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 August 1999.
With thanks to Margaret for reading and commenting.
Methos reclined on the large beach towel he'd spread on the golden sand and tilted his head back to stare at the seemingly limitless canvas of the sky above him. As he watched the huge orb of the sun began its stately progression towards the horizon. Both the cloudless sky and the sea were painted with broad strokes of orange and red. Methos liked to watch the sunset; he derived a strangely elemental pleasure from it. He had seen countless thousands of them through the millenia, but the striking beauty of the spectacle never failed to move him. Sometimes it seemed to the oldest Immortal as if such natural wonders were the only constant in his life.
The evening was still warm and Methos enjoyed the soft breeze which rolled in with the breaking waves. The sand also retained a measure of heat as Methos stretched out a hand, scooping up the fine grains and then letting them spill slowly through his long fingers. A gentle sigh escaped the old Immortal. A beautiful sunset was all well and good, he thought, but how much better it would be if he had someone here to share the wonder of it with him.
Someone like Duncan MacLeod, perhaps? a treacherous voice deep inside him enquired. Ah, yes... but after the events of the past few months that was unlikely in the extreme, for all that Methos might wish it otherwise.
With a grimace Methos reviewed his memories of the most recent encounters he'd had with the Highlander. They read like some tacky, sensationalist paperback novel - if he hadn't been there he would never have believed such a catalogue of disasters could be real! The less said about the whole Horsemen debacle the better, Methos decided. Dwelling on the sudden, unwelcome reappearance of Kronos and Cassandra and the mess they'd managed to stir up was enough to give anyone nightmares - and Methos preferred to rest easy at night.
But the fact remained, that was where the rift between himself and Duncan had begun, where the trust between them had broken down. Or perhaps it was fairer to say it had been when Duncan's trust in him had been lost. After all, he had never trusted Duncan, had he? At least, not enough to tell him the truth about his past - and then it had been too late for him to do so. Others had stepped in and told the Highlander their versions of the truth and Methos had been left to deal with Duncan's shattered illusions about him. It had surprised Methos just how much it had hurt when Duncan told him they were through - he hadn't realised how important their relationship had become until it was snatched away from him.
Then, for a while, Methos had thought things were finally improving between them again. At Amanda's behest he had intervened in the Stephen Keane affair. Duncan couldn't be said to have been grateful for what he'd done, but at least they'd been talking to one another almost civilly. Though, if Methos had thought he might be welcomed back into Duncan's bed any time soon, he had quickly been put right on that score. Duncan had very deliberately begun to seduce Amanda right under his nose on the barge that night. It wasn't exactly subtle - and it wasn't like Duncan to score points like that - but Methos had got the message loud and clear.
Still, even if he had been excluded from Duncan's bed, Methos was at least getting to see him socially again. Which was how Duncan had come face to face with another unknown facet of Methos' past - his association with the dissolute Byron.
Methos had sensed the antagonism radiating from Duncan the moment he made the introductions. Was Duncan jealous of the charismatic poet turned rock star who breezed in as if he owned the place and casually greeted his old friend - not to mention teacher and lover - Doctor Adams? Methos had never seen Duncan act quite so territorially as he did over the next few days - and, to his surprise, he himself seemed to be the piece of territory Duncan wanted to claim!
It might have been entertaining, watching the two Immortals vying for his attention, if the hapless mortal Mike Paladini hadn't got caught in Byron's self-destructive web along the way. His desire to emulate his hero - something he couldn't hope to do without the safety net of Immortality - had led to the kid's death. Predictably enough, Duncan had promptly gone on another of his moralistic crusades, judging Byron and finding him wanting. While Methos had regretted Mike's death as much as Duncan did, he was disinclined to be so judgemental. He had done his best to dissuade both Duncan and Byron from the challenge, but the clash had been inevitable - as had the eventual outcome.
Methos had sincerely mourned the loss of the genius he had once known - and loved. The brilliant, if unpredictable soul he had guided through the first heady days of his Immortality. But, in his heart, Methos had eventually admitted Duncan was right. The excesses which had once fed Byron's creativity had become nothing more than a fruitless attempt to fill the aching void left by its loss. Byron's flame had long ago burned itself out, leaving only an empty shell. For all that, it had still hurt to have Duncan take another piece of his past from him and crush it into nothingness.
