not only serious, they reduced his tawdry seduction to a cheap trick to pass the time.

He struggled to place what Methos was saying in the perspective of the oldest immortal's own life. Hadn't Methos himself been lovers with his friends, friends with his lovers? The sharpest wound directed the question that left his mouth, almost without thought. "What about Kronos?"

"Despite what you may think, Highlander, we weren't friends."

And Duncan did know. Bordeaux had given him a depth of knowledge about the relationship between Kronos and Methos, knowledge that he would rather never have had, and having would rather forget. No. Companions. Lovers. Brothers tied in loyalty and blood but never friends. Not Kronos, but...he knew the answer to the next question even as his mouth framed the words. Knew it but somehow wanted to hear Methos say the words, painful and inevitable as a tongue worrying an aching hole in a tooth, forcing the agony as sharp and fresh as it had been the first time.

"And Byron?"

Methos stilled abruptly, betrayed suddenly into awkwardness by arms too long, hands too broad.

He looked at MacLeod but didn't say a word. Then he tossed back his drink and stood. "Let's find another cafe."


It was after three when Duncan steered a tottering Methos back to the barge. He had debated with himself whether to take Methos back to Amanda's apartment but was reluctant to leave his drinking companion there alone, and wondered if he would have the strength, when it came to it, to leave himself. This way, he could tuck Methos up on the sofa as he had done so often in the past, and see what the morning brought. He could claim complete, altruistic friendship. At least, he hoped he could. It was more than possible that he'd use the excuse to ask for something quite different.

"Y'know, I think, after all, you better walk me home, MacLeod. Chap like me can't take too many chances, never know who might be lurking, looking for extra notches for his belt, I mean hilt. Oh look! We're on the quai! Isn't that lucky? We seem to have found your place first! Perhaps I better stay here, then, what d'you say?"

As he directed Methos' dancing footsteps along the quayside, he wondered how truly drunk the other Immortal was. He knew for a fact that he could put away a staggering amount of alcohol and still be perfectly capable of reciting the whole of the Illiad. Or if the mood took him, The Cat in The Hat.

They lurched down the steps into the below-deckspace, Methos keeping up a running commentary. "Well! I'm amazed. Just amazed! It doesn't move! It's perfectly still. Why's it still, Duncan? Did you have it taken out of the water?"

"No, Methos. Its probably just you. It's still in the water and it's still moving. I guess you and the boat are finally in synch. Now come and sit down while I make you some coffee."

"Had enough coffee to make me walk on water," and he giggled.

Duncan looked at him sharply. Methos giggling? "Whisky, if you want."


Duncan moved into the compact galley and began to fix coffee and whisky. He watched as Methos kicked off his shoes and leaned back into the old leather sofa, moving his head and neck comfortingly against the padded back as if settling into the embrace of a friend. Or a lover. He shook his head and turned back to measure spoonfuls of coffee into the sleek silver pot that stood on the gas burner.

Finally the coffee bubbled up, and Duncan called to interrupt Methos' reverie on the sofa. He watched in fascination as Methos joined him in both space and time, rising and coming gracefully into the kitchen, accepting coffee from MacLeod's hand. The smaller immortal peered earnestly at the whisky before taking the glass held out to him.

The silence between them no longer seemed companionable, rather it was apprehensive. Methos obviously felt it, he finished his coffee and whisky as quickly as he could, refused the offer of a refill, and made apologetic and completely sober excuses as he shrugged into his long coat and slid into his discarded shoes. As he reached the door, Duncan voiced the unspoken question that had been hanging over them for hours. "Won't you stay?"

Methos didn't turn around. He paused at the companionway, but made no other acknowledgment. Then he moved swiftly up the open stairwell and away.

Duncan sighed once, not sure whether it was disappointment or relief, and cleared up the small debris of cups and glasses. He poured himself another whiskey, and moved out onto the open deck, looking up the deserted quai towards the Pont Neuf. Had Methos gone home? The sky had clouded over and soft rain fell on his shoulders, cool through the linen shirt. He turned his face up to it, feeling the rain only as a dampness that appeared as if by magic on his eyelids and lips. He spared a thought for Methos wandering godknowswhere in the rain, then shivered once, conscious of his half-aroused state. He moved back inside, closing the doors as he went, and pulled off the damp shirt.

He wandered back into the kitchen and closed up the bottle of single malt, placing it in its metal safety stand in the curve of the kitchen bench. As he pressed the button to start the dishwasher he felt the familiar buzz. He was just moving back into the other room to locate his coat and sword when a figure appeared in the companionway.

