This is for Killa, who first asked for it so long ago. It was complicated by Rachael, because that's her job. They've both been incredibly supportive, in all ways, in all things. AnneZo also worked magic on it, and torch provided much reassurance and interest. All of them made suggestions and corrections that were gratefully considered and sometimes even accepted. And thanks to all the Fitz fans who've shown nothing but excitement at the very possibility of a Fitz story! <g>

 

"Wench! More drink over here! Oh, wench!" Fitzcairn blearily looked around for the serving girl, waving his half-empty mug about carelessly, sloshing ale over the rim onto the floor and table. He had persuaded MacLeod, with notable charm and not a little difficulty, that the cheer and revelry of the hostel were infinitely preferable to the pomposity and ceremony of dinner at the Prussian Ambassador's. He'd tried to extol the beauties of opera, but the uncivilized lout had simply sneered at him.

"Watch out, ya drunken sot!" MacLeod took out his kerchief to dab at the embroidered cuff of his jacket. "And you should be a bit nicer to that girl!" He waved the lacy bit of cloth in the direction of their server. "She's been puttin' up well with all your gropin' and such!" He sighed and frowned down at his sleeve, his mood clearly sour.

Unfortunately, Fitz found his own mood tending more towards self-pity and introspection than to carousing and celebration. His chosen remedy, with the cooperation of MacLeod's purse, was an attempt to imbibe a sufficient quantity of alcohol in a short enough span of time as to render himself utterly numb before his Immortal healing kicked in. MacLeod had joined in, but he was making a pathetic showing compared to Fitzcairn.

Trying to decipher his own situation was like trying to get the honey without being stung. Every time he thought about it, it made his head ache. The exercise left him feeling melancholy and weary, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know why. Something about the whole encounter with Robert de Valicourt had set him on edge, and he was reluctant to examine it too closely for fear of falling off. While Gina was indeed a toothsome armful, a woman of great intelligence and wit, he hadn't thought himself so enamoured as to be quite so downcast as he was feeling. To counter such dark and futile thoughts, he was playing Hugh Fitzcairn, scoundrel and rogue, to the hilt, trying to cheer his morose companion.

"She loves it, laddie! I make her smile!"

"Only because you've almost fallen out of your chair every time you've grabbed at her as she walks by! What's not to laugh at?" MacLeod tucked his kerchief back in his sleeve and smiled winningly at the serving girl, pointing to their empty glasses. "See? A gentler touch is what is wanted here." He smoothed his mustache with his fingertips, smiling at his own foppery.

"Gentler? From a dolt such as yourself? Don't make me laugh!" Fitz flung himself back in his chair, ending up with a lap full of drink as the serving girl dodged his flying arm. He grabbed his own handkerchief and began dabbing at the spill, waving the girl off as she tried to apologize. "My own fault, my dear, pay no mind." He sighed as he frowned down at his wet trousers. The alcohol was doing a poor job of deadening his wits, but even his flirtation was suffering from despondency, his mind seeming more prone to ponder the man sitting opposite him than the charms of the girl who seemed quite willing to help him with his task. He watched MacLeod's amusement out of the corner of his eye. Such care and concern as you have for everyone, Highlander. A warrior, yes, but you are indeed a gentle spirit. Still so honest, so very much yourself. You've not yet had the time to build up the barriers and walls that most of us depend upon to survive. Do you have any idea how attractive that is to an old poseur such as myself?

He had known Duncan MacLeod for half the younger man's lifetime and had never known anyone with whom he felt more at ease or with whom he had more fun. The man was no simpleton, in spite of Fitz's own casual barbs, and he had an enthusiasm for life that echoed Fitz's own. He found himself seeking MacLeod out at times when his own Immortality wore on his soul. Times like these.

MacLeod smiled smugly, clearly unaware of the trend of Fitz's thoughts, his point proven as he accepted the glass the barmaid had managed to salvage and thanked her warmly. "As I was saying...." He toasted his mug in Fitz's direction and drank deeply, but when his glass lowered, he looked glum, his own thoughts turning in another direction. "Well, Fitz, here we are, each left with only the other for company while the beauteous Lady Angelina is being wooed and pursued by the blackguard Robert de Valicourt!"

Fitz followed his companion's lead, trying to recapture the playfulness that had been the touchstone of their mutual quest for the fickle Angelina. "Eh, so what's it matter what the serving wench thinks when my heart is broken!" He continued mopping at his lap ineffectually, his doleful look matching that of his companion. "How could she do it? How could she prefer that arrogant peacock to me, Hugh Fitzcairn, adored by every woman he's ever known!"

"I'm sure you are, probably right after they've thrown you out!" MacLeod said mockingly. "And maybe the lady Angelina is just a wee bit more selective than your usual, ah, lady. Mind you, you're a fine one to be calling any man a peacock, ya popinjay!"

Fitz blustered. "I'm serious! What does that insufferable twit have that I don't?"

"Oh, not much, just handsome features, wealth, a sophisticated manner, overwhelming charm--"

"That's quite enough out of you!"

"Well, ya did ask." MacLeod looked quite pleased with himself. Twitting Fitzcairn seemed to be one of his favorite pastimes, a fact which inexplicably warmed Fitz's heart.

Refusing to be roused from his rediscovered ill-humor, he scowled. "I should have gone to the opera alone, rather than sit around and be insulted by the likes of you!"

"Oh, and how would y'have managed that? Need I remind you that we're drinking out of my wallet? And I could have been quite happily occupied at the Prussian Ambassador's, thank you very much, and instead I'm here, drowning my sorrows with you -- at my own expense!"

MacLeod didn't look as if he thought he'd made the best choice, though in truth Fitz suspected he was enjoying the company. He sometimes had trouble ignoring Fitz's wheedlings, but only when he was in the mood to be persuaded. In the spirit of companionship and shared troubles, Fitz chose to ignore the jibe at his impoverished state. "Then I needn't remind you that you were tossed aside as well. Don't tell me that didn't hurt."

MacLeod's lower lip protruded as he pouted. "I'm quite sure that the lady did not intend to hurt either of us." His face brightened. "In fact, it was probably a ploy altogether! After all, the whole reason we went was because the scalawag had stolen a fortune from her!"

Fitz considered, then sighed heavily. "Much as I'd like to think you are in the right, laddie, I saw her face. She's sadly smitten, I'm afraid. To be brushed aside by the likes of him! It's even worse than losing her to you would have been!" Fitz threw himself back again, narrowly missing the same serving girl who moved quickly out of the way of flying limbs and settled a drink before the woebegone Englishman.

"I beg your pardon!" MacLeod looked affronted.

"Granted." Fitz grinned slightly at his friend, then relented. "Oh, you know what I mean." The rivalry between the two men, though at times heated, had owed more to their tendency to each tease the other mercilessly than to any actual antagonism. Their mutual pursuit of Angelina had been almost companionable. Indeed, thought Fitz, the chase has been all the sweeter for having been shared. In fact, the odd thought occurred to him that the game had been more enticing than the prize. He did truly enjoy the Highlander's company. Maybe that was the source of his somber mood; if Angelina was out of the game, the game was ended. It wasn't often that the two friends had set themselves at the same bait when the bait was a woman, but when they had, each had played full out and relished the victory. This time, there was no victory for either to gloat about.

"Aye, I do. To be swept out of the running like that by a rank outsider!" MacLeod's sigh was long-suffering. "But the real question is not why she chose him over you, but why she chose him over me." He looked mischievously at Fitzcairn.

"Wealth, a sophisti--" Fitz broke off abruptly at the look on MacLeod's face. "Well, I gave you the handsome features," he said good-naturedly. Regarding those selfsame features, he acknowledged once again to himself that handsome, when applied to Duncan MacLeod, was like calling the Lord himself a really nice gent. Ah, Duncan. You have no idea of the effect you have on people, do you, lad? He'd thought more than once that if MacLeod had made a concerted assault on Gina's virtue, the outcome would never have been in doubt. It made him wonder if the Highlander's desire to woo and win had been any more serious than his own. Perhaps they had both been enjoying the competition.

"Ya think so?" Mac said in pleased tones, stroking his jaw thoughtfully.