The morning after Byron's death Methos had packed his bags and fled Paris. He needed to restore his own spirit. Grateful that he had shed the grad student lifestyle of Adam Pierson, Methos had booked himself a first class ticket to the Caribbean. And so here he was - enjoying the warmth and relaxed atmosphere of this tiny island paradise, but feeling more alone than he had in a long while.
The dying sun traversed the remainder of its daily journey with surprising speed before sinking below the gold-capped waves. Methos watched the impressive display and then remained in solitude on the now dark beach. Overhead the night sky began to gleam with the light of stars and the old Immortal kept watch as the familiar constellations began to take shape. Methos sat there in silence until the sea breeze made him shiver with its chill touch. Finally, he climbed to his feet with a sigh and gathered up his towel, cooler and the books he had been reading earlier in the day. Then Methos made his way slowly back to the beach house he was renting and the unappealing prospect of another lonely night in the too big bed.
The following morning - after drinking enough coffee to negate the worst effects of yet another restless night - Methos set out to do it all over again. He loaded up his cooler with plenty of bottles of beer and stuffed a towel and his journal into a bag. While Methos didn't go so far as to carry his sword with him to the beach in this isolated spot, his survival instincts nevertheless compelled him to also pack a small, nicely weighted knife and a gun. It never hurt to be careful, after all. A bottle of suntan oil completed Methos' packing. His fair skin tended to burn even after a couple of weeks' exposure to the sun and, while it healed soon enough, Methos preferred to avoid the discomfort in the first place.
His preparations completed, Methos gathered up his things and headed for the beach. He had staked out a good spot for lounging early in his stay. A clump of palm trees provided a measure of shade, but the sand beneath them was still warm and soft. Methos could watch the almost hypnotic advance and retreat of the clear greenish-blue waves, but they never came too close to his position, even at high tide.
Methos spread his towel and sat down, once again admiring the view that was his alone to enjoy. He didn't usually mind keeping his own company - Methos had spent long periods of time on his own in the past - but this particular paradise just cried out to be shared. Methos sighed, annoyed at the melancholy turn his mood had taken so early on this beautiful day.
He reached into his duffel bag and pulled out the suntan oil, spreading it liberally over his chest and long limbs. How much nicer it would be to have another pair of hands - broad, strong hands with calloused palms - to do this for him, Methos reflected. He quickly clamped down on the wistful thought. No, he wasn't going to think about the damned Highlander today!
That was a forlorn hope, Methos knew. He might have fled here to get away from Duncan and his high-handed judgements, but his thoughts still strayed to Duncan with predictable regularity. Why had he let the bloody boy scout get under his skin so thoroughly? The whole thing was a recipe for disaster - he'd known it from the very beginning. But like a moth to a flame Methos had kept finding himself drawn back to Duncan's bright presence. And he'd had his wings thoroughly scorched for his pains!
Methos opened the cooler and pulled out a beer. It was far too early to start drinking, but he didn't care. If he drank enough it just might blur the edges of the hurt which had once again wrapped itself around him, at least for a little while. Methos flipped off the cap and took a long swallow of the beer. The cool liquid felt very good going down his throat. He dragged his duffel bag up to use as a pillow and stretched himself out on the towel. Silently Methos toasted the deserted beach. To another bloody day in paradise...
Whether it was because of the bottles of beer - consumed much too fast - or the heat of the sun, Methos couldn't have said, but soon enough the old Immortal fell asleep in his tree-shaded spot. Or maybe his body was simply exacting payment for the recent spate of sleepless nights. Either way, Methos was utterly oblivious to the sun's slow climb towards its zenith at noon and the start of its descent as morning gave way to afternoon. He would probably have stayed asleep considerably longer had the warning buzz of another Immortal's presence not filtered into his brain, bringing Methos instantly awake. Cursing in several long-dead languages he reached behind him for his pack and the weapons it held. Before Methos could open the duffel and pull them out, though, a familiar voice interrupted his actions.
"You needn't bother, Methos, I'm not here for your head. Unless you want mine, of course..." There was enough uncertainty in the tone to make it clear the speaker was unsure of his welcome.
Methos turned, looking up at the tall figure of Duncan MacLeod. The Highlander stood between Methos and the sun, casting a long shadow over him.
