DISCLAIMER AND NOTES
Highlander and characters belong to Panzer/Davis Productions & Rysher Entertainment. No infringement of copyright is intended. This story is SLASH, rated NC-17 for m/m sex and language, so if such things offend you or it's illegal for you to read this where you live, please don't read it! You've been warned.
You may or may not remember a little snippit about Duncan and Methos sitting on the steps after Joe's wedding. Y'all are too nice to me, so as punishment you get that sequel you asked for. Sorry it took so long (big surprise), sorry I'm such a romantic sap (not really). I made a few very minor edits to Dead Weight, nothing of significance. Thank you very very much to Ellen, the best encourager and editor one could ask for.
The windows in the loft face east, so it was the long fingers of sunshine that first reached me in the place where I was dreaming.
That particular dream is kind. I don't usually want to leave it. For too long sleep's been an enemy, and I'm always grateful for the rare, forgiving dreams that come like gifts of Morpheus in the moments before waking. Even Richie comes to me sometimes now, and it's such a relief to hear him say he doesn't blame me. But today the touch of morning warmed my face, reminding me gently that there were things to do, a day to face, and that I'd slept long enough.
The air was cool in spite of the sunshine. Opening my eyes, I could see the curtains moving gently at the window. The chill breeze was full of the smell of the sea, and something green and indefinable that reminded me it was spring; over that I suddenly became aware of the rich, dark smell of Kona brewing.
Sitting up, I was surprised to find myself still wearing clothes from the night before--and even more surprised to realize I couldn't quite remember how I'd gotten home from the party. Someone had pulled the covers over me, and taken off my shoes--presumably the same someone who had started the coffee. But I was alone in the loft, and felt no sense of Presence.
Methos, of course. Had to have been. I'd offered to let him stay weeks ago, when he'd called to say he was coming to the wedding. But I'd more than half-expected him to say no; now it seemed almost certain that he'd slept here, on my couch, mere feet away from me. For some reason it really bothered me that he'd taken off my shoes and tucked me in and I couldn't remember it. I had a troubling feeling that sometime after that last bottle of champagne, I'd said or done something I couldn't take back.
I got up, padding on bare feet toward the haven of the shower, where I could work on getting the smell of cigarettes out of my hair and try to remember what exactly had happened last night.
I was under the spray, shampoo running down my neck, when I felt the buzz.
There's something about his buzz that isn't like anyone else's. It's subtle, not something I could describe. I've never asked Amanda if she feels it, never asked anyone. Sometimes, when I'm stressed, or afraid, or there are too many people around, I can't feel the difference at all.
But times like this morning, when it's quiet and I'm focused, or at peace... I know him. The feel of him. It's like... it's like what faith is like: a knowing you can't put into words.
I hadn't expected him back so soon. The brewing coffee had been a good sign, but I still wasn't ruling out the possibility that I'd said something incredibly stupid in the missing hours of my memory between last night and this morning. It surprised me to feel him close, in my loft, where there was no Joe or Amanda or convenient stranger to help us keep to the steps of our uneasy dance. No one but us.
I find it wearing, sometimes, being with him now. Things have been better between us these last few months, but I still find myself holding my breath at times, waiting for the other shoe to drop. We've never talked about any of it. Not about O'Rourke, or Richie, or Kronos... not any of it. I think we both know we will, some day. We're working towards that. I think we both know we're gonna have to talk about all of it in time, if we want to keep from killing each other. It's getting to where not talking is harder than the arguing ever was, and I know this careful truce is coming to an end, for good or bad.
That's why I was so afraid some forbidden subject might have slipped out; I wasn't ready to give him up yet, not again.
I stayed in the shower a long time. But the buzz didn't go away, and in the end I got out and dried off, knowing there'd be no running from him, no more than there'd ever been. As infuriating as he was, as unfathomable and dangerous as he was, as beautifully cruel as he could be--he was in my heart. Always had been; I couldn't change it.
I knew it wasn't romantic love I felt for him. There had been a time when I thought it might have been that, yes. Before Alexa, before C'oltec. Before he betrayed me, and I him. But that felt like another life, and I could barely remember how in the beginning I wanted so much for him to be the answer to everything.
Now we had too much history and pain between us, and I saw the truth for what it was, simple and inescapable: he was in my heart.
When I came out of the bathroom he was there, sitting at my breakfast bar with the paper spread out before him, half a bagel in his hand. He glanced up when I came toward him, as bright-eyed and alert as if he were the morning person, not me. I saw he'd gotten smoked salmon and capers with the bagels--a weakness of mine.
"Morning," he said, and shifted over, making room. "Lovely day, isn't it?" And he flashed me a smile that made something turn over inside me, slow and unexpected.
I just nodded, and poured myself coffee.
I felt a little naked, sitting there in my robe, but my only options weren't much better: get dressed in front of him or go find clothes and change in the bathroom, and somehow I knew he would laugh at that. It was a little ridiculous. I had no idea why all of a sudden I couldn't be naked in front of him. I'd never felt self-conscious before, when he'd stayed with me.
He was wearing my clothes. Wasn't the first time he'd done that either, but for some reason today it made me feel strange. In fact, everything about him was throwing me. The way he sat in my kitchen having breakfast and reading the paper as if the last three years hadn't happened; the way he seemed to fairly hum with some kind of quiet energy I'd never seen in him before; the almost-memory of him pulling my coat off and tucking me in. Especially the way he had smiled at me, as if he knew something I didn't.
So I sat beside him drinking the coffee he'd made, pretending to read the paper, pretending to eat. Wondering what the hell was going on with me, or Methos, that was making me feel like the world had gone off-kilter a degree or two.
I can't say how long we sat like that, our shoulders less than two feet apart, our minds on different planets. At last he finished his bagel and looked up, dusting his fingers off on his jeans. My jeans. Folding his paper, he reached over the breakfast bar for the coffee pot. "More?"
I nodded; he poured himself half a cup and gave me the rest. "You gonna read that?" he asked amiably, looking at my share of the arts section.
