SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME

by

Dayspring

The SUV parked out front was his first clue. The strong sense of Presence that assaulted him as soon as he stepped inside the dojo was the second. But Duncan MacLeod was still stunned when he stepped out of the elevator and into his loft to find Dr. Adam Pierson--Methos--sprawled on his sofa, a Diet Coke in one hand and a box of bonbons in the other. On the television was...a soap opera?

"Hi, honey," the eldest Immortal said, kissing the air in Duncan's general direction. "How was your day? Dinner will be ready soon."

Duncan took a deep breath and sure enough, there were appetizing aromas coming from the kitchen. He peeked into the corners of the room, searching for a misplaced pod or maybe some alien goo, but all he found was one bonbon-munching, soap opera-watching, dinner-cooking old man. Giving up, he sat gingerly on the edge of a chair. "What's the punch line?"

The television went to commercial. "Hmm? What was that, dear?" Hazel eyes blinked innocently in his direction.

"What's the joke? What game are you playing?"

"Me? I'm just being what you apparently want me to be--the happy homemaker."

Duncan stared at him. "What the hell are you talking about, Methos?"

Methos sat up and sniffed delicately. "My biscuits are about to burn," he said and padded, barefoot, into the kitchen.

"Methooos," Duncan growled, following him impatiently. He pulled up short as he watched Methos bending over, taking a pan out of the oven. Damn. He really had made biscuits. Hating the feeling of being out of control, Duncan reached out and placed a hand on Methos' arm. "Please. Just tell me what's going on."

"Well, it happened like this," Methos began, peering into a pot simmering on the stove. "I was just about to leave my eleven o'clock class. Would have been gone actually, if one of my students hadn't asked a question about next week's midterm. Anyway, a woman walks into the room. I guess I would describe her as matronly because I have no business using words like 'old'--"

"Get on with it, man."

"However, I'm perfectly within my rights to use a phrase like 'impatient youth'," Methos reminded him sharply. "Now, where was I?"

"The matronly woman," Duncan said, feeling slightly chastised.

"Right. So she introduced herself to me. Said her name was Katherine Ashton-Mills."

Duncan squawked and sat down heavily on one of the barstools surrounding the kitchen island.

"What was that, MacLeod?" When Duncan merely buried his face in his hands, Methos continued. "She explained that she worked closely with you on the Seacouver Arts Foundation, so closely in fact, that you had confided in her why she must stop trying to play matchmaker for you. Imagine my surprise when she said that you admitted to being in a same sex relationship, and a monogamous one at that. Geez, Mac, here I was, under the mistaken notion that we were good friends, and I was learning this from a stranger. I was hurt. Then I found out I, Dr. Adam Pierson, was your domestic partner of record."

Duncan whimpered.

"So, what else could I do but rush over here and do my domestic duties--well, rush over as soon as I finished the seven-course lunch I had with Katherine, that is. Delightful woman. Tolerant of all lifestyle choices. Wanted me to know I was welcome to attend tonight's gallery opening with you. In fact, she insisted upon it. So, we need to eat and get dressed if we don't want to be late. And we really don't want to be late, MacLeod. You know when couples are tardy, most people suspect they just got caught up in their passions and lost track of time. We wouldn't want them thinking that, would we, Mac?"

A groan, followed by a deliberate stiffening of spine. "You don't understand how it was," Duncan said, keeping his eyes on his hands. "She was always foisting these society, debutante types on me. I was starting to feel...tawdry."

"So, Katherine was pimping you out and--"

"And I like being part of the Foundation. I couldn't risk her disfavor, so I told a small--untruth."

"Of course, the one time Duncan MacLeod decides to lie, he just has to use my name," Methos muttered dryly. "When I did get to be so special? Stop contemplating your hands and set the table."

"She asked for a name, and yours just happened to fall from my lips. After all, we have lived together on occasion," Duncan said, grasping at defensive straws as he grabbed the silverware.

"I've been a guest--on your sofa."

"Sofas, Methos. I've always made you welcome in all my homes. No wonder your name came up when I was saying I shared my home with someone."

"If I shared your home, why did I have to pick the lock this afternoon? We need a red wine."

Duncan went to the wine rack, then detoured to the desk and grabbed a set of keys. "They were Richie's," he said softly as he dropped them into Methos' hand.

Methos stared at the keys, then shoved them into a pocket. "Sit. Eat. Apparently Katherine thought I wasn't good enough for you, so she came to 'size me up'--her words, not mine. She wanted to know my weaknesses, and our weaknesses as a couple. Said she knew your Tessa and that she wouldn't want you mixed up with some gold-digging gigolo."

Duncan was appalled. "I'm sorry, Methos. Yes, she knew Tessa, but that doesn't give her the right-- Damn. I didn't mean for it to get out of control like this. As you said, Katherine is matronly. I thought she'd be slightly disgusted and leave me the hell alone. I never thought she'd confront you, and I certainly don't appreciate her putting you down like that. The nerve of that woman!"

Methos laughed and sat down across from Duncan. "Don't draw your sword just yet, Clan Leader. She apologized to me. Said that she shouldn't have underestimated you like that. Said she should have known that your good taste and breeding would only attract you to the same ilk."

Duncan grinned. "You charmed the old bag, didn't you?" He should have known. He had yet to see the five-thousand-year old trickster fail to charm any woman or man he set out to woo. He could just imagine Dr. Pierson, with his uppercrust accent and impeccable manners, flirting with the queen of Seacouver's high society. "She still had her underwear on when she left, didn't she?" he asked with mock concern.

"MacLeod!" Methos lips quirked. "She did say it was a pity that our relationship was monogamous."

Duncan snorted, then just outright laughed. "So what is this going to cost me?"

Golden eyes regarded him calmly. "It's probably going to cost us both more than we'll ever be able to admit."

"Methos?" Duncan shivered without knowing why.

Methos focused on eating. "The first payment will be the use of your white silk shirt. I don't have anything clean to go with my navy suit."

"You don't have to do this, you know?"

"You're afraid I'll embarrass you?"

"No. Who I sleep with, who people think I sleep with, has nothing to do with who I am. And as far as you personally embarrassing me, who am I to spoil your fun?" Duncan questioned with a grin. "All that aside, I don't want this to be a problem for you."

Methos shook his head. "Definitely not a problem--unless you expect me to cook for you again any time soon."

"No girlfriend is going to come over here and call me out?"

"No."

"Or boyfriend?"

"Even my cat left me, MacLeod."

Duncan chuckled. "It's hard finding a lasting relationship these days. Guess it's a good thing we have each other, huh?"

Methos looked up with a smile, his eyes shining golden. "Yes, that's definitely a good thing, MacLeod."

*****

"You're going to behave, right?" Duncan asked as he joined Methos on the other side of the car. He frowned as the parking valet gunned the motor of his beloved T-bird.

"Mac, Mac, Mac. Don't worry. I picked up the latest volume of 'How To Be The Perfect Corporate Mate', and memorized the pertinent facts in fifteen minutes." Methos adjusted his jacket. "I've always been a quick study."

"How about I get my car back, we stop by the video place and the liquor store, then head to the loft for a quiet evening of 'They Actually Paid Somebody Money To Make This Film'? I'll even pop some corn for you to throw at the screen," Duncan offered, reaching out to guide Methos back toward the street. He briefly wondered if he looked as good in his white silk shirt as Methos did. It should have fit the thinner man poorly. But the extra drape of fabric accented his figure rather than distracted from it.

"Too late, Honey Bear."

Duncan turned to see Katherine Ashton-Mills beckoning to them from the lobby of the hotel where the opening was being held. "How do I get myself into these things?" he muttered.

Methos patted the hand on his arm and led the way into the building.

"Duncan, Adam, how good it is to see you," Katherine gushed, kissing the air beside their cheeks. "So, how angry are you, Duncan? I know I overstepped our relationship--"

"Aye, that you did," Duncan said dryly. "You had no right to confront Adam."

"I know, but you're as dear to me as a son. I watched you struggle to be happy after Tessa's tragic death, and quite frankly, you didn't do a very good job. That's why when you moved back to Seacouver, I told myself that you needed my help. But you didn't, did you? Why, you went out and found you a perfectly adorable companion all on your own." Katherine wrapped herself around Methos' arm. "And now I'm going to show off your lovely find. He's just too handsome to keep in a closet."

"Katherine!" Duncan was shocked by her brassness. Methos just laughed.

"However did you manage to snag this prude, Adam?" Katherine asked.

"I guess I was just irresistible," Adam replied, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "Wouldn't you agree, Mac?"

"You don't want to know what I'm thinking at the moment," Duncan grumbled. He headed up the long staircase to the second floor where the gallery was located. The other two casually strolled up the stairs behind him. He heard them giggling and suddenly became aware he'd put himself in a vulnerable position. He stopped climbing and waited for them to pass. Two could play the ogling game. Methos probably had a fine ass to ogle.

Duncan froze. He hadn't really had that thought, had he?

"Duncan, I wasn't sure you were going to make it."

He'd been so busy watching the pair coming up the stairs, not to mention analyzing that last stray thought of his, that he hadn't noticed the woman coming down the elegant staircase. "Hello, Marie." Marie Southwell was one of the women Katherine had tried to match him up with. She was a beautiful redhead, but had an ugly soul.

"What? Katherine's not playing matchmaker anymore? Hmm. Looks like she has a new boy toy. Have you been replaced, Duncan?"

Duncan refused to reply.

"Duncan's pouting because you have a new toy," Marie called out when Katherine and Adam were a few steps away.

"Nonsense," Katherine replied. "Dr. Adam Pierson is no one's toy, especially mine. Dr. Pierson, may I introduce you to Marie Southwell? She's understandably bitter because Duncan rejected her a few months ago."

Marie flushed as red as her hair. "Duncan, please tell the nice old lady that the decision not to see each other was mutual."

Duncan started to open his mouth, but heeded Methos' quick shake of his head. The Old Man was right; never get in the middle of two well-armed women.

"Marie, we've been friends for a long time," Katherine began. "That's why I can say with all honesty that you've never turned down a man who had money and/or looks. Duncan has both, so I know you had nothing to do with Duncan's choice not to date you. Quite frankly, you were my last resort when it came to finding someone suitable for him. But that's not important anymore. Duncan found someone himself, and I must say, I applaud his choice."

"Found yourself a real princess, did you?" Marie asked Duncan.

"Should I be offended--or just run off to the castle to let down my flowing hair?" Adam said dryly.

"Was that Rapunzel or Rumplestiltskin?" Duncan asked curiously.

"Rapunzel, of course. Maybe we should implement a bedtime story policy, love. You seem to be getting your fairytales confused."

Marie's head swiveled back and forth between them. "No," she finally said.

Duncan moved closer to Methos. "Yes."

She threw her head back and laughed. "No wonder I couldn't get anywhere with you."

"Your gender didn't have a thing to do with it," Duncan said. "I like listening to a lover's heartbeat, and you don't have one." He placed a hand on Methos' back and urged his friend up the stairs.

"Maybe while I was at the bookstore I should have picked you up a copy of How To Win Friends and Influence People," Methos whispered, grinning broadly. "And you told me I had to behave."

"Adam darling," Katherine called as she reached the top of the stairs. "I hope that Marie's behavior hasn't soured you on the Foundation."

"On the contrary, Katherine dear. It's been a while since I've been so gallantly defended. No wonder you like working with Mac. The two of you together are a formidable pair."

Katherine retook her place on Adam's arm. "Come. I have some etchings to show you," she said with a deliberate leer.

"Sounds interesting. Will you be joining us, MacLeod?"

Duncan smiled. "I wouldn't miss it."



*****

"So it's true?"

Duncan turned his head from where he'd been staring at Methos talking with several members of the Foundation. The Old Man was in rare form, charming one and all with his wit and smile. "What's true, Douglas?"

Douglas Coppen's eyes settled on Methos. "He's your--what are they calling them these days?--your domestic partner?"

"What if he is?" Duncan focused a hard brown gaze on the balding, middle-aged man. Them. How dare he refer to Methos as a them. Methos was unique. Not just because of his age, but because of well, everything. His outlook on life. His ability to find humor in the midst of pathos. His ability to change, to not only survive--but exist--in worlds that couldn't even be imagined in the time and places he'd lived in. Did Methos realize just how precious his sanity was? Duncan smiled. Yes, he was sure Methos did.

"He doesn't seem your type."

"Because he's male?" Well, sure he'd been seen with women most of his four hundred plus years, but that didn't mean he hadn't experimented a time or two. There had been a dalliance or three in his lifetime. Just because he hadn't wanted to advertise a relationship didn't mean he was against the practice.

"Because he's better than you."

"Excuse me?"

Douglas shrugged. "He's smart."

"So was Tessa. And I was involved with Ann Lindsey, a medical doctor."

"True. But they really weren't your equals, were they? You still had the physical 'higher ground' so to speak. But this one, he's slimmer than you, but he's--powerful. It's in his walk, in his speech. He's not just a man, he's a man who knows who he is."

Duncan's mouth dropped open. "You see all that?"

"Yes. Don't you?"

Duncan stared at Methos and realized he did. Everything Douglas had said was true. Methos was powerful and--he liked it. He liked having a partner who didn't need his protection, didn't need him to be strong, didn't need him to be Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod twenty-four/seven. Not that he wouldn't protect him. Not that he wouldn't be strong. Not that he could ever stop being Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. But that wasn't the point. The point was that Methos was capable of protecting himself as well as Duncan. He'd done so several times already. The point was that Methos was strong enough for both of them. The point was that if Duncan wanted to pull the covers over his head and hide from the world for a day or a year or a century, he knew that when he finally emerged Methos would be there to toss him a beer and welcome him back into the world.

"You're right, Douglas. He is better than I am. And I'm one lucky bastard to have him in my life."

"Damn."

Duncan turned back to Douglas. "What?"

"I was hoping it was just lust the two of you shared. Then maybe I would have had a chance."

"I have no claims on Adam," Duncan admitted. "Sometimes I wonder why he puts up with me at all."

Douglas shook his head. "If you have to wonder, then I wonder why myself. I suggest you get a clue, MacLeod, if you want a chance at keeping him. I think I need a drink."

Duncan agreed, but instead of heading toward the bar with Douglas, he grabbed a couple of glasses of champagne from a circulating waiter and walked toward the spot where Methos was holding court.

"A professor of History. So what's your area of expertise, Pierson?" Neal Hamner was asking.

"History," Adam replied dryly, and Duncan fought the urge to smile. Hamner could be a bit self-important.

"I mean, what area? Ancient Civilizations? European History? American History?" Hamner added the last with a sarcastic sneer as if Adam's accent precluded him from teaching anything American.

"Yes. Yes. And yes."

"You teach American History?"

"I teach history. Since America exists--and I'm assuming you're referring to the history of the United States of America and not the entire North and South American continents--then yes, I teach 'American' history. If it happened before the last five minutes, I teach it."

Katrina Ralston smiled as Hamner turned a bright red. "What I think he's asking, Adam, is the name of the classes you're teaching at the university."

Wide hazel eyes blinked at the brown-skinned woman. "Why didn't he just say so? History 125: Ancient Civilizations; History 233: Modern History--World War I through the Latest CNN Update; History 328: The British Throne; and History 440: The Vietnam Era--Senior Seminar."

"That's a pretty eclectic grouping, Pierson," Marvin Ralston said, standing beside his wife.

Adam shrugged. "History is history. If you study it long enough, you start to see that it's just the same thing over and over again. Once you get to that point, you can merely fill in the blanks, and the rest is so much rhetoric. As that American cop show used to say, 'only the names have been changed'. And maybe the places. But both are irrelevant."

"How can you say that?" Hamner argued. "You need to understand the details about 'where' something occurred in order to truly understand why it occurred."

"Not to study history. History is about time, not place. History is 'when'. 'Where' is a topic for another social science."

"Let's take the American Civil War, for instance," Hamner pressed. "Wouldn't it have been different if it had taken place somewhere else?"

