Squaring Off
Story five in the Configurations arc
 by rac

Configurations is a multi-part story consisting of:  Symmetry, Triangulation, Linear Perspective, Quaternity, Squaring Off, and Full Circle. (Stories still under construction... Thanks for your patience)

Disclaimer:  Highlander and characters are owned by Rysher Entertainment and Panzer/Davis Productions.  I make no claim to them, I make no money on them either.  Any original characters are solely of my own invention. Do not copy, post, link or publish this material without the express permission of the author.

I want to acknowledge the writers of Highlander: The Series who are responsible for the episode "The Modern Prometheus".  I have included herein snippets of dialogue from various scenes... it is not my own, and I do not make claim to it. I only use it as wonderful inspiration for the rest of my own story.

WARNING! Rating: NC-17 for adult m/m situations.

For help with names and terms, see the separate Glossaries for both the Greek and the Sumerian words.

Thoughtful feedback gratefully received.  Thanks for taking the time to write, it's appreciated. Impolite feedback will be circularly filed.  Life is too short.  This body's not Immortal.  :-)

Squaring Off

"By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean."   -Mark Twain-

"Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret".    -Benjamin Disraeli-

 "Aw, man, I don't know if I'll ever get this stuff." Richie Ryan threw down the pencil in disgust. It bounced once and rolled up next to a pile of files. Pushing his hand back through his short hair, he leaned forward once again. "Okay. Tell me once more why you didn't roll over this account."

Duncan MacLeod leaned in from his seat next to the younger red-haired Immortal and began to explain again what the significance of his actions were concerning the handling of his various investment accounts. His voice was calm, low and patient, evincing nothing more than simple pleasure in teaching his young friend the ins and outs necessary to navigate modern financial waters successfully.  They had been at it all afternoon as Duncan had gone over his books, trying to bring everything up to date. He knew by now Richie's head must be spinning from the amount of information he had received and felt respect for the young man.  He was persevering, trying hard to understand things that were far from anything he had any training in previously.  And he was quick, no matter that he complained and moaned. He caught on fast and had a sharp mind when it came to money.  Duncan settled back in his chair, watching Richie balance the one investment account. He'd do all right.

Richie tensed suddenly, automatically dropping the pencil and grabbing for his nearby sword. His eyes slid to Duncan sitting calmly next to him, hands still folded loosely over his stomach. Rolling his eyes and replacing his sword, he sat back down. "Geez, Mac, I have to tell you, that gives me the creeps.  I mean, how can you do that?"

A large smile creased Duncan's face just as the main door to the barge opened and two bags and one body entered. "I can't believe you two are still holed up in here.  It's beautiful outside."  Adam Pierson, a.k.a. Methos, resident ancient, bounded down the steps.  Reaching into a bag, he tossed something over to the table.

Richie caught the large bag of M&M candies easily. "Fantastic! Thanks, Adam, how'd you know these are my favorites?"  He ripped into them and snarfed a handful.

"I'm psychic. God knows Mr. Healthy doesn't keep snacks around like that. I thought you might be in withdrawal by now." He was piling things out of the bags and opening doors in the kitchen area, finding places to stick items. "Even if you didn't want to eat them, I thought you could always use them to count with."  An M&M pinged off the side of his head.

"Ha ha ha. Very funny. Seriously, how'd you know?" Richie asked again around a mouthful of chocolate.

"Oh, I dunno, maybe it was the 5 empty bags I found when I went by the apartment today that gave it away ."

Duncan laughed out loud while Richie looked chagrined. "Have you been eating anything half-way decent?" he demanded.

"I've been eating," he said defensively. "I'm not going to die from malnutrition, so what's the worry?"

Adam glanced at Duncan, grinning. Duncan rolled his eyes. "Never mind. Had enough of this stuff?" He indicated the desk.

"I'll quit anytime you say, man."

"All right. How about a run along the river since Adam says it's so beautiful outside? I bet you can't keep up with me after chowing down all that chocolate," he dared.

"You're on, big guy. Loser buys drinks at Joe's." Richie stood up. "Lemme go put on some sweats."  He disappeared into the bathroom.

Duncan stood up and stretched, then walked over behind Methos in the kitchen.  "Have a nice day?" He reached around and embraced him from behind, pulling him back against his body.

"Yeah. Spent the morning at the universite talking with some of the staff about their latest dig...mmm." He bent his head to the side as Duncan rubbed his face against the naked skin of his neck.   "And... it's frustrating not being able to say anything more than I am to help them out."

"You'll find a way. You always do," Duncan said quietly.

They stood in silence for a moment. Methos shifted. "They asked me again to join them at the site. They've even gone to the trouble of finding funding for me, can you believe that? Just to get me out there.  I guess they thought that factor was holding me back."

Duncan heard the mixed tones in his voice. "Methos, I've told you to say yes to them, if that's what you want.  If you don't make up your mind soon, the opportunity will be long gone. And it sounds like a good one since they value you so highly." He nuzzled his ear and squeezed hard. "Why, I have no idea, but who can tell what people see in you?"

"Ha ha. Very funny," he echoed young Ryan.

Mac smiled. For weeks now, he had been living a life that brought such contentment to him.  He was almost afraid to breathe at times. Rich had flown over from Seacouver, his semester over in college, and had decided to spend a few months in Paris.  Duncan's heart had been in his throat, not knowing how to handle telling Rich about his relationship with Methos.  Rich had been gone from Seacouver when he and Methos had first begun one so it was an entirely new subject for the young man who was like a son to him.

How do you tell your very heterosexual son that his otherwise usually heterosexual father is in a relationship with another man?  For the week prior to Rich's arrival, Duncan had been completely distracted with the issue. Finally, Methos had looked at him and asked Mac if he would rather he simply move back to his apartment for the next few months...problem solved.  Duncan had been shaken out of his rut.

"Good god no, Methos. At our age, we're going to hide this? Richie'll just have to deal with it."

That's how Methos felt about it, but he hadn't been too sure of Duncan after watching him worry about it all week long.  Over dinner that evening, he had offered a solution.

"I know you're feeling awkward about having young Ryan stay here at the barge with us. And you've said you don't want me going back to the apartment."

"No, you're staying," Duncan said firmly. "That is, if you want to," he ended on a note less firm.

Methos grinned. "I'll stay. I can't wait to see the look on Ryan's face.  But what I wanted to suggest," he continued before Duncan could get out the rebuke he was telegraphing, "is that Ryan use my apartment while he's here. I'm sure our young Lothario will find the idea of his own pied a terre a novel and convenient thing."  Duncan sat, arrested by the idea. "And it will alleviate the issue of three being an embarrassing crowd in this small barge."

And so it had gone, and gone quite well. Duncan met Richie at the airport sans his lover, who had suggested that Rich would probably appreciate the time alone with his teacher, having been away from Duncan for some time now. On the ride from the airport, Duncan had broached the subject, a bit defensively, a bit apologetically, but was taken aback at the matter-of-fact way Rich took the news. When Richie caught him staring at him in wonder, he shook his head.

"You must think I'm a total dork, Mac. How'd you think I was going to react? Like you had the plague? Get real. If you and the old man are happy,  I'm happy."  He looked out the window pensively. "One thing I've learned in my few years around is that happiness isn't exactly a wide-spread commodity. You gotta grab it when you can."

Duncan felt foolish to have tears pricking his eyes at the casual acceptance and love Richie offered him.  He wasn't sure what he had ever done to deserve such openly given gifts from this young man, especially since Duncan had brought nothing but hardship into his life, at least from Duncan's perspective.  But he was cognizant of the gift he had been given and swore to hold it dear always.

"I mean, if you find that skinny, smart-mouthed, moldy old guy to your taste, then who'm I to tell you you're crazy? I gotta say that I'm glad I'll be staying at Adam's place, though. I don't know how I'd feel having to sleep there on the barge, listening while you two are in bed doing the wild thing."

Duncan nearly had an accident and swerved deeply to avoid the car.

That topic struck Richie and he wondered out loud, "So tell me, Mac. Is the sex any good?"

Duncan exploded. "Richie!"

"A little touchy about it, huh?" He looked interestingly at Duncan who was driving almost desperately through the Paris traffic. "I don't know if I've ever seen you blush before. Wow. That's okay, I'll just ask Adam. I know it won't embarrass him."

Duncan felt the blood that had gathered in his face begin to drain away quickly. Oh, no, Methos wouldn't be embarrassed. He'd think the whole thing hilarious and proceed to describe our sex life in excruciating, exhausting detail.  "Rich, please, just leave it alone." His voice sounded strangled. No wonder. "Sex is sex. It usually is a private thing between two people," he hinted.

Richie poked one more time at Duncan's button. He couldn't resist. It wasn't often that he had the upper hand when it came to his mentor. "Okay, Mac. But, thinking about it, maybe I would have more fun if I stayed on the barge with you two. You know, learn new things, expand my horizons. What d'ya say?"

When Duncan turned crazed eyes to Richie, he knew he'd poked as far as he dared. "Maybe that's not such a hot idea after all. Methos' apartment sounds great. Yeah, thinking about it, I'll have my own space. And all those Paris chicks.." he sighed.  He had a hard time not laughing at the expression of relief on Duncan's face.  He's nuts if he thinks I won't ask Adam about the two of them. Soon as we get time together without Mr. Prude here.  At that thought, he did smile.

"C'mon, Mac, I'll start without you," Richie threatened. He was currently leaning against the bulkhead, pulling on his shoes and grinning at the two embracing in the kitchen.  "Then I'll definitely win. And I plan on buying a big dinner."

Duncan pulled away from Methos with a groan. Methos had no sympathy. "You're the one who suggested it, bright boy. Better get moving."

Duncan groaned again and told Rich he'd be ready in a moment as he closed the bathroom door.  Richie went over and leaned on the kitchen counter, watching Methos as he finished up in the kitchen.  The older Immortal glanced up at the red-head and smirked.

"What, more questions about our sex life?" he quipped.

"Why, things change recently?" Rich fired right back.

"Variety is the spice of life, youngster. Especially with sex."

Richie shook his head and smiled. "How is everything, really? Mac was talking about you going on some archeology dig somewhere in the middle east."

"I haven't decided yet." Methos popped the cap off a beer and took a swig.

Richie contemplated the older Immortal for a minute. "Why... you worried about Mac?" he asked shrewdly.

"Oh absolutely. Whatever would he do without me?" he deadpanned.

"I can think of a few things. But, knowing him, he probably wouldn't. I dunno, man, the idea of long days in a hot, dry desert, sweating while sifting through grains of sand, just to uncover something you probably saw when it was new is not my idea of a fun time. Not to mention the hostiles who might decide to come and take you away some night because their leader got a bug up his ass about something."

Methos lounged back on the couch, contemplating Richie.  "Ryan, you certainly have a way of putting things into a perspective I've never had before, I'll grant you that."

"Anytime, old man, anytime." Richie gave him a mock bow.

"You ready, Rich?" Duncan stood by the door, towel in hand, t-shirt and sweat shorts on.

"Yeah, let's do it." He was up the steps and out the door.

Methos looked at Duncan and raised his eyebrows. "The usual?"

Duncan nodded. "Yes, the riverwalk pattern we take."

"See you in a few," Methos waved him out the door.

They had developed a habit of keeping track of each other. It hadn't been done purposefully at first, but it seemed to have blossomed into that.  Mac got up early and liked to jog while Methos hated to stir that early if not necessary. But he was concerned, especially in the warmer weather, that Mac was putting himself at risk by exposing himself to potential challengers when he was unarmed. The early morning streets and walkways weren't as populated with people as they became later on, and were potential death traps for an unarmed Immortal.  So they had scouted out a planned route, with a few variations for variety and safety's sake, and Mac always alerted Methos before he set out which route he was choosing. One thing they need not worry about- if Mac needed him, Methos would be the first to know. And if he knew where Mac was, then he could be there even faster.  Mac complained at first he didn't need the caution, that he had been taking care of himself for years. But as soon as Methos looked at him and explained that he needed it, Mac had shut up and not complained again. That sincere, big-eyed look got him every time, Methos thought. Of course, it was lowering to realize there was enough truth to the statement that Mac could sense it, which was what probably why he capitulated so easily to the request.  So much for my delusions of being the Grand Manipulator.

Turning around, Methos stuffed pillows at the end of the couch and proceeded with his second-favorite exercise, closing his eyelids.  He stretched out bonelessly, the beer bottle balanced on his diaphragm.  Ryan's question of why he hadn't decided yet had struck a nerve.  It wasn't Duncan he was worried about.  Oh, no, it was good ol' Adam Pierson.  Since they'd reconciled a few months back, Methos hadn't been out of Duncan's presence for more than a handful of hours at a time.  What had disturbed him was knowing he hadn't even realized it, hadn't recognized his behavior as unusual until Joe commented on it a month after he had moved into the barge with Mac.

