Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
Methos was sweating, panting. He looked down at the man on his knees between his own, reached down and took a handful of dark brown hair and closed his eyes. It felt good, his cock in the other man's mouth. He let the long silky hair fall through his fingers and ran his hands along the muscular shoulders, tracing remembered lines under his fingers, then drawing in all his thoughts to focus on the mouth on him, sucking him, wanting him, loving him --
He came. God. Finally. The man rested his head on Methos's thigh for a moment, gently stroking the sensitive skin there. It made Methos shiver. He touched the other man's face. The feel of the heavy stubble under his fingers, both familiar and foreign, sent a sword-thrust of loneliness through his heart and he took a ragged breath that was almost a sob. Get a grip on yourself.
Strong hands pushed him backwards, onto the bed. He let himself be rolled over, let himself be entered, let himself be fucked, let the other man have his pleasure. When it was over, they dressed in silence. They both knew this was the last time, this first time. As Methos held open the door, the other man touched his shoulder briefly and looked at him with an expression halfway between pity and irony.
"Do I look much like him?"
"Who?" Methos said, just as if he didn't know.
"Dude's name you called out. Duncan."
Methos smiled without humor. "What do you think?"
"I think you should find him, man."
Methos laughed shortly. "I know where to find him."
The other man shrugged. "Then let him find you."
After he'd gone, Methos stared at the door for a long time. Then he grabbed a coat, shrugged it on, and walked out into the desert.
Duncan worked at the punching bag. His muscles ached. His fists felt like lead. Sweat rolled down his back, flew off the ends of his hair, ran into his eyes. His eyelids prickled. His vision blurred. Sweat. That's all it was. He punched the bag.
Methos sat cross-legged on a smooth spur of rock, a small hunched form under the night sky. He ignored the panoply of stars overhead, and stared at the moonlit shadow of a small stone. Sometimes it felt as if the years -- decades -- drifted by without him noticing much, the time rolling past in fat, rounded centuries while he dreamed his way through them. At other times he felt grounded in a lifetime -- someone else's lifetime. A wife, a king, the ebb and flow of a generation. Many times he felt the accumulation of his years, his experience weighing him down, pressing his soul into deeper and deeper darkness. But now he felt as if time had stopped altogether, come crashing to a bitter halt. While he couldn't stop, speeding onwards, trying to outrun the horizon.
The shadow had moved a fraction in time as he sat brooding. He stood up suddenly and kicked the stone, sending it over a short drop into a dry gully. He turned on his heel and stalked back towards the house. Fuck the desert. He'd go to the mountains.
Duncan sat up in bed and looked blearily around. He felt the presence of another immortal and tensed, until he remembered the night before and leaned back into the pillows, rubbing his eyes.
Someone rapped him smartly on the forehead. He opened his eyes again. Amanda perched on the edge of his bed. She was dressed to go out.
"Duncan, darling," she said in a voice that didn't bode well for him. "Look at me."
"What?" he said warily.
"How -- tall do you think I am?"
"How tall?" Duncan struggled to sit up. Amanda pushed him back into the pillows.
"And my nose -- see? It's quite short."
"Your nose is beautiful, Amanda. What are you talking about?"
She put both of her hands under her breasts and pushed up. "And these? Remember?"
Duncan remembered. He had a sudden sinking feeling as to where this was leading.
Amanda pulled one of his hands to her crotch. "This ring a bell?"
"Amanda. I'm sorry. I --"
"And my name? Begins with 'A'? Ends with 'A'?"
"I'm sorry if I--"
Amanda closed his lips with her fingers. "Duncan," she said, bringing her face close to his. "Call Joe. Find him. Okay?" She patted his cheek and stood up. "I'll be in touch. If you haven't called Joe by next week I swear I'll go after him myself."
"Goodbye, Duncan." She blew one last kiss at him as the lift descended out of sight, and he was alone.
Methos stood on the ledge of rock looking out over the shadows. A deep and twisting valley lay at his feet, plunging and roiling with the remembered shape of some ancient upheaval. He thought he should feel something, anything, if only, he smiled bitterly, as old as the hills. But even the chill wind blowing through his hair was strangely muted. He felt only a rather detached awareness, as if he sat in the dark watching a faded film of himself. That was it, he was fading. No death for him, no sudden sharp blade to the throat, just a long, slow dwindling into nothingness. He sighed and turned away. A few steps in the other direction, and he could look out over the lights of the city coming on in the twilight. He started down.
He had known Methos was restless. He had felt him slipping away. Duncan had tried to give him as much space as he needed, but he was never sure what it was Methos wanted in the way of space, or privacy, or company. At times, he could be so open, sprawling was the word that came to mind -- with a frankness and ease that matched that of his body -- or seemed to.
