Duncan stretched and looked at the clock. "It's late."
They had talked through the night, and finally talked themselves out. Methos was curled up on the other end of the couch, staring dreamily into the darkness, a small smile on his face. Duncan leaned back into the cushions, watching him. Methos was swinging an empty beer bottle from one finger and Duncan wondered why this suddenly made his throat tighten.
Methos blinked and looked at the windows, which were beginning to turn pale with morning light. "It's early." He glanced up and caught Duncan's eye, and his smile faltered. A thoughtful look crossed his face, and then his smile returned and deepened. But his careless, boneless sprawl seemed to set. Duncan felt his own body tense as if in answer.
He waited for the usual sleepy, yawning, get off the couch so I can crash. But Methos didn't speak. The easy silence between them shifted, and changed into one of those loud, empty silences that is almost always filled with someone babbling when they shouldn't. Duncan kept his mouth clamped shut.
"I sometimes envy Amanda," he said. He looked Duncan in the eye, as if to say joking, of course, then looked quickly away, which added a maybe.
"H-how," Duncan cleared his throat. "How so?"
"She doesn't have to sleep on this lumpy old couch."
"It's not --" Duncan looked into Methos's eyes, then looked quickly away. Then cast about desperately for somewhere to look. Finally, he looked at Methos.
He breathed, and began again. "You don't have to sleep on the couch."
The silence -- stretched. It was almost as if Duncan could hear it.
"I don't want to kick you out of your own bed." Methos raised one eyebrow and smiled easily, but he also, Duncan noticed with a sensation like falling, licked his lips. Very quickly. As if he didn't know he did it.
"You don't have to," Duncan said, far too fast. His hand clenched on his knee. Before he could think too much, he went on somewhat breathlessly. "It's big enough to share."
"Share." Methos whispered the word. It filled the space between them.
Duncan looked down. He flexed his fingers. He looked up.
Methos was still smiling. "Duncan MacLeod," he said, moving subtly closer. "Are you asking me to share your bed, or," he moved closer still, "to share your bed?"
"Am I--" Duncan sputtered. Then stopped. Was he?
He was. Wasn't he. Oh, God.
Methos moved again. Duncan looked down. Methos had put his hand over Duncan's. He looked up.
Methos kissed him.
It was a warm, searching kiss, not urgent but full and soft and slow. Methos put his arms around Duncan as if to be in each other's arms was the most natural thing in the world. His tongue slowly traced Duncan's lips and slipped between them. He tasted slightly of beer, familiar and friendly.
Even as Duncan returned his kiss, the sensation that shot through him forked into desire and panic.
"W-- wait," he said a little wildly, and Methos froze.
"I'm sorry, I --" Methos's body seemed to contract. "I thought--"
Duncan breathed in sharply at the pain in Methos's voice. He took both of Methos's hands in his, and leaned into him until their foreheads touched. "Ah, God, Methos."
Methos reached out to put a hand on the back of Duncan's neck. Duncan couldn't help it. His shoulders stiffened.
"Methos," he said, feeling awkward and shy, then even more awkward and embarrassed by the treacherous shyness.
But Methos just smiled a little, and rubbed the back of Duncan's neck. Duncan felt his muscles clench under Methos's soft touch.
"God, MacLeod, you're as tense as hell." He looked searchingly into Duncan's face. "Is it because--" he frowned. "You have been with a man before, haven't you?"
Duncan had to smile at Methos's old-fashioned choice of words. "I'm four hundred years old, Methos. I've 'been' with men before--" He stopped.
"But?" Methos prompted.
Duncan tried not to look as foolish as he felt. He was sure he failed. "But I've never been --" he smiled wryly. "With you."
Methos's face lit up in a smile so bright it made Duncan's heart jump and made muscles all over his body tighten up in knots. He felt himself growing hard and smiled desperately. Panic and desire were running neck and neck.
Then Methos's eyes grew serious, though he was still smiling. "I'm just a guy," he said softly.
Duncan nodded, then shook his head. "No--"
Methos stopped his words with another kiss. Duncan closed his eyes and let it all go. The panic and tension in his body melted away as the soft urgency of Methos's lips on his, the physical joy of his tongue finding Methos's tongue, filled the silence between them with promise of something more than passion but not quite love -- not quite yet.
Methos pulled away, smiling, and kissed the sides of Duncan's mouth.
"This never gets any easier, does it?" he said softly.
"No," Duncan said, smiling back. "It never does."