                "You two are regular Siamese twins, sewn at the hip these days. It's like there's an invisible line connecting you to each other."

It had been an innocent comment, one Joe had thrown out to be funny at the time, completely unaware how accurate and literal the description was.  After hearing it, it had kept repeating itself in Methos' head until later he actually got up and left the club without MacLeod, walking home by himself in the late spring evening.  By the time he had arrived back at the barge, the Citroen was parked in its usual place.  He entered to find Duncan sitting on the couch sipping a whisky and reading something, Verdi's La Traviata crescendoing in the background.


"Hi."  Methos had hung up his jacket, then wandered around the barge aimlessly for a minute or two while Duncan watched this display.

Finally he had enough. "Methos."


Duncan closed his book and laid it on the table. "Come. Sit."  He indicated the couch next to him.

Perversity ran naturally through his veins. Methos perched on the arm of the couch, swinging his leg.

"You want to tell me what's going on?"  Duncan looked steadily at him.

Methos didn't answer, listening to the aria playing.  "Poor Violetta," he mocked.

Duncan laid his head back on the couch.  "Yeah, I'm starting to feel a certain affinity for her plight.  You want me to call you Alfredo?"

The oldest rolled his eyes, paused then slid down onto the couch into a similar pose as Duncan.  They sat that way for another five minutes, Duncan enjoying the sweeping music of the final act.  When he eventually looked over at the still form next to him, he was shocked to see faint tear tracks from the corners of Methos' closed eyes.

Cursing in Gaelic, he asked worriedly, "What's wrong?"  Duncan used the remote to turn off the CD player, then turned to pull Methos into an embrace.  The sight of the old man crying for an unknown reason left Duncan shaken to the core.  He was used to Methos being a brick, letting nothing penetrate to the extent of allowing this kind of "emotional display" as he had once scathingly called a show of tears.

Duncan had felt the confusion and turmoil build up in the oldest Immortal while they had been out this evening.  His leaving to walk home alone had seemed a natural way for him to work through whatever was bothering him.  Duncan hadn't worried. Too much.  He knew it wasn't something that he had done, and could only wait patiently (and a bit helplessly) until Methos decided to talk about it.   He just decided his patience was at an end.

There was a slight tussle as Methos resisted the embrace, but then he capitulated completely, sinking against Duncan's chest.  "You want to tell me what's got you so upset like this? What happened? What's going on in that overly active brain of yours?"  At no response, he tried another track.  "Maybe it's not your overly active brain, maybe it's your overly active body. Hormones acting up? PMS?"  He dug fingers into Methos' lower back. "I can rub it if the cramps are bothering you."

Methos snorted against Duncan's sweater. "Keep it up, MacLeod, and you die tonight. Unpleasantly."

"He speaks!"

"Ass."  He pushed back, running a hand through disheveled hair.  "PMS...that was a new low, even for you."

Duncan smiled. "Whatever works."  The smile faded. "Talk to me."

Methos looked at him for a moment, then turned and lay down, his head in Duncan's lap.  "I don't know, mid-life crisis maybe."


"Dammit, MacLeod, I don't know! Even five thousand year old guys can get a case of the blues now and then, you know."

"I thought that was my specialty."

"Yeah, well I think more then we realized came through in that Quickening.  I've been wondering for a while now if your damned Scottish melancholia is catching."

Duncan smiled, playing with the short soft hair under his hand as his mind worked.  "We Scots like to share the wealth."  His fingers rubbed the scalp under the hair, eliciting a faint sound of approval from Methos as he settled deeper into his position.  The silence stretched out comfortably for a short time.

Duncan broke it quietly. "It's the link, isn't it," he told Methos. "Something about the link."

Methos snorted against Duncan's leg. "Why don't we set you up in a booth with a crystal ball? 'The Oracle at Paris'.  I remember the original one at Delphi, we can make it quite spectacular and authentic."

Duncan ignored him. "Something was said tonight that upset you. Something about us."

Methos closed his eyes. "Mac. Please. Let's drop it for now.  When I'm ready to talk about it, when I know what to talk about, I will."

Duncan contemplated.  "Okay."

It took him a few moments before he realized that Duncan was dropping it.  Methos still found Duncan's easy agreement with his requests nowadays to be disconcerting, even though he knew they were sincere. Just as Duncan knew Methos' requests to be sincere.  Lying wasn't much of a viable option anymore in this relationship.  For the first time in a few thousand years, he was pretty much an open book to someone. Possibly therein lay the problem.  Look at what happened the last few times.  He shuddered.


Methos' eyes popped open.  "Going to warm me up?"

Duncan gave a slow smile. "Maybe."

And so that initial exploration of his unease had been averted, sidetracked for another day. That had been months ago, Methos realized. Months, and Mac still had not brought it back up for discussion. He took a swig from the bottle resting on his stomach.  Neither have I.  It was as if he were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Mac, that was great. Even better, knowing I don't have to pay for it."  Richie let the waitress take the last of his dishes away.  Maurice and Joe's place was full for a Thursday night, but Joe had saved them their favorite table in the corner near the band platform.

Methos saluted him with his wine glass.  "Ryan, I have to hand it to you, you do know how to win with class.  Subtly rubbing their noses in it, that makes winning even better."

Duncan grabbed the wine bottle and poured himself a full glass.  "Maybe I should move to another table."

"Oh, good. Adam can finish telling me about the latest."

"Uh, latest what?" Duncan eyed them both over the rim of his glass.

"I was educating young Ryan on variety."

"Yeah, he says it's the 'spice of life'.  His and yours, especially."

The wine nearly sprayed across the table before he could swallow it.  Gulping it down strained his esophagus and brought tears to his eyes.  The other two started to laugh at the sight he was presenting, and it struck him that they were pulling his leg.  Damn.

Richie leaned over and pounded him on the back.  "Mac, predictability is one of the things I love so much about you."

Rich, you just signed your own sentence.  How and when, I'm not sure. But soon.  Duncan smiled at his young friend.  "You know what they say about paybacks."

"Yeah, yeah. Sure. Speaking of predictability.... I gotta run. Michelle is expecting me in half an hour."

"Michelle? Is this the computer analyst or the Sorbonne student?"

"Nah, she's a new one. Hot as sin.  Met her at the Louvre last week."

Methos raised his eyebrows. "The Louvre? Well, well. Taking in some culture, Ryan?"

"Yeah, I heard how all the art students hung out there all the time. Figured I could meet a few."

Methos met Duncan's eyes, both amazed at that revelation.  "Right. That's... an innovative idea, wouldn't you say, Mac? Most people usually go there for the art."

"Mmm," was all Duncan could respond with.

"Well, gentlemen, it's been real." Richie got up and pushed in his chair. "Tell Joe sorry I missed him, but a man's gotta have priorities."

"We all certainly know where yours are, don't we Ryan?"  Methos smiled blandly.

Duncan frowned at Methos then turned to Richie.  "Let me know when you're ready to talk to the broker. I'll set up an appointment. We can meet, take care of business."

"Will do, Mac. Have fun." Richie saluted the two as he turned to leave.

"Keep your head," Duncan called out softly to his retreating form.  He turned and waved once before weaving through the crowd toward the exit.

"The Louvre Social Club." Methos shook his head.  "What's the broker about?"

"I'm giving him his own account to play around with. Let him get his feet wet making his own investments. It's the best way to learn."

"Kiss that good-bye," Methos predicted.

"What is it about you two? You're either ganging up on me, or sniping at each other. You both are about to drive me crazy."

Methos smiled darkly. "But you love us. You know you do."

"A condition which isn't guaranteed to last forever, at this raaaaa-te."  Duncan jumped a few inches off his chair.

"You seem a little jumpy this evening, Mac." Deviltry sparked out of every pore in his being.

 Duncan's eyebrows crept up toward his hair. "Methos!" he hissed.

The lanky Immortal lounged back in his chair, looking like Innocence personified.  He lowered his voice to a deep purr. "Oh I do so love it when you say my name like that, all passionate and urgent-"

A cough had them both looking up.  "Am I, uh, interrupting something?" Joe stood leaning on his cane, looking skeptically at the two before him.  Duncan flushed an interesting shade and barely met his eyes while Methos smiled wide in greeting.

"Joe! Nice to see you. Sit down, join us," he offered.  He ignored the daggers Duncan was staring at him.
"You playing tonight?"

"Nah, we got a new guy, thought I'd let him take it tonight.  You're gonna enjoy this one."  Joe sat back and indicated the stage where the his band now assembled.  A thin, exotic-looking young man with cafe-au-lait skin held an electric guitar like it was sacred.  In no time they were heading right into their first number, a hard-hitting rock piece dominated by the magical fingers of the new guitar player.

The trio at the table were spellbound at his talent for the next half hour.

"Kid's great," Duncan declared.

Joe nodded happily. "We picked him up in London. He came to every show, every night."

Methos opened his mouth but nothing ever came out. He was too busy trying to source the buzz that hit him. His eyes met with Duncan's a second in acknowledgment before they both looked around.  Four eyes finally fell onto the figure entering the club and greeting Maurice with a handshake.  The tension left Methos in a visible fashion.  In its place a smile crept in, eyes crinkling at the corners.

"Well, well! Look who's here!"

Joe looked around. "Byron!"

"The Byron?" Duncan asked, surprised at the familiarity in Methos' voice.  Since when did Methos know this man?  He was a mega-rock-star.  And obviously Immortal.

Methos stood up, hand out to greet his old friend.

"Hey Doc. It's been a long time."  The newcomer shook hands and smiled at his old friend.

Methos grinned back. "You've become kind of famous again."

Byron backed away toward a table next to Methos'. "Yeah, yeah, just can't seem to shake it," he mocked, obviously indicating his contentment at his fate.

Methos indicated the two men sitting. "Duncan MacLeod, Joe Dawson."

Byron's eyes slid to Duncan's, holding, assessing, challenging. "Any friend of Doc's," he said, narrowing his eyes at the other man.

Duncan had a hard time hiding his reaction. For some reason he took an immediate aversion to the ego-oriented artist before him.  That he and Methos knew one another - and well - could only be blamed on a small part of his response.  It was in his eyes, he thought. Something's not right in his eyes.  Without even thinking about it, he switched chairs before he sat back down, refusing to have his back toward the other Immortal.  He took the chair next to Methos, facing Byron.

Byron sat down, eyes on the stage. "Hey that kid's not bad.  Who is he?"

Methos answered him. "That's Mike. He's from London."

A minute later, the band wrapped the first set and Mike bounded off the stage toward the trio.

"You were great, Mike," Duncan said sincerely.

The skinny kid seemed pleased and embarrassed, brushing aside the praise. "It's a rush," he said smiling.
He looked to Joe. "Thanks, Joe," he said sincerely.

Just then a voice broke in. "Great chops, kid."

Mike turned around, and couldn't believe his eyes. Barely excusing himself, his eyes never leaving the figure next to the wall, he walked over to Byron and proceeded to act like a spellbound child at the foot of a god.

Joe turned back to Methos. 'You mean to tell me you knew him all this time and you never told me?" he asked accusingly.

"Yeah, Doc," Duncan said sarcastically, eyeing him.

Methos turned to look at Duncan, a knowing little smile on his face. Jealous! Mac's jealous, he thought in surprise.  This was definitely a moment to write down in the books.  Amusement poured through him as he turned back to Joe. "I never thought about it, Joe. I haven't seen him in over a century."

"Yeah, well if you've got anything to add to the history books, you let me know, ya hear?"  Joe shook his head. "Byron!" he said under his breath, still unbelieving.

Duncan slouched back in his chair, taking a drink as he eyed the other Immortal.  Mike was still worshipping and Byron sat back pleased as if it were his due. That attitude annoyed the hell out of Duncan.  For one thing, their Immortality was nothing to play around with, and being in the public eye was a dangerous and fine line to walk. Couple that with arrogance and insensitivity....   I've seen too many Immortals play at petty godship. Assessing, he couldn't see anything redeemable about Byron, except his creations.  The man himself seemed an ass.

"Penny," Methos' low voice broke into his musings.

He glanced at the oldest, shook his head. "Interesting friends you have. Got any more in the closet I should know about?"

Methos' eyes dimmed slightly. "Five thousand years is a lot of history to have, Mac. What do you want me to say?"

Duncan realized immediately he'd hurt Methos and swore softly. "Say you'll ignore that thoughtless statement of mine."

Methos smiled again. "Only if you make it up to me later," he whispered near Duncan's cheek.

Their eyes caught. Methos was shocked when Duncan reached down and took his hand his own, pulling it toward himself and then kissing it slowly, eyes never leaving his.  Duncan rarely did public displays of desire openly like this, especially right in front of other friends. "Whatever you want."

