by C.M. Decarnin
"Oh god." The moan floated out over the loft. "Ohhh..." Methos twisted his long body into the velvet pillows on the wide leather couch. "Oh my god -- Mac -- Mac --"
MacLeod looked up. "What now?"
"Oh Mac," Methos whimpered, "I want it."
MacLeod groaned heavily.
"Oh please, Mac, please -- please --"
"Perovskia," Methos breathed. The moan came back into his voice. "Hippeastrum papilio" Aztec Jewel", Omphalodes cappadocica "Starry Eyes", Viola koreana "Syletta", Cimifuga "Hillside Black Beauty", Cardiocrinum giganteum -- oh god! God, Mac -- Hydrangeamacrophylla "Blue Wave" -- "Alpengluen" --
"Plllleeeeeeeeeeeze? Please, Mac, please, plee-ee-ee-ee-ee-eeze can't we have a garden?"
MacLeod shut his account book and buried his head in his hands. He looked over to where Methos writhed on the couch half buried in seed catalogs. For the tenth time in as many days he said, "Methos, we live in an apartment. Sidewalks. Alleys. Streets. Parking spaces. No yard."
"It wouldn't have to be a big garden." Methos let out a cry and leapt up and ran to MacLeod. "Look at this! Tsuga canadensis "Pendula"! Look how it humps out to all sides --"
MacLeod looked and said patiently, "That's a hemlock the size of a gray whale."
Methos' voice went cunning with lust. "I could bonsai it."
"Methos!" MacLeod gripped his ancient lover's arms hard and shook him. "Listen to me! We have nothing! Zilch! Zip! We have no dirt!"
Methos gasped and went still. He looked into Mac's eyes. He said, throaty and seductive, "We could move..."
MacLeod let his breath out. It was hopeless. Every year it got worse. That first year, when the first couple of bulb catalogs had appeared in their mailbox, it had only been Methos pointing to the odd tulip or daffodil, with a "That's nice, isn't it?" to Mac of an evening as they lazed on the couch. Then late that winter the Burpee and Park's spring seed catalogs brought some ooos and ahhs. There were free trial offers for magazines Mac had never heard of. Methos ended up subscribing. One day he had found Methos busily writing out a dozen postcards requesting catalogs they advertised. He had kissed his lover's soft cheek, bemused at the pleasure Methos could get out of just looking. Since they could never, of course, actually buy anything.
Then Mac had come home to find a tiny Venus maidenhair fern in an aesthetic little Japanese pot on the corner of his writing desk, out of the direct light. He'd smiled, he remembered, and been so touched that Methos' increasing yearning toward the grandiose gardens in the magazines expressed itself, after all, in just this exquisite few leaflets of green-dappling grace, self-effacing in an unnoticed corner.
That was then.
This was now.
Plants battled for supremacy in every square inch of sunlight the few windows provided. They hung from the ceiling and climbed the window frames. They bloomed and sprawled and arched and draped on every surface, sprang up from the floor and ambushed him from the doorways. The cupboards were full of fertilizers and potting soil and spray bottles of experimental nontoxic pest mixtures, the closets littered with trowels and dowels and secateurs and netting. When he got up in the dark to pee, fronds skittered across his shins and vines trailed the back of his neck. That first Venus maidenhair, on its own ponderous stand, now had the size and general demeanor of an English sheepdog.
It wasn't that he begrudged Methos the leaves and flowers. It was just...
When a catalog came Methos would make... this sound. It reminded MacLeod of the opening coda of a tomcat's love song. Low. Tentative. Subtly undulating.
Then he would...drift...to the nearest seat, opening the first page, invariably (the catalogs always put something spectacular on page two) letting out a little cry like someone in pain. "Mac! Asarum splendens!" would come the first wail. "Oh, Mac -- Eremurus Cleopatra!" and wordless whimpers as he got to the iris section. Finally he would scuttle to kneel by Mac's side and look up at him with distraught green-gold eyes. "Wedgewood Improved," he would point out beseechingly. "Right next to Cream Beauty...?"
As the seasons turned, the catalogs grew more and more esoteric, some without any pictures at all, just closely printed lists that had Methos salivating. But it was still the photos that really brought out the reactions Mac found most... disturbing. Wayside Gardens, White Flower Farm, John Scheepers, set him twisting and groaning in his chair, and when the Thompson and Morgan catalog arrived, he'd just take it straight into the bed and pull up the covers. He wouldn't come out until the volume was dog-eared and spine-broken, and then only to page through the whole thing again with Mac chained at his elbow, pointing and stroking the tiny pictures. "They're always sold out of the black bat flowers," he mourned.
That time of year the loft reverberated with so much Latin MacLeod might have thought himself back in the monastery, if it hadn't been for that...tone...in Methos' voice....
Like a catamount in heat.
"We aren't going to move."
He said it quietly, calmly.
The catalog rut would pass. Methos would be satisfied again puttering among his houseplants in his odd hours, turning back to his real work of books and study as seed-time came and went. It happened every year.
But he'd never before gone so far as to mention moving.
Methos turned away, his eyes still strangely glazed. ""Might I have a bit of earth?"" he quoted pathetically, and MacLeod could practically see Dickon pushing the wheelchair behind him.
If the seed fever burned extra high that year, it seemed its hot bloom faded sooner. That night was the crisis, and though he still looked at his catalogs and jotted notes, the truemusth had passed. Methos hummed rather than whimpered, and contented himself with making little sketches of vistas and groupings, instead of running to Duncan with every impossibly exotic bloom. He smiled and returned to potting up his bits of domestic greenery. MacLeod even noticed a thinning of the looming flora, and breathed easier.
There was still the occasional exclamatory, "Rosa rubrifolia!" or a lingering "Lysimachia- clethroides--", but by and large Latin became once again a dead language, and Methos' moans were back where they ought to be: in Duncan's bed. A few nights later Duncan came home from teaching to find Methos in a very frolicsome mood indeed, and after that he seemed happy and busy, and prone to twine himself around Duncan insistently at unexpected moments. MacLeod let his big, hot hands roam over the long naked body till Methos was half crazy with need before he mounted him. He liked the cries that came, in no language at all, as he took him to his limits, and on, into orgasm's infinities. And he loved, dearly loved, how the normally cool, supercilious Methos clutched at him afterwards, for up to half an hour at a time, as if he simply could not let him go. The long limbs, warmed now, clung round him, adjusting to his every move but never releasing, as if he were in some delightful bondage, or as if a child were holding onto him for dear life.
He loved it.
One day as he was getting out of the T-Bird he simultaneously sensed Methos and heard a shout of alarm from the alley. He ran back in dread. But there was no other Immortal, only his lanky arm-waving lover and an enormous truck. Methos turned to him with an expression of absolute consternation.
"Will you talk to these people, Mac? I can't seem to get across that I ordered one bag of potting soil, not one truckload."
His racing heart calming, MacLeod wandered over. "What seems to be the trouble?"
The two men in workgloves shrugged, cast a look at the driver, who cast a look at Methos, a look at Duncan, and without a word offloaded a two-cubic-foot bag of potting soil from a heaped handtruck into Methos' arms. They lifted the other sacks back into the truck and the driver pulled down the rolling door. He looked again at MacLeod, with what Mac thought was a very strange expression, turned and got into the cab of the truck. The others followed and the truck rumbled away.
"Well." Methos slanted his eyes at him, and gave him a once-over as he turned toward the door. "I guess we can tell who's the master of the house when he arrives." Mac smiled. "You're home early. Just in time to save me from the hard-handed minions of computer error."
"My afternoon classes were canceled. The sprinkler system went off again and soaked the west wing."
"Mm. Since you're here, why don't we celebrate? I was going to spend the afternoon at the Schlusmans Arboretum. Why don't you come too and we'll go out to dinner up there." The elevator stopped and Methos carried the bag to the potting closet and dumped it. He turned back to Mac with a soft, sexy openness. "We can drive home by moonlight. With the top down."
"By moonlight it will be fifty-five degrees out. Forty factoring in wind chill."
"We could snuggle."
MacLeod looked over at his long beautiful lover. He never got tired of the sight. The wide shoulders, the awkward bones that stood, walked, sat and lay down with such tense grace. The sprawls so calculated to disarm. The long back, long neck -- long hands that shook with a fine tremor when he was frightened. He stood now with those hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched, looking hopeful. Without realizing it Mac had drawn close enough to reach out and caress the beloved cheek, with his other hand pull Methos near. "Or we could skip those parts and snuggle here," he said.
"Mac, has anyone ever told you you are far too goal oriented?" Methos glanced at the clock. "The Arboretum is only open till five, and it takes an hour to get there." Mac's hand was stroking just under the rounds of Methos' butt. There was a pause. "Perhaps just a quick snuggle," the ancient said weakly.
The wide, winding paths and the quiet under the trees were calming and idyllic. They sauntered side by side, now and again holding hands when no one was near to see. Methos made a few jots about the labeled plantlife in a pocket notebook, but mostly he just looked, silent, mysterious in his way as the trees themselves, smiling to Mac with happiness and tranquillity. There were native species as well as exotic specimens from all over the world. He stopped to gaze into a stand of dawn redwoods.
"They go back to the beginning of time, Duncan. Everyone thought they were extinct. Then they found a grove of them in China. Now you can get seeds from catalogs."
"Have we got one?"
Methos gave him a startled look, opened his mouth to say something, looked down and then out again into the trees. "They take a bit of room," he finally said with a smile, and walked on. The trees nearest the path he would touch, appreciating the different kinds of bark. They wandered for another hour, till the light was slanting from the west. Methos had grown even quieter. He stopped with his palms against the smooth bole of a soaring lean cherry, looking up to its slim canopy. Duncan had wandered on a bit, noticed Methos still wasn't with him, and looked back. He saw Methos lay his cheek against the tree, and slowly slide his long arms around the trunk. He just stayed that way as the minutes passed, body to body with the wooden creature. Duncan stood electrified, as if he were watching some rite so old it was beyond his understanding, carrying unwritten history from Cimmerian mists into his presence. Hesitantly he went back.
Methos opened his eyes. There was a silvery lace of moisture in his dark eyelashes.
Duncan immediately reached for him and took him from the tree into his own arms. Methos made the transfer without objection. He said, "I used to come back to a place and everything would have changed. Except the trees. Sometimes hundreds of years would go by, and a tree would still be there. When I first heard there were trees that were thousands of years old, I came to see them. I curled up under them and slept there every night, I stayed with them all day." He sighed against Duncan and Duncan felt the thrill of it all through him. "Just something that had lived so long." His arms tightened around Duncan. "The loggers came...
"I thought of trying to kill them one by one in the night, like some spirit of the forest."
He sighed. "They were only men, trying to make a buck to stay alive, but to me they were every evil senseless thing men ever did, culminating in this murder of ancestral beings... Younger brothers and sisters to me... Irreplaceable...
"I ran back to Tibet and hid, for a long time."
Duncan kept his arms wrapped around him until he sighed again and pulled away gently. "We'd better get back or they'll lock us in here."
Duncan wanted badly to put his lips on Methos', but he was afraid if he did he wouldn't be able to stop there. The old man in a vulnerable state always did this to him. When he was like this he looked young as the dawn, fragile, and Duncan wanted to comfort him. He felt as if he were holding all the past centuries of humankind in his arms, with all its grief and pain. To comfort. To safeguard from further harm. Defender and paladin.
It touched all his deepest feelings, and made him want to cradle the sorrow completely, and merge his strength to it.
And he wanted the old man's beauty in every fiber of his soul. His beautiful eyes glazed with needing, his lips parted, his long body panting and defenseless against him, his sounds of love, his calling Mac's name in the voice of desperation, wonder, and...
His lover's smell of sea and forest, moss and shells, old stone, and exotic blossom. The deep fragrance of his cum, like no other scent on earth, that had begun to mean to Duncan all delight, all satisfaction, tenderness, and peace.
The feel of him, how every bit of him fit every bit of Duncan, no matter how they touched. They stood, walked, lay, moved against each other like one creature, or like mercury meeting itself.
And the taste of Methos in his mouth...
He pulled him back into his arms. "We could climb the fence," he whispered.
"Carrying the T-Bird on our shoulders," Methos agreed. "Mac it's been a while since I fucked anyone in the merry greenwood but I do remember it involving a lot of roots and stones and sharp twigs and pine cones, and finding dead leaves in your hair hours later. And a case could be made that I was completely crackers during my sequoia period."
Mac moaned a little, sadly, next to Methos' ear.
"Not to mention poison ivy and all the little woodland creatures -- ticks, ants, lice, unique beetles --"
"I remember," Duncan said nostalgically.
Methos was the only person in the entire world who knew Mac's true feelings about spiders.
"Besides, it's a public place so it's illegal. And I didn't have any lunch, I could really use a cheeseburger and some hot fries and beer..."
"I love you," Duncan whispered.
He felt a slight shiver against him. Finally Methos said, "Will you be on the bottom?"
"No," Mac said bluntly, with the barest push of his crotch into his lover's. Methos' hips responded reflexively and his defenses slid into collapse like sand fortifications in the incoming tide. He pulsed inward, glued to MacLeod's front.
"Do me right here." His voice was throaty and wild. "Up against the tree."
It was Duncan's turn for prudence. He grabbed Methos' hand and ran with him back into a shrubby area, pulled down his jeans with frantic hands while Methos did the same to him, and flung him down on a layer of pine needles. From his shirt pocket he took a tiny tube of Vaseline.
"Always prepared," Methos said, wide-eyed. Duncan lubed so fast Methos barely had time to push his pants off one foot and get his knees raised before Duncan was positioning, pressing, entering. Hot pain opened him, softened his core, pulled a small sound of hurt from his throat. Duncan slowed, found Methos' mouth and put his tongue in it slowly, then left it there as he forced hard and finished his possession. Frozen with lust, he didn't want to move for a long time, but the instant Methos wriggled, it galvanized his hips into thrusting, arms into clutching, and in moments Methos was fully and monumentally fucked and coming, one hand on his own cock, the other clutching Duncan, the ground, anything, as Duncan's tongue still muffled the cries that drove his Boy Scout sturdily on, and on, and on, and on until he gasped and arched up and expended hot love inside Methos, and moaned half-silently, aware that they might be heard. "Oh god," he gasped. "Oh. Oh god. Oh. Methos --
"God we've got to get out of here!" He sprang to his feet and hauled up the startled Methos. "Quick, quick!" They raced into their clothes and scrambled to the path. "Wait!" Methos cried urgently, and before Duncan could turn, he felt hands ruffling through his long hair.
"Leaves," Methos said tersely, and bolted down the path.
They met staff members coming to look for them and tell them the place was closing. They mumbled sheepish apologies and hurried to their telltale lone car in the parking lot. It hadn't occurred to them the staff would keep an eye peeled for strays. Mac thanked the stars he hadn't dawdled around with any foreplay.
Methos was subject to fits of giggles the rest of the evening, and further into the night than Duncan thought was absolutely called for.
The seasons turned, to full spring, and summer. They were so happy that Duncan felt as if he were steeping in some rich, honeyed liquor, and all his cells slowly filling with sweetness. He kissed Methos every night when he got home, and Methos kissed him every morning when he got back from his run, and every time they kissed they smiled, and every time they smiled they fell more in love with each other. So it seemed to Duncan in that magic summer. Even when it started to rain unseasonably and keep them more indoors it had no effect on their happiness. Methos was tremendously busy but never failed to have time to turn to Duncan at the slightest excuse, with his slow, small smile that called forth all Duncan's tenderest, most inflected Scots and overflowed his heart with kindness. Methos responded to his love like a flower in the sun, and Duncan blessed the day he had met, and, more, the day he had married his ageless lover.
The rains fell around them fiercer and harder, floods to north and south wrecked crops and homes. They sent some money to farm relief funds, but the city itself was in no danger except from drowning in relentless rain. They came in from outside shaking water off their old-fashioned slickers, and built fires in the fireplace to help get rid of the damp. Duncan sensed unease in Methos and teased him gently, asking if he was having flashbacks to his days on the Ark. "Young scamp!" Methos growled, and pounced on him, and the discussion degenerated quickly.
But later in the welter of pillows and couch cushions and afghans that ended up on the floor, he noticed Methos still listened to the unending sound of the rain on the roof, with something like anxiety in his eyes.
It did sound changed, as if muffled by its own density, with a different chorus of pings and thrums from other years. But they were in no river's flood-plain, and whatever floods Methos had lived -- or not -- through, it couldn't happen here.
There were mudslides on the outskirts of town, as hillsides got waterlogged and lost structural integrity, falling with horrifying force over whatever lay below. Fortunately there were no injuries as Seacouverites had miraculously had the sense not to build on those sites, well used to over-abundance in rainfall. Still, some regions were evacuated, and some of their friends took refugees into their homes. They thought of it, but really, strangers in the Loft with two Immortals wouldn't do. They went and volunteered at a shelter, schlepping crates of food donated by stores, setting up bunks and cots, and going out to canvas for supplies in the drenching rain. It felt good. Duncan thought he was happier than ever, if that were possible, with the new, if temporary, sense of usefulness and ties to the community.
Methos was having a good time too. Duncan found him changing diapers assembly-line style with one of the women. She was saying, "You look like you've had babies of your own."
"Hundreds," Methos confirmed, smartly fitting a squalling tot back into his snap-crotched dungarees. He walked his fingers up the nine-month-old's belly and the screaming magically turned to smiles. Leaning over, Methos pronounced rapid words that sounded like "Gooza-gooza-gooza". Duncan faded away from the mortifying spectacle. Wanting children of his own was one thing. Going all female and speaking proto-European to them quite another. The stark realities of the term "daycare" had never been brought home to him so forcibly before.
The next day he passed a doorway and saw Methos standing surrounded by half-size bodies. His arms were out in a frozen gesture, he was saying something Duncan couldn't hear that had the kids rapt. Suddenly he stepped back, raised his arm over his head with the hand tipped forward, other arm stretched in front, those fingers tilted slightly up. Duncan instantly recognized in it a combination of their two fighting styles, and he could almost seethe katana's ascetic curve like a steel rainbow over the fanciful stance. Methos lunged and whirled through the children, who scattered and screamed, eased back nervously and screamed and scattered again, with a lot of giggling. Finally Methos poked the sword of air forward dramatically, held the pose, pulled it back, raised it high -- and whacked off an unseen head; pointing where it rolled across the floor (more scattering, smaller screams). Duncan, mouth open to protest, almost expected to see him mime a Quickening, but instead he slowly sank down on his haunches, gesturing the audience in around him. Duncan wished he could hear what he was saying.
If the kids had nightmares, Methos would have adroitly vanished by the time the parents came head-hunting. Somehow Duncan was sure of it.
"Oh come on, Mac, kids love gory stories. Only grown-ups like that mushy stuff. Hugging, kissy-face -- bo-ring."
"What story were you telling them?"
"I told them the tale of Kalas the Wicked Magician, who could only die if you cut off his head."
Duncan looked unhappy.
"And Methan the Moral tracked him to the top of his giant steel tower and --"
"What's the use of being Immortal if you can't have a little fun with it?"
Duncan pulled the T-Bird to the curb. "All right, what have you done with my lover? You're obviously some jolly android replacement."
Methos sat smiling at him smugly.
"Okay, you're great with kids."
"But what happens when they go home and start playing Kalas and Methan in their backyard?"
"They'll forget about it in a week."
"Methos, there are games and rhymes that have passed down from child to child virtually unchanged for hundreds of years, with never a grown-up involved, except maybe in originally inventing the rhyme."
"Really? Huh." He looked "remembering". "You know, I've raised hundreds of kids and I never knew that."
"That's because you were never a --" Mac stopped. He could have bitten his tongue.
After a moment Methos said, "You're right. The games I was taught involved plenty of adults." He added, "It's okay, MacLeod. It's not exactly a blinding news flash to me that I didn't get to be a kid. But that's interesting though. I do remember hearing kids sing the same play-songs generation after generation. And there were games that seemed to be around no matter how far I traveled." He paused. "It's frightening, rather. Like a little subterranean culture we have nothing to do with."
"It's wonderful. It cuts across -- or under -- a lot of lines, national, economic, even racial and sexual part of the time. The idea of kids communicating their own stuff down the ages is beautiful."
"You know, I've been telling kids stories about Immortals for three thousand years!"
"They must be hearing them more as fairy tales than -- well, what will end up in kids' culture tends more toward the scary or the gross-out than the fantastical. At least, I haven't read of any head-taking traditions running through their stories." Mac smiled at Methos. God he loved him. "I guess your instincts were right." He added in a low voice of tender longing, "I love you so much."
He had the reward of seeing faint pink spring to Methos' cheeks and more shine come into his eyes with the small helpless embarrassed smile he adored. It hurt him though, sometimes, to think how his wonderful lover could be so surprised and lost at a little praise or openly stated love, as if he didn't know how to exist together with such an act in his universe. He often wondered how that could be, in this oft-married, surely oft-loved ancient. There were other times, perhaps when it didn't come so out of left field and catch him unprepared, that Methos seemed quite adequate and content to absorb and re-radiate loving emotion. He reached out and touched Methos' cheek, questioning with his eyes. The pained smile quirked, and Methos looked down, still smiling anxiously. "I love you too," he mumbled awkwardly. Then he glanced out of the corners of his eyes with the shyest look Duncan had seen on his face in years.
Suddenly Duncan knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that Methos was keeping something from him.
He moved his palm to the nape of Methos' neck, and stroked slightly, gently. Methos looked up at him fully, and to Duncan's eyes there was guilt written all over his sweet face.
"I love you," Duncan repeated, with the kindness of all their five years together warming and gentling his voice. "You know I love you. No matter what. Always."
The rain battered the windshield, traffic swished by. "Yes," Methos said at last breathlessly. Then, "Let's go home."
Duncan kissed his fingertips, touched them softly to Methos' mouth, then put the car in gear to forge through the downpour.
The rain descended. Stores sandbagged their sidewalk-level windows, as water became too copious for drains and backed up over the curbs on some streets. Driving slowed to a crawl at the bottoms of hills, where small lakes had collected.
Duncan didn't have any summer classes to teach, and when they weren't volunteering they were mostly home, both having had enough of the concept "wet clothes".
Then one day their direct connection to the sky was cut off. Seacouver looked up at clean blue, white clouds, sun, clear wind.
They went out to enjoy the warmth, and when they got back Duncan set to work boiling water for eight cheese pasta. Methos had finished making the salad, which was mainly a bowl of parsley, and went to the stereo to unearth a celebratory CD to boil pasta shells to. Suddenly there was a sound. As Duncan looked up, it went from a low groan to a series of fast cracks that became a roar. There was a rending, huge noise and a gigantic crash, a couple of smaller crashes followed by a sliding, pattering sort of sound that went on and on in the comparative silence, then, fitfully, stopped.
It was dirt. Mud. Gravel. Sand. A lot of it. There was dirt falling into his living room, onto a lot of boulders and torn boards and in the center of them --
Duncan stared. The crash had sent him round the counter on the way to his sword. He was aware of Methos flattened in terror against the wall by the stereo.
In the middle of the scattered boulders, front clawed legs through the floor, lay an old white bathtub someone had spray painted a dark color around the top. The bathtub was full of dirt, naturalistic-looking rocks, and a grove of small -- no more than seven or eight feet high --birch trees. Their leaves were already completely still again after their fall.
Through the roof.
Into his living room.
A handful more dirt rained down.
MacLeod became aware that he was poised in a defensive crouch, and his mouth was open. As he straightened, he turned his eyes to look at Methos. Methos was still plastered to the wall, aghast. Mac looked at the blue sky through the ceiling. At the birches. At Methos, at the trees, at the ceiling. Then he looked at the door.
Methos reached out his hand but Duncan was already gone, already disappearing around the corner of the stairs to the roof by the time Methos got to the hall.
Duncan threw back the bolt and opened the door onto the roof and stepped out. When Methos came up behind him a few moments later, he was still standing there.
It had been a big, flat, black tarpapered roof, with a brick coping around it and chimneys and vents and appurtenances sticking up out of it. Now...
He was looking down a wide alley, two rows of young maples, in massive pots glazed pale blue and green, their branches clearly intended to meet overhead, though they didn't, yet. The path between them was graveled with lavender stones edged by old bricks. Duncan stepped forward. The view between the trees at either side was blocked with different shrubs, vines, or hedging, until he reached the first crosspath. To the right under an archway of pink roses, to the left under lilac leaves -- flowers long gone now -- he could then see into two very different "rooms" of plants -- the first full of pink and purple flowers and dark leaves, the other all white and yellow with a few spots of orange. Rather than turn into either, after a stunned pause he walked on. The next pair of openings gave on a rustic bench next to -- by god, a pool fed by a little waterfall, all surrounded by ferns. Large, happy ferns, looking exceptionally moist and fertile after a month's rain. Under a pergola with some sort of vines on it.
In the other direction was a path that curved out of sight in big-leaved greenery. Every "room" had a view of the city, open at the side toward the edge of the roof. So, Duncan realized, none of this could be seen from street level. There was more... Much, much more...
He turned around, staring at everything, to bring his gaze at last to rest on Methos, who had followed Duncan a few steps into the garden and then stopped.
Duncan had never seen his face so pale.
When Duncan met his eyes, it seemed to go paler.
He felt pale himself in what he suddenly knew.
"No." He heard Methos gasp out the word. "No." He moved toward Duncan, and whispered, "Oh what have I done!" Duncan moved too, hardly aware of it, then felt Methos's arms around his neck, his arms around Methos. "I meant to tell you! I wanted to tell you --" Methos blurted panic-stricken. "I wanted to show you a hundred times --"
"Why didn't you?" Duncan asked.
Methos moaned as if in pain and Duncan realized his heart was breaking at what he thought Duncan must be feeling. He said gently, "Tell me."
Methos said into his collarbone, in a small voice, "At first, before I started, I was afraid you'd say no. Then -- I thought you might make me take it all down -- because -- oh --zoning -- or something." Duncan could hear in his vagueness the unspoken term: "grown-ups". "And then -- it -- it went a bit far, and I didn't know -- quite how to --"
Duncan kept him in the strong circle of his arms. At last he said, "Do you think of me as your master?"
Methos pulled back and said in a dozen different tones of shock at once, "No! Of course not!" Then, "What would make you think --" And, "It's not the same thing at all!" And then, "You mean just because..." Then he stopped saying anything. He just looked into Duncan's eyes.
"Mi casa es tu casa," MacLeod whispered. He smiled a little. "You know that, I made you co-owner legally."
Methos' eyes dropped. "I know. But... it's your house really. You were here before you ever met me. And..."
Methos was completely silent, and Mac knew, as he had known as soon as he had had any coherent thought after the revelation that he had an Eden over his head, that he was right. That there was a level, and not far down, on which his lover thought he had to have Duncan's permission to pursue what he loved, loved with the passion that had created enchantment out of barren ugliness. He should have known it. He should have seen it. It seemed so obvious now, looking back. So many things...
"Your garden is beautiful. As you are beautiful. Will you show it to me?"
Methos looked down at the ground, glancing up only to look down again. "Um... Before or after we clean up the loft?"
"Hm." There was that.
"I'm sorry I wrecked your roof. And your floor."
Duncan looked through the arch to where the path wound hidden by huge leaves. It must be just about... He drew Methos with him. Past that first artful bend they could immediately see the chasm in the middle of a lot of woodland plants -- Asarum splendens, he noted absently -- where the lovely young birches should have reigned. They stood looking stupidly at the hole, as one does when presented with the stunning faits accomplis of entropy.
Duncan sighed inwardly. They'd have to get the heavier stuff off here, drain that pool probably, call and get an engineer friend of his over. Maybe there'd be a way to strengthen the roof -- Meanwhile some two-by-sixes under that bathtub, before it fell through into the dojo --
"At least it's not raining," Duncan comforted. "I expect that's what added a lot of weight to your tub. You had dirt piled around it to hide it, too, all soaking up water."
Methos looked around anxiously. Duncan surmised with what amounted to certainty that he was calculating how many other artificial hills were up there. Hopefully no more with cast-iron cores.
They'd have to talk.
He could feel Methos' hand shaking in his.
Five years of lovemaking. Talking. Learning.
Five thousand years old. And he still didn't believe himself the equal of a Scottish peasant boy a twelfth his age... Still didn't have the confidence to claim an unused space that nobody wanted. Or make his lover see the longing in his heart, that it was more than just a seasonal change like kids playing jacks or stickball.
He hadn't known. Duncan honestly hadn't known this thing that split down Methos' core, a flaw that went all the way to the bottom. No wonder Methos had to have so much control, such distance, such absolute dominion over what touched him, what had access to him. It truly was a desperate essential, if he was to survive with that great crack of inferiority mining through his soul.
And he was going to survive. It was clearer than ever what a central determination that had to have been.
Five thousand years! However did one heal a wound so deep...?
And there I am, he suddenly realized, deciding how to manage it for him. Kindly repair the defect. It was a view of himself he'd never had before. How could Methos not see him as superior when he so clearly saw himself that way? The one who could help and fix others.
But wasn't that a worthy thing to do?
And didn't he also idolize, adore, reverence his ancient love? He thought of every word out of the immemorial lips as a colored gem to be hoarded, every experience Methos described as a reliquary holding sacred bones of the past. Methos' personality to him was like an aurora borealis of flavors, colors, scents and textures, his strength weft through like a music on instruments no longer played. Methos was a miracle.
