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 2001.

WALL OF SILENCE

by Karen Colohan

I've seen that life
Touches us with pain
And we change
Becoming strangers to our friends
Tell me what happens along the way
I thought of us
Hard to talk these days
Did we change
Or were we strangers all along
Tell me what caused us to turn away
There's a wall of silence
Miles across
A wall between us
Holding back
Holding back our loss
 - "Wall of Silence" October Project

"You guys be good."

"If not we'll try to be better."

Those final, innuendo-laden words echoed in Methos' brain as he stood on the deck of the barge staring wistfully at the door he had just closed behind him. In spite of the long coat wrapped tightly around his slender form he felt cold... and lonely, totally excluded from the warmth at the heart of the Clan MacLeod. To complicate matters further, he also felt very horny.

All Methos could see in his mind's eye was the image of Duncan MacLeod - so alive and relaxed after the resolution of the situation with Steven Keane - with Amanda settled firmly in his lap, that short skirt of hers leaving very little to the imagination. And, heedless of his presence, their mouths had fused together, lips moving hungrily as they kissed. There was no doubting it, life really was a sadistic bitch sometimes.

As dismissals went it was less than subtle, not really like Duncan at all. Then again, where his friendship with the Highlander was concerned, all bets were off these days, had been since the unexpected and unwanted appearance of Kronos and Cassandra. Methos sighed. He supposed it was something of a minor miracle that they were talking again at all; that he'd even been invited aboard the barge. But he had never felt so much the outsider being there, and his heart ached for what was lost... sentimental idiot that he was.

He hadn't really wanted to get involved in the Highlander's affairs at all, but Amanda could be very persuasive, damn her to hell. Besides which, she'd managed to worry him. Methos trusted her instincts, and it had been clear to him that she was genuinely afraid for Duncan's survival this time. Apparently, though, she hadn't known about his own fall from grace with him - at least she'd given no sign of it. Surely she wouldn't have come to him for help if she had.

It wasn't that Methos would have expected her to judge him the way Duncan had - she understood far better than he did how people did whatever they needed to do to survive. But he didn't think she would have risked upsetting Duncan still further by bringing them face to face for the first time since Bordeaux had she known. And it had been unsettling for both of them. Though perhaps the revelation of Duncan's own less-than-perfect past had eased things a little. If nothing else, it made it harder for him to claim the moral highground when a man was trying to kill him for unspeakable acts of premeditated slaughter.

With hindsight, Methos wondered if Amanda had really been right to worry. Maybe Duncan had had it all in hand from the start as he'd claimed, needing to undergo his trial by combat to find peace with his actions after Culloden. Or perhaps Methos' own little pep talk had helped; he really didn't know.

What it had shown him was how good it had felt to see Duncan again, to involve himself with the Highlander's life, albeit briefly. Which brought him painfully back to the present and the closed door which stood between them once again. It was clear enough he wasn't needed now... not the way he had been once. Duncan had turned back to Amanda for the comfort and companionship he had begun to seek in Methos' arms. Which left the oldest Immortal out in the cold with a bad case of unrequited lust.

Should he go out and find the first warm and willing body available to help him take away the ache? Or should he just go home to the solitary comfort of his own hand and the countless - now useless - fantasies of what might have been?

The former was tempting. Surely this city must hold more than one man with long, dark, silky hair and deep brown, brooding eyes. For the right price there were probably even those who would let him call them Duncan MacLeod and would ask no questions if he wanted to hold his sword to their throat while he fucked them. Methos snorted derisively when he realised he was actually seriously considering cruising the less salubrious parts of Paris for an acceptable facsimile of what he really wanted. There was no fool like an old fool...

It wasn't what the man looked like that had pulled him back time after time, not really. It was that bright flame of life, passion and belief in himself that drew Methos close, even as it burned him. Duncan might be a judgemental bastard, but he still wanted him... and couldn't have him. A stranger - even if, superficially, he looked like Duncan - would never be able to satisfy the need he was feeling. Ah well... A night at home with the touch of his own hand and his precious store of Highlander memories for company it was then.

With a final wistful look at the closed door of the barge, Methos turned and began to make his solitary way home.

******************

Inside the barge, both Immortals felt Methos' retreat, the sense of his uniquely rich presence finally ebbing; though it seemed that he had lingered outside for some minutes after the door had closed behind him. Neither of them actually commented on the fact, though Duncan had glanced towards the doorway a couple of times as he came up for air. Each time he had dived back into their kissing with apparent enthusiasm so Amanda had let it pass, but not this time.

