I know I'm supposed to be working on half a dozen other stories, and we won't mention the zine illos. I just had a rough week and had to get this out of my system. This story (if you can call it that) is slash, and rated NC-17 (boy is it ever) for homoerotic content, so please don't read it if that offends you.

With love to Rache, for telling me I shouldn't throw away my snippets, to Zen for encouraging a "patented House of Slack ending" and telling me it's all right to write comfortfic, and to Ellen and Carol for being the best of friends.

Kell had asked him what it was like to kill a brother, and Duncan hadn't answered, had only snarled at the bastard that he would never know. His friends had known better than to ask him such a thing. They'd just stayed with him all night through the long trans-Atlantic flight, then the silent drive through the darkness to bring Connor home. Just waited for him in the bitter pre-dawn chill as he said his good-byes. Their silent support had touched him more deeply than any empty words of comfort could have, sustaining him when the loss really began to hit him at last on the long drive back to London, Methos at the wheel beside him, Dawson dozing in the back seat.

Joe knew what it was like. Methos knew, too, better than anyone.

Maybe that explained what he was doing here at Methos' door less than twelve hours later, breaking all the unspoken rules they'd set so long ago.

Methos had expected Dawson. That would have fit the usual pattern of the last few years. He and Joe, left to close down the bar together after the shouting was over, two old and lonely souls proving once again the perennial axiom that misery loved company.

But it wasn't Dawson at his door, not with a buzz like that, deep and familiar and resonant as a cello chord. It stopped him for a moment in the front hall, ambling stride arrested as he adjusted his thinking to encompass this new development. The number of times he and MacLeod had met for purely social purposes in the last five years he could have counted on one hand; those few times they had tried to revive something of their old camaraderie over lunch or a pint or a long-distance telephone connection, the effort had shown around the edges, the awkwardness more painful than absence had been. Eventually they'd fallen back on the old pattern they'd set that last year in Paris; it took a crisis any more to make either of them pick up the phone. Crisis situations were familiar. Under the gun, there wasn't much real doubt any more which side Methos would end up on, nor where MacLeod's true loyalties lay. The rest of the time they remained civil, for Joe's sake, and because it was easier than admitting they wished things might be different.

Of course, Methos could only guess at what sort of things Mac might wish for. It was always possible that he was just projecting, he told himself bleakly, not for the first time.

With that cheering thought, he resigned himself to the inevitable, went to the door, and opened it.

MacLeod's expression was a poignant mix of chagrined apology and hopeful entreaty, his hands buried deep in his pockets, a schoolboy half-expecting to be turned away. "Hi."

"Slumming, are we?" Methos asked lightly, leaning casually against the edge of the door.

"I guess that depends on how the master of the house feels about entertaining riffraff like me," MacLeod said, playing along.

Methos pretended to give him a once-over, eyeing him critically under the guise of the shared joke. He looked a little better, Methos decided. He was clean-shaven, somewhat rested, dressed in a new-looking wool sweater, soft gray gabardine trousers, and a gray overcoat, though the night was only cool -- a fair indication that he was carrying his sword. Methos took that as a good sign, though he didn't miss the barely veiled grief that still shadowed the dark eyes, a weariness of the soul that cried out for solace. He knew himself well enough to recognize the danger there, as well as the unlikelihood that recognizing it would be enough to keep him from doing something stupid.

"I also come bearing gifts," Mac tried, revealing the very old bottle of cognac he carried in his coat pocket. "If that helps."

"I suppose you'll do," Methos said grudgingly, straightening up and opening the door wider to let him inside.

"Cozy little place you have here," Mac commented as Methos led the way down the great hall, their footsteps echoing on the marble. "This fall under the heading of 'hiding in plain sight?'"

Methos shrugged. "Not really. Just got tired of living like a grad student."

"Never did do things by half measures, did you, Methos?"

There was a note of genuine affection in the tone that warmed Methos unexpectedly. "Not recently," he admitted, spirits lifting in spite of himself. Daring to push for more, he glanced at the other man sidelong, returning the teasing in kind. "Not since I met you, anyway."

Duncan didn't exactly smile, but the surprised quirk of his mouth was more than enough reward for the risk.

Knowing him as Methos did, it wasn't surprising that the effort at lightness seemed to be more than MacLeod could sustain for long. He was surprised that Mac had come to him, but it would have been a lie to say he was sorry. His foolish old heart didn't seem to care that this visit had probably been driven by sheer loneliness as much as anything; it still felt absurdly good to see him, to be able to offer him the creature comforts at least.

He led the way to the paneled drawing room, watching Mac glance around at the furnishings with an appreciative eye. The crystal cognac glasses he produced received similar perusal, MacLeod's professional instincts kicking in automatically. He let Methos open the cognac and pour it while he roamed the room, looking more closely at the pieces it held.

"You've got a fortune in antiques, here," he said after a while, sounding impressed.