Duncan MacLeod had a powerful pair of arms. Methos knew this because he had watched him work out in the dojo, lifting weights and punching a bag until the muscles of his forearms stood out in relief against his dark skin. He knew it because he had seen Duncan fighting for his life, swinging his katana over his head like a berserker -- and bringing it down in terrible, pitiless force. He knew it because he had seen him pull friends to safety, carrying them as easily as if they were as weightless in his protective hold.
But right now he knew it because Duncan was holding him draped casually backwards over one arm in what would have been a tango dip if they had actually been dancing, and was kissing him slowly down towards the floor.
Methos lay sprawled on Duncan's big bed. Waiting. Duncan had stormed out hours ago, furious, in the kind of towering, incoherent, violent rage that could only be sparked by some stupid small thing.
Well, he couldn't be expected to remember everything that had happened to him in five thousand years, could he? What were you doing on the night of September 24, 1746? That's all it came down to, really. But Duncan had to push it, had to pick, pick, pick. Well, there were sore spots he just didn't want picked at, and besides, sometimes he didn't want to be treated as if he were an open book -- not even to MacLeod.
Especially not to MacLeod.
But did the stubborn Scot understand this? No, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod wanted the Truth. With a capital T. About his life? All of it? Hell, he didn't even know how to begin. He hardly knew how to lie about it.
So, evasion. And so, Duncan thought he didn't trust him. Trust with a Capital T. Methos sighed. T for Trouble. M for mind your own business, I for I don't remember. Too Much Information, MacLeod.
He remembered MacLeod's face on that awful day, when he'd slammed Methos against the truck, demanding the Truth. And the betrayed, hurt look in his eyes, when Methos had given it to him. Yes, and that had gone well, hadn't it?
Methos never wanted to see that look in Duncan's eyes again. But he knew Duncan wouldn't -- or couldn't -- let it be. Methos turned the problem over in his mind. The trouble was that MacLeod was fundamentally a truthful man. Open, honest, four-square. He had had to learn to lie, to prevaricate, to evade, to live by falsehood to survive his four hundred years. But it went against the grain. By his principles, a lie might be necessary, but it wasn't right.
To Methos, a lie was a lie was a lie. And truth was...truth was a slippery little item.
He sighed again. But in the interests of peace, he'd make an effort to tell Duncan whatever the man thought he needed to know. Or something reasonably close. How did that poem go? Tell all the truth, but tell it slant. Brilliant woman.
The lift clanked up to the loft, and Duncan pulled up the gate. He stood tense and unhappy, looking at Methos across more than just the physical space between them, the expression on his face changing from still smoldering anger to something like grief.
Methos's heart thudded to a stop, then started to race. He gathered all his self control to remain still under Duncan's eyes. Inwardly he tensed, ready to spring into -- fight? flight? Outwardly calm, he raised one knee slowly, as if to settle in more comfortably.
Duncan turned away abruptly, busying himself with hanging up his coat.
Neither of them had spoken.
Duncan turned back to Methos, his face under control. Perhaps too much under control. It did little to ease the crazy beating of Methos's heart. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea. Maybe standing would have been better. Face to face. Man to man. Challenge to -- no.
Duncan's eyes searched Methos's face, and Methos had no idea what his face revealed.
He suspected: Everything.
What Duncan saw in his face -- whatever truth, however slant -- it seemed to satisfy him, and some of the awful tension left his body. He reached down and pulled Methos up by one arm, jerking him to his feet. Methos didn't fight him, but stood, swaying a little. They faced each other for a long moment, and Methos wondered if he was supposed to break first. He wouldn't. He jutted his chin out to show he wouldn't.
Duncan smiled a little and Methos's breath caught. And then Duncan's mouth was on his, and it was all right. It was all right.
Duncan's eyes were glued to the set. On the screen, Bogart, all black and white angles and shadows, was looking deeply into Bergman's eyes. She looked up at him, eyes glistening, lips just parted.
Duncan's lips parted.
Methos ground his teeth. "Kiss her, kiss her, KISS HER. Argh!" He flung himself up off the couch and stalked across the room and back, pulling at his hair. On the screen, Bogart and Bergman finally went into a clinch, kissing passionately -- and Duncan, leaning towards the screen, drank it in, his eyes glistening, his lips opened slightly, as if waiting to be kissed closed. Methos stood with both hands on his head until the couple on the screen broke apart, then he was on Duncan, kissing him fiercely, glad with all his heart that neither of them were leaving on a plane to Lisbon in the next reel.
Methos flopped down on the couch next to Duncan, who sat studying the pieces on a chessboard set on the low table in front of him. Methos reached across Duncan, leaning into him as close as he dared, and letting his arm touch Duncan's as he picked up a coaster to set under his beer.
Duncan hunched over the chessboard, ignoring him.