As Methos' presence faded entirely Duncan seemed to get more tense, instead of relaxing as Amanda had hoped he would. He might not have a Quickening to work off, but he had certainly been fighting for his life earlier, and that was usually enough to interest him in swordplay of a far more pleasurable nature - long, sweaty hours of it. Something was different this time, though, and Amanda pulled away from Duncan, breaking their kiss.

Now that she thought about it, Amanda was aware of an unusual hesitancy about his behaviour from the outset, in spite of the initial amorous intent of his advances. Then again, she supposed she had pretty much been the instigator of those when she insinuated herself into Duncan's lap. Although the firm swell of his cock had been real enough and he had seemed keen to take things further at first - despite Methos' presence. Hence the old Immortal's strategic retreat.

Amanda frowned. It wasn't like Duncan to hold back. Normally he threw himself into their lovemaking wholeheartedly, right from their foreplay to the invariably glorious climax, but not this evening. He seemed distracted, his mind turned elsewhere. Towards the friend who had just left?

Thoughtfully, Amanda began to piece a few other inconsistencies together - not just in Duncan's behaviour, but in Methos' too. Since when was the old man so unwilling to help Duncan out when he was in trouble? But she'd had the devil's own time convincing him to get involved. And what had that comment been about earlier when Duncan had said that they all made mistakes?

And we all have mistakes to forgive Methos had replied, his eyes never straying from Duncan's face. Clearly something had been going on that she'd missed out on, Amanda thought, finally ready to test out her theory.

"Duncan," she began carefully, "are things all right between you and Methos?"

A startled look crossed Duncan's features, followed by a faintly guilty expression. "As far as I know," he hedged. "Why do you ask?"

"Because I'm starting to get the feeling you used me to get him to leave," replied Amanda, pushing her theory a little further. When Duncan refused to meet her eyes she realised she'd hit on the truth. "Duncan, why?" she persisted when he didn't try to deny it.

"Amanda, leave it alone - please," said Duncan softly as he looked up. There was a pained expression in his dark eyes. "It's complicated."

"And would this be why I had such a hard time persuading Methos to talk to you?" she asked.

"You shouldn't have gone to him in the first place," Duncan protested. "I was perfectly capable of handling Keane without your interference or Methos'."

"You know, I thought it was strange at the time," Amanda continued, as if Duncan hadn't spoken. She hopped out of his lap and began to pace. "Usually he's the first person out there pulling for you when you're in trouble, but this time... Duncan, what's happened with you guys?"

"Amanda..." Duncan sighed deeply.

This was all he needed; Amanda in a curious mood and set on 'fixing' something she perceived to be broken. Things were still precarious enough between himself and Methos without any interference from Amanda - especially when she had no idea what had actually happened. Not that he had any intention of enlightening her, but who knew what she might say... He groaned inwardly, what a mess.

Still, it was probably his own fault. If he were honest, he had used her as a barrier of sorts, deliberately excluding the old Immortal by pulling Amanda into a kiss. Well, Methos had certainly taken his cue and left - not that he'd had much choice about it - but Duncan didn't feel especially good about having done it. And the fact that he'd waited outside the door for long minutes after he'd apparently departed only left him feeling more guilty. What had Methos been thinking then, Duncan wondered. Had the rather obvious exclusion hurt him? Had he hoped he might be called back?

Methos had tried to help, after all. He'd been willing to take on a challenge that wasn't his own - again - in a bid to keep Duncan's head intact. And what kind of thanks had he got for his pains? The threat of a challenge by Duncan himself followed later by a totally unsubtle dismissal from the barge. Good night and thank you, Methos.

With a sigh, Duncan cast his mind back to their earlier conversation in the Luxembourg Gardens. Methos had tried to point out that maybe there really weren't so many differences between them as he would like to think. They were both capable of horrifying atrocities, and had committed them - in the past. And now they both had to live with the consequences of their actions, the knowledge of what they'd done.

But Methos hadn't sat in judgement on Duncan when he learned what he'd done in the dark days following Culloden - any more than he had during the Dark Quickening or after Duncan took Ingrid Henning's head. He'd simply accepted those transgressions - past and present - and moved beyond them. Why? For the sake of their friendship.

And could Duncan say the same? No. He had summarily judged Methos over the Horsemen affair. He had become fixated on horrors committed in unimaginably different times by a man who clearly bore little resemblance to the Methos of the here and now.

After such treatment was it any surprise that Methos had been reluctant to help when Amanda asked? Hardly. In fact, it was a wonder she'd managed to convince him at all. And what had it taken for Methos to set aside Duncan's indifference and try to help? More importantly, what did it say about the value Methos placed on their fractured friendship, their - if Duncan was prepared to be honest about what had begun to grow between them before the Horsemen intruded - love for one another?