Mouth quirking, Methos handed him a glass and breathed the aroma of the rich golden liquid in his own. "Yes, well, I have a fondness for old things. Figure we should stick together."

"The card table's a masterpiece." Mac traced a line of inlay with a fingertip, almost caressing it. "Where did you find it?"

Methos averted his eyes, realizing he was unintentionally following the movement of that delicate touch. "Let's just say I came by it honestly," he said, and searched for something to distract the man before he asked who the carver was. "Been a while since you were into antiques, hasn't it, Mac?"

MacLeod withdrew his hand, roaming the room again. "Ten years, give or take. Connor's idea of a joke, I suppose. It just seemed to stick." A shadow touched his face. "But then Tessa died, and he disappeared.... I just didn't have the heart for it any more."

"The two of you must have been a force to be reckoned with," Methos said, encouraging him to talk if that was what he needed. "You and Connor, I mean."

Duncan smiled a little. "We certainly thought so." For a moment his eyes seemed to see another time and place, and Methos knew it wasn't the antiques business he was thinking of.

They sipped the cognac in comfortable silence for a while, Duncan lost in his memories, Methos leaning against the window seat, content to let Duncan take his own time. He only spoke when he saw the tension come back into the broad shoulders, the moment when reminiscence threatened to turn inward, becoming something bleak and self-destructive that would only bring him pain.

"Is this a wake, Mac?" he asked gently, breaking into the other man's brooding before it could do more damage.

Duncan's eyes rose to his, faintly surprised, as if he hadn't named it that in his thoughts. "I guess it is." Bitterness surfaced in his expression and he looked away. "He deserves one."

"He meant a great deal to you." It wasn't really a question.

For a moment, Duncan couldn't answer. He'd drawn away a little, his face only half-visible in the shadows, but Methos read the hurt, the welling of fresh grief, in every line of his body. "He was my teacher," he said at last, the deep voice rough with loss. "My brother. He found me and took me in when my own family wanted nothing to do with me. I loved him."

"He must have known that," Methos offered, thinking that anyone lucky enough to know Duncan MacLeod's unconditional love should have realized that there was something worth living for.

The lines of Duncan's face altered, stark with pain. "I tried to tell him. It didn't make any difference."

"Duncan." Methos moved closer, trying to get the other man to look at him. "He'd made up his mind that he wanted to die a long time ago. It was just a matter of degree." He bit his tongue against things he might have said about a man who would use his brother the way Connor had used Duncan, about his own failed attempts to talk sense into Connor ten years before. "Don't beat yourself up for giving him what he wanted," he said instead, putting all the conviction he felt in his voice. "You can't blame yourself, Mac."

But Duncan turned on him, dark brows drawing sharply together. "Is that what you think? That I let him talk me into killing him?" He could barely get the words out.

Methos blinked. And then chose his words very carefully, realizing he had unknowingly stepped out onto treacherous ground. "You were there, Mac. I wasn't. But we thought--"

"I would never have--" Duncan choked out. Upset, he stood, pacing away towards the window. Methos saw him draw a deep breath, trying to keep it together, then another. Eyes fierce with the need to be believed, Duncan turned back to him. "Methos," he said very deliberately. "I would never have done that." He shook his head once, absolutely certain, his conviction total. "Not after Richie."

Thinking a great number of unkind thoughts about Connor MacLeod, Methos nodded carefully. "I believe you, Mac." Questions crowded into his mind, but he didn't ask, waiting for Duncan to tell him in his own time, his own way.

"He gave me no choice," Duncan whispered, anguished. "But I should have seen it coming. I should have known what he was up to. Christ--" He turned away, his hands making fists, then opening as if helpless to hold on to an invisible blade. "I've seen him do it half a dozen times, and still I didn't see it coming. Not like that." Tension knotted his body as if he could deny the memory only he saw, will himself to go back to that moment and do things differently.

"It wasn't your fault," Methos said quietly, going to him, his hand finding Duncan's shoulder and squeezing against the tension there. "If there had been anything you could have done, you would have done it. I believe that."

Duncan shuddered under his hand, and for a second Methos thought it might be enough to breach the tightly held grief inside of him, enough to make it all right for him to let go and hit something, or weep, or somehow release the terrible betrayal he must feel, the anger at his kinsman for doing this to him after all the others he had lost at his own hand.

But after a moment Duncan only squeezed Methos' hand -- a momentary pressure of his warm, callused palm against the back of Methos' fingers -- and let him go, shifting away from the offered comfort.

"Thank you, Methos. That means... more to me than you can know." His voice roughened, and he averted his eyes, taking a draught from his glass to cover the betraying emotion. Pacing restlessly, he returned the glass to the silver tray and ran a hand through his hair. "It's late, and I'm afraid I'm not very good company tonight. I should let you get to bed."

Methos didn't think he could sleep now if he tried, but said nothing about that, seeing that his friend needed to be alone for a while. "Will you stay?" he said instead, and tried a wry smile. "It's not as if I haven't got the room."