Methos stood there, lounging against the architrave, his coat wet, his hair sticking up in damp spikes. "Can I change my mind?"


It was skin that Duncan remembered most afterwards, the fine satin sheen of Methos' skin, almost luminous in its paleness against the dark blue sheets. The silky softness of the inside of his thighs, the smooth hairlessness of his upper arms. The way MacLeod's hand seemed dark against the beauty of the pale flesh, the erotic delight he felt in contrasting his skin against Methos'. The glide and slide of naked bodies, skin touching, skin arousing. The delicate pleasure map of Methos' skin, the long yielding curves and valleys of delightful muscle, the plains of responsive flesh, the reservoirs and dips hidden in the sculpted lines of his abdomen, his back, his thighs. Alabaster, marble, pearl; chalk, milk, flour - sweet words or common place, Duncan was bereft of any words to anchor inside himself the simple wonder of touching Methos' skin.

Some inner eye kept for MacLeod the image of bodies turning in the faint light from the lower room, dipping and swaying to a rhythm older than the man he held, as together they enacted the ancient dance. But for Duncan the steps were so unexpectedly new that it was as if he had never heard before the cadence and fall of breath, of sound, of sighs, never known the heat and fire of mouth and blood and loin, never felt the power of sinew and muscle. The glissade of flesh sliding home, the soft click of tongues moving to caress and bite, the gentle tug of hands settling limbs and flesh, were all so surprisingly fresh for Duncan that his body responded as if it had never known pleasure before, drowning him in bliss, searing him with ecstasy, abandoning him to rapture, before finally racking him with the terrifying force of his orgasm.


He awoke some hours later to find the pale dawn light fingering in through the bare portholes, and Methos curled against his side like an urchin. He was startled into tenderness at the sight of that head turned into his side, face totally obscured, hands curled under his chin. Gently, almost reverentially, he reached out and stroked the length of Methos' arm, halting his movement as his hand neared the other's face. He did it again, and despite the nobility of his actions his body responded on a far more primitive level, throwing images at him that eventually made him turn and gather Methos into his arms, arrange his body as needed, and be only vaguely grateful that Methos was awake enough to participate in what was about to happen.

And Methos, despite the method of his awakening, gave to Duncan in a manner that caused him to wonder all over again if he had ever made love before, ever shared any form of intimacy that could be likened to this intensity.

The newness of his reactions, the unexpectedness, puzzled Duncan, and frightened him. He was not ready for the surprise that tore through his body, not ready for the emotions that fluttered in his chest at the thought of touching Methos. When his body relinquished its stranglehold on his mind he rolled away abruptly and vanished into the bathroom.

Even that short distance gained him some sense of balance. Away from the siren call of Methos' body he could think straighter. He turned on the taps and stood under the hot shower, letting his emotions flow down his body and out of the drain hole with the water. Finally he could think with some degree of rationality.

Everything Methos had said in the bar on Montparnasse came back to him. Sure, he had heard the words then, but with his ears only, not his mind. He hadn't been ready to take them in, caught up as he was in his agenda of stalking Methos, capturing him and subduing him. And now that he had achieved his goal what did he really want? He could see instantly that everything Methos had said was true, that he had quite possibly ruined the tentative friendship. Certainly he had changed it. And yet, hadn't Bordeaux already done that? It had proved that their tie could not be broken, but it had also shown him that whatever it was, the link was not as simple as friendship.

It was as complicated as Methos' tie to Kronos. And to Byron. Didn't the relationship Methos had shared with the poet prove false every one of his words the previous evening? Had Methos been preaching that sermon to Duncan or trying to convince himself?

Love and sex and friendship--not all divisible, then. It was a matter of finding the balance.

Duncan knew he had never discovered any but the most superficial facts about Methos, exactly what he had been allowed to find out. And he had tried. God knows he had tried. He had observed Methos carefully, drawing conclusions of his own from events surrounding him--Kronos, O'Rourke, Cassandra, Alexa--striving to arrive at some formula for making Methos into an equation he could understand. And it seemed that no sooner did he absorb into himself some new truth about Methos, make a place for it in his mind and comprehension, that he was left feeling it was all as insubstantial as fog, that some essential kernel of that truth he thought he'd digested had transmuted and become something else entirely.

Each advance in understanding was met with a smokescreen of lies and half-truths. Scraps of honesty were surrounded by make-believe and fantasy. And last night's, and this morning's, developments had certainly done nothing to further his knowledge of who Methos really was.