It said a lot, but Duncan had rebuffed Methos' overtures again. He had ignored everything the old Immortal had ever done for him in the time they'd known one another. What the hell must Methos think of him now? What must he be feeling?

"What have I done?" Duncan asked, looking up at Amanda and then back down at his hands.

"I don't know," said Amanda softly, and there was compassion in her eyes. "Why don't you explain it to me." She perched on the arm of the chair, watching him.

Duncan turned sad brown eyes to her. "I've really screwed up this time," he admitted. "Methos was trying to make things right between us, but I didn't listen; I pushed him away. Christ, after this I doubt he'll bother trying again."

"Do you want to sort things out with him?" Amanda asked gently.

"Yes - yes, I do," said Duncan firmly. "He's my friend; that's what's important. Maybe things can't just go back to the way they were before, but we could work on it. Our friendship is worth fighting for."

"Well, Methos clearly thinks so too, so that's a good start," agreed Amanda. "I still can't believe he challenged Keane. He hates to fight, but he did it for you."

"I know." Duncan sighed. "And I thanked him by losing my temper with him and threatening to challenge him myself! No wonder he was pissed off."

"Was what he did to you really so bad?" Amanda asked casually.

Duncan wasn't fooled. "Stop fishing," he warned. "I'm not going to tell you. It's not my place to, not my story to tell. Suffice to say, it wasn't anything he actually *did* to me. It was more something he didn't do... something he didn't tell me. But it's over now, done with. And I have to learn to accept what happened - or else give up any hope of being friends with Methos again."

"Sooo, basically, Methos did something that you don't approve of," surmised Amanda. "Welcome to the club, old man," she added, with more than a trace of sarcasm.

Duncan shook his head, exasperated. "Something like that. Now will you just leave it alone!"

"Maybe... if you tell me what you're going to do to make it up to Methos." Amanda smiled brightly. "And you are going to make up with him - aren't you?"

"Yeah, I guess I am," agreed Duncan ruefully. Like he had a choice...

"Well then, don't you think you should go after him?" Amanda asked.

"I don't know where he was going," protested Duncan.

"His apartment might be a good place to start," Amanda prompted, shaking her head. Men did have such a talent for making things more complicated than they needed to be.

"What about you?" Duncan asked, still stalling.

"I'm a big girl now, Duncan. I can find my own way home," said Amanda in exasperation. "Go on," she continued as he still hesitated. "I'll see you tomorrow so you can tell me how it all went. Good luck."

Amanda got to her feet and retrieved her coat. She paused again at Duncan's side, giving him a quick peck on the cheek. "Tomorrow," she repeated, and then she was gone.

"Bye, Amanda," said Duncan softly as he watched her leave.

He sat where he was for several long moments, thinking over everything that had happened since Amanda's phone call asking him to meet her on Holy Ground. As a result of that call one loose end from his past had been tidied up, and maybe now there was an opportunity to do the same for another - this one of more recent making.

"Ah, Methos, what am I going to do about you?" Duncan enquired of the empty air. But there was no revelation, no words of wisdom... only the faint echo of his own voice in the heavy silence. Which meant he was going to have to figure it out by himself - and the sooner the better.

Downing the last of his Scotch, Duncan got up and found his coat. Settling the katana securely inside he headed out of the barge to go in search of the elusive oldest Immortal. Not having any better suggestions he decided to follow Amanda's advice and begin with his apartment.

******************

As soon as Duncan drew close to the door of Methos' apartment he felt the unmistakably familiar presence which told him the old Immortal was indeed at home. He gave a sigh of relief. He hadn't relished the thought of trailing round Paris, trying to track Methos down if he'd gone to ground somewhere. He wondered if it was a good sign, the fact that he'd been this easy to find. Did it mean Methos wanted to talk? Or was he just tired of running, sick of hiding?

Duncan knew the other Immortal would have sensed his approach by now so he stepped up to the door and knocked firmly. He waited for several minutes, but there was no reply. Perhaps he needed to rethink his theory about Methos wanting to talk... But even if that was the case, Methos couldn't possibly imagine that he didn't know he was inside; so why didn't he come to the door? Duncan frowned, suddenly anxious. Was the old man just sulking, or could something be wrong? Either way, he wasn't leaving without seeing him. Raising his hand, Duncan knocked again.

"Adam? Adam, I know you're in there. Why won't you open the door?" he called.

A few seconds later the door was wrenched open and Methos stood framed in the opening. His expression was less than welcoming, as was the way his sword was drawn, the point held unerringly at Duncan's throat.