But then suddenly, he'd close up, like the flower of a night-blooming cactus, wrapped up tight, all spikes and thorns and secrets hidden away in the bud.
Once, exhausted after days of tense emotional forward-and-backwarding, Duncan had left town for a week, just to get out of Methos's way. It had been a miserable seven days, the misery sharpened by the fear that he would return to an empty loft. To Duncan's relief, Methos had come vaulting down the stairs as Duncan stood drinking in the sudden light and warmth of the dojo after coming in from the cold and the darkness.
"Wait until we get upstairs, at least," he said, catching his breath between the kisses Methos lavished on him, like a starving man given an unexpected banquet.
"Waited too long already," Methos murmured against his lips, his cheek. "I could take you right here on the floor."
"Think so, do you?" Duncan said, grinning, and then they were sparring, wrestling and laughing, using their bodies to say the things that couldn't be translated into words, a physical language spelled out in sweat on skin. Methos did take Duncan there, on the floor of the dojo, or at least, after they had banged shins and elbows and knees on the bare wood, on a mat dragged out into the middle of the floor.
"Why out here?" Duncan said, feeling a little exposed out in the center of the big room.
Methos abruptly let him go and flopped over on his back, gesturing in a grand sweep of his hand. "Light," he said. "Space." He touched Duncan's arm softly. "We need light and space, you and I."
Duncan wasn't sure that they didn't also need darkness and a good place to go to ground, but if light and space was what Methos needed, he would have it. So they made love -- and it was love, Duncan was sure -- and Methos had cried out the pleasure of his release in Duncan's name. The sound of it on Methos's lips still reverberated through his heart, and now he shivered, feeling it was all he had left.
Duncan stopped running and walked along the pathway busy with joggers. People walked in ones and twos and threes, with dogs on leashes, with strollers and small children. Girls on skates and boys on skateboards whizzed by, and bicyclists, looking like fluorescent insects, threaded in and out of the crowd. Duncan moved among them without seeing them, still looking inward.
Methos hadn't been able to take his hands off Duncan for days. It was at first arousing, then amusing, then had begun to grate just a little. Duncan had only once pulled away from Methos's insistent touch, and the look in his eyes, quickly masked, had been so raw and needy that Duncan had covered his shock by pulling Methos into a rough kiss, and didn't let him go until Methos had smiled, finally, a faint touch of irony on his lips.
Duncan started a slow jog, and tried to put Methos out of his mind, to clear it and reach for that meditative state he fell into while running. But he was too conscious of his body, and the memory of Methos's body. Too much alive to the sweat that beaded on his lips, and the way he would lick the sweat from Methos's lips. Of his breath, steady and hard, and the feel of Methos's panting breath on his back as Methos thrust deep into him and licked his way up Duncan's spine. Of his arms, as he flexed his hands, and the remembered feel of Methos's arms around him, so powerful and strong to be so tenderly holding him.
He ran until he was exhausted, but found no release.
Methos drove through the light of a blazing noon, somewhere in -- he checked a passing road sign, which was decorated with an orange poppy -- California. He'd left Nevada behind, then. This was a flat stretch of nothing much. Large flat tracts of farmland, dotted with large, flat tracts of suburban developments. He'd tuned to a college station -- where was a college around here? -- that played an eclectic mix of desperately bright pop tunes, guitar pyrotechnics and suicidal dirges. One of the latter was playing now. A raspy-throated man and a woman with a voice that sounded both waif-like and world-weary, singing in a mismatched but somehow haunting duet. The end of refrain caught Methos's ear. You've broken the speed of the sound of loneliness. You're out there runnin' just to be on the run.
Methos switched off the radio and drove for hours in silence, with only the sound of tires on the road marking off the distance as he drove south.
Duncan sat on the couch, staring at the chessboard. The pieces formed no pattern, his strategy was forgotten, his thoughts distracted by absence. He sighed, abandoned the chess pieces, and roamed restlessly around the loft. The couch, the bed, the kitchen counter. He stood at the window.
"I could stay here forever," Methos had said, as they lay in each other's arms. His face eased into a slow grin. "Trite, I know."
"No, it's not."
Methos stroked Duncan's jaw, from his ear to his chin, from his chin to his ear, tucked a lock of hair behind Duncan's ear, and leaned forward to kiss his chin.
"A very smart woman once told me that you know you're in love when you say things to a person that would normally embarrass you into the middle of next week."
"Ah. That's true." Duncan smiled. "I'm embarrassed to think of some of the things I've told women."
"Oh, God yes." Methos closed his eyes in chagrin. "But now," he kissed Duncan again. "I just want to tell you things that would otherwise make me cringe in flustered, sheepish, mortified humiliation."
Duncan looked into Methos's eyes. They were laughing, and serious, and not a whit embarrassed.