"Indeed. Though I note you did not grant me the same courtesy." Fitz looked at him promptingly.

"No, I did not." MacLeod's devilish grin took some of the sting from his words. "Y're not my preferred tipple, old man, but I will admit you have a certain roguish charm."

Fitz allowed himself to look outwardly mollified and felt an inward warmth at the other man's affectionate regard. He is so young. Hasn't yet found how little the externals can matter. He had upon occasion thought of extending the lad's education, but was reluctant to risk their friendship for nothing more than a whim. He settled back, pulling out his pipe and tobacco pouch. He was silent for several moments as he went through the complicated ritual of tamping in the leaves and lighting it. "So, then, what shall we do about it?"

MacLeod glanced up in surprise. "What can we do? She is free to make her own choices, no matter how ill-judged. And naught may come of it, you know. Perhaps this evening in his company will show her the error of her ways." His tone was not confident.

"And perhaps it will not. She did look besotted, did she not?" Fitz puffed inconsolably on his pipe.

"Aye, that she did. Radiantly besotted." MacLeod slouched down in his chair looking petulant, ankle resting on the opposite knee, picking dejectedly at his boot. "She never looked at me like that." He looked over at the other man. "Has anyone ever looked at you that way, Fitzcairn?"

"I'd like to think so, laddie. There was that princess...."

MacLeod looked disgusted. "She almost lost you your head, you scoundrel!"

Fitz sighed reminiscently. "It might almost have been worth it. To die for love!"

"Ya did not love her! If you had, you would not have left so peaceably."

"Peaceably! You call dying a peaceable exit?" Fitz remonstrated. "And I think you enjoyed it far too much."

"Well, it did have its high points. I often think back wistfully to that time -- especially when you're broke again!" MacLeod took another drink. "Anyway, you did not love the princess, did you?"

"Well, there's love, and then there's love. I think I'm more in love with the idea of loving a woman than I have ever actually loved a woman." Fitz puffed thoughtfully, not sure that he wanted to continue the line of conversation, provoking as it did his own melancholy. "What about you, man? Do you truly love the lady Angelina?"

MacLeod considered the question. "I do not know. I know that I find her company delightful, her ways winsome." He looked thoughtful. "I sometimes thought that I felt more for her than I have for anyone else since my Debra died."

"Yes, she is incomparable, is she not? A lovely, lovely woman." Fitz stared into his glass. "MacLeod--" He hesitated.

"Yes?"

"I know you're young yet, but have you ever thought of what it would be like to truly love another Immortal?" Fitz's melancholy won out, leaving him more serious than was his wont.

MacLeod's brow contracted in bafflement. "What does my age have to do with anything?"

Fitz shrugged. "Do you ever get lonely?"

"Aye, well, I've plenty of friends to keep me company -- you for one, though you're a bit of a nuisance, as well!" MacLeod leaned forward over the table, staring into his mug, his face revealing that he was more than a little uncomfortable at the turn in conversation.

"Friends, yes, friends are important." Fitz regarded MacLeod across the table. "But what about someone who was even more than a friend? Someone with whom you could share the burden of Immortality, an intimate with whom you didn't have to pretend to always be something you're not?" He looked back down to his glass, idly swirling its contents.

MacLeod shifted in his chair. "Well, you have me," he said lamely.

Fitz looked up, startled, then stared thoughtfully at MacLeod until he squirmed. "Do I, Duncan? That's a fine thing to know."

Something in his tone made MacLeod blush. "You're my friend, Fitz -- even if you are a useless Sassenach."

Laughing, throwing off his fit of seriousness for his companion's sake, Fitz drained the last of his ale and slammed the mug down on the table. "You're not too bad yourself, for a drunken Scot!" He smiled widely and looked around for the barmaid. "Wench! More drink here!"

MacLeod sighed pointedly, his tone relaying his relief at the change in conversation. "Will ya never learn, Fitz?"

"Never, laddie! Each man to his own strengths! Wench!" Fitz laughed and caught the approaching barmaid around the waist, pulling her into his lap and bussing her thoroughly. She squealed and struggled, but seemed less than intent on getting away.

MacLeod sighed again heavily in mock disgust and finished his drink. "Fitz. Fitzcairn!"

Fitz looked up blearily, goosing the girl again as she escaped, giggling merrily. "What is it, you bloody Highlander?"

"Are you through? I'd like to be finding my bed sometime before morning."

"Ah, well, there's a delicate issue, MacLeod--"

"No. Absolutely not. D'ya mean ta tell me that you don't even have a place to stay? What happened to your room at the Drunken Sailor?"

"Well, was it my fault the girl was his wife?"

"Fitz, some day you're going to have to learn to keep your pecker in your pants!" MacLeod remonstrated.

"And with my finances.... I don't suppose you could see your way clear to sharing?"

MacLeod looked thunderously at the other man. "Why do I put up with you?"

Fitz grinned obligingly. "My engaging manner? My witty repartee?"

"Yer daft talk, you mean. One night, Fitz! I mean it!"

Fitz stood and swept his hat over his heart and bowed deeply. "I am, as always, in your debt."

"Bloody right you are!" MacLeod fussed. "And I'm off to bed now. Are you coming?"

"I, ah, thought I might see if--"

"I'm not staying up to let you in."

Fitz was torn. "You know, MacLeod, there are other ways of overcoming one's sorrows than with alcohol...." He looked craftily at the other man.

MacLeod threw his hands up. "Well, then, you better hope she has a decent crib!"

"Oh, MacLeod, you'll barely wake up! And I won't be that long!" Fitz drained his fresh drink in one long swallow and prepared to leave.

"Oh, aye, I had not considered that. Probably be knocking in no time at all!" MacLeod dropped some coins on the table to cover their drinks.

"That's the spir--" It took Fitz a moment to realize that his manhood had been slighted. "Wait a minute! I'll have you know--"

"If it's all the same to you Fitz, I would really rather not know!" MacLeod sighed. "Very well, you know where I am staying. Try not to be too late?" He moved off, leaving the Englishman sputtering.

Duncan climbed to his room and made ready for bed, more melancholy than he had been before the end of the evening. Fitz's question had disquieted him and made him aware of his own drunkenness. At just over one hundred, he had as yet little experience of the isolation that Fitz's words reflected and little patience with the type of introspection Fitz had displayed, so unlike his normal attitudes. Duncan wondered if he would understand Fitz's maunderings more thoroughly when he was four hundred himself.

He snorted at the thought, still young enough to not quite believe that he would live so long. Fitz was twice as old as Connor, but rarely did his age show through. It more often seemed the other way 'round, dour Connor seeming more the mature of the pair. He grinned at the thought of the two of them together, courtly Fitzcairn and blunt, serious Connor, then winced at the probability of having to keep them from coming to blows.

He wasn't used to a serious Fitzcairn and wasn't quite sure how to handle it. The man could get quite maudlin when he drank, but he wasn't usually the type to start pondering issues any deeper than the failure of his latest assignation, or the charms of his next. Indeed, he could always trust Fitzcairn to drown his sorrows in the raucous and wenchly manner in which he was currently engaged. No woman was so desirable that the next couldn't make him forget the previous; it probably saved him a world of heartache. Though his uncharacteristic questions about loving another Immortal made it seem too likely, Duncan only hoped that Fitz's heart hadn't been too tangled up in Gina's wiles. He wished it almost as much as he hoped it for himself.

Finishing his ablutions and preparations, he snuffed the candle and settled into bed, hoping that, for once, Fitzcairn would take the hint, his own indulgences having left him eager for rest.

Sleep, however, was reluctant to be wooed, and Duncan swore at the less than furtive knocking at his door when it came. He had just begun to nod off when the banging started and managed to get himself tangled in the bed sheets trying to climb out of the bed.

The knocking increased in volume, accompanied by a voice held down low enough that it might not wake the neighbors on the surrounding floors, if he was lucky. Not enough Fitz had to get himself thrown out of his own inn; he had to try and do Duncan the same courtesy.

"MacLeod! Are you in there?" The sniggers and giggles that followed seemed far too plentiful, and high-pitched, even for one verbose, drunken Englishman.

