Breaking the Code

Title: Breaking the Code

Author: Bone

Author's E-mail: thisisbone@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.mrks.org/~bone/

Date: September 1998

Fandom: Highlander

Category: Slash; Het

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Duncan/Methos, Methos/Kristin, Methos/OFC

Summary: A first-time D/M story, set just after Methos takes Kristin's head.

Archive: Do not archive, repost, publish or link without discussing it with me first.

Disclaimers: The Highlander characters are the property of Rysher Entertainment and Davis/Panzer Productions. Borrowed without permission. Contains sexual situations of the male/male and male/female variety. If you're underage or any of the concepts offend, please find something else to read.

Comments: Thanks are due Kady Mae, Kat, and JaC for beta-reading and encouragement.

To say Methos didn't take Kristin's Quickening well would be a vast understatement. Usually, a Quickening left the recipient exhausted and aroused, and sometimes confused. This one left Methos hyperactive and shockingly foul-tempered. Richie arrived just at the tail end of the whole ugly episode, thirty minutes late and three clues behind, and Methos managed to slice him to ribbons using the sharpness of his tongue alone when the boy had the nerve to protest his action. Duncan couldn't really blame Methos—it hadn't been Richie's finest hour. But it was a side of Methos he'd never seen: Adam Pierson peeled away in layers on that beach, leaving just a pared-down, pissed-off Methos striking out at whoever wandered into his path.


The lights of Seacouver flashed by the Thunderbird's open windows in streaks of red, yellow and green. Methos slumped farther into the passenger seat, feeling centuries of mean pulse under his skin. Duncan hadn't spoken since he'd pulled Methos off Richie on the beach and manhandled him to the car. That hadn't stopped Methos' diatribe, but he eventually wound down when he realized Duncan wasn't even going to respond, let alone agree with him.

Now he sat, disgruntled and testy, struggling to contain Kristin's Quickening and his own disappointment. None of this had turned out the way he'd planned. Methos had waited months to see Duncan after Kalas' death. Months of spending way too much time using Watcher intelligence to track MacLeod's movements. Months of wondering if the affinity, the chemistry, he'd felt with Duncan was real, or just something stimulated by proximity and danger. Real, it turned out, for all the good it did him. Eight goddamn months passed before the perfect excuse fell in his lap. Perfect enough that he could justify flying to Seacouver and appearing at MacLeod's door. The perfect excuse to kill two birds with one stone.

Methos let his thoughts wander back to their first meetings. From their first shorthand conversation to the toast they'd drunk after Kalas' death, each minute Methos spent with Duncan felt like a very clear crystal bubble. He could recall with perfect clarity each conversation they'd had, each expression on Duncan's face. After an unusual amount of self-analysis, he'd decided it was either a severe case of hero worship, or he'd been celibate too long.

The Highlander was all the things Methos couldn't be anymore: Visible; honorable; giving. He lived by an indecipherable code that Methos couldn't begin to break. And for some reason, he liked Methos. Teased him, let himself be teased in return. He offered his protection the first day they'd met. Who did that these days? Only Duncan. The charismatic Scot had resonated deep in Methos' chest, leaving him tender in places he thought were well-defended, but turned out to be merely empty.

Duncan filled something inside him. But could Methos offer anything to the man who seemed to have it all already? Yes, as it turned out. Methos had killed because Duncan couldn't, or at least wouldn't, do so. Wouldn't kill a woman he'd slept with. His chivalric code wouldn't allow it. What hubris for a man who by all accounts was the best the Game had to offer. So Methos had done it instead, because he could, and would, and because it needed to be done. Which was why he now slouched beside Duncan in the passenger seat of the T-bird, feeling erotic aftershocks of Quickening fury and hearing in his heart the clodding sound of his idol's feet of clay.


Duncan could feel the adrenaline pouring off Methos in waves—thick, vibrating, angry waves. It was done. Kristin died. Maria lived. And Methos looked he might just be mad enough to separate Duncan's head from his body without the benefit of a sword. It might be time to try to placate the Old Man, Duncan decided. Hazarding another quick glance at Methos' set features, Duncan cleared his throat and said, "Thank you, Methos."

"Don't thank me, MacLeod, I didn't do it for you," Methos snapped.

"I think you did," Duncan said gently. "If nothing else it was an act of friendship. You helped me when I needed it."

"Bullshit," was Methos' succinct reply.

"You lecture me about my code of honor, but you have your own code, too," Duncan insisted.

Methos rounded on him, suddenly way too close in the confines of the car. "How many times do I have to say it? I have no code beyond self-preservation. Any good that comes out of my actions beyond that is purely coincidence."

"I don't believe that," Duncan said stubbornly.

"Then you're a fool," Methos replied, and subsided back into his slump again, this time putting his feet on the dashboard. Duncan grimaced, but didn't say anything. Save it for the big stuff, he cautioned himself.

He heard how similar Methos' words were to what Duncan had said to Richie when the kid accused him of being jealous. He wondered if Methos looked on him as a callow youth the way Duncan did Richie. The age span was even greater between the two older men. He shifted uncomfortably, knowing he deserved Methos' reprimand. He had been a fool, and it almost cost the life of someone Richie loved. He had walked away before finishing a fight, and Methos had stepped into his place.

Duncan looked over again at the stranger beside him. The real Methos. The unfettered, unmasked Methos, stripped of facades and artifice, the ages written across his face. Duncan felt privileged to see him, nasty temper and all. Privileged and just a bit cowed. "How long does this mean streak usually last?" Duncan asked.

"Five millennia and counting," Methos said laconically, but the tension eased just a fraction, and Methos dropped his head back on the seat, where it cradled his neck.

When they got back to the loft, Duncan sent Methos off for a shower with a tumbler of Scotch. Rather than try talking to him again in this mood, Duncan prepared for bed, lowered the lights and set out the blanket and pillow Methos used on the couch.

They settled in without even saying good night. By the dull light that leaked through the high loft windows, Duncan saw Methos toss the t-shirt he'd put on with his navy sweatpants over the back of the couch, complaining about how hot the loft was. He then rearranged the blanket, flapping it up in the air, snapping the ends, letting it drift over him. Duncan could hear him squirming around on the sofa, as if he couldn't find a comfortable position. Duncan wondered if every Quickening left Methos this bitchy, or if it was simply because of the bitch he'd taken in. Duncan lay still, his ears pricked to better hear what was happening on the couch. A series of muttered obscenities, creative and nasty, came to his ears, vile invectives targeting everything from Richie's parentage to the blanket's manufacturer. No question about it: Methos the Immortal had shed his skin.

Duncan could remember vividly the first moment the real Methos had revealed himself, in the dojo after his workout. He'd appeared in the doorway, looking like the graduate student he was in a baggy sweater and blue jeans. He'd lured the katana from Duncan, then backed him against the wall, the perfect blade suddenly at Duncan's throat. He'd changed in an instant, wide-eyed and gentle dissolving into narrow-eyed and predatory.

Duncan felt a stirring in his groin at the memory. Adam appealed to him in sort of a little brother way, though he was honest enough with himself to acknowledge an attraction that wasn't entirely brotherly. When they first met he'd wanted to touch the fine skin on his throat, brush the hair out of his eyes. But if Adam was appealing, Methos was downright irresistible. He'd stood, one knee almost between Duncan's thighs, and he'd lectured him. Duncan couldn't remember the exact words; he'd been too busy watching that mouth form the word 'yes' over and over. Finally, Methos had moved that critical increment closer and Duncan pushed him away, knocking him on his jeans-clad ass. The spar that followed was more sex than sport. Neither had tempered his strength in any way, but Duncan's sheer power eventually beat Methos' speed and flexibility. Then Duncan had him in a position that had haunted his dreams ever since—crouched before him, panting, gazing up at him from under sweat-wet hair. He'd never know what might have happened next. Their eyes had locked and Duncan had just started to move toward him when Richie walked in, saying, "I take it this isn't for real?"

It was real, all right, but not the way Richie meant, and Duncan had no idea what to do about it, especially now. Pouncing on the Old Man in his current condition seemed unwise, if not positively suicidal. The longer he spent with Methos, the less he knew about him. He couldn't even determine the motivation behind Methos' unexpected appearance at his door. He could have phoned Joe with the information about Kristin, but instead he'd come to Duncan, all the way from Paris. Then he'd sidled into Duncan's loft and life like he belonged there, taking up residence on the couch, poaching his beer, hanging his lopsided coat on the rack beside Duncan's. Sleeping where Duncan could hear him, singing off-key in his shower, sprawling with his legs wide apart while he watched Duncan with Adam's expression, but Methos' eyes.

Duncan sighed, consciously turning his mind to the dojo's account books in an effort to curb his unexpected, unguarded attraction.


The couch felt like a slimy torture chamber, except for the places where the leather acted as a really strong adhesive, welding to his sweat-slick skin. Duncan had to have turned the heat up; Methos had been more comfortable in the desert without air conditioning. Flashes of Kristin's Quickening continued to torment him, images slithering through him. In his mind, he saw Duncan rise dripping from a bathtub, incensed and aroused; he saw Richie, writhing with pleasure; he saw the look on Sara's face as a hand wrapped her hair in a fist; he saw his own face pulled taut with arousal, and Louis' contorted features behind his shoulder, and Kristin's reflection staring back at her from the mirror above them. All the homicidal fury he'd managed to suppress to do the deed rolled over him again, leaving him shaking, the expected post-Quickening arousal just punctuating his anger. Kristin had loved MacLeod. Hell, she had even loved him. What a weird, fucked-up bitch she'd turned out to be.