Duncan's look held a certain measure of surprise, touched by wariness, but mostly it was grateful. "You sure?"

Methos' answer came without thought, without any trace of irony. "What are friends for?"

The room Methos led him to was surprisingly pleasant, no dusty, echoing chamber, but a warm, beautifully furnished suite at the back of the house. French doors made one wall, and outside the moon had just risen over a walled garden, the pale shapes of marble nymphs, a fountain, reflecting its silver gleam from amidst the dark foliage. Methos said good night and made his retreat, the model of a perfect host. It was only after he'd gone that Duncan realized he had never slept in any of Methos' homes before.

A very old childhood memory stirred somewhere. Wasn't there a story about that? About the dangers of accepting food or drink from one of the fae... that above all one must not spend the night in a faerie house? He smiled faintly at the image of Methos, ears delicately pointed, dressed in leaves and gossamer in some medieval forest. That was about right, he thought.

The bed was obscenely comfortable. Duncan lay in it for long minutes, watching the moving shadows of tree branches outside the window, stirred by the night wind and cast faintly by moonlight on the far wall. The movement stirred the restlessness in his mind, the tangle of images and thought and feeling. For some reason it was the memory of Connor and Tessa in the kitchen in Seacouver that had returned most often and most vividly all day. It came again now, so close he could almost smell the sage and rosemary and Tessa's perfume, their voices faint, just out of hearing's reach. That day had been lost to time many years ago now, but it felt so real it seemed he might reach out and touch it.

Other memories tangled with that one. Ghost-images of a blonde woman he had never met, but whose name he knew, having seen it on a gravestone earlier that day; the memory of holding a little girl in his arms, a daughter not his own. Not enough to hold on to, nothing of Connor he could hold in his fist, just echoes, insubstantial and disconcerting.

It wasn't your fault, Methos had told him. For some reason, hearing him say it had eased something in Duncan in a way nothing else could have. His instincts had been right to bring him here tonight. Why he should have sought Methos for comfort, against all reason, he didn't know, but there was no denying that was why he had come.

Knowing already that sleep was a lost cause, he rose and went to the glass-paned doors, toying idly with thoughts of going out into the garden and losing himself for a while in the winding paths and hedges.

Methos, too, found sleep eluding him. The sense of failure was wholly illogical, but he couldn't help the feeling that there was something else he might have said or done. He wasn't surprised when he heard a door open at the end of the hallway, the pad of near-silent footsteps passing his door.

He lay awake, listening, for a long time, and for a long time he heard nothing. He found himself imagining Duncan moving through the house, down long corridors and in and out of tall-ceilinged rooms, restless, searching for something he couldn't name and Methos couldn't offer him. What would Duncan make of this house? he wondered, trying to see it through his friend's eyes. Methos had gotten a kick out of the look on MacLeod's face the first time he'd seen the place, but now he found himself wishing for familiar spaces, the comfortable, close quarters of Mac's loft in Seacouver. A wave of nostalgia for those days came over him, bittersweet memories surfacing. God, how infatuated he'd been in those early days -- too obsessed to notice the way the object of his affections was trying his best to stay oblivious.

He'd been right about the danger here. Hazardous currents were stirring in him, feelings and hopes he'd thought long dead, or at least so deeply buried as to make no difference. He knew better. Oh, did he know better.

But for the first time in years, something had changed. The awkwardness was gone between them, in its place a spark of connection he couldn't deny and found himself hard-pressed to resist.

Almost an hour passed before he heard the soft click of the door at the end of the hallway. Silence reigned for a few minutes, and he had just begun to drift towards sleep when the copper pipes began to ping quietly along the ceiling, followed by the soft rush of hot water towards the bathroom at the end of the hall.

He lay there listening to the sound, staring up at the cool, shadowed arch of the ceiling for some time before he rose from the bed and padded to the door on silent feet.

One look at the glass-walled, marble-tiled shower in the suite's huge bathroom, and Duncan knew that the rooms his host had given him were Methos' own. This extravagant demonstration of hedonistic excess had Methos written all over it. How many times had he had to listen to the old man bitch about the size of the shower on the barge? The wonders of indoor plumbing had been one of Methos' pet subjects, in the days when they had talked about anything and everything under the sun, and Methos had found hours of entertainment in rhapsodizing melodramatic for the sake of his and Dawson's amusement.

Somewhere in the last five years, Duncan had forgotten how funny Methos could be, how much he used to look forward to those wandering conversations, to watching Joe play straight man to a master, both of them wondering what tangent Methos would veer off on next.

There hadn't been much to laugh about these last years, had there? Weary to his soul and longing for oblivion, Duncan thought idly about trying again to sleep, but knew he was no closer to it than he had been an hour before. Maybe a hot shower would help. It couldn't hurt -- and if Methos wanted to roll out the red carpet for him, he might as well make the most of it.

