"These are my final words on the subject. The test will be re-given on Wednesday. If you fail it again, make sure you explain to your parents the real reason why you won't be graduating in May. Class dismissed."

Duncan MacLeod glared at the students until the last one filed out of the classroom, then slammed his grade book closed and shoved it into his briefcase. The exam hadn't been a hard one; they just hadn't studied. He'd heard the rumors about the senior class bash that started the past Thursday night and didn't end until Sunday. It wasn't his fault that a Friday exam had been scheduled during the middle of that. And it wasn't his responsibility to make sure the idiots graduated. They were adults. It was time they learned that their actions had consequences.

He trudged down the hall toward his office.

"Mr. MacLeod!"

He turned to see Jessie Hinson, the Division Secretary, leaning out of her office, waving a piece of paper. His car. Damn it, he'd forgotten. "Did the mechanic finish, Ms. Henson?" he asked as he turned and followed her into the office.

"Yes, and I did as you asked." She handed him the receipt. "I filled out the signed check you left and gave it to him. You said you didn't care about the amount, right?"

Duncan sighed. He knew what those words meant. "No, I just wanted the car fixed. Thank you, Ms. Henson."

He didn't read the receipt until he reached his office. $735.53. Damn. The T-Bird was getting almost too expensive to keep. Maybe he should get rid of it. Yeah, that was it. He needed to take a page out of Methos' book and get with the modern age. It was time to let go of the past. Give the T-Bird a decent send off like Tessa and Richie and Darius and Fitz and....

He rubbed ineffectively at his temple. The headache that had dogged his steps since leaving the loft that morning refused to abate. His Immortality was useless against chronic pain. The healing and the pain just seesawed back and forth. Besides, if he was honest, he'd admit that the pain was more mental than physical.

He glanced at the calendar on his desk. Darius had been murdered on this day, and that had began the series of events that he termed "The Fall of Duncan MacLeod." The losses had started piling up and no matter how hard he fought, he just kept losing. By the time he had a moment to take stock of his life again, the old Duncan MacLeod no longer existed. His confidence lay trampled in the dust. His convictions were overshadowed by hesitancy. His ability to love and gather a clan had become a burden.

So the new Duncan MacLeod changed things. He thought about things slowly before he acted. He yielded when moral issues were placed before him. He had no right to judge, no right to decide what was evil and what was just. And he ran away from his clan before fate and danger took them from him.

The new Duncan MacLeod was still Immortal, but he wasn't living.

After two years of not living, of caution and isolation, he'd felt the tickle of a familiar Presence. Methos. He gathered his arguments, girded his defenses, and prepared to out-strategize the world's oldest warrior.

The war was lost without a single battle.

He'd pounced first--cold, bitter words spilling from him as he confronted the man who had been his friend. But Methos hadn't pounced back. Methos had simply wrapped his arms around him and stood firm.

And a not-living heart began beating again.

So here he was, residing in Seacouver again, teaching again, hanging out at Joe's bar again and living with Methos. He hadn't been able to let the older man go. He'd discovered the new Duncan MacLeod needed Methos like a cell phone battery needed a recharger. He could run for hours on his own, but at the end of the day, he needed to lay cradled in his recharger and absorb its endless energy. When he'd shared the analogy with Methos, the Immortal had laughed and said he could go for Duncan plugging into him or vice versa, but if there was a pink bunny suit involved at any point--well, it depended on how much it turned Mac on and the quantity of beer consumed beforehand.

And that was how easy it was to live with Methos. He was still sarcastic, overbearing, and smug, but incredibly sensitive when it came to Duncan's moods. Sometimes all Duncan wanted to do was hold him quietly and let the bad of the day slowly leach out. And Methos let him. No questions. No squirming. Not even offers of "let me help." Duncan would wrap his arms around Methos and Methos stilled for as long as necessary.

Thinking about Methos had Duncan standing and locking his office. He was halfway to his car when he realized Methos wouldn't be home. He now owned a bookstore in Seacouver--Shakespeare & Company: U.S., Paris, and coming soon to the U.K.--and although he had a manager, he usually spent the day there, chatting with the customers or just reading some of the newer merchandise.

Duncan reached for his cell phone, and remembered the battery had died. He shivered and climbed into the T-Bird. Maybe the battery analogy needed to be amended.

It began raining before he got home and he was grateful to discover the mechanic had indeed fixed the automatic top of the convertible. Shaking off the rain, he stood in the empty dojo and felt Presence. Methos was home?

He could hear Methos talking in...Greek. He got off the elevator and saw his partner on the phone.

Methos took one look at him and segued into a hasty goodbye. "You're home early," he commented worriedly as he moved towards Duncan.

"And you're home," Duncan said. "Something wrong?"

A casual shrug. "I just felt like I needed to be here."

Duncan shook his head. "Not your need--mine."

Methos reached out his hand and tugged Duncan to the sofa. He gave Duncan a small shove, then fell against him. With a satisfied sigh, Duncan's arms wrapped around him.

Two hours later, as the loft darkened around them, Duncan found himself at peace with the day and with life. He kissed the top of the head his chin had rested on for so long.

Methos stirred but didn't change his overall position. Neither did he speak, but Duncan heard him. And that was when Duncan realized what was happening. Peace had a language of its own, and Methos spoke it with the same facility that he spoke every language on the planet.

"How do you say, 'I love you'?," he whispered.

The reply curled around his brain, kneaded the muscles in his shoulders, coursed through his blood, and finally cocooned around his heart, protecting the joy within.

He smiled and tightened his arms around the remarkable being who'd chosen to share his gift with an on-the-verge-of-losing-all-hope Highlander. Peace... Maybe he couldn't speak it yet, but the understanding was coming. One day Methos would speak to him in thebeautiful language and he would reply in kind. Until then, he had a willing interpreter and an excellent teacher.

"I love you."

He knew the mundane words didn't resonate like Methos' had, didn't flood Methos' soul with the same intense serenity and contentment. But hands stroked his and he knew Methos understood.

With a happy sigh, the living Duncan MacLeod relaxed against the butter-soft leather and closed his eyes, losing himself in his beloved's soliloquy of peace.