Two hundred years had passed since his last Quickening. Two hundred years without this awful, out-of-control feeling. Not a bad run, but shorter than some other times. Seven hundred was the current record. A mark unlikely to be reached again, especially if he continued to let himself be drawn into MacLeod's busy little world. The man attracted enemies as easily as he seduced friends. His Chronicle read like a bad movie-of-the-week. MacLeod should be the one shaking off the clinging tendrils of Kristin's memories; he should be the one with his dick standing up like a soldier at war, quivering to do battle; he should be the one wide-awake and restless, not Methos. Five thousand year-old men needed their beauty sleep.

Grimacing, Methos reached under the thin blanket that covered him and ducked his hand inside the loose waist of his sweatpants. At the first swipe of his hand down his rigid cock, he moaned before he could stifle it, almost coming from just that distracted touch. He poked his head over the back of the couch and looked at the bed. Duncan hadn't moved. Maybe he hadn't heard. Well, he'd never get to sleep like this, and sleep felt like the only cure. His cock twitched. The only other cure, he amended, rising with a sigh to head for the bathroom.


Duncan heard a sigh, then a moan, almost a whimper, coming from the couch. Perhaps killing Kristin had bothered the Old Man more than he let on. He heard Methos get up and go into the bathroom and Duncan sat up in bed, looking after him. He'd left the door just cracked. Several minutes went by and Methos didn't reappear. Finally, Duncan slid out of bed, tugged on a pair of pajama bottoms and padded quietly closer to the bathroom door. He heard another stifled whimper, then another. It sounded like Methos was …crying.

Duncan silently pushed open the door. Methos stood over the sink, his eyes tightly closed, his lips compressed. He leaned on the wall beside the medicine cabinet with one hand, and had his other wrapped around his straining, glistening cock, freed from his sweatpants. Duncan stared, mesmerized by his first look at Methos' body. The over-sized sweaters Methos always wore that Duncan thought might have been meant to camouflage a lack of some sort hid just the opposite. The tense lines of Methos' body held deceptive strength. Leashed strength. Whipcord muscles, defined in long even strokes across his chest, shoulders and arms led to the sharp relief of notched muscles in his abdomen, and a tight, rounded ass, clearly visible beneath the thin sweatpants.

Oblivious to Duncan's gaze, Methos slid his hand the length of his cock again with a slow deliberate stroke, making that strange muffled groan as he apparently hit a particularly sensitive spot at the base of his erection. Duncan must have made some small sound, because Methos' eyes flew open and he turned his head, his dazed eyes half-wild, his hand still pumping with excruciating deliberation. Recognition came a crucial second later and he whirled, giving Duncan his back while he tucked his cock back under the cover of his sweatpants.

Duncan waited to see what he'd do. Methos rolled his shoulders once, standing with his feet planted apart and his hands on his hips, his head ducked into his chest. The silence dragged on too long and Duncan finally felt compelled to speak.

"I'm sorry, Methos," Duncan forced out. "I thought you were …crying."

Methos barked a bitter laugh. "Crying? Over that psychopathic cunt? Not in this lifetime."

Duncan blinked in surprise. Earlier, he'd heard Methos swear, at length, volubly, in several dead languages, but never that particular word. It sounded eerily …personal.

"No, I was just looking for some privacy," Methos said pointedly, a wicked sarcastic slant to his tone. He turned finally, his shoulders still taut, his erection tenting his sweats. "What were you looking for, Mac?"

The tone had changed and Duncan tensed. Methos treaded slowly toward him, still unapologetically aroused. "You came, what, to comfort me?" Methos asked, just above a whisper.

"Yes. No," Duncan stuttered. "If you needed it," he finally said lamely, as Methos drew closer. Then he was there, just in front of him, so close Duncan could smell him, his arousal, the toothpaste he'd used to brush his teeth, the soap he'd used in the shower, so close even the low light spilling in the doorway showed his vivid features in sharp detail.

"Oh yes, MacLeod, I need it," Methos said, and he put a hand on Duncan's arm. A friend's gesture, one he'd used before, but now it felt like seduction with a palm and five hot fingers. Duncan's spine tingled at the touch, his own cock going painfully erect in one hard rush.

"Methos," Duncan protested feebly, struggling to keep his head, some measure of control in a situation where control was sorely lacking. "This isn't you. It's the Quickening."

Methos moved even closer, so close Duncan could now feel his rapid breath on his bare chest. "Uh-huh, and what's your excuse?" he asked under his breath, while his other hand went to Duncan's crotch, the palm trapping the hardened shaft while his fingers delved between Duncan's thighs to gather up the heavy balls. He squeezed briefly, then pulled away.

Duncan felt a rush of air on his face as Methos slammed the door, then the scalding hands and mouth were on him. Without the meager light from the loft's windows, the small bathroom was pitch dark, can't-see-a-hand-in-front-of-your-face dark. The kind of dark that lets a person do things he never would otherwise.

"This should be your Quickening," Methos burned against his shoulder. "Your hard-on, your insomnia, your fucking mean streak," he lashed, swiping his tongue across Duncan's collarbone, then biting down so hard Duncan flinched and smacked his head on the wall.

Duncan tried to back away, disconcerted by the vehemence in Methos' voice, by the aggression in his body, but Methos had him firmly trapped against the wall. He wanted to fight, to push him away, but under the angry voice, Methos' mouth was hot and hungry. The hard body that pressed against him had a fine tremor to it, the hands that clutched him shook. His mean streak had a desperate edge to it, and that called forth an answer in Duncan.

Duncan reached out blindly and connected on the first try with Methos' erection. He put his hand flat against it, his fingers searching for the spot that had made Methos groan before. At the first press of his palm, Methos convulsed, and Duncan could feel him coming under his fingers, the rhythmic pulses soaking the front of his sweatpants. Methos butted his head into Duncan's chest and moaned long and low, deep in his throat.


The first urgent wave passed, leaving Methos wrung out. His knees actually wobbled as the last surges of sensation from the tremendous orgasm finally subsided. He leaned his forehead hard on Duncan's chest, his mind unable to send the message to his heavy head that it was time to stand up straight again. Chills raced across his arms and chest, making him shake. In the pitch black, he had no sense of balance and his hands clutched at Duncan's arms, holding strongly to the firmest thing in the room.

One touch and he'd gone off like a bottle rocket, like a boy getting his first hand job. He could feel the clammy cloth of his sweatpants sticking to him. This wasn't supposed to have happened. What the hell had made Duncan come to the bathroom, for God's sake. The ornery streak started to rear its ugly head again and Methos fought it. Ornery wouldn't get him out of this.

Duncan didn't seem to be breathing. As still as a statue, his chest barely moved under Methos' forehead. Then one hand touched the back of his neck and Methos' exhausted cock quivered, but it wasn't a caress. The hand lay flat against the back of Methos' neck, then moved to his shoulder, pushing back so Methos' head rolled off his chest, and Duncan pressed the hand to Methos' forehead, holding him up and feeling his skin at the same time.

"Jesus, Methos, you're burning up," Duncan whispered, and both hands now ran impersonally down Methos' arms and across his shoulders, bringing him in to rest again on Duncan's solid torso. Duncan wrapped his arms around him, apparently trying to still the shudders racking Methos' body.

"I'm better, really," Methos mumbled, rubbing his face into Duncan's shoulder.

"You've got a fever. Does that happen every time you take a Quickening?" Duncan asked, and Methos turned to his voice in the dark, struggling to make the sentence make sense.

"I don't remember," he finally said. Now that his cock had stopped hurting, he noticed the rest of his body. Head, somewhere far away, wrapped in cottonwool. Skin, somewhat north of a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Legs, woefully unsteady. Groin, sticky. All in all, not a great night for the Old Man. It got worse when Duncan fumbled for the light switch and flipped it on, sending light like a sword into Methos' eyes.

"FUCK," he said sharply, screwing his eyes shut tight again, the outline of Duncan's body now permanently burned on his retinas.

Duncan moved him to the edge of the bathtub and dropped him gently on it, then Methos heard the bath tap being turned on. "We've got to cool you off," he said.

"I'm Immortal, right? I'll heal," Methos said slowly, daring to open one eye just a slit. Duncan was rummaging through a box under the sink and finally came up with a thermometer in his hand. Methos could only imagine what his expression looked like because Duncan talked to him as if he were a child.

"Tessa had it, come on, let's just see how high it is," he cajoled, tugging on Methos' chin until Methos capitulated and opened his mouth, then closed his lips tight over the odd intrusion. He wasn't sure he'd ever had his temperature taken before. It seemed a strange thing for one Immortal to do to another. Really, what was the worst that could happen? He'd die. Big deal.

Methos made himself open both eyes, trying to figure out what Duncan was thinking. He acted like Methos was a kid. A sick kid. Methos wished he felt better so he could think logically about it, but as far as he could tell, the minute Methos seemed in need of help, Duncan the Protector appeared. Weakness didn't bring out a wolf in Duncan; it brought out a lamb. The scary thing was that most people, mortal and Immortal, were weaker than Duncan. He'd lose his head protecting the wrong weakness one day.

Something beeped, too close to Methos' ear, and he jumped, slipping on the slick surface of the tub wall. Duncan grabbed him, setting him upright again, and held his shoulder while he took the thermometer out of Methos' mouth.

"104.6," he announced.