"Knock yourself out," Duncan said.
Methos smiled. Then his face turned serious. "Don't--" he started, and then smiled so sadly Duncan's breath caught. "Don't let me go," he said all in a rush.
Duncan stared at him. "I won't," he said, and pulled Methos close. "I won't."
Nobody should be able to get away with painting clouds that color, Methos thought. Not even God. Under a brilliant blue sky streaked with pink and orange clouds, the highway lay before him, gray and straight and blank. When had he started driving west? He passed roadside rest stops without looking at them, but he could feel the towns and clusters of houses beyond the gas stations and tourist traps, hidden from his view by long fields and the space between staying and moving on.
He drove west. To the sea.
"You've got this much on him?" Duncan said, looking at the print-out Joe had given him. It was three pages long, solid print.
"He's not trying to hide, Mac," Joe said. "I mean, yeah, this is Methos we're talking about, so he can't resist a little cat-and-mouse crap. He shakes his Watchers loose, but then he pops up again, cool as a cucumber, just like he hasn't run us ragged in a wild goose chase though half the country."
Duncan scanned the list. Seattle, Provo, Tucson, Taos, Las Vegas, Jackpot, Hanksville. "Where's Hanksville?"
"What's he doing in all these places?" He tried to visualize a map of Methos's wanderings and gave up.
"Nothing in particular. He just won't stay put. He's never stayed more than two weeks anywhere. Mostly it's not that long. Hell, he was only in Butte for three days."
"I've been to Butte. I'm not surprised." But Duncan was thinking. Methos's movements were erratic. Literally all over the map. He backtracked, he zig-zagged, he drove for days only to reach a destination where he stopped for less than a week. Looking for something? What did a five-thousand-year-old man need to look for?
A sudden cold chill ran through him. "He's not -- head-hunting, is he?"
"No. He's stayed clear of immortals. He left Tucson when an immortal we're watching hit town."
"Thanks, Joe." Duncan slid off the barstool and reached for his coat.
"Yeah, well. When you see him, tell him he's got Watchers up and down the western half of the continent pissed at him."
"I don't plan to see him any time soon." Duncan said shortly.
"Yeah, right," Joe muttered at his retreating back.
He jerked back suddenly and clenched his fists, fighting down an urge to howl. Several tourists edged away from him, and he fought himself under control -- at least long enough to stalk to his truck, slam the door shut, and skid out of the parking lot.
Safe in the privacy of his truck, he yelled curses in every language he knew, including a few he thought he'd forgotten, until he was hoarse. He hadn't been matching the dates on the frontier timeline to his own. He'd been matching them to dates he'd memorized from the Watchers' chronicles.
Methos turned south. He was going to drive all the way to Tierra fucking del Fuego.
Duncan sat with his chin in his hands, a glass of single-malt and Methos's odd itinerary in front of him. Joe brought him another sheet. Duncan read down the new list. Amarillo, Albuquerque... Fort Collins, Casper.
"This is just random," Duncan said, frowning. "He's just going in circles."
"Yeah, that's about it." Joe said.
Duncan read the names of the cities through again, trying to find some kind of pattern. Big cities, small towns, whistle-stops and tourist attractions. Duncan searched for some earthly reason why Methos would stop in any of them.
"He's just -- driving around aimlessly. Why?" Duncan reached for his scotch.
"Same thing that stuff brings you," Joe said, pointing at the glass in Duncan's hands. "Escape."
"Maybe." Duncan felt a pang, but continued doggedly. "But why not just take a plane somewhere if you want to escape? He could escape from the entire western hemisphere instead of rattling around in a handful of states."
Joe just shrugged. "You know him better than I do."
Duncan was silent.
Methos leaned against the side of his truck and watched the planes take off. He'd made reservations. He'd bought tickets. He'd planned to be halfway around the world by tomorrow afternoon.
But here he was. Tethered to the ground. By his dick, he thought bitterly. By your heart, a truer voice said.
He made a noise somewhere between a sob and a snarl and yanked open the door. Rolled all the windows down, revved the engine and pointed the damn thing south.
Duncan packed a bag. I just need to... get out of town for a few days, he thought. He pulled a white sweater from a drawer and folded it. He reached for a shirt and started to lay it in the bag on top of the sweater, and stopped, staring. After a moment he picked up the white sweater and put it back in the drawer, pulling out a dark green one instead. Just a short trip, that's all.
It's an inanimate object, Methos told himself, looking away from the telephone for what seemed like the hundredth time. He picked up the TV remote instead, and flicked through the stations with the sound turned off. He paused at a scene with two men who seemed to be engaged in a staring contest. It cut away to a woman gesticulating and crying, and Methos tried to read her lips. Spanish, he thought, as the scene cut back to the two men. Neither of them moved, neither of them spoke. Neither of them blinked. The woman fell to her knees and sobbed.