"MacLeod? How the hell...?" Methos frowned and began to scramble to his feet, but Duncan put out a hand to stop him. Instead, Duncan dropped down onto the sand at Methos' side.
"Joe managed to trace the reservation you'd made." Duncan pulled a face. "He wasn't exactly keen on the idea when I first asked him, but I guess he got fed up of me moping around his bar and making his life a misery. I suspect he was glad to see the back of me in the end."
"So now you've come to make my life a misery instead. How nice of you, MacLeod," retorted Methos sharply.
"Methos, don't..." Duncan sighed.
"Why the hell are you here, Mac? Since when did you start checking up on me? Worried about the company I might be keeping?" Methos glanced sideways at the tense form beside him and saw Duncan flinch slightly at the acid tone of his voice.
The old Immortal also couldn't help but notice that Duncan was dressed for the climate in a tight white T-shirt and faded denim shorts that showed off the strong muscles of his legs. Duncan's already tanned skin gleamed golden in the late afternoon sunlight. Methos had to look away quickly. His entirely justifiable irritation with the Highlander for following him uninvited was threatening to transmute into something else altogether. No, Methos told himself disgustedly, he wasn't that easy! It was true that he'd been wishing Duncan was here with him, but just because Duncan was currently sitting next to him looking good enough to eat didn't mean that Methos wasn't still damned annoyed with him.
If Duncan was aware of the ambivalence of Methos' reaction to his sudden appearance he gave no outward sign of it. He had thought long and hard before asking Joe to try and track down the elusive Immortal for him. In the end Duncan's desire to try and put things right between himself and Methos had won out over his usual inclination, which was to allow the old Immortal his privacy when he pulled off one of his disappearing acts.
As it happened, Joe reported back that Methos had made no particular effort to cover his tracks this time. Instead of the multiple reservations he normally made Methos had purchased just the one ticket. Perhaps all the oldest Immortal wanted was a holiday, not to vanish altogether. Duncan knew from past experience that if Methos didn't want to be found, he wouldn't be. The clear trail the other Immortal had left had made up Duncan's mind. Methos was making it possible for Duncan to follow him, so he would. All of which had led Duncan to this beautiful Caribbean beach and the uncommunicative Immortal sitting by his side.
Duncan considered Methos' questions. Why was he here? That was the only important one, the one that actually demanded an answer. And what it boiled down to was Duncan's need to stop his relationship with Methos from deteriorating any further. Things seemed to have gone from bad to worse between them lately and Duncan was aware that the blame for that fell on both of them. He still didn't like all of the things he had been learning about Methos' past, but Duncan's own brush with Stephen Keane had at least brought home to him that people could change. He was certainly no longer the cold-blooded, vengeance-seeking murderer of the days following Culloden. And if he accepted that he had changed that much, could he in all conscience deny that Methos had done the same?
Had it not been for the untimely appearance of Byron things might have settled down between them sooner, but Byron had brought out the worst in Duncan, it seemed. With the benefit of hindsight Duncan could see that at least some of his decisions had been guided by jealousy. Byron's proprietary attitude towards Methos had raised his hackles. Had Mike Paladini's death not provided him with a ready excuse, he would have found another reason to challenge Byron.
Blinking to clear his head of these unsettling thoughts, Duncan discovered that Methos was watching him expectantly. Ah yes, he still hadn't answered Methos' questions, but first Duncan had one of his own.
"You weren't all that difficult to find this time - or so Joe tells me. Somehow I don't believe you're just getting careless in your old age; so did you expect me to come after you?"
"I didn't expect anything from you, Mac - not any more." Methos sounded tired. Much too tired for a man who had spent the past week relaxing on a beach.
Duncan looked at him again, but Methos' face gave nothing away. Finally the Highlander gave Methos his answer. "I came to apologise," he said softly. Duncan was aware of the old Immortal's instant scepticism. "No, I mean it. I'm sorry - and not just about Byron. I don't know why, but every time a part of your past surfaces I just don't know how to handle it. And that's my problem, not yours, but it's you I seem to take it out on." Duncan frowned. "I've really screwed up these past few months, haven't I?"
