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, revised version September 2000.
With thanks to Margaret for initial reading and to Holly for editing it for zine publication.
by Karen Colohan
It would have to be said that Seacouver has never rated a mention on my list of favourite cities to visit. Were it not for the fact that Duncan MacLeod currently called the place home I would not have been here now. Indeed, by the time I finally fetched up on Mac's doorstep Seacouver had done nothing to endear itself to me any more than it had on my admittedly rare previous visits. The building housing this particular doorstep didn't look especially promising either.
Mac has strange taste when it comes to his living accommodations. The barge in Paris was one thing, but a loft above a somewhat run-down looking dojo? I knew Mac's fondness for the martial arts, but this seemed to be taking it to extremes. The neighbourhood was hardly the most salubrious one in town either and I didn't pretend to understand why Mac apparently felt at home here.
At any rate, when Mac opened the door in answer to my knock I think he was only marginally more surprised to see me than I was to find myself there.
I had been a little uncertain of my welcome, after all I hadn't exactly called ahead to warn him I was coming, but Mac invited me in without hesitation. He was understandably curious to know what had brought a 5,000 year old man all the way from Paris to see him. I suppose I was somewhat economical with the truth when I answered him, though the essentials of what I told Mac were true.
Ostensibly I had come to warn Mac that an old and dangerous acquaintance of his was in town. Her name was Kristin and she had once been Mac's lover, in his younger, more naive days. To make a long story short, when he outgrew Kristin's possessive nature Mac left her. Or rather, he tried to, but Kristin gives no one up without a fight and she tried to kill him. Unfortunately, Mac being Mac, even though he had bested her, he let Kristin go with her head intact. Though he had reason enough to want her dead.
Knowing Mac's blind spot where Kristin was concerned had frankly worried me when I read the Watcher reports placing her in Seacouver. The name of her latest reported conquest had only added to my disquiet. It seemed Kristin was now keeping company with Mac's ex-student, Richie Ryan. It struck me that this was the perfect recipe for disaster.
Even assuming any of this was my business, though, the fact was I could have told Mac all this over the phone. But I didn't. Instead I found myself with my trusty duffel bag in hand buying a plane ticket to Seacouver! So, I suppose I was a good deal closer to the truth when I told Mac that Paris was a much quieter place with him gone. Oh yes, it was very much quieter - too quiet, in fact.
To my surprise, after spending something like ten years masquerading as Adam Pierson, mild-mannered Watcher, I suddenly found that I liked being Methos again. Duncan MacLeod had, all unwittingly, pulled me out of my self-imposed exile. I had enjoyed being in the company of my own kind once again, being known for who and what I was.
Amanda was an old friend. I had known her when she was still with Rebecca, long before Methos had gone into hiding. It was a pleasant surprise to renew my acquaintance with her during the Kalas affair. Not that she really struck me as MacLeod's type - or maybe that was a touch of jealousy speaking. Whatever, it was beside the point. More importantly, I had taken considerable pleasure from simply being in Mac's company during those unsettled days.
We had, in truth, spent little enough time together and yet I felt as if I had known Mac for years. I had rarely, if ever, felt so comfortable around another Immortal. I might at times feel the inclination to poke fun at Mac's outdated notions of honour, but for all that I knew he took them seriously. So I could allow myself to relax in his company, secure in the knowledge he really didn't have any desire to try for my head. We could be friends.
It was a rare treat - and a precious one to a cynical old SOB like me.
Whatever my reasons for being there, I had turned up on Mac's doorstep without warning and so I didn't really expect him to offer me his hospitality, but he did. There was, it seemed, never any question of my finding myself a hotel room. Mac even offered my own words from our first meeting back to me - 'mi casa es su casa'. It warmed me that he had remembered that. It felt even better to know that he actually meant it.
Over the next few days I tested Mac out to see just how far the bounds of his hospitality extended. I raided his fridge for beer and took over his couch as my own personal space. Mac didn't say a word, no matter what liberties I took. He merely looked at me indulgently from time to time, as if he wanted me to be there. I really hoped that he did...
I had eventually admitted the truth to myself right after Mac finally defeated Kalas. Though, I suppose I had really known it all along after those first few eventful meetings. Anyway, my relief at Mac's survival must have been to blame for the lapse. Normally, I wouldn't have given myself time to even consider such a thing, but having been faced with the possibility of Mac's death - Kalas was no pushover by any means - I finally acknowledged that I was in love with Mac. Well, at first I tried to rationalise it away as simple lust. That was something I knew how to deal with, but after only brief reflection I was inclined to think it ran deeper than that.
To say that this realisation shocked me would be the understatement of the century. Quite simply, I avoided falling in love with Immortals - far too complicated in the long run. Besides, that level of commitment just wasn't in my repertoire. Whichever way I looked at it, though, no other name seemed to suit the feelings I had for Mac.
I can't begin to tell you how jealous I was of Amanda that night when she was able to stay on the barge with Mac while I had to leave with Joe. I wasn't generally given to that particular emotion, but it ran hot in me on that occasion. Oh, I'm sure neither Amanda or Mac noticed anything as I made the effort and managed to keep things light. Joe and I beat a strategic retreat, but I was lousy company for the rest of the evening. I had the uncomfortable feeling Joe guessed why as well.
You underestimate Joe Dawson at your peril. He's one of the shrewdest, most perceptive men I know. He's also become a good friend. I have always appreciated the fact that he was never over-awed by my 50 centuries of experience, nor did he buy into the whole myth that is Methos. He's a very down-to-earth guy, our Joe, and if you're being a bloody idiot he'll tell you so, no matter how many years you have on him.