Methos knew that Joe was there at the table with his sharp eyes, but that didn't stop the rush of pure lust he felt upon Duncan's open action.  He pulled their entwined hands down to his lap, their chairs close enough for legs to be touching down their length. "How about now?" he said softly, challengingly.

Lust sparked and began to blaze in the brown eyes tangled with his. He felt Duncan's hand twist in his, then begin to press against his rapidly burgeoning groin under cover of the table.

"You're on."

He cut off the strangled sound in his throat as sensation sparked in him like wildfire. Duncan's wicked grin registered at the same time he heard his name.

"So, Doc, what have you been up to? No good, I trust."

Both men froze, turning to see bright, knowing eyes watching them from then next table. Mike had gotten back on-stage with the band and they were readying for the next set.  Methos forced his body to relax. "Oh, you know how things are, a little of this, a little of that."  Duncan had casually removed his hand from Methos' lap and just as casually put it around his shoulders, resting on the back of his chair.  "So tell me how the brilliant poetic mind rose once again to such great heights."

Byron was more than happy to talk about himself, his life, in between the songs the band proceeded to play for the rest of the evening. Duncan stayed quiet, letting Methos chat with his old friend, but he didn't move from his side except for one trip to the men's room.

When he was out of earshot, Byron watching his retreating form, the poet laughed and commented, "Leave it to you, Doc. That one is gorgeous, and from the looks he's been giving me all evening, I'll bet he thinks I'm the Devil Incarnate." He laughed aloud at the thought.  "How do you manage to surround yourself with such.... innocence and goodness all the time? Give me a good old-fashioned sinner any day."

"You haven't changed much, have you?" Methos said.

Byron shrugged.  "We all change, Doc.  Time, that relentless creature, marches on, leaving us in its wake like so much flotsam if we don't move with it."

Duncan returned and the chatter returned to Byron's current life. The Highlander was never so glad anything was over than that evening, as they all exited the club later on. Mike was extremely excited to be playing at the club, and he kept thanking Joe and swore he would be there tomorrow for practice.  Watching Mike seconds later be completely seduced by Byron's celebrity had Duncan disgusted at the seducer.

"He's an arrogant son-of-a-bitch."

"Most geniuses are," Methos countered. "He's connected. He can make that kid's career with one phone call."

"Yeah, he's in the big time now," Joe said sarcastically.  He stopped at his car and unlocked the door. "See you guys tomorrow."

"Night, Joe."  Duncan unlocked the Citroen.  They sped on home through the fairly empty Paris streets.

"Well, that was interesting."

"What?" Duncan looked over at him.

Methos lay back on the seat, eyes closed, mouth curled. "Watching you preen your feathers and stake a claim. I'd never have believed it if I hadn't seen it."

"What are you talking about?" Duncan sounded offended.

"Never mind. Let's not argue over him, it's not worth it."

Duncan snorted. "On that we agree."  He pulled up to the quay and pulled the parking brake. "I thought we had an interesting conversation going when we were so rudely interrupted."  Methos opened his eyes to see Duncan eyeing him strangely.  "How do you feel about leather?"



"Uh....." He watched while Duncan grinned very slowly and got out of his side of the car.  He could feel Duncan's excitement coming through in waves. In a heartbeat, he was out of the car and up the ramp onto the barge. There was a muffled curse behind him, but he didn't slow down, keying the lock in mere seconds, then in and bounding down the stairs. He flung his coat off onto the couch while starting to pull out drawers in a frantic haste.  Damn, damn. Where did he put them? He heard Duncan enter the barge, the footsteps moving down the stairs. Flinging up the lid of the chest near the bed, he cursed when it was apparent the objects of his search were not to be found.

Standing with his hands on his hips, he turned to find Duncan sitting on the side of the bed, grinning. "Right. What did you do with them?"

"Do with what?"

Somehow, Duncan attempting innocence when he was guilty as hell just never worked.  Methos looked all around but didn't see Duncan hiding anything.  "I don't know what you're planning... but I'll tell you now, it better not be that."

"Methos." Duncan looked wounded. "Have I ever done anything to make you not trust me?"

"Oh, I dunno. There's something in your eyes..."

"Yeah, it's called lust." He reached out a hand and pulled a skeptical Methos toward him. "You were feeling it earlier." His hand began to travel the same path it had at the club, down and over suddenly-tight pants.
"Guess you're having a resurgence again," he grinned at the older Immortal.

Methos breathed deeply. "Something's surging." Pushing easily, he topled Duncan backwards onto the bed, following him down. "You're a real pain in the ass, you know that, MacLeod?"

"I hope not," Duncan murmured as he trailed his mouth over the tender skin at his lover's neck.  "It's not pain I'm aiming for." Flipping them over, he started stripping off the black t-shirt and jeans Methos wore, touching all the skin he uncovered. He stripped away briefs and socks in two sweeps, leaving him naked against the dark green cover.  While Methos watched, he stood and stripped off his own black shirt and pants, jumping when Methos nudged his erection with a foot.

"Hurry up, big guy."

Methos' use of Richie's favorite nickname had him looking warily at the older Immortal as he pulled off socks.  "Did Rich ever ask you about our, ah, 'doing the wild thing'?"

Methos looked incredulous. "Why on earth would he do that?"

Duncan swore. "He did. What did you tell him?"

Methos pulled the golden-skinned warrior down onto him. "I told him that we had the most mind-blowing sex I've ever had. I said I wished I could die in your arms while having sex, but considering everything, that might prove a bit messy."  He reached down and wrapped his hand around the two erections.

Duncan groaned then covered Methos' mouth urgently, his tongue surging into Methos'.  He tasted the wine they drank earlier, their tongues mingling and stroking.  When the eldest set up a rhythm with his hand, their skin hot and damp against each other within his hold, Duncan broke off, gasping.  "Scoot up, I'm falling off the edge."

Methos slid up the bed, Duncan with him. Casually, Duncan grabbed Methos' arms and pushed them up out of the way while he tongued and bit the sensitive skin of his neck and chest. Then he began to trail down one arm, while continuing to rub their groins together slowly.  Methos moaned slightly, liking the sensation of teeth along his sensitive underarm.  It took a few seconds for him to realize that MacLeod had done something and was now busy with his other hand.

"You....bloody sneak."  He pulled against the padded leather restraints.

"Too late now, old man. You're mine."

"You wouldn't let me use them when I found them stuck away. How come you get to use them now?"
Methos was horrified to hear himself whining. Whining!

Duncan laughed. "Because I'm the control freak, remember?" Duncan referred to an argument they'd had where Methos had accused Duncan of being even more of a control freak then he, Methos, had ever been. Reaching over, he found the lube bottle in the bedside drawer and set it out.  "Now, close your eyes, don't talk and start moaning."  Duncan disappeared between his legs and it wasn't long before Methos complied.

Duncan found himself getting harder simply from performing this act on his lover.  He never would have thought before they'd started their relationship that going down on another male would be so....erotic. But it was, extremely so. Maybe because he knew exactly what his lover was feeling, but mostly he knew it was because it was Methos he was with. It was his smell that filled his senses, his taste that filled his mouth, the sounds of his moans in his ears that he heard. In an odd way, this was even more intimate than when they were locked together one inside the body of the other. This was a pure act of love, of giving to the other. Of the other simply receiving.

Just as he had with all his other lovers, he made it a point to learn the little things that brought them pleasure. The errogenous zones, which kinds of touches, for how long. Maybe it was part and parcel of what Methos called his controlling nature, but he didn't care. It brought him an inordinate amount of pleasure to inflict pleasure on his lover. And certainly he had never had any complaints.

Complaining was the last thing on Methos' mind. He didn't know which was more drugging, the very warm, lazy mouth on him or the feeling pulsing through their link, the contentment and pleasure he knew that Duncan felt with their closeness. This was worth all the panic he felt, the claustrophobia, of being trapped within the confines of his own mind with the unnatural intimacy of their connection.  Hands stroked, hair teased nerve endings heightened to awareness by an excess of pleasure.  When the mouth left him and moved up and up until it merged with his own, his body covered by the solidness that was his lover, he moaned against his mouth, giving voice to his frustration.  Wanting to wrap them around the body on him, his arms pulled against their restraints, unable to fulfill his desire.

"Mac.." he murmured, not at all thinking of what he was asking for, just that he asked.   The bed dipped and he felt Duncan reach for the bottle on the nightstand, then come back, urging him to raise his legs, baring himself to the gaze and touch of the one bent on driving him over the edge.  He felt slick fingers surrounding him, stroking, touching all of him unabashedly, probing, arousing him with their forays then retreating, leaving him to want more, want it now.

"Mac," he called again, his eyes still closed as he focused on sensations. Wanting the ingression, wanting the completion. Duncan moved over him, his mouth against his once again as legs were rearranged, then,
"Ahhhhh..." he called out in pleasure as he instead found himself sinking into slick heat.  His eyes flew open in surprise and met dark fire as Duncan settled onto his knees over him.  "Give me my hands," he murmured, wanting to touch that which was before him, on him.  His arms pulled against the restraints.

Duncan leaned down, dark hair trailing over his chest even as his mouth found a tight male nipple and bit it oh so gently, then soothed it with his tongue.  "No," he smiled, feeling indulgent, then trailed over to repeat the action on the other nipple. "You'll not do anything except lay there and be well and truly... fucked."

Duncan moved, contracting muscles and Methos gave a strangled cry as his body shuddered under the relentless assault.  On and on the motion went, minute after minute, oscillating up and down while he grabbed the leather straps in his hands to pull, losing himself in the sensation of being surrounded by tight heat, feeling the gathering pleasure of his lover adding to his own, feeding the excitement back and forth.  It was like climbing a long incline, constantly upward, moving higher, until the peak was there in sight, nearly touched.  Suspended endlessly over a great chasm as his body was wracked by exquisite tension, he let go, pushing away in the arms of his lover and they flew together.

Still pulsing head to toe from the ride, he settled back to ground in time to hear his lover mumble, "Love you. Don't forget it," in a sleepy voice in his ear.  Duncan still lay over him like a blanket.

Duncan, you romantic fool. Need to make you jealous more often.  He thought idly that his arms were still restrained as his mind wandered off, drawn back down the path it just traveled, toward restful oblivion.

Annalise Williams leaned in the doorway to the Archeology library, eyeing the figure in the corner.  Her light cocoa complexion was beautiful even under the garish florescent lights, her boy-cropped dark hair no more then a layer of tiny curls all over her head. What was unusual were the odd, deep turquoise eyes in the dusky face, the eyes a gift from her French-German mother, the permanent tan from her American serviceman father.  They were eyes no one missed, and eyes that in turn missed little, especially here, in her own domain.  She was a full professor at la Universite, teaching archeology to the next crop of hopeful adventurers.  In her off time, she liked to think of herself as Indianette Jones, braving adventure and death to uncover history.  If reality and fantasy bore little relation to one another, it wasn't for lack of trying.

The man was sleeping in her turf.  He was folded up on a chair, surrounded by books on the table in front of him, oblivious to the world.  His head was down on the table, buried in his arms.  Anna thought he looked like he had lost his best friend.  She didn't go out of her way to be silent, but when she touched him on his shoulder, the man twisted around to face her, eyes wild.  "Adam, calm down. It's just me."

"Anna." He pushed a hand back through his hair. "Gods, I must have fallen asleep. What time is it?" He pushed up his shirtsleeve to find a watch.

"It's after six.  What're you doing here so late?" She perched on the table, the files in her hand forgotten.

"Just, research," he said vaguely, indicating the scattered books.  He jumped up as if remembering something and began to gather the materials.  "I should go, it's getting late."

She frowned, watching this uncharacteristic display of jumpiness.  "Adam, you okay?"

He paused, laying books carefully in a pile.  "Yes. Thanks for asking. It's a private matter.  It'll resolve itself soon." One way or the other.

"Everything okay with Duncan?" She was still eyeing him closely.

He nodded. "It's an old friend who's in town. He's... upsetting the apple cart."

Anna relaxed. "Ah, old lover.  You tempted?"

"Gods, no!" he burst out, then laughed. "No, but there are some fireworks between him and Duncan.  I feel... caught in the middle."

"Definitely not the place anyone wants to be," she sympathized.  "Old friend going to leave soon?"

"I sincerely hope so, Anna, for everyone's sake."  He piled the books on the returned book cart.  "How's everything going along for the dig? Date still set for next week?"

Anna brightened. "Yes. The Board authorized the funding we need for at least the first six months, contingent upon discovery. Once discovery takes place, they will authorize more."

"That's great, Anna!  This is it, your big chance to show them all."

"Or fall flat on my face. Let's face it, not too many think I have a chance in hell in finding this place... I've been trying to get this together for almost ten years." She took a deep breath. "It's scary. Sink or swim. My entire professional life is on the line with this."  She eyed him.  "And you know I've been waiting to hear from you about it."