"Hold your britches!" he said as he stumbled out of bed and threw open the door. He gaped at the sight presented to him, then stumbled backwards as he found his arms full of a well-rounded female body. "Fitzcairn, I told you--!" He yelped as he tried to thwart the hands that were suddenly sliding themselves in and around his sleeping clothes. In his bemused state he could have sworn she had a dozen, at least, each one intent on burrowing as deeply as possible.

"Oh, he is a lovely one, isn't he?" The woman grinned at Duncan and blithely ignored his feeble attempts to hold her off. "Come, monsieur, don't be shy. You have nothing I have not seen many times before!"

"Oooh, that's it, lass! He won't be able to resist you!" Fitzcairn leaned heavily against the doorframe, chuckling at the sight of the robust Highlander trying to fend off the much smaller woman who was enthusiastically digging for her prize. "Come on, laddie! Time to have a little fun!" He stepped into the room, shut the door, and gave the flailing couple a tiny push.

Duncan floundered backward, the push added to the slight weight of his adversary enough to send him off-balance. He tumbled onto the bed, his breath knocked out of him as she landed on top. Her whoop of laughter was followed closely by a cry of triumph as her manifold hands settled down to just two, both occupied with very intimate parts of his body. "Oh, my, monsieur!"

"Ooh!" His breathless sound was accompanied by an odd, half-pleased, half-mortified feeling that he knew was reflected on his face, and he moved to disentangle her from his suddenly awakening flesh. "Miss, please! Fitz, get her off me!"

Fitz shrugged out of his coat and started stripping out of his shirt. "Ah, Duncan, now why would I want to do that? You're a big, strong lad -- surely you aren't going to let a wee strip of a girl like that win?"

"Fitzcairn!" Duncan didn't see how he could remove the girl's hands from his cock without removing his own flesh. She had a firm grip, and one hand was sliding further to cup and caress his balls, rolling them lightly in her small hand. Between his drink-and-sleep-addled brain and his pleasure-loving flesh, he was slowly losing what little resolve he had had to start with. Groaning, he closed his eyes, feeling his arousal swell and harden under her deft touch.

"Here, lass, raise up a bit." Fitz's voice was soft and coaxing, and Duncan opened his eyes, looking up into the comely round face of the girl he hadn't really taken time to look at, being rather more occupied with her moving parts. She was indeed pretty, in a common sort of way, brown curls cascading over her shoulders, with lively brown eyes and a ready grin. She was looking down at him with a lustful gaze, lifting her hips to accommodate Fitz's request.

Duncan rose up on his elbows as he felt the bed shift under an added weight. "Fitzcairn! What are you doing?" He flushed in panic as he felt the other man shifting his legs apart.

"Just joining in the fun, Duncan, don't bother yourself. Toinette is willing to share if you are!" The wicked grin that appeared over the young girl's -- Toinette's -- shoulder showed Fitz's delight in Duncan's mortification. Too enflamed by Toinette's intimate attentions to argue further, if not entirely reassured, Duncan sank back and closed his eyes once more.

Leaning over him, Toinette quickly succeeded in opening his sleeping garments, cooing and murmuring compliments about his brawny form and virile manhood. He moaned at the touch of her lips to his skin, reaching and catching her head in his hands as she began sucking lightly on one nipple, her hands still busy stroking and caressing between his legs. Duncan felt Fitz's hands brush lightly against his thighs as he tugged and pulled at Toinette's skirts, and the touch caused a tightening in his flesh.

He felt Toinette shift once again and heard more murmured words of encouragement, then gasped as Toinette's hands were replaced by her hips. The engulfing warmth and wetness caused him to arch upwards, thrusting into her heat. She grasped his shoulders, encouraging him by tightening and moving slightly against him.

"Lift your hips, MacLeod!"

"Wha--?" Duncan turned his head from side to side, too caught up in the sensations to understand the direction. Then he felt hands along his naked hips, tugging upward. Counting quickly, he noted that both of Toinette's hands seemed fully occupied sliding through the hair on his chest. "Fitz!" His tone was only slightly panicked.

"Your hips, lad! Lift them up!"

"I will not!" He wasn't sure what Fitz had planned, but Duncan's ardor was diminishing as he considered the possibilities.

"Oh, calm down! We won't do anything you don't want, you naive child!" Fitz's tone was condescending. "Just do it!"

Toinette coaxed him as well, bending to murmur in Duncan's ear, "It will be all right, monsieur. You will enjoy this, trust me." Her tongue plied him as well, and Duncan found his hips rising to meet the encouragement of her own.

He felt a pillow slide underneath, raising them both slightly. Then he felt the cloth of Fitz's pants brushing against his thighs, Fitz's legs pushing his own further apart. He tightened them, resisting. Fitz's hands came down on Duncan's legs, and his head popped back over Toinette's shoulder.

"I'm not going to take you, you idiot! I'm going to take her!" Toinette giggled, and Fitz joined her, laughing softly and nuzzling her neck, sliding his hands around to free her rounded breasts from her corset. "Now shift your legs!"

Still stunned by Fitz's words, as well as the shiftings and tightenings of the woman surrounding him, Duncan obliged, and Fitz settled in behind Toinette. She lay forward on Duncan's chest, lifting only enough to allow Fitz to pull her dress down around her waist, freeing her arms and chest, before she resumed caressing and fondling Duncan as she nuzzled along his throat and shoulders.

Looking up, Duncan watched as Fitz stroked and caressed along Toinette's back. He caught his breath as he felt the other man's fingers brush against his own thighs, so close to the tender flesh between as he fondled Toinette's buttocks. Stripping off his pants, Fitz took his own engorged flesh in hand, sighing in relief as he was freed from the confinement of his clothes. Reaching forward, he shifted Toinette's hips slightly forward and began stroking gently along the cleft of her ass.

As he stroked the tight aperture of her body, her reaction translated to Duncan as a delicious tightening of her body around him, a movement of her hips away and then back. He slid his hands upward, running them over her back and sides, catching her head to kiss her deeply, thrusting his hips upward.

"Steady there, old boy! Hold on a moment!"

Duncan stilled as he felt the slight but incredible sensation of Fitz's finger stroking inside Toinette's body -- and against his own painfully aroused flesh. Joined by another, the digits stroked and stretched her opening, sliding and teasing against Duncan as they did. Looking up at Fitz, he was caught by the open and aroused look on the other man's face as he looked down at Duncan before bending to nibble along Toinette's waist.

Endless moments later, Fitz withdrew his fingers, and both Duncan and Toinette let out faint sighs. Sitting up, Fitz stroked his hands down Toinette's back, cupping her buttocks and spreading her lightly with his thumbs. Duncan's eyes rolled back in his head as he realized what was coming. He shuddered slightly as Fitz slowly and steadily pressed in, accompanied by Toinette's teeth sinking into the join of Duncan's neck and shoulder as she moaned, her own body trembling in reaction to the double invasion of her body. He held her close as he felt the extraordinary feeling of another man's cock sliding against his, separated only by the thin membrane of the woman between them.

Fitz paused between movements, letting Toinette's body adjust to his penetration. She lay between them, quivering, her passion showing itself in the aborted movements of her hands along Duncan's sides and thighs, stroking back to lightly caress Fitz's hips. Her tongue darted out, lips and teeth biting and sucking on Duncan's flesh, while he lay still, too overwhelmed by the new sensations to do more than simply feel them.

Fitz groaned as he fully seated himself within Toinette, lying over her back, Duncan's arms trapped between her back and Fitz's bare chest. Duncan could feel the unfamiliar sensation of another man's balls rocking lightly against his own. Combined with the heat surrounding him, it was all a heady sensation. Fitz leaned up slightly and stared down into Duncan's eyes.

"Are you all right, laddie?" He smiled as Duncan failed to find his voice. "I'll tell you I told you so, later. Right now, I'm going to burst if I don't move." His tone was low and rough, sending small shudders through Duncan. And then Fitz began to move, keeping his eyes locked on Duncan's until Fitz's own passion overwhelmed him, and his eyes drifted shut.