After a moment, Methos leaned forward, picked up his beer and took a long drink. Settling back again, he managed to brush against Duncan's shoulder, and he left his hand close to Duncan's thigh.
Duncan placed a pawn on the board and turned slightly to glance meaningfully at Methos's hand, then met Methos's eyes, his eyebrows raised slightly.
"What?" Methos said innocently, but the look Duncan gave him made his mouth go dry. He resisted the impulse to lick his lips.
Duncan said nothing, but his hand closed suddenly over Methos's, and before he could react, Duncan had pushed him back against the couch, gathering both of Methos's hands and pinning them over his head.
Methos started to lick his lips -- his tongue touched his lower lip and he stopped. Duncan watched this with interest. He leaned into Methos, and, still holding Methos's wrists with one hand, moved his other hand to cover Methos's crotch.
Duncan's face was so close their lips almost touched. "Is this what you want?" he said softly.
Methos tried to remember how to breathe, started again to lick his lips and stopped.
Duncan leaned closer and licked them for him.
"Is this," he said again, pressing his hand on Methos's cock and running his tongue slowly across Methos's lower lip. "What you want?"
Methos's hips moved into Duncan's touch of their own volition. He couldn't take his eyes away from Duncan's mouth.
Duncan smiled and kissed him roughly, running his thumb along Methos's cock through the fabric of his jeans. Methos strained against Duncan's hands, but only to beg for a harder touch on his cock, only to return Duncan's kiss with an urgency of his own, only to surrender as hard as he could. Duncan pressed him deeper into the couch, his mouth covering Methos's with fierce abandon, kissing along his jaw, burying his face in Methos's neck, then returning again to his mouth with an intensity that seemed to burn through Methos and ignite his spine, and his back arched to thrust against Duncan's hand.
Then Duncan's mouth left his and Methos gasped. Duncan pulled away and looked at him through hooded eyes, his lips just out of reach of Methos's still-hungry mouth. He released Methos's hands and his arms automatically went around Duncan.
Duncan smiled then and teased him with soft kisses, on his face, down his throat, a quick peck to his nose. Methos closed his eyes as Duncan's lips finally met his own again, and Duncan's tongue slid against his, and moved slowly in and out of his mouth, mirroring the slow stroking of his hand on Methos's cock.
"And this?" Duncan said, through a kiss so tender Methos was afraid to move, in case it should stop. He looked into Duncan's eyes. They were dark and serious, but a small glint of humor there warmed Methos to his bones.
"This too," Methos whispered.
Amanda ran her slender fingers along Duncan's jaw and took his face in both her hands. She tilted her head slowly, teasing him by blowing on his face, making him smile and blink before she touched her lips to his softly, then with more force, pushing her tongue into his mouth, pulling it out playfully, and thrusting deep. With a whimper of impatience, she kissed him again hard, pushed him over backwards on the floor and crawled on top of him, panting and pressing her lips to his in wanton, extravagant passion.
"Oh, all right," Amanda said crossly, and sat up, leaving Duncan on his back gasping for air. Settling back into her place, she sat cross-legged and opened a tiny purse to produce an even smaller compact, and set about repairing her lipstick.
Duncan sat up, grinning and wiping red lipstick from his own mouth. "My turn? Ha! Methos!"
With a slow, lopsided smile, Methos opened his arms wide for Duncan, but when Duncan got close enough to kiss him, he closed his mouth, tucking his lips inside and making his mouth a hard line. Duncan poked him in the sides until he laughed, then fell on him with an open-mouthed kiss that could have been the inspiration for the phrase "sucking face."
Richie made a noise that sounded like choking.
The other three looked at him.
"Uh, I don't know if I want to -- I don't know about his," he said weakly.
"Come on Richie, don't be such a spoilsport," said Amanda with terrifying cheerfulness. "Spin the damn bottle."
Duncan was two blocks away from his building when he felt the presence of another Immortal. Unsheathing his sword, he spun around towards the sound of the footsteps, waiting for the threat to materialize out of the darkness.
A man lurched out of the shadows and staggered towards him. His clothes were torn and bloody, with a red slash across his chest and half his sleeve gone from one arm. He was breathing hard and raggedly, but he forced his feet into a fighting stance and struggled to raise his own sword. As he stumbled forward, Duncan could see his face, drawn and pale, covered with a sheen of sweat and blood.
"Methos!" Duncan reached out and the other man almost collapsed in his arms. Duncan helped him to stand upright and Methos held on to him like a drowning man in a gale. And there was something of a storm still raging around him. Duncan could feel the quickening Methos had taken surging through his body, making Methos jerk and tremble against Duncan's embrace.
