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 December 2000.

Note - Lyrics are taken from "I don't know you anymore" by Savage Garden from the album "Affirmation".

SOMETHING THAT NEVER REALLY HAD A NAME

by Karen Colohan

 "I would like to visit you for a while 
 Get away and out of this city 
 Maybe I shouldn't have called, but someone had to be the first to             
 break 
 We can go sit on your back porch 
 Relax 
 Talk about anything 
 It don't matter 
 I'll be courageous if you can pretend that you've forgiven me"

Several months after Bordeaux...

It had taken Duncan MacLeod a long time after they had parted in a churchyard in Bordeaux to realise that he wanted to talk to Methos... that there were still things that needed to be said between them. When Methos had walked away from him, speaking of regrets, he had welcomed the distance. He might not have wanted the old man dead, but on the heels of the revelations about the Horsemen and the part Methos had played in their 1,000 year reign of terror, Duncan wasn't ready to cope with his continued presence in his life. And Methos had made it easy for him by immediately pulling one of his signature disappearing acts.

Now time and distance had played their part and Duncan had discovered that he wanted to understand.

What I've done you can't forgive. It's not in your nature. Well, you accept it.

Methos had thrown those words at him somewhere in the midst of the madness that had overtaken them all in Bordeaux. And at the time he hadn't wanted to find either forgiveness or acceptance in him for the oldest Immortal. But Duncan was well aware that innocence was relative; that he had dark times in his own past that he had never confessed to Methos. When you got right down to it, were they really so different?

The decision made, it had taken Duncan almost as long to find the oldest Immortal. When he had, he found he'd been looking in all the wrong places. Much to his surprise he discovered that Methos hadn't hied off to Bora Bora, Katmandu or anywhere similarly exotic, but was, in fact, still in Paris. It was a new apartment, located not that far from the old one, but somehow Duncan had expected a more emphatic withdrawal by the other man in the wake of the other Horsemen's deaths.

Then again, maybe the strange link which had existed between himself and Methos in the moments after Kronos' Quickening had been released had held him. Duncan knew he had never experienced anything like it before and he still wondered exactly what had happened. It had almost seemed as if the ancient Quickening had wanted to make its home in the body of Kronos' erstwhile brother, not Duncan. But that wasn't possible, was it?

Duncan didn't know that he was in any place to judge. He'd never taken a Quickening so old, or so strong, before. Consequently, was it really fair to try and compare this experience with what he did know? For that matter, could he have coped with the enormity of that ancient Quickening alone? Or would he have fallen victim to another Dark Quickening had Methos not been there to deflect - and absorb - some of the fury of that millennia-old soul?

It was one of the things Duncan really wanted to talk to Methos about. He needed to know what had happened to him - to them - in the violent storm of power that had been raised by the simultaneous release of two unimaginably old Quickenings. Perhaps the oldest Immortal would know; maybe he had seen something of the kind before and would be able to shed some light on those events.

But that wasn't all. There was still the personal fallout of the whole Horsemen debacle to be dealt with. Duncan had been left feeling confused and betrayed when Adam Pierson had turned out to be even more of a myth than the oldest Immortal himself. He'd been unable to reconcile the beer-drinking, cynical, sometimes infuriating, but always challenging friend - who, lest he forget, had pulled Duncan's ass out of the fire more than once - with the grim reality of a cold-blooded murderer and rapist who had once ridden in the guise of Death.

How was he supposed to make sense of it all? Especially when Methos had thrown the whole thing in his face in such spectacular fashion. Duncan had thought about that fateful conversation a hundred times. It had taken him that long to realise Methos had been deliberately pushing him away. The old man had been around him long enough to know all his buttons and had set about pushing them in the way most calculated to have him stalking off, bristling with righteous indignation. And he'd performed to Methos' expectations of him admirably.

Only later had it occurred to Duncan that Methos might have wanted not to alienate him, but to get him out of harm's way. At the time, though, he'd been so intent on helping Cassandra that he'd failed to take the hint. And then Methos had done something else unexpected; he'd interfered in his first fight with Kronos - a fight that could have gone either way. So who had Methos been trying to protect? Had he really even known that himself in the heat of the moment? Attempting to decipher the man's motives still had Duncan's head spinning.

On the one occasion they had spoken after it was all over - on Holy Ground, and wasn't that an indicator of how much things had changed between them - Methos had admitted to using Duncan to stop Kronos. He hadn't been able to kill his brother himself - or so he'd said. And yet, when push came to shove, Methos had killed Silas... and over Cassandra of all people.

That still didn't make sense to Duncan. Silas had clearly meant more to Methos than Cassandra. The sight of the old Immortal crouched on all fours sobbing over the death of Silas was as clear in Duncan's mind now as the day he'd witnessed it. It was, perhaps, the most honest emotion he'd ever seen from Methos, but, for all that, the pieces still didn't seem to add up.

Duncan had finally concluded that the only way he could ever hope to put it all together was to talk to Methos. With the passage of time and the distance they'd kept between them Duncan hoped he and Methos might finally be able to face one another without anger or bitterness clouding the issue - and not just on his side. Considering everything Methos had done for him in the time they'd known one another, it had to be said Duncan had been quick and harsh in his condemnation of something he wasn't really in a position to understand, or judge.