At any rate, Joe didn't once ask me what was wrong, but there was a look in his eyes that told me he knew anyway. Truthfully, I hadn't realised I was so transparent. Or maybe everyone who was pulled into Duncan MacLeod's orbit became as hopelessly enamoured of the Highlander as I was. Joe had been his Watcher for a long time, perhaps he merely knew from experience what signs to look for.
Back in the here and now in Seacouver ,Mac and I settled into a comfortable enough companionship at the loft. Mac set about trying to save Richie from his own inexperience and, by extrapolation, from Kristin. I went along for the ride and, at the same time, attempted to knock some common sense into Mac's honour-bound brain.
I didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know that if it came down to it, Mac would let Kristin go again. For some reason he wouldn't, or maybe couldn't, see how dangerous she really was to him. Well, I wasn't about to sit idly by and let a vindictive bitch like Kristin take Mac's head while he dutifully adhered to the rules of chivalry. So I lost no opportunity to needle Mac about his naivety. I didn't seem to be getting through to him any more than he was to Richie, though.
Eventually I did manage to provoke a reaction. How? By the simple expedient of trickery! Putting on my best Adam Pierson face I convinced Mac to hand me his sword. I then proceeded to back him up against a wall with the blade at his throat. Trust me, that is a disconcerting experience for any Immortal, irrespective of whether the one with the blade in his hands is friend or foe. Mac went some way towards restoring my faith in him, though, when he tipped me neatly onto my backside on the dojo floor. He then invited me to spar with him.
Well, I'm not one to turn down an opportunity to test myself against someone as good as Mac undoubtedly is. The heated session which followed would have to qualify as one of the most exhilarating experiences of my long life. We each had a point to make to the other and neither of us was about to back down. All in all, it gave our sparring a delightful edge.
I was still a bit rusty, though. I guess I really hadn't been practising enough lately. At any rate, after a fast, hard workout I found myself on my knees at Mac's feet with his sword resting against my throat. Inexplicably I found myself on the verge of laughter. We really do seem to be making something of a habit of that!
While, on the one hand, the situation appealed to my sense of humour I'm sure Mac would have been mortified if he'd known how else the bout had made me react. My whole body felt alive from the adrenaline rush and if I'd been on my feet my arousal would have been perfectly obvious, even to Mac. Maybe the spar hadn't been serious, but there had been just enough danger inherent in the situation to send my hormones into orbit.
Then again, to give Mac his due, perhaps he did have some inkling of what I was feeling. He kept the blade in place, so that I was forced to look up at him from a position of unaccustomed vulnerability. Maybe he was testing me to see what I might do next, I don't know. There was certainly the strangest expression on Mac's face as he stood over me...
With absolutely lousy timing, though, Richie chose that second to arrive at the dojo. With his arrival any possibilities the moment might have offered were lost. The necessary introductions out of the way, I was left to ponder on the might-have-beens.
I didn't get to brood for long. Richie turned out to be every bit the equal of his erstwhile mentor when it came to stubbornness. Mac did his best to warn the kid, but Richie just wasn't listening. To be fair, I couldn't really blame him. Kristin was, on the surface at least, a very beautiful woman and Richie was blessed with a young man's typically healthy libido.
When Richie left with nothing resolved I tried to persuade Mac to let things be. If Richie had to learn the hard way, then so be it. Not surprisingly, Mac didn't agree with me. He chased off after Richie to try again. I knew his efforts would only be counter-productive, though. Kristin was just too good at painting Mac as the jealous ex-lover, and Richie was falling for it in spades.
To make matters worse, Mac still seemed determined not to tell Richie the whole truth about his past association with Kristin. As far as I was concerned, the sorry tale of Louise Barton might just have been the wake-up call Richie needed. The plain fact was that Kristin was a killer. If she decided that she wanted you then you were hers - and if you changed your mind, or someone got in the way of that, then the results were inevitably deadly. It only made it all the more inexplicable to me why Mac wouldn't simply take her head.
After failing once again to talk any kind of sense into Richie, Mac came back to the loft. He was edgy and so he decided he needed a distraction. Mac opted for a stint at the old house he was in the process of renovating. I was inclined to leave him to it, but it was clear Mac still needed to talk so I let him convince me into going along to help with the painting. It's not exactly my favourite occupation, but considering Mac was letting me crash on his couch I agreed to do my bit. In the end, I was glad I did. It turned out to be a far more enlightening experience than I had expected.
Naturally enough, the topic of Richie and Kristin came up for discussion yet again. The latest development was that Mac seemed on the verge of going off on a guilt trip over the fact that he'd finally told Richie he was on his own. Of course, it was what I'd advocated, so I tried once more to point out there was only so much Mac could do. Richie was a big boy now. I also took the opportunity to try for the umpteenth time to get through Mac's thick Scottish skull that his ludicrous notions of chivalry were going to end up getting someone killed.
To my surprise Mac rounded on me with a spirited defence of his ethics. I found it rather engaging as he asked me if I would prefer him to have no code of honour at all. Well, I suppose I couldn't in all honesty say that I would. Mac's honourable nature was at least a part of the reason I'd found him to be such a breath of fresh air in my somewhat jaded existence - besides, I enjoyed teasing him about it. Perhaps the most important reason I was glad of Mac's sense of honour, though, was that without it he might simply have taken my head at our first meeting.