Adam shook his head. "It has taken place elsewhere and the outcome will always be the same. It was a war based on the weakest of reasons--economic inequity. It's a weak reason because once war starts, the rich stay rich and the poor just get poorer. There's no other possible outcome."

"And the abominable institution of slavery had nothing to do with it?" Katrina asked.

"Slavery was a convenient excuse, a rallying cry. It's sort of like using religion as the excuse for the Crusades. Both military actions were about money--who had it before and who would have it after. But greed has a negative connotation so you say something noble, like we're fighting for Christ or we're fighting to end--how did you put it?--the abominable institution of slavery. Several thousand fools buy into the sentiment and voila, you have a war. Usually short in duration, less than ten years, more like five, and there's no real change in the overall situation. The slaves were freed, yes, but ended up so poor that they became economic slaves--owing everything they ever earned to 'the company store.'"

"I bet your classes are filled every semester," Katrina said, obviously impressed.

"Oddly enough, they are," Adam said, with just a hint of wonder.

Duncan shook his head and handed Adam a glass of champagne. "What have I told you about teaching after hours?" he chided with a grin. He looked at Adam's audience. "Sorry about that. Adam gets rather passionate about history. I have no idea why." He was proud that he managed not to yell when Adam's foot landed atop of his.

"Sounds as if you're used to these impromptu lectures?" Marvin commented.

"Adam can't help his tendency to educate the under-educated. That's what makes him so lovable," Duncan said, giving Adam's shoulders a squeeze. "Isn't that right, sweetheart?"

Hamner gave a disgusted grunt and walked away.

Adam shook his head. "You know you should really stay away from cheap champagne, MacLeod."

Duncan ignored him. "So, when do you want him, Katrina?"

She grinned. "Stop reading my mind, Duncan."

"Want me for what?" Adam asked quickly. He looked to Marvin for help when Duncan and Katrina weren't forthcoming.

"I'm sorry, Adam. I thought Duncan had informed you ahead of time. I didn't know you were coming into this blind. Not a very nice thing to do, Duncan," the thin black man admonished.

"What's not a very nice thing? What have you gotten me into, MacLeod?" Adam demanded.

"Katrina's a teacher herself," Duncan said. Katrina nodded. "She thinks there's nothing quite as wonderful as a friend who's willing to share his or her knowledge with her class. In fact, she's sorta hard to get rid of until the friend agrees to come and talk to her class. Marvin's talked to her class. He spoke of the joys of being an accountant. Didn't you, Marv?"

"Spoke so eloquently that I haven't been asked back," Marv said proudly.

Katrina scrunched up her face. "It was just too painful. But Duncan here comes at least once a year, don't you?"

"Talking about Scotland does my heart good," Duncan said, dramatically draping his hand across his chest.

"I'll bet," Adam muttered. "Okay. Lay it all on the table, boys and girl. What am I missing here? What exactly do you teach, lovely lady?"

"Everything, kind sir."

Adam gulped the remaining champagne. "What grade?" He didn't even bother to hide the dread in his question.

"Third."

Marvin and Duncan burst out laughing.

"And there's no way I can get out of this without offending you, right?"

Katrina dropped her head to his shoulder. "I'd be terribly hurt. I feel a real rapport with you, Adam. I just know you can reach my students. They have no appreciation for history."

"They're nine and ten years old," Marvin said, looking at Adam sympathetically. "They don't even grasp the concept of history."

"You were giving them the history of accounting, Marv honey. Even I nodded off," Katrina countered. "But I just know they'll listen to Adam. The children know when a speaker loves his subject."

"I love accounting," Marvin protested. Katrina elbowed him in the ribs.

Adam gave Duncan a smirk and looked at Katrina. "When do you want me? No, tell you what. Why don't you and Marv come to Duncan's for dinner, say, Tuesday night, and we'll discuss the particulars then?"

"Sounds good for me. Babe, you don't have anything Tuesday night, do you?" Marvin shook his head.

"Great! We look forward to seeing you. MacLeod here just loves cooking for a dinner party. Don't you, Honey Bear?"

Before Duncan could come up with a suitable reply--that could be said in polite company--Katherine barreled down on them. "A dinner party? At Duncan and Adam's? Sounds fabulous! I'm invited, aren't I?"

Adam put his arm around her shoulders. "The more the merrier, Katherine. Bring a date if you like. Or just come stag. Odd numbers don't bother us, do they, Mac?"

"Whatever you say, Adam." He glared at his "boyfriend", then smiled graciously at his guests. "So is seven Tuesday fine with everyone?"

*****

Duncan slammed the T-bird's door and glanced at his watch. 6:40 p.m. Methos was going to kill him. But it wasn't his fault a tanker had overturned on the highway, making him extremely late getting back from an antique appraisal in Cascade. They'd closed all six lanes of traffic, and he'd been stuck for hours. Okay, so it had been his fault his cell phone was dead. He thought he had a cigarette recharger for it in his car, but that had belonged to his former cell--dead now thanks to a Quickening several months ago. He'd borrowed one from the woman in the car behind him, but he hadn't wanted to use up too many of her minutes, so his call to Methos had been brief: Traffic jam; start dinner; home a.s.a.p. Methos' reply had been even briefer.

"I know, I know, I know," he said quickly, cutting Methos off as he exited the elevator. "I'll do a quick shower, then come help you finish up, okay, Methos?" He took off his shoes and slipped out of his shirt.

"Adam."

"What?"

"Call me Adam, because Methos sure as hell wouldn't put up with this," Adam said, as he checked on a sauce he was making. "Not a hello. Not a 'it smells good.' Not even a peck on the cheek. Yep. Methos would have you skewered and roasting on a spit by now. Sometimes I miss him, you know. By the way, your clothes for tonight are on the bed."

Duncan smiled when he saw the choices--exactly what he was planning on wearing anyway. Methos had read him like a book. But then, Methos always had. Barefoot and only wearing his pants, he padded to the kitchen and stood close behind his friend. "Hello, Methos," he whispered in his ear. "Dinner smells wonderful, Methos." He brushed his lips across the cheek that suddenly turned toward him. "And yes, of course you can borrow my clothes."

Methos shrugged, one of Duncan's shirts flowing over the play of muscles. He was lean, but sinewy. "Have to keep up your reputation of having great taste. Go on now. Get that shower. Then set the table."

"At least I'd already gotten out the good china last night. It's clean and ready to use."

"Good china. How come I've never rated the good china?" Methos stepped away from Duncan to peek into the oven.

"Sorry. Family only gets the everyday stuff."

"Oh." Methos eyes flicked to the clock on the oven. "Shower. Now."

Duncan obeyed. He came out to hear Methos humming as he cooked. "You're a pro at this, aren't you?"

"What? You thought I was collecting recipes because it was a kitschy thing to do? Even with sixty-eight wives, MacLeod, I had to learn to do a few things for myself in five thousand years."

"You've never cooked for me."

"You've never needed me to."

"What does that have to do with anything? I've cooked for you and it's had nothing to do with need."

"No? How many times over the years have you cooked for your Clan? Male, female, one, two, a roomful--it doesn't matter. You have a need to take care of them. That includes food and shelter. It's part of who you are."

Duncan blinked, and remembered all the people he'd served up dishes for and tucked in at night over the years. "And you've shamelessly taken advantage of that, haven't you?"

Methos laughed. "If you're not needed, you brood. Couldn't let that happen, now could I?"

"Anything for my benefit, is that it, Methos?" Duncan teased.

"That's exactly it."

Something about Methos' tone made Duncan look up, and suddenly he was drowning in a sea of green and gold.

"Yoo hoo!"

Methos blinked and the spell was broken. "Our guests are here, Mac. Send the elevator down for them."

The elevator dispatched Marvin and Katrina Ralston. "We're not too early are we?" Katrina asked. "Marv kept rushing me. Maybe I should let him out more."

"Nah, I have a feeling a little Marv can go a long way," Duncan teased.

"I know where you live now, MacLeod," Marv said, the twinkle in his eye totally negating the threat.

"Can't we all just get along?" Adam whined, and everyone cracked up. He poured glasses of wine and headed to the guests. "I know you asked for Yoo Hoo, but you'll just have to settle for this excellent red."

"Yoo Hoo? I didn't think anyone north of Dallas knew anything about that chocolate drink," Marv commented. "And Hamner thought you weren't qualified to teach anything American."

"The only thing Hamner's qualified for is picking his nose, and I figure he screws that up at least once a day," Methos said dryly.

They all turned as the elevator made a return trip.

"Am I late?" Katherine called, waggling her diamond encrusted fingers. "You did say I could come dateless, didn't you? There wasn't an available man out there that I wanted to inflict upon you this evening."

"Katherine, dear," Adam said smoothly as he escorted her from the elevator. "You are far from dateless. Indeed, it is MacLeod here who's stag tonight. Do you know he had the audacity to invite you all here this evening, and then get stuck in a traffic jam, leaving me to do all the work."

"You poor thing," Katherine cooed. "I'm going to leave the card of my caterer with you. He's good about last minute rushes. Good, but expensive. Be sure to use Duncan's credit card when you make your order."

"Well, I do happen to have the number memorized."

"Oh, sweetheart, I believe I'm falling in love." Katherine glared at Duncan. "Take this as a warning: mistreat him and he's mine."

"You'd just spoil him rotten."

"Of course I would! Have you ever seen anyone in more need of pampering? Why, he could quit that dreary job of teaching, where I'm sure he's underappreciated. I'd take him around the world as many times as he wanted, let him visit the history he talks about. What do you say, Adam? Ready to dump the bag of beef for an adoring old woman?"

Adam kissed her hand. "Unfortunately, I have a taste for beef at the moment, my darling--especially now that I've gotten him seasoned just about right."

"I think I'm offended," Duncan said.

"I think you should be," Marv agreed.

Adam, Katherine, and Katrina looked at each other. "Men," they chorused, and burst out laughing.

*****

"So what exactly is the problem with the auction?" Adam asked over dessert.

"We're having trouble stirring up interest in it," Duncan said, surprised he hadn't talked about the upcoming art auction before. He usually discussed most things with Methos out of habit. "We're calling it a celebrity auction, but most of the 'celebrities' are only known in the art world, so the general public is basically clueless and therefore unsupportive."

"You need something that will pull in the masses," Adam mused, ever the strategist. "How about an exhibit of something everyone wants to see, maybe even schoolchildren?"

"Bless you, Adam," Katrina said. "A Native American showing perhaps? That shouldn't be too difficult to arrange."

"But we already have an abundance of museums in the area, babe," Marv pointed out.

"The auction's in a couple of months. We don't have time to--"

"Leave it to me," Adam interrupted. "I know some people who know some people, etc. Now, about the auction itself. Dry art can be terribly exciting to a lot of people, I'm sure--quite like opera, eh, Mac?" MacLeod elbowed him in the side since they were sitting next to each other on the sofa. "But some people like something a bit more 'explainable' and tangible."

"Like vintage cars or motorcycles? Richie used to--Tessa and I used to bribe Richie into going with us to art museums with tickets to the car shows at the Pavilion." Duncan smiled when he felt Methos squeeze his arm sympathetically.

"Richie?" Marv asked, frowning when his wife's fingers dug into his thigh.

"Richie was Duncan's foster child," Katherine explained. "He became a motorcycle racer and died during a competition."

Duncan hadn't felt Methos' hand leave his arm, but suddenly the warm fingers were clasping his, holding him together as he flashed back to Richie's real death. It helped knowing that Methos had been there, that he, too, had witnessed that brutal moment.

"We're sorry, Duncan. We didn't know," Katrina said gently.

"It happened before you moved to Seacouver, so there's no need to apologize," Duncan said, his tension easing as Methos' thumb caressed his palm. "And the accident occurred overseas, so you wouldn't have heard of it either. I think Adam's right; we should broaden our inventory. The problem, however, is time."

"Nonsense. If we want something done, then we do it." Katherine looked around with a frown. "We need pencil and paper, Duncan. We have five fine minds here. We should begin now."

"Three fine minds," Katrina corrected. "Adam and I have to have a discussion of our own."

"And what about the other members?" Marv added.

"We'll get their opinions tomorrow. Pen and paper, Duncan."

Hours later, Duncan and Methos walked their guests down to their cars.

"Katherine, I'll let you know as soon as--"

"I trust you, Adam. If you say you're taking care of the exhibit part of this project, I'm not going to think further about it. Neither should anyone else."

"But I'm not even a member of the Foundation," Adam protested.

"Spouses are automatic members. Marvin, you'll have those numbers for me tomorrow?"

"Certainly, Katherine. Adam, let me know if you need any information."

"Will do. Katrina, let me know how your meeting goes."

"I will. Duncan, Adam, great dinner."

"Thanks for the leftovers."

"You're welcome, Marv. Drive safely."

Duncan didn't even realize his arm was around Methos' shoulder until they turned to go back into the dojo. It just seemed so natural. Like the dinner. "This party was a good idea."

"I have them on occasion."

"More than on occasion. Your ideas about the auction were brilliant."

Methos shrugged and pulled away. "Planning is a speciality of mine. You know that."

"Hey." Methos stopped and turned around to look at Duncan. "Another speciality of yours is making me feel better. That was the first time I'd voluntarily talked about Richie. Thank you for being there. Upstairs and--and at the racetrack. It's not a nice memory, but it helps that someone else knows the truth, that he didn't die during a race, that I--"

"That Ahriman killed him."

"Yes."

"I also know something else, Mac."

"What's that?"

"That since you didn't cook, you have dishes waiting for you." Methos gave an impish grin and took his car keys out of his pocket. "Have fun."

"Does that mean you would have done the dishes if I'd cooked?" Duncan quizzed, walking with Methos to his SUV.

"What do you think?"

Duncan laughed and impulsively leaned forward and brushed his lips across Methos'.

"What was that for?" Methos asked, shocked.

"For being you, Methos. Merely for being you."

Muttering something about inbreeding in the Highlands, Methos drove away.

Duncan smiled, and happily went to do the dishes.

*****

As Duncan felt the approach of a familiar Presence, he checked himself in the mirror, pleased at the figure he cut in the black, lapel-less tuxedo. He wasn't a vain man, but he liked to look his best. Sometimes it just made life--easier. A neat appearance garnered respect...and it didn't hurt with the ladies either. Of course, tonight he was caring less about impressing the ladies and more about impressing a certain older Immortal, an Immortal who had certainly impressed the hell out of him.

Most of the Foundation was considering Dr. Adam Pierson to be a godsend. Singlehandedly, he'd turned what was going to be a politely-attended art auction into the hottest event of the year. His exhibit for children had ended up being an exhibit of ancient Egyptian artifacts not scheduled to be shown in the U.S. for at least five or ten years. Somehow he'd arranged, not only the exhibit, but the travel, security, exhibit hall, and living accommodations for the personnel involved. School children lined up around the block to see the exhibit during the days, and the nights belonged to adults who came from as far away as New York and Washington, D.C. to see the treasures uncovered in a pyramid that had been buried in sand for several thousand years. Thanks to Adam's machinations, the Foundation had already made as much money as they'd expected from the auction.

But the auction was going to go over its expected revenue as well. The people who had flown in to see the exhibit had stayed to attend the formal affair and make bids. And the biggest ticket item was not a piece of artwork, but a motorcycle used by James Dean in the movie, "Rebel Without A Cause." Another minor miracle Methos the Great had pulled out of his silk hat. At the rate the Immortal was going, the whole city was going to be vying for his attention. So he, Duncan MacLeod, had to look his best just to get noticed. Right?

He turned as the Presence surged into the room. His words of greeting left his thoughts as he took in a superbly dressed Methos. The black tux contrasted with his fair skin, almost making him look luminous, but what Duncan noticed most was that unlike most of Methos' clothing, the tux was tailored to his body, showing off the sleek runner's build of his friend.

"Damn."

Duncan didn't even realize he'd spoken aloud until Methos asked, "Damn good, or merely a damn good try?"