What Duncan had at last admitted to himself was that he missed Methos' presence in his life. So he wanted to find a way of understanding - of accepting who Methos had been, what he'd done. They might never regain the level of trust they'd shared before, but Duncan felt their friendship was worth fighting for. He hoped Methos did too. If he didn't, his efforts were doomed to failure from the outset.

And then there were the other, more tenuous, aspects of their relationship... Duncan wasn't sure if he was prepared to look that far ahead. He and Methos had been lovers so briefly - barely finding one another in the aftermath of Ingrid Henning's death - before Kronos and Cassandra had appeared to tear them apart again.

Duncan spared a moment to appreciate the irony. He and Methos had become lovers when the old man comforted him over his old friend's betrayal. He had judged Ingrid to be an evil that had to be stopped - so he had killed her. But had Methos judged him? No. He'd simply welcomed Duncan into his bed and shown him how the pain could be taken away, allowing something else to grow in its place.

Now they were apart because Methos, in his turn, had betrayed Duncan's trust. At least, thought Duncan wryly, he hadn't had to take Methos' head - yet. But that wasn't exactly the direction he wanted his thoughts to be going in - not when he was hoping for a reconciliation of some kind with Methos.

Would Methos be prepared to take that step too, though? After all, Duncan admitted ruefully, he had been pretty abrupt in his dismissal of the old Immortal - his judgemental streak in action yet again. Had he been right to condemn Methos for his actions three thousand years ago? Methos had never been anything but a friend to him. And, as the old man had been at pains to point out, the times had been very different. No doubt they had been much harsher and more violent even for the most honourable man. Would Duncan himself have had any less blood on his hands if he'd been alive then? Sometimes one did things to survive... and Methos valued his survival above all else.

Duncan sighed. Was it his place to judge Methos, even? The old Immortal had talked of his many regrets at their last meeting and, as he did so, he had sounded tired and - for the first time since Duncan had known him - had truly seemed to wear every one of his 5,000 years. Was it possible that he judged himself even more harshly than Duncan had done? Methos had lived with the knowledge of what he'd done for thousands of years. Duncan knew how much he had punished himself for things he'd done mere centuries ago. How would he feel, to still be living with them a few millennia down the line?

It wasn't a pleasant thought and Duncan felt an unexpected stab of empathy for Methos. He really did want to see the old man, to try and set things right between them. But if he called Methos, the other Immortal might refuse to see him... Turning up on Methos' doorstep unannounced might not be the most sensible thing to do, but at least that way the oldest Immortal would have to deal with him. He might slam the door in his face, but Duncan was sure, if it came down to it, that he could out-stubborn the old man. They needed to have this talk and they would - through a closed door if need be.

Duncan couldn't entirely squash the hope, though, that maybe Methos was missing him as much as he was missing Methos. It was no real surprise to him that the old Immortal hadn't made the first move - after all, "we're through" was pretty clear and final. But if Duncan were to make the first overtures....

Not allowing himself further time for second thoughts Duncan grabbed his coat and headed up the steps out of the barge.

********

 "I know I let you down 
 Again and again 
 I know I never really treated you right 
 I've paid the price 
 I'm still paying for it every day"

As soon as Duncan got out of his car outside Methos' apartment building he felt the old Immortal's presence sweep over him. Its song was as deep and rich as Duncan remembered, but there was an added sense of familiarity to it that surprised him. It was as if he would have known by that wash of presence alone that Methos was near, even if he hadn't known whose home he was approaching. But it wasn't possible to recognise another Immortal that way... was it?

Again Duncan found himself thinking of Bordeaux and that strange moment of joining - both violent and, paradoxically, erotic - as Kronos' Quickening had crashed over both himself and Methos. Could he say for certain that there had been no lasting effects from that maelstrom of energy? Were there even any precedents for an event like that? Well, if anyone knew it would surely be the oldest Immortal. He had both his own memories and the Watchers' records to draw on, after all.

While Duncan pondered his feet had led him up the stairs to Methos' door. He raised his hand to knock, but before he could do so the door was thrown open to reveal Methos himself. To Duncan's surprise he wasn't greeted with a drawn sword - an oversight that seemed quite unlike the oldest Immortal - could that mean Methos had recognised his buzz too? All the same, the expression on the other man's face was every bit as discouraging as a brandished blade.

"You might have told me you were coming," snapped Methos without preamble. "I'd have made sure I was otherwise engaged."

"It's nice to see you too, Methos," said Duncan mildly. He refused to be discouraged. At least Methos hadn't simply slammed the door in his face - yet. And it was unlikely that Methos had any expectations of this meeting after the way they had parted in Bordeaux.

The Highlander studied the other Immortal. If he ignored the expression of irritation gracing his features, Methos did seem to be well, Duncan decided. The shadows which had haunted him at their last meeting - leaving him looking old and careworn - seemed to have lifted. He had spoken the simple truth, Duncan realised. It was good to see Methos.

He stood his ground, refusing to be intimidated into leaving by that unwelcoming glare. Methos would just have to deal with him or make his own choice to walk away from any possibility of a reconciliation between them. Duncan waited a little longer until, finally, Methos sighed in frustration.

"Damn you, MacLeod," he muttered. "I suppose you'd better come in."