He could also feel Methos's cock hard against this thigh, and it made his own jump in turn. He started to move away, but Methos clutched at him desperately, reaching for Duncan's face and pulling it to his own.
"Please," he said, his voice harsh with pain and something else. "Please... just..." and then his mouth was on Duncan's, hard, needy, devouring. Duncan held him and Methos kissed him again and again as they stood clinging to each other on the dark city street.
"Methos, what is this?"
"The Craft of Kissing," Methos said. "I found it at a sidewalk sale. Only fifty cents!"
"Worth every penny. Shouldn't that be 'Art of Kissing?'"
"First craft, then art. We all have to pay our dues. Now, you just settle -- here -- and we'll start."
"Following the instructions in this book, of course."
"I think I've paid my dues here."
"Come now, you might learn something new."
"Let's start with something simple. Put your face against mine. A little closer. Mmmm, right. Now, we just bat our eyelashes against... Doesn't that match the fluttering in your heart?"
"Very nice, Methos."
"It's called a butterfly kiss."
"Really. How original."
"How about an Eskimo kiss? That's next on the list."
"No? It's my nose, isn't it?"
"Yes, Methos, it's your nose."
"Well, I'm hurt."
"Let's go on to earlobes. Looks easy enough. Gently suck and sip an earlobe, it says. Try it."
"Sip an earlobe? That's ridiculous."
"I'll do it then... How did that feel?"
"You're not entering into the proper spirit, MacLeod."
"What's next on the list?"
"Eyelids? Does the book get to mouths at all? Or -- oh. That's nice."
"Mmmm... Do you want to go on to fingers? Or toes?"
"Neither, Methos. Try lips."
"Lips, lips... okay, here's one. Hot and cold. First you lick--"
"That's good. Do that again."
"Then you blow gently."
"That's weird, Methos. My lips are freezing."
"It's not supposed to be weird. You're supposed to get all passionate and want to reciprocate."
"You want me to do it to you?"
"I like this... can't I just keep licking?"
"Pucker up and blow, MacLeod."
"Well. That is weird."
"The licking part is pretty good."
"Next is -- stop that, MacLeod, we're...mmmm..."
"Here, you dropped your book."
"Thank you. To continue. Next is... neck nibbles."
"I can do neck nibbles, Methos. I don't need a book."
"Oh yeah? Then you do your neck nibbles and then we'll compare them with the book."
"That's a good plan. Come here..."
"Ah... that's... good. That's not a nibble, MacLeod, that's more of an ...ooh..."
"Mmmm... well what?"
"Is this... how the book... says to do it?"
"Who... ah! Who cares? Just.... yes.... do that again."
"You like... this?"
"I... I... I..."
"Ai-yi-yi is right... God, MacLeod. You could write a book."
Methos had fallen asleep on the couch and was curled up in a ball, still clutching a book. Duncan smiled and gently tugged the book from his hands without waking him. His eye fell on the title. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. He opened the book to a page Methos had marked and read for a moment, frowning. He closed the book and looked thoughtfully down at the sleeping man. His face softened.
It was a measure of the deep trust Methos had in Duncan that he slept so soundly -- that he slept at all -- in Duncan's presence. It was not, he knew, a trust Methos had given to many others, and to none for a very long time.
Duncan wasn't sure why Methos had trusted him, from the very beginning, when he had put his neck to Duncan's sword. That act of courage and trust was something that mystified him still, and probably always would.
Neither was he sure when it was he had begun to trust Methos. He searched his mind, but there was no decisive moment to pin down. Once done, it seemed that the trust had always been there. Though he knew it hadn't been. Not at all.
"Well, old man," he said softly. "Here we are." Duncan wasn't sure why, but the sight of Methos's bare feet, twined one over the other, caused a strange emotion, part pity and part loneliness, to settle heavily over his heart. Dropping to his knees, he reached out to touch Methos lightly on one ankle. Methos just curled into a tighter ball and buried his face in the pillow. Duncan leaned over and pressed his lips against Methos's toes. His eyelashes fluttered, but he didn't wake, and Duncan sat on the floor, holding Methos's foot gently, watching his chest rise and fall as he slept.
These are the best times, Methos thought, these small moments of lazy intimacy, standing naked under the warm spray of that wonderful modern invention the shower, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod standing before him in all his wet and slick and slippery glory, covered with a lather of suds running slowly down his fine skin, his hair sticking out from his head in three shampoo horns and with that look in his eyes that was one part silliness and two parts lust, laughing and running his hands down Methos's water-slicked back to his ass and pulling him close so their cocks slid together and kissing him with a mouth that tasted of soap.