"Damn gorgeous."

Methos grinned. "I would have settled for handsome, but gorgeous works. You know my driving over here is silly. We could have just met at the Pavilion."

"Duncan MacLeod doesn't meet his dates at the Pavilion."

Methos shook his head. "Remember we're just playacting, Mac."

"Are we?" The question fell from Duncan's mouth before he could catch it.

Golden eyes lifted up from inspecting immaculate white cuffs. "MacLeod?"

"Can't you feel how--comfortable this is, Methos? How--right this feels?" Duncan shrugged, at a loss for words.

"What is the 'this' you're referring to?" Methos asked softly. "Having someone to go out with? Talk over things with? Cook for? Don't see what's not there, Duncan. It's just that you've been too long without companionship. Unlike me, you're not a solitary soul. Being alone is unnatural for you."

"But not for you?"

"No. Not for me. So many years...."

"Yet you've married sixty-eight times."

Methos shrugged sadly. "See? Even the solitude can get to me. Don't worry; if you find some pretty blonde, I'll step out of the way."

"Why would I want some pretty blonde?"

"Why would you want me?"

"For the same reason you want me," Duncan said, hoping to pull an admission from the Old Man.

Methos gave a faint smile. "I highly doubt it."

Duncan flushed angrily. "I resent your insinuation that I'm a child who doesn't know his own heart."

"I'm not a pedophile, MacLeod. Not even when I was with the Horsemen. But if I felt for a child the same that I feel for you, that's what I would be."

"Then why can't you believe I feel the same?"

"Running Deer, Tessa, Anne, Amanda--shall I go on?"

"There was Alexa for you," Duncan said defiantly, wishing he knew Methos' Chronicles as well as the Ancient knew his.

"And Kronos, Caspian, and Byron."

Duncan paled. He'd taken the Quickenings of all three men, and intimately knew the details of their relationships with Methos. "Byron's was a fatal love. He knew you'd never love him as much as he did and he reveled in that despair. Caspian's love for you equaled his hate. And Kronos was obsessed. Has no man ever loved you without an added taint?"

"Silas. But you know how that ended."

Methos had admitted after too much drinking one night that he'd killed Silas not because the man was a threat to him, but a threat to Duncan. "You killed the only man who loved you because of me? Why?"

Golden eyes rimmed with green gazed at him steadily, hiding nothing. "Why indeed?" Duncan unconsciously took a step back, the depth of Methos' feeling for him unnerving him. Methos gave him a sad, but understanding smile. "I speak from experience when I talk of loneliness. Sixty-eight wives. Countless lovers. Do you think it was true love that drove me into all those relationships? Sometimes I just needed to ease the pain of my own company. Not that I viewed the relationships as anything less than they were; if I gave my word to love, honor and cherish until death, I did so--always knowing their deaths were more likely to come before mine."

Duncan stepped forward and brushed his hand across Methos' shaven cheek. "Methos, this is more than just loneliness."

"Perhaps it is. But we have time to figure out exactly what it is before we plunge into something irrevocable, Mac. You see, neither of us has the luxury of knowing there will be a natural end to the relationship. I plan on surviving, and I plan on making sure you do as well. So there won't be an 'out' for us, Duncan, if we start this. It will either last...or end badly. We mean too much to each other to risk that happening by moving precipitously, don't we?"

"Yes," Duncan admitted reluctantly.

"Cheer up, Mac. None of that means you can't ogle me all night if you want to," Methos said with a grin.

"Can I leer, too?"

"Mmm. I don't know. Let me see it."

Duncan smiled lecherously and wiggled his eyebrows.

"Well, that's quite--tingly. I think that I can handle that."

"What about a kiss?" Duncan hedged.

"You mean that brush across the lips thing I got the night of the dinner party?"

"No, I mean this." Duncan yanked Methos close and devoured his mouth with his own. After his explorative tongue finally made its way home, he looked into the eyes which had darkened to burnished gold. "Well?"

"That--" Methos took a deep breath and pulled away. "That might be a bit fast."

"Oh. How about this?" Duncan gently nibbled at the lips swollen from his assault.

"Maybe."

"And this?" His lips trailed along the long length of neck, marveling at the softness of the skin, and stopping at places so his tongue could get a sample of the bounteous feast of flesh. Apparently Methos was like a fine vintage, his taste improving with age. Experimentally, he hummed against the pinkening flesh and was pleased by the shiver he felt crawl through his partner.

"MacLeod."

"Yes, Methos?"

"Enough."

Duncan stepped back. "This is more than just loneliness," he repeated.

"Then time will bear that out. Please, Duncan?"

"Aye, Methos. You were right; we do mean too much to each other to risk an affair. But will you give me the chance to prove to you that what I want is much more than that?"

"Aye, Duncan MacLeod. You have my word. Now, isn't there an event we should be attending?"

"Certainly. After you, my apple dumpling."

"What have I told you about your chivalrous tendencies, Honey Bear?" Methos warned after rolling his eyes at the ridiculous nickname.

"Chivalrous, hell. I just want to ogle you from the rear. It was so much fun last time."

"Last time?"

Duncan grinned when Methos looked shocked. "You were going up the stairs and I just had to watch. For an old man, you have a great ass."

Methos held up the hem of his jacket and wiggled. "I do, don't I? Guess it makes up for the nose."

"You have a great nose, too."

Methos laughed and stepped into the elevator. "Don't lay it on too thick, MacLeod."

"If you recall, I saw your nose before I saw your ass since you were sitting down. So I know of what I speak. Besides I'm a lover of the arts, and your nose is classic in its lines, flowing gracefully into the rest of your features. Yours is the kind of nose that wouldn't just chip away if someone was trying to sculpture you. And it wouldn't just fade into the rest of the stone. No, sir. Your nose has presence--pardon the pun." Duncan pulled down the gate and the elevator started downward.

"Don't make me shoot you. It would ruin the lines of your tux," Methos murmured.

"You like the lines of my tux? You know you never said. I think I'm hurt."

"Yes, I like your tux. Yes, I like your lines, Mac."

"And my ass?"

"A fine piece of work."

"Really?"

"Tight enough to bounce a coin off of, MacLeod." Methos exited the elevator quickly.

"You think so? Wanna try it?"

"Wouldn't want to wrinkle your trousers."

"Well, then just a squeeze--to be sure," Duncan teased, enjoying how flustered Methos was becoming. He didn't know how fun flirting with the Old Man could be. Should have tried it years ago.

"Mac, I'm packing."

"That you are. And a nice package it is."

Methos sighed and walked faster. "A gun, MacLeod. I'm packing a gun."

"Gee, and I thought you were just glad to see me."

"The rules were that you could ogle and leer. I don't remember anything about harass," Methos said, slipping into the passenger's seat of the T-bird.

"Those are the rules of engagement?"

"For now, MacLeod. But you know my feelings about rules."

"There can be only one and don't kill on Holy Ground," Duncan said from memory. "Those are the only two that count."

"Bright boy."

"Getting brighter every day, Methos."

*****

"I'd forgotten how extravagant Americans could be," Hatim Abdul said. "I could get used to this."

"Adam said that you went to college here," Duncan said politely, standing beside the Egyptian who had accompanied the exhibit to Seacouver.

"Harvard. My uncle said to do business with America is to do business with the world, and that to understand Americans one had to live with them for a while. Have you found that to be correct, MacLeod?"

"I think that's true of any people." There was something about Abdul that he didn't like, although Methos seemed fond of him.

"Ah. An answer that isn't truly an answer. Our Adam is rubbing off on you."

Our Adam? "It happens when you're in constant contact with a person," Duncan replied pointedly.

Abdul smiled. "He is incredible, is he not? It's been so much fun working with him again."

Duncan didn't want to let on just how little he knew about Abdul and Methos' relationship, but he couldn't let the opportunity pass to find out something about the old man's past. "You've worked together before?"

Abdul nodded. "It is because of Adam that we have such an outstanding collection. Well, I guess it 's because of our ancestors actually, but Adam has been responsible for the ongoing project."

"Your ancestors?"

Black eyes twinkled in the light brown face. "Adam didn't tell you anything, did he? He's always been reclusive about this matter. It was our grandfathers who first discovered the Lost Pyramid. My grandfather believed that a pyramid had been buried under the shifting sands many years ago and took a party out to look for it. Adam's grandfather, Benjamin Pierson, was a fellow professor at the university and he volunteered to be part of Grandfather's team. Grandfather contracted an ailment while out in the desert and he feared that he would die before he found the pyramid. Benjamin assured him that he would at least see the top of the pyramid before he went to meet Allah. Benjamin then led the team to the exact coordinates. My grandfather died with his hand on the pyramid's peak.

"But the story doesn't stop there. The excavation continued through the next generation and by the time the sand had been dug out enough to enter the pyramid, our fathers were men of age. Together they explored the burial chambers and catalogued the many artifacts. Adam's father, Matthew, and my father were killed during a sandstorm. The artifacts were stored away in boxes until I went in search of them. I search for any offspring of Matthew and came upon Adam. He was instrumental in helping the Egyptian government find the funding for our collection. In fact, this excursion to Seacouver is just what we needed to push the government into allowing the exhibit traveling privileges. The international press has been impressed with the collection."

"And you're the administrator of this project?"

"Yes. I wanted Adam to be involved, but he said he had other interests. I suppose that would be mainly you, MacLeod."

Before he could reply, Duncan felt Methos' approach.

"You're not boring MacLeod with ancient family history, are you, Hatim?" Adam asked as he stopped at Duncan's side.

"Just giving credit where credit is due, Adam. Besides, I was sure you shared everything with MacLeod."

Duncan saw Methos' eyes flash angrily, and he had to suppress a smirk. He knew that look. Abdul was going to get it.

"Mac, would you mind getting me a drink? That private tour of the exhibit has my throat dry. I had no idea someone could talk as much as he could. Thousands of questions--intelligent ones--but so many. How in the world did he ever find time to run a country the size of America? He must have been a blast at summit meetings. But his daughter is a real sweetheart. And she loosened right up as soon as we ditched the Secret Service."

"Adam!"

"What? They're both perfectly safe here. Besides, I led them right back to their security before they went to check out the items for auction. He's trying to find something his wife will let him bring into their New York apartment."

"Well, that let's you out."

A wiry elbow came into abrupt contact with Scottish meat. "My drink, MacLeod."

As Duncan walked away, he heard Methos' voice drop to a harsh whisper. Having been on the other side of a Methos tongue-lashing, he knew he should feel slightly sorry for Abdul. He didn't.

"What can I get for you, Mr. MacLeod?" the bartender, Scotty Forrest, asked.

"A beer and a scotch."

"That beer for Dr. Pierson?"

Duncan nodded.

Scotty knelt behind the bar, then stood with a full glass of beer in his hand. "I keep the good stuff down there for him. The rest of the people here just don't know how to appreciate beer like he does."

Duncan laughed. "You don't know the half of it. So, how's it going?"

"Rich people drink a lot. I started running low, but I called in a favor and a local bar owner is sending over some of his inventory. That'll get us through the night."

"Good. The drunker they are, the higher they'll bid," Duncan said in a conspiratorial whisper.

"That sounds like something you learned from Dr. Pierson. He was always telling us something like that in his class. Just my luck that he didn't become part of the faculty until my senior year. His was the only class I could stay awake through. Figured I'd miss a good joke if I slept. He must be an interesting man to be in a relationship with."

"Interesting is definitely a term I'd use when describing our relationship." He turned and stuck the beer in the hand coming up behind him.

"I thought I was going to dry up and turn to sand waiting for you to return," Methos groused before draining the glass. "An excellent microbrew, Scotty. Serve me up another one."

"Sure thing, Dr. Pierson. I knew you'd like it."

Adam saluted him with the new beer. "Come on, Mac. We're going to look over the auction items." He winked at Scotty. "I'm going to make him buy me something pretty."

"And expensive?" the bartender asked eagerly.

"I told you he was an excellent student, Mac." He wrapped his arm through Duncan's and tugged him away.

"You know it's scary to think you're going to be corrupting children of a much younger age." Duncan sipped his scotch. Apparently Scotty thought he was worth the good stuff too.

"Just wait until they're old enough to take over the world." Methos laughed evilly. "Be afraid, MacLeod. Be very afraid."

"Oh, don't worry. I am, Adam." They walked into the cordoned off area where the merchandise lay tagged with lot numbers. "So what is this pretty and expensive thing I'm going to buy you?"

"I have no idea. I'll tell you when I see it."

They were almost at the end of the sale items when Methos tugged on his arm and pointed. "That's it."

MacLeod frowned. "It" was a small golden filagree box donated by a jewelry maker. Although its card said it was 25K gold, it still was far from being a "big-ticket" item and didn't seem like anything Methos would covet. "Why?"

Methos shrugged. "It's small enough to take with me if I have to leave."

Duncan froze. For the first time he understood the enormity of living a life like Methos'. He figured his friend had taken the easy way out by running from adversity. But that simple sentence made him realize just how much Methos had probably lost in his sudden flights, how much courage it must take to leave behind a life and start over. And how many times had Methos done it, only to have to do it again? "Don't you ever want to stay?"

"I don't like running, Duncan. Sometimes it breaks my heart. Sometimes it breaks someone else's. But I do what I must. In fact, I've been doing it so long that I don't know of another way."

"And I don't want you to learn another."

Methos looked at him in shock. "You've never run from anything in your life, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."

"Which has worked for me so far. I only hope I have the strength to change when it ceases to work. I hope I have your strength when that happens."

"I'd have thought you would consider it a weakness."

"Maybe in my younger days." He squeezed the hand that hung closest to him. Their hands remained united as they continued through the rest of the display. He stopped in front of a painting that caught his attention.

"It's the Highlands, isn't it?" Methos asked.

"Yes. The card says the painting's unsigned. I wonder why."

"Maybe the artist wanted the painting to be liked for its merits and not his or her name. Are you going to bid on it?"

Duncan shook his head. "Wouldn't fit in my bag if I had to leave."

"And what on earth would you be running from, MacLeod?"

Duncan's brown eyes stared intently at the golden green ones looking back at him. "Maybe I wouldn't be running from anything, Methos."

"Oh." Long lashes dropped, then lifted. "I don't think sentiments like that are in accordance to our current set of rules."

Duncan shrugged. "We aren't on Holy Ground. And I sure hope like hell that there can be more than one. Playing with myself is a lot less fun that playing with someone else."

"Depends on how talented you are," Methos rejoined with a wicked grin.

"Are you offering to teach me some of your tried-and-true techniques, Old Man?"

"I don't think so," Methos said as he started back along the carpeted path. "You're much too young and besides, you're right. Playing with others is a hell of a lot more fun."

"Is that an invitation?"

"MacLeod," Methos censured.

"Fine. But I think you better hang onto my hand to keep it from getting into trouble."

"And if I hold your hand how are you going to bid on my trinket box?"

"I have two hands, Adam."

"Think you can keep the other one out of mischief until the auction starts?"

"Depends on your definition of mischief," Duncan replied impishly. He put one arm around Methos and tickled his side lightly. "You mean something like that?"

Methos smothered a laugh. "I think I better hold on to both hands." He slipped out of Mac's embrace and intertwined the two offending body pieces together before putting his palm over both of them. "And I think I'm not going to get my trinket box."

"Too bad you left your handcuffs at home."

"And let's not forget the most important thing: the gag."

"Adam?" Duncan asked as he obediently walked at Methos' side.

"Yes?"

"Do you really have handcuffs and gags?"

Methos just laughed.

Hours later, the black Thunderbird pulled up in front of the dojo.

"Well, I've done all I'm going to do for society this century," Methos exclaimed, stretching in exhaustion.

"It was a fine thing to do, Methos. The Foundation has never raised so much money."

Methos smiled. "I have my moments, I guess." He got out of the car and patted his pockets for his own car keys.

"Can I talk you into coming up for a while, or is that against the rules?"

"I have to put up with twenty-six third graders tomorrow. I need my sleep, Mac."