Methos turned away and Duncan followed him into the shadowed interior of the apartment, closing the door behind him. He looked around him curiously. He had only rarely been allowed into the old Immortal's previous home. Methos had always preferred to meet on Duncan's territory, keeping his own living arrangements separate and private. It had never bothered Duncan. Notwithstanding Methos' tendency to invade other people's personal space without invitation, he knew the other man liked to have a place he could retreat to when he needed to be alone. Cosy domesticity had never been the keynote of their relationship.

All the same, as Duncan studied the living area with its eclectic mix of furniture and artifacts, he couldn't help feeling that it seemed more a reflection of Methos' personality than the last apartment had been. He'd never really bothered to put his own stamp on that place. Duncan wondered if that meant Methos planned on sticking around here for a while. He found that he hoped so.

Methos stalked over to a high-backed chair that looked almost more like a throne and sat down. He leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest defensively, and eyed Duncan with wary suspicion.

"So, what do you want, MacLeod?" he asked finally. His voice sounded unexpectedly tired. The visible manifestation of the shadows which had haunted Methos in Bordeaux might be gone, but it seemed they had not been entirely banished yet.

"I don't want to fight, Methos," replied Duncan carefully, "not with swords, nor with words. Whatever you might be thinking, that's not why I came."

"What else is there, then?" Methos looked up at Duncan, his eyes almost all pupil in the dim light. "I'd ask you to stay for tea, but I'm afraid I'm fresh out of Earl Grey and cucumber sandwiches. Frightfully uncivilised of me I know, but what can I say... I'm just living down to my reputation."

Duncan winced at the caustic sarcasm, but he wasn't going to give up that easily. "There's always reconciliation," he offered softly.

A faintly bitter smile twisted Methos' lips. "I thought I was persona non grata to the Clan MacLeod. I seem to remember a certain conversation in which the words 'we're through' featured prominently."

Duncan shook his head. "You pushed me into saying it. I know that now - you weren't playing very fair at the time. You were only telling me what you wanted me to hear."

"I told you the truth - a little late in the day, I admit that, but what I said was true, in all the important particulars. Don't try rewriting history, MacLeod, ultimately, it never works; I know that. You finally got the truth about the oldest Immortal and you couldn't handle it. End of story." Methos shrugged off-handedly and looked away.

"No, I don't think so," said Duncan doggedly. "I know I didn't handle it very well - then - but with you and Cassandra both trying to manipulate me - and don't say that you weren't - what the hell did you expect? I reacted with my gut... and, at the time, that suited you fine. I did what you wanted; I killed Kronos for you and made sure that the oldest Immortal continued to survive. I suppose you must have thought the price was worth paying, to be certain of that."

"What are you talking about? What price?" asked Methos sharply.

"Our friendship," replied Duncan softly.

"Perhaps you place a higher value on that than I did," said Methos nastily.

"No, I don't think so," Duncan repeated. "'End of story', is that what you want? I think there are still more chapters to be written, don't you think so?"

"What I think, or want, doesn't really matter, does it, Mac?" insisted Methos, and the tiredness was back in his voice again, dulling the sharp edges of his tongue. "You judged me on three thousand year old misdeeds - not on the things I've done since you've known me - your choice, your decision. If you can't accept what I did then, so be it. I can't go back and change any of it, no matter how much I might wish that I could. So, if you can't get past that to the man I am now then we really have nothing left to say to one another.

"Why keep rehashing old news, Mac? It only hurts both of us even more." Methos pressed his lips together tightly, as if he hadn't meant the last, revealing words to escape and didn't want to risk giving anything more away.

So, their estrangement had hurt the old Immortal. Duncan hadn't been entirely sure before, but now he had the proof of it out of Methos' own mouth. It eased his own uncertainty somewhat, gave him comfort that he had done the right thing in coming here. If Methos wanted this reconciliation too it would make his job a lot easier.

Duncan caught Methos' elusive green/gold gaze and held it. "What if I was wrong to judge you?" he asked steadily.

Methos laughed, but it was a hollow sound. "Duncan MacLeod admits the possibility of his own fallibility? It must be my lucky day," he observed sardonically.

"Maybe it is," agreed Duncan, but his tone was entirely serious. "Perhaps both of us are in luck."

"Why?" asked Methos, simply. "Why now, after all this time?"

"Maybe that's exactly why," said Duncan. "I've had time to think now; to try and understand. In the cold light of day I can see that I was unreasonable. Before, with everything that was going on, I was just too angry to be rational about it - I was feeling betrayed. And even if I knew that was clouding my judgement I wasn't ready to admit it to myself then. You'd lied to me - even if it was by omission - and it hurt to realise that you didn't trust me."

"Mac, it's not exactly a winning conversational gambit, is it?" Methos shook his head ruefully. "Hello, I was one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and I cold-bloodedly murdered and raped my way across two continents. And what do you do for a living?"

Duncan snorted derisively, but he had to concede that the old man did have a point. "All the same, we'd known one another for a couple of years by then. You could have found a way to tell me."

"I wanted to," said Methos, his voice very quiet. "But I was afraid of losing what we had... and I was right to be."