"Yes." He almost squirmed under her regard. "Things have been... difficult, for a few days Anna.  Give me a few more to talk to Duncan, to decide."

Anna sighed. "Only for you, cher.  After all, who else has been so supportive of 'the wild woman's theories' ?" she said bitterly.  Rival collegues were not being sparing in their shredding of Annalise's professional theories.

"Trust me, Anna." Methos laid his hand over hers. "You get that funding and you go to that site. I promise you, you will find what you're looking for."

She grasped his hand in thanks. "I wish I had your certainty about this, Adam.  I can barely sleep at night anymore."

Adam pulled himself back from someplace far away.  "Anna, I've got to go. I'm late and I'm afraid someone will be going ahead without me." He pulled away and headed for the door in a swirl of his long raincoat.

"I'll be waiting for your call!" she hollered after him.  The world's best linguistics expert in rare and ancient languages, and he was harder to pin down then the topic he studied.  She shook her head and slapped the files against her leg.  If I didn't like Duncan so well, I'd almost wish they had a falling out so he'd want to come on the dig. I don't know if anything else is going to pry him from his lover's side.  She hopped up to go to her office, thinking she wished she had someone who was devoted to her that much. Maybe one day.  Right now, all I want is to be able to find my palace. And prove that this king and his people did exist.

Duncan wasn't at the barge, the Citroen was gone.  There was no note.  He called Joe and what he heard had him reaching for a seat.  No... please, Duncan.  He thought of his old student and erstwhile friend and sometime lover. The waste, the sheer waste of it all had him feeling nauseous.  One of the most brilliant poetic minds I've met, and Immortality ruined him.  Totally wasted. And Duncan...  The possibilities of what could happen were few, the thought of each of them enough to make Methos want to curl over and hide, deny it was happening.

But he couldn't. Couldn't very well deny the feelings of anger and disgust that came in waves from his lover.  He'd felt them as soon as he awakened, disoriented, Anna's voice in his ear.  It had been disconcerting and alarming as he wondered what was happening to create such feelings.  He knew Anna must have thought him acting strange, but then again, he was. All he could think about was disaster.

The concert. Byron had another concert this evening.  Maybe he could get there in time...  With feelings of futility running rampant, he still had to try.  Had to.  He slammed out of the barge and jammed his ATV back into gear, heading for the arena.


"You know what I've become."

"Yes, I know."  Pain, he felt pain. The waste.

"But you know who you are, Doc?"

The leering grin seemed as if it were from someone he didn't know.  He shook his head, a small gesture, unable to say anything at this point.  Pointless if he did.  It couldn't be heard.

"You're the man in the audience and I'm the man on the flying trapeze. Who d'ya think's having more fun?"

Try. He had to try.  "Who do you think's going to live longest?"

"Who cares?"

Who cares?  "I do," he said softly. In vain.

"Do you want a tombstone that said 'He lived for centuries' or do you want one that says 'For centuries he was alive' ?"

"You're not listening to me.  I don't want a tombstone."

The leering grin was back in the dissipated, ravaged face.  "You hear that?  They're playing my song." And he left.

Methos stood, breathing deeply.  Let it go, let it go. You have to let it go. He closed his eyes briefly. Byron...please...

He wasn't sure how long he stood there, just standing. Trying to live with yet another decision that was out of his hands. Trying to come to terms with it.  Pain, pain.  It never stops, never. Why? he railed against that very heaven that Byron could no longer believe in.

He felt it then. He was here. Catching his breath, he stepped out of the room into the hallway.  Duncan strode down the corridor toward him.  Beard the lion... I have to try.

"Mike's dead, I know.  But Byron didn't force him to do anything."

Duncan's eyes seemed full of pain and pure fire, the purifying fire of righteousness.  "That's a load of crap.  Mike's dead because of Byron."

"Mike's dead because of Mike," Methos argued.

Duncan gave him a disgusted look and moved to go around him. Methos scooted to stay with him and they both wound up against the wall as two men carried something large down the hallway. "Coming through, buddy!"

Duncan took a breath and leaned in. "The kid idolized him.  Maybe he didn't pull the trigger but he sure put the gun in his hand. 'You live like me you gotta be like me'? Come on, Methos, Mike couldn't do that. He was not Immortal."

Methos felt the futility, heard the empty words but couldn't seem to stop himself. "Which is not Byron's fault!"

Duncan gave him a look which pierced Methos to the heart, a look which spoke of such disappointment, such disgust, then moved around him once again.

"Mac. Mac, wait!"  It felt to Methos that he might plead and lower himself unseemly for a person who didn't want to live himself anymore. "Think, think about the poetry, think about the music he's made, he will still make. You going to kill all that as well?"

Duncan looked at him straight on. "What about Mike? What music could he have made?"

The agony. Pain.  Duncan stared at him, raising his eyebrows, waiting for confirmation of what both knew to be the truth.  What can I say in the face of the truth? Feeling more helpless then he had in centuries, barring Alexa, Methos stood aside, allowing MacLeod to pass. He strode on down the hall, taking with him anything left of Methos' heart.

It was too much to be borne standing around in the depths of the arena, with millions of people overhead screaming Byron's name. Turning on his heel, he made his way blindly back out to his ATV and got in, feeling as old as his age.  Slowly, as if it were impossible to move any faster, he reversed out of the slot and drove off, unwilling to wait for the outcome.  Either way, a piece of him died too.

He drove to Joe's.  He talked, blindly, in spurts, Joe just listening, seeming to understand what Methos was feeling.  He had been there a couple hours, the crowd having filtered out and the bar closed by this point, when he felt it. Felt the gathering tension, felt the focus, the concentration.  The pain of injury.
Oh, gods...  Then, he could feel the slam of the Quickening down through the link. He curled in on himself, feeling the echoes of a lifetime, of a soul in agony, yet the brilliance, the visions of beauty that he had were still there too.  He clenched his teeth against the keening that wanted to rise up, come out and give voice to his pain.

It faded, falling to the background as it inevitably must, and he slowly unclenched his teeth, laying his head down upon the bar.  He sat like that for some time, Joe's soft riffs and chords keeping him company in the background. He sat dry-eyed, mourning the senseless loss of both lives, both brilliant artists.  One dried up and long past his wonder and the other hardly having a chance to taste his vision.  That's why Byron had felt compelled to destroy those full of wonder - Mike still had his dreams, still sought the heavens. Byron did not, could not. He had to darken the lights that shined around him as he too was darkened.  Now whatever he was, he was permanently extinguished.

He felt the closeness of Duncan.  Sitting up abruptly, he grabbed a bottle and his glass and moved on over to a table to await the victor.  Pouring a drink, he and the music both paused as the curtain parted and Duncan stood framed in the fall of red, red like blood pouring down around him.

Joe's face fell as he realized what Duncan's entrance meant. Taking a deep breath, he picked up again on the chords he was playing.  Duncan hesitated at the looks he received from both men, pain creasing his own face as he finally acknowledged the pain and grief he felt coming from Methos.  Slowly, he stepped down and to the table, throwing his coat over a chair.  He saw the bottle sitting there, felt his thirst (for the liquid or for the oblivion that it offered?) and moved to get a glass.

"Matter and anti-matter.  Byron knew that, too."  Methos voice was tight with emotion.  Duncan sat back down and poured himself a full glass from the bottle.  "His life had become one long tragedy."  The eldest said the last with mingled grief and disgust.  The waste...

Duncan felt completely helpless, nearly intrusive. He hated the feeling.  "We all know how those end,"
he offered, tentative, uncertain, but still a man who was not regretting his action. Only a man who regrets the pain that it inevitably must bring to those he loved.  Methos turned away from him, drinking deeply from his glass.  Damn Byron anywayDamn him!

They sat like that for what seemed hours, but a glance at his watch showed forty-five minutes.  Joe finally wound down, unplugging his guitar from the speaker, signalling to the other two that closing time was here.  Duncan stood up, eyes on the other Immortal who had not stirred in all this time.  "I, um, I'm going back to the barge."  He placed a hand on his shoulder.  "I'll leave the door unlocked."  He didn't know how else to say what he was feeling, that he didn't want Methos to use this as an excuse to run away, avoid the issue now between them.  He hestitated. "Are you okay?"

Long slender fingers rubbed at his weary eyes. "Yeah, just peachy."  He looked up at Duncan frowning down at him. "I'm fine. Go on back. I'm not going to run away, I'll be there." His tone was mocking.

Duncan stood another moment, then donned his coat. He nodded to Joe, throwing a soft "good night" his way, then exited quietly.

Methos had his head back down in the cradle of his arms when he felt the seat give next to him.  "You sure you're gonna be all right?" Joe inquired.

"Oh, yeah." He shrugged. "I hadn't seen Byron in nearly a century anyway.  He wasn't a big part of my life."

Joe's eyes didn't waver. "I know what he was to you, Methos, whatever you might say.  You were his teacher, his mentor. His friend and more all those many years ago. You yourself said this to me.  And now, your lover and friend has killed him.  That's hard, my friend. Hard." He placed a hand on the slender shoulder.  "No matter what you say, it's going to be hard to adjust to that between you and Mac.  Just-" he faltered.  "Just don't give up on you two. You're both my friends.  You seem to have something I've never seen before.  It's worth it to work at saving it."

Methos took a breath. "I don't know if I know how, Joe.  Never wanted to. I usually just put my losses behind me." He gave a short laugh. "You're right, we do have something you've never seen before. I might not have a choice about saving it. If I don't I may lose my sanity." He saw the confusion and questions on Joe's face and shook his head. "I can't explain now. Maybe someday. Now- you're right.  I must go back and try to salvage what I can from this. In spite of myself."  He downed the last of his whiskey and pulled on his coat.  "Thanks for the company and the words, Joe.  Neither of us appreciate you enough."  With that observation, Methos finally followed Duncan out into the night.

He took a breath and opened the door.  It was unlocked, just as promised.  The inside of the main salon was dim, a tiny lamp on the table next to the couch the only thing lit. Methos strained to see.  Finally his eyes adjusted and saw the form stretched out on the bed.  Hanging up his coat, he went into the bathroom and closed the door. The small light revealed his face in the mirror- drawn and tired, even after sleeping a few unexpected hours this afternoon.  Moving like the old man he was, he stripped, washing his face with cold water, letting the water sooth his burning eyes. He took care of his teeth and went to the toilet, then turned the light off and stood looking at the door.

He didn't know what to say to Duncan.  There were too many opposing forces churning through him to be coherent- his own grief at the loss of what he knew Byron was, what he had been at one time.  His grief that what he had become had cost another his life.  His anger that Duncan took it upon himself to be the force for good, and in this case, the one who meted out justice to the unwise.  His anger at both, even Mike, for putting him in this situation in the first place - if not for their choices and actions, he'd not be standing here like an adolescent, unsure how to approach the one he loved. Damn them all!

Slumping against the bulkhead in the dark, he wrapped arms around himself.  There was the other side of the story, and this was one time he couldn't run far enough to get away from it. His own anger was only a portion of the story.  The other was filled with Duncan- his pain, his anger, his grief.  Pain for Mike, for Methos' loss. Anger at Byron and his destructive choices, anger at Mike for his harmful naivete`.  Grief for the loss of lives.  Grief for the effect on their own relationship.

It was the last that had him opening the door soundlessly, moving through the darkened cabin and up the stairs to the bed.  As he approached the bed and slid under the covers with minimal movements, he knew that Duncan lay awake.  Methos wasn't going to make the first move. Not tonight.  This had not been his show.

"I know you're angry." MacLeod's low voice came out of the darkness. There was a slither of movement as he turned under the cover. "And grieving.  I'm sorry for that, more than I can say."

Methos took a deep breath into his lungs, let it out slowly.

There was a long silence.  He could hear a small sigh as MacLeod breathed. "Tell me- is this going to be the end of us? Are we going to get past this? If not, we'd best call it quits now. I've got a feeling this might not be the last time this happens to us.  Next time it might be my old friend. And because of who we are, what we are, I honestly think it's inevitable that there will be a next time."

As angry as he was, Mac's words spawned a sliver of fear down Methos' spine.  Leave?  Or face this constantly on the horizon? What hellish choices. Surely there were more.

"Methos, listen." Duncan moved, sitting up in the bed.  "This is hard...." he murmured. "I was thinking earlier, about a lot of things. About all the loves in my life. How I'd lost them all, either in death, or like Anne, they couldn't handle who I was.  But in every case, somehow, Immortality played a key role in my losing them. Do you know one of the things I found so profound about us?  You're strong.  God help me, you've survived.  I think part of me thought... you couldn't be lost the way I'd lost all the others. That you were too canny to let yourself get caught off-guard, and too non-judgmental to let anything I could do or be effect you enough to want to leave."