"I can't believe Katrina scheduled you for the day after the auction. Surely she must've known--"

"Of course she did. But this is the beginning of a new section of material; the perfect time for me to make my appearance. I went into this with my eyes wide open, Clan Leader."

"As you do everything."

"Maybe not everything," Methos whispered.

Duncan walked with him to his SUV. "Meet me at Joe's tomorrow, and I'll buy you a beer as a reward for being so civic-minded."

"A beer? Shall I remind you of the amount raised this week, Mr. MacLeod?"

"How about I make sure your hand is never empty?"

"Sounds like you just made a date."

"Finally," Duncan mumbled.

"What was that?"

"Can I have a goodnight kiss, Methos?"

"The date's tomorrow."

"How about a friendly hug then?"

Methos sighed and held out his arms. Duncan stepped forward and kissed him instead.

"Cheater," Methos said breathlessly minutes later.

"Must be the company I'm keeping," Duncan replied without a bit of remorse.

"Must be. Goodnight, MacLeod."

"Goodnight..." he murmured as he watched the vehicle drive away, "...my love."

*****

"So, Joe, how's it going?" Duncan asked as he walked into the bar and saw his former Watcher. As head of the Western U.S. Division, Joe Dawson no longer followed Duncan MacLeod around; he had other people doing it.

"My, look what the cat dragged in," Joe said with a grin. "Long time no see, Mac."

"Sorry about the long absence, but let's just say I understand the 'work' in charity work now." He sat on a stool at the bar, smiling a thanks at Joe as the man set a glass of scotch in front of him.

"Yeah, I was just reading about it in the paper. Quite a shindig you guys put on. By the way, thanks for the tickets to the Egyptian exhibit. They went over big with my staff."

"I can't claim ownership to that act of largess. It was Adam's idea. Actually, all of it was Adam's idea. According to him, setting up a charity event is no different from a raid--it's all about separating those who have from what they have."

Joe laughed. "How in the world did you talk him into joining the Foundation with you? He's usually 'Mr. Low Profile'."

Duncan shrugged. "You know how it is with him, Joe. He has reasons that we can't possibly fathom."

"I don't know, Mac. Maybe you should give it a try--at fathoming his reasons, I mean."

Duncan stared at Joe, hearing something in the rough voice. Bitterness, anger...hurt? "What's going on, Dawson?"

"Absolutely nothing, MacLeod. Just trying to figure when we crossed back over that line that had me as your friend and not just another Watcher."

"Get to the point," Duncan said impatiently. "What have I done that makes you think we're not friends anymore?"

"Well, it seems to me a friend would tell another friend when he was in a relationship, a relationship that he's apparently quite open about with other friends. Now see, I can understand the Old Man not telling me anything; the old goat's probably getting a sick kick out of watching me run around with my head up my ass. But I expected better of you."

Duncan slumped against the bar. "You know about Adam and me? Listen, Joe, it's not what you think."

"Don't feed me that line of bull, MacLeod! I saw it for my own eyes!"

Duncan froze. "What?" Had Dawson seen the kiss outside the dojo? "I thought you left spying on me to your minions!"

"I didn't see anything that a thousand other people didn't see!"

Duncan took a deep breath. He looked around, grateful that it was still early which meant the bar was barely occupied. "Just tell me what you're talking about, Joe."

The Watcher took a deep breath too. "I was at the auction for a few minutes last night. Scotty, the bartender, used to fill in for me when I had to be out of town, so I owed him. He called me when he was getting low on stock and I loaded up a few cases and hauled it over to him."

"I didn't know you knew Scotty."

"He took over when I was out of town, Mac," Joe said meaningfully.

Oh. When he was on Watcher business. Which meant Duncan was out of town too. Duncan gave a rueful nod.

"We started talking. He mentioned your name and Adam's. I said I knew you. He really opened up then. Started saying things like how he used to be prejudiced about people like you, but that you and Adam were such a damn nice couple, he couldn't help but like you. It took me a while to figure out what he was talking about. I thought it'd be worth a laugh the next time I saw you, thought I'd really have one to shut the Old Man up for once. Then I saw you across the room. He was holding your hands and you were leaning over to whisper in his ear. Everything about you spoke of intimacy, Mac. So don't tell me it's not what I think. I may be young compared to you, but I wasn't born yesterday."

Duncan drained his glass. "It's a long story, Joe."

Joe looked around and spotted his assistant Mike. He nodded for the man to come take care of the bar. "Let's go back to my office." He picked up the bottle of scotch. Duncan picked up his glass.

"It all started as a lie, Joe," Duncan said as the Watcher refilled his glass. "I was tired of people acting as a matchmaker for me. I told them I was involved with Dr. Adam Pierson. Adam found out, thought it was hilarious, and reveled in the role."

"That wasn't a role I saw last night."

Duncan sighed. "I got too comfortable in my role. It felt good being with Methos. It always has. I kissed him and it felt right."

"And so the lie became the truth?"

"No. There is no truth, Dawson. Methos is--reluctant to move to the next level."

"Good. At least one of you is still thinking with his head," Joe said flatly.

"Excuse me? You have a problem with me and Methos being together?"

"You better believe it. You and Methos? A disaster waiting to happen."

"Why? Because we're both men? We're both Immortals?"

"You're not just Immortals. You're both poised to be among the remaining Immortals when the Gathering comes. You're one of the best damn fighters I've seen, and Methos has lasted over five thousand years."

"You think we're going to end up fighting each other?"

"Forget that. You're going to end up fighting a lot of other people before that time--especially you. If Methos is with you, he's going to have to fight too."

"So we shouldn't be together because I'm a danger to him?"

"Hell, Mac, you're a danger to each other. But yeah, you're a danger to him in more ways than one," Joe said reluctantly.

"You know you can't make a statement like that without explaining, Joe."

"Fine. Do you love him?"

"I--I think I do. Last night--"

"You see, that's the problem right there," Joe interrupted. "You think you love him. And when did this thought hit you? When you had your hands all over him?"

Well, there was that. And the kiss. Duncan flushed.

Joe sighed and drained his own glass. "Dear God, Mac, don't do this to him."

"What? What am I doing that's so wrong?" Mac asked in frustration.

"He loves you. Has loved you for nearly as long as he's known you. A man who hadn't killed in two hundred years came from a continent away to warn you of danger, and when you couldn't do what had to be done, he stepped in. He killed a man he considered a brother, a man he liked, because that man was a threat to you and one of your friends. He watched you kill an old friend of yours in cold blood while you were under a dark Quickening, yet still followed you all over France on the slim chance that he could save you.... There's no thinking in his love for you, MacLeod. He loves you; he acts on that love. If you want to get into a physical relationship with him, he's not going to be able to resist. And if you later decide he's not what you want, he's going to let you out of that relationship with a shrug and maybe a 'you can buy me a beer and we'll call it even.' But inside, his heart will be breaking. He doesn't deserve that."

"Why is everyone so sure I'm going to hurt him? He thinks I want him because I'm lonely."

"Maybe you are. Too bad Amanda's all tied up with that Wolfe guy. A week with her--"

"And I'd forget all about Methos?" Duncan asked bitterly. "You know, it's eye-opening to find out your friends think so little of you."

"You know I think the world of you, Mac. But you haven't been in a stable relationship since Tessa Noel. And all those relationships have been female," Joe said reasonably.

"It might shock the Watchers to find out I'm not inexperienced in male-male sex."

"Nope. Won't shock us in the least bit. Want me to list the names? Warren--"

"Stop!" Duncan paced the room. "So just because I haven't flaunted those relationships, you think I can't be in an open relationship with a man?"

"Mac, it's not some kind of dare, okay? I'm sure you can have that kind of relationship and still retain your 'manliness'. Hell, you have all of Seacouver society thinking just that, and I bet every one of them has nothing but good to say about you and Adam. I'm just--I'm just worried about him, okay? I knew him before he met you, remember? He was this gawky, shy grad student who gamely tried to hide a deep sadness that either drew people to him or chased them away. The gawky shyness was just a masque, but the sadness was real. I've only had glimpses of it since he met you--when you were angry at him about Galati, when you shunned him after the Horsemen incident, and when you walked away after O'Roarke. It was also there when you asked him to kill you after Richie's death. I remember thinking which of the three of us was hurting more...."

"I don't plan on hurting him, Joe. I don't plan on making him a convenient fuck. I don't plan on dragging him into the Game."

"But you've hurt him before. You've dragged him into the Game. And maybe you haven't made him a convenient fuck, but he has been convenient, hasn't he? You used him to help the de Valicourts. You used him for information on your friend Warren--even as he was grieving the loss of Alexa. You leaned on him when you killed Ingrid Henning. You killed his friend Byron, and you looked to him for forgiveness. You killed Richie and you looked to him for judgment. When you need him, he's just everything for you, isn't he? And what are you when he needs you?"

"I am not the villain in this piece, Dawson," Duncan said adamantly. "Methos is manipulative. He lies--if not openly, then by omission. He has more false faces than Wal-Marts at Halloween. He can be mean and nasty, conniving, and he will sacrifice anyone and anything that gets in the way of his plans. If anyone is in danger of getting hurt in this relationship, it's me."

"And so we finally get to the heart of the problem," Joe said quietly.

Duncan stopped in front of the desk. "What?"

"We start out talking about Methos, and you end up talking about you."

"That's not fair, Daw--" Duncan froze for a second, then relaxed. "He's here. Not a word about this conversation. Although you don't think I'm capable of worrying about him, I know today was probably a rough one for him. He volunteered to work with a third-grade class."

"Methos?" Joe smiled. "I bet that was interesting. Wanna go meet him at the bar?"

Duncan shook his head. "Unnecessary. He's already heading back here."

There was a polite knock at the door, and a familiar nose appeared. "Don't want to interrupt anything. Just wanted Mac to know the Presence was a friendly one."

"That'd be a good one, if I didn't know the two of you can recognize each other's Presence since Bordeaux," Joe called. "Come on in, Old Man. We were just talking about you anyway."

"Oh?" Methos walked in, brown beer bottle in hand. "Anything interesting?"

"Just trying to figure out why you were turning into the perfect Seacouver citizen. Organizing benefits, teaching impressionable children--is there a sizable cash bonus attached to the Annual Volunteer-Of-The-Year Award that I don't know about?" Joe asked with a grin.

"That would be so shallow of me, Joseph--although Dr. Pierson could always do with a bit of a cash inflow. He wouldn't mind a few more luxuries in his life. And it might help make up for today," he said with a long-suffering sigh as he collapsed into a chair.

"A five-thousand-year-old couldn't handle a couple dozen of ten-year-olds?" Duncan teased.

"Try a hundred."

"What?"

"I was ambushed. The only defense I have was that since she was a friend of yours, MacLeod, so I thought she was honorable. How wrong I was. You have a terrible problem with picking friends, present company excluded of course," Methos said with a pained expression.

"Of course," Duncan agreed amiably. "What did the evil Katrina do?"

"Katrina?" Joe asked curiously.

"Katrina Ralston, the third-grade teacher who took advantage of me." Methos sniffed for effect.

Duncan patted his hand sympathetically, but before Methos could reply, there was a rap on the door.

"Ah, that would be my next beer. Be a dear and get it for me, MacLeod. After all, you're the one who promised my hand would never be empty tonight." Duncan shook his head and went to get the beer from Mike while Methos continued with his sad tale. "Last week, when I so kindly escorted Seacouver Eastside Elementary through the Egyptian exhibit, I was being--evaluated. That vixen Katrina rallied her fellow third-grade teachers and they went to their principal, declaring that my tutelage of the whole third grade would undoubtedly raise their students' scores on state and national exams. The students themselves added to my betrayal by answering a quiz the teachers put together after the tour. The principal was dazzled by how much they had remembered, so he succumbed to the evil scheme and called the dean of the university. Since Eastside so graciously allows Elementary Education majors from the university to do their mandatory student teaching there, the university could only reciprocate. You want Dr. Pierson? You can have Dr. Pierson. Once a week? No problem.

"So I innocently walk into the principal's office and ask for Mrs. Ralston's room. The principal himself--which should have made me suspicious--leads me down the hallway and into the auditorium. All these beady little eyeballs stare at me. Katrina just grins and says, 'Kids, you remember Dr. Pierson. He's going to come every week and teach you about history. Isn't that nice of him?' Being the sweet, wonderful person that I am, I don't go out to the car for my sword. Instead, I just bravely go into my planned lecture on Egyptian culture." He reached for the new beer.

"Those poor kids," Joe murmured.

"Poor kids! Do you know how many questions a hundred children can ask? How did the Egyptians go to the bathroom? Why did the men wear makeup and skirts? Did Cleopatra really get bit by a snake on her titty? It was awful."

Duncan and Joe were nearly rolling on the floor.

"Well, did she?" Joe asked, gasping for air.

Methos shrugged. "It was such a big target and conveniently bare."

Duncan wiped tears from his eyes. "I doubt very seriously that you have to worry about next week's lesson, Adam. Once the notes from home start piling in...."

"You think?" Methos asked happily.

Duncan and Joe lost it again.

"So what were you and Joe really talking about?" Methos asked later, as he and Duncan stood in the parking lot.

"What do you mean?"

"Mac, being able to read the emotions in a room has saved my life on more than one occasion. Even a two-hundred-year-old could have sensed the tension behind that closed door," Methos said patiently.

"He saw us at the auction last night. Scotty told him we were a couple."

"And?"

"And he wasn't happy that we'd hidden it from him."

"You explained to him that it was all a game, right?" Silence. "MacLeod?"

"I told him it began as a game."

"And?"

"And he didn't take it well."

Methos laughed. "Let me guess--you've seduced me, enslaved me, and will be the eventual cause of my death."

Duncan stared wide-eyed at him. "How did you--"

"At the weirdest times Joe has these paternal tendencies where I'm concerned. I guess it's a tribute to my brilliant acting skills. Don Salzer decided to 'adopt' poor, geeky Adam Pierson and Joe became the doting uncle. Even though he knows who I am now, he still feels responsible for me since Don's gone. So he's trying to protect my honor, I suppose," Methos explained with a pensive smile.

"But from me?" Duncan questioned plaintively. "I'm a good man, fair, honest, decent--"

"But not good enough for me." Methos burst out laughing at Duncan's hurt expression. "It's a parent thing, Mac. I remember when Arvin asked me for Sybella's hand. I wanted to cut the poor boy off at the knees for even looking at my daughter."

"Arvin and Sybella?"

"Sybella's mum was a widow with three daughters. Sybella was the oldest--a mere five years old when we married. I was 'lost at sea' before the youngest came of age."

"Did you ever find out who she married?"

"No. Once you leave, you leave. No looking back and all."

Duncan glimpsed the sadness Joe had mentioned, and he couldn't resist putting his arms around the slimmer man. "I'm sure she married someone you would have approved of."

Methos gave a loud chuckle. "You didn't know Evalina, Mac." He pulled back to look Duncan in the eyes. "You plan on getting us arrested? Carrying on in public like this?"

"I'm holding you, not carrying on."

Methos leaned forward and brushed his lips against Duncan's. When he met no resistance, he deepened the kiss into a long, exploratory effort. "Now we're carrying on," he said breathlessly minutes later.

"Aye," Duncan said, surprised he had enough breath left to utter the single word.

"Let's take this back to your place," Methos suggested. Duncan shook his head. "My place then."

"No." Duncan kissed Methos as thoroughly as he'd been kissed. Then he stepped back. "I want you, Methos, have no doubt about that."

"Good. Glad that's settled. Now all we need is the spot. The backseat of your car is kind of tacky, but I'm game if you are. At least it's not a subcompact or smaller." Methos reached out and hooked a finger in Duncan's waistband to draw him nearer.

"Methos, no. I don't want this--us--to be about lust or want or need. I want us, I need us to be about love." His eyes sank into the gold ones staring at him, hungry but curious. "Do you believe I love you, Methos?"

