DISCLAIMER - Highlander and its characters is the copyright of Rysher and Panzer/Davis Productions and no infringement is intended. The story, such as it is, is copyright Karen Colohan June 1999.

Author's note - this is set somewhere between "Through a glass darkly" and "Till Death".

With thanks to Margaret for reading and commenting.

Methos in the snow

EXORCISING GHOSTS

by Karen Colohan

With anxious eyes Duncan MacLeod followed the slow progress of the oldest Immortal from the fridge to the couch.

Methos had snagged the bottle of beer automatically on their return to the barge, but, in truth, he didn't really seem to have much interest in drinking it. Indeed, Methos hadn't had a great deal of interest in anything for the past few weeks. He had been uncharacteristically subdued and withdrawn.

Not that it took a genius to figure out why, thought Duncan, as he watched Methos finally slump down on the couch, beer in hand. The death of Alexa had hit the old man particularly hard. After his failure to secure all the pieces of the Methuselah Stone, Methos had seemed to take Alexa's demise personally, as if he had been at fault. Since her funeral, Methos had withdrawn into himself even more. The passion which had driven him on his quest for the Stone had seemingly deserted him now.

All too often of late Methos' voice held an unaccustomed note of sadness and his eyes would become unfocused and wistful, no matter what the topic of conversation. Duncan had never seen him so vulnerable. But apart from one brief talk with Duncan about Alexa, Methos had held back from talking about his feelings over her death at all. Duncan wasn't inclined to think that was healthy. It was all too obvious to him that Methos was hurting and Duncan wanted to help. Bottling everything up the way he was at the moment clearly wasn't doing Methos any good.

Duncan looked at the sprawled form again. Methos appeared to be even paler and thinner than normal. The baggy black sweater he was wearing only accentuated that impression. Dark circles were evident under his eyes - obviously the old man wasn't sleeping properly, if at all. This couldn't be allowed to continue. In the name of his friendship with the oldest Immortal, Duncan made a decision.

He dropped down onto the opposite end of the couch from the old man. "Methos, we need to talk."

"Talk? What about?" Methos sounded tired and not especially interested as to whether or not he actually got an answer to his question.

"About you," Mac said gently, "and about Alexa. Methos, it's killing me seeing you like this."

"Don't fuss, MacLeod. I'm fine." From the tone of his voice Methos didn't sound fine.

"No you're not," Duncan insisted. "For one thing, you're not sleeping, are you?"

There was a long pause before Methos answered, as if he were weighing the possible consequences of honesty or evasion. "No, I'm not. I can't," he admitted finally. There was a wounded look in Methos' eyes. "I - it's just so empty without her there. I'd only just got used to sharing my space with someone else again, too. Crazy, isn't it? Now I find I drift off for a while, but when I wake up I reach out for her and..." Methos sighed. "Why is this hitting me so hard, Mac? It's not like it's the first time I've lost someone I cared about."

Mac shook his head. "I can't answer that, but... well, maybe if you weren't alone you'd be able to sleep. Why don't you stay here tonight."

"I'm not really very good company, you know, but thanks." Methos looked around him at the familiar surroundings of the barge. "Maybe I will. It might help, and I am tired. It's late, though, I guess you want to sleep too, so I'll just make up the couch. I'll try not to disturb you if I can't sleep, though."

"Methos," Duncan reached out a hand to keep the old Immortal in his place. "I know what it's like to lose someone you love too, remember. There's nothing wrong in needing to be comforted. You don't have to try and keep up the brave face all the time, at least not with me. Now, I didn't mean you to sleep on the couch. You can share the bed with me. That's what I meant - when I said you might rest easier if you weren't alone. What do you say?"

"I don't think I can do this." Methos shook his head. "No, I should just go back to my place. It would be better for both of us."

"It's late, Methos," said Duncan reasonably. "You don't want to be trailing across town at this time of night. Please - stay."

"It's not that simple," Methos sighed.

"Why not? I don't see any problem." Duncan still didn't let Methos go.

"It's too soon, Mac. I can't..."

