Thanks to my two betas, Tarsh and Genevieve. If the series seems to be getting easier to read, it's because these two are catching my mistakes and inconsistencies before I inflict them on you. They make me think, make me clarify, and encourage me. Thank you both so much!

Please note this is a slash story; that means there is a male/male sexual relationship depicted. If this is not your cup of tea or if you are under 18, please leave now.

Voyagers 5: Sand Against the Wind
by Laura Mason

 

 Richie and Amanda had left the hospital behind them hours ago, the tiny hospital in Josselin where Methos sat vigil over Alexa. The mortal woman was dying, and Methos was in pain over his inability to save her. Or at least, that was part of his pain, Amanda thought, remembering what he'd told her about MacLeod's apparent rejection of Methos' unsavory past.

As Richie drove them toward Paris, Amanda's brain kept searching for some way to help Methos. A way to help Alexa, or to help him over her? No, giving Methos to MacLeod wouldn't work if Duncan was being as stuffy as it seemed. Besides, Duncan was hers. Better if Alexa could somehow live. Then Methos would stay with her, wouldn't he?

As Amanda habitually rubbed the crystal in her pocket, she recalled her conversation with Methos that morning. "I wish we had some magic spell, Adam. If we could only share our immortality with them..." Methos had replied that there was no way to grant immorality to mortals. But was he right?

Amanda sank further into her memories, trying very hard to remember everything Rebecca had told her when she'd finally earned her piece of crystal -- and was sent off on her own, no longer a student. Rebecca had a name for the stone, what was it? Methuselah's stone? That sounded right. Her beloved teacher had said the stone was reputed to grant long life. Because of that, she'd been sharing pieces of it for centuries, giving one crystal as a parting gift to each of her many students.

One of those students, Luther, had killed Rebecca two years ago because of the stone. Luther believed that the crystals, when combined, would confer incredible power and invincibility on the owner. Luther had killed Rebecca and a number of her students in an attempt to gather the crystals for himself. When Amanda's was the last piece he'd needed, he had challenged her to get it. Only to be stopped by Duncan MacLeod.

But what had happened to the pieces Luther recovered? Amanda thought back to that day. After MacLeod's victory, she'd left with him, not even thinking about the crystals. But someone else *had* been watching. Or more accurately, there were probably three Watchers there, recording the fight, no doubt searching the body before disposing of it... Amanda quickly decided on a course of action.

"Richie, would you mind terribly if we don't go to see Duncan just yet? We can share my place for a few days, can't we?" Amanda smiled her most charming smile. "I have something I need to do, nothing serious, but MacLeod can be so stuffy about certain skills of mine..."

*****

Richie Ryan wondered how he'd ever allowed himself to be talked into breaking into the Watcher Headquarters with Amanda to steal some crystal. He didn't even understand why Amanda wanted it; she'd said the crystal was for Alexa. Alexa? She was in a coma, she'd be dead in a few days. What possible use was a hunk of stone?

That morning Amanda had called Adam, telling Richie she had some questions about Adam's employer. Richie knew she meant the Watchers. But Adam wasn't at the hospital, much to their surprise. Amanda had sighed, thought for a moment, and then Richie found himself helping her stalk and capture her Watcher, some kid named Dan. Amanda weaseled information out of the kid about where the Watchers keep things they take from dead immortals. She'd been crying, for heaven's sake, sobbing about her teacher, Rebecca, and what had become of her things. Richie knew by now when Amanda wasn't really crying, but the Watcher hadn't. The guy's eyes had been wide as he'd told her about the museum at Headquarters. Telling *her* where they kept the valuable artifacts? Didn't the Watchers know what Amanda does for a living, for heaven's sake?

So here Richie was, breaking in to steal something Amanda wanted pretty badly, not even sure what it was or why she needed it. As they entered the inner room, both froze and looked about. Presence nearby. Amanda's blade rang as she pulled it free of her coat, but Richie saw who it was and stopped his own drawing motion.

"Adam?" He was shocked to see the man he'd thought was holding vigil beside Alexa here in Paris. What the hell was going on? Adam was scooping some glittering stones from a display case into a bag, and he didn't even pause once he saw them. Nor had he pulled his sword. Then Richie realized Adam wasn't wearing his coat, he couldn't have his sword. The guy who'd repeatedly told him to trust no one was walking around without his weapon?

Then Amanda hissed "Damn it, Methos, I thought you didn't believe in magic?" as she stalked toward the other immortal, still holding her sword though she'd lowered it.

Methos? She was calling Adam Methos? Richie swayed as the tumblers in his head fall into place. This explained so many things, things he felt blind and stupid not to have seen until now. But then the feeling of betrayal overcame all others, and he stepped forward to confront Adam. No, Methos.

At that moment, the doors at the other end of the room burst open and three guys in ski masks tumbled in, firing guns. They all ducked for cover, but Amanda paused to grab the bag out of Methos' hand and was hit, cursing as she fell. Richie looked around from where he crouched behind a desk and decided the window was their best route.

"Amanda. This way." The gunmen were spreading out, if they didn't move soon they'd be trapped.

"Pierson. Move out of the way, give us a clear shot at them." The gunmen knew Methos? Shit, what the hell was going on here?

"Wait..." Adam -- Methos -- tried to stop them, but he was ignored. Amanda dove out the window and Richie followed her, then helped her run toward the car. The heard more shots from behind them. But the grounds were dark with lots of trees, and the two of them made it safely to the car.

As they raced back to Paris, heading for a hotel Amanda named rather than to her apartment, she picked up her portable phone.

"Who are you calling?" Richie asked, glad to note that she'd healed already.

"MacLeod."

"No!" At Amanda's startled look, he continued "I mean, why do we have to get him involved?"

"Because he's probably the only person Adam will listen to. That man has obviously gone off the deep end over Alexa. Hiring goons to help him steal Rebecca's crystals!"

"I noticed they knew him. So you think they were there with Adam?"

"I didn't see his ass getting shot off, did you?" Amanda fumed. "Try to help someone, and just look what happens. Well, I've still got my crystal, and now I've got what Methos grabbed. If he comes looking for us, we'll need Mac for backup."

"Why don't you just tell *Methos* you took it for Alexa?" Amanda's head whirled and she stared at him, her mouth open in horror. "He must trust such an old friend."

"Oh my God. I... Richie..."

"Yeah, it's a secret. I figured it out. And he doesn't know me well enough to trust me. Those last three months while I was watching his back certainly don't mean a damn thing." Richie's bitterness was thick enough to cut. "You know, now that I think about it, I believe the goons were there working with good old Adam."

The rest of the drive was very quiet.

***

MacLeod came to their hotel room, carefully checking for anyone following him. Richie was uncomfortable as soon as he saw MacLeod. He seemed like the old Mac, but then he'd fooled them before. Richie remembered how easily MacLeod had feigned repentance right before killing his friend Sean Burns. Now they were supposed to forget all about the Dark Quickening and everything MacLeod had done? No, Richie would never trust him again. He sat very close to his sword and hurt his neck tracking MacLeod's every move.

MacLeod listened to Amanda's story, then shook his head. "I don't believe Adam brought those men--"

"You can use his real name, I know who he is now." Richie cut in.

"It's not a good habit. You should call him Adam." His teacher responded in that 'I know best' voice that annoyed the piss out of Richie.

Amanda cut in. "I'm surprised to see you taking Methos' side, Duncan. He said you two didn't part on good terms."

"What? The man saved my sanity, Amanda, possibly my soul. How can you think I'd be angry with any of you? The three of you saved my life; I know that." He was pacing and waving his arms, and Richie's eyes followed him warily.

"Adam said you wouldn't even look at him, after he explained that he'd been through a Dark Quickening. He said you left without even talking to--"

"I couldn't say anything! And I couldn't look at him because... After what I did..." MacLeod stopped and turned to Richie, whose eyes were burning into him. "I thought he'd look at me the way you do, Rich. With the same hatred in his eyes."

"Pardon me all to hell, Mac, if it's not ‘forgive and forget' that I think when I see you right now." Richie's face was red with anger.

Amanda stood and went to Richie, placing her hand on his shoulder. "You put us all through hell, Duncan, but we know it wasn't your fault. None of us blame you."

"I blame me." He sat heavily on the sofa.

"Enough of that. If you start brooding we won't get anywhere." Amanda tried to smile at both men and had absolutely no reaction from either one. "What about Methos? Why don't you think he'd hire protection? It's sneaky, devious -- it's just like him."

"I don't believe he'd get mortals involved in this. He could easily steal the crystal alone. Besides, he didn't know what you were planning, Amanda. He wouldn't have been expecting anyone else to break in, so he wouldn't have thought he'd need backup." MacLeod seemed to realize how tense he was, how loudly he'd been arguing. He gave them both a tiny smile, but only Amanda returned it.

"You might be right." Richie grudgingly admitted. He'd been too busy to really see what Methos was doing. Just because Methos had been lying about his name, it didn't mean he was in league with the gunmen.

"Still, they weren't shooting at him, just us," Amanda added.

"We see Methos as such a master planner, we ignore the simple truth. If he'd wanted help, he'd have called you. Not mortals. After all, Amanda, he must know you have a piece of the crystal. He was probably headed for your apartment next."

"Yes, he knew about mine. He was staying with us when Rebecca gave it to me."

"So if he didn't bring in the goons, as you call them," MacLeod said, "he's in serious trouble now."

"Who do you think those guys were?" Amanda asked. Richie remained stubbornly silent, trying to decide how he felt, what he believed.

"Watchers, maybe? They shot at you two, but not Adam. Maybe because they know you're both immortal but think Adam's one of them."

"Still, they're not going to be happy with him since the crystals are gone." Amanda was up and pacing. "If they've been trying to contact us--"

"You were right to come here. It wasn't safe. If they're Watchers, they know how to find you and how to kill us." MacLeod stood. "Let's see if Dawson can find some information." He and Amanda moved to the door, but Richie was still sitting there. His face was dark. "Rich?"

"I think the two of you can do whatever rescuing needs to be done. If any. The Watchers probably gave him a medal; *Adam* is quick on his feet. No doubt he gave them a story about single-handedly trying to save those crystals from us evil immortals."

"But Richie..."

"I'm going home. I don't give a damn what happens to him; he's not my friend."

"What do you mean? Of course he is." Amanda moved next to him, crouching beside his chair. "He helped you with Kristin, you told me that."

"He lied to me. He only came to Seacouver because his lover here was threatened, not to save my head." Richie rose abruptly, knocking Amanda back on her bottom. MacLeod moved to grab his arm, but Richie twisted away, viciously shoving MacLeod into the wall. "Just leave me the fuck alone! Don't you *ever* touch me again!" Richie stormed out of the room and was gone.

MacLeod was still standing where he'd been left, his eyes full of tears. Amanda went to him and put her arms around him. "He's so young, Duncan. He'll understand, someday."

"Why should he? I don't understand how I could have done those things. I can't forget them either."

"You're young, too. You have to forgive yourself, love yourself the same way we all love you, for your own good." She gave him a tender kiss. "But if Methos is in danger, we'd better try to help him. Unless you want to assemble the crystal first, just to see what happens..." Her smile was devilish, and MacLeod actually managed a weak grin in return.

"World domination later, Amanda. Let's go talk to Joe."

***

Dan Geiger and his two men stood over Methos, who was tied in a chair and exhausted. Geiger had a gun in his hand, and Methos knew he should be paying more attention to everything going on around him, looking for weaknesses and a way to escape. But he couldn't shake the depression, the desire to just fall asleep for several hundred years. Then, when he woke up, everything would be over. His tired brain congratulated him for leaving his coat and most of his weaponry locked in the trunk of the car; these renegade Watchers hadn't questioned his gun. A sword would have been hard to explain.

"Clever, you thinking of stealing those crystals, Pierson. But I've been after them a lot longer. That's why I got assigned to Amanda in the first place, when Stern told me she had one of the pieces." He moved around the shabby flat where they'd brought Methos. "Today when she started asking questions, I knew she'd decided to get that power for herself."

"But immortals don't deserve it." Methos turned to look at the other man, Kelly, he thought that was the name. Evidently one of Horton's scholars. "They'll use the power to enslave us all. That's why we have to kill them."

Geiger's face was amused. "Go grab me a beer. Take Pat with you." When the two were gone, he turned to Methos. "Pierson, you're a lot smarter than the others. Join me, work with me. Once we get those crystals, we'll become immortals ourselves."

"I never read that you could share the stone's power, Daniel."

"You're friendly with Joe Dawson. He can lead us to MacLeod, to Amanda. We'll get the stones and I'll use my power to help you get what you want." Geiger's voice changed to a harsh hiss. "Or you can die tonight."

"I won't betray my friends."

"Friends! As if immortals care about us."

"Amanda's long gone anyway, you'll never have the crystals."

"You want them; you were there touching them! You'll only get them if you join me." Geiger grabbed Methos' chin and forced him to look up. "Admit it, you're just like me. But I have the upper hand now."

"I'm nothing like you and your band of psychopaths."

Geiger delivered a vicious backhand across Methos' face with his free hand. "You believe they're your friends. We'll see if that's true." Geiger left the room.

Methos hoped that they would kill him soon, before they noticed how quickly he healed, and dump his body somewhere. Sure, he'd be out of the Watchers, but that would happen soon anyway. He'd be free to find a way back to Alexa, be with her... He'd failed her so miserably all along, it wasn't surprising that this last effort had failed as well. If she died while he'd left her alone...

He tried to slip his hand out of the ropes holding it against the chair, but he didn't even have the energy to mount a real struggle. Breaking out, even killing these men wouldn't accomplish anything. There was no way to track down Amanda, and she had the crystals...

Amanda. Why on earth, after all this time, had she decided to steal them? Did the same conversation that had given him the idea suddenly make her power-hungry? He hoped they had gotten away cleanly. He'd trust Amanda or even Ryan being all-powerful over someone like Geiger. Power. Such an addictive thing. He knew the seductive pull of it, but he never wanted to give in to it again.

The two men, Kelly and Pat, came back in the room and they snapped an instant photo of him. Then Methos was dragged to his feet and brought outside to a waiting car. Good, looked like things would be over soon.

*****

Joe Dawson swore as he handed the letter and Polaroid to MacLeod the next morning . "This was just delivered by a messenger service half an hour ago. They have him, and they want to trade the crystals -- all of them, including Amanda's -- for his life. Otherwise they'll kill him."

"Joe, do they know Adam's one of us?" Amanda wasn't willing to give them Rebecca's crystal, not to some mortal thugs. It would be different to give it to Alexa. She moved next to MacLeod to read over his shoulder.

"They don't say. Either way, though, they'll know how to kill him once they find out," Joe replied, moving aimlessly around his living room.

"He looks pretty good, really," Amanda tried to reassure both men. "Duncan, I don't think they've found out he's one of us. So we can let them kill him, and then he'll get away."

"Amanda, if you're wrong he'll be dead. Permanently dead," MacLeod objected.

"If we don't take the crystals to Alexa soon, she'll be permanently dead, too," Amanda retorted. "Methos would want us to save her."

"Damn it." MacLeod grabbed her purse from the chair where she'd left it and dumped the contents on the table. "There is nothing special about this crystal. The only magic in it was Rebecca's love for her students." He emptied the bag of crystals, sat down and began fitting the pieces together rapidly. Amanda and Joe stood watching as he worked at it. After several minutes, he looked up at her. "Go on, add yours."

Amanda pulled the stone from around her neck. "You sure?" At his nod, after a glance at Joe's face, she removed the leather thong from her crystal and crouched down. She carefully fitted her piece of the stone into the others. Then she rose, and MacLeod stood as well. All three of them stood there in the quiet room, looking at the stone. Nothing happened. "Does anyone feel anything?"

Joe snorted. "Just silly." He looked down, then back up with sad eyes. "Damn. I was really hoping there would be something. A miracle."

"Oh, Joe. We all wanted that." Amanda moved to hug him. "I'm sorry."

"Me too, Joe." MacLeod sat down again and stuffed the crystal back into its bag. "It's not that I don't want to help Alexa, I just don't believe there's anything we can do." He waved the bag of stones, "This isn't the answer."

"You can't blame us for trying."

"I don't blame either of you, Amanda. It was a wonderful thought, a sweet gesture. If all your robberies were for such a good cause, I'd probably be your partner." MacLeod carefully put the bag of crystals back into her purse, along with all the rest of the contents he'd dumped out. "And I don't blame Methos; I know what it's like to watch someone you love slipping away while you're helpless." For a moment MacLeod closed his eyes, remembering a dark underground station, the oppressive air, feeling his lungs struggling and watching... Then he shook himself back to the present. "We've got a trade to make now. Joe, call the number they left you."

"It's Adam's phone," the Watcher informed them as he dialed.

"You should leave town, Joe. If anything goes wrong, if any Watchers turn up dead, we don't want you involved." MacLeod took the phone from Joe's hand as the number started to ring.

"And Alexa is alone," Amanda reminded them. Joe nodded and moved to pack for a trip to Josselin's hospital while MacLeod negotiated with the renegade Watchers.

***

Methos was dreaming again, and he knew it was a dream. A nightmare, but he couldn't wake up. He tossed on the cot, his hands tied behind his back but otherwise unrestrained.

They'd been giving him something ever since he'd broken Pat's nose trying to escape. He thought they were putting the drugs in his water. They were surprisingly effective and a part of him wondered what drug it was. He was confused, it was hard to concentrate or even stay awake. The drugs also prevented him from keeping the food they gave him in his stomach. Since neither Kelly nor Pat were happy about having to clean up after him, they'd stopped feeding him.

He was in a courtroom of some kind, and MacLeod was there, with Dawson at his side. Accusing him, pointing at him. He was in the docket, on fire, in agony. But they just kept adding to the punishment, and he knew he deserved it. Then Alexa appeared, with a glass of water, holding it out to him. But the heat of his pyre melted her, she wailed and transformed into Cassandra's angry face before puddling at his feet. Three shadowy figures replaced her, familiar even though it had been such a long time. They didn't bring him water, they brought him temptation. Whispers in his ears, ‘join us and live.' ‘Whatever you want, you can take.' ‘Kill them all.' Then MacLeod came forward, drawing his sword. Methos thought Mac would fight the Horsemen, but they stood aside and smiled at the Highlander, and he grinned at them. The MacLeod came very close to him, unaffected by the fire around him, and Methos thought MacLeod would caress him. Instead, MacLeod hit him, and suddenly they were in the church outside Le Havre again. MacLeod raised his sword at swung at Methos' neck.

His scream woke him, finally, and he heard the guard's laughter outside. "Yell all you want, Pierson. No one's coming, they're going to let you die." The door opened and Kelly came in, holding a bottle of water. "Want some of this?"

He couldn't speak, but he nodded. His arms were numb from the position they'd tied him in, but if the man came close enough maybe he could kick at him.

"What will you give me for it? Do you have anything I want?" He leered at Methos, then looked around before closing the door. He smiled and reached for the zipper of his pants. "Be useful and I'll let you have a drink."

Methos tried to swing his legs and knock Kelly over, but he was too weak to be effective. His struggle seemed to amuse Kelly, who hit him for a while, half-heartedly, then pushed him to the floor and snarled "Try anything else and I'll kill you right now." He froze; he couldn't die and revive in front of this lunatic.