Forced to defend my own corner, I attempted to point out to Mac that survival and worrying about what happens to other people tend not to be compatible options in the long run. Indeed, I considered myself a pretty good advertisement for the merits of looking out for number one. For some reason, though, Mac seemed to find something amusing in that. I have no idea why - I was the one who was still here after 5,000 years, wasn't I?
I would have protested, but before I could utter another word Mac reached across and proceeded to swipe the tip of my nose with his paintbrush. It was such a ridiculous, childish gesture and so unlike anything I might have expected from Mac. It should have irritated the hell out of me, but instead I felt a whole flurry of butterflies chasing one another through my insides. And when I caught the half-embarrassed but fond look that Mac sent my way right afterwards it damn near melted me on the spot.
Fool that I was, though, I couldn't think of a single thing to say to Mac. I just stood and stared at him out of narrowed eyes, trying to figure out where the hell that had come from. Inwardly, I was furious with myself. Here was the best opportunity I was likely to get to broach my feelings for Mac - and yet I did nothing.
After making like a tongue-tied teenager for a few more seconds I simply turned on my heel and went in search of something to clean the paint off my nose with. I suppose a part of me was hoping Mac would call me back, but he didn't.
Inside I was so frustrated at my stupidity I could have screamed. I was quite certain that if I had gone to Mac then and kissed him - which was what I'd wanted to do - he wouldn't have turned me away. The moment had held the same potential as the incident at the end of our spar. Something held me back, though. Perhaps I felt our friendship was still too new to risk adding another layer of complexity to it. Maybe the intensity of what I was feeling at that moment scared me. In the end I couldn't say what stopped me, but it was another chance wasted.
Mac didn't say anything more about what had passed between us when I came back and we simply carried on painting. I didn't like to raise the subject myself either. By the time we returned to the loft it was as if the incident had never happened.
By mutual agreement we settled down to a quiet night in after our exertions at the house. We took turns in the shower and then Mac cooked dinner. We enjoyed the meal in companionable silence. After that we had no more lofty plans than to indulge in a few beers and maybe a game of chess. Things rarely seem to go according to plan around Mac, though, and we were soon interrupted by the arrival of a very dishevelled looking Richie Ryan.
As tends to happen in these situations Richie had finally had a very rude awakening. As predicted Kristin had shown her true colours when Richie had asked her to release his friend Maria from her modelling contract. Kristin's possessive streak had apparently surfaced and as he went to leave her she had tried to take Richie's head. For some reason Richie still didn't seem to appreciate that he wasn't the one in the greatest danger now, though. Mac quickly set him straight and somewhat belatedly Richie dashed off to see to Maria's safety. All of which left Mac to deal with Kristin - again.
It seemed as if Mac wanted to prove a point because he grabbed my coat along with his own. Then he headed for the lift muttering something about my not wanting to miss this. Apparently Mac intended to beard the lioness in her den. It all sounded fine in theory, but I still wasn't convinced that Mac would be able to bring himself to take Kristin's head when it came to it. I quickly decided that I couldn't take the risk that Mac would let her go again. She was doubly dangerous now. In my estimation, Kristin wouldn't stop coming until either she or Mac was dead. I knew which option I preferred.
I didn't voice my doubts to Mac. I didn't want to antagonise him myself. I needed his anger focused where it would do most good, on Kristin. So, I merely followed Mac out of the loft. Perhaps he would yet prove me wrong. Maybe he was just angry enough to get past the chivalry thing and do what needed to be done.
When we arrived at Kristin's place I hung back in the shadows to let Mac face her without my intervention. I was close enough to hear the anger in Mac's voice as he demanded to know where Maria was, though. Predictably Kristin did her best to wrap Mac around her little finger again. She was desperate enough to try anything. I could see from Mac's expression that it wasn't working this time. He was finally getting wise to her trickery. Or perhaps he'd just heard her lies one too many times.
In the end Mac's intuition led us to Maria. She was half-drowned in Kristin's swimming pool in a ghastly echo of Louise Barton's death. We reached Maria in time, though. After we'd pulled her from the water Mac left her in my care and took off after Kristin. I waited there a long time, cradling Maria in my arms to warm her. I kept expecting - hoping - to see the flashes of Quickening fire that would show me Mac had finally done what he should have done so many years earlier. I waited in vain. They didn't come, and the night remained dark and undisturbed.
I should have known, of course. A leopard can't change his spots, as the saying goes. I still couldn't quite believe it, though. Even now, after all that she had done, Mac was going to let Kristin walk away again. I had promised myself I wouldn't interfere, but when it came down to it I just couldn't let this happen.
First I made sure Maria was all right. I even called a cab to take her home, where Richie would doubtless be waiting anxiously for her. I had realised belatedly that I didn't want her to still be around when the fireworks started. That detail taken care of, I set off in the same direction I had seen Mac take earlier.
As I had suspected I would, I found the fight already over. Kristin was on her knees, defeated - and Mac was walking away from her without finishing it. Irrationally angry at Mac's naivety, I drew my sword and stood over Kristin. She simply looked up at me, not understanding, as I demanded she take up her own sword again. Kristin had no idea who I was or why I had chosen to make this my fight. I had no intention of enlightening her on either count, regardless of the usual courtesies of a challenge. As much for Mac's benefit as for Kristin's I told her all she needed to know - that, unlike Mac, I had been born long before the age of chivalry.
For just a moment I thought Mac might intervene, but he didn't. He turned away, leaving the choice up to me. I wasn't expecting his approval, but at least I had his acquiescence. After that it was the work of only a few moments to bring Kristin back to her knees and take her head. I felt neither pity nor remorse - only a sense of relief that it was finally done.