I handed it over, watched him dive right in as if he couldn't wait to see what cultural strides Seacouver had been making in the past two years. Suddenly I wasn't sure I could take the surreal morning any more. "Since when do you read the paper?"
He shrugged. "I just like to know who's in town, what's happening, you know."
"You planning on staying a while, then?"
I'm not quite sure how I meant that, but it came out quiet, a small voice that lacked inflection.
His eyes met mine, bright and amused and still full of that secret, like a bubble that'd risen near the surface but hadn't quite burst. "How would you feel about that?"
An odd flush came over me then, a kind of cool, tingling sweep of awareness that started at the nape of my neck and brushed lightly over every inch of my skin. It was as if every part of me suddenly knew something. Something important and yet intangible, inexpressible.
"All right," I said, feeling breathless as I said it.
He just nodded and went back to his paper, as if it was all decided then; he'd stay. And only then, feeling the way my heart lifted at the thought, did I realize how badly I'd missed him. Missed this. Methos in my home, wearing my clothes, sitting in my kitchen, staying. That's why, I realized. That's why it was throwing me, his casual presence, his easy habitation of my space, my loft. Because I'd missed it so much and for so long that I was afraid to believe in it now.
That's when the other shoe dropped, the one I'd been waiting for.
Impossible. God help me, it had to be. But suddenly I was looking at him, the way his lashes hid his eyes, the way his mouth was red from the warm rim of his cup and the way his throat curved so smoothly into the open neck of my old black pullover--and I knew it wasn't impossible. Insane, maybe, but not impossible. I'd been right, all those years ago. God help me, I'd been right.
I stood up so fast I managed to spill hot coffee all over myself. I was grateful. It gave me an excuse to find jeans and a sweater and retreat to the relative safety of the bathroom.
I cleaned myself up, the sting already fading by the time I pulled my sweater on. Dressed, I sat on the closed lid of the commode with my hand pressed to my mouth and tried to think.
I know now what I was really doing was panicking. Very quietly. Because all I could think was, how much does he know?
He knew something, that was clear. How would you feel about that? he'd said, not at all what he would have asked me yesterday, or any other day that I could remember. He knew something. But what?
A chill touched me. What had I said last night? Or done? I would never, I vowed right there, mix champagne and scotch in the same night again.
I couldn't be sure how much damage control we were talking about. I had to know where we stood. Couldn't think of a plan until I knew.
I'd have to ask him.
When I came out again he was standing by the window, watching something down the block. If I hadn't been sure before, I was then. The long, lithe line of him made me think of how he'd stood so casually beside Kronos, lying with his body as well as his tongue. It made me want to kill Kronos all over again. For him.
Not impossible at all.
I went to stand beside him, seeing as I drew near what he was looking at. A Dalmatian had gotten off its leash and was wandering down the sidewalk, systematically nipping buds off the wildflowers in the narrow strip of grass, testing them for flavor. We watched until he got to the end of the block and disappeared around the corner.
Still looking out the window, both of us.
"What happened last night? After we left the party?" I swallowed. "Did I...?"
He looked at me sidelong. "What, Mac?"
His voice was low, and full of that suppressed energy he'd been giving off all morning. I could feel my face getting warm. I plunged ahead. "Is there anything I ought to apologize for?"
His amusement was plainly close to getting the better of him. "What, you mean to me? Or to the bride and groom? I wouldn't worry about it. What's a little swordplay between friends?"
I groaned inwardly. I had said something. He was laughing at me, I could feel it. Suddenly I couldn't stand the thought of him laughing at me, and I started to turn away, anger sparking low in my belly. Dangerous. Oh, dangerous, to let myself get angry with him. It was the one rule we hadn't broken in the last four months.
His voice stopped me, saying my name. "Duncan." My name, that he never uses.
I looked, and he wasn't laughing, he was just smiling, shaking his head at my paranoia. "Don't worry, okay? You passed out, I took you home. End of story. I'm the one who should apologize--I shouldn't have made you drink so much."
I wasn't angry any more, then. What I was, was afraid. I can guard myself against him when he's cruel, when he hurts me, even against his lies. I can fight. But his gentleness, his kindness... these I have no defense against. His blindness to that terrible vulnerability of mine is the only weapon I've ever had worth anything against him, against all the ways it's possible for him to hurt me. It's why I fall back on sarcasm so much with him, even when I don't mean to. I constantly push him to spar with me because I can't take his kindness.
But that was it. That was the secret, the thing he knew, the truth that had somehow come out the night before in the space of missing time I couldn't remember. Somehow, he knew.
He'd apologized to me. Said my name. Made coffee for me, and bought food I liked. He'd asked me how I felt.
I'm no good at all at hiding what I feel, and Methos is far too good at reading me. Whatever my face showed then must have been more than enough to set off his alarm bells. But he didn't say anything, or ask me what was wrong, just turned back to the open window again, breathing in deeply.
This was bad. Really bad. Here I was, grappling with what had to be the strongest, craziest rush of feelings I could ever remember having, for a man who had already cut my heart out more times than I could count and would no doubt do it again at some point in the very near future--and somehow I'd managed to put the blade in his hand.
"You know," he was saying, "I think I'm starting to feel like a mole who's been too long without seeing the sun. We should do something today. Get outside. What do you say?"
I was still reeling, but right then I knew, the only thing that would have been worse than being in his presence would have been feeling like this and not being near him. "What'd you have in mind?"
"There's a music festival downtown." I saw his mouth quirk in profile. "Most of the bands might be a little... modern for your tastes. But there'll be some jazz, and good food. And more importantly, beer."
"Sounds good." It sounded like torture. It also sounded perfect. "But I think I swore off drinking this morning."
That made him chuckle, which made my nervous system jump in interesting ways. Jesus, I would have to get a handle on this, or blow the whole show.
But oh, it felt good to make him laugh.
He glanced at me, still smiling. "Guess I'll have to handle the beer consumption for both of us." At my expression his eyes widened, all innocence. "What?"
"I wasn't gonna say anything." I tried to match him for innocence, but it was a battle I lost before it ever began.