"You said it, MacLeod." Methos shook his head. "But let's face it, my past just doesn't match up to your exacting standards, does it? I'm not, never have been and never will be the paragon of virtue you seem to want me to be. Sorry to disappoint you, Mac, but..."
"You're just a guy. Yeah, I know. I've heard that one before," interrupted Duncan with a weary sigh. "It hasn't all been about that, though," he added.
"No?" Again Methos looked doubtful.
"No," Duncan responded firmly. "Oh, with Kronos and the Horsemen maybe that was true, but not with Byron."
"So, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll don't quite rate up there with murder, pillage and rape...Yeah, maybe you do have a point," Methos shot back flippantly.
"Methos, stop it!" Duncan turned to the other Immortal and glared at him angrily. "I'm trying to explain something to you here and you're not making it very easy."
"Maybe I could say the same thing about the time you condemned me on Cassandra's word alone," retorted Methos, stung. "I don't recall you making many concessions then, when I wanted to tell you my side of the story."
Duncan dropped his gaze despondently. Were they never going to be able to put this whole mess behind them? "At least I heard you out," he said finally. "I am sorry, Methos, whether you believe it or not. Now, will you at least let me finish?"
"Oh, be my guest." Methos grabbed another bottle of beer from his cooler, pointedly not offering one to Mac. "You were saying?"
The feigned expression of polite interest on Methos' face irritated Duncan and he drew in a deep breath, trying not to lose his temper. It seemed that Methos was deliberately trying to provoke him.
"I was trying to explain - about Byron," said Duncan with all the patience he could muster. "I won't lie to you, I didn't like the man. I hated the way he used people, but most of all... most of all, I was jealous."
To Duncan's surprise, Methos' reaction to this revelation was to throw back his head and laugh.
"Really? I hadn't noticed," snorted Methos sarcastically, once he had his laughter back under control. "Gods, Mac, you were so busy marking your territory I half expected you to piss on my doorstep! It might even have been amusing, under other circumstances. But in case you hadn't noticed I'm not your property, MacLeod. I'm a big boy now and I can chose my own friends - whether you happen to like them or not."
"I know," said Duncan softly. "I know," he repeated more firmly as Methos threw him a distinctly sceptical look.
"Well, this is all very enlightening, I'm sure," said Methos when it became apparent that Duncan had no more to say. "But did you really have to chase me all the way to the Caribbean to tell me? Couldn't it have waited until I got back?"
"I was afraid you wouldn't come back," admitted Duncan finally. He looked up and met Methos' hazel eyes, which were watching him warily.
"And why would you want me to. We're not exactly the best of friends at the moment, are we?" said Methos harshly. "Why don't you just let it go, Mac?"
"Because I don't want to," responded Duncan fiercely. "Damn it, Methos, I miss you - miss what we had together."
"Why? Did Amanda turn you down this time?" snapped Methos hurtfully.
Duncan ducked his head, remembering the incident Methos was referring to. Not one of his finest moments - he had used Amanda to keep Methos at a distance after the fight with Stephen Keane. He hadn't been ready to try and deal with the old man then, so soon after having one of the skeletons in his own closet unearthed. At the time he hadn't really stopped to think about how Methos would feel when he started kissing Amanda, though. Now he knew.
"Methos, I'm sorry..."
"So many apologies all in one day, MacLeod. Anyone would think you had a guilty conscience," observed Methos sardonically.
"Maybe I do," agreed Duncan, a trace of anger sparking in his eyes. "And perhaps I'm here to try and make things right - if you'll let me. We had something good, Methos, before all this mess got in the way. I want it back - and I think you do, too. That's why I'm here."
"You are bloody unbelievable, MacLeod, you really are." Methos shook his head. "'Something good'? Do you really think that if we have sex together everything is magically going to be all right? I hate to break it to you, but while it might work like that in trashy romance novels, Mac, it's not that simple in real life."
"I don't recall mentioning sex at all, Methos, but if that's the way you want to interpret it... It could be - that simple, I mean." Duncan glanced across at the old Immortal.
An unwilling smile quirked the corner of Methos' mouth. There was just something about the words 'MacLeod' and 'sex' that seemed to improve his mood. "Incurable romantic, huh?" he suggested lightly. "Definitely a flaw in your upbringing, Mac."
"You never seemed to mind it all that much before." Duncan let a smile curve his own lips as Methos turned to face him.
"One of my own character flaws," sighed Methos. "You want a beer? I think there's a couple left."
"So, you're not going to throw me out on my ear, then?" enquired Duncan.
"I'd probably never hear the last of it from Joe if I did," replied Methos. "Besides, it would be a shame to let his detective work go to waste."
"I'll take the beer in that case," said Duncan gratefully. "Friends?"
Methos fished another bottle out of the cooler and handed it to Duncan. "Friends," he agreed.
The pair sat in companionable silence for a while, watching the waves advance over the golden sands as they drank their cold beers. Eventually, Methos asked casually, "How long were you planning on staying?"
"That depends on you," said Duncan with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Yeah, got a spare room I can use?" Duncan grinned at the old Immortal's incredulous expression.
"Do you mean to tell me that you just turned up here without arranging for a place to stay?" said Methos.
"Usually seems to work for you," Duncan pointed out. "Especially when it's my doorstep you wind up on."
Methos had to concede that one to the Highlander. "What would you have done if I had just kicked you out?" asked Methos curiously. "This place is hardly on the tourist trail."
"Slept on the beach, I guess. I've done worse." Duncan regarded Methos slyly. "Does this mean that I do get to stay?"
Methos laughed, realising that he had been neatly manipulated. "I suppose so. But what will you do to earn your keep?"
Duncan pretended to consider this. "Oh, I dunno, same as you, maybe."
"Dare I ask?" Methos sighed.
The Highlander looked smug. "Well, I was thinking I could commandeer your couch - you do have one, I assume - and then drink all your beer..."
Methos held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "I think I like you better when you're silent and brooding, MacLeod!"
Duncan grinned. "I thought you liked me best when I was naked in our bed."
"I thought we'd agreed that sex wasn't the answer to our problems," said Methos with a despairing shake of his head.
"You might have done, I didn't," replied Duncan silkily.
"Mac..." Methos protested half-heartedly as Duncan shifted closer to him.
"The beach is deserted, Methos, no one is going to see us," Duncan pointed out. "It's just you and me," he added, his voice dropping to a persuasive whisper.
"That's not the issue here and you know it." Methos tried to move away, but Duncan caught hold of his wrist and held him in place. "Mac, no, listen to me. All of a sudden you're acting as if the Horsemen, Cassandra and Byron never happened. We both know that isn't true. How long before you're back to throwing them in my face?"
"I'm not going to do that!" Duncan insisted.
"All right, suppose I do believe that you've accepted the things you've learned about me so far," conceded Methos. "That's still a lot of centuries unaccounted for. What happens the next time an old friend drops by, or some other unsavoury part of my history comes back to haunt us? Do we go through this whole cycle again? Because I'm not sure I can deal with that, Mac. I don't think I want to. I need you to accept me for who and what I am - all of it. The things you know about and the the ones you don't. I'm just not sure if you're capable of doing that."
Earnest brown eyes stared at the oldest Immortal. "You're asking me to take you on faith, Methos. Aren't you willing to do the same for me?"
Methos closed his eyes, knowing he had no ready answer to that. It would be so very easy to give in to the Highlander's charms. It was what the responses of his body were urging him to do. But he had been burned twice already.
"Bloody hell, MacLeod..."
Soft, warm lips covered Methos' own, stopping him from saying any more. He tried to resist the persuasive kiss, but when the moist tip of Duncan's tongue began to gently trace the outline of his mouth Methos surrendered to the inevitable. His lips parted under the seductive assault and Duncan quickly took possession of his mouth.
Methos had missed this more than he had cared to admit. He stroked his own tongue against Duncan's, urging it to a more thorough exploration of his mouth. Duncan still had a tight grip on one of Methos' wrists. Methos freed his other hand by discarding the bottle it had been clutching. He felt only a momentary regret for the beer which spilled from it onto the sand. Methos splayed his now empty hand across Duncan's chest, pushing firmly. Given the element of surprise Methos was able to topple the Highlander over, rolling him onto his back. Methos followed Duncan down, using his weight to pin him. Only when he had Duncan where he wanted him did Methos break the kiss, pulling back far enough to smile triumphantly at the surprised Highlander.
"Maybe you're right, Mac," he grinned wolfishly. "Perhaps sex is the answer. I think I feel better about things already."
"Oh good," said Duncan dryly. But if he were honest, he was far from displeased with the way things seemed to be working out. With Methos' full weight pushing down on him Duncan could clearly feel the other Immortal's erection pressed up against his own.
Duncan abandoned his hold on Methos' wrist and also let go of his own - now empty - beer bottle. Instead, he brought his hands up to stroke the smooth planes of Methos' back. A sheen of suntan oil and sweat eased the glide of his palms over the supple skin and Methos arched back into the touch. The movement ground their hips together and both men groaned at the added stimulation.
From his position Duncan was better able to dispense with his partner's clothing. Methos was only wearing a pair of loose shorts and they were easily slid down over his hips to be kicked away. Once the old Immortal was naked, Duncan tugged his own T-shirt off over his head. Meanwhile, Methos scooted back far enough to make quick work of removing Duncan's shorts and briefs.
Still straddling Duncan's hips Methos leaned forward until he could feast on the Highlander's nipples. Methos breathed in Duncan's familiar scent and savoured the salt taste of his sweat as he licked and bit at the tender flesh.
Duncan was grateful for Methos' towel underneath him as it prevented too much sand from adhering to his sticky skin. As Methos continued to explore his chest with his teeth and tongue, Duncan concentrated on bringing their swollen cocks as closely into contact as possible. He spread his broad hands across Methos' slim, muscular buttocks, encouraging the old Immortal to thrust against him. The results were gratifying, for both of them.
With a sharply indrawn breath Methos threw back his head as pleasure radiated outwards from his groin. As Duncan's hands continued to grasp his backside, Methos thrust harder. He could feel the delightful friction as his cock rubbed against Duncan's. Sweat and pre-come dampened both their stomachs as Duncan spread his thighs, pulling Methos in closer.
It had been too long for both men and neither of them was inclined to try and draw out the pleasure with a lengthy tease. They indulged their need for one another with a hard, fast coupling which left them both panting breathlessly as the waves of sensation crashed over them. Methos tumbled over the brink into orgasm first. The staccato thrusts of his hips as he pulsed out his seed between their bodies quickly had Duncan following in his wake.
The Highlander clasped Methos tightly against him as he cried out with his own release. The slender figure soon became a dead weight in his arms as a sleepy lassitude overtook Methos. Duncan stroked the sweaty skin softly, glad of the renewed closeness between them. He hoped it would survive beyond the afterglow of their sexual encounter. It seemed he was about to find that out as Methos' lips moved against his throat.
"You do realise I sacrificed perfectly good beer for this, don't you?" muttered Methos, his voice faintly aggrieved.
Duncan couldn't help it. He laughed, long and loud. It appealed to his sense of the ridiculous; after all the tensions that had been simmering between them, the one thing Methos was still pissed about was some spilled beer. For his levity Duncan was rewarded by two sharp elbows being jabbed into his ribs as Methos levered himself up.
"It's not funny," Methos insisted, narrowing his hazel eyes in displeasure. "Wasting beer is a serious matter."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure I'll manage to make it up to you somehow," Duncan grinned.
"You'd better bloody believe it," Methos warned, "but not just yet." The old Immortal flopped down again. This time he rolled onto his side and gathered Duncan in close.
Methos nipped lazily at the nearest available piece of the Highlander's body, which happened to be his neck. Duncan tilted his head, encouraging the attention.
|"Mm, first you get to watch the sunset - with me." Methos sighed contentedly, dropping a few more kisses on Duncan's neck. Then he settled back to watch the fiery orb of the sun as it once again descended towards the horizon. Oh yes, it was so much better when one had the right company.|
"Now who's the incurable romantic?" Duncan teased.
"You dare tell anyone else that and your head is mine," threatened Methos with a quick grin.
"Oh yeah? Which one?" asked Duncan archly, his voice dropping seductively low.
In the end neither Immortal saw the final splendour of the sun as it painted the sea and sky a golden red in the dying moments before it sank below the horizon. Their attention was focused elsewhere as Methos answered Duncan's question with a thorough, but entirely non-verbal, demonstration.
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Photos taken at La Jolla, Ca. copyright Karen Colohan 1998