Mac turned back to look at me then, and there was an unwarranted accusation in his eyes. Sometimes I simply didn't understand the man at all. As the first jarring bursts of Kristin's turbulent Quickening hit me I tried once more to make him see why I'd had to do this: why someone had needed to do it - perhaps as much for Kristin's own sake as anything else. Mac did not respond, though, and turned away from me again. I felt a moment of disquiet - had I overstepped the mark? Had I thrown away a friendship over a worthless bitch like Kristin?
Then I had no concentration left to spare for such self-recriminations. It wasn't proving to be an easy Quickening for me to take. In truth, I have never found the experience especially easy to deal with, even at the best of times. It came harder still now - this was my first Quickening in something like 200 years and I had almost forgotten just how overwhelming the experience could be.
The intermingled pain and pleasure of the Quickening's energy grounding itself in my body finally drove me to my knees. I had always hated the momentary loss of self as the essence of another person forced its way into my soul. This time was no different for me. As if from somewhere outside myself I could hear my cries as I struggled to assimilate Kristin's personality and memories.
It seemed to last for a very long time - the lightning strikes and the jumble of images assaulting me in equal measure. I'm sure the perception of so much time passing was just a trick my mind was playing on me, though. Finally, the relentless stream of energy did subside and I slumped forward on the ground, my sword spilling from my hands. I drew long gulps of the cool night air into my oxygen-starved lungs and tried to suppress the violent shivers which began to shake me.
I hated my own weakness as I tried to climb to my feet and failed. My legs felt as if they'd been turned to jelly. Perhaps it had been a mistake to let so much time pass since my last Quickening. In different company, incapacitated as I was, I would have been easy prey. For once I had reason to bless Mac for his code of honour. No matter how angry he might be with me I knew Mac wouldn't take my head while I was like this. Above all else he believed in the concept of a fair fight.
Be that as it may, I also knew that I needed Mac's help now. I really didn't want to ask for it, though. Pride can surface at the most inconvenient moments. Although I didn't say anything Mac still seemed to sense that I needed him and I heard his footsteps approach.
Whatever Mac might have thought of my decision to intervene and take Kristin's head myself, he had evidently set it aside for the time being at least. Apparently I still qualified as an honorary adoptive member of his personal branch of the Clan MacLeod. And, as such, it seemed Mac still felt a certain obligation to help me. He supported me while I finally got my feet under me. Then Mac retrieved my sword, wiping the worst of the blood from the blade before handing it back to me.
I muttered my thanks and tried to move away from Mac as unobtrusively as possible. As my strength returned other imperatives were beginning to assert themselves and I cursed the inevitability of my reaction.
For me, one of the side-effects of taking a Quickening has always been an abrupt and almost painful burst of sexual arousal. I understand it's quite a common reaction, but that was no comfort to me now, as I felt it begin to course through me. It seemed to be fuelled by Kristin's own inherently sensual nature, which inflamed a side of me I can usually keep under control.
As a result, Mac's proximity was becoming an almost unbearable torment. His steadying hand on my arm felt as if it would burn me. It would have been bad enough under normal circumstances, but the thwarted desires I had been harbouring about Mac only made matters worse. I was suddenly afraid that if he didn't let go of me I would lose the fragile control I still had over myself.
Mac seemed quite oblivious to my predicament, though. As I stepped backwards he moved with me. His hands continued to support me. Apparently Mac had taken my movement for a reaction to dizziness or some other equally innocent sign of weakness. Anger - though whether at Mac or myself I couldn't have said - began to build in me. The temptation to lash out at Mac in some way was growing stronger. Rationally I knew it was simply a response to all the energy from the Quickening. It was still flowing through me uneasily, seeking an outlet. Knowing the reason for my anger didn't help suppress the impulses, though.
How could I have forgotten just how difficult this part always was for me? It had been one of the reasons I took so few Quickenings, accepting only those challenges I really couldn't walk away from. I hated feeling this out of control. And yet, this time I was putting myself through it all voluntarily, for a fight that wasn't even mine. For Mac. Gods, I really must be getting old if I was becoming this much of a fool!
With an effort I reined in my emotions. Mac was, by now, watching me with obvious concern. It had to be clear to him that I was having trouble with the Quickening. I just hoped he didn't realise all the ways in which it was affecting me. I didn't need that kind of complication on top of everything else. Mac had seemed to me to be capable of assimilating a Quickening with enviable ease. I wondered if it was because he took so many, or whether he was just lucky that way. Whatever, I could have used a little of that ability myself round about now.
"Methos, are you all right?" Mac finally broke the silence that had fallen over us. The sound of his voice momentarily startled me.
Such a stupid question! Did I look as if I was all right? I bit back the angry retort. This wasn't his fault, not really. I'd made the decision to take Kristin's head all by myself. Mac didn't deserve the sharp edge of my tongue because I was suffering for my own stupidity. Nor did he deserve all the other things my increasing arousal was tempting me to do to him either. I really needed Mac to get me back to the loft - and soon - so I could find at least a measure of privacy to deal with this problem myself.
"Mac, please, I'm fine." I surprised myself with how normal I managed to sound. "You don't have to hold me up any more. I'm quite capable of standing by myself. I could really use a beer, though, so let's just get back to the loft, OK. Oh, and you don't have to worry about Maria. I got her a cab." I was intensely grateful now for that piece of foresight. "She'll be safely home by now. Just tip Kristin's body in the water," I added callously, "and that's all the loose ends accounted for - it's over." I finished my recitation and looked at Mac expectantly.