"'Course not," he agreed, eyes crinkled at the corners. "Well then. I'll clean up, and we'll go." When he turned to move past me, he touched me. Just the brush of his shoulder against mine, because we were standing close. Just that. But I felt it through his clothing and mine, and he was warm, so warm. Jesus.
The dig he'd made at me registered belatedly, and I turned after him, pretending to be put out. "I'm not completely clueless about modern music, you know. I do know who Led Zeppelin is."
He was still laughing when the bathroom door closed behind him.
I was right, it was perfect torture. The sunshine, the crowd, the so-called 'alternative' music with its edge of frenetic, angry cheerfulness--and Methos, close beside me the whole day. Perfectly, wonderfully torturous. We ate pizza slices with fresh tomatoes from a booth, and he drank more than enough beer for two.
There was something else, too. Something astonishing, and fine: he touched me. Not overtly, and not anywhere except the safe places--elbow, shoulder, through clothing. Twice, the small of my back. But still, he touched me more times in one afternoon than he had in all the time we'd known one another.
I didn't question it, didn't touch him back. It was all I could do to stand still under those casual brushes of his fingertips.
There was nothing safe about it.
By the time we started back toward the car, I was flying. I was also exhausted, mentally, from the effort it was costing me to act like everything was business as usual when I was so close to overload.
It was a long walk uphill to where I'd parked on a residential side street. We matched strides, not talking. The afternoon had warmed up a bit, and Methos pulled off his sweater--my sweater--and tied it around his waist. Under it he was wearing only a white t-shirt, also mine.
It struck me how young he looked, and as always seems to happen, that momentary perception was followed by the heavy, overwhelming awareness of what he was. I can never see one without feeling the other, without trying to fit my mind around it. The outline of his stiletto in its sheath was barely visible against the hollow of his spine; we'd left our swords in the trunk, but I should have realized he'd not rely on the relative safety of being in a crowd.
We were at the car then, and he turned to catch me staring. "What?"
I covered. "Just wondering... why didn't you bring any clothes of your own? Not that I mind, but did your luggage get rerouted or something?"
To my surprise, he colored faintly and lowered his eyes. "No. They're at my hotel. I didn't feel like going across town just for that."
"Your hotel? You weren't planning on staying with me?"
He shrugged. "Wasn't sure. Figured I'd play it by ear." His eyes flicked to mine. "I didn't want to impose."
Belatedly, I got it. Amanda. We'd both thought she might show for the wedding, and Methos hadn't wanted to get in the way if she did. He knew I'd been a bit out of it since she'd left Paris. For some reason it's been harder this time than all the times before; I wasn't ready for her to go, I guess, or maybe I've been alone too much lately. But today I hadn't thought of her at all.
"I'm glad you did," I said before I could think.
He looked surprised, and pleased. A shy smile teased one corner of his mouth. "So am I. This was fun."
He was standing easily beside my car, waiting for me to open the door. His nose and cheeks were pink from sun and his hands were in his pockets, the black jeans too big for him, riding low on his hips. The street was full of yellow forsythia blossoms. They drifted around our feet in the late afternoon breeze.
And I had that feeling again. That same sweeping, electric feeling of knowing, of a connection completed. It was strong now--so strong I caught my breath--because now I knew what it was: my love for Methos, as deep and bittersweet as any I'd ever felt. It hurt how much I loved him. Made me want to step in close and put my arms around him and just lay my head down on his shoulder for a while, until I could breathe properly.
This was insane. I did realize that. It was probably going to hurt a lot more, very soon, and I knew that too. But right then, for that one moment, I didn't care.
"Methos," I said hoarsely. It was all I could do.
He lifted his head. Looked at me.
That's when it happened. A slow flush that wasn't sunburn starting at his pale throat and rising to his face, a heat that I could almost feel from three feet away. He drew in a deep breath. Then he nodded, eyes holding mine steadily.
"I know," he said. "I know, Mac. Me, too."
I felt myself going cold, then hot. I couldn't think. "Yeah?" My voice was a rough whisper.
He swallowed, as if his mouth had suddenly gone as dry as mine was, but he didn't look away, just nodded again.
Thinking about it now, my lack of reaction seems strange. I'd been handed a miracle. I should have gotten down on my knees and thanked every deity I'd ever known for what his eyes were telling me. But all I knew in that moment was that I'd been right. It could hurt more. The ache in my throat became unbearable, and suddenly I was fighting tears.
"Why?" I whispered, struggling with a sadness that felt too big to hold inside. Underneath, there was joy, sweet and fierce, but it hurt almost as much--all I could think of was the ways we'd failed each other, how much time we'd wasted. "Why now, after all this time?"
He laughed a little, and I was stunned to realize he was as unsteady as I was, as afraid. More. "Don't you know? Can't you feel it?" He hadn't moved, and I couldn't. We were still standing in the street, with that three feet of space between us. "Timing is everything," he explained, as if it should have been obvious to me. "Our timing's been off from the beginning--we never could get that right, could we? Now's our time, that's all."
I suddenly found myself remembering how I'd thought about him in the beginning, how I'd dreamed of him. Had he dreamed of me, too? Had he wanted, too? The answer was in his eyes, in the way he held himself so still, his hands buried in his pockets. How many times had we missed each other over the years only to finally, without warning, find ourselves in sync? He was right. I could feel it. I did know.
"You wanna go home?" I asked him, when I could find my voice.
A tremor ran through him, so faint I might have imagined it.
"Yes, Duncan," he said quietly. "I would really like to go home."
It took us a while to get across town, Saturday afternoon traffic heavier than usual because of the weather. We didn't say much. He spent most of the drive with his arm propped up on the edge of the open window, looking out. As for me...my mind seemed to be having a hard time putting two rational thoughts together. I tried to think about what this would mean, what exactly I was getting myself into. It was impossible. Thoughts of me and Methos together--naked together, making love, even just sleeping in the same bed--just made me short out, and I would find myself staring at him beside me, utterly stunned by things I had looked at a thousand times and never really seen. The whorl of soft down at his nape. The really magnificent way his cheekbones and nose came together to create his unlikely profile. The way his eyelashes curled, and the way his thighs were so long and beautifully made. Mostly his hands, where they rested on his knees. He was lost in thought, and never looked at me that I saw. I wanted to know what he was thinking about--was desperately afraid he was having second thoughts. I was afraid to ask. I finally had to turn off my brain altogether for fear of rear-ending someone.