Taking an involuntary step backwards, Duncan blinked at the other Immortal, startled by the naked threat of the blade. Methos didn't even have the excuse that he didn't know who was outside his door... Keeping very still, Duncan waited to see what his next move would be.

"Well, at least you're a little more circumspect with my name than Amanda was, but what the hell is this whole thing the pair of you have for unannounced, late-night visits?" Methos finally snapped irritably.

"It's not that late," Duncan protested automatically.

"I still wasn't expecting you. Haven't you heard of this wonderful device they have these days? It's called the telephone." Methos' expression was unforgiving. "Anyway, you and Amanda seemed to have things to discuss," he added sarcastically. "I thought you'd be otherwise engaged for the rest of the evening."

"It turned out Amanda and I weren't the only ones with things to discuss," said Duncan carefully.

Methos merely kept on looking at him, waiting for him to elaborate, apparently. At any rate, his sword never wavered from its position just inches away from Duncan's throat. He took another careful step back, wondering why the other Immortal was being so unwelcoming. Was he really that angry, or was this just payback for the way he'd been dismissed earlier? Whichever it was, Duncan felt less than comfortable being on the wrong end of the Ivanhoe when Methos was in such an unpredictable mood.

"Are you going to let me in?" he asked finally, when Methos still showed no sign of relaxing his guard.

Eventually, Methos' shoulders slumped wearily. He sighed in defeat and turned away, his sword dropping. "You really aren't going to go away, are you?" When Duncan simply shook his head he scowled. "I suppose you'd better come in then," he muttered ungraciously. "You realise the neighbours will get entirely the wrong impression of me."

"Maybe you ought to stop greeting all your visitors with a sword," observed Duncan dryly. "Or is there something about this neighbourhood I should know? Just what is it you do for a living these days...?"

Methos made a small sound that might have indicated amusement as he walked away and tossed his sword onto the kitchen counter with a loud clatter.

The large living area was shrouded in shadows, the blinds tightly drawn against the light from the street outside. A single lamp in one corner provided the only illumination and Duncan blinked, trying to adjust to the dimness as he followed Methos inside. He pushed the door closed behind him and then looked around curiously. He hadn't been to this new apartment before. It was certainly eclectic in style. Duncan ran his hand along the back of the leopard print couch and eyed the vaguely uncomfortable-looking chair - it could almost be called a throne with its unnecessarily high back - beside which his unwilling host had come to a halt.

"Help yourself to a drink," Methos instructed him, nodding to the small collection of bottles just behind Duncan.

"Thanks," he responded, automatically courteous, and turned to pour himself a Scotch.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to finish my shower," said Methos pettishly. "Someone interrupted me by banging on the door fit to wake the dead," he sniped. "I had hoped they'd go away, but it obviously wasn't my lucky night."

That got Duncan's attention. He swung round and really looked at Methos for the first time. He'd been rather distracted by the open threat of the Ivanhoe before. Now he noticed that the old Immortal was clad in just a dark robe, and his feet were bare. Looking closer he could also see that Methos' hair was wet. No wonder it had taken him so long to answer the door.

"I'm sorry," he said, flustered. What if Methos hadn't taken the time to put on a robe, but had opened the door to him naked... Duncan flushed at the thought, old memories resurfacing unbidden. He swallowed hard, forcing them away, so that he could actually look Methos in the eye with the appearance of calmness. "I should go. You ought to have said... I didn't mean to disrupt your evening."

"Sit down, MacLeod, relax." Methos finally relented, his earlier anger dissipating with a sigh. "There was nothing to disrupt - apart from an early night. I'm glad you're here." His tone seemed to be sincere.

"Really?" Duncan looked up at the other Immortal from his seat on the couch.

"Yeah, really, you just caught me at a bad time."

Methos wasn't about to tell his visitor just how ill-timed his arrival had been. Fortunately, the rush of adrenaline caused by the unexpected presence of another Immortal at his door had curbed the other impulses he'd been in the process of dealing with. Maintaining his anger had kept them at bay even after he'd recognised the touch of Duncan's Quickening. But now the Highlander was in danger of turning serious on him, and Methos wasn't sure he could handle that.

From somewhere he found a small smile. "Was Amanda too disappointed that you stood her up for me?"

It made Duncan laugh, as it was supposed to. "I'm sure she has plenty of other numbers in her little black book," he replied, with a careless shrug.

Methos chuckled. "Undoubtedly. Now, just give me a minute to make myself presentable and you can tell me why you're here."

"You look just fine as you are to me," said Duncan, without thinking. "You don't need to get dressed, do you?" His mind was suddenly too busy fixating on the slender bare feet. Methos had always loved to have his feet caressed, his toes... Duncan gasped as he realised the turn his thoughts had taken.

"I beg your pardon?" The harsh note was back in Methos' voice. "What game are you playing, MacLeod?" he asked tightly. "Because I'm really not finding it very amusing."

"Methos, I'm sorry... I don't..." Duncan shrugged helplessly, shocked by how quickly things seemed to be going wrong.

"You cannot waltz in here and expect to pick up where you left off. Or had you forgotten the little matter of telling me that we were though?" Methos sounded as if he couldn't decide between anger and pain. "What do you think I am? Was that what that little display with Amanda was all about? To see if you could still get under my skin, still make me want you? Newsflash, MacLeod, I never stopped wanting you - even when you made it very clear I was persona non grata.

"Are you happy now? Do you have what you came for? If you wanted to rob me of what little dignity I still had left you're doing a bloody good job of it, but I won't give you the satisfaction of begging you to stay. Pathetic I may be, desperate... no. In fact, I think you should leave - now."

Methos held himself tightly, arms wrapped around his too-thin frame as if to stop the pieces of himself from flying apart. Why the hell had Duncan had to come here tonight? He'd never considered him to be a cruel man, judgemental, yes, but never intentionally vindictive. Or perhaps it was just that his emotions were still too raw to deal with him at close quarters. Caught with his earlier desire still unfulfilled he was far too vulnerable to the Highlander.

"Methos, I'm sorry," Duncan repeated. He was on his feet, hands outstretched in a placating gesture. "That isn't what I wanted at all. I only wanted to talk to you. The rest was - unintentional. The way you look... Please, sit down - or go and change if it would make you feel more comfortable. I never meant..."

"You never meant to hurt me?" said Methos bitterly. "Well, it's a bit late to be worrying about that. You hurt me when you didn't trust me, MacLeod. You hurt me when you chose to ignore everything I'd been to you and all the things I'd done for you to take Cassandra's side against me. Perhaps I deserved it - from her, I'd say yes - but maybe, just maybe it would have been nice if you'd given me the benefit of the doubt."

"How could I?" protested Duncan. "You never gave me the chance. You were too busy telling me just how much you'd enjoyed killing all those tens of thousands of people. If you wanted understanding..."

"Did it never occur to you that I might have done that for a reason?" asked Methos softly.

"Yes, replied Duncan, his voice equally soft. "Why else do you think I followed you to Bordeaux? But to be fair, what was I supposed to think? You were the one who gave Kronos back the Four Horsemen. The risks involved, the innocent lives at stake... The leap of faith you were asking me to make, Methos."

"I just wanted you to trust me." Methos' eyes were shadowed with pain. "When you were under the effects of the Dark Quickening, did I turn my back on you? You raped; you killed, but did I let it change things between us? No. Because I knew that wasn't really you. It wasn't Duncan MacLeod who was responsible for those acts - not the real you - and I knew that when it was over you'd have to live with what you'd done. Did I hold you to account for killing Ingrid Henning - your friend - even when you wanted me to be your judge? No.

"And these things happened in the here and now. I saw what you did with my own eyes, knew what was driving you, but it didn't change my opinion of you. All you had to go on were millennia-old memories filtered through hatred, fed to you by Cassandra. But you didn't really want to hear my side of the story, did you? You'd already made up your mind that I was a heartless rapist and a murdering bastard." Methos laughed harshly. "Forgive me if I felt you were being just a little unfair."

"Unfair? Now who's being unfair!" protested Duncan, stung to anger. "I wanted to believe she was wrong about you, but then you gave me that great speech of yours... Just remind me again, how many exactly was it that you killed? And just how much did you used to get off on it?"

"Mac, this is all crap, and you know it." Methos sighed tiredly. "You've already as good as admitted that you worked out I did it just to push your buttons. I needed to get you out of the firing line. I didn't have time to make you understand so I - improvised. Guess I did a pretty good job of it - maybe too good. What can I say? Kronos never did bring out the best in me."

Duncan grimaced. "No kidding. But why didn't you try trusting me?" he asked sadly. "It might have saved us all a lot of heartache."

Relenting a little, Methos sank down on the couch, keeping a careful distance between Duncan and himself as the Highlander also sat down again. He spoke slowly, his voice very quiet. "In case you hadn't noticed, I don't find it all that easy to trust. Call it paranoia, if you will, but after 5,000 years I've found that it's not always conducive to survival - especially where other Immortals are concerned. But I do make exceptions."

"It didn't feel like it, Methos," said Duncan softly. "I thought we were friends..."

"We were," agreed Methos, his use of the past tense very deliberate.

