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 October 2000.
As ever, thanks to Margaret for beta duties.
The hour was late and the barge was quiet and still, as it had been for most of the evening. Consequently, the soft sigh sounded loud as it fell into the silence. When no response was forthcoming a second, louder sigh followed as Duncan MacLeod looked up from his book and glanced across the room to the couch.
It was, as usual these days, occupied by the long, lean form of his lover. Methos was stretched out in his habitual sprawl, apparently asleep. Appearances, however, could be deceptive.
"Don't tell me, you're bored," came the amused observation.
Duncan started. Methos had given no indication that he was aware of the other's scrutiny and his eyes were still closed. "I didn't say that," he replied at once.
"You didn't have to. The loud, put-upon sighs were a dead giveaway," said Methos smugly. "What's wrong with your book?"
"Nothing, I just can't get into it tonight," Duncan sighed. "Wouldn't you rather we went out for a drink or something?"
"Not really," Methos replied. "If you want a drink there's beer in the fridge. Anyway, why is it you always have to be doing something? You ought to learn to appreciate the fine art of doing nothing. It's very relaxing."
"It's very boring," muttered Duncan a little petulantly.
Methos levered himself into a sitting position and looked across at the Highlander. He was seated in a small oasis of brightness cast by a single lamp. Otherwise the cabin of the barge was in darkness. The resulting patterns of light and shadow gave him a strangely fey appearance. The dark hair hanging loose on his shoulders only accentuated the impression. Methos smiled slightly, appreciating the view. It was appropriate, he supposed, given that tonight was Halloween.
"What are you smiling at?" Duncan asked, seeing the gentle curving of Methos' lips.
"I was just thinking you were looking especially other-worldly tonight, sitting there in the shadows," said Methos with a sudden grin. "Trick or treat?"
Duncan laughed as he made the connection. "I'd forgotten the date," he admitted. "Other-worldly, hm? And I'd like a treat, please."
"Oh, you'll have one," Methos promised, "later." His expression softened as he considered a number of treats he'd like to give to Duncan when they retired to the big, wide bed they'd now been sharing for several months.
"What if I don't want to wait?" Duncan pouted, just for appearances' sake.
Methos shook his head and slid back down on the couch, pretending to be asleep again.
There was silence for a short while, but eventually Duncan grew tired of waiting for his lover to give in and indulge him.
"The least you can do is entertain me while I wait," he wheedled. "As it's Halloween, tell me a ghost story. Make it a scary one," he added slyly, "so you have to stay close to stop me having nightmares afterwards."
Methos remained still for a moment more, then rolled over until he was facing the Highlander. His eyes, when he opened them, were dark in the dim light.
"I think I'll pass on that one," he said quietly, an odd note in his voice.
"Methos?" Duncan frowned, unsure why the old man suddenly seemed so serious.
"I just find I'm not that fond of ghost stories these days," said Methos with a sigh.
"Why not?" asked Duncan, never knowing when to leave well alone.
"Don't you know?" said Methos stiffly.
Duncan shook his head, still puzzled.
"Mac, I don't need to tell tales of the dead to have nightmares," Methos continued. "My ghosts are already too real. I carry them around with me day in, day out. I see their faces, hear their voices... I thought you, of all people, would understand that."
Duncan paled, hearing the pain in his lover's voice. "Are you thinking of Silas?" he asked carefully.
The subject of the Horsemen was still not easily broached between them - their reconciliation still new enough for caution when speaking of them - but the Highlander knew Methos had deeply regretted the death of the big man at his own hand.
The old Immortal shrugged. "Not specifically, but in a way I suppose so - and Kronos, Caspian, Byron and a hundred others you never met, never knew. And those are just the ones who were my friends..."
Methos didn't have to say any more for Duncan to know that he was referring to all the nameless victims who had fallen to Death's hand. Yes, that the Highlander did understand.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Methos," he said contritely. "I only meant it as a bit of fun."