I pulled the T-bird into the alley behind DeSalvo's, and shut the engine off, putting the keys in my pocket with a hand that was none too steady. This time, when I looked over he was watching me. The afternoon was turning evening, the setting sun making his eyes amber and gold and red. I couldn't have looked away if I'd wanted to.
I was surprised to hear myself say, "It's gonna be all right." I have no idea what made me say it. His face held no expression. How did I know he was the one that needed reassuring, when my own heart was beating twice as fast as normal and he looked cool as a cucumber?
But I must have known, because he looked at me with those cat eyes for a long time before he finally said, in a strained voice, "Is it? Are you sure?"
Still acting on blind instinct, I shifted over on the bench seat and brushed the back of my hand against the side of his neck, then slipped my hand around to cup my palm against his nape. A delicate shudder ran through him, I could feel it; it seemed to run the whole length of his body, and still his expression never changed.
"We can do this, Methos. You and me, together. For once. That's what I want. That's all I want." I realize now it's all I ever really wanted from him--the one thing I've longed for in my heart from the very beginning. Just that. Just for him to trust me, and to be the kind of person that a man like me could trust unconditionally. Foolishly, I asked him for it then without any pretense at all.
But he wasn't through being kind to me, because he said nothing of how absurd it was to think it could be so simple. Instead he went on looking at me, gazing at me steadily while I went on touching him, reveling in that small intimacy.
"We'll go slow," I promised. "I won't do anything you don't want me to." More foolishness. I don't know how I thought I'd be able to keep that promise when just the sight of my thumb stroking his pale skin was enough to distract me with imagining how soft his skin would be elsewhere, what my hands would look like touching other, more private places.
To my surprise he caught my hand in his, pulling it away from where I'd been touching him, pressing it down to the seat between us. His eyes were hard. "What about me, MacLeod? What if I do something you don't want me to?" He must have seen in my face that the thought hadn't occurred to me. "You understand? I am not Tessa. I'm not even Amanda. Be sure of what you do now, because we can't go back."
I was sure, as sure as I'd ever been about anything. "You're right," I said. "We can't." I turned my hand in his, returned his grip as fiercely--and somehow that was even more intimate than touching his most vulnerable place had been. He had held my blade to his throat more than once--and I his--but never before had I held his supple, callused palm against mine. I suddenly felt my desire for him, real and immediate and heavy in the pit of my stomach. If he wanted me to stop touching him he was gonna have to tell me soon.
Methos felt it somehow, I think, or saw it in my face. But he didn't pull away, only nodded once, as if I'd somehow given him the reassurance he was looking for. "All right, Duncan. All right." He took a deep breath, let it out. "Let's go up."
He started to open his door to get out of the car but I caught him back, searching his eyes. "We can do this."
As hard as I tried I couldn't read him. But he met my demand with his opaque smile.
"You said it."
Upstairs, we were awkward with each other. Horribly so. Where this morning we had been in such perfect accord, now we were all jarring discord, both of us so nervous it was embarrassing. It was as if being in the loft, where we had sparred and dance around one another so many times, we couldn't escape the weight of our shared past. Maybe he'd been right to hesitate.
Methos was sitting on the edge of the couch, beer in hand but his customary sprawl nowhere in evidence. I couldn't sit. I was cleaning, of all things. Making sure my kitchen didn't suffer any possible trace of a crumb. "You sure you wouldn't like something stronger?" I offered for the third time, and he exploded to his feet in a sudden burst of energy.
"No! I don't want something stronger. You're driving me nuts, will you please stop that?"
I stopped wiping at the perfectly clean counter. My back was to him. I tossed the sponge in the sink a little harder than necessary and leaned against the counter, closing my eyes. "I'm sorry--"
But he was already sighing, interrupting me. "No, I'm sorry. Yes, I'd like something stronger. And pour yourself one too, and stop cleaning and come over here, will you?"
I did as he asked, getting out two glasses and filling both with a generous portion of the good stuff -- his with ice, the way I knew he liked it. Heathen. I brought them over and handed him one. Hair of the dog...the first sip tasted amazing. The second, better.
"Better," he said, licking his lips delicately. "Thank you."
Long shadows lay across the floor; the sun would be down soon. "Sit with me," I said, moving to the couch and turning on the lamp beside it. He sat, too, and I tucked one leg under me so I could face him.
He leaned forward, elbows on knees, his glass cradled in those incredible hands of his. I didn't say anything more, letting him work through his apprehension, concentrating on calming my own body and mind. "It's been a long time for me," he said finally, very quietly. His eyes were down, not looking at me. I saw him swallow.
"Me too," I said.
"No, Mac--" He glanced at me. "I'm not talking about a few months here."
Alexa, I thought automatically. Then realized it might have been more recent. Kronos? Byron? It could have been anyone. Amanda, for all I knew. Feeling suddenly very cold, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask when. Who. Somehow I managed to hold the questions back, knowing I had no right.
It was hard, but I made myself reach out and put my hand on his hunched shoulder. "Methos, it's okay. It'll be all right."
I was surprised to feel how rigid his shoulder was. He was really struggling. When I squeezed him there, trying to ease the tension, a line appeared between his brows that hadn't been there before.
"Don't you want to know how long?"
And suddenly I didn't. I really didn't want to know. I knew all I needed to know, I reminded myself, remembering the way his hand had felt against mine.
"It doesn't matter," I said, and it didn't, not any more. "Nothing matters but right now. You and me."
That's how it happened that he kissed me the first time, or I kissed him. I'm not sure which it was. All I know is he was looking at me with the oddest expression, holding tight to his glass with both hands. Then somehow he was closer, and I saw his eyes close, felt his breath soft and warm against my face.