As Fitz slid out, Duncan felt the movement against his own flesh and felt Toinette settle further back on to him. Then Fitz pressed back in, slowly at first, and Duncan arched with the feeling of tightness that accompanied the movement, Toinette's body stretched around him, Fitz's motion pushing her forward so that she slid up on Duncan's cock. Again he felt the light slap of Fitz's balls against and between his thighs. And then the motion sped up. Gradually, but inexorably, Fitz began thrusting faster and faster, the slide of flesh, male and female, stimulating them all.

Each shift forward and backward of Fitz's hips was echoed in the movement of Toinette's body. As a rhythm was established, Duncan found himself unable to move at all, except for his hands that clutched and stroked along the bodies above him, Fitz's flesh blurring into Toinette's. Fitz's features were tight with passion, and with what slight bit of mind remained to him, Duncan got an intimation of part of the attraction Fitz held for the fairer sex. The push and slide of Fitz's body against his own made it seem as if the woman between them had ceased to exist, but what confusion that generated was soon lost in the pleasure.

And then Fitz slid a hand under Toinette's hips and began stroking along Toinette's flesh and Duncan's cock in rhythm with the shifting of his body. Unable to prevent himself, Duncan began thrusting upwards, his body rapidly spiraling out of control. He could no longer determine what sounds came from which individual. Crying out, he came, pulling Toinette's hips against him as she clenched hotly around them both, her orgasms causing her body to tighten. Faintly Duncan heard Fitz's voice join his own, felt the short, sharp thrusts and slaps of flesh that indicated that Fitz, too, had succumbed.

Awareness gradually returned, as did a slight claustrophobia as Duncan found himself buried under two sweaty, trembling bodies. Panting, he pushed at them. "Fitz!"

"Ah?" Fitz raised his head tiredly, looking around to find the source of annoyance.

"Get off me!" gasped Duncan.

"Well, I say, that's some thank you." Fitz grinned down at him, stroking his hand along Toinette's stomach, his fingertips brushing Duncan's abdomen at the same time, sending a faint tremor through Duncan. "And you seemed to be enjoying yourself so much."

Duncan flushed, his modesty returning as he regained control of his body. He quivered slightly as Toinette giggled against him, her body shaking and teasing his overwhelmed flesh where it still lay imbedded within her. "I can't breathe! Could you please shift off me?"

"Ah, well! That I can do. But you still haven't said thank you." Fitz gasped slightly as he lifted up, his hips shifting backwards to let him slide out of Toinette's body. He bent and pressed a kiss to her hip before rolling off to lay next to Duncan.

Duncan shivered at the last sensation of Fitz's flesh along his. "I didnae ask for it!" he muttered. He looked apologetically and sheepishly at Toinette as she lifted her head from where it had rested on his shoulder to look at him reproachfully. "But it was very nice!" She sniffed. He then took a deep breath as he lifted her off of him, shifting her to the side so that she was between him and the English devil who lay there smirking and stroking his chest idly, yawning.

Duncan flopped his head back on his pillow and breathed deeply, closing his eyes and trying to figure out what had just happened.

"Go to sleep, laddie. It was just a bit of fun, that's all." Fitz himself sounded close to sleep. Realizing the good sense of what he said, Duncan soon joined him.

The inn's rooster crowed at what seemed an obscenely early hour, and Fitz surfaced sleepily to an aching head, a full bladder, and a solid warmth at his back that made him reluctant to get out and find the chamber-pot. Trying to ignore his increasingly insistent need to piss, he snuggled back into the warmth, only gradually realizing that there were firm angles where some more alert part of his mind was expecting soft curves. Waking more fully and listening, he ruefully came to the conclusion that one of the people he had fallen asleep with was missing, and judging by the snorts and rumbles, it wasn't MacLeod. Easing himself from the bed, his bladder unwilling to wait longer, he confirmed his guess. Reaching for the pot, he held it carefully, not wanting to wake MacLeod, who was lying there with his hair tangled over his face, his big body sprawling into the warm space so recently vacated.

I hope the lass -- Colette? Annette? -- wasn't too greedy in paying herself, he thought, sighing in pleasure as he relieved himself. He felt a momentary uneasiness, the frequent burden of the recurrently broke, then brightened as he realized that whatever the price, and he suspected she valued herself highly, it probably hadn't cost him much at all, since he had very little to show for himself at the moment. Now, MacLeod, on the other hand, might not be well pleased, but, thought Fitz with an internal shrug, he could easily afford it, and though he might storm and bluster about it, sooner or later he'd get over it. He always did. Whether he'd be over it in time to let Fitz share his bed again tonight was less certain. He smiled to himself. Of course, with -- Babette? -- out of the picture, a similarly enjoyable sharing was most unlikely in any case. Thinking back over it, remembering the look on MacLeod's face as he came, the abandon with which he'd joined in at the end...whatever the cost, any payment MacLeod would demand of him was well worth it. And with any luck, it was just the first in a series of lessons designed to bring them both a great deal of pleasure.

Looking down at MacLeod, Fitz felt a certain wistfulness that surprised him. Shaking the last clinging droplets free, he set the pot down carefully and eased himself back under the covers, taking the opportunity to briefly scan MacLeod's nude body, almost entirely relaxed in sleep apart from one telling exception. Wistfulness was replaced with a sharp surge of desire, closely followed by a feeling of something close to despair. The last thing Fitz needed was an unrequited affection for someone like the Highlander. However, there was no need to let that possibility ruin a perfectly good opportunity to get a bit more sleep, he told himself with self-mocking cheer. Sliding carefully into the bed, he shivered as MacLeod easily curled against him, pulling him into a warm embrace, and Fitz knew that he'd be getting no more sleep, his roused body highly aware of the hard body against him.

Closing his eyes against the brightening day, he recalled the night before in increasingly sharp detail. He'd wanted to find a way to cheer up the gloomy Highlander, knowing his propensity for moping about, and...Toinette, that was it! Toinette's willingness to share had seemed the perfect means. He'd known that MacLeod's own sensuality would be his best ally, once he got past the man's somewhat inconvenient and sometimes unpredictable bashfulness, and he'd hoped that the alcohol they'd imbibed, combined with Toinette's briefly sampled skills, would ease them past any such difficulties. His hopes had been more than fulfilled, and he'd surprised himself at his own reaction to the startled sensuality on MacLeod's face as he'd felt Fitz's movements against him, that more than anything else pulling Fitz to his own climax. The flush of heat that touched him at that thought put the warmth of MacLeod's body against his to shame.

What an idiot you are, Fitzcairn, you hopeless old fool. It wasn't entirely Gina at all, was it? Lying there, basking in MacLeod's sleeping presence, he remembered his odd thought that the prize had been less enticing than the chase. Pondering this, he realized that it was true, that what he'd miss most about the pursuit of Angelina wasn't the woman, it was the game itself -- an amusement made more piquant and exciting by the presence of his adversary, as many diversions had been in the time since he'd befriended the Scot.

It was a game they'd played before, with the enthusiastic cooperation of several flattered women, whenever their interests had collided over the same lovely lady. It had seemed more sporting, somehow, to leave the choice to the women themselves, and neither of the men had ever been willing to be the first to resign. And since it had always been the case that their flesh was more smitten than their hearts, none of their competitions had affected the underlying friendship. Fitz even prided himself on his selfless tutoring of MacLeod in the finer arts of flirtation and coquetry, and for the most part, he was well-pleased when the student began to -- very rarely, his pride insisted -- outshine the teacher. He opened his eyes, watching the growing light as he wondered whether he'd have courted the current lady so vigorously if not for the presence of her other suitor.

This round of play had begun after they'd sighted Angelina at a most tedious ball, surrounded by admiring beaus. Fitz had challenged MacLeod to see which of them could see her home, could cut out her swains and carry her off, and he had alternately insulted and cajoled him into agreeing, their usual warm-up routine. Angelina had been wise to them early on, but fortunately for them she was both flattered and amused, and their attraction had become even more genuine. After getting to know her, their sport had become even less serious and their rivalry moreso, though it remained playful, and it had continued well past the one night.