"Is it?" Mac held my gaze steadily, one dark brow raised in question.
"Yes!" I insisted, but I knew my expression told a different story. I tore my eyes away from Mac's intent stare. "Yes, it is," I repeated for emphasis. I was well aware Mac wasn't buying it, though.
"You're having a problem with Kristin's Quickening, aren't you?" he persisted.
Tell me something I don't know, bright boy! The sharp words were on the tip of my tongue, but I held them back. There was no point in giving Mac any more ammunition.
"Methos, talk to me... please." Mac's hands tightened their grip on me. It was too much. A low moan escaped me.
"Mac, I'm warning you," I begged, "just let go of me. If you don't I won't be held responsible for my actions."
"What do you mean? Would you challenge me?" he asked with charming naivety.
"Damn it, MacLeod!" I finally took matters into my own hands and wrenched myself free of him. Trying to distract myself, I moved to complete the distasteful task of clearing away all evidence of the fight. I watched Kristin's body disappear into the water with a sense of relief. One danger out of the way...
I should have kept my mouth shut at that point, but I couldn't. For some reason Mac's obtuseness was really getting to me. It irritated the hell out of me that he was so calm when my nerves were in shreds. "Sometimes I just don't believe you!" I snarled. "Doesn't anything ever affect you? Are Quickenings really so easy for you to deal with? Well, forgive the rest of us for being less than perfect!"
"No, of course they're not!" Mac snapped back. "But I know there's more here than you're telling me, Methos."
My first instinct was to laugh at him. Fine, he wanted to know what was wrong; I'd tell him. At least then he'd leave me alone and I could take care of the ache that was driving me mad. "Mac, I have just taken my first Quickening in 200 years."
I spoke very slowly, as if I was explaining the obvious to a child. "You know what happens when I take a Quickening? I need to have sex afterwards. I'm not especially fussy about who, or how. I just need to... relieve the pressure, one way or another. So, use your imagination, Mac, it's been 200 years since the last one - just think about how I might be feeling right now."
Mac had followed me to the water's edge. He stood beside me as I watched the fading ripples which marked Kristin's final resting-place. To my surprise he didn't back away or look at me in disgust after my outburst. He merely shook his head.
"For Christ's sake, Methos, you're a bloody idiot! Why didn't you just say? It's not as if you're the only one of us who reacts that way," he informed me bluntly.
"Well, it's not something I care to advertise!" I snapped. Damn, that meant he wasn't going to leave. In which case I needed him to get me home as quickly as possible. "Now, if you're through empathising with me, will you just get us back to the loft before I do something I regret!"
"It's OK, Methos," he soothed.
I noticed Mac had renewed his grip on my arm and I wondered just what kind of game he thought he was playing.
"I'm not offended. Did you think I would be? Good God, it's a natural enough reaction. Come on then, let's go home and then we'll deal with this."
"We, MacLeod?" I eyed him suspiciously. "This is my problem."
"Yeah, we, Methos. I won't have you hiding away and pretending this never happened. What did you have planned? A quick date with your hand in the shower?" Mac glared at me, defying me to contradict him.
I shrugged, admitting nothing.
"Well, it's not gonna happen," he said firmly. "Friends help - and I'm sure we can come up with a better solution than that."
I stared at Mac in utter disbelief. Seeing my confusion he grinned back at me. It was just about the last reaction I would have expected from him. Mac tugged at my arm, but I dug my heels in and refused to be moved.
"Do you know what you're actually saying? I - what I need..." I had to be sure.
"Yeah, I know, Methos." Mac was suddenly serious again. "It's fine. Now, will you come on."
When Mac pulled at my arm again I followed without further resistance. How could I do otherwise when I'd just been offered everything I had been wishing for from the moment I arrived in Seacouver?
I tried my best to relax during the drive back to the dojo, but the currents of Quickening energy and sexual arousal left my nerves raw. I leaned my head back against the seat and closed my eyes. I didn't want to know how far we still were from the refuge of the loft. Mac left me in peace and it gave me the time to reflect on his unexpected offer. I wondered anew about exactly what had prompted it.
I still believed Mac had been well aware of the tension between us, both during our sparring session and earlier at the old house. That didn't mean he wanted the same things I did out of the situation, though. I certainly wouldn't put it past the damned Highlander to do this now either out of pity, or from a misguided sense of doing what was best for a friend. There was no denying it had warmed me when Mac announced 'friends help'. But what if that's all it was to him? Where Mac was concerned, I wasn't sure that was enough for me.
The thought of spending one night in Mac's bed and then trying to go back to the way things had been before held no real appeal for me. In the beginning I would have accepted anything he cared to offer me, but not any more. If that's all he was offering then I didn't want it, I realised. I would sooner resort to the scant comfort of my own hand than torment myself that way. It went against every instinct I had ever cultivated, but at that moment I found I was seriously contemplating the type of commitment I had always shied away from.
Sooner than I expected the car came to a halt. I opened my eyes to see the blocky outline of the dojo looming over us. I avoided looking at Mac as we both got out of the car and made our way inside. I was still one big knot of tension, but I wasn't going to relax my guard until I knew exactly what Mac had in mind.
Standing so close to Mac in the confines of the lift was a trial. I could feel his warmth, smell the clean scent of him. As soon as he raised the gate I escaped into the comparative safety of the loft. I tossed my coat carelessly across a chair and found a momentary distraction in checking the condition of my sword.
I was peripherally aware of Mac moving around the loft, but I still started when he sat down beside me on the couch. His outstretched hand held a beer, which I accepted gratefully. I set my sword aside as I took it. I savoured the beer, taking a long drink from the bottle. All the while I was very aware of Mac watching me. The banked fires of my arousal began to burn again in earnest.