And his lips, brushing mine.
I barely had time to register the sweetness of it, the whisper-soft lightning-charged heat of it, before he was pulling away again, his eyes opening bare inches from mine, his hunger a blade, stabbing me with a purely carnal anticipation at the thought of how he'd respond to me after waiting so long.
No wonder. No wonder he'd hesitated.
Getting up, I set my glass on the table, and gently took his. Then I held my hand out to him, and waited. It didn't take long. We were in step again now; in fact, the dance promised to be something pretty incredible.
He took my hand and let me pull him up, and I was struck by the easy strength in him, the way he balanced me. Sparring with him had always been a rare, guilty pleasure. Now, thinking of the way he moved with a sword, his grace and control, I felt my body responding to his like a wire to current. Before he could say anything, before my own overactive brain could stop me, I cupped his face in my hands. Kissed him, gently, the brush of lips a perfect echo of the first time we'd done it.
"Is this all right?" I pulled back to search his face, to trace my fingertips over his cheekbones, the long curves of his eyebrows. They were soft to the touch. My heart was racing already, threatening to burn itself out.
"I think I'll survive it." He was breathless, his eyes darker than I'd ever seen them.
I slipped my fingers into his short hair, stroking him with a touch I hoped was soothing. He was still so tense. Drawn to his mouth again, I closed my eyes and tasted him very gently, with my lips and the tip of my tongue, daring a little more this time, a few more seconds of that warm, tingling contact. He responded very slightly, a pressure so light I might almost have imagined it, and still he didn't touch me, just stood very still under my caresses as if he were savoring them, memorizing them.
When I let him go his eyes were closed, and the separation made me ache.
"Methos." I didn't know I was going to say it. It came out like a sigh, or a plea. Whatever it was, he answered. His eyes opened and he very calmly reached out, took my sweater by the hem, and pulled the whole thing up over my head and my arms until it was off, out of the way. Then he cupped my face as I had done to him, tilted my head a little and stepped in close, his heat warming me through thin layers of cotton.
This time we held each other when we kissed, and it was like... it was unbelievable. He was all lithe muscle and warm silk, just like I'd known he would be. And his mouth was tender and very hot, devastating when he kissed me as if he wanted to melt me into a puddle on the spot. He succeeded. By the time he stopped for a breath I was shuddering from just the kissing, hard for him and dizzy from lack of air. I'd spread my hands against his waist, holding on to keep from going too fast, from spooking him. Oh, god, this was going to be tough.
He had me by the back of the neck now, his hand warm there, his fingers in my hair. His other hand slipped up from my shoulder to press at my throat and jaw, angling me, and then he was kissing me again, deeper still. His tongue flicked against my lips. Suddenly I was hungry for his tongue against mine, aching for it. I moaned my desperation softly into his mouth and he gave me what I needed, tasting me deeply, without mercy.
His aggressiveness caught me off guard, but not half so much as my instant response to it, my body's frantic yes. I should have known. Danger has always turned me on far more than I'd like to admit--and he is dangerous to me in so many ways. He took possession of my mouth and I let him, perfectly content to let him devour me until there was nothing left.
At last he made a sound like defeat and broke away. We stared at each other, trying to remember how to breathe. I could feel him touching my neck, my face, his fingertips brushing the edges of my hair. I couldn't stop touching him either. He felt too good under that thin t-shirt, now slightly damp with the moisture that had sprung up along his spine.
But I also felt the tension, still there in the muscles of his back; when he backed off, I didn't stop him. I didn't know why he was so afraid to let himself go with me, but sensed it would be a mistake to push it. If we didn't cool down this was going to be over before it started anyway.
Still breathing hard, he ran one hand back through his hair. His eyes were wide. "Jesus, Duncan. Jesus."
I nodded agreement, trying to get myself under control. "Yeah. Don't know how we missed that."
He picked up his drink and downed half of it, then pressed the cold glass to his temple. "If I'd known you kissed like that I'd've made sure we didn't."
It really got to me that he wasn't playing it cool with me, that he was obviously as affected as I was. My whole body felt like it was lit up from the inside, I wanted him so much. "Maybe I should have just jumped you that first day, in Paris," I laughed breathlessly.
"Maybe you should have. Might have made things easier." But he didn't laugh, and I could see the strain in his face.
I moved close, not touching, and nodded toward his glass. "Why don't you finish that, and let me get you another?" He looked at me suspiciously, and I felt my face warm. "This'll be a lot easier if you let me help you relax."
That drew a faint grimace. "Don't think anything you could do right now is likely to have that effect."
"Let me try anyway?"
He nodded, finally, and finished the drink. I was close enough to see the faint dew of condensation against his temple, and the desire to kiss him there and feel the coolness was almost overpowering. But instead I took his empty glass and moved to the bar.
I turned around to see him standing at the window, framed by the soft purple twilight. I went toward him. When I was standing right behind him, he let out the breath he'd been holding.
"Mac... this is crazy. You know that."
"You and me, two Immortals... you know it'll get us killed, in the long run."
I wasn't worried that he was trying to talk me out of this. I knew it'd gone too far for that. In fact, I was happy, because he knew. Knew that if we took this step it wasn't just for one night, not anything like. 'In the long run,' he'd said. He knew.
I reached around him to hand him his drink, and he took it absently, spilling some almost immediately as he gestured with it. "Why d'you think Amanda doesn't stay with you? She knows it's ridiculous. Every Immortal knows that. We'll be hostage for each other, all the time. Easy targets, both of us."
He was really agitated. I put my hands on his shoulders, working gently at the knotted tension. "You are that for me already. So is she. O'Rourke proved that, if nothing else. Has nothing to do with why Amanda and I don't live together, and you know it." Methos arched his neck a little, so I could get at the muscles better. "Besides," I teased gently. "You got all of us out of that mess and hardly broke a sweat doing it. What are you so worried about?"
Methos bowed his head still further. I couldn't see his face, but I saw the way he was gripping his glass with both hands. Hurting for him, I stopped working at his shoulders and just laid my hand against the back of his neck.
