chelle

Highlander

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Holes

chelle

Title: Holes

Author: chelle

Author's email: chelle@chelle.slashcity.org

Author's URL: http://chelle.slashcity.org/

Fandom: Highlander

Category: Slash

Pairing: Duncan/Methos

Archive: Ask first

Rating: PG-13

AN: I have to thank Kamil for reading this through and provding criticism, as well as the initial idea. Taselby also graciously consented to read this and offer criticism. The story is far better for their input. Thank you to them both.Killa read through an early draft of this story so long ago that I doubt she remembers, but her comments are what enabled me to eventually finish the story. Thank you, Killa. Lastly, this is an AU.

We all got holes to fill
And them holes are all that's real
Some come on you like a storm
Sometimes you dig your own

—Townes van Zandt

***

Paris, France Spring, 1993

Tessa tensed. Duncan was looking around in that tell-tale, another Immortal is nearby way. The door opened and she followed Duncan's gaze to the restaurant's entrance, relaxing when her lover and the newcomer exchanged smiles. Evidently, the tall, dark-haired man was a friend. She studied him. He looked harmless enough, casually dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, his shoulders sloping slightly. Another man came in behind him. A man she recognized. Joe Dawson.

She shot a quick glance at Duncan. From the look on his face, she could tell he was as surprised as she was. Duncan stood, waving the two men over to their table. The two men exchanged a glance before making their way to where Tessa and Duncan waited.

"Hey, Joe," Duncan greeted his Watcher.

"MacLeod, Tessa."

"Hi, Joe," she answered.

"This is Adam Pierson." Joe hesitated. "A friend."

Duncan extended a hand. "Nice to meet you, Adam." The emphasis he put on the other man's name was so slight Tessa would have missed it if she hadn't been paying close attention.

"Mr. MacLeod," Adam answered. There was no hint in his voice or manner that he and Mac had known each other previously, but Tessa was sure they had.

"This is Tessa Noel."

Adam smiled at her. It was a nice smile, friendly and warm. She extended her hand and he gripped it firmly. "A pleasure," he said in a pleasantly accented voice.

"What do you do, Adam?" Duncan asked.

"I'm a student."

"What field?"

"History."

Duncan nodded. "I know Joe has an interest in history as well."

"Our table is ready," Joe said, clearly uncomfortable.

Adam smiled again. "It was a pleasure to meet you both."

"Same here," Duncan answered. "I always enjoy meeting Joe's friends."

"See you later, Mac, Tessa," Joe said, moving away and taking Adam with him.

Tessa looked from their backs to Duncan's face. Duncan shook his head slightly. Her curiosity would have to wait until they got home.

***

"He's one of you, isn't he?" Tessa asked as they stepped into the living area on the barge.

"Yes."

"How long have you known him?"

"One hundred-fifty, no, I think it's closer to one-hundred seventy-five years." Duncan kicked off his shoes and settled onto the couch.

"How did you meet?"

"It isn't much of a story." Duncan spread his arms. "But if you come here, I'll tell you."

Smiling, she settled onto the couch beside him, leaning into him when his arms closed around her.

"Connor introduced us. It was in a men's club in London. He was known as Benjamin Adams then. Anyway, we hit it off right away, passed the evening playing darts and swapping stories. We became good friends after that. Spent far too many evenings in pubs together."

"Was Connor there, too?"

"Adam and Connor always just kind of tolerated each other. But I think they got along better than Adam and Ramirez."

"Adam knew Juan Ramirez? The man who hung the moon?" Tessa teased.

Duncan smiled against her hair. "As I said, they didn't like each other very much, at least from what Connor said."

"Did you ever ask Adam about it?"

"Once. He conceded that Ramirez had been an excellent swordsman, and then proceeded to call him names I can't repeat in the company of a lady."

"What's he doing in the Watchers? I thought most Immortals didn't even know about them."

"Adam's not most Immortals, and I have no idea what he's doing in the Watchers, but I'm sure it'll be good."

"If he knew Ramirez, that must make him pretty old."

"Yeah."

Tessa turned to look at him. "So how old is he?"

Duncan shook his head. "Didn't anyone ever tell you it's rude to ask an Immortal's age?"

"Either you don't know, or you won't tell me. Which is it?"