The hot water felt so good when it hit his chilled skin that he just stood under the spray and gave in to the feeling, closing his eyes as the steam rose. A little of the tension in his neck and shoulders eased, and it was only then that he realized how tightly he'd been holding himself in, how much it had been costing him to keep his feelings in check under the pressure of Methos' empathy. He'd wanted someone to listen, someone to talk to who had known Connor, who would understand what it felt like to lose a brother to your own blade. He hadn't expected the kindness of a friend -- hadn't known such a thing was still possible for them. Certainly hadn't thought he would ever again feel that sweet, painful tightness in his chest at hearing Methos say his given name.

That's what he was thinking when he felt the buzz; those were his thoughts in the moments just before he realized that Methos was close, before he opened his eyes in time to see the bathroom door swing open, bringing in a rush of cool air.

Methos came into the room. Their eyes met through the glass; for long moments Methos only stood there, watching him. Duncan couldn't have said what expression was on his own face if his life depended on it. His heart was suddenly pounding with excruciating awareness of his own nakedness and the certainty that he was not imagining the way Methos was looking at him. He felt himself humming like struck crystal in response to that look, the unmistakable, naked hunger in those familiar, olivine eyes.

Very deliberately, Methos' long-fingered hands went to his waist and undid the belt of his robe. The dark silk parted; with a sinuous movement, Methos shrugged out of it and let the fabric slide off his broad shoulders to puddle on the floor, forgotten.

Then Methos was coming towards him, opening the door to the shower and stepping inside, eyes never leaving his. Unable to move, or breathe, every hair on his body standing on end and heat sweeping over him in waves, Duncan waited, not knowing for what... until Methos' hands were on him, one at his waist, one lifting to his throat, fingers sliding into his hair and tilting his head back ever so slightly. Before Duncan knew it his hands had come up to find Methos' shoulders and Methos had bent his head to press that tender, bow-shaped mouth against the pulse at his throat, a hot, wet caress of lips and tongue. He bit gently and he wave of responsive sensation shuddered through Duncan uncontrollably, his knees buckling, his sex coming fully, painfully erect.

He found himself holding on to Methos' shoulders for dear life, eyes closed, lost in the wave of shivering that chased on the heels of that uncontrollable heat. Then he was reeling, drowning in the sensations, the feeling of being held like that, naked and totally without defenses, the aching need that soared in him with the touch of Methos' hands, his mouth, his body brushing Duncan's with the barest teasing contact. The hand at his waist rose to caress him, fingertips brushing lightly up over his ribs, his chest, grazing a nipple and jolting him with a stab of raw heat that went straight through him.

Methos' hot mouth left his throat, stimulated skin humming with sensation and aching a little from the marks of the other man's teeth. "Duncan?" Methos breathed, and Duncan couldn't open his eyes, couldn't make himself meet his friend's dark, knowing, intimate gaze. "Is this all right?" The husky voice was close, Methos' breath warm against his neck.

All right? The words meant nothing to him. He couldn't think beyond the need to feel Methos against him, Methos' touch between his thighs, where the heat and wordless hunger lay centered in his hard and aching sex. In answer he fumbled for Methos' hand, resting lightly against his ribs, and drew it down, pressing it to his own flesh and swallowing back a moan at the forbidden caress.

"Don't stop," was all he could manage, a breathless plea that should have embarrassed him but only made him hotter, hearing the desperate sound of his own voice. "Don't stop."

Methos' mouth found his, and he shuddered under the assault of soft lips, hot tongue, restraint and passion combined in that first incinerating kiss, and he thought incoherently that he'd been a fool to think he knew anything of what it would be like to kiss him, a fool, and that if it was going to be like this, every touch given with such devastating honesty, it would likely kill him.

For what seemed like forever, Methos' hand didn't move, only held him, firm and steady and unbearable against him as the man awoke every nerve ending and pleasure point in his mouth with merciless insistence until Duncan was moaning softly with the heat of it. And just when he thought he couldn't bear it any more, that he was going to shake himself apart from need, Methos crowded him up against the shower wall, cold marble against his shoulders, against his ass as Methos started to jerk him off with steady, implacable strokes. Duncan was desperately grateful for the support -- for that unrelenting mouth was back at his throat, tongue searing him, mapping the length of his jugular and moving to claim his ear, teeth grazing and then closing on soft flesh, biting gently back along the same path.

It was all Duncan could do to find the smooth, strong column of Methos' neck and hold on, to pant blindly in unthinking surrender as Methos kissed and licked and bit at his throat, his mouth, his ear and jerked him with a slow, controlled rhythm that had him shuddering and making pleading sounds in seconds. He wanted to resist. Wanted to do something to make him feel good, to address the searing hardness that was pressing against his belly, to make it last -- to stop Methos long enough to breathe and search his face for the truth of what this meant.