"If I'd found out any other way, Methos..." Duncan searched for a way to explain how and why he believed it would have made a difference. "If you'd trusted me enough to explain, instead of letting it all blow up in my face like that. I never expected you to have been a saint... I wasn't looking for another Darius."

"Weren't you?" shot back Methos, tilting his head in question.

"No." Duncan frowned. "But what if I was? I knew Darius wasn't always a man of peace, but it made no difference to our friendship - because I knew what he'd been. As you were at pains to point out to me, the times were different." He sighed. "But when you - trampled on all my illusions about you... I couldn't think about it rationally. I was hurt, angry. I just reacted with my gut - and what you told me nauseated me. When I imagined the things you said you'd taken pleasure in...

"But I've had the time to be a little more objective about it all now. I'm not saying I approve of what you were, or what you did. What I can see, though, is that the times were harsher then. Just surviving must have been harder than I can comprehend. I guess Kronos and the others offered a kind of security that would have appealed to the survivor in you."

"And companionship..." Methos' words were quiet - and a little unexpected. "We really were like brothers, Mac. I'd never experienced anything like it. To be known and accepted for what I was, instead of feared and reviled as some kind of demon. It was just too easy to be drawn into that kind of fellowship, and all the things that went with it - the killing, the blood - they seemed a small price to pay at the time. After all, what was an Immortal's life, but to kill or be killed. And as the years passed I became inured to the horror of it all, even grew to enjoy the power and the status.

"The Horsemen were not just feared, they were respected - by those who had the sense not to cross us. To have that kind of influence - it was addictive. It was a very long time before I started to realise that I didn't much care for what I'd become and began to look for a way to leave."

"I doubt it was easy for you to do that after so long," said Duncan softly. "Kronos must have..."

"No, it wasn't," interrupted Methos. There was a finality to his tone that made it clear he wasn't prepared to pursue that line of questioning any further. "But it was a very long time ago, MacLeod. Let it be."

Restlessly, Methos got to his feet. He brushed past Duncan and headed for the small selection of bottles on a nearby shelf. "Drink?" he asked, holding up a bottle of Scotch.

"Please," said Duncan, and moved to stand beside Methos while he poured two large shots of the stuff.

Methos handed one of the glasses to the Highlander. He picked up the other and downed its contents in one. As Duncan raised his eyebrows in surprise the old Immortal quickly poured himself a refill.

"Somehow I get the feeling I'm going to need it before we're done," said Methos with asperity, answering the Highlander's questioning look.

"I've said what I came here to say," replied Duncan. "And I meant it - I want to try and repair the damage I've done to our friendship. It's too important to me - you're too important to me - for things to be left the way they are. I know it might not be easy for you to forgive me - I should have listened, should have trusted you - but I hope you're willing to at least try."

Methos had been watching Duncan with growing disbelief. As soon as the other man fell silent the old Immortal shook his head. "You're asking me for forgiveness?"

"Yes," replied Duncan, simply. "I was wrong to be swayed by Cassandra. I knew all the things you'd done for me - the times you'd saved my life and my sanity - and that's what should have been important... not a three thousand year old grudge. Joe understood that I was looking at it all far too simplistically, but I wouldn't listen to what he tried to tell me."

"Joe's mortal - it tends to give one a different perspective on things that happened thousands of years ago. Doesn't mean he's not a bloody good friend, though," said Methos with a faint trace of a smile. He sighed. "Cassandra's hatred of me is more than justified, you know. And why wouldn't you listen to her? You've known her a very long time; she was your lover..."

"And so were you," insisted Duncan firmly. "That should have counted for something. You've never hurt me, Methos, never been less than a friend from the first day we met. I don't want to lose that."

"Lose - what, exactly?" asked Methos cautiously.

"Our friendship," said Duncan steadily, "and anything more you're willing to offer me."

"You'd take me as your lover again?" asked Methos, clearly disbelieving. "After everything that's happened? Even knowing what you do about me?"

"In a second - if you'd have me," admitted Duncan ruefully.

He hadn't really intended to broach the possibility of resuming that aspect of their relationship. He'd been unsure whether Methos would accept his attempts at reconciliation at all, without complicating the situation further. But the old Immortal seemed more surprised than repulsed by the suggestion. Duncan allowed himself to hope that what had been broken apart by the advent of the Horsemen was not beyond mending.

Methos was still staring at the Highlander, as if he were some strange, rare creature. Perhaps, from his point of view at least, Duncan was. Suddenly he turned away, filled his glass with Scotch again and, just as swiftly, drained it.

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he breathed softly, not looking up from his empty glass.

"Methos?" queried Duncan, a little uncertain how to interpret the other man's reaction.

"Ah, Mac, even if I really wanted to hate you, how could I?" Methos gave a breathy laugh as he turned back to face the Highlander. "And I tried to hate you, believe me. I told myself you were a judgemental ass and I didn't need to snap at your heels, begging for scraps... That was why I wouldn't let myself come and talk to you - though I thought about doing it, quite often, actually. I wanted to try and explain, but no, I told myself I still had my pride. And if you didn't want to have anything more to do with me, that was fine. Oh yeah, my pride was intact, but I'd forgotten just how depressing getting drunk by yourself really is."