"I won't tell you."

"Why?"

"Because it's none of your business."

"Duncan!"

"Well."

"Fine. It's none of my business."

Duncan smiled. "Can we stop talking about Adam now?"

"Sure. What do you want to talk about?"

"I was kind of hoping we could stop talking altogether, at least for the next few hours."

"Few hours? Feeling ambitious are you?"

"That's one word for it."

Tessa laughed, and they stopped talking.

***

As much as Adam had aroused her curiosity, Tessa was feeling a bit apprehensive about having dinner with him. Duncan's old friends were often not the people he remembered, and that always pained him. She didn't like seeing him pained.

Duncan, though, was clearly looking forward to dinner. He'd been smiling ever since the invitation arrived and he was humming while he drove. Hopefully, this old friend would be as pleasant as he seemed.

Adam was already at the restaurant when they arrived. He rose, smiling warmly. "Mac." He extended his hand and Duncan took it, returning the smile.

Releasing Duncan's hand, Adam stepped around the table and pulled out a chair for her. Tessa smiled at the gesture. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Still smiling, Adam returned to his chair. "It's good to see you, Mac."

"You, too. How long has it been?"

"Twenty years, I should think."

"That's right. The last time we met was in New York."

"You were into disco."

"I was not into disco."

"Yes, you were."

"I liked the dancing," Duncan said defensively, but Tessa could tell he was enjoying the teasing.

Adam turned to her. "You should get Mac to show you some pictures from those days. He was a veritable John Travolta."

"You just didn't like it because I would rather dance than drink with you."

"Are you kidding? With that haircut you were lucky I was willing to be seen with you at all."

"Considering the sideburns you had when we first met, I don't think you're in any position to talk."

Adam ignored the barb, smiling at Tessa instead. "Joe tells me you're an artist."

***

Tessa leaned back in her chair, sipping her wine and watching the two men. This man was obviously someone Duncan cared for. It was easy to see why. He was charming and intelligent, and he and Duncan were playing. There was no other word for it.

Tessa had rarely seen Duncan so relaxed with another Immortal. He was smiling into Adam's eyes, apparently amused by some comment she'd missed. It was an unguarded smile, pure pleasure.

Tessa's insides knotted slightly as she realized what it meant.

***

Tessa contained herself until they reached the privacy of the barge. Once there, she didn't hesitate. "You were lovers, weren't you?"

"No." They were just inside the door. She was glaring at Mac and Mac was glaring at her.

"Don't lie to me, Duncan. I can't believe you would take me to dinner with your former lover and not even tell me."

"We weren't lovers. Not really." Duncan looked away.

"How can you not really be lovers?"

"It was just one night."

Tessa continued to stare at him, her arms crossed.

"Do you want to hear the story, or do you want to stay mad at me?"

"Can I do both?"

Duncan shook his head. "Sure, why not? But if we're going to fight, I'm at least going to be comfortable for it." He removed his coat and shoes and put them away. Then he grabbed a beer and went to sit on the couch.

Tessa glared at him for a minute longer before following his example.

When she was sitting beside him, Duncan began, "It was right after I lost Teresa, a woman I cared for very much. Adam spent several days looking after me while I grieved, and drank. He'd taken me home after yet another night at the pub, and I started to talk about her, her and other people I'd cared for and lost. He listened, and when I finally started to cry, he held me." Duncan paused, and took a long drink from his beer.

"I stayed in his arms even after the tears stopped. It felt good and I didn't want to move. He said my name. He usually called me MacLeod, but that night he called me Duncan. I lifted my head from his shoulder and we kissed."

Duncan stopped. Tessa waited. "He stayed the night. The next morning he reassured me, told me that it was normal to need physical intimacy when you'd lost someone you loved, that we were still friends and nothing needed to change."

He glanced at her. "I'm sorry if you feel I should have told you."

"It meant a lot to you," she said quietly.

Duncan nodded. "Yes, it did."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to force you to share something you didn't want to."

Duncan squeezed her hand. "I don't have secrets from you. You know that."

Tessa kissed him lightly. He had all kinds of secrets, but now wasn't the time to point that out. "I know."

***

Seacouver, Washington Fall, 1993

Duncan inhaled and reached deep inside himself, pulling out the last of his strength. He started the kata again. Stretch, pivot, slice. Left foot back. Slice again. Shift weight and pivot.

"You overstepped on that last move. Start again."

The voice from the doorway startled him. It shouldn't have; he should have sensed the other man's presence.

"Start again."

Duncan started again. He made the same mistake.

"Again."

He began the kata again, anger starting to bubble to the surface. He shifted his position so that when he reached the first slice it would be aimed squarely at the other man's neck.

He sliced and a broadsword met his swing. He had known it would. He stepped back, allowing his opponent some room. Then the sword came for his head and it was his turn to parry.

The dojo rang with the force of their blows, no quarter given or received. Until Duncan slipped, going to his knees, and the broadsword stopped just inches from his neck.

"Enough, MacLeod."

Duncan nodded and stood. He walked to the elevator and his opponent followed.

***

Methos was waiting for him when he emerged from the shower, sprawled on his couch, beer in hand, and his hair damp with sweat. "Did you save me any hot water?"

"Yes."

Methos grinned. "You always were a considerate host. Order us some food, will you? I'm starving."

"Any preferences?"

"You know what I like."

For just a moment, Duncan considered ordering precisely those dishes he knew Methos disliked, but that would be childish. Still, it was extremely tempting. In the end, he ordered a variety of Chinese dishes and waited, for the food and for Methos.

***

They were sitting on the floor, backs to the couch, each with a carton and chopsticks in hand.

"I'd have gotten here sooner, but I was in Asia."

"Where?"

"Tibet. Seems it was one of Methos' favorite places."

Duncan smiled. "You didn't have to come. I'm okay."

"Yeah, you looked okay earlier."

"What about the Watchers? Aren't they going to wonder why one of their researchers is visiting a notorious Immortal like myself?"

"I took care of that. It seems Adam Pierson had an accident while in Asia. A fatal fall, but he recovered. Of course, he can no longer remain with the Watchers in good conscience, and is tendering his resignation, effective immediately. He's also gone in search of a teacher."

"I already have a student."

"You won't actually have to teach me anything."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that." Duncan took a bite of his shrimp before continuing. "Have you told them this story yet?"

Methos shook his head. "I wanted to see if you wanted me to stick around, or if you'd rather I left, first."

Methos had put the ball in his court. Not a surprise. He was tempted to ask what Methos wanted, but he knew he wouldn't get a straight answer. "Stay. Your technique needs work."

"My technique?"

"Yes, you fight like an old man."

"I beat you."

"I was already exhausted when we started. We'll see who wins tomorrow."

"Damn right we will. Now hand over the shrimp."

***

"Annie Devlin was in town a few weeks ago," Duncan said as he carried a cup of coffee to Methos who was ensconced on the couch.

"Still fighting for the cause, is she?" Methos asked as he took it.

"Yeah. I slept with her." Duncan joined him on the couch, not looking at his friend.

Methos sipped at his coffee for a moment before answering. "Did it help?" he asked gently.

"No. I just…I feel hollow. I wanted to feel something. I thought it'd help to receive some pleasure, give some in return, but it didn't. I still felt empty."

"Sometimes nothing helps."

"That's comforting."

Methos squeezed his arm. "Give yourself time, Duncan. Let it hurt. You feel hollow because you're not letting it hurt."

"I don't think I could bear it, Methos. I really don't."

"You're stronger than you think."

"Not that strong."

"You'll bear it because you have to. Unfortunately, we don't get a choice." Methos withdrew his hand.

"I thought you claimed there were always choices."

"There are, but once we choose to love, alea iacta est, the die is cast."

$$$$ Duncan balanced on the balls of his feet, ready to move in any direction, waiting for Methos' next move.

Methos came at him from the right, and Duncan brought his sword up to meet the swing. Methos danced back and Duncan followed, flexing his fingers around the katana's hilt. It had been a long time since he'd fought an equal like this, just for fun. Methos had left an opening and Duncan took it, nearly succeeding in scraping his blade along Methos' abdomen.

He almost had Methos backed up against the wall; and the other man edged to the side, trying to get to more open ground. Duncan moved to block him, stopping when the sense of another Immortal hit them both.

Richie looked at them from the doorway, eyes widening slightly. "I take it this isn't serious?"