"Of course you love me. I doubt if there's any other way you could or would put up with me if you didn't."

"Do you believe I'm in love with you?"

Methos was the one that took a step back this time. "That's not necessary."

"You're in love with me."

Methos froze. "That's also an unnecessary observation. You're not a virgin in these matters, MacLeod. Consent, willingness, and a certain amount of enthusiasm is all I require--at least in this century."

Duncan shook his head, still bothered by how deeply intrusive the Watchers were. "But that's not what I require--not in a relationship with you, Methos. Joe says we're a dangerous combination. I have to know it's worth all the risks."

Methos jerked nervously. "Yes, I'm in love with you. Does that make it worth it?"

"And do you believe I'm in love with you, or are you still under the impression that I'm just lonely?"

"Mac, I--"

"Do. You. Believe. I'm. In. Love. With. You?"

"No." The answer was soft, almost inaudible.

"Why?" Duncan cried in frustration. "Why can yew figure out ev'ry thought in Joe Dawson's head, and yew canna read ma heart?"

"Because reading Joe's mind involves my mind, and reading your heart involves my heart. And I--If only you knew how many times that particular organ has betrayed me, Duncan."

"I'm not Kronos or Byron, Methos. Just as I canna judge you by yewr past, yew canna judge me by it either.

"If only you were Kronos or Byron, there wouldn't be a problem. But you're not them. You are Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. You're a good man, fair, honest, and decent. It's inconceivable that you're in love with me. I'm all that you're not. I'm nothing like the great loves of your life. I'm not a fiery beauty like Debra Campbell, or a dark, demure doll like Running Deer, or a feisty, talented spitfire like Tessa. I'm a five-thousand-year old college professor who has no answers, no great insights, and nothing to show for such a long life except a series of regrets. I'm an Immortal with a past so dark it confounds you and a present that is so pathetic that I spend my time waiting for a chance for you to need me. How could you love me? Why would you love me? But that doesn't matter to me. If long life teaches you anything, it is that you take what's offered and you make do with that for it may be all that you get."

"But there's so much more, Methos, if only you would believe."

"Don't ask this of me, MacLeod. Seduce me, enslave me, fuck me as often as you like--but don't expect me to believe you're in love with me."

"I'm sorry. I'm not interested in the milk if the cow's not for sale, Methos."

Methos smiled. "I'm all bull. Trust me on that one, Mac."

"Does that mean you'll be wearing my ring in your nose?"

"I don't think--what ring?"

Duncan pulled the trinket box out of his coat pocket. It had been delivered by courier earlier in the day. Methos took the box, shook it, then opened it. He looked up at Duncan in surprise.

The Scot shrugged. "What's a trinket box without a trinket?"

Methos stared at the simple gold band. "What's this?"

"A promise I've never made to anyone else. I came close with Debra, and even closer with Tessa. But time cheated me of both. I don't want to be cheated of you, Methos."

"Time is our greatest gift."

"And our greatest enemy. We, like mortals, don't know if we have a tomorrow, for despite our ages, the day is not promised to us."

"Neither is forever," Methos replied softly.

"But shouldn't we make the best of what we have--for however long we have it? Being with you, pretending with you, has gotten me to the truth. And maybe it took me longer than it should have, or maybe you think it should have taken me longer, but none of that matters because I'm here now, Methos. I've reached the point of no return. My heart knows what it feels for you and your doubt, or Joe's doubt, is not going to change the love I have for you. The only thing your doubt is going to achieve is cold showers for the both of us."

"You're punishing me for not believing."

"I don't want a lover, Methos. I've grown beyond that. I want a partner, a mate, someone to stand beside in good times and in bad. But until you accept that my love for you is equal to yours for me, we can't be partners...or lovers. However, I reserve the right to change your mind. That's called romance as opposed to seduction."

Methos looked at the ring in the box. "You're going to woo me, MacLeod?"

"Duncan. I like it when you call me Duncan, Methos."

"I don't think so, MacLeod. If I can't have what I want, you can't either, Honey Bear."

Duncan frowned. "I really hate that one."

Methos smiled. "I know."

Duncan sighed. "Do you have any plans for tomorrow night?"

"Other than you picking me up and taking me for an outrageously expensive dinner? No. Can't think of a thing."

"Great. Then nothing will interfere with us going to the Cascade Opera House for the opening. The director gave us tickets last night."

"I don't remember any tickets."

"You were busy talking with your friend Hatim."

"You didn't like Hatim, did you?"

"No, but I'm pretty certain he didn't care much for me either. But then I've never gotten along with any of your old boyfriends."

"Well, then I guess Hatim's lucky to have walked away alive," Methos said dryly.

"I don't love you any less when you're being deliberately nasty, Methos. I may like you less, but the love remains the same," Duncan said quietly.

Methos flushed and reached for his car door. "I expect you to pick me up at home like a proper date. My curfew is one a.m. because I have an eight a.m. class the next morning. The opera better be in English or I'm going to make pithy comments in the particular language throughout the whole thing if it's not. I like red roses, adore chocolate, and either wine or beer is acceptable."

"What? No list of your sizes or favorite colors?"

"Just buy for yourself and I'll cull out what I like."

Duncan laughed. "And how do you like your poetry and literature?"

"Poetry should be vivid, and literature intelligent. If you really want to win points, a gift certificate to a bookstore would probably be your best bet. Or find me an obscure library somewhere."

"I love you," Duncan said solemnly. "When you believe that, put on the ring and I'll know."

"I love you," Methos replied in the same tone as he turned the ignition. "When that becomes enough for you, just say so, and I'll hang up the 'Do Not Disturb' sign I stole from the Motel 6 in Langley, Virginia."

"What the hell were you doing in Langley, Virginia? Wait a minute. Isn't that the CIA--"

"The story comes with the sign. Goodnight, MacLeod." Methos waved impishly and drove away.

Duncan just shook his head and grinned.

*****

Duncan stepped into the bar and let his eyes adjust to the dimness before looking for and finding the owner. "Hi, Joe."

"Two nights in a row, MacLeod. To what do I owe this minor miracle? Wait. Let me guess. From the way you're dressed, I'd say you're on your way to a date. So, have you come to tell me you've taken my advice and found a 'nice, bonny lass' to squire around?" Joe asked with a smile.

Duncan shook his head. "You're as bad as the Old Man. I don't know where I picked up the reputation for being fickle, because I'm as stable as they come. But just in case you didn't hear me last night, I'm in love with Adam, Joe."

"Actually you said you 'thought' you were in love with him," Joe clarified with a stony gaze.

"I was wrong. I am in love with him. And I don't care who knows it--old friends or new. Yes, I have a date tonight. I'm taking Adam to the new opera house in Cascade."

Joe sighed heavily. "If he's letting you take him to an opera, it's worse than I thought."

"Don't worry about me taking advantage of him. He put in enough 'requests' to make sure he's getting the better end of the bargain." Duncan smiled warmly at Joe. "He told me about the paternal feelings you have for him, and--"

"The what! I don't--PATERNAL! There's no way in--I'm going to kill the old fool," Joe grumbled. "Oh, I'll give him paternal all right. Paddle his-- Paternal? Puhleeze!"

Duncan had to work extremely hard to keep his face looking neutral. Damn if the Old Man hadn't hit it directly on the head. "But then why do you care so much that I might hurt him?" he asked the too-protesting Watcher.

"He's--special, Mac, in an artifact-y sorta way. I mean, if the Eiffel Tower was a person, you wouldn't want anything to hurt it, right? The old bastard's been around a long time, and although he doesn't say much of anything real about his past, we all know that it's got to be full of hurt. I don't have to feel paternal to want to save him from that. Hell, I don't even have to be his friend, but I am. And--"

"And?"

"And if you run him off, you might live long enough to see him again. I don't have the luxury of time you have, Mac."

"As I told Adam last night, Joe, none of us really have that luxury. That's why I'm going to fight to make you and him believe that my feelings for him are genuine. I don't want to be on my knees with a sword headed for my neck thinking of what I missed, what could have been. I want to die knowing that I had everything that life had to offer, that Methos knew that I loved him, that I wouldn't be another regret in his long life. When I'm gone I want him to think back on the love we shared, the laughter, the tears, the fights, the tenderness, the moments when nothing existed but the two of us. I don't want him to hurt either. I don't want my death to hurt him. When I'm gone I want him to know that we both gave all we had." Duncan closed his eyes, then opened them. "That's how much I love him, Joe."

"I guess it'll give you some peace of mind if he goes before you, too."

"He's not going anywhere."

Joe's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"

Duncan shrugged. "I've had only one flash of Sight in my four-hundred years. I saw him sitting on the floor with the headphones and there it was: I knew who he was and that I was seeing the One. I think that was part of the reason I was so angry when I found out about the Horsemen. I was disillusioned. I knew he thought differently than I did. I knew that what I considered important, he merely shrugged off or laughed at. But beneath it all, I saw a humanity that far surpassed his outward cynicism and laissez faire attitude. At least I thought I did until Kronos came and ripped the veil over my eyes.

"I was so shaken, Joe. I had been content with knowing Methos was going to win the Prize. I knew he was worthy of it. And then all of a sudden, he wasn't worthy anymore. I found out my hero was nothing but a murderer and a rapist and a slaver. This was the creature destined to rule mankind? Nae, I couldn't let that happen. That day at the car when I confronted him and he told me the truth of what he was, I knew I had to kill him. I couldn't let him have the world, not even if it meant going against fate."

"But you didn't kill him, and you didn't let Cassandra do it either."

"Because I realized something when I saw him fighting Silas. I realized that while Cassandra was living in the past, and I was judging with the ideals of my past, Methos was here in the present. The world is constantly changing and the One should be someone who can change with it. I wear the clothes. I use the technology. But in my heart I remember how it used to be, the good ol' days filled with honor and yes, chivalry. Methos--Methos remembers today. He lives fully in the here and now, and if he does any clinging to the past it's only in his dreams and nightmares, the exact place where 'impossible' should live.

"He's been hundreds of people--and I've been Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. MacLeod's a good man--at least he's tried to be-- but he's already old and outdated. How decrepit and useless will he be five thousand years from now?"

"You've changed, Mac. Just the fact that you can stand here and understand how Methos has changed shows just how much you've grown."

"And how much of that has been because of him, because he questions and digs and prods and pushes? If it's true that the One will rule the planet, I can't think of anyone better. How many civilizations has he seen rise and fall? How many time has he sat back and watched the world commit the same mistake time after time--as it should? I would always be trying to fix things, to meddle in things best left to time, to manipulate outcomes to what I think they should be.... No, Joe. He's survived five thousand years for a reason. And that reason was shown to me in a small Parisian apartment."

"Have you told him this?"

Duncan's eyes widened. "If I did that, neither one of us would see him again. He'd run so far and so fast that snow wouldn't even melt under his heels."

"So why are you telling me?" Joe asked curiously.

"Because I want you to understand the depth of my commitment to Methos. I love the man, Methos, Adam, Benjamin--whatever name he chooses to use. But I also revere what he is--Methos the artifact as you called him. I want you to know that the Eiffel Tower is safe in my care." I want you to know your *son* is safe in my care.

"Actually, you may be the one in danger," Joe said with a smile. "Taking him to the opera may be one of your less than brilliant ideas, Mac."

"I'm in love, not stupid, Dawson. It's Tommy."

Joe laughed. "A rock opera! You have learned, haven't you?" He casually inspected a shot glass. "So does this mean you and Adam are going to be officially co-habitating?"

It was Duncan's turn to laugh. "Co-habitating? We aren't even sleeping together."

"What! Come on, Mac. You don't expect me to believe that, do you? The two of you were--I mean, I saw the way you were looking at each other last night when you thought I was distracted."

"He doesn't believe I love him. Until he does, no sex."

Joe's mouth gaped open. "And he's going along with this? He'll just lie to you, you know that."

"He's just as determined to make me admit that it's mere lust. So as it stands, we won't make love until either I say I don't love him, or he says I do love him."

"Of all the--" Joe shook his head. "You two deserve each other."

"I know." Duncan looked at his watch. "I gotta go or the florist will close before I get there."

"Florist? You're buying the old coot flowers?"

"I told you he had a list of demands."

"Uh, I hate to be indelicate, but are you sure you can afford him?"

Duncan smiled. "Everything I have is his, Joe."

"Your words or his?"

Laughter. "I think it's the one thing we both agree on."

"God, you must be in love," Joe said in wonder.

"I am, my friend. I am."

*****

"Good evening," Duncan said formally when Methos opened the door. "Might I say you look extremely fetching this evening." Methos was dressed as he was, in a tailored suit that was slightly less than a tux but more than the standard Sunday-go-to-meeting attire. It was startling to see him out of his usual loose clothing twice in a row.

Methos grinned, deciding to play the game along with Duncan. "Thank you, kind sir. Please, come into my humble abode and partake of my hospitality, if you will."

Duncan looked around the apartment and realized he'd never seen it before. Was that because Methos was so secretive or because he'd never thought about visiting Methos at home? Quite frankly, he'd just considered the loft home territory for both of them. Well, Duncan, me boy, I think that should tell you something. "This is a nice place." A little stark in the decorating, but he knew Methos "traveled light."

"It's somewhere to lay my head at night."

"And that's important to you, isn't it?" Duncan asked, hearing something wistful in Methos' words.

"When you've gone through the nights I've gone through, you find out just how important it is. Having a roof over one's head is something I'll never learn to take for granted," Methos replied softly. "Do we have time for a glass of wine, or is our dinner reservation imminent?"

"We have time." Duncan nodded toward the bottle he saw breathing on the counter. "I'll pour while you--" He produced a red rose from behind his back and handed it to Methos. His other hand produced a wrapped package which he also gave to the smiling Immortal.

"I could get used to this," Methos murmured. He stuck a finger in his mouth when he found himself bleeding. "Your rose has thorns," he scolded balefully.

"That's the way I like them," Duncan said, holding out a glass of wine. "Beautiful and prickly. They're much more interesting that way."

"Oh." Methos sat down and unwrapped the package. It was a blank-page journal. "On Being Courted By Duncan MacLeod," he read from the front page. "And look, you've even written my first entry. 'Tonight Duncan gave me a rose which was as red as my nose when I drink too much beer.' A very short entry, but I can correct that. 'Tonight, Duncan isn't going to get any. Poor man.'"

Duncan laughed. "Ah, that's my thorny Methos."

"And that's my sweet, romantic Honey Bear," Methos replied, sipping his wine.

He stared at Duncan for a long time and the Scot stirred uncomfortably. "What are you plotting?" Duncan finally asked.

"You know, we could skip the dinner and the opera. There's some bologna in the fridge, and I think I have an opera CD that I use as a coaster on occasion. We could stay here, have dinner, listen to opera, and fuck like bunnies. How's that for a counter offer?"

"Thought poor Duncan wasn't going to get any tonight?"

"The thorn changed its mind."

"I don't see a ring on your finger."

Methos drank the last of his wine and licked his lips. "Do you know people have actually died of sexual frustration?"

"We're Immortal. We'll survive."

Methos shrugged and stood up. "Well, I at least had to try. Come, we have dinner and an--opera," he shuddered, "waiting for us."

Duncan accompanied him warily. "That's it? That's your big seduction scene for tonight?" He wouldn't admit to being disappointed.

"Yep," Methos said. "That's it for tonight. You know what I told Kronos, don't you? The key to drama is to start small and build."

"Is that a warning?"

"A statement of fact."

"I'm not sleeping with you until you believe I love you, Methos."

"Who's talking about sleeping, MacLeod?"

"Nothing below the neck until you have a ring on your finger, Old Man."

Methos laughed. "You sound like an outraged virgin. In fact I seem to recall one of my wives making that same statement."

"Do you think I'm wrong wanting to have more than just sex with you?" Duncan asked.

"Wrong is a judgment. I don't do those, remember?"

"Do you think I'm foolish then?"

Methos sighed. "Not foolish. Misguided, perhaps. Maybe confused."