"Too soon for what? Methos, explain!"

"Christ, Mac, there's nothing to explain." Methos retreated behind irritation. "If it will make you happy I'll stay, but on the couch. I know I'll be restless and I won't have you losing sleep because of me. Anyway, you're right, of course, it's quite stupid of me to think of going home when it's this late. Thanks for putting up with me - again!"

"Methos, this is about us sharing the bed, isn't it? It has nothing to do with you being worried about keeping me awake. You just don't want to share a bed with me. Why's it such a problem?" Duncan wasn't about to let Methos avoid the issue.

"Oh, don't be ridiculous," Methos scoffed. "It's not a problem. I'm just sure we'd both be more comfortable if I took the couch. That's all."

"No, it bothers you, doesn't it? I don't..." Duncan stopped as something occurred to him. "Wait, do you think sharing the bed with me is some kind of a betrayal of Alexa? If so, that is ridiculous. Come on, Methos, all I'm offering you is half of my bed. I would never..."

"No, I'm sure you wouldn't, Mac," Methos interrupted him gently, "but I might."

"What?"

Methos met Duncan's incredulous look with a self-deprecating smile. "I said, I might. Isn't that clear enough for you? Damn it, Mac, I miss Alexa. I miss the warmth of another body next to mine at night. Six months ago I wouldn't even have realised I was missing something. Now I do. So, understand, Mac, it's me I don't trust, not you. I'm feeling just about bloody lonely and depressed enough that I might do something really stupid. Am I making myself clear?"

"Yeah. Yeah, you are," replied Duncan, his voice rough, "and I still don't see why it's a problem."

"Don't you?" Methos sounded doubtful.

"No, I don't." Duncan didn't.

"Well, let me spell it out for you, Mac." Methos closed his eyes and took in a deep breath before he continued. "I was more than a little - infatuated with you long before I ever met Alexa. I guess I still am, OK. If I climb into that bed with you I think I'm going to want to do more than just lie next to you all night. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes, as coy as you're being about it, I do," Duncan assured him. "How many times do I have to tell you that?"

"Then if you understand, why aren't you pushing me straight out the door?" Methos seemed genuinely confused.

Duncan glared back at him, exasperated. "Why would I want to do that, Methos? Do you think I should be condemning you for betraying Alexa's memory? If so, that's nonsense and you know it. Alexa would never want you to be unhappy. She'd be glad if you could find comfort while you mourn her - and who better to offer you that comfort than your best friend? At least, I hope you think of me as your best friend. I thought you did.

"Then again, maybe you think I'd want to push you away because I find the idea of sharing intimacy with another man distasteful. Well, if you believe that then you really don't know me very well at all, Methos.

"We are friends. And friends help one another - in whatever ways they can. If having a warm body to hold onto tonight is what will help you, then that's what I'm offering you. Methos, these feelings between us have never been a one way street. I really thought you knew that. So, whatever you need..."

"Mac, I don't... the timing here is really lousy..." Methos folded his arms around himself, as if he suddenly felt cold, but there was also something faintly defensive about the gesture.

"I know," Duncan admitted, "and I don't want to push you into anything you aren't ready for. I just want you to know that the offer stands - a bed, a shoulder to cry on... or whatever else you need."

"Oh, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, whatever did I do in my life to deserve you? Dear Gods..." Methos' voice cracked and he quickly turned away from Duncan. He didn't want the Highlander to see the tears which suddenly welled up in his eyes.

Methos wasn't given the chance to hide, though. Duncan scooted along the couch, closing the distance between them. Then he reached out and set his hands lightly on the older Immortal's shoulders. Duncan felt the shudder that ran through Methos at the touch and his heart went out to him.

Mac understood only too well what Methos was going through. He had felt exactly the same pain and guilt when Tessa died. It would make no difference at all that Methos had known from the start how little time he would have to share with Alexa. Nor did it matter that Methos had 5000 years experience of loving and losing mortal lovers behind him. The pain of this loss would be just as sharp, just as unbearable as anything he had known before.