"No." Duncan lowered his sword. "This is Adam Pierson, an old friend. Adam, this is Richie."

Methos stepped forward, extending a hand, his shoulders sloping as he became Adam Pierson. "Nice to meet you. MacLeod, here, speaks highly of you."

Richie smiled, surprise and pleasure lighting up his features. "Really? Thanks, Mac."

"You're welcome. Did you practice the form I gave you yesterday?"

Richie's smile faded. "Yeah."

"Let's see it."

***

"You're being too hard on him."

"He has to learn." Duncan strode to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water.

"And how does driving him to the point of exhaustion teach him?"

"He needs to keep at it until he gets it right."

"Ever hear of something called encouragement, MacLeod? Maybe praise?"

"I'll praise him when he's earned it."

"He has earned it. You're just too angry to give it to him."

"The only person I'm angry at is you."

"No. You're angry at Richie. You're angry at him for living when Tessa died."

The truth in the words stung. Duncan couldn't deny them, and he couldn't face them. He put down the water and walked to the bathroom, closing the door firmly behind him.

He turned the shower on. Hot, as hot as he could stand it, and stripped off his sweats.

***

The water was cold. It had been for several minutes, but Duncan didn't turn it off. He couldn't go out there. Couldn't face Methos. The other man knew too much. And if Duncan went out there, Methos would look at him, with compassion, and tenderness, and his too much knowledge, and Duncan would break down.

He couldn't do that, couldn't fall apart, because once he did he wasn't sure he'd be able to put the pieces back together.

Tears started to form in the back of his eyes, and Duncan shut them tight. He wasn't going to do this. He slid to the floor of the shower. He wasn't.

He kept his eyes tightly closed and the tears slid silently from the corners.

He heard the door open and felt it when the water was turned off. A towel was pressed against his front, and arms went around his shoulders, pulling his head to Methos' shoulder. He resisted.

Opening his eyes, he looked at Methos. That was a mistake. There was compassion there, in Methos' face, exactly as he'd known there would be. But it was the other man's eyes that were his undoing. Eyes that echoed his own pain. The eyes of a man who had felt what he was feeling now more times than Duncan could imagine.

The tears started in earnest, and Duncan wasn't sure which of them he was crying for.

***

"Duncan."

The tears had ceased, but he was still in the shower, still in Methos' arms.

"We need to get you warm."

Duncan nodded. The air had long since dried him, but he was shivering uncontrollably. Methos tugged him to his feet, and he let himself be led from the bathroom to his bed.

Methos pulled back the sheets. "Get in."

Duncan climbed between the sheets. He looked at his friend. "You're wet."

Methos nodded.

"Get undressed."

Methos stripped off his damp clothes as Duncan watched.

Duncan held up the sheets for Methos to climb between them. "Come here." The words were more a request than a command.

Methos pressed against him, and the shivering resumed, except he was no longer cold.

It was every bit as sweet as he remembered, being made love to by Methos. Gentle hands touched him everywhere, finding his most sensitive places, and the kisses…He could lose himself in those kisses, deep and sensual, with the power to drive everything else away.

And if, just once, he gasped the wrong name, it didn't matter. Methos simply held him closer.

***

Richie accepted the cup of coffee Duncan was holding out to him. Normally, Duncan would already be in the dojo by this hour, but he wanted to have this conversation privately.

"I'm sorry, Rich. I've been pushing you harder than I should, and I'm sorry."

The small, surprised smile on Richie's face told him more clearly than words that Methos had been right. But he'd simply been trying to keep Richie alive; he owed it to Tessa. And he couldn't take another loss, not now.

"It's okay. I know you just want me to be ready."

Duncan nodded, and sipped at his own coffee.

Methos emerged from the bathroom, not bothering with a towel. "Hey, Rich," he said casually as he began to paw through Mac's closet.

"Adam." Richie answered slowly. Duncan cast a sideways glance at his student, struggling to contain a laugh at Richie's expression.

Methos helped himself to jeans, socks, and a shirt, before coming into the kitchen. He held out the waistband of the jeans. "Just how thick is your waist, MacLeod?"

"Some of us like to wear clothes that don't constrict our blood flow," Mac answered.

"My blood flows just fine, and you know it." He filled a cup of coffee, and downed it in two gulps. "I have to go. I have to get into clothes that fit before my interview."