Methos could see Duncan shaking his head to himself. "I never thought about this. Stupid. Guess I didn't want to think about it.  Easier to play ostrich..." He trailed off, head on his knees.

"Hard to play ostrich at this point," Methos finally spoke, his voice a quiet murmur. He saw Duncan lift his head to look at him.

"How we deal with this is going to set a precedent for a long, long time, I think." Duncan paused, then added, his voice faint,  "That scares me."

Hearing the Legend that was Duncan MacLeod admit to being scared was a profound thing, Methos thought to himself.  It was a heady thing, because it was an admittance that their relationship was a very powerful force in his life.  Certainly no less powerful then it was in Methos' life.

The playing field was leveled. And thus further skirmish was rendered null.  Methos was not about to waste his energy on a skirmish without benefit, when benefit was right before him if he would only reach out and take it.

He sat up, the sheets slithering down. They both were nude, pale and golden skin barely visible in the dimness. Reaching over, he stroked a hand down Duncan's chest abruptly, Duncan recoiling from the unexpectedness of the movement. Without stopping, he trailed his hand straight down to Duncan's groin, fingers entangling between his legs.

"Gods, MacLeod. You're hard as a rock. You didn't relieve yourself afterwards?"  Methos was surprised.
He could feel Duncan's faint embarrassment.

"I- No," his answer was simple.

The iron discipline of the man had Methos shaking his head.  He wondered why he hadn't still felt the undercurrent through the link. Certainly earlier at Joe's place it had been obvious.

Duncan shrugged. "I was... preoccupied."  He had been scared silly that Methos would run. "I didn't want to ask you for something you weren't ready to give. This certainly is my 'problem'."

"Like you said, how we handle this will set a precedent for a long time to come."  Methos looked at him, considering.  "Lie back."

"Methos, we haven't exactly resolved anything," Duncan said uncertainly.

"Lie. Back."

Hesitant, Duncan did. Methos straddled him.

"Do you trust me."

Duncan looked at him. "Yes.." His words said one thing, his tone another.

"Put your arms up." He caught them and encouraged them up over Duncan's head.  Feeling around, he found where the restraints were still secured.  Buckling one around Duncan's wrist, he smiled, not a reassuring smile.  "My turn."

"Methos..." Duncan resisted him.

"Duncan..." he mocked. "Either you trust me or you don't. And this will certainly be a test of that, won't it."

Eyes locked. Hesitantly, almost defiantly, Duncan allowed him to fasten the other restraint around his wrist.  He didn't bother testing them. He knew quite well how secure they were.

Methos sat back, looking down on the figure below him. His hands trailed over Duncan's chest and arms as he spoke, remembering out loud. "A long, long time ago, if I was angry, people trembled. Everything was arranged to my desires.  If I was pleased, the people were pleased. But if I was angry..." he trailed off, lowering his face to within inches of Duncan's. "The people were very, very afraid."  Lightly, he nipped the chin before him with his teeth. "And with very good reason."

Moving, Methos rearranged himself so that he sat, knees bent, on his feet.  He placed Duncan's buttocks on his thighs, knees bent and legs to either side for the moment. Running a hand over the bare skin of the buttocks and thighs laying on him, he looked down and saw that Duncan had lost none of his energy for what was to come.  His smile was once again full of dark intent. "Let me describe how things used to be, back when I was a god."

"Don't expect me to worship at your feet, O Ancient One," Duncan joked, shifting uneasily.

Methos continued to run his hands slowly over the golden flesh spread out before him. "The proper name
is Mulu-Izi, immortal man of fire."  He looked up at Duncan, his eyes distant.  "Ennigir... A-Mur-U... Dar Lugal.  God of lightening, god of the storm.  Ensi, lugal and dingir to you, arad.mu.  Your lord, king and god, slave of mine."

Duncan opened his mouth to speak but never got out a sound. Hands slipped up to cover his mouth
while Methos hissed, "Do not speak, arad.mu.  Don't you know the proper way to present yourself
before your ensi?  Respectful, silent and anticipating."  The question running through Duncan's head must
have been apparent, for he smiled. "Anticipating whatever your ensi desires, arad.mu. Whatever..."
Duncan shuddered as Methos grasped his turgid flesh in long fingers,  "... I ....desire."

It was Duncan's turn to hiss through clenched teeth as skillful movements had him biting back a moan.
Methos' low voice glided out of the dark like a living thing.  "It certainly pleases me to see you like this, arad.mu.  Even you realize you owe me a part of yourself...  You took something away from me... and now you must give back to me that which you took."  The old Immortal leaned down over Duncan, causing the Scot's legs to splay out at an angle.  "I must decide how best to take it back..."  Abruptly, he leaned away.  "Tell me, arad.mu, where the other two restraints are."

Something in his tone of voice, or lack of tone, had Duncan's gut tightening in visceral response.  He
hesititated in answering, invoking a playful slap on his thigh.  "I asked you a question, arad.mu.  You should answer it."

Duncan muttered the answer, jolting as Methos got up off the bed to retrieve them.  While the oldest
Immortal was digging in the chest at the foot of the bed, Duncan took the opportunity to think.  He had reacted instinctively to Methos' request for trust, or more accurately,  a challenge of trust. Do you trust me, if so, prove it.  Under normal circumstances, he did trust the other Immortal with his life, everyday.   But this...  this was a horse of different color....

" 'And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was Death....' " the voice drifted up from the foot of the bed.

Duncan couldn't help but respond with an onslaught of fear and anger. "Stop doing that!"

There came the thump of the lid then a clang of metal on metal. He felt the heavy leather cuffs as they plopped down by his feet.  The bed dipped as Methos climbed onto it from the bottom.  He moved up next to Duncan's prone figure, unable to keep his hands off what was before him.

"Stop doing what," he breathed in Duncan's ear.  Fingers dug painfully into the golden flesh as he spoke.  "Stop being inside your head?  Stop from feeling the anger, the pain you felt earlier?  Stop feeling your injured foot and the two nicks he delivered with his sword?  Am I to stop from feeling  Byron's Quickening as it gathered in the air around you, teased your senses with its brightness, its aliveness, then as it surged through you, searing everything in its path, the dispair and misery he had felt so great that it nearly overwhelmed you?"  He gripped Duncan's head by his hair, shaking it in anger. "Is this what you want me to stop?   Tell me how,  zu Si-Muth, tell me how!  I will gladly do so if you have the secret!"  He released Duncan's hair with an impatient movement. "Roll over," he instructed in a terse voice.

Duncan could feel the tension in the lithe form kneeling next to him.  It radiated from Methos and pounded through him like a live thing.  He was appalled to find himself mutely turning over onto this stomach despite the trepidation he felt in his body.  Questions buzzed in his head like flies.  He trusted this man, didn't he? If he didn't, why was he submitting to him without a fight?  What was really happening here with his lover?

Disjointed and alarming images and feelings crowded into his mind.  From them, it seemed to Duncan as if Methos was straddling a fine line between his higher and baser natures, the present and the past.  My god, we both lost it once before, what if...  His blood froze in his veins as that thought teased through his mind.  Even as he turned over so docilely, he panicked and surged upward.  He was caught by the leather straps of the wrist restraints and by the hard body pushing him down forcefully from behind.

"Lie still, arad.mu," Methos ordered, his voice sharp and sibilant. "Feel the fear flowing through your body.  Don't let it control you...  Do you trust me, sha-mu?"  The deep sound rolled over Duncan like a blanket even as his body was covered in the same way.

Duncan struggled to make sense of the overload he was experiencing. The answer was a long time coming. "Yes."

"Then submit, sha-mu.  Submit to me that which is mine." Methos' warm breath ruffled the hair by his face before he slid downward.  Duncan could feel hands fixing the soft padded leather around his ankles, the straps being secured.  Why did I ever buy these, he asked himself. Ah, yes, Tessa. Tessa had wanted to experiment, act out a fantasy.  It had been so innocent and playful, a whole different reality from the one he was living now. That had been light-hearted and fun, full of love and laughter.  This, this was dark and menacing.  Even though Methos insisted it was about trust and love, he knew that darker emotions than those were holding court here tonight.

And what was it I had to submit?

He couldn't hold back a quiver of fear as he felt his legs being pulled toward the corners of the bed. But Methos didn't touch him except to move back beside him, a warm hand running from his shoulder blade to thigh and back. It was silent in the barge, the only sound the faint slosh of water under the hull, and the soft sound of their breathing.  Time drifted.  In spite of his still-unrelieved sexual tension, he began to doze, falling into the place of dreaming, as he floated on the soft mattress with the feel of warm caresses on his back.

It was the unexpectedness of the blow, not its force, that shocked Duncan back to wakefulness. He grunted in shock as the hand slapped down on his thigh, stinging sharply.  The soothing touch of the other hand never stopped, still trailing its calm touch over his body.  But now he lay as the second hand found its desire in administering sharp slaps.  He wondered what exactly the hand was going to do, when it would connect, where.  He had no idea what Methos wanted from him, what he was trying to accomplish short of achieving Duncan's humiliation.  Perhaps that was what he wanted in exchange for the loss of his friend. Well, I can suffer this easily enough, this petty punishment, if it will make things right between us, he decided.

He entered into a kind of challenge with this hand, his focus narrowing on the action, trying to out-guess the pattern.  It channelled his mind away from the actual act itself, away from how his body felt, for a time.  But even that distraction didn't outlast the action being inflicted upon him.  His mind once again became more than aware of everything he was feeling.

His skin began to burn, not a terrible feeling, but one that was hard to ignore, trussed as he was with no other way to deal with it.  The pleasure that Methos felt was evident to Duncan.  He could feel how Methos was aroused, knew that the older Immortal was experiencing great pleasure from the situation.  As much as his helplessness annoyed Duncan, he too couldn't help but begin to respond also, bound up as he was with the older Immortal's feelings because of their unusual connection.

Time had ceased to have any relevance long ago, the only thing of importance being his own willing immobility and the man to whom he had given himself this night.  His own annoyance and embarrassment and fears began to meld with his own ignored sexual tension.  Sharp feelings of excitement sparked in him against his own wishes as he became aware his own erection pulsing between his belly and the damp sheets. It began to be something he couldn't stop feeling, stop thinking of, his need, his body, the way it felt, the way the sensations of the hands upon him were both soft and loving and hard and unforgiving at the same time. And for the first time since he was bound both hand and feet, he found himself wanting to move, wanting to create friction against his swollen member, wanting to feel more contact between himself and Methos even if it were the sharp stinging hand-

It startled him, scared him, this response of his, and he called out.  "Methos, please. Enough."

There was no answer, no acknowledgement of his plea.  The hands still continued their forays, showing no cessation at all.  By now his entire buttocks and thigh area was stinging, and hot, from the repeated blows to the skin.  They came too fast for any significant Immortal healing to make a difference.  Each and every nerve ending was throbbing, he could feel every one as if it were outlined in red.  Still the hand kept to its course.

He grasped the leather straps in both hands, pulling unconsciously against them. As he shifted slightly, his unrelieved, swollen cock dragged against the now-wet sheets under him, causing him to gasp aloud, his hips twisting automatically.  I know he is excited, dammit, I can feel in in him. Why is he not doing anything about it? Are we simply going to sit here all night, our sexual desires ignored? Why is he doing this?  I won't be a party to my own humiliation!

Anger crept in among with the other emotions he was feeling.  He began to seethe at the senseless humiliation he was feeling. "Enough, Methos! This has gone on long enough. You've had your revenge by now, by humiliating me like this. Let me up."

He felt Methos lean down over him, that damnable stroking still not stopping. "No, MacLeod, we're only just beginning. It scares you, doesn't it," he whispered, "that you might actually be enjoying it?"  Warm laughter rolled over his head. "A big strong warrior like you find pleasure in this?"  The hand connected with his reddened thigh.  "I know you can feel every sensation, every nerve ending. How does it feel, arad.mu?"  A wet tongue entered his ear and he squirmed as it invaded him.  Energy pulsed through his body and he shivered in response, in spite of his anger.

The low, dark voice insinuated itself inside his head, the syllables strange and foreign and yet at the same time familiar and comforting. "Ana-ku tuku za-e, arad.muSha-mu, ur-mu.  My heart, my hero, limb of my limbs. Gu-gis-garSubmit yourself to me."

The assault changed direction. Now the hand that had not let up with the gentle stroking moved down between his legs, knowing fingers closing over his sac and squeezing lightly.  The other hand still came down, smack, on his buttocks and he pulled helplessly against the restraints as desire stormed through him in new levels.  Fear followed close on its heels.  I will not find this pleasurable, he yelled to himself, even as his hips surged forward and back with a mind of their own.