"You're having second thoughts, aren't you?" Mac's voice was rough as he finally broke the silence between us. "Why?"
"It was a bad idea in the first place," I replied with a non-committal shrug. "I appreciate the offer, Mac, don't think that I don't. But I'll deal with it myself - better that way, for both of us."
"Why?" he asked again. I wondered at his persistence. Then Mac's dark eyes caught mine, held me fast in his intent gaze. "We've been dancing around this ever since you got here, Methos - and don't bother trying to deny it. I'm not stupid."
"You read too much into things, Mac," I insisted, and wished that I meant it.
"No I don't!" Mac leaned closer to me and I felt my pulse rate shoot off the scale. "We both know that if Richie hadn't turned up the day we sparred we wouldn't need to be having this conversation now."
So, I had read him right that day. He had known what I was feeling. And was he trying to tell me now that it had been reciprocated? Desire spiked in me again. I wanted Mac - needed the release desperately. But before I finally gave in to the impulses driving me I had to be certain of one thing.
"Mac, I need you to tell me something. Please be honest with me. It's important." I tried to convey to him with my eyes just how important.
"It's OK, Methos. What do you want to know?" he asked softly.
"Why are you doing this?"
After a long pause I saw realisation dawn in Mac's eyes, followed by an unexpected hurt. "You think it's only because of the Quickening, don't you?"
"Well, isn't it?" I hadn't meant to sound quite so harsh, but I was on the edge of control.
"No!" Mac's denial was more vehement than I'd expected. "I wouldn't do that to you, Methos. You deserve better than that. I know what you feel. I've seen it in your eyes when you look at me sometimes - maybe you didn't even realise. I hoped we'd be able to get it all out in the open while you were here, but things just kept getting in the way. Maybe the aftermath of a Quickening isn't the best time for this, but if that's what it takes to get us to be honest with one another, so be it.
"I want you, Methos. I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual. Are you going to keep on denying it? Or are you finally going to let me in?"
I blinked, dizzy with the possibilities raised by Mac's words. The Highlander desired me... At last I allowed myself to believe that this was real.
With as much restraint as I could muster I bridged the remaining distance between us. My lips closed over Mac's, brushing lightly against their softness, when in reality I wanted to kiss him until they were bruised and swollen from my attentions. I felt Mac's sharply indrawn breath and then his mouth opened to me, moist and inviting. It was too much. The last vestiges of my control deserted me and I launched myself at Mac. I pushed him back onto the couch and bent over him, devouring his mouth hungrily.
He seemed not at all dismayed by my actions. On the contrary, Mac kissed back with equal passion, until we were both breathless and drowning in desire. Somehow, though, Mac found enough control to hold me off as I leaned in for another kiss.
"No, Methos, wait," he insisted, as I tried to find a way round his defences. "Let's take this to the bed, OK?"
Impatiently I climbed off of Mac and set aside our forgotten bottles of beer. I grabbed his hands and hauled him to his feet. He came willingly enough. I stole another deep kiss from him, feeling the response in Mac's body as I pressed myself against him. It felt so good, but eventually I released him. I tugged him along after me as I traversed the length of the loft to Mac's soft, wide bed. I tumbled us both down onto it, heedless of the fact that we were still fully clothed.
I rained a torrent of kisses over Mac's face and neck. He tilted his head back to allow me better access and I gratefully accepted the invitation. Mac's warm skin was lightly sheened with sweat and I licked at the salty moisture before laying a trail of soft bites down to the hollow of his throat. I could feel the vibration against my tongue as Mac moaned. Next I explored further, finding his pulse point and sucking at the tender skin covering it. Giving in to temptation I bit just hard enough to graze the skin. I wanted to mark Mac as my own, albeit briefly.
Mac was responding to my rough caresses, arching up into me. Even through our clothes I could feel that he was just as aroused as I was. And then I didn't want the barrier of clothing between us any more.
With impatient hands I started to pull off my own clothes. Rolling away from Mac I began by dispensing with boots and socks. Mac took his cue from me and in seconds was stripping with equal efficiency. We tossed the discarded garments carelessly onto the floor, heedless of where they fell. All that mattered to either of us now was the relentless need driving us.
I had fewer layers of clothing to remove than Mac did and so I was ready for him the moment he was naked. I allowed myself no time to look at the body I'd been dreaming about for months. That could come later. For now I simply needed to find release from the pent up energy that had been coursing through me since I took Kristin's Quickening.
I pressed Mac back onto the bed, covering his body with my own. I wanted to be inside him, but I had no patience for lengthy preparations. At least I retained enough control not to simply force my way into Mac's body regardless. I wanted his pleasure in this act as much as my own; if I hurt him now, I feared he wouldn't care to repeat the experience.
I have to admit that the Methos of old wouldn't have cared about such things. Once I would have taken what I needed without any consideration for my partner's comfort. In this at least I had come a long way since those days - the veneer of civilisation overlaid my baser instincts. Now it mattered to me what Mac thought of me. So I tempered my desire and settled on a compromise that should satisfy both of us. I would complete my claiming of Mac's body when we both had more control over our actions and could take the time needed to make the experience utterly pleasurable for each of us.
For now, I pinned Mac beneath me. I pushed his arms up above his head, trapping his wrists. It pulled the muscles of his chest into higher definition. Entranced, I bent my head to capture first one brown nipple and then the other. I caught them in my teeth and nipped at them sharply.