Indeed, Duncan could only marvel at the fact that Methos still had the capacity to love, with all that accumulation of pain inside him. More miraculous still was the indication that Methos might be ready to explore a new relationship, albeit that this time the object of his affections was a fellow Immortal.

Carefully, Duncan drew Methos back until the old Immortal was leaning lightly against him. Then Duncan slipped his arms around Methos and held him close while he wept silently.

Methos didn't try to escape the circle of Duncan's arms. The human contact simply felt too good. Methos really didn't want to be alone with his grief any longer; he was grateful, though, that Duncan allowed him at least the illusion of privacy. As vulnerable as he was feeling, Methos found he was almost absurdly awkward about letting Duncan see him cry. So, he kept his face turned away from the Highlander until he had his emotions back under at least nominal control.

Finally, Methos felt able to face Duncan again and he turned in the circle of the other Immortal's embrace. Methos wrapped his own arms around Mac's shoulders and hugged him lightly.

"Thank you, Duncan, I needed that," Methos admitted. He leaned forward and rested his forehead against Duncan's. "I think that's the first time I've let myself really grieve for her. Through all the arrangements for Alexa's funeral and everything else I was just telling myself that if I kept busy it would all be fine - that I'd be fine. But it wasn't. I wasn't."

"Bottling your feelings up never works, Methos," said Duncan gently.

"Yeah, you'd think I would have figured that one out by now, wouldn't you," Methos sighed, his expression bleak.

Mac gave Methos an affectionate hug, trying to raise his spirits. "Come on, let's go and see if both of us can get some sleep."

"I should go take a shower first," Methos insisted.

"In the morning will be fine. Stop trying to put this off, Methos." Duncan's smile was faintly exasperated. "All we're doing is sharing a bed."

"Yeah, of course, I'll er - just go and clean my teeth then. Can I...?" Methos shrugged apologetically. When he'd met up with Duncan earlier he hadn't planned to stay at the barge and had brought none of his overnight things with him.

"I'm sure there's a spare toothbrush in there you can use, Methos. Being a Boy Scout has its advantages," Duncan teased gently.

Methos managed a smile in return as he reluctantly disentangled himself from Duncan's embrace and headed for the bathroom. As he brushed his teeth Methos looked at his reflection in the mirror, letting himself see the dark circles under his eyes and the hollowed cheeks for the first time. What the hell was he doing to himself, he wondered? How did letting himself go like this honour Alexa's memory? His Immortality was a gift she could only have dreamed of and at the moment he was wasting it. Methos could clearly picture Alexa's disapproving look if she had seen him in this state. No, he should be living, for her sake.

As he straightened up, Methos nodded to his reflection in acknowledgement. It was time to deal with his grief and then to let go of the past and move on. He had been blatantly ignoring his own most basic rules of survival these past few weeks, but no more. And, Methos told himself firmly, if sharing Duncan MacLeod's bed was what it took to start the healing process, then so be it.

Mac took his place in the bathroom as Methos came out and moved across to the wide bed on its raised dais. Methos sat down on the edge and began to pull off his shoes and socks. It gave him time to think, and Methos was suddenly nervous again. This was crazy, he berated himself. He'd shared a bed with another man on plenty of occasions in the past, and in far more intimate situations. So why did he feel like a teenager about to sleep with someone for the first time?

It was because it was Duncan, Methos finally admitted to himself. It came back to the fact that Methos strongly suspected he was in love with the man. In truth, he had been drawn to Duncan from their first meeting. Why else had he trailed all the way to Seacouver to tell Duncan about Kristin that time, when a phone call could have relayed the news just as well? Not that the trip hadn't been worth it, in Methos' estimation. Still, it meant that as innocent as tonight might be intended to be, it was, nevertheless, significant to Methos. He had never expected to be offered a place in Duncan's bed, whatever the reason. But the fact remained, now that he had the chance to be there it was for all the wrong reasons.