But there was no resisting Methos, his straightforward assault inescapable. There could be no answer to that but surrender, and it was such a relief, such a blessed relief just to let go, just to let it go and give himself over to his body's need, let himself be held and touched and loved and oh Christ it felt good, he'd needed this, God, yes -- and he was rocking again and again and again into the wet, rough grip that knew just how to pleasure him, how to make thought stop, and deep, curling sensation roll through him with each increasingly helpless thrust.

The tremors took him then, tension and need drawing painfully taut in his gut until he found himself holding Methos against him, close to sobbing as he buried his face against Methos' warm neck and rocked harder, faster into that slick, hot grip, slippery now with his own fluid, unable to stop himself. The deep voice murmured against his ear, urging him, "Come on, then, that's it, I'm here, just let it go--" and he was coming, coming with a breathless cry of pure relief, shuddering and pouring himself all over Methos in deep, urgent pulses.

With the release, a sob broke free of his throat that wouldn't be held back. He hadn't been ready for that, and it shook him -- he couldn't afford this, least of all in front of Methos -- but it was too late. He'd been holding too much inside for far too long, and the tenderness of Methos' arms around him, his hands strong and soothing at Duncan's back, unraveled him.

Tears came in a hot rush, as they hadn't in such a long, long time. There had been no one to hold him like this after Tessa, after Richie. No one to hold the pieces of him together and make it all right to let go, just for a little while. He cried for all of them, for his wife and son, for his brother, the family of his heart.

It hurt, but Methos held him fast, Methos, who had ever been a true brother to him when he'd most needed one. Our bonds are all that hold us in this world, he had said to Connor. Methos knew. It was such an astonishing thing, so unexpected, to learn that Methos of all people should understand this -- and then Duncan let himself relax into that solid embrace and wondered that he should have been surprised.

He wept until there were no tears left in him, shaken by the revelation that shouldn't have been one, the understanding that Methos had always known that truth, that every time save one, it had been Duncan who had tried to walk away.

"How did you know?" he heard himself say after a measureless time, his voice breathless and without strength, his body shuddering in the aftermath, wholly supported by the arms that had gone around him. "How did you--?" Eyes closed, forehead pressed to Methos', the words escaped him without thought.

"It's all right," Methos said, his voice as steady and warm as his embrace. "I've got you."

Duncan felt heat rise to his face, embarrassment at his need and what it revealed, and the certainty that he had no secrets from this man, no secrets at all. For a moment the feeling made it impossible to open his eyes, impossible to face him.

"It's all right," came the reassurance again, fierce and yet gentle, that deep voice that he trusted instinctively, the unhesitating acceptance of Methos' body against his washing the momentary flush of shame away with the steady flow of hot water.

Then Methos shifted away a little, and Duncan had to look at him.

There was no pity in that look, only the same warm certainty he'd felt in the way Methos had kissed him, the same unabashed openness of the way Methos had touched him. It should have felt strange, to hold and to be held naked like this, to feel Methos' unmistakable erection pressed up hard between them -- but it felt immeasurably right, as if he'd been waiting for this essential truth for a very long time. No difference, he thought with some surprise, not sure why he had been so certain everything would change between them if they ever let themselves give in to the heat that had simmered between them for so long.

The extraordinary expressiveness of Methos' mouth, so close, made Duncan want to taste him again, know the heat of his kiss again. The intensity of the desire caught him off guard, and a warm heaviness gathered in his belly, stirring his sex.

The answering spark of heat in his friend's eyes, the faint catch of his breath, was a still more unexpected and profound revelation. Between one breath and the next, Duncan's perception shifted, and for the first time he saw Methos not with the awe and helpless longing he had felt in those long ago days in Paris, nor with the gratitude and affection with which he had surrendered himself into their familiar pattern that day in London weeks before, but as just a man, vulnerable and scarred, with his own needs and very human hunger for connection -- a man, no more than that, as alone as Duncan himself.

The perception stabbed a sudden ache through his heart, a compassion that shone bright through the confusion of his own doubts, and before he could think about it he had shifted his weight, drawn Methos against him, and guided his mouth into a deep caress of tongues, a kiss that seared him with its honesty and uncomplicated hunger. He felt it penetrate Methos' control, wrenching a shudder and a faint sound of surrender from him. Methos grasped his waist fiercely as if for anchor in the sea of rising heat.

Methos' mouth broke away from his after a long, downward spiral into melting pleasure, the effort wrenching them both, leaving them breathing hard, flushed with renewed hunger. "You sure?" Methos asked breathlessly, looking hard into his eyes, demanding.

Duncan felt his heart kick in answer. "Never more so." Somewhere, some part of him wondered what the hell he thought he was doing, but his body sang with certainty, knowing exactly what it wanted.

Methos pressed close as if it were an answer or a promise, his mouth soft and generous against Duncan's, gentling them both against the arousal that had risen so sharply between them. "All right," he said when he broke away again, breathless and not hiding it. "All right. But not here."

Duncan nodded, tension ratcheting up a notch within him, overmatched by the accompanying flush of anticipation.