Methos kissed Amanda, just because he could. After all, why should Duncan have all the fun? Amanda -- smirked, there really was no other word for it -- and kissed him back, wrinkling her nose and rubbing it against his. Oh, this could really be good, he thought, as Amanda tilted her head for another kiss, but suddenly she jumped and broke away, laughing and gasping.
"Duncan! Stop that!" She slapped the other man's hand away from her butt.
Methos jumped at the same time, as Duncan's hand snaked between their bodies and closed around an even more private part.
"He's hopeless," Amanda said, sitting up straight, and contriving to look indignant.
"Greedy bastard," Methos agreed, after he got his breath back. He slid down next to Duncan. The feel of Duncan's bare skin against his felt so good it made his toes curl and uncurl. He kissed Duncan's earlobe lightly, brushed Duncan's cheek softly with his lips, and covered his mouth with considerably more force. Amanda looked on, biting her lower lip.
Duncan grinned up at her. "Come here, woman."
Amanda rolled her eyes and snuggled down next to Duncan on his other side. With an arch look at Methos, she mirrored his embrace, giving Duncan a deliberately noisy smack on his ear, bussing his cheek, and planting her lips on his with a loud "Mwah!" She smiled brightly and reached down towards Duncan's crotch.
Methos reached down at the same moment, and their hands bumped. Smiling at each other, they twined their fingers together around Duncan's cock, and then both kissed him, each pretending to lay claim to half of him, as if there were some invisible boundary drawn down his body, but letting their lips and tongues wander freely into each other's territory. Duncan was breathing raggedly, his eyes unfocused but shining.
Amanda gave his nose a little flick of her tongue. "Look at him. He looks like a cat with a dish full of cream."
Methos laid his head on Duncan's chest. "I think he's purring."
Duncan laughed, his body shaking under Methos's cheek. Methos raised his head and a look passed between him and Amanda. They kissed again, in a sort of lip and tongue version of a high-five, and then turned all their attention back to the smiling man between them.
Methos had never felt so cold. He leaned on his sword, his hands frozen and numb on the hilt. He felt his blood must run with ice, must be as cold as the blade that pierced the hard and blackened ground. Cracks in the earth crazed away from the point in all directions, flickering like lightning under the feet of the man who walked towards him out of the night, holding a red and ruined sword before him.
Methos straightened painfully. He looked into Duncan's face.
There was nothing in his eyes.
Methos started awake, his heart pounding. He shivered under the blankets, filled with dread and a terrible loneliness that washed over him and left him in a cold sweat.
It was an old dream. He had faced other friends in this nightmare -- friends, enemies, faceless ghosts who came at him shrieking or howling. Sometimes, laughing. For centuries, it had been Kronos.
He took a long, ragged breath and choked on a sob. He squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed. He shivered, tried to control it, and started to shake.
Duncan stirred next to him. "Methos?"
Methos gulped. "Yeah. Just a nightmare."
Duncan rolled over and moved closer to him. Methos couldn't bring himself to look into Duncan's eyes.
"Hey," Duncan whispered. "Must have been bad."
He felt Duncan move against him, solid and warm, which only made him tremble harder.
"Shhh." Duncan held him close, and kissed him gently on his forehead, his lips, on one cheek, then the other, as if making a sign to ward off evil. He kissed Methos on the lips again, slowly and deliberately, and Methos opened his eyes finally. Even in the darkness he could see Duncan's eyes on him, full of concern and love. Full of life and warmth.
Gradually he relaxed in Duncan's arms, closing his eyes again, not in terror but enveloped in a tranquility he wished would last but knew could vanish all too soon. Remember this, he thought. Safe in the sanctuary of Duncan's arms, he drifted into a quiet sleep, Duncan's kisses soft in his dreams.
Methos sat under a pool of light in the dim loft, with a book open in his lap.
Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant--
Success in Circuit lies
The darkness beyond the halo of his lamp deepened a shade or two as Duncan switched off a light at the kitchen counter. Methos's eye skipped a line.
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
Which made no sense at all. He frowned. He began again.
Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant--
Duncan passed by the couch, a dark shape against the darker room. Methos read the entire poem without any of the words traveling from the page to his brain.
Methos looked up from his book and watched Duncan as he walked past yet again, narrowing his eyes to make out Duncan's form as he moved past in the darkness. When he looked down at the book, a Duncan-shaped shadow etched itself into the white pages. He sighed.
"Duncan," he said, and snapped the book shut.
Duncan moved into the warmth of the light and smiled down at Methos. Then he put his hands behind his back, and with a sudden, swift, and courtly movement, bowed down and pressed his lips to Methos's in a slow, sweet kiss.
Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant--
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind--