chelle

Highlander

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Not Touching

chelle

Title: Not Touching

Author: chelle

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

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

Fandom: Highlander

Category: Slash

Pairing: Duncan/Methos

Series: Touch

Archive: Ask first

Rating: PG

AN: The idea for this was the result of a challenge from Marguerite. I wasn't going to write it, but then I spent some time with the Emu. She can be very persuasive. Kamil and Marguerite both looked this over for me. Thank you, ladies. Thank you to the SO as well. Song lyrics are from Chuck Berry's "Talking About You." Copyright 1961. I'm going to have to stop setting stories at Joe's soon. I'm running out of blues records. For Emu.

The sharp, tell-tale buzz of Immortal presence caused to Duncan to pause mid-step, but the feeling coalesced quickly, from a general sensation of Immortal to a clearer, more distinct feeling of Methos. Smiling to himself, Duncan opened the door.

Methos was sitting at the bar, head bobbing in time with the music. He turned toward Duncan, and their gazes locked. Methos smiled.

Duncan answered the smile with one of his own, moving to take the empty seat next to Methos. He gestured to the bartender, who placed a beer in front of him, and turned toward the stage. Joe was playing. Duncan watched his friends' hands as they moved over the guitar, coaxing music from wood and strings. Artistic talent was one of those things that amazed him. He had none of it himself, and unlike Walter he didn't long for it, but he liked to be near it, liked being an appreciative audience.

He glanced at Methos, wondering if the other man had any unmentioned talents. Writing perhaps. He'd often wondered if the prose in Methos' journals soared, or if it was dry or pedantic or just plain dull. Given Methos' love of words he suspected the former, but, in truth, he didn't want to know. Methos as a gifted writer, capturing life's moments in clear, lucid prose was an image he liked and wasn't prepared to give up. Not even for the truth.

Methos must have become aware of Duncan's scrutiny, because he turned to look at Duncan.

Duncan raised his beer in salute, and then brought it to his lips.

Methos gave him a quizzical look, and then copied the gesture, before returning his attention to the stage.

Duncan tried to follow his lead, tried to focus on the stage, but he couldn't. His attention kept getting drawn back to the man at his side. Methos was leaning against the bar, one arm resting on it, but he wasn't leaning straight back. His body was at an angle, and it was angled toward Duncan. Duncan wondered if that meant anything. It could be that Methos wanted to be closer to him, either consciously or unconsciously, or it could simply be that he was more comfortable this way.

Duncan leaned against the bar himself, only an inch or so from Methos' arm. Duncan had no questions about his own motivations. He wanted to be near Methos, had wanted it for a long time.

Suppressing a sigh, Duncan forced himself to concentrate on the music.

***

The set ended and some of the customers rose to leave, making their usual table available. Methos tilted his head in the direction of the table. Duncan nodded; Methos picked up his beer and began to wind his way through the crowd.

Duncan followed, keeping his gaze on the space between Methos' shoulder blades. He was not going to let his gaze drift lower.

Methos took the chair closest to the wall, leaning back and slouching down into the chair, his legs falling apart. One hand he rested on the table next to his beer and the other on his thigh.

Duncan wasn't going to look at that hand, or the denim it rested on.

"They're really on tonight," Methos said, drawing Duncan out of his thoughts.

"Yeah," Duncan answered, stretching his own legs out in front of him. He'd taken the chair closest to Methos, and when he stretched his left leg bumped into Methos'. "Richie's back," Duncan said, more to distract himself from the feel of Methos' calf against his own than because he wanted to talk.

"Not the brightest thing he's ever done," Methos observed.

Methos was right. Richie had no business being in France, let alone Paris. "No, I tried to talk to him, but you know how the young are."

Methos grinned. "Yeah, I do."

"Since he's insisting on staying I decided to try and broaden his cultural awareness."

"Really? How?"

"I'm taking him to the opera tomorrow."

Methos chuckled. "Sadism, MacLeod? I heartily approve."

"I thought you would." Duncan wondered if his voice sounded as warm to Methos as it did to him.

"I'm getting predictable."

"Only to me." The boldness of his own words surprised him. He and Methos hadn't flirted outright in a long time, since before Kronos. Even before that they'd only flirted intermittently; the flirtation had always been followed by a drawing back, as though each feared the other might take him seriously.

If Methos thought Duncan had crossed some invisible line, been overly bold, he didn't show it. Capturing Duncan's gaze, he smiled. "As long as it's just you."

The voice, the words, the hazel eyes looking into his…Not for the first time Duncan wished all those things said about eyes were true. He'd never found them to be mirrors of the soul and looking into others' eyes usually brought him confusion rather than insight. Like now. He could discern nothing of Methos' intent in his eyes. Were the words simply a rejoinder, a casual remark uttered without thinking, or was there a deeper meaning behind them?

Noise from the stage drew Methos' attention, and he looked away, ending the moment.

Duncan let out the breath he'd been holding and glanced at the stage. The band was settling down to play. He looked back at the table. Cupping his beer in both hands, he intertwined his fingers and rolled the bottle between his hands.

Strong chords opened the song. Duncan recognized it immediately, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Talking About You." He smiled, remembering the time he'd argued with Joe about Berry's qualifications as a bluesman. He'd lost, decisively. Never again had he been foolish enough to debate music with Joe. Ask questions, yes. Question Joe's opinions, never.

He could feel Methos' foot tapping in time with the music. Like all of Berry's songs, this one was infectious, and he found himself tapping his fingers on the table.

Methos joined in on the chorus, singing softly:

I'm talking about you.
Nobody but you.
Come on, give me a cue.

So I can get a message to you.

The sound surprised him. It always did. Methos sang so rarely that Duncan tended to forget that, unlike Duncan, he could sing quite well.

For a moment Duncan indulged himself with a fantasy of the two of them dancing, Methos singing softly in his ear as they swayed.

This was getting to be a bit ridiculous, more than a bit. He should just say something to Methos; tell him what he was feeling. He was an adult. He could do that; handle his feelings in a reasonable way. But what if Methos didn't share them? What if Duncan's declaration harmed their relationship in some way?

What if it didn't?

Methos removed his hand from the beer bottle and reached across the table toward Duncan. Methos' hand was just an inch from his own, and Duncan wondered if Methos realized it, if he shared Duncan's hyperawareness of every move either of them made when they were together.

It would be so easy to reach across the space separating them, to take Methos' hand in his. They almost never touched, except inadvertently, unless they were arguing. Of all of his friends, Methos was the only one he had never embraced. At first he'd put it down to Methos not being the touchy-feely type, but then he'd realized that the longer they'd known one another, the less they'd touched. To touch Methos now would be a confession.

With the hand farthest from Methos he lifted his beer to his lips, still considering what he should do.

In the end, they didn't touch. They simply spent the rest of the night reaching across the table toward one another, never quite connecting.

***

They left together, and when Methos fell into step beside him Duncan felt a surge of hope. It was short-lived, fading when Methos stopped and gestured over his shoulder.

"I live that way," Methos said sheepishly, taking a step away from Duncan.

Duncan didn't move. He watched as Methos took another step away from him, and then another. "Methos?" he called.

Methos turned back toward him. "Yeah?"

Was Duncan imagining the hopeful note in his friend's voice? 'Come home with me.' That's all he had to say, but the words caught in his throat. "Good-night," he said at last.

Methos nodded slightly. "Good-night, Mac," Methos answered, then he turned away.

Thrusting his hands deep into his pockets, Duncan started toward home. There'll be other chances he told himself, ignoring the sense of loss that was slowly filling him.