"Oh, me too, honey," Methos said under his breath. Cut back to the staring contest. Methos watched, his finger on the control. One of them moved back a fraction, leaned against the wall. He didn't blink, but Methos thought his eyes flickered.
Methos pressed the button. He would click through all two hundred stations. He could make it through the night without flinching.
Sixty-two stations later, he put the remote down. He picked up the phone and dialed.
"MacLeod." His voice was thick with sleep. Methos held his breath.
"Hello?" More sharply. Then a pause. "Methos?"
Methos let his breath out. He put the receiver down softly.
"Where are you, then?" Duncan said into the phone cradled between his ear and his shoulder.
"New York," Amanda's voice said tinnily in his ear.
"Now? I haven't a clue. When he called, he was somewhere in Texas, I think."
Duncan groaned. Texas. "Did he say anything about where he's going?" Did he say anything about me?
"Not a damn thing. Just that he was on his way to Tierra del Fuego, if he could get out of Dodge." She paused. "Is that some kind of code?"
Duncan thought about the zig-zagging route Methos had taken. "Maybe. But I don't have the key."
After hanging up the phone, Duncan searched through his books for a road atlas. He spread the pages covering the Western United States on the table and stared at them for a long time. Finally he picked up a pen and started drawing lines, mapping Methos's erratic route.
Methos pulled into a parking space and got out of his truck, the sand gritting under his feet. He slammed the door shut, left the tiny postage-stamp piece of asphalt and plowed down through the dunes until he came to the water-packed solid border of sand at the ocean's edge. Hunched down into his jacket, he walked along the beach, ignoring the vast grey sea and taking a perverse satisfaction in leaving his footprints in the sand to be washed over and forgotten.
Enough of that. Christ. He turned sharply and followed a wooden path set through the dunes to a small cluster of tourist shops. Blast. He didn't want shell necklaces and surfboards, he wanted a bar. He stomped down the small street towards a faded neon sign that, half-dark and wind-scarred, still signaled to the thirsty and the life-weary.
Several hard-drinking hours later, Methos emerged unsteadily from the bar, in a blacker mood than before, possibly the blackest and deepest mood since -- no, best not think of that. There was too much death in him. Death! Oh yes, he'd been Death, and no matter what he had told MacLeod on that disastrous day, laughing in his face, exulting in the horror, reliving for a moment all the old power -- it wasn't all roses, oh no. There was the power, yes; and Kronos had felt only that. But there was the payback, the accounting. And it wasn't a final accounting, not heaven or hell, no right hand or left, no clean judgment. A mixed curse is what you got. You might think it was a blessing to be judged, might think yourself unforgiven and bereft, and learn to turn away from the comfort of humanity and live in the cold, sere, empty space of your own heart.
And then. Not forgiveness, but something close.
Methos felt as if his whole soul was prickling with pins and needles, awakening to -- he couldn't say the word, not even to himself. Wouldn't say it. His hands clutched spasmodically in into fists. He had walked away from it. He wouldn't feel it. He couldn't give it. He could end it. He would end it. Damn him if--
He felt the sudden raw electrical presence crawl through him, jolting him out of his black reverie and sending his blood pounding through his veins. He gripped the hilt of his sword and spun around. A man stood behind him, hand on a sword-hilt as if in mirror image of himself. Methos waited, holding himself still, as the other man walked up to him. Methos thought he was bold, or cocksure, until he was close enough to see the man's face.
Methos looked into the other man's eyes, into his despair. And suddenly, perversely, Methos's heart rose. He grinned.
"He's a pain in the neck. He's a pain in the ass. He's a royal pain in the ass."
"He's not worth it."
"I should just forget about him. Get on with my life."
"I don't need him. I can have any man I want."
"Sure you could, Mac, sure you could."
Duncan jabbed a finger at Joe. "And any woman too."
Joe was a good bartender. He didn't roll his eyes.
"Women falling all over you," he agreed.
"Hit me with another one, Joe," Duncan said.
Joe poured him another shot.
Joe sighed. "Yeah, Mac. Here it is." He slid a print-out over the counter.
The other man flinched back at the smile on Methos's face, but he stood his ground.
"You challenge me?" Methos said. His voice sounded like death to his own ears.
"I do," the other man said flatly. His eyes, Methos thought, his eyes are dead already.
"Well, too bad. I'm not in the mood." Methos turned and walked away.
He was halfway down the street and heading back to the highway before the man gathered his wits and caught up with him.
"I challenged you!" he snarled. "Coward!"
"Whatever," Methos shrugged. The man cursed him, but what could he do? Chop his head off in the middle of the street? Besides, if Methos read him right, that wasn't what the poor sod was after.
Beside himself with frustration, the other man gave Methos a push that nearly pitched him into the sandy street. Methos caught himself, only to have the man grab him by his coat. "Fight me!" he hissed.
"You're making a scene," Methos said mildly. The man drew back as if to hit him, and Methos, sighing inwardly, took the man by the arm and pulled him abruptly sideways, supporting him as he stumbled off-balance, and steered him down a tiny side street. He strode on and didn't stop until he'd pulled the man behind a crumbling old barn and threw him down. He pulled his sword from its sheath.
The man regained his feet and came roaring at him. Methos deftly stepped into his attack and knocked him into the dirt. The man rolled over and came up in a crouch, and again Methos knocked him down. The third time he sent the man sprawling, he reached down and pulled him up by his collar. The man's eyes were wide, full of terror, which turned to despair even as Methos twisted his wrist until the he felt the bones crack and the man's sword fell to the ground. But something else glinted in his eyes, and it made Methos's blood turn cold.
"I am Methos," he said, watching with satisfaction as the man's eyes widened. "And your head is mine." He touched the blade of his sword to the man's throat. "Unfortunately for you," he continued, as the man swallowed hard, "I don't particularly want it." He pulled the blade swiftly across the other man's throat, leaving a thin red line, and let him fall to the ground.
Methos waited with a kind of terrible patience as the man shuddered and choked, clutched at his neck and realized his head was still attached firmly to his shoulders and he was not, in fact, dead. The man's face contorted with anger and he struggled to his feet.
Methos shoved him back down in the dirt. The man rolled over onto his hands and knees and Methos kicked him to the ground. With a feral grin, he pushed the man over onto his back and sat on him, straddling him and pressing his hands on the man's shoulders. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"Oh for fuck's sake, that wasn't a challenge, it was a bad suicide attempt."
The man looked daggers at him, then looked away.
"It's all getting too much for you, eh?" Methos sneered. "We know the drill, don't we? You've lived too long, watched people die --" Pain flickered in the other man's eyes. "Watched too many people die, standing helplessly by while their short lives flicker past and fade out--" Methos leaned hard on the man's shoulders. "Or watched as friends lose their heads, their quickenings taken by enemies. Hah? Hah?" Methos made a sound deep in his throat and slapped the man's face, hard. "Or maybe--" he said, his voice low and deadly, "taken the heads of friends?" Methos drove his fist into the man's face, exulting at the feel of cartilage breaking. "Betrayed them to their enemies -- let them fall to an enemy that you --" he hit the man again -- "chose over your brothers." Methos stopped, breathing hard, and with an effort focused on the man under him.
Tears and blood filled the man's grey and broken face. "Oh, Christ," Methos said in disgust. At himself, at his attacker, at the universe at large. He leaned back and waited, watching with a chilled weariness as the immortal healing flickered over the man's face. When the man opened his eyes, and was breathing more or less evenly, Methos continued, almost conversationally, "Maybe you're just tired. Maybe after -- how many years? Hundreds? Thousands?"
"Hun-- hundreds," the other man said hoarsely.
"Lucky you. Only hundreds." Methos said, unconscious of the way the other man's eyes subtly changed from fear to awe. "After -- centuries it all starts to blur, doesn't it? No?" he said as the man started to shake his head. "No, it doesn't. Not all of it. Pity." He swung to his feet and looked down at the man, who lay still, not sure whether he was reprieved or still facing his executioner.
Methos sighed, and held out a hand. The man took it warily, and stood up.
"But what's worse--" Methos slung a comradely arm around the other man's shoulders, and felt him shaking. "Listen up, this is the voice of far too much experience talking -- is when you get yourself rolling along in a nice tidy rut, with your heart in cold storage and --" his voice lowered almost to a whisper "love safely filed away in the past -- and some idiot interfering boy scout gives you an unexpected second chance." The man gulped and took a ragged breath. "And it all comes pouring back in -- love, life, feeling. Passion." He pointed a finger at the man as if making a point in class that would be on the final exam. "That hurts more than anything else, you see. More than anything else."
The man stared at Methos, obviously thinking him more of a madman than an idiot, and an odd sort of boy scout. Methos released him.
"If it's suicide you're after, go lay your head on a railroad track. There's one about a half a mile back that way--" he gestured as the man stood unsteadily on his feet, blinking at him. "If you're serious about it. But leave me alone," Methos said, with enough force to make the man step backward. He stared at Methos for a long moment, then picked up his sword and backed away slowly, finally turning around and running. Methos watched him go, and sheathed his sword.
"What's your name?" he called out suddenly.
But the running man didn't answer. Methos shrugged and followed him back to the street.