Kelly taunted him, holding the water above him, and Methos wondered why they were still holding him. Amanda had to be on another continent by now and MacLeod hated his guts. Of course Geiger and friends were pissed off. They'd wanted to exchange him for the crystals, but he had no value to anyone. Except a dying girl. Methos hoped that Alexa would understand, that somehow she'd heard him when he explained why he was going to Paris. Or that death would give her insight, so she'd forgive him.

The guard laughed and finally poured the water on his face, mocking his efforts to catch the liquid in his mouth. Methos struggled to drink, even though he could taste that the water was doctored. Why didn't they just kill him? A nice clean bullet instead of this...

Dan Geiger entered the room at that moment. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Just entertaining the prisoner."

"Get out. I need to think." Geiger paced the small room as Kelly lifted Methos and threw him back on the cot. Then Kelly left, and Methos felt his head swimming. His tired brain struggled to remain alert, to watch Geiger. But then he was claimed by his dreams and found himself back with Rebecca, sitting by the brook that ran across a corner of her property.

She wore the cobalt cloak he'd brought her, raided from a caravan years before. She was so beautiful, so precious to him with the sunlight in her curls. Their times together remained unmarred by ugliness. He was so grateful that Cassandra had never discovered this retreat, never been able to poison their life together. He moved to kiss her, and Rebecca's cool hands stroked his hot face. He realized the rest of his body shook with the cold. Why were they out here on such a cold day? He needed his cloak, his furs.

"Beloved, I have a secret." Her beautiful smile glowed in the sunshine. "I know you will hold it for me." He struggled to touch her, but she seemed to be pulling away from him. Then he realized Cassandra was there after all, whispering in Rebecca's ear. Horror dawned and grew in the lovely eyes that had looked at him so trustingly. "Matthew..."

"Pierson!" A slap from Geiger brought him back to the dank room where he lay.

"You are so out of it," Geiger muttered. "Kelly!" He turned toward the door and shouted. "No more drugs, damn it. He looks like shit."

Geiger paced again, glad Pierson's whimpers had stopped. He wanted him harmless, not dead. Not yet, anyway. MacLeod had called and accepted the trade -- Pierson's life for the crystals. But Geiger's nerve had failed, and he'd cut off the call so he could think it through.

Now he had a plan and was ready to contact MacLeod again. He hoped that two days of waiting for his call had unnerved the immortals. That had been part of his reason for the delay, though Geiger had to admit to himself that fear was another part of it. Fear, and wanting a good plan. Today he'd found the ideal place to conduct his business with Amanda. Isolated enough, yet close to a main highway. Now he was ready.

He didn't just envy immortals -- he feared and hated them. MacLeod had been killing people for centuries, he was trained in all kinds of deadly disciplines. Amanda was even worse, older and equally deadly, the bitch. He wanted those crystals, he *deserved* those crystals. But he couldn't trust the idiots working with him to keep him safe until he'd had the chance to absorb their power.

His only bargaining chip was Pierson who, while a little worse for wear, could be the hostage for his safety. The others were expendable. But Geiger would live, live forever like one of them. And Pierson was the best chance he had. He stormed out of the room to contact MacLeod and Amanda.

***

Amanda waited nervously at the end of the bridge, the crystals in her hand. At four in the morning the light was poor, but she could see the Watcher holding a gun to Methos' head. *Not a sword, that's a good sign.* The spokesman -- her Watcher, Dan Geiger -- carried a sword as well as a gun.

Geiger sent one of his men to look at the crystals as she held them out in front of her, but Amanda ignored the mortal and kept watching Methos intently. He must have been drugged, because he didn't seem to know where he was. He didn't even seem to see her. *Scratch that plan,* she thought.

"Okay." the man shouted back to his friends, and Geiger shot him. The man spun into Amanda, almost knocking the crystals out of her hands. The man behind Geiger, the one holding Methos, laughed. Amanda couldn't believe Geiger was stupid enough to deliberately kill one of his own men. He must feel very secure while holding a gun, because he'd just improved the odds for her and MacLeod.

"Kelly, give Pierson to me," Geiger ordered. "You go fetch our prize."

"Wait." Amanda shouted. "Bring Adam here! I won't give up the stone without him."

"Then you'll both die and we'll take it anyway," Geiger snarled. "I'm not the fool I played for you and that twerp, Amanda. We know how to kill you, permanently. Now give us the crystals." Amanda dropped her eyes and did as instructed. They didn't seem to know ‘Adam' was immortal. Maybe they weren't smart enough to realize that MacLeod was nearby, either. There were only two of them now, and even if Methos was incapable of fighting, the odds were good.

Even as she thought it, Methos suddenly came to life, shoving Geiger off balance and grabbing for the sword he held so inexpertly. Kelly turned at Geiger's yell, and Amanda kicked him down even as she heard the shots and saw Methos drop. Geiger turned to her, wild-eyed and now holding the gun with both hands.

"Okay, that was his own fault. I would have let him go if he hadn't..." Geiger gasped for air, trying not to panic. Kelly and Amanda had seen him murder two men now, and he wouldn't risk having witnesses. He stared at them and as Kelly began to rise, he opened fire, raking both their bodies with bullets. He stopped, retrieved his sword, and started forward, intending to behead Amanda. Then he saw movement at the far end of the bridge, and he realized his worst nightmare was coming true -- Duncan MacLeod was here after all.

"Drop the gun, Geiger, or I'll shoot. And stay away from Amanda." MacLeod strode toward him, looking furious, and Geiger opened fire even as MacLeod dodged. Geiger managed to hit him in the chest, noting that MacLeod hadn't even raised his own weapon. Good. MacLeod didn't want to kill Geiger, then. At least, not yet. That was a weakness. Now both immortals should be dead long enough for him to take their heads and get away.

Geiger gathered up the crystals and quickly shoved them in his pocket, then moved to Amanda again. A hand on his shoulder nearly gave him a heart attack, and he turned, dropping the sword again. Pierson stood there, bloody but very much alive.

"You're one of them." Geiger pulled his gun and raised it. "Oh my God, you're one of them."

"Daniel, I can't let you kill Amanda. Just put down the crystals and leave." Methos held his hands out, showing he was unarmed, knowing there were many ways to kill Geiger without a weapon. Though the sword on the pavement was calling to him.

Geiger was shaking. Another immortal. Was this his first death, or had he been masquerading as a mortal among the Watchers for years? Could this sorry-looking man be just as deadly as the two temporarily dead immortals behind him?

Geiger heard a gasp for air and he killed Pierson again without a second thought. When he had the sword at Pierson's neck, he felt ready to face Amanda, who was on her feet giving him a look that promised pain and agony if she got her hands on him.