The dark voice murmured praise in his ear, telling Duncan how it pleased him to see him responding so openly. "Let it go, arad.mu, let yourself enjoy it. I can feel your response, Duncan. Why are you fighting it? Submit yourself to me," he repeated again.

Humiliation washed through him as Methos' words acknowledged Duncan's obvious pleasure.  Why am I fighting it? he wondered. Why? This is my bond-mate, who knows me as intimately as any could.  Am I trying to hide from him that which is unavoidable?  Slick fingers closed around his hard and nearly painful sex, stroking up the underside and he bucked, a groan coming from his mouth. It had been so long now, so damn long since the Quickening, that he had been like this.  It was more than he could ignore anymore.  Methos wasn't letting him ignore it.  The hand continued to beat down upon his thighs, raining electrifying blows, each one lighting up his senses in an unavoidable way, while the other hand  stroked up and down his painfully hard flesh.

And he let go, stopped fighting the one who was controlling his body, the one to whom he had given over himself in guilt, as penance. Yes, I killed your student and friend... I deserve to suffer, to be humilated.  I can't give you back your friend, but at least I can give you everything that I am...

He relaxed suddenly, giddy from the sensation as if flinging himself off a cliff into the unknown. He gave his need openly to his lover, his groans filling the air with their plea.  His hips moved as he tried to fulfill the pounding desire that seemed to devour him now that he stopped fighting it and let it take him over.  He felt like he was nothing more than the driving pulse of blood and Quickening surging through him, unfulfilled.

Methos was with him, he could hear his fast breathing behind him, felt his swollen flesh pressing against the tender and painful skin of his buttocks.  When Methos pulled his legs back, tilting his hips and bending him at the knees, he awkwardly complied, opening himself to his lover.  He moaned, knowing what Methos wanted, wanting it himself despite the pain, needing the completion like his next breath.  The energy of the Quickening seemed to have built in him because of the length of time he had ignored it.  It felt like a live thing now, sizzling along his nerves while the sharp feeling of the slaps Methos continued to deliver to his raw thighs and cheeks was a counterpoint in his flesh as was his enlarged and overly sensitive sex.

Methos leaned over him, slick erection pressed tightly against the entrance to Duncan's body. "Who do you belong to, sa-ge-guru .mu?"  Arms encompassed him from behind.

Something shifted, and without evening realizing it, Duncan felt himself in a different setting, a different place. Hot winds blew in through open windows over the two of them on a wide, low framed bed as he gave himself without reservation to He who controlled the flow of life and death, the rythym of the very pulsing in his veins.  And he never realized he answered in like tongue. "Ana-ku .zu, ki-aga. Nig-nam .mu za-e tuku.  Mulu-izi, Nin-Tu. Sha-Lem u Sha-Har.  Ugun shesh .zu."

(I am yours, beloved. Everything I have you possess. Immortal man of fire, Death-bringer and Birth-giver. You are the End of all things and the Beginning of all things.  Give birth to your brother once again.)

He grunted, gave a cry as Mulu/Methos pushed inside his body in one unending movement, joining them in flesh as they were joined in sedu, in spirit. Gratefully he pushed back, wanting only to have the joining. Mulu continued to beat on his flesh, but the feeling blended in with the rhythm of the thrusts and he joyfully gave himself up to the pounding, knowing that at the end came the Renewal of Life.  He could feel Mulu (Methos, he thought confusedly) getting carried away with the beating, with the feeling of their bodies joined.  The closer they came to Sha-Lem, completion, the more he gave of himself, the less he was, the more powerful Mulu (Methos!) became, his anger, his power like a whip along his nerves.

There was movement over him and suddenly his head was pulled back, a fistful of hair in Mulu, Methos' hand. A glint in the darkness and he saw the shining length of his own katana under his chin, its wicked edge near to his throat. His heart nearly stopped as he saw clearly for the first time just where Methos had taken them in his dim and ancient past.  Even while his mind cried out in fear, his flesh still gathered towards its summit, beginning to shudder wildly from the strain, the force gathering at the base of his spine in a powerful coil.  Completion was a heartbeat away, and with it, he would live or die.  For endless seconds, exquisite pleasure and terror slid along his body side by side.

His orgasm slammed through him, uncurling from his groin and moving outward in fiery tendrils over his whole body.  It didn't stop there, but moved through him and into Methos, the released power of the residual Quickening like ecstatic fire along their combined limbs.  The sword wavered, slipping, a bloody slice appearing where the blade breathed on his skin.  He was helpless to move as the energy and the restraints held him firm.  He could only pray that wherever Methos was, he was not so far lost to the present that he forgot whom he held thus.

Finally the agonizing, drugging energy subsided, leaving his body limp.  He felt Methos' body still joined to his, the older Immortal's chest heaving, the sword still held at his throat.  He barely breathed.

Methos rested his cheek against Duncan's neck.  The Scot could hear the rapid susurration of Methos' breath as he waited for his heartbeat to settle, then the warm feeling of the elder's words were against his skin as he spoke, barely heard.

"Ana-ku sag, ki-aga. Za-e .zu lil.ba ga. Za-a-kam ti.mu du."

(I am pleased, beloved. You gifted to me your Breath of Life.  My life is now thine.)

There was a movement and as quickly as it had appeared, the katana disappeared. Exhausted, Duncan's head fell down to the bed, the sheets wet under him from his own ejaculation.  He didn't care, couldn't move.  He felt as if all the energy in his body had been drained away.  There was a tender kiss laid upon his bare neck at the back then Methos moved out and off him. He barely winced as his tender, sore flesh was touched one more time.

"Na, ki-aga.  Rest, beloved."

One overwhelmingly grateful thought went through his mind. I survived the God of Lightening. I live.  He slept.

It was the traffic along the Seine the next morning that awakened Methos gradually and he stretched, enjoying the feeling of his muscles pulling and contracting.  Memory came a bit faster after that, pleasure streaming through him with its return.  He could feel the warm length of Duncan stretched out behind him and he remembered the restraints.  Long enough, he thought.  Rolling over, he saw in the morning light that Duncan still slept, arms flung upward helplessly.  He couldn't stop the surge of lust he felt at that sight. It tightened his groin painfully and he paused, waiting for it to subside.

I think we creatively handled that potential disaster, beloved.  Carefully, he unbuckled the straps from around both wrists, and gently rubbed the arms to help alleviate the sudden painful rush of blood.

Still, the sensation was enough to wake Duncan with a moan. "Shhh, Si-Muth, it'll pass."  Methos was feeling very generous towards this large dark-haired god of justice after the way he so openly gave himself to Methos and the moment last night.

Duncan rolled over, his eyes still closed, trying to move his arms to restore circulation. "Ouch," he commented, his tone and expression wry.

"Don't forget," Methos whispered in his ear, "You did that to me first."  He remembered very well how it felt the next morning when your arms had been restrained up over your head all night.

"That's not the only thing I'm 'ouching' about," Duncan said, opening his eyes and looking for the first time since last night at his lover.

Frowning, Methos moved and inspected the smooth, golden skin. "Did I-" His eyes flew to Duncan's. "You're just commenting in general."  Sliding up, he fitted himself next to Duncan, arms encircling.  "Seems to me the ouch was more than balanced with the three times you came," Methos recalled their extensive activity late into the night.

"I didn't say it wasn't," Duncan interrupted. "All I said was 'ouch'."  He stroked a hand up Methos' back, keeping his arm moving to help it recover.

Methos tangled their feet together. "What do you think of my solution to our potential problem?" he asked lightly.  He thought back to last night, remembered the anger that had coursed through his veins.  It was dissipated now, but last night in the dark, caught as he had been in a time nearly before his memory, it had been a force that had taken them both on a wild and terrible ride.  It seemed more like a dream now, in the light of the morning.  But he remembered the feelings, the tenuous hold he had kept on both himself and his memories trying to break free into the present.  It had only been the continual presence of Duncan within his mind that had kept him from falling down into the depths of his distant past and swallowing them both whole.  He wondered if he remembered correctly that he had held a sword to Duncan's neck.  He thought about it, thought twice, and decided maybe he shouldn't ask.

This morning, the only thing that was left of his anger was a sense of loss and grief for what might have been of Byron's life, along with a deep sense of peace and an overwhelming amount of love for the man lying next to him.  Reaching up, he took Duncan's mouth in a deep kiss, trying to express his feelings.  "It worked for me, mainly because of you."

Duncan hugged him tightly. "Then I'm glad. That's what counts."  He shivered, thinking of what he had experienced while attempting to help restore to Methos his sense of balance and equanimity.  Some of the most profound and the most terrifying moments he had known had been experienced last night. He still wasn't sure exactly what had happened, how they had gotten caught up in what had eventually seemed to be another reality.

Methos leaned back away from the Highlander, sensing the fear that travelled quickly through him.  He recognized the source of that fear and pushed Duncan over onto his back.  "No, that's not all that counts.  What you feel and need counts also, Duncan."  He sat up and looked down at his prone lover. "I was nearly out of control last night, nearly lost it."  He rested his chin upon his knees, his arms hugging around himself tightly.  "I have some kind of memory of holding a sword to your neck..."  His eyes slid to Duncan's.

Duncan shrugged. "Yeah. You did. It was, uh...stimulating," he replied.  Methos blanched and began to move away but Duncan stopped him.  "Wait. Listen. I don't know exactly what happened last night."  He shook his head. "This is the second time wild and weird things occurred between us. But there are two things I know for sure after last night."  He gave a crooked smile. "One is that life will never be dull between us, Methos. So even the prospect of forever takes on a whole new, envigorating slant."

Methos blew out a breath in laughter. "Damn, MacLeod. How can you find something funny in this?"

"Because of the second thing I know for sure." He moved over and enveloped the older Immortal in a firm embrace. "I have never, ever, been as connected with another living being as I was last night.  I was so far inside you and you in me, that your reality became my reality. I knew what you were saying in a language long dead, and I spoke in kind." He smiled. "I think. My memory of it all isn't the sharpest...  But I do remember this: that the one thing which was constant in all of it was the caring and concern that exists between us.  If not for that, well..." he trailed off, thinking that the night might have had a different ending.

Methos sighed. "Ah, Duncan."  His hands tightened on the bare golden skin, feeling the sense of peace inside him that was so precious.  It had been what he was looking for ever since their falling out over Cassandra and Kronos.  Oh beloved, how can I ever give back to you what you have so selflessly given to me?  "Ana-ku za-e ki-aga," he reaffirmed in the language of his ancient past.  (I love you.)

He looked down, indicating the dried ejaculate all over Duncan's skin and sheets. "You are a bit the worse for wear, it seems. I owe you a cleaning."

Taking his hand, he lead Duncan into the shower, adjusting the spray until it was steamy the way Duncan liked it.  He proceeded to carefully tend to him, scrubbing away the evidence of their rough couplings, leaving in its place kisses and caresses and bringing him to arousal all over again.  When Duncan's legs got wobbly, he sat him down on the bench at the rear of the shower stall, and went on his knees before him, taking his distended and swollen flesh into his mouth again and again until Duncan knew without a doubt he was valued and loved.  Methos took nothing for himself except the pleasure of hearing and seeing his dark warrior respond so openly, so naturally to his love-making.  And when Duncan grasped Methos' head, fingers entangling in the short dark hair as he cried out his completion,  Methos nearly cried.

He has forgiven me. For the atrocities that have been in my past, for that which I once was, even when the past nearly overwhelmed us both and consumed him whole.  No other, not even myself, has been able to walk into the hell that was my past and come out unburned by the fire of its heat.  Gods, he has the heart of a lion, my warrior.  He is blessed by all the fates.  As I am now, through him.

Methos rested his head on Duncan's leg.  He felt Duncan's hand on his head stroking, as they both sat with the hot water still pounding down around them. His heart expanded painfully as he remembered last evening, and he swore to himself.

I will never take up a sword again against this man. No matter what the circumstances. Better I should lose my own life then have to live with the knowledge that I took his.


Methos fussed around straightening the clean sheets they had replaced on the bed.  "Why didn't you take care of yourself after the Quickening? I can understand you not coming to me, gods know that would have been awkward, but..  No, you chose to 'ignore' it.  Maybe there was a part of you that was feeling guilty about Byron.  A part that needed last night just as much as I," he mused out loud.

"Are you saying a part of me wanted what we did last night?"

Methos didn't even bother to reply, just looked pointedly at him.

Duncan flushed, remembering more details. "All right, I grant you may be right."  To see himself in that new light was extremely disconcerting-

"It's hard to see yourself in that light, isn't it, Duncan?"

"Stop reading me," he frowned.