At that moment Methos almost pulled his shoes and socks back on and left - almost. But, in the end, the promise of a whole night lying at Duncan's side was too much to resist. Methos needed the comfort of a warm body in his bed. That it should be Duncan was unexpected, but welcome. Quite simply, Methos wanted this too much to leave.

With his mind made up, Methos quickly resumed undressing. He pulled off his jumper and jeans, but after a moment's hesitation elected to keep his T- shirt on, along with his boxers.

The barge was chilly now and Methos hurriedly pushed back the covers and clambered into the bed. It felt incredibly comfortable as Methos settled into it and pulled the sheets up to his neck for warmth. Methos found himself suddenly surrounded by Duncan's scent on the pillows and covers. Its familiarity relaxed him and Methos was curled up, half asleep in spite of himself, by the time Duncan came out of the bathroom.

Mac couldn't suppress the fond smile which tugged at his lips as he noticed the way Methos had burrowed into his bed and made himself comfortable. He moved around the barge, switching off lights until only the one by the bed remained. He was aware that Methos' eyes were following his every move and were still fixed on him as he came to join the old Immortal on the bed.

"Comfortable?" Duncan couldn't resist asking, though the answer seemed clear enough.

"Yeah, it feels good. Thanks," Methos replied drowsily.

Duncan felt the bed move behind him and glanced over his shoulder. Methos had propped himself up on one elbow, still watching him. It left Duncan feeling more than a little self-conscious as he quickly stripped off his clothes. He thought briefly about finding a T-shirt or something to put on, but in the end climbed into bed clad in nothing more than his briefs. This wasn't about putting barriers, of any kind, between himself and Methos. It was about giving comfort to a friend who was hurting - and Duncan was determined that comfort should take whatever form Methos needed. Finally, Duncan reached out and switched off the bedside light, plunging the barge into near darkness.

He burrowed down under the covers, pulling the sheets up around him. Methos hadn't said anything since he had joined him in bed, but Duncan was acutely aware of him there. Methos had eventually settled on his side with his back towards Duncan. The old man's body heat radiated across the space between them and Duncan let Methos' silent presence wash over him. It felt good to have him near and, before he was aware it was happening, Duncan had slipped into a deep sleep.

Methos knew the moment Duncan fell asleep. He could hear the change in the Highlander's breathing. He lay awake beside him for a long time, simply listening to the slow, steady rhythm of Duncan's breaths. There was a sense of comfort in Duncan's easy acceptance of his presence in his bed, Methos thought. After all, how often did two Immortals trust one another this much? It was hardly a common occurrence, but then again, Duncan MacLeod wasn't your average Immortal.

Finally, Methos gave in to the temptation to turn over and watch Duncan as he slept. It was a mistake, he knew, but he couldn't resist. Duncan was beautiful. His face was utterly relaxed and his long, silky hair spread out around his head like a dark halo. Methos felt himself falling under Duncan's spell even more deeply than he had been before.

Methos' fingers itched to reach out and stroke the dark locks, and the desire to lean across and kiss Duncan's full lips was almost overwhelming. Methos closed his eyes against the tempting sight. Gods, Alexa had been gone such a short time and here he was, already lusting after Duncan MacLeod! If he were honest, though, Methos knew his feelings for Duncan had always been there. As much as he had loved Alexa, and he had cared for the frail mortal deeply, what he felt for Duncan had still been there in the background. He had proved that to himself, and anyone else with eyes to see, when he left Alexa to go to Duncan as he struggled with the Dark Quickening.

The thoughts of Alexa brought renewed pain and guilt. Methos felt tears prickling his eyes again. He curled in on himself, trying to hold the hurt at bay. In the end, Methos scooted as close to Duncan as he dared without actually touching him. It did feel good to have the other Immortal so near and Methos drew strength from Duncan's warmth and proximity. Eventually, the pain eased and Methos drifted into sleep.

Duncan woke to the sensation of intense warmth plastered down one side of his body. As he blinked the sleep from his eyes Duncan remembered that he wasn't alone in his bed. A moment later he discovered that Methos was sound asleep, but that during the night the other Immortal had closed the distance between them in the bed. Duncan now found himself with the solid presence of Methos snuggled close against his side. The old Immortal's head was pillowed on his shoulder and looking down Duncan realised that Methos looked more relaxed than he had in weeks.