Duncan was dreaming. His eyes were open. He lay in his bed, alone, and with his eyes open dreamed of Methos moving around the room silently, wrapped up in some thought, worrying at some problem that gave his face an expression that was both distant and intensely here. He browsed among the bookshelves, touching the books in an almost sexual way, picking them up, handling them, poring over their pages as a lover looked at his beloved's body. He read, and smiled, or frowned, or stopped and looked out over the pages, as if reading something else printed on the air in front of him, his thoughts following other pages and other words read before, other books, scrolls, tablets...
Methos snapped shut the book he was holding and turned around. His eyes were alight with an idea. "Duncan!" he said. "Do you know--"
Duncan closed his eyes, and dreamed.
A motel bed was no kind of bed to spend the night in with no company but your own. Especially not this California King with vibrating heating massage, and sheets that smelled of institutional perfume, stretched so thin and taut it made one think of hospital corners rather than sex -- but Methos couldn't stop thinking of sex.
It was no good to be alone, but it was better like this, with your hands wrapped around your own cock. Better to be alone with you own cruel distractions than with the off-kilter, awkward wrongness of a stranger standing in for someone you -- want so bad. Better to cry your release into a starched pillow than to call out a name to someone who might be insulted, might be amused, but was certainly not--
Methos closed his eyes and was in Duncan's bed again, in Duncan's arms again.
How did they get there? That first time? They were playing chess. Methos was losing. For some reason he couldn't keep his mind on the game, something was wrong with -- the air. And the room was smaller, or bigger, or something. There was a strange concentration around the man across the table from him, that made everything else in the room -- everything else in the world -- seem far away. Duncan's hair was loose and falling around his shoulders, and Methos wasn't thinking about running his hands through it, letting Duncan's hair fall through his fingers. He wasn't thinking about touching Duncan's face, not wondering what it would be like to touch him like that, softly, not thinking about what he might see in Duncan's eyes, what recognition he might see reflected there. Methos looked at the board and saw he was losing.
He looked up. Duncan was smiling at him, with just a faint glimmer of amusement racing like heat-lightning over something much deeper. Dark, and familiar. Strange and bright. Methos looked in Duncan's eyes and knew he was lost.
No, not that. Found. They found each other that night, and it was easy after all. So easy to slip away from a lost game of chess and into each other's arms. Easy to undress each other, laughing when a zipper wouldn't cooperate or because long hair got tangled in a clip, or because even a man with the fine, bronze, muscular body of Duncan MacLeod looked silly in nothing but his socks.
Methos was greedy, he remembered how gloriously greedy he'd felt, and he had Duncan's cock in his mouth before they had finished undressing, and was sucking him with gluttonous ravenous joy, still kicking off his jeans, until Duncan had laughed and pushed him back, pushed him to his knees and bent over him and fucked his mouth. And that was better.
God. God. God. Duncan had pulled him gently to his feet, and just held him close. Kissed him. Made a joke about the lube he pulled out of a drawer like a magician performing an amusing trick -- why was he remembering that? Because Duncan had made a joke about shelf life. How long ago he'd bought it. Whispered into Methos's stunned ears, "Mi casa es su casa," and grinned like a loon. Then he had slicked up Methos's cock -- he'd almost come right there and then -- and drew them down on the bed. And offered himself to Methos.
He still, even now, alone and holding himself in his own hands, couldn't believe how good it had been. MacLeod. Duncan. Mac. Duncan. He had cried his name over and over, and afterwards -- afterwards they'd joked. About what a slut Methos was and how Duncan could sell his ass on the street and make more money than Donald Trump. It was hilarious. They were delirious. It was so damn fine.
Now he turned and twisted in a terrible blank, unfriended bed and drove his fist into the pillow as he came. He lay spent and angry and wondered what the hell he thought he was running from. Not from Duncan, surely, though now that he had fled, he had to keep going, because leaving him was like sticking a knife in Duncan's heart, and he couldn't face that, even as he twisted it in his own.
Duncan sat on the big bed in the tiny motel room and imagined Methos in it, sprawled on the bed watching the big-screen TV, maybe some old movie, throwing popcorn at the screen, turning to him to grin at some unlikely plot twist, his eyes glinting mischievously, his hair sticking up in unruly spikes but soft to his touch after all... Duncan shook himself.
He looked around. All trace of him was gone, of course. There was nobody in the room, no ghosts, no presence, no grace of humanity on any of its sterile surfaces. Duncan sighed and stood up, gathering his coat. Nothing for him here.
His cell phone rang. "MacLeod."
"It's me, Joe."
Duncan's pulse jumped. "You've got news?"
"Yeah. Methos is in California, heading southeast," Joe reported "He was challenged by an immortal in a tourist beach town a little ways south of San Francisco."
"He won, obviously," Duncan said, his mouth dry. He left the sad motel room and hurried to the lobby.