Methos' mouth hitched up at the corners. "I'm not, not really. You're just transparent.  And surprisingly innocent, for all your four hundred years.  There's still a lot to you've not done...  We're all potentially capable of almost anything."  He hopped under the covers to snuggle up next to where he had insisted Duncan relax. "You enjoyed what we did last night, but that hardly labels you as weak, or anything else."   His finger traced the full lips.  "Anytime you push beyond your known bounderies, it takes strength, and courage..."  He trailed off, remembering Byron.  "I only wish he'd had half your strength and courage to live life."

Duncan knew to whom he was referring and framed Methos' aquiline face.  "You gave him what you could. If he chose not to grow, or use it to his advantage, that's not your fault, Methos."  He put his cheek next to the older Immortal's.  "That is his loss.  I choose to take advantage of you as much as possible."
Duncan smiled at his own double entendre.

At that, Methos hugged Duncan to him.  He fumbled for the words which seemed so hard for him to say.  "I love you," he whispered. "I want to make this work, hard as it may be.  If you can give yourself to us, then... so can I."

Duncan murmured in his ear. "I know how hard it is for you, the constant presence of me inside you.  But you don't complain, you've stayed to work with it.  We have a choice, always. Together, or apart.  Together, at least we have these moments to offset the rest.  Apart..."  Both seemed to shiver at that prospect.  "Apart is hard to contemplate, isn't it.  God, Methos, how could we ever truly be apart anyway? And that's what makes you feel claustrophobic, doesn't it . We don't know if we can ever really separate."

Methos laughed, if a bit shaky.  "Divine retribution, I think, for all those thousands of years of leaving. Guess I have to learn about staying whether I want to or not."

"Not on my account. Never on my account. I want you here because you want to be here.  I couldn't stand to think you felt forced-"

"Not forced, Duncan. No. But definitely impelled, to save my own sanity. How many people say, they have to be with the one they love or they'd go insane, and truly mean it?"

Duncan shook his head, and took a deep breath. "Is that why you haven't said yes to the dig?"

Methos traced figures onto the golden skin with a slender finger. "Possibly. I didn't want to upset the balance we have..."

"Listen to me, listen well. I want you to do this if there is a part of you that wants to go. I will fully support your leaving, I will even fly out occasionally during the six months. It will not interfere with us, if that is what you are afraid of.  We have to live normal lives, Methos, or sooner or later, we'll end up destroying each other out of our own fears."

Methos sighed, stroking the mass of tangled hair falling around Duncan's head and shoulders. "How'd you get to be so insightful for such a young pup?" he quipped.  "You really think I should go?"

"No... I think you should do what you want to do, and I believe, from everything you've said, that you want to be there."

"Yeah...  Did I ever tell you what this site is to me?"

He felt Duncan shrug, then turn and lay his head down on Methos' chest. "No, but I figured it was important to you for some reason."

"Yes."  Methos smiled slightly,  "Years ago Annalise compiled various passages and mentions from different tablets, texts and scrolls of a small kingdom, a small people, that no one else had followed up on before."

"And you know this people, this kingdom?"

He gave a small chuckle. "You could say that. Yes, you could definitely say that."

Duncan raised up to look at Methos. "Who were you?"

He grinned. "Let's just say the throne room and temple had my likeness all over it."

Before Duncan could reply, both men stiffened and sat up as if choreographed.  Two hands were clasping swords when the door to the barge opened, revealing their intruder.

"Knock, knock...am I interrupting?"  Richie peered across the salon from his stance by the door.

Duncan let go of his sword, relaxing again. "No, Rich, come on in. We're, ah, not dressed yet."

"Ah, so I was interrupting something." Richie came down the steps and deposited a bag on the kitchen counter. "That's okay, I brought breakfast with me.  All we need is coffee,  I think I can manage that."
He started fiddling in the kitchen, putting coffee in the machine.

Duncan turned to find Methos lazing back on the pillows.

"I want mine served in bed. By you." Methos felt very happy suddenly.  He had a quick vision of what Mac was always working so hard to maintain: family, his extended clan. Relationships.

Duncan blinked. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. That was something my slaves always did the next morning. Have to stay with tradition, after all," he said piously.

Duncan's eyes caught the restraints still laying out in plain view and cursed under his breath. He reached up and pushed them underneath the bed. "We still haven't really talked about some things, you know."  He looked significantly at Methos.

"Well, we can't very well continue it now, with young Ryan here, can we?" he asked reasonably.

Duncan frowned. "No. But later, promise me we will later."

Methos closed his eyes. "Very well." He shuddered. "Gods. This must be what all those pop psychology articles are always talking about... you know the ones, 'How To Make Your Marriage Work - scheduling dates with your mate, having regular talks about what is bothering you...' " He grimaced.  "Disgusting."

"Life's rough," Duncan said mildly.

"Oh so true. If not for you, I wouldn't be even contemplating all this. That should tell you how much I love you," he frowned.

Duncan grinned. "And your devoted slave loves you just as much," he teased, leaning down to kiss Methos briefly before sliding out of bed.  He slipped on his terry robe and padded into the kitchen. "So what did you bring us this morning?"   He dug into the bag.

"Fresh croissants from the bakery down the street. Still hot."

"Two, slave. With some soft herb cheese on the side. And coffee," Methos said from his lounging position on the bed.

Richie looked from one to the other. "Slave?" he asked Duncan.

Duncan gave him a quelling look. "It's just a joke.  Here, pour two mugs, would you?"  He handed Richie the mugs from the cabinet then changed the subject. "What are you doing here before noon?"

"I thought we could get together with your broker today, if that's okay."

"I have to call him, see if he has any free time this morning." Duncan glanced at the clock on the desk. "He won't be in for another half-hour."  Putting all the items he collected onto a tray, he carried it over to the bed. "Breakfast, oh my lord," he said under his breath.

"Thanks, slave," Methos grinned slyly at him.

Duncan grunted in response and gathered clean clothes from the press.  "Let me get dressed now, John may have an early appointment for us," he said to Richie.

"Okay."  Richie waited until the door to the bathroom was closed before sitting down on the stairs to the bedroom area.  Leaning back against the bulkhead, he propped a foot up on the shelves opposite him and sat sipping coffee. "I see you two are still talking to one another this morning."

Methos glanced at him over the top of his mug. "And why wouldn't we be?"

"Don't bother. Joe asked me to check up on you two this morning. He told me about last night."

Methos lay back against the pillows eating a croissant slathered with cheese, wondering if he shouldn't just take out an ad in Le Monde. "As you can see Ryan, yes we are still talking to each other."

"I'm sorry about your friend, Adam."  Richie fiddled with his mug. "You know, old man, I never thought I'd say this, but... I'd hate to see something come between you two.  Especially The Game."  He shook his head. "Mac's lost enough people from his life. And,"  he shot Methos a look from the corners of his eyes,  "I'm sure you have, too. I don't think I can begin to imagine the relationships you've racked up in five thousand years."  He shifted on the floor.  "Don't think I'd want to.  Frankly, I don't know why you aren't stark, raving crazy."  He looked at the uncharacteristically silent Immortal.  "Guess it's a testimony to how strong you really are. Well, that's good, 'cuz I want you to be strong enough to stick around for Mac.  He needs somebody to be there for him while he's out being there for everybody else, you know?"

For all his youth, Mac's infant protégé had some interesting insights. "Yes, Ryan, I know exactly what you mean. I'm still here."  He drank the last of his coffee. "As far as being stark, raving crazy... some days I wonder."  Getting up from the bed, he stretched unselfconsciously, wandering naked until he found his sweatpants on the floor and pulled them on.  The bed squeaked faintly as he sat on the edge of it, putting the last of the croissant in his mouth.  "Ryan, do me a favor, would you?"

Richie looked at him, surprise in his eyes. "Sure. What?"

He tapped a finger against the plate. "I think I'm going to say yes to the dig.  It would mean at least six months in the middle east, maybe more. I want you to think about staying here, not going back to the States just yet.   It would give Duncan some sense of focus while I'm gone.  You are very important to him.  With you around to cosset, he just might stay out of trouble."

"You'd be that worried about him?" Richie seemed surprised.

Methos sighed. "Yes, I'll be that worried about him.  Regardless of what you might think, Ryan, I don't have ice water running through my veins."

"Hey. No. That's not what I meant. I never thought- well, I don't think that anymore. What surprised me was you worrying about him.  I mean, man, I guess it just seems to me that you and Duncan will always be here, you've both survived so much already. Not like me." He laughed self-consciously.  "I still have trouble seeing myself ten years down the road, much less a hundred."

Methos didn't give voice to the thoughts that went through his mind, the conversations he'd had with Duncan about that very subject. Duncan worried tremendously that Richie wasn't prepared for the numerous Immortals that were making challanges these days, that he lacked the combat training, the instinct to kill that older Immortals from more primitive times had by necessity.  Methos tended to agree with Richie - even ten years down the road would be a miracle. Another depressive thought.

"I can only wish we'll always be here, Ryan. But both of us, like you, are still mortal enough in the right circumstances.  I'd like to see those circumstances disappear as much as possible.  Think about what I said."  Methos picked up his tray from the bed and stepped over Richie's legs.  Placing it on the kitchen, he headed for the bathroom.  "I'm going to see about some kinky shower sex.  You can clean up the kitchen."  He left Richie laughing again, instead of the dark expression that had taken over his face.

He wondered if he had done young Ryan any good by diverting him from what was in reality, nothing more than the truth.

Pushing open the door, he found Duncan combing his hair into place and fixing it with an elastic.  "Think I'll go over to Universite and talk to Annalise today."

"As long as you remember that we have to talk this evening. Just us." Duncan's eyes met his in the mirror.

He sighed. "Fine. I think we'll have a lot to discuss."

Something of his intent must have transmitted itself to Duncan, for he turned and looked at Methos slumped boneless against the wall. "You've made your decision."

Methos nodded. "Yes. I think I have to go.  I need to go, and dig up my past in more ways than one. That place we were last night?"  Duncan nodded. "That was... that was this place.  Guess it's time for it to surface, huh."

Duncan couldn't help but laugh. "I don't know, Methos...  I have a feeling Annalise isn't going to leave it alone when they uncover your picture all over the place."

Methos grimaced. "After nearly five thousand years, those mud-brick walls shouldn't be in tact that much."

"Go talk to Annalise. We'll talk tonight." Duncan leaned over and kissed him. "I think you're going to have  fun on this dig.  Enjoy it."

"Thanks, Mac. I think I will." Thoughts of days to come in his mind, he grinned.

"Thanks, John," Duncan shook the other man's hand.  "I appreciate you making time for us today."

The short, balding investment analyst and broker waved away Duncan's words. "Anytime, Duncan. And Richard," he put a French pronunciation on the name, "you may call me anytime you have questions. Please do not hesitate."  He grinned. "We have to prepare you for any eventuality, eh? Duncan can take care of the defense, I will train you on the money end of things."

Richie smiled. "Thanks, John.  I appreciate it." They shook hands as the elevator arrived.  When the doors had closed behind them, the car started down with a lurch. Richie turned to Duncan, "Why didn't you tell me Neuse was one of us?"

Duncan shrugged. "You found out when we met him, what's the big deal? Immortal or not, he's a damn fine money man.  Understanding our lifestyle is an added bonus.  John definitely knows how to plan for the 'long term'," he grinned.

Richie shook his head. "My brain hurts from all the information he stuffed into it. I don't know, Mac. Sometimes I wonder."

Duncan put his arm on the shoulders of his young protégé.  "You'll do fine.  You underestimate yourself too much.  In some areas," he qualified. "In others... well...."

"Oh, speaking of others.  Nicolette is coming over for dinner tomorrow night.  Think I should attempt to cook something? She comes from this family where all the guys cook cordon bleu. I ate dinner with her family last week. Incredible. What a zoo, there must have been 20 people around that table. I tell you, I'm not used to that kind of togetherness. But it was fun. She said she wants time alone with me. Oh yeah," he grinned.

The doors opened to the lobby.  "To be honest Rich," they wove around groups of people in the busy office building, "if I were you, I'd get Maurice to make you something. Don't want to scare her away, do you?"

"Gee, thanks Mac."

"Hey, Rich, I did say it was only some areas you underestimated yourself in."  They reached the car squeezed in a street space. "Need a lift anywhere?"  He unlocked the doors.

"Yeah," Richie slid in. "How about to the gym?  I feel a workout coming on. You up for a grapple?"

"Sounds good, you're on."

They drove slowly through the mid-afternoon traffic to the gym Duncan used. He had a locker with clothes kept in waiting.  Richie was  included on the membership for the summer.  They used the facilities a few times a week, taking advantage of the private rooms available for practicing their sword work, or the main area with its padded mats to practice holds and throws.

Attendance was not high in mid-afternoon and the mats were open for their use. They spent a good hour working up a sweat, practicing different combinations of blocks, punches and kicks, going over some slowly until they began to speed them up faster and faster, patterning the muscles to memorize the movement.  A silly free-for-all at the end left Richie laughing even as he slapped the mat in surrender.
By mutual agreement, they headed for the steam room for ten minutes before they gathered their belongings and were once again back in the car.