"We're in the same boat here, you know. Don't you think it scares me to think about losing you?" My throat closed, and my words grew thick, tears suddenly hot and close. "Don't you think it would kill me?"
His head came up and he looked at me. Seeing my face, his eyes got very bright.
"Don't you start," he warned, "or I will, and then where will we be?"
It took me a minute to be able to answer. I knew he wouldn't soon forgive me if I actually made him cry. "All right," I said when I could, "But I mean it. You hear what I'm saying?"
He nodded, reluctantly; that was good enough for me.
"Good. Now come on, old man." I squeezed his shoulders. "Get that shirt off and lie down. I want to do this properly."
"Now?" he protested, but we both knew it was a token, only that.
I just smiled at him, couldn't help it. I was suddenly full of the thought of being able to touch him as much as I wanted, making him feel good with my touch. My happiness spilled over and I kissed him where I'd wanted to before, at the soft, fragrant hollow at his temple.
"Yes, 'now.' I think we've waited long enough, don't you?"
I guess he did, because he took a long swallow of his scotch, watching me over the glass, then set his drink down on the window sill and moved toward the bed without another word.
Watching him pull the white cotton t-shirt over his head, I still wasn't far away from tears; I swallowed them back, unwilling to spare attention for them. He was a pale figure in the shadows, the sculpted form of him as beautiful as any I'd ever seen, male or female. He toed off his shoes and socks, then undid his belt and let that fall, too. The jeans stayed on. He never once looked at me as he lowered himself gracefully to the bed and waited face down, head on his crossed arms, for me to come to him.
In the drawer of the night stand I found a bottle of massage oil that had never been opened; I got it out and broke the seal, thinking there was something to be said for the boy scout motto. Kicking off my shoes I sat beside Methos on the bed.
He did look at me then. Turned his face against his folded hands and just looked up at me, solemn, with that same intensity like he was memorizing me. He watched me slick the oil between my palms, warming it, and I saw him smile a little.
"What?" I answered his smile unthinking. I started warming the muscles of his back with long strokes, and he closed his eyes.
"You have really beautiful hands," he said.
Surprised, I stopped for a second, then resumed the slow rhythm, concentrating on getting him used to my touch. I found myself looking at my rough, square hands as they worked over his torso. "They're not," I said, not knowing at all what he'd meant. "Not like yours."
I felt him shrug. "They're like you. Strong, dependable. A little rough at the edges." He sighed, relaxing perceptibly. "But when they dance..."
Growing brave, I straddled his hips and began to knead in earnest against the knots in his shoulders, coaxing the corded muscles to give in to my touch. The oil was fragrant with something like sandalwood. The aromatics were pleasing, soothing. For what felt like a long time I massaged warmth and feeling into every inch of his shoulders and back, finally working up to the long neck. I could feel him relaxing more by the minute.
I, on the other hand, was getting warmer by the minute. I was very aware his hips between my thighs, the firm, taut sweetness of his ass pressing gently against me. In my lifetime I've seldom been moved by a man's body; the few times I've tried it, it's usually been a case of getting carried away in the moment, or more rarely, a feeling of closeness I couldn't express any other way. But Methos was simply, truly beautiful to me. Unfair, I thought, that he should own so much of my heart and that his body should move me so. Either one would have been enough. Both was gonna kill me, most likely.
I hit a particularly deep knot at the base of his skull, and he groaned softly as I worked to release it. I could sense his pleasure like sunlight washing over both of us. It was addictive as hell. I leaned forward and teased, "Rough around the edges, hmm?"
"Just a little," he said huskily, practically purring as I rubbed slow circles into the soft skin of his nape. And then, so quietly it was almost buried in his arms, he said, "But then I like rough, now and then."
It made me catch my breath unexpectedly, made raw heat jolt inside me. He heard the sound and turned his face against his hands until I could see his profile. I ran both hands from his neck to the small of his back, feeling the suppleness of his skin, the new ease of movement.
He shifted under me and I moved off of him, letting him prop himself up on his elbows. The shadows were deep around my bed, but in the soft lamp light, his eyes glittered. "You've done this before?" With a man, he meant.
I had to smile. "You reading my mind again?"
But he didn't smile back. "It's a simple question," he said, gaze intent on mine.
I drew a deep breath, feeling suddenly very self-conscious. "Despite appearances to the contrary thus far... yes, I've done this before."
His eyes lowered, and he drew a breath of his own. It sounded a little shaky.
Then he moved, rose up and turned toward me, resting one hand on my thigh, and I saw how hard he was, how his lips were flushed and his nipples drawn taut with his arousal. He didn't say anything, or look at me. But his hand on my thigh was a plea, his need suddenly washing over me as if he communicated it with his touch.
My mouth had gone dry. I closed my hand over his. "Tell me what you want." I had to swallow, my throat aching with the desire to give him what he needed. "I want to give you pleasure. Anything, Methos." My urgency was rising fast to match his, and seeing how close he was, seeing the way he flushed at my words, I seemed to go from a strong idle straight into overdrive.
His eyes rose to mine, and he laughed a little, breathlessly. "Much more pleasure and I'm gonna explode." He took my hand in his, drew it down between his thighs and cupped my palm against the rigid outline of his sex. His laugh ended in a groan when I touched him there, and he closed his eyes, catching his breath. "Oh god, literally. Mac--" He pushed himself into my hand as if he couldn't quite help it and his breath caught further.
Feeling him like that, his erection hot against my hand through the denim, I almost groaned back. My own erection was suddenly fierce, pressing uncomfortably against my jeans. "It's okay," I told him, gently pulling my hand away, knowing he couldn't take much more stimulation. "It's okay." Then, before I knew what I was going to do, I'd bent down, slid my fingers into his hair and met his open mouth with mine.