"Is that bad?" Methos asked, certain he should know the answer to that, but unable to focus at the moment on details like numbers with decimal points.

Duncan hesitated. "I'm not sure," he replied after a minute.

Methos started to laugh. Duncan looked at him as if he'd lost his mind, then a little smile appeared on his own mouth and soon they were both laughing, leaning on each other under the harsh lights. Tears of mirth rolled down Methos' face and Duncan wiped them away, and they both stilled, their eyes locked. Light still burned in Duncan's eyes, his cheeks flushed from laughing. Beautiful, beautiful man. Duncan looked away first, and wiped his wet fingers on his chest. Methos watched a tiny drop roll down his torso and pool in his navel. He wanted to lap it up. He was at the right angle; all he had to do was lean over. His head had started the motion when Duncan stepped back. "Get in the tub, we need to get your body temperature down, I do know that much."

Methos decided there wasn't much point in being self-conscious now, and he stripped off the damp sweatpants before levering himself into the tub. The cool water felt wonderful on his over-heated skin. As his body cooled, his brain started to work again, and he wanted to submerge himself in the water and drown over and over, so he'd never have to look Duncan in the eyes again. What on earth would he think? He'd attacked a man he hardly knew, forced himself on him in the dark, put his hands and mouth on him, come on his fingertips.

Methos stilled at the last memory. He'd come on Duncan's fingertips. Duncan had reached for him, he remembered, while his own hands were still on Duncan's arms. Duncan had touched him of his own accord, instinctively finding the one spot guaranteed to make Methos lose his mind. Still, even the reminder that Duncan hadn't exactly pushed him away didn't excuse his own behavior. Maybe if he just lay very quietly, Duncan would go away.


Duncan stood over the tub, looking for any sign of the placid Adam Pierson, but he'd disappeared completely. Naked, Methos showed a strength and power that would never be able to pretend mildness. His sudden, unquenchable desire for the world's oldest Immortal surprised him. It was more than just his beautiful body—Duncan wanted the flashes of Methos' true nature. He wanted Methos to open up for him, to let him see what five thousand years could do to the soul of a man. Living in an abyss like that would terrify him; he couldn't imagine the sheer ferocity it must take to continue to want to survive, after all that time.

Duncan let his eyes roam Methos' bare form, checking occasionally to make sure the golden eyes stayed closed. Methos didn't have a flaw. No knobby knees, no flat feet, no rounded shoulders. Looking at the clean lines of Methos' body made Duncan feel heavy and awkward. And aroused. He wanted to do more to that body than just touch it with cloth in between. He wanted to smooth his hands down the ivory chest, tangle his fingers in the dark hair at Methos' groin, touch his mouth to the muscles in his thighs, hold the heavy cock in his hands and watch it get hard for him. Duncan wanted him. Badly.

Duncan crouched beside the tub and put a hand to Methos' forehead again. Methos opened his eyes at the touch, and Duncan caught his gaze with his own. "That's better," Duncan said. "You're nowhere near as hot."

He touched the backs of his fingers to Methos' cheek, confirming that he'd cooled considerably in the time he'd been soaking. Methos brushed his hand away irritably, but before Duncan could register the rebuff, Methos had grabbed at his hand again, wrapping his fingers around Duncan's thumb. Methos squeezed gently and let go, an apology without words.

Duncan leaned his forearms on the tub, bringing his body closer. "That was a hell of a Quickening," he said.

Methos nodded, briefly ducked deeper in the water, then sat up, sloshing water over the tub wall. He turned to face Duncan and folded his legs underneath him. "Yeah, I've probably taken too many," he said, then paused. "Or maybe not enough. I really don't like to fight."

"You could have fooled me," Duncan said, thinking of the all-out way Methos had sparred with him. One corner of Methos' mouth quirked up, and Duncan felt like he'd been given a prize.

Their faces were only inches apart. Duncan felt jarringly aware of Methos' nakedness, of his own state of undress. Most of the time they'd been together, they'd been clothed to the point of overcoats, and all that visible skin was a little unsettling. Duncan saw Methos swallow, and watched, fascinated, as a light pink flush started at the base of his throat and worked its way up, flooding his face and even the tips of his ears. "Mac, about what happened before," Methos began.

"It's all r….", Duncan started to say, but Methos continued over his reply.

"I didn't mean for that to happen."

"I know," Duncan said reassuringly.

"I wouldn't normally …" Methos actually sounded uncertain, something Duncan had never heard before in his voice.

"Methos," Duncan said firmly, and Methos looked up at him.

"Did it look," he thought about the pitch dark and amended it to, "Did it feel like it bothered me?"

Methos' eyes narrowed on his and he slowly shook his head. "No."

"No," Duncan repeated, shaking his own head in response. "It's all right," he said, and he reached out to cup the back of Methos' neck with his hand.

Methos closed his eyes at the touch. Duncan peeked over the lip of the tub. Despite the cool water, Methos was once again erect. At least there was a chance this time that it came from Duncan's touch, not the Quickening. Duncan liked that idea, and to test it, he gently massaged the tendons linking Methos' shoulder with his neck. Methos hissed, and his erection swelled noticeably.

Duncan dropped down on his knees on the bathmat and put both hands on Methos' shoulders, rubbing hard now, digging his fingers into the tight muscles. Methos dropped his head forward and Duncan pulled him closer, letting Methos rest his forehead on his chest, a position that was starting to feel familiar.

Duncan let his hands roam over Methos' muscled shoulders and down his backbone, pressing each vertebra in turn. Methos drew in a sharp breath at one spot and Duncan played there for long minutes, loosening a tight knot of muscle, then soothing the skin over it. Duncan looked down the bare back he held in his hands and wondered just how they'd come to this: One of them naked in a tub of cold water, the other nearly so on the floor of the bathroom, at three o'clock in the morning. What a strange, strange night.

Methos raised his head finally, distracting Duncan from his thoughts. His mouth was right there and it felt like the most natural thing in the world for Duncan to lean over and take it. He didn't bother with tentative; he figured they'd gone beyond that when Methos had bitten him. He just put his mouth on Methos', opened his lips with his tongue, and delved in.

The Old Man tasted of mint, the inside of his mouth as hot as his skin had been minutes earlier. Methos responded to him immediately, opening his mouth to let Duncan in, reaching his hands up to wrap around Duncan's head and hold him there, kissing him with an expertise that was almost shocking. Duncan closed his eyes and let the taste and feel of Methos wash over him, thinking how right it felt, how good.

As touchy as Methos was, Duncan preferred him to the gentler Adam. He couldn't imagine Adam pressing him against a wall and licking him in the dark, he couldn't imagine touching Adam's cock. But Methos was a whole different thing. Methos matched him—their strengths different, but equal. Even now Duncan could feel the grip of Methos' hands on his skull, long strong fingers moving his head to a new, better, deeper angle as his tongue mated strongly with Duncan's. Finally, Methos pulled on his ears, tugging his head back, severing the connection with a wet smack.

"Mac, are we really going to do this?" he asked, his voice deep.

"Yeah," Duncan replied distractedly, already leaning in to Methos' mouth again.

"Then can I please get out of the goddamn bathtub?" Methos asked.

Duncan's eyes flew open again. Goosebumps had come up on Methos' chest and arms, and he didn't think they were arousal-related. Duncan dropped his hand into the water. Not bitter cold, but not conducive to erotic play either. Grabbing Methos' arms, he lifted them both in one heave, then held the Old Man steady while he draped a towel over his shoulder.

"Dry off. I'll get you something to wear," Duncan said over his shoulder as he turned to leave the bathroom. Methos' voice stopped him in the doorway.

"Mac, I don't need anything to wear," he said, and he slayed Duncan with seven ordinary words. The Scot's erection poked insistently against his pajama bottoms and he felt tiny beads of sweat pop out in the small of his back and under his jaw. His pulse got fast, his breath got short and he found himself on the brink of coming without even being touched.

"Well, dry off anyway. And stay away from me for a couple of minutes or it's going to be over before it ever starts," Duncan said, forcing himself to leave the bathroom.

"Again," Methos said under his breath, but Duncan heard, and it made him smile.


Duncan's bed beat the hell out of the couch, Methos decided a few minutes later. He crawled between crisp cotton sheets and pulled the dark green cover up over his hips. He propped himself up on a couple of pillows and watched as Duncan puttered in the kitchen.

"Mac, what are you doing?" Methos finally asked. It was too late for a midnight snack and way too early for breakfast.

"Trying to calm down," he answered and Methos felt his stomach clench.

Duncan finally came toward him and Methos dropped back to enjoy the view. Duncan moved like a big cat, on the balls of his feet, rolling from his hips, his shoulders standing firm. He looked like the gods themselves had drawn him, then whispered him to life. As he reached the bed, Duncan casually stripped off his pajama bottoms, easing them over his erection, and climbed into bed beside Methos. The temperature under the covers went up immediately.

"I want to do this right," Duncan said, rolling onto his side, facing Methos. "It's been awhile."

"You couldn't do it wrong, Mac," Methos assured him as he slid down the pillows to mirror Duncan's pose. Duncan just looked at him for a couple of minutes, his eyes tracing Methos' face and as much of his body as he could see. Methos let him look, basking in the hot eyes that prowled over him, surprised and pleased at how Duncan accepted the unexpected shift in their strange friendship.

"You worried me tonight, Methos," Duncan said eventually. "I thought you'd be on the first plane out of here."