"Thanks for suggesting that, Rich. I enjoyed it."

"I'll bet. It must be fun wiping the mat up with someone," he was ragged.

"Your day will come. Give yourself another hundred years or so."

Richie looked out the window at the thickening traffic. "I'd sure like to do that. That and a few more."

Duncan reached over and ruffled the cropped red hair just like he used to when Richie was a lot younger and a lot less Immortal. "Hey.  You'll get them.  There's too much of the world I want you to see yet. It'll take a long time to show it to you, so plan on sticking around."

"Oh I do. Don't worry Mac. I figure if that skinny researcher can last for five thousand years, hell, then I can too.  You know he's been teaching me some stuff?"

"Uhh...no, I didn't know." Duncan was almost afraid to ask what.

"Yeah. Adam's got some moves and tricks I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't seen them.  Hey, he was telling me that he got a hell of a kick out of shooting you, right before I came over." Richie grinned. "Now I know he must really care. The world's greatest disappearing artist actually fought for you?"

Duncan shifted in his seat and grunted. "Yeah. Nice thought he had, but I hadn't asked him to interfere."
He still felt a twinge of annoyance when that episode was brought up.

"Yeah, but you gotta admit, Mac, for Adam, that's like an admission of everlasting devotion to go to all that trouble."

Yes, and I was so busy being angry I ignored it.

Richie looked over at him. "This morning, he told me he wants me to watch out for you if he goes on the dig.  He'll worry." He shook his head. "He is slowly but surely ruining that cold, detached act he had perfected. I think he's nothing but a big ol' softy."

A crooked half-smile creased Duncan's mouth. "Yeah, he has his moments." Sometimes.  "Which way?" Duncan pointed to the intersection they were approaching. "Barge or apartment?"

"Apartment. Think I'll meet some friends tonight and I want to shower and change."

Duncan turned left and headed the three blocks over to Methos' apartment building and dropped Richie off. "See you tomorrow. Stay in one piece."

Richie slammed the door. "You know it." He flashed Duncan a grin and sauntered through the building's entrance.

Duncan drove the remaining ride home while preoccupied. He pulled up, parked and entered the barge without really paying too much attention to his surroundings. It had hit him suddenly that Methos would be leaving, and soon, if all went as Annalise had been planning.  He did want Methos to go- it was a great opportunity. Especially given the revelation about what they might uncover.

But the coming months suddenly loomed empty as he took in the idea of it.  Not for the first time, he was painfully aware just how much Methos' presence in his life had occupied his days in the past months.  They sparred together, practiced empty hand forms. Methos and he even had taken to doing their individual meditations together occasionally, discussing different teachers and insights they had over the years in various paths they had experienced.  They were able to share so damn much, much more than he had ever been able to share with any of his close friends and lovers, even Tessa.  Now they were even sharing dreams and memories.   How much closer could two individuals get?

I will not be depressed, he told himself.  I just this morning finished telling Methos for the hundredth time to go, accept the position. He'll know if I regret that encouragement. And I refuse to lay that feeling on him.

With all the considerable willpower that was his to muster, he determined to look only on the bright side of the situation.  Shucking his sweats, he padded nude into the bathroom and hopped into the shower, listing the things on said bright side.  I can fly out to visit the site, that should be interesting. Especially having seen what I've seen through Methos' eyes, he thought. And I'll take care of some business back in the States while he's gone. No matter what Methos said, I want Richie to finish school.  School... I might see about a part-time instruction position here. Maybe even buy some real estate, fix it up-  His musings were interrupted by the feeling of his lover's arrival washing over him, as warm and as uplifting as the shower coming down on him.  Smiling, he turned off the spigots, drying off quickly with a towel from the rack.  Pushing the door open, he padded out smiling...

....and his mouth fell open as he froze, towel ineffectively trailing in hand rather then around his body.  Three sets of eyes turned his way, hazel ones amused, turquoise ones wicked and gray ones wide.

"Uh... Hello, Annalise. Be right back." He whirled back into the bathroom.

"No need to dress on my account, MacLeod," she laughed as she called to him as the door closed.  Behind her, Methos began to laugh out loud and she turned to her newest epigrapher and linguist.  "I honestly thought I'd never pry you away from Mac, Adam." She sighed. "And that's why."

The grey-eyed male looked at Adam with a Cheshire cat grin. "But Adam knows we're like any modern jail. Conjugal visits are allowed.  And they are always so much fun in the middle of nowhere in an absolutely quiet camp, staying within tent walls."

Annalise laughed again. "Oh, yes, if Duncan does come to visit, you and he, Adam, will be the entertainment of the week, you do know that, yes?"  At Methos' sour expression, she relented. "Oh, don't feel singled out, cher. Anybody who has visitors is always the center of attraction. Has to do with the long, enforced isolation we'll be working under."

"I recall quite well what living in that type of situation is like."  He indicated the drink table. "Whisky? Or a beer, something soft?"

She held up the bottle of Duncan's finest, smiling. "Definitely whisky."


"Beer will do nicely, thanks Adam."

Drinks were handed out and Annalise and Ian settled in the salon.  Duncan came out finally, dressed in jeans and a soft, deep blue shirt. Methos handed him a glass before he could ask, then turned and waved a hand at the fair-haired, deeply weathered man drinking his beer.  "Duncan, this is Ian Holcroft. He's the expedition's resident antedeluvial Sumerian expert."

Gray eyes twinkled as he shook hands with Duncan. "Sounds impressive even to me!  Mainly it means I like to muck about where most people fear to tread."

"No real records from that period," Methos supplied.

"We need all the stalwart personalities possible on this expedition. It's going to be searching for a needle in a hay stack,"  Annalise raised her drink to Ian.

"I for one am very grateful that we've managed to pry Adam away from Paris to accompany us as our epigrapher and linguist.  There's none better that I know of,"  Ian in turn raised his own glass to Methos.

"No, I can't imagine anyone better suited to this work, either," Duncan said with an amused expression on his face.

Methos lounged back in his chair, one foot stretched up on the chest in front of the couch.  "Whatever you want, Ian, no, you can't have it."

Ian looked wounded. "Whatever are you talking about, Adam?"

"Ah," Annalise smiled, "now I know how you planned on getting that latest shipment of scrolls from Jordan interpreted before the conference next year."

Duncan laughed at the comic expression Ian gave everyone.

"Tact, Annalise," Ian said gravely, smoothing is thinning hair, "is not your strong suit."

"I'll be tied up with this dig for at least the next six months, Ian, and so will you. How'd you expect to do both?" Methos moved his arm off the arm of the chair to make room for Duncan to sit down.

"Ah, well, Adam, you know how long and boring those nights get in the desert..."

Annalise sighed. "Let's just hope it stays boring. With the general climate in the Gulf states, I sincerely hope we have a long, boring, uninterrupted space in which to work.  Talks with the government have been going well, and the officials seem to be pleased to have us there. Let's just hope it stays that way."

Discussion wandered off to the state of tensions in the middle east and on to other subjects. It was nearly an hour later that Annalise and Ian rose to take their leave.  Duncan shook hands again with Ian and kissed Annalise on the cheek.

"Thanks for lending  Adam to us, Duncan.  I think he'll make a significant contribution on our crew ."

Duncan smiled. "Of that I have no doubt."

Both Methos and Duncan walked the two Universite professors up to the quay and said farewell.  Night had nearly fallen, the city lights of Paris now on and sparkling on the surface of the water around them.  Duncan hitched a hip on the steering house, leaning and looking out at the beautiful sight of Paris. It was one he never was too tired to appreciate.

Methos leaned in next to him, pressing close and enjoying the warmth that emanated from the hot-blooded Scot.  "Good day today?"

Duncan nodded. "We met with John this morning, then hit the gym this afternoon." He looked askance at Methos. "Richie says you're teaching him some moves."

"Your chivalrous, honorable code of ethics works well for you, Mac.  But not everybody fights like that. I wanted to give Ryan a few tricks up his sleeve to have when the sides were uneven."  He looked in Duncan's eyes.  "I want the kid to stay alive as long as possible, too."

Duncan sighed, his shoulders dropping as he looked back at the vista before him. "Yeah," he murmured. "Thanks," then he dropped the subject.

Methos considered. "Have you eaten yet?"

"No," he replied, surprised. "I actually forgot all about it this afternoon. Old age, " he smiled.

"How about I fix you dinner?" Methos put hands on the back of Duncan's neck and massaged. "You can sit, even put on some of that awful caterwauling you like. Relax."

Duncan chuckled at the idea of opera as caterwauling. "I think I'll take you up on that." He turned to face the other Immortal. "Then after dinner, we'll talk. Right?"

Methos' eyes strayed down over Duncan's torso. "Right.  I always did like you in that color."

"Nice try." Duncan smirked at him. "But we're still going to have that talk."

Methos looked at him with narrowed eyes.  "We can always get out the restraints again."

Duncan snorted. "Yeah, with you in them next time."

Methos stood silent, a thoughtful look on his face. "Dinner first, then talk." He headed into the cabin, trailing Duncan after him. "Then we can discuss new variations after..."

"I'm impressed.  That was delicious."  Duncan sat down with two snifters of brandy, passing one to Methos.

"Everytime I cook, you say that as if you are utterly surprised that I have any ability whatsoever. I think I'm insulted."

"No, it's not that.... I'm simply surprised that our tastes are similar. I expect you to make something so bizarre I won't even recognize it, must less like it."

Methos swirled the glass and took a sip of the drink.  "I'm still insulted."

Duncan toed off his shoes and put his feet up on the chest in front of the couch. "Time to talk."

"No it's not."

"You promised, Methos.  No getting out of this one, not after last night. You owe me," Duncan narrowed his eyes.

Shifting on the couch, Methos silently agreed. "Fine. What exactly do you want to discuss?"

"I want to discuss what I saw last night, what happened. Where we were in your mind. Hell, in my mind. I'm still not sure I know what happened..." he trailed off, frowning.

Methos turned and looked straight at him.  "Are you sure we need to go back there again?"  It almost seemed a warning.

Taking a deep breath, Duncan nodded. "Yes. I want to understand what I saw, what happened. I want to understand you better."  He could feel apprehension begin to emanate from Methos as he struggled with Duncan's request. "Hey. It'll be fine. No restraints," Duncan held up his arms, "and no swords nearby."  He gestured to their swords on the other side of the salon.  "Please."  Methos was shaking his head in denial, obviously not thrilled.  "Methos, please.  This is important."

Methos shuddered once, his head falling back onto the couch.  "I haven't had much of this time period in my conscious memory for centuries. You know, remembering it is a real pain in the neck."

"Yes."  Duncan put a hand under the old Immortal's neck, rubbing rhythmically to relax.

He sighed and twisted around into his favorite position, head in Duncan's lap. "Right. Guess we'll do this." Taking one more large sip of the brandy, he placed it down on the floor.  With unfathomable eyes, he looked up at Duncan one more time.  "I don't know what will happen if I bring up all these memories, not after last night."

Duncan smiled faintly. "That's all right. We're in this together now."  Placing his own snifter down, he linked a hand with one of Methos', laying it on his stomach.  "Tell me a story."

The world's oldest Immortal took a deep breath and Duncan followed suit, then proceeded to match his breathing to Methos'.  It took only a short amount of time for both experienced meditators to sink deeply into altered states.  When Duncan became aware that he was standing in the room of his inner mind, he looked around and smiled.  Methos stood in front of him, his hand out.  Placing his own callused hand in that of the elder Immortal's, he let Methos draw him forward through a doorway leading out of the room.
He consciously shed his apprehension and walked forward into the unknown.

He heard Methos' voice in his ear,  "Once upon a time..."

-the end-

Pardon my cliche-ness, but...I recently bought Elton John's latest CD, The Big Picture. I think it's the best he and Taupin have done in quite some time.  The words to each and every song are just, well, they speak to me.  You get to have some of the more notable lines thrust upon you here, since I think they fit so well. :-)

Long Way From Happiness  / Elton John & Taupin

I guess you're okay / You seem to feel better these days / I've known you for so long / I've seen your brightness go from blue to gray

You know that's true / You can shake your head but I can prove / I've seen things through your eyes /
You think you win but in the end you lose
There's no second guess / We take no second bets / Chances are / We're a long way from happiness /
Don't cover up the road to love / With words that can't express / The truth implies / You're high and dry /
A long way from happiness
I'm one step behind / Looking out for you all the time / I'll put my faith in you / And steer you clear of love that leaves you blind

There's no second guess / We take no second bets / Chances are / We're a long way from happiness /
Don't cover up the road to love / With words that can't express / The truth implies / You're high and dry /
A long way from happiness

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