Kissing him was impossible, overwhelming. The more I tasted of him the more I wanted, and no amount of his tongue in my mouth was enough. I was dimly aware that I'd taken hold of his head, was trying to hold him absolutely still so I could get closer, deeper into him. At first he was equally desperate to crawl inside me, and I couldn't hold him; then suddenly I felt him relax and give in to the demand of my mouth, my hands, just letting me take what I wanted from him. He went almost completely still against me, only his mouth answering my uncontrolled assault. I think now he was concentrating on trying not to come.
I let go with one hand and started touching him, the silky curve of his throat, the hot skin at his waist. When my fingertips brushed a nipple by accident he broke away at last, hands coming up between us to clutch at my shirt. I could feel him shudder, and his voice was ragged. "Please, Duncan--"
It hurt, to feel the way he needed me in the fierce grip of his hands, to hear it in the way he said my name. I suddenly couldn't bear that he should need anything from me and not have it. I'd failed him so many times before.
Gently I disengaged his hands and he let me, searching my eyes as if fearing I wouldn't understand what he couldn't say. Without prelude I got up and shed the damp cotton t-shirt, then undid the buttons of my jeans. Looking down, I saw the relief in his face. He watched me unfasten my jeans and pull them off, the intensity of his gaze making me blush like a boy. It wasn't embarrassment; his eyes made my skin hot wherever they touched me.
I stood naked before him then, very aroused. Strangely I didn't feel self-conscious any more--not even when his eyes reached my erection and stayed there, his uneven breathing keeping counterpoint to my thudding heart. There was such pleasure in him, looking at me; I could feel it.
Before he was finished looking his fill I moved, taking the single step that would bring me to the edge of the bed. My eyes locked with his; one knee on the bed, I bent over him and spread my hands against his hips. It was a question. In answer, he turned the rest of the way over and leaned back against his elbows, giving his permission. With hands that suddenly shook I reached for the buttons that would free him.
He wore nothing at all under the jeans, and unfastening them I could feel his hot, naked sex, hard as steel. The denim was warm, slightly moistened with his eagerness. The idea of wearing these same jeans that had tasted his heat and his scent made my thoughts reel. When I slipped them down over his thighs and off, a sound of mingled relief and wanting escaped him, as if he couldn't hold it back.
I had only a moment to draw breath, to see him in his sweet glory. Before I'd even begun to look, he locked his hand around my wrist in an iron grip and pulled me down against him.
It was heaven, to feel him against me. Heaven to lie face to face and feel his arms go around me, his bare chest against mine. He seemed to entwine himself around every part of me at once, sending me into sensory overload; I was drunk on the glide of his hair against my palm, the satiny press of his chest, his flat belly. He was trembling, but his control took my breath away. The feel of his strong thigh sliding against mine made me gasp, made me long to press it close between to satisfy the ache. But I didn't; I followed his lead, knowing we walked a sword's edge between sweet, building ecstasy and desperation. Neither of us would last if we didn't at least try to control this.
I held him close, all I could do while his hands, those incredible hands, seemed determined to drive me insane with their slow, thorough gentling of my body. They spread a rush of pleasure wherever they touched--my shoulder blades, my waist, my nipples and collarbones and neck--until I was trembling too, close to begging him to stop the sweet torment.
He wouldn't kiss me. Just watched my face, my helpless responses to his touch, until finally I couldn't bear the way he was looking at me, and closed my eyes.
"Duncan," he breathed.
And showed mercy, pressing me back against the bed and touching his mouth to mine.
I think I made a sound when he kissed me, a sob of gratitude, or relief. He was so beautiful, kissing me in mercy and love, as if I were fragile and would break if he didn't take great care to go slow, to make me know I was loved with every touch of his lips and tongue. It was too much, suddenly. Too much, to lie there with him in the shadows and answer his slow, passionate kisses and know this was Methos kissing me, Methos touching me, Methos.
All at once, I really could not wait another moment. I had to have him inside me, all the way inside me, had to, or die. The need was deeper than desire, stronger. Like the need to breathe. Imperative.
"Methos!" I gasped, clutching at his back. I felt his cock press against my hip, silken hot and leaking fluid. I pressed back helplessly. "Please--"
I felt him go very still, and bury his face against my neck. He understood. "You sure?" he whispered roughly.
Unable to stop myself, I shifted and pressed him between my thighs, my cock sliding along his with an almost unbearably erotic friction. I felt the fresh surge of his fluid mingle with mine. "Yes. God, please, yes--"
With an effort that showed in his face, he shifted away from me and pushed himself up, looking for the bottle of massage oil. I didn't want to wait even that long, but before I could plead with him again, he had it, was squeezing the clear oil into his hand.
He looked at me then, and I saw the need still as strong as before, still as urgent, held fiercely at bay by his frightening will. He scared me a little. It only made me want this more, to transform that tormented fierceness into joy.
I bent my knees and offered myself to him. His breath caught, hard, and I saw his cock twitch, his beautiful cock that was going to be inside me soon. Face tight, he bent his head and slicked two fingers in the oil.
His fingers almost made me come. I cried out when he touched me, couldn't help it. The oil made the first touch cool and slick, made the passage smooth, and when he slipped into me and stroked me inside, every nerve in my body jumped in response and devastating pleasure. My stomach muscles clenched and I curled up towards him, then lay there on my elbows panting, trying to hold back a climax that was suddenly right there.
"Shh," he was murmuring. "Shh, easy, Duncan. Be easy."
"Okay," I panted. "Okay." I lay back carefully, eyes squeezed shut. "Just--don't move for a second."
"Am I hurting you?"
I gasped a laugh. "No. Not pain."
There was a pause. And then I felt his fingers move inside me, pressing waves of pleasure into me. "I see," he whispered dangerously, and I groaned, and rocked against his hand. I was past the first shock now; the need to come had eased, and there was only the sweet, thick pleasure and the ache of wanting more. When he pulled his fingers away the ache was infinitely worse, and I clenched my hands in the pillow beneath my head to keep from voicing it.
Twice more he slicked me with oil, teasing at a place inside me that made thinking stop, until finally I shuddered, pleading. "Now, Methos. Please, now."
"Yes." It was a whisper. He leaned over me and kissed me gently on the mouth.