"You're not getting rid of me that easily," Methos replied, tucking both hands under his cheek. So Duncan wanted to talk. Fine. He could talk. For about three minutes. Then he planned to fuck the Highlander speechless.

"You're a disaster waiting to happen, Mac," he said. "You've got to get over this whole women-on-pedestal thing."

"I thought I could do it, I really did. I intended to, but…" Duncan's voice trailed off.

"Your code wouldn't let you, I know," Methos supplied. It still surprised him, how angry he'd been when Duncan balked. His refusal made no sense to Methos. To live by a code that didn't include some caveat for self-preservation seemed an inherently flawed approach to life, and he hadn't found many flaws in Duncan, not in what he'd read, and not in what he'd seen first-hand. He knew no one was perfect, but MacLeod had been damned close. Now he had to adjust to the idea that the Highlander was only human, with his own set of edges to be smoothed.

"I don't know if it's that simple, Methos," Duncan said. "I'd been inside her body. I cared about her once. I knew what she'd done, how awful she was, but when the time came, I just couldn't do it," he explained.

"You need to learn," Methos warned. "The way you sleep around, one of those women is going to get you one day, mark my words."

Duncan's jaw dropped. "I do not sleep around."

"Oh please, MacLeod, they don't call you 'Humpin' Duncan' for nothing," Methos said.

Duncan sat straight up in bed, his face a ruddy red. "Who calls me that?!"

"Ooops, was that out loud?" Methos said, unrepentant. This was fun. Not as much fun as fucking, but damn close. MacLeod had had him in a ball of rags for a year; he didn't see anything wrong with a little payback.

"WHO, Methos," Duncan asked, and Methos watched as a big vein started to pound in his forehead.

"It's just a pet name, Mac, don't get so riled," Methos said. "The Watchers have to amuse themselves somehow."

"Please tell me you're joking," Duncan said, his brown eyes beseeching.

"I'm joking," Methos said, and Duncan collapsed on the bed beside him. "It's actually 'Mac-In-The-Box'."

The Highlander growled. He growled, then he spread himself on Methos' bare body like a blanket and pummeled him, avoiding places that might actually hurt, but making his point nonetheless. Methos lay under him, absorbing his heat, the feel of his blunt cock nudging between his thighs, the playful punches that transformed to gropes, the growls turning to groans as Duncan flattened himself down on Methos, tangling them together from head to foot.

"You've got a filthy mind," Duncan finally said into Methos' neck.

"I've had a lot of time to refine it," Methos allowed, stretching to give Duncan more room. "Are we done talking?" he asked as he reached down to wrap his hand around Duncan's leaking erection.

Duncan lunged into his hand, pumping wildly. He pressed his open mouth to Methos' chest, hitting a nipple almost by accident and then homing in there, licking and biting until Methos rippled beneath him. Duncan rode him hard, pressing Methos deep into the mattress. Methos just hung on where he could, letting Duncan hurtle them toward completion, keeping one hand firmly on Duncan's leaping cock and setting the other on his muscular ass, keeping them planted firmly together. This way his own cock got to rub rhythmically against Duncan's hard belly, and he could feel the release start to slide down his spine. He let go of Duncan's ass and pulled his head up, latching onto Duncan's mouth, driving his tongue past the younger man's lips as he let go and sprayed semen between their bodies. At the feel of it, Duncan cursed into Methos' mouth and came, too, splattering Methos' stomach and chest.

Duncan dropped heavily on him, sealing them together with their own juices. His hands went to Methos' head and he cradled it, rocking it from side to side slowly. "I didn't even know I wanted this," he said with a touch of wonder.

"What changed your mind?" Methos asked, sliding his arms around Duncan's wide back and shifting him slightly so he could breathe. Their torsos slipped slickly and Methos grimaced, but he would die before he moved voluntarily.

"You Methosed me," Duncan said, or so it sounded, muffled as it was behind Methos' ear.

Methos pulled Duncan's head up by his hair and said, "I what-ed you?"

"You Methosed me," Duncan repeated. "First you Adamed me. You came in all wide-eyed and curious, talking about art, and the next thing I knew, you'd Methosed me up against the wall and I had my own sword at my throat."

Methos narrowed his eyes, trying to decide how serious he was. "And you liked that?" he asked cautiously.

"Apparently," Duncan said with a smile. Methos grinned back at him.

"You like a little rough trade now and then, do you?" he asked gleefully, and this time he was prepared for the punches. The sex that followed felt more like sport than lovemaking. Methos vowed twice was his limit, but he rolled onto his stomach and encouraged Duncan to take him, and after the most token of protests, Duncan reached for the massage oil he kept in the bedside table. Methos couldn't see him, but he could hear, and feel, and smell him, and he wasn't sure if he could remember anything he'd enjoyed more. Sated, he could respond to every nuance from Duncan, without his own needs hindering him. They rocked together, Duncan tight as a wire, Methos as relaxed as he could manage. Whatever Duncan lacked in experience in this particular area, he made up in endurance and enthusiasm and Methos' limit had extended by one by the time they were done.

Duncan cleaned them both off with his discarded pajama bottoms, then uncharacteristically tossed them on the floor by the bed. He rolled Methos to one side and stripped off the stained sheets, then just laid him back on the bare mattress and tugged the bedspread over them. He pulled Methos against him and tucked his head in the crook between Methos' neck and shoulder. Methos sighed and adjusted his length to fit against Duncan's warm body.

"Round Three to Duncan," he mumbled sleepily, and on the clouded edges of sleep, he heard, and felt, Duncan chuckle.


Duncan awoke to the strange sensation of a man's hard body in his arms. But it was Methos' hard body, and that made it seem almost normal. He tucked his knees more firmly under Methos' and hugged him closer, liking how his skin felt, how he smelled.

Methos stirred. He tensed up, then relaxed when Duncan spread a hand on his chest. "You all right?" Duncan asked.

"No," Methos said, "But I might reconsider if you let me sleep another hour."

Duncan snorted. "Just answer the question."

"If I say yes, do I get to be in the bed from now on instead of the couch?" Methos asked as he traced the fingers on the hand that held him plastered against Duncan.

"I've changed my mind. I liked Adam better," Duncan grumbled.

"Tough shit," Methos said, then he turned over to face Duncan. "It's a one-shot deal. Once Methos comes out to play, Adam's history. A good thing, too, as it turned out in this particular case," he said pointedly.

"I would have done all right without you," Duncan said, smarting.

"But you wouldn't have killed her. And then what would have happened the next time? Or the time after that?" Methos pressed. "You're quite possibly the strongest of us all, Mac, but she found your vulnerability and she capitalized on it. You had her on the ground, my friend, but she beat you."

Duncan pulled away and tossed off the cover. He knew Methos was right. And it irritated him. He stood, towering over the supine Methos.

"So why take the risk that she might beat you, too?" Duncan asked. Methos' eyebrows drew together in confusion.

"You don't like to fight, remember? She was devious and underhanded, remember? So why chance it? That doesn't sound much like self-preservation to me, Old Man," Duncan said, his voice getting louder with each rhetorical question.

Methos' eyes narrowed and he moved to his knees on the bed. "Go on, MacLeod, spit it out."

"You didn't do it for yourself. You did it for me," Duncan said, thumping his chest with his thumb.

Methos closed his eyes briefly, and took a deep breath. "No, MacLeod, I did it because someone had to, and you wouldn't. That's all. There's no subtext, no hidden meaning. Sometimes you do things you don't want to, simply because they have to be done. You need to get that through your stubborn Scottish skull, because next time, I might not be there to bail you out."

With that, Methos hopped off the bed and sauntered to the bathroom, shutting the door firmly behind him.

Duncan felt the words soak into his skin and his shoulders drooped. The flashes of Methos' true nature that he'd craved so in the passionate dark had edges that cut like sharp knives. He felt like he'd brought home a housecat only to awaken with a tiger in his bed. He'd been bailed out. By a sarcastic ancient man who kissed like he'd invented the concept.

He pulled on clean sweats and a t-shirt, then went into the kitchen to make coffee, taking refuge in the familiar routine. A few minutes later, Methos emerged from the bathroom again, still damp in patches and buck naked, and unselfconsciously bent over his duffel and rifled through it for clean clothes. After tugging on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, he walked barefoot into the kitchen. Duncan felt the pull of him from ten feet away, found himself actually leaning towards the older man. Methos moved closer and put a hand on Duncan's hip as he leaned around him and grabbed a mug from the rack on the counter. Duncan could smell his shampoo and shaving cream and felt his groin start to ache again.

They drank their coffee in uneasy intimacy. Uneasy because they weren't looking at each other. Intimate because they stood so close the steam from their coffee cups mated in the air between them. Eventually, Duncan spoke.

"I've been trying to figure something out. Why were you there?" he asked and Methos raised a querying eyebrow. "Why were you there to bail me out, as you put it. Why did you come? Why not just call to tell me about Kristin?"

Methos moved away slightly. Duncan didn't think he was ever going to answer, but finally, he said softly, "Surely you didn't think you were the only one she'd hurt?"

Comprehension dawned. "You knew her."

Methos nodded shortly. "In every sense of the word."

"Where? When?" Duncan asked, irritated at himself for not having figured it out earlier. Of course Methos had known her. He even remembered him saying, 'From what I know, she's not the type anyone forgets.'

"It's a long story, Mac," Methos said wearily.

Duncan crossed his arms across his chest and leaned a hip on the counter. "I've got nothing better to do," he said. When Methos remained silent, he added, "Please."