"And maybe you're just scared."

A shrug. "That's a possibility too. I have never wanted anything than less than the best for you. When it comes to sex, I have no doubt that I can please you. When it comes to--more.... I have always ended up disappointing those who love me. It's never intentional. They just seem to ask for more than I'm capable of giving."

"I can't believe that. I've seen the giving side of you, Methos. You've offered me your life. How could anyone--how could I--ask for more?"

"Isn't that what you're asking for now?"

Duncan flushed and looked away. Then he turned and looked into the searching hazel eyes. "Word games won't deter me, Methos. I'm in love with you. I'm sorry that scares you, but I know you've dealt with bigger fears before. Surely I'm not the scariest thing you've come up against in five thousand years."

"No, that would probably be Victorian clothing. All that lace and velvet." Methos leaned forward to whisper in Duncan's ear. "It chafed something terrible."

"Let's not forget polyester," Duncan whispered back. "Can you say 'leisure suit'?"

"Powdered wigs."

"Knickers."

"Platform shoes."

"Handlebar moustaches."

Methos frowned. "You had a handlebar moustache?"

Duncan nodded and extended his hands to the sides of his face. "It came out to about here and had a delicate upward curl. I looked like an idiot."

"I'm sure you did."

"What? You didn't have one? And what about a beard? Never?" Methos shook his head. "Not even to change your appearance?"

Methos mumbled something.

"What?"

"My facial hair," Methos said as he grabbed his leather coat, "comes out red."

"No!"

"Shhh. That's my deepest, darkest secret, MacLeod. I'm trusting that you'll keep the information to yourself."

"Of course, you can trust me, Methos. By the way, how red?"

"MacLeod!"

"Nah, really, Methos? Strawberry blond like Richie? Auburn like an orangutan? Or fire engine red like one of those troll dolls that used to be popular a few years ago?"

Methos stalked out to the car. "I'm never telling you anything ever again."

"Crimson? Russet? Cerise? Cherry?"

Duncan smiled and followed as Methos muttered something in an ancient language. He was pretty sure it wasn't colors of red.

*****

"'He's a pinball wizard, got to be the best....'"

Duncan glanced at the man sitting next to him in the car, singing and playing air guitar as if he were a teenager and not a respectable five-thousand year old academician, and grinned.

"What?"

"What what, Methos?"

"What are you smiling about?"

"I'm happy."

"Why?"

"Because you're happy--and that you didn't throw those malted milk balls at the stage and get us thrown out of the theater."

"What malted milk balls?"

"The ones you smuggled in. I felt them when I brushed against your pocket."

Methos grinned, without an inkling of repentance. "Here I thought you were getting fresh with me, and all along you were just feeling up my balls."

Duncan choked and struggled to keep the car on the road. "You have a very sick mind."

"Yes, I know. And you, sir, are a great date. I often wondered--"

"What?" Duncan prompted with Methos stopped in mid-sentence.

"Never mind."

"No. You started it, now finish it."

"Weelll, I often wondered why every woman over five and under ninety-five wanted to date Duncan MacLeod. I mean, I understood that you were cute--"

"Cute? Monkeys are cute, Methos!"

"And you had money, but you were so--boring, you know? One great big stick-in-the--"

"Hey! I'm not the one who crashed with me every time you came to town. If I was so boring, how come--"

"Because you were cute, remember?" Methos bit back a snicker at Duncan's affronted look and continued. "Anyway, now I see your appeal. Dinner was excellent. The show was excellent. If you weren't being such a stinker about love and all that stuff, you surely wouldn't have to worry about waking up alone in the morning. Sore? Maybe. Sticky? Definitely. But alone? No way. Pity that."

"Is this the 'building' part of your seduction scene? I'm not moved."

Methos shifted until his head leaned against Duncan's shoulder. "Oh, I could move you, MacLeod. I could tell you how it would be between us. How I would have you undress before a single candle. There's fun to be had in the light of day, you understand, but night--night is a special time. It's the shadows. With a single candle, they play upon the body, caressing with each movement, dancing so lightly upon the skin that they aren't felt but merely sensed. How I would love to watch them swirl against your skin, Highlander. I see them now, touching you in places I would soon touch, teasing your own shadows and blending in with the long planes of your body. They would glide along your chest, my fingers following their flickering course.

"The fire would then gleam on your skin, and my tongue would delve into those golden seas of light, lapping up the burnished essence of who you are. And I would look into your eyes and find the path to true oblivion in them as I chased the single flame reflected in their honeyed depths. I would whisper, 'Duncan, claim me as your own,' and I would kneel before you, humbled in your presence. 'What would you have me do?' I'd ask, my voice quivering with desire, and you'd say, 'Please me, Methos,'. And I would open my mouth and--"

"Shit!" The car swerved dangerously.

Methos laughed. "Are you moved now?"

Duncan wiggled his elbow to make Methos sit up. "You have a wicked tongue."

"If you think so now, wait until--"

"Methos!" Duncan took a deep breath, and focused on the center line of the highway and not on the images Methos' words had provided. "Ending up as road kill will certainly dampen the mood."

"You know that was the good thing about horses. You didn't need to guide the beasts most of the time. You could just give the reins a tiny yank, say 'home', and then give into whatever desires you felt. I mean if we were in a buggy, you could sit there, and I could lower my head--"

Duncan peeled one of his hands from the steering wheel and punched the stereo button. The melodic strains of a 'real' opera sprang forth. Methos scooted away from Duncan and slouched up against the door.

"Talk about a mood killer," he groused.

"Tell me what you think I feel for you."

"I get the picture, Mac. Trust me. I now have no desire to get sticky with you," Methos said grumpily.

"Just tell me."

Methos sighed dramatically, then shrugged. "I know you've taken me into your personal clan. You love me as--family. I hesitate to say 'brother' because of the way that title has been perverted forever in your mind when it's associated with me. But that's how I see us. We tease, we argue, we even fight, but those are privileges exclusive to the two of us. If anyone else has a bone to pick with one of us, he will face both, I think."

"Don't think it; know it, Methos." In the flicker of passing lights, Duncan saw Methos nod solemnly.

"I fascinate you on a number of levels. As an antiques dealer, I must be the ultimate find for you. Very old and in generally good condition. With me in your possession, those guys on Antique Roadshow will never be your equals, will they?"

Duncan looked over, relieved to find a smile on Methos' face. He could have easily been offended, especially since everything he'd said was the truth. Methos may not be the Prize, but he was a great gift in Duncan's opinion. "I treasure you with everything that I am."

"I know. But there's another side of this fascination you have with me. It's akin to watching a snake devour a small chick. At times I horrify and repulse you, Duncan. You want to turn away from me. You find yourself sickened by the fluffy feather stuck to the side of my mouth, maybe by the traces of blood which remain on my fangs. But you can't turn your back on me. You can't stop watching, and that frustrates and frightens you. It makes you question yourself, your ethics, your morals.... Do you know how sorry I am about that? How very much I wish I could be that bright shiny object you deserve, and not the tarnished, stained trinket that I am? But my finish was marred long before you existed. The scratches can't be rubbed out. The rust resists even the most diligent appliance of steel wool. And the stains are so deep that they can't be painted over. I am--unclean to the soul. It's something I have learned to live with."

Duncan pulled into a space in front of Methos' apartment and turned to him. "If I wanted perfection, Methos, I would buy a Barbie doll and never remove her from the box she came in. I would put her up on a shelf away from sun and heat, and maybe take her down every so often to show her off. But I don't collect Barbie dolls. The items I covet, the items I have carefully stored away, have been used. They have nicks and scratches, and sometimes they've lost their luster do to bad handling and foul weather. But even in disrepair, I have a sense of their vitality. I know they made a difference in someone's life. They had a purpose, and they weren't afraid of it."

"I can't be stored away, Mac. I've lived in darkness too long to be forced into it again. I'm proud of my nicks, and although I try to hide the stains as much as possible, when they are revealed I won't deny them. They are a large part of who I am."

"And any part of you is welcome wherever I am, Methos. God, man. You see me so clearly, yet you're blinded to the love I have for you. I don't understand." Duncan clenched his fist in frustration.

A hand rested on his. "It's not your fault, you know. As one of my masters told me as he prepared to punish me, 'Methos, you are your own worst enemy.' I died hearing him sob that in my ear."

"He--he killed you?"

Methos shrugged. "It was more of an accident. He did something wrong and the whip somehow wrapped around my throat." Hazel eyes searched his face. "There I go, horrifying you again."

"Not horror. Awe."

"Same difference. Well, it's nearing my bedtime. Thanks for a wonderful evening, Mac."

"I don't rate a goodnight kiss?"

Methos obediently leaned over and smacked his lips against Mac's. "I think our patience has been tested enough for one night. Regardless of what you might think, I don't want this--disagreement of ours to become a torment for either of us. I would rather go on not having than to destroy what is already mine."

Duncan nodded. "Rest well, my heart. I love you."

Methos smiled and got out of the car. "Sweet dreams, MacLeod."

Duncan sighed as once again the night ended with him going one way and Methos another.

Too late, my love. The torment has already begun.

*****

"So this has become a ritual, huh?"

Joe's voice startled Duncan back from wherever he'd drifted. "Hmm?"

"A ritual. You and Adam meeting here on the days he teaches elementary school."

Duncan nodded. He supposed it had become a ritual. Seven weeks. Seven times waiting on the bar stool for Methos to come and share his day. No. More times than that because some days they met at restaurants or at Methos' apartment or at the loft. They would talk, tease, and if enough alcohol was imbibed, discuss deep subjects such as the nature of the Game and why Taco Bell had gotten rid of the dog. God, he was going to miss Methos.

"Why? Why are you going to miss Methos? You going somewhere?"

Duncan blinked at Joe, not realizing he'd spoken aloud. But if anyone deserved an answer, it was Joe. "I'm conceding, Joe. I told you I didn't want to hurt him...and that's what this is doing. It's hurting us both, being near each other and not consummating the relationship."

"So it was sex you were after all along," Joe said bitterly.

"No! It's not like that." Duncan ran his fingers through his hair. "It's not like that at all, Joe. If it was just sex I wanted, I could go out and find it without Methos being the wiser. It's about happiness. The times we spend together are wonderful, and the times we spend apart are miserable. Yes, I know the simple answer would be for us to be together all the time. But it's not that simple because it would mean one of us would be compromising our principles. One of us would be going into the physical part of our relationship with a lie sitting square in his heart. I'd be lying if I told Methos than I was with him for any reason less than true love. He'd be lying if he told me he believed I was in love with him. And that lie would fester and grow until it consumed both of our hearts."

"Love is hard, Mac."

"I know that."

"I'm not sure you do." Joe flung up a hand to stop Duncan's outraged reply. "Just hear me out, okay? I know you've loved. Hell, I could quote the list from your Chronicles if I wanted to. But-- but it's been your fate that these loves have not lasted long enough for you to experience their full weight."

"You can say it, Dawson. They all died on me." Duncan's voice was tinged with grief and anger.

"Yes, they died, Mac. And it was no one's fault, not really. It was just their times. That's something I learned in 'Nam. It doesn't matter what you do or don't do, where you go or don't go, when it's your time, it's your time. And their times came before you had a chance to fully realize the potential of love--its highs and lows. You never got the chance to struggle through unfaithfulness and temptation. You never went through the loss of a child or a serious illness. You never had to watch a spouse get old and feeble while you remained young and vital. You've avoided all of those pitfalls--at a cost. He hasn't."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that he has a fuller picture of what love means...and it scares him. You scare him."

"I know that."

"Then don't give up on him. Give him a chance to work through his fears."

Duncan looked at him shrewdly. "He's been talking to you?"

"A little. For some reason both of you seem to assume I enjoy listening to your troubles."

"You do," Duncan said with a slight smile. "Name a Watcher who knows as much about Immortals as you do thanks to listening to our troubles."

Joe chuckled. "That's true. I used to envy you people. Now, sometimes I wonder why you even bother getting up in the mornings."

"Lately it's been because of the thought of seeing him later in the day," Duncan admitted softly. "Thank you, Joseph. You are a good friend. And you're right. Love is hard. But love is what I feel for a particularly stubborn old man, so if I have to do hard, I will. If I have to sacrifice, I will. If I have to lie and hide my love for him, I will. I won't have him hurting because I love him."

"Don't do the lying just yet. Give him time to accept the gift you've given him. After all, you must be doing something right since he hasn't run."

Duncan grinned. "That's a very good point. An accurate one as well, since he's on his way in."

They both turned toward the door expectantly. A female sauntered through the door first, and Duncan figured Methos was being gallant and holding the door. Then another one. When Duncan saw the third woman, he understood. She walked toward him and he obediently stood and kissed his cheek.

"Katrina, what are you and Adam up to?" he asked the smiling woman.

"Uh uh, keep my name out of this," Adam said as he ushered the other three women toward the bar. "I had nothing to do with it. They were all waiting in the parking lot when I left the university this afternoon. By the way, ladies, this is Duncan MacLeod and Joe Dawson. He owns the place."

"And sings the blues?" one of the women cooed, looking Joe over from head to toe.

"I give it my best shot, ma'am," Joe replied, his face flushing under the bold stare.

"Down, Verna," Methos said with a grin. "Why don't you ladies find a table? I'll get the drinks. You can go with them, Katrina," he added when the woman didn't move from Duncan's side.

"Sounds like he's not too happy with you," Duncan said when Methos moved behind the bar to help Joe make daiquiris.

"Well, I was the one that made the comment that he always seemed to meet you at this bar every evening after he's taught our classes. Oh, he didn't explain that these are my fellow teachers, did he? Anyway, they all know about you and Adam, because quite frankly, some of my sister educators are rather, um, slutty, and I didn't want them getting the wrong idea about Adam. You two are exclusive, and I respect that with the same respect I have for wedding vows. So I mentioned the bar, and someone wanted to know if it was a gay bar--"

Something crashed behind the bar, Joe muttered a curse, and Methos snickered. Duncan figured that meant no major damage had been done, and nodded for Katrina to continue.

"Adam said that it wasn't a gay bar, that it specialized in blues music. Verna said that sounded just as wicked, and because tomorrow is a teacher's work day--which means if anyone has a hangover, we won't have to kill any children--we decided today would be the perfect day to see this special bar of yours. But we're a group of cowards--Verna included--so we decided we needed an escort. We found Adam's car in the parking lot and waited for him to come out. Now, he's probably mad at me because I'm cutting into his time with you."

"I'm mad about my car," Methos clarified as he lowered a tray of huge glasses onto the bar. "One of you--I know a teacher's writing--wrote on the back of my car: I'm dying of dirt, please wash me!"

Katrina, Duncan, and Joe laughed. Methos just glared.

"I'll take the drinks over," Katrina said. "You just stand there and pout, okay, Adam? Who knows? It might get you some sympathy lovin' tonight." She winked and easily lifted the tray.

"Witches," Methos muttered. "I work with a coven."

Duncan shook his head, still grinning. "Why don't you just wash the car?"

"When you've lived through times where a thimbleful of water was a life-preserving treat, washing a car just doesn't have the same priority." Methos finished pulling his beer, and turned around to find Duncan and Joe staring at him. "What?"

"I love you," Duncan said.

Muttering something about muddle-headed Scots, Methos took his beer and went to join the ladies.

"Guess that gives us something to think about when we head straight to the carwash whenever we get a sunny day," Joe mused.

"Aye. He's good at making me think. So are you, Joe. You're right; love's hard, but it's worth it. He's worth it. If this--relationship ends, it'll be because he walks away, not me. And I'm not sure it'll even end then." A chorus of giggles accentuated by a lower laugh drew his attention to the table. "Think I'll go protect my man like a good little gay guy. After all, this is a notorious gay bar."

"MacLeod!"

*****

"Let me take your car tomorrow and wash it," Duncan offered as they pulled back into Joe's parking lot. The bar was closed, but Methos had left his car behind to help Duncan deliver the mellowed teachers safely to their homes. Although anyone who passed the convertible with four women loudly massacring the words to Bohemian Rhapsody wouldn't exactly describe them as mellow.