Methos considered the empty glass in his hand for a long moment. "Is this real, MacLeod?" he asked conversationally. "Or have I had more to drink than I think I have? Are you sure you're not some ghost I've dreamed up to keep me company and to warm my bed? For that matter, do I care if you are...?"

"I'm real, Methos, I promise you," Duncan assured him.

"Shit," muttered Methos under his breath, "now this is starting to sound like a bad romance novel."

Duncan gave a snort of derision. "I wouldn't know - hadn't realised you were such an expert either."

"Occupational hazard of all that air travel," Methos informed him. "The selection in airport bookstores is shockingly bad. Christ almighty, Mac, what are we talking about?"

"I have no idea," Duncan replied with a fond smile.

He reached out and plucked the glass from the old Immortal's unresisting fingers. He set it aside with his own. Then he carefully slid his arms around Methos' waist, holding him in a loose embrace. He stayed like that, not wanting to push too far, too fast.

Methos sighed softly at the contact. He closed his eyes and then opened them slowly. "Well, you're still here, guess that must be a good sign," he said, smiling. Cautiously he reached up to lay the palm of one hand lightly against Duncan's cheek.

"Yeah, still here," Duncan agreed. "I did tell you I was real."

"Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever understand you," sighed Methos. "How can it be this easy?"

"There was nothing easy about it, Methos," protested Duncan. "I was angry with you for a long while. But you've spent a lot of time telling me that life is about acceptance and moving on. I finally realised that it was good advice, especially if I didn't want to lose you - and I didn't."

"Love conquers all? Is that it?" asked Methos wryly.

"Something like that," agreed Duncan equably. He leaned into the warmth of Methos' palm where it still rested against his cheek. "Besides, I missed you."

"And I missed you," said Methos softly. "I never meant to deceive you, you know, Mac. I just - well, it was never going to be the right time to tell you about the Horsemen; it would never have been easy. I didn't expect to have it taken out of my hands like that, though. I really thought that part of my life was over and done with. In all honesty, it didn't occur to me that Kronos might still be looking for me, not after all that time... I suppose I should have known better. I knew how long he could hold a grudge."

"It's all right, Methos, you don't have to explain any more; I'm OK with it. It's time to let it be over," said Duncan firmly. He turned his head and placed a gentle kiss on Methos' palm.

The old Immortal shuddered at the soft brush of the Highlander's lips against his skin. It felt so good after the cold emptiness of his estrangement from Duncan, but a part of Methos' brain still insisted on looking for the catch. He couldn't believe it really was that simple - that Duncan would forgive him and accept him back into his bed without further recriminations. Methos' body wanted to believe it, though. Warmth spread through him, flowing out from the point at which Duncan's lips still moved against his palm. With a gasp, Methos snatched his hand away.

Duncan looked up, a startled expression in the dark brown eyes. "I'm sorry," he started to apologise. "I thought..."

"Mac, please," Methos interrupted him. For his own peace of mind he had to be sure there was no catch, no conditions attached to Duncan's forgiveness. "Unless you really mean it, don't do this."

"Do you think that I don't?" Duncan asked roughly. "I'm not here to play games with you, Methos."

"I don't know what to think at the moment," admitted Methos. "My brain is telling me one thing and every other part of me is urging me to do something else entirely."

"I mean it, Methos," said Duncan gently. "I promise you."

"You're not just trying to use sex to paper over the cracks in our relationship then?" Methos persisted. He'd been burned once thanks to the Highlander's judgemental nature and he didn't want to let himself believe in what appeared to be being offered until he was absolutely certain.

"I wouldn't do that," protested Duncan.

"Are you sure?" Methos wanted to be convinced, but he wasn't certain he trusted his own judgement where Duncan was concerned. The man could get under his skin far too easily.

"How many different ways can I tell you that this is real; that I accept you for who you are - all of you, past and present?" asked Duncan in frustration. "And this doesn't have to be about sex at all - unless that's what you want. If all you're looking for from me is friendship then I accept that too. But from the way I felt you react..."

"Oh, I want you, Mac, don't doubt that." Methos smiled self- deprecatingly. "I never could resist you..."

"Then let me make love to you, Methos." Duncan trained his most soulful expression on the old Immortal. The Highlander felt Methos shudder again; it took him a moment to realise he was actually shaking with silent laughter. "What?" he demanded, more than a little put out by the other man's reaction to his suggestion.

Methos smiled ruefully. "I'm sorry," he sighed. "At least now I know you must be serious, though."

"Oh?" Duncan frowned at him, trying to follow Methos' logic.

One gentle fingertip traced across Duncan's heavy brows. "If you've resorted to using the puppy dog eyes on me, you must mean it. You only do that when you really want to get your own way." And it worked on him every time, Methos admitted to himself - not that Duncan needed to know that... Instead he added, "I fear you're getting predictable, Highlander."

Duncan would have been inclined to a show of indignation, but it felt too good to have Methos in his arms, relaxed and laughing so easily. He didn't want to say or do anything which might change that. Besides which, the old man probably had a point. Duncan knew he played on his looks from time to time, but if it worked... So he merely eyed Methos reproachfully.

"Whatever it takes to convince you," he muttered eventually.

"All right, so let's assume that I'm convinced," conceded Methos. "Now what?"

"I take you to bed and remind you just how good I am?" suggested Duncan wryly.