"And now?" Duncan asked tentatively.

Methos shook his head. "I don't know. I really don't."

"Do you want us to be friends?" There was a plaintive note in Duncan's voice that made Methos smile in spite of himself.

"What do you think?" he asked casually.

"I think I'd like to hear you give me a straight answer," Duncan replied, wondering at the other Immortal's evasion.

"We can't just make everything that's happened go away..." Methos still seemed uncertain.

"I'm not saying we can," said Duncan patiently. "And, in a way, I suppose that I'm glad I know."

"Bullshit!" Methos snorted. "When it comes down to it, you like Adam Pierson a whole lot more than you like Methos. You know how to deal with him; he's comfortable, safe..."

"And not really you! What you're saying isn't true, you know," Duncan insisted. "How can I make you see? Sometimes I feel as if you know everything about me - good and bad - thanks to your access to my Watcher records. That can be a bit disconcerting, especially when you're so damned secretive about your past. If Kronos and Cassandra hadn't turned up, what would I really know about you? Nothing. 5,000 years, Methos, so much history, so much life... How could I not want to know more?"

"Even if there are more skeletons like the Horsemen in the closet - and there are, believe me. Did it never occur to you that I might have good reason to prefer what's gone before to stay there - in the past?" Methos shrugged. "Digging it all up, rehashing old news... What good does it do? We can't go back and change any of it."

"But we can learn from it," said Duncan carefully.

"Perhaps," Methos conceded, "but isn't it better to just let it lie, to accept it and move on? Dwelling on things you have no power to change will only drive you mad."

"Are you saying that's what happened to Cassandra?" Duncan asked sharply.

"I wasn't saying anything, MacLeod, but if you want to use Cassandra as an example, that's fine by me. Do you honestly believe her life was made better because she carried a grudge against the Horsemen, against me, for thousands of years?" Methos raised one dark brow sceptically. "I don't think so. And what about Steven Keane, while we're on the subject. Do you think his desire for revenge against you gave him any peace? Of course not. Both their lives would have been immeasurably easier if they'd just been able to let go of their hate."

"You make it sound so simple, Methos, but it's not." Duncan turned troubled eyes on the other Immortal.

"I didn't say that it was," replied Methos gently. "All the same, it's a choice each of us can make. Do we want to be tied to a past we can't change, or do we want to move on, embrace the present. I know which I prefer to do. What about you, Duncan MacLeod?"

"Is this about Cassandra, or about us?" asked Duncan uncertainly.

"It's all part of the same thing, isn't it?" said Methos.

"A minute ago you were telling me that we can't just forget what's happened between us. Now you're telling me I should let it go..." Duncan's brow furrowed in confusion.

"No, I said we couldn't make it go away," Methos corrected. "You know what you know - we can't turn the clock back and change that. What I need to know is if you can accept what you've learned. You said that you were glad you knew, but is that a good thing or not? Can you accept me for who I really am - not your image of what the oldest Immortal should be? Because, believe me, I was never going to be able to live up to that."

"I never thought..." Methos' snort of derision interrupted him. "Well, maybe, in the very beginning - before I shared a place with you for any length of time." Duncan let a small smile tug at his lips. "Seeing you first thing in the morning soon cured me of that."

Almost unwillingly, Methos returned the smile. "What, you think if I were really that wise and powerful I'd be able to look a bit less like a scarecrow when I get out of bed?"

"Something like that." The smile was threatening to become a grin.

Abruptly serious again, Methos asked, "Do you want us to be friends?"

"Yes," replied Duncan, this time without any hesitation.

"No more recriminations?"

"None."

"You can accept what I am, what I've done?"

"Yes."

"Why now?"

"Because I've had time to realise something... I do trust you. All the things you've done to help me... That's who you are now, Methos. And you were right to remind me of the Dark Quickening, because if it hadn't been for you and what you did for me then - at the risk of your own neck - I wouldn't be Duncan MacLeod now. So, I want you to know, I trust you... with my life." Duncan held out his hand. "Friends?"

Slowly, Methos nodded in agreement. "Friends," he affirmed, clasping the offered hand firmly.

Carefully, Duncan reeled the other Immortal in, pulling him closer and finally into a hug. He was aware of the tension in Methos, but he didn't let go and slowly he felt him relax into the embrace.

Deciding to take a risk, Duncan asked, "And the rest of it?" His lips were close by Methos' ear, so he knew the old Immortal couldn't pretend not to have heard him.

The tension returned at once. Methos pulled back abruptly, eyeing him nervously. "The rest of what?"

Duncan kept his voice soft, inviting. "You said you never stopped wanting me..."