"Just stay back or he dies -- permanently this time." Geiger moved toward the car. "I'm leaving now, and you will let me go."

"Geiger... Let Adam go. Take the crystals; just let him go." Amanda was furious but tried to sooth the terrified mortal. Soothe him first, then break his damn neck. Duncan would kill her if Geiger took Methos, knowing he was immortal. She wished MacLeod would revive; she could use some backup.

Geiger ignored her and kept moving toward the car. Then Amanda saw MacLeod climbing up to the pavement behind them. He'd worked his way along the catwalk under the bridge surface to sneak up on Geiger. But Geiger was watching Amanda intently and saw her eyes tracking MacLeod. He whirled and fired at the immortal, who went over the edge into the water. Amanda rushed forward, but the Watcher still had Methos.

"Just back off, Amanda," Geiger growled, holding Methos' body close to his own, sword angled at his neck.

Methos had revived again and his eyes were intense as he stared at Amanda, but she couldn't read what he wanted. Then she saw him look to her feet again, to the gun a few steps away. She looked at him in panic, and then Methos moved against Geiger, essentially slitting his own throat to distract the man. Methos elbowed Geiger as he moved, and Amanda prayed that the mortal wasn't holding the sword steadily enough to behead him as she expertly retrieved the gun.

Geiger swore, almost dropping the sword as Methos' dead weight pulled them both to the pavement. He firmed his grasp on it and started to pull his gun when Amanda opened fire with the semi-automatic Kelly had held. Geiger's body spun around and he crumpled to the ground, leaving her standing among the dead.

Now to make sure Methos would revive. Amanda moved to examine his neck and was glad to see it intact despite the slowly healing wound. She didn't try to move him, neck cuts were tricky. Thankfully, the cut wasn't as deep as she'd feared though he'd lost enough blood to die. Hopefully there wouldn't be permanent damage.

Bleeding to death meant a slow revival. Duncan was in the river, no doubt miles downstream by now. Joe was with Alexa. Richie was long gone, probably back in the States. That left her in the unenviable position of lone clean-up woman, and there wasn't much time before the city woke up and noticed this mess. Amanda rolled the three mortal bodies to the bridge's edge, stopping only long enough to retrieve her crystal from Geiger's pocket. One by one she pushed them into the water. Then she started throwing their weapons into the water as well. As the last one disappeared, she heard a gasp behind her.

"Methos! Glad you're back. We need to go look for Duncan..."

"He's dead? Geiger is dead?" Methos seemed dazed, and Amanda again wondered if they'd been drugging him. His voice sounded horrible.

"Don't talk. Let yourself heal. Yes, they're all dead. Duncan, on the other hand, should be awake, cold and muddy right now. Let's get rid of Geiger's car and go find him."

Methos stood there, not moving. Then he looked around frantically. "Where are the crystals?" He looked to Amanda expectantly. "You took them back."

"No, I didn't bother..."

"What?"

"Methos, honey, Duncan and I put the crystals together. Joe was there. Nothing happened."

"Amanda, where are they?" Methos looked really bad, she decided. He was the smartest man she knew and he was seriously confused. The damn Watchers must have mistreated him terribly.

"I threw the bodies in the river. Geiger had the crystals. All except mine."

"No!" Methos grabbed her arms. "You threw them in the river?" Amanda could only nod as he sank to the road, shaking his head in denial.

"Why do you want them? For Alexa?" Amanda sank down beside him. "They can't save her, they didn't do anything."

"Amanda, Amanda... Of course they didn't do anything." Methos' eyes were full of tears and his face was old with sorrow as he choked out the words. "You didn't have the cornerstone."

"What?" Amanda squeaked, outrage battling chagrin in her mind. She'd thrown them all away...

"The final piece is hidden, but I know where to find it. Rebecca showed me years ago." He bent over with a sob. "She should have known that I'd only fuck up anything entrusted to me." He dropped to his knees, and then to all fours, shaking uncontrollably.

And there was silence on the bridge as the sun climbed in the sky and Amanda stood over Methos' prone figure and he mourned.

*****

Amanda rolled over in bed, amazed that the early-rising Highlander wasn't up and off on his morning jog. He was still next to her, asleep. Drowning and getting shot a few times really took it out of him. She smiled and snuggled closer to him, glad he didn't blame her for anything that had happened yesterday.

Methos was gone, rushing back to Alexa's side, and she hoped Joe would be a comfort to him. She felt that her presence only tormented him, reminding him of his lost chance with the stone. Damn Rebecca for not telling anyone else about the cornerstone. Luther had killed so many for those useless pieces of crystal. Rebecca had lost her own life, Amanda had nearly died -- for nothing. Without Methos' knowledge, the crystals were worthless.

And damn Amanda herself for saying the words that reminded Methos of the stone at the hospital, for giving him the false hope that had led him away from Alexa and into such horrible despair.

Amanda had been completely incapable of helping the Old Man once he'd succumbed to his grief. If Duncan hadn't dragged himself out of the river and rushed back to the bridge, frantic over their safety, she'd never have gotten Methos up and moving. Duncan's voice had been able to reach him, though he'd still needed to practically carry the older immortal to their car. Amanda had moved the Watcher vehicle and they'd escaped, fortunately well before the morning traffic intensified.

They'd driven Methos to his own car, then awkwardly seen him off. MacLeod had called Joe to warn him Methos was on the way, and to ask him to get some clean clothing for their friend, who hadn't even stopped to take a shower before driving back to Alexa. As they'd driven him across town he'd babbled about his fear that she'd die before he could get back to her, that he'd fail her yet again... Well, Methos would be able to hold her as she died, if that was a comfort. Alexa seemed to be holding on, waiting for him, according to Joe.

Amanda shook off the depressing thoughts and tried to focus. She was here with Duncan, a good place to be. Why had she been so afraid of accepting his proposal? They were good together, this adventure proved that. Whatever Methos felt for Duncan, it couldn't change their love for each other. She snuggled next to him, utterly content.

*****

Methos rocked Alexa's body in his arms, tears silently rolling down his face. He'd only been with her for a few moments, stroking her face tenderly and whispering to her, when her vital signs dropped and the nurse came into the room. Joe Dawson sat at the other side of her bed, exhausted. It wasn't the first deathbed vigil he'd sat, and it probably wouldn't be the last. But Methos' grief and guilt were hard to watch.

The man had been held against his will, for God's sake. He looked like shit; he hadn't even cleaned up beyond changing out of the bloody, tattered sweater he'd been in. Methos needed a shower, a few days in bed, and a week of square meals. Instead, Dawson watched him tenderly hold Alexa's dead body for hours. When he'd tried to get him to come away, Methos had broken down completely, pouring out his guilt for leaving her again, for breaking all his promises.