Methos hoisted himself up on the counter, holding his mug out for a refill. Then he patted the counter beside him. "Might as well pull up a seat, Mac. I told you it's a long story."


New Orleans, 1810

On a good day, Dr. Benjamin Adams saw a few patients, read a little for work and pleasure, and retired early with a glass of wine and a plate filled with the offerings left at his altar by mothers of marriage-age daughters. This wasn't one of those days. This day had started with a horse-kicked boy at six in the morning and ended with a scalded kitchen maid at six in the evening, with a startling array of injuries and illnesses in between. So weary he wasn't even hungry, he washed his hands for the hundredth time since sunrise, then sluiced cold water over his face and neck, shuddering as he did so. I hate cold water, he groused to himself, but he hated dirt worse; cold and clean felt better than warm and filthy.

What he really wanted was a nice hot bath …in a great big tub …which someone else had filled …with a quiet person with soft hands to wash his back and rub all those sore spots he couldn't quite reach. He closed his eyes, almost able to smell the scented water, feel the hands moving on him, on his back, his shoulders, his chest, his …He gripped the sides of the washstand, thoughts of comfort dissolving into unexpected arousal. It made a strange sort of sense, fatigue leading to a letting down of the guard, leading to a lapse of the strict controls he kept on his body. A doctor always had a place apart in any community. An Immortal doctor almost five millennia old stayed farther apart than most. The human body became something to be tended and mended, not something to be laved and caressed and penetrated.

Methos opened his eyes, gazing at his reflection in the mirror over the wash basin. Lines bracketed his eyes and mouth, his hair climbed wildly off his forehead and dark shadows of beardgrowth sat disreputably on his chin and cheeks. You look like hell, old man, he thought to himself. Bet a bath would come with a shave…He flicked water at his reflection, distorting it even further. So be it. It had been weeks since he'd given in to more stimulation than his own hand under the sheets. Time for something more. He straightened his tie, smoothed his cuffs, sent his wet hands through his hair in a futile attempt to calm the hectic curls, and left his tiny office, bolting the door on his way out.

In the cool gloom of the February evening, the streets were fairly deserted, the dirt pathways hard under his boots, the air scented with wood shavings, horseflesh and the ingrained smell of decay that lingered over the city. Through windows outlined in lamplight, he could see families sitting at dinner tables, men in shirtsleeves, children scrubbed and shiny, women ladling food onto laden plates. Somewhere, he was sure, were men alone, eating warmed-over beans straight from the pan, but he let himself think, just for a moment, that for most of the windows he passed, the end of a work day was a good thing, not just the beginning of another night alone.

He could hear it before he saw it, tinny music floating out into the air, buoyed by raucous laughter, off-key singing and the occasional high note of a woman's voice. The Open Rose, the worst-kept-secret in New Orleans, and the best-kept brothel up and down the length of the Mississippi. He slipped around the back, climbing to the porch in measured steps, willing his unruly groin to relax. You know how this works, first a drink, then a game of cards, then….

Three knocks, then two, then two again. The cadence told whoever was in charge of the door that it held friend, not foe. A stooped old man opened the door, reaching for Methos' hat, inviting him in. "Evening, Doc. Good to see you, it's been too long."

"That it has, Cyrus," Methos said quietly, smiling at the man. Rheumatism, left hip, gout, right foot, eyes going milky. "How's the foot?"

"A bit better, I think, thank you for asking," the man replied politely, but his limp told Methos otherwise. "I've been eating more greens, just like you said to."

"Good, Cyrus, they might help and they certainly won't hurt," he said as he clapped a gentle hand on Cyrus' shoulder and moved into the back hall. On the outskirts of his consciousness he felt the first stirrings of Kristin's presence. Somewhere in the house, he thought, maybe upstairs. She probably hadn't felt him yet. "How's Rose?" Cyrus' wife was a little younger than he was, and prone to winter fevers and occasional fits of the vapors.

"She's doing well, sir, let me get her for you," Cyrus said, shuffling off. Methos thought finding her himself would take a fraction of the time, but he knew Cyrus had few enough responsibilities as it was and he'd rather not take one more from him. He stepped across the hall and into the kitchen, taking advantage of its relative dim to look through the small round window in the swinging door through the dining room and into the parlor. She wasn't there. He could see three or four other young women plying their flirtatious trade, sitting on laps, lighting cigars, playing songs on the small piano to a less-than-appreciative audience.

Over the smell of cigar smoke and too many bodies lingered the ever-present scent of roses. All the girls wore rose perfume, and bowls on tabletops held full-blown roses in riotous profusion, roses that probably cost more in a week than most of the women made in a year. Kristin left her scent like a dog, marking her territory. He awakened sometimes with the smell still in his nose, repelled and aroused all at once. He moved back into the hall, feeling her tenuous signature ebb and flow as he moved a little further away.

The swish of skirts betrayed the woman before she came into view, a plump matron well past middle-age, but with a face that still showed the beauty she'd once been. The Rose for whom the place had been named, the former owner and current manager of the most popular house of ill repute in New Orleans. She smiled at seeing him, a surprising pink blossoming above the bodice of her rose (what else?) colored dress. "Well, isn't this a nice surprise, Dr. Adams. You're looking well," she said in her sweet southern drawl.

"And you're as good a liar as ever," he replied smoothly, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips. "You, on the other hand, look positively ravishing."

"Och, away with ye, man," she stammered, blushing, betraying roots more Scottish than southern, and he grinned at her.

Rose pulled herself together. "Herself is …occupied," she said archly, managing to make it sound as if Kristin were in a business meeting rather than milking some poor bastard's cock dry. He raised an eyebrow. Kristin didn't usually take on customers. Rose nodded at his look. "It was a special case. Someone she's trying to stay on the good side of," Rose confided. Methos nodded, no longer surprised. There seemed to be literally nothing Kristin wouldn't do to get what she wanted. Witness the transfer of ownership of The Open Rose. Methos was sure the only reason she kept Cyrus and Rose was because they were willing to do the dirtiest chores, handle the most difficult customers, all the nasty things she'd rather not muss her dress with.

"Can I get you a drink, sir, while you wait?" Rose asked.

"No, thank you, Rose, it's just as well she's busy," he said, musing aloud. "I'm not really in the mood for another round with Kristin," he said, more honest than usual with these two people, who'd probably seen more of what the human condition had to offer than most.

Rose drew him into the lighted hall, studying him so carefully he finally flushed under her gaze. "I know just who'll suit you," she said. Leaving him momentarily, she ducked her head into the parlor. "Sally, girl, you come here," she called. "Miss Sally's new, sir," she said to Methos. "I think you'll like her just fine. I'll put you in the white room, all right?"

Methos had stopped listening. Coming out of the parlor was a rosebud of a girl, a tiny, dewy, blushing blonde bit of nothing of a girl, in a white dress with miniature satin bows frolicking across the bodice. She had cheeks of porcelain, a mouth like a doll, and huge, round, blue eyes. She didn't even look real. She came to stand next to him, a very small smile touching her pink lips. Next to her he felt like a lummox, the huge hairy dirty beast from the fairy tale. Tall as he was, still he usually felt small, his narrow lines almost ascetic next to the dock workers and hearty farmers he encountered. But compared to this tidbit before him, he felt gigantic.

"Sally, you take the doc up to the white room, you hear? And treat him nice, he's a friend of Herself," Rose said as she pushed them towards the stairwell. Together they climbed the staircase and went into the aptly named White Room. Sally almost disappeared into the woodwork, her white dress blending perfectly with the brocade wallpaper. The door closed behind them with a thump, and immediately the sounds were muted to a tolerable level, and even the overpowering rose scent lessened.

Sally stood docilely in the center of the room, never taking her clear blue eyes from his face. With her long blonde hair pulled back with a bow, and her diminutive size, she looked more child than woman. Methos sent practiced eyes over her body. Full breasts, caged by the ridiculous bodice, a small waist, a woman's bounteous hips just discernible through the opaque outlines of her empire dress. Not really a child, just close enough to pass.

"How old are you, Sally?" he asked softly. She looked surprised, but recovered quickly.

"Old enough, sir," she said, coming towards him, drawing one small hand across his shirt-front.

"That wasn't what I asked," he said, covering her hand with his, holding it against his chest. This close, he had to look way down to meet her eyes.

"I'm eighteen," she said, then insisted, "I am" when he gave her a disbelieving look.

Methos reached out and cupped her breast through her dress, flicking his thumb over the soft nipple. She flinched. Ah.…he thought. "But still fairly new to all this, yes?" he asked gently, pulling his hand away.

Sally lowered her eyes. "Not as new as she'd like you to think," she almost whispered. He patted her shoulder approvingly, appreciating her honesty. Methos knew some men liked virgins, some men even liked children, but he wasn't one of those.

"Sally, I stopped being impressed by innocence a long time ago," he said, lifting her chin with his index finger. "At this point, I'll settle for amenable."

"What's that mean?" she asked, unconsciously rubbing her chin against his finger.

"It means you're willing," he said, stroking the fine skin along her jaw, tracing the delicate shell of her ear.

"I'm willing," she said, leaning into his hand, closing her eyes..

"Good," he said. "Then let's start with a bath."

Her eyes flew open. "A bath?"

"And a shave. Can you give me a shave?" he asked, cupping her face in his palm, the whole of it fitting between the tips of his fingers and the base of his thumb. She's so small, he thought, his cock swelling aggressively against his trousers.