Methos' own responses surprised him, and it was harder than he'd expected to shut off the hot water, to pull away from the press of their bodies, to make himself go and dry off and step out into the coolness of the suite, to lead the way into the bedroom. His desire to taste all the unexplored planes and hollows of Duncan's body gripped him, compelling and insistent. So beautiful in his pleasure -- and so unexpectedly open, unrestrained. He wanted to see that look of surprised pleasure again, to remind him how good it could be, another man's knowing touch, the particular ecstasy of another man's mouth, and how good it could feel.

The thought of Duncan coming in his mouth made his cock throb sympathetically, painfully hard against the soft cotton of the towel he'd wrapped self-consciously around his waist. He set the lotion he'd brought from the bathroom on the bedside table, deliberately not thinking about what purposes it might fulfill. It had been a long time for both of them, and he'd better stop thinking about it if he wanted this to be what it should be. It was a gift Duncan had given him, trusting him as he had, and turning to watch as Duncan came towards him, he made a silent promise to himself and to those dark, wounded eyes that it would prove to be justified.

Unencumbered by self-consciousness, creature of the senses that he was, Duncan came to him naked and magnificent in the moonlit shadows of the room. They looked at each other for a long moment. Methos' heart beat fast and light and free, without anchor for the first time since Alexa. A terrible joy rose in him without warning, making his mouth curve in spite of every effort he made to control it.

Duncan found a smile to answer him, unexpected laughter lighting the dark eyes, easing the grief there. "I suppose you always knew this is where we'd end up," he said, voice rough.

Methos could only shake his head and close the distance between them, his throat too tight to answer. He needed to touch and let himself, palms curving to trace the lines of Duncan's shoulders, the warm, slightly damp smoothness of his skin. He brushed fingertips against the strong, steady pulse visible at Duncan's throat and felt the rhythm skip, heard the soft intake of breath, the unguarded reaction to his touch.

"No," he said roughly, at last, bending to brush lips against the place. "No, Mac. I hoped. Tried to hope." He closed his eyes, his lips finding that warm heartbeat again and again by instinct, kissing softly there between his words. He knew he was holding on too tightly to those broad shoulders, the low tremor in his own body revealing too much, but he couldn't care. Duncan's hands had lifted to his waist, and the heat of the other man's body was like the purest of drugs. "If I'd known," he confessed, "I'd never have waited so long, or let you go."

"Methos," Duncan breathed, a choked sound in his voice. And he moved, taking Methos in his arms with a plain, unvarnished honesty, a tenderness that left Methos undone, naked and without weapon or armor to fight the dangerous truths revealed in all the places their bodies touched.

They held together like that for a long, attenuated second, all Methos could bear before he had to draw back a little, mitigate the raw connection with light touches along Duncan's back, the oddly vulnerable smoothness of that bare nape. Unable to trust his voice, unwilling to let Duncan see him, he turned his face into the other man's throat and tasted him, hands caressing the fluid beauty of him with more ardor, easing the deep tension in the long muscles of his back.

Duncan shuddered faintly under his touch, then surrendered with a soft moan that made heat curl in Methos' belly. All he wanted was to be inside him, to have Duncan spread out beneath him, warm and alive and real in his arms, to feel him let go with such trust and abandon again, to sheathe himself in this man's body and taste the pleasure of their joining in the sweat that would spring up on his dusky skin. The hunger rose in him, the image so compelling his mouth watered, his pulse points prickling from the heat of his longing. Involuntarily his hand slid to find the round firmness of haunch, his fingers curling between Duncan's cheeks, tasting the sweet pulse and the intense body heat that radiated there. It was enough to make him forget all danger, forget everything save seeking Duncan's mouth, his tongue.

Duncan found the edge of Methos' towel and pulled it away, the friction stimulating, the hot, soft brush of skin that followed rousing him to excruciating readiness. "Methos," Duncan said huskily, breaking free of their kissing, his eyes bright with hunger, his face radiant with the smile he gave Methos then. Duncan's smiles had been so rare most of the time Methos had known him, and never had he seen one like that, open and unguarded. It left him without words, his heart giving a painful leap.

Duncan's eyes traced his face, the smile fading as his fingertips grazed Methos' cheek, his throat, his collarbone, a private ritual of feather-light touches -- learning him.

His heart beating so hard he thought it might shake him apart, Methos could only nod and kiss him gently, a promise, while holding on to his control for all he was worth. How he would keep any of it when he was buried deep inside Mac's body, he had no idea. The steady pulse of arousal in his belly coiled harder at the thought, and he had to force himself to put a little distance between them.

At Duncan's questioning look, he smiled wryly in helpless admission. "I think you'd better lie down," he said, knowing the tremor of need showed in his voice despite his best efforts.