Dawson remembered their conversation months ago, when Methos had said he simply loved Alexa as a friend. If this was how Methos mourned a good friend, Dawson didn't want to be around when someone he really loved was lost. He left the room briefly to speak to the nurses, who assured him Mr. Pierson could take his time. Then Dawson settled back in the room, eventually dozing off to the sound of Methos' whispered apologies to the body he cradled.

*****

"What do you mean you're joining the circus again?"

"C'mon, Duncan, it will be wonderful fun. Aren't you in a rut here? When's the last time you heard the applause of hundreds of breathless spectators?" Amanda was in full seductive-but-deceptive mode, and all of MacLeod's alarms were going off.

"What's in Moscow besides the circus?"

"Duncan! I can't believe you'd accuse me..."

"I can't believe you think I'm stupid." They broke apart, mutually pissed off and wondering how they'd ever believed they could live together for more than a month without heads rolling.

"Whether you agree to come or not, I'm going to Moscow." Amanda pouted for a moment. "But it would be more fun with you along."

"Amanda, love..."

"Oh, don't get maudlin."

"I do love you. But we can't live together, that's plain. We want completely different things from life. And I won't help you with whatever you're planning to steal in Moscow." MacLeod moved away and looked out over the river. "Besides, if we leave now, Methos won't have any friends in town."

"He had a life here before you met him, Duncan. He must have mortal friends. Besides, how much have we seen him in the last two weeks?" Was it only two weeks since Alexa's funeral? It seemed longer, somehow. Maybe it was best if MacLeod didn't come to Moscow...

"I know, but when he's ready to be with people, he can come here and be himself. There's a big difference with mortal friends."

"I suppose. Though Methos made it all these years without our help." Amanda didn't want to give up too easily, after all. "I can go alone. After all, if you stay, then he'll have both you and Joe around."

"Yes." MacLeod smiled at her fondly. "And then you can come back to me, whenever the police let you go."

"You're quite right, we do need to spend some time apart," Amanda pouted. You're starting to get on my nerves."

MacLeod leaned over and kissed her gently. "Ditto. But I'd rather have you on my nerves than any other beautiful, thousand-year-old thief I know." Amanda's brilliant smile was his reward as he moved to help her pack.

*****

Two weeks later

Duncan MacLeod stood just out of sensing range, watching Methos at Alexa's grave. Methos simply stood there, hands buried in his coat pockets. He didn't kneel, like MacLeod did at Tessa's grave side, nor did he stroke the stone or place flowers. He didn't speak aloud -- well, MacLeod wouldn't have heard him at this distance, but his lips didn't move. He just stood as the wind whipped his long coat around him.

MacLeod was glad he'd come here today. It was exactly four weeks since Alexa's funeral. Remembering that day, MacLeod realized Methos was in exactly the same position as he'd been on that cloudy morning as they'd listened to the prayers and watched the grave be filled. The memory of Methos' misery moved MacLeod forward, and before he realized it he'd moved into range. Methos turned to look at him. Again the remembered image of his face at the funeral was superimposed over the present moment. MacLeod could again hear Amanda's hushed voice in his ear as she'd commented that Methos hadn't been eating or sleeping enough. It was still true; Methos' eyes had dark circles and his face was gaunt.

"Adam."

"MacLeod." Methos cast about for a casual remark. Something light and sarcastic. But he had no words, so they stood in silence a few moments longer. Eventually the Highlander's warm presence relaxed him and he spoke again. "She wanted to be buried in Greece, I think. But I didn't want her so far away."

MacLeod looked at the simple stone, showing Alexa's name, dates, and the inscription "Beloved." He wished he knew something to say or to do that would help Methos, but his emotions were swamped with memories of his own beloved mortal lovers, in scattered graves both near and far. He'd never talked to Methos about Alexa; he didn't know what their relationship had entailed. But he knew this cynical-sounding man had cared enough to attempt to fulfill her dreams, to ease her death, and even to grasp at myths to save Alexa's life.

"The Navajo say that your spirit lives on as long as someone who lives remembers you," MacLeod murmured.

"Aren't you a little young to be so smart?" But the voice was missing the sarcasm that usually infused such comments.

"C'mon, Adam, let's go have some dinner. Maurice has some new imported beer." MacLeod had promised Dawson he wouldn't let Methos stay at the cemetery and brood, that he'd get him to eat and rest. Evidently Dawson had been trying to do the same for days now. Probably since they'd returned to Paris with Alexa's body. Well, Dawson deserved a break. MacLeod felt he'd been selfish, spending so much time on his own concerns and not even thinking about Methos and Joe.

If he hadn't run into Warren Cochrane at this very cemetery last week and gone to Joe for information, he probably still would be unaware of how badly both his friends were -- or weren't -- dealing with their loss. Even as he'd chased after Warren and tried to help him regain his memory, he'd been thinking of what he could do to make it up to Joe and Methos both.

Well, Warren was gone now, left alone to deal with his guilty conscience. MacLeod was ready to be a caring friend. Tonight, he'd take care of Methos. Tomorrow, he'd think of something nice to do for Joe.

*****

Three weeks later

MacLeod sat with Methos and Dawson, watching the opera intently. He couldn't believe they had both agreed to attend this performance with him. He knew Methos didn't care for opera, and Dawson hadn't even known Adele Lascelles would be performing. Her voice was every bit as wonderful as he'd heard, and he let the music carry him far away, into emotions and memories so intense his eyes closed.

Dawson looked at MacLeod's rapt face and smiled to himself. He was bored stiff, but the music wasn't "endless caterwauling" as Methos had claimed. Maybe if he understood the language, like MacLeod, he'd enjoy it more. Then he looked at Methos, who knew Italian and was still unmoved, his mind miles away. *Maybe not.*

He'd agreed to this evening out with his Immortal because he'd wanted to repay MacLeod for all the attention he'd been lavishing on Dawson since Amanda left town and since he'd cleared up his friend Cochrane's problem, whatever that was about. At first Dawson believed that MacLeod must have fought with Amanda, to be spending so much time with him, but that didn't seem to be the case. Amanda had simply gone off for an adventure, and MacLeod was in one of those rare moods where he wanted to spend time with his Watcher, when he seemed to cherish the friendship as much as Dawson did. For once, the knowledge that his life was being recorded didn't seem to annoy MacLeod.