"That's all you want?" she asked, and he was sure he didn't imagine the wistfulness in her voice. Either she was a very good actress, or she liked him a little bit. He took her hand from where it rested on his shirt front and brought it below his waist, where his erection went from groin almost to navel. He covered her hand with his and stroked it down the length of his engorged penis and he watched her eyes go wide at the size of him. There are advantages to being gigantic, he thought wryly, as his cock leapt into her palm. She squeezed him tentatively, wrapping her little hand around the girth of him, and he could feel the warmth of her through the cloth. A heavy pulse started to hammer in his temple and the room felt small and close. She swallowed hard, her fingers still measuring him, and finally he pulled her hand away. A bath, and a shave, a bath and a shave, he repeated to himself.

"All right, a bath and a shave it is," she said, backing away a little, and he wondered if he'd said the words aloud. Her cheeks were flushed, the color making her even more beautiful. Very desirable, this Dresden doll. They'd be good together, he could tell already, and that made it possible to postpone that pleasure long enough to get the other thing he'd come for: Clean.

In a brothel, hot water was as much of a necessity as good cigars and whiskey. Within minutes, a big copper tub had been filled halfway with steaming water. Methos swore bodily damage to the first person who dropped rose-scented anything into his tub, earning smiles from the busy servants who filled the tub. While Sally went to get shaving supplies, Methos took advantage of his solitude to strip and slide into the water, groaning at the first touch of it on his skin. He leaned back in the tub, submerging as much of his length as he could, feeling his weariness wash away with the day's residue. He closed his eyes, letting his hands drift to the surface, blissfully content for the moment.

A chill touched his face when Sally opened the door, but it passed when she shut it behind her. She smiled at him, dropping a pile of towels on the floor and revealing a wicked sharp razor and a cup of shaving cream. "Shave first? Or shall I wash you?" she asked. The options had to be weighed very carefully. His prick voted for getting washed, but his brain knew very well he'd never get a shave if they moved straight to scrubbing. Decision reached, he sat up cross-legged in the tub and announced firmly, "Shave."

That supposedly rational choice felt an awful lot like foreplay the way Sally did it. She caressed his throat and face, dampening a towel to soften his beard and holding it firmly against his cheeks, breathing softly on him as she worked. She didn't chatter, which he appreciated. It made it all the more possible to enjoy every sensation her hands engendered. The razor glided over him so softly that he never even worried about having a straight edge that close to his oh-so-vulnerable throat. She's done this before, he thought, and he wondered if she'd make love as beautifully as she shaved him. She saved the spot over his mouth for last, moving in front of him and concentrating so hard she stuck the tip of her tongue out. Three swipes and he was free of whatever mustache had sprouted since yesterday. The sweet tongue dipped back in her mouth and she straightened up, saying with no small satisfaction, "There. All done."

He thanked her gravely, his heart starting to beat faster now that wash time had come. She took her time, rolling the soft soap around on her hands, declining the washcloth he held out. Her hands moved over him so surely, so sweetly, that he dropped his head back to the edge of the tub and let her do whatever she wanted. His eager penis poked through the veil of water and she giggled. He tried ducking it back underneath, but it would have none of that, poking insistently above the waterline. "To hell with it," he said finally, "get in here, would you?"

She looked startled. "In the tub with you?"

"Do you mind?" he asked, and she shook her head, fingers already moving to the ties of her dress. "Need help?" he offered, but she declined with a smile, her nimble fingers already pulling the dress from her shoulders. Creamy shoulders descended to round breasts, the rosy nipples already standing up. Her waist dipped into a perfect navel, then her hips flared, protecting a lush triangle of very blonde hair. Naked, she looked years older, for which Methos was grateful. She stepped into the tub, settling onto her knees before him.

"You'll get your hair wet," he said, transfixed by the wet nymph suddenly so close. With a quick twist, she tucked her long hair up into the big bow, creating a serviceable, if not quite fashionable new 'do. In the confines of the tub, he could smell the perfume on her and it felt so much like a brand that his face hardened. Fumbling around for the soap, he brought it up to her, saying, "Let's wash off the perfume, all right?"

Sally tilted her head to one side and said, "Will you do it for me?"

She learned quick, he thought, and he brought his hands to her body, the slippery soap slicking his fingers so they skated across her skin, sliding into hills and valleys. He took his time, learning her body, the places that made her breath catch, the one soft spot on the side of her waist that brought a startled gasp when he touched it. He pulled her to sit on his lap, raising his knees so she sank into the cradle of his hips, her white legs straddling him in the tub. Her eyes slid closed when he wrapped his hands around her hips, her mouth just open as she responded with slight movements of her hands and hips, and small mewing sounds.

He sent one soapy finger under the water and between her legs, and he very, very gently touched the tiny button at the top of her sex. She jumped at that, eyes opening to focus on him. He touched her again, not sliding into her, just grazing that sensitive point over and over. She put her hands on his shoulders, breathing hard. "What are you doing?" she whispered, reflexively rocking against his finger.

"Don't you know how to pleasure yourself?" he asked, leaning forward to taste her collarbone. She laughed and he felt it on his lips.

"Not like this, I don't" she said, nudging herself more firmly against him.

Methos took his hand away, soothing her when she protested. He took one of her hands from his shoulder and brought it under the water. "Just here, you feel that?" he asked, their hands in the warm water finding the spot together. He placed her finger just where it needed to be, and said, "You try it, do whatever feels best." She kept still for a minute, a wild flush flowing into her cheeks, then she moved tentatively. Her thighs clenched on his and she dropped her head to his shoulder. Her finger moved again, then another joined it, and she stroked first, then circled, all the while leaning harder on Methos' shoulder. He could feel her pulse quicken and she panted softly, her fingers moving faster and faster. Her thighs gripped him tighter and tighter, and finally Methos put his hand over hers, sliding two fingers deep inside her, feeling the channel clench hotly around his fingers as she shuddered in the throes of her self-induced climax.

Her head lolled against him, and she absently licked the skin below his ear. He waited for her to recover. Finally, she raised her head, her beautiful face soft and radiant. "I didn't know about that," she said, a little shyly. "Do all doctors know how to do that?"

"I don't know," he answered. "At my age, you've learned a few tricks."

She slipped her hand under the water again, but this time she grasped his hard penis, and he felt her grip from head to toe. He put his hands on her waist and lifted her, holding her so the tip of his erection just breached her. Her climax had left her open and pliable, slick with heat, and he pushed the heavy tip inside. She took a deep breath and pushed herself down, taking in a little at a time until she'd taken it all, every throbbing, aching inch. It felt like he'd come out her mouth, she was so small and he was so big. He could see the outline of his length inside her bulging the smooth skin of her belly, the sight of it unbelievably arousing. Neither could focus, so they closed their eyes and let the sensation wash over them. She was so light that he could literally lift her into the rhythm he wanted, and she let him, a malleable figure he molded to his hunger.

He tried not to make the thrusts so heavy, tried to be conscious of her size, but she felt so good, and she moaned so sweetly when he penetrated in as far as he could, that he lost control. He drove up into her, holding her tightly around the waist, bringing her down on him as he thrust up, feeling her scalding his cock, feeling his sac tighten and his arms start to shake. He felt the tip of his penis swell and he thrust in again, feeling he might split her and not caring, just wanting that tight feeling to never stop. She slid her arms around his neck, forcing herself closer, forcing him in deeper, and he came furiously, his cock jerking inside her, pumping and pumping and pumping. He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tight, loving the feel of her against his skin, loving being inside her, the clean smell of her, the silky feel inside, her moisture and his blending, smoother and hotter than the water.

Sated, he drew her head down to his chest, stretching her legs out until she lay full length on top of him. The movement shifted his still-hard penis inside her and she shimmied on him, stretching the sensation out. He stroked her wet hair, the sodden bow under his fingers finally making him open his eyes. They'd doused the room. It looked like half the bath water had ended up on the floor, or the walls. Some even dripped off the coverlet on the bed. He sighed. Kristin would have his head if he ruined her lovely furniture, he thought, but couldn't bring himself to care.

Sally finally roused herself and knelt up in the tub. She had a rosy glow all over now, and her smile was like sunshine. She didn't look like a whore. Methos studied her. "You don't look like a Sally," he said, and she gave him a surprised look.

"My name's really Sara," she said. "She said 'Sally' was better."

"I like Sara," he said, and hoped she would hear what he meant. She was a breath of fresh air. He hadn't expected this when he made the decision to visit The Open Rose tonight. A coupling with Kristin, barbaric and bruising, their usual fare, was more what he'd imagined. Not this. Not a girl who made him feel clean inside and out.

The shimmering of Kristin's presence, which had floated in and out of range all night, now intensified, became a true buzz in his head and on his skin. The water had cooled and now felt clammy. He could see strands of semen floating on the surface. The magic left as if her signature had brushed it aside. A knock sounded on the door. He looked at Sara, who crossed her arms over her breasts at the sound. He tried to smile reassuringly at her, but he couldn't retrieve the earlier closeness. "Just a minute," he shouted, motioning Sara out of the tub. Together, they toweled her off and tossed her back in her dress. No way to hide the wet hair, but at least she wouldn't be quite so startlingly exposed. Methos tugged on his pants, slipping the buttons through the holes as he went to the door and opened it.

"Hello, Kristin," he said, leaning against the door jamb, shielding Sara.

"Benjamin, my dear," she purred, taking in the room with an experienced eye. "I'm so disappointed you didn't wait for me."