"Then I think you'd better come with me," Duncan said, pulling the covers back, turning and sinking down onto the bed, arms wrapping around Methos' waist and drawing him down effortlessly, fitting Methos against him as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

They lay together like that for what felt like a long time, Methos' weight between Duncan's thighs, legs entangled, mouths obsessing on one another, bodies caressing with slow, unconscious friction, stimulating one another into a deep, almost hypnotic state of arousal. Methos had thought himself incapable of waiting any longer, but in this drugged state of sensory intoxication he could only move in counterpoint to Duncan's caresses, the wordless entreaties of Duncan's body. Then Duncan was reaching for something, and when Methos felt the cool slickness, the excruciating pleasure of Duncan's fingers coated in aloe-scented lotion slipping between them, stroking him, he groaned aloud and shivered hard.

The sweet, maddening grip moved, spreading the coolness over his hot flesh, and he closed his eyes, breath catching as a wave of ecstasy flooded his body, threatening to crest. He seized Duncan's wrist in a grip like iron, forcing him to still. "God, Mac. Don't." He fought the overpowering urge to thrust against that tight, slick pressure, every instinct urging him to give in, to stroke himself into that sweet hold and let the hot waves of aching pleasure take him. "Please," he added a little desperately, shaking now with the effort to resist.

Mercifully, Duncan let go and let his thighs fall open, his lotion-slick hand guiding Methos wordlessly toward where Duncan wanted him, where he most needed to be. "Then don't wait," Duncan urged, his own hunger plain in the erratic rhythm of his breathing, the beautiful urgency of his cock so hard and flushed and lying straight up against his belly. A man would have to be made of stone to resist him.

And Methos' body remembered what his mind had nearly forgotten, the rare pleasure of seeking and finding the small furl of muscle, the incomparable heat and tightness and tender softness of the inside of a man as you pressed against the tight grip of resistance, as you coaxed and gentled the muscle into relaxing and prayed for the strength to keep from coming as that hot, tight sheath wrapped you in unmatched ecstasy.

He prayed now, eyes squeezed shut, clinging to Duncan's solid frame, panting with the effort at control and calling on every god he could remember. Duncan started to move, and he clung harder. "God's sake, don't."

"I need to feel you," Duncan whispered harshly, trembling, his own grip as fierce, his own heartbeat racing in matched counterpoint to Methos'.

"I can't--" he tried to warn. But oh, God, he could. He had to, control splintering at the naked need in that deep voice, the painful intimacy of that slick heat surrounding his sex, of Duncan's ragged breaths against his ear. He began to move in spite of himself, one instinctive, arrested stroke that sent streaks of bright flame stabbing through him. Duncan shuddered gently in response, making a sound of suffering, or pleasure, rocking a little against the hot pressure of Methos' cock inside him.

"Yes... God--" Duncan drew a ragged breath, thighs closing around Methos' hips to draw him closer, deeper still. The sound was so beautiful that Methos had to look, had to see the way his face altered with the waves of pleasure, had to see the way the long lashes would flutter closed. Oh, yes, exactly like that. Better even than he'd imagined, the dark head falling back against the pillow as Duncan lost himself in his body's responses, the reddened lips parted as he panted slightly, as his muscles adjusted to the pressure of Methos' length inside of him.

"You are so beautiful," Methos told him, touching his throat, the sculpted line of his jaw.

The dark eyes opened and they were unguarded, vulnerable, bright with something rare and wondering. "More," he breathed fervently, hands urgent on Methos' hips.

So Methos rose up and slid his arms under Duncan's bent knees, holding him steady and pressing himself deeper until he was fully sheathed and trembling, so close to coming he couldn't think, could only hold him and try to hold on to some last shred of control.

"Methos," Duncan said reverently, watching his face, eyes heavy-lidded with passion. Sweat had broken out along the curves of his throat, his chest, glistening in the moonlight, the scent of him intoxicating. Methos felt answering heat prickle at the backs of his thighs in response to the velvet heat that gripped him. His arms were trembling faintly, not because of the weight he bore but because of the struggle not to move, not to come, not to let it be over, not so soon. Then Duncan reached up and took Methos' hands in his, laced their fingers together, turning Methos' palms against his own. "You feel so good," he said huskily, face radiant and open and suffused with pure sensual bliss. "So good, Methos."

"Good. I want to make you feel good," Methos managed, meaning it with all his heart. There was nothing he wanted more. Slowly, slowly he eased back from the brink, adjusting to the maddening, silken heat that gripped him with such excruciating perfection. Duncan had taken some of his weight, and he felt cradled by the strong thighs, by the warm strength where Duncan's fingers gripped his. He made himself focus on the other man's breathing, forcing himself to match his own to it. It helped; at last he was able to relax a fraction, to gather himself and find leverage and strength to move gently, one slow, slick retreat before he rocked forward, sliding once more deep inside.

Duncan caught his breath at the renewed penetration, rising to meet it. His eyes closed, neck arching as he let the pleasure work its way through him; his throat moved as he swallowed, and when he looked up again, something dark and hungry sparked in his gaze.

"Like that, do you," Methos murmured, already addicted to that look, wanting more of it at any price.