But he was also a man. Just a guy, in the phrase Joe had chuckled over ever since Methos had excused bad guesses with it. A man with a body that excited MacLeod beyond imagining. His hands so cool until suddenly they smoothed warm on his skin in the act of passion. Incredible tongue. Legs that could wrap right round him tight, driving him wild within them, arms as strong as his to imprison him, teats like a girl's for sensitivity, hips that seemed set on swivels when he was lunged deep in them, that neck, that at a touch of Mac's tongue... or fingers... or his sword...
It was really no time for a blason du corps to his lover's wonders. And Methos was looking at him with that slightest smile. As if he knew what it was that Duncan was thinking. That his body was the shape of sex.
He crushed Methos to him with a deep intake of breath.
So much to do.
Not just cleaning up the loft.
But that, they'd better get started on, and rig up a tarp for the breached roof.
Maybe they should sleep at a hotel. God knew what else might give way. And the thought of Immortals prowling with nothing to keep them out...
He was finding it hard to let Methos go. As if they had just escaped some terrible close call.
Suddenly he said, "The truck." Methos looked up inquiringly. "The truckload of potting soil. I came home from work early. You'd just started unloading it." He felt a shrinking within the circle of his arms. "Then what, you took me to the Arboretum so they could deliver it while I was out of the way?"
The other heart beat fast against his chest. Finally in a squeezed voice Methos said, "It just seemed like hiding birthday presents. A fib. Because I always meant to tell you. I did."
But for the first time Duncan really did feel hurt, as he thought of that lovely day, knowing now the lie that had informed it.
Methos backed away and when Duncan looked he was standing with eyes closed, arms crossed over his chest, fists tight. He could see how Methos made himself open his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Duncan." His face was ashen again. "I should have had the guts to tell you. I never learn." He stopped, and then said in a low voice, "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, I will never lie to you again. About anything. As long as I may live. I swear it." A slight haplessness slanted his mouth. "Be careful what you ask me." And Duncan could see the second thoughts scurrying in panic behind the gold jade eyes.
"Methos," he said softly, almost like the tones of a lullaby. "You never, never, never need to lie to me." It was his turn to smile a little crookedly. "You might have to shout some till I get the point. But I'll always want you to have what you want. What you need. And"-- he looked around -- "share it with you, and be richer." He looked back to his lover.
"I know," Methos mumbled.
Then he brightened suddenly. Before he could open his mouth Mac interposed, "Within reason."
Methos said, "Oh." He looked at the hole in the roof. "Better clean up before dark."
They turned to go but Mac stopped in his tracks. He was silent a moment, and then looked at Methos. "Is that what I think it is?" Methos looked, bit his lip, and nodded. In a modest pot, standing up very small and straight and gallant, was a baby dawn redwood.
Next to it was a California sequoia, and next to that what looked like -- but surely could not be? -- a baobab. There was a whole forest of little trees here, he suddenly realized, almost hidden by the showier plants, standing and waiting patiently to grow up.
Mac roused himself. They had to get going while light lasted.
"I'll get the boards from the dojo. Turn off the stove when you go down." He turned back when he reached the door to the stairs and touched Methos. "Don't let this spoil the garden for you. It's a wonderful thing and I want to see it all. Maybe I wouldn't have realized just how wonderful it is, if I'd seen it growing up bit by bit."
Methos leaned in against his side and hugged him with one arm around his back, then started down the stairs. Mac took a last look around. The green leaves nodded everywhere in the clean wind, against the blue of the sky, colors peeping through here and there. He wondered whether the maple leaves would be yellow or scarlet, when fall came. God it would be beautiful. He smiled. He'd have to find a way to get back here from work every day, when that happened, while it was still light, not to miss any of that private autumn.
When he turned to go down, still smiling, he saw Methos had stopped at the landing, looking up at him. Their eyes met, and a responsive smile lit his lover's lips and eyes before he turned away with a bit of shy awkwardness and clopped down the next flight. It was only a brief moment, but it was what Duncan lived for. That look, on his beloved's face, of unguarded happiness. Love. Communion.
Work. The trick now would be to keep his hands off Methos or they'd never get this place set to rights for the night. And then to remember that, whatever centuries he hoped they had, it was only now, each individual moment, that he would have Methos, to cherish, to appreciate, to make happy. To sense and gratify his desires, to help. To have, to hold... To be his lover. These moments were the only seeds their future had, to grow from.
Let me remember, he
prayed, and hoped some god, or at least his own subconscious mind, was