The Methos in his bed further confounded the image. He had always thought that Methos lived in a state of control, whether that control was bordering on lunacy, as with Kronos, or wrapped up in some unnameable form of integrity he wouldn't admit to himself. But the Methos he had discovered in his bed was pliant and compliant, giving, surrendering, abandoned, tender -- abruptly Duncan stopped his runaway mind. Why was it so hard for him to trust Methos, for Methos to trust him? Why did Methos insist on being so many different people at any time? Would he ever know enough about Methos to find any connection, ever see in Methos some part of himself that he could relate to? At their first meeting Methos had showed him a vulnerable side, but the five years in between had forced him to realise how foolish it would be to truly believe that of Methos. The Oldest Immortal used vulnerability in the same way a master swordsman wielded a katana, and with as much deliberate and delicate precision.

He dried himself slowly, reluctant to face Methos in the light of day. His body seemed to have other ideas; it wanted to go back to bed as quickly as possible and fuck Methos senseless again. He tied the towel around his hips after thinking about swimming in the cold Seine and went back into the bed area. Methos was still completely hidden in the bedclothes, only tufts of hair sticking out of the sheets showed which part of the lump formed his head. MacLeod grabbed sweat pants and T-shirt, socks and running shoes, as silently as he could and dressed in the outer room. He let himself out and turned towards the Tuileries.

His breath puffed in the morning air, so cold now in November that it spiked his throat as he ran. The night rain had washed the pavements clean, and the still grey sky of dawn held everything breathless and unmoving in the pearly light. Duncan's mind ran in circles, as his feet ran in straight lines.

Eventually he gave up, and concentrated simply on running, on the strike of his feet, the pull of muscles, the relief of harsh breath and pounding blood. He ran for over an hour, then stopped, panting, to check his surroundings. He had run straight along the river bank, and now found himself in an outer suburb. He looked back towards the river and the barge, to where Methos might still be, and felt a reluctance to return home. He shook himself. It had to be faced sooner or later, and he had no one to blame but himself. More slowly than he had run away from the barge, he jogged back.

It was empty, as he had known it would be.


Without pausing, knowing that if he hesitated he'd never follow through on this, Duncan headed towards Amanda's apartment.

Impatient in the lift, dancing lightly on the balls of his feet, he deliberately kept his mind empty. He knew exactly what he wanted to say to Methos, and he had to say it now, do it now, while his resolve was still fresh. No procrastinating. The lift stopped with a series of jerks at the sixth floor, and Duncan felt the familiar buzz of an Immortal. Well, now Methos knew he was coming.

He let himself into the apartment. Methos, wearing the same shirt and trousers he had worn last night, sat at the kitchen bench drinking coffee. At MacLeod's entrance he rose wordlessly and poured another, pushing it towards the Highlander.

"Can I use your shower?" Duncan asked, all of a sudden anxious to procrastinate, and saw the pitched eyebrow that said more eloquently than words 'Is this your house or mine?'

When he returned to the kitchen Methos was relishing a croissant, and Duncan noticed the bag on the bench beside his cooling cup of coffee. Methos must have bought them on his way home. The silence was as awkward as it had been last night, and MacLeod knew Methos felt it too, as his host moved restlessly on his stool.


"Mmm," replied Methos around a mouthful. He took a swig of coffee to clear the crumbs then rose and went out onto the balcony.

Duncan almost followed him there, but thought better of it. Instead, he concentrated on finishing his croissant and coffee. He wondered who would speak first.

In the end it was him. Methos had wandered back in from the balcony to pour another cup. He had looked at MacLeod, but not said anything, and the quizzical look had finally prompted Duncan to speak.

"About last night..."

Methos cocked his head, all interest.

"I've been thinking." He could hear Methos' unvoiced comment 'always a dangerous thing, Highlander', so he drew a sudden breath and looked down into his cup as if it contained the script. He continued, "And you were right, of course. About confusing sex and friendship. I don't want this to ruin our friendship, Methos. I value you. I don't want to lose you over a silly whim. You mean more to me than that." He knew he sounded stilted, awkward. He'd rehearsed the words on the short run here, but they sounded no better now than they had out in the cold morning air.

He was unprepared for Methos' breath in his ear, his voice shivering along the small hairs at the back of his neck. "A little late for that, don't you think?" Methos' hand slid along his arm and pulled the cup away, depositing it on the bench even as he swung the stool around so that they were face to face. "You start something, you finish it. You killed it, MacLeod. Now you have to pay."