My Highlander writhed under me and softly cried out my name. I bit down harder, encouraging him to a more intense reaction. I wasn't disappointed in the results. Mac's hips drove up from the bed powerfully. His swollen cock slid against my own hard flesh, creating a delightful friction. Loud groans of pleasure were ripped from both our throats.
I braced myself and began to thrust back in counterpoint to Mac's movements. We quickly fell into a fast, hard rhythm that left us both gasping for breath. I could feel the tightness in my groin that told me the much-needed release was close. I flung my head back with a cry as I drove myself harder against Mac's infinitely willing body.
The violent tremors of my climax finally overtook me and I felt Mac tense under me as well. As we came the sticky warmth was spread between our bodies, easing the glide of skin against skin. Together we rode the intense sensations, revelling in our mutual release.
As the final pulses of fluid left my body I felt the frenetic intensity of Kristin's Quickening abate as well. It took the last of my energy with it and I collapsed heavily on top of Mac's lax body. I could hear the steady rhythm of his heartbeat and it soothed me. Mac brought his arms up to hold me close and I relaxed into the comforting warmth of the embrace. My weight didn't seem to trouble Mac so I made no effort to move off of him. It felt too good to be where I was. This was something I could easily become accustomed to.
One of Mac's hands crept up to gently stroke the sweat-dampened spikes of my hair. I finally made the effort and propped myself up on my elbows so that I could see Mac's face. So often the Highlander's emotions were written plainly there and I wanted to know what this had meant to him. Mac's expression was serene and he smiled at me affectionately as our eyes locked.
"You look a wreck," he observed gently.
It was unflattering, but probably the truth. I certainly felt pretty much of a wreck. The combined intensity of the Quickening and making love with Mac had seen to that. For that matter, Mac didn't look a whole lot better himself. His long, dark hair was a mess. It had escaped from its clasp and was plastered to the damp skin of Mac's cheeks and neck. The rest of him was indisputably sticky. A major clean-up operation was in order, but neither of us had the energy or the inclination for it.
"So do you," I eventually muttered, tiredly. I was way beyond being able to think up a more snappy comeback. "Was good, though," I felt compelled to add.
"Yeah, it was, wasn't it." Mac's eyes sparkled with sudden fire and I felt an answering warmth bloom deep inside me. "Maybe next time we could take the scenic route, though."
"Next time?" I hated myself for asking, and even more so for the uncertainty I could hear in my voice.
"You do want there to be a next time, don't you?" Mac asked, clearly surprised.
"Of course, but... Well, I wasn't sure if..." Mac's hand carefully covered my mouth, effectively silencing me.
"Sleep, Methos," he said with a gentle shake of his head. "Maybe when you're less tired you won't have so much trouble getting your brain around the patently obvious."
I wasn't inclined to argue. The call of sleep was seductive. The promise of a 'next time' sounded even better. I co-operated willingly as Mac eased me into a more comfortable position at his side. Within moments I slept...
Unusually for me I woke early the next morning. A pleasantly heavy lethargy pervaded my limbs, but the most striking sensation I was aware of was the intense warmth plastered along the length of my back. Mac, I realised, as I also processed the fact that I was comfortably ensconced in his bed rather than in my normal place on the couch. Ah, yes, I remembered...
Carefully I turned over so that I could watch him sleep. It was a mistake. With the sight of him came the remembrance of exactly what we had done the night before. It hit me full force - every detail replaying itself in my mind's eye - and frankly, now that what I had wished for had happened, it terrified me. Oh, make no mistake, it had been wonderful; everything I could possibly have imagined and more besides. The bone-deep contentment my body felt was a rare joy. And, as far as I had been able to tell, Mac had taken as much pleasure in the experience as I had. So why was I afraid?
It didn't take much effort on my part to work it out. After all, I knew my own nature well enough. Mac's assurance that there would be a 'next time' for us - and my own desire for it - was what scared me the most. Last night, basking in the pleasant afterglow of sex, I had been able to ignore my natural instincts. In the cold light of morning my practical side reasserted itself.
While we had danced around the edges of our attraction to one another it had all been little more than a pleasant game, a fantasy. I could safely imagine building a long-term relationship with Mac because it seemed so unlikely we would ever act on that attraction. But now we had changed the rules. The fantasy had become a reality. And reality is much harsher than dreams. I could clearly see the dangers inherent in the situation.
The thought of staying with Mac and exploring this new aspect of our relationship was definitely a seductive one, though. Setting hard-headed practicality aside for a moment, I was surer than ever that I loved Mac. Another good reason for me to be afraid, if I needed one. The truth was, now that love was effectively out in the open between us, it raised some awkward questions - ones I had been able to ignore before.
To the world at large I was still Adam Pierson, a Watcher. What the hell would my peers think when - and I was far too much of a realist to think in terms of if rather than when - they found out I was involved with an Immortal? Perhaps more importantly, what would my superiors say? Doubtless there would be questions asked. How could I answer them? Would I be held to have violated my Watcher oath? Was it even possible that someone would put two and two together and realise I was Immortal? All in all, it wasn't something I cared to think about.
Then there were the purely personal considerations of my continued safety and survival. I had survived by blending into the background, not calling attention to myself or making myself a target in any way. On the other hand, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod was very probably the most visible of Immortals and a magnet for every headhunter in town. At his side I could hardly hope to remain invisible and avoid the machinations of the Game. I had already taken my first Quickening in 200 years. I would be incredibly naive if I assumed it would be the last for as many years again.