"Oh, yes," Duncan breathed, face flushed, shameless. He rocked against the leverage of Methos' grip, trying for an even deeper penetration, and his cock brushed Methos' belly with searing heat and slippery coolness, streaking Methos' skin with his arousal.

"Gonna come for me, Mac?" Methos said softly, feeling his own orgasm curling taut in his belly, needing only the slightest encouragement to shudder through him.

"In a second, if you keep looking at me like that."

"Then come here," Methos said, and let go of one of Duncan's hands, let one leg relax so that Duncan could curl up against him and their mouths could meet. The other leg he kept bent up hard against the cradle of his arm and he felt Duncan gasp into the kiss as the pressure on his prostate increased, Methos' cock still buried in him to the hilt.

Before Duncan could catch his breath, their tongues touched, and Methos began to move: long, steady, rocking strokes at that most perfect of angles, the rhythmic penetration smooth and natural as breathing, the silken heat clenching all along his length with every thrust. On the third stroke Duncan writhed in his arms and threw his head back, making a beautiful, helpless sound. Methos was already lost, already helpless himself in the grip of his body's irresistible need, rocking hard, harder, again and again. Eyes squeezed shut, mouth open and panting, he could only give himself over to it, could only bury his face against Duncan's throat and let the fierce rhythm take them both.

Then Duncan caught his hand and pulled, the wet heat of Duncan's tongue tasting his palm, that sinful mouth pressing against his wrist and sucking gently there, drawing a moan from somewhere deep inside him as his nerves shuddered under that added stimulation, the wave of heat rushing inward, taking all breath and thought as it started to crest. Duncan drew his hand down, wrapped their joined fingers around Duncan's sex, slick and urgent and as close as he, and at last Methos could let go, at last he could bury himself in that sweet, hot softness, could taste the warm scents on Duncan's skin and stop fighting it, give them both over to it. When he felt Duncan convulse against him, crying his name, he came in a slow, shattering wave, the hot pulses of Duncan's fluid against his belly and chest making him shudder hard even in the grip of orgasm, the feeling so erotic it curled in him like the aftershocks of Quickening fire.

After, they lay dazed, Methos trying to remember how to breathe and wondering if he would ever find all the pieces of himself. Broad, callused hands were drawing slow, intricate patterns against his back, his waist, soothing the tremors he hadn't even felt. As if that gentle pressure eased something in him, at last he was able to draw a deep, steadying breath. He let it out and felt the frissons of aftershock ease; he sought Duncan's face in the shadows, seeing that his eyes were closed, the dark lashes crescents of shadow against his cheeks.

For a long time he stayed where he was, watching him, while their bodies cooled and the moon moved steadily across the floor, the bed, its silver veil drifting softly over the planes and hollows of their nakedness.

"You all right?" he murmured at last, not trusting his voice.

The long muscles of Duncan's throat moved, swallowing. "Not sure," he said, the words a low rumble in his chest. "When I can remember my name, I'll let you know."

Methos found himself stroking the dark softness of the other man's hair back from the curve of his forehead, wanting to ease the tiny furrow between those dark brows. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he mused softly, smiling a little, gaze tracing the familiar lines of care and worry in that handsome face. He was remembering that long ago day in his flat, the first time he'd ever teased Mac with that ridiculous declaration and lost something vital to a pair of honest brown eyes and a voice like rich coffee.

Those eyes opened now, and miraculously the laughter was still there, simple and healing as summer rain. "Sounds better when you say it," he said wryly. "Why is that, do you think?"

Methos could only shake his head and smile at him across the little distance that separated them.

Their eyes held for a long time, and he knew Mac was remembering now, too, as he was -- remembering all the grief, all the hurt they had cost one another over the years, all the missed chances and misunderstandings that had kept them from finding their way to this place for so long. Remembering those fleeting, undeniable moments of connection that had kept them from walking away so many times, the simple, powerful recognition that both of them had resisted and that neither of them had been able to renounce, no matter how hard they tried.

"I miss you, Methos," Duncan said at last, voice rough with feeling. "I miss having you in my life." He hadn't moved. They were still lying face to face, perhaps two feet of space between them, and he held Methos' gaze unflinchingly, honesty shining from him like starlight.

Methos felt his heart start to beat faster, harder in his chest, despite his best efforts to control it. "You don't have to, you know," he said, finding the oxygen content of the room suddenly a little too low for comfort.

Something altered in Duncan's face, a flicker of something that might have been hope. "No?" he asked, sounding a little breathless himself.

"No," Methos confirmed without hesitation. And then he drew a breath and confessed the truth he'd never admitted even to himself. "Never did, Mac. All you ever had to do was ask."

Brightness shimmered in the dark eyes, maybe only the silver light of the moon refracting through glass. "I'm asking," he whispered.

And Methos moved, drew their bodies close and answered him until the moon had long set and the first rays of morning had begun to streak the sky.

The End
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