Gina hadn't appeared to take it all any more seriously than they did themselves, gently playing one gentleman off against the other. Her interest had remained evenly divided and most chaste, in spite of their seemingly fervent attempts to upset the balance, and she gently fended off any venture to carry her away to a more ardent privacy. Now that Fitz considered, he wondered how much of the lady's delicacy had been geared to preserving what she quickly learned was a most cherished friendship, despite appearances to the contrary, both men enjoying the hurling of creative insults and the mutual denigration of each other's place of birth.

Indeed, Fitzcairn valued his friendship with Duncan MacLeod more than any other relationship in his memory. He'd long ago acknowledged that the man seemed to see into his soul, to recognize the genuineness of the man under the carefree bluster. And it hadn't hurt that the Scot seemed to have a soft spot for the intermittently indigent Englishman. They'd traveled together, fought side by side, wooed and won fair lady against one another, and come out friends on the other side of more than a few ideological differences.

And it wasn't as if he'd not acknowledged an attraction to his friend before this. Fitz had long since understood his attraction to beauty of all types, and MacLeod was nothing if not beautiful, both outside and in. More importantly, there was something about the lad's openness and vibrancy that was balm to Fitz's soul. He'd begun feeling his age a bit more, recently, even though he knew by Immortal standards he was not all that old. Still, many Immortals never even reached four hundred, and time passed similarly for mortal and Immortal alike. He wondered if his recent, uncharacteristic melancholy was a sign of some Immortal something-or-other, the Immortal equivalent of growing age, the sensing of one's own mortality -- if one were mortal. The older he got, the more he seemed prone to fits of a most trying introspection, as if time itself were trying to push him towards a wiser self, while his own instincts tended more towards dicing and drinking the eons away, always looking for that prettier wench or that easier mark. His Immortality seemed such a gift, sometimes he wondered if it was squandered on a wastrel like himself -- and then he set himself to enjoying it all the more, living life to the fullest in a vain attempt to deserve the universe's profligacy in his favor.

But lately he'd been lonely in a way that wasn't alleviated by just any warm body or group of mortal cronies. His soul sought ease, against his own will, an ease that he could possibly only find in the most dangerous of places, with his own kind, a place where he could be known and understood in a way beyond the ken of most mortals. That was part of the attraction Gina had had for him, he admitted, carrying, as she did, the possibility of more than the chancy acceptance of a mortal love. What he'd not admitted until now was that the same was true of MacLeod, and the comfort he felt in the man's company gave him that ease. What would be more natural than the desire to extend that emotional ease into the physical?

He'd never considered that his attraction to the man might extend further than a mutual scratching of an itch, a simple indulgence in mutual pleasure. He lay there quietly, long into the morning, contemplating this new thought, trying to convince his foolish heart of the impossibility of such a thing.

Duncan woke slowly from a deep, relaxed sleep. His eyes still closed, he could sense the late morning light. His head was pillowed against wavy hair, and his nose filled with the scent of warm bodies and sexual activity. As he rose closer to full awareness, he felt the body pressed against his own, his early morning arousal cushioned against smooth buttocks. He smiled, vaguely recalling details of the early morning debauch. His hand stroked down a hip, and just as his mind was cataloguing the fact that the body against his was a bit leaner than expected, the legs tucked against his a bit less lush and a bit more hairy, a voice that rumbled in the chest against which he was tucked froze him to stillness.

"Ah, laddie, you do remember who you went to bed with, don't you?" The voice seemed rough with sleep, but relaxed.

Relaxed as Duncan was not, as in his haste to distance himself from Fitzcairn he once again tangled himself in the sheets and went sprawling on the floor, ass first, somersaulting to end up on a pile of clothes and bedding against the wall.

"Sorry, lad! Just wanted to make sure before you were making promises you didn't want to keep!" Fitz's lazy, smiling face rose up from the bed as the mischievous Immortal stretched and then looked down where Duncan lay. "I somehow had the impression that you didn't realize I was me." He indolently leaned back against the pillows, scratching his chest and smiling at the befuddled Highlander.

"I seem to recall we weren't alone!" Duncan blustered. "Where's your ladyfriend this morning?" He pulled the sheets around his waist, avoiding looking at the disheveled man in his bed. Standing, he held onto his modesty with one hand while digging for clothes to more permanently affix it.

"Toinette?" Fitz looked around, puzzled. "I don't know, MacLeod. She's not the type to take off without...." His voice dwindled to nothing as Duncan turned and looked at him in outrage.

"Without getting paid, perhaps? Well, she didn't! In fact, she was very well paid, with everything that was in my purse! And no doubt she'd have taken yours, as well, ya thievin' Sassenach -- if there'd been anything in it!" Fitz's sheepish look was enough to confirm Duncan's accusation, and he was well on the way to working up a full-fledged rage. "That's why you tangled me up in it, wasn't it? Couldn't find anyone willing to bed ye without payment, so you brought her here to filch from my purse again!"

Clearly deciding that offense was better than defense, as per his usual manner, Fitz leapt into the fray. "I say, that's unfair! I didn't bring her here to steal your money! How was I supposed to know she was a common thief?"

Duncan sighed. "I didnae mean that you intended for her to steal, but can you deny you intended for me to pay her? Or did you suddenly come into some hidden wealth since I left you at the table last night?"

"Well--" Fitz looked uncomfortable.

"Well, nothing! I hope you have someone else willing to support you, Fitz. You've about worn out your welcome with me!" Duncan ignored the chastened look on the other man's face as he dropped the sheet and began climbing into his clothes. At the continued silence, he looked at the glum man in his bed exasperatedly. "How d'you get yourself in these scrapes, anyway? And more to the point, how have you lived this long?"

"A natural gift, Highlander."

"The getting in, or the getting out?" Duncan flushed faintly as he realized what he'd said.

Fitz raised an eyebrow and avoided the obvious. "Both. Runs in the family." He grinned at the other man.

Duncan rolled his eyes at the cheeky remark. "I'm sure the running is a good part of it." He threw Fitz's clothes at him. The sooner the man was up and out of his bed, the better, as far as he was concerned. In spite of the pleasures of the night before, which he could not in all honesty deny, there were parts of it all he'd just as soon not remember too clearly, and Fitz's bare chest reminded him of much of it.

"I've never run away...just made some tactful and swift departures when it seemed the wise thing to do." Fitz dug his tobacco and pipe out of his pockets and paused to light up.

Duncan found himself fascinated by the movements of the other man's hands, oddly captivated by the motions Fitz made as he held the flame to his pipe, his rugged features looking even more gaunt as he sucked in to create a draft. Duncan's mind involuntarily drifted back to the night before, and his still unsatisfied morning arousal heightened at the memory of Fitz's cock sliding slowly back and forth against his own. He flushed as he recalled the movement of Fitz's body between his legs, the straying hands. Horrified by the turn in his thoughts, he took it out on the man contentedly resting back against the pillows, reluctant to dig out the piss-pot in front of Fitz, though he'd done so often enough before. That thought, too, added to his ill humor. "Well, I'd say that now is a good time for another hasty departure! Find someone else to fund your adventures for a while!"

Fitz looked injured. "Don't I always pay you back, Duncan? And look how generously I shared with you last night. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy it?" He glanced slyly up at the other man, and Duncan felt his flush deepen.

Flustered, he moved over to pour water into the washbasin, splashing his face and drying it before answering. "I do not think it was your natural generosity that led you to bring the wench back. And I seem to be the one that paid for it!" Fitz showed no signs of leaving, so Duncan fumbled around for the chamber pot, turning his back on the other man as he used it, oddly embarrassed in a way he'd never been before last night.

"I'm sorry, Duncan. I truly never intended anything but a little diversion to distract us both from our sorrows." Duncan watched out of the corner of his eye as Fitz stood, and gathering his clothes, prepared to make a somewhat disheartened-seeming departure. "Perhaps my choice was ill-judged, but...." He darted a furtive look up at Duncan, whose soft heart was warring with his Scottish temperament. Fitz quickly looked away when Duncan's eyes fell on him, then glanced back up mischievously and grinned. "You did enjoy it, did you not?"

Duncan colored again and grinned in spite of himself. "Aye, Fitzcairn, I did. But let's not make a habit of it, ya hear? I can't often afford such indulgences." He smiled further at Fitzcairn's obvious relief and felt the odd tension in the room ease a bit.