Unfortunately, they hadn't managed to include Methos very often. Though he was starting to look more like himself at last, Methos still didn't seek out company. Of course, it was different here in Paris. Adam Pierson had a life here, job duties and school. Dawson remembered the long afternoons they'd spent shooting the breeze in Seacouver, and wondered if memories of Alexa would prevent Methos from coming back there to regularly pop in at Joe's. Dawson was surprised by how sad he felt at the thought that those days might be gone.

When the music faded along with the audience's enthusiastic applause, the three men went out for a late meal. MacLeod was still rapturous over the performance, and his smile was so bright and warm that Methos and Dawson both found themselves talking louder, laughing easily, and eating and drinking far too much.

Dawson shifted on his chair and lifted his glass of the excellent wine MacLeod had ordered. "You really know how to live, Mac." His smile was wicked. "Much nicer than cheap beer and sausages with Adam, here."

To his friends' delight, Methos smirked and fired right back in his old style. "Hey, graduate students can't afford to live in such decadent ways. Opera, fancy restaurants. You're lucky the Watchers pay my travel to the States. Otherwise your little bar in Seacouver would lose a lot of business."

"Now if only you'd pay for that business," MacLeod snorted, then laughed outright at Methos' face.

"Well, I'm glad to hear you plan to come back and visit again, Adam."

"You bet, Joe. Best blues in the Pacific Northwest."

"Are you back at work full-time?" MacLeod asked, glad to see Methos so happy, speaking about the future. And oddly relieved to hear that Methos planned to come back to Seacouver.

"Yes, but I may need to take a leave again soon. I've got to move, my apartment building's been sold."

"That's right. Have you found a new place?" Joe asked.

"You must have some other buildings available to you, here in France." MacLeod added. *Five thousand years old, he probably owns half the city.*

"No to both of you. I haven't found anything affordable, and I don't own anything in Paris. All sold years ago."

"Shouldn't someone your age know how to plan ahead? You should always hold on to something, wait for values to increase..."

"I needed the cash." Methos face closed off for a moment, some remembered pain flashing across it, and MacLeod met Dawson's frantic look with a nod.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to lecture. I'm sure you know what you're doing."

"Yes, well, anything that was fairly worthless is still in the family. But I can't commute from Brittany, after all." There was an awkward silence as they all remembered unpleasant days at the monastery during the dark quickening. "Sorry. I didn't mean to bring that up."

"It's okay, Adam." MacLeod forced a smile for him. "Listen, you can always stay with me temporarily. When I go back to Seacouver you'll have the place to yourself. It'll give you some time to find a good apartment." He tried to look simply friendly and not to think about the possibility of Methos sharing his bed, but he knew he blushed a little.

"Thanks, MacLeod." They drank in silence for a moment. "Joe, didn't you say that you were thinking of opening a club here with Maurice?" The evening continued with stories about nightclubs all over the world, and the excitement when American jazz first came to Paris in the 20's, which MacLeod vividly remembered.

Still later, Methos finally persuaded Dawson to tell some of his own stories. "You can't always listen and not tell us about yourself!"

Joe regaled them with the story of his first guitar and the sweet, crazy aunt who'd given it to him, then taught him absolutely filthy drinking songs to accompany. "Aunt Sam was a hoot. Years later when I was in the army, I knew more dirty songs than anyone else. And music kept me sane, even before I lost my legs. Gave me something to do besides drugs or drinking..."

"She sounds like a wonderful woman," MacLeod commented.

"Reminds me of my forty-second wife. I met Analena in a gypsy camp. She had the most incredible recipe for homemade--"

"Beer!" both MacLeod and Dawson shouted. MacLeod continued, "Why else would you have married her?" His friends' hoots of laughter cut off Methos' story, and they decided to call it a night.

After they put Joe in a cab back to his place, MacLeod spoke again. "Adam, are you up for a nightcap with me at the barge?"

"Sure, Mac." They walked -- well, stumbled -- for a few blocks, then started to sober up as their immortal metabolisms kicked in. Feeling awkward, Methos spoke. "Mac, I'm sorry... I haven't been... I wanted to thank you for everything you've done. You and Amanda saved my life, and you've been very kind since Alexa died. I can't believe you've..."

"Adam, please." MacLeod stopped walking and turned to the other immortal. "You saved my sanity when I was a danger to you all. You and Amanda. And Richie."

MacLeod's face grew so sorrowful at the mention of his student that Methos had to ask. "You never told me why Richie isn't here. Did you send him away because he's supposed to be dead in France? He does have another identity he can use here..."

"No. I should have told you. I just didn't think." MacLeod shook his head. "I've been caught up in... I forgot that you need to know this. Amanda let your real name slip in front of Richie that night at the Watcher Headquarters." He waited for a response, but Methos only nodded. Evidently he'd heard and remembered despite his ordeal. "Richie was mad at you for not trusting him, and he's still very angry and afraid of me. So he wouldn't even help us find you. He just took off for the States."

"What did he say to you that has you so shook up?"

"Oh, the usual. Leave me alone, never touch me again, I don't trust you." MacLeod's voice broke and he couldn't continue.

"I'm sorry, Mac." Methos' strong hand touched his shoulder, and he continued, "I really fucked everything up. I'm so sorry."

MacLeod turned to his friend and defied the common sense voice buzzing in his mind. He put his arms around Methos and pulled him into a hug. A friendly hug. A *very* friendly hug, which made his body stir and his blood burn. He reveled in the smell of Methos' hair, in the feel of the long body pressing into his own. They hugged and rocked, and then he felt Methos shaking and he realized his friend was crying. Methos seemed so fragile to MacLeod at that moment, though he didn't even know what had caused the tears. There were so many things to cry about...

MacLeod tried to comfort his friend, but soon he, too, was crying. For Richie, for all the things that had gone wrong in the last year. For his lost chances with Methos, who pressed so close to him and felt so wonderful in his arms. They stayed that way until MacLeod realized Methos was comforting him now, stroking his back and holding him close. Then all sorrow was forgotten as he kissed Methos' eyes and face and neck. Whispering that he loved him, had always loved him, wouldn't let anyone hurt him again. And Methos was murmuring back his own assertions that he'd never stopped loving MacLeod. Methos told him how happy and proud he felt to have such a friend, someone who'd accepted him despite everything.

Neither man was sure how they made it back to the barge. When they did, they wasted no time on drinks or chit-chat. Pausing only long enough to shed their long outer coats and swords, they moved next to the bed, still kissing and touching.

MacLeod pulled Methos' shirt over his head, not bothering with buttons, glad the tie had long ago been removed. He pulled Methos against him and their mouths met again. Their bodies still fit together perfectly, MacLeod was happy to note, absorbed in again seeing and touching the smooth pale skin. And Methos' mouth -- he'd forgotten how devastating his kisses were, as varied as his sword work and just as deadly.