"No, it's the damnedest thing. They fought, and the other guy's watcher was thinking he'd be getting a new assignment -- his guy didn't stand a chance. But Methos didn't take his head. Just said something to put the fear of God into the guy and shoved him off."
"Hm," Duncan said, handing the key to the clerk and waiting while he was charged a night's rate for a room he'd stayed in alone for less than half an hour. "You think this guy'll make another try?"
"Hell no, he's in Salt Lake City now. Ran straight to holy ground."
Somehow, he'd turned again. He was heading east again and the rising sun was in his eyes. Again. He'd stopped in Vegas long enough to pick up provisions in the form of gasoline, fast food and a stack of CDs by the most angry-looking bands he could find. Most of them had subsequently been lofted ditchward as he sped down the road, as Methos found the music appealed only to him in a rather bleak, ironically humorous way -- which had kept him entertained for a little while, at least. But he was searching for something that touched a deeper nerve. Finally he found it, on a song three decades old, by a group that was equal parts sloppy and brilliant. Early punk, the researcher in him catalogued it. Methos settled down into a sort of trance state as the singer lost himself in a long, breathless growl of supplication, repeating one plea -- or demand -- over and over to the thudding beat, caught on the knife edge of lust and rage. Now I wanna lose control...
The song ended. Methos reached down and punched a button. The song began.
Duncan pulled into the truck stop, and felt the presence as soon as his boots hit the pavement. He pushed open the door to see Methos turn his head slightly, as the waitress behind the counter poured coffee into his cup. Watched the cold calculation in Methos's eyes turn to surprise, then something else, then to an even colder fury. Duncan let the door swing shut behind him, but didn't come any further into the room. Methos half stood, sat down, then with an angry shake of his head stood and turned to face Duncan.
The waitress looked from one man to the other, gauged the tension in the air between them, and put Methos's bill on the counter. "Maybe you two want to take this outside."
In the parking lot, Duncan and Methos circled each other like fighters.
Methos jabbed first. "What are you doing here, MacLeod?"
"What do you think? I'm here for the scenery," Duncan snapped. Parry, thrust.
"It's great, isn't it?" Methos said, spinning around and gesturing at the run-down parking lot. "Take a picture. No wait, why don't you leave and I'll send you a postcard."
"Maybe you'll send me a postcard from Butte. Or Spokane, or Tonopah, or Bakersfield. I'd especially like one from Truth or Consequences."
"You don't want the truth," Methos said bitterly.
Duncan leaned in quickly, his face close to Methos's. "I'll take truth if you'll take the consequences."
Methos looked at him levelly. "Are you sure?"
Duncan was far from sure. "Yes."
Methos stood with his hands in the pockets of his jeans, still looking at him with eyes as flat as the horizon.
Duncan folded his arms across his chest, so he wouldn't reach out for Methos. He waited.
"You're a child!" A spark of fire glinted in Methos's eyes.
Duncan was silent. He held himself still, and waited.
Methos turned sharply on his heel and walked away. Duncan stood for a moment, breathing deeply, then followed. Methos was leaning on the back wall of the truckstop, his arms crossed in front of him. As Duncan rounded the corner, a boy banged through the back door with a garbage bag. Catching a glimpse of Duncan's face, he quickly slung the bag into a dumpster and hurried back inside, letting the door bang shut behind him.
"This isn't the most private place to talk," Duncan said mildly.
"Don't want to talk," Methos said.
"You don't want to talk." Duncan put both his hands flat on the wall on either side of Methos and leaned over him. Methos didn't move, but Duncan heard his breath catch. "Fine," he said, and kissed him hard on the mouth.
Duncan's hands were still on the wall behind Methos. Methos's arms were still crossed in front of his chest. Only their lips met, and when Duncan pulled back, Methos looked at him with something like despair. Duncan, his own despair burning into desire and need, tilted his head to kiss him again.
Methos made a strangled sound and pushed him away. As Duncan stepped backwards, a little off-balance, Methos pushed him again, and again. Angrily, Duncan grabbed Methos by the front of his sweater and shoved him back against the wall.
Glaring, panting, holding each other in a desperate, furious embrace, neither of them spoke. Until Methos broke the silence.
"This is familiar."
Duncan hit him. Hard. Methos doubled over and Duncan took a step back and waited until he straightened up, and hit him again. His lips in a tight line, he turned to walk away, but Methos lurched after him, and barreled into him from behind. They both went down in the dirt, and Methos landed on top of Duncan.
"Damn you MacLeod! You want the truth?" His face was close to Duncan's, white with fury and frustration. Duncan struggled, but Methos pinned him down. "The truth is -- I don't --" he gasped as if in pain and stopped, tried again. "I -- don't -- love -- you."