Time proved that Gina's infatuation with Robert de Valicourt was anything but contrived or transitory, and without Gina to bring them together in mock rivalry, Fitz saw a great deal less of MacLeod in the following weeks, and he noted a dangerous ache in his heart that this was the case. When he did see him, he sadly noted that MacLeod was somewhat awkward and shy around him, and Fitz did his best to keep things light and frivolous. For his own part, he missed the lad sorely and attempted to drown his sorrows in willing flesh and outrageous games of chance, his fortunes and his moods vacillating wildly. His harmless prank seemed to have put a barrier between them, and Fitz didn't think it was because of the money, which he managed to repay in fairly short order -- before his fortunes again took a downturn, part of the recurring theme of his very long life.

But with her outlandish request to have them both give her away, Gina brought them together again, even though the meeting was at first awkward and somewhat ridiculous. It was as if they were going through the well-worn paces of their friendship, without really feeling it, Fitz following MacLeod's weakened lead. Sensing their difficulties, though not knowing the cause, Gina did her best to help, inviting them often to the pre-wedding frivolities, introducing them to numerous nubile and charming young women, as well as to those equally charming and more experienced. Fitz was dedicatedly attentive to each and every one, flattering and wooing with abandon, but more often than not he found his eyes straying to his equally attentive and charming companion. He set himself to putting MacLeod at ease, no mention of that night and the pretty Toinette, nothing but lighthearted chatter and teasing by-play, and gradually MacLeod relaxed, their friendship once again filling with banter and affection. Fitz had even convinced the uncultured lout that opera had more to show for itself than the caterwauling and wailing the young man had anticipated.

And now they were married, Gina and Robert, the latter become less of a painted villain and more of a genuine friend in the months since their intrusion into de Valicourt's estate. The ceremony had been lovely, the celebration magnificent, and after eloquently toasting both bride and groom and seeing them off to their wedding bower, the two bride-bestowers staggered back towards their respective inns, leaning on each other and singing off-key at the top of their lungs until the near miss of an emptied chamber pot quieted them up.

"So, she really did it." MacLeod stumbled over an invisible crack, grabbing on to Fitzcairn, who valiantly tried to stabilize him.

"Yes, laddie, she did. All official and permanent."

MacLeod stopped and peered at him. "Ya think? Forever is a very long time for us."

"I think if anyone I've ever known could make a stab at it, it's those two -- and I wish them all the luck in the world." He felt gracious and expansive, basking once again in MacLeod's warm regard.

"Yer a good man, Fitzcairn -- for a thievin' Englishman."

"That's high praise indeed, coming from a drunken Scotsman, laddie!"

"That's the pot calling the kettle black, in't?" MacLeod cuffed Fitz affectionately.

They continued down the cobblestone street, sniggering and stumbling, until they reached the parting of their ways in an alley near MacLeod's inn. Fitz's path led over the bridge to a slightly shabbier establishment, one he held onto by the skin of his teeth and the luck of the dice, and he bowed with a flourish. "Until another night, then, my lord. May forever be as long for each of us--" Both men froze briefly, then looked around as they felt the approach of another Immortal. "Or maybe not."

From out of the darkness, a man approached, middle height, middle weight -- nothing particularly distinctive aside from his presence in their heads, the snarl on his face, and the sharp blade in his hand.

"Fitzcairn!" He roared, upon seeing them.

"I think it's for you." MacLeod bowed his way to the side, only to back into Fitzcairn as the other man ducked behind him. "Fitz? It's you he's wantin', shouldn't you be moving a bit forward?"

"Ah. Well, you see...." Fitz peered out around MacLeod's middle at the approaching Immortal, wishing they'd decided to stay over at de Valicourt's, hoping MacLeod was feeling valiant this evening.

"What?" MacLeod's tone was ominous as he eyed the blade coming closer, seemingly uncaring of its target.

"I seem to be at a disadvantage."

"You'd have a hell of a lot more advantage in front!" MacLeod tried to pull Fitz out from behind him, but Fitz kept turning to keep well hidden, thanking the Lord for his wiry stature and MacLeod's innate protectiveness.

"Ah. Well, you see...." Fitz peered out under MacLeod's arm again, hoping that the Highlander's stance might have put his attacker off, but no joy.

The other Immortal's rage only increased at this unsightly behavior. "Fitzcairn, you flea-bitten scoundrel! Stand forth and take a challenge like a man, if you know how!"

The man refrained from attacking immediately, giving MacLeod opportunity to size him up. "Ah, you're not too bad, Fitz. I think you can take him."

His patience apparently at an end, unwilling to wait for his prey to surface, the unknown man seemed to decide that if Fitz wouldn't come out from behind MacLeod, he'd go in after him.

Seeing his forward charge, MacLeod was forced to draw his own sword, swearing at the dastard that hung on his coat-tails. "Fitz! You're acting like a coward! Get out here and face him, ya milksop!"

"Well, I would, laddie, and you're quite right, I could take him -- Montgomery, the name is -- there's just a slight problem. I don't have my sword."

MacLeod turned briefly to stare at him, but was forced to turn back to fend off the wild blows of the angry attacker. "You came out without yer sword!?"

"Ah, yes. Well, I didn't think I'd need it, did I? The whole place full of bloody Immortals, figured they'd be protection enough." And who would have thought, of the two of them, that he'd be the one to be challenged?

"Fitz! You're four hundred years old! You never go out without yer sword!"

At this point, Montgomery seemed to find his voice. "Out of my way, you bumbling oaf! My quarrel is with that villein there, but I'll gladly go through you to get to him!"

Both men ignored him, though MacLeod continued to parry his increasingly erratic feints, Montgomery's blows wild enough that MacLeod's inebriation didn't hinder his defense unduly. "Well, tell him so, and we can arrange a more civilized meeting once you've retrieved it!"

"That's a very good idea, MacLeod, very good, indeed, and normally, I'd be in full support of it -- you know how I love a duel -- but I'm afraid it's not going to serve me very well at this point in time."

"Why not!" MacLeod put a bit more vigor into his defense, forcing Montgomery off a few steps while trying not to injure him.

"Well, actually...I pawned it."

MacLeod nearly lost an ear as he halted in outrage to try and turn and face a chastened Fitz, but was forced to stop. Taking matters into his own hands, he blocked Montgomery's blow and forced his sword down, pinning it between his own and the ground. "Listen, sir, I don't know your grievance, but I would think it a great kindness if you would give me a moment with my comrade. Depending on what he has to say, I may decide to just hand him over to you!" This last was said with a fierce glance at an apologetic Fitzcairn. "Just a few moments, and one or the other of us will be happy to face you."

Visibly restraining himself, Montgomery pulled back. "Five minutes, no more! Or I'll kill the both of you!" He moved back a few steps while an aggrieved Highlander turned to confront Fitz, who stumbled backwards across the cobblestones until he was pressed against the alley wall. He leaned against it, thankful for something that didn't spin when he closed his eyes.

"You what? How could you do such an idiotic thing!" MacLeod whispered harshly.

Fitz opened one eye to peer at MacLeod. "I planned to retrieve it in short order, but I needed a gift for the lovely Gina, and, well, as you know I'm a bit short on funds of late...."

"You pawned your sword for a wedding present?!" MacLeod somehow managed to shriek in a loud whisper. "And where exactly were ya goin' ta get the funds to get it back?" he continued suspiciously.

"Well...." Fitz smiled as charmingly as possible under the conditions.

MacLeod stood back and crossed his arms, glaring down at the importunate man. "Why didn't ya just hit me up for the gift? It's not like yer shy about spending my money!"

Fitzcairn was shocked at the idea. "I couldn't do that! It was a gift!"

MacLeod looked at him in disbelief, then took a deep breath. "What did you do to him, anyway?" He nodded over to where Montgomery was pacing and throwing dark looks in their direction.

Fitz drew himself up and looked scornfully at the gentleman in question. "I didn't do anything!" The hiccup only marred his dignity slightly.

Montgomery threw himself at them, and MacLeod only barely managed to keep him off. Fitz was grateful that in his rage, the man had forgotten the sword he yet held. "Liar! Despoiler of innocents!"

"Just a few more moments, man! You'll have yer chance!" MacLeod watched until the man moved away a safe distance, then turned back and stared at Fitzcairn. "Not again, man! Will ya never learn to leave such women alone? And this time, you seduced the daughter of another Immortal? You've lost yer mind!"

"I did no such thing!" Fitz protested.

"Are you telling me he has the wrong man?" MacLeod asked skeptically.

"Well, no. Not exactly."

"What d'ya mean 'not exactly?!' Either he does, or he doesn't! Did you seduce this man's daughter?"

"No, not his daughter." MacLeod raised an eyebrow questioningly, and Fitz knew he seemed oddly reluctant for a man who usually boasted of his conquests, albeit in a gentlemanly and affectionate way. He wasn't sure, given MacLeod's earlier reactions, how he'd take what Fitz was being pressed to admit.

MacLeod stared at him, appalled. "His wife?!"

"No...."

"Fitzcairn!"

"The boy was no innocent, MacLeod! He seduced me!" Fitz proclaimed in the tones of the justified.

At this, Montgomery lost the last of his patience. Fitz heard the low growl, and over MacLeod's shoulder, saw him charging again. MacLeod reacted more slowly, still bemused by Fitz's revelation, but he saw Fitz's eyes widen and pivoted, swinging his sword up to block the expected blow to his neck--

--only to find that Montgomery had tried to duck around him to go after Fitz. MacLeod's sweep cut cleanly through the man's neck, and his head went bouncing and rolling down the alleyway as MacLeod turned back to look at Fitz with horrified eyes.

"Ah, I'm sorry about that, laddie," Fitz said sincerely, stepping back away from the incoming quickening that rose from the decapitated body.

It began with deceptive peacefulness, gathering and swirling around MacLeod's body like a thick fog, sinking in and dissipating as the lightning struck. Fitz ducked behind a corner, trying to both keep his eyes on MacLeod and look out for any other people summoned by the out of season storm. As he watched, the lightning ricocheted through the cul-de-sac, rebounding into MacLeod with each pass, Fitz wincing with each blow. When it finally faded, MacLeod collapsed to one knee, braced on his sword.

A light in a window and the sound of sleepy voices told Fitz that he'd better hurry and get MacLeod out of the streets before someone came along who'd want to know what they were doing hanging around a headless body. He approached MacLeod cautiously, wondering what form the quickening would take as MacLeod's spirit worked to absorb it. Montgomery had been out for his blood, and while MacLeod was a strong young Immortal, Fitz didn't know how much practice he'd had at overcoming the terrible pulls of an unincorporated quickening. "MacLeod? Are you all right, laddie?

He was met with a wordless growl, and he could see the strong shoulders shaking as MacLeod fought to contain his opponent's rage. "Leave me, Fitzcairn. He didn't care much for you and would have liked nothing better than to see you drawn and quartered. And at the moment, I'm not too fond of you, either!" MacLeod raised his head and glared at Fitz, hauling himself to his feet. "Leave me be!"

"Aye, and I can't do that, Duncan. It's my fault you got into this mess, I'm going to make sure you're all right. But we need to clear out of here." He stepped forward and reached for MacLeod's sword. "Give me that -- don't want to forget to clean your sword." MacLeod glowered at him, but let him take the sword, staggering over to the wall to lean against it. Fitz took the sword and quickly cleaned it on Montgomery's jacket. He shook his head sadly. The man had been a pompous prig, but he'd been devoted to his wife and stepson. Lady Montgomery had never able to accept that her son Jocelyn would have happily married and sired heirs if his parents had been willing to turn a blind eye to both his gambling and his predilection for other men. They could have come to a civilized agreement, but instead they had driven Jocelyn away, and Montgomery had apparently blamed Fitzcairn for that. All because Fitz had been his own generous self, seeing the boy safely to Paris and into the arms of some welcoming friends.

He turned back to MacLeod and saw the other man eyeing him in a way that was not entirely displeasing, and his own drink-addled mind turned agreeably on the possibilities, a small hope flaring in his heart. It was sad that it had happened, but there was no point in wasting opportunity when it came your way. "Well, my boy, I think we'll be staying in your rooms tonight. We need to get out of sight before anyone else comes along. And we can go in the back way. Less chance of anyone seeing us, asking questions when the body turns up later."

"Fitz, I don't want to hurt you--"

Fitzcairn heard both anger and despair, and something else, something that sent a shiver through him. "Come now, you know you won't hurt me, you're stronger than that. Besides," he grinned devilishly, "I have the sword now!"

"Fitz--"

He slid an arm around MacLeod's waist, pulling MacLeod's arm around his own shoulders. They'd look like nothing so much as what they were, a couple of drunken fellows trying to find their way home. "Now then, off we go!"

Duncan felt Montgomery's quickening singing inside him, bouncing around much as the lightning bolts had flown about, refusing to settle. Murderous rage and bloodlust had poured in, but mingling with Duncan's own nature, it quickly turned into lust of an entirely different kind, and Montgomery's obsession fed on the heat of Fitz's body, awakening unsettling images in Duncan's mind. Every quickening hit him differently, the emotions and immediate predilections of his opponents mingling with his own life force, awakening different urges and needs in him. Sometimes it led to rage, sometimes to sorrow; this time it seemed to have called to his own uncontemplated ambivalence about Fitzcairn, married itself to it, and transformed somehow into a confusing mixture of aggression and lust aimed at Fitz himself. More than anything Duncan wanted to be left in peace, to be left alone to deal with his wayward body in a manner that wouldn't leave him more confused than ever.

Fitzcairn helped him up the back stairs and to his room, thankfully holding his tongue. Leaving Duncan on the bed, he poured some water into a basin, and taking a cloth, tried to sponge some of the blood and sweat off Duncan's face, until Duncan growled and grabbed the cloth away. "All right, you've seen me home, now leave, would you! I just want some peace and quiet!" He ignored the swelling of his body, hoping that Fitzcairn was too drunk to notice. His own head swam with drink and need, and the smell of Fitz's perfumed clothes overlaying the scent of his body made Duncan want to push the man down and-- "Would you leave me be!" He shoved at Fitz, who was trying to tug off Duncan's coat, sending him sprawling. "I don't need a nursemaid!" He stood and paced, waiting for Fitz to leave.

Fitz climbed to his feet, an understanding in his face that made Duncan's heart sink. "I know what's wrong, laddie." Fitz stepped closer to him. "I...could help."

Duncan backed away, torn, the quickening working against his own tendencies. "I don't think...." His mind filled with the sensations and images of that one night months before, in this bed, waking pressed tightly to Fitzcairn's back, and his body reacted, throbbing and wanting.

"Then don't think. Please, Duncan, it's my fault you had to take the quickening. At least let me help with this." As he spoke, he moved closer, and soon his hands were busy delving into Duncan's clothing, quicker than Duncan could ward them off in his still-drunken and overcharged state. "It won't be a hardship." His rough voice sent shivers through Duncan.

Before he quite realized what was happening, Fitz was on his knees, his warm mouth on Duncan's engorged cock, his hands stroking along Duncan's thighs, triggering a memory of those hands on him before, spreading his legs to kneel between them. He staggered back, bracing himself against the bedstead. Looking down, seeing only the long curls of blond hair, he could almost believe it was a woman before him, but then he realized he didn't want to. Somehow this satisfying of his lust was intrinsically tied to Fitzcairn, through Montgomery's quickening. Closing his eyes, sinking his fingers into the curly mane, he groaned in relief and gave in to the pleasures of mouth and tongue.

And such a clever tongue it was, making Duncan wonder how many of Fitz's four hundred years had been dedicated to such learning. Every touch, every lick, was calculated to inflame and pleasure, and Fitz proved that the suction that went into lighting his pipe served him well in other areas. Duncan braced himself on the brass frame of the bed, unable to prevent groans that only seemed to serve to push Fitz to greater effort. He was so close to the edge that when he felt a single finger penetrate him slowly, he could but spread his legs the wider, allowing the touch he knew would send him over. And indeed it did, pleasure spiraling through him, the slick, wet sounds of Fitz's mouth on him only increasing that pleasure. He arched outward and groaned, his hands, woven into Fitz's hair, holding that gratifying mouth in place as he thrust once, twice, and came.