Methos laughed again. "I'm glad to see you're as modest as ever. Then again, if you're so sure of yourself, MacLeod, feel free to try it." The old Immortal pressed himself more firmly against Duncan, making him aware of the evidence of Methos' desire for him. In his turn, Methos could feel the firm swell of Duncan's erection nudging hard against his hip.

Letting go of Methos, Duncan brought one hand up to curve around the back of his head. The soft, dark hair was still cropped short, but Duncan slid his fingers into it as far as he could. Carefully he tilted Methos' head, angling it to give himself the best access as he leaned in for a kiss.

The first touch of their lips was no more than a gentle brush, almost tentative as they each took the opportunity to relearn the feel and taste of the other. Then Duncan increased the pressure of his mouth against Methos' and in a heartbeat their desire flared anew.

Everything that was offered to him, Methos accepted hungrily. He parted his lips as Duncan eagerly ravished his mouth. When the Highlander's tongue stole out to flick against his lips Methos welcomed it, urging Duncan to probe the warm depths of his mouth. His own tongue slid lazily against it, sharing the mellow flavour of the Scotch he had drunk.

Duncan was more than happy as he reacquainted himself with the unique taste of the old Immortal. The demanding tongue twined sensually with his own and Duncan was reminded just how talented Methos' mouth was. His cock throbbed sympathetically with the memory too and Duncan couldn't hold back the groan of pleasure that welled up in his throat.

Methos swallowed the helpless sound and proceeded to steal the last of Duncan's breath away as well as he pursued the kiss avidly. Sliding his hands slowly up Duncan's back, Methos' fingers left trails of warmth, even through the fabric of the Highlander's shirt. He kneaded Duncan's shoulders briefly before tracing the return path. This time Methos' hands came to rest on Duncan's buttocks, his palms curving possessively around the enticingly firm muscles. Using his grasp to pull Duncan even closer to him, Methos carefully aligned their hips so that their fabric- encased cocks nestled temptingly together. That drew another gasp from the Highlander, which quickly became a deep-throated moan as Methos began to rub sensually against Duncan's body.

Panting hard, Duncan tore his mouth away from Methos', desperate for air. His free hand came up to grip the old Immortal's shoulder as Duncan tried to steady himself against the overwhelming sensations flooding through his body.

"It's all right. I have you," said Methos reassuringly.

Duncan met the other Immortal's sparkling green/gold gaze, focusing with difficulty on the changeable eyes. Methos was smiling at him and Duncan felt the pain of their estrangement slowly beginning to melt away. It was replaced by a desperate hunger for the feel of Methos' naked skin under his hands. Duncan wanted Methos writhing with pleasure from the touch of his fingers and lips. It was a joy he'd been denied for too long.

Acting on his desire, Duncan slid his hands down to Methos' waist. He yanked the hem of Methos' shirt out of the waistband of his jeans and then went to work on the buttons. They yielded to his fingers easily and soon Duncan was able to push the shirt out of his way, baring Methos' smooth chest.

Indulgently, Methos watched Duncan's actions. His eyes were heavy- lidded with pleasure as the Highlander's broad, calloused palms were laid flat against his chest. The strong hands were warm on his skin as Duncan glided them slowly over the finely drawn curves of his muscles Then questing fingertips found his sensitive nipples and Methos closed his eyes completely as Duncan began to torment him with teasing touches and firmer pinches.

A pleased smile curved Duncan's lips as he watched the old Immortal's reaction. He had forgotten just how susceptible Methos was to being touched like this. Duncan sucked on one index finger, moistening the tip with saliva. Then he began to draw gentle circles around first one nipple and then its mate.

As the damp fingertip was trailed over his heated skin Methos shivered. When Duncan bent his head and blew lightly over the sensitised flesh the pebbled skin drew up into taut peaks. The added stimulation had Methos groaning in delight, but there was still more...

Not done yet, Duncan leaned in closer and where his fingers had passed his tongue now followed. He lapped roughly at the slightly salty skin, adding to the barrage of sensations washing over Methos.

A deeper moan escaped Methos then and he freed one hand, raising it to cup the back of Duncan's head. Gently he encouraged the Highlander in his endeavours, urging him to bite and suck harder at his nipples. When Duncan obliged, Methos stroked the dark silk of his hair absently, running his fingers through the long strands.

At the same time Duncan let his own hands stray further down Methos' body. He wanted all of it, without the hindrance of clothing. He worked quickly to unfasten the old Immortal's jeans and then thrust his hands inside the loosened waistband. Soft, smooth skin greeted his questing fingers and filled Duncan's palms with heat as he caressed Methos' buttocks. He could feel the muscles tense and then relax as he stroked them firmly.

Methos dropped a hand to his own waist, pushing his jeans down over his hips. A sensual wriggle - which had the added bonus of rubbing his cock against Duncan's swollen groin - had the worn denim sliding down his thighs and a moment later he was able to step free of them. Methos offered up a silent prayer for his foresight in eschewing underwear that morning as he pressed closely against Duncan's still fully clothed body

"Dammit, Methos," murmured Duncan huskily as he found his arms full of naked Immortal. "Help me get these clothes off - please!"

"Gladly," replied Methos. His voice was deep and resonant with desire.