A warm rush of affection for the old man swept over Duncan. Before he could think better of it, Duncan slipped an arm around the warm body and gathered it in even closer to him. Methos stirred and murmured in his sleep, but he didn't wake. Duncan dropped a quick kiss on the tousled dark hair and wondered exactly when he'd lost his heart to the old Immortal. He was still trying to work it out when the comatose figure beside him yawned and stretched its way into wakefulness.

"Mornin'," Duncan said softly, as a pair of drowsy hazel eyes finally focused on him. "Sleep well?"

Duncan felt Methos tense as he registered the touch of the arm encircling him and then slowly relax again. He was gratified to note that Methos did not try to move away from him.

"Um, yeah. I think it took me a while to drop off, but yes - I slept well," Methos agreed cautiously. "How about you?" It was clear he was still a little uncertain about the situation he now found himself in.

"If you're asking if your nocturnal wanderings disturbed me, no they didn't," Duncan reassured him with a smile. He gave Methos another hug, as if to emphasise the point. "Actually, I had no idea you'd taken up residence over here until I woke up just now."

"Neither did I - well, not in quite such close proximity, anyway," admitted Methos. He returned the smile with a sudden shyness that took Duncan by surprise. Methos, however, was becoming very aware of just how closely he was pressed against Duncan. Seeking further reassurance he found himself asking, "Do you mind?"

"Nope." Duncan brushed his lips lightly against Methos' forehead. "To tell you the truth, I rather like it."

Duncan felt Methos go very still again as he kissed him. He wondered if the old man would accept what was being offered, or if he would run scared of it and leave. Duncan told himself that he wouldn't try and stop Methos if he chose to go, but he found himself hoping the old Immortal wanted the closeness as much as he did.

Methos pulled away from Duncan just far enough to see his face. He didn't want the Highlander to think he was rejecting the tacit offer out of hand. Methos was still only half convinced that he was interpreting Duncan's words correctly, though.

"Duncan, what exactly are you saying here?" Methos' uncertainty and a touching vulnerability were clearly evident in his eyes. "I don't want to misunderstand."

Mac nodded, understanding the old Immortal's need for reassurance. He brought a hand up and gently brushed the backs of his fingers against Methos' cheek. Duncan watched as the old man leaned into the touch and knew that he had no doubts at all about what he was offering.

"Methos, I like having you here," Duncan said softly. It was clear from his expression that he meant in his bed, not simply as a houseguest. "I know this began as one friend helping another friend with their pain. There's more to it than that, though. You know it; I know it. I want you and I..."

Duncan paused, not quite able to take the thought to its logical conclusion. He was fairly sure Methos could fill in the blanks, though. He tried to explain his feelings in a more indirect way. "Having you so close, holding you like this - it just feels right, Methos. Actually, it feels like something I should have done a long time ago."

"Duncan MacLeod, sometimes you amaze me, you know." Methos laughed softly.

Carefully, Methos curved the palm of his hand against Duncan's cheek. Then he leaned in closer and brushed his lips gently against Mac's. It was a fleeting touch - it could scarcely have been called a kiss - but it sent an almost electric jolt through both men. Pressed close together as they were, the result of the caress was readily apparent to both of them, too.

"Methos," Duncan whispered, "is this really what you want? If it's not then please tell me now."

"Yeah, it's what I want," agreed Methos in equally hushed tones. "I want to touch you, to love you. I just need to feel as if I'm still alive."

"I understand." Duncan rolled over, pulling Methos on top of him. The old man was heavier than he looked, but the solid weight felt good to Duncan.

Methos took a moment to appreciate the pleasure of having Duncan MacLeod's beautiful body under his own. The smooth, tanned skin and the hard muscles made quite certain that Methos saw Duncan for himself and not merely as a substitute for Alexa. Methos had no desire to fall into that trap. It would cheapen what he felt for both of them. Methos wanted to love Duncan for who and what he was; he deserved no less.