Methos took her arm and led her outside, closing the door behind him.

"You couldn't wait for me?" she repeated silkily, her nostrils flaring as she took in his scent. "I didn't know you were coming. I had business I couldn't get out of," she said.

"Or is that off of, Kristin?" Methos asked dryly, and she pouted.

"I'm surprised you chose Sally," she said, smoothing his disheveled hair. "She's so inexperienced for a man like you."

Danger, his well-honed instincts said. They didn't have a relationship where jealousy should be a problem, but they were the same kind, and sometimes the same rules didn't apply. "Just testing out the new merchandise," he said calmly, mentally asking forgiveness from the lovely Sara. "You certainly know how to pick them."

Kristin preened a little at the compliment. "I trust she was …satisfactory."

Methos heard what she didn't say. "I really came for a bath and a shave. You have the fastest hot water anywhere in New Orleans. And the biggest bathtubs."

She smiled at that, tracing her fingernails across his damp chest. She touched one of his nipples and it responded, tightening against the tip of her finger. She lingered there, circling it, and he felt his penis swell against his will. "I'm not sure Sally was able to satisfy you," she murmured, stretching her other hand along the front of his trousers. "Looks like we'll get our time together after all."

Conniving old bitch, he thought as he let himself be led to the Red Room, where Kristin held court. I hope she changed the sheets, he thought sourly. But another quick tumble was a minor price to pay for keeping Sara out of her immediate line of fire, he thought, sending another mental apology to the living doll he had left dripping down the hall.


Not just once, but twice, and nothing quick about it, as it turned out. Smothered in the rose scent he'd so carefully washed off Sara, Methos took Kristin with all the force he could muster, just the way she liked it, with none of the tenderness he'd offered his first lover of the night. The first time he held her up against the door, with her skirts lifted and his trousers pushed down, her face pressed to the panels while she rubbed her bottom back against him. Kristin liked it that way, rough and frantic, his cock lifting her to her toes and pummeling her. As hot and tight as he remembered, she urged him on with deep groans and curse words and he slammed into orgasm so hard he lost his grip on her hips and they both ended up smashed against the door.

The second time they managed to shed their clothes and maneuver to the red-velvet bed. They bruised and bit their way to bliss, sweaty and breathless, wrecking her bed for the second time in an hour. Kristin held him with the strength of a man, her thighs like a vice around his back, her mouth strong and dark against him. He held his control to the very last moment, as always forcing her climax before he allowed his own, wary of her even now, when he was inside her, even here, with her hot walls clutching him. He didn't trust her. When at last she shuddered under him, he let go, sinking in deep and spasming until he was spent. He ached afterward, his balls sore from use, his cock raw.

"You do that so well," she said throatily, scratching his back until he thrust one last time inside her, the last dregs dragged from him. Methos waited for his breath to come back before answering her, annoyed at himself for caving in to the dark seduction she offered. He rolled away from her to lie on his back, dislodging from her with a jerk. His own reflection gazed back at him from the ceiling, a mirror the same size as the bed. It always startled him. He thought Kristin probably peaked as much from watching her own face as anything else. His long body bore black and blue marks, with streaky red scratches for contrast. They all healed as he watched, angry red marks fading, purple bruises smoothing to yellow, then gray before disappearing completely, leaving his unmarked skin pure again. He cupped his sore testicles, rubbing them gently, encouraging the healing to hasten. Instinctively, his poor tired cock rallied again, twitching lightly on his belly as it tried once again to revive. He patted it absently, hoping the nascent erection would die a natural death.

Methos sighed. What a strange night, going from halo to hellhole, and finding that distance to be only two rooms. Despite the wild swings, he had to admit his body felt better than it had in weeks. Perhaps the one-two combination of innocence and sin was just what he'd needed. A little something for everyone, he thought, and wondered why it left a bitter taste in his mouth. Methos accepted the darker parts of his nature, having learned the hard way the only other option led to madness. But having them so gloriously on display still made him a bit queasy.

He remembered a night, early on in his entanglement with Kristin, when she'd managed to zero in on his weakness like a bullet sinking into bone …He was sure he'd come in like always, Rose whisking him up the back stairs as usual, by-passing the noise of the parlor, but he didn't really remember. The Red Room held its usual array of lit candles and roses, but the bed already cradled two golden bodies, undulating on the cover, limbs tangled. Kristin turned her head towards him as he stepped into the room, and she smiled languorously at him, reaching out a bare arm to him. "Benjamin, you're just in time," she said, and the man in her arms turned to look at him.

Methos felt his stomach muscles ripple, blood heating his groin, as he held the man's steady gaze. Caught in that delicious moment just after achieving manhood, he looked like an artist's model—broad shouldered, narrow hipped, long of leg and torso, with tight curly dark hair and strange golden eyes. One of the French Acadians who settled the area, he looked like. He had one more outstanding feature—an extremely long, but not terribly wide penis, one that looked as if it had been specifically designed to drill into the heat of a man. In French, Kristin said, "This is Louis. I thought you might like him."

Methos stepped further into the room, discarding his clothes. "You fuck me so beautifully, I wondered how long it had been since someone returned the favor," Kristin said in English, her nimble hands already oiling Louis' extraordinary cock. Methos sank between them, his pale flesh contrasting with their tawny tones like cream poured into hot, sweet tea.

Shaking off the memory now, Methos looked into the mirror again, seeing the image of three dissolve into the present two. Kristin caught his eye in the reflection. Kristin. Full-blown in her beauty like the roses that were her trademark, she wasn't young when she encountered Immortality. A lush face atop a voluptuous body, she held herself with both an air of refinement and the earthy recognition of her appeal. She put her arms to the side, her nipples still hard, her pubic hair glistening, a living breathing testament to the power of sex. "You have to admit it, Benjamin, we're good together."

Methos closed his eyes. He and Kristin had circled each other like cats for weeks before they finally got down to it. In the laissez faire world of early 19th century New Orleans, only the most blatant lawbreakers were arrested. This was a town, after all, where slaves could be killed on the street and no one would do anything more than duck. But still, for a respected doctor to visit a whorehouse? He wouldn't have gone at all, had he not been walking late one night, and sensed her presence. Usually, another Immortal's presence would have sent him packing, but he liked New Orleans, its rhythms and pace suited him. Besides, he'd had three female patients ready to drop babies; he couldn't just leave.

So he'd surreptitiously scouted out the place, finally pinpointing the Immortal as the auburn-haired beauty tearing a strip off the kitchen help with her tongue. She stopped abruptly at feeling his signature, and turned to him, the strong planes of her face slipping from shock to a careful polite mask when she saw him. He gave her credit for approaching him, for not hiding, for not challenging him. They'd appraised each other over a glass of whiskey and talked, showing their public faces, only slowly revealing more. After two weeks of this, she'd finally taken him to bed, ridden him hard and come back for more the next day. Cautious to the point of paranoia, Methos always held himself back, coming to her only when need overwhelmed reason, or when the desire for company overtook his customary restraint.

He'd developed a live and let live attitude over the millennia, and he'd seen no reason to change that when it came to Kristin. He knew she'd harassed Rose and Cyrus into selling The Open Rose, he knew she doctored the playing cards, watered the drinks and kept a blackmail file on every customer who walked in the door. She was a woman living in a man's world, and he admired her ability to bend it to her own satisfaction. She didn't mistreat her girls, she didn't let the men mistreat her girls, and Methos could see no harm done on either side. Men had itches and the women scratched them. Judging by Sara's naive delight in her climax earlier in the night, they didn't always enjoy the scratching, but then the world was rarely perfect.

"We're good at this, Kristin, but I can only take this in small doses," he finally replied, wondering what the chances were of seeing Sara again later in the week.

Her face closed a little and she turned away from him. In the mirror, he could see her long flanks, her jutting breasts, the tangle of auburn hair spread across the pillow. "Please don't tell me you prefer that simpleton," she choked.

Shit. Methos made a face at himself in the mirror, then turned on his side, sliding a hand beneath her arm to cup her breast, manipulating the nipple between his thumb and index finger. It rose to meet him, hard as a pebble. "Come on, Kristin, she's a child. You, my dear, are all woman." He hoped she didn't think he sounded as stupid as he thought he did. You lie as a matter of course, and that's the best you can do? he badgered himself.

She forgave him, turning into his arms and snuggling against his cheek. "I'm glad you know that, Benjamin," she said, nibbling on the tendon at the side of his neck. Another hour passed before he could gracefully leave. Someone had put the rest of his clothes on the landing and he dressed quickly. He glanced into the parlor for Sara, but Rose just shook her head and pointed upstairs. Methos didn't like the thought of her servicing Customer #2, or #3, or #4, but she was, after all, a whore, and bedding strangers was her job. A quixotic piece of him hoped he was her only bath and shave of the evening.


About a week later, just as Methos put the final stitches in a gash on the arm of a dock worker, Cyrus stumbled into the office. "Doc, we need you up to the house," he said, badly out of breath and trembling on his bad hip and worse foot.

"Sit down, Cyrus, I'll be right with you," Methos said, urging his fingers to finish quickly. He bandaged the gash and sent the man on his way, accepting a length of silk ribbon as payment. He tucked the ribbon in his pocket, thinking Sara might like it. "What's happened," he said as he went to the basin to wash his hands.

"It's young Miss Sally," Cyrus said, and Methos' blood stopped flowing in his veins. He wheeled on the old man. "What happened?" he asked, gathering bandages and laudanum and his stitching kit.