Then Methos released his mouth and pulled back slightly, unbuttoning MacLeod's own shirt and licking, sucking and kissing at the newly-exposed skin. MacLeod breathed deeply, his body tingling, and suddenly realized exactly who was making love with him. This wasn't Michael Delon, the man he'd fallen so head-over-heels in lust with during their cruise. It was *Methos,* the eldest of their kind. A man who'd lived for thousands of years and had more sexual experience than anyone. A man who was still able to love, still able to mourn. Methos had saved MacLeod's life and soul, guarded his friends and protected him.

MacLeod's sobbing gasp brought Methos' head up in an instant. The hazel eyes that had always transfixed him looked up at him, and he could only gasp "How can you love me?"

Methos stood, keeping a careful distance between them as he spoke very seriously. "You are Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. You are the best of our kind I've ever seen. I think everyone who knows you loves you."

"But I can't offer you..." A graceful hand covered his mouth, stopping the words.

"You've already given me more than I thought possible -- your friendship. You've accepted me into your life, and made all those years of mere survival seem... bleak." His eyes were haunted, and MacLeod could no longer keep away from him. He wanted to make Methos' eyes glow with joy again, to make him forget about Alexa. He pulled Methos close to him again, kissing him tenderly, then continuing the kiss beyond tenderness into hunger.

Neither man could breathe but they didn't break the kiss, just kept their hands roaming over the bare flesh of each other's torsos. Then Methos reached lower, rubbing his knuckles gently over the growing bulge in MacLeod's trousers, and MacLeod's moan ended their kiss at last.

Methos gently pushed MacLeod down to the bed, then removed MacLeod's shoes, socks, and carefully removed his slacks, leaving the underwear in place over his engorged, straining penis, noting the wet spot on the thin fabric. Ignoring MacLeod's gasped "Yes, please," Methos moved over his body again, using his mouth and hands on all the warm flesh he could find, watching MacLeod's face as he gently bit at the inside of his elbow, as he blew at his neck. When the beautiful face moved from ecstasy toward pain, moans coming from his mouth and his hands convulsively grasping at the blankets, Methos at last moved to MacLeod's neglected erection, noting smugly how much wetter his shorts had become. Methos gently removed them, careful not to touch the beautiful, swollen cock clamoring for his attention. Instead, he exhaled over it, listening to MacLeod's sob, then moved his hands back up MacLeod's body, back to the hard nipples, and he rubbed and pulled at them fiercely before placing his hot mouth over one.

MacLeod cried out and then moved at last, putting both hands on Methos' head, wanting only to keep that mouth on his body, or to move it to his neglected erection. But Methos surrendered to him entirely, rolling onto his back and letting MacLeod move over him, pressing his hard, hot body into the mattress. And that yielding put other ideas in MacLeod's head, and he knew he wanted more than to come in Methos' mouth, wonderful as that was. MacLeod wanted to reclaim this body in every way, force his way inside Methos and fuck him until he screamed.

And then MacLeod remembered the church in Le Havre, and he stopped himself, pulling back in horror. Was he still fighting that evil? Of course he was, and he couldn't allow himself to hurt Methos again...

"Mac? Mac, please, it's not the Dark Quickening. I want it, too. I want to feel you in me, your strength. You won't hurt me. Duncan, talk to me." Methos had sat up and was trying to turn him, to see his face again. MacLeod met his eyes and saw love there, none of the hatred or fear he'd dreaded. Only understanding, forgiveness -- and desire.

He didn't question how Methos had read his mind so completely, he simply turned back to the slender man and crushed his body back beneath his own, whispering how much he wanted to fuck him, to be inside him and never come out. Methos' reaction was wild. His body undulated beneath MacLeod's, his voice moaning "yes" as MacLeod removed the last of his clothes, claiming every inch of his skin with hot, heavy hands. Then, with saliva as their only lubricant, MacLeod slowly forced his way into the strong, beautiful body of his ancient love. After the briefest of pauses he pulled out and drove back in, rocking their bodies and exulting in Methos' choked cry.

Their rhythm shook the bed, overwhelming the subtle motion of the water beneath the barge. Their cries echoed through the room as MacLeod slammed into Methos over and over, and Methos clawed and lunged until he found the leverage to meet the thrusts with his own motion. MacLeod's hands were busy holding his lover open to him and supporting his own weight against the headboard, but it didn't matter. Methos took his pleasure in watching MacLeod's face become totally animalistic during this fierce copulation, his hair swinging wildly as sweat moved over his straining muscles. Methos tightened his channel, and MacLeod roared, his face transforming as he rammed himself into Methos' body once again, then froze in ecstatic release, his body shaking as if he were taking a Quickening.

Methos' own control ended at the sight of MacLeod's flushed face and straining, quivering body. He howled his own release, still untouched. MacLeod looked down at him and his lips curled as he moved a hand to catch the last of Methos' fluid. When he brought the hand back to his mouth, Methos groaned and astonishingly felt himself becoming aroused again. MacLeod hadn't moved away from him and he realized that the Scot was still hard inside him.

"Are you trying to kill me, MacLeod?"

"I have a year without you to catch up on, Methos. You won't get off easy." The smile was lustful, but it was nothing like the lewd smile he'd worn during the dark quickening. Methos smiled back at him fondly and began small, wanton movements beneath him. MacLeod gasped in reaction.

"As long as we both get off..." Methos coyly murmured, and MacLeod groaned and bent to devour his mouth again. Then all joking was forgotten as they slowly, sweetly and joyously made love yet again.

Methos woke the next morning... well, afternoon... to find himself entwined with and half underneath a warm, naked MacLeod. He stayed there, wondering if MacLeod would wake regretting what they'd done. He hoped not; certainly there was room in his relationship with Amanda for the occasional fling. He considered leaving the barge, leaving Paris, but rejected the thought almost immediately. Being with MacLeod was dangerous, yes, and the Watchers could find out. Any of the headhunting immortals who came in search of the Highlander could find him. But it was precious, and it would end soon enough with Amanda's inevitable return. He decided to stay while he could, and his body and mind relaxed with the decision.

Not that it would have been easy to sneak off the barge unnoticed while pinned under MacLeod's body. The giggle that thought elicited finally woke the other man who, to Methos' delight, kissed him soundly and announced "Good morning!" before moving off to the bathroom and starting the shower.

And later, after coffee and breakfast and more incredible sex, when MacLeod repeated his offer to have Methos move in with him, Methos ignored his own common sense and simply said yes, flashing a devilish grin at MacLeod's stunned -- and happy -- look.

 Continued in Part 6

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