Duncan thought he understood Methos' hesitation and found he was glad of it. If all Methos had wanted was a warm body to lose himself in then Duncan would have offered all the same. Nevertheless, he had still hoped that Methos would make love to him because he wanted him, Duncan MacLeod. He was quite sure now that Methos did.

He brought his hands up and ran them along the smooth planes of the old man's back. As Duncan did so he pushed the T-shirt Methos wore out of his way to gain better access. Methos was beautiful, there was no denying it. The old Immortal was given to self-deprecating comments about the size of his nose and the merits or otherwise of other bits of his anatomy. In Duncan's opinion, though, all the pieces fit together to make a very attractive whole. Suddenly he wanted to see all of it, without any obstacles.

With an impatient gesture Duncan tugged at the offending T-shirt. Methos obligingly stretched out his arms and let Duncan pull it off over his head. Mac's next foray made it clear that he wanted Methos to lose the boxers too.

Methos rolled off of Duncan and onto the bed beside him. He felt a last moment of self-consciousness, but he pushed it aside as he kicked off his underwear and lay back naked on the bed.

"Yours too," Methos said through a suddenly dry throat. "I, er... well, it's only fair."

Duncan recognised the nervousness in Methos' tone and it made him smile. Even after 5000 years the old man was apparently still unsure of his own charms. Well, Duncan had no doubts about them. Naked, Methos was even more breathtaking. His pale colouring only seemed to highlight the sleekness of his form. Duncan wasted no time in stripping off his briefs so that he could pull the lithe body against his own bare skin.

The shock of their warm bodies meeting drew a gasp from both men. As they found a comfortable position, face to face, their erect penises came together, too. The slide of hot, hard flesh against its mate was nearly enough to tumble both of them into oblivion at once. They soothed one another with gentle hands, trying to slow the pace a little. Wry smiles were exchanged as they realised they were behaving like randy teenagers. Soft laughter followed and it was enough to pull them back from the brink, at least for a while.

"Ah Gods, you're good for me, Duncan," Methos said fondly as the laughter quieted.

They had rolled over again in their enthusiasm and Methos had ended up back on top of Duncan. Methos rested on his elbows and looked down at the Highlander's face. He had to admit he rather liked the view from this vantage point.

Duncan resumed his gentle caresses to Methos' back. The touch was enough to fan the flames of the old Immortal's desire without bringing it to a full conflagration. Duncan couldn't help noticing that Methos had amazingly smooth skin, apparently unmarred by any scars obtained before his first death. Not for the first time, Duncan wondered just how old Methos had been when he became Immortal and what kind of a life he had led up to that time. It saddened him that Methos had no memories of his earliest days; that he could not recall the land of his birth or the family who had raised him.

"I'm glad you stayed," Duncan said finally, pushing aside his maudlin mood.

"So am I," Methos agreed fervently. "I really did need this, Mac. You were right about that. I don't think I would ever have been able to ask on my own account, though - so thanks for being even more stubborn than I am."

"It's nice to know my character flaws have their uses sometimes," Duncan teased gently. He looked up into the other Immortal's face, suddenly serious. "You do know you'll be welcome here whenever you need a place to go or a shoulder to cry on, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do... Thank you," Methos said simply. His voice was very quiet, but it was clear that he was sincere. "Duncan..."

"Yeah?"

"I want to make love to you." Methos was hesitant. "Will you let me?"

"Do you really need to ask?"

"Yes, I need to be sure, need you to be sure."

"Then, yes, I want you to love me, Methos. Whatever, or however, you need to..."

"Let's just keep it simple for now, OK?" The shadow of his pain was back in Methos' eyes and Duncan nodded, understanding.

"If all you want is to be held, that's fine. If you need something more then that's OK, too." Duncan tried to put all the love he felt for the elusive old man into his voice. His hands stilled on Methos' skin and he pulled the other Immortal into a comforting hug.