Then hands were on his face, holding him still as Methos' mouth ground against his own, the tongue forcing, insistent, butter and coffee-flavoured, he thought irrelevantly. He opened up to Methos, allowing the intrusion, in truth not being able to do much about it. His body betrayed him utterly, capitulating so effortlessly that his brain was stunned into momentary submission.

Methos was powerful and forceful, in full control of his own actions and MacLeod's. Even when Duncan tried to assert some presence into the dialogue he was ruthlessly brushed aside as his responses were directed, his surrender forced. Duncan knew rationally that he could have broken Methos' hold at anytime, but only if his body had been willing to obey his brain, which it selfishly refused to do. Instead, the tongue in his mouth seemed to reduce him to nothing more coherent than whimpers and groans of need, as his body roused to Methos' will.

Methos' hands pushed the T-shirt up, leaving scorch marks where they touched his skin. His palms flat against MacLeod's back urged him up, upwards into the kiss, hard against his chest, and Duncan rose in self-defence, not knowing whether he sought to escape the heat of those hands or whether he wanted more of his kiss. Methos backed away slightly, giving him room to stand, but not releasing him from the furnace of his mouth.

They were of an even height, yet Duncan felt that Methos bent towards him. He felt a leg push against his thigh, and his body obeyed, spreading his legs, letting Methos rub up against his groin. His betraying erection, the ache in his balls, the surrender of his mouth, were all signals of his complete capitulation. In the end it was only his brain that seemed surprised by everything before he finally melted into Methos' embrace, relinquishing even the memory of control.

He responded with a willingness and a wholeheartedness that he had never been able to show before, to any lover, always fearing the consequences of his actions. But this lover drew it from him, demanded it from him, and he could not refuse. He did not know how he found himself naked on the bed, Methos above him, looking into the face of his friend, his lover, seeing the implacability in the golden eyes. He knew his own eyes signalled acceptance as well as surrender, and he was surprised at Methos' sudden gentleness, the brief touch of a hand on his face, across his lips, the soft sigh from his mouth, the sound of his own name spoken with a tenderness he wasn't expecting.

Then Methos possessed him with a combination of power and rage, and he abandoned himself completely, giving Methos whatever he wanted as long as the searing pleasure continued, as long as Methos held him balanced along the edge between a hunger that could never be appeased, and a promise of satisfaction so great he would never hunger again. And it went on and on, until he no longer knew whether the pleasure was searing ecstasy or unbearable pain, until he no longer knew who he was, until he knew only that Methos held him, Methos shielded him, Methos was his world and his god, and then Methos let him go and he screamed as he fell into the release that brought with it blessed darkness.


He opened his eyes to see Methos looking down at him. He felt so lethargic he couldn't move, his limbs heavy, his muscles more weary than if he had run a marathon. "How," his voice grated, harsh, and he cleared his throat. "How long?" he tried again.

"Oh, a couple of hours," replied Methos, then gently stroked his face. "You all right?" he asked, and Duncan was surprised at the cautiousness in his voice.

"Umm, yes. I'm fine. You?"

"Yes, I'm fine, thank you."

"Oh, that's good."

"Jesus, Duncan. I fuck you to within an inch of your life and we're trading platitudes like an old married couple. Haven't you got anything to say?"

Duncan watched the expressions play across Methos' face, uncertainty, a flash of anger, a hint of guilt. He decided to let Methos stew for a while. After all, he thought with a mental grin, it was only fair after all the dissembling Methos had been doing. He flexed his fingers under the bedclothes, then cautiously began to search for Methos' hip. He found it, and saw the startled look in Methos' eyes as he felt the warm hand stroking him.

Suddenly MacLeod felt free, free of his concerns, the chains they made, the choices they unconsciously dictated. He lifted his head to look into Methos' eyes. It didn't matter in the end whether they were friends or lovers, although he definitely preferred the latter. He and Methos were bound by more than their shared immortality. In fact, in a flight of fancy he could almost imagine that immortality had been granted to them for this sole purpose, that they find each other in all the ages of the world, in all times until the ending of time. The differences that drove them apart were only a mirror of the similarities that would always draw them back together.

He smiled into the eyes that flickered between gold and green, eyes that watched him anxiously, waiting for an answer. Duncan considered a moment. What was it he had been going to say? He let a smile spread slowly across his face before he spoke the only possible answer.

"When will you be ready to fuck me again?" he asked smugly, and laughed as Methos started in surprise before pouncing on him.