"I refuse to be ashamed of a dirty automobile, MacLeod. Yes, I kept my horses clean, but that was for their comfort, not mine," Methos argued, climbing out of the T-bird.

"I'm not trying to make you feel ashamed. I'm just trying to do something nice for you."

"Oh. In that case, it could use a wax as well." Methos grinned beatifically at him.

"What am I going to do with you?"

"I have some sug--" Methos froze, his hand reaching unerringly beneath his coat.

Duncan didn't feel a Presence, but he trusted Methos' senses and quickly exited the car, his own hand wrapping around the hilt of the katana. "Show yourself!" he yelled, and felt Methos' elbow jab into his side. Well, someone had to say it. A figure melded out of the shadows about two blocks away. Duncan took a step forward to meet it, but Methos' hand held him back.

"Let's make sure what he wants first," Methos whispered.

The figure continued forward until he was but a street width away. "I am Matthew Kowalsky, and I have come to avenge my brother Kronos."

"Shit," Methos muttered as Duncan took a step forward.

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, and it was a pleasure to rid the world of your brother."

"It's nice to meet you, Duncan MacLeod, but you are not the man I'm challenging. The challenge is for your companion, the miserable little whore you're shielding--Methos."

"I took the head of Kronos!" Duncan insisted.

"As Kronos predicted. On the day he left me, he said that if he was to fall, I was not to go after the man who took his head, but to the one who manipulated that man. 'Only my brother, Methos, can defeat me,' Kronos said. 'But he will not do the deed himself. He will act the whore to a powerful younger Immortal, whose strings he will pull like the puppetmaster he is. But do not be fooled; Methos will be the cause of my death, and no one else.' So I have spent these past few years preparing for our battle, Old One."

"Good for you," Methos said. "But I have no intention of fighting you. I've done with Kronos and anything he might have been a part of. Kronos is dead. We are alive. I plan to make the most of that, and I suggest you do the same."

"Kronos was my life!"

"Kronos was your master and if you're not careful, he will be your death."

"I thought that was your role," Kowalsky sneered.

Methos gave a deep sigh. "Get away from me, child. Kronos must have sent you after me only so he could have a playmate in Hell. I'd given up indulging him in life, so I'll surely not indulge him in death. I will not fight you."

Kowalsky made a threatening step toward Methos and the katana glittered beneath the streetlight.

"One day I'll meet you without your faithful hound, Methos," Kowalsky called as he stepped back to blend into the shadows again.

Duncan waited until he couldn't sense him, then turned to look at Methos. The elder Immortal was leaning back against his car, his head bowed and eyes closed. "Methos?"

"Fuck," he said softly. "Fuck, fuck, fuck. It has been so long since I've hated anyone with any intensity, MacLeod. But I hate that son of a bitch with everything I was and everything I am."

"Kronos?"

"My dear brother. You know what brotherhood meant to him? It meant obedience and fear and sex--consensual or otherwise. Even dead, he's still got that child by the balls.... I've given up killing for him, MacLeod. I will spill no more blood in his name."

Duncan nodded. "So, you'll run?"

"It seems I have no choice."

"Stay with me--tonight."

Methos raised his head and Duncan easily read the regret and pain in his eyes. "A one-night stand, MacLeod? No. You mean too much to me for that. If we are meant to be, we'll meet again."

"Just stay with me, Methos. We don't--have to do anything. I just want--I just want to hold you, wake up with you one more time."

"Ah. Me on the sofa and you in bed like the good ol' days, hmm?"

"No. Both of us in bed. We're both adults. If we don't want anything to happen, it won't."

Methos gave him an intense look. "Why are you doing this? Playing the protector one last time? MacLeod, this is my fight. Just because I'm going to walk away, doesn't mean it goes to you by default."

Duncan shook his head and held out his hands. "Come home with me, Methos. Please."

"Bloody hell," Methos muttered. He ignored the offered hands and walked around to get into the T-bird's passenger seat. "You better have beer and lots of it."

Duncan nodded and slid beneath the wheel. As the Thunderbird made its way to the loft, Methos' hand crept across the space between them and met up with Duncan's. Not a word was spoken as Seacouver sailed past them.

*****

"Why don't you like to fight? Is it because of the quickenings?" Duncan asked, watching Methos' Adam's apple bobble as he drank his beer. They were sprawled on the loft's bed, fully clothed but shoeless. Adam had immediately headed for the sofa when they'd arrived, but Duncan had steered him toward the bed and grabbed a couple of beers.

"Is this going to be a discussion on my lack of character?"

"No. I told you I admire your strength. I just want to know why you run when sometimes it would just be easier to stay and fight. I noticed you had some difficulty with Kristin's quickening and--"

"And I was a sobbing wreck after Silas'," Methos finished for him. He shrugged and his long fingers caressed the neck of the bottle. "Why do alcoholics avoid bars?"

"Oh." Duncan watched the moving fingers. "You're addicted?"

"No. Not really. It's just--I've taken a lot of quickenings. They can be seductive, erotic--"

"They make me horny."

Methos smiled. "Exactly. They make us horny and when you take several together, they make you extremely horny." He rolled over onto his stomach, breaking his eye contact with Duncan. The empty bottle was placed on the beside table, and his hands fisted together to support his forehead as he focused on the sheet beneath him. "Kronos liked me extremely horny. So did Caspian. They used to search for Immortals and bring them to me. Sometimes I would kill them one at a time and Kronos and Caspian would take their turns with me. Sometimes I'd kill two at once and the three of us would fuck each other for hours after that. Kronos liked pain. Caspian liked blood. I just liked fucking. Any way I could get it. It was like an itch beneath my skin and it needed scratching. Kronos had a way with a whip and Caspian, sick pup that he was, preferred using his teeth. It would sometimes take Silas days to clean up after one of our 'parties'."

"He didn't participate?"

Methos gave a dry chuckle. "Silas often thought of us as his pets which meant he couldn't inflict pain on us, and that was what we craved. But then I made the mistake of taking three quickenings at once...."

"What happened?"

"It drove me insane. The itch became overwhelming. Kronos and Caspian couldn't satisfy me, no matter how much blood they shed. The mortals in our camp proved to be too fragile and died much too easily. I craved to take. I craved to be taken. I thought I was going to explode from need. Then Silas came to me and gave me what I wanted. He unflinchingly accepted everything I could dish out, and then he tore into me, keeping me on the brink of death as he fucked me as only a feral beast could do. When I finally came back to myself, he had me wrapped up in a bear hug and he was sobbing. I reversed the embrace and soothed him with the promise that he'd never have to do anything like that again. I never took another multiple quickening again."

"Until you took him and Kronos."

"Yes. I betrayed him twice that day. I raised my blade against a brother and I took a multiple quickening. If I could have taken my own head, I would have."

"Is that why you let Cassandra get so close?"

"There have been very few moments in my life where I haven't cared whether I lived or died. That was one of them."

"But--" Duncan reached out and gently turned Methos' face toward him. "But if you had died, we would have missed out on this." He skimmed a finger across Methos' pliant lips.

"Duncan, at that moment I was sure there would never be a this. You hated me. You hated me for lying to you. You hated me for what I had been. You hated me for Cassandra's sake. I had betrayed my past. I had betrayed my present. The future just didn't look too inviting."

Duncan leaned forward to kiss the single tear which had escaped to roll down the pale cheek. "I'm sorry."

"For what? For being who you are? It's like that story about the woman taking in the snake because it was so cold outside. As soon as the snake warmed up, it bit her. She wanted to know why he'd done that to her, when all she'd done was help him. He explained that she knew he was snake when she took him in. It was his nature to bite, and that's what he did. I knew you, Duncan MacLeod. I knew you would condemn me for my past. I knew you could never forgive what I had been. But just like the woman, I took you in anyway. I let you wriggle past my defenses. I sheltered you in my heart. And when the time was right, you bit. Not your fault. Mine."

Duncan took a deep breath. "I understand where Joe was coming from now. He was afraid I was going to hurt you because he knew how badly I'd done so in the past. Why, Methos? Why did you come back to me? I kept forcing you away--threatening you over Keane, killing Byron, begging you to take my head...."

"God, MacLeod," Methos said, flipping over to stare at the ceiling with glistening eyes. "If there had been a way to stop loving you, I would have employed it the hour after we met. I was a Watcher. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. And I knew there was no way in hell I could continue being a Watcher and have any kind of relationship with you. Even a friendship was out of the question because it took me back into the Immortal world where surely I would be outed by another's Watcher. But instead of running as far and as fast as I could from you, I stayed in Paris. I wielded a blade against Kalas. I submitted to your blade. I interfered in your challenge to Kalas. I might as well have raised a sign above my head that said, 'Immortal' in flashing neon letters. Then to make matters worse, I hightailed it to America to warn you of Kristin. I'm surprised you didn't laugh in my face. Just how stupid was that?"

Duncan stroked the long fingers splayed out across Methos' belly. "I was kind of put out at first. You were so smugly superior as you 'counseled' me and questioned how I handled Richie. When everything started to play out just as you said it would, I started worrying that you were right, that I was stuck in time and couldn't see the world the way it was. I was disgusted by myself at the end. Caught up in my own ideals, I couldn't kill her. But I could stand there and listen to her die at your hands, knowing that it should have been my sword with blood on it, not yours. You made me so uncomfortable."

"Uncomfortable? Try lusting after someone, and ending up painting a house for his pregnant girlfriend. Now that's uncomfortable. Eventually I realized you were a lost cause and I tried to distract myself by falling in love with someone else."

"Alexa."

Methos nodded. "I've always had a soft spot for dying mortals. Of course, from my point of view they're always dying. Probably one of the reasons I went into medicine. I loved her the best I could, but it was no match for what I felt for you. Joe calls and snap, I'm out the door with a quick, 'I'll call.' That's one of the reasons I tried so hard to get the Methuselah Stone for her. I felt guilty for deserting her for you. Then irony stuck its bony hand into the mix, and I end up confronting you and Amanda--one of your buxom bed buddies--when I go after the stone. Amanda thought my devotion to Alexa was so touching. She didn't know that it wasn't just Alexa I was crying for. I was crying for myself because all that I did just kept reminding me of what I couldn't have."

"Don't," Duncan whispered when Methos closed his eyes and tears trickled from their corners. "Don't," he repeated, lightly kissing the lowered lids.

"Then you were getting angry at me because I chose you over Galati, and you demanded that I make a choice--whether I was a Watcher or an Immortal--and I just wanted to yell that I had made a choice, that I'd made that choice the moment I stayed to meet you, and that if you'd only open your eyes, you would see the choice I made--"

"I'm sorry," Duncan crooned, kissing Methos' wet cheek. "I'm so sorry. Don't cry. Please, don't cry."

"Why the hell not!" Methos raised himself up on one elbow and faced Duncan. "You don't get it. You are my penance and Kronos--Kronos is the priest charged with seeing that you remain so. Don't you see? Every time we get close, he appears and destroys any chance we have. We were getting along so well before. Do you remember how it was? You were there, Duncan. You teased and said you were coming with me to the taping of the quiz show because you thought my head would be too big to drive home. But you were really there because you wanted to be with me. And I thought-- Then Kronos shows up and drives a wedge, no, he digs a whole bloody Grand Canyon between us. And when we started building a bridge across that chasm, Ahriman shows up and guess who's face he wears? Now, we get this close--" He leaned forward to brush his lips across Duncan's. "And Kronos' ghost appears again, ripping you from my grasp again. Let me cry, Duncan, because I don't think I can stand the pain otherwise."

When Methos started to pull back, Duncan lurched forward, capturing his mouth to silence Methos' sobs. Or perhaps it was to silence his own sobs for he too was overwhelmed by Methos' pain. And his own for causing such pain. That first kiss was one part desperation, and one part comfort. The next one was pure passion as Duncan sank into the welcoming heat of Methos' mouth. He vaguely recalled one second of agonizing separation when Methos' sweater came between them on its journey to the floor. Then his tongue was back where it belonged--inside Methos-- and the rest of his body wanted to be there too, so it pressed urgently against the man, pushing him into the mattress as his hands skimmed the lean torso, eagerly memorizing the soft skin and hard muscle. Nimble fingers reached for the top button of the jeans, pleased his partner rarely wore a belt.

"No."

Duncan froze, not sure if he'd heard the faint sound or not. And if he had heard it, what kind of sound had it been? A token protest? He pulled back and looked into the golden eyes that stared back at him. The word did not repeat, but the eyes, full of pain and regret, told the full story. He slid down far enough to rest his head against the pale chest which heaved as his chest heaved, a sign of how frantic both of them had been. Methos had been right to call a halt to their actions.

"I'm sorry." Fingers carded through Duncan's hair.

He kissed the smooth skin beneath his lips. "No apology necessary. Sometimes passion has to take a backseat to love."

"I didn't tell you all of that to get a pity fuck, you know."

"I know." He concentrated on the pounding of Methos' heart. One of the oldest sounds on earth. His love was amazing.

"I just wanted you to have--an honest piece of me to keep with you while we're apart."

Duncan nodded. While the fingers continued to play through his hair, the heart ceased its furious pounding and relaxed into a gentle thudding. He wondered if Methos was falling asleep. Good. He would need his rest for the days ahead.

"Duncan?"

Not asleep yet. "Yes, my love?"

"Hold me until the morning comes?"

Duncan dropped a final kiss against the chest. He sat up, grabbed the blanket from the foot of the bed, and turned off the lamp. Then he spread the blanket across both of them, and wrapped himself around Methos. His cock pressed painfully against the fabric of his briefs and slacks, but he ignored the insistent organ. There was a time for sex--and a time for trust.

Drinking in the smell of Methos in his arms, Duncan drifted asleep.

*****

Duncan watched Methos slowly wake. It was a gradual, stealthy process, and if he hadn't watched him doing it hundreds of times, he wouldn't know Methos wasn't still deeply asleep. There was only just the slightest change in breathing patterns that signaled his waking. And then it was as if Methos did a checklist of his surroundings, because when the eyes eventually opened, he knew exactly where every breathing body was in the room.

Duncan smiled as the eyes--green this morning--opened and looked directly toward his position at the foot of the bed. "Hello."

"Hello."

"You leave today."

Methos gave a long sigh. "Must we go over this ad nauseam? Nothing's changed, MacLeod."

"Take me with you."

A bitter laugh. "Oh, that would be productive. Can't find Methos? Just look for Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."

"Not Duncan MacLeod."

Methos' hands automatically went up to catch the wallet Duncan threw to him. He stared at the ID the wallet revealed. The picture was familiar, but not the name. "Richard Conner?"

"He's an internet day trader. He has a small office in London, but he prefers to work from home."

"When did you have this made?"

"After O'Roarke. I thought my friends would be safer with me out of the picture. When I left for two weeks, it was supposed to be forever."

"What happened?"

Duncan put his hands out in front of him, his palms up and cupped. "When I balanced the reasons to leave against the reasons to stay," one hand dipped, "the reasons to stay tipped the scale."

"And now?"

The other hand dipped. "The balance has shifted."

"Why?"

"Because even if I took out all my other reasons to leave, you would still outweigh the other side."

Methos tossed the wallet back to him. "This is the least of it, MacLeod. You not only have to change your ID, but who you are. You have to leave your friends behind without any contact. You have to leave your Clan behind."

"I know."

"And you'll have to lie to all your new friends and there won't be a creation of a new Clan, because Richard Conner doesn't do Clans. Richard Conner doesn't do anything that Duncan MacLeod did. Do you fully understand that? No rescuing damsels. No frontal assaults of the enemy's castle. No grand defenses of down-trodden mortals. No--"

"Actually, I was thinking of just being your boy toy."

Methos froze, then uncomfortably cleared his throat. "Come again?"

"Richard Conner could be meek and mild, and definitely whipped."

"You couldn't."