Methos seemed to melt into the embrace and it quickly transmuted from comfort to something infinitely more sensual. The old Immortal's head sank down to rest on Duncan's shoulder and he turned his face into the hollow of the Highlander's throat. Methos' lips busied themselves against Duncan's skin. He lavished Duncan's neck and jaw with a shower of soft kisses and gentle bites. At the same time Methos began to rock his hips slowly against Duncan's. The rhythmic movement brought their penises together again, allowing the steady glide of their heated flesh.

There was nothing hurried about their lovemaking. The sensations built slowly as Duncan matched his own thrusts to Methos', playing his part in their mutual dance of pleasure. Duncan had never realised before just how much sensual grace informed the old Immortal's movements. Now he was totally aware of it as all his concentration centred on Methos' body covering his own, moving against him.

As the sensations grew more intense Duncan reached to capture Methos' lips in a deep, exploratory kiss. Responding to the gesture, Methos tilted his head and opened his mouth to Duncan's questing tongue. His own tangled with it in a lazy dance that seemed to mirror the motions of their hips.

Methos closed his eyes as the pleasure spread through his body. The soft hair on Duncan's torso sent deliciously ticklish jolts through him as he writhed against the Highlander's chest. As they both came closer to release Methos could feel the sticky dampness spreading between their bellies. Nothing could have felt further from making love with Alexa, but Methos was suddenly acutely aware of the feelings he'd had for her and just how much he missed her.

A wave of grief swept over Methos at the same moment as his climax did. Methos clung to Duncan, trembling violently as he came. He let Duncan hold him close and gently soothe him as his release brought fresh tears as well as the pulses of semen Methos spilled over Duncan's stomach.

Methos was still shuddering as Duncan's own climax broke over him. Duncan's seed mixed with the old Immortal's as he thrust convulsively against Methos once, twice more and then stilled. His pleasure was tempered by the awareness of Methos' raw grief, but Duncan could not help but feel that both releases would be good for Methos. It was time for the old Immortal to start letting go of his pain.

As for his own feelings, Duncan welcomed the new intimacy with Methos. The old man was still sprawled over his chest, apparently spent. He didn't appear to be in any hurry to move away and Duncan was glad. Methos so often seemed to shy away from emotional closeness and Duncan didn't want that to happen now. Methos needed the connection. It was what would allow him to lay Alexa to rest in his own mind - to be able to feel the love without the pain.

Duncan gently stroked Methos' tousled hair until the old Immortal began to rouse himself. His eyes were still red, but the tears had gone. When Methos carefully began to disentangle himself from the other Immortal's arms, Duncan let him go.

Methos didn't withdraw completely, though. He simply rolled onto his back and lay next to Duncan, almost, but not quite, touching him. He stared up at the shadowed ceiling in silence for a long time.

"Thank you," Methos said finally, his voice subdued.

"It's OK, you don't need to thank me," Duncan replied softly. "I know you'd do the same for me, if I needed it."

"Yeah, yeah I would." Methos' voice was stronger as he appeared to consider this possibility for the first time. He turned back onto his side so that he could look at Duncan. "I do love you, Duncan," Methos told him with quiet intensity. "You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do." Duncan smiled at Methos, teasing him affectionately. "It probably came as just as big a shock to me as I guess it did to you, but I know it's true." More seriously he added, "And you do know that I love you..."

Methos nodded, returning Duncan's smile. "I'm so glad we did this." He leaned down and kissed Duncan gently on the lips. The brush of his mouth was warm and held a definite promise. "Can I stay, Duncan?" Methos asked as he drew back, his expression abruptly serious.

It took Duncan a moment or two to realise that Methos didn't just mean he wanted to crash at the barge for a day or two. The possibilities inherent in having the enigma that was Methos around on a more permanent basis rendered Duncan momentarily speechless. He'd grown resigned to the old man appearing and then disappearing from his life again without warning.

"If it's what you want," Duncan replied at last.

Methos' answering smile warmed Duncan. "It is."

"Then stay as long as you need - as long as you want." And Duncan returned Methos' kiss to seal the promise.

The End

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