"Bloody hell, MacLeod, you certainly know how to ruin a good moment," Methos muttered angrily. "Did you think I was just angling for a pity fuck? I told you before, I'm not that desperate." He seemed to visibly withdraw into himself, his arms wrapping around his chest defensively.

"Methos, that wasn't what I was offering," Duncan protested.

"Well, it felt like it." Methos' expression was hard. "One minute you're papering over the cracks in our friendship and the next you're trying to seduce me. What am I supposed to think? It's really not that flattering to discover your *friend* thinks you're that easy!"

"I'm sorry. It came out wrong..." Duncan had the grace to look embarrassed. "Maybe it was me who was looking for a bit of pity."

Methos glared at him disgustedly. "This from the man who had Amanda crawling all over him not an hour ago. I don't think so."

"We didn't do anything," Duncan blurted out before he could stop himself.

"Am I supposed to be impressed by your magnificent restraint?" asked Methos snidely.

"No... but it wasn't her I wanted," Duncan replied with a sigh.

"You mean it was me? Well, forgive me for missing the signs," Methos snapped. "Perhaps I was too busy trying not to notice the way you had your tongue down her throat and your hands up her skirt!"

"Methos, you are not making this very easy," Duncan complained through gritted teeth.

"Give me one good reason why I should," the oldest Immortal shot back at him.

"Because you want me too..." Duncan suggested, his eyes wide and dark as they met Methos'.

"I said a good reason," retorted Methos, his voice harsh. "Besides, my taste has always been suspect, look at Kronos..."

Duncan flinched, but didn't back down. "Fuck you!" he growled.

Methos had expected his taunt to push Duncan away - mention of the leader of the Horsemen was generally the proverbial red rag to the bullish Highlander. As a result, he was more than a little startled when it turned out to have precisely the opposite effect. The front of his robe was grabbed by a pair of broad, strong hands and he was yanked forcefully against the Highlander's chest. Before he could do more than open his mouth to protest, it was claimed in a bruising kiss, Duncan's tongue thrusting inside possessively.

Deciding submission was the best form of defence against the suddenly predatory Immortal, Methos let himself go limp in Duncan's arms. His seeming acquiescence only seemed to encourage Duncan more, though. Methos was pulled into his lap and settled across his thighs in a deliberately provocative parody of his behaviour with Amanda back at the barge. The parallels weren't lost on the old Immortal, especially when one of Duncan's hands stole under his robe to...

Methos groaned. He tried not to, but the sound escaped him anyway. It was caught by Duncan's mouth, which was still moving restlessly over his own, nibbling at his lips and tongue hungrily.

"Stop, please," he begged, forcibly tearing himself away from the kiss.

Duncan tried to follow him and reclaim his mouth, but Methos held him at bay with a hand planted squarely in the middle of his chest. He couldn't quite find the strength to reach down and still the fingers that were burrowing relentlessly under the edge of his robe. They just felt too good.

"Stop," he said again, managing to sound marginally more composed. "Why are you doing this?"

Duncan's eyes widened in disbelief. "You really don't know? All right, you wanted me to give you one good reason; well, I'll give you two. Firstly, because I want you - and it has nothing to do with pity, but everything to do with love. And secondly, because if you really wanted this to stop my hand wouldn't still be doing what it's currently doing to your cock."

Methos dragged in a deep, shuddering breath and tried to pretend that he wasn't hard and aching from the teasing touches. But it was a lost cause, and he knew it - so did Duncan.

"So," Duncan continued, his smile merciless, "if you want it to end, just move my hand and that's it. I won't try and touch you again."

Dark brown eyes met gold-flecked hazel in challenge. Meanwhile, under Methos' robe, Duncan's hand continued its firm stroking, the rhythm steady and enticing.

Methos groaned again, this time in defeat. "Bastard!" he hissed as he spread his legs wider apart, giving Duncan better access. At the same time he let his hand drop, no longer holding the Highlander away from him.

With a wolfish grin Duncan leaned in to reclaim the firm lips, his tongue diving into the moist depths of Methos' mouth once more. He was welcomed eagerly, Methos' tongue rubbing against his own and coaxing him into a deeper exploration. It was hot, sweet and unbearably arousing. Duncan could feel himself hardening, Methos' weight in his lap a delightful pressure on his swelling cock.

Needing to distract himself, Duncan let his free hand drop to the belt of the other Immortal's robe. Tugging at it he loosened it enough so that he could bare the pale, finely muscled body to his gaze. His hand glided softly over the smooth skin, learning the contours of Methos' torso over again. His fingers circled the small, rosy nipples, pinching them lightly until his lover was writhing and moaning. The swollen cock in his hand twitched in response too, wetting his fingers with a surge of pre-come.