Just the sound of it made Duncan shiver. God, how he loved the way Methos spoke when he was aroused like this. The rich, sensual timbre of his voice was almost enough on its own to make Duncan come. Lost in contemplation, Duncan was scarcely aware of Methos quickly and efficiently stripping him of his clothes. He certainly noticed, though, when Methos took him back into his arms and they were finally pressed together, skin to skin.

"Christ," whispered Duncan, his own arms moving to wrap around the oldest Immortal. "You feel so good."

He thrust his hips gently against Methos' and felt the sticky wetness from the other man's cock smear a cool trail over his skin. Duncan drew in a long breath, scenting the familiar musk of Methos' arousal. How could he have risked losing this? Again the Highlander shivered - but not from pleasure this time - as he realised just how close he had come to pushing Methos away altogether.

Methos was much inclined to echo Duncan's sentiments as the Highlander lavished kisses on his neck and chest. Soft lips and sharp teeth combined in a tender assault that seemed designed to stake a claim on the old Immortal's body - not that Methos objected to being claimed by the other man. He rather liked the idea that Duncan wanted to leave his mark on him, however fleetingly. But the delight of having the body he'd been too long denied pressed so tightly against his own was almost too much for Methos' already tenuous control. As good as this felt, he wanted more, but first Methos had to get Duncan's attention. With an effort of will Methos pulled away from the Highlander and the talented mouth which was bringing him so much pleasure.

"Mac, there's a perfectly good bed over there..." Methos offered.

"Too far," insisted Duncan. "I need you - now!"

His final words were muffled as the dark head bent back to its task of taking Methos apart - slowly, piece by piece. Sinking to his knees, Duncan moved his attention further down Methos' body, trailing fiery kisses across already overheated skin.

Even though he knew what was coming next, Methos couldn't prevent the gasp of shock that escaped him as warmth and wetness enveloped his needy cock. There was no teasing, no gradual engulfing of his swollen shaft. Duncan simply parted his perfect lips and swallowed Methos to the hilt in one greedy movement. Methos couldn't remember Duncan showing this much hunger for him in the past, but he wasn't of a mind to slow the Highlander down now. Duncan's firm suckling of his cock simply felt too good and it appeared that he was intent on bringing Methos release as quickly as possible. It seemed an admirable goal to the ancient Immortal.

A familiar tightening in his balls told Methos that Duncan was succeeding in his aim. He gripped Duncan's shoulders tightly to brace himself as white hot pleasure exploded in his groin and radiated outward through the rest of his body. Methos was only vaguely aware of Duncan's big, warm hands stroking his flanks soothingly as the Highlander's throat worked to swallow the bittersweet fluid of his release.

Duncan milked Methos for every drop before he carefully pulled back. He tilted his head up so that he could see Methos' face. The other Immortal's eyes were shut tight, his expression one that could as easily have been deep pain as intense pleasure. The normally pale skin was flushed and lightly sheened with sweat. Methos looked both beautiful and vulnerable in the aftermath of his climax.

With a slight smile Duncan carefully dislodged the hands still clasping his shoulders. Then he climbed to his feet. He pulled Methos to him and gently kissed the closed eyelids. They fluttered against his lips and opened slowly as he drew back.

Methos still looked faintly dazed as he focused on Duncan's dark eyes. "Maybe we should fight more often," he said shakily as he finally found his voice. "If the make up sex is always like that..."

"Perhaps," conceded Duncan, managing another faint smile. "But can we not leave the making up for quite so long next time. I wasn't sure it was ever going to happen."

Raising a hand, Methos gently stroked Duncan's cheek. "You're right. I shouldn't be joking about it. I'm sorry. All the same, that was wonderful - for me, at least." The hazel eyes darkened as Methos felt Duncan's cock hard and unsatisfied against his hip. "Not for you, though... Why not, I wonder. What can I do for you, Mac? Tell me - anything you want."

"Anything, Methos?" Duncan asked softly, and the other Immortal nodded. "Then I want to be inside you, but face to face, no more hiding from one another. The one thing I really want from you in the future is honesty... maybe this is a good place to start."

Methos regarded Duncan steadily for a long moment, as if weighing the seriousness of his request. Then he nodded again. He carefully extricated himself from Duncan's embrace and walked the short distance to his bed. Methos bent and retrieved a small bottle from his bedside table before lying down and patting the mattress beside him in invitation.

Duncan didn't need to be asked a second time. In moments he was stretched out beside Methos on the bed. He propped himself up on one elbow so he could study the long, lean figure at his side.

"You like what you see?" Methos asked, watching Duncan's eyes as they remapped familiar territory.

"Always," agreed Duncan as he looked up, his gaze tangling with Methos'. "I just wish I knew if this is Methos that I'm seeing."

"Mac, they're all me," said Methos with a sigh. "All the faces - Adam, Death and a hundred others that I've worn in the last 5,000 years. The names - the details - may change, but at the heart of every one of them you'll always find me - just Methos, just a guy trying to survive... I can't change the essence of who I am, only the outward appearance."

"But I can't help feeling it's only those facades I've known," said Duncan sadly. "Have you ever really been just Methos with me?"

A soft smile curved Methos' lips. "Oh yes," he whispered with absolute certainty. "Each and every time we've been together like this. That's not something I'm willing to share - even with myself."