Then he was turning me onto my side, urging me to bend one knee up, and my body wanted nothing more than to go where his hands moved it, to shape itself to his will. When I was face down with my leg bent, I felt his weight against my back, his heat probing between my thighs.
"Duncan--" he said harshly. I could hear him panting now. I just pressed back against him, letting him know I was ready.
When he entered me, I felt such overwhelming relief. Terrifying, like falling, to feel him opening me and pressing inside, to be so vulnerable. But the relief, the satisfaction, was so much greater than the fear. He was hot. So hot. A slow surge of pure pleasure spread through me as he filled me, washing over me again and again as he moved deeper, until finally he was all the way in, his whole body pressed to mine.
God, the feel of him. His strength made me feel totally enveloped. I'd never, in all my life, felt like that with anyone. He saw my instinctive grasp at the bed and his hands found mine, his fingers curling between mine until it felt like he touched every part of me. He bent his face against the back of my neck. I couldn't fall when he was holding me like that.
No more fear, then. Only Methos and me, so close we couldn't get any closer.
I must have made a sound. "You all right?" he whispered, as if it cost him a great deal to say it.
I squeezed his fingers. "Oh, yes."
He stayed in me like that, taking slow breaths in a deep, controlled rhythm that I took up instinctively. I could feel him throb in me with every heartbeat, could feel his breath against my ear, raising goosebumps. Tremors rippled through him like a breeze through tall grass. Then, at last, he drew a breath and held it--and moved.
"Ah..." I breathed, the pleasure welling over me fully for the first time, the unmatched ecstasy of feeling him move in me, slowly stroking himself in me, waves of sensation released with each penetration, each pressing of his cock against that place in me that cried out for him. So slowly, he drew back. Then slid deep again, a tender, irresistible push. Again. Again. Each glide, pressure, fullness made me groan out my thankfulness. Each slow motion of Methos fucking me, filling me up with his thick heat, felt like a throb of pure pleasure that ran from the back of my heels, up my thighs, through my balls and belly and spine and a deeper, vulnerable place that shuddered with the delicious pressure. It felt so good I almost couldn't hold it inside--my breaths came out like sobs, pleading wordlessly for him not to stop, never to stop.
Then I felt his mouth, hot against my neck. He was trying to smother the low cries he was making, his panting breaths. Wanting more than anything to feel him let go, I caught my breath and pressed back against him on the next exquisite stroke.
And was rewarded. The choked, broken sound he made was so sweet, so uncontrolled it made me shiver and moan in response. Without warning he let go of one of my hands and rolled us over until I was half on top of him. His arm went around my waist, and this time when he thrust inside me it wasn't slow, and it went so deep I couldn't breathe for a second, the pressure was so great.
Then he touched me, stroking between my thighs before taking me in his hand--my cock in his oil-slicked grip--and I forgot about breathing, or anything else.
He finally lost control then, finally let go, and when I felt it happen, when he rolled us onto our sides and lost himself in his surging primal rut, fast and deep, the rhythm took me over with a flood of sweeping pleasure almost immediately. It was huge, immense, bigger than my whole body--a deep, endless wave that was gonna kill me when it hit, and I didn't care, couldn't stop it. He was sobbing against my neck, stroking me mercilessly, pushing us right into the pleasure, head on, not stopping, and all I could do was hold on and feel it and cry out my joy.
When he froze against me, the throb of his orgasm deep within me at last triggered mine, and I came, shuddering and gasping for air as if I'd died and come back, the crest of pleasure so violent it was almost pain.
Then came the long, sweet forever of falling, and for those few moments there was nothing in my world except him, and my own blessed release.
The first awareness I had was of Methos slowly kissing the back of my neck, over and over, as if trying to press an imprint of his mouth there.
"You're gonna wear away the skin," I told him, my voice hoarse.
"You'll heal," he murmured back. He nipped me lightly for my cheekiness; a little jolt of sensation followed the graze of his teeth.
A cool breeze had slipped in from the open window, but his arms were wonderfully warm around me. His love for me was tangible, in the way he kissed me, the way he pressed himself so close, his tenderness with me like a rare stone glinting from under all his layers and levels of careful, intricate self. Just as it had always been, when I'd known to look.
I was awed, humbled by him. That he could still love like that. That he was still strong enough, brave enough, to let me know it. I knew I'd never be worthy of it--doubted that anyone could be. Still, even knowing that, the perfect contentment of that moment was so great I would have stayed in it forever if I could have.
Dangerous, where my thoughts had gone, lying there with him. I, of all people, should know that the Fates do not deal kindly with those who tempt them. I, of all people, know better than to use words like forever.
But I couldn't help it. I knew that feeling, that forever feeling. I'd had it before in my life. Not often. A few times. With Little Deer, with Tessa. Now, with Methos, impossible as it might be.
Methos, who was Immortal. Who had lived longer, survived longer than anyone in the world.
I couldn't help it.
"Penny for them," he said, finally done with kissing me for the present.
I tried to explain, but didn't know how to begin. So instead I turned in his arms and pulled him close, starting my own pattern of kisses on his shoulder and long, pale throat, the only parts of him my lips could reach just then.
"Mm," he murmured. "My thoughts exactly."
"We must be on the same wavelength." I nibbled at a spot just under his ear, stroking the soft hollows at the small of his back and the sweet, smooth curves below.
"About time, wouldn't you say?" he said after a moment. His voice was beginning to fade. I glanced up and saw his eyes had closed.
"Yep." I began gently kissing the place where his pulse beat. "I would." I could feel him getting more and more relaxed. Smiling against his neck, I slowed my caresses until he was drowsy in my arms, his breathing slow, rhythmic. Finally, he drifted off. The awe I'd felt before had faded, leaving me with only tenderness and affection for this brittle, difficult, ancient soul who'd somehow gotten inside my heart and claimed it, and who could still look innocent as a boy when he slept.
Worth a shot, I tempted Fate, brushing lips over that unapologetic nose. Worth a shot.
And I went on kissing him, telling him with my mouth and my arms and my body how very much he was loved.