"Interview?" Mac asked.

"At the bookstore downtown. I can't live on my savings forever."

"Good luck," Richie said.

"Thanks. I'll catch you both later. And MacLeod, put my jeans though the dryer, would you?"

A minute later he was gone, and Richie turned to look at his teacher. There were a dozen questions in his eyes. "You ready to go?" was all he said.

Duncan nodded and followed Richie down the stairs to the dojo, grateful for the sudden, uncharacteristic discretion.

***

Duncan moved slowly through the produce section, trying to remember what it was he needed. He felt heavy, as though a great weight had settled between his shoulders and was making it hard to move. Compared to this, the emptiness was almost a pleasure.

He'd known Tessa was gone since the moment he'd seen her crumpled body on the pavement, but he hadn't let himself feel the loss, the enormity of it. How many times had he and Tessa shopped together at this very market? How many times had they gone home and decided to skip dinner in favor of lovemaking and post-coital ice cream, eaten in bed, directly from the carton?

He would never do that again, not with Tessa.

And that reality was inescapable now. It had seemed unreal before, as though she wasn't really gone. As long as he didn't let himself grieve, didn't let himself feel the loss, then it hadn't really happened.

He felt it now, felt it in every cell of his body, the weight of grief, making it hard to move, making him not want to move. He hated Methos for making him feel this, for not letting him just be hollow.

In the end, he left the market empty-handed.

***

Both Richie and Methos were in the loft when he got home.

"Hey, Mac, I thought you were going grocery shopping?" Richie asked from the couch.

"Couldn't find anything I wanted." He wished he'd bought something, because putting it away would give him something to do. As it was he stood just inside the entrance, a stranger in his own home.

"How about I buy us all dinner?" Methos offered. "Now that I'm gainfully employed once again."

"You got the job?" Duncan asked rhetorically.

"Yup. What are you in the mood for, Mac? Indian, French, Mexican?"

"Mexican," Richie answered. "There's this great place on Newton Street. They've got salsa that'll burn your insides, it's so hot."

"Mexican okay with you?" Methos asked Duncan.

He shrugged. "Sure."

***

Duncan listened as Methos entertained Richie with stories about life in Europe over the last couple of centuries. He was convinced that at least half of them were complete fabrications, but he didn't know which half. Surprisingly, he found he actually cared and he listened more closely, trying to discern fact from fiction as Methos carried on about some hair-brained aristocrat who had gotten the first car in an English village and his attempts to drive it.

Every once in a while Methos would glance at him, his eyes practically glittering with mischief, then he'd grin. As the evening wore on and the stories got more outrageous Duncan found himself returning the grin.

They were walking to the car when Duncan realized he felt lighter than he had all day.

***

They pulled up outside of the dojo and Duncan was reluctant to get out of the car. But Richie and Methos got out, and Duncan was obliged to follow.

"I'm gonna head home," Richie said, walking toward his motorcycle. "I'll see you guys in the morning."

"Good night, Richie," Mac said.

"Good night, and thanks for dinner, Adam."

"You're welcome," Methos answered.

They watched as Richie drove off.

"You know, I think I might be starting to like the kid," Methos said, his hands deep in his pockets.

"You just like having someone gullible around."

"That's why I hang out with you."

"I haven't been gullible in 150 years at least."

"Right, just about the time you met me." Methos grinned, his 'you know I'm adorable so why don't you admit it' grin, and Duncan chuckled.

He met Methos' eyes and the chuckle faded.

"I—"

"Coming up?" Duncan asked abruptly, cutting off whatever Methos had been about to say.

Methos gave him a long, questioning look and then nodded.

Duncan let them both inside, grateful he didn't have to be alone. He couldn't be alone, not tonight.

He reached for Methos as soon as they were inside, his own desperation catching him off guard. Methos let him have whatever he needed, surrendering to Duncan's need and holding him up when the weight returned, even heavier than it had been before.

***

"I have to go to Paris," Methos said.

They were having dinner at Duncan's favorite seafood place, and the waiter had just left with their orders.

"Why?"

"The Watchers want to talk to me."

Duncan tensed.

"Relax, Mac, I don't think they suspect anything. They just want to be sure they can trust me to keep their secret." Methos grinned. "Think it'll help if I told them I've known their secret for millennia?"