"She says she fell, but I think one of the gentlemen must have hurt her," he said, his mouth working.

"Hurt her where, Cyrus. Is she bleeding?" Methos asked, struggling not to let Death overtake his usual calm self. He heard the rage in the deepening of his voice, in the slowed cadence. He took a deep breath, trying to slow his heartbeat.

"No sir, not there, sir, not that kind of hurt," Cyrus said hastily and Methos sagged in relief. Not raped. Not aborting. Virtually anything else, he could probably handle. "Here," Cyrus said, gesturing to his side. "She's in a lot of pain, but she won't say so."

Methos finished packing his house-call bag and helped Cyrus to his feet. "You go on, sir, I'm awful slow," Cyrus said, and Methos thanked him before heading off to The Open Rose at a jog. Again, he skirted the front entrance, went around the back and opened the door cautiously. He didn't feel Kristin at all. Rose came to see who'd come in uninvited and he greeted her. "You've come to see Miss Sally?" she asked in a stage whisper. He nodded and she took his hand, drawing him into the kitchen.

Sara sat too still at the kitchen table, breathing shallowly. Her face was white, even her lips bled of color. She wore a plain blue dress and she'd tucked her hair under a loose bonnet like the maids wore for cleaning. And still she was beautiful. She looked up as Methos entered, and her fragile composure cracked. She made no sound at all, but twin tears dripped down her cheeks and into her mouth.

"Sara, it's all right," he soothed, going to crouch beside her, taking one hand in his. A fast pulse, but strong and steady, and she didn't have a fever. At least the bastard hadn't hit her face, Methos thought, as he wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Can you tell me where it hurts?" he asked softly and she nodded, pointing to her left side. Very carefully, he probed until he found the break. Two ribs broken and another probably cracked. She was lucky she hadn't punctured a lung. He gently opened her dress and wrapped a tight binding around her chest, so tight she squeaked. He smiled down at her, saying, "Now it's tight enough. I'll come back to see how you're doing tomorrow and we'll teach Rose how to truss you up like a Thanksgiving turkey," he said. A faint tinge of color came back to her face and she managed to smile at him.

Once he'd done what he could for her physically, he sat down at the table, gathering her hand back in his. "Sara, you have to tell me what happened," he insisted.

"I fell," she whispered.

"Where?" he asked, knowing she wasn't telling the truth and wondering who she was protecting. A prominent customer, most likely. Well, Kristin could use her little blackmail files to get rid of him, he thought. All they needed was a name.

"I tripped on the stairs," she said, but she wouldn't look at him, and her eyes welled with tears again.

Methos shook his head. "All right, my sweet, don't upset yourself," he said. He'd find out from somewhere—the world of a brothel was mighty small. Maybe the ribbon would cheer her up. "Look, I brought you something," he said, pulling the blue ribbon from his pocket. "It even matches your dress."

She looked at it in horror, as if it were alive, with eight legs, and a sob caught in her throat. She moved as if she'd try to get up and he reached for her, and his hand caught on the maid's bonnet, knocking it askew on her head. She made a terrible sound and his eyes went to her hair. He tugged the bonnet all the way off. Her hair had been chopped, meanly and badly. It hung around her ears in graceless tufts, its golden shine dulled, exposing the tender stalk of her neck. She grabbed at the bonnet, then bent double from the pain the sudden movement caused.

Methos sat, dumbstruck. He knew she hadn't hurt herself in a fall, but the proof knocked the breath out of him. No man would do this, no man would know the hair hurt worse than the ribs. Only a woman would wield such a weapon, and only one woman he knew could have done it. The beautiful, treacherous Kristin.

"I'll kill her," he said under his breath.

Sara took his hand in hers, beseeching him not to say anything. "I don't want you to get in trouble because of me," she said.

"And I can't stand that you're hurt because of me," he replied, stroking her small hand.

"Please, please don't say anything," she pleaded. "I got off lucky. All the girls say so."

Good God. She'd done worse. Methos clenched his jaw, fighting the urge to track her down and take her head. He'd given up fighting in anger. He'd given up fighting for pleasure. Now he only fought for survival, and this wasn't about survival. Still, there had to be some resolution.

Methos ran his hand over the shorn locks, stroking Sara's tense neck. "Get Rose to trim it up for you, Sara. You can start a new fashion," he said. She smiled at him and took the ribbon from his hand.

"For when it grows back," she said and he leaned in to kiss her, realizing it was the first time he'd done so.

He waited on the porch for Kristin to return. "Herself," Rose called her, and Methos thought it was probably the only word that had any meaning for Kristin. He found others coming to mind: Selfish; spoiled; mean.

Her presence crept over him, an irritant on his skin. As soon as she saw his face, she knew, he could see it in her eyes. She took a quick look around, then reached in her coat for her sword.

"Don't bother," he said, standing. "I'm not going to fight you."

"Benjamin, you can't think I had anything to do with what happened, can you? I wouldn't hurt one of my own girls." Damn she was good. That catch in her voice, that pleading look. "When I find out who hurt her, I'll take care of it, I promise."

"Too late, Kristin. I saw the hair," Methos said implacably.

Kristin paled.

"Now we can handle this one of two ways," he said, coming down the steps toward her, the conversational tone at odds with the anger sitting hard in his heart. "One, you can leave. Now, today. Or two, I can call what passes for the law in this town and have you arrested for beating that poor girl."

"I'll blame one of the men," she said quickly.

"I'll tell them you lied."

"And risk your precious reputation? The doctor who patronizes the brothel? That should do wonders for your practice," she said scornfully.

"By all means, let's talk about reputations," Methos said, calmer than ever now that he felt on firm ground. "I am a doctor. You, madam, are a whore. Who do you think they'll believe?" He advanced on her, using his height to his advantage. "Now, do we bring in the gendarme? Or do you get the hell out of New Orleans?"

Kristin in anger wasn't as pretty as Kristin in her other guises. Rage stripped her of her beauty, leaving a petulant, no-longer-young woman with too much ego and not enough care for anyone else.

"Sell The Open Rose back to Cyrus and Rose for what you paid for it, and leave. Tonight." Methos made his voice hard, knowing in his heart of hearts that he had no real leverage he could use against her except her own anger.

She gave way first, flouncing off in a wave of fury and rose-scented perfume. "We haven't seen the last of each other, I promise you that," she snarled, pushing past him.

"I'm sure you're right," he said to her back.


Duncan listened without saying a word, as fascinated by the glimpse into Methos' past as he was horrified at the familiar tale he told. Originality obviously hadn't been one of Kristin's strong suits. Methos' persistence, his edginess, and his ruthlessness over the last few days all made more sense to Duncan after hearing the whole ugly story.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Duncan asked, when he was done.

"Because it had become your fight, not mine. Besides, Kristin was a lesson you needed to learn," Methos said as he bounced down off the counter, then took his cup of coffee over to the window and looked out.

"You're not my teacher, Methos," Duncan said, a hard knot of anger and humiliation lodged in his sternum.

"No, I'm not," Methos replied evenly. "I'm not your keeper, either, though I'm starting to think you need one."

Duncan liked that even less and he strode to the window, took the cup from Methos' hands and dropped it on the sill, sloshing coffee on the brick.

"Let me see if I've got this straight," Duncan said. "You came to watch? You came to make sure I did the job, and to do it yourself if I failed?"

Methos stood up straight, not backing down an inch. "Yes. She'd lost it, MacLeod. She was a danger to all of us. You were in the best position to do something about it."

"And I failed you," Duncan said in a whisper. Methos shook his head and exhaled sharply.

"No, Mac," he said gently, touching Duncan's arm, a friend's gesture again. "It's not about you failing me. It's about your failure to protect yourself. If you won't do that, then it doesn't matter if I'm here or not. What good will you be to Richie, or Amanda, or Joe, if you manage to lose your head because of chivalry," he said, making it sound like a curse word.

"Or you," Duncan added, and Methos' chin went up as he locked eyes with Duncan. Then a slow smile touched his mouth.

"Or me," he conceded.

Duncan covered Methos' hand with his own. "She was the only reason you came?"

Methos swallowed and Duncan watched the motion in his pure throat. Methos hesitated, then said, "No. It was a 'kill two birds' kind of thing."

Duncan grimaced and Methos backpedaled quickly, "Sorry, bad choice of words."

"What was the other reason?" Duncan persisted.

"I wanted to see you," Methos admitted quietly.

"You could have come any time," Duncan said, feeling the last little knots of humiliation and indignation melting away at Methos' confession.

"I wasn't sure," Methos said slowly, and Duncan saw that beyond Adam's tranquillity, beyond Methos' caustic character, lived an uncertain, lonely man.

"Be sure," Duncan said, clasping the older man's hand hard. "I mean it. You're welcome at my door any time," he said. After a minute, he added, "And if last night was a fluke brought on by the Quickening, that's ok, too. We can take this as fast, or as slow, as you like."

Tension that Duncan hadn't noticed eased abruptly in Methos. He sagged a little, and the bones in his face suddenly didn't look quite so sharp. He tugged his hand out from under Duncan's and rubbed it through his hair, ruffling the spiky strands.

"I realize you couldn't tell this from last night's performance, but slow is how I usually like it," he said with a self-deprecating grin.

Duncan felt that grin shimmy from his heart all the way down to his groin. He advanced on his friend, his hands already reaching for the hem of Methos' shirt. "Well, like I said, I've got nothing better to do," he whispered into Methos' neck, and felt the Old Man's arms reach around him.

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