"Really?" Duncan asked, his dark eyes intent. Suddenly he needed the reassurance. He wasn't sure why, only that it was essential to him to be certain.

"Really," Methos replied firmly, his own gaze steady. "I would never lie about this. You're too important... to me."

More than once Methos had insisted that Duncan was too important to lose. Duncan had always taken Methos' words as referring to his importance to the Game. This was the first time Methos had given the statement an overt personal slant. But had he always meant it that way? Duncan searched Methos' face, looking for an answer, but it remained elusive.

"Do you love me?" The question was out of his mouth almost before he knew he was going to ask it. Duncan found himself thinking wryly that it was a toss up which of them was actually more taken aback by the asking of it. It was far too late to call the words back now, though.

Certainly Methos' hazel eyes were wide and startled in the wake of the unexpected question. And for once he seemed totally at a loss for words.

"Mac, I..." Methos stared at the Highlander uncertainly.

"It's a simple enough question, Methos," said Duncan, deciding to brazen it out and see what the old Immortal had to say for himself. After all, he didn't really expect a straight answer.

"Simple? Believe me, there's nothing simple about it," said Methos with a harsh laugh. "Damn it, but you certainly know how to ruin the mood!" Methos looked away from Duncan. The sight of that perfect body was too dangerous - a blatant invitation that just might tempt him to an incautious declaration.

"Why?" asked Duncan. He really wanted to know. "How can it be complicated? Either you do or you don't; there are no other possible answers."

Glancing back at him, Methos narrowed his eyes. All right, two could play at this game. "Fair enough, if it's such a simple question, you answer it. Do you love me?"

Duncan smiled. He'd had plenty of time to figure out his own answer to that. "Yes," he replied, without hesitation.

"What? Just like that?" Methos' eyes widened in surprise.

"Just like that," agreed Duncan.

"You're serious, aren't you, MacLeod?" There was a hint of distress in Methos' voice.

"Does it scare you that much?" Duncan asked shrewdly.

"It bloody terrifies me!" Methos burst out. "And if you had an ounce of common sense it would scare you too. Don't do this, Mac... Haven't we hurt one another enough already?"

"More than enough," said Duncan gently. "That's why I asked you to be honest with me from now on. If we know what to expect..."

"God, I thought I knew what to expect from you, but this..." Methos shook his head. "An occasional fuck between friends is one thing, but happy ever after? At least one of us has to be crazy, or we wouldn't be having this conversation."

"Are you saying you're not prepared to be honest with me?" asked Duncan, his dark gaze clouded. "Because right now I'm damned sure you aren't being - not even with yourself. And if that's the case then I think I should go right now, Methos."

"No, Mac... don't - please." Methos sighed. "This is so easy for you, isn't it. You always wear your heart on your sleeve. I can't do that."

"I know," said Duncan softly. "I'm not asking you to. Answer me just this once - truthfully - and I'll never ask you again. But I need to know, Methos. It's important - you are important - to me too. Do you love me?"

Methos closed his eyes. The answer was simple - in his heart - but the speaking of it aloud went totally against the grain for him. He'd lost too many people he had loved and now it felt as if to give voice to the words was only tempting fate. Couldn't Duncan tell - from his actions ever since that first day they'd met? Why did he need to hear the words so much?

Slowly Methos opened his eyes again. Duncan was still watching him, a deep sadness haunting the dark brown gaze. Methos sighed. To lose this Highland child now, after all they'd been through, and when the pieces finally seemed to be falling back into place... It was unthinkable. Even more so than the alternative, Methos realised.

He reached out, curving his hand around Duncan's cheek. Methos could feel the faint rasp of stubble against his palm and it sent a shiver of sensation throughout his body. Concentrating on that feeling and not on the fear which tried to close his throat against the words, Methos gave Duncan his answer - the simple truth he had demanded.

"Yes, Highlander," said Methos huskily. "I love you."

It was, Methos decided, worth the risk. The fierce joy which lit Duncan's face at his words was beyond price. And that was the last coherent thought Methos had time for as he found himself pressed flat on the bed with Duncan's warm, reassuring weight blanketing him. Then his mouth was being plundered - deep, hungry kisses that stole his breath away and left him aroused and wanting more despite his recent climax. And there was still Duncan's need, the hard evidence of it sliding slickly against his belly as the Highlander moved over him restlessly. With an effort Methos tore his mouth free.

"Duncan," he panted harshly, "here..."

The younger Immortal looked up, his eyes all dark, dilated pupil. His gaze quickly fixed on the object in Methos' hand - the small bottle of oil. With trembling fingers Duncan took it from him. He was so close, but he wanted to be buried deep in the beautiful, slender body of his lover when he came.

Methos loved him. The words still resounded in Duncan's head. It astounded him that he'd dared to ask the old Immortal that - and with their reconciliation still on such a tenuous footing - but he had. And Methos had answered, firing Duncan's desire for him to an almost painful level of intensity. The old man's honesty - so difficult for him to give - deserved a reward, and Duncan planned on making it a very special one. He would love Methos until he had no doubts left, no fears - only the knowledge of how much he was loved in return. His only awareness would be of his own body and Duncan's, joined together in pleasure.

To be continued...

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