"Probably not."

"I'm sure you're right. But it would be fun to see their faces."

Duncan shook his head. "You are so easily amused."

"You'd know."

Duncan flushed slightly. "How long will you be gone?"

"A few days. I'm also going to pack up a few things while I'm there, decide what I'm going to do with my flat."

"When are you leaving?"

"Tomorrow morning. It's a command performance."

"You need a ride to the airport or anything?"

"Sure. Adam Pierson can't afford to turn down any opportunities to save money."

"Just once, couldn't you pick a rich persona?"

"Why? Where's the fun in being able to have everything you want? I'd get bored. Besides, I like sponging off of my friends."

"Sponging off of them or sponging them off?"

"I'm disappointed in you, MacLeod. That one's not even remotely funny."

"Sorry. We all have our off moments."

"That's all right. Just try not to let it happen again."

***

Methos turned on the light, and Duncan followed him into his apartment. It was small; a counter separated the living area from the kitchen, and the bathroom and bedroom were off to the left.

Methos had had the place for more than two months, but Duncan had only been here twice before. Usually Methos stayed at Duncan's.

"Want some coffee?"

Duncan shook his head. He was watching Methos, watching him and thinking about the plane that was leaving in the morning, the one Methos would be on.

"You okay, Mac?"

Duncan shook his head again and reached for Methos. He pulled the other man close and began to kiss him. He devoured Methos' mouth, feeling like he'd never get enough.

"I need to be inside you. Please."

"Anything, Duncan, anything you need." Methos stepped out of the circle of his arms and took Duncan's hand. He led Duncan into the bedroom and proceeded to strip them both.

Duncan reached for him as soon as they were both naked, resuming the desperate kisses. He pushed Methos back onto the bed. There was no foreplay and little preparation. He was driving into Methos' body, feeling like he'd never get close enough, never get deep enough.

He pounded, and Methos held him, accepting it all.

***

"I'm sorry." Duncan was resting his head on Methos' shoulder, and he couldn't look up, couldn't meet Methos' eyes.

"Whatever for?"

"What I just did. I shouldn't—"

"Duncan, I said anything you need, and I meant it."

"But shouldn't it be about what you need sometimes?"

"I enjoyed myself. There's evidence of my enjoyment all over both of us, in case you hadn't noticed."

"I wasn't talking about having an orgasm."

"I know."

"It's just…This feels one-sided. Like you're doing all of the giving, and I'm doing all of the taking."

"Don't worry about it."

"It's not right."

"Life is rarely balanced. You know that."

"I want to give you what you need."

"You can't."

"Why not?"

"Because I can't tell you what it is I need."

"Will you try?"

"No. I don't have that kind of courage. There are things about me you don't know. Things I don't know how to tell you, and until I do you can't give me what I need."

"How do you know that? Maybe if you tried."

Methos shook his head. "I know."

"Please, Methos."

"I need you to love me."

There was dead silence in the room. After a moment Methos slid from the bed, and out the door. Duncan stared after him. He heard the shower start. Methos had given him an out, had given them both an out. All he needed to do was be asleep when Methos returned, or pretend to be, and they wouldn't have to talk about it again.

Feeling slightly ashamed of himself, Duncan settled onto his side and closed his eyes. He didn't respond when Methos returned, and they passed the night with their backs to each other, pretending to sleep.

***

The buzz of Immortal presence hit him almost as soon as he got out of the car. Richie or maybe Methos. They hadn't spoken since Duncan had taken him to the airport. He'd been hoping for a phone call, or at least an e-mail, letting him know how Methos' meeting with the Watchers had gone. But the silence hadn't really surprised him.

Now it was quite possible Methos was back and Duncan had no idea how he felt about that.

He opened the door. It was Methos, sitting at the bar, chatting with Joe, making jeans and a sweatshirt look as inviting as a lace peignoir.

Joe looked up. "Hey, Mac."

Methos' greeting was a smile. It seemed genuine enough, and Duncan relaxed a bit. "Adam, when did you get back?"

"This morning. I hate red eyes."

"Didn't you sleep?" Duncan asked, claming the stool beside Methos' and picking up the whiskey Joe placed in front of him.