Duncan stood, then dropped to his knees beside Methos. "I could," he said, lowering his head to Methos' lap. "Teach me the proper way of worshipping you, my lord."

"Get up, MacLeod. I have to take a piss."

Duncan sprawled across the bed, wondering if he'd gone too far. Or maybe not far enough. Maybe Methos didn't believe he could be a different person. Hell, he wasn't too sure of it himself. But what he was sure of was that he couldn't live without Methos. Not after the past few-- Duncan laughed. It had nothing to do with the pretense. He couldn't live without Methos before. That was why he hadn't gone through with it. That was why two weeks after leaving forever, he found himself sitting on a barstool at Joe's, waiting for a certain someone to come snag a free beer. Damn. No wonder Methos couldn't believe he loved him. Just how long had he himself believed the opposite lie?

He closed his eyes as the bathroom door opened, steeling himself for disappointment. There was no way Methos was going to take him along. He represented too big of a risk to the ancient Immortal.

Methos lowered himself beside Duncan. "Yes."

Duncan's eyes flashed open. "Yes?"

"Yes. When we leave, we leave toge--" Methos couldn't finish since Duncan's lips got in the way as the younger Immortal pounced. Methos withstood the assault for several long minutes, before pushing lightly on Duncan's chest. "That's not boy toy behavior," he chided.

Duncan rolled off of him and lay pliantly on the bed. Methos covered him and delved deeply into his mouth, exploring at length the internal details of the man he loved. When it became apparent that they both needed oxygen to continue their existence, Methos broke the kiss and dropped his head to Duncan's shoulder. A few shallow breaths later, Methos licked Duncan's collarbone and laughed as the man shuddered beneath him.

"Oh, yes, you'll make an excellent boy toy," he purred, nipping at the bronzed skin of an inviting neck. "Hmm. Tastes as good as it looks."

"As do you, Old Man." Duncan turned his head to gaze directly into Methos' eyes. "I have your word, then? You won't leave without me? This isn't a game of pacifying MacLeod?"

Solemn eyes which changed colors as Duncan watched gazed back at him. "No more games. I won't leave you behind, Duncan MacLeod. You have my word." Then Methos pushed up off the bed. "But I will leave you for now. There are things we both have to do before leaving, true?"

Duncan nodded. Methos found his sweater and slipped it on. "Take me to my car. We'll meet back at Joe's when everything's completed. And then we'll start our new life."

"Together."

"Together," Methos vowed.

*****

"You're looking like a traveling man, Mac," Joe said, spying the duffle Duncan had flung over his shoulder as he entered the bar. "You and the Old Man going off to make beautiful music together for a week or so?"

"What makes you say that?" Duncan asked curiously.

"I saw his car was still in the parking lot when I closed last night. I assumed that meant he was with you."

"He was." Joe beamed at him. "But not the way you think. We need to talk privately."

Joe led the way to the back office. "What's up, Mac?"

"Methos was Challenged last night. By one of Kronos' castoffs. He called himself Kowalsky."

"What happened?"

"Methos refused. Said he wasn't going to kill again in Kronos' name. Because there were two of us, Kowalsky backed off, but he's going to come after him again."

Joe booted up his computer. "I'll see what we have on Kowalsky so you'll know what you're up against."

Duncan shook his head. "I'm not going after him. It's Methos' battle, and if he chooses not to fight it, then so be it."

"So what happens now?"

"Methos leaves...and I go with him, Joe."

"What?"

"We're leaving. Tonight."

Joe's fingers dug into the edge of the desk. "What do you mean by leaving?"

Duncan tossed the duffel on the floor and joined Joe at the desk. He held out his hand. "It was good knowing you, Dawson. We had our ups and downs, but you've enriched my life and you've been a good friend."

Joe ignored the hand. "Don't forget what I am, Mac. You can't get rid of me that easily. You'll always have a Watcher on you."

A gentle shake of the head. "I'm going with Methos. You know how good he is at disappearing. The Watchers won't be able to find us."

"But you're--you're Duncan MacLeod," Joe sputtered.

"Not after today." Duncan finally reached out and placed his hand around Joe's. "We're going to miss you. The Old Man's going to be awfully bitchy without having you to tease."

"Mac." Joe didn't seem to be able to say more than that.

"I know. Who knows? One day when you're retired and sitting around feeling useless, you might get a plane ticket in an ordinary envelope. But it'll only be one-way."

Joe gave a sad smile. "That'll be okay. I can't think of a better way to spend the end of my days. Or better people to spend them with." He looked at Duncan closely. "You love him that much? To give up everything?"

"Yes."

"Then--God help me why I think I need to say this, or even why I think I have the right to say this--but you have my blessing, Mac."

"Thank you, Joseph. I promise to take good care of him."

"I know you will." Joe gave a suspicious sniff. "Damn dust. I think the computer attracts it out of the air."

"Yeah, I have a touch of it in my eyes," Duncan agreed, brushing a thumb across his eyelashes.

"Gonna be damn dull around here."

"Until Amanda finds out I've gone missing and comes here to get the information from you."

"But I don't know anything!"

"That's why it's not going to be dull," Duncan smirked.

Joe shuddered. "If I didn't need a drink before, I definitely need one now."

*****

"Where is he?" Duncan asked as he frantically paced the office. "He should have been here by now."

"He's a thorough man, Mac. Probably had lots to do." He looked at the Scot hesitantly. "You don't think he--left and didn't tell you, do you?"

Actually Duncan had been wrestling with that thought for the past hour. But the more he considered it, the less likely it became. Methos had given him his word, and in that they were remarkably similar; once his word was given, it was a sacred vow--which was why Methos seldom gave it. "No, Joe. I don't think he left without me. I'm just--worrying for nothing. You're right. He's just running late. He's probably stuck in the line at Mailboxes Etc., trying to ship all his books to our new address."

Joe gave a weak smile. "Sounds like something he'd do. Your new address? So you finally worked out all the, uh, sexual problems you were having?"

"We weren't having sexual problems," Duncan said in an offended tone.

"But you weren't having sex either," Joe pointed out.

Duncan sighed. "True. But that was a situation unique to Adam Pierson and Duncan MacLeod. The men who will exist when we leave Seacouver have already worked out their relationship."

Joe lifted an eyebrow. "Do tell."

"I'm going to be his boy toy."

Joe was glad he wasn't eating or drinking, but that didn't stop him from choking. "Excuse me?" he croaked as the laugh cough ended. "You're gonna be what?"

"What? You don't think I can pull it off? I can be meek and mild when I want to be. Submissive even," Duncan argued with a sullen pout.

Joe did a doubletake at the look, but still shook his head. "I'll give it a week."

"O ye of little faith," Duncan began, then froze. He grinned as a familiar Presence crawled along his spine. "Methos is here."

"No shit," Joe drawled. "If your eyes lit up any brighter, I'd set you out on the coast to warn ships. Well, let's see what the love of your life has to say about his tardiness. Is he on his way back here?"

Duncan nodded, and walked to the door. It opened before he reached it.

"Stupid asshole," Methos muttered as he came through the door, his coat clutched closed in one hand while the other was wrapped around a beer bottle. "You know, what's wrong with meaning what you say? Little wanker told me he was going to be stalking me--well, actually what he said was that he'd meet me one day when I wasn't with you, but that meant to me he was going to be hanging around. But noooo. I had to hunt the stupid ponce down, and it took me the whole blessed day. Oh, good. You have a bag. Let me have a sweater, Mac." He slipped out of his coat, revealing a slashed and bloody pullover. "Sweater, MacLeod," he repeated as he stood bare-chested in the office.

"You fought--" Duncan stared at him. "You tracked Kowalsky down and challenged him?"

"You know, my nipples puckering when you're kissing me is a turn on. Them puckering because it's bloody cold in this office is another. If you're not going to hand me a sweater, I'm going to take the one you're wearing," Methos threatened.

Duncan mechanically picked up the duffel and withdrew a sweater. "But you said you weren't going to kill for Kronos again."

"Didn't." Methos head disappeared for a second inside the sweater. "I killed him for me. Wasn't that difficult. If he was telling the truth about practicing before he found me, Kronos needs to be re-killed for training that child so badly."

"Methos, Kowalsky has been on a killing spree for the past two years. The Watchers had put him on their Top Ten list."

"Guess it's back down to nine now," Methos said with a shrug.

"You looked Kowalsky up, Joe? Why didn't you tell me?" Mac asked.

"Because you were worrying enough. If I'd told you how good Kowalsky was, you would have--Damn, Methos! Just how good are you? The reports say Kowalsky was a wicked fighter, dirty and underhanded."

"Just like his teacher. Kronos must have taught him everything he knew," Methos agreed. "But I'm the one who taught Kronos--and I knew better than to teach him everything."

"You were Melvin Koren's teacher?" Joe asked eagerly.

"You could have been killed, you idiot," Duncan yelled before Methos could answer Joe. "What were you thinking? We were going to run, remember? What happened to walking away?"

Methos set down the empty bottle and leaned his hip against the desk. "He pissed me off."

"He--how? You just said it took you all day to find him."

"Remember what I told you in Paris, MacLeod? When you just couldn't comprehend how I could 'sell out' another Immortal? What did I tell you?"

"That when it came down to a choice between Galati and me, there wasn't a choice."

"Exactly. Kowalsky threatened to take you away. At that point, his life became forfeit."

Duncan shuddered as he heard vestiges of Death in Methos' voice. "I'm still lost. When did Kowalsky threaten to take me away?"

"You were going to throw away Duncan MacLeod because of him. I couldn't let that happen," Methos said adamantly. "I didn't fall in love with Richard Connor, and I sure as hell wasn't going to give up a life with you for him."

"But-but--"

"But what, MacLeod?" Methos cupped his hands around Duncan's face. "No one--not Kronos, and certainly not some bastard child of his--comes between me and the man I love...and the man who loves me."

Duncan looked into the fierce golden eyes and knew just how much he was loved. Then he finally heard the rest of what Methos had said. His brown eyes reflected his astonishment, and Methos grinned as he waggled the finger decorated with a gold band.

"Methos," Duncan said, holding his breath.

"Yes, MacLeod?"

"I love you."

Methos leaned forward and brushed his lips across Duncan's. "I know," he said softly.

Duncan wrapped his arms around the precious gift he'd been given, never noticing the tears that ran down his face nor Joe's surreptitious departure.

"Take me home, Duncan," Methos whispered again, rubbing his body along the hard one matching it. "You know what a quickening does to me."

Duncan laughed and nibbled the ear presented to him. "I know what it's doing to me and I haven't even taken one. Let me grab my bag and then we'll head to your apartment."

Methos shook his head. "I said take me home, Highlander."

Their eyes met and Duncan picked up his bag without breaking contact. Taking the hand bearing his ring, he kissed the fingers, then dropped their linked hands companionably between them. "Aye, my love. I'll take you home."

Epilogue

"Duncan, I believe this dance is mine," Katherine Ashton-Mills said, elbowing his current dance partner out of the way.

Duncan laughed and shrugged apologetically at the young woman who had currently been in his arms. "Whatever you say, Katherine. Wonderful ball, isn't it?"

"Another one of Adam's wonderful ideas. Did I ever say thank you for bringing him into our lives?"

"I'm thanked every moment I'm with him, Katherine."

"You love him very much, don't you? I don't think I've seen a moment of sadness on your face since you formally set up house together six months ago."

"How can I be sad when joy is now my constant companion?"

"Then why aren't you dancing with your constant companion?" Katherine berated. "Do you think anyone around here is going to be shocked? And if they are, tough."

Duncan chuckled. "I'm not ashamed of Adam, if that's what you're thinking. It was a mutual decision to keep the ladies entertained tonight. Besides, I love seeing him out on the dance floor. Look at how he moves, Katherine." His eyes followed Methos as he wrapped himself around a blonde. A tilt of his lover's head had the diamond stud in his ear glittering. Just one of the various trinkets that filled the filigree box that sat on the table next to their bed. He glanced down at the gold band that now encircled his finger. It had been in the box too. Methos had claimed the Ring Fairy had left it because Duncan had been a very good boy. "Isn't he something?"

"You're not bad yourself," Katherine murmured. "But I still don't understand why you haven't danced."

Duncan blushed. "Adam taught me the words of an old song a couple of days ago, and we're using that as a guide tonight."

"What do either of you young studs know about old songs?"

"Oh, you'd be surprised. Adam knows the words because he was in a quiz show once and he missed a question about an old rock song. Being wrong doesn't sit well with him, so he immediately began an intensive study of the music of that era. Now, he knows them all by title, singer, lyrics, and album."

Katherine laughed. "That sounds so 'Adam'y."

"Doesn't it?" Duncan smiled. His lover was intense...and thorough. There wasn't a single inch of his body that Methos hadn't examined and catalogued to the exact response stimulation caused. Duncan awakened each morning feeling like a well-used schoolbook--written in Braille.

"Duncan?"

"Mm?" He flushed when he realized he'd forgotten all about the woman he was dancing with. "Sorry, Katherine. I seemed to have drifted for a moment."

"And to where I wonder?" she teased. "So tell me about this song of yours? Wildly romantic, is it?"

"Actually, it's about compromise. One of the verses goes, 'Oh, I know that the music's fine like sparkling wine, go and have your fun. Laugh and sing, but while we're apart don't give your heart to anyone.' Sort of a whole give-and-take dialogue."

Katherine smiled. "I'm familiar with the song, Duncan. And Adam's right--it's perfect for you two. You're perfect for each other. So when are you going to make me a doting grandmother?"

"Excuse me?"

"The two of you should adopt. In fact, I know the director of--"

Duncan gently placed a finger across her mouth. "Give us a couple of years of just enjoying each other?"

"Certainly, dear. But it's never too soon to get on the waiting list."

"Katherine," he warned.

"Fine. But what else can I do as an interfering in-law? I can't criticize your loft because I happen to think it's quite quaint. And I can't criticize Adam because he cooks like a dream, I've never seen him be cruel to animals, his students think he's a great mentor, he's breathed new life into the Foundation, and the only one who looks as good in a suit as he does is you. I adore the man, damn it."

"And he adores you. So forget being the interfering in-law and just be--family, okay? That's what we've told Joe. He's to Adam what you are to me."

"Hmm. Is Daddy available, and why haven't you introduced us yet? What's his name? Where does he live? Better yet, have us both over for dinner. Yes, I think a family evening is in order. We can have a barbeque on the roof of your building. You can wear a 'Kiss The Cook' apron, and--"

Duncan leaned over and kissed her. "A wonderful idea, Katherine. I'm sure Joe'll just love it."

"Think I'll go tell Adam our news," she said, glancing at her son-in-law. "That bitch seems to be enjoying herself just a little too much in his arms."

Duncan followed her glance and saw that the blonde did indeed look like she was having fun. So did Methos. He waggled his fingers when he saw Duncan looking and winked. He burst into laughter when Katherine gave the blonde a decisive tap on the shoulder.

Later, Duncan was talking to the niece of Seacouver's mayor when he heard the band begin to play the starting chords of a familiar song. He excused himself and joined his partner on the dance floor, smiling when Katherine gave him an exaggerated thumbs up.

"I think this is our dance."

Methos didn't say anything but merely fell into his arms. They swayed together to the music, and Methos sang the words to the melody the band was playing. The sound was hoarsely soft, and it sent a shiver along Duncan's spine.

You can dance, go carry on till the night is gone and it's time to go.
You'll be asked if you're all alone can he walk you home, you must tell him no.
'Cause don't forget who's taking you home and in whose arms you're gonna be,
So, darlin', save the last dance for me.

Methos' head dropped to his shoulder, and Duncan knew that whatever the future held, it was going to have to go a long way to surpass this moment. "I love you," he said to his heart.

His heart replied, "I know."

And after that last dance, he and his heart went home to continue their dance in private.

So don't forget who's taking you home and in whose arms you're gonna be,
So, darlin', save the last dance for me.

The End

January 21, 2001