Duncan felt as if his heart had stopped and all his blood had turned to brittle ice. He stared up at Methos in shock, unable to speak, or move, or breathe. Methos nodded, as if he took a grim satisfaction in his words, and the terrible effect they had on Duncan. He let Duncan go and started to stand up.
But now Duncan's blood turned to fire. He bucked and rolled Methos over into the dirt, and took him by the throat.
"You're lying," he said, with a calmness that didn't match the keening grief inside.
Methos was choking. Duncan gripped his throat tighter, as if he could squeeze truth from him. "Lying!" Duncan spat.
Methos gasped and choked, and managed to nod his head quickly. His eyes seemed huge. "'Esss," he managed.
Duncan stood up suddenly, leaving Methos gasping on the ground. He walked away, blindly, out of the parking lot, across the narrow street, past a sign warning against poisonous snakes, out into the emptiness and aridness and sagebrush. Just away.
Methos sat on the ground holding his throat and gulping air in painful breaths. Unsteadily, he got to his feet and stood watching Duncan walking away. He stumbled to his truck. Flung himself inside and frantically fished the keys from his pocket and started it up, gunned the motor and spun out of the parking lot.
He got as far as the street before his furious resolve drained away, leaving panic like a knife in his gut. He cut the steering wheel sharply to the right and drove across the wide empty field towards the figure still walking angrily away. Methos pulled the truck right in front of Duncan, bumping and skidding to a stop, sending up a shower of dirt and rocks. He leaped from the truck and ran after Duncan, who had veered off and left him again.
"Wait," Methos said. It came out as a frantic plea.
Duncan kept walking.
Methos ran to catch up with him. "Okay, you're right! God damn it, MacLeod! You win! I was lying! What do you think? Fuck!" he panted as he tried to keep up with Duncan's pace. "I love you.
"Duncan," he said as the other man stopped and stood with his head down. "Duncan." Methos said again, and put his hand on Duncan's chest, over his heart. "I can't -- I can't--"
Duncan took him roughly in his arms. Methos leaned into him and fought for control. Duncan held him silently and Methos could feel his heart beating, hard, matching his own painful heartbeat. He pulled away and made himself meet Duncan's eyes. He couldn't explain the centuries-old emptiness inside him that he was afraid not even love would ever fill. "Forever," he whispered. "I can't -- Forever, MacLeod." He shook him slightly in his frustration to make him see. "Can you understand?"
Some of the tension seemed to go out of Duncan's body. He touched Methos's face, let his hand fall. "It's never forever," he said softly.
Methos searched Duncan's eyes, trying to read what he wasn't saying. "Not forever."
"Not even us, Methos." Duncan's voice was low, but firm. "Not forever. Everything ends."
Methos felt as if he'd been caught in free-fall, pulled from a fathomless chasm onto solid ground. He stared at Duncan and felt something anchoring him, and it wasn't love he saw in Duncan's eyes, it was his death. It will end, he thought. And someone will mourn for me. The relief he felt was sharp, painful and wonderful, and he finally stopped. He stopped running. Landed.
"Not today," he breathed.
Duncan smiled. "Not today."
They drove west, and left the rental car in Albuquerque. They drove south, to a rather shabby but architecturally interesting motel. They sat on a bed too large for the room and talked. About tomorrow, and the day after that.
"I won't let you go," Duncan said, and slid his hands up under Methos's sweater. "I told you that."
"Idiot boy scout," Methos murmured.
Duncan ignored him and undid Methos's belt, kissing him as he peeled away layers of clothing until there was nothing but Methos's warm skin under Duncan's hands. Methos fretted a little, and made as if to push him away, but Duncan maneuvered him to the bed, pinned him firmly with his legs as he took off his own shirt, then, smiling, pinned him with his arms as he kicked off his jeans.
Still jittery and skittish, Methos pulled Duncan to him and then pushed him away. Duncan gently and with patient persistence made love to him, overcoming Methos's half-hearted resistance and using his hands and lips and tongue to give pleasure enough to match and conquer pain. He slid down to touch his lips to Methos's cock and felt him tense. Softly, gently, he took Methos's cock deep into his mouth and sucked, cupping his balls with one hand and letting his other hand slide over Methos's body, stroking him and petting him. Methos made a sound almost like a sob, but Duncan pressed on, loving him with his mouth and hands, as Methos's hands raked convulsively through his hair. Duncan hugged Methos's hips, wrapped his arms around him and pressed his face into Methos's crotch in a way that was less like sucking and more like a deep kiss. Methos's hands became more gentle, and Duncan breathed deeply as Methos ran his fingers deep into his tousled hair. It thrilled Duncan down to the bone to hear Methos cry out his name in his ecstasy, and then whisper it afterwards.
When he looked into Methos's eyes, he knew it was all right. Not forever, but for a while. For now.
In the morning, they drove north.