Methos made a face. "Adam flies coach."

"Poor baby," Joe said.

"Hey, the Watchers dragged me to Paris, least they could do was pay for a first class ticket."

"Maybe, but you're not a Watcher."

Methos sighed. "I know, and it was probably the last time I'll be able to work for them."

"You've done this before?"

"I've done everything before."

"I just bet you have."

Duncan listened to them banter, the familiarity of it reassuring. Methos hadn't changed, hadn't become a stranger in the last two weeks. Not that Duncan had any illusions about knowing Methos. He hadn't had that particular illusion since the night Methos told him who he was. The first night they'd spent together.

***

Duncan was lying in Ben's arms, his emotions a confusing muddle. Part of him was shocked by what he'd just done, shocked by how good it had felt. How good it still felt, to rest in someone else's strength, to allow himself to be comforted and cared for. He shoved aside the anxiety, and the trepidation, and focused on how good it felt—comfort, and reassurance, and the simple pleasure of another person's skin against his own.

"I'm going to tell you a secret," Ben whispered.

Duncan smiled against his skin. "Is it a fun secret?"

"Only a handful of people know this secret."

"I'm honored."

"You should be."

"So, what is it?" Duncan lifted his head from Ben's chest and looked into his face.

"My name."

"Your name," Duncan repeated.

Ben nodded. "My real name is Methos."

"Methos is a myth."

Ben smiled. "I know. It's good to be a myth."

Duncan stared at him. Ben, Methos was smiling at him gently. It was true. He had no doubt of that. It fit. If asked to explain why it fit Duncan would have been unable to, but it fit nonetheless. "Methos," Duncan said his voice not quite a whisper.

Methos nodded.

He had just entrusted Duncan with his life. If the secret were ever to become general knowledge…Duncan shook his head at the thought of hunters coming for his friend. He started to ask why Methos had told him, but found he knew the answer. He wanted to hear his own name spoken by the person he was in bed with, wanted to be known for who he was, if only for a few hours.

"Methos," Duncan whispered, and kissed him. More kisses followed, each preceded by Methos' name.

He worked his way down Methos' neck and chest, eventually reaching Methos' penis. He'd never done this before, but he hadn't hesitated. It had felt right, perfect in fact, to have part of Methos in his mouth.

***

"Mac, hello, Mac."

Duncan looked quickly around the bar. Joe was at the other end of the counter, talking with another customer, and Methos was looking at him, his expression vaguely curious. "Sorry, I just drifted off there for a moment." He shifted in his seat, hoping the arousal sparked by the memory wasn't visible.

"How's the kid doing?" Methos asked.

Duncan wondered if Richie's fondness for Adam would fade if he knew Methos routinely referred to him as the kid. "He's fine."

"How's the training?"

"Better. I needed to praise him more. You were right about that."

Methos smiled. "Told you so."

They chatted for a few more minutes, and then Methos excused himself, claiming he needed to sleep. He didn't invite Duncan home with him or suggest a time when they could get together. Duncan wasn't sure if he should be disappointed or relieved, so he settled for both.

***

The weeks passed and Duncan grew accustomed to the heaviness. He was always surprised when, every once in a while, Methos would smile, or utter one of his infamous quips; and Duncan would discover that the heaviness had lifted a bit. But Methos left him more or less alone now, and the heaviness always returned.

He still saw Methos. They spent several evenings a week at Joe's. They'd even persuaded him to put in a dart board. They played, and drank, and swapped a few stories, and went home, alone.

Methos came by a couple of afternoons a week for his "training." Always when Richie was around.

When Amanda turned up, Duncan was glad to see her.

***

Amanda stopped outside the entrance to Joe's.

"It's probably just Richie or Ben," Duncan said, stopping beside her.

"Ben's in town?"

"He goes by Adam now," Duncan answered, opening the door and following her inside.

Methos turned to look at them, a dart held lightly in his fingers. What Duncan thought might be pain flashed briefly across his features before disappearing behind a bland smile. He acknowledged Duncan and Amanda with a slight nod and returned to the game, sending the darts flying with his usual, nonchalant skill.

"You win again," Richie said, shaking his head. "Hey Mac, Amanda," Richie greeted them as he walked to the board.

"Hello, Richie," Amanda said warmly before turning to Methos. "Nice to see you again."

"You, too. Can I buy you a drink?"

"What do you think?" Amanda replied, stepping provocatively into Methos' personal space.

Methos chuckled and guided her toward the bar.

"What's she doing here?" Richie asked, coming toward Duncan with a hand full of darts.

"She's my friend." Duncan tried to keep the impatience and resentment from his voice. His choices were none of Richie's business.

"Yeah, you've got lots of those." Richie dropped the darts onto a nearby table. "Tell Adam I'll catch him later."

Duncan watched him go and then put Richie firmly from his mind. He did not owe Richie any explanations.

Joe called to him, and Duncan joined him and a couple of the other regulars at a table. He glanced briefly in Methos and Amanda's direction, before letting himself get caught up in a conversation about hockey scores.

$$$$ He noticed Amanda approaching out of the corner of his eye. He leaned back in his seat, sliding his arm around her waist when she stopped beside him. "Ready to go?" he asked.

There was no hesitation in her answer. "Yes."

Duncan looked toward the bar. "Where's Adam?"

"He said he had something to take care of and to tell you goodbye."

Nodding, Duncan stood and gathered his coat.

***

Duncan stared out the window, not looking at the woman sleeping in his bed. She'd felt good. She always felt good. For Amanda sex was performance art and she'd had years of rehearsal.

And she cared for him, as he did for her.

But it wasn't the same, and it wasn't enough, and Duncan knew it never would be.

He leaned against the window, needing something to rest the weight against.

***

Amanda left, and, as glad as he'd been to see her, Duncan was relieved that she was gone. He was looking forward to a quiet evening at Joe's with his friends. Except one was missing. "Where's Adam? I haven't seen him for a while."

Joe and Richie exchanged a look, both clearly surprised at the question. "He left," Joe answered. "We thought you knew."

"No, I…He didn't say anything." Not to me. Duncan closed his eyes against the far too familiar sensation of loss. "Did he say where he was going?"

"He said something about Shanghai," Richie answered, "but I don't think he meant it."

Duncan forced himself to look up, into Dawson's far too penetrating gaze. "Where is he, Joe?"

"We lost him. If there's anyone who knows how to lose a Watcher, it's Adam."

"Where?"

"LAX."

An airport. LAX. Methos could be anywhere. And he'd gone without a word. In that moment Duncan almost hated him.

"What did you expect, Mac?" Richie's tone demanded attention, and Duncan turned to look at him. His expression was as close to a scowl as Duncan had ever seen it. "Did you really think he'd stick around to watch you play with Amanda?"

"Rich…" Joe said.

Richie slid from his barstool to stand next to Mac. "I watched him when he first got here. I was worried about you, because, let's face it, your old friends aren't always so friendly. When I realized what was going on I freaked a little. Then I thought about how he was with you, and I decided that if I was ever lucky enough to have someone care about me the way he cared about you I wouldn't care if they were a man or a woman. I'd just hold on for all I was worth." Richie stopped and took a deep breath. His voice was softer when he spoke again. "But you couldn't do that, could you? I don't know who I feel sorrier for, you or him." Richie turned away, striding toward the door.

Duncan didn't try to stop him.

"Mac," Joe said. "Rich, he's just…"

Duncan stood, and Joe fell silent. "Let me know if you find him, please."

"Sure thing."

"Thanks, Joe."

***

He shut the elevator grate behind him and simply stood. The emotions he'd battled during the drive home refused to come now that he was somewhere he could indulge them. He covered the distance to the refrigerator in five long strides. The beer he pulled from the back was one of Methos'. He grimaced as he jerked off the cap.

Methos, with his knowing eyes and too gentle hands.

He took a long swig of the beer.

Methos' voice, quiet but unwavering, "Once we choose to love, alea iacta est."

"I never asked him to love me," Duncan said aloud, defending himself from the silent accusations reverberating through the loft. He took the beer to the couch and sank onto it, his legs falling apart.

Methos, a small smile on his lips, whispering, "I'm Methos."

Methos' face when he saw Duncan enter Joe's with Amanda.

"I never asked him to," Duncan whispered fiercely.

Methos' unexpected confession: I need you to love me.

"I never asked him to," Duncan repeated, knowing it was a lie even as he said it.