"I know, and I'm not upset, not really. I guess I must just be in an unusually maudlin mood tonight. When you suggested telling ghost stories... well, actually it reminded me of Byron." Methos smiled a little sadly.
And there was another sore point between them. There were so many it seemed. Sometimes Duncan wondered how they had managed to get past them all to take their relationship to the level it was at now. He could only hope that it would prove to be all the stronger as a result of what it had cost them to come this far.
Duncan could regret having killed Byron simply because it had hurt Methos to lose another friend to his sword. In truth, he couldn't actually regret the man's death. He hadn't liked the poet-turned-rock star, with his cavalier attitude to life, one little bit and he'd never cared to examine the memories which had come with his Quickening at all closely.
"Byron? Why?" asked Duncan.
"I was remembering the time he challenged the Shelleys and myself to a night telling ghost stories. He was even more easily bored than you." Methos paused, reminiscing. "Did you know Byron was the inspiration for the novel Frankenstein?"
"No. How did that come about, then?" Duncan asked, curious. "I remember him quoting from it once - he said we were all like Frankenstein's monster."
"That's right." Methos nodded. "And that was a truer statement than you know. It all happened that night. Mary didn't know what story she could tell to rival Byron's or her husband's offerings, but then fate took a hand. Byron was challenged, and he took his first head. Mary Shelley saw it all - the Quickening, Byron reviving - and so I told her what we were. As a result she found her inspiration - her modern Prometheus."
"And did you tell Byron and the Shelleys a ghostly tale?" asked Duncan.
"Actually, yes, I did," said Methos slowly.
"So why won't you tell it again for me?" Duncan pouted once more, but Methos was not to be moved.
"Because, my dear Highlander, unlike them, you would know the truth of my story," replied Methos sadly.
"You told them something true - something from your past?" said Duncan incredulously.
The old Immortal nodded, remembering the tale he had woven for his rapt audience that night - a chilling story of Death incarnate. He shivered a little, knowing that Duncan would not approve of the way he had romanticised the Horsemen for Byron and the others. After all, the Highlander had come face to face with their grim reality.
A gentle touch on his cheek brought Methos back to the present.
Duncan had slipped from his seat and was kneeling on the floor beside the couch. One hand was raised, lightly caressing Methos' face.
"Trick or treat?" asked Duncan softly. The dark brown eyes were warm, inviting and the full lips curved in a smile.
"You don't mind about the story, then?" Methos enquired cautiously.
"I believe the point you were trying to get through my thick skull was that you didn't want to go dragging up things best left in the past," replied Duncan. "Am I right?"
"You're learning," said Methos, his lips quirking in a reluctant half-smile.
"I do try," said Duncan, his tone sincere. "I don't want to drive us apart again."
"Neither do I," agreed Methos fervently.
He reached up, catching hold of Duncan's hand in his own and bringing it to his lips. Slowly, he kissed each of the rough fingertips in turn, until Duncan was breathing heavily and his eyelids were falling shut. Then he let the hand drop.
"Can I have my treat now?" he asked with perfect innocence, watching the Highlander's pupils dilate as he slowly opened his eyes.
"After that, you can have anything you want," whispered Duncan.
Methos smiled, carefully sitting up until he was face to face with Duncan. "Anything at all?" he queried casually, leaning in close.
"Absolutely anything," agreed the Highlander huskily.
The oldest Immortal's smile turned seductive as he moved in to kiss the soft, pouting lips. "I'll remind you that you said that later," he murmured as he delicately licked at the inviting mouth, encouraging it to open to his explorations. He drew back again for a moment. "I don't suppose you have any handcuffs handy, do you?" he asked consideringly. "No? Never mind, I'm sure we can improvise..."
Duncan's eyes widened in alarm, but any protest he might have made was lost in the warm depths of Methos' mouth as it took possession of his own. He sighed philosophically.
Ah well, he thought, at least the old man's maudlin mood hadn't lasted too long. And, after all, Methos had promised him his own treat for later. He'd just have to make sure it was a really good one...
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