He stood there, dazed, his mind swimming in lust and alcohol, no resistance in him as Fitz helped him to the bed, all the aggression turned to need. Fitz's hands on him still brought sparks of pleasure, as if they were calling to the quickening still flowing through him, seeking its rest, and Duncan made no move to stop him as Fitz coaxed him out of his clothes, moving against Duncan as he did so.

"I can make you feel so good, Duncan -- if you'll but let me."

Duncan nodded helplessly, unable -- and unwilling -- to resist as Fitz stroked him, shaped him, made him feel good in a hundred different ways, deft hands sliding along his back, thighs, buttocks, soothing the last tremors of Montgomery's quickening into something both less disturbing -- and moreso. And then there was his tongue, that weapon so agile in speech and equally so in touch, teeth biting gently along his skin, as if Fitz were trying to assuage a deep hunger -- or wake one. Duncan's eyes widened, and he gasped as that tongue moved lower, against his buttocks, his thighs, his balls, the last tightening as the slick flesh was cooled by the slight breeze stirred by Fitz's movements. Duncan lifted his hips at Fitz's silent urging, burying his head in his pillow to cover the shout of surprise and shock as that tongue was probing him, sliding against him and sending shocks of excitement through him.

Capable only of muffled groans, he spread his legs wider, braced his knees, and gave in to the pleasure. He drew deep breaths when Fitz's mouth finally left him, only to bite deeply into the pillow when he felt hot, hard flesh against him. A moment's hesitation only, and he lifted his hips again, the last of the quickening and his own memories of Fitz's cock sliding against him, as well as Toinette's obvious enjoyment, spurring him on. Fitz's penetration was equally as gentle and slow as it had been before, and Duncan felt no pain, only an eventual thick, sweet pleasure that had him moving against Fitz, pleading for more.

"Oh, lord, Duncan, you are magnificent!" Fitz's voice was hoarse and urgent as Duncan took control of the rhythm, his fingers sinking deep into Duncan's hips, his own pleasure made obvious in broken sounds and half-finished, indecipherable phrases. His half-opened garments brushed against Duncan's back and thighs, erotic against his naked flesh. When Fitz reached around to stroke and squeeze Duncan's renewed erection, matching movements, every last bit of coherence was wrung from Duncan's mind.

When it was over, Duncan barely felt Fitz pulling away from him, faintly noticing a soft kiss to his shoulder as Fitz pulled the covers up over them both.

Morning came late, gloriously bright to Fitz's somewhat woozy head and slitted eyes. He closed them again immediately, savoring the blessed darkness behind his lids. A sweet lethargy filled him, a blissful satiation that only increased as he stretched, reaching his toes into the cool areas of the bed -- which made it quite obvious that he was alone. Leaning up on his elbows, blowing the hair out of his eyes, he opened them carefully -- to see a somewhat thoughtful and brooding Scot sitting by the bed, half-dressed, his shirt open and one boot dangling from his hand as he watched Fitz, looking awkward, but resolved.

Fitz cleared his throat, his chest tight, wondering if his impulsive lust had cost him one of the dearest friends he'd ever had and damning himself as seven kinds of fool. "Good morning, MacLeod. Going somewhere?" He kept his voice good-humored and casual.

MacLeod smiled. It was a more reserved smile than most of his, but there was a genuine warmth to it that eased Fitz's mind. Whatever was going on in that complicated mind, MacLeod had apparently decided that he wasn't going to pull away completely -- at least Fitz hoped that was what he'd decided. The possibility of gaining MacLeod's heart no longer seemed worth the risk of losing his simple warmth and companionship. Fitz suddenly felt chatty, wanting to forestall whatever was going to come out of that lovely mouth. "How did you sleep, laddie? I don't think I've slept that well in ages, must have been--" He stopped abruptly, appalled at what he had almost said.

They sat in the increasingly uncomfortable silence until MacLeod opened his mouth. "Fitz, I...he...he wanted you." MacLeod blushed at Fitz's startled look and clarified. "He wanted your head. I think that's why...."

"It's all right, Duncan." Fitz forced himself to sound nonchalant and cheery, even as he felt hollow. He wanted to let it go, to move on and into the morning, pour himself an ale and light a cigar, and find a rousing game of chance to sink himself into. Nothing like debauchery to scatter one's sorrows. Not that he'd truly expected anything else....

"I enjoyed it, I don't want you to think I didn't, but I don't...I don't feel like that for you." MacLeod worried at the cuff of his boot, looking embarrassed and guilty.

"It's okay, laddie! I mean that." Fitz climbed out of bed, ignoring the fact that MacLeod looked away as he briskly dressed. "Friends help friends. You were in need, and I was...more than happy to help. Nothing more to it than that!" At least for you, and I'll be damned before I burden you with my futile hopes.

MacLeod stared at his large, square hands. "You're a good friend, Fitz." He waited until Fitz turned, then looked squarely up at him, and something in the sad, knowing look made Fitz swallow, hard.

"I try, difficult as you make it." The jest fell flatly between them. "Did you sleep well, my boy? I know that I did. Maybe--" Fitz busied himself gathering his things. He knew he was repeating himself, but he was determined to put a light face on this, to make this easy on the other man. It wasn't his fault that Fitz could find it so easy to fall for him, to want him. If they could just leave it be, before more was said, things that couldn't be explained away....

MacLeod's voice was careful, neutral, warm, but awkward. "I...we'll need to get your sword out."

Fitzcairn felt his cheeks burn, felt a flush of shame, a feeling that he was being...paid off, like the whore they'd shared. He ruthlessly pushed down his pride. He knew Duncan hadn't meant it like that. Like Fitz, he was merely trying to proceed as usual -- when nothing was as usual.

Yes, he knew that Duncan had intended nothing of the sort...but still, it hurt. And with that, Fitz realized that things would never, ever be the same. They might be better, they could possibly be so much worse...but they'd never be the same again. One night, and everything had changed -- forever. One more impulsive act, one chance taken, telling himself that he was doing it to help, when in the cold, sober light of day he knew that he had acted on hopes he'd not even fully admitted to himself. And yet, if he could hold on to MacLeod's friendship, he knew that the loyalty and warmth he'd find there would outlive almost any lover he could have. There might be a shadow of desire once in a while, a wistfulness at times -- but it was a small price to pay, to his mind. Turning, he sat to pull on his boots and spoke just as MacLeod himself did.

"MacLeod, I--"

"Fitz--"

Fitz looked at MacLeod and smiled, genuinely smiled. "I would take that as a kindness, Duncan. Forever might end a lot sooner than I'd like without it. After all, there are still so many women out there who are as yet unacquainted with the multitudinous charms of Hugh Fitzcairn! It would be a shame to allow some cretin like Montgomery to cheat them all so direly, wouldn't it, lad?"

MacLeod grinned, clearly relieved. "You make a strong case for leaving it there, you reprobate. Women far and near would put up monuments in my honor!"

Fitz laughed. "Indeed they might, young man, but leave me my illusions for a while, hear?"

MacLeod looked at him long and hard before he spoke. "Would that my own dreams were so well-founded, and my heart as generous as yours, Hugh Fitzcairn."

Fitz harrumphed, his cheeks heating with pleasure, the ache in his chest easing into something simpler, but still warm. "You'll give an old man ideas above himself, Highlander."

MacLeod laughed, and the sound was a balm on Fitz's heart. "That'll be the day, when you're either old, or consider anything above you!" He finished pulling on his own boots, standing to reach for his coat.

Fitz grinned wickedly. "Well, you might have a point there. Now, if you'll finish with your dressing, shall we find some lunch? I find myself quite peckish, and there are women to be wooed, and men whose pockets need lightening -- or vice-versa!" Delighted by the look on MacLeod's face, Fitz's laughter echoed around and followed him out of the room. Things would never be the same, but he was alive, and so was MacLeod, and life was good. Life was very, very good.

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