And finally there was the most terrifying prospect of all - the thought of committing to another Immortal. It was something I'd studiously avoided for a very long time. The possibility of forever had always been enough to have me packing my bags and heading for the door. I could feel the urge to do just that now. But Duncan MacLeod was something new under the sun, and so another part of me argued against running. Hadn't I told myself I didn't want Mac if I could only have him for the one night? Which proved nothing, except that I was a fool who didn't know what I did want.
I closed my eyes. The enticing sight of Mac, asleep with his dark hair in disarray around his relaxed features, was hardly conducive to clear thinking. It didn't help. My other senses were also conspiring against me. I could feel the warmth radiating off of Mac's skin. And even more evocative, I could clearly smell the heady scent of sex that surrounded us both. My brain could argue all it liked, but in the end my senses won out - partially, at least.
A week. There, I had made my decision. I would stay here for another week, maybe two. Then we would see. If I ran out now, before Mac woke, he probably wouldn't understand. Yes, I had made the rational choice. If I left, Mac would doubtless see it as a rejection of what he had offered me. There was a real risk I could lose his friendship altogether. In the long run, that was what mattered to me - more than the momentary pleasures of Mac's body.
Last night had been wonderful, there was no denying that. I would treasure the memory of it. It would be insane to consider repeating the experience, though, much too dangerous for my peace of mind. First and foremost, Mac and I were friends. That was what we would concentrate on. I had to make sure Mac understood how much I valued that friendship and leaving now wasn't the way to accomplish that. But I also had to be certain Mac saw last night was a once only experience.
I didn't think that ought to be too difficult to manage. I had accused Mac of offering himself to me purely because of the Quickening. I knew now that wasn't true, but it seemed to me all I had to do was convince Mac that my actions had been driven by the aftermath of Kristin's Quickening and nothing else. I was perfectly well aware that this was equally untrue, but I considered this particular lie to be in a good cause.
With my mind made up I finally opened my eyes again. Carefully - I didn't want to wake Mac - I slipped out of the beautifully warm bed. Padding on bare feet to the other end of the loft I found the stack of bedding I had been using during my stay. Shivering in the chill air I quickly made up the couch. I cast one final longing look at Mac's sleeping form and then crawled between the cold sheets.
I had made the right decision, I told myself firmly. I only wished my traitorous body could be convinced of that fact. It continued to shiver, already missing Mac's comforting warmth. More importantly, though, I hoped Mac himself would understand and respect the choice I had made.
I must have drifted back to sleep, because the next thing I was aware of was the smell of fresh coffee filling the loft. Mac was up and about in the kitchen preparing breakfast. As I lay there silently, watching him move gracefully around the small area, I felt a momentary regret for the decision I had taken. My body was certainly having second thoughts about it. It remembered the sensation of being skin to skin with Mac, feeling his touch - and I was reacting predictably.
I must have made some sound as I shifted uneasily under the sheets because Mac glanced in my direction, evidently realising that I was awake. To his credit, he made no comments on the revised sleeping arrangements, though. Still, I couldn't help wondering what he had thought when he first woke up, alone in his bed. At any rate, Mac merely poured another cup of coffee and brought it over to me.
I kept the sheets pulled tightly around me as I sat up to take the cup from Mac. I was suddenly acutely aware of my nakedness and I didn't want Mac to see how his presence had aroused me. I managed to thank him calmly enough for the coffee. In return I received a warm smile from Mac that threatened my resolve all over again.
"How are you feeling?" Mac asked carefully. I could also see the other, unspoken, question in his eyes. I hadn't expected the stab of guilt I felt and I had to look away before I could answer.
"Me? Just great," I replied, when I trusted my voice enough to speak. "Never better."
I allowed some of the warmth I felt towards Mac into my tone. I really didn't want him to believe that last night held no meaning for me at all. I just needed him to understand that friendship was all there could be between us - and I thanked the Gods that I'd had such long practice at making my lies seem to be the truth. I was being a coward not looking at Mac, I knew. So I forced myself to look up and meet those dark eyes of his once more. They held puzzlement and a deeper shadowing of hurt.
"Methos..." Mac began speaking the moment I raised my head. I knew if I let him continue I would never have the chance to say what needed to be said. I simply wouldn't be able to resist giving him the truth, and then where would I be? I shook my head slowly and Mac reluctantly fell silent again, waiting. I knew that I needed to choose my words very carefully now.
"I was wondering, Mac, could I ask a favour?" I kept my tone light, diffident. "I don't like to impose... Well, I know I only came out here because of the Kristin thing, and now that's resolved... The truth is, I could use a bit more of a break from Paris and... Well, would it be a problem if I hung around here for another couple of weeks?"
The smile Mac bestowed upon me as I finished my little recitation was almost enough to melt me on the spot. The shadows faded from his eyes and I knew I had done the right thing in staying. Even if we weren't talking about last night, Mac at least knew I wasn't rejecting him because of it. The relief I felt, knowing our friendship was intact, made me dizzy.
"Crash here as long as you like. You should know you'll always be welcome," Mac assured me.
"Mi casa es su casa!" We ended up chanting the familiar words in unison. The laughter which followed went a long way towards dispelling the remaining tension between us.
I was pretty sure Mac would insist on talking about our night together at some point, but at least I had bought myself a little space. Maybe by the time the issue couldn't be avoided any longer we would both have a better perspective on what had happened. A little time, some emotional distance, and it would be easy enough to accept it for what it was - a moment of Quickening-induced madness.
Yeah, and if I told myself often enough that was all it had been I might even be able to convince myself it was true...
Continued in part 2