With a gasp, Methos pulled his mouth free. Sitting as he was in Duncan's lap he couldn't help but feel the solid swell of the Highlander's cock against his buttocks. He raised a hand to trace the outline of the other Immortal's mouth with gentle fingers.

"Duncan," he whispered, "let me up, I want to be able to touch you too."

There was a breathless pause, and then Duncan nodded his agreement. He let his hands drop to his sides as Methos slid out of his lap.

First, Methos shrugged out of his robe, letting it drop to the floor behind him so that he was completely naked. Almost without thought Duncan reached for him again, but Methos evaded his grasp. He crouched down in front of the Highlander, gliding his hands over the soft fabric of his trousers. When he reached the prominent bulge at his crotch he pressed gently, massaging Duncan carefully through the cloth until he was breathing hard.

Done with teasing, Methos carefully eased the zipper down until he could push the fabric out of his way. Duncan was already fully erect, his cock pushing free of the waistband of his briefs. With a smile Methos leaned forward and carefully licked the swollen head, savouring the first drops of salty moisture. He'd missed this more than he'd cared to admit to himself.

"Methos, please..." Duncan's voice was strained. His hand touched Methos' shoulder, reinforcing the plea.

"Lift up," Methos urged and when Duncan did he pulled down both trousers and briefs, leaving them bunched around his knees. Then he settled himself back in Duncan's lap, straddling his thighs this time, so that he could touch and be touched freely.

Taking advantage of the new position, Duncan reached out and reclaimed the hot length of Methos' cock. He wrapped his hand around it and began to stroke firmly, steadily increasing the tempo. He soon had Methos moving fitfully in his lap, trying to thrust up into his encircling fist harder still.

"Touch me," he murmured against Methos' parted lips.

With a throaty sigh of pleasure, Methos slid one hand down to oblige him. The long fingers curled around the thick shaft and began to pump it with long, smooth strokes. His other hand moved upwards, curving around the back of Duncan's neck and pulling him forward into another fierce kiss.

Hands and lips found a rhythm that pleased them both. Neither of them seemed much inclined to prolong the encounter, but it was Methos whose agile fingers and skilled lips coaxed Duncan's orgasm from him first. His mouth stole the cries of pleasure as his fingers milked the Highlander's cock. Hot fluid spilled over his hand as Duncan's hips arched up off the couch. Eventually, his lover's head fell back and he lay there, panting hard. Methos smiled as he watched the broad chest heaving under the clinging fabric of Duncan's T-shirt.

Wriggling sensually, Methos set about reminding Duncan that he still had unfinished business. His semen-slick hand wrapped around the Highlander's where it had stilled on his cock. As he began to glide their joined hands in a smooth cadence, Duncan stirred. He sat up and it was his hand which took over the tempo once again, letting Methos have what he needed.

In just a few moments, Methos gave a final cry and surged against Duncan convulsively. His cock gave up long spurts of semen as he shook with the force of his delayed climax. Then, abruptly, he sagged against Duncan, becoming boneless in his arms. His ragged breathing sounded loud in the otherwise silent room.

The Highlander held him close, gentling him as he slowly recovered from his orgasm. He kissed the flushed cheek nearest to him softly. Methos tensed at the touch and tried to pull away, but Duncan wouldn't let him.

"Shh, it's all right," he whispered soothingly.

"Is it?" Methos was apparently trying for acerbic, but was too wrung out to manage more than faintly petulant.

"Yeah," Duncan assured him with a contented smile. He felt relaxed and happy; he wasn't about to let the old man put a damper on his mood. "We're talking, we're friends and time will take care of the rest."

"Time - the great healer. Do you believe that?" Methos asked, tilting his head up to look into Duncan's eyes.

"It seems to be doing OK so far, wouldn't you say?" he replied.

"Guess it is," Methos agreed with a gusty sigh. He snuggled a little closer to the Highlander, turning until he could make himself more comfortable in his lap. "Care to take a rain check in the morning?" he suggested tentatively.

"Sounds good to me," said Duncan, the smile curving his lips even further. "Are you comfortable there?"

"Very," retorted Methos sleepily. "Do you have a problem with that?"

"No, no problem at all," replied Duncan, holding tight to the slender body in his arms and silently blessing Amanda for her interference.

Without her prompting he would have just let Methos walk away from the barge and he might not have had this second chance. He and Methos would still be on opposite sides of a closed door. Lying back on the couch and pulling Methos down with him, Duncan decided that was a possibility he definitely didn't want to dwell on. Let the past take care of itself. It was only the future - their future - he was interested in now.

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